The Awakening of Russell Henderson now in Print

“The Awakening of Russell Henderson” is now available in print on Amazon.


When Chicago investment-banker Russell Henderson—newly divorced and suffering from depression—makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a camping trip to explore the Western United States, he steps outside his usual safe mode of operation and opens up a wealth of new, and scary, possibilities.

Somewhere in Iowa, he picks up a woman hitchhiker, who challenges everything in which he believes. This sets off a chain of events that involve an American Indian sweat lodge, a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, and a road trip through stunning countryside. His relationship with the woman becomes more complex, and deep self-reflection eventually leads him to step outside the confines of his upbringing and discover who he truly is.

Part road trip, part romance, and fully visionary, this is a delightful story that both inspires and entertains.

A reader review:

“The protagonist, Russell, enters the story as a self-centered, left brained, irritating alpha male. When his wife walks out, he is deeply shaken and embarks on a journey of self discovery, traveling westward across the US. Almost immediately he picks up hitchhiker who rocks his world. He is rapidly introduced to new cultures, new ways of thinking, and new ways of behaving. He discovers within himself a new generosity and depth of honesty. His love of music reemerges and blossoms. A thoroughly fun read with philosophical nuances.” Rini Twait

My Road to Creativity, Twelfth Excerpt: Assistant Professor:

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little un-nerving to step into a design studio with twenty dubious students. I was given a syllabus for each of the three studios I was teching and dove in. My major professor had become a friend and mentor and, thankfully, was there to guide me in that first while.

As a teacher, I was expected to do research or some sort of design work of my own choosing. There was little chance for any free lance work in Ames  so I began to design and silk screen posters for different events in the Design College. It gave me a chance to initiate and do my own design. I had learned to silk screen in grad school and liked the process. However, I still stumbled with creating anything grteat and some were better than others. Whatever, it kept me actively exploring and designing. I was not what I considered to be a great image maker so my posters tended to be more typographic with bold abstract shapes moreso than any actual recognizable images.

After a year of teaching basic design, typography, and symbology studios, I finished out the year although my student evaluations left something to be desired. The students challenged me as a newbie. I had dealt with much tougher clients and sub-contractors in my construction days and wasn’t cowed, but I was scared to death, hoping it didn’t show. It did and the students smelled blood. I struggled on and I believe, in spite of everything, I imparted good design information and skills whether they knew it or not.

Having only a one year contract, I had put together a teaching vitae and was ready to send it out for teaching positions at other schoolslate that winter but I was offered another year at Iowa State and accepted. 

Earlier that spring, my mentor suggested that I consider doing a three week design workshop in Switzerland that was offered through Kent State University to further my education and add to my resume. I got the information on the workshop and with the money I had saved that year of teaching and living in my austerely, I could manage to afford the trip and workshop tuition. I decided to go. The University travel agent set me up with all my flights and other travel arrangements. I got my passport. I had only flown four times before when I was in the Navy and never international. But my excitement overcame any nervousness.

I contacted my friend who was in Basil and would meet her after the three week workshop in Rapperswil, just west of Zurich on the shores of Lake Zurich. I left for four weeks in Switzerland in mid-June. 

My Road to Creativity, Tenth Excerpt: Graduate School II

I continued on, but in May of 1981, my mother died. This shook me to the core and I missed the end of the quarter and spent early summer settling my parents affairs and trying to avoid the depression and fear that was lurking all too close in my psyche. 

I did manage to do an independent study that summer. It helped me take my mind off everything else that was going on. My woman graduate student colleague left the program to continue her studies at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basil, Switzerland, one of the most prestigious design school in the world with one of the leading designers and teachers, Wolfgang Weingart. I was envious.

Fall came and I was back at the University full time with a teaching schedule, now teaching beginning typographic design. I was given the syllabus so that took away some responsibility and work. I liked typographic design as I wasn’t much of an image maker. Structurally, I could integrate type and image on a page, but my work was stiff and very formal, lacking the dynamic elegance I wanted, but really didn’t understand how to achieve it. The great designer’s work I admired for that ‘dynamic elegance’, I could not manage.

I was due to graduate spring the next year and needed to decide on a thesis project. My major professor had a call from the Iowa State Fair Board for help to redesign their fabric exhibit hall and he thought it would be something that I could do as the project. I was familiar with spatial design from my construction background and, not having any better ideas myself, I took it on. 

It was fun. I photographed and measured the space dimensions. I was back in my element of construction drawings. I researched anything and everything I could find about exhibit design: how people wander through space, how they see space, how to create flow to guide people in a subtle way through a given space. My project was my coursework and I spent every available minute other than my teaching load. There was a structure to it and I relished in having that. I was able to apply my new design criteria and vocabulary together.

 I worked with the architecture professor on my graduate committee about model building. I had my plans, built my model, photographed in with a closeup lens with scaled cutouts of people. It turned out better than I could have imagined. 

Then there was the written part which I dreaded but forged on through. I did not type so it was all hand written. I hired a wonderful secretary in the Art and Design office to type out the transcript. The next hurdle was presenting this to the Fair Board and then to my graduate committee.

I did the Fair Board presentation and they loved it. Their only problem was budget which had nothing to do with me. I went to the Iowa State Fair two years later and saw that they had actually incorporated as much as they probably could afford. IT was great to see people moving through a space I had designed. I felt proud. 

The Graduate Committee meeting was set. As protocol, I brought treats, what, I cannot remember. There  were five members on my committee, including representives from Graphic Design, Interior Design, Architecture, along with the Chairman of the Department of Art and Design. It was like entering the lions den, the gates of Hades, the ocean of Jaws. I had a slide show, drawings and all my backup research materials as well as my newly gained knowledge. I was unanimously passed. I graduated spring, 1982. I was forty-one years old.