Intend Renewal [on DR Thursday]

Context is everything. When we chose this picture for our Melange, I thought I’d probably write about renewal. Out of devastation, a phoenix rises. Or, perhaps the kind of renewal that doesn’t just happen but requires a bit of scraping, new soil, scattered seed, and hay-net to prevent the birds from feasting on the seed. Intentional renewal.

Context. Between the day we chose this photo and this cool quiet morning that I’m attempting to write about it, the mass shooting at Highland Park happened. I’m finding it nearly impossible to write about renewal.

Highland Park is not far away. We attend the annual art fair on their small-town Main Street. We’ve driven through 4 times in the last two weeks.

We were about to go out the door and walk to our local 4th of July festival when the news arrived. We looked at each other, no words necessary. We kicked off our shoes. We decided to stay home. Going to a place where people congregate – like grocery stores or elementary schools or places of worship or movie theatres or parades meant to celebrate our “independence” – seemed unsafe.

Context.

HIghland Park was one of three locations in the USA that experienced mass shootings on the 4th of July. No, check that. Four locations. Even as I type, Kerri brought news of the mass shooting that happened here – not so many blocks away – on the 4th. Staying home was a good choice. Oops. Check that. More news. There were eight. Oops (again). Check that. Eleven.

I cannot write about renewal but, for the third time this week, I am tapping out thoughts about interconnectivity.

It is a trick of language to say, “I broke my toe” and believe that only the isolated body-part called “toe” is injured while everything else is fine. Except it’s not fine. An injury anywhere to the body is an injury to the whole body. Everything is impacted. Everything adjusts. The pain-impulse you feel in your toe has already completed a round trip to your brain. Your posture adjusts so expect your hip or back to be sore tomorrow. Your spatial awareness goes on high alert: it’s best to avoid toe contact with any immovable object. If you desire to understand interconnectivity, consider how your whole body might respond if you happen to stub your seeming-isolated-and-already-broken-toe. Whole body response. Imagine it.

There have been over 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. So, the single most puzzling comment to come out of HIghland Park? “How could it happen here?” As if “here” is somehow isolated from Uvalde or Buffalo or Boulder or…it’s a long list and growing.

The whole nation-body is injured. It’s the illusion of isolation that underpins the mad-thought that more guns, unrestricted, are a solution to gun violence. Build a fortress? Isolate? Better doors? Arm yourself? It’s only the toe.

Where exactly is the boundary of “here?” And why would it be okay for “it” to happen “there”?

We’re all here. There is no “there” that is “safe.” Context is everything.

Perhaps I am writing about renewal. The intentional kind that requires some leadership scraping, new soil, seed, and a whole-body community united and relentless in their demand for proper protections from the insanity of guns.

read Kerri’s blogpost bout NEW GRASS

may you © 2015 david robinson

Go It Together [on Flawed Wednesday]

“The problem is that this fluidity is not a choice we are free to make. Despite the unifying patriotic rhetoric that permeates the United States, on some level Americans are not really fooled: at bottom, each person knows he or she must continually “reinvent themselves,” which is to say, go it alone. America is the ultimate anticommunity.” ~ Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire

I laughed aloud when I read this quote. It reduced to a simple phrase what I believe is the collective experience of being an American (U.S.) in the 21st century. Together, we go it alone.

“Going it alone” is, of course a delusion shared by cowboys, republicans, and guys that put big tires on their trucks. After all, someone had to make the tires. And the truck. And pave the road. Using tax dollars since the roads are public and maintained by the collective. All of the chest-thumping expressions of individuality are, after all, firmly rooted in the lives and labors of others.

It only takes a minute to tease apart the loose fibers of the go-it-alone mythos. The problem is that one must want to think it through and, in our current spiral into stupidity, thought is shunned. So is history. At the core of anti-community is the absence of critical thought and a bucket of denial.

[Sidebar: this reminds me of a favorite phrase that, one day, popped out of Jim’s mouth: because you think it, does not make it so. Because you believe it, does not make it so.]

