Tag Archives: Creativity

Food: Digesting a Garden Smorgasbord


Visiting a northern botanical garden in February with two toddlers in tow hints at limitation — in time, attention, flora variety and color.   Thus, my expectations were set just slightly higher than pavement level when our snuggly packed chevy sedan pulled into the nearly empty parking lot of  Omaha’s 100 acre Lauritzen Gardens located in the heart of the city’s riverfront hills.

My sister and brother-in-law, who frequent the gardens, had pre-chosen two kid-friendly destinations:  the lushly tropical, invitingly warm Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory and the windy bluffs, home to two of world’s largest retired locomotives.

The contrast was striking.


Organic vs Machine.   Life vs Death.


But both evoked awe.

big boyBoth had a story.  An appeal.   A part to play in the modern psyche:  the pull of the exotic, Nature’s enchantment,  power’s thrill, the rise and results of fossil fuel-based  “progress.”

My mind’s been digesting this experience for  2 weeks, ruminating on a smorgasbord of questions about Life’s directing influence and cycles,  creativity and choice, the power of desire, and the inherent human capacity to stand in the present, eyes perceiving, heart open, hands ready, feet on the ground.


Which distilled down to this:  the urgent necessity of tending and feeding our togetherness.   Here.  On this small planet.  Now.
















Effort: Leaping into a Spontaneous Schedule


I returned home from a playful, leaf-tromping, freezing-rain-touched Thanksgiving Holiday eager to begin writing my second short story in an intended series of 14.

I’ve long wished my writing schedule would be as steady and rhythmic as the seasonal progression.  I believe Life responds to regular effort, cheers on creative risks, and supports steady devotion to the Heart’s expressive passions.   But I’ve never been able to stick to a strict writing schedule whether morning or evening.  Minutes or hours. Weekday or weekend.

I’ve given up tracking down the root of this regularity struggle.  Instead I’m switching to what I call a Spontaneous Schedule.  I’ve successfully applied this approach in upping my karate practice, so why not try it with writing?

The schedule:   An hour per day.  The spontaneity:   when inspiration and possibility coincide.   The former solidifies my commitment, builds momentum and zaps inertia.  The  latter accommodates employment demands, respects other commitments and moves with my varying need for rest, all while stoking creative alertness and a playful spirit.

I’ve written a continuous 60 minutes one day.  And  then a 20/40 split the next.  30/30.  Back to 60.  Whatever the scheduled spontaneity convergence produces. Additional boosts leap in here and there:  mulling over character motivations while squeezing toothpaste onto the brush; scratching down ideas on a sticky note during a lunch break.

Word by word.  Paragraph by paragraph.  The story is emerging.  And I’m enjoying the effort.

How do you approach your creative projects?    Balance schedule and spontaneity?   Experience the qualitative process and creativity you desire?





Creativity: Finding the Elegant Solution . . .with Desire and Duct Tape

tools for pet doorThe pet door out to the back deck needed to be altered; its dog-sized, weighted flap being too heavy for my energetic but middle-aged cat, Ruby.  With all my builder/handy-person friends either carrying their own full plates or on vacation, I decided with some trepidation to initiate the project myself.

I appreciate the practical, grounded-ness of hands-on activities. Especially gardening and cooking and practicing karate with the bo staff.  Indeed I find that interaction with material things invites entrance into a creative zone, beyond the rational mind.  A creative space where human and material intelligence mingle and unite to build elegant solutions, especially when the “know it all” ego can be set aside.

Some might call this intermingling communing with the devas or creating with the nature spirits or simply being intuitive and attuned to out-of-the-box possibilities.  I call it one of the great gifts of being alive.

Playing with the same matter over time — be it a particular garden space, a personal musical instrument, tool, etc — can build a deeply artful, welcoming rapport that radiates beauty, joy, surprise, and inspiration.  What personal stories do you have of this profound creative cooperation?

On the surface I lacked this deep rapport with the pet door renovation project.  For starters it was a one time event.  In addition, I didn’t have the officially required tools.  Even if I had, I wouldn’t have known how to use many of them.

What I did have was 1) a great desire for Ruby to be able to enjoy being on the back deck while I am working during the day and 2) my neighbor, Sharon, who was kind enough to stop by with a Phillips screwdriver and her good humor.

The renovation started well: existing pet door with heavy flap easily removed. Check.

Then I hit the snag.  Although I’m usually quite attentive to detail, I neglected to notice that the replacement pet door I had ordered, while having a wonderfully light-weight flap, and being the proper length and height, was not actually the proper width.  Too wide by about 1.5 centimeters. Darn.

Not wanting to abandon the project, I sat on the floor with the Phillips screwdriver and the cardboard packaging, and the hole in the door, and mosquitoes flitting in and out, while Ruby and Sharon looked on. I considered what resources I could put my hands on and thought about how much Ruby likes to be outside.  I waited.

Then it came.  The “elegant” solution.  Cardboard. Scissors. Duct Tape. Perfect shims. Perfect fit.

Now my builder friends will laugh when they see this creation. They’ll consider it too “Arkansan” in the derogatory sense and will probably insist on installing it all properly.  I laugh too, because the lines are neat and straight, the door works, and Ruby’s enjoying the late summer sun.  Thanks intuition.  Thanks devas.

Creativity: Balancing Curves and Squares

ChicagoI traveled by plane to Chicago recently on my way to a family reunion in Michigan.  The city’s skyline boasts the famous Willis Tower (long known as the Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center which houses the fastest elevator in the Western Hemisphere. Impressive.

