I recently heard the term “Urban Acupuncture” as it relates to the Better Block movement and their efforts to bring-to-life precincts and neighbourhoods in cities all over the US. The acupuncture metaphor go me thinking about my own work and the work that my art-form supports.
I have just enjoyed 3 days of working and playing with diverse groups of people, mainly leaders beavering away at the grassroots to make their community (and the world) a better place. Listening to their wisdom and their stories has been inspiring. Witnessing their vulnerabilities and supporting them at their learning edge is a privilege.
Each of these community leaders are like healers … each performing their own version of social acupuncture. Directly and indirectly their little actions heal the fabric of community. We see symptoms like community fragmentation and signs like reduced community participation in decision making. Their purpose driven projects stimulate the acupuncture points of community by bringing people into conversation, to break bread together, play music, create art and build stronger relationships across the community.
My work supports community leaders to experiment, take risks, notice more and fail informatively. This week I went to edge of my own practice and pushed out a bit further. I was supported in this by my friend and colleague Russell Fisher. Together with Suzie Brown, Russell and I are embarking on a new journey that will support an ever growing network of community leaders to DO – both big a small.
Today was one of those days where everything converged – where a lot of past stuff came together and, at the same time, the future I am co-creating came into view. The story of today …
My youngest of three boys, Hamish (aka Mr Chipper), attended his first day of school today. He was excited, but not overly so. He was confident, with a hint of vulnerability. His two older brothers, like his parents, could hardly believe he was off to Aireys Inlet Primary School – a small, coastal school of 130 students where students at all levels know each other.
But, I wasn’t there to see Mr Chipper off, or witness his first steps into class surrounded by his little mates. I wasn’t at work and I wasn’t out for an early surf. No, I was being admitted to hospital for (long ago booked) dental surgery on a tooth that has cause me more grief than any other part of my body. That tale of suffering (of the first world variety) is for another time! Happenstance and bad luck saw these 2 dates converge to January 31, 2013.
I’ll fast forward the story of today … past the hunger pains of having to miss breakfast … beyond the news that I was last on the list and would have to wait (growing ever hungrier) until lunchtime to enter theatre … past that 20 second period where the general anesthesia goes to work … past the recovery room and up to the point where my mum picks me up and drives me back to her place.
There is nothing like being with your mum when recovering from illness or surgery. Mum’s are hard-wired to care for their kids and feed them soul food, even when they are 41 years old! I hadn’t seen mum since Christmas Day nearly 6 weeks before and was struck that I hadn’t spent much time with mum, just the 2 of us, since Dad passed a year ago.
After sharing photos of our recent family adventure in Tasmania, and after a late afternoon (still in recovery phase) nap, we began to talk about Dad. How proud he would have been to see Hamish off to school. How much he’d have loved our tales of camping in Tassie.
In his final weeks alive, Dad made me promise him to take our kids travelling, to learn and experience life as a family as much as we could! Living up to this promise has opened up a whole new world for me. It’s transformed my view of parenting, of community, of how to listen and of what’s most important. It’s given me a clearer purpose to my own consulting work and the direction I want to take my offering. My experiences in recent months have rekindled a child-like enthusiasm for what I do.
And as I share these private thoughts in this public space, I realize (again) how important writing has become. My private journal (using Evernote) and my blog (Yes!AndSpace) are spaces where I connect dots between things. When writing, like now, its like time and to-do’s fade away. The meaning evolves and emerges as I write and it’s always, always best when I simply write what comes … and keep suppressing that tyrannical urge to be clever and witty!
Like I said above, lots of things have converged during my long chat with mum tonight. I read to her one of my private journal entries, written after spending a day with dad only weeks before he died. It was like finding a lost treasure and, like magic, reading this entry brought him into the room with us. This is the gift of writing and of sharing it with others.
After 3 weeks in Tasmania we finally scored some waves this morning – a lovely little right at Bicheno. Whilst waiting for set waves on my SUP I started thinking about the rhythm we are in on this leg of our journey around Tasmania.
