ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Skin Deep Accidents

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Is it an accident that the palm of the hand is cool and inviting, a brookside grotto inviting us in to rest and listen to the water burbling past? Is it an accident that the index finger knuckle suggests an eye awakening a children’s book character from the hand, index finger and thumb? Is it an accident that the fingers and their shadows echo the sensuousRubenesque topography of a woman’s legs and posterior?

Yes. Accidents.

Just as the grotto feels safe and calm, like sitting in the earth’s gentle hand. Just as the improvised puppet inspires a child’s laughter and imagination despite being “just your hand”. Just as the nude napping in early evening light suggests cupped fingers, a shadowy hand gathering sheets.

Thanks for these accidents, Michelle Rummel (@shellartistree).

Do You Ever Stop to Wonder?

Do you ever stop to wonder
why erogenous and erroneous
are so close together
and yet so far apart?

Do you ever stop to wonder
why the green ink
spilling from my fountain pen
in paisleys and undulating hills
doesn’t seep through the paper
like water following
hidden seams in the earth,
seeping into streams and rivers
then emptying into the ocean?

Do you ever stop to wonder
if all roots grow down
into the dark, moist soil
or if a few are curious,
are rebellious and brave enough
to grow up to toward the sun?

Or why riffling through a magazine
in bed late at night
can cause the wind to blow
and the rain to fall
and the hoot-hoot of an owl
to echo in the woods
beyond your bedroom?

Or why you don’t lift off –
in a balloon perhaps –
and wait for the earth to turn
and then settle down again
in Tangier or Mumbai or Tokyo
without ever boarding an airplane
or waiting in a TSA security queue?

Or why you hurtle
across oceans and mountains
to plunge into the exotic
while neglecting terra incognita
in your own back yard?

Do you ever stop to wonder?

Sunday Supper

Frog cartoonFelt grand enough after dinner last night at Turtle Island Cafe, but awoke this morning feeling like I was drowning. Nightmare? No, I was actually struggling to catch my breath. Seems that my lungs were suddenly extremely congested. And my ears and nose.

So… I took my vorpal sword in hand (read Dayquil) and dealt the beast a few quick blows. Deft swordsmanship and plenty of hot tea subdued the bronchial beast marginally, and I set about adapting my day. I bowed out of a monthly writing group this afternoon and a public reading of Karen Lewis’ play The Perfect Wife held at The Depot Theatre.

That was the bad news. The good news? As an almost forty year old who’s voice neglected to drop the desired octave at puberty, I’ve long envied those radio announcer baritones and basses who can make a snippet from the AP or the weather report sound like chocolate melting over a candle. Today was my moment of glory. Struggling to catch my breath all day, I’ve nevertheless hummed and sung myself hoarse, hitting notes that I’ve never hit before and will probably never hit again. Joy! Griffin, my almost three old Labrador Retriever keeps cocking his head and wondering when his “momma” is coming home from Charleston to restore a little normalcy. That’s right, my bride joined John Davis (@trekeast) last Thursday for a paddling leg of his epic 4,000 mile human powered adventure. But more on that in a moment.

First, I’d like to back up. What’s up with the title of this blog post, you’re probably wondering. What’s this about Sunday supper? Good question! Silly title really. Probably smorgasboard would have made more sense. Or digest. But enough with the food references. Basically today’s post is what might have been the conversation around the table if we were sitting down to catch up over a slow Sunday supper. Make sense?

Okay, so that’s the title, but what about the silly frog? That was a quick doodle that I made this morning after figuring out what was going on with my breathing and funny voice. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s a hat tip to Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) who’s book Evil Plans has entertained and inspired me over the last couple of days as much for the quirky-but-clever cartoons as the simple message he drives home with miniature sound bite chapters.

Everybody needs an Evil Plan. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to actually start doing something they love, doing something that matters… Every person who ever managed to do this, every person who managed to escape the cubicle farm and start doing something interesting and meaningful, started off with their own Evil Plan. And yeah, pretty much everyone around them — friends, family, colleagues — thought they were nuts.” (Hugh MacLeod, Evil Plans)

It isn’t rocket science, nor does it pretend to be. After all, a book that relies as much on cartoons as prose to make a point isn’t about pretence and pontificating. It’s accessible and lighthearted. And following close on the heels of Guy Kawasaki‘s (@guykawasakiEnchantment and Seth Godin‘s (@thisissethsblogPoke the Box I fell surrounded by kindred spirits: initiators, starters, creators, shippers, adventurers.

