At the 9/11 Memorial

Some loved ones left flowers and some left miniature flags. People flock, read the names that were carved on the long dark bronze blocks and pay their respect. But no matter how many people visit and congregate around the twin giant pools that used to be where World Trade Center buildings or twin towers were, it always feel somber and subdued there. The first time I came to the site of Ground Zero was 6 years after the 9/11 tragedy happened. My parents were visiting from Indonesia and we took them there. There’s still nothing interesting to see but covered wire fences. There were a lot of works happening behind them. The sound from the heavy machineries, the banging of metals and the buzzing from the construction workers all mixed as proof that life still goes on. I felt humble being at the Ground Zero, because a couple years before 2001 I was there staring at the two towers with astonishment of the tallest buildings in the country. My husband and I passed by the area where World Trade Center was for several times when we headed towards Brooklyn. I would open the car window and look at WTC buildings enthusiastically while we passed the lower Manhattan. Who would’ve known that one day those magnificent buildings would be gone.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up on our bed with our oldest daughter who was 2 years old and our baby girl who was 4 months old. They were still asleep soundly and peacefully without any care in the world. I turned on the TV and watched the morning show on NBC, the Today Show. It was sometime after 8AM suddenly Katie Couric, one of the presenters on the show, announced a distressing news: an airplane has crashed into one of the twin towers. I was stunned. But I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw from the live feed another plane flew directly towards the other tower. What has happened? Then, in minutes everything crumbled and fell. Katie Couric was heard crying on air and I had trouble believing what I had saw. My eyes welled up, tears ran down because I imagined the chaos that ensued. I held my daughters closer and I could feel something in the atmosphere was brewing, fear. 

It has been 18 years since the most despicable tragedy I’ve ever witnessed, happened. I can still feel the uneasy feeling when September 11th is approaching. The site where Ground Zero was, now a sprawling park with memorial for the fallen and a museum to commemorate the lost. In November 2017, I took a group of high school students from Indonesia and their teacher to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. It was the first time I visited the place and I became rather emotional especially when I read the names of the people who perished during the tragedy. My fingers sometime ran through the carved letters on the bronze blocks while I listened to the sound of the man-made waterfall, said to be the greatest in United States. In April this year, I visited the plaza again and that time I was escorting an old friend and his colleagues who were curious about the 9/11 Memorial. They were astounded and again, I somehow lost with emotion when I read a name, a woman’s, with additional statement “and her unborn child”. 

(To all who perished and the first responders, may you rest in peace).

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Travel Journal: Spring at Smith College Botanic Garden

There’s one botanic garden that I’ve been meaning to visit for sometime. Smith College Botanic Garden is part of Smith College, a liberal arts college for women located in Northampton in Western Massachusetts. Now that spring is here, visiting this garden seems to be the perfect way to enjoy the season. The botanic garden is situated inside Smith College campus. This college was founded in 1871 through the endowment from Sophia Smith who wanted to use her inheritance to give better education for women and that of equal to what men receive. Smith College Botanic Garden was established in 1895 to provide teaching, public education, scientific research and also the beauty of the place. There are glass houses in the garden built in 1895 and they’re fascinating and I will talk about them in another post specifically. These glass houses is what attracted me to visit the garden.

On my way toward the garden, to my delight, I saw several saucer magnolia trees in bloom. The sound of trickling fountain from a nearby pond with a beautiful female bronze statue was heard mixing with the sound of the birds. On the side of the pathway toward the glass houses lay a beautiful rock garden. This first rock garden in North America was established in 1897 copying the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in London. I stayed there for the longest time admiring the lay out of the garden that resembles the environments of high altitude area and the tundra. Some of the plants have small and succulent leaves to conserve water, rather large flowers to attract pollinators, or roots that go deeper into the underground stream. Some have short life cycle adapting to the drought season. It is a remarkable beauty to see some of the plants nestled between the rocks. It’s sort of beauty and the beast inspired.

Being in any garden, for that matter in Smith College Botanic Garden was a wonderful experience for me. Not only because I needed to take a break from the busy sometime mundane days, but also to learn about the garden. I always love learning about botany, you see. After admiring the Rock Garden, I went to the glass houses and astonished by the collections of plants being cared there. A lot of them are tropical plants and they thrive beautifully. I know some of the tropical plants having seen and planted them in my mother’s yard. She would’ve loved to come to the glass houses and probably would be amused seeing her plants are growing in a four-season country. When one of the gardener informed me that the garden would be closed at 4PM, I then headed to the garden office. I met a nice lady there who told me about another garden on the other side of campus and I’d love to visit it in June when the roses are in bloom because they have rose arches there. I ended my visit with sitting on a bench near the perennial border just relaxing even though the wind became pretty strong and chilly, waiting until the time for me to go to meet my daughter to see her orchestra concert in nextdoor city. 

