Make Dandelion Delicacies [on KS Friday]

Because our yard is a festival of dandelions and our trail is alive with the vibrant yellow flowers, just for kicks, I Googled “dandelion recipes.” Coffees and teas, salads and pizza, quesadilla, syrup, jelly and cookies; eat the root, chomp the greens, it seems dandelions are nature’s one-stop-yummy-snack-shop. Brats! And, of course, let us not forget about dandelion wine!

How is it that this pervasive-misunderstood-as-an-invader-plant is so edible and rich in possibilities? I’ve never eaten a dandelion. If I can find an insecticide-free-zone I’m going to pick a bucket full and try a few recipes. My bet is that Master Marsh has washed down a dandelion or two en route to picking a tune on his guitar. He can make anything – and does – so my future dandelion meal will follow MM around the kitchen and learn his favorite dandy-lion recipe and then enjoy the concert after the plates are licked clean. I’ll do the dishes after the show. It’s the least I can do.

One of my favorite rituals of the spring season is to watch Kerri discover and photograph the first dandelion. It’s like the return of an old friend. “Look-It!” she points and cheers. The camera comes out and a sweet photoshoot commences. She has a fond spot in her heart for dandelions. I wish I had the series of First Dandelion Sightings of the Season. Her eye has changed. The more photographs she takes, the better her composition-eye is becoming. Art works like that. Do it again and again and it gets better, more sophisticated. Easier. Her eye was great to begin with but now I do double-takes. “Whoa!” I say, “Let me see that again.”

Tom used to tell me that the alternative schools were filled with artists. Young people who do not fit in and cannot thrive in the restriction of the lawn. Pervasive-misunderstood-invader-plants. Pulled and placed where they cannot disrupt the blanket of green. Yet, so rich in possibilities. So versatile in form, capable of feeding the soul. Medicinal people. Seers. And, when they age (ahem), they make dandelion delicacies, play music for their friends, and celebrate the small pop of yellow on the side of the path.

It’s good not to be a lawn.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about DANDELIONS

fistful of dandelions © 1999 kerri sherwood

Watch For Turtles [on DR Thursday]

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” ~ Alan Watts

The ferns have returned. Last week they were sharp tendrils poking through the leaves and earth; little green aliens. A mere seven days later, they are over three feet tall, fern-flags unfurling.

Driving to our trail we saw a turtle crossing the road. Kerri whipped a u-turn and I jumped out of the car, picked it up, expedited its journey, moving it from the pavement to the grass. There’s something special about the turtles. Throughout March and April, while walking on our trail, we’d cross the bridge over the Des Plaines River, and look for the turtles’ return. The turtle in the road was our first sighting of the season. Later, on the bridge over the river, we saw a dozen. “They’re back!” she said and smiled.

Lately we’re given to walking the same trail. We’ve seen it change through several seasons. We followed our loop last week and I swear, this week, it’s an entirely different trail. The trees are flowering. The trillium are showing their purple.

I used to wonder how Emily Dickinson thrived looking at the same garden for years and years. How did she write such beautiful poetry with such a small window to the world? Now I know that her world was enormous and my question was too small.

“Hope is the thing with feathers…”

read Kerri’s blogpost about FERNS

iconic © 2010 david robinson

Reflect [on DR Thursday]

This reflection spiraled me into a fond memory. A long ago chance dinner in London with Jonathan Miller. He was kind and funny and took me upstairs to his studio to show me photographs he was readying for a gallery show. I could have talked with him all night. As I left he gave me a copy of his most recent book, On Reflection. Questions of reality and identity in the arts and beyond, explored through reflections. I had the book for years and lost it in a loan.

Reflections. I have crossed paths with many brilliant artists. Some, like Jonathan Miller, a single evening, a passing glance. Others, I had the good fortune to spend many years assisting and watching and learning from their work. James Edmondson. If I ever delude myself into the notion that my artistry is unique and truly individual, I only need stop for a moment and track the people who shaped me, who inspired me, who challenged me, who passed to me their traditions, who gave me an hour of their time to share their work and thoughts with me. I am a reflection of those many, many people.

My work in the world is made better by the reflections of Horatio and David and Master Marsh, people who give me their time by reading my work and sharing their thoughts. People who have jumped into my mad projects and made me and my work better.

