Just back from two weeks in Ecuador: Quito, Cuenca, and some coastal zones. Great food, people, art, and culture. Nothing like getting away from your normal patterns, being a minority, not completely fluent with the language. Talk about fresh views and new perspectives on our world and how we move through it. Priceless experiences. Until the next trip...
Every day I try to access elements of life that help me put things into perspective. I'm not always successful at it, but I am always aware of the need for it. There are several ways I do this, and which access point I choose depends on the day. How I get there is less important than getting there. For me, it can be time in the ocean—that dynamic space that reminds me of just how small I really am. I like that feeling. It can also be a museum visit, a favorite artist documentary, writing and drawing in my sketch book, or listening to a favorite record.
Music is a huge one for me. It was the first thing in life that was really my own, separate from family or anyone else. What I listened to, what I loved, the music I communed with, was my choice. That is a powerful feeling for a 7-year-old! Give me a record player, a stack of KISS records, and a drawing pad, and I'll see you in a few hours! That feeling of independence was extraordinary.
These days, I don't listen to the KISS records that often (though I still have them). The record collection is vast, and while I have much to listen to, when it comes down to it, my ultimate musical hero is John Coltrane. Meditative, powerful, gentle, contemplative, searching, spiritual... Coltrane's music is a consistent way for me to access the “greater than.” It levels the wings, slows everything down, and almost instantly puts things into perspective. For that, I am forever grateful to this genius of modern music.
We are often encouraged to be assertive, productive, powerful, etc. And sometimes the situation calls for all of that. But we do need to let down sometimes; to let go of ego and know that as big as we are, we are small in the grand scheme. Knowing that is true power. All of this is impermanent, everything is rented. Let's enjoy the heck out of it while we're here.
Happenings LP: Bobby Hutcherson (1967). What spring sounds like to me.
Vase of Peonies: So indicative of this time of year. What spring looks like to me.
First-Harvest Shincha: Green tea (Kyoto, Japan). What spring tastes like to me.
An awareness of the seasons is something we all feel, even in a mild climate like San Diego. It may be more subtle than what Midwest or East Coast folks experience, but the changes are there. You see them in the light. They're in the ocean’s color and the wind’s direction. You can smell them in the air and feel it all on your skin—especially in the morning.
I love fall but I also love the transition from late spring to early summer—where we are right now. New batches of tea are being harvested. Peonies are blooming. There is a palpable sense of new possibilities—if we choose to access them.
So, I’m going to step away from my desk for a few minutes, head outside with my favorite cup, and take a few minutes to just be in the possibilities. When I do this I always feel refreshed, more present, more psyched to sit back down and get into some good work. And I'm just plain happier! It’s a ritual I use to stay connected, balanced, here. And it feels damn good.
Views from a recent visit. One of my favorite cities for found typography of all eras and media.
Alexander Girard—master of color, pattern, and play. Brand identity design for Braniff International Airlines, mid-1960s.
A snippet from one of my favorite books, Footnotes and Headlines by Corita Kent.