Iceland

Our friends, Terry and I enjoyed such a fun afternoon and evening. We were all deep in conversation from the time we gathered until we parted that there were no pictures of proof. We spent a lovely two hours in the public pool and hot spa splashing around and enjoying debates about everything. The meal tonight was at Fish and More. We sat at a table on the sidewalk for dinner under a light mist, nearly rain. The food was fairly traditional and so very tasty. The bread was unbelievably good. At the end of the night I recounted how when I’d read a book called Bliss, a few years ago, about a traveller’s search for the happiest countries in the world that I’d decided that I would go to Iceland to experience this happiness with dear friends. And celebrate my 50th birthday — even if that meant a delay. This time here and this day has been magical in so many ways. Time with beautiful friends, laughing and teasing. We never heard an argument in the streets. We never saw fighting or crime. We saw a lot of culture and expression. People were so very pleasant and genuine. There was a lot of respect for one another here. People seemed relaxed and cared about getting along together. At the end of the night I saw a hanging in the restaurant. “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” A fitting ending for a lovely visit to a lovely place. I’m better for being here, and for being here with wonderful friends.

Forgive yourself for doing your very best when more seemed required. And forgive others for the very same reasons. – Paul Harris

To realize our dreams we must become experts at getting out of our own way. – Paul Harris

Being me.

At this moment,
life is perfect.
White sheets,
belly full with good Iranian food,
laughter, plotting, possibilities.
Siamese purring, Montana my buddy.
Beside, lover breathing quietly,
drifting away into the night.
Me reading.
A small book of philosophy,
inspiration, complexity, words with fluid meaning. Worlds being constructed and reconstructed.
Poststructuralism, a very short introduction.
Nodding off with enjoyment and intrigue.
Not wanting this good moment to pass.
Synapses slow.
Connect random thoughts, day’s events waiting to be sorted, filed, stored, solved.
Perrier.
A gentle breeze.
Peace outside and in
Alive and still.
Just being me being me.
Being.

Anticipation.

In a darkened room waiting quietly,
For the show to begin.
An audience of one,
still with anticipation I sit.
Opened wide, the windows.
Damp cool air flooding in around my feet.
My skin tightens.
Sweet reprieve from the heat of my office.
Accounting.
Paper.
Progress.
The network says eleven it begins.
Wild wind at first.
Already black shadowy trees sway back and forth across the solid grey sky.
Bending gently, deeply,
Like they’re stretching before taking their part on stage.
Limber lumber.
First the rain.
Then lightening will waken colour.
Deepen silhouettes.
Just before thunder sends cats scurrying for box spring cover.
Waiting.
Enjoying the fresh heavy air.
Dancing shadows on plate glass.
The network may be wrong.
Glad I didn’t make popcorn.

Sparkling crazy.

Shopping for new cushions to replace faded ones,
Used only by stray cats that make our zen garden their home.
Snoozing comfortably but always alert,
On the sky blue adirondack chairs,
That call to us too,
To be still and relax,
To purr in the warm summer sunshine.
We rush past from work to work,
Too often.
Credit card out,
Slips casually onto the counter,
A pleased salesperson.
Exhilaration.
Choices made.
New cushions, gingham and stripes.
Cheap and cheerful.
Glasses.
Orange and yellow citronella candles.
A red ice bucket, big enough.
An owl candle holder and a yogic cat,
Especially for the observant in our congress of literarians,
And for Max.
Things to renew, to amuse, to welcome friends.
To hold a space open for connections to gently grow.
Packing my car, the skies open,
Torrents of rain.
A garden party being washed away.
Disappointment.
Grey turns to blue.
It’s meant to happen.
Amber wine glasses sparkle in the afternoon sun,
Adorned with small bees pressed into moulded glass,
A dozen for ten friends
Waiting for name tags that,
A fellow shopper implored me to tie on them — with raffia,
Down aisle eight,
Past the fake flowers.
But, I’m too pressed to hunt.
Still needed gin and sushi.
String ties are fine and,
How the group will describe each other,
That will be pure inspiration.
Wild enthusiasm.
Modifiers that invite being.
Friend, the _____________!
Six bottles of champagne.
As many hours of sunlight.
Laughter until our cheeks hurt.
The good,
The glorious,
The other old actor,
The valiant,
The magnificent bacon zen master,
The connector,
The chivalrous,
The warrior hobbit.
The true.
The goddess.
Sparkling crazy.

