Monday, September 26, 2016

you love roses don't you?

"And roses. Always the roses. You love roses, don't you?"

"I do. I bought roses for Donna, my wife, and they're on the counter now and dying. They're the most magnificent things, even when they're dying. They just get more and more beautiful. The edges are kind of rotting, and there is something so gorgeous about them."

- Li-Young Lee in conversation with Marie Jordan

So this past week I read an article on what is, as you know by now, one of my favourite go-to places on the web, On Being. It's titled, A Hundredth Part of the Day and is by Paul Elie. It made an impression on me partly because he's saying things I've been thinking about but haven't really articulated even for myself. For me it's very encouraging to think of doing things in terms of experience rather than achievement.

Fifteen minutes is a hundredth part of a day, just about. (It is 1/96th.) Andy Warhol made 15 minutes proverbial, the pop culture equivalent of a flash of light in a steel cooking pan. For statisticians it is a rounding error, a difference that makes no difference. But for me, to spend a hundredth part of a day in the woods has made all the difference.

and then

Malcolm Gladwell has it (notoriously) that it takes 10,000 hours for a person to gain the mastery of a discipline that will set her apart from the crowd. Angela Duckworth has it (lately) that the character trait we ought to cultivate is grit — the stubborn stick-to-it-iveness that enables some people to set goals and achieve them while others do not. 
There’s something to those formulas, but they are formulas for achievement, not experience. In the realm of experience, I’d suggest, a hundredth part of a day is decisive. Fifteen minutes. A hundredth part is the difference between doing something and not doing it. It’s the difference between an experience envisioned or postponed or never-dreamed-of and an actual experience, one that leaves you changed — initiated and ready for more.

In short, if there's something you want to attempt, then why not give it fifteen minutes a day? (At least to begin with?)

I still think Gladwell has it right, and I also like the idea that we ought to cultivate grit.

But this is a wonderful way to look at beginning something new, experiencing. Trying things.

Is there something you want to try? Something you've always wondered whether or not you could tackle?

I've decided to try a new project, and will keep you posted on it in the next couple of weeks. Not saying too much yet in case it turns out not to be 'the thing.'

These are the last of the late blooming roses from our yard. They didn't last long outside (in fact you see them in the first image on this post - in the bowl - all petals). So hard to let them go.

The soundtrack to this blog post might be:

(I wrote several books with that particular cd on in the background...)

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

- Gwendolyn Brooks


I can’t quite shake the astonishment. I can’t quite believe what my life keeps teaching me, that material existence is a thin veil thrown over a foundation of miracles so numerous and profound we almost invariably overlook them.

- Martha Beck

The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The centuries are sprinkled with rare magic
with divine creatures
who help us get past the common and extraordinary ills that beset us”

- Charles Bukowski

We're still adjusting to being so-called empty nesters. I won't tell you it's not a huge adjustment, but it's going well because she's happy and having a brilliant time and working hard and all that. Still, there are odd bits: I find mealtimes SO STRANGE. We're a quiet enough family as it is, and now it seems extra quiet. Which is okay, you know? 

The mealtime ritual is still there, of course. On the upside of it all is that I can cook whatever I like. Kale pesto for example. 

One evening I had the craving for gin, yes gin. And something bitter. So I scavenged and made myself this drink from the bottoms of bottles, the last-ofs, etc. I scraped the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. We had a little cranberry juice, half a lemon, a dribble of Campari. Some gin, of course. And one can of Schweppes bitter lemon (which we sometimes pick up at the Italian Store - haven't seen it anywhere else). 

And here is this fellow, who is probably getting more attention than he'd like, with Chloe out of the house. 

Sometimes in the busy world one develops what we call the illness of being two-hearted... It is where you want to do and have the ability to do but you don't do, and you argue with yourself about it. Good to be of one mind, one heart, and to see the ifs, ands, buts, and possibilities only as thoughts, without attachment, keeping clear your goal of being all that you can be, understanding the Mystery, seeing the truth as it is. To see the essence of what is, to perceive the harmony and live it, is to accomplish the "good life."

