The grueling challenges wrought by Hurricane Sandy continue. The Nor’Easter has brought serious snow fall and cold; we’ve heard that some friends who just regained electrical power yesterday have lost it today. We cannot imagine the level of exhaustion and stress felt by people who have lost homes and are, literally, out in the cold with a fearsome set of realities to face.
We really love Maira Kalman‘s picture of her worn, old-fashioned boots and it’s simple, insightful, refreshingly real-life annotation. It affirms something we practice many times daily: imagining, fantasizing, trying-on scenarios in our heads that we ultimately will never do because the reality is, well, something we don’t really want to deal with, or can’t deal with. Sometimes we can’t get with the ‘reality sandwiches’ at hand, to coin Allen Ginsberg‘s brilliant phrase from a famous poem in his famous book of the same name.
We DON’T make all the ideas we have, but we DO do some of them. Sometimes the one’s we don’t do lead to outcomes or paths we don’t expect. Just being willing to try on ideas in our heads helps us figure out which ones we really want or need to do.
As we mull making something out of shipping pallets or a cool idea for painting a wall or imagine riding a bike like Danny McAskill, we embrace possibilities,’the adjacent possible’ that lives in every moment…
Check out Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness here.
Related posts: possibilities in everyday things (piano as 5+ instruments)
what happens if you start your day with a poem?
improvisation is a guerilla action
the possibilities of folded paper
the creative possibilities for being ‘on hold’ via christophe neimannx
This morning, I went into Marcus Garvey Park to check out the damage Hurricane Sandy did to the huge old trees. They mean a lot to this part of Harlem, as most of the neighborhood hangs out under during the temperate months.
Several trees were down, whole root systems turned on end, including one oak whose trunk was more than 3-feet thick (how old must it be?). Many trees had branches sheared right off, hanging at weird angles like broken… limbs.
A few people stood around the the fallen oak talking about how sad it was, tempering their sadness with the memory of greater damage that had been wrought by Sandy: there had been truly terrible losses and suffering.
I wondered what good could come from it all and from these fallen trees. Then I thought of hauling one home. read more…
Some time ago, Marella Consolini of the Chinati Foundation alerted us to the poignant sculpture of artist Jane Hammond. Since it is about fall and leaves, it seems the perfect time to post it. Called Fallen, Hammond’s installation comprises leaves: “each unique handmade leaf has been inscribed by the artist with the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.”
The work started with 4229 leaves; Hammond continued to add leaves and names as the war went on. We find that the work has greatly expanded our view of fall/change/life, and especially, what happens when we really focus our attention on something. Hammond describes it well in her Artist’s Statement: read more…
Although our borrowed cabin in the country was not quite as spare as Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White’s enviable makeshift work space (in his boat shed overlooking Allen Cove in 1976, pre internet), we are refreshed by going minimal for a week, in nature and quiet.
We were so intrigued by White’s utterly simple, focused space, that we browsed some of his essays. We were amused and heartened to read of White’s eloquent stuggle with “stuff” in “Goodbye to Forty-eighth Street:
For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hundreds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. It is not a simple matter. I am impressed by the reluctance of one’s worldly goods to go out again into the world. During September I kept hoping that some morning, as if by magic, all books, pictures, records, chairs, beds, curtains, lamps, china, glass utensils, keepsakes would drain away from around my feet, like the outgoing tide, leaving me standing silent on a bare beach. But this did not happen… read more…
A while back, we accidentally ordered a book of poems by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. We love his poetry, especially his odes, but weren’t crazy about the selections in this particular book. Or so we thought. We’ve discovered that opening it randomly often yields treasures we could have sworn weren’t there when we first looked through it.
Recently, we stumbled on a poem about how poetry “arrived” in Neruda’s life one day. To us, it perfectly describes the way the creative process often happens: an idea appears, sparks…tiny often at first… but if listened and attended to — however tentative and bumpy the start — it can become an illuminating and nourishing path. read more…
(Video link here.) Ever since we saw this 3 minute bit from comedian Louis C.K.’s amazing tv series Louie we’ve been looking for a video clip to post; we FINALLY found one. As Louie drives his daughters to visit their ancient aunt in the country, The Who‘s ”Who are You?” comes on the CD player. The valiant, crazy vision of Louie playing air guitar as he drives and his daughters cringe knocked us out.
