Category: Uncategorized

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?

the corridors of emily d

“One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —”
― Emily Dickinson

I had the honor and delight of visiting Emily Dickinson’s house this past summer. It’s where she wrote nearly all of her poetry. It’s where her brain was haunted by the world, by the human experience. It’s where she was free to discover herself and her work.

Thousands and thousands of people traipse through the corridors of this house each year in a quest to understand Emily better. But it was the corridors of her brain (as the poem suggests) that actually housed her singular brilliance. And she was the only one to ever traipse there.

What is uniquely housed in your brain?

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?

none of my business

I’ve had a few intense experiences lately of being proved wrong. And they’ve been fantastic. I was assuming people had certain (negative) thoughts about me. But those same people ended up offering me amazing opportunities, clearly having very positive thoughts about me instead. The negative thoughts I’d assigned to them were completely imagined on my part.

I totally appreciate the old adage “what someone thinks about you is none of your business”. But that’s easier said than done. The truth is that I do care what certain people think about me. It’s my responsibility, then, to watch what assumptions I make about what they’re thinking. I have to know when I’m projecting, inferring, or just plain making stuff up. I also have to ask myself why I care so much and what’s the cost of that to my well-being. Making all of it “none of my business” would certainly be liberating.

What opinions of others have you made your business lately?

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.)