-  Dhyani Ywahoo

This is the first year I planted hollyhock seeds, and I'm very happy to have had a few come into bloom.

“No language is neutral. To speak is to claim a life—and often our own. If more Americans speak to one another, in writing, in media, at the supermarket, we might listen better. It is difficult, I think, to hate one another when we start to understand not only why and how we hurt, but also why and how we love.”

—Ocean Vuong

{source, Dear President}

To seek out beauty in our work is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.

- David Whyte

And next, the plethora of photos from the walks I took this past week. Everything beginning to change, and me, Rilke's line echoing and repeating:  you must change your life.

What to do with that?

The strange beauty of the suburbs, yes? Where even the 7-eleven can look rather lovely.

So here is a thing. In the utility corridor we came across what must be a pet burial? Why else would someone plant a bunch of flowers there? As I was snapping a few photos, Ace thought I must want him to pose, and so he went and sat right in front of the scene.

And here he is again:

Last things. 

I wrote a small post about Rumi and the Red Handbag on my author site. It's been about a year since it came out. 

I've used the VSCO app on my iPhone to edit photos for some time but recently starting posting some. Different than instagram, for sure, which I help Rob out with to show 'life in the studio' etc. 

Have you listened to Leonard Cohen's latest, You Want It Darker? It's dark. It's incredible. From NPR:

For the past 25 years I've had this notion that on every successive Leonard Cohen record his voice would get deeper and deeper until one day he'd put out an album so subsonic that you'd just feel it, not hear it. Well, we're close. On this day, Leonard Cohen's 82nd birthday, he's given us a gift: It's dark, it's beautiful and it's deep. "You Want It Darker" is the title track to his soon-to-be-released album, his 14th studio album in his 49-year recording career. The album of nine songs, out Oct. 21, is produced by his son, musician Adam Cohen. As I hear it, the song speaks of a world without hope.

"A million candles burning
for the love that never came.
You want it darker
we kill the flame."

Darlings, that's all for this week. Know that I'm wishing you all calm things. xo



  1. I immediately went and read that full article by Paul Elie. I think his idea can be taken further, and to a more full effect. Why not simply take those 15 minutes to what may seem to be rather mundane things and not always the fear-laden? And then we can have experiences more often. For example, why not simply decide to take 15 minutes to walk in a river valley; or maybe drive to the country and randomly stop and walk or bike for those 15 minutes; or perhaps enter a church and have a good look around for 15 minutes (yes, I've done that); or wander through a cemetery; or or or.

    Some of your photos are really quite beautiful and, for me, they're often the ones of a branch or fence with something else in the background. Ace is looking quite fine lately.
    This week, in addition to it being calm, may you experience something different in a 15 minute frame.

  2. Thanks so much for another breathtaking, uplifting, wide-soaring post. The Martha Beck, the Emerson, the photos, your own insights, the 15 minutes!!!, watching a beloved daughter bloom at a distance--everything speaks to me in ways I so need right now. You are an amazing gift to the world!! And of course, Ace and Rob and Chloe are, too. Thank you!!

  3. I really enjoyed the article by Elie and love the idea of those precious 15 minutes. Your roses and hollyhocks are beautiful but what really caught my eye were the lemons in that turquoise bowl for some reason. Been thinking a lot about color palettes in my own work lately. Sounds like Chloe and college life are getting along well, so happy to hear that! I know how that can put a mother at ease during such a life changing time.

    I'm so anxious to hear about this new project of yours!

  4. of course I meant the universal "you" and wasn't suggesting my 15 minute options were offered up for you personally -- unless of course you liked my ideas ;-) ... anyway, I had to come back because it was niggling at the back of my mind whether or not I used the universal "you" or "I". I took a few moments to review some of your lovely images again and wanted to tell you that there is something intriguing about those two with the door slightly ajar. I hope you're enjoying many pleasures and possibilities this week!


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