In These Bellied Hills

As the dog sniffs out wild onions,

dew collects upon her feather coat &

our dank mornings weigh down

all that is cotton. Though some sense of

lightness feels near, but on hold,

the cold hiding out in lonely valleys

far off, singing low, carried on wings up

windward mountain slopes. We know it

without words. In these bellied hills

we can still drink sweated glasses of iced

tea with sugar sweet & wear white - toe to

head well past Labor Day, though we dream

of memories; cooler nights & fireside.

The Building Science Podcast Logo Gets An Update

Over the course of the last 4 months or so the task of slowly redesigning The Building Science Podcast’s logo has drifted on and off my desk. It’s needed to happen for a while (as you’ll see and I’ll explain). So I finally had enough time between fire drills the last couple of weeks to let my mind drift long enough to arrive at that liminal space between inspiration and pragmatism. So here I am to tell you all about this wonderful new logo and aren’t you so proud of me and yes I love you too. :)

The original logo was clunky, phallic, and busy, but it managed to get across the following ideas:

  1. This is a podcast’s logo

  2. This podcast is mostly about engineering and science as it pertains to buildings

  3. The maker of this logo didn’t know exactly what they were doing or what this logo was supposed to communicate (pssst… it was me, I’m the one who didn’t know any of that)

The big problem with those points is that the important ones (1. and 2.) are only really communicated with the text in the logo, which is a pretty low bar. The point that I would have rather avoided all together (3.) is well expressed in the actual imagery, which when I began to analyze, made very little sense to what the show is about. To be frank, when I asked myself what that imagery actually communicated, I was at a loss. But like all work, when we realize something can be improved, we should endeavor to improve it. In this case, I wanted to find a way to make a simpler, expressive logo that visually communicated what The Building Science Podcast is about.

The show is about human society as it is expressed in buildings, evaluated with the lens of scientific inquiry and critical thinking.

Through time the show has become more nuanced in its approach, refined in its production quality, and sharply focused on a much larger mission than the less serious tone we had in our early days, back when we were just nerding out about building physics with a microphone. We still have some of that, but we’ve pivoted to embrace a much larger and more important topic - that our homes have a profound impact on human health at both the microbiomic level and the macro-ecological level. It’s actually insane how little attention homes get in the big picture of human life on the planet, but so much of the human experience intersects in our species housing of itself.

I thought this shift in tone warranted a new look to express how the show has changed, especially as we approach our 5th yearly season in 2019. With new seasons come change. And we really do look at our show as but one way of accomplishing the mission of pointing architecture and construction practices toward a more human centered era. The whole show is based on change and potentiality. The more attractive and “normal” we can communicate that idea, the better.

So I played with a few ideas here and there during the process that didn’t really stick, as one does when finding imagery worth keeping and using. After several months of haphazard effort, I finally landed on a simple concept that played off the original logo, made a clear statement about the show, and served as a more elegant visual representation of the problem the show is meant to address.

The message is simple - our homes are complex experiments and we’re living inside them all the while. That’s literally what we talk about in some nuanced form or another each and every episode of the show.

I want to think that I almost got there with the original logo, but the message got lost in the clutter; the unnecessary gear wheel protruding from the edge of the round-bottom-flask with a spout far too long, and the clumsy representation of earth inside it. It’s trying too hard and still relying on the text to communicate anything meaningful. The message needed to stand on its own more simply. It needed to rely less on connecting complicated intellectual dots. It needed to look less like an engineering podcast right out of the gate. You don’t just tell someone you’re an engineer on the first date!

Logistically, it was a straight forward design. There were only a few elements. I endeavored to play with contrast between the circular flask-shape and bubbles against the angular corners of the building inside. I stuck with our company colors because I think they’re beautiful together and it otherwise wouldn’t have been as easily identifiable in our audience’s transition in familiarity. You have to ease into a new look, just like a haircut. I also really enjoyed that I didn’t have to deal with any typography because it simplified so much of the decision pathway. I did a fair bit of research on the podcasting app to see what stands out well, as well as informal focus grouping with architects and graphic designers I know and trust enough to be honest with me when they see something bad. None complained.

