The Town With No Address

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Every time I fly from Phoenix to Houston, I see what looks like towns that were started and abandoned. What’s odd about it, is there are quite a few of these areas, all in one area, and that area is bleak and surrounded by miles of nothing.

Judging from how long we had been in the air, the towns with no address are somewhere in Western New Mexico or East to Central Texas.  There are roads, all direct, none beautifully sculpted. There are flat rectangles that look like foundations. No houses, though. No cars. Nothing that would indicate future building.  No machinery, no large buildings that indicate malls or stores.

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Each of these areas also have small and medium rectangles of water, some of it alarmingly turquoise.  Some dark. Not pools.  Simply sitting in the area of these towns.

There’s a lot not to know. Maybe it is related to mining activity. Maybe it’s some sort of oil/gas/exploration. I don’t know. But I’m curious.

But it’s interesting, these abandoned spaces in stretches of nowhere. From a graphic view, visually interesting. Curious.

Sometimes you have to be OK with not knowing.

Learning to Laugh at Yourself

Yes, the old site is being put back into service. It makes sense to post my poetry and artwork here. I wanted to have one site, but I cover a lot of ground, from art to poetry, to business writing and development. It’s a lot to expect people to understand. I needed a home for poetry, and as I move toward becoming a practitioner of poetic medicine, a place to talk about the power of poetry.

I’m also making my alcohol ink artwork available for sale, on the Art Gallery page.

For today, a poem about love and the importance of laughing at yourself instead of focusing on your love’s shortcomings.

Life Skating
It’s easier to fall in love than stay in love.
Much like skating requires learning to fall
Before you master gliding steadily ahead;
Easily, without windmilling arms
And grasping fingers.

Fall-in-love behaviors, (labeled dreamily, “exotic,”)
Slowly morph to “just annoying.”
The trick, just like in skating,
Is adjusting my Center of Gravity.

Squinting to find a polished patch of long-term love
under all those randomly-strewn shortcomings,
heading for that, jumping over unstable, glistening failures,
finding the direction by listening for
The really rich, full-throated laughing at myself.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.

 

Email Agony (Sorry J. Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see
an email answered thoroughly.

Replies that answer questions asked
instead of adding to my task.

Concise with information needed
Instead of three-times asked and pleadedsadtree2

And then forgotten with a Huh?
A smiley face, a shrug, a “Doh!”

I hunger for a sentence rich
with information, scratch my itch!

It isn’t hard, first read, then write
Answer the question, end the plight!

-Quinn McDonald hopes Joyce Kilmer will forgive her. He never had to deal with emails that don’t get answered, or get partially answered.

The Grant that Wasn’t

This past January, I applied for a small grant to work with veterans, helping them come to grips with their lives through journaling. The exercises were going to be from the book I’m writing, Write Yourself Whole.

Writing a grant is an art and a science, one with which I have little experience. A kind person who had recommended that I apply read my drafts and made suggestions. It was helpful.

This flower is persistent, climbing up a fence every spring. I love this backlit vision.

This flower is persistent, climbing up a fence every spring. I love this backlit vision.

Today was the day Kosmos Journal announced the receivers of the grants. I did not receive one. I am not disappointed. Yes, of course I would have loved to be a winner, but I do not feel like a loser. I worked hard on the proposal, I was proud of the idea, and that brought a great deal of satisfaction. After the application was sent in, I had a feeling of non-attachment. I did not mark the announcement day in my calendar.

The winners were organizations with a lot of experience in community work and activism. A lot of good will come from these projects. People will be helped. How can I not be thrilled for all the help being offered?

I do not believe in “this was meant to be,” predestination, or the phrase, “This is all part of God’s plan.” I’m not good at sitting around waiting for a deity to take care of me.

I’m glad I applied. The work I am doing will continue. Nothing is lost. One of the things I have learned over my life is that resilience is an important component of creativity. Mistakes, loss, missing the mark, failing–all are part of a rich life, deeply explored. They don’t always feel good, but they always teach us something–even if it is the energy to get up again and try again.

-Quinn McDonald has a lot of work to do. New plans are already in the works.

 

 

Talisman for Clarity

Clarity is hard to come by. My coaching clients struggle with it. My training clients re-write till the document becomes clear for the audience.

So when my jeweler-scultptor-pal Matt Naftzger (who owns Works of Man) created the Window of Clarity pendant, I knew it was the right talisman for me. I own several other pieces that Matt made, and all of them have powers to remind me what I want to be.

Front view of "Window of Clarity," © Matthew Naftzger

Front view of “Window of Clarity,” © Matthew Naftzger

Another benefit of Matt’s work is that he works in titanium, which is light and strong and non-reactive. Starting in late April, all my silver talismans and jewelry go into hiding until October, when the weather cools down. For the hot days of summer, I can wear only gold or titanium. The combination of heat and the tiny bit of copper or other metal in silver makes my skin break out. (I will spare you photos or descriptions. Not pretty.)

So, no steel, surgical steel, copper, brass, gold-plated or low-karat gold. Or silver. But yes to titanium, gold, and silver pendants on longer gold chains.

