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Not Supported By Your Mobile Device

March 17, 2018

AC3F6120-307A-4853-AADE-7B1373029847There is a viral video of a tiny animal that can lose entire limbs and completely regrow them. It is a salamanderish amphibianesque thing that is so distinctive that it stopped my scrolling.

It’s a biological mulligan-maker that has infinite do-overs. It’s blindly responsive make-up calls make absence disappear. Wholeness is self-perpetuated.

That is not present in my life.

My appendage, my phone, is often absent. Bad signal. Frozen. Inside a steel encrusted basement. Too hot. No Service. Normalcy is never notable, only a change in the normal. Expectations doom everyone to disappointment. Lack of expectations dooms us to dreary depression.

Which is why that viral video went viral. It captures a fascination with the weird, but more, it fulfills the vague expectation that we can be made whole again. Our inadequacies can simply grow into features. Or at least what is missing can be felt,

I am pretty sure I have never been whole, so I am not a salamander. But I know I am not. Twice in two days, traffic adventures eliminated my capacity to be where I should be. Perhaps 10 years ago, I would have considered that a failure.

Like my phone, my infrastructure could not support my desired outcome. My limb remains a stump. So be it. A cyber platform failed, my IPad could not view something I really have to see. My camera went dark just as I was to take an amazing pic. All in a few days.

I did not get angry. I did not beg the Almighty to support my device.

But I am not Zen. The slow, left-leaning/turn-righting car, the mangled political events on the radio, even the impossible clutter on my passenger seat pisses me off, but not the MIA bits of pre-empted expectation.

I must be getting old. Definitionally I am closer to missing everything every day that passes. I do not ask for regenerated limbs. They are gone. And I listen for that transformative video within me that can make sense of (if not restore) the things that are simply not there.

At least in the car I am never alone. At least in the times when the radio is off, I can feel the larger reality of a world that is no clearer when my device is supported.

The truth is that’s because I am supported. Pretty much all the time. I forget that, curse that, push to support myself. But my stumb will never be an arm, even if I watch that video again and feel superior and completely inadequate.

In this silent black that is Lent, this unchanging support is clearer. But the rest of it is not.


March 16, 2018

Is patience a virtue? I think it is a necessary evil.

We are trained not to wait: it is a primary good to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, love when loving, wash when dirty and on and on. Cause and effect does not have a “Pause” button.

Acting in haste does make for repentance when you err, but not when you crush it. Seizing the moment is not deferred gratitude. Clicking to a new channel, or website, or on a picture, is not done upon reflection.

In case you were too into clicking to notice, it is pretty clear to me that time is collapsing and the alternative to patience, acting out, is being facilitated in an ever increasing pace. Things are spiraling into instant gratification. Guns launch death. You can order anything instantly and receive it almost immediately. The news does not arrive with a morning paper, it’s screaming at you NOW.

But I help build things. Unlike the web candy that talks of prefab houses you unfold, or xerox cut homes a billion people will assemble, the truth is that beyond survival it takes time to find a place and create it, because it is not a choice, it is creation.

We are becoming programmed, like Pavlov’s dog, to see-click. That timeline conditions us for mass frustration, and ever depreciating exaltation.

If the usual action is not creation but choosing, we come to expect choices.

Choices are not defined by you, or by me, they are defined by life, or, something.

We are not good with not controlling choices, but we lose hope if we forget we can create them.

The loss of creating is the looming danger in Artificial Intelligence. Our cultural creativity is ficused on defining choices for everyone in the Unversal Brain that is being assembled like the Tower of Babel in a zillion Server Farms all over the place.

We click for love. We click to get food. We click to find out about our liver. And the response is given to us.

By who (or is it whom?) ? No, it is given to us by a “what”, the huge interconnection that has exploded in a generation, it is a far cry from the simple power of thought and patience of creativity.

Creativity often fails. It sets expectations and dashes hopes. It can be frustrating, even heartbreaking. But it puts me in touch with me, directly, no filter. I may be typing this, but I am creating this. I am not choosing between 56,984 pieces on “Patience” seeing if one makes sense, and going on to the next.

If everyone did that with their homes, I would only design for myself.

But others know that there is more than choosing, there is creating, even though it takes a great deal of time to build almost anything.