And voila!

I really think the new logo finds a more understated, less busy way to communicate the idea of a home as an experiment that needs to be understood. And it doesn’t hurt that it looks great in Apple Podcasts.

Founding Farmer

Another silly little art project to keep the mind sharp (or cloudy, if that’s what you’re into).

Did you know George Washington was a person?

Did you know George Washington was a person?

One Sweet Hello

If you’re a Merle Haggard fan, there’s still a chance you may not know this one. It wasn’t a big single, but it’s such a classic sad country ballad that I decided to try my hand at it and record a cover of it. There is a lot of space in those old Bakersfield sound ballads, which means there’s lots of room to explore new sonics. I tried to get just weird enough.

I hope you enjoy.

Cowboy Legs

a passion kin,
anon & then so,
full up with such
pure desire
from non-
form, climbed up
from flood water,
frozen over &
you shiver there
while I lick you
clean again.

Chicken In A Pecan Tree

I’ve made it my habit this summer to spend my early mornings running and swimming. Sometimes I’ll bound into the rocky trails of the Barton Creek greenbelt, but since the sun is rising later and later each passing day, I’ve stuck to the Town Lake hike and bike trail instead so as not to sprain an ankle. Most mornings this experience is uneventful - just quiet running in the dawn, followed by a dip in Barton Springs, shower, and head into work. And this morning would have been no different save one moment under a pecan tree near Zilker park.


I was chugging along and out of nowhere a goddamn chicken jumped down from one of the branches overhead, fluttering as it would to land safely to the ground. The only problem with the chicken’s plan was that I happened to be running straight into her flight path so she hit me square in the face.

A group of concerned high school cross country runners stopped to check on me and make sure I was alright, to which we all started laughing. I was lucky she didn’t spur at me or scratch. She just scared me and got my heart rate going even faster than the run had. But I’m glad it happened because when I stopped to look back east, there was a sunrise just unfolding itself before us all.

Isn’t that the sort of trite metaphor we all run into at some point. For some it’s a car accident or a health scare. For some it’s a glimpse of peace in life. For me it was a chicken who thought she could maybe fly. I guess the moral of the story is that when a chicken jumps out of a pecan tree and hits you in the face, you better pay attention.

Sunrise on Town Lake Trail, September 18th, 2018

Sunrise on Town Lake Trail, September 18th, 2018


Palo Duro

I’ve been lucky my whole life. I’ve traveled to a lot of remarkable and beautiful places, but this canyon, carved into the great Texas plains where I was born, will always be number one.

The canyon was downcut by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River (great name, right?) during the Pleistocene era, when the whole region was geologically uplifted. My uncle suspects the Canyon was carved out relatively quickly as a natural dam of the lake (Canyon all the way back to Umbarger) gave way and all that lake drained rapidly and catastrophically carved out the majority of the Canyon's depth in only a few days. Most of the strata in the canyon (see some of that beautiful geological layer cake in the photos below) were deposited during the Permian and Triassic periods. To casually walk amongst the remnants of such deep time (on an earthly scale) can put things into perspective if you take the opportunity to slow down and pay attention.

There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
sheltie on the palo duro canyon rim
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

palo duro canyon
palo duro canyon
the light house palo duro canyon
palo duro canyon
palo duro canyon texas

When Called Home

In a time of emergency, when called home to tend family affairs, despite all fearful narrative the journey should paint on the mind, those unnamable qualities that define the land of the Texas High Plains, somehow, always place in context my deep felt-sense of human meagerness, and in such a light that I feel an inexplicable and inescapable compulsion to persist. Almost as instinct. There is such a human notion of forward-march - of survival - that underlays the very soil of this canyon punctured American steppe. The landscape is itself the harbinger of an existential question, asked of anyone who walks and toils these fields; will you survive these harsh conditions? People have lived here since 11,000 BCE. You could call it hope to see life teeming, with staying power, in such a stark place.

