Sunday, January 31, 2021

Crinkle Crankle Dialogue

My older brother and I would challenge one another to climb onto the flat portion of the fence surrounding our backyard.  The top ledge allowed us to "tightrope walk" around the property, racing to see who could go the furthest without falling.  Distractions from barking dogs, neighbors watching, and cautiously walking past the untamed gully and thorny cactii helped us focus our attention on the goal.

These memories surfaced recently when Carole, a high school friend, sent me a picture of a British "crinkle crankle" wall.  How interesting to have a wall that zig-zags through the countryside!  Wouldn't it be fun to walk atop this wall -- being able to see views in various directions rather than straight ahead?

What expectations do you have
of your relationships?
(Photo credit: 
15 Photos of British "Crinkle Crankle Walls, deMilked)

Reading what Carole sent me and other sources, I discovered that wavy walls actually use less bricks than straight walls.  The English "crinkle crankle" wall is one brick thick and is supported by the curving design.  Straight walls would topple over if they were built one brick thick!

Straight walls need strong foundations (multiple bricks thick) and vertical posts or buttresses every few yards to reinforce the wall.  Thus, more bricks or other materials are needed.

How do you encounter the daily ups
and downs of life?
(Photo credit:  Right on the Head, Gary Mahler)

Once introduced to this zig-zag design, I reflected on the rhythm of life... and how Choices Made alter the direction we take:

  • Ocean waves that rise and fall with the tides.
  • Relationships that ebb and flow between intimacy and distance.
  • Conversations that are misunderstood and clarified.

Choices that allow us to move forward... straight and direct... or roaming and indirect.  Choices of discovery.

Do you test Truths and Lies?  How?
(Quote credit:  Unknown)

I am amazed at how my life has unfolded: though I had interests that caught my attention and a career path that changed over time, I oftentimes took branches in the road that I wasn't expecting.  Maneuvering the zig-zag discovery of life's treasures meant that I needed to share my thoughts and feelings with others... or they might get lost with my meandering way!
This Dialogue of Sharing opens doors to common beliefs, discussions of differences, and decisions on whether to maintain friendships.  What I discovered is that the foundations of both the Straight and Narrow and the Crickle-Crankle must be strong:
  • Putting extra work into the discussion of Truths and Lies Encountered;
  • Allowing a quality of exploration and learning;
  • Accepting views and distractions along the way.

I wonder what it would have been like for my brother and me if our family's backyard was surrounded by a wavy wall?  Would we have seen a different view of our neighbors, heard new sounds, or been as cautious moving past dangerous points along the way?  I wonder.

May we be challenged to explore the straight and crickle-crankle paths ahead.  May we learn to separate the Truths and Lies encountered along the way.  May we be willing to share what we have learned.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Touching the Hearts of Others

Many years ago I was supervised by a director who listened to my suggestions and could find no wrong in what I said or did.  That was wonderful for me... until I noticed that she didn't like one of my employees.  My director found fault in almost everything this other employee said or did.  I benefited from my supervisor's biases, but my employee suffered because of these same biases.

Oftentimes our myopic views need to be shattered before the artificial barriers which separate us can be exposed.  After all, how crazy is it to stand behind a shattered pane of glass... no longer able to see clearly?

We can no longer stand idle, looking through the shattered window.  We must find ways to open the door and Welcome the Other.

When do you feel broken or violated?
(Photo credit:  Aftermath of Pro-Trump Riots
at the U.S. Capitol, Michael Reynolds,

Some might find reason to continue hiding behind our misunderstandings, prejudices and self-made conclusions about another person.  Our challenge, though, when we become aware of what separates us, is to pay attention to our assumptions... and look clearly at the Other-in-Person:  another human who is trying to survive this unforgiving world.

The symbolism and simple words expressed at the pre-inauguration memorial service touched my heart.  President-Elect Joe Biden challenged us:  "To heal, we must remember."

What do you need to remember in order to heal?
(Photo credit:  U.S. Honors American Lives Lost to COVID-19, ABC News)

hat do we remember?  The hurts, pains, slights and prejudging?  Or the outreached hands, hugs, tears, and smiles?  It seems that the symbols of separation and healing are rooted in the same place... Hearts Broken.

  • How have we been conditioned over the past few years to listen, to respond?
  • Is our first "Go To" a criticism of the actions of others?
  • When do we look for good intentions... "catching people doing something right"?

Is it possible to touch the heart of others... everywhere?
(Photo credit:  Heart-shaped Island Group in the River, Pinterest)

Taking a page from our political arena:  what do we want to accomplish in the next 100 days?  Maybe the invitation for our dialogue practices is to see how we can touch the hearts of others, with:
  • Kind words;
  • Empathy and compassionate thoughts;
  • Questions that seek understanding; and,
  • Actions that heal.

Isn't it time... to remember... and to heal?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Sunday, January 17, 2021

Gone Too Far?

Isn't life interesting?  We learn.  We strive for our goals.  We achieve... or keep trying.  But there are times when we come to a dead end, a challenge too great, or the edge of a precipice.  At each interval of learning, goal setting, and arrival, we have choices:

  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • Will our values inform our decisions?
  • How shall we proceed... individually and collectively?

I don't know about you, but recent events have brought me to my edge!

Questions to consider as we look down and outward: What are we noticing? What are we learning about ourselves?  Have we gone too far?  Do we want to take this next step?

