November 12, 2017: the book signing for “Shattered Peacock,” about life during the fall of the Shah of Iran, and there I am, standing between two lovely friends, Kathy Ganino and Bob Singleton. I’m struck by how many stories are evident in this one photograph.
Look at the striking floral arrangement in the foreground, created by Amy of Le Jardin Prive. She gets up at the crack of dawn to select the perfect flowers for her creations. She uses no “fillers,” no baby’s breath, no carnations or what have you – only the flowers that clearly state her intention. I think that’s a pretty good life lesson: I’m going to avoid adding fillers to the bouquets of my life. Instead, I’ll strive to impart my intentions clearly, with color and beauty.
Behind the flowers are a few of my books. What drove me to write “Shattered Peacock?” Why write about 1979 Iran? Well, I felt compelled to write it on some level. The subject is ultimately universal and examining what happens to people under extraordinary situations is a way to observe history and human behavior using a fresh perspective. Interestingly, much of the book was written while I was undergoing chemotherapy, a time during which I allowed myself to stop and write. Perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to use our talents without needing illness as an excuse?
Now to Kathy and Bob. We attend the same church. Kathy is deeply, deeply involved in various ministries of our parish. She spreads love around like butter on toast. You can’t help but smile when you see her, even though she’s faced her challenges in life. Same thing with Bob. Every one of us gets wet in the rain, but Bob just keeps playing his music all over town. Now he’s fundraising to bring music to schools that have had their music programs cut. Just because he cares.
On the wall behind Bob is one of Nan Rae’s spectacular Chinese brush paintings, because we’re in her art studio. Nan is exhibited internationally. She’s been consulted by Disney animators. Her art has been in major magazines and in many books. And what does she love doing the most? Teaching. She’s at the Huntington Library every Wednesday, giving her students the license to enjoy the process, and to love their artwork. And I can’t enumerate the litany of things she freely does for people. In this one photo, five lives are revealed – in goodness, kindness, strength and beauty. Take a moment and look at one of your photographs. How many lives are revealed there and what lessons can be learned from them? Find beauty.