Being an Observer

Being an observer!

I’m not sure when I become such an astute observer! As I reflect back on my youth, it may have started while riding horses with my brother Pat and my father in the woods of what is now referred to as Wildwood, Missouri. As I recall Dad would point out certain trees in the woods or take us to a memorable view or placed us in an area that was dramatic which became a source of reflection or conversation.

My brother Pat I felt was even more of an observer than me, which caused me to make observing and reflecting a purpose and a habit. When we are around people who we think are better than us it calls us forth. I used to love to play golf with players who were better than me as I almost always played better myself. 

Then as a Landscape Architecture Student at the University of Illinois everything was about intense observation, evaluation and creation. I remember even the simple classes of still life drawing and figure drawing became an intense observation and creation on paper. Space and definition and relationship became everything for me during those years. Even today since I am so physically oriented I automatically judge and evaluate a space and often try to imagine why someone designed and constructed something a certain way. And, I often have a huge amount of admiration for spaces that are still current today after fifty, a hundred or more years.

In 2002 Mary and I were on a journey of healing. As a result of this journey we got a diagnosis for my disease at Mao Clinic and we went to Lourdes, France hoping for a miraculous intervention resulting in me walking without assistance. I prayed on the flight from New York to Paris that I be one of those people who leave their wheelchair at the grotto. And, as we traveled from Paris to Lourdes and stopped in those beautiful historic towns I remember thinking how did someone have the ability 1,500 years ago to create streets wide enough and spaces large enough to accommodate today’s use. When we travel to New York or Chicago and we stroll down Madison Avenue or Michigan Avenue I think the same thing.  I always say to myself, how brilliant is good planning and design.

Today we are in a different time. We live in a time of new technology that has us be able to control our use of energy and manage security and safety. We live in a time when the largest demographic “the baby boomers” have started turning 65 in 2011. We live in a time of down sizing or as the marketers call it right sizing. We live in uncertain times not knowing what life will look life in ten or twenty years.

I think about my grandparents who went through the depression with large families when there was a limited amount of food and resources. I am sure they had sleepless nights. I’m sure there was concern for the future and what would be in store for them and their families. My grandfather Burton lost his job as a show salesman and they moved from Aberdeen to Eureka. My grandfather Houlihan reflected to me that no one was buying nursery stock. There were many days that they went out with a wagon or truck full of plant material and came home with the same load. 

To summarize this blog about being an observer, today is in many ways the same as a day in the past. We need to continue to observe, plan, create space and grow from our experiences. This is living life responsibly and actively.  

Posted in Community.