Saturday, April 29, 2023


Over the past several weeks, I have been working on reconnecting with classmates and friends from grade school.  Our school is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year so a few of us have begun planning an in-person reunion to help celebrate this milestone.

In the process of searching for alumni and gathering contact information, I have noticed that long-forgotten memories have begun surfacing:  favorite teachers and subjects; birthday parties and sleepovers; spelling bees and competitions.

Looking back, it seems like life was simpler, naive and more carefree.

Are you aware of what connects you?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~
(Photo credit:  Bizarro, Wayno & Piraro, 04/26/23)

But was it?  For our parents and teachers, they were in roles of providing for our well-being, education, and safety.  Our role was to learn and follow the structures and discipline that was provided.  The complexity and simplicity probably depended on the role and responsibility of each person.

I am finding that these earlier connections are still present -- even though dormant these many decades as I moved on with my life.  Memories of graduating from elementary and high schools, then on to college... first jobs... graduate school... and a career.  At each stage, it felt like jumping off a cliff -- freedom and fewer safety nets; unknowns but a tangle of old and new connections; adventures but a similarity when I landed.  Connections -- both complex and simple.

When do you feel the most unconnected?
(Photo:  Mazatlan cliff diver - Larry Gardepie)

The Structures Learned and Connections Remembered provide solace in moments of uncertainty.  Paying attention and making decisions rooted in previous experiences allowed us to swing like Tarzan and Jane through our childhood -- moving from our childhood Family Tree to a broader Tree of Life.

The importance, I believe, is noticing what has illuminated the paths we have chosen -- what we have held onto or let go... connections.

What helps to illuminate your path?
(Photo:  Nighttime departure, Hilo, Hawaii - Larry Gardepie)

Understanding the connections between Self and Others allows us to discover what is good and desirable.  Strengthening the connections that support and challenge allows us to learn and grow.  Seeing and listening allows us to connect information and test its validity.

I wonder... why are so many people these days trying to break the connections of structure, discipline, lessons learned and remembrance?

What are your thoughts?  Let's reconnect!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Standing by Your Story?

Listening to a mentor-partner this past week, I wondered about statements that this person was making -- not whether they were true or not, but whether he was distinguishing between facts and assumptions.  He ended with "That's my story!"  Over the next few minutes, we explored this "story":

  • What was known or assumed.
  • What was observed or shared by others.
  • If any biases or filters may have distorted what happened.
  • How he was piecing together the situation that concerned him.

Understanding that we all "fill in the blanks" and we all "create stories" is a starting point for curiosity:  Am I interested in finding out what really happened?

What story do you remember?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~
(Photo credit:  Far Side, Gary Larson, 01/30/91)

This lesson hit home when I was watching a YouTube video, "Creating Perspective Art Using Paper Cups."  (Click on link to watch this 3-minute video.)
At one point in the video, it says "[The] Key is getting the proportions just right."
How true with the stories that we tell: balancing the perspectives of fact, fiction, assumptions, and truth!  We have collected all these disparate pieces of information, but we may have arranged them incorrectly or placed more emphasis on one aspect of the story than another.

How do you piece together the information you receive?
(Photo credit:  Creating Perspective Art Using Paper Cups,
Insider Art, YouTube)

Spending time with another mentor-partner, I heard her describe what seemed like two different stories:  her supervisor said one thing and a work colleague said another.  Having met with the supervisor and work colleague separately the week before, I could see that BOTH stories were correct!  It was a matter of the timeline:  WHEN something had happened.
Yes, the stories were different -- and confusing -- to the mentor-partner who had received information from the supervisor and work colleague... but as potential options were being discussed, people's input had changed the story's outcome.  Both stories were true... at the time WHEN they were told.

Does your story provide perspective?
(Photo credit:  Creating Perspective Art Using Paper Cups,
Insider Art, YouTube)

The lessons for me?  Being able to:
  • Keep an open mind about the information I receive;
  • Realize that each perspective might be true -- at the time it happened; and,
  • See the importance of getting the proportions just right.

That is, learning to balance what I hear with the assumptions and stories that I tell myself.  Rather than "Standing by my story," I must be willing to listen and become curious by asking questions about timeline (when), intentions (why), participants present (who), and checking out the facts (how).

May we become creative in the art of perspective!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Fragile Nature

An unusual winter and spring:  atmospheric rivers, arctic blasts and bomb cyclones, mega tornadoes... and now over 2 feet of rain in southern Florida in a 24-hour period!  These were on my mind as I walked around my neighborhood this past week -- wrapped up to stay warm against the colder-than-usual winds that have swept across southern California.

But then I came across plants blooming, inviting me to anticipate Spring and coaxing me out of my wintry thoughts.

Isn't it wonderful how nature can open us to beauty, simplicity, and wonder -- when we pay attention! 

Do you bloom where you are planted?
(Photo: Spring Freesia - Larry Gardepie)

There are so many troubles and divisions these days, storms that buffet us and rob us of societal securities.  Our fragile natures surface as we argue over ideologies and beliefs -- as we worry about the future.

Nature, though, has different lessons for us:

  • Bloom where you are planted.
  • Reveal the beauty of who you are.
  • Stand tall and believe in your goodness.

I know life is more complicated than this... or is it?  Maybe I have made it more complex than it needs to be.

What beauty do you bring to this world?
(Photo:  Purple Iceplant - Larry Gardepie)

As I walk through my neighborhood bundled up against the winds that buffet me, my eyes see color and beauty that I might not feel; my ears hear bird songs that open me to listen; and the air is fresh after the last rainfall.
Our world is opening to new life... and so can I!

