Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lessons From The Garden

That night I was happy. The garden looked refreshed. I had cut away the old stems of the alpine strawberry leaves and trimmed the crusty fronds from the maidenhair fern to make way for the new.

I was puzzled too. Is this what we must do to make room for new growth? Remove old thoughts, habits, even possessions to make room for the new, for what God wants to bring into our lives? If that's so, how do I know what is dead, what doesn't bring life?

Surveying the pile of garden rubbish I had created, I thought, it's easy to recognize dead in a plant. A branch will break easily with a dry powdery snap. The fern frond was black against the pale green. How do I recognize what is dead in my life? What in my life, in my mind, in my practice is dry and brittle, crackly, not supporting life? Where can I make space?

Even then, you're not done. Once created, preparing the soil to receive is the next step. For my back yard, that means turning the hard soil and watering 3 to 4 times over a few days with a soaker hose. The bright heads of butter lettuce marching brightly in a row were a testament to this practice.

Looking inward was a bit harder to observe. In my everyday living, what do I practice that creates the same friability in my soul? The same softness? Prayer, spending time in meditation, reading the word of God, serving others with my gifts keep me supple, when practiced. Just like working out, I lose tone if I miss. And there are times when I am hard as a rock.

My refreshed garden made me happy.  I could only imagine what a refreshed soul must do.  Since I couldn't figure it all out, certainly not in one day, I closed the sliding glass door for the night and asked God to show me what is dead, what doesn't bear fruit in my life, so that there is room for the new.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Creating a Cohesive Body of Work

You know it when you see it, whether its a string of mystery novels (Janet Evanovich), a series of paintings (Rothko), a bike racing career (Armstrong), or a series of artwork (Joseph Cornell). To create a cohesive body of work requires that you arrange all elements available in your field around a concept and that you marshal sensory-based evidence in relation to it whether for or against.

There are many knobs to turn in photography to achieve a clear vision.  A few are:
  • Subject - people, landscapes, architecture
  • Process -traditional, alternative, contemporary 
  • Line - weight, opacity
  • Form - shape, weight, size, modeling
  • Color - black and white, stylized color, color
  • Depth of Field - f64 or bokeh
  • Format - Square, or not
It's difficult to prescribe how these tools move you closer to the concept or away from it but in using them you can feel if it creates the right mood, tone and meaning.

Of course, this is if you start with the end in mind.  There are long stretches too of shooting or creating where the objective is broader, to find what you love with your lens, experiment with it and create something that's a surprise to you.  This is a form of outer and inner listening, of honoring what your heart moves toward, of articulating in some visual language those wordless leanings.

This practice is cohesive the the work may not be.  Through listening you may find a style or subject that you like, that a body of work may have emerged anyway from the seeming disparate and unrelated days of the year.  Recognizing this thread of our days is like being in a strange country and embracing a friend you suddenly recognize from the crowd.

Regardless of how you get there, to a body of work, whether to acclaim or not, the important thing to do is to show up at the page, canvas, performance, workshop and work.  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love did a wonderful TED talk in 2009 on the importance of showing up.
Don't be daunted.  Just do your job.  Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then 'Ole!' And if not, do your dance anyhow. And 'Ole!" to you, nonetheless. I believe this and feel that we must teach it. 'Ole!' to you, nonetheless just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Slash Effect

I'm currently reading One Person/Multiple Careers: How "The Slash Effect" Can Work for You by Marci Alboher, author/speaker/coach (2007).

The quote in the first paragraph of the Introduction grabbed my interest right away:
A single fixed identity is a liability today.  It only makes people more vulnerable to sudden changes in economic conditions.  The most successful and healthy among us now develop multiple identities, managed simultaneously, to be called upon as conditions change.  Recent research also suggests that developing multiple identities is one of the best buffers we can erect against mental and physical illness. ~Gail Sheehy, New Passages:Mapping Your Life Across Time, 1995.
As a person of faith, this reminds me of similar advice to diversify given in Ecclesiastes 11:
Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Divide your portion to seven or even to eight for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.....Sow your seed in the morning and do  not be idle in the evening for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.

