All posts filed under: Observations from…

A series of random observations, usually made while on the road

Journeys that move us toward justice never end

Yesterday we took a walk through Brookside Gardens. It was a beautiful fall day, the colors were vibrant, and the air was clean. Along the path were small signs of “Garden Mindfulness” with reminders to “feel the air moving across your skin” and to “bring awareness to those parts of the body where you could feel the wind.” After a while we came upon a labyrinth placed in a tranquil meadow setting. As I slowly walked the curving stone path, I recalled the rules and morals of the practice from my reading of Rebecca Solnit’s delightful book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. “…sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.  After the careful walking and looking down, the stillness of arrival was deeply moving.” In these troubled times, we are all on a difficult journey. It is important to recall that sometimes the only way is the long one. Work that is meaningful takes time …

Observations from…

It is not surprising that two women and two African American men have been the most effective religious leaders speaking truth to power to Donald Trump over the past few days. My “Observations from” series usually includes a location. But this one doesn’t because, well, I don’t know where we are at this moment in this country. One of our most amoral presidents in history is walking and driving around the nation’s capitol looking for religious props for photo ops while he orders peaceful protesters tear-gassed and forcibly removed from his sight. Protesters who are, by the way, angry over yet another senseless and grotesque murder of a black man by a white police officer. Oh, and at the same time, his Secretary of State is tweeting about Chinese authoritarianism and meeting with Tiananmen Square survivors. Rightwing religious extremists are saying of the president’s use of the sacred symbols of Christendom, “Well, at least he’s pro-life.” Irony is apparently something that the modern-day Republican party doesn’t understand or at least doesn’t do anymore. So just …

Observations from…The City of the Future

Depending on your age and where you lived, your childhood construction toys of choice may have been Tinkertoys (my favorite); Meccano (if you or your grandparents were European); an Erector Set (I may still have the scar from falling off the top bunk onto one of our construction sites); or Legos (our children’s favorite). I started thinking about construction toys while standing on the top level of the Silver Spring transit center this afternoon, talking with an engineer, and looking down at the vast construction site that is now our front yard (of sorts). My mind wandered to, “These men and women on the site below may have started out on the family rug many years ago with the Erector Set.” Some of them may, in fact, be living their dream! For the past twenty years, we have lived in downtown Silver Spring. We cross a relatively narrow residential street and a small plaza set in the center of an office complex to get to the Metro station, which houses the Red Line. I use …

Beauty and Design

Former Charleston, South Carolina, mayor Joe Riley has spoken eloquently about beauty and civic design. In an Architect magazine article on the occasion of the mayor’s retirement after 40 years in office, author Wayne Curtis quoted Riley as saying,  “Often architecture is thought elitist, that you’ve got to be schooled or have a special interest. But not long after I was elected, I’d see visitors in town. They looked like they were retired blue-collar workers, and you’d see them admiring buildings.” Riley ends with one of his core beliefs. “Beauty has no economic litmus test. It’s a basic human need and instinct.” I’ve been thinking of Joe Riley’s belief in the ability of beauty and good civic design to uplift our communities* as I have walked through our downtown in recent weeks. There is a great deal of construction activity underway in Silver Spring, but I am hard-pressed to find too many examples of fine urban design. One challenge is that much of the future of downtown Silver Spring was turned over to a development …

Japan by Sea

Donald Trump, you may have read, recently visited Japan.  I also just wrapped up a tour of the Land of the Rising Sun.  At the risk of being the target of a derisive tweet or internet trolls, it is fair to say that I had the better trip. The two-week National Trust Tours exploration of Japan, with a focus on its coastal cities and sites, certainly broadened my mind. Not only were the people and places welcoming, but the sharing of perspectives from our guides, study tour lecturers, and fellow travelers enriched an already heady experience. The World Heritage sites, such as Todai-ji Temple in Nara, the capital of Japan from 710-784 CE, were powerful and moving, especially as one found places away from the crowds to privately indulge in the architecture, gardens, and spiritual meaning of the spaces. More modern sites, such as Hiroshima, the Adachi Museum of Art and Gardens, and I.M. Pei’s Miho Museum, were also important touchstones for understanding parts of life in today’s Japan. It was at the more out-of-the-way places, …

Lanterns at Bulguksa Temple

Life-long learners

Some of the most interesting travelers are life-long learners. While taking in the wonders of place, people, and culture on recent trips to Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, I’ve spent time observing my fellow travelers. The reasons for travel vary widely. Some individuals finally have the time and resources to venture to new horizons while others are serious compilers—and completers—of bucket lists.  The reasons are almost as endless as the people joining me in visiting the temples, shrines, gardens, mountains, priories, theatres, museums, and much more along the way. Life-long learners take a special approach to travel, just as they do in life.  They are curious, to be certain, but most are also risk takers.  In The Leadership Machine, authors Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger suggest that learners are “willing to feel and look stupid” because they can admit what they don’t know and are eager to move forward to learn. In the working world they are often the ones willing to “go against the grain of what they know how to do and …

Observations from Home: The Silver Spring Day Off Edition

If you don’t read anything else in this post, go to the bottom and watch the last video.  Morgan James is beautiful and has a wonderful voice, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off the Tambourine Man.  He’ll bring you up, no matter how down you are.  And you’ll thank me for it. Now, on to the rest of the post. I seldom take a weekday off where I’m at home in Silver Spring.  Yet after working about 20 weekends in a row (perhaps I exaggerate), I decided to take today off and make it  a three-day weekend.  It was interesting to be around downtown Silver Spring and see the following: Bikes are sprouting up everywhere one looks. First it was the Capital Bikeshare stations that arrived in downtown.  But in the last month, we’ve been inundated with the new dockless bikes, and today was the first time I walked around town and had the sense that they are EVERYWHERE!  (At least if you walk around the condo/apartment heavy downtown.)  They look …

Observations from the Road: The Vacation Reading Edition

I’ve now been back from vacation for two weeks, and have finally decided that I am not going to find the time to write lengthy posts on each book I checked off my summer reading list.  So I’m resorting to my trusty “Observations from the Road” formula, to give you short takes on the four books I read over those two weeks. Hallelujah Anyway:  Rediscovering Mercy — Shortly before leaving on vacation, I picked up this book by the popular author Anne Lamott after seeing several short quotes attributed to her work.  Candice’s reaction was, “You’re reading Anne Lamott?” and I understand that sentiment. Yes, she is crafty and crotchety, and she has a “perfectly calibrated NPR appeal” which can grate on some. But yes, I am.  She’s funny and a bit snarky, both traits I enjoy (when I agree) and she’s a very good writer.  She’s also brief (a quality I’m enjoying more as I plow through 500+ page works). This is a book about mercy.  She wanders a bit in getting there, but …