When do you stand above the worries
and troubles of today?
(Photo:  Tower of Jewels - Larry Gardepie)

Having difficult conversations may have caused us to hibernate against wintry relationships.  Our frailty may have caused us to protect and defend.  Our vulnerability may have betrayed what we think and feel.
But Nature -- like dialogue -- suggests something different: that our vulnerability is our strength; that life returns even after the worst storms; that beauty exists even in the worst situations.  Our invitation is to open up, discover, and value the beauty within the other person.  It is there -- if we pay attention!

May our fragile human nature open us to the possibility of beauty and wonder -- in ourselves and in others.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


Saturday, April 8, 2023

A Life of Contrasts

Isn't it amazing what our "smart phones" can do these days!  Besides guiding our daily activities using calendar, reminder, exercise, and health applications, we can stay in touch by texting, emails, social media... and the phone!  We can even monitor and control our "smart homes"!  And the camera captures memories that call us back to that moment when we stood still and wanted to remember.

On a recent trip, I was exploring the editing functions of my phone's camera.  Before playing with these features, I always prided myself at capturing what I saw -- as it was -- without embellishments.  I didn't realize all of the ways that I could crop, adjust, and photo-shop a picture with my phone.  It felt like cheating!

How often do you see a situation as "black and white"?
(Photo: South Seas Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

In the past, our cameras needed the correct film -- color or black-and-white -- and the right speed.  We adjusted the camera settings to match the film purchased, and we had to take 12, 24, or 36 pictures until that roll of film was used before changing to another speed or color.  It took time to have the film processed before we received the photos and could view our creations... and mistakes!

Now, within seconds, we can take a photo, review it, delete or reshoot it, edit and share it with family and friends.  Reviewing and remembering those photo-moments is much more fleeting as well.

When do you soften a situation to your comfort level?
(Photo: South Seas Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

As I was testing my phone camera's edit features, I wondered about what we have gained -- and lost -- as we manipulate what we see and capture.  Just as our physical tools (phones, tablets, and computers) have changed our way of connecting with the world, so too have our mental models:

  • How we search for our likes, dislikes and interests;
  • Where we go for news and entertainment; and,
  • What we decide is true and relevant.

I must admit, there are times when I only want to see the Either-Or ("black-and-white") of a situation -- or -- I soften the contrasts of a situation to not feel so uncomfortable -- or -- I accept the true colors, understanding that Both-And is a possibility.

Can you sit with the beauty of the moment...As It Is?
(Photo: South Seas Sunset - Larry Gardepie)

I wonder how often in life we want to guide, monitor, control and edit the circumstances and contrasts of a situation?  Through awareness and reflection, we are invited to notice how our filters and mental models adjust what we are seeing and experiencing.  The question after noticing our filters is whether we can accept the beauty in the current situation -- As It Is.

Though I liked the editing features of my phone camera, I must admit... I enjoy the challenge of centering its lens on what is happening now, and knowing that the photo has not been adjusted allows my fading memory of that day to be revisited -- As It Was.

May the blessings of this Holy Season of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter draw us back to the spiritual reflection and growth of our traditions... the memories of How It Was... and Is... today!

P.S.  Which one of the three photos did you like the best -- and why?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Foolish Perspectives

One of the unique features of each Holland America cruise ship is in the elevator: the day of the week is imprinted on the floor mats.  Crew members are tasked with changing out these carpet pieces each evening so that passengers know the day of the week.  It's a nice feature... until you realize time is quickly passing and your vacation is coming to an end!

Talking to a cruise director one day, I mentioned that an interesting April Fool's joke might be to place a different day-mat in each elevator on April 1st.  How many passengers would notice?  Imagine the confusion!

How many clues do you gather each day?
(Photo: Holland America elevator floor mat - Larry Gardepie)

As humans, we receive a vast array of sensory input throughout the day, and our minds are constantly trying to sort out and understand this information.  What I find interesting are the various methods we individually distinguish between what we pay attention to
, what we consider to be true and accept, and what we decide to believe or not believe.

For instance, observing myself and other passengers seeing a floor mat that says "Saturday":

  • Some people looked at their watch or phone to confirm the day;
  • Some talked to their companion to confirm the day;
  • Others simply shook their heads in affirmation; and,
  • A few didn't say or do anything.

When are you too close to a situation to see it fully?
(Photo: Holland America artwork - Larry Gardepie)

Another nice feature of Holland ships is the artwork scattered throughout the vessel.  I have always admired creative simplicity:  being able to artistically tell or display simple scenes.  One art piece was covered with colored plastic bubbles that had been squished.
Looking closely, you could appreciate the technique and amount of work - the placement of each plastic bubble; the evenness and consistency when depressing the bubbles.  Stepping back, the viewer could now see, understand, and appreciate the full image.  Both closeness and separation were important to appreciate what was before us.

Can you step back and appreciate a different view?
(Photo:  Holland Artwork - Larry Gardepie)

I would suggest that Dialogue invites us into meaningful conversations about differing ideas, opinions, thoughts, and truths.  It attempts to differentiate between facts and assumptions we have held closely, and to build foundations of shared meaning and understanding.
Dialogue doesn't presume that everyone will agree on everything.  But it relies on goodwill and trust to look closely and then step back on various topics, issues and concerns.  It asks that we develop an awareness of where we gather information and with whom we check it out.
I am worried, though, that our society is playing with the anti-thesis of dialogue:  to push out narratives and perspectives that push away opportunities to come together.  Like my April Fool's suggestion to the cruise director, today's narrative attempts to confuse.

My prayer as we enter each Holy Week of our lives, let us release the foolish perspectives that separate and divide, and let us be drawn together to resurrect New Ways of Being together!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)