Eating my own tail

Some days feel like the first day of the rest of your life. Some days feel like you’re coming full circle to a place of your past. Today for me is both of these.

Yesterday I said goodbye to a wonderful team at a consulting gig that’s looked a lot like a full-time job for the last year and half. I’m so grateful to those folks for bringing me back in (as I’d worked there prior to my stint in Australia) after I lost my dad and my husband in such quick succession in early 2018. I was numb and grieving, and truly didn’t know what to do with with myself. They created a work home for me that was supportive, and not too too demanding. The position took a turn into more responsibility at the start of 2019, but still, I reserved Fridays for working on my novel.

And that novel is now at 44,000 words, and I’m carving my way through the dark arc of the plot, with the finish somewhere not too far from sight. The novel idea came to me in June 2012, just after I had founded Find Wellness and was embarking on the entrepreneurial journey that would consume me for about two & a half years, until I sold the business. So I’ve nurtured this idea and this dream for a long time, finally lighting up production last year. Reading and doing Julie Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” was a huge help at that time in re-igniting and validating my artistic impulses: highly recommend!

For, you see, I’ve always been an artist. I sold my first piece — an abstract watercolor on a piece of notebook paper – in 1984 when I was 11 years old, for just 5 yuan (we were living in Beijing, China at the time). I’m sure the couple who bought it, friends of my parents, put it in the bin not long after, but who cares? I “invented” my first product that year, too, a contraption made of balsa wood and straws. Zoom along to 1999 — I was living in San Francisco, a rudderless individual with a BA in English and French Literature to her name, and I was contemplating either pursuing art school or a philosophy PhD when the lightning insight hit me of undertaking a career as a designer. And, the interaction/user experience design field has served me delightfully well these past twenty years. Twenty years?! Aye. And I’d be deeply surprised if I didn’t continue to work as a design/product management consultant in some fashion or other in the days to come. I do like having income, after all….

But, primarily, now, I’m committing to my art. I’m committing to enacting and sharing my philosophy. Today and tomorrow and in the days to come, I’m going to make shit up. I’m going to create. I’m going to have adventures. I’m going to see what grows from the seeds I plant and nurture. I’m going to live and love and learn, the only way I know how: by going through. Life is far too precious and short not to take righteous advantage of this space that my work and life to date has enabled me. No matter however long this particular period lasts, I am transformed and lifted.

Do the stories about a looming recession share the shit out of me? Yes! I’d have a great track record here since I launched my design consultancy, Devise, in late 2007 just as the Great Recession arrived. But, I survived that, and I’ll survive whatever comes. I have wonderful friends & family, and my network deepens and expands with each new experience that comes my way. Does this transition also involve a fair measure of loss and grief, a shedding of my old skin to make way for a new pattern? Why, yes, it does. And but yet, it’s vital. There is much yet to be gained.

Reach out, friends! I want your words of wisdom; I want your inspiration; I treasure all your lights and look forward to having more time and freedom to explore the world with you. Namaste!

Scattering Ashes / Jeffrey Merges with the Metolius

Honestly, by the evening of Friday April 19th, I was dreading the upcoming weekend. My husband Jeffrey passed away on March 4, 2018, just nine weeks after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer. He was cremated, and I distributed his ashes among his family. In the fall of 2018, his sister Brenda suggested that I come out to central Oregon near their father Bob’s place so that the three of us could scatter his ashes around the Metolius River. His father’s health prevented it happening then, however, so it was eventually rescheduled to April 20, 2019.

So the day actually arrived, as it is wont to do, beginning with an early awakening and setting up my two dogs for their pet-sitter, then a three-hour drive from Portland out to his father’s place, about twenty minutes east of Sisters. Along the way, driving down highway 26 through the beautiful Pacific Northwest’s forests and across the flank of Mt Hood, I was tearing up regularly. There was a place where he and I had enjoyed a yummy meal…that’s the road up to Timberline Lodge where he roared up on his big black motorcycle with me sitting behind him and joyful, shit-eating grins on both our faces…there’s the turn-off to a campsite where we spent a great weekend with friends and family…. On and on, the sorrow only expanding as the landscape transitioned to scraggly high desert trees and sagebrush, sights and smells that he loved so much.

A poem to honor Jeffrey and commemorate the occasion started to emerge, which I first captured on a voice recording app in the car, and then I pulled into the Warm Springs Natural History Museum to sit at a picnic table and polish it up. I arrived timely to the custom-built house where Bob and his kind wife Vicki dwell, on ten beautiful acres amid the arid land. Brenda and her fine husband, Mark, were already there, and we sat down together to a fresh and delicious lunch. The skies alternately darkened and lightened as spring squalls of rain moved through, eventually relenting for good to sun in the early afternoon.

