Experience v. Photo

The sunset was magnificent. It spread out against the sky in six shades of orange, coral and gold. The sky, in contrast, was almost turquoise. Half the sky was painted with the sunset. I looked up, and my eyes filled with color.

On another day, I did take the photo.

On another day, I did take the photo.

It was a busy street, and almost everyone pulled out their phones and began to photograph the site. At first I thought they were phoning friends to describe the colors, but no, they were photographing for the next post on Facebook or Instagram. It’s a natural decision, now that we are all armed with cameras and video cameras that come with our phones.

I stared at the sky, experiencing the hugeness of it. I didn’t want to photograph it. I didn’t want to experience it through a viewfinder. I wanted to feel the colors with my whole body. Of course, I have no photo of that sunset (the photo in this post is of another sunset). I might forget it. I can’t show it to anyone else.

But I experienced the sunset as a full-body experience, powerful and beautiful. And it’s OK that I didn’t record it and that it is gone. It was a pure, clear moment of wabi sabi, and I am grateful.

-Quinn McDonald lives a life that is sometimes unrecorded, but never unfelt.

Spring in Phoenix

People sigh, “I have to have four seasons, so Phoenix isn’t for me.” But we have four seasons. Subtle, yes, but beautiful. In Spring we often have cold fronts come through, followed by rain. The cold front clouds look like plowed fields.

Early morning cold front

Citrus trees, many of which still have fruit, begin to set buds. These are hard-working trees. In a few weeks, the buds will open, filling the air with the real smell of orange blossoms. It’s incredible.

By September this grapefruit bud will be the size of a softball.

Succulents are next, sending out colorful buds. The gopher plant is new, so I have no idea what will develop.

The gopher plant that survived the frost is now ready to bloom.

Succulent in bud. Does this create a new plant?

I’m delighted that this plant made it. It’s in a pot with several others and we brought it in to avoid the frost, and put it back out so as not to warm it up too fast. Lots of work!

Cactus creating a bud? a branch?

Cacti have a long spring. They both bloom and set new branches. I’m not sure which one this will be, I’ve been fooled before.

And that’s just the beginning. There will be wild flowers and grasses, the ocotillo will bloom, too. We have a long Spring here, and a beautiful one.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist, and a creativity coach as well.  She lives in Phoenix.


Flying across country always amazes me. The ground below is mountain-wrinkled and green in the East, or mountain-wrinkled and brown in the West. There are rivers that wind through woods and dry rivers that look like roads in the West.

circle farmsCircle farms have an irrigation spigot on an arm that moves in a circle for maximum water coverage and distribution. They look like a geometry problem from 40,000 feet.

Incredible to watch, however, are clouds. In this flight, there was a big ice storm moving through the country’s midsection. We flew over the bottom edge of the storm. First there were mathematically neat rows of clouds.cloudfarming.jpg

cloud pileThen, as we flew over the tail end of the Rockies, we bumped through a mix of clouds of every shape and form.

What did it mean for the weather on the ground. The mix of clouds brought something not often seen in Phoenix–a downpour and hail, enough to make people come out of stores and test it for slipperiness in walking.

—Circle farm imge: http://www.trekearth.com All other images: Quinn McDonald
–Quinn McDonald is a seminar leader, trainer and creativity coach. She takes cloud pictures on cross-country flights, with both an iPhone and a new Sony digital camera. (c) All rights reserved, 2007.

Running Clouds

On my flight to Chicago this morning I saw the most amazing thing. , I’m traveling without a computer, just me ‘n’ the iPhone.

As we left National airport, the clouds were lined up in furrows. It looked exactly like a plowed field dusted with snow. As if some giant hand had snapped a chalk line down the rows. Even, precise.cloud from plane

As we flew above 30,000 feet, I noticed thin, transparent shreds of clouds, racing along, in the opposite direction we were traveling. They looked like ghost clouds chasing each other over the furrowed-field clouds. I wonder what it meant in the weather. When I got off in Chicago, I found out. National airport weather was around 80 degrees at 5 a.m., but Chicago, two hours later, was in the mid-40s. We’d crossed a cold front, and that’s what they look like.

It was an amazing site, and a good lesson to sit in the window seat occasionally. The aisel seat might mean a faster exit, but when you are in row 31, a faster exit is just a dream anyway.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com