Moonset

It’s dark and I’m alone on the beach in a place that I often come to think. My dreams had been full of troubling relationship issues, replaying past hurts, mistakes, and attempts at repair. Even in the quiet dawn, it’s immensely difficult to quiet the my mind, particularly those voices that, in hindsight, can see how things could have happened differently. The remind myself that I’m only one in a relationship and I can’t alone control outcome — that it’s always jointly created by all the participants. And besides, the past is past. I’ve been involved with others that bring so much negative personal history to the relationship that it’s like swimming against a tidal wave. It’s those ones that cause me the most anxiety, always feeling that just perhaps I could say or do something that would make a grand difference. It’s those ones that find their way into my dreamscape and begged to be sorted, that wake me feeling anxious. This morning sitting here I need this time alone to be with myself, to remember my own humanity, to practise self compassion, to forgive myself for doing my best when more was required, and to forgive others for the same reasons.

The rhythms of the earth are supportive — I focus on my breath. I grow more and more appreciative of being in quiet relationship with this space. Slowly, I return to a position of knowing that my best intention and open invitation remain my most precious gifts.

The full moon is high in the sky, descending. It’s bright and round and softly illuminates the earth. There are no clouds between the moon and me. The ocean rolls in one wave at a time, slipping onto the short a few feet from where I sit to contemplate the things I’ve encountered during the past few days.

I learned yesterday that one can reset the intention of a crystal by placing it in moonlight. I wonder what it might be like if I thought of myself as a crystal sitting there in a moonbeam. The thing about moonbeams is that follow you wherever you go. This one sparkled across the waves in a loose triangle shape, its gentle point of light settling between my eyes.

Perhaps what I was doing this morning in the moonlight was renewing my invitation to allow my best to be and to accept my humanity.  I’ve reset my crystal thanks to communal time with the ocean and the moon. I remember the Japanese speak of perfection of anything being in the imperfection.  The crack in a bowl, worn leather, a dog-earred book.

The ocean continued to roll in as the moon slow moved toward the horizon.  The sun rising on the other side of the island, blocked from view by Haleakala, gently warmed the sky. No shadows as whole vista, the ocean, sand, and sky transformed into pale shades of green, blue and grey.  As the moon approached the water it grew bigger and became pink.  Then it disappeared.

Settling in.

Maui is a beautiful place, some say magical. I may be one of them. There’s a four hour time difference from Red Deer, Alberta to our place here – which we affectionately call Chip and Max’s Tiki Resort (tikihalekipa.com).

We bought this small flat a couple of years ago are slowly renovating. We’ve paid very careful attention to design and aesthetics, selecting colours and furnishings that invite creativity, relaxation, and fun. Each time I’m here I find space to explore my current identity, to write, to paint, and to get in touch with a broader perspective of life. I return home with a sharpened ability to see things my life and work in a relational context — nearly always feeling calmer and ready to carry on. The weight is a little lighter it seems. It’s a real treat to have space and time to be reflexive.

I’m reading Kenneth Gergen’s text titled An Invitation to Social Construction and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s like I’ve come home to a place where someone understand what I’ve been thinking and saying for years.

Recently, I’ve had many deep and lively discussions with colleagues in civic government that challenge the assumptions that we make about governance, authority, and civic leadership. I remember the very first council meeting I attended four years ago, as a newly elected councillor. We were to pass the organizational bylaw as one of the first matters of a new council. It legally allows us to ‘exist’ as a city. But why? I asked the question “what is the purpose of civic government?” and was so bold as to table the organizational bylaw until we could draft something that included a reason to exist. Strangely it may be a quintessential moment in my career as a participant in politics. I still feels as one of the moments of which I’m most proud.

So many organizations appear to exist for a sake onto itself, and I’ve always been curious what would happen if we were more explicit about exploring organizational purpose. Articulating it in writing, in conversation, in practice, in policy. Revisiting it often, feeding it, watching it grow and change — and being thrilled that it’s never complete and finished.

Organizations are creatures of human desire, and as such we should talk about our purpose for them. Even as our desires and passions change so must our organizations be flexible enough to morph.

From a constructionist perspective, the intervention of a single question altered the entire path of the organization and our community. It created an opening for council to explore together the meaning of our work, both as elected officials but also as participating citizens. It opened a door for the organization to more fully involve citizens in decisions that affect their future and future of their city.

Since then purpose dialogue has become deeply rooted in our organization and continues to provide as a philosophical perspective with which to consider every decision we make. Our new governance framework has aa its foundation the purpose of our city. Red Deer is being looked to for leadership in civic governance.

