Drawn to texture

a sea of toys at a charity shop

I love patterns.

Tha artistic side of my brain loves how zooming out on a sea of similar things creates a montage of uniformity with vast contrasts.

If you’ve looked at the masthead of this website, you’ll see a set of patterns that I found interesting. (Click on “Shiny Bits of Life” at the top. Then hit the refresh button on your web browser to see them all.)

Life is a montage of experiences and memories. They pile up and build a texture of thoughts and actions that make up who we are.


Footnote: I took this photo at a local charity shop. Sadly, these toys will mostly eventually end up in a landfill.

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What is beautiful?

Dandelions are not beautiful. Or that’s what someone decided a while back.

America spends tens of millions of dollars eradicating this lovely flower from their blandly uniform green lawns.

I’m an American. My family doesn’t spend very much getting them out of our lawn, but we do prefer uniform green blandness. (I have been known to pick the little flowers and throw them in the street — not a very effective method for preventing them from returning.)

Apparently, it’s not just an American obsession. They are also considered weeds in England, Australia and Denmark — to name just a few other cultures that categorize them as a nuisance.

Even the post-flower seed blooms are amazing — uniform spheres of light fluffy helicopters, each waiting to be carried by the wind onto a neighbor’s yard. Ikea took inspiration from this stage of the plant to create their Maskros lamp.

The dandelion’s medicinal qualities are so many that one must venture to at least the third page of Google results until it’s possible to find any reference to them being weeds. (The French word is pissenlit.)

But who decided that dandelions are ugly? Maybe it’s the spiky green leaves — when the English word is translated from sort-of French, the word literally means “teeth of lions.”

Or maybe the flowers blooming so fast and growing taller than the grass around them offends people who appreciate consistency and visual homogeneity.

I vote for a law requiring that dandelions will forever be considered beautiful.

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Filling my mind with good

I’ve decided to stop listening to the news.

Another day brings another crazy action by our president or news of a fresh terrorist act.

It was not doing me any good to learn of another bad thing happening.

(I’m not making this a 100% rule… I am willing to learn what’s happening, but I don’t necessarily need to know the details. And part of my job requires me to be on top of what’s up, at least locally.)

Instead, I’m trying to focus on good things:

  • When I ride my bicycle on some local trails, I benefit from the work of trails maintenance people who evened out many of the dips and jolts between concrete slabs. (See photo above.)
  • I live in a town where it’s possible to ride my bike to work.
  • There’s easy access to health care here. My daughter and son were attacked by poison oak recently, and they were able to easily get treatment. We paid cash (no insurance involved), and it was just $40 for each visit.
  • I live in a country where I can visit the church of my choice freely and not worry about government officials arresting me.
  • I have a warm and dry place to live.
  • My family is healthy (now that poison oak is almost history).
  • I have a job that I love.

I could go on. And should.


The idea of focusing on the good is not my own. I give credit to another Paul — see here.

And Austin Kleon agrees.

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Richness that comes with time

We just got back from visiting some old friends in a very remote part of Colorado. Our friends are not “older adults,” as we say in the senior living business, but old friends in the sense of our having known each other for many many years.

I first met them right after I graduated from college. And we have kept in touch since then.

Depth comes with time. We last met up four years ago, but we got right into discussions about heavy stuff that we can’t talk about with most people. We knew that the other person wouldn’t think less of the one sharing, even if we disagreed. (And we agreed on most stuff.)

I’m very thankful for friendships that last.


Photo: Ben scans the horizon from their rooftop. There were no cars and only about three houses visible, even though we could see more than 60 miles.

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Going to extremes

mount cameron in colorado

We all need to push ourselves to extremes. It’s healthy and necessary to survive.

  • Moderation is key, of course. If you look at any professional sports player, you will see the results of pushing bodies to extremes: boxing can result in severe brain damage; ballet can result in crippled feet; football can produce the early onset of arthritis. But if artists and athletes didn’t go to extremes, it would be a seriously boring world.
  • Pushing our boundaries increases our capacity.
  • The intensity of life on the edge is usually more exciting than living in the center.
  • Extremes can help us appreciate a normal peaceful life. When I camped among the Maasai for six weeks in a remote part of Kenya, visiting the closest town to have a cold Coke made it the most delicious sugary beverage I’ve ever enjoyed. (We were camping without electricity and no stores of any kind within an hour’s journey.)
  • We need rest and contrast. If we live on the edge at all times, the extreme becomes the norm and it’s hard to do the life that most of us need to live… not everyone can be a Ferrari factory test driver.

