Let It Peel [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jonathan told us that a tree must split its bark in order to grow.

It’s a theme. A snake must shed its skin. A bird molts its old feathers making room for new growth. A caterpillar sheds its identity entirely. Out with the old and in with the new. The forest burns and rejuvenation begins.

It is so easy to say, this bit of sage advice. Let go of that old skin! Make room for the new! Change is not supposed to be easy!

Robert tells me that many of his peers, actors becoming older actors, are no longer getting cast. There are fewer parts for aging actors. “They are angry,” he said, “They are having a hard time reinventing themselves.”

Holding tight to the old skin. It’s necessary for a while. It’s important to embrace the security of the known before stepping out the door. But clutching the old skin too long brews a sour path.

Dwight tells me that to try and recreate and/or wear the old skin is a fool’s path. He reminded me of the many times, walking down the streets of Los Angeles, I’d pass an old body squeezed and painted into the trappings of youth. There was nothing to do but look away. “Let go,” I’d whisper.

One of the few rules of systems change is that if you know where you are going you will merely recreate what already exists. Growth, like learning, is always in the direction of the unknown. Always.

Lately, Kerri and I ask each other many times each day, “What do you think will happen?” We discuss the options, spin the variations, play out the scenarios, and, in the end, we arrive at the same conclusion. We don’t know.

Bark is peeling everywhere. We must be growing.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEELING BARK

 

SurrenderNow framed copy

surrender now. a good name for a painting and even better advice when your bark is flying off.

 

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surrender now ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

First, Enjoy [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is the season of firsts. The first glimpse of new shoots of green poking their heads out of crusty soil. The first robin. The first morning we are awakened by the woodpecker bending its beak on our neighbors old metal aerial antenna. Walking the muddy trails in Bristol Wood, Kerri gasped, jumped, pulling her camera from her pocket. I thought it might be a fox or possum. “What is it?” I whispered.

“It’s the first dandelion!” she exclaimed.

Our neighbors to the east wage a seasonal war on dandelions. Most of the folks in our neighborhood shudder at the sight of the yellow invader. One of our favorite summer rituals is walking around the corner to see if the retired man is standing sentry in his yard, armed with the latest in dandelion weeding tools. Old coffee cans strategically placed on his walkway hold the remains of the brazen few that dared show their yellow faces.

In our house, dandelions are not invaders. They’ve inspired songs. They are little yellow memory bringers. Flowers and food. Ray Bradbury. They are heralds of bare feet, hammock chats, cold wine and water balloon fights.

Each year, we enact a dandelion ritual. I am a fairly new suburbanite so I’m often uncertain of what to do and lapse into momentary paranoia. Standing in the abundance of dandelions that pop up in our yard, I fear that I should be more like my neighbors and declare a war. “Do you think we need to pull these?” I ask Kerri.

“Why?” she responds without looking at me.

“Everyone else is,” I say meekly.

“Now, there’s a good reason to do something!” she mocks me. “You? Conforming. Now, that would be a first!”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FIRST DANDELION

 

 

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Spin With The Earth [on KS Friday]

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If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have two books, they would be Think On These Things by Krishnamurti and The Actor And The Target by Declan Donnellan. If I was teaching a class on leadership, a beginning or advanced class in acting, a seminar on entrepreneurship, a master class in spiritual living,… I’d only need these two books. I go to them often. They remind me to remain open and appropriately adrift.

“The fact is that truth is life, and life has no permanency. Life has to be discovered from moment to moment, from day to day; it has to be discovered…” ~ Krishnamurti

“We cannot control reality, but we can control our fantasies. Except our fantasies don’t exist; so we are not controlling anything at all. But the illusion of control is deeply reassuring. And the price we pay for this reassurance is unimaginable.” ~ Declan Donnellan

Peaking through a triangular keyhole from 1996, the woman who would someday be my wife smiles at me. Neither of us knew then where life would take us. Neither of us know today where life will take us. Some days we know for certain that this spinning globe is beyond our capacity to control. Some days we delude ourselves.

One evening, shortly after we met, I went with her to a Taize service. She was playing the service and I had no idea what a Taize was. I sat in a tiny pew just off the chancel, just behind where she was playing. Something mystical happened that night. It was and is beyond my capacity to explain. After the service we sat in the tiny pew for hours. Completely stripped of our control fantasy, we sat spinning with the earth, listening, completely content to discover the moment. Appropriately adrift. Completely alive.

ADRIFT on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ADRIFT

 

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adrift/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Study It [on DR Thursday]

Although this news will come as a blow to my ego, I am not a genius. My work is not opening new and exciting doors in the trajectory of western art. My boyhood fantasy of becoming the next Picasso has evolved into the happy reality of becoming the only…me. I love to paint. That is more than enough. Becoming, with no end in sight.

I rarely do studies or rough drafts. Only when a painting is giving me fits do I stop and study it. And, if I actually stop to do a study, the next step is to wipe the painting off the canvas. You might say that the act of doing a study is a warning to the elusive painting. “Last chance, dude.”

FACE THE SUN began as a study, a warning to CHASING BUBBLES. I was ready to wipe it away. In fact, I was cackling at the satisfaction a fresh start would bring. Kerri intervened. She has an uncanny sense for knowing when I am about to wipe away a painting. More than once, at the very moment my hand is reaching to annihilate the trouble-maker-painting, she rushes in to plead its case. I knit my brow. “You’re kidding, right?”