I am the luckiest man alive. Each morning I get up early and sit next to my wife. We drink coffee and write. She edits my posts. We read to each other and offer advice or talk about word choices. I take her hand and bring her into my studio and ask, “Will you tell me what you see?” Lately, as I draw in pencil cartoons for work, she digitizes them, dumps them in Photoshop, cleans up my messes and makes them better. She makes suggestions. She offers reflections. She formats them for publication. They are transformed from my work to our work.

And, that is the secret I learned from my many master teachers. A unique perspective, an artist’s eye, is the blossom of many, many wise eyes coming together, expressing through a single moment, an opportunity. It’s all collaboration. Artistry is nothing more than a hologram of reflection.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REFLECTIONS

pax © 2015 david robinson

Taste The Sound [on KS Friday]

Toadshade trillium. Say it out loud and taste the sounds. Toadshade trillium. Yummy words worthy of e.e. cummings.

I am working in a tech space and keep a document on my desktop: Terms in this Unknown Land. Tech folk speak in acronyms, PAI and SMB, SERP and TAM. Although my colleagues are mostly left-brainers, they are remarkably poetic in their language, peppering their acronym-speak with tasty terms like “cluster calculations” and “stemmings.” I admit to losing the sense of the conversation in the sound. They are, despite the stereotype, passionate and creative and unconsciously poetic. “Plots a curve of probability.”

Toadshade trillium. Plots a curve of probability. Forget the meaning and taste the sound! What might Mary Oliver have done with those syllables!

My lesson this week: I cannot stand and work at my computer all day. I can do the standing (I have a stand-up desk) but staring at a screen eventually shuts down my brain. Across from my stand-up desk is my drafting table. I think better with big pieces of paper and a pencil and then translate back to the computer. I need to move to think but that’s only part of the lesson. When at the drafting table I’m more likely to take things less seriously. I free myself. I get snarky and funny and scribble and draw big arrows and make fun of myself and the logjam in my thinking. I play.

And, while I play, I talk aloud, and hear the sounds of the shapes that I draw. Poetry and motion. Taste the movement. One and the same. Free the thinking. It’s enough to scare the dog but it’s liberating to my kinesthetic necessity. I scribble notes in every direction and dance back and forth between word and image. Consequently, I produce better work.

Thank goodness I finally tasted a few word-sounds that sent me tumbling into a productive scribble dance.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TOADSHADE TRILLIUM

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

pulling weeds/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Dissolve And Do [on DR Thursday]

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“A writer writes. A painter paints.” Wise words from Tom. It was a mantra and his patent response when asked how one becomes an artist. I imagine Tom learned this wisdom from DeMarcus. DeMarcus certainly learned it from his mentor. Artistic ancestor to descendent, the quality that makes an artist is the practice. Nothing more. Ask me what makes an artist and you will hear what I learned from Tom.

There’s a special, hidden layer in this mantra. Someday, if you are a lucky artist, you stop thinking of yourself as an artist. The role dissolves in the doing. It no longer matters how others see you or the label you apply to yourself. It’s nice to separate yourself from the herd yet service to the herd is the point. That, I am coming to understand, is the moment that artistry fulfills itself. A deep trust ensues. No blue ribbon or large sale or shiny prize will change the essential. No outside eye or opinion or judgment or praise alters the fact in the least. A writer writes. A painter paints.

How do you pursue an artistic life? We take walks and pay attention. French blue sky and early tree blossom. And then, each day, as is our practice, we write or draw or compose.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TREE BLOSSOM

Newborn, 48x32IN, mixed media

newborn © 2019 david robinson

Take Note [on DR Thursday]

Although it may not be at first apparent, this is a map for product development. A single stout stalk that supports shoots of replication that explode in support features. One clear central intention. Multiple expressions that return nutrient to the stalk.

Although it may not be at first apparent, this is a map for healthy community. A single stout story stalk that supports shoots of replication, diverse paths that explode in seeming individual expression. One clear central narrative. Multiple expressions sending sunlight back to the root.

Who hasn’t seen the time-lapse films of plants growing, forms expressing and then retreating, the accelerated motion of people commuting on a city street, what seems like chaos is, at speed, cooperation. Those people on the street in real time, walking to work, a to-do list on their mind, are mostly unaware of their symphony of togetherness.

It’s easy to forget the stout stalk when standing at the individual expression point. I have been witness to the demise of many organizations who turn against the stalk in favor of the feature. For instance, the fastest way to kill a non-profit organization is to attempt make it run like a for-profit business. It will forget its story-stalk and lose its heart and mind in a spreadsheet.

