Friday, March 20, 2009

Road nanoWarrior

I welcome your suggestions and opinions on the role that technology could, and should—or should not—play in your relationship with the Garden House, which, I imagine, is a relationship with your desire for a space to consider, or reconsider, a different way of being in the world, if only for a short while. The Garden House has wi-fi but no phone (virtually everyone has a mobile anyway) and no flat screen (many guests bring laptops and their netflix favorites). The original intention of the "no tv" concept was to assist in the transformation from routine to opportunity. If the Garden House were like every other place to stay, you might not notice where you are, as there would be no built-in incentive to consider your routines. In some ways I'm trying to sweep back the tide, as technology comes in the door anyway. Now I'm wondering if I should employ the adage "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" by moving more toward technology offerings, at least outside the Garden House threshold. To this end, I created the mobile-friendly "" to help travelers find their way here. What do you think? What would you add (delete, change)? On a broader social networking front, how might the Garden House be of use to you (if at all) were I to set up a Twitter account? Get more active on Facebook? Something else? Nothing else? Less is more? It's the first day of spring. Fresh air and ideas blow steadily across the water.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Topping off the hot tub in the early spring, when nights might drop below freezing, involves charging the outdoor pipes with water, then choosing, or not, to play roulette with the gods of Springtime. If I play, I don't have to drain all the pipes again to insure against a frozen pipe (which means a broken pipe, which means crawling under the deck and spending a lot of time doing something generally unpleasant that would have been so easily preventable). If I don't play, I must drain the lines. If I play, I replace certainty with uncertainty, which means, if I wish to stay alert (and save the self-generated irritation that would easily come when I'm under the deck having dirt fall in my eyes as I repair that line, again), that I have to have a weather eye out for those cold nights. Pay now (drain the lines and be done with it) or Pay Always (until spring is really here) by staying awake no matter what. I didn't drain the lines.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Squinting into the future

The front cover of my forthcoming book, Potholes in Paradise, was put together today. In Design, an Adobe page layout program, was the vehicle. I was the designated driver—Anita, the illustrator, was the navigator. I felt I was at the controls of a 747, knowing little more about how the software works than I do about neurosurgery. It took a long time to decipher how to change color, how to create various effects, what looks good on the screen, how different the hard copy looks out of the printer. A crib sheet helped us avoid several head on crashes as we drove forward in the fog, making liberal use of the "undo" button, which fortunately tracks a long ways backwards. 

I've generally felt competent to operate the tools of the 20th century, and discover a growing sense of disease as I encounter the tools of the 21st. I started working with computers in 1967, having talked myself into a position at the University of Washington's Urban Data Center writing software (as a beginning grad student) for which my only real qualification was that I'd seen a computer during the last 2 weeks as an undergraduate at college. There was the usual trial by fire. Now, decades later, my enthusiasm for looking under the hood has waned even as the number of options has grown enormously. I have more power and I sense it while at the same time I feel relatively powerless because I don't know how many levers there are, what they do, how they work together, why anyone would conceive of any particular feature and whether it is worth taking the time, somehow—unfortunately not by talking to someone who might actually know, since that person is unknowable and unreachable—to find out. I feel a performance pressure—the tools exist, the examples everywhere are superb—the excellence bar grows daily higher. May the impulse to create the best infect our bankers, corporate leaders, and politicians.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tuning Fork

The Garden House  blog hopes to explore the spirit of the Garden House—a spirit built on attitude, values, intentions, behaviors. The Garden House has no obvious “scalability” as the crew would want, save its basic model: be honest, be authentic, don’t sell fluff, don’t really sell. These basic principles are what I imagine appeal to the folks who choose to visit the Garden House—I have no idea how many hits it requires to blow the wheat of subtext truth from the chaff of marketing hyperbole, how many virtual frogs have to be kissed in order to find a prince/princess among the acres of internet cottage’s and cabin’s wetlands for rent. My take on much of my competition’s marketing approach is some combination of selling a specific getaway image (generally spinning romance) along with a perhaps unintentional withholding of information. My approach feels naive, innocent, transparent; I want you to know just about everything I can think of that would help you decide if the Garden House is not just your kind of space, but more importantly your kind of place. I imagine you want to sense the kind of energy that will encompass where you will spend precious time and resources, to ensure that what is here resonates to who you are or what you need. The purity and cleanliness of that energetic, tonal resonance is the whole point—the time you spend away is intended to refresh, renew, relax, re-energize. Your time away ideally will create a glow in which just the memory can be instantly refreshing. A friend of a friend, in describing the quality of an agricultural product and the attention to detail that creating it required, labeled the item “temple grade”. May we all seek to find, and create, a temple grade attitude, where ever we are, with whatever we do, in our connections with others and the planet, as we make our daily way. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Profile: Abby

Abby, soon to be 17, lives a few miles down the road. She's smart, sassy, energetic, full of life. She's home schooled. She cleans the Garden House, executing a standard, set by her mother, Ruthie (Land Bank Steward for Orcas Island), which is just enough short of squeaky to spare her an OCD diagnosis. She borders and rides horses, tends the menagerie at Bright Meadow Farm (lambs, pigs, goats, chickens, sometimes a cow), and recently got a ten year old pickup in which to haul hay, horses, and feed. She's thinking about college, has a male friend who lives on another island, knows her way around boats. She talks fast, works hard, and doesn't smoke, or trash her hearing with earbuds, or always drive the speed limit. Her clothes show she is not afraid of mucking out a stall, and her quick insightful responses tell anyone to think and speak carefully lest they suffer a devastating loss at the hands of a skillful logician and wordsmith. It is a pleasure to have her take over the heavy lifting on this critical task (I've been doing it mostly solo since 1992). If I call ahead, she'll bring a dozen freshly laid eggs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The First Step

The air is chilly, the sun is out. Spring returns. This year's spring carries a new, refreshing message: a contraction in the economy gives us an opportunity to expand in understanding, connectedness, and appreciation—the best things in life are free. A walk in the garden reminds me that the life of the planet's deep wisdom continues, so far in spite of what we have been doing to wrestle control in order to quell our ancient fear of the dark forest. The possibility to shift our focus from the daily intensities to something slower, softer, gentler, brought on by the sudden loss of jobs, income, asset values, sits quietly awaiting our awareness. Conversations can become more honest when the noise of distractions has receded.

In this spirit, this journal of possibility begins like a new unexpected plant emerging in the Garden House soil. Those who have been here speak of tranquility, silence, peace, simplicity. The idea explored here is to share more of the Garden House story. You are encouraged to add your observations, experiences, and thoughts. For example—what a retreat or sanctuary may have given you on your road of life, whether at the Garden House or elsewhere—what delight you discovered on Orcas or elsewhere—what changes you want to enable, or see enabled, to preserve or protect or enrich the experience of being in a special place—what memories, photos, stories you have to offer the Garden House community. My plan is to offer stories, comments, ideas to give you more of a feel for what goes on on the ground, in my head, in the air. (The pictures of the flowers shown here were taken this morning.)