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.

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.

Seeds and History

Seeds hold the history of the plant. Because a plant’s growth depends on favorable conditions, a seed will also reveal the amount of water, nourishment, sunlight, and care the plant received. Seeds from one area will be smaller, harder, and tougher if their lives were harder.

And sometimes, just because the sun is at the right angle, because I looked up, because the seed pods had light shining through them, sometimes I can see the future.

—-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She walks the emotional path with people in pain, and the dusty streets of Phoenix because she loves the invisible, visible world.

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.

Look Up, Half the World Is Over Your Head

One of the secrets of finding amazing sights and ideas is to look back over your shoulder, the way you came. When every photographer is focusing on the trail ahead to the mountains, turn around and see what is behind you. Besides being a smart hiker’s trick (trails look different hiking out than hiking home), it is a smart photographer’s trick. The breath-taking view is often behind you.

As a metaphor, enjoy the work you have already done. Check to see how far you have come since you made that change.

Tree house above my head. I almost missed it. What wonderful daydreaming must take place there!

Another secret to seeing more is to look up. The Invisible Visible World™is all around you, but we seldom look up. The lighting is different up high. Birds and clouds decorate the view. And so does this tree house.

I almost missed it walking and keeping my focus ahead of me. Great for safety, but daydreaming lives above our head.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer. She teaches writing as a healing art.

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.

Tapping Into The Universe

Every had a feeling that made the hair on your arms rise up–in a good way? A dream that seemed important, and then chunks of it started happening in waking life? A coincidence that you knew was a special moment? Yeah, me, too.

A sundial seen on my morning walk. It’s fastened onto a tree stump, and fastened in such a way that it can’t tell the time correctly. What does that tell you about how you see time?

You and I are kairomancers–people who recognize special moments and make the most of them. Kairos, in Greek, is an opening that allows for something special to happen. If you remember Homer’s Odyssey, the hero fires his flaming arrow through a dozen ax handle holes to prove his skill.

Today’s kairomancer sees small openings and opportunities and makes the most of them.  What kind of opportunity?  Here’s an example: I was teaching in Washington, D.C., and had just gotten off the metro.

At the top of the escalator stood a man who was clearly lost. I used to live in the area, so I asked if I could help. Worst case scenario, I could sympathize.

The man was looking for an office in the building I was teaching in that day. Lucky guess, I thought. We walked to the building and I walked him through a maze of hallways and showed him the office. I then taught my scheduled class. At the end of the day, as I was packing up and ready to head for the airport, when Mr. Lost walked back into the class. He was friends with someone who had enjoyed the class. He wanted to know if I could create a custom class for his team. I could. I did. And I would never have had the opportunity if I had not stopped to ask if he was lost. That’s kairomancy in action.

I didn’t ask him if he was lost because I was hoping for a job. I asked because it was likely I could help. The rest unspooled on its own. Worth the risk of being helpful.

Sure, you can call it synchronicity, but I don’t think it’s random. I think we get tiny threads of opportunity and if we pull the thread, we may discover meanings that work out to our advantage. You can call it responding to the universe, living life awake, or even praying for success. I call it kairomancy because the man I learned it from calls it that.

This is the cover of the Robert Moss book that started my work in kairomancy.

Robert Moss is the author of several books (and workshops) on dream work, coincidences, and, well, kairomancy. One of my favorites is Sidewalk Oracles, Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life. The book is a series of stories, games, and experiments that you can do every day to enhance your intuition and help make yourself more aware of signs and symbols in your life. “Instead of walking through life tuned in to an unproductive inner soundtrack, the kairomancer feels the sidewalk she treads, hears the messages awaiting receipt, and sees the extraordinary in the ordinary,” Moss says.

Moss tells us to “marry our field,”–to look for ways to work deeply in the area that interests us. For me, that is working with words and symbols, helping other people to speak and write clearly enough to be heard. We all long to be heard and understood, but we often can’t do it because we don’t have the tools or we don’t understand the rules.

Here’s how I learned to “marry my field.” Every morning, I walk three to five miles. I do it for medical reasons, but somewhere along the line, I realize that distance walking every morning made me feel more alive, more calm, more ready to deal with the problems that life brings people who teach what they do. Ready to face the to-do list of the day.

While walking, I saw symbols. I listened to my intuition. And slowly, because I paid attention,  I created ways to become a pass-through for my coaching clients. They became more attuned to their own power, their own strength.

