On Shadow and Perseverance

Yesterday morning I’m sitting in my back yard on a small cement patio at wire meshed bistro table. It’s 9:00. It’s sunny. Skies are blue. It’s 70 degrees, and on its way to the mid 90s. I’m being quite slow in pace, welcoming a quiet Sunday morning. I have coffee. I’m listening to and watching sparrows and robins fly in and out two larger trees, and hopping on the ground. I’ve just had a spontaneous, fun, and nourishing FaceTime call with a friend, who also was in a slow Sunday. Ah, there’s something great about this pace. It’s not that way every Sunday.

While talking with my friend, I’m noticing this clump of weed / grass growing through a crack in the sidewalk. I’ve been away for much of the month, so I’m just kind of refamiliarizing myself with my yard. Again, glad for this slowed pace.

First, this weed clump impresses me — what grows through cracks is rather impressive. I’ve put in a fair amount of effort to remove such weeds. So, I’m a bit disgruntled to see the weeds back. But, pause…, I’ve always been impressed by what grows in the cracks of sidewalks, roads, and rocky mountain slopes. This bit of weed is really in full splendor. I’m loving, for the moment, it’s perseverance.

Second, I’m drawn to the shadow. The sun has now more fully risen above neighboring buildings. It’s shining through the mesh bistro table and chairs. It’s shining through this weed and grass clump. It has a beauty to it. I’m not surprised. But I am wowed in the moment. I’m quite drawn in to the detail of projected shadow onto this little bit of cement patio.

Ah, now for the freedom to wander in the way that I so enjoy. On a Sunday. Well, on most days. Outer gives access to inner. Inner shapes what we see in outer. The moment of now gives access to the longer arc. The longer arc feeds what we see in the now.

I’m drawn to what I perceive in this clump of weed for its persistence. And for its beauty. In short, I seek such persistence and beauty in myself. I seek to meet others in their version of persistence and beauty, whatever that version is, and whatever the complex mixing is of different versions. We humans, we all seek to be seen in some way, and to see others with an eye of beauty. This is the work of humans together — I would suggest it is more of the “how” that so many of us seek in being together.

I’m drawn to the image of shadow for its intricate detail. It too is rather beautiful. Oh, for any of us to look upon shadow with a certain kind of awe for its beauty. That shadow in us. The shadow in others. The shadow in us as a group. I’ve done a fair amount of shadow avoiding in my time. And I continue to learn to normalize the encounter so as to engage it with more kindness and learning. Shadow in self and in others can be tended, can be received with a certain kind of beauty, and, it’s arising is as sure as the sun coming over neighboring buildings onto this cement patio.

I’m glad for some slow pace to see things quickly. On a Sunday. With coffee. Following FaceTime with a friend.



The Rose Growing Over the Fence

It’s a meandering walk, this one that I’m on with my friend Charles. We are on Edgecliff, named for it’s nearness to the steep drop from land to Puget Sound. We have time today. To be slow. To be free to notice simple beauty together. That’s what friendship does. It animates a certain quality of attentiveness. And of course, some other things.

I love the way this rose looks, having climbed 3-4 feet, and now hanging over this top rail of wooden and weathered fence. It’s beauty, dare I say, its moment of offered friendship, also animates attentiveness.

There is beauty, pretty much everywhere, if we are willing to look. This is one of the conversational wanders that Charles and I are in. Except, of course, when there isn’t — trauma too is real. Or hardship. Or completely stuck.

Charles and are sharing stories about work, about life, about silly things, about serious things. Because, well, there is always a story. And there is delight to share it and to be heard in it, those personal stories that have climbed and flowered over the fence for each of us.

I have the impulse, that working and being together as humans — in jobs, communities, families — it’s messy, yet with inherent beauty. It takes just a bit of noticing to perhaps reclaim, or welcome, the way that it animates our attentiveness.

I’m glad for that. And walks. And roses over fences. And friends.

