Monday, August 18, 2014

Beautiful Skeletons

I've always appreciated beauty. Even as a 7-year-old child who watched the sun setting on the island of Samos in Greece, as an old man guided his donkey across the pebble beach. Even then, the beauty of that moment was not lost on me--that image is imprinted in my memory. I visit it often, and I see it now. It was striking!

This is how architecture has affected me. It can be ugly, yes, and not thoughtfully constructed, but what I prefer to focus on is how the architecture of a structure changes, as you move through it or around the exterior, and how light and weather affect and change the design.  Upon visiting a city for the first time, I try to find a walking architectural tour to use as my introduction to the place. I did this in Chicago, and, while I enjoyed the history of the buildings, the memorable part was the looking up and around as I walked. A favourite photo is one that I took of a contemporary office building with mirrored windows. The reflection of an older city government building apparent in those windows made a beautiful statement for me--something about looking back as we move forward--a metaphor to stay connected to the past in a positive way.

Not long ago I watched a documentary on South Carolina ETV, John Portman: A life of building. How impressive! Never heard of him before (shame on me), but now I'm in love with so many of the beautiful images from the interiors of his buildings. I've even been in some of them, looked up and enjoyed the design changing with the light, the shadows and even with where I was emotionally in my life. A thoughtfully designed structure has a way of enveloping you when you need it, so that you feel comforted during tough times; it can make you feel as if it's moving with you, like a friend who walks beside you on a sunny sidewalk through the city one Sunday afternoon; it can even make you feel as if you're floating in space!

These images are of some of Portman's hotel interiors. So much for the eye to take in and deliver to the brain. Very pleasing. Very satisfying. The two on the bottom remind me of beautiful skeletons. Such beautiful skeletons!

For me, this beautiful documentary was satisfying visually, but it was also satisfying on another level--John Portman is a South Carolina native (yay for the local boys) who not only designed several key buildings in Atlanta's skyline, but also the Marriott Marquis hotel in  NYC's Times Square. This Marriott hotel played a big role in the clean up and redirection of Times Square--the first step in the process. All sorts of metaphors in this story, skeletons and all!

Architecture can be an exquisite metaphor--the beautiful skeleton supporting life, people, activities and even emotions. If sometime you see me walking around a city's buildings with my head in the air, it's because I'm looking at the changing design of the city's structures--the patterns on the sidewalks made by a building's shadows, the geometric lacework of power lines and bridges against a sun-setting sky or even the beautiful skeletons.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What A Difference A Day Makes!

Dinah Washington's beautiful and romantic reminder, the song, What A Difference A Day Makes, stirs my emotions and my logic.  Yes, logic.  On the surface, this time-tested song is about a woman who is happy to have met a new lover, but it is about so much more, if you look beyond the immediate pop appeal and memorable tune.  Logically, it's a reminder to pack joy into every new day and to put the pain and struggles of our past behind us.

Here in South Carolina, in just one week, we've experience snow, sleet, ice and an earthquake.

Palm With Icicles
I was attending a conference in Myrtle Beach, ready to network and learn from Monday until Wednesday and then head back home across the state.  A four-hour drive made shorter by my lively playlist and the anticipation of a half-finished project that would be completed in time for my sweetheart Dewey to return home from his trip out of state for a Valentine's Day dinner.  Monday was great.  Even the potentially odd weather forecast (lots of snow and ice and school closings) didn't dampen plans and spirits, but what a difference a day made!  Tuesday, the conference organizers were monitoring weather reports and speaker cancellations, finally deciding to cut short the conference by a day and give everyone time to drive home.  I did not drive home.  Home was now icy roads and sleet and rain and below-freezing temperatures.  All of the roads on my drive home had already begun to ice over, and even ever-sunshiny Myrtle Beach was sporting icicles off the roof of the hotel, off the leaves of potted palms and all of the pool furniture. What a difference a day makes! Indeed.

This is what the beach is supposed to look like
The good news is that I finally made the drive home...two days after my original departure date.  I also finished the project and my Dewey made it home on time.  As I left Myrtle Beach, I took a little time for posting on Facebook and shared a photo of sunny skies and perky palm trees.  My status update:  What a difference a day makes!

Today I was reminded  (AGAIN) of how important and precious each new day should be for all of us.  A friend lost a friend to cancer, and she shared this quote, "Don't postpone joy".  With every new day we have another opportunity to engage in and share joy.  Typically, mostly, casually and absent-mindedly we engage in bitterness, fear, and regret and so many other negatives.  Why do we slip away from joy so easily?  What will it take for us to change?  I am hopeful that we will all begin looking at each new day as a new opportunity to smile, to sing happy songs, to thank the people in our lives, to hug those closest to us, to think of sunshine and to make space in our hearts and minds for joy! No matter what happened yesterday or the day before or even 20 years ago, today is a brand new opportunity.  Today is a clean slate.  Today can be filled with joy!  Let's do it.  We know it's possible.  We can begin by singing along.  What a difference a day makes!