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about what happens on my morning walk. Come along, if you’d like to. It’s never boring. And if you keep a journal, you might find some new ways to write about your life, too. Let’s go!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She helps people discover the deep longing inside and connect it to a life’s work.

Old Hurt, New Reaction

First, the promised winners of the giveaway: Kelly Harms has won Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You. Winners of the coaching sessions are: Cynthia Pepper, Linda Marsh and Lynn Thompson. Congratulations to the winners! You’ll be hearing from me for details. *   *   *   *   * 

Emotional reactions (often called triggers) are familiar to every breathing human being.  Something from the past –a word, comment, reaction, song, even a smell–that snaps us back to a  bad memory in full, vivid color. The most common reaction is to behave as we did the first time–although we may be decades older.

Old tree trunk, with considerably damage, still beautiful. Beautiful because of the damage.

In mild cases, triggers cause us to cringe with the emotional strength of the memory. In severe cases, they cause us to behave forcefully, drop years of therapy, coaching, or conditioning. In the worst cases, they aren’t  just flashbacks, they are the symptoms of PTSD.

Let’s focus on those milder triggers: The relative who says something thoughtless, taking you back to childhood. You snap at them as you did when you were younger. A friend teases you and pushes an old trigger, you reply harshly, surprising your friend with your anger and hurt.

This afternoon, I was on the phone, talking to an acquaintance, and she pushed an old, almost forgotten trigger. It was a casual, teasing move on her part. But to my emotions, it felt like a slap, a reminder of a mistake I made that I’d rather not re-hash. I was at the point where my tongue already was sharpened to smack down the remark and devastate the speaker, when a thought flashed across my mind:

“You aren’t the same person as you were back then. Time has passed. You have changed. Circumstances have changed. Use a new reaction. You won’t be sorry.”

Just as fast as it came, it was gone, but the truth it left behind was huge. I paused, pushing away the hurt and embarrassment of the long-ago mistake I made. Instead, I stepped into the adult I have become, the different person I have grown into since that incident. In that instant, I could see the acquaintance meant no harm, I could see her remark from her perspective.

That shift in perspective allowed me to swallow my own hurtful remark, and say something light-hearted instead

The result surprised me. Instead of letting the trigger pull me back into the past, I brought the event into the present and saw that it had lost some of the power to shame and hurt. Time had made me capable of different behavior. Enough time has passed. I am different. It will always be a trigger, but I do not have to let it hurt me again

Quinn McDonald is surprised that old hurts can remain old.

 

Book Review: Live Your Life; Two Giveaways

OK, I’ll admit it—I like self-help books. Here’s why: I don’t expect them to change my life. Or even the next month. I do expect a good self-help book to have at least one solid idea that can help me see a situation, a habit, or a person in a different way.

A book that gives me a fresh perspective is a book that may move my decision-making machinery in a new direction, one that helps me make better decisions.

Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You, takes an interesting approach to self-help. In addition to taking a holistic approach, there is a lot of support, including a downloadable workbook (url is listed in the introduction, another reason to read those.)

In each of the 14 days of the book, you get stories from LeFevre’s own life (which makes the book seem human and the tasks seem achievable.  Each chapter has “Thinking Points,” and “Action Items” which allow you to take the lesson and make it yours, just for your goal.

Each chapter is a day, but it can be a week for you, or a month. The book (paperback) is a slim 130 pages, and you can set the pace that works for you. You might find some of it challenging, but that’s the point, right? If your life is not working now, reading a challenging book will seem like the perfect excuse to blow it off. Dig in instead.

Here’s a sampling of the chapters:

  • Silence the Voices (Yep, she believes in the inner critic, too!)
  • Stay the Course (Making a commitment isn’t hard, keeping it is.)
  • Start Somewhere, Anywhere (Dealing with the overwhelmed feeling.)
  • Just Breathe (Dealing with stress.)
  • Show Yourself Compassion (With  the imposter feeling, shame, or guilt)
  • Let it Go (Making space in your home and your life.)
  • Find Balance (in everything, from bad habits to good)
  • Look for Opportunities (you save yourself, no one comes to do it for you.)
  • Do it Anyway

Was there any part of this book I didn’t like? Sure. I ran across a few grammar errors and they always trip me up (because I teach grammar and am sensitized to it).  There are also a few thoughts that contradict each other, but not in the same chapter.
For example, in one chapter, a cruel professor berates LeFevre (as grad student) for “not being born brilliant . . . you are just a hard worker. . .” In that crushing blow, the professor defines brilliant as the ability to have abstract connections among ideas or emotions.  In another chapter, LeFevre advises ridding your space of items that are not necessary, vital, or have a specific purpose. Those are pretty concrete definitions, and don’t leave much room for emotional attachment and just plain liking, but not loving, an item. Those abstract ideas become important in this chapter.

