Blown By The Wind

Haboobs, or dust storms, roll into Phoenix regularly during monsoon. High winds push balcony furniture back and forth across the balcony, roll potted plants down the street, push birds into trees, and dirt into just about anything.

One of the nice parts of the storms is seeing the unusual places trash comes to rest. I’ve seen a Coke can in a tree, a hat stuck on a cactus, and a cat collar with no cat, hanging on a street sign.

This morning, I saw a vinca blossom, stripped from the plant, and stuck in a fan palm. This delights me for the unusual combination of color and shape. I also found the delicate palm fiber almost calligraphic as it held the blossom in place. Art is in front of us. All we need to do is enjoy it. My art to draw in my journal to remind me that I’m safe from the storm. This time.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who helps people get unstuck and dare to be happy.

Art on the Corner

When I first saw the house, I thought a sculpture was in front of it. Nope, the corner was painted. In a really interesting way. Someone had a great idea, and it looked like this:The painting looks almost three-dimensional, and standing on the sidewalk, I could not see the detail. My rule, when I’m out for a walk, is to never step on private property. By staying on public property, I can take photographs without asking for signed permission.

Lucky for me, the other corner of the house was easier to get closer to. What surprised me is the detail and care whoever painted this took to make it work so well.

I often think that when we dig up civilizations, we don’t look for spreadsheets, we look for artifacts. Someday, this will make a wonderful artwork that someone drew on two corners of four apartment buildings.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing as a healing process.

As Above, So Below

“As above, so below,” is a phrase with a long mystical history. Believers in magic and mysticism believe that the words were found on the Emerald Tablet, and kabbalists (Jewish mystics) believe that because we are made in the image of God, our lives are microcosms on the divine.

This image is a bit simpler, but no less beautiful in meaning. We don’t get rain often in Phoenix, and when we do, puddles are their own microcosm of the world.

In this one, you can see both the road and brickwork and the sky and trees. So, “as above, so below,” there is beauty wherever you stand.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing and helps people put their own creativity to work. She is writing a book, The Invisible, Visible World.

The Answer is Near

Strange, I thought. In a huge xeriscaped space, there was a plant coming up. Looking healthy, too, even though it is July in Phoenix and nothing looks sprightly and green after a week of 110º+ days. This little plant did.

Xeriscaping is landscaping with rocks, gravel and native plants. The Greek word for “dry” is xero, and the word was coined within the last 40 years to encourage landscaping without lush lawns.

Back to the plant. It surely didn’t have deep roots, it was too young and small. I didn’t see any drip irrigation tubes around. But then I heard a faint “drip.” I looked up to the trees. Nothing. Then to the nearby roof line. And there it was.

A pipe drain from an air conditioner. Many of them are placed on roofs in Arizona, for easier access. Our houses are put close together and fenced in, for the most part.

As the humidity rises in summer (no, there is no “dry heat” during monsoon), air conditioners start to drip water regularly. Somewhere beneath the rocks, a plant seed knew it was time to make the big dash to sprouting, getting water and sun, and setting another generation of seeds.

And opportunistic seed. Ready to take advantage when the time is right. A great example for those who are afraid of risk. Of taking a chance. The time will never be perfect, but when enough circumstances line up, it’s time to go!

Quinn McDonald is working on a book about the intersection of chance and time. It’s called The Invisible, Visible World. The experiences that happen if we are aware and awake and present to opportunity. She is a creativity coach and writer.

That One Moment

In that one moment, when I turned the corner and noticed a breeze in the canyon the streets make, I noticed a flash of color.  A fabric flower, discarded, was picked up by the breeze and tossed down the city street.

It was incongruous all on its own–a piece of pink fabric in a sleepy downtown city street. The pink petals lost the lift of the breeze and settled on a eucalyptus tree branch.  It was a perfect moment–a flower on a green tree against a white block fence.

I took the photo knowing that I was caught in a special moment. In another minute, the flower would be shaken out of the tree by another breeze. It might be blown into a pool, or run over by a car. But in that one instant in time, I could witness this temporary tree in fantasy bloom. We all need such moments.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who teaches creative problem solving and healing trauma through poetry. She also takes photos of the Invisible, Visible World.

