Witness [on DR Thursday]

It’s almost impossible for us to keep walking when the sun sets. We stop wherever we are. In quiet, we watch it descend. It’s as if we are full participants in the day’s end. Holy moments. Holding sacred space. It’s the role of the witness.

I feel the same is true now, at this year’s end. It’s not always true in December but this year is different, It’s almost impossible for us to keep walking. In quiet, holding hands, we are watching the year descend into the past.

I wonder what we are, in fact, witnessing? We stepped off the known path and are once again traveling the unknown trail. That is not new in our experience. It is actually more common in our lives to be stepping into new territory. To not know where we are going. This time feels different.

A few years ago I painted a picture that I like very much. It is simple. Kerri calls it Pax. Peace. The figure in the painting is satisfied. Present. At peace. I’ve not thought about this painting for a long time but it’s walking with me right now. It’s asking to be pulled from the stacks.

Witnessing is not passive. This painting will be our witness during the setting of the year. We will witness it as it daily reminds us to be at peace. Holding hands in sacred space. Not rushing to get out of the woods even as the light wanes.

I have sometimes wondered why I paint. Today I know without doubt the reason.

Pax, 24x24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNSET

pax © 2015 david robinson

Get Some Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Oh, god…I feel a fit of moralizing coming on….” ~ Words to myself, uttered just a moment ago.

This would seem like a no-duh: perspective requires distance. Said another way: to see the mountain, one cannot be standing atop of the mountain.

Much to Kerri’s dismay, I think out loud about these things. A lot. She has to listen to my ruminating. Marriage requires her to be in the same space with me and I talk endlessly about the things rattling through my mind. Just ask her. Let’s just say she has no distance from my incessant blather so she lacks perspective. Or, her capacity to ignore my noise is the result of experience which provides her solid perspective. Don’t ask me. I am not in the position to offer an opinion.

When you dip your mind into the pool of information technology as I have, it’s nearly impossible to NOT think about the absence of perspective. Actually, if you read or listen to the news-of-the-day or take a swim in the social media cesspool, and are able to step back from it (thereby creating some distance), you’ll find that meaningful perspective has long ago fled the building.

For years I’ve been reading about the pace of change. At some point – and we’ve arrived at that point – the event horizon (that which enables perspective) is no longer in front of us. We sit on top of it. Information comes too fast and without pause. And, often without substance. Without perspective, the context of our lives is as fleeting and changeable as “Breaking News” or the latest posts on social media. Since the algorithms are driven by the most “likes” not the most relevant, the ugliest and loudest noise-makers garner the most attention and dominate the air-time (thank goodness for cute pet posts providing some humor in the onslaught).

Attention-getting is not known for its grounding in solid perspective. Just ask the boy who cried wolf.

As we know, crying wolf works well – for a while. Attention-getting is addictive. Once hooked, people will do or say anything to keep their buzz going. Sitting directly atop the event horizon, the only way to keep the attention is, of course, to scream louder and louder. Escalate the outrage. A news cycle churns as fast as the social media stream. Remember: the algorithms are not based on meaningful substance but on the ability to grab attention. Louder/uglier wins the day.

Without perspective, escalating outrage – the loudest and nastiest train wreck – will always win the attention grab. It’s human nature. We sort to the negative. It’s why we share complaints with anyone who will listen but dribble-out the good news to a select few.

There is an important disappearance that accompanies the loss of perspective: crap-detecting. Awash as we are in a raucous bluster of vapidness, the only hope we have is to take a step back and question. To descend from the event horizon and ask, “Is this or that assertion true?” Or, is it meant to make me mad, fuel my anger? Is it tailor-made for my perspective-less bubble?

Stepping back, gaining perspective, asking relevant questions. Crap-detecting. If a better world is what we desire to create, dedicated crap-detecting is the necessary first step in being-the-change we wish to make.

read Kerri’s blogpost on PERSPECTIVE

Ask A Familiar Question [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I’ve asked this question of clients a thousand times: What’s beneath? What’s beneath the fear, the yearning, the resistance, the denial, the dream? Asking, “What’s beneath?” is one way of “getting to the heart of the matter.”

The-heart-of-the-matter is rarely visible on the surface. The engine room, the place of power and life, is usually hidden at the bottom of the ship. It makes a lot of noise and is generally deemed “not pretty.” Getting to the-heart-of-the-matter usually requires a trip to the lower decks, a willingness to take off the mask or the armor, at least for a little while.

There is a stop on the way to the-heart-of-the-matter. This stop holds two contradictory options and both are misunderstood as the heart. Option #1: To stand out. Option #2: To fit in. To be valued and to belong. Both are wildly important and provide fuel for the trip but neither is the heart, yet it is a common stopping place for most people in their search for the heart-of-the-matter.

The real work of a heart is never dependent on the opinions of others. To get to the heart, one needs to press on.

