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.

Changing Your Mind

We often fight new ideas because a new idea leads to growth and growth means we will have to change something else about our life. In other words, growth leads to change. And we hate that.

This tree is growing. The bark doesn’t fit anymore. In spring, the bark splits and peels back. The new bark is revealed. It’s not scary, it’s expected every spring.

Growth doesn’t happen all at once. When you let it happen naturally, one step at a time, it’s manageable. As your old ideas peel away, save them. They help you shape more new ideas.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing, getting along with difficult people, and creative problem solving. She is also a creativity coach.

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.

Asking for What You Need

We all need basics: air, water, food, friends. Once we acquire those, we have to start asking for what we need. Our friends are not mind-readers, no matter how much we wish they were. They may offer help,  but it’s up to us to ask for the kind of help we need. We aren’t very good with that.

“You’ve known me for 10 years! How can you think I’d do that?” or “Why didn’t it occur to you that I needed a babysitter?” Each of us has enough on our plates. And yes, you have to risk being told “no.” Asking for what we need is half of the solution. Handling “no” is the other half. It’s not easy being a friend and an adult at the same time.

This cactus cannot ask for what it needs. It needs water. It’s growing by a canal–all the water it could ever need is no more than 15 feet from its roots. But it can’t move and it can’t ask, and the canal is a concrete channel, so the water won’t leak over to it. Like most cacti, this one is hardy. It hasn’t rained significantly in three months. There are limits to hardy, too. Nature is not always soft and gentle. The cactus may well die, the soft parts dry, leaving a beautiful skeleton.

Note: these photos and brief essays are a prompt to help you think about the changes you might want to make in your life. I photograph the Invisible, Visible World to help us all become aware of what is around us. To think deeply about what we care about.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps people in emotional and psychological pain. She also helps people finish that book, painting, music, or dance. Or get started. But you have to ask for what you need!

 

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.

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.