Continuing Self-Care

I have found that the hardest thing about self-care is time management. Of course, this makes sense. All the things we often do, things that become habit, out of convenience, we tend to do to save time. Leastways, that is true for me.

Depending on what you find when you search, there are about six or seven domains of self-care. And about billion pieces of advice on what to specifically do for self-care. I like these domains as a starting point: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, relational, safety and security. Honestly, without having done some research, some of these areas would not have occurred to me.

I’ve focused most on physical self-care. I have been trying to reshape and rebuild my body. Because, health; and because men can have body issues, too. Recreating a physical image of self is probably easier than creating a new emotional image of self, but it still takes hard work and a great deal of time. In the last four and a half months, I’ve made significant progress. At an annual specialist consult this week, it was noted (with some surprise) that I had lost 60 lbs since a year ago. My diet has changed dramatically and I exercise daily. I’ve also made the attempt to get seven hours of sleep each night. I’m not quite there yet, about 10 or 15 minutes short on average, so more discipline is required.

For emotional self-care, apart from getting more sleep, I really have worked on moving away from anger as a lifestyle. While I still have have work to do, it has been quite amazing how much of a difference this has made in my life. I really am less angry.  By changing how I think, I have reduced anger and upsettedness. I am more pleasant to be around and this has been noticed. I have worked also on being more in the moment, on mindfulness. These are hard for me the way my mind races. This will take continuing practice, like most things do.

My efforts in spiritual self-care are simple and private. I will mention that spending more time outside, away from all the glowing rectangles in my life is part of this. Finding peace and solace on the trails is renewing. Stillness is also part of this. In Tinnitus and Morning  Coffee I wrote about my struggles with accepting the noise and discomfort of tinnitus. After these weeks of effort, we are at least at a grudging accord, tinnitus and me. I may not have made friends with tinnitus as I hope to do, but I am finding the quiet much more pleasant and desirable. I am finding comfort in stillness, despite the constant ringing in my head.


One of my favorite trails in Pocohontas SP.

I’ve been broadening my reading for intellectual self-care. I am reading a mix of higher ed, math policy,  and personal memoirs. A couple have been a mixture of both. I’ve also been investigating new challenges in programming for the web, especially after I realized that I had been developing web pages for 22 years. While I probably should be writing less code than I do, I enjoy it, and I enjoy learning new things. I struggle with new languages that use different constructs than those I am used to, but that is part of the challenge. However, I have to work to ensure that I am not falling back into a counter-dependency mode by trying to master everything. Instead I try to do these things with narrow purpose and intent.

Relational self-care is why I am doing a lot of these things. It is about renewing and rebuilding the relationships with family and friends that have degraded because of my inward focus. It is a slow process because it has to start with how I feel about myself, repair that, so I can relate to others more openly and accurately. (Accuracy and validity are surprisingly important to healthy relationships.) It also can’t wait until I have done all the work on myself.

As for safety and security, I am a giant, middle-aged, white male. I don’t get too worried about this. For me it is a question of avoiding activities that accompany the phrase “here, hold my beer.” Putting aside the fact that I have given up all forms of alcohol right for the time being, it is about not being stupid, not showing off.

I said at the beginning that time management is the hardest thing about self-care. It is. If you look at these seven domains of self-care, you see the six of them require action.  They also  require time. When I started using a step counter (initially the one on my phone), I set a goal for 5,000 steps a day and then upped it to 10,000 steps. For the past three weeks I have been trying for 15,000 steps a day. Generally I achieve this or more. However, it takes more than walking for an hour at lunch. It requires brief indoor walking breaks (which rejuvenates my thinking and allows me to read documents and articles while walking in a space of about 18′ by 40′. It’s amazing how many steps you can do in such an area if you put boredom aside and make it productive.

Still, this isn’t enough. I have to either walk or run many evenings. Right now I am trying to run about three days a week. It is still more of run-walk thing, but since it is generally out on trails, that’s appropriate (walk up hills, run the downhills and the flats). These have to be scheduled. I also still try to keep a few hours of stationary bike and video games in the mix each week. The really uneven cardio work that happens when my hindbrain kicks and makes me pedal faster to make my Mii go faster in Super Mario Kart 8 has really helped me return to trailrunning faster than I thought possible. Like I used to do when I was running marathons and ultramarathons years ago, I take advantage of opportunities to walk – as I did last night when I walked 4.5 miles to pick up my car from the dealer after servicing rather than catch a ride.

