Author Archive

la paz

“Nada vale tanto como la paz.”
(Nothing is worth as much as peace.)
– José Mujica

The former president of Uruguay (fascinating man — please Google) spoke these words, and they touched a street artist in Colombia who painted them on this wall in Medellín.

In times of turbulence, we recognize the value of tranquility. Which leads me to wonder how much we long for something to happen when we are in the midst of calm times. Is the pendulum always set to swing away from where we are?

I certainly don’t have answers to these questions. In the present day, I can only agree with Mujica & the artist.

What do you long for in this moment?

a thousand ways to cut

Cutting…

You can cut something to separate. Shredding a piece of paper so that it is illegible. Cutting a piece of cake to share it with a friend.

You can cut something to shape it. A paper snowflake. A haircut.

You can cut something to wound. A knife wielded in defense or malice.

You can cut something to heal. A scalpel used in surgery.

You can cut something to save a memory. Cutting a photo or article out of the newspaper.

You can cut something to change a growth pattern. Pruning a bush. Cutting the grass.

You can cut something to reduce time or focus the message. Cutting a play.

You can cut something to remove it or you. Cut the power. Cutting class.

This list could go on and on. The action verb is a tool here. What matters most is both the intention and the impact (not always the same thing).

With each action, what is my intention? And, in hindsight (hopefully from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness, but this can be hard!), did the impact match the original intention? If not, where did it change?

These are questions I ask myself time and time again. I find them to be valuable teachers.

Do you examine your own intention & impact? What do you find?

cygnet to swan

Seeing these 2 black swans with their cygnet is such a stark reminder of just how much physical transformation happens in the course of a lifetime. What is not as visible, of course, (and perhaps more relevant to humans, but who knows?) is the transformation in terms of mind, presence, confidence, and any number of other, internal things. Those can also be rather stunning transformations along one’s path.

Aside from noticing (or not) the transformations as they happen, I sometimes experience impatience with where I am in a given moment, whether that applies to one of those physical aspects or something internal. I have to remind myself that rushing these transformations isn’t an option.

Sometimes we don’t even notice a change when it happens. It’s only looking back when we see, wow, that thing changed me. Or, wow, look how that long-term work has paid off. I see the transformation now.

Whether you feel like a cygnet starting on a particular path, something mid-transformation, or a fully-formed black swan, enjoy the path. It all happens in the time it’s supposed to.

a year to share your story

“Change starts with story, so keep sharing yours.”
– Omkari Williams

Welcome to another new year. I was going to write “we are living in rather turbulent times”, but echoing that refrain feels… perpetual. As I ponder the annals of history, there is always an element (or more) of turbulence. It’s just that whatever is happening in the moment is, well, present. Present turbulence can often be felt more deeply than turbulence seen through the filter of what has passed.

Rather than dwell on the turbulence, I’m going to try and focus on the actions I can take each day to participate in the kind of world I want to live in. This can be as simple as deciding what to buy at the shop based on how responsible the company is that makes each product. (We vote with our dollars about the kind of world we want every single day. Don’t forget that immense power you have.)

Further to that idea of taking action is sharing stories. I am currently on a journey of listening. Listening to the stories of others is in my foreground at the moment. But I sometimes unintentionally let that silence my own story as less than. I want to live in a world in which we greet each other with curiosity and compassion. Where we deeply listen, and where we also own our own stories and share them.

I wish for you (and me) a year of listening to the stories around us and stepping into our own in a profound way. Hear others. And be heard.

Happy New Year.

hobbiton

No, you can’t go in. But you don’t need to. By recreating Hobbiton where the film set once was in New Zealand… By being so meticulous and detailed about what lies outside those hobbit hole doors… Peter Jackson and his partners have created an open door into the visitor’s imagination. I didn’t need to literally pass through a Hobbiton door in order to have waves of story & delight flooding through my brain. And, as amazing as the physical surroundings are (and, oh my goodness, they are!), those stories inside me are where the real magic lives. Like Bilbo & Frodo, I’m always going on an adventure.

What is something in the physical world that has triggered a wave of imagination of late?

musings on the corner of Guatemala & Mexico

I was walking in Brazil, passing the corner of Guatemala & Mexico. I’d just left my tattoo appointment without a tattoo.

I have a fair number of tattoos, all but one of them quite large. They mean a great deal to me — markers on my journey, if you will.

They are also a conversation between me and the artist. My story mixed with their art carried around on my portable art gallery.

Zulu, my first artist, used to say that his job wasn’t to put art on me. It was to pull the art out from inside me that was already there.

On this day, though, there was something about the conversation, something about the collaboration, that wasn’t quite lining up.

At many other points in my life, I would have gone through with it anyway. I had traveled here for this particular artist. I had planned this for months. I was excited about it. And saying no is, by definition, a rejection. I didn’t want to reject her.

None of those thoughts changes that, in the moment, the conversation wasn’t lining up. So, as gracefully as I could under the circumstances (which wasn’t terribly graceful), I called it off and left.

It didn’t feel good to say no. I have sadness as I write this. But I know without a doubt that it was the right call, for both my story and her art.

The right call is not always the joyful one in the moment. That doesn’t make it any less right.

(I was also thinking about this for at least a day or two afterwards. She drew designs on me in sharpie!)

glimpse of a story

A bit of older artwork peeks through from behind the grey cover-up paint. I can’t tell from this if it was just a random tag or a portrait or landscape or any number of other possibilities. What I can tell is that someone, at some time, was telling some aspect of their story. And that their story continues to peek out from behind the grey.

I know I cover or downplay my own story a fair bit. This image is a reminder to me. Our stories endure. We just need to lay off the grey paint sometimes and let them.

rail against the world… and then build it up

“It is one thing to critique the world; it’s another thing to build the world.”
– DeRay Mckesson

Critique is necessary. It is an examination of what is and what might not be working as well as it could be.

It is equally necessary to not get stuck in the mode of being critical. To move from critique to building. How do you take your observations of what is not working and build something that is? Is there one step you can take right now to add to the building?

don’t with the don’ts

This image hangs on the wall just before entering the women’s locker room at a gym I have used along my journeys. I don’t know if it hangs there ironically or sincerely.

Human experience tells us that “don’t” commands inevitably lead us to do (or at least to contemplate) whatever it is we’re told not to. What you resist persists and all that. So, if the goal is to discourage negativity, this is not the way to achieve that goal.

What is something that you are telling yourself not to do? How can you flip that around to find something to encourage rather than discourage?

the start of your journey

In Taumarunui, New Zealand, there is a small pedestrian underpass to take you past the railroad tracks into town. Each day I walk this path, I am greeted with this message.

We all have larger journeys in life. Along that journey, each day, each moment, is a smaller journey as well.

Don’t like how your journey is shaping up? Begin again!!

(Side note: If any of you know the children’s song / nursery rhyme about Michael Finnegan, just typing “begin again” will now have that song stuck in my head all day. And you just joined me. You’re welcome.)