New Growth After Catastrophe

A burnt forest blooms.

More and more, I find myself looking to the wisdom of nature to teach me things that culture has not yet.

It is the rare person who makes it through adulthood without suffering some devastating loss.

I have to remind myself that after the terrible thing happens, and something precious has been irrevocably lost, that life will be good again. In the midst of grief, it feels impossible. But the day arrives when the burden is not so heavy. I look around and see seedlings pushing through the soil or a baby at the grocery store smiles at me.

It does not restore to me what was lost, but it gives me hope for joy and connection in the future. The experience of being hollowed out fills me with kindness for others in suffering. And the connection with others increases the joys and decreases the sufferings.

Thank goodness we have each other. The letting go breaks us and in the loving again, we are healed.

Three Kinds of Problems

Water lilies at the Missouri Botanical Garden

In recent weeks, I seem to be presented with three kinds of problems. The first is the kind of issue where the next right step appears clear and straightforward. You spill the milk. You get a sponge and clean it up. Done. No need for discussion or drama. A fair amount of my time is spent in these kind of tasks.

The second type of problem is something that is beyond my abilities to tackle alone. I might need the help of other people or more research before I can begin to address the concern. This makes the solving of the problem more complex. When working with others, we need to elicit our shared goals and determine our individual roles. This requires dialog, negotiating, feedback and creativity.

The third is something beyond my reach, something that can not be solved according to my current level of understanding.

I have written before about my friend who lives with a serious mental illness. I help her out as I am able. Recently, during an exacerbation of her illness, she destroyed all of her identification. Driver’s license, debit card, bus pass, everything in her wallet. Which made her complicated life even more complicated.

I was able to drive her around to the DMV, the bank, the Metro station to replace all the cards that had been destroyed. [completing the tasks] With her permission, I contacted her psychiatrist to let them know that the current regime of medications was no longer working. Friend, doctor and I discussed the immediate and long term goals of her treatment. We came to agreement on next steps to take and how we could know if they were effective. We agreed on a feedback loop so we would be in communication how things were going. [working with others for common goals]

There are a lot of scientists working to discover the causes and find new treatments for serious mental illness and I read some of what they publish to keep myself aware of new developments. But in the meantime, my friend and I live with the mystery of mental illness.

Art for my Zoom Room

No it’s not this.

A friend gifted me this dated collage of Paris scenes. It was left behind by the former owners of her new home and she did not want it. (Really?!) I had been wanting some art on the blank wall at the north end of the living room as this has become my new Zoom background. I wanted something soothing, not distracting, so that when I speak on a Zoom call, what I am saying is more interesting than what is behind me. Am I the only one that sometimes gets more interested in the books on the shelf behind the speaker than the speaker themselves?

Here is my inspiration.

I tore this image out of a shelter magazine like Architectural Digest or Dwell. I don’t really remember which one. I like the proportions of the color blocks, but this is a rectangle canvas and my free one is a square. Plus, I’m not copying it, just using it as a starting point.

Here is Paris with a couple coats of wall primer paint over it.

Did I mention that I wanted to do this on the cheap? And not buy a bunch of resources that I will only use part of? So I used the wall primer that I have been using in the condo renovations, and some of the ceiling paint that is left over and some of the blue paint that I used to create the blue circle in my bedroom (and if you remember, that quart of Robin’s Egg blue I first bought to paint the closet in the apartment. I needed a few more colors, so I bought these:

This is basic craft paint, each one $1.69 USD, $5.60 with tax.

This is the total cost to me of the painting. All the other supplies were my leftovers from other projects or gifted to me.

The final painting installed.

When I have done projects like this before, the reactions I get from others tend to fall into two camps. One is “I could never to do that. You are so creative. What a gift.” And the other camp is “What is the big deal? That isn’t art. That is a bunch of paint smears that a troupe of drunken monkeys could have achieved.” My response to those statements is:

I could never do that–You can if you want to.