I haven’t even mentioned golf and range time. These are significant time commitments as well. I work to balance all these things, so that no one thing dominates everything else. This alone is a change.

These things take time that must be scheduled. I have to also allow time to spend with Melinda in the evenings and weekends, which is part of the relational self-care. Making time to read, or to just be (i.e. meditate or sit in stillness), are also time commitments. This is not to say I schedule everything, but rather that I am aware of what I need to do and make time for it. Making time to write or paint (more about that shortly) is also important. I try to recognize the specific needs of each day.

Even my diet changes require a time commitment. I spend an hour or two each Sunday prepping my lunches for the week, trying to anticipate my protein and calorie needs relevant to the physical goals for the week. Other meals require time as well because we have moved so much of the quick and easy foods out of our lives.

So, time management is necessary and critical to my self-care. Along with that is prioritizing what matters. If I can’t do everything, what am I going to give up? I am trying to make the seven hours of sleep the highest priority, but that is such a radical change for my life, it hasn’t happened quite yet. But given the way getting close to it has made me feel, it is about to happen.

I mentioned that I have begun painting. I don’t know that this is a permanent return. What it is now is a self-portrait as self-study. Confronting self-image as I work through these changes in my life. I have only done one previous self-portrait and it was small and quickly done when my skills were pretty sharp. I’ve just jumped into this trying to use skills long-dormant and trying to recall how to think about the act of painting. It’s happening. It’s good (the effort, not necessarily the painting).

All of this is working. I feel better physically and emotionally. I feel more positive than I remember having felt before. So I want more.



yes, data can lie


My office doorway, leading out into policy analytics lab environment. This was a gift from one of my former vice presidents when he left to become a college president.

A couple hours after I published i have questions, my brilliant friend Tressie tweeted:

The Digital Goofball, I mean, Guru, above is wrong. Data do lie on occasion. They can lie for a whole bunch of reasons, from the simple to the complex. The lies can begin at point of collection and continue on through aggregation and analysis.

Another brilliant friend, Laura, published a new blog post on the same day that begins with a story of a failure in medical screening.  The nurse’s failure in this account suggests that her lack of questioning is her normal behavior, or hints at assumptions she makes about patients. Whatever the case, the collected data are suspect.

Data collection is an expensive process to do well. Putting aside Big Data, which generally captures data that are a byproduct of transactions, good data collection requires careful thought and planning. I wrote about counting to one almost two years ago and point to it again because it is the basis of what I do and think about. Understanding what you are counting, and why. What I didn’t discuss, and it is implied in friend Jeff’s (also brilliant) essay that is linked within that post, is choosing what not to count. Or who not to count. Every choice in collection defines the truth and reality of what the data can represent as information.

Once we move beyond collection into shaping we encounter the same choices. We shape (most people call it “transform” but I like to shape the data) into forms that fit our understanding and the understanding we wish to share with others. Data are like Play-Doh and can take all sorts of shapes and dimensions. It can be worked and reworked for endless variety. But, it can only stretch so far before it breaks and becomes separate pieces. This is what happens with data when you stretch the definition and structure too far, original meaning is lost and the provenance is broken. Small pieces can be lost during this shaping, or blended with other “colors” creating something new, but increasingly more abstract than the original data.

There’s a key word: “provenance.” Familiar from my art history/museum studies days. Relevant today as “data provenance” for both the ownership and meaning of the data all along the way. While one may be able to demonstrate a chain of ownership and handling of data, at some point it is possible to have shaped the data into something that violates the provenance, intentionally or not. Developing checkpoints along the way of shaping and transformation is needed to reliably maintain original meaning or at least the path to original meaning.

As data are aggregated, as the counting begins, the lies can take on new dimensions of possibility. This wonderful essay by Dana Boyd covers a number of examples. At the close of our first panel presentation at the Governor’s Data Analytic Summit that I mentioned here ,each of us were asked who the ultimate beneficiary of our work would be. We all gave the same answer, but I was naturally bit blunt about it, “Clearly the citizens of Virginia. If not, we are doing it wrong, and that’s all that really matters.” Later in the day I raised the need I felt – that every session should have some discussion about the ethics of data use and analytics. There was much less response to that than I had hoped for.

