Winston and the Lemon Tree

On a recent flight into San Francisco, I was staring out the window at the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range from the tiny space I was shoe-horned into on a Boeing 757. There they were… still snow capped and grand. There were tiny white cumulus clouds perched just above them like birds approaching a feeder, casting exaggerated shadows on the stony surface below.

The view was mesmerizing. The “high sierras”… only one of several landmarks along the way. The great plains, the famed rivers and canyons, and the Rockies (I’m still a fool for the window seat). I was playing back all the memories I had of times I have spent roaming around the country. I remember fending off ground squires in Montana campgrounds… trying to find a good AM radio station at 2:00 in the morning somewhere in North Dakota. I was playing back stories of settlers headed west, pioneering mountaineers who set the first routes up forbidden walls of granite. Treeless horizons through the windshield of a 72′ Super-Beetle.

I was lost in thought about what a young and diverse land we live in. Then, as if I got hit in the face by a wet sock… I overheard a young mom seated behind me say to her 14 month old daughter “when we get home, your Daddy is going to plant a lemon tree in our front yard… yes he is… won’t that be special?” (repeat 3 times in your best googly-woogly baby voice).

I thought, wow! Now that’s something you don’t hear any one say back in Michigan. It reminded me how important it is for us to understand the influence our vast backgrounds and geographic difference has on our cultures. Especially for those of us that design regionally for global applications.

This is so obvious it’s almost not worth using as a blog post. Except the fact that we so easily let this awareness fade in the sunshine of our day-to-day activities, that perhaps an occasional reminder is due.

Since the tarnish had been polished off this insight, it stayed in use for the remainder of the week. San Francisco is truly an international collage of cultures and geographies. It seems impossible to me for someone raised there, to have the same approach to any given career, as someone from say… Buckhead, Georgia. Another great American town.

(how many countries are represented in this photo?)

Other than actually hitting the road and firing off thousands of digital camera shots you can flip through later, I don’t have any hidden secrets for maintaining a good perspective on this. On your next trip to the city, mountains or grocery store, try to spend some time just walking around by yourself with a warm coffee, and look around. Think about where everything came from, and what influenced it’s outcome.

It is important for all of us to remember that a house is built with sticks AND stones. To quote Winston Churchill “We shape our homes, and thereafter they shape us.”


banner photo by JK: produce at D&W (a local grocery store)


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