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.

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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.

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.

The Thorn in Mother’s Day

Once social media falls in love with a holiday, the variations of wishes can drown you. And social media loves Mother’s Day.  And not just Mothers, but Bonus Moms,  Grandmothers, Great-Grand Mothers, and those who acted like Mom when mom could not. I’m glad for the love and the gratitude in the hearts of those who had great moms.

If you had a mother who had your back, and no card is sweet enough, today’s blog is not for you. And most likely, you are with your mom, being happy.

But maybe your childhood was not the kind that brings images of flowers and dappled ponies. Or your adulthood, either.

Maybe you never had the mother you needed. The one who comforted you and praised you and loved you when you were unlovable and  helped without anger when you sewed the pieces of your gingham skirt together backwards. Twice.

Maybe you chose not to be a mother and everyone asks you why, or you wanted to be a mother and it didn’t happen for you and you are still pretending that’s just fine.

It’s complicated. Whether your mother was cruel or uncaring or clueless, the pain is there. If your mother is still alive, you probably won’t be able to have the big sudden whoosh! of understanding pouring into a happy ending, like your friends keep promising you. It may never happen. Not even on your mother’s deathbed. And that may have to be OK, too.

If your mother is dead, you may replay scenes, wondering if you had acted differently, if the results would have been different. You’ll never know, but a wild guess tells me No. Some things can’t be changed, fixed, or healed. And never by one person. Two people, a mother and her child, might be able to cobble together a relationship, but it’s hard.

The relationship between mothers and daughters is always hard. There is unwritten jealousy between age and experience and youth and naivete. There is anger in lost opportunities and unmet expectations.  For some, the fact that you were a daughter was enough of a disappointment to fill a lifetime. I ran across this quote yesterday, whose poignancy was hard to read:

“Remember that every son had a mother whose beloved son he was, and every woman had a mother whose beloved son she wasn’t. ” – Marge Piercy

But here is a truth you might want to hear right now, today, on Mother’s Day. You cannot be anyone else except the person you are today, with all your faults, experiences, hardships, joys, stumbles, successes, talents, glories and backslides. That is also true of your mother. No matter what happened, your awareness and work brought you to where you are today.

And starting today, you can choose to be generous and kind and patient. Maybe not with your mother, but with the women who surround you. The ones who work with you and don’t meet your expectations. The pretty ones who get promoted ahead of you.  The ones who don’t take the opportunities you wanted and they have the freedom to turn down. All those women you meet on your path during the day. You can swallow the angry remark. You can wish them well. You can choose not to judge. That is your choice now. And choosing that freedom instead of choosing retribution is worth celebrating. Today and every day.

-Quinn McDonald’s mother has been dead for almost 15 years, and the shadow still falls across the path on some days.