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June 20, 2018

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Miracle

In Home Page: Home in Memory

In Left To Myself : It’s Just…

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Road Warrior

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days

HOME in Memory

June 24, 2018

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LIVE RADIO THIS THURSDAY, NOON-1pm, JUNE 28! WPKN 89.5FM or STREAMING http://www.wpkn.org 

Why do we care so much about our homes? The production housing industry has carpet bombed the suburbs for 2 generations, media has a full-on DIY/Tiny House/McMansion Hell/HOUZZ/Home Adviser obsession – Lowes & Home Depot are virtually in every part of American life. We care about our homes. A lot.

But what about those homes we no longer have? Personally, it is easy to see those places through the fuzzy lens of youth, but culturally, America’s first buildings were homes, and very few of that original stock remains, and the venerated Historic Home has often outlived its building family. Where are those long gone homes in our memory?

Addressing these thoughts is diverse and engaged group of design professionals. With me in studio is architect Susan Ingham, visiting from Seattle. She founded KASA Architecture in 2004. Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Susan also spent a short time in Japan as an exchange student. She continued her studies in California, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Susan studied and worked intensively with noted professor, architect, and author Christopher Alexander and his colleagues (author of A Pattern Language and other books).

Jason Bischoff-Wurstle is the Director of Photo Archives of the New Haven Museum, but he is also a lover of the history of home, and, along with Bob, he is also a Board Member of the NHPT. Jason has created many of the New Haven Museum’s most interesting exhibits, connecting the past with the people of today, and as an old home occupant and new father, his insights will be invaluable.

Bob Grzywacz is an architect, but more, he is an old house owner and a fully engaged architectural historian – on the Board of The New Haven Preservation Trust (NHPT). Bob obtained his Bachelor of Science from Lehigh University and his Masters of Architecture from Yale University. He has been working in the field of architecture for 44 years. Bob is a Licensed Architect in Connecticut and New York and is a LEED Accredited Professional.

Why do we love our homes so much, for our culture’s history – and, perhaps into a new future and vision? LISTEN TO A GREAT HOUR!

Miracle

June 24, 2018

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I probably have 3.5 trillion cells in my body. My friend’s new baby (above) has fewer, but mine are very old, hers are brand new.

But it is easy to see that baby and the grinding products of effort as miracles. It is easy to declare control, presume understanding, find purpose in beauty or outrage and press on amid a world that is full of venues for expression.

This spring I was in Seattle, DC, Oregon, Sorrento, Buffalo, NYC, a half dozen libraries/historic societies,-  giving full on talks/presentations – I even made a book for one. In other places I dealt with the death of a loved one, in another the end of an 11 year project – and I taught across 9 time zones. Additionally, I helped produce a concert, a spoken word piece and a celebratory dinner and produced 3 radio shows. The 30 active jobs in the office were complemented by 20 potential projects and another 20 in some form of need – and all the while had great good times with my wife and friends.

Many things in this listing you might call “miracles”.

But those are not miracles, they are all part of what I know, can control and effort in making, This is a world that my cells, and others’, made, in a culture that millions evolved and the economic/governmental structure that has been in place for a couple of hundred years. No miracles here. Just hard work and time.

But those cells are miracles.

500 years ago our structures were simple: a flat earth, about 5,000 years old, we dedicated our lives to dealing with a presumed Supreme Order (God in many forms) that simply made everything and imposed favor or judgement on everything. The sky was a showcase, made for us. The earth, us, was the center of everything.

How much, at the nub of perspective, has changed?

These wildly changing last couple of centuries have revealed that those cells, their quantity, extreme complexity and ways our physical forms happen, heal, and function. When all is working, the freedom those cells give our minds allows for purpose, outrage, lust, distraction, faith, violence, thoughts and yes, love.

We know about disease, galaxies, sub-atomic particles to a level that we can begin to see the scope of where we are, unseeably big, small and complex. Even Darwin who was one of those 19th century code-crackers could deduce the realities of how the living world specializes and survives, could have no understanding of how all these extreme specializations, insane, unnecessary, complexities, our own ability to find faith in what we know actually happened beyond chronicling the process.

No one knew much of cells, let alone subatomic particles or Dark Matter. Those black boxes of meaning and effectuation were silent against the extreme dissonance of dismissing all understanding to the infinite power of what we did not understand: God.

I have faith, but even amid the crush of exploding knowledge, I have zero conviction I know enough to answer any “Why”, and any numbers of “How’s”.

