Plan For Surprise [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley ~Robert Burns, To A Mouse

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It is something we keep in mind as we wade into the planning phase of our next project [well, learning first. Planning, second].

Actually, in truth, the best laid plans always go awry. Life, circumstance, is a constantly moving and changing force that generally alters all well-conceived plans. Whether we acknowledge it or not. We plan but [you might want to sit down for this next bit of revelation]: we do not control.

The plan, at best, is an abstraction that assumes a perfect circumstance and completely ignores relationship dynamics. People are fickle. Everyone has a plan and many of the plans do not line up with my plan! There is weather. There are partycrashers.  Pick pockets. Tripping stones. The budget. The children get sick. The internet portals are tapped out. The bridge fails. There is a better idea.

If everything went according to plan there would be no happy accidents. No teachable moments. Most discoveries come precisely because the plan fails. It is a rule of change that if you know where you are going, you will recreate what you already have. The plan can only pretend to bring about change. Change comes when you veer off course. Change comes from time spent in the unknown lands. Oddly, so does learning.

The only plan that makes sense? Plan for surprise. You’ll never be disappointed or frustrated because everything will go according to the plan.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE PLAN

 

 

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Continue To Learn [on DR Thursday]

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Last week we helped our dear 20 pack his late father’s paintings. His dad, Duke Kruse, was an exceptional and prolific artist. As we wrapped the pieces, preparing them for storage, I couldn’t help but study them. Duke was free and bold. His color palette was precise. His technique was impeccable. And, a few years after his death, his work has nowhere to go. No gallery. No museum. After the estate sale, we will catalogue it. 20 will store it.

It was bittersweet. I got to spend time with the work of an extraordinary painter. It was inspiring and thrilling. I learned. I also got a glimpse of what will most likely happen to my work after I am gone. It will be catalogued. It will be stored.

My work is similar to Duke’s: I have fine technique and my subject matter is not widely accessible. Like Duke, I have individual buyers. My paintings are in collections across the nation. But, also like Duke, no collectors seek my work. At this late stage, like Duke, I have no greater gallery representation. No one, besides me, is actively promoting my work. I paint. I take a photograph of the new piece, catalogue it, and then throw it onto the stack. It begs the question, ” Why do it?”

Horatio is a gifted artist. During his recent visit, we descended into my studio and we waded into the stacks. I was delighted to pull out and show him my paintings. I value his thoughts and opinions. He rarely shows his work. He doesn’t paint to show. He paints for himself. He paints, like Duke and like me, because he has to. He paints because the paintings work on him, too. They paint him. They challenge and change him.

This afternoon we will move the final load of Duke’s work. I doubt if Duke would care much that his paintings will disappear into storage. He did his work and the paintings served him well. They made him soul-rich and laughter-filled.

And, so, from Duke, – and Horatio – I learn. From my paintings I also continue to learn. It begs the question, “Why not?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE STACKS

 

 

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Take A Wrong Turn [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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As a wanderer, I am sometimes envious of those rare people in my life who have always seemed to know their destination and have appeared to walk a clear path to it. They have lived life according to a road map. Director, doctor, producer. Sometimes I want the comfort of a straight line but then I come to my senses. I remember that straight lines do not occur in nature.

I am given to taking side roads. Exploration trips. As Master Marsh once asked, “Why do you need to take a run at every cliff that you see?” Curiosity makes for a more colorful path than the taupe-existence of ‘knowing.’ It is more honest, too.

When I was a teacher it always irritated me when the adults placed enormous pressure on their students to “know where they were going.” Over-serious adults pretending that life required hard, unflappable predetermination. “The decisions you make today will impact you the rest of your life!”  Well…when is that not true? Tom used to roll his eyes and mutter, “Why is it that adults feel the need to threaten young people with advice that they could not, when young, take themselves?”

Things change. Hurricanes come. Minds go. We age. We discover ourselves or, as Kerri likes to say, “We become more of who we are.” It is comfortable to believe in our powers of control but it’s rarely our destiny that we actually command. The Greeks wrote more than a few good plays about the I-control-my-destiny-confusion. So did Shakespeare.

It is nice to have a map. It is great to have an intended target. It is worth mentioning to young people and old that life is not found in the target but in the walk toward it. Targets change. And, how rewarding would it be, when young, if all of the old walkers admitted that their paths were rarely straight, known, or easy. In fact, when I hear the tales and tell my own, it is the unseen forces, the happenstance, the wrong turn, the accidental bumping-into that gave the walk its riches.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAPS

 

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Feel The Mountains [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

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Look carefully. In the distance you will see the mountains. “It kills me, “Kerri said, staring out the window as we drove east out of Colorado. She craned her neck and watched as the mountains faded into the distance. She took a picture more to reach than record them.

The mountains make her weep. Seriously. Driving up the canyon, leaving the flats of Denver behind, she catches her breath and then the tears roll down her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful.” she utters, wide-eyed, incapable of taking it all in.