Yet, each of us will die. And we will, if we can stomach it, sit with those we know and love as they pass on into the unknown.

To reconcile that primordial sense of survival on these prairies with the acceptance that not one of us stands immortal is truly a tall order. I find myself, at the moment, in the throes of just such a reconciliation. I wish I had profound conclusions to offer you, for that occasion when you might find yourself in a situation similar, but I can only evince what I have experienced myself. Perhaps this is encouraging and could be taken as advice.

So I will simply say that you ought look it in the eye. Do not fear what is your human birthright - the unflappable fact that you will someday die. There is immense power in it.

Truly this is a world which has no regard for the established order of things but knocks them sky west and crooked, and lo, the upstart hath the land and its fatness.
— The Tascosa Pioneer, October 11, 1890
Amarillo Sunrise, September 10, 2018

Amarillo Sunrise, September 10, 2018

To Drink You, Alive This Way

A poem that I wrote some years ago, rediscovered today. The words strike me quite differently now.

To become
is to hold the mountain
To become anything at all
requires only
I could drink you
alive this way
and that,
tearing along the
border lines
of our past.
Let's make a run for it
just like
we talked about,
while there's still
a chance.

To Work

I took this photo at Carmel Beach in Carmel By The Sea, California some years ago on a beautiful labor day weekend. These are the beaches of Sierra's childhood. We were laughing about the seagulls that had stolen our sandwiches. Happy Labor Day to all of you laborers. Many of us wouldn’t be able to be able to take trips like this without the good will of our employers because, beyond the basic rights granted by federal law, there’s really not much that legally protects our quality of life as workers in Texas. Remember, labor retains power when we vote for representation that values and fights for worker’s rights. 

Sierra Skorka in Carmel By The Sea, CA

Sierra Skorka in Carmel By The Sea, CA

Yucca In Full Bloom

I've been a practitioner of Ikebana (生け花, "living flowers") for several years now. It's a Japanese art form of contemplative floral arrangement that I have become quite taken with. It is also known as Kadō (華道, "way of flowers") and is considered one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement.

The form has been practiced for more than 600 years. It has evolved during this long period from what were originally Buddhist offerings that were placed on the altar of temples into a developed art form free of its religious origins that are displayed in the home. Practitioners use flowers, branches, and leaves to create living pieces of art. There are many schools of Ikebana, but I have been taught in the Sogetsu School and have studied under artists who venture into the unknown territory of free form arranging. 

Buddhist Cowboy

Ikebana is an art form that is deeply meditative. Creating an arrangement is typically done in silence to allow the artist to observe and meditate on the beauty of nature so that insight into the infinite and fundamentally sound nature of existence can arise. Seasoned designers realize not only the importance of silence, but also the importance of space, which is not always meant to be filled, but created and preserved through the arrangements. This ties into other principles of Ikebana including minimalism, shape and line, form, humanity, aesthetics, and balance.

To become a masterful artist in this form (something I have not yet done) requires a great deal of patience and discipline. The discipline cultivated when arranging flowers in this way creates a situation wherein the artist may experience a deep level of connectivity to the seasons. This art form opens up the possibility of a more nuanced understanding of context of the surrounding ecology and forces the artist to engage with an intense degree of focus and presence. The physicality of arranging forces the artist to open up to the fundamental concepts of space, harmony, and asymmetry. 

Basic Elements Of Ikebana

There are generally 3 fundamental elements involved in the kinds of arrangements that I typically work on in the Moribana and Nageire style. These elements represent metaphysical concepts that take on a new artistic life embodied by the living flowers and branches being used to create the arrangement. There is the Tai, which represents an earthen quality and is the shortest length element. Soe represents a human quality and is the middle length. And Shin, being the tallest element, represents a universal or heavenly quality. 