In my current state of residence, the governor, a democrat, asked the legislature, a randy band of republicans, to meet for a special session to discuss the ills that currently plague our community. The randy band gaveled open the session and then, as is its custom, immediately gaveled it closed. Legislators that refuse to discuss issues or policy. Sitting in the people’s house, obstruction is the only card in their deck. Not a single idea or impulse to serve the public in the randy band and their lock-step rugged individualism.

It is the sign of our times. Going it alone together is an ugly race to the supremacist bottom.

The cure for what ails us lives in the space between the gavels. Genuine discussion of the real challenges that face the community. An acknowledgement that driving the big cowboy truck adorned with big cowboy tires is only possible on the public road made viable by the shared effort of hundreds of fellow citizens. All of the Fox-driven drivel and religious right propaganda is never going to change the fact that we are all in this together. We can choose to be a failed state in a dedicated anti-community or we can thrive in the post colonial-era by bringing all ideas, all points-of-view, all people, to the common table for a wee-bit of collaboration, compromise, and long-needed-real-live-bona-fide-communal-reinvention.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MASKS OPTIONAL

Take The First Step [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“That is what marks out the warrior: the knowledge that willpower and courage are not the same thing. Courage can attract fear and adulation, but willpower requires patience and commitment.” ~ Paulo Coelho, Aleph

And so begins my tale of two quotes.

It’s true, I have not been very courageous in this lifetime. I’ve run from most of my demons until circumstance or readiness required me to turn and face them. Left to my own devices I’d be running still.

“I learned long ago that in order to heal my wounds I must have the courage to face up to them.” ~ Paulo Coehlo, Aleph

Luckily, life ran me into a dead-end. It was not courage but conditions that stopped the run and necessitated the turn. Demons are never as big as fear makes them out to be. In fact, turn and face them, and they will often shrink to nothingness. Their job is to make you run.

The real work happens after the demons shrink. Standing in your dead-end, the race from your life now complete, an obvious and disconcerting question arises: now what? Actually, there’s a deeper question implied: in the absence of running away, what will you choose to walk toward?

The deeper question is one of willpower. The deeper question cannot be answered by anyone else and can only be found in the space once occupied by the demon. Facing the demon was merely a prerequisite. Standing still in your dead-end, reaction transforms to intention.

Breathless and vulnerable, it is willpower (perhaps a kind of courage?) that is needed to take that first timid step toward…

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE CANOPY

Live The Words [on Merely A Thought Monday]

We awake each morning to birdsong. I imagine the birds’ song raises the spirit of the sun. Or, the birds sing because the sun raises their spirits. Both are good stories.

When I was in college I had a professor who seemed a bit radical. Now I recognize that he was not radical. He was a scientist and his data was prophetic. He was sounding an alarm for his students, knowing that his students could not yet hear him. He was the first person to introduce me to the notion of climate change. At the time, the world was still smarting from the oil crisis of the 1970’s. One day in class he said, ‘If you think the oil wars are bad, just wait until the water wars.” I heard his voice this morning while looking at photographs of Lake Mead and the river Po. Dwindling water meets rising population. Panic is in the air. In the meantime, Australia is drowning. Desperation is on the rise.

I like to imagine the birds raising the sun while the sun raises the song in the birds. It’s a story of interconnectivity. It’s to understand the question, ‘what causes what?’ – as a two way street. You impact your environment and your environment impacts you. Or, better stated, you and your environment are not separate events. (“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles)

Though he never used the word, “interconnectivity” was the construct my seeming-radical professor was asking us to consider. He understood that his students were products of a long tradition of disconnection. A dedicated delusion of dominance over nature ruled our construct and he was attempting to puncture that absurdity bubble. Pour toxins into your river and your water will poison you. Pour carbon into your air and your air will eventually pour carbon into you.