 


I took the photo near the top of Mount Democrat, in Colorado. It was actually a very warm day — towards the end of the summit hike, we were in shorts and t-shirts. Everywhere the trail crossed over the snow, it was beaten down enough that crampons were not needed.

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Let loose

A few weeks back, we visited my son at his university. This was significant — our first-born was graduating from college.

He gave us a tour of several significant sites, such as the classroom where he discovered that business was not the program of study to prepare him for a life of professional fulfillment.

Another site of significance was a building where he spent a huge number of hours studying. As we visited the top floor and looked into the courtyard, I was amused to see a large collection of paper airplanes sitting on nearly every surface that could not be easily reached.

And I laughed.

What better way to celebrate that vast interior space than watching a paper airplane take flight?

Sure, it may take quite a bit of effort to retrieve those planes. But maybe leaving them up on those lofty places will serve as a reminder that life is not all about studies and classes and achievements.

A moment of seeing a simple folded piece of paper float down and down can only bring delight.

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Sometimes things do get better

a really nice road in Centennial, Colorado

Almost a month ago, I posted a rather pessimistic view of the way life sometimes plays out (link).

The irony of life is that not two weeks after I wrote that post and took the photo that illustrated my point, pavement engineers provided a wonderful velvety-smooth surface for that very same stretch of road.

Little did I know, they had planned the poor surface as a temporary fix until they had the weather, materials or time in their schedules to spread the new surface.

I thought that road would never improve. But things changed for the better — and much faster than I could have imagined.

Take heart.

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Looking for the upside

the road that got worse

Sometimes things in life don’t get better. Or they do, but not on our timetable.

I ride my bicycle to work once or twice a week. My bike’s skinny tires and thin rims transmit variations in the road surface very accurately to my palms and rear end.

During the past four months, the city of Centennial tore up a road that’s part of my commute. It was much better before the destruction than after.

Maybe they will repave the whole road, but I am not expecting that to happen anytime soon.

So it is in our lives… injuries happen. We lose our jobs. People leave. Things happen that are the exact opposite of what we’d choose.

And then situations don’t always change the way we’d like.

But all is not lost. Sometimes we grow stronger because of a difficult situation.

One of the most inspiring people I know has a physical challenge that makes communication difficult. But she has not let that get in her way. She runs circles around many people who don’t face the challenges she does.

I’m not going to say, “Look for the silver lining.” You might be so deep in your challenge that a silver lining is not even on the far horizon.

One reality that I’ve found is God’s way of fixing stuff that appears unfixable. Ask God. Why not… what do you have to lose? (My caveat is that God is not a magic button that you push to get instant results. God’s timetable is usually different than ours.)


As to bad roads, one upside was remembering that the worst roads in Centennial, Colorado, are better than the best roads in some other places I’ve lived.


And one of the silver linings in my life is my son Ben. Today is his 21st birthday. Things got better when he arrived. (Sometimes it does get better.)

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It’s a luxury

sunset from the athletic club

I had a free week.

I won a visitor’s pass to a luxury athletic club not far from where I work. It was like getting to test drive a Ferrari — something mere mortals like me rarely experience.

If I were to rate the establishment on Google, I’d probably give it 5 stars. But would I ever join? No.

One simple barrier keeps me from making that part of my lifestyle… I can’t afford it.

Yes, it was great to put my clothes in a mahogany-faced locker. I loved the gourmet shampoo and body wash (in two flavors). I liked the fact that I could get a few free initial consultations with a professional trainer, so I could learn how to exercise better.

But for approximately five times what 24-Hour Fitness charges, I can’t justify the hit to our monthly expenses.

Heck, I can’t even justify 24-Hour Fitness at the moment.

Gotta stick with free bicycle commutes.


(I took the photo from the balcony, overlooking the tennis courts.)

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Under the surface

partially hidden gears

We just don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface.

People around us are going through a lot. They might be having a good day or a bad day. Their marriage might be in a difficult place.

And many of the people in our lives won’t tell us.

So let’s give everyone around us a little extra love today. One small act of kindness can make a big difference. Maybe we can nudge their dial a little in the direction of having a better day. Or just coping with their next 24 hours.

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