When my job fell to dust, my first action was to let go of my symphony project. That choice surprised me. A younger version of me would have held onto that performance as if it was a life buoy. A way to stay afloat. A way of knowing who I am. This version of me knows the folly in that way of thinking: my artistry is not a flotation device. It is not a separate thing.

This time, near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself in a wide open space, with an abundance of love and belonging and no absence of esteem. I am at the top and bottom of the pyramid at the same time! It’s a great opportunity to ask myself an all too familiar question: What’s beneath?

In this life, what is the heart-of-the-matter?

read Kerri’s blog post about BENEATH

Two Sons and Two Fathers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The original contractor arrived with heavy machinery and an army of men. It was November. Our waterline broke and water was bubbling up in our front lawn. He was the only contractor available and willing to do the job so late in the year. By the time he was finished, he’d busted out portions of the city sidewalk, trenched a 5-foot-deep moat from the street to our foundation, broke out a piece of our front walk, and drilled a sizable hole in our foundation. It was the equivalent of performing open heart surgery for a toothache. Look up “overkill” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this man.

The wreckage that he left behind was prodigious, though he was obligated to return in the spring to fix or replace what he’d broken.

To say we had to fight is an understatement. The city forced him to replace the sidewalk. The burial mound that was our front yard, after weeks of wrangling, was finally leveled and the grass reseeded. He promised to return to complete the final bit of repair work, the last of the pieces: a single square of our front walkway. We knew we’d never see him again.

This story has an extraordinary ending. A series of companies were contacted. None wanted to do the job. It was too small. It was too complicated: the original walkway was scribed with lines and no one knew how to match it.

And then, one day, I looked out the window and saw Frank, hands on his hips, standing on our driveway, staring at our sidewalk. “I remember this job,” he said when I came out to greet him. “I was a kid. I was with my dad when he poured this.” He scrutinized the house. “I’m certain of it.” He smiled, adding, “I think I still have the tool he used to make those lines.”

We talked for several minutes. My dad worked in concrete so we swapped dad stories. He was excited to restore the walk that his father installed. Scribing the lines would not only be easy, but a way to connect his work with his father’s. His connection to his father provided a mainline connection to my father. I was suddenly extremely grateful for the disappearance of the original contractor. Into the void he created walked a heart-legacy, a special opportunity.

Now, the final steps you take approaching our house, will be the place two sons met with their lost fathers, a stone of remembrance and pride. What could possibly be a better welcome to our home.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CEMENT

Listen To The Zen Master [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Let’s be clear: Dogga is infinitely smarter than I am. Occasionally I fall into the delusion that I am the master – I have thumbs, after all – but my fantasy is never long-lasting. I am here to do his bidding and I am well-trained.

In addition to being smarter, he is also wiser. No matter the enormity of my life-dilemma, he patiently listens to my fear and complaints. He allows me to spin my quandary into a full-blown-fruit-smoothie, to make my mole-hill into an Everest-sized-mountain, and then, usually in the form of a belly-belly, he brings me instant perspective. Nothing on earth could possibly be more important than loving on your pooch. “Be here now,” advises Dogga. “And, since we are here now, how about a good belly-rub?’

It’s hard to argue with a zen-master-in-fur. What could be more meaningful, what possible purpose could I serve other than loving life right now? The rest will take care of itself.

read Kerri’s blogpost on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Feel Their Hands [on DR Thursday]

A Melange Haiku

The woods, remember?

Feet shushing through fallen leaves.

Tree-fingers touch blue.

The trail yesterday was arrow straight, a line running to Chicago. I teased that we need never turn the wheel. The day before we walked by the river so the path snaked with the water course. On Thanksgiving, we walked twice around our yellow loop. It was cold and our finger tips complained. Arrow, snake, and loop.

We are restless and find balance in the woods. Peace-of-mind. We are restless so are searching for new trails. It’s a metaphor, I’m sure of it. We adore our known paths but feel as if we are shedding a skin or busting out of a cocoon. I said, ‘I’m tired of making the same old mistakes, of doing the same old thing.” She is patient and listens without rolling her eyes. She is kind to let my words of frustration dissipate in the cold air. The squirrels sound an alarm. She knows that no response is required.

The sun is down by 4:30. We are fooled again and again thinking it is later than it really is. “It’s too early for dinner!” we exclaim, chopping carrots, eyeing the level of wine remaining in the bottle. We look to each other and laugh.

On the yellow loop we decided to speak of gratitude. We called to mind our nuclear family members and in turn offered thoughts of appreciation. Love is a complex rainbow and I was reminded that much of what we see is by choice. Where we decide to place our focus. I had the sense that our ancestors walked with us on the trail that day. Their hands on our backs.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PERSPECTIVE.

Helping Hands, 53.5×15.25IN, mixed media

helping hands © david robinson

Wink With Piet [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My first thought was of Piet Mondrian. Not the colorful compositions but a never-before-seen shadow side. Abstract reduction into simple geometry. An artistic vocabulary concerned with spirituality and universal values. I used to ponder how a utopian pursuit of the spiritual landed on clean hard geometry; bold primary colors set inside hard black lines. I’m certain that, given a similar pursuit, my visual vocabulary would have been softer. Ethereal.

