Because It Is Beautiful.

Years ago in Colorado, I meandered through an iron foundry with a friend. Out of the rubble, he grabbed an old iron wheel. The spokes radiated from the hub in a most unusual way, curvy and intricate like S’s rather than L’s. It clearly took the blacksmith much longer to build it that way than with straight spokes.

“Do you know why it’s like that,” my friend, an engineer and blacksmith, asked.

“No.”

“Because it’s beautiful,” he said. “There is no other reason.”IMG_8494

Enjoying a little jet lag tonight, I’m sitting in our apartment in Nice, France with the gallerie windows open to the Port du Nice. Sailboats bob gently in their slips next to three-story yachts with navy blue hulls and tan, young men swabbing their already spotless decks.

Although it is dark, I can see all this because the port is ringed by street lights shaped like lanterns. But evidently, that’s not lovely enough, because they lamps don’t just shimmer on the water, every now and again they flicker, flash and change color. At the moment, they are green. Soon they will turn purple.

Do you know why they do that?

Because it is beautiful. There is no other reason.

Consider French architecture, art, fashion and food. The French cultivate beauty and finery for the sake of itself, which is perhaps the reason France is the most visited nation on earth. The United States is second and we have the Grand Canyon.

IMG_8496In addition, Nice Port and the Old Town are separated by a large tree covered hill, rising 300 feet above the Mediterranean. Until 1705 there was a castle there, but now it is a city park, a picnic spot with Roman ruins and long views over the turquoise and cobalt sea.

The park closes at night but all along the hillside the trees are awash with careful, deliberate landscape lighting, which also shimmers off the water in the Port below.

How delightfully unnecessary all this is, but at nearly 2am on a jet lag night, I’m reminded we are all capable of magic, and creating something that makes people linger and sigh requires no explanation.

Because it’s beautiful, is reason enough.

So, what magic are you creating?

Keep Working and Be Awesome.

Today, I stumbled on The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel, a blog written by writer/entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. This guy writes 1,000 words a day, six days a week and plans to stand in the dirt of every country on the planet. He’s got 150 down.

He’s awesome and he wants you to be awesome too. So he’s published a few e-books that you can download free here!

Chris’ philosophy is this:

English: Cherry Blossom Flowers.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

2. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.

3. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.

4. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.

I just finished 279 Days to Overnight Success which you can get here. It’s chock full of practical life advice for creative types and entrepreneurs. A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World is next.

I need people like Chris. As I grope my way into a new creative life, the shape of which I can’t quite fathom, it’s nice to hear from explorers deep in the territory. And rather than guard their trade secrets, people like Chris are wrapping them up in lovely internet packages and handing them out for free.

That trend feels Christ-like and I support it. So I’m spreading the goodness.

Happy Saturday.

Barefoot, Traveling, Hippie Freak.

Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote a slew of emails from South America, Central America and Asia. For some reason, my mom printed and saved them. I just found them yesterday and they remind me what a fearless, wild-ass, hippie freak I used to be.

IMG_2201It was nearly 2000. Bill Clinton was still president and September 11th was just another fall day. Y2K was scheduled to end the world but if it had, I wouldn’t have known because I was deep in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, sleeping in a sweaty tent with bug bites covering my body like chickenpox. My then-boyfriend and I had hiked a Pre-Incan trade route, paved with large, now-slippery stones all the way from the mountains to the Rio Beni. Here’s what I had to say about that:

And because we just hadn’t had enough, we decided to hit the jungle for another four days in Rurrenabaque. We had a delightful guide and saw a few crazy jungle creatures as we were floating down the river on a handmade balsa wood raft, ala Huck Finn…Our guide, Victor Hugo, who was born and raised deep in the jungle, told us he has seen the jaguars hypnotize monkeys in the trees, causing them to fall out and become prey. He and his brothers have trapped jaguars because when you live in the jungle they are higher on the food chain than humans. They routinely drag children off.

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Belize

Later, we dropped into Central America and earned dive certificates in Honduras. On a tiny caye off the coast of Belize we snorkeled for hours with Blue Tang, Barracuda and Anchovy in warm, turquoise water with pink coral forests. Here’s what I said about that:

Morris Caye is so small it doesn’t even appear named on maps. It’s maybe 300 yards by 150 yards. We slept in a cabana that had seven windows, all of which had views of the Caribbean Sea. We spent our days drinking rum, snorkeling in the coral reefs and fishing from a tiny, leaky, dugout boat.

And one of my personal favorites came from the Himalayas in the Fall of 2000.

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Nepal.

“Nepalis are thrilled to see America joining the ranks of the third world in terms of election shenanigans. “Election…America….like Nepal…ha ha ha.” You think you are confused trying to work it out? Try at 16,000 feet in a third world country. Just finished a three-week, 150km trek through the very beautiful Annapurna region of Nepal. We crossed a 17,700 foot pass and are now safely down again. Happily we arrived in Pokhara for the beginning of a nine-day paragliding course (the kind where you jump off hills and mountains with a parachute). We took the first class today and will fly tomorrow. Needless to say, that has us pretty excited.”

I included pictures here because even I feel like I’m making this up. But that little adventurer with the tan feet, strong calves and sand in her hair, is still bouncing around in me. She’s why I believe in micro-finance, education for girls and counter-trafficking efforts. She’s why I’m a feminist and a pacifist and why I just can’t see things in black and white.

But the difference between then and now is I’m no longer the center, the engine of what I do.

Right now, I feel like a rusty 57 Chevy that is slowly being dismantled and restored. It’s painful to feel the really damaged bits torn away and replaced, but it’s worth it because at the heart of the car is a brand new, after-market engine. It’s got a lot more horses and technology I don’t even understand. It’s the same car with the same character, it’s just being cleaned up from the inside out.

So all this makes me wonder, if my steps are ordered by the Lord, as I have chosen to believe they are, surely he ordered them through places like New Delhi and Jakarta and Patagonia.

Why? What was all that for?

It’s an exciting question.