You are so creative–I am. I have been practicing creativity for most of my life. You get good at what you practice.

What a gift–It is. But it is an exercised gift. If you don’t practice your piano, it doesn’t matter how much talent you are born with. You have to use it.

What is the big deal?–It is not a big deal. People all over the world express their creativity with what ever medium they have at hand. Drums, fabric, paint, orchestras, technology, drama. What is weird is that here, in the world populated by Europeans and their explorer offspring is that we have created hierarchies. There is “high art” and “folk art.” There is big money in the “high” art. I went to two of the “high” art universities. Washington University in Saint Louis (1 year)and the Kansas City Fine Art Institute (6 months.) I still visit Art Museums from time to time, but mostly I find them uninteresting. I could write a whole post on this topic alone.

That isn’t art–Says who? You? I say it is.

That is a bunch of paint smears that a bunch of drunken monkeys could have achieved–Perhaps. Doesn’t matter. I like it and it is on my wall until I get bored with it.

Beloved readers–please tell me how you get creative on the cheap!

The Balcony

Before view of the balcony (and the newest addition to our household: Rosie.)

Actually the condo has two identical balconies, this one off the living room and the other off the main bedroom, which is my son’s. He did not want his fussied up, so it still looks pretty much like this. Mine, however, got a make-over.

Hard to get a long view of it.

I added a outdoor carpet made of recycled bottles, two chairs from IKEA, a solar lamp from Bed, Bath &Beyond and the white metal table. In the rectangular pots, I have planted morning glories that will enjoy the strong afternoon sun this balcony gets and grow up around the railing.

I have signed up for a native species container gardening class, and after that will add some Purple Cornflower and I don’t know what else. (That’s why I’m taking the class.) I imagine I will post again later in the summer so you all can see how it turned out.

I also added a screen that closes by magnets and I have been enjoying leaving the door open at least part of most spring days.

Night view

And because I know someone is going to ask for more dog photos and information, I end with this photo.

All smiles!

Rosie is an Australian Cattle mix, about a year old and she arrived at the Humane Society as a stray with a lacerated paw pad. Once the staff there got the wound healed and she was spayed, she was up for adoption and we brought her home that day. She loves to go for long walks in the park with us and also likes to play fetch. She is very affectionate and loves to play.

My Closet


I paid to have this monstrosity installed to make the most of the space AND I like the look of it. I haven’t hung the doors back up, all the better for you to see the details. I will probably buy a different shape of clothing hamper when this one wears out. And I may, at some point, put a mirror where the artwork is. But for now, I need the inspiration of this particular photo.

The Universe is infinite, the fences are man made.

I may or not put the doors back up.


Photo by Wes Hicks via Unsplash

It is cold and the light is dim. Everything in my body is saying snuggle under the blanket and rest.

Our culture is telling me to get up and be productive. Get things done. Don’t miss out. Be grateful for the snow and biting temperatures. Learn to ski or ice skate!

I am grateful for winter. I love the stark beauty of the naked trees and grey landscape. I look to nature for the lesson of lying fallow to enrich the earth and decreased activity when conditions are harsh.

We are a “doing culture” but winter reminds me of the magic and strength of being. I will rest. Spring will be here soon enough.

A Minimalist Bedroom

My bedroom

I have been a minimalist for about 25 years and I enjoy interior design. So I play around with what I own and how I set it about more than most people. Here is how my bedroom is minimalist (and why) and how it is not.

First off, this is the smaller of the two bedrooms in the condo. This room is half the size of the other and the closet is half the size as well. I do get the bigger bathroom. Since I have just a few things to put here to be comfortable, it makes sense. Versus taking the bigger room because I am “the elder,” “the owner,” “the parent” or some other ego driven reason. Beloved son has a bed the same size as mine, plus a folding table that houses his programing computer and the guinea pig’s cage. He has a dresser, 2 guitars, and electric bass and a keyboard, plus a bunch of recording equipment. He needs more space than I do.

