Know Why [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I’m working with a software start-up company. Upon returning from travels I found our conversation has shifted into articulating mission and vision and purpose. None of us are keen about writing these kinds of statements but the exercise is useful and necessary. Why do we do what we do? What, exactly, do we do? In that order. Why. What.

Why? It seems as if this should be an easy answer. To support other people. To support other people in doing what they need to do.

I couldn’t help but think of our experience last week. We shared our story of breaking down in Hays, Kansas. It was late in the afternoon. It was the day before my dad’s funeral in Denver. We hobbled into the dealership. They were jammed with customers and couldn’t help us. There wasn’t a rental car to be found. It looked bleak. The dealer recommended a garage on the other side of town. Davis Automotive. We limped into their parking lot. We told our tale. They moved heaven and earth to help. Why?

It was nearing the end of their day. They, too, were jammed. Yet, they helped. They took the time. They made our problem theirs to solve. They took to heart my need to make it to my dad’s funeral. My need became their personal mission.

I returned to work with a new view on mission statements. They need not be lofty or abstract. In fact, they should be visceral. Tangible. Everyday. Support other people in doing what they need to do. Why? Because they need it. Just like I need it. Or you need it. These good mechanics fix cars. That is their “what.” Their “why”: help people get where they need to go. Help people do what they need to do.

Help people.

It’s how interconnection works. My mission is, in a real way, to make your path easier just as your mission is to make my path easier. I need mechanics because I do not have that mind or skill set. They need software designers because cars are computers and they can no longer diagnose problems without them. I am an artist, a teller-of-stories. Mechanics and software designers need my mind and skill set to remind them that, beyond their role, their mission, their job, they are human beings living a universal story. Nothing they do will matter, nothing I do will matter – ever – if it is not in service to the support of others’ growth, or need, or desire or fulfillment. I cannot be fulfilled if my work does not support you. And vice versa.

So, why are these good men and women, these software engineers and entrepreneurs creating their software? They see a real need. They see people struggling. And, like good mechanics who encounter a brokenhearted son en route to his dad’s funeral in a truck that will not run, they know exactly what to do. And, they know why.

read Kerri’s blog post about SERVICE

Whisper, “Thanks.” [on KS Friday]

We found the gratitude wall in a small mountain town. It was a mess of appreciation, overrun with thankfulness. I thought, but did not say, “This ought to be the visual expression of every inner life.”

I didn’t write on the wall. I whispered my gratitude to the wall. Kerri played for my father’s funeral service. This woman, who is a Yamaha artist, considered a modern master at her instrument, after breaking both wrists, after a second fall, an injury from which she will never fully recover, with a middle finger that sometimes responds and sometimes does not, with a pinky that is curling, wrists that cannot bend, hands that cannot reach the keys as they once did…she played. For the first time in many, many months. She stood at a piano and played. Beautifully.

My dad, a great lover of music, spent hours of his life listening to her CDs. He loved her playing, delighted in her compositions.

I cried for two reasons at the funeral. Both reasons overwhelmed me with gratitude. I was a mess of appreciation, so, I whispered my bottomless thank-you to the gratitude wall.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATEFUL

grateful/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Light A Candle [on DR Thursday]

A Double Haiku

Candle on a rock,

His favorite fishing hole.

Observance, our own.

Electric aspen,

Trout slide through glassy water.

Quiet, like his voice.

read Kerri’s blog post about OBSERVANCE

www.davidrobinsoncreative.com

Honor Yourself [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“There’s a trailhead,” Loida said, “It’s just up the road.” She could see that we needed some quiet time. Some space. Some nature. We dropped our other plans. All errands went out the window. More importantly, all obligations, made-up and otherwise, fell to the wayside. Or, said another way, we honored ourselves, our needs. We ran to the hills like thirsty people running for an oasis.

“Why is that so hard?” Kerri asked. “Why should I feel guilty for taking a few moments for myself?” Later, deep in the night, we’d express intense – not an overstatement – gratitude for having given ourselves a short hike into the foothills. The sun. The deer. The hawk. The cyclist who cried, “Snake!” There were signs warning of rattlesnakes so we walked with caution. We laughed at our imagined-snake-paranoia.

