Bacana Notions is the name of our short ‘n sweet weekly blog.  We aspire to have each Notion in some way capture the essence of the Bacana vision statement.

no·tion noun \ˈnō-shən\ an impression, a concept,
a theory, a whim, or a belief held by a person or group

A Bacana Notion could spark a new thought or give you a grin in the middle of a long day.  It may even provide you with that helpful advice you’ve been waiting for.

looking up

There’s a tale from my college days about a fellow student that’s gotten lots of mileage. Let’s call the student “Brittany.” The story goes like this:

American teens wait in line at the Sistine Chapel in Rome for hours. They’re finally let in and are bustled through. Upon entering, Brittany exclaims loudly, “Oh my God, y’all. Look. Up.”

The funny thing about this, of course, is that Brittany didn’t know that the very reason they’d been waiting in line for hours was precisely to “look up.”

At the time, I laughed at this story and at Brittany. But now, 20+ years later, I’m thinking we could all stand to have more of her delight and surprise in the simple act of looking up.

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.

a coat of humility

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
– Sinclair Lewis

I have perfected the art of bundling up. It involves a few pairs of socks, pajamas under pants, and my “sleeping bag coat”, which is reserved only for days under 20º F. And when I’m in that getup and I still feel uncomfortable in the freezing temperatures, I add to my outfit a soft layer of humility. You see, a hundred years ago, my great-grandmother reared eleven children on a North Dakota prairie near the border of Canada. It snows half the year there, with temperatures regularly below zero degrees. When I think of her (with gratitude and awe), the bitter wind sneaking under my sleeping bag coat doesn’t feel so bitter at all.

How do you best manage the cold?


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?

duty and doughnuts

I signed up to be an election official this year. It was a wonderful day. I got a hundred bucks, the satisfaction of civic duty, and many offers of doughnuts.

A definition I found for civic duty is “the responsibilities of a citizen.” I suppose that each of us tends to those responsibilities in a unique way. That tending certainly doesn’t have to be in an official capacity. It could be as simple as checking in on your elderly neighbor or picking up trash in your neighborhood park. The important thing is that we regularly tend to those responsibilities, keeping in mind that each of us is part of a larger whole. Heck, it can even be fun to keep that society train moving along. And sometimes there are doughnuts!

What’s been your civic duty lately?

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!)

lifting up

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
– Muhammad Ali

There is much despair in the world these days and, therefore, much need for uplift. How awesome it is that we have billions of imaginations available to us! Uplifting occurs with problem solving, clever ideas, new perspectives, genius inventions, visionary stories, and hopeful connections… all products of the imagination.

What has uplifted you lately?

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.

sky high branches

I fell in love with the song “Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell soon after college graduation, during the time I was adjusting to adulthood. (Perhaps it was the lyric “she’s so busy being free” that got to me.) But I never truly accepted that a cactus could be a tree. Having been raised in the East, I couldn’t imagine a cactus having roots and height and longevity. That is, until I met this one. It’s in the yard of the place I rent in Los Angeles. A century old, I’m told. Its branches brush telephone wires, and it houses a squirrels’ nest. A tree indeed!

Funny that something I couldn’t imagine is the very something I now see every day. Has that ever happened to you?

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?