Some people run, others swim, read, bike, paint, hike, maybe you even do yoga. I juggle. Merriam-Webster defines a juggler as “one skilled in keeping several objects in motion in the air at the same time by alternately tossing and catching them.” This definition implies there is a pattern to the action, alternatively tossing and catching. In fact, there are many patterns. A comprehensive log of these juggling patterns can be found in the Library of Juggling. You see, when juggling, there are certain patterns one follows to create a desired effect, weave into a show or routine, or juggle different objects. Depending on the number of balls and the difficulty in a trick, the patterns become more complex and interwoven – but there is always a pattern: movements woven together to create a complete experience.
“Somewhere there’s a pattern that connects, a tightly woven mesh too fine to see.”
THE PATTERN THAT CONNECTS
My college roommate, Dave Johnson, wrote a song that resonates more and more with me as life goes on. One of my favorite lyrics is this: “Somewhere there’s a pattern that connects, a tightly woven mesh too fine to see.” I was unaware in my younger days of how accurate this simple line is, and how the patterns in juggling and the woven mesh of our lives are so alike.
In 1981, I was juggling in the park with Dave when we encountered a fellow juggler. We passed some clubs, had some laughs, and went on our way. Later on, I interviewed with Jeff Jacobson for a job working with killer whales based in Arcata, California. During the interview, we realized we had juggled together previously in the park. Of course, I got the job. Little did I know this would be the first pass in a pattern that connects and, like in my friend Dave’s song, would weave a tightly woven mesh too fine to see.
LOST AT SEA
It was 1982, my second year working with the orcas, aboard my Zodiac, an inflatable boat with an engine. I was on my way back to Alert Bay, ready to make the drive south to Arcata when I came upon a super-pod of orcas. We were going the same way so I followed along. Lost in observation and fascination, I didn’t realize that my engine was slowly overheating. By the time I noticed, it was on fire. I managed to put out the fire but my engine had not survived. Luckily, I had a windsurfer sail and nine hours later I landed on Hanson Island inhabited only by the caretakers Joel Solomon and Louise Bracewell. I stayed with them for seven days, fishing, foraging, singing and chatting. The next year, I visited them at their new residence on Cortes Island. Had it not been for an accidental fire, one of the most influential friendships of my life may not have begun. This was a turning point in the pattern of my life.
IN AN INSTANT
I was finishing graduate school in 1985 and was searching for an international career where I could use my love of collaboration that I had developed working with international research teams. On April 13, I got an unexpected call from my mother. My father had died of a heart attack at the young age of 55. In an instant, my life was changed. Perhaps this was the catalyst for my next life decision, my next thread in the woven pattern. That same summer, I got a call from Joel. His father had also passed. His family was from Nashville and he was there settling the estate and managing the family business. I visited in October and immediately fell in love with the community they had established and the meaningful activities he was involved in. After visiting, I moved to Nashville, got my real estate license, and helped Joel’s family’s business. Nashville became more than just a home. It became a place that filled the need for core and community that I had craved for so long.
In Nashville, I saw a need for rejuvenation, to connect communities back to the city’s core. In many of the core neighborhoods, urban flight was evident. In Hillsboro Village, like many of the core neighborhoods, older homes needed repair, there were too many absentee landlords and there was no active merchant association in the existing commercial area. I was attracted to the originality and character of the aging district and pondered how to breathe life back into its bones.
THE PATTERN COMES FULL CIRCLE
Nashville is thriving, attracting more and more people drawn in by the city’s walkability and sense of community. My work as a community builder helping transform Nashville neighborhoods began with an accidental engine fire. Every seemingly accidental event is intertwined in a pattern that connects seamlessly. From my roommates song all those years ago eventually came my chance to help create something complex, beautiful, and impactful. Life has been my greatest juggling routine all along. What seems like whim and chaos when throwing the pins in the air are really intentional and mechanical, leading to an end result that creates a beautiful pattern. Juggling is a passion for me, and a metaphor for my life – a pattern of seemingly irrelevant parts and pieces working together, creating a weave I see more clearly now than ever. I will be forever grateful for those opportunities – the balls, clubs, rings, flaming torches, family, business, community, and all the other things I have juggled along the way.