The same applies to governance and society in general. What we pour into it is what we will experience as it. H wrote that, “Politics is simply the exercise of being a good neighbor for the sake of the neighborhood.” Interconnectivity. For the sake of the neighborhood. Demonize your neighbor and they will, in turn, demonize you. Refuse to listen to your neighbors and they will refuse to listen to you. Pour guns into your community and your community will inevitably aim its guns at you. Lie to gain power and the lie will gain power over you.

Pour support, service, acceptance, consideration…into your community and it will respond in kind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not so complicated a concept when seen through the lens of interconnectivity. Kindness begets kindness. Acceptance begets acceptance. Honesty begets honesty. Intend it. Practice it.

These are easy words to say. Living the words is quite another story. Unless you happen to be a bird, singing the sun awake as the sun pours its rejuvenating warmth over your song.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THIS DAY AND AGE

Change The Plan [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

The snack rules on a road trip are different than the snack rules at home. Even when we delude ourselves into thinking we’ll be virtuous snackers on our trip, we quickly breakdown and stop for Twizzlers and Peanut M&M’s. And Munchos. “Do you want some apple?” I ask, and Kerri makes a wrinkly face.

“I don’t want any of that,” she pouts.

That’s when I know there’s a change in the snack plan. That’s when I know there’s a stop ahead. That’s when I know the road trip has officially started. With the onset of wrinkly face we revert to our inner 20-somethings.

“ROAD-TRIP!” we whoop in unison, turn up the music, and speed for the nearest exit.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNACKS!

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Be A Zebra [on KS Friday]

The Post-It note beside my desk reads “Zebra.” It is a reminder to be more like the zebra. After a near miss with a lion, the zebra does not return to the herd and perpetuate their stress by recounting the story over and over to any other zebra that will listen. The zebra shakes off the adrenaline rush and moves on. No extra stress necessary.

For many years I’ve known that most actions are relatively easy to perform, the stress we experience comes from the story we wrap around the action. There’s a full range of stress stories, from “I can’t do it” to “I have to be…” The it-has-to-be-done-now story is pervasive. At some point in my youth I got it into my human head that faster was better. It’s not a good story since it requires the lion to be on your heels all the time. Watch people sitting in a traffic jam: the story of stuckness has otherwise rational people red-faced and pounding on their steering wheels. The I-have-to-be-there-now story is a recipe for never being present. Running, running, running. Lion on your tail.

Zebra.

When I moved in Kerri cautioned me that the to-do list would never be done. We live in an old house and, like an old body, extra care and patience is required. It’s been quite a transition. This house has become my teacher. It’s in my nature to get-things-done. True confession: If I start a project, I become myopic until it’s finished. All my life, after starting a painting, I lay awake at night rolling the possibilities over and over in my mind until the final brush stroke hits the canvas.

This old house has taught me to let go of my story of need-to-finish. It’s softened the edges of my Puritan work ethic. I’ve grown to appreciate having to tighten the handle on the backdoor once a week. Some day we’ll get to putting knobs on the kitchen cabinets. I’ve come to appreciate jiggling the burner to make the stove work. Our monthly puddle-prevention-thaw of the freezer is part of the rhythm of our lives.

Zebra. No resistance. It’ll get done when it gets done.

Life is infinitely better without an imaginary lion on my heels. It makes me wonder why I spent so much of my life creating stress for myself. I’ll save my stress for the real lions and you can bet when one of those appear, I’ll tell you about it. Again and again. I’m a human after all. Half the fun of being human is telling the tale so I want to make certain my tale, if I’m going to perpetuate my stress, has bonafide lions snapping at my hooves.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE REFRIGERATOR

i didn’t know/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Consider The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

Because it is outside, she grabs her camera. Were it inside, I’d hear the special scream saved for spiders and I’d come running. The power of a screen, flipping fear to fascination. “It’s amazing,” she said and cringed.