What do you do when there is no place to go?
(Photo credit:  Higher Education on the Precipice, AACSB)

Media outlets have reported that some are comparing our current situation to the American Revolution or Civil War: fighting against tyranny or an ideology that is abhorred.  The violence at the US Capitol on January 6: is it the beginning of more division, violence, and hate -- OR -- is there a choice not yet seen?
As a country, have we forgotten the death and destruction resulting from earlier choices?  Are we ready to experience these forces again in our society?

Are you prepared for the death of dialogue?
(Photo credit: Then and Now Pictures of the Battlefield, Gettsyberg,

I remembered this quote from Wendell Berry (Standing by Words, 1983) a few days ago:

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings."
I wonder:  what is impeding the stream of our dialogue?  Can we focus on that obstruction and allow it to "sing" to us?  Maybe the choice is in listening... together... to that impediment.

When is it time to come together?
(Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada)

Though we must stand by the words, values and commitments that are dear to us, can we take a long loving look at the other person?  Can we sit in our surety... and uncertainty... as we seek ways to bridge our differences?  (This doesn't mean the differences will disappear.  The emphasis is on the bridge!)

If our answer to these questions is "No," I wonder again about the precipice before us.  I am afraid of the next step!
May we notice the impeded streams in our lives this week... and the song they are singing to us.  May we notice the impediments... and choose wisely our next steps.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Death in the Family

I remember the emotions after the deaths of my parents, grandparents, and close friends.  I recall what it was like after the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy; the Challenger explosion; the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa; 9-11; the marches for justice after too many unnecessary killings; and the thousands of empty seats at our tables due to COVID-19.  So many milestones of loss... and transition.

The individual markers in our lives that cause us to pause and take notice:  life is no longer the same.  Shock. Pain.  Sadness.  Emptiness.

I am feeling the same after the events of this past week.

What events cause you to pause?
(Photo credit: Honoring U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick;
Brendan Smialowski, via Getty Images)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I am on autopilot:  living life without thinking, following habits, patterns, and traditions that have grown up around me.  (It's Saturday: time to grocery shop, do laundry, and run errands!)

I wonder how often we don't listen to what another person is saying... about their experiences, their wants and needs, pain suffered, feeling alone or left out.

When have we muted others?
~ ~ Click on image to enlarge ~ ~
(Photo credit:  Pickles, by Brian Crane, April 23, 2020)

A few questions as we reflect on Wednesday's march on the U.S. Capitol:

  • What stories are we telling ourselves or repeating to others?
  •  Who are we blaming?
  •  Do we have a role to play... in the events? ...the beliefs we hold? ... in the healing?

Maybe just as important:  are we willing to learn and move forward together?

Can we see light even in our darkness?

Nature has so much to teach us!  The overarching themes of life and death.  The annual rhythm of the seasons.  The daily reminders of darkness and light.
The invitation as we notice the death, loss, and darkness of this past week is to turn off the autopilot that mutes our awareness of others, and ask questions:
  • How am I feeling?  How are you feeling?
  • What am I thinking?  What are you thinking?
  • Is there a way I can help?  Will you help me to understand?

Maybe, at this moment in our history together,  we are being called to move out of our emotional distancing (due to COVID, our political beliefs, or our conclusions about others) and to reach out and to listen with intention.
May this death in our family draw us together!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)



Sunday, January 3, 2021

Time Unwritten

We are in the first days of a New Year.  There are hopes for new beginnings; plans for change and improvement; resolutions made... and kept?  Time is unwritten, stretching before us.  Our hearts are seeking inspiration and healing.

I guess after the ups and downs of 2020, who wouldn't want to seek solace in something better?

Mark Nepo, author and  spiritual adviser, wrote:

“To listen is to continually give up all expectations and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean.  In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”

I wonder:  are we living with the illusion or assumption that anything will change... if we are not willing to change? 

What conclusions have you written about others?
+ Click on image to enlarge +
(Photo credit: Pickles, Brian Crane, January 1, 2021)

Time Unwritten is that new year -- and each unlived day, for that matter -- which opens us to new possibilities and opportunities.  The question to hold gently and answer honestly is:

Am I willing to see beyond the valleys and hills -- the past offenses, pains, and struggles -- and envision a new day ahead?

The past, I believe, is meant to teach and guide us in future decisions.  It is not a place to live!

When do you marvel at the grandeur of another person?
(Grand Canyon, July 2018)

Dialogue is both an internal and external process: the learned skills of listening, questioning, and seeking truth... in all of its written and unexplored ways.  It is the gifting and unwrapping of Life's Complex Simplicity.  It is the willingness, as Mark Nepo stated, to be changed by what we hear... internally and in conversation with others.

In essence, each new moment -- whether a minute, an hour, a day, or each year -- brings us to a choice on how we want to live... imperfectly... with Truth.

How might you reshape this new year?
(Photo credit: Quotes and Inspiration)

The questions to consider this new year -- within the shadows of a lingering pandemic's effects, losses, and isolation are:

  • How do I choose to live:  by working together or staying divided?
  • Am I willing to be changed: by what I hear or ignore?
  • Can I marvel at the grandeur and beauty of others: by acknowledging and respecting the diversity of others or seeking sameness?

Time is unwritten.  We have a choice.  On December 31, 2021, what will we say about ourselves?

May our imperfect choices humble us as we learn to live differently in the days ahead.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)