But the corollary baggage of creating is twofold: it takes longer than choosing, so patience enters the reality of desire. And secondly, more elusively, you need to have faith to create. Faith in ability, the contexts of money and skill, of place and technology.

But those direct, necessary faiths, facilitated by inspiration around patience as necessities simply evaporate if it all just has no point.

If it’s just too messy, unresolved, risky or simply useless to create, no amount of inspiration and beauty makes sense in any possible outcome. You need Faith that the gift of beauty that you make is there, like the sculpture inside the block of marble Michelangelo revealed, if not it’s all a vain hope, a self serving diversion.

I often wonder, more now that we know that “opioids” are all around us, killing people, why aren’t we all high, drunk, stoned, having sex, breaking things, singing, eating, sleeping: why have we not simply “clicked” into chemical joy, within us, within that little place in our brain that makes ecstacy?

I read ‘Brave New World 40 years ago, and saw the point of the “Soma’ everyone took. I lived through a time when many (many) thought cocaine was “The Answer” – just like Sigmund Freud. But “clicking” ecstasy is not a state that most people aspire to buy and ingest.

I do not think it is just the requirement for money to buy the clicks, nor do I think there is enough fear to keep the horror of opioid engorgement down to a few percent of us. But despite is horrors it’s a tiny frantic part of us.

I think it is that creativity is more powerful, I think we know sleep is necessary, food is really fuel and first, a home shelters you. But we know there is more.

Beauty has extreme joy that nourishes me, and makes me ever hungry to make more of it. I have Faith, that while beauty has meaning and that I will never understand it, it is yet the central good in my life. So I love my family without understanding it, I enjoy the 3,564,989 piece of buttered bread as if I had never had the first, I quake a little when a line on a page or a piece of trim, is not me, it is more than me – or the ink or the wood.

Beauty is only there because Faith is there, not just in the details, definitely not in what I can control. Faith is there because I do not understand, let alone control it, and it crushes me.

The music bit that overwhelms me, the cold breath that snaps my memory, the color that transfixes me are all powered by the opioids we produce within us, because we, we, were created to feel them, live them, create them.

For me, it’s a God thing.

Especially in Lent.

Welcome to Saved by Design

March 15, 2018

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Fred Hoyle & Immanuel Velikovsky

In Home Page: House Money

In Left To Myself : The Mite Box Moment

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: “What do You Think I am, Human?”

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : It Never Fails

It Never Fails

March 15, 2018

Technology never fails to fail.

For a well-planned, prepared and thought-through event, the planned tech rehearsal did not happen because the thing that we could not plan, the weather, happened. So we show up early the next day of the performance, and, well, not early enough.

The show went on. Late. On an emergency rerouted site. With words turned into cryptograms. For some. Not recorded, so re-enacted and recorded apres. But without direct connection of the images shown, so some are not discernible. 3 hours turned into 5.

Oh, well.

So then I look at a repair of a perfectly formed wall.

Then I go to the wrong place for a meeting, late, without a phone number to call to say I went to the wrong place, late.

All in one 8 hours of ongoing failures.

But the show went on. The house stood up. The meeting happened.

That night, with a compensatory Rob Roy being sipped, a friend relays to me her complete detachment from the religious rituals of her youth, to the point of atheism. She wonders if anything can be legitimate with the stank of so much irrelevance, hypocrisy, even disengenuousness  – she wonders if anything religious can have meaning to anyone given the obvious judgmental piety.

“I agree with you.”

She was shocked. “But you, you are sure of these things!”

I am fairly deeply involved in the future of faith. In buildings, people, myself, but more publicly with the Episcopal Church. It has a full belly of ritual, ceremony, opaque preachy words to the point of becoming its own self-congradulatory (and mochably pretentious) club. And by the way, I really love those words and the melodies that have meant to much every Sunday for me.

All those things happened over centuries of time, when ignorance, hubris and the joy of control made a place that has come to be irrelevant to most of us.

But as Groucho said, any club that would admit me is not one that I could belong to.

In that way, over time, buildings always fail. Times, people, technology changes. Buildings need to change too. Religion is no longer a social construct but a personal realization. It is bottom up, not top down.

She then questioned how any building built by any of these clubs could mean anything to anyone but the members of the club – a shrinking number, often pretty defensive here in New England. I told her that buildings are designed for whoever ends up to be their users, no matter who they come to be.

