On peacocks and prickly providence

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Last week I met a lady-architect in Mindanao whose humble demeanor moved me.* I don’t remember the architect’s name, but for the sake of this story, let’s call her Mabel.

Mabel was middle aged, kind, and smartly dressed. She had short hair, wore a clean, elegant suit, but exuded a self-effacing spirit that made me feel safe.  I appreciated her manner even more that night because the other guests at this party were too eager to make connections and display their peacock feathers.  I don’t know about you, but crowds like that make my skin prickle, in a bad way.

As Mabel and I chatted, I found out she wasn’t the typical architect. Instead of buildings and houses, she built chapels and churches. Her unusual project choice intrigued me, so I asked how she got into the church-building trade.

Her casual reply, “I’m not sure. It just happened.” Said in a tone that told me she didn’t think her work was that important.

She then explained that one day, a friend approached her, asked her to design a Church, and told her not to worry too much about cost.  That’s how it began. So, she drew the simplest sanctuary she could imagine, only to be surprised at how anonymous strangers would come and offer donations to pay for prettier designs.  Their generosity is even more impressive considering Mindanao isn’t a wealthy place.

Their willingness to give struck her deeply.  She sensed in these unexpected gestures a mysterious energy that made her skin prickle, but this time, in a good way.  She couldn’t explain exactly what fueled them, but it felt a lot like prickly providence doing its magic.

As she told her story, her voice and gaze were filled with a humble, subtle wonder.  The kind of awe that is discreet enough for a casual observer to miss, but for those who know how to spot it, it signals the presence of deep, real, and selfless faith.


*Mindanao is the southernmost of the 3 major Philippine island-groups. The other 2 are Luzon and Visayas.

 

 

Moving too fast can be meaningful. Here’s how.

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Photo by Mario Calvo on Unsplash

 

I got up at 6:40 and haven’t stopped moving since.  Showered, left the house, got to school at 8:15.  Picked up my photocopies, had breakfast with a friend, rushed to class at 9. Finished at nearly 11. Prepared for my student meetings, which happened from 11:30 – 12. Another meeting at 12. Then lunch with another friend.

I was late for my 1 p.m.  student appointment. But managed to finish seeing all the students I needed to by 3. I picked up paper work at 3:15, and had a snack with another friend, before she left at 4.

Then a few chats with colleagues, before finally settling into my desk at 5.  It’s now 5:24 and in 40 minutes, I’ll need to get up and meet another friend for dinner.

It’s nice to have people to talk to, but jumping from one conversation to another too quickly–in a jiffy–makes me dizzy.  I’m sure everyone has days like mine.  Crazy, never-ending movement.  And all these people who you love and care for but not enough minutes to go around.

Days like this one, you must force yourself– yes, FORCE yourself– to pause, breathe and soak up the joy of simply being.   If not, all the busy moving around will stick to you, eat you up and make you drown. (Doing too much in a day can feel like getting sucked into a whirlpool). And drowning is never fun, not to mention deadly.

It also helps to turn the craziness to curiosity. To approach each conversation, no matter how quick, with an attitude of wonder.

Try and discover something new and valuable in each person you talk to, even if all you have is 10 minutes. And if you don’t feel too strange about it,  verbally affirm them for whatever good trait, insight, or aspect it was you discovered.

I’m always amazed at how injecting a little intentionality and depth to mundane chats can make the most conventional of these so much more fulfilling.

So next time you have one of these suffocatingly busy days, make sure you find time to pause and discover something new in the people around you.   Practice this often, and notice how the heaviest of days become so much lighter.

 

 

Solitude = quality time to explore the world of words.

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

Featuring 3 excellent short reads by women

 

I decided to stay in tonight, instead of going out to dinner. It wasn’t just the dislike for traffic that kept me in. I was longing for solitude, and not only to unplug.

These last few months I’ve discovered that time alone isn’t just for rest. It’s also an opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of my inner world. Solitude is an opportunity to steep in the silence of my room, and allow my mind to wander unhurried into my thoughts, dreams, questions. It’s also the perfect space to explore the world through words. Through books, articles, poetry, song.

Tonight, these were my top 3 reads:

One. Elizabeth Lane’s curated book list from The Fold Mag.

I’ve never read anyone write so excitedly and lovingly about books. Each read she features in her article comes alive through her words. Lyrical, sensitive, and fascinating. I never knew a list of recommendations could be written with so much heart and thoughtfulness.