The saucer magnolia trees in bloom.
The glass houses at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Smith College Botanic Garden was set up in 1895.
The statue with writing: In Memory of A Beautiful Life, was dedicated in 1911 to remember Mary Tomelson Lanning. It is the work of Jean Gautherin.
The Lyman Conservatory at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Spiraea Thunbergii – Spirea flowers.
Smith College Botanic Garden arboretum has magnificent tree collection.
Fritillaria Meleagris – Checkered Lily flower.
The Rock Garden at Smith College Botanical Garden is copying the one at the Royal Botanic Garden in London.
The Rock Garden was created in 1897 and is one of the oldest in United States.
Creeping Phlox
The Rock Garden at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Penstemon Hirsutus – the beard-tongue flowers.
Smith College Botanic Garden consists of the Rock Garden and Lyman Conservatory.

The Year of the Women & the History of Women’s Rights

On November 6th recently, after the midterm election, over 100 women will serve in Congress including 31 new members who come from more diverse background. Among them are two Muslim women, two Native American women and two first African-American women elected to Congress from Massachusetts and Connecticut. The election became a history for my eldest daughter who voted for the first time. At first, she was worried because on the day of election she would be away at her college in Massachusetts. So I helped her getting to know about the absentee ballots. People who can’t come to vote at their local voting stations can send their vote beforehand by mail. My daughter did that. She sent me text telling me that she dropped off the ballot in the mail box in her campus a couple of days before November 6th. I was so proud.

The recent midterm election became more significant because of the situation that we’ve been having for the past two years. I’m not going to indulge in mentioning name or names or whatever that has happened. But making a note about the turn out of the recent election which showed the strength of the women’s voice. It is one of the milestones for American women in the history of fighting for the rights to vote. I somehow connected the midterm election to my experience visiting Seneca Falls where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held. During our trip to Upstate New York a while back, we passed by the town of Seneca Falls. We came there actually to see the Eerie Canal, but we found out that Seneca Falls has important part in the fight for women’s rights. The first Women’s Right Convention was held there between July 19th – 20th, 1848, at Wesleyan Chapel.

When we arrived at the sight where the first convention happened, unfortunately the place was closed. From outside, though, I could see the inside of Wesleyan Chapel where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt called on women to fight for their Constitutional right to equality as U. S. citizen. They came up with 11 resolutions that demanded women be placed as equal as men. The 9th resolution was viewed as the most controversial, which said,

“to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise or the right to vote”.

However, the women’s fight to get their rights be acknowledged was a long one, especially the fight for the right to vote. From that, women’s suffrage was born. At last, on August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was certified. Then, on November 2nd, 1920, as much as 8 millions women across the country gave their votes in election for the first time. Now, there are more women being elected to sit in the legislative sector in U.S. and that is one achievement the women of Seneca Falls Convention would be so proud of.

The 19th Amendment of U.S. Constitution:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”.

(For my daughters Emily & Audrey).

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The Poetry of Women’s March NYC

The year of 2017 begins with a ‘bang’! The anticipation from the US election in November 2016 became reality on January 20th 2017. A new president was inaugurated. But wait… Listen to the voices of women who moved together to resist, revolt, fight and speak up for social injustice! My daughters and I happened to be in New York City on Saturday, January 21st, when the women all over the country marched together with one purpose to be heard by the new government. We managed to be in the procession many times, because of the length of the march. Hundreds of thousand came and we witnessed a history. In this blog journal I only post the pictures I thought worth to show. The pictures of words upon words and illustrations of protests, disappointment, anger, anguish and fear that were written or drawn on pieces of papers decorating the streets of Manhattan. They were the poetry of a country in distress. Another journal will follow about our experience participating in the Women’s March NYC.

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The Study of Cyclamens

It’s the third month already in 2016 and I realized I haven’t been writing or posting any journal on this blog. I just started Instagram and I enjoy it so much. Through Instagram I know a couple of watercolor artists. I adore their artworks that involve so many details and brilliant colors. These watercolor artists often painting one particular object, such as a flower, and study it meticulously. I was inspired by their watercolor study that I call this journal “the Study of Cyclamens”. Cyclamen is a very unique flower. Its petals open up upward just like a swan lifting its wings. Cyclamens only available during winter and they are among the perfect flowers to lift up your spirit especially when winter feels too long. I got a pot of cyclamens from our market recently and I chose the white ones with frilly petals. I love them a lot and so far the cyclamens keep on blooming and I hope they will thrive for another season (I actually read how to take care of cyclamen after the blooming passes, so let’s see how it’ll turn out).

 

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Sunset in the Neighborhood

On that early evening, my daughter fussed over her appearance. It was her first Coronation Ball as a high school student and she was nervous. The sun almost set when my daughter’s friend and her mom came to pick her up. As I waved goodbye and told my daughter to have a good time, the sky looked as festive as the event she went to. The vibrant orange and shade of pink, mixed with blue, just stunning. The dramatic backdrop against rows of houses and other buildings created a special ambiance in an urban surrounding and it’s mesmerizing.

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One Autumn Day

“It was the way the autumn day looked into the high windows as it waned; the way the red light, breaking at the close from under a low sombre sky, reached out in a long shaft and played over old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, old colour”.

– Henry James –

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