Data can be made to lie. They can also just be wrong. Errors do occur, and hopefully they can be corrected before damage is done. The data can also be right, but misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted. For example, attributing an outcome to say, skin color, instead of attributing to differences in treatment because of skin color, is more than likely in most cases a complete misunderstanding of the data. Or a determined willingness to see an interpretation that fits your desired model, something along the lines of confirmation bias but with clear intentionality.

One has to know the distance between zero and one and what that distance measures and accept that distance in order to have an honest conversation about data. The fact that I am inspired/driven to write this post should be an indicator that I feel strongly about this topic. “Data don’t lie” is right up there with “the check is in the mail” and “don’t you trust me baby? of course I love you.” It is a crock of shit to say in an all encompassing way “data don’t lie.” Some of us work damned hard trying to ensure our data don’t unintentionally mislead. We spend hours wrangling with people about nuance, not just nuance of definition, but the nuances of calculation, why one way is more accurate than another. And why it takes longer to do it right.

Even when the data are pure as the driven snow, the provenance is impeccable, and the interpretation admirably circumspect, there is still room for doubt. What was left out? What assumptions were not valid? What don’t we know about what we don’t know?

In other words, we should be cautious with even truthful data. It is never, in my experience, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” as there are always unknowns.




i have questions

I spent the beginning of the week at the Governor’s Data Analytics Summit. Talk about some serious geekdom. And generally overly serious people. Governor McAuliffe was an exception, his speech was jovial and positive as usual, celebrating things in the Commonwealth and his accomplishments. But it was all seriously geeky.

And it happened again. The conversation that I find amusing. I go to events like this or hackathons and datathons and talk about what we do. I talk about our data, our longitudinal data systems (yes, plural – the agency’s and the collaborative system), and our data products. When I mention the wage & debt reports or the cohort lifecycle modeling, I often get this: “Wow, you must have one hell of a data scientist!”

“Thanks. I am pretty good at what I do, I’ve been doing it a long time.”

They look at my name tag again for a title again, or just say, “Oh.” Then we talk languages and tools and they learn that I am just not with it. My tools are old school. “Data Scientists” have proliferated at these events. Some are young and possibly credentialed as such, others are old, like older than me, and I find they haven’t picked up any new credentials. Nope, they have just retitled, re-branded, what they are. As far as I can tell, they just change tools occasionally to use the new, “cool” languages, or just new modules for old school software.

So, no, I don’t think of myself as a “data scientist.”

I’m not sure what I am. My title at work is “policy analytics director.” This gets at some of what I do. It’s also new, an improvement over “policy research and data warehousing director” for both brevity and accuracy, but I doubt it will be included most one-on-one introductions, unless I use it.

Recently I ran into a local college president. He introduced me to his son as “a numbers guy.” This is marginally better than “data guy”, a term I despise, (and yes, I know points to this site as sometimes you have to give in to the nightmare). “Data guy” is just so very one-dimensional. My life is not data. My identity is not data. But to a lot of people, that is probably all they see. Certainly, Virginia’s college presidents almost only see me talking about data – or rather what they think is data. I see it as something at a higher level than that, but I guess the difference between data and information and knowledge depends on where you stand. Or whether or not your thinking incorporates an understanding of the levels of abstraction that exist between a number and the people it represents. Where does data stop and information begin?

Data, for me, is the lowest level of observation, categorization, and measurement of phenomena. To address me as a data guy suggests that I am not worthy of the higher thought-levels in which you engage.

“Guru” is another nickname that just drives me crazy. It implies that there is some level of mysticism to what I do, at least in the way I suspect they mean it. There is no mysticism in this work, just hard work, a willingness to fail regularly, and an ability to learn from all that failure. Basically the same as in any profession. I’m not really a “data analyst” but it is a part of what I do. I can spend hours on occasion listening to the data and occasionally saying, “So what do you think about that?” Yeah, kind of the Carl Rogers of data science. (Would that work on a business card?) Or data psycho-analyst? Or psycho-data analyst others might suggest?

So what am I?

I am more than my job, that’s for sure.  If I am only a data guy, let me point out that I am generally the first person to make an argument for the liberal arts and humanities and their necessity for inclusion. I think about data and information in terms of policy objectives and people, it is more than just numbers. I also think about data in terms of the level of abstraction it represents, the distance from the measurement to the people, policies, transactions, or things measured.