What makes an amulet different from a talisman? An amulet is believed to give

Back view of "Window of Clarity" © Matthew Naftzger

Back view of “Window of Clarity” © Matthew Naftzger

protection, a talisman offers some other kind of benefit. A talisman does not have the power, the wearer does. The talisman reminds you of powers that may not want to stick around in hard times. A talisman builds strength because it is worn; it stays close.

So what is this talisman about? Matt calls it “the window of clarity.” I had him customize it by putting a window on the front and another one on the back, but in a different place. Clarity doesn’t come in at the same place every time.

The best recognition of the truth and power of the talisman is the answer Matt gave me when I asked him, “On this pendant, why is the window so small?” The answer? “Because people can only take so much clarity at once.” And that is a reminder for me, too.

—Quinn McDonald knows that clarity is sometimes hard to take.

When Authentic Isn’t Enough

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value.

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value. Image from http://www.sangsunbae.com Check out the other imaginative images from this artist, too.

 

Digging through my journals, I came across a story I want to include in the book I’m working on. (For now, the content of the book is not important.) The story is about my mom’s struggle with authenticity. She stewed in the perpetual heat of anger. One day, I asked her, “What is it that makes you so angry all the time?” I asked it in the softest voice possible. I really wanted to know; it was a key to our Gordian-knot relationship.

She looked at me and explained, “This is who I am. You always say it is good to be authentic. This is me, authentic. If you can’t deal with it, it is your fault. I am being true to myself.” The fable of the lady and the asp flashed through my head, but I remained quiet.

how-to-stop-your-anger

To this day, I still feel anxious when I hear anger–even if it is not directed at me.

She had a point. Except her anger was so damaging, so painful. But most of her friends–those whom she liked–didn’t feel the sting of her anger. She did have another side. I rarely saw it.

Fast forward to now, when we encourage people not to change, to be happy as they are. What makes me think this? Listen to the language we use:

  • It is what it is
  • That’s you being you
  • Be yourself, everyone else is taken (attributed to so many people I’m not even trying to be sure, although I like Oscar Wilde.)
  • Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Bernard Baruch

We love being ourselves without excuse. “Don’t judge!” we warn. But somewhere there has to be a difference, a line, a distinction between back-stabbing gossip and being authentic.

When we say, “it is what it is,” or “haters gonna hate,” we are not excusing others, we are justifying ourselves and writing everyone else off as envious–lesser. There is then no cause or reason for criticism. We win. And so does everyone else, in their mind.

I beg to differ.  Language shifts our culture, so let’s be clear about the definition of “authentic.”  It is your deepest best self, not the shallow way we behave without thinking. Being authentic takes some reflection, asking, “Who would I like to be seen as? My character is my reputation, how do I want to present it?”

That’s the person we want to be. The person who builds a reputation; the person who is loved by dogs.

–Quinn McDonald spends a lot of time watching how language and culture influence each other.

 

Starting Over

freshpaintsigncroped

The gallery is in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts

Starting over. Starting fresh. It sounds like a new coat of paint over a tired life. The messy slate of the past is wiped clean, and ahead is a shiny new start. We can put on a new face, a new attitude, a new effort. It seems like we can create a whole new identity with as little effort as a new website.

Soon enough, that new effort is overwhelmed by the old ideas, old habits, old behavior–the old us. Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out years ago when they said, “If you are a drunk in Cleveland, moving to Peoria for a fresh start isn’t the answer. You’ll be a drunk in Peoria, too.” It’s a wise saying, although a tough one. (AA never pretended to have easy answers.)

When I went to Catholic school (I’m not a Catholic, but that’s another story), I loved seeing my friends go to confession. They’d say their prayers and their sins were wiped away. Poof! Just like that, they were brand new and sin free. Unfortunately, the old habits didn’t vanish, and my guess is that the same sins got repeated in the confessional time after time. And since there were different priests, no one really noticed or cared, and little personal growth resulted.

Teresa Jennings Robinson read this post and sent me the gorgeous hand-lettered quote she made for her art journal. See more of her work at rightbrainplanner.com

Teresa Jennings Robinson read this post and sent me the gorgeous hand-lettered quote she made for her art journal. See more of her work at rightbrainplanner.com

And that’s the danger of new projects. They seem free of the past baggage, but they are not free of us. We show up with our past, and relive it because it’s familiar. In a few days that new project takes on the fingerprints of the old us. If we don’t like the old us, we’ll hate the new project, too.

I have friends who are start-up junkies. Addicted to new beginnings, these eager people will start up a company with the fervor of Ron Popeil selling the Veg-O-Matic. But they aren’t good at running a company, which seems tedious and boring, so they dash off to do another start-up, leaving the clean-up team to handle the rest.

Any beginning feels like the creative part. And it is. But the road-test of creativity is showing up every day to do the hard work. The book I am writing is hard work. It’s satisfying, and I enjoy it, but it’s not riding rainbow unicorns. It involves saying “I can’t go to the movies with you, I’m writing,” or thinking, “I need to re-write this chapter, it’s not working, even if it is the fourth re-write.”

Creative work is hard. We want to give up, we get bored,  we want to do something fun and new. Yet what gets the work done is moving steadily ahead, when it’s not fun and not new.  Learning from your mistakes and getting up every time you fall is what the real work of creativity. And it pays off.

—Quinn McDonald is working on a re-write of a trio of chapters. She has done it before, and she may well do it again.