Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is It Instinct?

Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity. – Coco Chanel 

Once, when I was in a visioning group for a client of mine, working with them to determine a vision for the organization's future, a participant said, "What has come out of the recession is a yearning for the authentic, the real. People are wary of investing time and money into the typical. They want something human." 

This comment struck a chord with me and made my mind rapid fire. It is a trend I recognized but had not articulated. Because we don't have a massive amount of imaginary capital, we have to be smarter about our choices to as to not waste resources. We are finite, yet our actions have infinite implications. When we follow our desire for authenticity, we reap the benefits of more human connection, less bullshit to wade through,  and a knowledge that our actions made a difference. If it isn't instinct telling us to be more human, what is it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Can Create Our Own Sunshine

I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with one Miss Erin Dooley, coworker, friend, and bright sprite of a woman. She and I have been working together for a year and a half now, and having shared many lunchtime conversations about food and happiness, we decided to make a meal together.

First, a tour of her lovely apartment. I am moving to a new house soon, so I took note of her impeccable abode, and marveled at her pretty cool view.

We went to the market to pick up ingredients for red lentil dahl soup. This is Erin's standby recipe:

2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp tumeric 
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 ilb 4 oz canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
1 cup red lentils
2tsp lemon juice
2 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper
chopped coriander (cilantro) and lemon slices, to garnish 

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and saute and the garlic and onion to 2–3 minutes, stirring. Add the spices and cook for further 30 seconds. 

2. Stir in the tomatoes, red lentils, lemon juice, vegetable stock and coconut milk and bring to a broil. 

3. Reduce heat and simmer for 25–30 minutes until lentils are tender and cooked. 

4. Season to taste and garnish. 

The dahl soup warmed us down to our toes and tasted like what I imagine the sun in India tastes like: heavy, hot and tinged with silky sweet. Eating the meal, sitting on the floor and listening to the tinkling of gamelan music, was as much of a joy as preparing the meal. Thank you thank you, Erin, for sharing your space and talents with me! Check out Erin's clothing line, Unity People, a company aimed to "provide you with clothing that represents cultural unity." Love all around. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Which Words Will You Use?

One kind word can warm up three winter months. – Japanese proverb 

It is not yet winter, but I feel the descending darkness weighing heavy on my mind. Winters in the Northwest didn't used to be hard. I was too consumed by school work and part time jobs to even notice. But now I can freely admit that the weather affects me. 

I received a card the other day from a friend who moved away recently. He said, "Sometimes I wonder at what luck earned me your friendship. Whatever the source, I certainly cherish it." Those words struck me in a way I hadn't felt in a while, the way I can only describe as hot tea melting into my chest, filling me with warmth until my cheeks glow. He and I have shared countless cups of tea and coffee, and I am grateful for these words that will certainly help carry me through the winter months. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Liberating the World from Bad Music!

When I'm at a concert, preferably in a crush of people and usually with my eyes closed, I like to think the bass line is echoing my heartbeat. Music has soundtracked my life, and I had the great privilege of being raised by two people who spent their formative years surrounding themselves by great music in the heart of the rock scene in Los Angeles, and who educated my brother and I from an early age. (Example:  Buddy Holly is the true king of rock and roll, never go to a Rolling Stones concert unless it's a free ticket, and Jethro Tull showed the world that the flute could really rock.) Music has the power to transform moments into miracles, connect us in ways that we didn't ponder possible. It really does change lives. 

I have the great pleasure of working closely with KEXP, a public radio station on the dial in Seattle and around the world at, whose mission is to champion music and discovery. A local filmmaker recently directed a short documentary about the Seattle music scene titled "Something in the Water," to accompany the premier of Cameron Crowe's "Pearl Jam 20" on PBS. The doc features KEXP, along with other local institutions Experience Music Project and Sub Pop, and the music of Shabazz Palaces, Pickwick, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and the Head and the Heart. Check out the trailer below, and watch the entire thing here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But What Is Success?

