Learn The Single Lesson [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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At the end of each day, with great enthusiasm and mission, Dog-Dog herds us into the living room. Because it is hysterical to see how many different strategies Dogga can pull from his Aussie bag of tricks, it has become a game for us to give him several false starts. We step toward the living room and then return to the kitchen. We say, “Let’s go!” and he races away with fervor while we remain firmly planted. He returns moments later with a wildly wagging tail. He never gets frustrated. He only gets more clever, more lively in his intention. He is eternally hopeful and more excited by the chase than the finish.

It is the single lesson I hope to learn from him. He is an excellent teacher and I am a very slow student.

It is the last day of 2019 and it has been, to put it mildly, an exhausting year. We are making special preparations to launch the good ship 2019 into the annals of time-gone-by. We might wave a polite so-long as it departs but most likely we’ll turn our backs on the passage, and, like Dogga, we’ll run into the next year with hopeful-tails a-wagging.

We know it is an imaginary line, a made-up calendar distinction. We don’t really expect a clean break, a new, fresh start. Or, perhaps we do expect it. Or perhaps, we desire it in the same way Dogga desires us to go to the living room. It’s the game of chase!

Perhaps the coming year will be less exhausting and more fulfilling if I learn the single Dog-Dog lesson: drop all expectation of outcome, all fear of circumstance, all investment in things that exist only in my too-active-imagination, and love my people whether or not they meet me in the living room. Love my people when they send me on a wild goose chase, not once, but many times. Love them because they love me and it’s fun to be alive and, after all, the circles I run will bring me back to them. Or to myself. Why not laugh?

Perhaps in this new year I will at last learn to fully live what I preach and enjoy the chase simply because it is ALL a game of chase, even the parts that look momentarily like completions. Even the parts that look overwhelming. They pass, too.

The mantra many years ago was to cultivate surprise. Expect surprise. The truth is, I don’t know what will happen in ten minutes or two seconds or in ten days. Do you? Why do we pretend that we know? I think it is the key to Dog-Dog’s delight, he doesn’t pretend to know. He lives in the truth of surprise as opposed to the preconception of boredom or fear or fulfillment. He leads with his heart and his heart is bursting with hope (another name for the expectation of surprise). It is why, after his people-sheep have ambled to the couch [what?! A surprise!], he can sleep so soundly, so completely unburdened by resistance to the day gone by or trepidation-stories of tomorrow.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE END OF THE YEAR

 

 

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Look Before You Bite [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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When John said, “Penny wise, pound foolish,” I would always stop and reconsider my options. John was wise. John was concise. He was a master furniture maker and spoke like a man who necessarily made exact measurements.

If I could slap a label on this era of the USA, I’d call it the penny-wise-pound-foolish-age. Perhaps my label would also apply to the human world at large? I think so. Short term gain is rarely a healthy criteria for determining long term health. Anyone who’s ever experienced a hangover, lashed out in anger, dumped their waste into the drinking water, or jumped into a get-rich-quick scheme will understand.

I read this phrase the other day: Fox is feeding misinformation to an angry populace hungry to consume it. In most mythologies, the fox is a trickster and I couldn’t help but grimace and chuckle at the layers-of-veracity implied. A maker of mischief feeding misinformation to people hungry to gobble it down. Of course, there are two points of view in every fable and it is true of our fable, too: there is the fox and there are those who eat the gruel to fuel their angry point of view. The fox is never without agenda. Control of the point of view of the angry populace is the fox’s agenda. In other words, the fox is not a friend. The fox is like the witch offering the poison apple. Take a bite; it won’t hurt you. Really.

Reds and blues. Post fact era. Foxes in the hen house. Tribes eating tripe. Penny wise, pound foolish.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE YOU STAND

 

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Write A New Song [on KS Friday]

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In the final week before the holiday, Kerri was preparing for a band rehearsal. She wanted to go over the music for the schmear (her name for the cantata). She played  through the pieces as we waited for Guitar Jim to arrive. I was setting up music stands and mic cables when I saw her wrinkle her nose. “I hate this piece of music,” she huffed. The pages were unceremoniously hucked from the piano.

I’m generally a slow study but I’ve worked with enough artists to know when something new is about to emerge. Artists are often like volcanoes. They rumble and grumble before the lava finds its way to the surface.

With the piano now free of the offending song, she started noodling on the keys. She made up a lyric. She sang a phrase. Played it again. By the time Jim arrived she had a snippet of a new song. “What do you think of this?” she asked. He nodded his musician nod of approval.

The next morning, after about an hour of playing and scribbling notes, she had a new song to replace the schmear-offender. She shaped it a bit over the remaining few days of rehearsal. It’s gorgeous. She debuted You’re Here at the schmear and she sang it again at the holiday services.

Just like a volcano, an artist needs to create, needs to make new earth. The creation feeds the creator and vice-versa. I can think of no better celebration for the solstice return of the light than for a composer, a singer-songwriter to write a song. To bring new light.

The technology on my phone made it possible to record it. Left to her own devices she might have never captured a recording of You’re Here. She is fairly despondent about recording these days. Like a sand painting it would have existed for a moment and then returned to the earth. But, thanks to my trusty phone, it’s possible for you to hear it, too. New earth. Go here to listen.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU’RE HERE

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you’re here ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Follow The Intention [on DR Thursday]

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It occurred to me, last night, when writing about the heart symbol, that the mistake we too often make is to hold fluid aspirations as ‘fixed’ states. Heart as a frozen symbol. An achievement. An arrival station on the train of life.

