Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

Hungry Minds

In creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on October 23, 2017 at 6:34 am

Hungry Minds
“It is useful,” Leonardo da Vinci wrote, to “constantly observe, note, and consider.” To that end, historian Toby Lester says Leonardo used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and “whenever something caught his eye,” he would make a note, or begin “sketching furiously.”
While I never go anywhere without my journal, another discipline I follow is writing these posts every Monday through Friday. While millions of bloggers focus on trying to make money from their blogs, mine is really just a weblog, a way to force myself to follow Leonardo’s advice to observe and consider.
Popular blogger Seth Godin points out “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around six months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it.”
Coming up with something to write every day isn’t always easy, but usually, if I just let go and pay attention to what’s on my mind, a topic presents itself. Today it’s keeping a notebook, tomorrow something about my church. Then the fun starts, trying to figure out what I think about the subject and what I can learn from it.
Writer Jonas Ellison agrees. “Blogging every day forces you to notice the details of your life. You need fodder for the day’s post. And you’ll scour your world to get it. You become hyper-aware. You find ways to turn little subtleties into big ideas. You start writing with questions only to be faced with answers by the time you reach the end of the post.”
To Ray Bradbury (and me) “It’s all mulch.”


Just Like Leonardo

In creativity, Learning on October 20, 2017 at 3:32 pm

I’m thinking about signing up for a course in drawing illustrated maps. The one-week online course is taught by Nate Padavick (see his work at http://www.theydrawandtravel.com/) and only costs $29. I want to draw a map of the fictional town of Mayhem Gulch where my mystery takes place.

You may remember that I was an art major my first year of college although I never thought I could draw—my interest was interior design. When this first came out several months ago I decided instead to buy some books and teach myself. Somehow I never got around to that. Maybe a little more structure in an online course will help.

My goal is not to draw like Leonardo—wouldn’t it be nice if you could learn that in a week for $29? Nope. I still don’t fancy myself an artist. What I really like is learning.

In his new biography of Leonardo (I’m 86th in line at the library), Walter Isaacson writes that when daVinci woke up in the morning, he made a list of things he wanted to learn. Isn’t that a great idea?

Michael J. Gelb, who wrote How to Think Like Leonardo daVinci listed seven principles of which the first is Curiosita, “An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.” Isaacson calls Leonardo’s notebooks where he kept notes on his learning, “the greatest record of curiosity ever created.” I’ve kept various Learning Logs over the years and may feel the pull to start another one recording both what I want to learn and what I do learn.

In my previous working life, I was an expert at experiential learning and compiling proof of learning artifacts into a portfolio to earn college credit. I still believe that following our interests results in the deepest, most meaningful learning. Leonardo’s one hell of an example to follow.

Maybe you read about 11-year old Ames Mayfield, the Broomfield fifth grader kicked out of his cub scout den for asking pointed questions of a state senator. I’d love to hear what he learned from that experience.

Then there was 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao from Lone Tree who won this year’s Discovery Education and 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Her sensor, Tethys, detects lead levels in water better than traditional methods. Inspired by the Flint water crisis, she got the idea after watching her parents testing for lead in their water and thinking there had to be a better way.

Gelb said, “Great minds go on asking confounding questions with the same intensity throughout their lives.” These two inspire me to keep learning and give me hope for a better future.

Detritus of Daily Life

In Auntie Flat, Church, creativity, Home, Learning on October 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

As much as I need to declutter my house, I also need to declutter my mind. Things pile up in there and multiply when I’m not paying attention.
If you’re familiar with David Allen’s OCD book, Getting Things Done, you know that his secret is to list everything you need to do. I mean EVERYTHING. Need to do a load of laundry? Put it on the list. That reminds me, I need to put a load of laundry in the washer.
Okay, that’s done. Now I need to remember to put it in the dryer in about half an hour and then take it out of the dryer, fold it and put it away. Sorry, but it just seems dumb to write all that down on a list.
Now Radley is letting me know that once again he got shut in the laundry closet. Coming back from letting him out, I see the dishwasher and remember that I have to unload it and put the dishes away so I can start filling it again with dirty dishes. And I still have a pot soaking in the sink that I should wash and put away.
Will I ever get past these chores and get to the (slightly) bigger things like taking my car in to have the tires rotated and balanced or making an appointment to renew my driver’s license or calling to have my 401K switched to an IRA?
Then I want to get back to writing the mystery I started two years (!) ago. Maybe I should participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November and punch through that.
I did manage to finish the church history I’ve been working on or (mostly) procrastinating for months and just in time for our 125th anniversary this Sunday. Come one come all. It’ll be fun. We’ll have special guests and singing and stories and food. What’s not to like?
Okay, I’m a little distracted.
That’s life.

