Slow Down And Join [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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We were in Madison at the campus. It was Friday afternoon and the party was already raging. Music thumping, horns honking, people pouring out of class, racing to feel the freedom of week’s end. The rush hour was revving. Cars swerving, cutting in and out, vying for ‘the advantage’. People all around hurrying to be some-other-place.

We went to Madison to flee the noise and mess of our life. We needed a mini-getaway. A breather from walking into our current life-headwind. We thought we’d walk a bit. Grab some dinner. I’d never actually been to Madison. We forgot it was Friday. We chose a destination without really thinking it through. In our search for peace we stepped into chaos.

So, we fled Madison. A day of double fleeing. Or, one long extended flee.

Leaving Madison we knew without doubt where to find refuge. When you walk through the doors of Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson you step back in time. It is a place dedicated to the simple art of slowing down. It is a place where people come to be together, to chat and laugh and linger. To join. There is a backroom with a stage no larger than the average kitchen table. Musicians passing through know that it is a good place to stop and play. People listen. And then they talk to you about making music and relevance.

We sat at the end of the bar and watched people trickle in, join their friends, enter the storytelling. A woman stepped through the door and asked if anyone knew about the poetry reading at the library.

“That was last night. I heard it was good.”

“You mean I missed it?” the woman rolled her eyes. The cafe crowd erupted in laughter. “Yep.” The woman took off her coat and sat down. People introduced themselves to her. She joined.

Screwed to the bar where we sat were two small brass plaques. Just Bob. Just Leslie. Kerri asked the bartender about the plaques. “Oh, Bob and Leslie come in every Friday night.  They have for years. They put those plaques on the bar to mark their spot. Should be here any minute.” she said.

“Let us know when they come and we’ll move,” Kerri offered.

“Oh, they won’t make you move. They wouldn’t want that. But they might want to join you and have a drink.” she smiled.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CAFE CARPE

 

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See The Mica [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Recently, Kerri wrote about making a “mica list.” I thought it was a great phrase and an even better idea.  Capture the small, shiny bits, those sparkling moments amidst the gray rock of each day that are often overlooked. In other words, pay attention. The gem-moments are everywhere and most often missed in the rush to be some other place.

Mindfulness is not a new idea. The desire to be present in life is an ancient aspiration. It is the message of all the masters. Life goes by. It can be missed. Open your eyes, see the mica.

In terms of the senses, it is impossible not to be present. As for the ever-busy-storytelling-mind, it is can be almost impossible to be present. The dance of life between the senses and the story. I love this quote by David Abram:

“A story must be judged according to whether it makes sense. And ‘making sense’ must be here understood in its most direct meaning: to make sense is to enliven the senses. A story that makes sense is one that stirs the senses from their slumber, one that opens the eyes and the ears to their real surroundings, tuning the tongue to the actual tastes in the air and sending chills of recognition along the surface of the skin. To make sense is to release the body from the constraints imposed by outworn ways of speaking, and hence to renew and rejuvenate one’s felt awareness of the world. It is to make the senses wake up to where they are.” ~ David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

We picked the green leaf lettuce for a salad just as we always do. It went unceremoniously into the basket. Other items were piled on top. A cucumber. Bananas. Diced tomatoes. Chips. Wine. Checking out of the store, Leticia, our checker, held up the green leaf lettuce and with great enthusiasm and humor pronounced, “Green leaf…the forgotten lettuce!”  We howled and saw the beautiful vibrant green as if for the first time. “Everyone buys romaine. I don’t know why people like romaine. Green leaf is so much better!” Everyone in line agreed. A lettuce-induced communal moment.

Mica. The green green leaf lettuce. The laughter in the grocery store. Leticia. And, later, the flavor. Oh, the salad that we made…

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FORGOTTEN LETTUCE

 

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Walk Off The Path [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a tale of two quotes. Both are from Jiddu Krishnamurti who is currently sourcing my start-of-the-day reading.

“To be religious is to be sensitive to reality.”

Kerri and I love to walk. In our first few years together we’d walk the streets and parks of our neighborhood, morning evening, midnight, sunrise. Each day, regardless of weather, we’d walk. Lately, we’ve gravitated to a few local trails. More nature. Less concrete. More quiet. Less noise.

When we walk we very intentionally leave behind all of the mind chatter, all the fearmongering of the day, the battles with abstractions. It’s as if we shift a gear and easily pay attention to the actual world around us. We look. We listen. We sense. We point out beautiful things. We stop and close our eyes and listen. “Did you hear it?” Kerri takes pictures of the extraordinary marvels that surround us. They are everywhere. Brilliant red berries in a winter landscape. A nurse log. The astounding color and texture of a strip of bark. Deer prints, like ballroom dance patterns, in the mud. A distant owl.

Our walks are my church.

“Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion or sect.”

I am living a life that is not going according to the plan. Some of my best decisions turned out to be my worst. Some of my worst decisions have turned out to be my best. Lately, I’ve been looking for jobs. This is new to me as I’ve been fortunate and capable most of my adult life of creating work. The gift of looking for work is the necessity of making a list of past experience. A life review called a resume.

I’m finding my work-life-review to be like our walks in the woods. Quiet. Sensitive to the realities. At this age-and-stage I am no longer what Kerri calls a strider. I am not climbing over bodies to get to the top office suite. My sword shattered some time ago. My armor is off and most likely by now covered in moss. Saving the world, becoming the next Picasso, finding the Northwest passage and all of the other battles of abstraction are no longer drivers for me. I have no desire to summit Everest. I have an endless desire to stand in this moment just as I am.

