Saturday, April 13, 2024

Answers to Questions

I have been hooked by the BBC series, Call the Midwife.  It is in its 13th season and is based on Nurse Jenny Worth's real-life stories of working as a midwife in the East London slums of the 1950s.  Vanessa Redgrave is the voice of the older Jenny as she recounts the lessons learned from the brave women surviving childbirth in the horrid conditions of this post-war era. 

One statement stood out at the beginning of a recent episode: "We are the answers to each other's questions."

What questions do you have about our current social
and political conditions?
(Photo credit:

We are faced with hundreds of questions every day:

  • What do I want for breakfast?
  • Who will pick up the kids after school? 
  • Can I trust what I read or hear?
  • Who do I believe in this situation?
  • How will I pay this month's bills?
Some questions have easy answers; others are more complicated.  Some situations are familiar enough where we can choose similar results; other situations have never been encountered and take more thought.

Are you curious about learning new answers?
(Photo credit:  WavebreakmediaMicro)

What I find interesting as I look back at my life is the fact that questions and answers were a part of our early learning:  teachers would ask questions and we would raise our hands to be the first to answer.  We were told that there were no stupid questions... and, if we had a good teacher, we were not embarrassed if we answered incorrectly.
It seemed that my younger years were filled with curiosity and exploration.  I wanted to learn.  Somewhere along the way, our Classroom of Life has discouraged some questions... and even some answers!  (And, as we all have learned, there are some topics we are told not to discuss!)

Can questions and answers be given with love and caring?
(Photo credit:  Oculo)

What I have noticed in my dialogue consulting is the importance of questions.  I cannot understand the other person without asking questions.  If I assume I know the answer, I often misunderstand the person's situation.

I have learned -- and continue to learn! -- that I must:
  • Ask permission to ask a question.
  • Approach every situation with kindness and curiosity.
  • Refrain from judging based on my lenses and biases.

After all, we may be the answer to another person's question... as long as we understand the question!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Reflected Reflections

The San Diego Naval Training Center (NTC) where my father went to boot camp after World War II was closed in 1997 and redeveloped into a beautiful combination of homes, businesses, shops, restaurants, museums, parkland, and waterways.  The transformation from restricted government use to public open spaces now draws families, bikers, skaters, walkers and runners to shop, play, and enjoy the views of the airport, downtown skyline, and inlets of the San Diego Bay.

The area is now called Liberty Station, but the spirit of NTC is still present: that is, the renovated buildings and parade grounds have breathed new life into this part of our city... and its rich history is respected.

What transformations have occurred in your life?
(Photo: Esplanade Canal at Liberty Station,
San Diego Bay - Larry Gardepie)

Walking along the Esplanade and looking out over the Canal, I noticed the reflections of the palm trees and downtown skyline.  As I drew nearer to the water, I observed that:

  • When the water was calm, the reflections cast a surreal copy of the actual.
  • When the wind stirred up the water, the reflections disappeared from view.

So too with our lives and our relationships:  we are either calmed or disturbed by what has happened, what we remember, or what is... where our perceptions can be clear or dimmed by the stories we tell.

When have turbulences clouded your view?
(Photo: Downtown San Diego Skyline,
Esplanade Canal - Larry Gardepie)

Periodically, a jet would take off across the Esplanade Canal and Liberty Station.  The power of the engines propelled the plane above and past us, leaving us with its rumble and noise.  This type of disturbance is expected because we know where the airport runway is and we can look up the departure schedule: we can wait for and anticipate the takeoffs.

It is interesting how I react so differently to unexpected breezes that distort my reflections versus moments when I have anticipated, imagined, or wanted something else.

Do you wait for and anticipate change?
(Photo: a jet leaving SD International Airport
- Larry Gardepie)

As we practice our dialogue skills, we are invited to notice, reflect, and exchange ideas, thoughts, and even assumptions.  Being able to reflectively reflect on our reflections in a communal way helps us to see the transformations that are occurring:

  • Reviewing our memories and history together;
  • Renovating perspectives and conclusions; and
  • Respecting the past, the changes, and the actual.

Like the NTC that served an earlier purpose, life can generate new energy and changes for our future.  Redevelopment gives us freedom -- or liberty! -- to reimagine who we are and who we might become.

How do you want to develop -- or redevelop -- your life?  In what ways can we help one another?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Resurrecting Beauty

Besides the comics, I read the Letters to the Editor and Dear Abby every day.  These three ground me more in reality than "All the News That's Fit to Print."  The two letter-formats (Editor and Abby) help me to understand local concerns from one person's perspective and personal issues that people are encountering.  And the comics bring humor into my morning!

I find it difficult sometimes to absorb humanity and all of our struggles: the inability to forgive; the need for vengeance; and the desire to dominate others economically, culturally, and ideologically.

Sometimes I just don't understand...

How do you display your Inner Beauty?
(Photo - Amaryllis - Larry Gardepie)

Maybe that's why I retreat into gardening:

  • Planting and waiting.
  • Pruning and new growth.
  • Enjoying hard work and harvesting.

It's the simple acts that ground us in harmony and healing.