That’s Entertainment?

In Books, creativity, Home, Learning on October 13, 2017 at 7:44 am

What do you watch on TV?” has become a standard question I ask everybody I meet. Other than The Big Bang Theory and This Is Us (plus my guilty pleasure, The Young and the Restless—don’t tell) I can’t seem to get interested. We have far surpassed Springsteen’s lament of “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” These days, we have literally hundreds of channels and there’s plenty on.

I cut the cable cord several years ago, so old favorites like HGTV are no longer an option. Still, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime and YouTube in addition to my local broadcast channels, and while I dip into them every once in a while, mostly I’d rather read a book or listen to a podcast or write in my journal.

Maybe it’s my age. I’m reminded of the quotation, “I wasted time and now time is wasting me.” At almost 70, I just don’t have that much time left to waste. Plus, 98% or more of all TV shows aim at a MUCH younger demographic.

The thing is, I know there are good shows on. Just this week, I’ve heard good things about Blackish, The Good Place, and Schitt’s Creek, so they will join my growing list of shows I might watch someday–maybe if I get really bored or really sick. And I’m eagerly waiting for the final season of Longmire to start.

I can’t even watch the news anymore because, like Jake Tapper, I’m “overwhelmed by the relentless tidal wave of incompetence, idiocy, and bigotry pouring from the White House on a daily basis.”

I used to love TV, watched it constantly and thought people who claimed they “never watched” were either liars or snobs. As the screens got bigger and reminded me more of 1984, I grew warier. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, far from it, but I have to wonder if they’re watching us whenever we’re watching them.

Photo Play

In creativity, Friends, Learning on October 11, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I have a love-hate relationship with our picture-happy culture. On the one hand, my favorite things on Facebook are pictures my niece posts of her children. They live close to a thousand miles away, and I only get to see them once a year when they visit their grandparents. Facebook posts let me keep up with them.

Ditto for pictures posted by friends that show me what they’re doing. And I enjoy finding old pictures to post on throwback Thursday.

What I object to is people who have to document EVERYTHING. Blame the iPhone. It’s always right there in your purse or your pocket or, more likely, your hand and that makes it easy to snap a photo. Sometimes I think these ubiquitous amateur photographers don’t really experience anything; they just photograph it so we’ll think they did.

I admit it’s mostly generational. Those my age didn’t grow up with a camera attached to our hand, so we don’t have the habit of constantly taking pictures. Even when I intend to take pictures, like when my great nephew and niece visit, I typically forget. I’m wrapped up in interacting with them and it just doesn’t occur to me to stop and grab the camera. That’s right. I take pictures with a camera, not my phone. Old school, I know.

At least those digital images on your phone don’t take up physical space, so your progeny won’t have to find storage locations for them. My brother and I split the responsibility to store our parents collection. I got the prints, from ancient black and whites to faded Polaroids; he got the slides. I went through mine a couple of years ago to compile a family history book for my nieces, throwing out virtually all the Polaroids, mostly of people and places I didn’t recognize.

The slides still languish in my brother’s storage room. He claims he’ll sort through them—“We’ll put up a screen and have a slide show!” when he retires. I’m not holding my breath.

When it comes time to pass them along to the next generation, I’m pretty sure nothing but the digital files will survive in a cloud somewhere long ago and far away.

Sourdough Revisited

In Books, creativity, Learning, work on October 6, 2017 at 9:56 am

Robin Sloan says he splits his time between the Bay area and the internet. Hard to resist a man like that. The author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, one of my all-time favorite books, has a new novel out, Sourdough. Like its predecessor, this book features a young San Francisco tech worker who discovers other interests in real life, although the computer is always there to help out with wide-ranging information.

In Sourdough, Lois Clary works for a company called General Dexterity programming robotic arms to make them perform human-like functions. She joins her fellow “Dextrous” in a diet made of Slurry, a nutritionally complete gel with the consistency of a thick milkshake. It eliminates the time-consuming work of deciding what to eat and food preparation for people consumed by their work.

Lois explains, “I existed mostly in a state of catatonic recovery, brain flaccid, cells gasping. . . . I didn’t have any friends in Sand Francisco aside from a handful of Dextrous, but they were just as traumatized as I was.” Then one night she orders a double spicy soup and sandwich from Clement Street Soup and Sourdough.

It was an elixir,” she says. “First my stomach unclenched, and then my brain.”

When the young proprietors return to Europe, they leave their sourdough starter with Lois, their “Number one eater” and she starts to make sourdough bread.

Once again, Sloan has created a world I’d like to live in and characters I’d like as friends. Take the Lois Club, a group of women with nothing in common except the name Lois. It’s as good a reason as any to form an affiliate group. I wonder if there’s a Dixie Club?