Those few moments allowed us to be present with family when we needed to be present with family. Our short hike refilled our people-gas-tank. Kerri’s question was spot-on. Why is it so hard to do the thing you most need to do? Why is it so hard to put your needs above the demands of others – especially when attending to your needs is the single action that ultimately enables you to attend to the needs of others. To be present with and for others.

We are both introverts. Quiet, not cacophony, recharges the battery.

Kerri gasped, “Look at this!” she knelt and carefully took a photograph of the autumn blossom beside the trail. “This is exactly what I needed,” she sighed. Face to the sun. Awash with an awe-some blossom discovery, we took a moment, a necessary moment, to drink in the beauty and the sage mountain air.

read Kerri’s blog post about AUTUMN BLOSSOM

Look After [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Mike and I exchanged text messages. His mother recently passed and his clan interred her ashes a few days ago. We held services for my dad last week. Columbus’ ashes will find their final resting place in the spring.

Mike is heading for the ocean. Before leaving Colorado, I had to stand in the mountains. Both are places of infinity. Stand in our smallness. Realize the ‘bigness’ of life.

What do we do after…After.

John Irving wrote that we lose people, not all at once, but in pieces. I think we find them in pieces, too. There is so much to discover in the After. Stories are told. Quiet is necessary. An anchor goes missing and then, bit by bit, is rediscovered. Inside.

After. Bit by bit.

read Kerri’s blog post about AFTER

Remember The Single Story [on KS Friday]

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

When Kerri took this photograph I thought Van Gogh would have loved to paint it. I read that most of his 860 paintings date from the last two years of his life. The romantic in me wants to believe that he knew his time was short and he let all of that imperative spill out onto canvas. He died never knowing success or imagining that his work would in any way impact the world. I doubt he cared. His frenzy was not driven by success or status. He painted because he had to.

Waning time brings retirement to some. To others it brings fire and fuel. The need to bring what is inside to the outside. To compose, to write, to dance, to paint, to build, to design. Michelangelo was driven by his waning time. Some of his final sculpture was 500 years ahead of its time. At the end of his life, his work would have shown well with Picasso.

There simply isn’t enough time to say it all, explore it all. Last night, sitting in a circle with my family, multiple conversations resonating throughout the activity hall, my conversation pod began talking about regrets. When we were younger, we made vows to live lives without regret and now, at this end of the road, we see how foolish was our vow. Life is a series of choices and choices always leave unexplored paths. We laughed at our folly and relished the beauty of a life full of regrets. Paths not taken seed gratitude for the paths we ultimately chose. There is intense beauty in regret.

The morning dawned cold. Autumn has arrived in Colorado. The energy abandons the leaves and goes to the root. Columbus’ passing has brought energy to the root. He would be pleased. There are members of my family that I have not seen for years. In gathering, we bring together our separate stories and for a few days remember that we are also a single story.

A single story. The beauty of regret. The gift in loss. The waning of one season affirms the promise of the new.

All of Kerr’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about WANING SEASONS

part of the wind/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Say, “Hi Pa.” [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Our morning ritual involves turning on the coffee, feeding Dogga, opening the windows, and greeting the plants. As part of our intentional beauty creation this summer, we surrounded ourselves with succulents and plants that called out to us. The plants have names: KC, Boston, Ralph, Spiky, Lil’ Bitch (she bites if you’re not paying attention). We call this beauty Snake-In-The-Grass.

We have to reach over Snake-In-The-Grass to open the back window. It’s an awkward maneuver and my elbow inevitably hits-and-sounds the bamboo chime that lives above and to the left of Snake-In-The-Grass. I don’t know when it started, but each time that chime sounds, I automatically say, “Hi Pa.”