Accidental Glass Mosaic

From the Invisible, Visible World–a piece of trash on the sidewalk. A piece of tape used to peel off glass pieces from a smashed windshield.

Another look, and you can see dragon scales, or a transparent snakeskin. Or a breathtakingly careful glass mosaic. I discovered that artists use broken tempered glass to make mosaics–they purchase large pieces, break it (using proper care) and then use the pieces (dyed with alcohol ink, too!) for mosaics.

The extension: don’t we all use broken pieces of our lives to re-assemble them into a useful, often beautiful, assemblage?

–Quinn McDonald is fascinated by the Invisible, Visible world. She’s writing a book about it.

The Power of “Again”

Maybe you’ve seen this incredible video of a woman making calla lily images using an inked string. It’s amazing. Looks easy. She does it perfectly time after time. She then moves on to decorating jeans.

How hard could it be to do that? It’s mostly pulling string.  Ahhh, that’s the problem. Is she using ink or paint? How thin is the ink or paint? Do you have to have a weight on the cover of the  pad of paper?

Without having any answers, I cut a piece of cooking twine and soaked it in thinned walnut ink. The ink was too wet. (That’s the brown attempt on the left.) The next try was still too wet. That’s the blur on the right. But it is heading in the right direction.

When you have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers, you experiment. When you experiment, you generally fail in the early attempts. If you quit then, you will also quit learning. Every time we make a mistake, fail, don’t get it right, we can change something to get better, to work toward getting it right. That’s what success is–trying often enough to finally get it right.

Doing it again (also called practice) gives us a lot of information.  We can change our technique. The second time, I chose a thicker ink and dragged the string more slowly.

Trying again gave a better result.  It didn’t look as wonderful as the  one in the video, but she has probably done hundreds of them.

On the next one, I used a thinner paper. Watercolor paper absorbs paint and water quickly, creating the streaks. This try was with watercolor.

Getting better. Now I was tempted to make two changes. Better to do one change at a time. If it works well (or if it doesn’t), you’ll know exactly what change didn’t work.

The joy of doing it again is that you can see yourself getting better. Whether it’s an art technique, writing, sports, dancing or singing, practice does make perfect. Or at least closer to perfect.

Quinn McDonald values the learning that lies in failure, experimentation, and repetition.

 

 

Smiling Over Spilled Milk

During my morning walk, I came across some spilled ice cream on a sidewalk. In another city, or in another time, a rain may have washed the spilled milk away. In Phoenix, it dries in place. Fast. Which made it the perfect image to photograph.

While the lines and dots in the sidewalk were beautiful in their own right, I loved the way the melted ice cream ran into the safety portion of the sidewalk.

It seems that when we spill out our life, it can create art for people to see hours later. But only in the Invisible, Visible World.

–Quinn McDonald sees accidental art on her morning walks through Phoenix. She calls this temporary art part of the Invisible, Visible World. She’s working on a book about it.

Urban Naturalist at Night

Night walking is very different from day walking, particularly in the city. Most people are home, so the porch lights are on, and most windows are dark, or lit by the light of screens. There is the literal feeling of being an “outsider” because no one sits on their front porch at night.

Moonplant: walking at night. © Quinn McDonald, 2018

Surrounded by people, you feel totally alone, but not necessarily lonely. There is much that connects us in the night.

The day’s work is done, the family is together. Or maybe that’s just what we would like to think. As I walk down streets, I have no idea what happens behind those doors. I am free to make up what I want to think. For now.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She walks every day, sometimes at night, in the invisible, visible world.

More Than a White Sheet of Paper

On this morning’s walk, I saw a van whose back windows had been papered over. Maybe for privacy, maybe because on April 6, it’s already hot in Phoenix. One side was new and fresh–white paint (to match the van) painted over heavy paper.

The other side? Well, it had been around for a while. Been in the sun. The paint was peeling from the paper. But it was the far more interesting piece.

Sometimes wear and tear adds great interest. There is a Japanese esthetic called wabi sabi that places high value in the worn, the old, the damaged. I’m a fan of wabi sabi.

In people, wear and tear adds valuable experience. That texture is symbolic of having been folded and torn and changed and survived. Not a bad thing. Gives me courage to keep on going.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps people see their lives in new ways. Ways that allow for change and growth and acceptance.