Monday, January 18, 2016

Symphony of Wonder

“Find a quiet, private place. Then, follow these instructions for the first day:Imagine your best possible self at the end of a specific day in late 2016. See yourself in a specific place where you can reflect upon the day and the year. A favorite chair, a deck or balcony, a mountainside. (This is only a portion of the prompt from Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder, but it is the part I latched onto.)

It is late September and my quiet place has a symphony of its own. I am sitting in the shade of an oak on the edge of the river, the sun glistening off of its currents, it's water rushing around rocks and boulders, trying to catch up with itself. At first it sounds like one big roar, but the longer I sit, the more nuances I notice within it. I start to play my game to find how many individual sounds I can detect. The gurgle as it wraps around stones that are close to me, a trickle here, a plunking there, where the water underneath is a little deeper. A sifting where it meets the sand. A bird calls, another calls back. The breeze lifts the leaves and clatters them above me, sings beyond me in waves that I can see coming. And going. 
The full experience of the symphony is auditory, olfactory, tactile and visual. All of my senses are engaged, especially my sense of wonder. I am concurrently observing the colors and textures and light. Movement that makes me a little dizzy if I track the water in a certain way. But the urge to drift along with the flow is irresistible. So many reflections. It is darker and bluer in the slope to the white foamy crest. I choose a favorite patch and try to determine what color is caused by the rocky bed, and what is caused by the reflection of trees and sky and clouds. Of dirt and stone above the surface. They are inextricable and exist only in that moment. There is always a surprise. A hue that seems more vivid than one would expect. It is my favorite. I savor it, and try to imprint it on my brain, as it will soon change with the light. 
It is only after this initial revisiting, this reconnect with my life's metaphor, that I can recline and let my mind drift over the last months and consider how and where I have done my best work, and what it has meant and to whom.
During the month of December and into January I participated in Quest 2016, conceptualized and beautifully executed by Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder. Jeffrey gathered 13 visionaries, thought leaders and individuals widely recognized in their fields and arranged for them to give us a prompt to consider, and respond to in whatever creative way we chose. As they days flew by, over 300 of us struggled to keep up with the pace of the schedule, as a lovely comraderie developed. Each of wrangled and wrote through our own struggles with the questions we were asked. Struggles with responding and with examining the life experiences that demanded attention and recognition as we worked to articulate how we envisioned our best work and our best selves for 2016. After the initial guest prompts were delivered, Jeffrey presented us with some exercises for synthesizing our responses for clarity and some additional prompts. It is not too late for you to join Quest 2016. I found it very thought-provoking and it has helped me to clarify my purpose and my direction for 2016. It did not lead me to any resolutions, (which have never sat well with me) just to deeper understanding and some lovely new connections with like-minded people. 
My word for 2016-CONNECTION!

Sheri Hoeger

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thank you very much, Mrs. Abbott

When I was a girl of eleven, it was somehow arranged that once a week I would go to the home of Mrs. Abbott down the street in order that she might teach me how to sew. By hand. 

Mrs. Abbott had just one child, a teenaged boy.  She had an English accent and a very tidy home, with her sewing kit neatly stowed at the end of the sofa. 

Mrs. Abbott showed me how to cut the fabric with the pattern pinned to it so it wouldn't slip around. Each week I stitched a white apron with big brown polka dots, a gift for my mother. The fabric had a little waffly texture to it, and I remember adding some lace trim to the pocket and the hem. We sat mostly in silence, Mrs. Abbot and I, as she showed me how to keep my stitches even and how to tie a knot that wouldn't show or pull through. It was the first time I realized how lovely sitting and working in silence can be. As the 5th child of six, I was used to noise and chaos from morning to night. I didn't know until then, that there was another normal. A tidy and quiet normal where you could hear yourself think. 

I was thinking of her last week as I sewed an apron for my granddaughter. I use a machine mostly, but can still whip up a stitch when I need to. My home has never been as tidy as Mrs. Abbott's, but I still love to work quietly alone or alongside another. You never know what lessons are learned when you offer your time and expertise to another. I still hold those unintended gifts, like buried treasure.