Pa is Kerri’s dad and the bamboo chimes were his. I never met him, he passed before I met Kerri, but I have a nice relationship with him. I feel that I know him. Knew him. Kerri talks of him often. I swear he touched my shoulder one night, early in our relationship when we were in Florida visiting Beaky. It scared the hell out of me. It was a sweet touch, approval (I hope). That single touch began my relationship with Pa. I invoke him when I’m doing home repairs. I sit with him when Kerri is driving me nuts. He nicknamed her “Brat” so I usually ask his advice for how to navigate The Brat. He never answers but he does laugh out loud. Kerri and I both wear on our wrists a length of pull-chain that came from his workbench.

We received news the other day that my dad is failing fast. The message in the email was, “This may be it.” It. I.T. Two letters that point to the unfathomable. The inevitable. Later, after receiving the email, I was closing up the house for the night and I brushed the chime with my elbow. “Hi Pa,” I said, and my voice stopped me in my tracks. The bamboo whispered. A second touch on the shoulder. Reassurance.

“Thanks, Pa.”

Two dads. Pa. Columbus. Rich, rich relationships. Time moves. The nature of the relationship changes. I fear it and am comforted by it. The wind gently sounds the bamboo. Snake-In-The-Grass makes me reach. An awkward maneuver. A lovely way to begin and end the day, the certainty of a father.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNAKE-IN-THE-GRASS

Appreciate The Other Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Every so often we pick images for the melange according to a theme. A few weeks ago all of the images were green. This week we noticed that we had several photos of words or phrases so we decided to have a theme week. Yesterday featured a message on the tailgate of a truck, “Every day above ground is a blessing.” Today, the other life. La Otra Vida.

Kerri and I met in middle age so our history together is short. Our pals are couples who’ve been married for decades. It is common for us to leave dinner with friends, after lively conversation of raising kids, vacation stories or tales of pets from the past, and need to talk about the eras in life that we didn’t pass through together. Our cartoon, Chicken Marsala, came from a conversation about the kids that we didn’t have. What kind of parents would we have been together? What would we have done differently in life had we met when we were younger? Would we have fallen in love had the previous-versions-of-ourselves met at an earlier phase in our lives?

La Otra Vida. The other life. We’ll never know the answers to our speculative questions. I was not the person at 25 that I am today. Kerri did not know me during my train-wreck years. I was – and in many ways still am – a restless wanderer but I have developed over the years the capacity to sit still. To appreciate where I am.

Last night, sitting on the deck sipping wine, the sun was down and we had the torches burning. Dogga was asleep at our feet. We were listening to the soundtrack from the movie About Time and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, a heartbreaking piece for piano and cello, began playing. I memorized the moment because, in another life, at a time that I was not so happy, I knew that La Otra Vida was out there somewhere. The other life. I knew someday, minus a few demons and with a few more miles behind me, that I would one day sit outside on a cool evening, my wife’s hand in mine, my dog asleep at my feet, and know with absolute certainty that life could not possibly be better.

I savored the moment. I will never take for granted this, the other life.

read Kerri’s blog post about LA OTRA VIDA

Light The Dark [on DR Thursday]

Strong contrast between light and dark: chiaroscuro. Renaissance painters loved it. The word ‘chiaroscuro’ literally means light-dark.

Today is Stephen’s memorial service. It is across the country or I would be there. I confess, I am haunted by Stephen’s death. When Mike wrote to tell me of Stephen’s passing, he told me that he was at peace when he died.

I’m not sure why his passing has hit me so hard. The last time I saw Stephen was 1998. He was following MM like a puppy. They were working on a set construction project. That’s what I remember. He was 14 years old, so, in my mind, he is frozen at 14. He was one of a pack of brothers that formed a solid core of Dimension’s Theatre Project, a theatre program that I spent more than a decade resurrecting and nurturing into artistic vitality. Stephen and his brothers were present in its heyday. For me, it was an artistic and learning laboratory, a place of spirited artistic creation. I loved every minute of it.

Of the brothers, I knew Stephen the least. I worked most directly with his older brother, Greg. I prided myself that Dimensions was a safe space. Artists, especially young artists, are vulnerable. They need to know that they can make strong offers, take chances, find their edges, without shame. That means living in and creating a culture of mutual support. The person selling the tickets mattered just as much as the actor on the stage. Every member of the community was directly responsible for the health and well-being of every other member. It is the philosophy I inherited. It is the philosophy I carried forward.