If there were more hours in the day, the week, I’d dish up quick reviews of all three of these books. Don’t count on it. Instead, read them yourself. Quickly. They’re all available digitally, and both Enchantment and Poke the Box are available as audiobooks too. Perfect for the car or the gym! Evil Plans doesn’t really lend itself to audio with all of those terrific cartoons, but I bet MacLeod could pull off one heck of a Vook

In other news, yesterday’s “Loquacious Flaneur” continues to evolve, so I’ll wrap up and curate a few last tweets before taking my vorpal sword in hand (read Nyquil) and dealing the bronchial beast a few last blows before surrendering to sleep!

A Lot of Life

Karl Sprague (@karlsprague) just made my day! I met Karl at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City last month, and his sunny, upbeat personality made him irresistible from our first handshake. He’s the quintessential poster boy for the Sunshine State. Here’s what he tweeted me this morning:

You pack a lot of life into a 24 hour period, don’t you? U keep us mentally sedentary folks updated on writing / travel / life

Karl Sprague

Wow. I think I’ll print and frame that when I get home from Costa Rica. Bold font. Hung front and center over my desk. Or my kitchen range. No, maybe nailed to a post by my garden. Hmmm. Duct taped to the wishbone of my windsurfer? Or the handlebars of my bike? Maybe I’ll just memorize it, repeat it like a mantra each morning. Or any time my enthusiasm sags…

I’m serious. What a gift! What validation. What encouragement. I wonder if Karl had any notion at all how his quick message would impact me. I’d like to think he did. He’s magnanimous, wouldn’t miss an opportunity to give, encourage, thank. And yet, I’m guessing he didn’t. I’m guessing he typed and sent that tiny little tweet out into the ether without thinking too much about it. That’s also the kind of fellow he is, generous with complements but totally unselfconscious about his generosity. Second nature. The kind of guy who smiles by default, laughs to relax, encourages because it’s his instinct.

Thank you, Karl. I’m not sure I could summarize my life’s ambitions better!

Essex Family Transforms Tragedy

When Louis Comeau headed into work April 8, 2003, he had no idea his life was about to take a tragic turn. As the accomplished attorney rounded a bend on Route 22, a large block of ice flew off a passing truck and slammed into his car. He didn’t have time to react. “It went through the windshield and shattered his skull,” Comeau’s wife, Jani Spurgeon, recalled… (Press-Republican)

This was one of the stories that my wife and I learned early on after arriving in Essex. Even before meeting Mr. Comeau I heard the story from others. I also heard how the community had pulled together to support the family during the darkest weeks after the accident. I was impressed with the depth of empathy among neighbors, the sense of responsibility, the sense of extended family. I remembered the small, tight-knit community where I had spent four years of boarding school.

I’ve only glimpsed faint shades of this since, while teaching at Santa Fe Preparatory School in New Mexico, for example. Living in Washington, DC and Paris and Rome I belonged to looser, more fluid and transient communities. Perhaps it was the places I lived or the people I associated with. Perhaps it was me, my age, my preference. But the idea of community had grown abstract and peripheral for me.

I met Mr. Comeau in person several months after we started renovating a house in Essex. At first we simply exchanged casual greetings passing on the street or when he walked his dog past our front porch. And then one summer afternoon our neighbor invited me up on to her front porch for a cool beer and to get to know Mr. Comeau. He was smiling. He’s always smiling. He told me that he had known my father, that they had overlapped as lawyers a couple of decades prior. He entertained us with anecdotes. He was charming and complimentary. He laughed. We all laughed. It was easy to understand the community’s embrace when his luck faltered in 2003. It was easy to accept that I wanted to be a part of this community.

Reading the article, “Family pushes for proposed snow-removal law“, this morning reminded me that support and nurturing are only one part of a tight-knit community. Maybe they are the easy part. It’s human to reach out and help those we know personally, those we care about. But it’s also easy to stop there, to nourish our immediate community and stop there.

Almost eight years after Mr. Comeau’s life-altering accident, his wife, Jani Spurgeon is transforming his tragedy into a common good. This is more than a close-to-home illustration of civic responsibility. Ms. Spurgeon is transcending loss and hurt and suffering in an effort to help others far beyond Essex, far beyond the community who reached out to her. She is distilling value from devastation. And she is inspiring all of us in the process!

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Rosslyn Boathouse in August 2005

Rosslyn Dockhouse

Another Rosslyn dockhouse sighting, this time discovered via Google Earth. The photo was taken by czechsteve on on 2005/08/12 which is approximately one year before my wife and I purchased Rosslyn. The wooden Chris Craft on a mooring between our boathouse and the Essex ferry dock belonged to our neighber, but he has since replaced it with a sailboat which is visible in more recent photographs.

If you go click through to the original photo and enlarge it, you can see the degree of disrepair that we inherited when we took ownership and began restoring this stately old maritime structure.

