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Archive for June, 2013

Musings on Tea and Japan and Manners and just being aware of other people.

Here’s a slightly different post.


I read this morning that in Japan it is considered impolite to fill your own glass.

Something about this has struck me deeply, I love the idea of a point of etiquette being based on the idea that those eating together must be attune to each other’s needs.  I watch for your cup to empty, or get low, and you watch for me.  Together we all get enough to drink. I’m not quite sure how this works when you’re eating (and drinking) alone…maybe you don’t need to be quite so polite when you’re alone.

My goal this week is to move this into my life.  To try to be attentive to those around me – to see where they need what I have to offer.

I know this blog is about art and personal growth…good manners are an art…so there.

This Post will last FOREVER . . . Babe!


If you’ve only read one sonnet in your life, it was probably Sonnet 18…”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day . . .”

You were probably forced to read it by some English teacher who was desperate to excite you about Shakespeare by pointing out the obvious sexual references. . . I know I was.

Much as I like love the sexual references, forget about them for a sec.  Look at the last two lines . . .

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

In simple modern English, he’s saying “This poem is so awesome they will be reading it FOREVER; I just made you immortal Babe.”

The sonnets are numbered roughly in the order they were written, so #18 (of 154) was written when he was a pretty young guy.

It’s the most arrogant thing ever written in the English language.  It would be unacceptably arrogant . . . if it wasn’t turning out to be true.

There are a lot of reasons why Shakespeare’s great, one that is often overlooked is that he knew from the start that he was great.

Do you have the courage – the honesty – the unadulterated Chutzpah to believe how great you are?  We ALL have greatness within us.  Find yours and bring it to the world, this is not an option, it is our job here on earth.  Some are great writers, or painters, or parents or cooks, but we’ve all got something the world is hungry for.

Find your greatness and you will change the world in wonderful ways.

Happy solstice…or why I wish I were at Avebury with the throng.

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2013, the longest day of the year.

The Summer Solstice always makes me think of two things, one memory and one question.

First the memory:  seven years ago we were visiting relatives in Wales.  One beautiful sunny day my wife’s cousin Peter asked if we wanted to see the standing stones at Avebury.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I`m always up to see something new.  Off we went.  On the way he explained that the standing stones were the largest collection of prehistoric standing stones in Europe…bigger than Stonehenge but for some reason not nearly as famous.  The closer we got, the more congested the small road got.  I didn`t think anything of it until we came to a virtual standstill.

The standing stones of Avebury - without the unwashed masses

The standing stones of Avebury – without the unwashed masses

Suddenly Pete let out a colourful expletive, followed by `Oh my God, Oh my God, it`s the %”*!$ing Solstice.`  That`s when I saw them.  Huge numbers of people: bikers, hippies, druids wandering with their children among these magnificent stones.  It was a sight I`ll never forget and wished I was part of . . . I`ll also never forget the running commentary by Pete as he cursed `the great unwashed of Europe` who had descended upon his idyllic plans for the day.

He refused to stop the car and I never did get to join the throng, but it’s still one of my favourite memories of a wonderful trip.  Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that are unplanned.

A few days later we got to Stonehenge where there were only a few very polite and well washed Druids performing some very beautiful ceremonies.  I preferred my day with the throng – whom I suspect were actually better washed than I was during much of this trip.

The second thing I think of on every solstice is a question:  Why isn`t this the hottest day of the year?  It has more hours of sunshine and more direct sunshine than any other day this year. BUT and it’s a big BUT, this isn’t the hottest day of the year.  The sticky hot, wish you could take your skin off it’s so hot, days of August are still months away.

NO – here’s why.

Change takes time . . . even the earth knows it.  The earth is still reluctant to fully surrender the cold that set in last winter; it lingers in the rocks, in the lakes, in the building, in the very soil itself.  It hasn’t fully caught up to the warming influence of the longer days yet.

I had a text message from a friend who’s been making some healthy choices for his body lately, he’s discouraged; he’s doing all the right things, but not losing any weight.  It’s just not shifting.  I feel for him, it’s tough and our bodies, like the earth, like our emotions, like our souls, like to linger in the past, in the comfort of the known.  There are all kinds of theories around the subject of why change takes time, I personally think it’s the universe’s way of finding out if we’re really serious.

Warmer days are coming.  Have faith; if you’re doing the right things, if the light is shining, the world will catch up, it has to.  There are going to be setbacks, there are going to be problems and some days are going to feel colder than others, but we will get there.