Yet even more striking than the skyscrapers and the stories behind them is the vast grid of city streets from which they rise.  Square after square after square.  Block after block.  A pattern of hard edged metal and concrete  “landscapes” enclosed by predictable, repeatable boundaries, offering a little flourish (such as a speedy elevator) here and there.  A symbol of our rational mindset and creative prowess over the last century.  A testament to our human power to say “yes, we can build this” and to make it happen.

In contrast to our many “squared” human constructions, Nature’s creations flow with curves, pleasing symmetry and complementary shapes. These configurations soften the eyes, stir playfulness, and open the heart, while sparking awe and igniting wholeness in the imagination . .  . feelings and qualities that say “yes, we can build something that heals and inspires.”

circles and squaresSome spiritual texts denote the square as a symbol for the personality, that part of us which navigates life’s literal and metaphoric streets and gets things done.  On the one hand a perfect fit for our modern outwardly demanding, efficiency driven society.  On the other hand, a creative potentiality of mind, passion, vitality, and physical action that can serve the spiraling inspirations of the Heart  A potentiality waiting to be claimed.

I find that communing with Nature and observing Her Creative Ways (even in a small urban garden of which there are many in Chicago’s neighborhoods) serves as an essential counterweight to the omnipresent pull into cut and dried efficiency and established routines.  It balances the valuable assets of the square with the curves of the heart, yielding the best of both:  real-world savvy and embracing quality; effective action and healing, meaningful inspiration.

Endurance: Draw on Great Powers

violetsBirthing great goals necessitates calling on great powers. Not powers separate from ourselves.   But rather pulsing reservoirs of creativity and vitality existing beyond our self-defined ring-pass-not’s.

Reaching into such reservoirs means trespassing beyond self-circumscribed notions of personal intellect, desire and strength. Stretching into the unpredictable wild of energetic interplay. Adventuring into intimate co-inspiration and opening to exponential uplift. I find this broadening applies equally to the completion of finite projects and pursuing long-term aims, such as living a transformative life rich with challenge, friendship and meaning.

Mother Earth is perhaps our most natural, go-to beyond-self resource. Simply touching Her with bare hands and feet pulls us into Her replenishing circulation and eases us out of our modern electro-magnetic overload. Plenty of “Earthing” websites will attest to this renewing phenomena, but how much more potent to check it out for oneself: squishing toes into a humble patch of untreated row house lawn, resting full body amongst the season’s lush wildflowers (mind the ticks and chiggers), or plunging waist deep into a brisk spring river. Moment upon moment of earth-touching recharges our endurance and boosts hope, courage and the sense of possibility — all essential to great pursuits.

I’ve applied this principle in a small way, as the weather has warmed, shifting to practicing karate barefooted on a stone patio interspersed with vigorous violets. I know my workday technologically-taxed mind and middle-aged body need the balancing, vitalizing terrestrial input if I’m to carry the strength and vigor necessary for my upcoming yellow belt test.

Earth also gifts other powers. She welcomes dynamic creative communion.   In concert with our eyes, our ears, taste, touch, smell and intuition, She widens, encourages and hones, inspiring authentic sculpture, cookery, and poetry among other arts. My friend, Lorna Trigg Hirsch, paints vibrant feminine images with expansive names like Cloud Flyer and Shooting Universal Stars; each a heart-sourced expression conceived through interaction with lake-sculpted stones, local caves, and plants.

In addition to the Earth’s biology and creative spirit, trans-personal power resides in the very intent of our goals themselves. This is the power of goodwill. A convergence of heart-held commitment and action dedicated to the good of another or to shared good. A power which, I have found, connects the human heart and effort to greater evolutionary forces and results in a cycle of tremendous creative outflow and renewing centripetal inrush.   Invocation and Evocation so to speak.

My friend, Miguel, playfully reminded me of the power of goodwill this week when he set out to make a unique birthday video card for a young relative. You can check out his unverified world-record-tying results here.

Effort: Action’s Sweet Messiness

plate 5A stone’s throw from the turn into my narrow dirt driveway, a hand-painted sign announces the presence of Paradise Pottery with the following down-to-earth description:  Real Pots. For Real People.  Made in a Real Place.     https://www.facebook.com/paradisepottery.

When I first arrived at my new home with exactly one ceramic cup, a matching cookie plate, and a graceful soup bowl to fill my kitchen cupboards, I didn’t wait long to visit Jim Wallace, the Paradise Pottery potter and proprietor, and his wife Shannon.  We sorted through bowls, compared nuances in glazes and studied variations in the spirals swirling through a collection of plates that had caught my eye.

No two pieces appeared exactly the same.  As I held up two paired but not identical mugs, it did not escape me that I was touching art crafted with perfect imperfection by human hands through a messy, wet, fiery process, and that I was doing so less then 45 miles from WalMart headquarters, a standardized world away in Bentonville, Arkansas.  How refreshing that was!  Almost rebellious.

Sometimes I find that our increasingly virtual, ideological, mistake-phobic, homogenized culture squeezes authentic action and its creative chaos to the fringes. Yet, the willingness and daring to physically act in accordance with the Heart’s aims is what births dreams and materializes our inherent gifts and passion-fueled inspirations.

This month I’ve been gathering courage and clarity to act on three heart-appealing invitations, which have come my way. One is a local community project called the Heart of Many Ways; another is joining with my business partners to transfigure our technology services and delivery.   Today I stand on the edge of action, a relatively safe and tidy place. Come March 2nd, I’ll be in the thick of it . . . in the thick of testing and stretching my creative and relational capacity. In the sweet messiness of exposing my skill gaps, finding solutions with others, and creating new products and authentic experiences that will hopefully benefit real people, in real places.

What potential actions are on your Heart’s plate?