Moribana Basic Style

While I don't want to get too deep into the particulars of Ikebana technique or a discursive on style, I thought it would be helpful to provide at least some context through which you might better understand the rest of this story. Here are a few examples of my own work for context:

The art of flower arrangement is not, in its truest sense, an art, but rather an expression of a much deeper experience of life.
— Daisetz T. Suzuki, Foreward of The 1974 Publication of Zen In The Art Of Flower Arrangement

An Idea

My youngest sister, Jordan, got hitched back in May. They had a beautiful ceremony, held on her acreage just outside of Canyon, TX. It's a beautiful tract of land and when they bought it, she immediately knew she wanted to build a home there and tie the knot in the very meadow that would stand below the house, near a passing creek. The nuptial affair would mark one of the first memories the two would share together on their new homestead. 

Jordan & I enjoying the blistering summer heat in Austin

Jordan & I enjoying the blistering summer heat in Austin

Shortly after her engagement, when she began planning for the wedding, she and I were chatting on the phone and got to discussing my Ikebana practice. She paused and she asked me if I’d like to arrange flowers at her wedding. It was a simple request and one that I enthusiastically accepted. Quickly after accepting, though, the reality (of just how tall the order was) began to set in on me and I realized how difficult the task would be given the size of the wedding she had in mind. I had arranged plenty before, even for events, but never for such a large scale project in a place so far away from the bountiful flower markets of Austin and never before for a wedding.  Let's just say the Texas Panhandle is not known for its abundant supply of exotic flowers.  

There would be less room for error on many fronts. This was to be my baby sister's wedding, after all. I wanted these flowers to spark joy for her guests in the midst of such a memorable experience. The flowers needed to express not only a welcoming presence, but also the refinement and contextual realism of a Texas Panhandle wedding. My work was cut out for me.

Add to this pie-filling my tendencies toward intense social anxiety at events like weddings (much less the stress that would no doubt ensue at my own sister's wedding) and you can be sure I was feeling bit overwhelmed by the task assigned. But I'm not usually one to give up on a reasonable idea so I persisted in my planning and began working out the details with my sister. After all, Ikebana is a meditative art. This would be an opportunity for practice - a chance to see the world aright and hopefully make something beautiful for the wedding goers to enjoy.

As we began our discussions of how I might go about arranging for those conditions, we eventually arrived at the notion of using what the land could provide. Our hearty ancestors of the Texas High Plains had been using the land for far more practical purposes (like not dying) - I think we'd be safe in assuming it could also provide for the aesthetic aspirations of a wedding. After all, it was here long before us and will likely be here long after we're all dead. 

Palo Duro Canyon Texas

The Texas Panhandle is rich with gorgeous, understated flora that, for the majority of my pre-adult life, I spent taking for granted or tuning out. To miss out on such splendor in the name of escapism still breaks my heart a bit. I was a foolish kid. But the land doesn’t care one way or another how you feel about it. Time continues, mourning doves whisper, grasses sway in the wind, and coyotes keep howling.

When I began thinking on what kinds of native materials I could incorporate into the design, a whole new appreciation for the ecosystems arose in me. During the past 100 years more than half of the native prairies in Texas have been lost to urban development or converted to cropland. This loss of habitat has caused concern about some of the prairie-dependent species like the swift fox and mountain plover, both integral species that fell victim to my own youthful oversight. The more I pondered, the more questions began forming - how could I fold in the spirit of the native prairie land around Jordan's house into the arrangements themselves? How could I honor the ecology that literally sustained my family for generations in a single event?  Is that even possible? The answers weren't clear at the time, but the principle began to take hold.

The Texas Panhandle

My research led me to explore all manner of native grasses and trees that could be interesting to work with. My uncle, Clay Robinson, a reputable agronomist and soil scientist, has a romantic connection to the land from the Texas Panhandle to West Texas where he was raised. He offered this brilliant description of the landscape’s richness: 

There is little diversity on the uplands of the High Plains - no native trees or shrubs, and 85% blue grama and buffalograss. But the ecosystems change dramatically as soon as the descent into a playa or canyon begins. There are at least two ecosystems on the descent of the canyon walls, depending upon temperature, slope shape and aspect (which direction the slope faces). These include a changing population of a variety of shrubs, taller grasses, perennial and annual flowers, and cacti.