From robotic bakers to manufactured food products to cricket flour cookies and magical yeast, the book is a joyful romp through our hippy dippy organic technoculture.

You really should read it.

What the Heart Wants

In creativity, Finding Your Calling, Learning, music, solitude on October 5, 2017 at 7:23 am

Some words of wisdom on work, solitude, and love.
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

How to Find Your Mission in Life by Dick Bolles
Rule #3. to exercise that talent which you particularly came to earth to use — your greatest gift, which you most delight to use, in the places or settings which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which god most needs to have done in the world.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

“For many people, being alone with their thoughts puts them in enemy territory.” Barbara Winter

“The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.” Thomas A. Edison

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” Rollo May

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.” Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

“Someday, someone is going to look at you with a light in their eyes you’ve never seen, they’ll look at you like you’re everything they’ve been looking for their entire lives. Wait for it.” Author unknown

Organ Recital

In creativity, Learning on September 29, 2017 at 8:15 am

As we age, our bodies tend to break down. Big news. When people my age get together, we ask, “How are you?” and the organ recital begins.

My arthritis is acting up.

Can’t seem to shake this cold.

As B. made her way slowly down the steps, I said, “Good morning. How are you?”

My gout is back,” she said. I could identify because gout is one of my recurring problems, too, although not, thankfully, that day. We chatted. She has fibromyalgia and severe food allergies. I have neither of those, but I do have diabetes and hay fever.

C. told me her debilitating migraines are more or less under control while sciatica prevented her from walking the dog. Her husband is recovering from a knee replacement.

A benign (so far) pituitary tumor worries M. more than it seems to worry her doctor. She also has vision and teeth problems.

S. fears that every headache means she has a brain tumor like the one that killed her mother.

After having open heart surgery almost 30 years ago, J. has to constantly monitor his heart rate and blood pressure.

E. uses oxygen for her COPD and takes daily medication to control gout.

I’ve been known to faint after hyperventilating in stressful situations or from a sudden drop in blood pressure.

And so it goes.

Health is always relative, and nobody is perfectly healthy. We learn to cope and even thrive despite or because of our ailments. I just read this morning that renowned 80-year-old painter David Hockney thinks his hearing loss has helped to sharpen his art.

When we part, my friends are glad they don’t have my problems and I’m glad I don’t have theirs.

Sing, Sing a Song

In creativity, Learning, music, spirituality on September 28, 2017 at 10:50 am

I give today’s post to two songwriters, who express things much better than I can. First, India Arie.

“I Am Light”
I am light, I am light [x4]

I am not the things my family did
I am not the voices in my head
I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside

I am light, I am light [x4]

I’m not the mistakes that I have made or any of the things that caused me pain
I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind

I am light, I am light [x4]

I am not the color of my eyes
I am not the skin on the outside
I am not my age, I am not my race, my soul inside is all light

All light, all light [x2]
I am light, I am light [x2]

I am divinity defined
I am the God on the inside
I am a star, a piece of it all
I am light

And to close, a piece from Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock

We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

Far Out, Man

In creativity, Learning, music, Prejudice, Resistance, spirituality on September 26, 2017 at 9:40 am

Peace, love, and rock ‘n roll is how I like to remember the 60s, and I expect envy from younger generations when those of us now mostly in our sixties wax nostalgic.

Of course, we didn’t really have peace although we demonstrated against the war in Vietnam endlessly in protests that remind me of the repeated protests today. We did have the peace sign.

Love? Yes and no. Free love was never on my agenda, and that was about sex anyway, not love.

Rock ‘n roll, yes indeed. Not only did we have the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Janice Joplin, and Aretha Franklin, we also had the early 60s girl groups and doo-wop and Motown. We had the best music.

Peace, love, and rock ‘n roll were always set against a backdrop of neverending war, vicious racism, and unchecked violence.

It’s why, when a friend asked me to go to the exhibit titled 1968 at History Colorado a year or so ago, I said, “No thank you.” I remembered the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and thought, “I can’t go through that again.”

It’s why I won’t watch the current PBS series, “The Vietnam War.” The creator, Ken Burns, is a genius, and I’ve enjoyed many of his previous documentaries. Not this one. People tell me it’s wonderful and they’re learning so much that they didn’t know when it happened. Many can only watch it in small chunks without feeling overwhelmed. I had to watch it on the news the first time around. I don’t want to go there again.

For me, the quintessential song about the war is Country Joe and the Fish “Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag.”  “Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”

Maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand (or a box, if you prefer) when I choose to remember the good times and forget the bad. I’d rather listen to Give Peace a Chance than the Eve of Destruction. And I have to wonder, in fifty years, what we’ll (well, you’ll) remember about 2017.