Two. Maria Popova’s article on Albert Camus.

Camus is a name I hear about often, but only tonight did I find the time to read his story. In this Brain Pickings piece, Popova brings out Camus’ more tender, virtuous side. If I didn’t bother reading the wikipedia entry  afterwards, I would have thought he was a saint.

Three. Mandy Chew’s article on successful relationship secrets.

It’s featured on a Medium publication called Positopian. A delightful read because nothing about how she writes suggests self-importance. She’s able to motivate without sounding like she’s selling herself, her ideas, or her writing. She persuades and inspires, only through cheerfulness, and without taking herself too seriously.  Her writing is refreshing, practical, and down-to-earth. Oh, and with the kind of spunk I love.

 

After writing this list, I noticed all the articles are by women. That must have something to do with the “x” factor all these pieces possess. Someone once called it “the feminine genius”.

If you’d like another story about a really smart woman who knew how to use her “soft power” to get her way, you can read one here.

Just in case there are books or articles by women that you enjoyed or were enlightened by, please share with us the links/ titles in a response below.  It will be very much appreciated by both me and other readers.

Thanks for reading! And happy weekend! 🙂

originally published on my medium publication Eavesdropping on Athena.

 

To confront glaring social differences, we need hope.

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Street children in tattered clothing knocking on windows of air-conditioned SUVs.

Posh mansions a few kilometers from cramped cardboard homes.

The few chubby kids in well-pressed uniforms and shiny black shoes,

The millions of skinny school children walking for hours in mud and rain, in thin-soled slippers.

The few technocrats who make millions,

The many mothers cleaning homes, worrying about the next bill, the next meal.

Manicured green lawns, and trash strewn alley ways.

 

The glaring difference between the wealthy and the hungry, which few seem to notice., and even fewer care for.

Because it hurts to look at, like glaring light.  Like piercing rays, we’re afraid seeing these contrasts  will make us blind. In this case,  blind to what’s good in life.

To notice those who suffer while we enjoy, is to make ourselves vulnerable to guilt. If our eyes meet the forlorn look of the girl on the street, we’ll see in her pain, the fruit of our fault. The ugly consequence of our apathy.  The ugly hatred of our self-absorption.

When that happens, our conscience won’t rest easy. Our cushy homes will no longer feel safe. They’ll become concrete reminders of our guilt.

And no matter how hard we try and how much we care, the misery of poverty is almost impossible to solve.  So, by looking at it, we also make ourselves vulnerable to hopelessness.

 

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That’s why we need the softer light of hope, which helps us see through the disappointing contrasts and shows us a path that is slow but steady–a path that does haunt with guilt, but calls to sustainable generosity.

Sustainable generosity is more than just giving. More than just handing out the extra piece of bread, or old piece of clothing.

Sustainable generosity empowers. It walks beside, but also strengthens the freedom in those who have little.

It strives to teach,  aside from feed.

It awakens, in those who ask for help, the desire to create, to be enterprising, to build a better future for themselves and their children.

Sustainable generosity is built on solidarity, yes. But more than this, it believes that the human being, regardless of class, can learn and climb on his own.  In fact, he must learn to climb on his own because it’s the only path to fully flourish and thrive.

 

On the allure of graceful machines

Ok, I admit. When I first read “carousel” I thought of those round colorful rides with fake horses at theme parks.  I used to love those as a child. It was one of the tamer rides. And the up and down movement, on those ceramic horses kept me entertained, even if all the ride did wCarousel_at_Hyde_Park.jpgas turn.

But I decided to challenge myself, and think of a second object with the same name. The spice device below came to mind.

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I guess it’s because I love to cook and getting ingredients from something that twirls makes me feel like a quasi-professional.

I can grab a bottle of thyme to season my dish, and flick the carousel round to reach the bottle of black pepper, 6 bottles down.

Twirling something makes one feel graceful.  Having to reach for spices from a cupboard feels clunky and awkward. Especially when I need to shut and open the cabinet over and over again to reach for the next herb or spice.

Guess that’s  what drew me to theme park carousels too, its gracefulness. The other rides seemed violent and rough.  The carousel was like the remaining remnant of elegant poetic motion in a sea of mean machines.

 

Should we trust what shimmers?

Check this photo out:

jet-kaweeno-154470.jpgPhoto by Jet Kaweeno on Unsplash

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I’m not sure what it’s of, but it looks like the front of an expensive car. It shimmers, catches your eye, and might make your jaw drop. At least at first.