A brief survey of my contacts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn shows that few of us are "living the slash" of a diversified parallel career or if so, few are proclaiming.  At the same time, the international employment environment around us is changing to the loudly touted "gig economy" and even more so in the wake of the European financial implosions.  In the extreme, the "gig economy" is a workplace of freelance and subcontract opportunities, a workforce of free agents (Daniel Pink, Free Agent Nation).

Marci Alboher does a great job in her book of freeing the reader from both tyrannies: "regular" and "gig" employment.  She provides profiles from interviews of person after person who has a combination of "regular" employment and "gig" employment and other employment AT THE SAME TIME.

One example includes a corporate marketer by day who runs an eBay store by night to sell 18th and 19th century valentines with a cowboy theme!  Alboher provides many more examples to show how you don't have to chose either/or, that you can chose a menu of options and in appropriate proportions for each such as a main course, appetizer and dessert.

Here's to constructing a more creative menu of options, "the slash effect"!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May Photo Contest!

I entered the 
Epiphanie Camera Bags + Photo Card Boutique Picture It photo contest! 

Twelve Ways to Challenge Your Thinking

Thinking Differently
by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson
I've heard more than once that I challenge other people's ways of thinking. Apparently, I do it well enough that I've been asked to be with people for that reason. Here are 12 things you can do to challenge your own thinking:

  1. Tell someone about it. The process of articulation often causes us to change our point of view.
  2. Listen to what he says. Now that you've told them, lean forward and listen wholeheartedly.
  3. Ask questions. Get clear on what you're hearing.
  4. Imagine fully what she means. What must be true for her to say that back to you?
  5. If that is true, then what? How would you have to change your thinking to accommodate, adapt, account for?
  6. Create an excellent thinking environment for someone else.  Challenge their thinking by listening wholeheartedly.
  7. Play "What ifs?"  Explore by turning ideas, arguments and thinking this way, then that.
  8. Put Spanx on it. Compress your thinking into 3 words.  Focus yourself.  To be concise brings clarity.
  9. Put it in a wheelbarrow.  Describe your thinking in sensory-based terms.  What do you see, hear, taste, smell and touch as part of that thought or idea if it were to come to fruition.
  10. Step away. Sometimes giving it a rest is the best challenge.  Your mind will background process.
  11. Draw, sing, paint, write or dance your thinking into physicality.  Affinity diagrams, haiku, movement experiments can all offer insight.
  12. Cook a meal, take a shower, drink tea while watching the rain, go for a walk - do anything that gives you a little time for your unconscious to sneak out and talk to you while you aren't paying close attention to everything else.
Enjoy being a challenging thinker!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hope Is a Strategy

One of the advantages of having had surgery recently is that I have time to read while I recover.  One of the things I've discovered is that, contrary to the "Hope is not a Strategy"  book about sales and another book by mostly the same title about the Obama campaign, Hope IS a strategy.

Let's unpack this briefly. A research named C.R. Snyder, (KU, go Jayhawks, #2 this year!), discovered that hope is a triad of goals, pathways and agency.

  • We are able to set realistic goals (where we want to go).
  • We are able to figure out how to get there including sticking with it and planning alternate routes.
  • We believe that we can do it.

If strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major goal, then hope, defined as the triad, is a strategy for achieving goals. So whether hope is a strategy depends on how you define it.

Funny thing is, I learned about this while reading The Gifts of Imperfection by BrenĂ© Brown because I'm in the midst of planning alternate routes.

How are you using hope as a strategy?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chai Cup Slam Dunk by Portland Barista

Overheard at the Bean Tree, fast becoming my favorite local coffee shop on Portland, Oregon

Woman: Do you have chai?
Barista: Why, yes, we have 4 kinds of chai! (She brought out all 4 jugs...including locally made)
Woman: Do you have soy?
Barista: Yes (soy is a gimme after 4 kinds of chai)
Woman: Can you make it extra hot?
Barista: Yes, I can:)
after tasting the special extra hot soy chai latte:
Woman: Can you add some cold soy?