We piled into the car for a forty-five minute drive to Camp Sherman, where we first visited the mysterious headwaters of the divine Metolius River, which emerges as a “full-grown” river from beneath some rocks at the base of a hill. Nobody is still entirely sure where this pure, cold water comes from exactly, but thusly it begins wending its way forth, expansive from the get-go.



Then we drove deeper into the wilderness area to a campsite where we disembarked in order to walk downstream alongside the river for a mile or so. I was amazed to learn that Brenda didn’t consciously recall the appropriateness of the Metolius River for this moment in Jeffrey’s posthumous journey. Jeffrey had spoken fondly to me over the years about how he’d scattered his beloved grandmother’s ashes into the Metolius. Although in the days before he passed, Jeffrey said he had absolutely no preference in how we might handle his ashes, I knew that this was truly a perfect plan and one most fitting to Jeffrey’s nature.

We hiked along single file, with the rushing river just to our right, alternately quiet and loud depending on the extent of the rocks and trees in the waterway breaking up its flow. Incipient spring leaves and buds were just emerging, along with the Oregon grape and other bushes always sporting their greenery. Eventually, we reached a kind of glade some ways above the waterway, where Brenda felt called to place Jeffrey’s ashes. We left the trail and stood around a tall, gnarly cedar as she reminisced about her big brother. He was always so kind and loving with her — protective and nurturing, encouraging and proud. Almost twenty years her senior, he made her feel grown-up and special when she got to spend time with him as a child, whether cuddled up in his cold house with his first wife, or out on the town shopping for antiques and music. She dug a small hole and poured in his ashes. The sun illuminated this tree beautifully as we stood on the path to sear the place in our minds.


Then we reversed course and returned the way we came. I wanted to share his ashes with the water itself, and found a spot curving off the main path, a little sheltered edge of the burbling river. I had a very large amount of his ashes with me, and I poured them into the pellucid water at first slowly and then faster, with a strange jubilation rising in my core. I actually laughed out loud as the heavy ash kept hitting the cold water, clouding and moving with the chaotic micro-currents. We stood together and watched it start to settle, still swirling about but also dropping then onto the rocks and crevices beneath the water.


I felt somber yet elevated. And I spoke aloud this poem:

Here in the new season
of our old grief
we are returning
to the epicenter of the
destruction wrought
by the pain of your passing
Somehow, after that loss,
a wildfire that turned
all to ash, we can help
you return to the
places that you loved
And so we release
more grief, more tears
that fall on fecund ground
and lively river,
melding the two into clay
And we can see
the return of life —
rising from the ground —
emerging from the water —
And it is a new season
of grief, yes,
but also life and rebirth
And thusly your ashes
move into everything
We see you in the corvids
We see you in the pinus contorta
We see you in the aquafolia mahonia
and in releasing these ashes
we shed a weight and
seed a new beginning
where we can love you,
We can accept our loss,
let go of these pieces
of our grief,
and feel your presence
now at peace in the world

More tears were shed, and hugs shared among us. We moved along back down the route to a large boulder that Bob had identified as his place to deposit some ashes. We clambered up from the path and gathered around. In the lee of the stone, Jeffrey’s ashes were placed in a safe, sheltered spot and covered over with leaves, branches, and a small rock. Bob held onto another small portion of ashes that he intends to scatter on Black Butte, a place dear for being Jeffrey’s very first “hike” as a wee babe-in-arms. We smiled for each other as Brenda snapped a picture of us all together before the stone.


As we walked back upstream, the afternoon sun danced on the rushing waters, and butterfly after butterfly rose from beside the path and crossed before us in their trembling fashion. Light. Transformation. We may walk some very difficult ways, at various times in our lives, but nature holds us in her hands and shows us how to move with trust and openness. Being with loving family helps us to hold and manage the hurt. The grief that bedevils me, which can at times feel so heavy and unwilling to shift, is lightened. That evening as we headed out for dinner in Bend, a giant rainbow filled the entire sky, then becoming a double rainbow. And I feel my heart reopening, like a flower spreading new petals towards beingness and joy. May it be so for us all.


“How you going?”

After living for the past decade in Portland, Oregon, I’ve moved with my husband Jeffrey to Sydney, Australia just about four months ago. I have lived abroad before — with my family in Beijing, China where I went through fifth & sixth grades at an international school, and then I spent about a year as a college student in Paris, France — but never before as a couple and not as a working adult. Now I’m an “expat”. I came here to take a dream job, and fortunately the professional side of life is not disappointing. My husband, who just celebrated his double-nickel birthday, has never lived anywhere but Portland, Oregon, though, and he’s going through significant culture shock.