Then there are places that, even if they don’t shimmer, exude the same power and sophistication as the car above. Here’s one. A chic, all white workspace, with a stunning view.

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I love how it looks: the minimalism, sleek furniture, the floor to ceiling windows that open up to a view of building rooftops–giving you the feeling that you’re on top of the world.

But it’s so shiny clean that I wouldn’t bring in piles of paper or old worn books that I usually consult when I really write.  Who would want to break its clutter-less harmony?

In a desk like the one below, however, I wouldn’t mind the mess.

It isn’t spectacular. It doesn’t shimmer.  But it’s a place where hard, deep creation can happen.  A place where I can sit and lay out as many old photos, dog-eared books, and piles of papers, without worrying too much.

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Shimmering places might look impressive, but impressions don’t usually last.

Quality does. Depth does. And it’s in places like this last one that good, long-lasting things are made.  The things that become better as time passes.

So be careful not  to trust  things and places that shimmer too quickly. Same goes for people.

He might look dashing at first.  She might say all the right things, and dress the right way. But what’s underneath the facade?  Is there someone you can trust, learn from, and really respect under the sharp Armani suit, and high heels?

Should we trust what shimmers? I wouldn’t say no.  But wait and see until what lies underneath comes to the surface.  Wait and see whether what catches your eye at first, leads to something even better, as time passes.

Would you agree? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

One word that always makes me happy.

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I love the word casual. It triggers images and memories of everything that’s easy, laid-back, comfortable, and relaxing.

Here are 10 that come to mind when I think of the word ‘casual‘–

  1. Going to work in jeans, a comfortable t-shirt, and old sneakers
  2. When teachers teach a class while sitting on a table
  3. Lazy, Saturday afternoons
  4. Summer barbecues
  5. Family weeknight dinners
  6. Hanging out at a McDonalds
  7. Spontaneous coffee dates
  8. Spontaneous beer dates
  9. Watching cartoons with cousins
  10. Street food

How about you? What images/ experiences/ moments do you remember when you hear the word “casual”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

(Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash)

 

 

What makes a relationship strong? Genuine partnership.

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As I went in and fell out of relationships, I discovered that romances are healthier when the man I’m with sees that my femininity is more than my vulnerability. When he can’t see past it, he tends to treat me as someone he always needs to protect, instead of a partner to journey with.

When he feels that way, the relationship can get tiring and lonely because he knows he isn’t bionic, nor indestructible.  He’s human too.  He has his weaknesses and needs. Sometimes, life will scare him and make him weep.  When that happens, he needs a woman he can walk with, rather than one he always has to carry.

Similarly, when I feel like an equal companion, something in me comes alive. When my man values me beyond just externals, when he listens to my ideas, and asks for my opinion when figuring out a problem, I feel invaluable.  In contrast, when he treats me like a trophy, I’m often afraid that when he comes across a better looking one, he’ll let me go.

Simply put, romances built on partnership feel stronger than those that treat the other as patient or possession.

If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

(Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash)

 

This is why human life was made for travel, according to Gabriel Marcel.

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By travel, I don’t mean the physical act of hopping into a car or plane.  I mean travel as metaphor — a symbol for the change that happens when our insides go from just ok to better.

Travel here means an inner pilgrimage. What Gabriel Marcel talked about when he wrote that to be human is to be homo viator:  a wanderer, a pilgrim, moving from what is good today to what is better tomorrow.  Walking away from brokenness today to wholeness tomorrow.

We move this way because we carry inner blueprints of hope.  Each of us, in our hearts’ innermost chamber intuit that there’s something better, bigger, brighter in store for us, regardless of how dark the present seems.  Each of us know that whether today is gloomy or great, there’s a tomorrow that will be so much sweeter.

If you’ve ever listened to this instinct, you probably have discovered feeling its impulse isn’t enough.  It shouldn’t be enough.  Hope is just the ladder, and not what one finds at the end of its narrow staircase. Hope is the path. Not the summit we’re trying to get to.

To get to that peak, we must be willing to climb, even when it’s steep and tiring.  It asks from us an inner endurance.

If you decide to take it, you must fight the urge to give up. You need to keep going upward, even when everyone else refuses to go on. Being a pilgrim of hope is to strive for heights that seem impossible right now, but in the soul’s gut, we know we need to get to because it’s where we’re meant to be.

You also know that once there, the joy you’ll find and the beauty you’ll see will be more than worth it.  At the end of hope’s trail is a glorious reward for keeping our spirits alive.