A Wanderer’s Noticing — Missoula, Montana

For the next ten days (including next weeks Monday – Thursday posting), I’m wandering. Going more visual. In the context of a summer family time with my boys, my married daughter, my son in-law, my niece and her partner, my nephew and his partner, and my parents.

It’s a gift to just notice, the simple beauty in front of me.

Every time I drive through Montana, a part of me says, I want to live here. It’s beautiful. Rugged. It is a stopping spot on my way to Canada (so a little closer to those roots). I think this is from the Clark Fork, and runs through Missoula.

The “M” near University of Montana, home of the Grizzlies. Can’t quite see it in this picture, but a friend told me that the lines up the mountain side are from glacial ice-age lake shorelines.

Even weeds are beautiful if you take the time. I enjoyed these on a morning walk while my boys slept, being the early bird person that I am.

Make It Six

A few years back I invented a game that I started playing mostly with my youngest son, who was then six years old. It’s called, “Make It Six.” It needed a name. The point of the game is really simple — come up with six reasons why you think something is happening. It’s an interpretive, conversational game. I made it up to stretch his mind a bit when he was making rather strong judgements about people and what was happening around him. “That person is weird,” he might say because of the hat they were wearing. “Hmmm…, OK…,” I’d tell him. “Can you think of six reasons why that person is wearing that hat?” So as to not shame him, I shared that the person might just be weird (sometimes that was followed with an inquiry — what do you mean by weird?).

At first, his response was “no.” He couldn’t think of other reasons. But then he grew into it more. “Maybe the hat was a gift from a friend and it means a lot to wear it.” “Maybe it is a dare.”  “Maybe the person wants to cover up messy hair.” The answers didn’t matter. Seeing “maybe” did. And removing the tendency to judge or impose opinion with certainty so easily — well that’s just important skill, isn’t it.

The game was easy to play. Just needed fingers to count off the six alternative explanations. We played whenever I felt it was needed — in the car, at the dinner table, while watching TV — and often, was met with a groan of resistance. But it’s one of the things I’m proud of with him, as his dad. It’s a game that carries through life to build a sense of wonder about things that seem clear, but under the surface, may not be so clear.

Make It Six isn’t just for kids and geeky dads determined to broaden perspective. What I’m realizing is that broadening wonder and perspective is something for all of us. Politically, in the United States and in many other parts of the world, there is increasing trend to polarity. There is enough complexity that many are retreating to rather strong projections of certainty. It’s natural to do this. Just like it was pretty natural for my son at his developmental age to make judgments about a person’s hat. But just as it was then for him, now, this kind of polarity isn’t particularly helpful in society.

Making good decisions and understanding things well will always be important. And, it isn’t for me to say what those decisions are. I sometimes marvel at people’s certainty and clarity. My position and instinct has always been more reflective and contemplative. Without being able to help it, my disposition is to play Make It Six with most everything. In fact, I shared this with my son just the other day when he gave me a rather vague answer about his day at school. “Our teacher did the worst thing.” I of course didn’t know what that meant. “Did she give you too much homework? Did she ask you to read a challenging book? Did she change the way the desks are organized? Did she yell at you? Did she tease you?” I told my son that Make It Six goes on all of the time in my brain and that I needed just a bit more clarity from him.

The value I hope to add in Make It Six is often a dislocation from certainty, rather than a rigidifying of certainty. When working in teams, communities, and organizations, the ability to wonder together is in fact a critical competency. Rather than vying for a version of truth about what is happening (and recruiting others to it), exploring is the game. Wonder is the game. Broadened perspective is the game. It’s not about marketing and coercing a truth. It’s about being able to be in suspended certainty, even if just for a while, so as to be in more  explorative ways together.

I’ll keep playing they game with my son. Because I’m his dad and I care about how he develops. And though I gamed it with him (access points matter right), the ability to wonder will always be essential in this increasingly complex and fast-changing world. Make It Six just offers an alternative starting place.