Part of that shocking culture, from my perspective, is simply that of a big city: Australia is intensely urban, and Sydney holds about 4.2 million people within a 15km radius. Portland, by contrast, is a small city — more of a large town really, with few tall buildings and mostly residential neighborhoods even within its urban growth boundary. Sydney is dense and dusty, and in our rush to be settled we picked an apartment on a cross-town thoroughfare that’s never quiet, always whirling. The lace balcony overlooking the street casts beautiful shadows on our tall, moulded ceilings, but the light constantly shifts as cars zoom past below and refract the sunlight.

Another aspect of culture that’s come into focus for me is encapsulated in the most common of greeting idioms here in Australia: “How you going?” In America, the equivalent is: “How you doing?” (In all informal settings, people drop the “are”. )

In this rather subtle linguistic difference lies a world of meaning. The American asks: “How you doing?” and thereby expresses entrenched values regarding what you are achieving, what you are making, what you are doing. The Australian asks: “How you going?” and thereby looks to understand your state in terms of how you are flowing, how life is treating is you, how you’re getting along in the way of things. One is subject — one is object.

The typical American is baked hard in Puritanical clay, in the capitalistic expectation of production. We’re ever-validated in our making and striving and attempting. The native Australian is baked hard in sandy soils, with a fatalistic expectation of destiny received. Both cultures share a love of gambling, but the American proto gambling is the game of poker – the player winning by wits and hard face and cold math, while the Australian proto gambling is the horse race – the bettor feeling it by odds and gut and warm sense of a name.

I’m presently reading “Cloudstreet” by seminal Australian novelist Tim Winton, whose entire oeuvre J. is plowing his way through. Winton is deeply cavalier with his characters, sending the “shifty shadow” over their lives, shunting them from health to sickness and hope to hopelessness in the blink of a paragraph. I can barely breath in the speed at which fortunes move under the shuck and jive of backcountry pathois.

Neither approach towards life is fundamentally right; I hold no judgment either way. The American psyche is bound up in this striving, with massive parts of our people having lost their way in the world as the means of production shifts ever further from labor to intellect. The Australian psyche’s weaknesses under this laissez-faire mindset are less clear to me, but perhaps people are feeling adrift, eroding under the endless beating of waves on its dry, ancient shores.

I’ll just stay here awhile, and watch the varied scenes unfold.

Words of wisdom

Thus should you look upon this changing world:

All component things are impermanent. 

All component things are subject to dissolution.

See all of this world 

As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,

A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.





Spring Poem

Today, spring is hot and thick,
felt on the fingertips like oil
slick between your pads —
And promise blows through trees
drunk on new leaves and green,
green growth that almost glows—

We forget what year it is
and how old our bodies are,
remembering every other spring,
a bounty of birth potential
glimpsed in fluffy bunnies, fuzzy chicks
making us want to gambol & skip…

Flying down the freeway again,
the wind is no less harsh
but my mein is that much more mellow
My face heats and I am awash
in hope for a future more bright.



– April 24, 2013

Best run from my first autocross in a year

I’m back to autocrossing this year! The big development bringing me back is teaching Alexander, who is Jeffrey’s 15 1/3 year old, about this easy-to-access, affordable, and super-fun form of performance driving.

This is my sixth run of the day, my best by about a half second, although my standings among all competitors that day was nothing but mid-pack. (Sorry, that metallic clicking sound is a dangly thing bonking against on the rear view mirror.) We’re co-driving our daily-driver, a 2002 BMW 330i that’s bone stock premium package & equipped with new Continental ExtremeContact DW tires. For shits ‘n’ giggles, you can view Alexander’s face during his very first run here on Vimeo:

Voice of Trees (a poetic rebuttal)

Voice of Trees


The trees, I do not think,
they would not speak so prosaically
of boredom and visitations.
No, they stand serene and
always connected to the other
tree and bird and flower and
even a very few people, lucky
ones who feel their quiet power.
If trees could speak and show
their being to those of us
rushing around on human timescales,
it would sound like poetry,
like musical scales, like whale song,
like motes of dust in sunbeams,
like butterfly kisses on your brow,
like laughter of surf on sand,
like beads clicking in prayer,
like a chorus of frogs in a pond,
like the chimes of a fairy brigade,
and you would not even know,
much less remember, you heard it so.



– Feb 22, 2013
– A poetic rebuttal to one of Frog Design’s “8 Brilliant Concepts For The Future Of Wearable Tech”