In the riparian ecosystem in the floodplains and along the creeks, everything changes because of the availability of water, protection from the wind, and warmer temperatures. In these, native cottonwoods, willows, hackberries, gooseberries, and Osage orange (Bois D’Arc), among other tree species are found, along with cattails, many tallgrass species, as well as cocklebur, and the like.

Jordan and Jace’s land marked exactly such a descent into canyon land.  

From photographs alone you start to work out a palate for native materials that could make for beautiful arrangements, but I had with me a deep sense and memory to fill in the nuance, to the point that I could almost recall the exact scents the soil and of the native grasses just before a thunderstorm. My family has deep roots in this wind blown land and they’re but a blip on the geological timescale. Even though I’ve moved to the Texas Hill Country long since, I still see so much of my old home in the new. The cacti and buffalo grass that mark the landscape here are nostalgic and when I contemplate them in passing, they help quiet the mind. As the spring season settled into Austin early this year, I was continually struck by that quality of nostalgic quietude by a brilliance that’s been missing from Austin the last few years - yucca blooms. Everywhere.

Both the century plants and yucca were exploding upward and bright all over town. You couldn't miss them if you were trying. Knowing that century plants weren't really going to be the material of choice (honestly, if you've ever had to dig those things up you'll know why), yucca became a focus of my research. And the more I explored them as possibilities for the arrangements, the more I grew to like the idea of a yucca centered approach. These were plants that could bring beautiful nuance to the work. They really are fascinating plants and have such a beautiful and stark profile in their habitats.

Yuccas have a very specialized, mutualistic pollination system, being pollinated by yucca moths. The insect purposefully transfers the pollen from the stamens of one plant to the stigma of another, and at the same time lays an egg in the flower (those blooms I was so obsessed with were literally home to future moths). The moth larva then feeds on some of the developing seeds, always leaving enough seed to perpetuate the species.


Austin, Texas Yucca
Yucca Sketch

The plants store water in their thick roots and in their thick, fleshy leaves. Some of the desert-specific yucca plants have an oily coating on their leaves or pads that traps moisture to reduce water loss. Some species go so far as to drop their leaves during drought to prevent the loss of water through transpiration. Even the dead leaves of yucca collecting against the trunk of the trees help protect it from the sun. The channeled leaves of a yucca direct dew and rainfall water to their roots. Yuccas are said to be one of the most fire adapted plants around - that is, they grow and spread vigorously after wildfires. 

This was a hearty, resilient plant that reflected so well the values of the land I wanted to bring to light in the arrangements. It was as though I saw yucca for the first time as this brilliant, fantastic plant that I'd only ever associated with stabbing myself with walking through ranch land as a boy. And there were plenty of yucca from Austin all the way to the Panhandle too. Plenty to pick and not make a dent in any given micro-ecosystem. This could work. This was the exact flicker of inspiration I needed to see a more full potentiality of a material that could make these arrangements spectacular. 

Century Plant Bloom Austin Texas
Yucca Bloom Petals Austin Texas

Of course, there were still a few modern stylized flowers that my sister wanted, but that weren't readily available in the Amarillo area so we came up with a plan. She'd fly to Austin just before the wedding, we'd go find all the non native flowers she wanted from markets here, and we'd drive up the state together, picking whatever we liked on the road sides along the way. I knew I couldn't do it all alone either so I enlisted the promised help of my partner, Sierra. It was a good plan.

Our Journey

Amarillo By Morning

One of the challenges in transporting flowers is their fragility. The commercial trucks that carry flowers across the country are equipped for such work, fully refrigerated with shock absorbers to keep the goods safe. We only had a Honda Fit. Our task was to fit 3 human beings, all our wedding apparel, my guitar, and several buckets full of flowers into a Honda Fit and drive it 8 hours from Austin to Canyon, TX - all while blasting the air conditioner at full capacity to keep the flowers from wilting in the spring heat. I was genuinely concerned whether the flowers would make it or not given that the cross-state temperatures were predicted to be just south of 100°F. But we pressed on with cold chattering teeth, smiling at the fun we were having. 