The quickest way to destroy a community is for its branches to forget that they are individual expressions of a single stout story. They are not separate as much as extensions. To focus on the multiple tiny expressions as if each small branch is a stand-alone truth is absurdity-creation. Chaos masked as convention. Inverted, the plant dies.

In our literature we are riddled with advice to turn toward nature. Existential crisis? Lost? Go to the meadow, find the woods, take a hike. Get quiet. We go there because…we are there. Alan Watts wrote,”We don’t come into the world, we come out of it.” We are not separate from the stalk; we are expressions of it. Occasionally, the map to sanity that we seek is hiding in plain sight dressed as a platitude. Go to nature. You cannot do otherwise. Realize it.

When I’m running abstract questions of design in my dreams, I know it’s time to take a walk. It’s time to stop, look around, take note of nature’s design, the perfection of a plant. A perfect yoga, branch-fingers reaching for the sun, root-fingers reaching deep into soil.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PARSNIPS

sam the poet, 48×48 (painted and sold a long time ago)

sam the poet © 2004 david robinson

See The Exact Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Kerri took this photograph a week ago. We’d set up our pop-up table in the middle of the woods. We had a small cooler with cheese and crackers, tabouli and chips and wine. It was cold. We needed to take off our gloves to eat a bit of our snack and then put them on again, fingertips stinging. Since she is a photography maven, I knew to stand back after setting up so she might take shots of our snack-laden table. She finished, sat, and then pointed her camera to the sky.

Despite what you see in the photo, the trees did not reach to a common center. That is an illusion. Perspective as taught in art school. The point of view of a lens. “Lookit!” she said, red fingertips holding the camera so I could see the image. “We must have found the exact center of the forest,” I thought and smiled.

I often feel like that these days. We must have found the center.

Last night, on an all-too-rare warm evening, we sat with friends on their deck. The Up North Gang. We ate dinner. We laughed. I had my first ever sip of salted caramel whiskey. Dessert as a drink. Time stood still for me and I studied the moment. I wondered if anyone on earth was as fortunate as Kerri and me.

Perspective as taught in art school. Points converge creating the illusion of distance. At one time in history, a crossroads of art and mathematics, this simple recognition was a revolution. Linear perspective. A unique point of view. The accurate portrayal of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface was powerful – the creation of illusion, shape and distance, produced new intentions and mathematical rules.

It also changed forever the viewer. To see the illusion one must occupy the illusion of a unique center. A new psychology. It’s possible to draw a direct line of descendancy from the hard perspective of the Renaissance to our abstract expressionism. The artist’s point of view, unconscious expression without limit or rule, is all that matters. Two ends of the same pole.

I told Horatio that I am, at long last, learning to keep quiet. To share what I see when asked, and not before (he says as he writes a blogpost about what he sees). I have made a career out of too adamantly trying to get people to see what I see. My adamancy might be traced to the Renaissance and the notion that I occupy a unique center, a specific point of view that makes my illusion of shape and distance somehow privileged and necessary.

Age is helping me challenge and release my investments. It is also a grand teacher of movement and moments. Nothing stands still, especially time. The best we can do is savor the spaces between, always shifting and moving. Children become parents become grandparents. A warm night. A cold day on the trail. It matters less and less what I see and sense-make with my unique hard lines and more and more that I taste the tastes and see the colors, my lens aimed at a common center, sharing the passing moments with others.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE WOODS

Imagine The Possibilities! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” ~ Lao Tzu

I’ve had this quote sitting on my desktop for months. I’ve been on a Lao Tzu kick, a Kurt Vonnegut kick, a Rainier Maria Rilke kick…all at the same time. They are, not surprisingly, in alignment on many topics, among them self-mastery. “The secret?” they whisper. “Stop trying to control what other people think or see or feel and, instead, take care of what you think and see and feel.” Their metaphoric trains may approach the self-mastery station from different directions but the arrival platform is the same.

It’s a universal recognition: take the log out of your own eye.

Sometimes a penny drops more than once and so it is with Saul’s advice to me. “Look beyond the opponent to the field of possibilities.” “And, just what does that mean?” you may shout at your screen. It sounds like new-age hoo-haw.