Commenter named Alonso summed it up perfectly: ”this this is beautiful. natural yet risky.”
Louie totally went with the jammin’ music of his youth at the risk of making a fool of himself. As we all should, and often do. Natural yet risky.
Louie is some kind of wiseman (which we discovered years go from his (“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” riff on Conan). At another point in the Country Ride episode, he admonishes his daughters: read more…
There’s a movement afoot to change Columbus Day to Explorer’s Day. First, because Columbus didn’t really discover America (it was explored by MANY before him). And second because America has always been about exploring; it is a country of explorers. Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing-Boing says it eloquently:
….exploration is inclusive. The ancestors of Native Hawaiians were explorers who crossed the ocean. The ancestors of Native Americans explored their way across the Bering land bridge and then explored two whole continents. If you look at the history of America, you can see a history of exploration done by many different people, from many different backgrounds. Sometimes we’re talking about literal, physical exploration. Other times, the exploring is done in a lab. Or in space. But the point is clear: This country was built on explorers. And it needs explorers for the future.
Being explorers of all sorts, we’re going ahead an celebrating Explorer’s Day today.
photo: Robert Winston Play Sculpture 1961 From Graphis 97 article, “The World Around Them” via Atomic Living
Related posts: how to be an explorer of the world
when ‘disaster’ gets interesting
‘the tutu project’ explores identity, change and love
mary delany and late bloomingstefan sagemeister on ‘serious failure’ and training the mind
5(0) dangerous things your kids (and you) should do
We are big fans of tattoos — permanent or impermanent — as a tool for living, and have posted quite a bit about them: to-do lists, uplifting signs, reminders of one sort or another. We recently tweeted about an 81 year-old woman who tattooed “Do Not Resuscitate” on her chest, so concerned was she about being kept alive against her wishes.
The Improvised Life’s remarkable assistant, Dese’Rae L. Stage, has A LOT of words and quotes tattoo’d on her body. We wondered if they were reminders or something else. So we asked her how she chose them, the story behind them, what they did.
Here’s what she said: read more…
1. Edit ruthlessly: clear the arteries of our lives, cut the extraneous out of our lives, think before we buy, ask ourselves, ‘Is that really gonna make me happier? Truly?’
2. New mantra: small is sexy. We want space efficiency, we want things that are designed for how they’re used the vast majority of the time–not that rare event. Why have a six burner stove when you rarely use three? So, we want things that nest, things that stack… we wanna digitize. You can take paperwork, books, movies, and you can make it disappear. It’s magic.
3. Think multifunctional spaces and housewares: a sink’s combined with a toilet, a dining table becomes a bed in the same space, a little side table stretches out to seat ten.
“Consider the benefits of an edited life.”
We hear you!
Related posts: digital memory archive (photograph stuff then give it away)
unusual guest ‘books’ on walls and furniture (and books)
keeping a dream book
quilts as memory-keepers
keeping an instagram journal
(Video link here.) Tracy Metro is a designer and the host of I Live with My Mom on SpacesTV, where she makes over bedrooms of twenty- somethings who are still living at home with Mom. “I rid them of their soccer trophies, Legos and stuffed animals in favor of an adult launching pad for life.”
She’s applied her own small-space thinking to The Retro Metro, a houseboat she and her husband bought a few years ago. When we saw the before-and-after photos, we had to know the story. So we interviewed Tracy and spliced-in pictures and plans to show you just how big a project it was. read more…
Zen Habits recently published the very useful Finding Peace with Uncertainty, about one of our favorite subjects. It made us go back and leaf through the great Maira Kalman’s wonderful book The Principles of Uncertainty. We clipped this image from it imagining, for sure, she naturally applies Zen Habits’ 8 practices herself (we’ve summed them up below):
Try something new, but small and safe.
When you mess up, don’t see it as painful failure. See the wonder and opportunity in change.
Ask “what’s the worst-case scenario”?
Develop a change toolset.
Become aware of your clinging.
See the downsides of clinging.
Experience the joy in the unknown.