📷:  @eple.eple
Jordan foraging 📷:  @eple.eple

Jordan foraging 📷: @eple.eple

Foraging in the distance, 📷:  @eple.eple

Foraging in the distance, 📷: @eple.eple

At one point in the drive I got too caught up in an episode of whatever podcast we were listening to and managed to miss one of the turns I needed to make. I’d made that drive countless times so I was annoyed at first, and even moreso when the error took us through an intense thunderstorm. Though it was a bit of white knuckle driving, it actually worked out to be a boon to the flower-longevity-challenge; silver lining, I guess. Cloud cover kept the outdoor temps cool. The rain also gave us the chance to find blooming yucca all along the roadsides just as the hill country gave way to the ascent up the Llano Estacado (生け花, "living flowers").

A foragers delight.

Texas Road Trip

Of course, I've always done some degree of foraging for the materials with which I arrange, but this trip was something different. My eyes were more open to the landscape which I'd spent my youth trying to escape from. The connection I felt to the land was deeper - not quite nostalgic, but certainly sentimental. The yucca blooms marked a sort of spring pilgrimage and homecoming. Even the ruinous gas stations along the way added their own voice to the arrangements to come. There was a quality to the experience of traveling with my loved ones and the work of foraging that felt present and satisfying.

After all, was this not the very same work human beings were doing long before agriculture? Was this not the work that created human civilization in what we call the Texas Panhandle before the Europeans decimated this landscape and people there? Was this not the very work of human heritage, that my sister's own marriage would seek to continue?

The artistic vision for what these arrangements could be continued to change shape and color (華道, "way of flowers").

And after the long journey - after I thought the majority of the foraging was completed - we arrived to my sister's house and my eye caught the silhouette of the dried pod shells of the very yucca blooms we had been hunting all day, juxtaposed against one of Amarillo's famous sunsets. Our work was not done. There were more forms to explore from this landscape. I knew we'd have to pick up our gathering work the next day before we could begin the work of Ikebana. 

Sunset Over Canyon, TX
The Fence & Sunset At My Sister's Property In Canyon Texas
Ikebana is not just about sticking a flower into a vase: it is about the love and need of the artist to create beautiful forms... Ikebana is not just about the flowers, it is about the person who arranges them.
— Sofu Teshigahara, Founder Of Sogetsu School

The Work

The Donut Stop

We began early in the morning on wedding day after stopping for donuts at The Donut Stop (if you didn't know, you're welcome). There was so much to do that the work became all consuming. I was very engrossed in the work so I genuinely can't remember if we ate lunch that day or not so these little sugary fried dough angels may have been the only nutritional fuel we had. If only they hadn't been out of maple crunch...

Sierra was my absolute rock throughout the process of assembling the arrangements. Not only did she help me navigate the complications of appeasing family for a big event like this, but she also helped me organize my thoughts about the logistics of arranging and helped me expand my mind to what principles of Ikebana could be applied to arrangements that would not traditionally be considered an Ikebana piece.

For example, the bouquet my sister was to walk down the aisle with would not have been considered a traditional Ikebana piece, but there were absolutely Ikebana principles that could be applied to arranging. But even beyond all the emotional support, she helped me complete the arrangements themselves and took on the task of making simple, but elegant boutonnieres for the wedding party. This is one of a thousand stories I could tell about her spontaneously stepping in to offer her mind/heart/skills. I really am a lucky son of a bitch to have her in my life.

Sierra foraging yucca and other flora from Jordan & Jace's land.

Sierra foraging yucca and other flora from Jordan & Jace's land.

Jordan did not necessarily want the sparse look of many contemporary Ikebana pieces (and frankly I think she was absolutely right not to go for a minimalist Japanese look at a Texas Panhandle wedding), so I decided to look at the history of Ikebana in Japan to see if there were some parallel I could draw from to better fit the context.

