Light A New Hearth Fire [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Even during the summer we call it the Halloween tree. An ancient oak, gnarled and twisted, surely a home to gnomes and sprites, a rest stop for wandering spirits. An inciter of wild imagination. It watches our passage through the seasons, our walks though the woods.

Halloween has a history, an origin story. It has evolved and changed from a sacred to our now secular celebration. It once marked the end of the year, the line between the end of harvest time and the onset of dark winter, the day when the boundary between the living and the dead became soft and permeable. A liminal day when the future could be seen and told. Ghosts returned. People donned costumes to fool the spirits and speak for the future. Mischief was made. The hearth was stamped out and then reignited from the communal flame. With the sunrise came the new year and the boundary between worlds and the future was restored.

Costumes and carved pumpkins. Neighbors coming out of their houses for trick-or-treating. Corn mazes and haunted houses. We are not so different, not really. In this way, whether we acknowledge it or not, through our coming together to carve scary faces, through our meeting on the street to watch our children walk the neighborhood and perpetuate this yearly ritual, through our parties and dressing up, we light a new hearth fire to keep us warm and full of hope through the cold months of dark winter.

KDot Halloween Tree

k.dot at the halloween tree

read Kerri’s blog post about THE HALLOWEEN TREE

 

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Ask Why? [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

On a recent walk I was lost in thought and suddenly realized Kerri was no longer holding my hand. When I turned to find where she’d gone I saw the usual. Kerri crouched on the ground, phone in hand, photographing something. It is common on our daily walks for her to gasp, pull out her phone, and snap a picture or capture some small critter adventuring through its existence. She has hundreds of beautiful photographs of leaves, curious bark markings, corn stalks, seed pods, sunsets, spiders, shadows, grasses, and butterflies. Each photograph is her record of a marvel, a snapshot of a miracle. “Look at this!” she exclaims, her voice rich with awe.

Showing me her caterpillar movie, she said, “Why would anyone do that? Why would someone shoot a video of a caterpillar!” It’s an existential question.

“I will call this, “Why’d the caterpillar cross the road?”

Another existential question.

Kerri edited the final few seconds of her film. She cut the part where I warn her of an oncoming cyclist. Fearing for the safety of the caterpillar, she stopped shooting her movie and stood in the path of the cyclist, protecting the caterpillar. The irritated cyclist, unaware of why this crazed woman refused to step aside, swung wide around her.

My favorite existential question in this sea of existential questions is this: Why did the woman help the caterpillar cross the road?

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CATERPILLARS CROSSING ROADS

 

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Reach The Other Side [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Nope. This is not a political comment. Though it could be. Context is everything though I couldn’t blame you for assuming this is a statement of ideological division. Simple statements are rarely friendly in divided environments. They are meant to reinforce the division, to broaden the divide. We are inundated with divisive simplicity. We are drowning in out-of-context sound bytes.

No, this saw concerns the simplicity of survival. It’s quote from an episode of Life Below Zero. Sue lives above the arctic circle. She measures and ties guide ropes on to  her buildings so she can find her way around her compound in white-out conditions. If she reaches the knot in the rope – a knot that marks the exact distance to the door she seeks –  and hasn’t yet reached the door – she knows she must hang onto the rope and scribe an arc. Left is always left. Right is always right. The door will be there. If it’s not, if things go awry and she can’t find the door, she can follow the rope back to the safety of the place she just left.

Sue is a font of simple maxims born of the harsh necessities of her environment. Her rope is a statement of preparation. Her rope ups her odds of survival. No rope, she dies. Her simplicity is not ideological. It is necessary. It is meant to cross divides, to help her reach the other side.

On second thought, maybe this is a political statement after all. Or, perhaps an appeal in our harsh environment. Maybe Sue will come down to the lower 48 and teach us how to use a rope and give us a few simple suggestions for how to reach the other side.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LEFT AND RIGHT

 

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Hear The Whisper [on KS Friday]

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One of my favorite books is John Irvings, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. The narrator of the book, after losing his mother, tells us that when we lose someone we lose them in pieces, not all at once. A birthday comes. A holiday. A graduation day. The absence is acute, fresh.

Kerri told me that when she listens now to  HEAR YOU WHISPER, she hears it differently than when she wrote it. Distance and time have transformed it. The experience of loss that inspired this song is mostly remote, with the exception of a few notable days when she discovers another piece. Like the song, distance and time – and the experience of loss – have transformed her.

Early in my career in the theatre I had the opportunity to assist old warhorse directors in auditions. They’d watch an especially talented actor do an especially polished and heartfelt audition and afterwards say, “They were great but they haven’t lived enough life yet. They are operating out of an abstraction.” Artistic depth comes from experiences and many experiences are painful. It takes artistic heart to walk into the hurt, take hold of the tender pieces and rather than wallow in them or add yet another layer of armor, work an alchemy and share them through image or dance or song.