“I almost think that hope is for the soul what breathing is for the living organism. Where hope is lacking the soul dries up and withers…”
Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator: Introduction to the Metaphysic of Hope

(Photo by Vaida Tamošauskaitė on Unsplash)

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Symphony is all around us.

Symphony isn’t just for an orchestra to play.  It surrounds us.

Listen carefully.  Can you hear your fingers hitting the keyboard?

Listen some more,  what else does your ear pick up?

From where I write, I notice three sounds.

Then four: clicking keyboard, chirping evening crickets, dripping water from the pond downstairs, an occasional car zooming past…

Later, a fifth…the whizzing air conditioner.

 

Normally, I take these noises for granted.  I forget they’re there.  They aren’t loud enough to force me to stop and listen. They sort of melt into the background. But when I do remember to pause and pay attention, I discover they hide a haunting poetry.  Their subtle music tells me the everyday has its own soundtrack.

Symphony is not just the occasional performance on stage — it’s all around me.

Everyday has its own song.

It’s made up of clicking keyboards, dripping water, chirping crickets, and whizzing ACs. It’s set against the poetic silence of evening, or the energetic ambiance sunlight exudes during the day.

The instruments of mundane symphonies aren’t trumpets and violins, but they possess their own special timbre.  The music they make is simpler and less showy than a conventional orchestra’s, but it soothes the ear and soul in a way a concert hall can’t.

These everyday symphonies. Remembering to notice them and listen to their whispers was what came to mind when I read “symphony”.

Then, I remembered the film August Rush in which a young boy slowly discovers the invisible orchestra on a city street:  horns beeping, human footsteps, zooming past of taxis and buses, pedestrian banter.  He hears them together and notices a masterpiece emerge.

If you’d like to see that snippet, here it is. It’s entitled “City Symphony”.

I hope the clip inspires you to notice and relish the subtle symphonies that lurk in the background of your everyday.

Thanks for reading!

Did you know hanging out can make you smarter, just like books?

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Progressive societies teach their young to leave the nest at 18 and aspire for a life that maximizes personal space. Their culture whispers, “self-fulfillment can only happen when one stands up on one’s own mental, financial, and spatial feet.”

Less dependence, more satisfaction.

Less dependence, more time to become better, learn more, and grow smarter.

That may be because in these societies, internet and book access come easy. Information abounds and one needs as much time as one can get to consume these tidbits of knowledge. Being in community will take away time from books and computer screens. That’s one reason it can seem like community makes one less smart.

Said another way, independence means more space to grow one’s brain. And progressive societies make independence easier to have.

Less-progressive societies prioritize hanging out over reading.  In these spaces, much time gets eaten up hanging out with people.   Little is left over for books or global news. Moving from newer to older, tribal spaces, we can feel like our worlds shrink and with it, our brains.

But what if we think of other people as embodied books? What if we approach each person as holding a story, an insight, a lesson taken from the unique bit of existence that is their life?  What if we expect each one to possess a bottomless depth from which new thoughts can emerge? What if we approach community with the same curiosity we have towards a book?

 

Then community will make us smarter. But in a way that makes us less lonely.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Books and screens aren’t as effective in that department.

(Photo by Alan Chen on Unsplash)

This is why less visible beauties matter.

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Hans Urs Von Balthasar was an apostle of beauty. Unlike other theosophers, he entered the realm of meaning not through concept or idea, but through a passion for the aesthetically pleasing.

In the excerpt below, he tells us to look at how beauty goes beyond ornament. He asks us to notice when beauty functions, not as attractive appearance, but as a spiritual enabler that moves us to pray and to love. Moments when beauty functions as a magnet that pulls us towards what feeds the spirit.

“Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past — whether he admits it or not — can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.

Through this insight, he invites us to broaden our estimation of beauty. He asks us to notice its presence beyond what is skin-deep. To see how it’s subtler forms are more valuable because they point us towards the things that may be harder to see, but endure for longer (truth and goodness).

Pretty things and faces are nice to look at but can’t inspire in the sustained way a sunset or a selfless gesture can.  It’s these subtler forms of beauty that propel us to reach out and reach higher, to touch what is always true and good.  To touch what moves us to live in ways people will remember with thankfulness.

Beauty is most potent when it is not showy.  It is most compelling when it whets our appetite to live generously, compassionately, sincerely, meaningfully.

