Dante, never one to sugarcoat things when writing about hell’s 9 circles or the terrifyingly familiar sins of purgatory, chose to put the phrase a great flame follows a tiny spark into the “Paradiso” section of his masterpiece.

Given that most of the wet matches I brought with me when I clawed my way out of limbo #562 are still drying, it’s a comforting thought. And hey: I’m starting to see flickers of light in some parts of my life and wisps of smoke in others. Surely that’s a positive sign?

Of course I’m hoping I’ll eventually have (contained) flames that qualify as steady-and-ready if not Mr Alighieri’s “great.” In the meantime, however, I’m glad I have what I have—including a better ability to support those trying to move from draining stagnation to freeing stag leap.

…motion is a sure-fire clue there’s momentum of some kind afoot, but it’s surprising how much energy can be conveyed without word, sound, or movement…

(top to bottom: Ilya Idelchik’s vivacious “Flamenco Dancers” grace San Diego’s Spanish Village Art Center; orchids in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building defy homogenity; just outside Granville Island’s totem-carving wonderland, flexing fish bedeck a totem pole that welcomes visitors; artist James Harrison’s glass-centric Ghost Ship casts a 24-hour glow on Portland Oregon’s Eastbank Esplanade)


The last few months have seen too many of those in my circle checking their horoscopes in hopes the stars’ forecast calls for something besides more-serious-than-usual sickness, job woes, financial worries, and/or family issues.

Despite the astrological status quo, however, I’ve had a terrible time getting the independent types to obey Bill Withers’ now-classic lines:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend / I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long / ‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

Others have it worse, they protest stoically—and depressingly, news article after news article supports their claim. Refraining from pointing out that others have it better seems the least I can do, but I hate to stop there.

Fortunately my independent types will usually accept a meal, joke, hug, distraction, or even a heartfelt sentiment or two. Compared to what I’ve received from them over the years it doesn’t seem like much. But when I’m in their shoes, even momentary access to my more carefree self means everything.

…after a run of bad news, it can be tough to remember that life is full of surprises that leave us contemplative, curious, delighted, or bemused versus on high alert…


(top to bottom: In Bandon Oregon, a majestic seahorse is just one of the boardwalk’s unexpected pleasures; thanks to one family’s tree stump and the calendar, a neighborhood sports a quite literal interpretation of the lion in winter; Vancouver BC’s VanDusen Botanical Garden manages to find room for a dragon sculpture amidst the water lily leaves; it’s hard to resist a closer look when front yard decor is the bee’s knees; being outnumbered by dandelions is cause for one critter’s celebration—or surrender)


As the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s damage becomes even clearer, I continue to wish individuals and communities strength as they recover and rebuild.

…because navigational markers orient our hearts as well as our heads, we feel their presence or loss—which is why we’ll never stop creating, reacting to, protecting, and cherishing them…

(top to bottom: On Long Beach Washington’s Discovery Trail, a basalt monolith offers up quotations from William Clark’s 1805 exploration of the area; a driftwood sculpture helps mark the way along an oceanside pathway; a 1925 covered bridge rides out another Central Oregon storm; in southern Oregon’s Lithia Park, a heartfelt (if destructive) message; sculpture provides a sense of stability in Vancouver BC’s English Bay)


Back when I was a health educator, a simple training exercise revealed a surprising truth: most people see change as about loss, not gain. It’s a lesson that’s stayed with me as the years have rolled on, nudging me to remember that stepping towards the proverbial sunnier side of the street can greatly improve perspective.

Unfortunately, reframing deficiencies or emptiness in a positive light may not be enough to offer comfort or inspire forward momentum when reserves are low.

I admit that when I’m feeling especially powerless I’m more likely to take solace in the fact that even world leaders have half-empty moments over trivial matters than I am to seek the upbeat. It soothes me to think of former US President Woodrow Wilson (allegedly) stating:

Golf is a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose.

When looking to amplify strategies for replenishment, though, I rather reluctantly attest that a switch in mindset—no matter how forced—seems to encourage optimism’s arrival.

Anyone beg to differ?

…perhaps bringing calm to chaotic days requires viewing absence as something that permits clearer views, allows exploration within expanded boundaries, draws attention to intriguing qualities, gives breathing room while forcing careful calculations, or creates an unexpected place to shelter…

(top to bottom: A sliver of Barbara Hepworth’s “Figure for Landscape” (1960), a piece that adds sinuous curves to the San Diego Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden; Oahu’s historic Waialua Sugar Mill now manufactures surfboards, soap, coffee, and more, but its disassembled parts speak to a grittier past; a hard-used, early model Ford stays far from the junkyard, instead parading its battle scars around a small Oregon town; even when rain-drenched, the cathedral-like feel of a forest amphitheater inspires contemplation; a water-logged coconut husk makes its way to shore)


Lately, the universe seems determined to remind me that flexibility—or at least non-linearity—is a wonderful trait to demonstrate preferably early but definitely often.

I’ll grant that limber and meandering minds tend to excel at creating or embracing new concepts. And that supple hearts and bodies tend to make it easier to go along and get along. Too bad straying from the ramrod straight and narrow takes surprisingly large quantities of WORK.

But what’s a person who’s feeling more pillar than Pilates-prepped, more Flat Stanley than Porcupine Pete, to do? Besides seek inspiration from the experts, of course.

…pliancy can certainly work against us, as when a lifeline turns into a noose—but more often adaptability and asymmetry allow us to move closer to creatures, habits, and ideas that enhance our lives and away from the things that drain us…

(top to bottom: On Bandon’s boardwalk, artwork pays homage to one of the town’s largest industries; a rare still and sunny November day brings a halt to a windsock’s duties; coral and shells mingle in a coastal shop; intriguingly intricate knotwork accents the walls of an Oregon Coast Guard Museum; colorful traps nab human eyes but are meant for local crabs)