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A Very Knotty Past

Camping at Moran State ParkAdam Goucher does not have the first clue about the can of worms he opened at our much blogged Tuesday night supper meeting. I’m not even talking about Adam’s volunteering my friend and I as founders for the Atlanta Testers Club (currently 2 members). As we settled into our dinner discussion, he was talking about some of the people he knows in the testing community, one of whom is James Bach.

Those of you who know Mr. Bach are probably assuming that this post is going to be a test “discussion.” Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, this is not a testing post. Adam casually mentioned that Mr. Bach lives on Orcas Island. His mention was something like, “and he lives on Orcas Island, if you’ve ever heard of it.” Have I ever heard of Orcas Island? Indeed, I have. The macro version of my story is that my husband and I camped out on Orcas for several days a couple of years ago (maybe it was this week). The micro story is a tale that shows how some places can unlock our imagination in ways that might not catch up with us for days, months or even years.

I’ve blogged previously about my tendancy towards art. Drawing and painting are with me even if I’ve consicously decided to put it into a box not to be opened until I’m finished with some career goal or degree. When I finished my CS undergrad, I was very happy to go back to art. I learned the ins and outs of drawing Celtic Knots with Cari Buziak. I made gifts for my Grandma and had a great time obsessing over the geometry of very tiny lines.

Then I took a job in Configuration Management. Those of you who have worked in CM or have had to work closely with production releases know exactly how loaded a phrase that is. I was shoved in a basement and given a schedule with absolutely no regularity at all. They gave me a very old laptop so that I could get up at all kinds of hours and work. There’s no support at these hours, so if something went wrong, I had the choice of waking someone up or figuring it out and fixing it myself. I opted for the latter whenever possible. My extra time became devoted to sleep and the art faded into the gray light of the daysleeper I became.

At least I still had vacation. My husband and I visit the Pacific Northwest whenever for possible, and the National Speleological Society (cavers) had their annual convention in Bellingham, Wa. Since my CM job and Chris’s Fire & Rescue job didn’t pay much, we figured out that if we wanted to stay longer, we needed to camp out. We looked for state parks that took online reservations and ended up camping out at Moran State Park on Orcas Island for most of a week. There’s really not much to do there except for hiking, concerning oneself with the tending of a campfire or watching the trees. With this rest and relaxation, my brain finally began unlocking itself from the knots induced by production builds. These knots ended up on pages in my journal as drawings. The art came back! I felt like Kyle MacLachlan in Dune.

See that girl...don't mess with her.  She hasn't been sleeping.

We left Orcas the same way we arrived, by ferry. During the Summer, there are always long lines for ferries in the San Juan Islands. As I waited, I drew a spiral from one of my Celtic drawing books. I don’t know what it is about that place that opened me up in such a big way. The water was a mirror showing me qualities about myself that I had been ignoring, much to my detriment. When we got back to the ATL, I had a tattoo artist tattoo the spiral on my leg and I signed up for a spirals class with Cari. The art never goes away and Orcas Island is with me, permanently.

A Spiral of Birds
Since Adam mentioned Orcas Island, the knots and spirals have returned, but I’m thinking of them in a completely different way than I did before. They have something to teach us about interaction and visualization…

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