In its less visible forms, it convinces us that we shouldn’t settle for what is merely alluring but hollow.

 

Have you noticed how powerful your parents are?

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Yes, all parents are powerful, even those who were never celebrities, millionaires, or heads of state.

Parents are powerful because every human heart and mind has been chiseled, scratched, scarred, and sculpted by a mom and a dad.

I might not get along with mine, but the wounds they’ve left on me can’t help but shape the patterns of my life: how I love, how I speak, how I hide, how I give…how I hurt.

Every habit I possess points back to something either mom or dad did. Or didn’t do.

Our parents are flawed, like you and me. We’ve all been hurt by them. Some in big ways, others in smaller.  An inevitable fact of life that makes having children a scary prospect.

When scars from our parents surface in tragic ways, it’s easier to imagine them as monsters or villains.  We run away as far as we can.

But no matter how far we go, their ghosts and thumbprints remain like indelible ink no substance can ever erase.

Our parents though aren’t really villains. At least most aren’t. They’re human. Which means they have both dark and light, selfishness and love,  guilt and goodness.  And traces of this goodness are just as inescapable as the scars.

So for every scar that surfaces, it helps to notice a trait they’ve passed down that has helped you and I live well: a talent, a habit, even a quirk.

It heals to do this.  It teaches our hearts to be grateful. Not just for them, but also for the beauty they have left in each of us.

(Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash)

Is forgiving the same mistake a weakness?

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When he hurts me in the same clueless way he hurt me before, forgiveness feels like the last thing I should do.   The familiar sting is always worse than a new one. It makes me want to run and hide my heart in something stony, so it doesn’t hurt again.

To protect my heart, I badger him. I tell him in so many ways and words what he did wrong, again and again. I insist I’m the victim, and explain my feelings in terms of “I-statements” so that I don’t look like I’m the villain. But he sees through me. He feels the defensive dagger behind my words.

Both of us end up scarred. Both of us end up feeling like victims. That’s because we’re both human beings with a selfish gene that likes to hide selfishness under the mask of “I’m right”.

When this happens, I know I have to choose between insisting I’m right or forgiveness. When this happens, mercy always feels like weakness.  It feels like exposing my already sore heart to the possibility of more blows.

Then again, his heart is sore too. Yet, he makes the first move.  He reaches out.  He reminds me he loves me.

“What gives him the energy to do this?” I wonder.

Looking back, I see why he dares to forgive. He knows there’s love beneath his pain. He remembers the goodness beneath my selfish stubbornness.  He chooses mercy to pull the good stuff out again, so we both see it and heal.

Pulling out the good stuff beneath fresh pain is a powerful alchemy.  It’s what mercy does best. That’s why it isn’t really a weakness, but a redeeming strength.

(Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash)

What makes belief attractive? It stays hidden.

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Yesterday at church, I sat beside a skinny middle-aged lady, dressed in a modest yellow Sunday dress and inexpensive black flats.  She wasn’t smiling, nor did she look bored. She just sat there like she always belonged there. Like an ordinary fixture to be taken for granted.

As the ceremony continued, I began to sense something different in the way she sat there. It wasn’t her gestures. She didn’t sing louder than the rest of us. Nor kneel when everyone else sat.  She blended in just like everyone else.

Still not quite settled in, I began looking around.  When I turned towards her, I noticed that her eyes exuded a peaceful attentiveness unlike those around us. I noticed how her being there, praying, and worshipping with others lit her up somehow. That struck me.

I realized at that moment that her faith was special. She believed not because everyone else did. She believed because believing lit up a wick inside her, and that was enough. Seeing this made me want to believe even more.

The idea can be applied to other ways of believing too.

All of us believe. Whether it be a truth, a faith, or in someone we love.

Whatever it is, belief attracts when it remains hidden. It draws when it doesn’t impose, doesn’t intrude. It pulls when its only satisfaction is the inner light it brings.

But it won’t stay invisible forever.  Eventually, those who love us will see.

They’ll see it in our peaceful attentiveness and the way our eyes light up. They’ll wonder where it comes from, and maybe, begin searching for it too.

 

(Photo by Edu Grande on Unsplash)

 

Gentlemen know how to save the day with laughter.

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Manila traffic is an ugly monster.  It’s vicious on weekdays, but twice as bad on Saturdays, when all cars are allowed on city roads.   Imagine what that would look like, remembering that in the Philippines, cars have increased 600% since the 1980s, while roads have only expanded 39%.  (ABS-CBN)

Yup, we aren’t just known for our mangoes. We also have lots and lots of car-clogged roads.

