Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The Seattle Art Museum will offer a collection of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, drawings and sculpture for a few more weeks. SAM’s curators worked with the French Musée National Picasso in Paris to include Seattle in a global tour of Pablo Picasso’s personal art collection.

Selected works were explained by art experts on an audio self-tour. I was tempted to snicker at a couple colorful paintings of circles and swirls. A lip and one eye overlaid pastel-colored “peaches” and “pears”. You will recognize my description as ignorant. I tend to prefer realism in my art.

But then I heard the expert explain Picasso’s view of reality. To paint these women Picasso asked himself, “What do I see when I am kissing a woman?”

Photographs of Pablo’s wife and lovers were displayed with his art. I looked at these beautiful women and responded smiling indulgently, “the whole person: forehead, two eyes, nose, lips, chin.” You get the picture.

But that is not reality. Kiss someone and open one eye. What do you see? What do you really see?

A writing exercise asked me to study a rock and write what I saw. When I was finished, I was given a clean sheet of paper and told to look again. Unbelievably I filled another paper.

Picasso, according to the expert, was telling me: Look at your marriage, your congregation, a friendship, yourself. What do you really see? Or do you look for what you think you should see?

Now look again.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Kay Ryan has taught me a new word, again.  Nacreous.  In her poem, “Lacquer Artist”, she writes:

“There is a nacreous gleam
in certain areas of the mind
where something must have been
at some time—
perhaps many somethings,
judging by the pearlescence;”

Abalones secrete nacre, a mucous layer of calcium carbonate that hardens into a protective coating. The layers upon layers built up throughout the lifetime of the mollusk shine with iridescence most attractive to beach combers. As we turn the shell in our hands, the light reflection dazzles us with different colors. We see depth as if the light was emanating from beneath the shell surface.

Nacreous could refer to layers upon layers of varnish like the lacquer artist applies to a serving tray or the fine woodworker to a cherry plank. We own such a wooden box with 30 layers of varnish gently sanded between applications. The result is a surface of deep silk begging to be stroked.

The metaphor of luminescent layers implies life and light, value and desirability.

Grace refused to open her eyes yesterday morning, refused to get out of bed. When she finally sat up, the pushed-back blankets revealed shoes on her feet. She shook a fist, threw her breakfast and glared with dark, open pupils. There was no depth in her eyes. The flat blackness reflected the vacancies in her brain and warned us to give her space and quiet. We respect her fragility.

This morning she giggles and plays with her eyes, looking up to measure our reaction. The nacreous gleam shows acceptance and curiosity from historical depths of participative living. There is still light emanating from deep within her mind. She is a treasure.

Ryan, Kay. The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. Grove Press. 2010. Amazon.

Monday, December 20, 2010


On this date in 1974 we were munching pizza at Jan and John's house in Battle Creek MI. My meal was interrupted by a trip to the hospital. Three hours later we were gifted with a son.

Most of the world pays no attention to the significance Dec. 21 holds for us.

Winter Solstice arrives sometime on this date. Or perhaps the astronomical event was observed in the next three days. The point of Solstice is that the longest, darkest days of the year are completed. We now observe light slowly showing predominance.

Rituals celebrating the return of Light have varied through the centuries and cultures of our world.

My memories of Solstice evening are of a quiet, nearly dark room. My chair seated me at a window. I could see the Christmas lights of the city below. My new son in my arms, I sang songs of welcome to another child born many years before.

"Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King."

"Hail the sun of righteousness! Light and life to all he brings."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The word “Leadership” conjures up a picture of Christopher Columbus on his 75 foot boat sailing from southern Spain across unknown and uncharted seas. Strange and hideous creatures were rumored to own these waters. The unknown was an emotional challenge. The uncharted meant he and his sailors used a quadrant and a navigation technique called dead reckoning.

What Columbus had in his favor was a goal: gold and a Chinese civilization full of spices. His vision was to be a hero to Spain. Queen Isabella was willing to name him hero in exchange for the riches.

The process (voyage) demanded he ignite the vision of his sailors. They needed to own the process. Columbus was motivated and he bet all their lives on it.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Theo has been a leader all his life. A retired business owner, he has strong ideas about what he wants in his church. He has the money to buy agreement for his opinions, and does so.

Pieter has been a leader all his life. A professional who works with groups and associations, he has ideas about what he wants in his church. He has the money to buy his way, but he understands the importance of process.

Crystal has been a leader all her life. She is a valuable volunteer in both church and community. She refuses to be elected but serves self-appointed. She is a satellite swooping overhead 24-7 picking up tidbits from everyone’s lives. She fits them together with uncanny accuracy. She is never malicious with her information, but she likes to know it all.

Marcus has been a leader all his life. He is the accounting partner in a prosperous business. His hobby is building intricate rail road layouts. At church he is serving as chairman of a sound system committee and is terrified of making a mistake. So he tables motions, insists on collecting more information, and delays producing a proposal month after month.

Tammy and Donald have been leaders all their lives. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and worried the details of their party until rescued by their daughter. They flutter around relationships in their church and see both sides to every issue.

