Friday, September 14, 2007


The best thing about working for a boss whose title is Consigliere is that he knows other equally brilliant Consiglieres. My boss recently introduced me to Mark Hurst and the GEL conference. (You can find more information about Mark, the conference, and Mark's company, by clicking (Coincidentally Mark is a friendly, engaging guy who lives just a few blocks away from me. I love this town!) The GEL conference is a once-a-year event that bring together brilliant thinkers and innovators from many different fields to share their ideas, concerns, experiences, and hopes for the future. The brain power in these conferences at any given moment is nothing short of incredible.

Mark was kind enough to send me a few DVDs with some footage from last year's event. There were two speakers whose work really struck me as something that I could write about on this blog. One of them is Marie Lorenz. She's a boat builder, artist, and tidal expert who lives right here in New York. She started a project called the Tide and Current Taxi. She sent an email to everyone she knew in New York, asked them to give her two points that they visited often (around the costs of the islands that comprise New York City) and then invited them into one of her boats to navigate between those two points using only the current of New York City's rivers. They rarely got exactly where they were trying to go, though she always got a great story. And really, it's always about the story and we rarely ever end up exactly where we thought we were going. We're in it for the journey.

In her talk at GEL, Marie explained that on one trip, the current had become particularly rough in the East River, and more and more water lapped up into the boat, causing it to sink, no matter how much she and her friend paddled. They ended up letting go of the boat and everything inside of it and had to swim to the shore of Roosevelt Island. Marie was so upset, so discouraged. She and her friend nearly drowned, and she had lost the project. It was now floating out there in the East River, menacingly, upside down, right near one of the strongest currents in the world. Her heart was broken.

And a moment later, she climbed over the short fence between her and the East River, and she dove in. Like hell that current was getting her boat and her gear! She swam diligently out to the boat, scooped it up, and swam back to shore with all her might. She had worked too hard on this project to let it all go down the current.

It made me think about all the times I've worked so hard for something, paddled furiously in the wake of impending disaster, only to end up swimming for the shore. Like Marie, on occasion my heart was broken and so I dove back in, in an effort to salvage was was taken away. The salvaging has never worked quite as well for me as it did for Marie - each time I ended up discarding the very thing I dove back in for once I realized it would have been better to let it remain out at sea and for me to move on. Though I suppose that's better than having it drift away and never being sure of whether or not you needed or even wanted it.

I've been thinking a lot about those currents that surround this island I am making my home on. I don't think I'll ever look at them quite the same way as I did before Marie's talk. Sometimes they carry us to some place new that wasn't on our itinerary, and sometimes they take away everything we've got leaving us able to do nothing else but swim to shore. I guess the trick is to know the difference - when is the vessel that carries you worth paddling like hell for, when is it better to just let it fall away, and what makes some of these vessels so special that they are worth diving back in to rescue?

For more information about Marie, visit

The above image can be found at

1 comment:

Mark Hurst said...

Christa - You've got it exactly :) Gel is about seeking the patterns underneath the stories. Hope you'll find a way to attend Gel next year...