Chaotic. Sometimes the holidays can feel that way. But they are behind us now. January is unofficially the month to regroup. It’s just a matter of time before Hallmark launches a line of greeting cards to highlight it. We re-establish our personal goals as the new year begins and we hang our fresh, new calendars near the phone. The chaotic wave of mantic schedules bloated with shopping, parties, school events, hemorrhaging checkbooks and travel has receded and the beach of life is washed clean. A new slate is revealed as the remaining water seeps into the sand.
It’s a pleasant moment in your year when you can catch your breath and reflect. The house has been returned to it’s “normal” state. Fireplace mantles only feature the clock. The side tables return to landing pads for coffee cups instead of micro stages for ceramic winter scenes. As much as we love the surf, it’s nice to catch your breath on solid ground again.
Then, second verse, same as the first. Vacation is over, another wave is building beyond the break and rolling towards shore, large and foaming white. Full of effervescence and treasures from the deep. Kids resume school and return with stacks of obligations and demands… I mean “opportunities” for our involvement.
Suddenly the nice clean page on the wall titled January looks like the patient chart on the show “ER”. Our options are to fight it or learn how to surf. Like all of you, my preference is to surf. It’s the best way to contend with the conditions. To “paddle out and rise”, standing on a undulating board, playing with gravity and always on the brink of taking a dive… what a riot!
This morning when I awoke, the world was quiet. Those of you in the south might not be able to grasp this, but there was an element of new light in the house. A fresh layer of snow had fallen on our world and served as a muffler to capture all ambient sounds. It caused light from the city to bounce and fill our rooms with a mysterious luminescence. Everything was quiet. There was peace.
Recognizing this instilled an awareness that we actually can ride the waves of our life, and without the beach, the waves wouldn’t exist. Without the beach, we wouldn’t have a place to watch the waves. There are rhythms in nature and rhythms in life.
Through researching community design and architecture I have formed an alliance with the belief that successful places mimic this condition. This Pattern Language if repeated in our neighborhoods ultimately provides the most beneficial and sustainable attributes to our society. Diversity within our surroundings and demographics ultimately provides a stronger beach for the waves to pound on. It provides strong branches to capture the snow.
This concept applied to how we organize our homes is perhaps true as well. If we attempt to use the same method everywhere we end up with less effective solutions. If we use only the vowels to build the words, we realize something is missing. What is crucial is understanding the needs and designing the appropriate solution to address it. As an example, big, pale blue tubs on sale at Target might look like a good way to deal with 3,789 Lego parts, but if you have ever watched a child really play with Legos you quickly conclude that most of their time is spent searching for that one part.
Like the other patterns in our life, it might be more effective to use a tower of drawers from an office supply store placed next to your big, blue tub of American Girl dolls, all nesting into a well designed shelving unit.
So maybe we don’t need a surfboard to ride the waves, just an open mind, an insightful eye, combined with guts and patience to try a mix of different options.