Nothing in this vast universe is still. Every molecule, every cell, is in constant movement. Constant transformation. Peace, hope, heart, love,…are not end-games. They are not winnable sports. They are dynamic, fluid, ever moving. Try to wrap your fingers around them and they will slip through, fog in a butterfly net. They are unattainable.

What, then, does it mean to dwell in your heart? To be at peace?

None of us are ‘fixed’ states. We, too, are in constant movement. Constant transformation. Constant relationship. Constant choice.

Last week I told the choir that their voices would go where their eyes go. Look up. Look to the back of the hall. In that way all are included in the song. It is also true that our actions will go where our thoughts go. Meditate (think about) division and opposition and that’s where we go. That’s what we see. That’s what we create. It’s a choice.

The words on this painting come from the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness. It is a prayer that ripples out, ripples back. Constantly moving. Peace as a motion, hope as a practice. Love as a dynamic action that follows the intention of a fluid mind.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BE PEACE

 

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Feel Them [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a symbol and as symbols go, this one is arguably the epicenter. It is universal. It transcends all other symbols, religious and otherwise. The others deal with energies, vertical and horizontal, masculine and feminine, spiritual and secular. They are symbols of polarities, separation ends that point to a center, a unity. This symbol is the unity. Heart. The meeting ground. The commons. The push-me-pull-you of life.

Try an experiment and think back on these past weeks running up to the solstice (no matter your tradition of celebrating it); re-member the moments that you felt heart. Kerri’s song. A bonfire at midnight. A walk in the woods at sunset. Dogga buried in gift wrap. Craig’s face when we opened the package with smart bulbs. Kirsten clutching the sloth. There are too many to count. None are abstractions. All are experiences. Feel them.

Yearning can be filled with heart. Loss can be heart-full. This symbol is all inclusive. It does not discriminate. It’s bigger than any single desire, any hot pursuit. It, in fact, requires no seeking. It is ubiquitous. It everywhere and nowhere all at the same time because it has nothing to do with time. It asks little more than paying attention to the many faces it lives through, the many moments it simply waits for you to notice, to see/feel/hear/taste/sense what is already here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the NEON HEART

 

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Laugh And Sing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In the end of the day, it is our sense of humor that saves us.

Drive across this big big country and you will find all manner of Americana to make you shake your head and giggle. Giant balls of string. Giant statues of Superman, Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox. The world’s largest six pack, a palace decorated with corn, and then, of course, there is Las Vegas. We create for ourselves VERY LARGE reminders not to take ourselves too seriously.

I generally feel everyday that I am living in a Salvador Dali painting. Reality twists. The bizarre becomes commonplace. Time bends. Portapotties sing. Craig looked with horror at his mother as she laughed, took out her camera, and took photos of the toilets singing Jingle Bells (and other Christmas Favorites). Craig walked away as Kerri and I walked toward the Quartet. While Kerri snapped pictures I pondered what happened to Porta Paul. He went dark. A bathroom break perhaps?

And, if you have given to believe that there is no shame in this dark dark world, take note: no one approached the potties while they sang. Everyone remained polite and clapped at the end of the set. Craig kept his distance and looked for other parents who were less interested in performing honey buckets. People in need of the relief found other, non-musical facilities. There’s less attention to private matters when the door you pull open is not singing.

All-in-all, a good laugh, a great reminder on this Xmas eve to sing with gusto. If the toilets can do it, so can you.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JINGLE JOHNS

 

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Dance A Simple Dance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~Lao Tzu

“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” ~ Steve Jobs

I am at home in my studio. Even during the times – like now – when my well is dry, I go into my studio and the world makes sense. It is quiet. My intention is pure: I seek an experience, an exploration, not an achievement. In other words, I enter into a relationship with something so much bigger than me. It is a simple dance with no end. The paintings are a map of this relationship.

Krishnamurti wrote that “stillness is the act of worship – not going to temple to offer flowers and pushing the beggar aside on the way.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (thus, not being still;-) in our world of angry competing narratives. Screaming moral high ground. All the shouting down of others. All the static and noise and agenda-masked-as-righteousness. The celebration of the lie (the official term is a ‘post-truth world’). The difference between rhetoric and lived realities. We ask almost every day, “How does this make sense?”

Rome fell. Ask Google the question why? and you’ll get a list of eight simple reasons. Over reliance on slave labor. Military overspending. Government corruption and instability. The loss of values. Weakened and eating themselves from the inside out, they became exposed to easy invasion. Lots of noise. Loss of center.

We know there is no sense to be made so we walk in our beloved Bristol wood. We walk the trails next to the Des Plaines River. We walk the streets of our neighborhood. We hold hands. Simple. We talk about the leaves, the color of the sky. Kerri takes photos of things that catch her eye. Beautiful shapes. Geese flying en masse. An ancient tree. Radiant purple vines climbing from the ochre grass.  We attempt to leave the angry noise even for a short while, to dip our toes into the quiet.

Yesterday we came to the end of the trail and heard a bagpipe playing The Water is Wide. It was lovely. Haunting. So out of place yet so perfect. It made sense. We stopped and listened as the music reverberated through the woods. It brought us fully into the moment. The cool air and sun. The music mixing with the rustling of the leaves. No where else to be. Nothing to change or control or get through. Simple.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about keeping things SIMPLE

 

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