At play in the field between imagination, fantasy, and reality


“Logic only gives man what he needs… Magic gives him what he wants.” ~ Tom Robbins

When you steep a while in the world of Story, everything starts to seem a little less “real.” The line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. Even when I work with clients, their businesses and buildings can feel a bit staged, like a game we are all playing. I am aware that few—if any—of them see it that way, so I’m careful about what I say. The truth is, though, that I’ve always had a rather loose hold on reality, feeling more at home in a world of fantasy and imagination than in the hyper-competitive, fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world out there.

This may account for my proficiency at writing proposals and designing buildings. I can cast forward and imagine the shining whole, complete and beautiful. It’s the in-between stages that are more of a slog, with their constraints of budgets and code officials and physics. Slogging is what I was taught—what we were all taught—about turning ideas into reality. In recent years, I’ve been encountering and learning about other ways to do it, ways that reach me on an intuitive level but that mostly elude me on a practical level. These are ancient ways of relating to the world and tapping our human faculties that we moderns can learn even today. Continue reading

Dispatch from the world of women in business: where were the men?


Last week, I watched the first fifteen minutes of the Republican presidential “debate.” That’s all I could stand, those ten men up there delivering their carefully rehearsed sound bites. And the rich white guy with the comb-over playing to the cheering, jeering crowd with his outrageous pronouncements. The next morning, I attended a business breakfast in a place called Martin’s Valley Mansion. As I drove through the fully paved, suburban streetscape to a strip shopping center, I didn’t see a valley or a mansion.

In the vast windowless ballroom (walls faux-painted in Second Empire French drapery and fluted columns), about two hundred women drank coffee and networked. This yearly celebration of women in business sponsored by the local business newspaper is always well attended. This year’s panelists were leaders in the tech industry, giving intelligent advice about how to get ahead and thrive in a world dominated by men. They spoke frankly in answer to such questions as, How do we make this issue of more women in tech into more than a “women’s issue”? No one remarked on the irony of that question in a gathering of over 200 women and about 10 of their male colleagues. Continue reading

Truth, beauty, wild yeast and courting revelation

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When you are tuned in via a creative process that works for you, surprising things come through. Writing is one medium that does that for me. I start noodling some ideas around—often, two or three seemingly unrelated ones that have caught my attention. It helps to ask questions like What is this really about? and What am I trying to say? In the course of the writing, insight sneaks in.

I want to say revelation, but keep choosing the word insight for its modesty, its unwillingness to make demands. Maybe it’s like when bakers or brewers rely on wild yeast, rather than controlled addition of packaged yeast. I picture wild yeast as dust motes floating invisibly on currents of afternoon air warmed by low streaks of sunlight. Where does wild yeast even come from? Can bakers and brewers count on it being there in the air, waiting to dive into their dough or mash, to mate with their flour, rye or barley? Is that the appeal: the risk, the lack of control, the mystery? Continue reading

Take two sunsets and call me in the morning

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I made this painting last evening during the sunset. We were in Hawk Cove, just outside Middle River where we keep our boat docked. With only a slight breeze, we were able to poke along with the mainsail instead of going to the trouble of anchoring. I was attracted to an amazing bulge of shockingly white cloud erupting from the bank of blue-gray on the horizon. The tinge of yellow and peach from the descending sun would be interesting to try to capture in watercolor.

As soon as I began, circumstances conspired to annoy me. My husband was feeling too relaxed after a nice picnic dinner to steer, so the boat twisted slowly away from my view. Since the sunset would soon be over, he wanted to start the engine and be on our way. As soon as he made this known, I protested. One of the best things about a sunset on water is the stillness that settles over everything. It’s also almost impossible to capture it in a painting, because the scene is constantly changing. Continue reading

Alone time practices connect to joy


Self-care is an evolving discipline for me. I was labeled selfish and moody as a child, often sent to my room for being too emotionally intense. It may have been a practical strategy for a mother coping with four young children, but I didn’t understand that at the time. To this day, my alone time feels subversive. The deep core of Puritan work ethic and dedication to service in our cultural story can be misappropriated to guilt people, especially women, into caring only for others.

And yet, most spiritual traditions teach the importance of attending to oneself as an essential part of a life well lived. Modern teachers sometimes invoke the airplane oxygen mask as metaphor: you must secure your own mask before helping another with theirs. There’s also the cup of tea metaphor. Only once you’ve filled your cup to overflowing will you be able to give someone the tea that has spilled into the saucer. Continue reading