Naked in Florence

I’d been seeing pictures of this naked guy for most of my life.  Now I was finally in Florence and I figured it was time to see if the real thing measured up.

I’m talking about Michelangelo’s David – what were you thinking?

For almost 375 years (1504 – 1873) years he stood outside in the Piazza della Signoria. Then he was moved inside to the Accademia di Belle Arti to protect him . . .  personally I think it was to move him somewhere they could charge tourists to see him.   I guess the Piazza was looking a little lonely, because a few years later, a replica was put in his place.  That’s right, a fake David replaced him.

I have a tendency to exhaust myself on vacation, I want to see and do EVERYTHING.  So by the time I got to Florence, I had already seen Rome, Venice, Assisi, Siena, Pizza, a dozen smaller towns and enough of the stunning Italian countryside to make me dizzier than the Italian wine.

I gazed at the fake David in the Pisa, it’s beautiful; I was tired and broke; for a moment I considered skipping the very long line and the very expensive ticket to the Accademia.  I will never regret slogging my tired tourista butt over to the line and paying the exorbitant price to see a statue that was commissioned and carved to be on public (FREE) display.

The copy is impressive and beautiful, the original is alive.  I know, I know you’ve now decided I’ve lost it and are about to flip over and check out someone else’s blog, but before you do, take a second and go with me.  I’m serious about this, that 17 foot hunk of marble man is breathing.  It’s as though five hundred years ago some seventeen foot naked guy was walking through the Accademia and someone over to his left yelled “Hey Dave” and he looked…he’s still looking.

There is a life in the original that is not in the copy, even a stunning copy.

You are an original.  When we live our lives as copies of someone else: trying to live up to someone else’s dreams, expectations or limitations, we lose originality; we lose life . . . NO ONE wins.

Live your life as the original masterpiece it is and everyone around you wins . . . even the people who think you should do it their way.

Pay the extra, go see the original; go the extra mile, be the original.  It’s worth it.


I had an awesome experience this week.  My friend Andrew teaches a course in “Advanced Group” at Laurier University.  It’s a postgraduate course teaching Social Workers to facilitate groups…everything from parenting to addiction.  He asked me to come and talk about my experiences as a member of various groups that were lead with different styles – some great – some…not so much.

I always love talking about myself so Andrew and I drove to Kitchener where I met with the most amazing group of people.

Before Andrew asked me to come and speak, I wouldn’t have thought that I had been much of a resource on this, I tend to work solo, especially on things like personal growth.  Then I got thinking.  I realized my growth both as an artist and as a person has been constantly involved working with other people, sometimes in a group situation, sometimes one on one.

This interplay between working with others and working on my own has been playing with my mind ever since.

We think of the great artist of the world as individuals who worked on their own, and they did (generally), but it can’t be a coincidence that so many of the world’s greatest artists worked in the same cities and had overlapping careers: Mozart and Beethoven, Michelangelo and Leonardo.  It extends outside the find art community, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison both said their friendship with each other was a tremendous increase to their creative and industrial output.

The interplay between working together and working alone is essential for our growth. We develop our skills, hone our craft and find our true voices alone, together we push each other to greatness, encourage each other to do better and keep each other grounded and sane.  We need both.


My friend Janet and I have an interesting and unusual relationship.

She helps me focus my speaking business.*

I weed her garden.

I get the better end of the deal.

I love gardening, mucking around in the dirt makes me happy, but I’m NOT an expert.  Weeding my own garden can be slow and frustrating; spending a lot of time trying to figure out which are weeds and what should stay.

Janet, the focus expert, points.  “This, this, that,, that and the tulips (Janet’s Dutch) stay – the rest can go.”

LESSON:  It’s faster, easier, more efficient and a LOT simpler to focus on what we DO want then going through everything in our lives, or our gardens, or our closets etc. etc. piece by piece trying to decide if it has value.

Janet tells me that there’s no Dutch word for “weed”.  I LOVE that.  Every plant has value, the question isn’t about the worth of the plant, it’s about whether I want it in my garden.

I’m going to get better at applying this in the rest of my life.  I can spend HOURS looking at the various things in my life (things that can VERY easily distract me) instead of focusing on what I want.  When I focus on what I DO want the choices all get faster, easier, more efficient and a LOT simpler.

I think I’m going to Blog about compost soon.

* Check out Janet’s website at www.getrealbranding.com she really is pretty awesome…and she’s got a very nice garden now.

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