I read through the historical chapters in the book, Ikebana: The Art Of Arranging Flowers, by Shōzō Satō, for some guidance. Therein he explains the earliest recorded examples of Ikebana practice in pre-Buddhist Japan being a rather ornate expression of Shinto belief and the cultural influence of the Imperial court there. This is an obvious oversimplification of the history and if you have any inclination to read it, I recommend it. You'll find brilliant sketches of ornate arrangements from those early days of the art form that take up entire rooms. They are absolutely wild and gave me the perfect contextual backdrop against which I could explore new artistic territory, beyond what I knew from my Sogetsu and contemporary training. 

There were a number of pieces that needed to be made to create the ambience my sister was going for: boutonnieres, the bridal bouquet, altar pieces, table pieces, and aisle pieces.  For the table pieces, I used the purchased flowers directly to bring color to the foraged materials we found, quickly discovering that yucca blades themselves, although painful to work with for the obvious and sharp reasons, expressed upward movement. This style of Ikebana is called Nageire Style (which means "thrown-in") and it allows the artist to work with the notion of trusting the natural way our hands intuit placement. The elements are fundamentally the same as Moribana, just the technique and vase different.

Jordan & Jace's Flowers

For the altar pieces, I used the fundamental elements of Moribana Style, but obviously embellished the aesthetic. I wanted to create a microcosm of the immense and flat landscape surrounding us and our joyous celebration of my sister's love. To accomplish this, I used materials that reflected the rugged qualities of the land that was sustaining us and brilliant and elegant floral materials to reflect the occasion itself. I incorporated willow to reflect the native Peachleaf Willows that grow in the canyons and breaks along streams in the Texas Panhandle (just like the stream running through my sister’s place), along with thistle, Spanish moss, and Jordan's favorite - baby's breath. These elements would bring in the rugged and elegant character of the high plains to the wedding celebration. I also used various Mason jar vases at my sister’s request, and to express a prairie pioneer connection, and even a log used as the base for the large altar arrangement.

Small altar piece

Small altar piece

Large altar piece from above

Large altar piece from above

Yucca quickly confirmed itself to be a central material to the arrangements, as we'd expected. It was a precise example of the interplay between artist and the living quality of plant material. The cohesion became even more apparent as the pieces were placed for the ceremony across the altar and in the barn where the reception was to be held. Where exactly a piece is placed is just as important as the materials used to create the arrangement and even the arrangement itself. Context matters in Ikebana. You can even see my ugly mug just to the left of the small altar piece in the image below, although Jordan's the real star of the show in this one.

As proud as I am of the Ikebana pieces, the pièce de résistance, so to speak, was absolutely the bridal bouquet. I had no idea what I was doing when I started on it, but I knew it would end up somewhere. I could either facilitate the outcome or fight it and struggle. This is where the Ikebana and meditation training were really brought to bear. There is a meditative quality of "staying with what's happening" instead of tuning out. Even though I felt stress from the situation going on around me, the flowers and materials offered the opportunity to lean into the experience with open eyes to where I was and what I was doing. I think Jordan loved the results. Probably because I didn’t put any yucca in that piece to stab her as she walked down the aisle. 

My father holding the temporary bouquet made for the wedding rehearsal. Isn't he beautiful?

My father holding the temporary bouquet made for the wedding rehearsal. Isn't he beautiful?

The wedding was beautiful, the reception tons of fun, all a memory I will cherish lifelong. I am grateful to my sister for asking me to do this. While I offered it as a gift to she and her husband, I absolutely see it as a gift that she gave me. It was a profound experience and one from which I learned much. My own artistic understanding of Ikebana (or rather the acceptance that I could dedicate several lifetimes to this and never master it) deepened. The act of arranging flowers in the middle of a huge family event brought an awareness to the kinds of silly expectations I put on myself time and again when I go home. There’s no need to be anyone other than who you are. The process of foraging for contextual materials brought my awareness to the land across the state of Texas and reminded me of our small existence on it just now. The word took on a nuanced meaning - Kadō (華道, "way of flowers").

I take with me now the spirit of the yucca wherever I go - a reminder that resiliency is a part of my heritage and that sometimes the things we overlook early in life are the things that will carry us into a new sense of meaning if we open up enough to see. 