A path to success is not paved with good intentions, but with good intentions that are carried out.

I used to think success was finding that one thing that would be the catalyst for all other things in my life to fall into place—the perfect partner, the dream job, the stellar apartment. But there is no snake oil fix for the unpredictability of life. There cannot be one single thing that will make breath in and say, "Ah, there it is, the life I've been searching for," because there are always variables.

Instead, I want to look at the path as a series of adventures, lessons to be learned, experience to dive into head first with eyes wide open. Can't success be the toe-curling, arms-to-the-sky, full-throated rebel yell celebration of the path itself?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So When the Sun Starts Rising and the City's Awake

Legend has it that the founding members of Houses, Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina, were fired from and quit their jobs at a large corporate chain store in Chicago, moved to Hawaii where they lived with little electricity and running water, and made music. What resulted is an anthem for experiential living—a call to pause and soak it all in, backed by ethereal beats and what sounds like echoing tennis balls. Their first full-length album, All Night, was released a year ago October 19 and is still going strong. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This Must Be the Place

How did I get here? It all started when I was I gnashing on and on about my life to my cousin—the long hours at my job, the lack of motivation I felt for everyday tasks, the steady march towards death with the promise of a modest 401k. Her response was, “There’s always the farm.”

I thought she was suggesting sending me to a farm where I could run free with other burnt out young professionals, like the fabled family dog. But she was in fact referring to a farm in Northern California where her daughter was living and working. She suggested I take some time off and visit. Her daughter was more than welcome to the idea, and after an airplane flight and stop at the thrift store to pick up work clothes, I found myself in a place where the heat hugged instead of smothered and I was surrounded by evergreen soldiers for miles.

For almost a week, myself and seven others lived in the rhythm with the earth. We woke with the sun, rested with the animals, and worked with the crops to harvest and plant. I was most often barefoot in the kitchen, preparing meals with ingredients that came within a few acres of the house. Butternut squash and granny smith apple soup, tomatillo sauce and potato enchiladas with handmade tortillas, lacto-fermented jalapeƱos using the whey from the goat cheese I had made earlier. Mealtime was a chorus of thank you’s back and forth. Sometimes, if it was early enough, after dinner we’d go back out to the acres and tend to the crops.

As I came down off the mountain, I tried to gather all of my memories and lessons in my head. I’ve crumpled back into my city life in the Northwest and my shoulders tighten when I think of my habits—mindless consumption, convenience, isolation. We live in a world of boundless imagination, creativity, purpose, and potential. Why was I not partaking? Why was I not contributing? What was my intention?

Mindfulness and communion take time and energy, things I was convinced I did not have enough of. In reality, I was making choices that limited my time and energy, and therefore my happiness and satisfaction. For example, two things I enjoy immensely are singing and cooking. By choosing to snap shut in my iPod isolation on the rushed bus ride home, pick up a frozen pizza at the grocery store (from the natural food section, but still), and cook and eat it while refreshing Facebook, I’ve limited my chances to savor and enjoy anything. Instead, I make the choice to walk home and spend some time in unfiltered air, stop at the co-op to see and talk with the familiar faces of the cashiers and pick up ingredients, take everything to my tiny kitchen, put on some music and sing while I prepare myself a meal made from whole foods. The meal is a joy to make, a treat to eat, and the energy I get from the locally sourced, organic produce is beyond anything that comes wrapped in cardboard and plastic. I feel satisfied and motivated to do it all again the next day.

The choices I make are not novel, they’re natural. And people all over the world are making the same choices. This blog is a series of meditations and interviews on intentional living and creative consumption. There is a spirit that is driving us to be active and conscious, to connect with each other and ask questions. Recent fiscal years have taught us that the status quo isn’t working, and only a select few win if you play the game right. What are the alternatives, and why do they have to be considered “alternative”?

Do you have ideas? Stories? Questions? Email me and let's talk. I have no answers, only habits I am trying to get into to make my eco footprint a little smaller, my life a little richer. Let's work together if you're doing the same.

With love,