Effectively collaborating with clients usually requires finding some kind of connection, be it personal, intellectual or experiential. Sometimes you really have to dig to find that common ground, but there are those situations where it's immediately obvious. The latter is exactly what happened
'My daughter and I just returned from our annual trip to visit family in Connecticut and used the occasion this time to travel all over the northeast,' wrote Stephanie Rose in opening her Natural Companions column for November 2004. 'I'm never disappointed by the beauty I find in that part of the country.' 'What I find most beneficial in travel
Back in February, I devoted a Travelogue to my efforts to help a designer acquaintance of mine decide how to spend a watershape-related vacation with her family - and the result, she reports, was a great deal of fun. This made me feel good, of course. If you'll recall, she had started planning a summer trip for her family and wanted to be able to "spend a day or two taking in some great fountains and waterfeatures" while her spouse ran around amusement parks and other active attractions with their two young sons. She's based in the upper Midwest, so I wasn't surprised to learn that she'd organized a June trip to Missouri that included both St. Louis and Kansas City. Kansas City had been at the top of my list for her, and I was pleased to hear that Worlds of Fun is there, too - although I had not known that. Nor had I known about a Six Flags establishment outside St. Louis, so it seems the two-city, ten-day vacation came off to everyone's satisfaction. The most heartening thing I heard, however, was that she'd shared some of her passion for fountains with her family, getting them to take brief breaks from thrill rides and join her as she sought out great and inspirational watershapes in both cities. She noted, as I had warned her from my own experience, that as grand as Kansas City's Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain truly is, for instance, it's no match in excitement for a huge drop on a big roller coaster. But she was more than happy to fire up the boys' curiosity and start them thinking about how, for example, moving water serves as nature's air conditioner. Especially on hot days, she observed, they were more than happy to sidle up to the water's edge and take advantage of what she'd taught them. She also heeded my suggestion that these doses of enlightenment should be held to reasonable levels: She'd head off on her own again, she said, when it was clear their energy needed an outlet and it was time to let them step out with dad to enjoy their ten- and 12-year-old selves. I'd had the same sorts of vacation experiences with our three girls long ago: They weren't obsessed with roller coasters, but they did require more stimulation than was to be found in standing by a fountain with me as I figured out how certain effects had been achieved or, more often, as I wondered why certain decisions had been made. The best part of all of this is a story that warmed my heart. In chatting with her earlier this year, I had told my midwestern friend that seeing great watershapes has always reminded me of why I love what I do - and of the elation I feel after umpteen years of having fountains make me grin from ear to ear. So when she told me her older boy had asked her at one point if this was the sort of thing she did in her work and whether it was fun to do, I had a special sense of joy I hadn't had since Judy and I were on the road when our girls were that young. As I'd discussed with my designer friend months ago, I knew all about the inspiration she herself would find on her family's road trip. But I also knew it was possible, just maybe, that seeing water at its dynamic best would make a strong, positive impression on her kids and even her husband - and how proud they'd be that she was part of something so magical. I still look at watershapes through a child's eyes - at the Gateway Geyser, for example, or at the waterscapes in Forest Park or at the Botanical Garden in St. Louis - and know how cool it can be (in moderation) to let family members and close friends in on how things work and the technologies those who designed and built a given watershape used to achieve various effects. I knew the Missouri tour had the makings of a great vacation for me; I'm so happy in this case that it all worked out for someone else and her family!