Spider symbolism – like all vital symbols – carries the power of a complex split-metaphor. On one side of the screen they are toxic, malicious, potential bringers of slow venomous death. On the other side of the symbol, they are world creators, weavers of life and interconnectivity. Certainly, they are central characters in this world-wide-web that we enjoy.

In this era, we attempt to restrict our symbols, preferring them to be absolute, one-sided, either this or that. Symbols never work that way. They lose their power when cut in half. To be potent, a symbol must embody both sides of the moon. Limiting a symbol to only one side flattens it, robs it of dimension, renders it useless. The real power of the symbol ignites when both aspects are understood and embraced. Symbols are polarities.

We would be wise, in our nation, to look at both sides of our symbols. Our history, embodied in our symbols, is both shining and dark. Vapid fear-stories like “replacement theory” fester in a flattened symbol culture, a half-told history. Ugly nationalism grows in the spaces left empty by a cleaved symbolism, a highly-edited narrative.

Gaze through the screen at both sides of the symbol, and a fuller, richer, more color-full story emerges. An honest narrative.

Nations, like people, become healthy when they embrace all sides of their story, the dark side and the light, when they acknowledge both aspects of their symbol, when they take responsibility for their actions, the venomous and the virtuous alike.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SPIDER.

Prometheus Resurrection © 2008 David Robinson

Sing The Song Of Simple Lessons [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

This is a song about the simple lessons. The amusing and eye-opening answer to “because we’ve always done it this way.”

As a budding young artist I was frustrated because my charcoal lines were not as alive or fluid as the masters I so admired. I wrestled and strained and struggled to achieve “alive” lines, doubling down on my technique, my personal bridge to nowhere, as if doing more of the same, rife with inner turmoil and tension, might achieve my aim of ease.

Watching me struggle, amused by my absolute dedication to doing the same old thing in the same old way, as if I might accidentally squeeze out a new result, my art teacher, a wisened older woman full to the brim with laughter and humility, came to me, took the charcoal from my hand, and showed me how to hold it, not like a pencil, but like a flower. My lines were instantly alive. My teacher laughed at my amazement.

New ways – better ways – are rarely discovered on a tension path. Why is it that we look in the same drawer multiple times when we’ve lost our keys?

We have, for years, made lunches from yummy food wrapped in a corn tortilla. More often than not, our food falls to our shirt, our plates, the floor, because the tortilla splits. “We have to do something different,” Kerri says each day as her tortilla disintegrates. Dogga delights in the mess and recovers the spoils that hit the floor. Day after day, year after year, the tortilla struggle has been a part of our lives.

During a recent visit, Kirsten, watching our struggles, shook her head, sighed and asked, “Why don’t you use two tortillas?” It was a revelation. A simple change that never occurred to us, babies of depression era parents.

“Two tortillas!” Kerri exclaimed. “Yes!”

I nodded with satisfaction. A better life, a cleaner meal, was in reach! Less mess in our future!

Two tortillas. Hold the charcoal like a flower. Revelations born of ease and the obvious answer.

Someday we will learn (or not): No stress necessary. Relax. Insight sings the song of simple lessons.

read Kerri’s blog post about Two Tortillas

Do Good Work [on Two Artists Tuesday]

As a purveyor of story, I’ve regularly explained away the large mound of dirt in our front yard as either the tunnel-sign of an enormous gopher or an ancient burial mound. Neither story had sticking power but I had to say something about the mountainous mess left behind after the crew dug a moat to fix our broken water line.

Kerri and I visited the mound daily and asked each other the same question: what are we going to do? The paperwork for the repair mentioned our responsibility for possibly doing “light landscaping” after the repair. With weeds wildly growing atop the burial mound, snaking their way through the chunks of concrete and asphalt, an answer to our question became pressing. Our neighbor, the landscaper, wheezed every time he looked our way. “We have to do something,” she said, marching inside and picking up the phone.

These are a few of the responses to her initial appeal to the company that dug the hole and made the mound: It will eventually settle. It can’t be that bad. It’s not our responsibility.