Leaving them is harder still. I watch her writhe in her seat, growing more agitated the further away that we get. “Damn it,” she fumes. These mountains are her holy land. They inspire songs and poems and musing. Leaving is not a geographic equation. She feels the separation.

In every corner of our home you will find a pile of rocks, mementos from our travels. And, in each pile, among all the other treasures, there is always a special rock, a mountain rock. She surrounds herself with mountains, even living on this great plain, a block away from a great lake. An artist knows where her power comes from.

She sits at her piano. She opens her computer to write. Surrounded by mountains, she composes. She feels the connection and it fills her with inspiration. Going home is not a geographic equation.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOUNTAIN IN THE DISTANCE

 

 

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Hear The Sun Rise [on KS Friday]

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It was a few years into our relationship before Kerri and I had the opportunity to travel  to Long Island to see where she grew up.  We drove by the house and walked her old neighborhood. We saw her high school, the marina and Skippers (best baked clams ever!). And then she took me to her sacred place: Crab Meadow Beach.

It was a cold early spring day so we had the beach to ourselves. She told me stories as we picked up colorful shells and special rocks. After a while we grew silent, walked the shoreline and listened to the surf. I stayed back as Kerri walked out toward the waves. Somewhere I have a photograph of the moment she threw open her arms, threw open her heart and stood in full embrace of her wellspring.

Dawn At Crab Meadow. I can only imagine the dawn that inspired this beautiful piece. Sacred happenings in a hallowed place. Sit for a moment. Close your eyes. Hear the reverence. Feel the sun rise over Crab Meadow Beach.

 

DAWN AT CRAB MEADOW on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DAWN AT CRAB MEADOW

 

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dawn at crab meadow/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

 

See [on DR Thursday]

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These days, I draw to sort out a composition. That’s it. I open my sketchbook if I need help seeing beyond what I am thinking.

I used to draw everyday. It was a rule. It was an essential part of my daily life and artistic development. I now know that, during that phase, I was teaching myself to see.

Nowadays, I take my sketchbook when I go on vacation. For a few moments every morning, I open it and do a series of quick gesture drawings. 10 seconds max. I rarely look at the page. Quick gestural lines of what’s right in front of me. Quick capture of a memory I want to record. Eating watermelon on the deck. Picking up a shell to see if it’s occupied. Seeing the moment. Seeing the memory. I close my sketchbook and later in the day take a peek at what I drew.

Once, long ago, I was jammed up. A blocked artist. Liz had me do 100 paintings in an hour. Ink and a brush and no time to think. No separation between the seeing and the movement of the brush. It was fun and fast. No thought means no judgment means no blockage. It bears repeating: seeing = no separation. My block disappeared in a single night. My artistic well sometimes goes dry but since Liz’s lesson I have never again been blocked. She reminded me that artistry is about seeing and not about showing.

I sat on the deck overlooking the ocean. The morning sun, hot coffee and a few pencils. I opened my sketchbook and my eyes. As my hand moved quickly across the page, the world sparkled, and I knew that I was the luckiest man alive.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HILTON HEAD SKETCHES

 

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Create A Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The deceased horseshoe crab was the perfect marker. It was the place we could leave behind our flip flops and venture onto the sand. And, like all actions that become repetitive, the horseshoe crab parking lot became one of our rituals.

It became assumed. Known. We leave our flip flops at the horseshoe crab. To the horseshoe crab we will return. There is comfort in knowing the leaping point. There is even more comfort in knowing the landing place. Home is just beyond.

Our ritual began like many rituals began – out of necessity.  From the house to the dunes and the beach beyond, it was necessary to cross the land of sand spurs. “You have to step with intention,” Kirsten instructed us. “Otherwise you get stabbed.” And, so, we put on our cheap flip flops and stepped with intention all the way to the dunes. The horseshoe crab marked the safe zone. To park our flip flops meant we were out of danger. It meant the armor required to cross back over to the house was waiting for us when we needed it. After several crossings and returns, the horseshoe crab became a location ritual. And then, the crab grew into a symbol.

Once, late at night, we stayed out too long and the houses in the distance blended into shapes without distinction. For a time we were lost. The only way we found our place, located our path, knew home was just over there, was finding the sentinel crab standing guard over our footwear.

It all sounds silly, doesn’t it? Consider how carefully we protect our holiday rituals, our morning rituals, our rituals of identity (what’s in your closet? Why do you wear your hair that way and not this way?). How vigorously we defend our rituals of location (‘This is where I belong!’). Our known paths. The repetitions that give us comfort. The expectations and the stories we tell. The beliefs we embrace despite all the evidence to the contrary. You are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed. We, humans, create rituals. And then embrace them as story.

The horseshoe crab, for us, will forever mark the leaping place. It will, forever, be a symbol that home, that safety, is just beyond the dune.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FLIP FLOP PARKING LOT

 

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