I have contacted the photoprapher to suggest a title because the image is currently untitled.

Update: Today is Wednesday, February 2, 2011 and I’ve just heard from the photographer:

I have added a title to your boathouse picture. Thanks for your input – I have seen that boathouse for many years (I’ve been coming for summers in the Adirondacks since I was a teenage student at the Meadowmount School of Music coming from Texas to study violin.)

Was the boathouse there in 1980? I don’t remember when I first saw it from the ferry crossing but I have always enjoyed seeing it – that is why I took the photo years ago…I can’t wait to see what you have done…

All best wishes! Steven Rochen – a.k.a. czechsteve!

Wonderful response. I’m excited to have made the connection, and I’m hoping that I may one day have the chance to meet Steven Rochen and give him a tour of the boat house which has intrigued him for decades.

Tile? Mandala? It’s The Doodle Daily!

Tile pattern? Sacred mandala? (credit @thedoodledaily)

Tile pattern? Sacred mandala? (credit @thedoodledaily)

“Every now and then when I’m on the phone I grab a post-it rather than a sheet of paper and while solving some acute problem, whip one of these up.” ~ Warren (The Doodle Daily)

Warren at The Doodle Daily shared a new batch of post-it doodles and this one was my favorite. Looks like an antique Portuguese tile. I instantly fantasized a Southwestern bathroom designed with these around a sunken tub, beneath a wall of glass overlooking the Sangre de Christo Mountains. And then I flashed back to amazing tiles we saw during our Splendors of Sacred India a year ago. And then even further back to Lisbon, Portugal in the autumn of 1999. How sad to see once magnificent buildings stripped of their famous tiles, stripped because they were more valuable for resale than as architecture and heritage.

The power of an image. The power of a doodle! Thanks to Warren (@thedoodledaily) for The Doodle Daily.

Are You Getting Used?

“Back when I first got on the Internet, I saw networking as the next great leap in human evolution, that we were moving towards a new networked organism. And I’m amazed at how few of us have actually decided to participate in this project. In a digital age, or in any age for that matter, whoever holds the keys to programming ends up building the reality in which the rest of us live… If we don’t seize the opportunity to remake our world, I promise you someone or something else will do it for us.”(from video trailer, above)

Boo! This book trailer for Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff(@rushkoff) might startle you — should startle you! And if it doesn’t, you may already be programmed. Passive. Absorbing, consuming, yielding, surrendering…

“If you don’t know what the software you’re using is for, then you’re not using it but being used by it.” (from video trailer, above)

This promises to be a provocative read. And Rushkoff is presenting at Mediabistro’s eBook Summit on December 15th, explaining “why he left his traditional publisher for a new house — exploring the struggles of an author and journalist in the new publishing environment.” I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

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Poken: Digital Business Cards

Are Pokens the future of b-cards? (video via Bit Rebels)

Ready for a Poken? Not so quick? According to Diana Adams, CEO/owner of Adams Consulting Group (@adamsconsulting) in Atlanta, Georgia this is the future of b-cards!

I think puts it best when they say to “Simply pull out your Poken and ‘high five’ it with your new best friend’s. Clever RF technology then zaps the info between the devices, so next time you log on to your favorite site, your profiles are linked. Genius!” It functions as a business card sender and receiver. (Bit Rebels)

Goofy gadget? Hint of the future?

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Soul Lag

Soul Delay
Soul Delay by James Morrison, on Flickr

Did you ever get back from traveling and feel like you’re not quite at the top of your game? This is especially true with long distance jet travel. You step into a glistening time capsule in Istanbul, for example, and not too long after you step back out of the time capsule into the sunlight of Newark, New Jersey. You’re tired and addled. But there’s something more. Soul lag.

I’ve just been introduced to this quirky-but-compelling concept via Linda Hollier, and it reminds me a bit of a chat that Pico Iyer delivered at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan a few years back.

unlike other books or especially TV shows… that seem to move folks around the globe as if this was no big deal… Gibson actually discusses the problem of world travel, and encapsulates it in a single phrase: soul lag. It’s not that you’re tired, or that there’s some mysterious thing associated with jet travel known as “jet lag”… instead, he acknowledges that one feels, well, not quite all there when one gets to another place, as if your soul, unlike your body, cannot travel as fast as an airplane and therefore takes a little while to catch up with you… it’s like you’re existing about half an inch to the left of your actual body, and you can’t seem to reconnect with it… sometimes, in extreme circumstances, your soul never catches up. (second americano)

I’m especially keen on the visual image of my shadow self still trailing behind, trying to catch up, sort of like the visual traces in “old school” television.

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