These are a few of Kerri’s replies to their responses: It is that bad. It will never settle. It’s your responsibility.

Initially they thought it was a smart move to send someone out to see the mound that was not so bad and would eventually settle. I’m certain they sent someone as a gesture, a token visit to demonstrate their concern, to quiet the complaint of the customer. The guy that came took one look and said, “This is a mess. We did this?”

A few days later a dump truck appeared, followed by a large scraper. They took away the mound. They smoothed the scar with a layer of new top soil. They scattered new grass seed. They covered it all with protective hay. We were shocked. We expected mound removal and nothing more.

Kerri and I visited the new hay-covered flat land front yard. Gopher and burial mound tales suddenly a thing of the past. She texted the story of the mound disappearance to Dan, our new-grass advisor and renowned-lawn-master. He wrote, “It’s nice to find people who want to do good work, who want to take responsibility for their work.” True. So true.

“I can’t believe it’s gone,” she said and smiled. “The squeaky wheel…”

Clapping imaginary dirt from my hands, feigning boy bravado, strutting with mock accomplishment, “Well. What’ll we take care of next?” I asked.

read Kerri’s blog post on HAYNETS

Blink Open Your Eyes [on Merely A Thought Monday]

In an interview, Thomas Friedman called what we now face in this nation a “slow erosion.” Societies do not collapse all at once. They slow boil, frog in a pot.

Timothy Snyder said, ‘Ideas matter.” After all, ideas become action. Ideals matter, too. Democracy is an idea. It is not a given. Those who erode its foundation must believe it is inevitable, otherwise they would think twice before perpetuating The Big Lie, brazenly participating in sedition. Make no mistake, justifying an assault on the succession principle is to turn against the fundamental idea. Democracy is nothing more or less than a succession principle. Ideas matter.

Slow erosion. Slow boil.

Watching the news, reading the streams, there’s not much more that can be said after the court’s assault on a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. Equality is an ideal. It is not a given. We not only have to choose it, we have to choose it again and again and again. Equality is a kind of power structure. It is the rhetorical central idea of our society.

And, so, we work on and on to make our central ideal more than rhetoric. We fought a war over inequality. We actively chose our central ideal with equal rights amendments. Early in our history, we chose it when we extended the vote beyond white male land owners. We chose it again when we prevented government from dictating what a woman could and could not do with her body. Equal rights.

Equality scares those who stand atop the hierarchy, who believe their privilege is their power. Ask Ginni Thomas what drives her sedition? Ask her husband Clarence why, now that the nation has rendered women second-class citizens, we now must revisit the rules of contraception and same-sex marriage? Ask Mitch McConnell about his life-long mission to pack the courts. What, exactly, might they be afraid of? Why are they working so hard to undermine rather than further democratic ideals? Why are they choosing to restrict equal rights while pushing forward autocratic candidates with authoritarian ideals?

My grandfather told me it was wiser to listen to a person’s actions and not their words.

Ideas, ideals – like equality – are powerful and made visible in chosen actions. Tom used to say that you can see the power of an idea by “the size of the tide that rises against it.” Right now there is a mighty tide rising against the democratic ideal of equality and the core principle of succession. It’s not a given. We are seeing what happens when the guardians of the principle turn against it. Slow erosion. Robbed nest.

The good news is that Tom’s phrase works both ways: you know the power of an idea by the size of the tide that rises to defend the idea.

Timothy Snyder also said that we have recently been a nation of sleepwalkers. Democracy is not inevitable. It is a choice made again and again and again. We create it on a daily basis through our choices and actions – or we lose it. Perhaps this latest assault on the ideal will wake us up? Perhaps we might blink open our eyes and realize that, as the stewards of the democratic ideal, we’d best start choosing to walk toward it rather than allow this minority, that so fears the power of equality, to continue their assault on the right to choose.

read Kerri’s blog post about ROBBING ROBIN’S EGGS