I know the creative gifts we have are not due to our effort, – not the projects, buildings, relationships either. The miracle is that each of us are even here, doing this, breathing, growing, healing, thinking – the extreme, unending interactions, processes, and transitions of light, smell, taste, coordination – but I find that the miracle is the healing scab on my right knee.

We have over 100 separate cellular do-si-do’s that must happen when our flesh is damaged just to stop bleeding. Then it heals. I do not heal it by anything I do. And it works both ways – I cannot sing, I am not in the NFL.

The cacophony of conviction, creation, production in our lives, mine especially this spring, is just the result of an infinite number of miracles that are as opaque as the night sky was to those who divined constellations. If I thought for 1 minute about the thousands of assumptions I make every day, the presumptions of purpose, even the faith in the worth all the effort is directed towards, I might simply stop.

It is a miracle, meaning completely outside our capacity to understand, why and how this all happens. But the more I know and do, the more the reality of the beauty of that baby gains power.

The reality of the thrill we have in us that so many simulate with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll becomes realler the more I do. Love is a sappy catch-all rationalization, but for the simple truth that what pushes us beyond ourselves is the overwhelming power that compels the actions all those cells allow us to do is, in the end, irrational love.

For me, love has no basis in fact, but pretty much all the facts of my life come from it.

Two Lives

June 14, 2018

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Over the last 8 months I have given 2 eulogies. One for my sibling, who I knew for about 50 years, then slipped away into her own world that she fully created and then ended. I knew the other memorialized for almost 50 years as well – but had virtually no genetic link to him.

My children met my sibling but a few times, only once, briefly, as my sister. We named our first born son after my recently departed friend. We spend many, many happy days and meals with my friend and his family.

The first funeral was before a dozen of our friends and a dozen of my sister’s co-workers. It was very brief, poignant, hard and redeeming, as the love of the unexpected co-workers, who all drove 100 miles to be there, was astonishing, and true.

My words that day were all they knew of my sister when he was my brother. He lived a life in and of himself, despite marriages, a flirt with Faith, and devotion to whatever work he, then she, had:

“I was raised with Win Dickinson until I was 18, so I can attest that his early years had more than their share of pain and disappointment.

That truth was clear 30 years ago, when he insisted on giving something like what I am doing now, a memorium, at our father’s funeral. My father was neither understanding nor kind when it came to many things. That shaped my brother’s life, to the point, that upon my father’s death, Win rose to create the hero father we never had: a full construction our mother never understood.

However I never knew Dora West, she absented herself from the lives of those who knew her as Win Dickinson – so I prayed for her, here, every week for the last 23 years.

Dora’s transitions over the last 50 years were in hope of creating a life she wanted, and I hope she found peace. The truth is none of us are owed any outcome and get what we think we deserve. We really do not control much. God has given us life and we find our way here on earth. Whether it’s the gifts we have been given or the burdens we endure, we did not earn them.

Dora’s life here is now over, and in the end Dora silently relied on her brother to effect this transition. But despite all our efforts, the last transition is not up to anyone here. This last change is between Dora and God, the God that made her, and us, that heard her prayers, that is here now, then, and always.”

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The funeral last week gathered 400 folk on a Monday morning, so many came, including two choirs, two church’s clerics, a bishop, 6 eulogizers, several more readers all revealing, in glowing thoughts, a full life of giving, helping, listening, inspiring, but mostly loving.

There was no mystery. His avowed goal was to be an example. He walked all the talk he received that day. He was complicated and transparent. He was devoted to one woman and their three children and all their children and spouses. Even me.

My sibling did not have any of those devotions. They were pre-emptied in a hard childhood. But unlike my friend’s polio, or my having the same upbringing as my sibling, my sister’s deep and abiding pain wrought of his first 18 years never left her.

So when it came time to remember Will Clarkson, it was simply a Thank You note: to him, to the God who made both of us – and everyone at both funerals:

“Why are we here?

Love, of course – there is So Much love that is shared by So many with and for Will Clarkson and there is no deeper love than what I feel for the Clarkson’s, today, and every day, thank you.

We have received a long life lived on the field, engaged. Over 2,000 years ago a mother of a Spartan soldier admonished him as he left for the battlefield: “return either with your shield or on it”. If he returned with it, he did not run from the battle, and if he returned on it that shield was his funeral pyre, and he left the field only after giving all he had.