Last Saturday, P and I went for a road trip.  We left early to avoid the jams, but 500 meters into our car trip, carmageddon began.

Waze warned us we’d have to sit in it for 11 minutes, which didn’t sound too bad.  But it was one of those days Waze couldn’t see the whole story.

Normally, it would have taken us 40 minutes.  Last Saturday, it took us twice as long. Ugly, unpredictable, traffic monster.

We could have griped at the government. We could have hurled expletives at our grossly inefficient infrastructure. We could have ground our teeth in quiet,  tense impatience, as we sat in the car, cranky and irritated at the world.

But surprisingly we didn’t.  Because he was a gentleman who wanted to save my day. So instead of griping, and cursing, and grinding, he decided to make us laugh as hard as he could.  What started out as carmageddon hell, turned into a memorable, hilarious afternoon.

Most times, humor makes for a good party. Other times, it is the mark of a caring man. Saturday brought me both.

 

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

Oh, those stunning dots!

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I’ve loved his paintings ever since I can remember.  Even when I was a little girl, I never got bored looking at them. Something about how his dots came together to mimic scenes from the French countryside enchanted me.

In an age obsessed with digital photography and HD TV,  it makes even less sense to me why his paintings fascinate me.  Because they’re obviously grainy. And in our lingo, grainy has come to mean ugly, haphazard, amateur.

But from his paintbrush, grainy becomes a masterpiece worth contemplating and getting lost in for hours.  The two paintings below are perfect examples.

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They feature nothing more than ordinary haystacks, but the orange, yellow, blue and brown in the first artwork exude a quiet playfulness that only talent can put together.

Then look at the second painting.  Same haystacks but covered in snow.  He mixed in  enough subtle grays, blues and purples into the white, to capture the magic stillness of winter.

And despite the changing of seasons, the soothing energy both pieces exude is the same.

Both transport the viewer to a place of rest.

Frosty or warm, his paintings bring us, through our eyes, to a place where we can experience

Monet_grainstacks-snow-effect-1891_W1274.jpgand discover that closest to the ground is where we feel most at home.

So next time you visit a museum, look for these stunning dots and see how delightful grainy can actually be.

 

How on earth can the same word go two opposite ways?

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When I’d hear my professors use this word in class, I never really knew what it meant. So today, I decided to find out, and still don’t know what they meant by it.  You see, the dictionary isn’t so helpful. When you look it up this is what you get:

 

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An entry that tells you it means opposite things, even if it’s the same word.

First definition of “willy-nilly” says the adverb describes an act you must do.  It can describe what it takes to survive, a non-negotiable duty, a strict regulation.  Events like carrying a passport through a national border, registering for classes to get credit, having to eat enough everyday, and for many, beginning the day with coffee.

Key phrase is have to.

Yet…

It also refer to what is random, aimless, directionless?

Something about life that is not a must.  A non-duty, an unplanned event, an unlikely coincidence. Moments like bumping into an old friend in a far flung African airport, or falling in love with the guy in front of you in the checkout line.

Key phrase is also not a have to.

How on earth can the same word point to opposite directions at the same time?

Beats me.

Whatever it is, it’s the most versatile word I’ve found in the English language so far.

Now I understand why my professors used it so often.

It’s a great way to keep students guessing. I think I’ll try the trick in my classroom soon.

 

 

 

Long, lingering walks change us.

paul-dufour-172607.jpgPhoto by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

Talking and walking with a friend is one of life’s sweetest, cheapest pleasures.  You’re not quite sure where the ambling will lead, but you go anyway.  You get lost in the banter, and feel your insides relax as you put one foot in front of the other.  You’re surprised at how the conversation flows more smoothly as you take more steps together.

It starts as polite exchange, then later becomes comfortable laughter. A shared joke, a hobby you discover you both have, or just the mysterious comfort of having someone with you, who isn’t after anything. Except walking with you.

It’s amazing how much joy can grow from a long lingering walk taken together. It’s almost magical how much insight can be born from conversations that happen between pedestrians. It’s an ideas incubator as old as the ancient greeks.  Back then there was even a philosophical school, for sages who liked to walk and talk together.

So next time you feel a little under the weather, or need to jumpstart your creative juices, call a friend to take a walk with you.  Or if not a friend, even an acquaintance will do. Who knows? That walk might just turn him or her into a new friend.  And how bad can that be?