Lawn Ornament as Art

Here in the desert, we often don’t plant lawns. They get shriveled by May, and need too  much water. We use rocks instead.

This lawn had a big chunk of brown glass. I’ve never seen such a large piece of glass. (About the size of a shoebox.) But the sun was at the perfect angle. The glass looked as if it were on fire.

Sometimes is just a pile of rocks, sometimes its a piece of art. Up to you, always.

Quinn McDonald is writing a book about the invisible, visible world. She is a writer and creativity coach.

The Beauty of Destruction

Building, making, and creating are wonderful. But there is also great beauty in things that are old, damaged, or worn. Wabi sabi is the Japanese phrase for honoring the worn, the old, the damaged.  I’ve had a long-lived love affair with wabi sabi.

A few days ago, Phoenix had a hard freeze and stucco’d walls will often pop off the stucco. This wall is on the way there. I found the shadow work on it really beautiful.

You can see the lifted stucco as well as the line where the bricks are joined. It forms a map of its experiences, just as the lines on your face tell your story, too.

–Quinn McDonald is writing a book on the Invisible, Visible World–seeing things in new ways with fresh eyes.

2018 Sinks Below the Horizon

How was 2018 for you? Probably a mix of tough and good.  Either way, in a few hours, it will be 2019. And you can choose what to take with you and what to leave behind. Yes, you can. This is not up to your partner, or your parents, or what happened in 1994. It’s your choice.

Sunrise, New Year. © Quinn McDonald, alcohol ink on Yupo, 2017.

Letting go means not dragging the worry and tension with you into a new year. Letting go means exhaling and waiting to pull in new air into your life and lungs.

In their book, Writing—The Sacred Art: Beyond the Page to Spiritual Practice, Rami and Aaron Shapiro explain (my paraphrase): The story you tell is your story. Your parents may have told you a story about yourself and you may have believed it, or felt you had to believe it. But, in the end, it is your story. We are not born to be one, specific thing. We can create different selves, but it is hard.

So we often take on the story that someone else made up for us and decide this is who we are, rather than the person we have chosen to be. We are what we create. If I am the story I tell, and the story isn’t right, I am free to invent another story.

Invent a story that lets you breathe. Invent a story that lets you step into the person you want to be. Let go the images of you that drag you down. Leave to 2018 the ideas, the anger, the resentment  that aren’t useful. Leave behind thoughts that drag you down. Resentments that hold you back.

You get to choose priorities. You get to name what it important to you. No one can decide for you. You can’t claim it is important and then turn your back on it. Then it wasn’t important enough.

One year from now, you will not remember if you started the year with a fresh bullet planner or clean floors, a smaller waist, or a put-away tree. You bring it all with you, but you don’t have to. You can put down those resentments, that anger, and write a new you into being.

You may be afraid that without your anger, your control, your resentment, you won’t remember who you are. That may be a good thing. Be someone new. Someone with wonder. Someone who laughs at mistakes–your own, mostly. Learn. Grow.  Start to let go of what doesn’t make you eager, alive, wonderful and awake. You have a few hours to start.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She teaches writing, creative problem solving, and working with difficult people.

Box of Colors

Storage sheds. We all know about them, we all need them.  Most of mine have had a jumble of broken items, tools, spiders, toads, snakes and rust in them.

Today, I found a shed clearly planned ahead and carefully. It’s in an older neighborhood in Phoenix, but as so often happens, once the updating started, almost everyone on the block got into the updating swing.

I love this box because it is not what you would expect. It does not hide itself. It stands, colorful and proudly offering its services while also brightening a front yard.  Being different isn’t easy, but it can be beautiful.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who is working on a book about the Invisible, Visible World.

Variety Adds Interest

A new fence went up in my neighborhood. Everyone in Phoenix has a fence around their side or back yards. (Largely to keep kids and pets out of pools, but also because housing is close together here.)

The fence is different from all the other fences in the neighborhood. Instead of being made out of wood cut to the same width and height, it uses a variety of widths, a variety of lengths. The result is a far more interesting fence.

Instead of looking at the fence to see where there might be a mistake, where one slat is a tiny bit higher than the rest, I look at the fence as a whole, pleasing in its effect–a functional piece made from different sizes of lumber. And functionally, it would be harder to jump this fence than one that’s the same height.

This fence. Just like real life. A lot of metaphor happening there.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who helps people ask for what they want.

Go For Fresh

By 4:00 p.m. I was hungry. Dinner is later these days, we aren’t both home until about 7:00 p.m. But by later in the afternoon, even with a good lunch, I’m  sure I will waste away without a snack. But it has to be healthy, too.  I headed for the fridge for my usual snack–a red pepper. Sometimes it gets a dab of peanut butter, sometimes a smear of soft cheese. Other times, just plain. A sweet red pepper is a perfect thing.

As I reached into the crisper drawer, I noticed a wrinkled pepper, older, slowly exhaling its sweet aroma and crunchy texture in exchange for wrinkles shooting across its skin.

Automatically, I reach for the sadder pepper. Training from long ago. In my family, we were not allowed to eat the fresh, new, crisp fruit. No, we were to eat the older, mushy fruit or vegetable first. That way, nothing went to waste. We did not waste in our house. I know, I know, but you didn’t know my parents and how close they had lived to starvation for years. Waste was not a choice, it was a way to stay alive. A habit once learned is hard to break.

The result? We rarely ate tasty, just-picked fruits or vegetables. We constantly foraged for the spotted, the almost gross, and saved it from the trash by eating it, cooking it, or burying it in a casserole or soup.

I hesitated, my hand over the older pepper. I knew it would not be crunchy, and the bright red taste had faded to a tougher skin and limp texture. And then it struck me: there are omelets, soups, garnishes, juices that could benefit from the older pepper. But the firm one, the one glowing in the corner, is meant to be eaten now. While it is fresh and juicy. While it is “now” perfect. That is when I will appreciate it most, honor it best.

The older pepper can benefit from another technique, but this one? I’m celebrating it (and my taste buds) for its perfect combination of temperature, color, and happiness.

Life. Enjoy it while it’s fresh. We can’t control much, but we can control the choices we do have.

–Quinn McDonald sees big lessons in small places.

The Tiny Fence

The Invisible, Visible World depends on perspective. Seeing things differently than others. Appreciating what shows up in front of you as you walk.

I am two different people: one who wants to know how everything works, is interested in reasons and causes and one who wants to experience the world through my senses.

Sometimes I see something and just want to enjoy what I see, what it makes me think of, the memories it brings out.

Here’s an example of how it works: I saw the tiny plant, clearly planted as a seed, surrounded by sticks, clearly broken off by hand, and stuck in the ground.  A tiny, wireless fence. It looks as if a child did it, but there were five of them, all in a neat row. Too neat for a small child. How could that protect anything?

But as I stood and looked at it, in the middle of the downtown front yard, I realized that the most likely attacker of the plant would be birds. (No rabbits in this part of town.)

The sticks were too tall for the birds to reach over, too close together for the bigger birds to squeeze through, and too tall for them to jump over.

A week later, the plants were bigger, and still there. I noticed the shadows the sticks cast, and the health of the plant. I noticed that the soil was damp and smelled like rain.  The things that protect us don’t have to be fancy, or complicated. Simple works. On plants. On people.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps people discover their creativity and put it to use. While she helps people who are labeled “creative,” she works with parents, investment bankers, teachers, and marketing executives, who often don’t know how to find their creativity.