Today Will Clarkson has been brought to us on his shield. Like the rest of us, he was not Holy, but he was for me “our rock and our redeemer”. His devotions were diverse, intense, but, especially, to me in 1970, salvational.

Even though we disagreed on how to sing the Doxology, Will and I shared a common problem: for all the near 50 years that we knew each other we came to realize that we were just a little, well, obsessional. If we were in, we were IN. Often involving 5AM emails. The sidelines were not so interesting for either of us, we were on the field, not watching it, sometimes together, more likely in a garden or creating something but together. Like we are now, here.

Despite having childhood polio, or maybe because of it, his life was a series of endeavors, passions, and commitments. From the detail to the Broad Vision Will Clarkson never stopped – life is about getting things done like my getting 7 articles from him last night delivered by Nan in an envelope labeled “Duo”.

For Will, if you loved architecture you built it. If you wanted to see a place you were not taken on a tour, you rode your bike through it. If you were part of a company you rethought it. If you wanted to have a garden, not only did you create it, but you fully engaged in French Intensive Bed Agricultural Technologies BEFORE the Internet allowed for easy obsessions. If you had a friend you met him at midnite at the Syracuse bus station to get to the Adirondacks ( after napping on the breakdown lane) in time for a 3 day plant in 1975.

I think Will lived the life of extraordinary effort because he knew that he was blessed. A full and loving family, a life where work has not limited to career, where ideas were sought, and evolved, rather than recited – I think Will knew that he had much, and thus fully lived a life where much was expected, and given by him.

And if you were blessed enough to know Will Clarkson, he got to know you, too. Devotion is a two way street, that is why it is Love. It is harder to devote than watch, harder to care and engage, but those realities inevitably lead to thanks – a thanks we gather to give Today, and every day, because

“It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty,
that we should at all times and in all places
give thanks unto thee,
O Lord, holy Father,
almighty, everlasting God,”

Thank you, God, For Will Clarkson.”

Both lasted precisely five minutes. Both lives were, like all lives, circumscribed by death. My sibling’s was a surprise, but, seemingly caused by the eventualities of a world he created. My friend died after a long decline, continuing as he could through a myriad of relationships, projects and values.

One life changed many, the other tried desperately to control her own. One did not want to leave this life. The other carefully ended a life that could not be sustained.

God was in both. In the same and radically distinct ways that baffle and guide whatever I am called to do.

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Death Is Having A Good Season

June 12, 2018

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I gave a eulogy yesterday.

A great man lived over 90 years. He created a full and great family with an equally loving, smart and compelling woman, combining two large, fully loving families across the Midwest, Canada and history.

The funeral was a fulfiment – the 91 years of devotion and care had been layered upon layered to the point where every participant in the ceremony was both extolling and fully accurate to perhaps 400 well dressed people in Buffalo New York.

But the context extended beyond Buffalo. The media has been awash in those others we all “knew” in the 2 dimensional world with shocked reporting of those who had ‘everything” ending everything.

But they clearly did not have “everything”

No one does.

My beloved friend came pretty close. Despite polio and being ripped from Home and Hearth to run from Hitler, his 91 years was all consuming engagement, interaction and achievement.

Not just the 2 dimensional kind. He had the love of children and grandchildren, 6 siblings, and his wife and her scores of relatives. He made things, did things and loved many, who loved him too. Including me.

He also, quietly, loved God. He knew he lived in a context that was not 2 dimensional, and a good bit more than the 3 dimensional realities of our lives. That reality is now easy to dismiss as self-deceiving fantasy. You are loved, accepted and live beyond this time and place. If it was deception, it was incomplete.

Having done so much, he desperately did not want to die. He loved, deeply, the here and now. He went to wherever he was going last month holding the hand of his wife, his here and now for over 60 years. No joyous expectation of the Great Beyond, just the sad reality that what he loved, and who loved him, were leaving him over a 6 month decline in the comfort of home.

No tragedy, much to be grateful for, faith in a God who loved him too, but what was in him, all of us, is sadness. Loss. Ending.

In the midst of all the joys of money, achievement and yes, fame, there were others who found ending that love preferable to doing the very thing my friend wanted; to move the world he made forward,

But our cells degrade, no matter what we do. And other cells need to survive and sometimes kill us to live – cancers, virii, bacteria are as deadly as cars, guns, water even red scarves.

Life is a switch.

You are “On” or, well, “Off’. Or maybe it is a channel changer. We do not know. So most of us try to stay alive, liking this place. We eat less, sweat more. We avoid risk. We have doctors.