Give yourself a gift on this KS Friday. Let this huge artistic heart work her powerful alchemy on you through her song, HEAR YOU WHISPER, so you might transform your life experiences, your pieces, from base metal into life’s gold.

HEAR YOU WHISPER on the album AS SURE AS THE SUN available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEAR YOU WHISPER

 

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hear you whisper/as sure as the sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

Read The Image [on DR Thursday]

“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” ~Pablo Picasso

Kerri and I love to dance. This painting was inspired by one of our spontaneous backyard dances. We don’t know how to do the tango but that has never stopped us from making it up.

When I was much younger, my little brother told me that my studio was one of the darkest places he’d ever been. I didn’t see it at the time but now, looking at my few remaining early paintings, I can’t deny it. Painting, for me, is the log book of a spiritual quest and, like all spiritual quests, the real work is in retrieving the lost pieces and making a greater whole, walking into the wound and transforming it, stepping firmly into the realm of the possible (and becoming it) instead of being transfixed on the monster obstacle.

What once seemed so complex now looks so simple. What once looked so bleak and impossible is now practical, immediate, and infinitely rich. I am lucky. I delight that my diary these days is filled with dances and quiet appreciation.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TANGO WITH ME

 

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tango with me ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Put It On A Post [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

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Paul often told the young actors he taught: never underestimate your power to influence or impact another person’s life. Stepping onto a stage comes with a responsibility. I loved his advice and thought it was much more universal and should be heeded everyday. What you do matters and it matters in ways you probably will never understand. We are always and in all ways participants in the butterfly effect.

In a short walk around our neighborhood you’ll discover several Little Free Libraries, an idea that came from Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother. She was a lover of books and his idea to honor her caught on like wildfire. In 2009 he built a little schoolhouse shaped box, put books in it, and stuck it on a post outside his house. He invited his neighbors to borrow them. He had no intention of creating a worldwide movement yet in the 9 years that have elapsed since he built his box, Little Free Libraries have popped up in over 80 countries. It became a movement. An entity with a mission. People borrow books. People share books and ideas. Neighbors stop and check out what might be new. The boxes themselves are often little pieces of art that Joseph Cornell might have assembled. Little Free Libraries are community connective tissue.

Todd Bol died last week. It seems only right on this Not-So-Flawed Wednesday to stop and take note of the very big ripple one small box on a post set into motion.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Todd Bol

 

 

buffalo adirondack chair website box copy

Sit In It And Listen [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When the world seems upside down – as it does often these days – we retreat to one of our favorite sanctuaries, a place of quiet where we can walk for an hour or so beyond the noise and division of the day. Our beloved Bristol Woods.

A few weeks ago, we retreated to the woods and came upon two curiosities. First, something that looked like a large wooden dunce cap, like some bratty giant was made to sit in the corner for disrupting class and, after his punishment, tossed his cap into the woods. We climbed in it and wriggled through it. We sat in it and absorbed the autumn sun. Napping in the dunce cap, we made up outlandish stories about what it could possibly be and how it came to be in our woods. If not a dunce cap then certainly it was a megaphone of epic proportions!

And, it turns out that we were right. The naturalist told us at the nature center it is a nature megaphone. Sit in it and it amplifies the forest sounds: leaves rustling, squirrels scampering, trees swaying, branches clicking, chipmunks darting. Disgruntled, the naturalist said, “They moved it so it points toward the highway and now it mostly amplifies the road noise. There couldn’t be a worse spot for it!”

Curiosity #2. Why would they move the megaphone to the worst spot? To a place where it amplifies road noise instead of the sounds of nature as intended?

Pocking our route through the woods we saw trees marked with red tape. Red and green flags were planted in a line cutting across the woods. Occasionally, trees were marked with ‘caution’ tape. “I think they’re going to tear down the woods,” Kerri sighed. Not possible, I thought. It’s land set aside for sanctuary. It’s written into their slogan: ‘Putting People In Touch With Nature.’

But, it turns out that Kerri was right. An aerial adventure park is coming soon. “The board says it will bring more people -what the means is more revenue – to the woods,” says the naturalist, her face turning red.”Does it make any sense to tear down the woods to bring more people to the woods?” she asks. “It has nothing to do with the woods. Do they think we’re idiots? It’s all about the money.”

And, it turns out I was right, too. Well, I was partially right. A bratty giant is disrupting the classroom but instead of being made to sit in the corner and consider the ramifications of his actions, he is quite simply removing the classroom. No self-reflection  required. He will eliminate Bristol’s reason for being. Horatio jumped into my mind with a simple and sad statement, “It’s all upside down,” he said. “If it doesn’t make money, we don’t value it.”

I didn’t say it. Wittingly or unwittingly, the megaphone is now a metaphor. It is in the perfect place to amplify what is now most valuable in our very upside-down world.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BRISTOL WOODS

 

 

 

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