Think “Isn’t It Weird…?”

my new tree;-)

Wide awake in the middle of the night, we snacked on handfuls of Chex cereal and indulged in my favorite kind of conversation: “Isn’t it weird that…?” Little did we understand that our late-night conversation would set the theme for the week.

The next night high winds toppled our neighbor’s ENORMOUS aging maple tree into our backyard. The insurance company called it “an act of God.” It is a phrase implying no fault, no responsibility. It just happened. I laughed aloud when, immediately following the “act of God” designation, the insurance adjuster heaped on us a load of legal cautions, new responsibilities (the tree now ‘belonged’ to us), property line designations, and small print reminders meant to minimize financial risk and responsibility to the insurance company. The layers of irony are too many to count though I suppose if wacky preachers can assign responsibility for hurricanes and other natural disasters to the wrath of God, then it is no less ridiculous for insurance companies to invoke the fickleness of God to absolve themselves of liability.

Isn’t it weird that…?

P-Tom reminded us that the “act of God” was that no one was hurt in the tree fall. For P-Tom the act of God was a kind of intervention. A few degrees to the right, a slightly different wind direction, and the tree would have landed on our bedroom. Life does seem fragile by the slightest of degrees. We told people that we were lucky. Intervention? Fortunate? Fate? Design?

Isn’t it weird that…?

We cut a branch from the fallen tree and brought it in the house. It is now our Christmas tree.

Had you asked that branch a week ago if it would ever become a Christmas tree it might have laughed at you.

As a maple branch it had no aspirations or intentions of being wrapped in lights or decorated with silver baubles. In truth, it probably cares little if it makes us laugh or invokes a smile each time we enter the room. But it does. Or, better, we make sense of it that way. Sense making? Story telling? Either way.

Isn’t life weird?

Our work-in-progress

 

 

 

 

 

Begin Here

photo-6

Begin Anywhere

In our house, hanging on the wall like a painting, is an old window frame. In the top pane is a card that reads, “Begin Anywhere.”

Earlier this week I had a great conversation with Diane. She laughed and said, “In my meditations I was whining to God because I wanted to see the plan of my life. I got the clear message that I was never going to see the plan but I could always see the next step. The next step is always right in front of me.” Dancing with what’s right in front of you is sometimes called faith. Sometimes it is called play. Sometimes it is called art.

Diane and I are good reflectors for each other; we are usually on parallel paths. For both of us, the past year or two has been a process of letting things go and stripping things back: paths, patterns, and presuppositions. It has been the mother of all house-cleanings (she had a literal flood!) and, like all good house cleaning it took some elbow grease and few hard decisions about what to keep and what to throw. After the job is done, nothing feels better than a clean house and along with the good feeling, new space, and wide-open possibilities, comes the question, “What’s next?”

Diane told me her story because my next step is so clear that I can focus on nothing else. With such a myopic focus I can see nothing else and that’s why I called her. I must do this play. I must. I cannot see beyond this dance. It is my first thought in the morning. It is my last thought falling into sleep. This step, my dance with The Lost Boy, makes no sense and Diane’s point was well taken: the next step rarely makes sense. Sense-making requires context. Sense-making is a skill of relativity – and since we can never know the plan (if, indeed, there is one), we can only make sense based on old information. That is good news for plumbers but is dubious at best for leaders, explorers, seekers, and artists.

After our call I realized that dancing with what’s right in front of me is how I paint. It’s also the key to a good conversation – and painting, for me, is a good conversation. After my good conversation with Diane, she sent me an email of affirmation and concluded her thoughts with this: “Stay focused on what is before you now and let the creations show you how and when they are ready to play.”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

For all digital forms of The Seer, go here

Yoga.ForwardFoldFor posters and prints of my paintings, go here

 

Sense Half A Breath

690. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Last year Carol learned to sail. She went to the Center for Wooden Boats and took lessons from a man who’s been sailing all his life. He taught her that a sailor must learn to feel and see the elements just a moment ahead: he said she needed to sense what was a “half a breath ahead.” With the lead of “half a breath,” she could adjust, anticipate (not with her thinking mind, but with your knowing presence) what was coming. He taught her that it was folly to think that she could be any further ahead than half a breath, any further ahead and the conditions will have changed before she got there.

Today I stepped into my day believing I knew what I was going to do. The winds changed, the rains came, the sun broke through, the café closed, the phone rang, the rehearsal ended, the phone rang again, and finally I gave up and was surprised by Doctor Who. I stepped into the day invested in my folly fully believing that I could see beyond half a breath. I am still learning to sail and need to bring my sights much closer to my present moment. I close this day recognizing my folly and my lesson, sitting more easily in my boat, no further ahead than a single breath, knowing that although I am closer than I was this morning, I am still too long in my anticipation by half. And I hope that is always true.

