Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A little piece of sanity

Sometimes a little corner of sanity is all that is needed to stay afloat.

I don't cope well feeling surrounded by chaos. Life is a bit chaotic at the moment. We've had nearly two months of non-stop sickness in the house, and life gets a little furry around the edges.

The front garden has been a saving grace, even in small doses. Most days, that means taking 30 seconds to pull out any little weeds or grass shoots.

When we started living here 2 1/2 years ago, it looked like this:

Now, with a couple of removals (mostly agapanthus and kikuyu!), and some new additions (Grevillea, Kangaroo Paw, Paroo Lily, Gazanias, Dianellas, Emu Bush) over the last few years, it's headed in a fresh direction:

Whenever I head outside to take out the garbage or recycling, I seize the opportunity to soak it up. It's a nice little piece of sanity!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Puzzling out a solution

Most people do jigsaw puzzles the 'normal' way.

Not our four-year-old.

Most of us pour the pieces out, look at the lid of the box, sort the pieces into little piles (edges and distinct colours / patterns), look at the lid of the box, and assemble the puzzle -- constantly referencing the picture on the lid of the box.

Not Caelan.

He doesn't seem to believe in the value of an absolute image to aid the assembly process. He will start the puzzle with some concept of what he is aiming for (a world map, a forest scene, a truck), spread the pieces out, and then just start assembling them based around colour / pattern (from what we can tell). All this time, the lid of the box is lying idly who-knows-where.

He is also guided by shape. Once he has mastered a puzzle (that is, can assemble it competently picture-side up), one of his little tricks is to reassemble it upside-down -- and he doesn't do this by looking at the pictures on the obverse, but by the shape of the pieces. (This gets a little harder when the puzzles get up past 100 pieces.)

It is an intriguing process to watch, and he is generally able to assemble puzzles quite quickly (he has just started the same process again with a new 200-piece puzzle this morning). Where as most of us are essentially using a tightly (slavishly?) self-referenced replication process, he is using an interesting combination of creative and interpretive skills.

For him, if the visual cue is right, the next key is shape and fit. If the fit is wrong, then he hunts for another piece.

As a friend has expressed it (from within the world of strategic conversations), he appears to be using less a process of building from a set of specifications (though in the end, the whole thing can only go together one way), and more a process of building from within available parameters and intent (aiming for the creation of a tree or a whale or a car).

The process is fractal (thanks again, David), as Caelan seeks to solve the puzzle by turning it into a series of mini-puzzles (he will work on a section, find some level of resolution in it, and then begin work on another section, until eventually the completed sections butt into each other).

It will be interesting to watch how this way of dealing with puzzling situations is applied in other life circumstances where there is more than one way for a final solution to 'lock together' ...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Many miles? Or a set of rushing rapids?

The significance of some friendships is the fruit of many miles on a long road. The significance of other friendships lies in one crossing of a rampaging river in a howling storm.

There is a small coterie of clients who forged a friendship with my boss many years ago through some tough circumstances (that I know almost nothing about). If my boss finds out I'm off to see one of them, he will say, "Say to Barry, '[Insert boss' name] says "Don't mention the war."'"

I always try to pass those kinds of greetings on. They are simple words that testify to the significance of a friendship forged long ago. The hearer of the words inevitably smiles, and the friendship is, in some odd way, rekindled - however many years it has been since the two friendly parties have actually spoken. And even if it only 6.30am on a frosty morning standing on the 17th tee.

It's been about 2 1/2 years since Cara and I embarked on, what seemed to us at the time, a terrifying and bold new direction. The process of coming to the point of making that decision saw new people arrive into the unsettled terrain of our lives. They were, some of them, people we had to learn to trust quickly as we co-navigated unfamiliar space. We did not have many miles on the road with them, but we quickly had a friendship forged through a river crossing. There were also others there through that crossing who had been there all along (you know who you are), and their friendship has meant the more for it.

Perhaps some of them would estimate the value of our friendship differently to how we see theirs. All I know is: 3 years since meeting some of these folks, I will still drop them a friendly line every now an again when I'm out-and-about with some time to kill. And I would go to the wall for these people.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The obvious

I haven't logged a new entry here for a very long time.

Has a lot happened in the intervening period between the last post in January and this one?

Perhaps. But when you don't sit down and consider life in retrospect it has a way of passing you by very quickly.

The blog was, in the past, a good discipline, but more than that: it was a window. It was a way of looking afresh at what was around to see the patterns, to have an eye for the design evident in everyday living, and even to bear witness to the chaos.

Exercise keeps us from becoming flabby. This blog has, in the past, exercised my heart and mind, kept me looking for the patterns, often making me aware of shortcomings of my own through paying attention to what is to be seen and heard (Proverbs 8:1-5). It was a reflective mirror, and a lens.

The discipline of keeping the blog daily back in 2008 was good for my heart and mind, but probably not so good for my family. In this season of life, brimming with the presence of three young boys and one industrious wife, there would have been an ironic foolishness in keeping a blog on design while failing to invest time in my family. So the blog embarked on a long slide into slumber.

Other things have been dusted off or newly discovered, particularly the enjoyment of playing music and singing with the boys. And climbing into our ceiling to install insulation (DON'T ASK!).

And in all of the joy of daily life with our boys in our little neighbourhood, in a rewarding job / industry and in the grace-imbued company of our house church gathering, I miss my blog. Blogging on design is good exercise. It makes me more attendant to life's patterns.

This isn't about a new resolution, or even a statement of intent. It's just to note 'what is': to detect both the flabbiness and the longing. (Sighs and smiles, with a small sense of achievement.)