None of those bring down the ability of the book to help. But if I’m reviewing a book, it’s a good balance to point to things I don’t like as well as those that do. These few small imbalances don’t tilt the scale. It’s firmly in the “helpful” category.

The Giveaway, Part 1: On Friday, February 23, 2018, I’ll give the book away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. You don’t have to give a reason, just let me know you want the book. I’ll do a random drawing. Winners will come from the continental U.S. for this drawing.

The Giveaway, Part 2: I’m a coach, both a life coach and a creativity coach. I’m giving away three, one-hour coaching sessions, one session to each of three people. There is no obligation, no pressure, no sales pitch and it’s free. Leave a comment. This is in addition to the book giveaway.
Let me know in the comments that you want to try a coaching session. I will do a separate drawing for the book and the coaching sessions, so if you want to try for both, you can do it all in one comment.

Common-sense stuff:

  • If you are a current or past coaching client of mine, please let someone new try out for the coaching.
  • Winner must be able to call me in Phoenix at an agreed-upon time.
  • Winners must have phone numbers from the continental U.S.
  • Winners must be able to speak to a reason they want coaching–not in the comment. If you are one of the winners, I’ll be asking you.

The book was given to me to review. I am not paid for the review or compensated for the free coaching sessions.

Winners of the giveaway: Kelly Harms has won Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You. Winners of the coaching sessions are: Cynthia Pepper, Linda Marsh and Lynn Thompson. Congratulations to the winners! You’ll be hearing from me for details.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing; she is a life- and creativity coach.

Pompeii Comes to Phoenix

The Pompeii exhibit is in Phoenix right now. (Science Center, November 18, 2017 to May 28, 2018). The story of Pompeii was the first chapter book I read when I was about eight years old, and for years I believed it was fiction. How could all those people not have escaped? How come did they find bread and artwork and dogs and people years later? After all that ash and fire?

This colander, carefully cleaned, showed the care taken to create utilitarian vessels and tools. The shadow shows the decorative pattern of the holes Photo: © Quinn McDonald, 2017.

Part of the story is no longer a mystery–the volcano explosion that happened on August 24, in the year 79 CE. It took 1700 years for Pompeii to be discovered. Vesuvius, the mountain that blew up, didn’t just spew ash, it blew its entire top off. The caldera is still active, and today is about 4,200 feet tall. It was twice that height when the volcano erupted.

The ash, pumice and dirt that fell buried Pompeii under 12 feet of debris. It sealed off the city, kept oxygen from deteriorating paintings and mosaics, and made the discovery surprising.

In the exhibit, you can see frescoes, perfectly preserved and in full color. Decorative and delicate, the frescoes show pomegranates (symbol of fertility and abundance) and various gods worshiped at the time. Mosaics, mostly from floors, are also shown. One of the signs said that mosaics were often created to use up marble from bed frames, tables and walls.

Plaster cast of a woman, shown on her back. Originally, she was lying over the child, shown trying to crawl away. © Photo: Quinn McDonald, 2017. All rights reserved.

The story that blew me away was this: As the city was being carefully dug up, archeologists discovered holes. Their irregular shape made it clear it wasn’t bubbles of gas. One of them had the idea that the holes might have once been something else. The holes were filled with plaster of Paris, left to dry, and then the plaster was dug out.

The casts were of people. A mother lying over her child, people climbing a staircase, dogs, a man hunched over, protecting his mouth and nose with his toga. The people had been covered in ash, but over hundreds of years has decomposed, leaving just their imprints in the ash.

Without the casts, it would have been too hard to see the negative space as people. Metaphor alert: Since this post is going up close to New Years Eve, what do we see and not understand as long as it is negative, but makes perfect sense, in fact, tells a story, when seen from the positive view?

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She also teaches journal-keeping as a healing art.