In Japan, a number of time-honored everyday activities (such as making tea, arranging flowers, and writing) have traditionally been deeply examined by their proponents. Students study how to make tea, perform martial arts, or write with a brush in the most skillful way possible to express themselves with maximum efficiency and minimum strain. Through this efficient, adroit, and creative performance, they arrive at art. But if they continue to delve even more deeply into their art, they discover principles that are truly universal, principles relating to life itself. Then, the art of brush writing becomes shodo—the “Way of the brush”—while the art of arranging flowers is elevated to the status of kado—the “Way of flowers.” Through these Ways or Do forms, the Japanese have sought to realize the Way of living itself. They have approached the universal through the particular.
— H.E. Davey, Japanese Yoga: The Way of Dynamic Meditation
Yucca Sketch

P.S. We were so exhausted after the whole ordeal that we decided a night of camping in Palo Duro Canyon was necessary to unwind. We saw lots of wildlife there, which you can read about here.


An air molecule moving through a 1/64 inch is as substantial as a single human body moving through the distance between Austin, TX and Los Angeles, California.


Climate Change Denial

Climate change denial is intellectual cowardice. There’s no other meaningful way to name it. It’s a vast and often willful misunderstanding of ecology that hinges on the teleological argument that our planet is an infinite resource, unaffected by any of its constituent species. It is the kind of powerful tautology that could actually end our current ecological balance. All it takes is the right persuasive voices spinning the narrative for political gains. 

From my understanding, we have roughly 15 years at our current pace of carbon production to keep the planetary temperature from rising 2° C, at which point we begin to see the irrevocable super heating of the planet and systemic collapse. 

Also, it's so hot outside. 

Interpretations Of Reality

Shikantaza is not accomplished by you; it is only accomplished by the entirety of the universe inclusive of you. When we remember there is another world beyond our limited experience, we can empty ourselves of preconceived ideas and accept things as they are.

Silence Is Better Than Bullshit

A List Of Wildlife Seen In Palo Duro Canyon While Camping For An Evening

  • Black tailed jackrabbit
  • Cotton tail bunny
  • Road runners (came right though our campsite!)
  • Turkeys 
  • White tail deer
  • Woodpecker
  • Cardinal
  • Bats
  • Coyotes (heard a pack of 7)
  • White owl
  • Prairie dog (he was digging a hole in our campsite so we named him Franklin)
  • Fresh Bobcat paw prints 
  • Mourning doves
  • Small fishies in the creek
Wild Turkeys, Palo Duro Canyon

Wild Turkeys, Palo Duro Canyon

Road Runner, Palo Duro Canyon

Road Runner, Palo Duro Canyon


a moon 238,900 miles

out casting a clear 

cut of refracted light

down over your 

body a heavy quilt and I

saw you swimming

across waters of dream

toward another shore of knowing

Sense Perceptions From Our Trip To The Family Farm

  • The scent of my great grandmother's 1987 chevy S 10
  • Memories of cattle eating crab apples from my hands
  • Covey of quail scurrying up from wild plumb thickets 
  • The cold salt water of the north fork of the red river that stained my white clothes a ruddy brown swimming as a boy
  • Narrowly dodging a rattlesnake warming itself against the moss covered quartz boulders half way up grandad's mountain
  • My grandfather's newly made deer friends 
  • The taste of fresh cold water from our well
  • The ringing in my ear and smell of gunpowder after trying out the old Turk Mauser 
  • Sandy soil giving way to my boot 
  • The fallen windmill slowly turning and creaking in the breeze 
  • Picking grass burrs from between the pads of Luna's paws 
  • The prick of blood at the points of cotton seeds in hand 
  • Scent of stale vanilla and dust in the Prince Albert crimp cut long burning smoking tobacco jars that my great grandfather smoked and where I stored the money earned picking vegetables and selling them in town. 
  • The taxidermy bobcat atop the old tube television 
Prince Albert Crimp Cut Long Burning Smoking Tobacco 

Prince Albert Crimp Cut Long Burning Smoking Tobacco