Chicago, via Journal Pages

My journal includes a lot of writing, but sometimes writing is not enough. I want a shorthand that reminds me of what happened, what I saw and felt. And an ideaglyph (a kind of visual journal) helps me do just that. Here’s an example of an in-progress journal page of my trip to Chicago. I left in great weather and arrived

Trip ideaglyph, journal page

Trip ideaglyph, journal page

just as a front was going through Chicago, dropping the temperature, kicking up the wind and lowering the sky.

The page concentrates on the quickness of the trip. In 24 hours I went there and back, felt a 50-degree temperature drop (and rise, as I came back), and experienced the joy of seeing the country from 37,000 feet.

In the first fragment, I saw miles and miles of the Rio Grande,

journal page detail, river

journal page detail, river

the part that is not the border between Texas and Mexico. That’s the part that’s in New Mexico. From the airplane, the river looks stitched into the side of a long plain, just as it meets a mountain. It looks like a mended fabric, the river-stitching holding back the mountain wrinkles from the smooth brown plains. It’s stitched tight in buff against a smooth olive background.

Further on, there were big, rough mountains. They were snow-topped now that it’s November. There were tiny villages sparkling against the feet of the mountains, but there was a sight that amazed me. A round blue lake sparkled on the ground, surrounded by miles of flat earth surface. A road, straight and clean, paced around acres of

lake road journal page detail

lake road journal page detail

land, at least 20 miles worth, as if drawn by a ruler. This road had no exit other than the lake. After all those miles of horizonless space, the road’s whole purpose was to curve around the belly of the lake. Seeing that is comforting, as if the roads knew how to do more than just get stuff to stores. Occasionally a road breaks free and finds its way to a beautiful lake, a simple purpose, well done.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches business communications and ideaglyphs, a form of visual journaling that doesn’t require drawing skills. See her work at QuinnCreative. (c) Quinn McDonald 2008 images and writing.



Sun is sinking, the sky no longer blue.
Ragged Vs of geese come in honking, tired
Skidding into the lakes, bumping the water,
searching the grass for dinner.
They look like kitchen appliances,
plugged in by those long black necks.
Startling, suddenly, like a handful of pepper across the sky
come smaller birds in a scatter of speed
and behind them fast, sleek, hungry hawks.

(c) Quinn McDonald, 2007. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach, writer and artist. See her work at

migrating hawks

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, 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