Against his wife’s better judgment, Phillip was elected to the church board as an elder. He has proven to be a man of few but thoughtful words. He asks questions that lead the board to profitable discussions that put the brakes on Theo. Board meetings are now adjourned by 10:30 pm because Phillip gets up at 3:00 am for work. The process and quality of Board deliberation has improved.

If we take another look at “Irene” dangling above my profile, we clearly see that each element in SueRena Curtis‘s mobile is integral to the whole. I can’t imagine her without her hat, curly hair or neck piece, can you?

As St. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12, “Your body has many parts…but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body.”  And many parts swinging together enhance any process.

from The Message. Eugene H. Peterson

Friday, December 10, 2010


Hope was moved from her home to the hospital with pneumonia. During her week stay she suffered a small stroke. She couldn’t walk or feed herself. She was sent to Rehab.

Hope doesn’t remember the ambulance ride, the first weeks of hospital or rehab. Her reality tells her she was doing well in her own home with her own things. As long as she is sitting comfortably she thinks she can do everything she used to do.

She is confused and angry. She is fed food she didn’t order. (The home must be a restaurant.) She doesn’t have her purse to tip the girl who does her nails. She forgets she can’t walk and tries to get out of her wheel chair.

Hope and her now deceased husband gave a home to over 200 foster children. She is frustrated that she can’t even get out of her chair to reach the tissue box for “that woman there.”

Lloyd delivered newspapers when he was 10. He was forced to retire from his sales rep work because of a heart attack and open heart surgery. He never developed a hobby and doesn’t care to read. He walks twice a day and then comes home and sits in a chair by the front window. Lloyd’s wife continues to work and volunteer.  Lloyd stays home and cooks supper. He can’t seem to find a satisfying routine.

Routine gives us a sense of purpose and hope for the future. When we are abruptly removed without warning we have no time or help transitioning to an acceptable routine.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I once heard who invented “sticky notes” and how it was serendipitous. I don’t remember their name but I wish them a wonderful life.

The little colored stacks make my life possible. Phone numbers, to do reminders, cook book markers, quotes of our residents (“I must be a pain that a pill can’t reach”), an art print at Fred Hutchinson cancer research (“Whale Huggers” by Don McMichael), and the list goes on.

I can see at least 7 sticky notes littering my desk. There are probably more in my basket of business cards—massage, dentist, publishing house editors, plumbers.

I’ve been using a yellow pad for a month or two. One hot pink sticky note is buried under my current priority pile. It gives me a phone number and name, but no context. It will stay under the pile until I conjure up the courage to call the number and admit I don’t remember who or why.

Routine is important to maintain sanity. But the exceptions give our routines flavor and texture. They color our communications with alternatives and differences. They suggest “what if?” and other curious opportunities. The little sticky notes are cheerful carriers.

Until we really don’t remember. We no longer see the lineup of sticky notes on the refrigerator or our bathroom mirror. And if we do notice, we don’t know what they mean. They haven’t just become part of the landscape. We really don’t understand the words.

When Geraldine first moved to Adagio and asked her relative why she was being punished, the answer was delusional.

"I wrote you sticky notes but you took them down and threw them away."

Monday, December 6, 2010


Sunday morning gave us sunshine, soft lavender cirrus clouds to the north, compounding cumulous to the south. Possession Sound quietly reflected the ribbons of light blue sky. On Mt. Baker, the Olympics and Cascade mountains sunlight sparkled like diamonds against white shoulders wrapped in ermine.

The morning gifted us with calm. I would love to think this quiet peace is the way life should always be. I want to think quiet contentment is normal.

Such normalcy would allow us to go about our routines, to easily find comfort in the ordinary.

Sunday afternoon the clouds from the south herded the cirrus clouds toward British Columbia and scattered rain. Geraldine in her wheel chair and I took a flying run up the cul de sac to see the neighbors’ Christmas lights. We got wet but laughed all the way into the house.

3 PM a new caregiver quit before she had a chance to start. So we must work her shifts until we contract with someone new.

3:30 PM a resident followed a delusion out the front door. My husband followed him until reality tripped our dear friend and he fell into a bush.

Sunday evening our expectation of quiet normalcy was gone. We were tempted to complain that life wasn’t fair. Instead we served supper and gave thanks for the brief respite of calm in the morning.

Tomorrow is always another day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When my husband serves churches as Certified Transitional Minister, he is not there to preach the saints into his own version of a new system. He holds up a mirror so they can see the reality of what their system is accomplishing. He takes a picture of the myriad foot paths marring the beauty of their congregation (Post TT2). If the members study the picture and consider their ways, they can begin to ask questions. Questions can lead to a new way of walking.

I was describing to a visitor why we had moved six times in 12 years and he began to smile. For 20 years he had served an international company as trouble shooter. If an area office was failing to meet its goals, he might be called in to assess the situation. He visited shops, suppliers and transporters. He interviewed and observed employees, both management and workers. He made few comments until he wrote his report.

Every organization develops a system and sometimes it works. Sometimes the System outlives its efficacy. So many detours have developed around the System that separating tradition from fact is next to impossible. The Vision of the organization can no longer be succinctly stated. Past history just goes on, until controversy builds barriers between members. Distance digs trenches. Bridges are blown up. Transitions become discordant road blocks.