I have (for better or worse) walked a pathless path. And, I suspect that is true of all of us despite what topography we scribble on our resume maps. Truth is a personal path, the face behind the mask.

Master Marsh once asked me, “Why do you need to run at every edge and jump off?” When he asked the question I had witty replies but no real answer. Now, this is what I know: On my quest I’ve read a lot of books and had many, many brilliant mentors and guides. At the end of the day, they were/are pointers at best. The direction they pointed – always – was to the unknown. To the edges. The news from my life-review: It’s never found in a book or well worn path. It’s always found in a moment, in an experience, in a walk in the woods, holding hands.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURSE LOGS

 

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Learn. Grow. [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Today is a special day. After reading what Kerri wrote on this Not-So-Flawed Wednesday, I decided the best I could do is silence and point you to her words. Here’s a link to her thoughts on turning 60. Happy Birthday, my most beautiful wife.

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if you missed it above, read Kerri’s thoughts on VISITORS

 

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Yawn! [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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As I’ve mentioned before, BabyCat is not a stealthy kitty. When he jumps off the bed it sounds like someone dropped a cannonball on the wood floor. Mice feel particularly safe in his realm because they can hear him coming from a mouse-mile away.  That, and BabyCat can’t be bothered to actually chase mice. He prefers to yawl while watching them skitter (note: a yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel but I think it is also a near perfect match for the sound BabyCat makes when not-mousing. My apologies to sailors worldwide for my cat-sound-co-opt-yawl-onomatopoeia).

Often, we write these posts from the raft with BabyCat snoozing at Kerri’s side and DogDog chewing his bone at the aft of the raft. When the posts are written, prior to posting, we read them aloud to each other. Inevitably, in mid-read, BabyCat yawns a mighty yawn. Commentary? Oxygenation? Both, most likely. He is not a fan of having his post-breakfast snooze interrupted by our blather.

After his mighty yawn he yowls at us (we are not mice so the vowel is different), and hops off the raft (cannonball drop) and thump-thumps off to find a quieter spot, a place to take his pre-lunch nap.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIDE MOUTHED BABYCAT

 

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Paint The Can [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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I imagine this still life is a painting that Duke merely tossed off. It was an exercise, something he painted because, well, he wanted to paint but wasn’t awash in inspiration. He looked around for a subject, any subject, and laughed when it occurred to him that the coffee can stuffed with brushes and tubes of paint lying willy-nilly on his table would make a sufficient study. When it was complete, he liked it enough to hang in the hallway of his house. It hung there for years. I imagine he and his wife, Eileen, looked at it everyday – to the point that they probably stopped seeing it. It was the norm. Part of the hallway.

It remained in the hallway after his death.

A few weeks ago Kerri and I helped Duke’s son, 20, move his mom into a nice assisted living apartment. After the furniture was moved in and the dishes and lamps, the final piece was Duke’s painting of brushes in a coffee can. It is the piece that made Eileen’s new apartment feel like home. Before we hung it on the wall we took some time and studied the painting. Duke was great painter!  I imagine that he had no idea on the long-ago-day that he decided old brushes in a coffee can would make a nice study, that his coffee can, like the Velveteen Rabbit of paintings, would come to mean so much. That it would carry associations like “home” and “Duke.”

It’s probably good that an artist cannot know the destiny of their work.

I imagine he put on the final touches of paint, the highlights, stood back and thought, “It’s good. I like this one.” He dropped his brush in some turpentine and made his way upstairs the get another cup of coffee.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUKE’S PAINTING

 

 

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Huck It Up [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Look closely. It’s not a flock of butterflies or a strange strain of ceiling-sitting-grasshopper. It’s money, greenbacks, tacked to the tiles. It’s how the community of Sister Bay collects money for local causes. Go to Husby’s, chuck money into the air and hope it sticks.

Kerri was on a rant. She was reading about the obscene amounts of money being raised for political campaigns. Power is big business! As she was ranting about the better use of so much money, I scrolled passed an article, 12 States Spend Less On Schools Now Than Before The Recession.  For all of our grand rhetoric and dedication to the showmanship of testing-for-excellence, we have a very hard time putting our money where our mouth is. These days, teachers everywhere are on strike because they have chosen what once was the most noble of careers, but now it takes two or three jobs to make ends meet. Her rant met my eye-roll. It’s upside down.

It was the middle 1990’s when I was a teacher, sitting at my desk reading the paper before my day was to begin. I was browsing an article about the starting salaries for city workers. I should have gasped but I was not really surprised. A starting garbage collector salary was vastly more than a tenured teacher. I like my garbage to be collected so don’t mistake my comparison. We express value through the exchange of money. It was impossible for me not to get the message. It’s upside down.

I understand that we are in a booming economy.  It’s a pervasive story. It’s trumpeted everyday. And yet, there is this headline ripped from the news: Almost 80% of US Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck. I shake my head in disbelief every time I hear the fearmongering tale about the raging perils of socialism knocking on our door. Even a quick peak at the reality will reveal that social equity is not the monster that threatens us. Upside down.

Imagine my surprise when I entered Husby’s! In this small bar nested in this tiny town on the beautiful peninsula known as Door County, I found a community that recognizes the topsy-turvy nature of our economics! Good causes in an upside down world require an unusual strategy. Put a tack through your dollar bill. Fold the bill and tack around a quarter. Huck it up and hope it sticks. The kids and good causes will receive a bit of money-love from their community when the ceiling gets full. The money, the spare change collected from community love and caring, will come down. I suspect the money will matter but the community-that-cares will matter more. The empty ceiling will inspire new bills to fly up. The cycle will start anew.

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read Kerri’s blog post about MONEY ON THE CEILING

 

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