Many of you have likely seen Purl, the new short film by Pixar about a ball of yarn who is the lone “other” working at BRO Capital. The story follows Purl as she adapts to fit in with her colleagues, doing everything she can to be less Purl and more Bro.
Then one day another ball of yarn arrives, and with this arrival comes a moment of reckoning. Will Purl help the new ball of yarn, risking all she’s gained, and reminding herself of all she’s lost?
The story has a happy ending, and not just for the balls of yarn, but for everyone. Other folks who are neither Bros nor Yarns arrive. The Bros are happier, the team is thriving, and surely their investors are benefiting too.
But I have a little secret. At the moment of decision, when the elevator doors were about to close, my first thought was, oh no, Purl’s going to leave that new ball of yarn. And my second thought was, well, that newbie needs to toughen up.
Things run deep.
Long after we think we’ve adjusted – and hopefully improved – there’s a root still underground, just waiting to sprout. As Faulkner said, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Dear friends, if an unwelcome root starts sprouting for us this week, before we cut it back, I hope we take the time to examine it, to see where it came from, to see if it might be dug out a little more completely.
And to all of my colleagues who have been Purls to me, both men and women, leaping off elevators at those crucial moments —
Yesterday I visited the amazing studio of artist Nancy Schon, best known around Boston for her statues of Make Way for Ducklings in the Public Garden. She’s been working on a series of sculptures based on Aesop’s fables, and this view of the fox and the grapes caught my eye.
It’s been a long time since I considered these fables, but this one is familiar to many: the fox sees some delicious grapes hanging from an arbor, yet despite leap after leap they remain out of his grasp. Finally he turns away, declaring that he didn’t want those sour grapes anyway.
I am usually an earnest person, sometimes overly so. But lately a few sour grapes have crept into my commentary, in a sneaky silent way – mostly in my own head. The stock I didn’t buy that’s up 30%, but surely not of high quality. The government that I wish were noble, but now dismiss as eternally ineffective. The friendship I didn’t pursue with the person whose flaws are now more vivid that their virtues.
Sour grapes don’t have to be loud or whiny to be destructive. They allow us to dismiss what is secretly most dear.
Friends, when we catch ourselves in dismissing mode, let’s try to pause, to see what’s really being case aside. The best grapes of all might be right there, waiting for us to recognize them.
Some ideas are easier to accept from plants than from humans.
For example, the idea that prickly, painful things can be beautiful and worthy and maybe even beloved.
We just need to take a little care, leave a little room. Stop stomping around like it’s all about us.
Friends, I’m out in the desert today, taking a little care, and leaving a little room.
Whatever your current habitat, look out for the prickly things, whether cactus or human. Take a little care.
Is there anything better than a surprise gift from a friend?
Yes, when that gift is a book!
I have been showered with book-gifts this past year, a source of endless joy. This week the magnificent Lost Words from Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris arrived, thanks to my dear friend Sam.
The book was created in response to a batch of words being swapped out of the Oxford Junior Dictionary – mostly natural creatures being replaced by techno-lingo.
What kind of fool would prefer blog to bluebell, voicemail to kingfisher, attachment to newt ?
Surely there are better choices that could be made, including the choice to have a slightly longer dictionary. In any event, this beautifully illustrated book does each word justice, from the adder to the fern to the willow.
I have lost some prayers I used to know by heart, some recipes I used to make without googling, some journeys I used to take without a map, some songs I used to play from memory.
These could all be revived, and this book is proof. One look at MacFarlane’s acorn and you know it is safe, so vibrant and loving is the presentation.
Dear friends, whatever is fading from our dictionaries, could we infuse it with new life? Could we share it with a child, so that it can thrive for even longer?
Let’s pick something dear and nearly forgotten today, and honor it.
Don’t just do something, stand there!
Tell about it.
This was a tough week for loss – both the poet Mary Oliver and the investor Jack Bogle. At first glance these seem like people who had little in common: Oliver spent her days in the woods or by the water, and Bogle loved interviews and TV cameras. Oliver gave us slim volumes of wisdom and reflection, and Bogle gave us a revolutionary mechanism for money management.
But look a little closer, and the similarities are striking. (Maybe this is always so). Both created as a result of suffering – Oliver’s as a child, and Bogle’s when we was ousted from Wellington. Both kept at it, for years and years, when it was not clear at all that the path they were on was a fruitful one. And both advised stillness.
Not a sleepy, blurry silence, but a keen, wide-awake sense of stillness. Pay attention to the market, and then do not leap to trading. Pay attention to your life, and then be astonished.
It’s when we are alert but un-doing that the best stuff comes.
Dear friends, if you are bundled up in the northeast US storm today, what better chance to practice? Pick something – a poem, a pot of soup, a chart of complex data, a person you love – and pay attention. Consider it deeply. Appreciate it.
Some of our earlier notes about Oliver here: