Known By Your Noticing


It is December in Utah County, just after Christmas. The first snow of the year has fallen at my elevation, 4,500 feet. The deeper snowfalls are yet to come, but this tiny skiff still catches my attention through the window pane of my back door, looking out into my back yard. I like how the snow sits on the iron meshed picnic table, where I’ve had summer meals with family and a few friends. I like how the snow sits on the chimenea, that I’ve fed several times over the last four months to create ceremonial burn and letting go. I like how the snow sits on the damaged canoe hung on the back fence. The canoe gave up floating reliably many years ago — I chose to make it yard art rather than landfill. I like how the snow collects around the spot where I buried my dog Shadow a little over a year ago, after his full 14 years of his life.

This back door bridges the upstairs bedroom part of my home with the downstairs living and kitchen area. I pass this paned window often. With first snow, the view beckoned a moment of my attention. I’ve always loved the insulation of winter. I’ve long loved the quiet of winter that slows me and others into reflection — even as the noise and tensions of the world escalate.

We can be known, and perhaps should be known, by what we notice.
It’s one of the key access points for any team or community to connect.

I’ve been inviting this known-by-noticing many times over the last few months of events that I’ve hosted. At the Art of Hosting in Denver at the end of November with co-hosts Erin Gilmore, Chris Chopyak, and Lawrence Kampf. At The Circle Way Advanced Practicum in December with co-host Amanda Fenton. On phone calls with clients in planning and friends in learning.

Perhaps we are best known by what we notice, in the moment.

You see, who we are, I’ve come to learn, changes. It’s not the bedrock stuff that supports our changes over the years. It’s the way we enter into the scenes in front of us. It’s the way we give ourselves to the scene, daring to welcome being moved by the people and the learning and the experience that is in front of us. We change, all of us, despite the many narratives of consistency.

And therein lays a fundamental reason why I continue to work through dialogue-based, circle-based modalities of creating connection and collaboration with groups of people. It is our job, dare I say, to be noticers together. To offer meaning. To wonder out loud about meaning. To plan projects. To stay with the details. The dare to make story a key format for learning together.

Welcome knowing others by what they notice. Welcome knowing self by what you notice. Even the silliest of details. I trust, and will continue to host spaces in which gifting our noticing changes what we do and how we are.

It is quiet in my home now. The sky is blue today. The January sun has risen over the Wasatch Mountains east of me, now illuminating a valley of glistening snow on mountain tops, in valleys, and in back yards like mine. Today I return to writing and blogging after four months of choosing deliberately not to. Sometimes it was hard not to — and felt crazy. But I was determined to follow the gut feel I had to let go, and to welcome a different kind of noticing.

I look forward to reentering noticing — yours and mine — through writing and words, to further develop the inner and outer among us, to further create worlds and teams of kindness, consciousness, and, flow.

Dialogue is to Collaboration What Water is to Fish

I enjoyed reading this book recently, Community Conversations, written by Paul Born (2012) from Canada. I haven’t met Paul in person, but he is someone that has been recommended to me by others.

I love Paul’s reference to connect dialogue and collaboration. Essential. Essence. I like the way that he points the narrative to going as community. Collaboration sometimes means the details of getting ducks in a row. Often, however, it means something much less projecty than that. It’s lifeline, the medium of water to fish, that connects us and sustains us in engagement together. It’s lifeline to help us encounter more of the invisible that is created “among” us, not just in any one of us. Ah, shoot, I just love it when people encourage a narrative of wholeness. And, of course, it’s not just about words. Dialogue, and conversation, are just a couple of the ways that we humans get to wholeness, aren’t they.

Here’s a few other insights I found and appreciated in Paul’s book.

  • “Dialogue is a collective way to open up judgements and assumptions (David Bohm).” — Given that I’m in a summer in which much of the work I’m convening is deep dives into The Circle Way, this concept jumps out at me. It helps respond to the question of “Why go together?” And, knowing that there are many responses to this question, one that excites me is about being able to see together what can’t be seen alone. It’s hard to tickle yourself. It kind of needs another person. It’s hard to see assumptions. We kind of need each other.
  • “The first skill is the ability to see the forest and the trees (Peter Senge).” — Beauty here, isn’t there. It’s not just one of the two, though some of us are uniquely oriented to forest while some of us are naturally focused on the trees. I love the invitation, and requirement, to cultivate capacity to see both. If I go back to The Circle Way with this, I love the way that circle creates container to see the forest and flip fluidly between foreground and background. With groups, it’s the aha glimpse when someone speaks the ephemeral that is trying to be seen among us and we all nod in delight for the clarity that gives us direction. Or grounding. Forest. Trees.
  • “The second skill is to nurture the tension between process and action.” — I run into this everywhere. It’s actually a nuanced version of Senge’s forest and trees. Some people are delighted to dwell in process, in the becoming. Process aggravates the bejeebers out of others. Some people are hell bent for action and efficiency. For others, the fixation on action strips most of the poetry from the work. I love Paul Born’s invitation to notice the tension and then to nurture it. That means be kind to it. That means developing an ability to suspend some pretty deeply engrained bias.

I’m glad friends recommended this book to me. I enjoyed the read. I enjoyed dipping in to a fellow Canadian’s words. I enjoyed feeling insights dance within me as the words helped me find some inner music. I enjoyed noticing for a moment, the water.



I met Beth Tener in 2014 at an Art of Hosting retreat that I was co-leading in Maine. I remember appreciating immediately an inner curiosity that I felt in her. Someone who could see a bigger picture, just by the kinds of questions she was asking and the insights she was sharing. A super human being. Beth and I have stayed in touch periodically through shared friends and a few sprouts of emails and blog posts.

Beth recently shared one of her blog posts that left me in a big smile. Her topic was “micro-collaborations”. Having good partners to brainstorm with. To challenge and inspire our creativity together. Relationship matters, of course.

What I loved in particular was this story she included of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis forming a small group, The Inklings.

Many people are familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Behind these legendary creative books and mythic worlds is a remarkable story of collaboration. These two writers met in the English department at Oxford University in the mid 1920’s, and discovered they shared an interest in writing mythic fiction and poetry. Lewis and Tolkien formed a small group with other colleagues called The Inklings. In sharing this story in his book, Group Genius, Keith Sawyer writes, “this was a pun that described them not only as writers but also as people who were searching with ‘vague or half-formed intimations and ideas.’”

The group met at a pub every Tuesday to talk about mythology and ideas. As trust in the group grew, they shared their writings. They took turns reading aloud and offered edits and critiques on one another’s work. Before this group, neither Tolkien nor Lewis had published their poems or mythic stories. The themes and ideas from The Inklings took shape within the writings of each man and made their way into the world in what are now widely popular books and movies.

Give Beth’s post(s) a good read. It’s part of the new story that many of us are inviting — multiple layers of collaboration and imagination together.

And heres to the creativity and courage for any of us with inklings.