If a place is of a group, that’s who it’s built for. So if I work with those who know the building is not just for the group who is building it, offering up the openness, the joy of welcome, the embrace and the building does not trade on ritual, or inside baseball, or any cultish affect anyone can feel what I know is all of us. If the idea is that the building reflects the deeper truth, that we all have irrational, indefensible love that gives us nothing in return, that simply evokes the happy awe of beauty, is in every human. And I think it can be in every building.

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re perfect!” She replies. I laugh hysterically, and reply, “I only know this because how my life is full of epic fails.” She looked at me intensely.

I relayed to her that because all of us fail, just like all of our things fail, that the difference is that we still have, despite the ongoing failures, the abiding sense that we are not doomed, lost, even compromised enough to end hope. And hope is a breath away from Faith. And if you have failed enough, you begin to see that hope becomes faith, if there is love.

Despite all the pretty, happy, triumphant pics, solemn, righteous oathing, and the achievements so deftly chronicled on social media, that all exist, all of them are but counterpoint to the inevitable, ongoing disappointments and fears everyone has, right now.

The hope in the midst of that often has no reason. The inevitability of death has made for the predators who created “Me too” victims or the weird connections that cause people to kill others, just like them. There is defendability in cynicism, even rejection of what we love. I found that every day in my parents.

The only way I can live is simply live that love they gave up on.

No pontification. No argumendo justification. No control of our culture, or manipulating fear with guilt. Everything, everyone, fails, but the show goes on. When it has no reason to. When the results of our hopes, in faith, are very unreasonable, very unjustified, are not in our control.

The only way I can do that is with buildings. And my family. And some words. But mostly with God, and, for me, Jesus, here in Lent.

Stephen Hawking Is Dead: Now What?

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, whose mind was held by a body in long term failure, died at 75 yesterday. He had ALS, and had an exrraordinarily long survival for someone coping with this malady for 50 years.

But longevity was not his only physical anomaly: the brain held by his ever-retreating bodily capacity was, by all accounts, at the top levels of capacity. He was said to be a genius.

He was also a living cultural icon. His silent face had a voice activated by some connection. His smile, growing to be more of a grimace, was fixed – but his eyes, often the last method of communication, were active.

Beyond brains and extreme courage, Hawking held the spotlight for 2 generations. His first, short, book on the nature of the universe was such a hit, and his physical reality was so different than expected, and he could talk with a great NPR English voice, and so clear and charming that popular culture grew to love him, even if they only pretended to understand what he was saying…

So, he came to advertise things. There were stories of relationship issues. There was a decade of books surfing the popularizing of atheism, along with some residual scientific insights. But that very good brain has now stopped, like all brains will.

I crank this morning, and every morning, on a body that occasionally betrays me by gaining fat when I eat a few dozen Triscuits and only exercise for an hour. But I did have a week, exactly a year ago, where my body simply lost capacity to process gravity: I had no balance. There was no dizziness, no paralysis, – nothing, but no sense that I, like everything else around me, was drawn to the earth’s core.

So I had my Hawking Moment. For a few days I had less than 1% of what he experienced for 50 years – my body was disconnected from my mind. My will meant nothing. I could not stand up and simply walk to the bathroom, I had to have assistance.

My body, literally, healed itself, apparently better than expected because of the 15 years or so that I have worked out with a devotion that facilitated blood flow that in turn meant no damage when a genetically compromised blood vessel burst. So my own predilections overcame the state of my body.

Just like Hawking – only he was extreme, I was just lucky.

But I have a deep faith that there is much I can never know. I am pretty sure Hawking felt the exact opposite. Time was his only enemy: the profession of ultimate incapacity was just one measure, but the inevitable death of the most genetically fortunate and diligently applied to their health leaves both he and me with one choice: assert the fact that I can know what this terrarium is and how it happened, or know that I cannot know, no one I know can know what the universe, or even gravity, actually is.

The only way to simply dismiss ignorance is to assert capacity: but none of us has that capacity. I will join Stephen in non-existence here sooner or later.
But dismissing facts is not science, it is argument. I dismiss no facts of Stephen’s life of being a public genius icon: but he dismissed Faith, including the facts of my faith.

I have no doubt his gifts where great things, but everyone faces the irony of diminishing capacity in the world where the vast majority of us blindly presume the gifts of capacity every day. It was a shock for me to have no balance, I knew what the science was, but I had no hopes or fears. I knew I would do as told and apply myself, and whatever happened, happened. No fear, no Googling, no theories, no real prayers beyond saying “thanks” and “sorry” like any other day.