But some of us do drugs, booze, sex, gaming, binging to create a here and now of distraction – the switch does not exist if you create your own channel changer.

The ultimate remote control for your 2 dimensional life is suicide. It is there for all of us, all the time. Some end physical pain. Some end confusion. But ultimately our channel gets changed whether we want it to or not.

In that decision we weigh the values and rewards and pains and threats of our 3 dimensional lives, no matter what is there in 2 dimensions.

But for me there is clearly, undeniably, more than 3 dimensions. The reality of God is like the air I know will be there with each unavoidable breath. That reality was made present to me while I was so young that I do not have the desire to change channels. This is the channel that was given to me. It was created for me, and you.

But if you know that you made all the dimensions there are, you can change the channel, even if it is using the ‘Off” switch.

If that “Off’ switch is used, it simply cannot control all the channels if there is more than 3 dimensions. Love is not ended by any of us because it was not made by us – and it is shared, bound between more than you, more than any dimensions.

Love is clearly a dimension I do not understand. I know how deeply flawed I am, but I know I am loved. And I cannot control it. It ends up controlling me. A bit disconcerting.

That loss of controlling the essential can make those who live in 2 or 3 dimension want to get to a place they understand, and control.

The “Off” switch ends power, it does not reveal or confirm it. The power we have is not ours. The power of love has no “Off” switch, because God exists whether we are in our 3 dimensions or not, let alone the 2 dimensions we obsess over.

That love, or the loss of it here and now, causes deep pain and fear. The impossibility of controlling it, or really much else, compels some to confirm a power they never had,

Or they know these 3 dimensions are here and now, and part of that are those cells that fail us. All of us.

I will miss my friend of 50 years in ways I do not know yet, but will feel every day. Love saved my sad life 50 years ago, in many ways a gift of my friend. I wish I had some joy in knowing of some huge next channel or future, but I do not. But I have love. So do you.

When This Life Leaves

June 6, 2018

 

 

 


We all die.

Yet we say things like “life saving”, and “passing” and move heaven and earth to prolong the oldest and evilest among us. Life is The Basis for all this, the words here, wearing a Kate Spade bag or watching a football game.

Even though it is universal, the sense of our own inevitable end triggers terror, dumbfounded befuddlement and the deepest of sadness.

For a pet. For a royal. For a parent. Whether it is Kate Spade hanging herself despite extreme success and a family and health – or Dwight Clark who spent a decade slowly losing his fully athletic life – we all die. And pass judgment on the dying. Because we lose all alternatives once the focus of our thoughts is at room temperature.

I speak at a funeral of someone I deeply venerated on Monday. My fully mysterious sibling died last year. As I know more and more people, more and more of them die. But now all deaths who were on any media are available to us. The drunk driving victim. The child with cancer. The assinated presidential candidate from 50 years ago.

Death and taxes may be a known reality in every life, but I have not kept up with every year’s taxes and sometimes find out that I overpaid and underpaid. I kinda have a part in their transaction.

Now I work out every day, take 4 pills, do not smoke. Irregularly drink – and only take those 4 pills.

But I may die in a minute.

So when I talk at the funeral for the man who had a long and thoughtful end of a long and graceful life I say, “thank you”. But when my sibling ends his life after 15 years of absence I simply say “I am sorry.” Because there is no more conversation. They have changed only to memory.

Each death becomes a parable. A judgment. A self serving measure. Each death tries to answer the importance and consequence of our own lives.

But I can not, ever, understand my parents. They died decades ago, fully shrouded in their rationalizations of miscalculation, rejection of the simple love of of their children, one’s immersion in a terrible childhood and alcohol – all so complicated that I cannot make myself a victim – let alone turn them into villains.

My friends still spend time mourning Princess Diana, or blaming her, or her husband’s family. We seem to need to learn from the inexplicable. An impossibility.

I do not know why my friend’s 91 year old cells degraded to the point where the engine of his body was unsustainable. I do not know why some of Dwight Clark’s cells made for a cascade of growing incapacity. I do not know why some cells in Kate Spade’s brain thought to make a noose out of a red scarf.

And all those boys on the beach 73 years ago, today,

They all died.

Because we all die.

But we do not want to, despite the outcomes.

News

June 5, 2018

Recent Work

 Getting Done in Westchester

Progress in Greenwich

                                                                                                             

 The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.

   

                                                                                                             

CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.

                                                                                                             

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