As I read through Ken’s thoughtful exploration of social construction I find myself feeling many interrelated thoughts. Firstly, I’m more in love with Ken then ever before. The robustness of his thinking and explanations makes me wonder if I have anything new to add to the conversation, or if even adding anything is valuable. I counter my own internal dialogue with, ‘of course you do, you are uniquely you and therefore only you can have your perspective, build from your years of personal experience.’

Now at the end of a day of reading, it’s dark. The sun has dropped into the ocean, I’ve not switched on any lights. It’s time for me to find a cocktail bar, some good food, and chat with perfect strangers. I wonder what will come of the evening.

An entrance into a space.

5:00 a.m. Good morning a wee bit too early given the last night and the wine. Packing. Sky Train at 5:45 to Vancouver Airport. 7:40 flight to Denver – yes, that’s the wrong direction. I have a two hours wait and discover near the end of it that I could have met one of my cohorts in MSc in Relational Leading – Amanda. (Next time I’ll let you know when I’m coming through.) 2:30 to LA. 6:00 to Kahului.   All day I ponder, how will I get this blog started? Where is the entrance into a good space that will be fun for the reader and helpful for me to record my thinking over the next several days?

For many years I’ve invited people to consider that the entrance into anything is always right where you are. All you need to know is the first step… and you always know what that is. And so I sit down and begin to write.

I hope that you’ll engage with me, whether that just be private thought or whether you choose to enter into a conversation. I invite you to post your thinking, make comments, ask clarify questions.

Setting out.

I set out early in the morning for Vancouver. It’s the first day of my 10 day writing retreat. I’ve recently been accepted into a Masters Program in Relational Leading with the Taos Institute and Middlesex University in London. While I’m away I’ll work on the current two modules, continue writing in my book, build and send a couple of newsletters for Sunworks and The Coconut room, and find time to read. It’s a bit of a packed agenda, especially when happy hour in Maui starts at 3 p.m.

To start my retreat well, I meet up with my friend Sam Khany. He’s a brilliant young planner with a keen sense of philosophy and strong passion for expanding knowledge about the relational influence of space and design on community wellness and culture. We first met at the Vancouver Urban Forum, a conference that he helped organize in 2011. It brought together great thinkers to consider better ways that we can design and organize cities in ways that improve human experience and protect the planet and everything that depends on it.

Over fresh oysters and wine our conversation moves quickly from catching up with one another into relational ideas and what he observes as a rise in reflexivity globally due to social media and the ability for people to easily connect.

I’m interested in exploring a book he’s appreciated. Modernity and Self Identity by Anthony Giddens.  Perhaps Amazon can dispatch one of their delivery drones and have it to me in a day or two. Even as I am aware of the increase in dialogue in the world I wonder if the particular way in which we are connecting is actually isolating ourselves in circles of other like minded people, rather that opening us to difference that exists and therefore the possibilities created when we ‘bump’ into new ideas and different ways individuals and communities construct the world.

My particular interest is not in just increasing dialogue, but rather I’m fascinated with the idea of creating openings in the dialogic space to be able to stand back and notice the relational dynamic of the dialogue itself. I use the word dialogue to represent the interactions or signals between various participants. I believe it’s important to recognize we are part of multiple relationships and that they go beyond just our interactions with one another to include our relationship with our habitat, our bodies, the various communities we are part of, our internal conversations, and the natural world.

I’m less interested in the content and more interested in the process. To call attention to ways we can gently intervene both individually and as organizations. How can we become more fully aware that every conversation we have changes the world in some way – that we have the choice to shift those conversations and therefore create a better future.

How can we invite highly structured (rigid) organizations to become reflexive in their work?   Maybe it’s highly rigid communities.

I ponder what happens when we have time to ask questions like: What were we doing just then as we talked about what we were talking about? What was it like for you, for us? Why were we talking in that particular way?

To me these are reflexive questions. They call us to look outside of the content and become aware of ourselves both collectively and individually. I propose that reflexive questions help us become aware of the socially constructed ways in which organizations behave, even as they make us aware of the ways we are constructing our world through our own inner dialogue.

Sam and I talked about doing some work together in the future. It will be an absolute delight.

What a great way to begin my retreat and more serious work on my Masters. Deeply intellectual conversation, grounded in practical experience in planning and civic governance. Rodney’s Oyster House get’s bonus points for providing space for us for being always so welcoming and friendly.