I wonder how a human who came to be completely defined by the residue of a degrading machine came to see its final end. Just like everybody else. I hope he saw the beauty of the love so many have for him, and I hope he felt that love too.

Because it is the love we cannot define, or reason into manipulation that is the inevitable confrontation of death.

Knowing how the universe was made, or if there is God, does not change the universe: the universe and God is either a multiverse or a pathetic rationalization whether I live or die. Maybe if I lived forever I could be good with dismissing anything but me (because I do not die, dammit). But none of us live a whole lot longer than Stephen Hawking.

Dismissing the power of love and beauty dismisses, for me, God. There was no reason for those ragged rabble rousers to make up whatever happened 2,000 years ago when Jesus got killed and then something happened. Who knows what happened after, except that the historic odds are that something happened then, because a lot happened to a lot of people. But, like Hawking, I do not suppose or reason Faith into being, or comfort myself in connective history rationalizations -because the insight of Faith is nothing I did, or what was revealed to me by others, or history, or any argument or proof.

Faith, like gravity, just is; no “why’s” or “how’s”, but Faith is as much a fact as any of the infinitely intelligent, reasoned and described theories Hawking came up with. And all of those theories, all of them, relied on the fact of gravity he, and no one else has any understanding of beyond its measurables.

I am sure in his extraordinary facility of figuring out the ‘how’s” of so much else Stephen Hawking has left my capacity in the dust. But I do know that he and I share one, clear reality – neither of us is very good with the “Why” part – even in Lent..

That’s OK, I have faith, and I know Stephen was loved.

When Ugly Does Not Lie

March 13, 2018

Last night I was done with 12 hours of effort, so it did not matter that I was inert before PBS TV’s “Antigues Road Show”. I was so spent that it did not even matter that I had seen it before. It was a rerun.

I only knew the repeat status because within the unrelenting format of supplicant-with-thing-goes-before-the-oracle the thing brought forward was so particularly hideous, and, in typical vicarious schadenfreude self-servingness, I awaited, again, the value as assessed by the Oracle. The Oracle in full high authority, calmly, but gravely, in triumphant unveiling, declares:


Oh, yeah, I remember that, Wow. Great. Amazing.

The supplicant appeared to be having a stroke. He had purchased this disturbing crock for $300.

Then the new, little sounder and lower scroll on the bottom of the screen pops up as the camera loving gazed upon the monstrously disturbing fecal melange of grotesqueried visages in mid meltdown mashup and silently offers up:

“Correction $3-5,000”

I was aghast: first it was a testament to what I did not know. Secondly it was still 10 times the buyer’s investment.

Well, other experts weighed in on the revision via the internet I Googled this AM: one article clarified:

“Earlier this year, Betsy Soule came forward after being tipped off by a friend that she had made the pot in a ceramics class in 1973 or 1974. Fletcher and PBS have since corrected the appraisal to $3,000 to $5,000, which is still pretty damn good money for a high school art project.”

Of course the ‘correction” was made by the same person who thought the insane scream of clay was worth at least 100 times what the owner paid. Right. That’s better than, well, say, my deciding a room was so lovely that it needed no windows. Sure. Of course. Well, no.

He is an Expert. I am an Expert. So are You. We are on the Internet.

I then went on in nocturnal mental massaging, to read that Hillary Clinton, 16 months after losing an election that every single Expert had said was a no brainer – a guaranteed win, had listened to other Experts and said, in India, to other Experts,  “I won the states that contribute 2/3’s of America’s Gross National Product.”


Conviction has its own rewards. Surety in projection defines, for a while, the truth. The convinced are often impossible to joke with: what they know is serious – do not question the truth, even if it is only true, deeply true, that belief is its own truth.

I sit in a black barn, cranking on a bike, in terror over getting to Hartford in a storm this morning. I am in terror because last night Experts have said that we shall have 6 – maybe 12 – inches of snow. For the 3rd time in 2 weeks.

Other experts say, this morning, the temperature, in this Zip Code, will not go below 33F. That typically means water, not snow.

But I cannot know, because even the Experts do not know history until it has happened. No one does.

What is left, then, if we are honest, is Faith.

