Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process. Also learning to code.

Embracing White Space

I love October. Up here, the air is crisp and almost all the leaves have turned. Winter's not here, but it's not far off either. I'm fond of all four seasons, and I especially enjoy the transitions between. In October, the year is coming to a close and with Canadian Thanksgiving, I start to remind myself of how I blessed I am.

We recently moved — again. The last few years have been a search, the type of restlessness you feel when your clothes don't fit quite right. We've been looking for the right mix of country and urban living, the type of place that will allow us to cultivate an environment for raising a family that fits some our beliefs, while still being close to our community of friends and family. Growing and preserving food, learning some of the older crafts, connecting yourself to dirt and earth; these are things more easily done on the right piece of land.

Now we're on one acre, located at the very end of a quiet street. Where we just moved from, we had to worry about the kids getting run over due to the heavy, fast, loud traffic on a very busy street. Here we only have to teach them to respect the neighbors. The distant hum of traffic and industry can still be heard, but it has to compete with sounds of squirrels chittering and wind blowing the leaves.

I think we've found our home.

Between the Lines

When you're working with your hands, your mind is free. That's how it goes for me at least. The first month of living here passed quickly, but there was a lot to enjoy. Sweeping the chimney, processing compost, cutting wood — there's something magical about working a chainsaw, you know? — planting raspberries … my perspective and ability to keep the big picture, the important things in view are greatly enhanced when I spend more time doing these things. Time away from this screen is a necessity.

In a recent post, Jon Gruber made mention of his enjoyment of working with a computer:

When I’m away from my computer for days, I’m happy when I sit down in front of it. There’s a certain feeling I get when I use any computer — a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, my TiVo, even an ATM or the credit card slider at the supermarket. Cool, a computer.

I empathize with his sentiment. But the key part of that statement is the beginning — getting away from the computer heightens the enjoyment I get when working. Eight hours a day is even a stretch, at least consecutively. Especially when that eight hours is spent ingesting digitally. I can be a slow learner, but the structure of my day is starting to reflect these ideas.

It's a weird thing. Being outside, working with my hands and physical exertion all allow me to somehow, at the same time, both read between the lines and see the big picture better than I can when down in the trenches. The right words, good ideas, solutions to problems — they seem to present themselves in a clearer light in these moments.

The White Space

Being exposed to great design has helped me to not only appreciate white space, but to be able to identify it more clearly. And it's a concept that applies to areas other than web, print or product design. I may just be getting to a place in my life where I'm not merely giving these 'priorities' lip service. The desire is enough that the end of the work day comes with a smile as I put on my workboots and plaid jacket and head outdoors.

The spaces between the work give shape to the work.