Ghandi said, “Nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.” It is the height of self-mastery to bring ideas to the table rather than a gun. It is the height of self-mastery to bring to the commons good intention and an honest desire to work with others to make life better for all. Power is never self-generated but is something created between people. Power is distinctly different than control. Power endures since it does not reside within a single individual. Power lives, as Saul reminded me again and again, not in throwing an opponent but in helping the opponent throw themself. “Focus on the possibilities,” he said again and again. Throw yourself to the ground often enough and, one day, it occurs that there may be another way.

Work with and not against. It seems so simple. The bulb hovering over my cartoon head lights-up. Work with yourself, too, and not against. Place your eyes in the field of all possibilities. Obstacles are great makers of resistance, energy eddies and division. Possibilities are expansive, dissolvers of divisiveness.

I am writing this on the Sunday that Christians celebrate their resurrection. The day that “every man/woman for him/herself” might possibly and-at-last-transform into “I am my brothers/sisters keeper.” All that is required for this rebirth is a simple change of focus; a decision to master one’s self instead of the never ending violent attempt to exercise control over others.

It’s the single message, the popcorn trail left for us by all the great teachers. Instead of fighting with others, master yourself. Imagine the possibilities!

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE CEILING LIGHT

Know The Poem [on KS Friday]

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainier Maria Rilke

“First robin!” she said.

“What?”

“First robin. That means spring is here!” she looked at me with “duh” eyes. I was new to Wisconsin so the rituals were not yet known to me. I did not yet understand that in this strange land a water cooler is called a “bubbler” and that cheese curds are sacred food. Before the week was out, I’d heard it three times from strangers. “First robin!”

Years ago, during my first winter in Seattle, after months of gray, the sun came out for an hour and all the people working downtown poured out of the tall buildings and stood facing the sun. They moaned with satisfaction. “What’s this!” I exclaimed. Weird behavior. The next year, after months of dreary gray, the moment the sun peeked from behind the drab curtain, I ran out of my apartment to revel in the return. Leaning against a brick wall, eyes closed, feeling the warmth on my face and the heat reaching my bones, I knew this was my passage to becoming a “local”. I moaned with satisfaction.

Poetry is visceral. It has it roots in the moans of sun drinkers and robin-seers. The green pushing up from dark soil. The smell of spring or the first hint of warmth on the winter wind. Words cannot capture feelings but isn’t it glorious that we try?

We were walking the neighborhood on a cold afternoon. She squeezed my hand and pointed. “First robin,” I said and she smiled. “Spring.”

Now, doesn’t “First robin. Spring!” sound like a grand start to a poem of renewal? Ahhhhhh, yes. A hint of warmth on the wind, harbinger of green shoots reaching. Someday soon, sun will call me out of hiding and color my pale face.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FIRST ROBIN

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

baby steps/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Dream [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

When does a dream turn into a goal?

Lately, I’m having conversations that confuse me. Business thinking, engineer minds, make models for creation. Creativity plans as action templates and guides.

Screen writers make plans, too. Step outlines. The difference is in the process. A creative mind makes models and plans with full intent to throw them away. To discover the best story, their plan involves making space for the better idea. Open up by tossing the model. Clear the deck by shuffling the plan. Sketches and rough drafts. It’s a conversation with the muse. Muses are notoriously structure resistant until the story makes an audience sit forward. Movement first. Then, the structure begins.

The engineer mind works in the opposite direction. The dream must wear the mask of a goal or it is considered invalid. Too squishy. Construction begins immediately with targets and tasks. Order. It is, in fact, the same process as the creative mind, only it is less forgiving of space. It forces the muse to move. Time is of the essence. Structure first. Then movement. Efficiency is a tree with shallow roots.

It confuses me. Dreams do not wear ties or leather shoes, yet, scrape the blueprint and you’ll find a dream every time. Perspective requires stepping away from the canvas. Standing too close for too long and loss of vision is the result. Every time. It’s not a mystery or voodoo. It’s physics. Great ideas and idea-break-throughs happen in the shower or walking on the trail. A clear mind. A different focus creates space. Too tight thinking, too close in for too long, sucks energy.

Once upon a time I worked with organizations and educators. They also confused me. Squeezing the air out of their space they’d gasp, “We can’t breathe.” A little bit of space, some play, a refocus on the relationships was good medicine. Fresh air. Step back and see the painting. The point of perspective is to see. The secret: permission to remove the status games and need to be an authority and, for a moment, reconnect the players to their dream.

At the nucleus of every goal beats the wild heart of a dream.

read Kerri’s blog post about DREAM