What is your role in Pollinating Goodness?
(Photo: Orange Blossoms and a
Honeybee - Larry Gardepie)

Is it any wonder that Spring and the Holy Days of Passover and Easter often coincide?  There are important lessons for us to learn:
  • Moving from the darkness and cold of Winter to the light and warmth of Spring.
  • Being liberated from slavery and passing over destruction.
  • Opening ourselves to a resurrected life and a Beauty Unknown.
It's our ability to co-create and bring life into this world that haunts us when we don't.

Where do you find your Resurrected Beauty?
(Photo: Calla Lilies - Larry Gardepie)

The challenges we face with Spring, Passover, and Easter is in our faith: our faith in nature, humanity, and our Creator.  That is:
  • Even in the depths of Winter, we wait for Spring.
  • Even in moments of human despair, we hope for deliverance.
  • Even in painful and deadly Fridays, we believe in the Sunday After.

Maybe when faced with unforgiveness, revenge, and oppression, we are invited to resurrect the beauty that is hidden in the soil of our lives... planting the seeds of forgiveness and goodness

Welcome Spring!  Happy Pesach!  Blessed Easter!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Be Surprised!

Coming out of a restaurant last week with friends, we were caught off guard by a bright object racing across the sky.  We were near the airport, so some in our group thought it was a jet's contrail caught in the afterglow of the setting sun.  As we monitored the progress of this celestial body, we noticed pieces falling off!

It wasn't until I was home that I searched for recent launches from Vandenberg, the Air Force Base located almost 300 miles north of San Diego.  A Spacex Falcon 9 rocket had been launched at the time we were standing outside.

Has something unexpected happened in your life?
(Photo: Spacex Falcon 9 rocket from
Vandenberg AFB - Larry Gardepie)

It took a few minutes for the object to be out of sight and another 20 minutes for the contrail to disappear into the darkening night sky.  What remained?  I was transfixed by the timing and beauty of this unexpected sighting.

Being Surprised out of the Ordinariness of our lives is sometimes nice!  My friends and I stopped, watched, and wondered.  We talked about what we thought it might be, and we accepted the various options.  No one tried to convince the others:  we didn't know what we were seeing, so we listened and allowed curiosity to suspend our judgement.

What beauty have you encountered this week?
(Photo:  Cherry Blossoms - Larry Gardepie)

Like the various stages of the Falcon 9 rocket separating and falling away, being surprised opens us to possibilities by jettisoning routine behaviors and roles.

Being surprised can come in different forms:  later that same week, I was walking around my neighborhood with another friend.  We came across a beautiful, flowering tree.  We walk this route several times a week and had not noticed this tree.  But today it was magnificent!

Do you go out of your way to be surprised?
(Photo:  Blue Flowers - Larry Gardepie)

On another walk I saw a blue flower off the beaten path.  I was drawn to its unusual beauty, so I walked over to be closer.  I delayed my walk.  Time stopped.  I paid attention to its uniqueness, standing alone among the other plants.

I wonder:

  • How many times are we with a friend and don't pay attention to that person's beauty?
  • How many times do we have to be surprised into noticing the extraordinary ordinariness of life?
  • How often do our rote patterns hide what is present all along?

re we ready to be surprised this week?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Our Next Chapter

As my brothers, sisters and I were growing up, Mom would take us to the local branch library.  It became a Safe and Familiar place to discover different authors, writing styles, and storytelling.  Even when going on weeks-long road trips to visit our grandparents in Iowa, one of the pre-trip planning stops was the library to get a box of books to accompany us.  Maybe it was to keep us busy, but the lesson I learned was the joy of reading and the power of imagination.  (Years later I would work at that branch library as my first real job!)

These memories come to mind as I consider what is happening in our society today:  "the best of times" and the worst of times."

How would you describe "your time" right now?
(Photo credit:  Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)

The Information Age has inundated us with countless sources and varieties of information.  We are now "entertained" with subtle and not-so-subtle messages in the programs and news sources we watch, the bombardment of advertisements, and the role social media plays in our daily lives.

It is unnerving when I pay attention to the attempts to manipulate my thoughts and feelings, swaying me one direction or another.  The information when presented one way stacks up against another... in simple soundbites that are meant to convince me of their truth.

Where are you getting your information?
(Photo credit:  Library Book Stacks Fabric, Spoonflower)

As unfiltered and unreflected ideas stack up in my subconscious, I notice an uneasiness at the separation I feel:  I no longer feel the safety and familiarity of my home library; I no longer feel Common Unity (community) with those around me.

The story telling and imagination have faded away as others influence what I should think or feel.

Is it the same with you?

Are you willing to rearrange your thought process?
(Photo credit:  Google download, Michigan Library)

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), a female English novelist, poet, journalist, and translator, once wrote:  "The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice."

What choices do you (we) need to make as we write the next chapters of our Life Story?  How can we reconnect with our sense of safety and familiarity in the communities we live?  Are we willing to share our stories and imagination with one another in a way that respects all of our Unfinished Stories?

The choice is ours -- in how we gather information, the way we check out our assumptions, and the decisions we make.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)