Archive for March, 2012

Go Figure

March 30, 2012


 Frank Lloyd Wright once said that: “a doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only plant vines”. I’m sure that he’d agree though that plantings can also enhance good and great architecture.  After all, it was he who first used the word “organic” in a design related context.

  “Garden and Building may now be one.  In any good organic structure it is difficult to say where the garden ends and where the house begins or where the house begins and the garden ends… I am really an emissary of the ground…”*

  Well, in the photo above it is clear where building ends, but the effusion of color is all the more effective for that fact.  It’s a Canadian Redbud in front of the Public Library in Davenport, Iowa just a few blocks north of theMississippi River.  Yep, north.  The river flows east to west there for a stretch.

  The building was designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1969 and clearly recalls his Kennedy Center inWashington DC which went up in 1962.  I’ve always figured that DC’s cherry blossoms prefigured the DPL’s  redbuds.  Whatever, they look marvelous for a few days each spring.

  Furthermore, the ephemeration of twig and color before the geometrical background pattern brings to mind first how short will be our visit upon this bit of the cosmos and then just how incredibly it is all underpinned by mathematics.  Go figure.

*Frank Lloyd Wright, The Future of Architecture, 1953

Davenport Public Library

Kennedy Center

All Ok

March 23, 2012


  The thing about sailing is that you’ve got to pay attention to the wind.  Ya, I know, duh.  But it’s that the more time you spend on the water, the finer your attention becomes.  Minor changes in course or sail trim can make for a huge change in progress – upwind or down.  And careless disregard, especially downwind, can “do considerable damage, up to and including bringing down the mast”*.

 Everybody on board pays attention – whether it be with the top of their mind or a few synapses back.  All can but notice if they’re getting the crap shaken or welcoming the more smooth interludes.  Life under sail is an incredibly refreshing, invigorating step away from the quotidian.  Whatever might transpire.

  Recently for example yours truly, in an incredible display of skill and prowess, managed to foul the dingy line.  Twice.  First time was a real mess.  Daughter voiced concern as the yellow polypro line tightened around her arm as other end wrapped around the propeller.  Someone yelled to kill the engine before it dragged her under.

  Examination with mask and snorkel found a potentially serious problem.  The line was not only tightly cinched around the propeller, but shreds were also drawn into its coupling with the shaft.  An inability to clear it would have had us adrift until rescue.  Or grounding.

  Son, son-in-law, and I took turns holding our breaths and using an assortment of tools in an effort to clean things up.  It was easy to saw through the exposed coils, but the stuff wedged in proved problematic.  The extra buoyancy of the salt water helped by holding us against the bottom of the boat while working.

  After some progress, we heard a banging on the side of our boat – the “Buff”.  I surfaced and was told breathlessly that there were a bunch of barracuda about.  Sure enough there were a dozen or so of the snarly looking fish grimacing at us.  They were about a yard long and only sort of menacing, but their jagged under bite was hard to miss. 

  After quite a bit of time and effort and bursting lungs, it seemed like we’d gotten it all.  Fired up the engine, engaged the prop, and bingo! Forward and reverse both worked just fine.  So much more satisfying than working on computer problems, dealing with the TV remote, or “recalculating”.

  Shut it back down, hoisted sails, and made for the next port.  Dropped anchor and let out the prudent five times depth rode (chain).  Watched landmarks on shore to make sure anchor wasn’t dragging.  Seemed ok, but crew member donned mask, snorkel, and fins to make certain.  All okay.  Time for a glass of wine. 

*Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook

Life Shrinks or Expands in Proportion to One’s Courage -Anais Nin

March 18, 2012

Or, uh, be careful what you wish for.  As I mentioned a few weeks back, this chicken is about to cross the road and wonders what’s on the other side – free range or a barbecue.   Miss Nin’s comment came to mind at this juncture because I heard her speak at a previous flex point – college commencement so many years ago.  Nearly forty now.

I had no clue why she was deserved of an honorary degree.  What’s so great about sleeping around?  And why would you want to write about it?  Interesting to me now is that the realization that I then had far less knowledge of what was going on inside my head than did she.

All those voices!  Id, ego, anima, shadow et al; Mom, Dad; and cultural stereotypes roared up a cacophony while my own only piped up a few notes now and then – most notably in the throes of  life’s more beautiful duties.  Cannot but take a while though I guess, for experience and effort to begin create a melody out of all that noise.

It’s quiet at first, but soon enough clarity increases and then the dynamics ensue.  As it becomes more crisp and apparent you can either begin to not worry about scorn or embarrassment and try to hum along or else at your peril drown it out with some sort of overindulgence.  It won’t go away.  In other words: “the requirement [is] that a man, whatever his age or station, pull out of his reflexive behaviors and attitudes, radically reexamine his life and risk living out the thunderous imperatives of his soul”.

Further, “The terror he may feel on the high seas of life is understandable, but in relinquishing the imperative to sail on, in giving over to an ideology or to dependency on someone else, he loses  his manhood.  It is time to come clean, acknowledge the fear, but live the journey.”*

Gulp.  We shall see what we shall see.

*James Hollis, What Matters Most

The Importance of Grocery Stores

March 2, 2012

  I have always loved the grocery store.  Fondness for their aisles probably began in my youth when Mom would take my two brothers and me to a big bright new chain store Sundays after church.  It was a bit of organic joy after a somber hour in the hard pews of our grand cathedral.

She’d give us each lists of items to retrieve and we’d race to return first, forgetting (for the moment) our itchy wool trousers.  Years later I’d do the same (well, the grocery store part) with my kids only with more, uh, vigor than Mom ever allowed.  Wife did most of the shopping and appreciated my help when I did, but wouldn’t accompany me/us for fear of embarrassment.

I loved to juggle produce and found citrus to work best because apples would bruise.  I only tried eggs once.  Kids thus in a dynamic mood, I’d send them out in search of the makings of one of their mothers fine meals while I’d cruise the produce with my shiny rolling collection point.

Much to my surprise such tutelage instilled in my progeny more than just the usual bad habits.  Youngest daughter is working on her Masters in (Elementary) Education.  Here’s part of an essay she wrote followed by professor comment:

“For me, I have found grocery stores to be incredibly enjoyable…I can connect what I am learning at the store to other environments…In school, I am able to take my conversations and information from the grocery store and discuss ideas with my classmates or use the ideas in my teaching.”  “Grocery store as a literate environment is a new one for me – very clever.”

I enjoyed doing homework with all three and began to realize I’d miss my role in their education as the time approached for the last to go off to college.   When she did an important part of my consciousness went into withdrawal with troubling results and ramifications.

For example, back in the supermarket recently, I spied the item pictured below.  Looking about I couldn’t believe my good fortune as I watched brother approach.  “Hey man, I left my glasses in my truck, could you read this to me please so that I can be sure to take home what wife hopes for?”  It was awesome!

*The title above was shamelessly purloined from daughter’s essay…