It was the first snow. I looked down at the aging planks of the bench. A criss-cross-apple-sauce of workmanship dusted with white. We’ve never painted the loveseat. After so many years, so many winters and summers, rain and snow and sun, the grain of the wood is alive with texture. An aged face.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is the first sitting. After another freezing winter, another year of age, will the wood continue to hold my weight, our weight? We hold hands and sit slowly, gingerly. Our knees creak before our weight finds the planks. Like a baton pass, the wood takes on the groaning as our knees pass our load to the seat. We sit for a moment with eyes open wide. And then, after a slight bounce-test, we relax. The wood will hold. Our loveseat is like a faithful friend.

The snow melted as fast as it arrived. That is the way of first snow. Blink and you’ll miss it. Except for the love seat and matching chair, we hauled all the other summer furniture into the garage. The table and umbrella. The small ladders that serve as end tables. The fire pit. The first dusting of snow is the cue. The pond freezes so we pull the pump and fountain. Soon, we’ll stack the plastic Adirondack chairs and they’ll take the last available spot in our tiny garage. We push the loveseat to the wall beneath the kitchen window.

We stand on the deck and sigh, feeling the weight of coming winter. The dark days. For a moment, the yard seems bleak. But then, the birds land on the wire. The squirrel highway is open for business. We hear the ancient croak of the cranes in the distance. A cold gust brings a blizzard of falling leaves. A wholly different kind of abundance. The energy moves underground. A time for sleeping and quiet rejuvenation.

Simple geometry. Reduction to cold days and hard lines. Brilliant blue sky. A wink from Piet Mondrian.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DECK

Call Attention [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I spent the past two years working with engineers. I was constantly amazed at what they could not see and what I could not see. They were blind to what was apparent to me and I was equally blind to what was obvious to them. It’s what made us a good team. Once, Scott sent a spreadsheet and I stared at it like it was an alien. And it was. Numbers in columns and rows become visual statements for me. I lose the data in the pattern. The information melts into a design on the page. It was beautiful and incomprehensible to me. I had to ask, “What does this mean?”

Yesterday, Kerri and I took a long hike on a trail that we hadn’t walked for a few years. It was a beautiful day. I was overcome with appreciation. I recognized that we do not walk like other people. We stop often to look. Kerri takes photographs of detail. She sees the smallest of miracles and, rather than walk-on-by, she stops. She engages. She calls my attention to it. While she snaps pictures, I close my eyes. I feel the air. I hear the cranes and geese flying overhead. I call her attention to it.

The crystals on the window stopped me in my tracks. Standing in the door of my office, I looked across the hall through a room and to the window. The ice-branches sparkled in the morning light. They were like a magic kelp forest frozen in time. I called to Kerri and she came running, camera in hand.

I cherished the moment, not because it was unusual, but because it is our ordinary. What happens on the trail also happens in our home. We are not in a rush to get “there.” We stop often to look. We call attention to what we see.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS

Stay On The Root [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I wrote a note to myself and put it on the stairs. Later, I’ll carry the note up to my studio/office. It reads: standing still in the sacrament of uncertainty.

I know well this sacrament of uncertainty, this thing of mysterious and sacred significance. I’ve been here before, many times. Standing still is becoming easier.

This morning these words caught me so I underlined them in pencil: They are fully aware that their common ancestors, the Tairona, waged fierce but futile war against the invaders. In their mountain redoubt, lost to history for at least three centuries, they chose deliberately to transform their civilization into a devotional culture of peace.” ~ Wade Davis, The Wayfinders.

Deliberate transformation into a devotional culture of peace. Imagine it if you can.

She was so wise! Karola’s advice to the 30 year old version of me: let the glass go empty. That was terrifying advice to my younger self. At that age, I feared losing myself in the emptiness. At 60, having been empty (and emptied) more than a few times, her advice is sage. As she knew, empty is the only place that you have a chance of finding yourself.

I know now that I used to go into my studio to escape the noise. It was the only place where I could make sense – or find sense – of this crazy world. Studio as fortress. As armor. I will, at some point, re-enter my studio. I wonder what I will paint now that sense-making is no longer a priority. I wonder what I will imagine now that the armor is off.

I tell myself to “stay on the root.” Advice from Saul. That means to stay in the moment. Even in the intense discomfort of uncertainty I do not want to rush through a day of my life. Uncertainty and loss are life experiences, too. Colors on the palette. No less valuable than joy or conviction. When I listen to myself, when I sit solidly on the root, the circumstance remains but the discomfort disappears.

I’m doing what I’ve so often advised others to do: when you cannot see, ask those you trust to tell you what they see. Perspective requires some distance and I am sitting squarely atop my event horizon. I cannot see. These days I’m happily borrowing perspective. My friends have wise-eyes. They tell me – each in their own way – to stand still. Honor the sacrament. Listen. Empty and make space for imagination.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BEGINNING