I also see data everywhere. Everything is data. Every observation can be reduced to something identifiable as data or a collection of data. It’s frustrating, and sometimes damaging, because I notice things like timestamps on messages and will try to reconcile those with comments within a conversation, ie. reconciling data with storytelling. This can be unsettling to others but it is not intentional, it is just a byproduct of seeing and incorporating data. Because everything is data and it is all collectable. Especially stories. Stories are both data and a form of data collection and data sharing. They are also more than that as they are also informational and can convey knowledge and wisdom. That, I think is really cool.

Reviewing this last bit, I can almost believe that I am a data guy. But storyteller works too. I think storyteller is better, and more accurate. It won’t work on a business card for a state agency, but I could introduce myself that way. It makes sense to me, but it does it make sense to others?

Some years ago, in a context I don’t remember, I was part of an exercise about “Who are you?” The crux of this event was that most will identify themselves in terms of their job when any individual is generally so much more than that. The problem is that for some group of people that each of us knows, that is really all we are. That is my complaint. How do I, how do we, change that so we are seen as more than our jobs?

There was another aspect to the conversation above. The college president chuckled and said, “Tod always says what’s on his mind.”

I groaned, “Okay, what did I say this time?”

“Nothing, nothing it all. It’s just that you’ll have us all in a room, we’ll all be thinking the same thing, but you are the only one who will say it.”

Fair enough. I have little to lose by being straightforward, clear, honest, or just stating what sounds to be opinion but is more often my interpretation of what I see in the data. I also disagree that all are thinking the same thing as I know at least some are still struggling to catch up.

So, who am I? Is it what I do for work? Is that really a problem when it seems from my perspective that I do for work flows naturally from how I see the world and interact with it? Why do I object to certain phrases so viscerally when I can see their rightness, especially in the full definitions or synonymous meanings of words like guru?

I’m probably antagonistic by nature (full stop, maybe?) to the idea of being defined or described by two simple words. Might was well just call me a number. 219 works. I answered to that in both basic training and Air Assault school. Maybe this is my ongoing reaction to current sensibilities of reducing everything to a handful of numbers, a handful of words (bullets on a slide), key performance indicators. We’re carrying this too far, losing any sense of nuance or complexity, losing any sense that the data represent real people and their movement through life.

It reminds me of the racist, dehumanizing language used in the military to describe the opposing forces. Sure, it is shorthand, but my dehumanizing, by making them other, it reduced the psychological impact of killing and maiming. It makes it easier. The more we reduce measurement and description, the easier it becomes to forget the people that are the basis and the whole point of measurement. That’s my problem.


Lost stories of a lost world

I know only only a few songs by the Moody Blues.  I had one album on cassette way back when, but I don’t even remember which it was. On  the way home tonight, I heard “Lost in a Lost World” and it struck a chord. I’m always impressed at the timelessness of some song lyrics.

I woke today, I was crying
Lost in a lost world
So many people are dying
Lost in a lost world
Some of them are living an illusion
Bounded by the darkness of their minds
In their eyes, it’s nation against nation against nation
With racial pride
Thinking only of themselves
They shun the light

Of course, I’m a sucker for a good story, whether the ending is happy or sad, that mirrors how I feel.  So story songs are my favorite. I’m an unabashed fan of Harry Chapin’s music. Certainly Taxi is in my top 10, but A Better Place to Be is probably my favorite and the one I am likely to sing to someone at bedtime – that is if John Prine’s Sam Stone was not enough to put a child to sleep. Zach is probably fortunate that he grew up before I discovered Tom Waits and did not sing Tom Traubert’s Blues, A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis (I actually knew a call girl in my time at SIUE – she was my girlfriend’s roommate and had spent the summer working in a brothel in Nevada – but that’s another story), and I Hope I don’t Fall in Love with You. Then again, these songs might have softened his temper a bit and are perhaps a bit cheerier than Puff the Magic Dragon and some of the folk songs I sang to him.

Back when I was involved in the scout troop, storytelling was a key ritual. It built and reinforced community.  Friday and Saturday nights of our monthly campouts found the adults sitting around a fire telling and retelling the troop’s stories. For newcomers it often seemed off-putting at first since most of the stories were about boys that aged out already. But these stories were the core history of the troop. It was a small, but truly boy-led troop. The adults were there primarily for oversight and instruction. And to keep things from getting too out of hand. With this model, there was lots of room for stories to develop since there was very little, “No, don’t do that.” Zach created quite a few stories for the troop.

