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Talking plum

It was a perfect day in Seattle yesterday, which doesn’t happen that often. 80 degrees, bright sun, mountains clear, soft breeze. Despite my gratitude, I still found myself speeding frantically from place to place, wishing I could stop and enjoy.

My mind sounded something like: “OK time to drive downtown for acupuncture, oops gotta take the dogs because must be at vet on time for Francine’s owie, which means Kona has to sit in the car, and what about walking them? blah blah blah…”

When I finally did get to take the creatures for a walk in the gorgeous sun along Lake Washington, I found my mind was still racing, jumping from worry to worry like a little stress frog. “What about dinner? What about that meeting I have to get ready for tomorrow? I should eat something healthy.  I want ice cream!”

Coming up the hill, huffing and sweating, dogs pulling and sniffing and mind racing, out of the corner of my eye I notice something red sitting on top of a fence post. I glance up briefly and note the house seems deserted – under construction – and no car in the driveway. “Red thing is probably just more garbage.”

Then I notice there is a tree with the same red shapes hiding in the branches. I look down at the fence post again, and realize it’s a plum. Dusky red with a galaxy of pale green spots across the belly, perfectly round with a heart-shaped top, stem still attached. “Probably rotten on the bottom” says mind.

Quiet voice says “pick me up,” so I do. The plum says “look at me, smell me” so I do. And the world fades, there’s just this absolutely perfect plum in my hand, a perfect fit, and warm, and soft, and smelling like heaven.

I remember: we live in a world where things like this happen all the time. The world makes plums for us, they’re everywhere, really, all we have to do is let our eyes be caught by them, and listen to them when they ask “look at me,  smell me, taste me.”

Today, see who or what talks to you, and listen. Let yourself be transported.

Winter isn’t bad…its just…Winter

I’ve been thinking for a while that this “economic downturn” is a long-overdue winter in our perpetual (illusion of) summer here in the USA. Eventually the over-picked, under-watered plants need to shut down and regenerate or they will die. This may sound depressing and cold in the sun-starved northern hemisphere, but in fact its a fundamental process that allows life to continue. Plants that are in relative harmony with their surroundings and weren’t already diseased will survive and thrive come spring.

The same is true for us as individuals and for the organizations we lead and are part of. Getting back to our roots, our core, focusing on the basics, and remaining in harmony with our surroundings are essential to surviving winter and preparing for new life in spring.

Late last week, I hosted a table discussion at a well-timed forum about leading in an economic downturn put on by United Way of King County. Jon Fine, the CEO of the United Way here in Puget Sound, suggested some important strategies for nonprofits to weather winter, which I thought could be applied to us as individuals as well. Here is my synopsis of his most useful points:

  • Don’t be in denial about it being winter – plan, prepare and dress warmly!
  • Remember and focus on your core – what do you do well and differently than anyone else?
  • Be transparent and honest. In winter, everything is visible to everyone else. We can more easily see your tracks, and are more attuned to each other because we need each other more.
  • Conserve your energy for what’s really important. Don’t chase or create non-essential projects or new markets right now.
  • Be efficient! Do what you need to do with as little effort and expense as you can, but do it well!
  • Let go of what isn’t working so you can focus on what is working. There’s no shame in letting go!

And finally, don’t forget to be grateful for the many blessings you do have and ENJOY what there is to enjoy about winter!

Warmth and peace to you and those you love.