Mine is with a fully filled reality of love in the warp and woof of almost everything I see, I know that I simply cannot be the Expert of Everything. Others may feel comfort in conviction. There is power in surety. But power is not strength, let alone Faith – because, despite ourselves, power is often inadequate, and ultimately it cannot overcome history. Our shelf life will expire, no matter how strong our beliefs are.

The unrelenting realities that beauty is real, in all things great and small, the silent listening to the deeply resonant in our lives, the base rock of hope that all effort leaps from, and lays upon, is, to me why I do this, every day. But with a few distractions, like reruns of Antiques Road Show.

The Experts, many of whom I love dearly, have factual insight, careful deductions, even absolute determinations to the point of conviction. But that is not why I love them. The value of any of us is not in our Expertise, it is in the love we offer without knowing anything about it.

Its Lent, that pottery thing is still ugly, Trump is still president, the world is screaming, even now this early AM, but it is not snowing. Yet.




Up To Our Knees

March 12, 2018


It was January of 1985.

I had not turned 30, the only somewhat older photographer was with me 6AMish gingerly walking out upon the semi-frozen salt marsh we had just spent a year building our little house upon.

We were broke, both of us, but at least he was getting paid and I did not have pay for the photographer as we were full of laud and honor for this little place had just received a “Record House” award (a big deal for architects when “mass” media consisted of 3 magazines)awarded for the best new houses for the entire country, nay, the world. Architectural Record Magazine rarely had any homes in it. They preferred to hold an annual competition with their editorial board as jurors, where once a year in mid-April, their Record Houses issue came out, dedicated to homes.

Along with 20 or so others, I won. Only I took the entry photos (compromised) and I had done nothing of note, save a book that had barely come out. I was a nobody. But the young editors were under a patriarch who had been the Main Man for so many years that he could let the troops have sway, liked it.

But, unlike the real firms that submitted their work, the photography I took would not do. So they hired another nobody at the time, a photographer who was making a name for himself in garden images, but had never professionally photo’ed a house before,

It was a good thing to capture this new place, because since winning I and my wife went nuts over the month after we heard and before he showed up adding things to the “shots” I devined. Since my wife toiled in law school, that meant I did the heavy lifting. So we were really broke,

We take a zillion shots, me kibitzing at his side, including going out to the middle of the salt marsh to take the shot you see, the shot that became the cover of my next book. Those shots convinced House Beautiful, the New York Times, then Progressive Architecture Magazine, And on on on that I was OK.

And after this array of great shots they and others gave the incredibly skilled and thoughtful photographer hundreds and hundreds of shoots. He has shot everything I do, when I can afford him, even though he charges me a very (very) low rate. (We are still broke).

But that will change. I received from my friend a request to write him a letter of support for his application to become a kind of monk, to join a place where worshipping God is a devotion.

After years of troubles and travels, seeking the next garden or home, creating books, ending a marriage, raising kids, finding a new marriage, this great good man, perhaps 5 years older than me (and looks 10 years younger) is following the same spirit that lead his artist wife to dedicate her life to painting religious icons. In singular devotion in the country, they make beauty.

He came to worship the beauty he finds every day in Faith.

I would never ask, even though he and I are bromancy (TMI would be a buzzkill) – but I am kinda sure everything that he has been given was caused by the decade, or more, of deep trauma caused by a marriage failing and parenthood changing. His present life focus has lasted more years now than that first marriage,

I could easily write (to an unknown reviewer) here in the early morning silence a month ago, that finding beauty is not limited to architecture or photography, or painting, or love or our children, or really anything in the world we see and manipulate to express the joy of finding beauty.

Beauty can can be the love within you for the realization that it is all a gift, you earned none of those things others laud you for – and none of those inevitable pains you can hate yourself for. For this deeply good man finding a venue for his devotion to God was just a way to do what he has done for his life, it is nothing salvational, but it is a natural path to a better place.

We did not know this with our legs up to our knees in mud when we had our feet punch through the ice into the muck below the freezing air 33 years ago. We two were making beauty, without understanding it. I still do not understand it. But know I have had another 33 years of knowing its power.

Beauty is everywhere, all around us, and is often the hardest thing to feel. It’s silent collateral, Faith, is perhaps even harder to understand, and even more present in those mysteries.

In Lent I try to find that place where beauty can happen. I may not always get there, but my friend has, or at least farther than me.