We have stopped asking each other the question – “What time is it?”. Our day is quite simply regulated by the rumblings in our tummies and the rise and fall of the sun. We have realised how time-bound life is at home. We are also cherishing every moment of this time-boundless trip. Whilst I write this, Ingrid and Griff are playing a card game, Lachie is writing his journal and Hamish is playing music on the iPad. No plans and no deadlines. It’s living a life of Open Space where passion (doing the things we love) is bounded by a discipline … a responsibility for things like keeping our camper organised and for teaching (un-schooling) our kids on-the-road.
Left – Kids keep the daily budget so we can stick to our target!
Right – Our Mr7 (Lachie) writes a daily journal … he has a unique “in-the-moment” style
I’ve been applying Open Space Technology to my work with groups of people for years now, and every so often the simplicity of the Open Space principles amazes me. Like I said above, this camping trip is not bounded by the clock on my iPhone – “Whenever it starts is the right time” and “When it’s over it’s over”. We have a plan but we riff around the pre-thought notes and, like this morning’s surf, seize opportunities as they arise – “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. We meet people along the way and form new relationships. In the remote bush camps, kids are amazing at launching into a day of beautiful play without the toys and stuff we left behind at home. Kids are not selective about who they play with and, from what I’ve observed, apply the principle “Whoever come are the right people” naturally.
And on that note … I’ve got two kids at my side pestering me with a sing song version of “I’m Hungry …”. I’ll leave this post with selection of kids’ creations in and around campsite across Tasmania.
Another thing I’ve noticed on this off-road trip around Tasmania is my kids. I pay plenty of attention to them at home, but … when you get to hang out with them all day, every day that’s when you really get to know them.
Both Ingrid and I are really seeing their individual traits – their frailties, humour and their gifts! More though, we are noticing the relationships between all 3 boys. I can see, more clearly than ever, who niggles who and when. I am sensing the friendship, love and respect between them.
We have a little more than 2 weeks to go where we are constantly in each other’s company. 4 canvass walls and a canvass roof is our home. We are eating home cooked meals from the camp stove and we are exposed to the elements from the time wake to bed. We are growing accustomed to the lack of facilities when “out bush”. We are not running by the clock, but instead, by the need to eat and sleep. None of us have missed our toys from home as nature offers so much more!
I haven’t written much lately, despite having so much to share about my new collaborations in work and the thriving community life here in Aireys Inlet. Life has been full to brim and we have managed to keep a healthy balance between work-family-community-play.
I have just spent a couple of hours reading through my favourite 3 blogs … all written by friends and colleagues. You should check out what Viv McWaters, Johnnie Moore and Chris Corrigan have been writing about recently … because you won’t find too much recent stuff here! That’s about to change as I rediscover my passion for sharing the stuff I notice and learn!
Ingrid and I just returned home after 4 days and nights away from our 3 boys. Some would call it an indulgence, but 4 days gave us a chance to talk … endlessly. We noticed how much missed them and how time passed so differently with just the 2 of us to attend to.
It even gave me time to capture our time away in this very playful doodle … the story of our 4 days away …
I started thinking and drawing about the many & varied ways I store, share, create and consume media and information. So this map emerged and it has provided me with a simpler ‘way’ of doing stuff this year.
Ignore the bag packing and logo placement in the first minute of this video and focus on the backdrop to this beautiful surf break. My wife and I are both addicted to the Stand Up Paddle Surfing so this one caught our eye.
Yesterday, family and friends gathered at the Barwon Heads Resort to celebrate the life of my dad – Grahame Brown. Their were people from all walks of life. Some were their to support family members and other’s were there to grieve their own loss of a wonderful friend, father, teacher, brother, uncle and husband.
We all learned something new about Dad’s life. We all took another step in the grieving process … it was a beautiful day and dad would have been lost for words.
I wrote this song 4 years ago, soon after dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. It felt right to play it at the close of the ceremony … my kids (without prompting or planning) sang the final chorus along with me which helped to get through it. It also feels the right time to share the song with the world. Song for Dad by YesAndSpace