You might notice that there are only two pillows on the bed. While I can appreciate the look of a bed piled high with coordinating pillows, I do not have interest in moving them about to make room for me to sleep. And then, where would I put them? Toss them on the floor? Buy a bench to carefully stack them at bedtime? Decorative bed pillows are an unnecessary aggravation and I eschew them. While two pillows may seem excessive when I only use one while sleeping, I do use the second one when I am reading in bed.

I have owned this bed for over 10 years and I find it really comfortable. It has never had a headboard and that has allowed for some creative expression over the years. For many years, I had it under a set of windows and loved having the light flooding the room wake me.

The sconces (two of them!) are from Lamps Plus. They are fixed to the wall, but plug into an outlet, so do not require an electrician. Also, the bulbs are LED.

The tiny round thing on the window ledge is an alarm clock. I don’t use it most days, but handy for when I need one.

The stool gets used for putting on socks and shoes and holding the comforter when I am washing the sheets. It is not necessary, but I love the sculptural look of it and it is easily moved to the living area for extra seating.

Before photo, from a very blurry, slightly different angle.

Living Room: North Wall

Before the basket’s surgery

Here you can see that the cloth basket was a bit too tall for the snake plant. I found the basket on sale for $10 and figured that I could just trim it to fit.

Close up of His Royal Highness

He is smiling in his new home! Just like me.

Nook by Kitchen

Before: there is room for a small table and chairs. The previous owners had shelving along the beige wall.

I mentioned previously that the kitchen is small, with little storage. I was able to get all my dishes and pots stored there and have been keeping pantry items in the linen closet down the hall. It is a small condo, a short walk down the hall, so this solution was not burdensome. However, I had a vision for a gallery wall.

The cabinet is a configuration of the IKEA Besta shelving. The lichen photo is by my daughter. The acrylic paining is by Joan Milburn. The fish fossil (painted by an unknown artist) was a barter with the previous building manager and the lamp is from Target.

Don’t expect this space to look like this indefinitely. I will change it up on a whim. I have learned that my eye stops “seeing” art if it stays in one place for too long. Changing components here will be a source of play for me.

Still plenty of space, if needed.

Creating New Circumstances

Photo by Max Kleinen of Unsplash
  • Nature abhors a vacuum. If you suck all the air out of your vacuum sealer bag to store your out-of-season clothing and guest pillows and there is a tiny hole, the air will come back in.
  • Air and fluid flow is diverted or obstructed by objects in its path. Think rocks in a stream, a dam or the jet stream encountering a mountain range.
  • Powerful magnets can be created by wrapping wire around a magnetic core (like iron) and running a current through the wire.

I like to consider these behaviors of the material world when I am making changes to improve my life. I find it is far less work to use the properties of nature than to resist them.

Here is how I put these elements into action:

1) Creating a strong magnet: I need to get clear on what I DO want. If I am vague [I would like to have more fun] but am not real certain of what I find fun these days, that is a weak magnet. If, after reflection, I determine that having a dog to play with in the park would make me happy, then the next action steps are easier to take.

2) Creating a vacuum: Working overtime at my job and the housework to care for my large home are making me too tired to take care of a puppy. I can reduce my work hours or get help with the housework or move to a smaller home. I could quit work, move into a van with my dog and live in a park.

3) Decluttering: Sometimes the obstacles are obvious from the beginning. Sometimes they are not visible until later. Think about not being able to see the magnetic fields until the metal filings are added, revealing the patterns. My new dog needs food and vet services, an added cost. But I have lost weight with all the extra walking, so I cancel my gym membership and Nutrisystem deliveries.

Using these three tools in concert is a powerful change agent. Whether you are seeking big changes in your life, or just wanting to tweak some improvements, keeping these principles in mind will make it less work.

How do you use these principles when creating change?