Make No Sense

646. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m in Hutchinson, Kansas at the Ramada Inn. In the center courtyard of the Ramada is a swimming pool with an astronaut theme: there are mock lunar modules in the center of the pool. Over in the corner is a mural of the moon complete with 3 dimensional astronauts skipping across the lunar surface. It’s late at night and my room looks out on the moon pool so the effect is more bizarre than it might seem in the light of day. I’d wake my inner sociologist for a look but he’d snarl, “You woke me for a peak at Americana!” and then I’d be in hot water for the next few days. Did I mention there is a hot tub in the lunar landscape? I turns out that Hutchinson is the home of a most amazing museum of the cosmos. There is usually sense to be made and sometimes sense-making reveals a beautiful treasure.

When I try to make sense of education in this nation I hear Doug Durham’s voice echoing in my mind. I used to stomp into Doug’s office when the world seemed particularly cruel to students and shout, “But it doesn’t make any sense!” Doug would swivel his big bear body in his big swivel chair and say, “The trouble with you is that you want it to make sense. Stop trying to make sense of it and you’ll be happier.” I didn’t like that response the first time or the twentieth time I heard him say it – but he was right. Stop trying to make sense of the nonsense and you’ll be happier. Call the nonsense what it is, nonsense.

I understand the governor of Nebraska created a list ranking every school in the state, all 240 schools ordered from first to last according to a performance criteria. You’ll not be surprised to learn that there is absolutely no point to the list; it is nonsense though very many people, mostly non-educators, take it very seriously. It is as arbitrary as the test scores that drive the notion of ranking schools. Actually, if you squint at the list and you will see that the schools with the most funding are generally at the top of the governor’s list and those with the least money are generally at the bottom. If it was a list of funding inequity it would have meaning but instead it pretends to be a list of performance and so ignores the obvious.

I woke up my inner sociologist when I heard about the governor’s list and he was quite curt with me. He sneered, “You woke me up for this? Are you kidding! There’s no mystery here! This list makes perfect sense!” he snarled. “When in the history of western civilization has a privileged NOT stacked the deck against the rest of society and called it high performance?” He huffed as he rolled over saying, “Idealist!”

And now I’m in Hutchinson, Kansas. There is an amazing and inspirational history of the race to the moon told here in Hutchinson. There is also the most inspirational educator I’ve ever met.

All the while, a governor makes a list and checks it twice, to be poor is to be naughty and to be privileged is to be nice. And I’m enjoying this moment in the Ramada Inn precisely because there is some sense to be made of an astronaut standing in the corner by the swimming pool and none to be made of the governor’s notorious list. Won’t it be a lovely day when instead of list making we put our minds to creating great learning with the same verve that we used when once upon a time we made it our task to put a human being on the moon?

Sense The Season

537. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

A few days ago on my morning walk I sensed a hint of autumn in the air. There was the slightest breeze, cooler than the day before, and the subtle smell of leaves turning. I savored the moment as I do every year. I look forward with great relish to the day each year that I catch on the breeze the first hint of fall.

My grandfather lived his entire life in the same small area in Iowa. One day, as a boy, I was visiting, and we went to the park on a beautiful hot sunny day. He was looking for treasure with his metal detector and I followed with an old coffee can to hold the bounty and a screwdriver to poke into the dirt when treasure was detected. Suddenly he stopped, looked into the sky, closed his eyes – and “sensed” a change in the air. After a moment he said, “We better go home, it’s going to storm soon.” I was baffled. I could not sense anything. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky yet an hour later an intense storm blew through dumping buckets of rain. He had senses available to him that I did not; he had a specific relationship with a place and felt the rhythms and changes in his body. He was connected.

Brian McDonald opens his book, Invisible Ink, with this story: “An anthropologist was living among tribal people with little to no contact with the modern world. Wanting to share the marvels of technology with these isolated folks, the anthropologist took a photo of the chief and his wives. When the picture was processed and shown to the chief he was unable to recognize the blotches of black, white, and gray as an image of himself. He had never learned to translate two-dimensional images into recognizable three-dimensional shapes. That same chief, however, could look at a patch of grass and say what kind of animal had traversed it and how long ago with no more difficulty than you or I would have recognized ourselves in a photographic image.”

I look forward to that first hint of fall because I know it is a remnant of connection; it calls forward something in me, something deep and ancient. It is satisfying and evokes a kind of quiet affirmation that is rare in my urban indoor life. Catherine once told me that, “Nature yearns for us,” and I know that it is true. Often, when I am coaching or working with people and their creative blocks, deeply invested in their abstractions, I know that all they need do is go outside, recognize and reclaim their natural rhythm, and their capacity to sense the changes in the air. Just as nature yearns for us I know, like a long lost love, when we feel lost or blocked or void of meaning, we need only walk to shore, step into the woods, climb the ridge, close our eyes and receive the quiet touch that says, “Welcome home.”