30 May 2013

Placemaking and the Soul of the Community

Check out the Placemaking blog, part of the Project for Public Spaces, for some great insight and information on sustainable communities and "placemaking" leadership resources.

In one post, Dr. Katherin Loflin writes about "Learning from Knight's 'Soul of the Community,' Leaning toward the Future of Placemaking." Here, Loflin discusses, among other things like GDP growth, etc., the "softer side" of what facilitates place attachment, including aesthetics, social happenings, friendliness, optimism.

Other results can be found at the Knight Foundation's Soul of the Community study.

I found out about this where I find out about most things these days: Twitter. To be specific, a post by Tim Soerens tipped me off to these great resources.You can find me, too, tweeting at @JTspartz.

Come on, join the fun!

14 May 2013

Topophilian Art - From a Michigander in Brooklyn.

From one Topophilian to another...
"Ben's Horn" by John Tebeau - acrylic & mixed media
on canvas (2011) 16" x 20" - available for sale.
Image used without permission.

I ran across some colorful and fun place-based art by Michigan-born, Brooklyn-based artist John Tebeau.

His "John Tebeau Presents TOPOPHILIA" collection focuses on tavern and restaurant signs. It appears to be ongoing and growing.

Other work mixes pop culture, bright colors, and iconic images, like "Ben's Horn" here.

This work reminds me of old hotel/motel signs I've seen out West. I always want to snap photographs of these signs, even in their typical state of decay.

I found Tebeau the same place I find most anything these days, on Twitter of course.

You can find me there, too: @JTspartz.

08 May 2013

The Capital T truth of Freedom?

What is the Capital T truth of Freedom?

Perspective in Life is a Choice.

Believe it.


2005 Commencement Speech to graduating class of Kenyon College
by David Foster Wallace, re-imagined by The Glossary.

03 May 2013

From "Wild" to "Kon Tiki" - Discovering A New Normal on the Trail.

Having read two "travel" books lately, I noticed that both shared a similar passage, marking not only a literary passage but also physical and emotional passage of the authors.

These books, published decades apart, are "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "Kon-Tiki" by Thor Heyerdahl.

Both document a long journey through unfamiliar territory, one on land and one by sea. Both relate a subtle but pivotal point in the journey where the process of travel, the territory and tenor of the journey, changes. A new normal emerges.

In "Wild," Strayed comes to a point toward the end of her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail where the long stretches of solitude, the process of setting up and breaking down camp every night and day had become routine. Not in a "I'm bored with this" sort of way, but in a reassuring way, providing indicators of growth, self-reliance, and fortitude while hinting at trepidation in the "what next?" of post-journey life.

Strayed suggests this transition on page 271, "It seemed impossible that I wouldn't be on the trail, but it was true." and comes more fully into it later on, near the Sandy River in northwest Oregon, having hiked past "two of the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson and Broken Finger" where it "felt good to be alone. It felt spectacular."

Looking forward to the end of her journey, about fifty more miles to the Columbia River gorge and the iconic Bridge of the Gods, Strayed is excited to be nearly done but also scared. On page 306, she writes: "I didn't know how living outdoors and sleeping on the ground in a tent each night and walking alone through the wilderness all day almost every day had come to feel like my normal life, but it had. It was the idea of not doing it that scared me."

Strayed had become, one lost toenail at a time, more self-assured and comfortable with the trail and herself. As a solo hiker taking on the step-by-step, day-by-day backcountry sojourn she began rather naively many weeks prior, this passage represents a turning point. Her troubled past was all but gone, the future was like a vista from Mount Hood. Wide open. Hop, skip, spin, done.

Is there a name for this turning-point? It is a common literary device (and common life experience). Surely there is some German word, something akin to Bildungsroman. Achtung, Deutschophiles!

During the Kon-Tiki expedition, led by Thor Heyerdahl with a stalwart crew of five, there was a similar passage. Mentioned almost in passing, just a sentence or two, it struck me as similar to the subtle transition expressed by Strayed.

From page 128 of Kon-Tiki: "We almost felt as if we had done nothing else since Tiki's days but sail about the seas under sun and stars searching for land."

And 129: "We no longer had the same respect for waves and sea. We knew them and their relationship to us on the raft. Even the shark had become a part of the everyday picture; we knew it and its usual reactions. We no longer thought of the hand harpoon, and we did not even move away from the side of the raft, if a shark came up beside."

For both Heyerdahl and Strayed, what was once unfamiliar and fear-inducing - a threat of bear or shark and vast 'wild' space - had become all but routine and merely necessary. We come upon the "new normal" from time to time. We embark on a new endeavor and we eventually adjust to change. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by fate. On and on. Again and again. Change is the constant. The flow is all we know.

It may seem only symbolic but it is important to recognize these markers. Symbols carry a lot of power. Markers and metaphors are ways we make sense of the world. We owe them their due. Acknowledge the transitions, let the trail be the guide. A new normal is always just beginning.