Saturday night campfires involved mandatory skits. It was more than entertainment, it was about encouraging creativity and performance for peers. A lot of the skits were rehashed versions of skits from Scouting or Boy’s Life magazines . Occasionally they were new. For a couple of years, Zach and one or two others would steal ideas from “Whose Line is it Anyway” and do improv like “Scenes from a Hat” where they would draw random slips of papers with scenes to act out. It ranged from groans to laughter. Adults had to had participate as well. But, other than Scout Vespers there was almost never any singing around the fire. Occasionally one of the assistant scoutmasters would sing ballad of the “Uneasy Rider” to which I would respond with the “Talking Ben Tre” blues and thus kill any further song. Apparently, anti-war songs weren’t the right tone.

It was all about the stories though.

Storytelling with data is much of what I do. However, it tends towards the implicit more than the explicit. When I was in the MFA program, one of my colleagues at the museum was fond of criticizing my paintings as he felt the stories were too obvious.  “Tod, my problem with your work is it that it is story-based and the stories are too obvious. Good art is always implicit, never explicit, as David says,” (our boss). “I think if you want to paint butts, then just paint butts, no stories.” First, he may have thought the stories were obvious, but he never quite got the stories right , he just saw a story. And two, he was the one that did nothing but paint butts. That was his thing.

The difference between implicit and explicit art or storytelling, is interesting. The explicit leaves little for the audience’s imagination to do.  Perhaps. I think it depends on how much they are engaged in the story. A two-dimensional painting or drawing can only do so much of the work. A video or movie can do much more, but still can’t do everything. And a story read or recited leaves as much to the imagination as the storyteller chooses. Implicit art simply leaves out detail allowing the audience to make more choices and assumptions, even as far as what the basic point of the piece is. To my mind, it can be somewhat lazy, if it is not somehow clear that the work is only about the aesthetic.

Transcending the discussion between implicit and explicit is Picasso’s “Guernica” painted in reaction to the use of town (of the same name) for bombing practice by the Nazis. The nearly monochromatic approach to color, Cubist style, and general abstraction take this painting far from the explicit save for a clear depiction of death and woe.  At the other end of the spectrum is John Singer Sargent’s “Dr. Pozzi Comes Home.” On the surface, this is simply a beautiful full-length portrait of an apparently beautiful man. It is pretty explicit on that level. On the other hand, there is seriously implied humor in the painting on multiple levels – especially with knowledge of about eight or ten words of the backstory. Both paintings tell stories and are deserving of hours of study and appreciation.

I used to try to write enrollment reports and a couple of special region reports that were storytelling about the data leading to an inevitable conclusion based on the presented data. It didn’t work. Every report or whitepaper had to have an executive summary that told the answer, and that’s where ninety percent of readers stopped. Also, agency heads in the past really wanted to impose an authoritative voice that was generally dry and matter-of-fact. My response was to reduce my writing to the bare minimum, and provide more and more data on the website making it a Pandora’s Box of higher ed stories. The stories are there, you just have to pick one to follow and know that the ending may not always be happy.

In participating on a forum for people with acoustic neuromas and associated brain tumors (like mine) I have experienced first-hand the power of individual stories when shared in such a forum. The sharing of a common struggle with a new member who is equal measures of terrified and curious lead to a reduction in fear from the comfort of knowing that others have been down a similar path and have had successful outcomes. Knowing further of the challenges and the less successful outcomes creates likely boundaries that reduce the fear of the unknown. My own story tends to scare the hell out of newbies, so I always warn, “I am not typical. I am an extreme case, and look at me now.” (Some might say this applicable beyond my my brain tumor.)

Forums, blogs, social media, Listserv archives, and all the other digital methods of sharing, capture the informal storytelling on the Net. These stories range from the mundane, the silly, pointless, to the powerful, the life-changing.

I stumbled across this while catching up on Twitter:

This is why, as Sir Frederic Bartlett demonstrated in his book Remembering (1932), no two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way and why, over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. No ‘copy’ of the story is ever made; rather, each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent – enough so that when asked about the story later (in some cases, days, months or even years after Bartlett first read them the story) – they can re-experience hearing the story to some extent, although not very well (see the first drawing of the dollar bill, above).