Mike took the reins of Dimensions when I left. He carried on the tradition, made it his own, Changing Faces Theater Company. Mike knew the artist that Stephen would become. The musician. The designer. The man who cared for the health and well-being of others, artistic and otherwise. Mike knew the dark and the light of Stephen’s short walk on the earth.

Usually, when I am confused or need to sort out my heart, I take a break and visit the pond. Magic, the frog, lives there. He’s a good hider but every few days comes out for a visit. After Mike’s news, confused at the depth of my confusion, I went to the pond and hung out for a few minutes with Magic. Dogga was running circles, making my visit safe from marauding squirrels. The sun was down.

“Look at this picture!” Kerri smiled. She’d caught Magic in chiaroscuro, made more dimensional and full in light-dark.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, looking at the photograph.

Light-dark. The Renaissance masters loved it. I smiled this morning when I read Stephen’s obituary. It began with a quote, something he must have often said. His words brought to me what I couldn’t find at the pond. Peace for Stephen. “Proper lighting can change the world.”

read Kerri’s blog post about MAGIC

surrender now ©️ 2016 david robinson

Welcome Home [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The people that bought my parent’s home flipped it in a few months. They remodeled the bathrooms and updated the kitchen. They refaced the fireplace. They pulled up the carpet and refinished the hardwood floors. It was gorgeous. It was a surprising chapter of what has become my unintentional 2021 mediation: home. At the beginning of the summer, after days of hauling and cleaning, as my last act before leaving for good, Kerri suggested that I crawl into the cedar closet of my boyhood bedroom (I loved sitting in that closet as a boy) and sign my name. A sweet goodbye and thank you. Home is a memory.

It was only a few months ago that we moved my mom into her “new home.” She wanders the halls and we know that time is the only cure for what she seeks. Home, for her, will be a feeling that finds her, at last, only after the wear and tear in the rooms is of her making. Her pacing is wearing a trail, carving a path. Home is a feeling.

In the past 8 months my dad has moved three times into his “new home.” Memory care facilities are surprisingly inept at caring for elders who’ve lost their memories. High price. Low care. Everything is a business: a theme/rant for another post. In his current home, finally, he feels safe and, after a trip out, wants to return to his room. Home is safety.

Before his memory was gone, we took my dad back to his hometown, Monticello, Iowa. His primary need was to show us the tiny Home that his grandfather built. It’s the place where his dad was born. It is across the yard from where he was born. His tales were glorious in their hardship. They needed very little to make good memories. Today, the tiny house built with no money and huge heart is a storage shed but through my father’s eyes it was nothing short of a castle. I will always savor the image of him standing in front of his Home. Home is an origin and an anchor.

When we pull into the driveway, after a long trip or a jaunt to the store, we always greet our home, “Hello, happy house!” Our home feels alive, a presence or being. The walls carry our story. The rooms remember and replay the voices of her children. We’re packing a lot of story into the walls of our old house. It is packing a lot of story into us. Home is a relationship.

When we came upon the woodpecker-condo-tree, Brad said in jest, “Why don’t you stick your hand in there.” We laughed. “I told him I’d be like the monkey with its fist in the coconut, I wouldn’t be able to let go of the critter inside and also wouldn’t be able to get my fist out of the small hole. I’d be stuck on the trail forever. The woodpecker condo would be my new home. Kerri and Jen were inspecting the perfect circles. It felt good to be on a walk with them. It had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just hang out. Home is a friendship.

We had tacos at Jay and Charlies with the Up North gang. Jay showed us her new porch. We sat in the shade and drank margaritas and laughed. I told Jay that her porch and yard felt serene. She smiled and told me that it was her sanctuary. I was, for a moment, completely overwhelmed by how much life we’ve walked with these special people. Passages. We’ve shared and received so much support – immediate presence when need arose – from our stalwart gang. Sanctuary. Home is a community.

It’s just as the needlepoint declares: Home is sweet.

read Kerri’s blog post on Home Sweet Home