Smell The Flowers [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Ferdinand is the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. In a moment of bad timing, Ferdinand sits on a bee and is mistaken for the most ferocious bull in his cadre. He is hauled off to be the main event at the bull fights, a high honor for most bulls! Needless to say, he disappoints. Through a mighty wave of provocation, matadors taunting and goading crowds, Ferdinand refuses to fight. He sits center ring and smells the roses. His dedication to peace is a disappointment to all. He is hauled back to his pasture where he lives out his days enjoying the flowers.

The book became a best seller when it was first published in the mid 1930’s. The world was busy readying itself for yet another world war. In the second year of it’s publication, 1938, Ferdinand was the best selling book in the United States.

A mixed metaphor. A big bull with a gentle heart. The greatest power in the arena impervious to the ugly taunts and goading. Ferdinand, you might say, didn’t take it personally.

As luck would have it this week, we enjoyed a children’s concert telling of Ferdinand and a few days later we saw a one-man show, a Winston Churchill impersonator. We left both events with the same impression: if history repeats itself then we are certainly cycling through the late 1930’s. The world seems dedicated to tweeting itself into greater and greater conflict. The arena is alive with screaming and taunting, accusations and blame. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, into this blood-lust, a bull would enter, sit center stage, and smell the roses?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FERDINAND

 

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Listen Well [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When I wore my life/business coaching hat, many of my clients secretly wanted to be painters or writers. After wading around in the depths of their dissatisfaction, they’d finally say something like, “What I really want to do is write a book.” And then, they’d divert their eyes and say, “I just don’t know how to get there.”

The path was always simple to say but difficult to execute. Write. Write everyday. There is no magic path. As Tom would say, “A writer writes. A painter paints.” The action is rarely difficult to do; the story wrapped around it is…well, another story altogether.

The difficulty comes in the form of a many headed monster called vulnerability. “If I write (paint, dance, act…) people will judge what I write (paint, dance, act…).” It’s a heavy cloak to wrap around the creative heart. Yes. They will judge. Some will diminish you and some will praise you to the sky. However, that has little or nothing to do with being a writer or painter, with becoming a better writer or painter. Neither the praise nor the derision is truth or accurate or meaningful.

Both accolades and critiques can pull an artist off-center. To listen to either is to ignore  the quiet prompting of the muse. The essential will be lost in the chatter.

My mind is a tumble of truism. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” etc. There is no other way to be a writer than to sit down and write. There is no way to become a better painter than to stand at the easel and paint. And, while writing and painting and acting, there is a necessary skill for an artist to develop: learn to let the opinions and judgments of others pass through. They have nothing to do with creating and everything to do with what others are seeing. The artist’s job is not to determine what others see. The job is to write and paint, to create what the muse whispers in your ear.

There is no other way. Artistry is not an achievement. It is an action, a relationship.

Act well your part. Paint well your painting. Write well your novel. Listen well to your muse.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ACT WELL YOUR PART…

 

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Make No Mark [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Many generations ago, just after the road was resurfaced, a hearty seagull stepped into the hot asphalt and, doing its best human imitation, left its footprints for posterity.

Everyone wants to leave their mark. A hand print in a cave, a plaque on a bench, an elementary school that carries their name. I was here. I did something worthy with my time. I mattered. I broke a record, amassed a fortune, discovered a cure, left a print in the Hollywood walk of fame.

Once, I painted a beautiful painting and I only know it was beautiful because a woman came to the gallery opening, caught her breath, and wept in front of it. Once, I fulfilled a promise long after it was capable of being fulfilled. Everything changed.

People draw lines in the sand. They take stands. They say, “This matters,” even if, from every other point of view, the scratch in the earth looks insignificant. To cross the line, to betray the mark, is…(fill in your word). My word is untenable.

I mostly wonder what kindness I might be capable of if I was not so concerned with making marks. I wonder what kindness might be afforded me if I were not pressed to step over my lines. What kindness my be engendered?

Time and again I have admired the words and work of people who managed to leave behind the desire for mark-making. They walked through their days, perhaps helping others and, without really meaning to, with no thought of personal gain or guarding of territory or making statements, like the seagull, they stepped and inadvertently left a few footprints for posterity.

 

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“The whole island is a welcome sign,” he said. “People here take the time to stop and talk.”

It’s true. This little island is the inverse of life on the mainland. Over there, going slow is an anomaly. Here, rushing to get anywhere is the anomaly. Over there, people get agitated if they are made to wait. Here, people get agitated if they are made to move. Here, people routinely wave as you pass. They acknowledge your presence. Over there, people routinely pretend they don’t see you. Or, they simply don’t see you, their sight so focused on getting to the next thing on the list.

Our neighbors left a note on our door. Came by to meet you. Sorry we missed you. Come over and say hello. So, we did. Two hours and a large glass of mead later, we semi-staggered home feeling as if we’d known our new neighbors forever.

I confess to the disorientation that comes when first entering another culture. This culture, oddly, is not in another country, it is not halfway around the globe. It is a ferry ride just off the tip of Door County. It amused me no end upon first arriving that slowing down, saying hello, stopping to chat, seemed so unusual. So out of the norm.

I like it. It is infectious, this slowing-down-and-stopping-to-talk-to-everyone-thing. It is human scale or, perhaps, it is simply human. Things get done. People get where they need to go and no one gets run over in the process.

Now, in my new culture, stopping to say hello is, somehow, more important than anything I think I need to do; that is to say, self-importance takes a back seat to other-importance. That’s the secret ingredient, I think, the magic sauce to taking time to stop and stand beneath the welcome sign. Plus, sometimes there’s mead! Ahhhh (a coda).

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WELCOME

 

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Stand In The Enormity [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When Kerri first showed me this photograph, it read to me like a minimalist painting. A subtle field of color with two splashes and a brushstroke. So much said with so little. A meditation of movement and the immovable.

The lake is different every day. Its color palette is as changeable as its moods. Each day upon awaking, Kerri walks onto the deck and snaps a picture. So far, no two days are alike. So far, no two hours are alike.

Once I stood in La Sagrada Familia and the enormity of it made me quiet. The lake is like that. Immense to the point of stillness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BIRDS AND AN ISLAND

 

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Look In The Mirror [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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A few years ago Morris Berman wrote a book, Coming To Our Senses, that jumps with both feet into the complexities of mirrors. Believe it or not, there are societies that are not singularly obsessed with self-image.

What do we see when we look in the mirror? What image do we think we ought to project? Create? Reinforce? What image do we think we ought to match? What do we think we need to hide? What about that hair or those crow’s feet? What do we look for in the image that stares back? Have we ever considered that the image in the mirror is the reverse of what’s actual? That we will, in fact, always see the opposite and never see ourselves as we are?

What amazing power do marketers possess when crafting the images that sell stuff? Models with perfect profiles, men with Greek bodies, all of those images filtered through the magic of Photoshop to heighten, hide, or somehow manufacture a more desirable perfection, an unattainable you. That is the point, after all: to create a perfection that no mere mortal can attain. To create a purchase path, a product possibility of attaining the ideal, even for a moment.

On the island, there is a terrific little coffee house, The Red Cup. Someone at The Red Cup must have read Morris Berman’s book or at least caught on to the power of a mirror. They know, even after a few cups of good coffee, when washing your hands in the restroom, you are likely to look in the mirror and find something that needs changing, something lacking. And so, as a counterbalance to the programming, they offer a simple alternative, a suggestion, in fact, a possibility for what you might choose to see in the mirror: you are so cool, and intelligent and strong and fierce.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RED CUP

 

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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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