“The empty brain”. Aeon, Robert Epstein.

Is this another way of saying that the observer interacts with the observed and that only at the end of the story do we know if the cat is alive or dead? Taking it further, doesn’t this tell us that the status of the cat changes for both observers as the chronologic distance from the original story increases? (Yes, I tend think about time in terms of distance instead of interval.) Our stories change the listeners and the stories change through retelling by others, and even ourselves. Recording our stories, by writing, painting, song, whatever medium is appropriate, gives them a bit more permanence and the ability to reach a greater audience. Not necessarily a much bigger audience, but one outside our relatively small circle of social existence, to others that might need to hear our stories.

There is an audience for every story, especially those that are most difficult to tell. It may seem otherwise, but there is comfort in knowing that someone else has been down the same path. Perhaps they merely survived, maybe they thrived, or died. But knowing the story and similar stories provides path ,and a path is generally more comfortable to walk than to break trail. But there will always be those who wish to break trail to write new stories.

While I think we will never not need stories, especially good stories, I think more than ever we need true stories right now. I think we need to dig past many of the contemporary retellings that have transcended myth and become fact in today’s news cycles. We need the stories of individuals as actors in history, as everyday hero and protagonist, who struggle to make their own path or follow the paths of others. I’ve learned recently just how important some of these stories are because they rarely are told. When someone stumbles upon a story, and reaches out to the teller, a connection is made, strengthening both, and letting each know they are not alone.

There is an audience for every story. And a need for it to be told.

The Weeds, the Sidewalk, and Me

20170330_155035.jpg Wednesday afternoon, I was returning from my favorite coffee shop. I don’t think it is really comparable to some place tucked into a corner near the Champs-Elysees, even if it feels like it is, but it is a good place with good memories. I noticed these weeds. And I knew something.

They are kindred spirits. They are me.


I’ve often felt like I was squeezing life out of someplace I don’t really belong. After I had been at my agency for about three years, a former colleague from the agency told me there had been betting about how long I would stay. It seems I had rather quickly developed a reputation for not putting up with certain aspects of culture in play at the time. Sixteen years later I believe I have surpassed those expectations because of my flexibility and an ability to thrive in the spaces between hard places.

I have a thing for bricks. Brick walls, brick sidewalks, brick houses, brick outhouses, whatever the structure. There is a calming order to be found in brickwork. Order which has just enough imperfection to not be threatening in its orderliness. The varying reds combined with tuckpointed mortar is lovely. Brickwork also presents as strength and safety. Remember the third little pig? He built his house out of bricks.

There is something beautiful about these weeds. The mixture of greens, purples, and yellows is quite nice. They also have a protective prickliness about them to make one think twice about grabbing them with your bare hand to rip them out, or to eat them. They don’t comply with the traditional ideal of beauty, but they have their own. It’s a beauty born of fighting the system, of thriving in a place they are not meant to thrive, or desired to exist.

Against the orderliness of the brick work behind and below, the weeds seem wild. Extravagantly disordered. Unkempt and untamed. They transgress against the horizontal and the vertical. The weeds rise up, ignoring the lines that been set and create their own contours and their own sense of space. They break the rules. Mostly, they are ignored and unseen by the many people who walk these sidewalks.

So much of this is me. I don’t conform well against the ordered background. I stand out, when noticed at all. I have my own beauty, and my own prickliness. I try to thrive in the places that are least suited to me, and will generally do so. The lines of my life are anything but ordered, or straight, with few intersections of the perpendicular sort. The lines of my life are twisty and turny, with hidden surprises and pitfalls along at the intersections.

The weeds that grow in the spaces (spaces that are not meant to be spaces) between sidewalk and the wall live in a precarious position. They are unable to grow deep roots and can be easily pulled up and tossed to the street. They are unwanted as they challenge the status quo and what roots they have make damage by making the space between greater than it is. They slowly, so slowly, tear into the brick and reduce it to rubble, to dirt. Their beauty is not that of the rose, the tulip, or the lily, and is rarely appreciated or noticed.

If you pull them up, they come back. Persistently. As long as there is water and sunshine, their scattered seeds and the remnants of their roots allow them to be reborn. A cycle continues. And the slow rebellion of nature’s ongoing fight against orderliness continues.