memory nature

day 15: stop doing those things you like!

Duwamish Head on April 3 2020This picture is a metaphor.

I love walking on the edge of the bulkhead, out there beyond the yellow tape and orange cones–that’s my preferred place to walk when I go to Alki. It is thrilling to hear the waves splashing or crashing at your feet and echoing in the rocks below; it is inspiring to drink in the cool air and find only waves between you and the magnificent snow-capped Olympic mountains to the West. That feeling reminds me of scary-happy moments from childhood. My dad, with his Teddy Roosevelt attitude toward child-rearing, made sure of that! I well recall sweating at the very thought of Snoqualmie Pass, with memories of the wild terror of skiing on an Advanced Slope before I’d really learned how (no lessons of course; lessons were for sissies). Or the exhilaration of holding on for dear life behind a speed boat (with him at the wheel) while learning to water ski the same way. There would be great fun, then the inevitable: crashing, choking on the water, and then laughing hilariously, asking for more! Or crying and wanting to go home.

Learning by doing, that was his motto. Secretly, I think it’s cool. Even though I spent many years complaining and feeling sorry for myself. At any rate, all that scary-fun stuff is over for now.

Back to the photo: the metaphor is not about walking or skiing, it’s not about enjoying the edge.  It signifies everything we love doing in real time with real people. Today we are asked to stop doing that. It’s dangerous.

so it is with life as we know it.


Maybe we’ll find other things to love doing. I’m loving those early morning solitary hikes around West Seattle. Who knew mornings were so refreshing?  (hahaha; no seriously)

My new business is face mask production: a sort of fun pastime, though I’d rather be making arty quilts or revising A Scary Tale of Spring… but it is good to be doing something useful, helping the world, instead of watching from the sides helplessly as disaster spreads like a mold, sucking in vitality, hope and security…

For info on face mask availability: see

Hang in there; see you in the a.m.

creativity memory nature wisdom Zen philosophy

what to “do” with clouds?


Thanks to the unsettled atmospheric conditions, today is a wonderful day for cloud gazing. But how? When a cloud glides overhead and casts a shadow below, how do you react?  In fear and loathing for the rain that might follow? Or in silent wonder at the changing shapes?

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the most likely thought about clouds comes through Joni Mitchell’s 1969 hit, “Both Sides Now.”  (As I watched the passing clouds during my morning meditation, that song materialized in my head and I’ve been singing it ever since.) Mitchell’s sad love song goes, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now / From up and down and still somehow / It’s cloud’s illusions I recall / I really don’t know clouds at all.”

But are there really only two sides to clouds? No!

As a spur to your mental liberation, consider three alternative ways to see clouds (and I welcome others!):

  1. Classify them. Consider the scientific classification of clouds from the World Meteorological Organization (pasted below). It includes no less than 38 ways to see clouds. Useful. But it is sort of a dead-end because once you’ve classified them and predicted the weather, then what?
  2. Use them to develop your MQ. In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp challenges readers to find at least three new associations with a passing cloud as a means of building up one’s Metaphorical Quotient (MQ, which is distinct from the intelligence quotient or IQ). As Tharp writes, “The process by which we transform the meaning of one thing into something different is an essential part of human intelligence. Without symbols, and the ability to understand them, there would be no writing, no numbers, no drama, no art. Everything you create is a representation of something else; in this sense, everything you create is enriched by metaphor.” One of the exercises Tharp suggests is this: “How many images and objects can you see in three minutes of cloud gazing? This is metaphor as visual translation. Metaphor is all around you. It’s never too late to raise your MQ.”*
  3. Embrace the stillness. If you seek a peaceful mind, you may like the ancient Chinese wisdom found in Mai-Mai Sze’s Tao of Painting (image below). “When the clouds parted, green summits rose. As the literati say, ‘In the midst of hustling activity, steal moments of quietness.’”**


What to “do” with clouds?  The choice is up to you.


*Tharp, The Creative Habit, pp. 157-159.

**Sze, The Tao of Painting, p. 217.