CHASING BUBBLES lived to see another day. Cleaning the studio, I saw the study that saved the painting. I liked it so I finished it and called it FACE THE SUN. Kerri came into the studio and said, “That painting makes my neck hurt.”

“What?! You’re kidding, right?”

She smiled her “gotcha” smile. Not only am I not the next Picasso but the painter that is becoming me is gullible. I am not a genius but I am an easy mark.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FACE THE SUN

 

 

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face the sun/chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

See Beyond Yourself [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Rounding the bend en route to Fort Atkinson we passed this billboard. It stands, not in church yard, but in a small grassy patch, a teeny tiny park.

prayer [noun]: a solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to a deity or other object of worship.

This morning as I pondered what to write I was struck by this: I took the sign to be a solemn request for help. It never occurred to me that the sign might be an entreaty for thanks giving.

The United States is by far the single most individualistic country on the planet. We place the accent on the individual over the communal. Our hyper-focus on the individual has a nasty side effect. It makes us a bit more than narcissistic. We over-worry about how we  look. We create things like Facebook so we can talk about ourselves. We define success as climbing over the bodies of others to reach the top. We extend to corporations the rights of the individual.  Dog eat dog. Every man/woman for themselves. We’ve created a long-running “reality tv” show called Survivor. We relate to it.

These are expressions of who we are. Manifest Destiny and all of that…

And then we wonder why our elected representatives act [or do not act] based on their re-election chances rather than on the real needs of their constituents. We wonder why we fight to the death over ideas like universal health care or placing limits on guns. We wonder why conservatives pundits routinely scream “Socialism!” to frighten their listeners. “They will take away your rights!”

We wonder why we lack empathy. We wonder why our streets are violent.

Empathy requires a look to the other. A consideration beyond the limits of the self. A larger relationship with the other people in the neighborhood. A consideration of an opposing point of view. ‘Nation’ is, after all, a communal word.

Perhaps our ‘nation’ requires something simpler than an appeal for help from a deity: a consideration that what we do impacts others. What we say and how we say it matters. Maybe we should stop asking a deity to do for us what we need to do for ourselves.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAY FOR OUR NATION

 

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Make Better Assumptions [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As a kid, riding up the mountain to Central City (long before it morphed into a casino town) to visit my great aunt Dorothy and uncle Del, I’d always look for the hermit. With my face pressed to the window I’d scan for him.

Perched precariously high above the creek, his shack seemed in constant danger of sliding down the mountain. The only thing holding it in place was the cascade of rusting bean cans that he’d tossed over the edge after each meal. Decades of cans. And, every once in while, I’d catch a glimpse of him.

He was uniquely grey; his clothes, his long miner-forty-niner beard, his pallor. He was always standing still, looking over the canyon. I don’t think in all of my rare glimpses that I ever saw him move. I wondered if he’d just thrown a can over the edge. I wondered if in his moments of standing-stillness he pondered how he came to be the hermit in the canyon. If life forged him into a hermit or if he came into the world wanting to be alone. I wondered where he got his cans of beans. It was a great mystery that I spent long hours considering. Hermits are not known for shopping trips into town and it was long before the age of home delivery. Where did he get his money to buy all of those cans? Was he a wealthy miner, a Howard Hughes type who retreated into a paranoid seclusion? Who facilitated his solitude?

I am mostly an introvert so his retreat from society fascinated me. I’d try ‘hermit’ on like a costume. He wasn’t a monk though I wondered what he did all day; contemplation had to be on the list of things to do. I wondered if his shack was filled with paintings or wire sculpture, a reclusive Alexander Calder? A disenfranchised artist (now, there’s an oxymoron!) I wondered if his shack walls were lined with good books.

I wondered, if I climbed up the mountain to his shack, would he meet me with a shotgun and tell me to go away? Or would he welcome me and tell me that he’s waited a lifetime for someone to come for a visit? I liked the second scenario but the realist in me knew it would be the first. He was grey because he didn’t want to be bothered. He was alone because it was not safe to be in relationship. It’s always easier to close the door and growl than it is to open it and ask, “Can I help you?”

We see this sign often. It marks the door of a house on the road to one of our walking trails. In the absence of a canyon I suppose the only thing to do is paste your anger on your door. Every time I see this sign I wonder what would happen if love came knocking?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GO AWAY

 

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Enjoy The Hallway [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Arnie’s mom was wise. She used to say that when one life-door closes another door will always open. But, the time in the hallway sucks. There’s nothing to do but enjoy the hallway.

Once, in a seemingly endless period in the hallway between life-doors, I wrote my friend Rob and complained that I felt like I was completely lost in the forest. He told me to sit down and enjoy the forest.

Sometimes it seems that life is one big location joke. Doesn’t it strike you as odd how much time we silly critters give to trying to locate ourselves. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Life as one long episode of House Hunters. Gut job! In looking for location, in trying get somewhere else or be someone else, we miss the obvious: I’m right here.

At a seminar I heard a participant complain, “I thought I learned that lesson! I thought I was done with it. It keeps coming back!” The facilitator laughed and said, “That’s why it’s called a life lesson.”

Have you ever noticed that all of these life-doors only open into other hallways? No one promised that this maze would be easy. If I were me (and I am), I’d listen to Arnie’s mom.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TUITION.

 

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