Play On! [On Merely A Thought Monday]

normal with frame copy

“So, this is what a pandemic feels like,” Chris wrote. Yes.

This is what division feels like. Years ago I went to a wedding in the mountains. The grandmother of the bride punched the grandmother of the groom. They wrestled each other to the floor. The band kept playing. It was shocking. It was mesmerizing. The rest of the reception was uncomfortable with explosive undercurrents. That is my metaphor-of-the-day for these United States.

Disruption can be tedious. Disruption can be violent. Disruption is definitely disorienting. Old ladies fist fighting, pulling hair, cussing. The band plays through its set list.

Yesterday’s metaphor happened like this: I broke a storm window. My first thought was an unpublishable version of, “Gee! How did that happen?” My second thought was, “This is exactly what the USA looks like.” An old frame, glass shatters. It sounds like the first line of a haiku. The fault lines in this nation are ubiquitous. Sharp.

There is no fix that will put the pieces back together again. Humpty Dumpty. A new pane of glass must replace the old.

Kerri had a bad day. We passed a local bar and it was packed. She said, “Everyone’s pretending that things are normal!” Her inner rule-follower wanted to know how so many people could be so cavalier about spreading the virus. I reminded her that we live in Wisconsin. The supreme court of our state ruled that to protect each other is unconstitutional. To pretend that there is no virus is the only way they could have arrived at their ruling. So, all the children play follow-the-leader.

Everything is changed. And now we yearn for what we once knew as usual. We crave the typical, long for the familiar routine. “I’ll never take a hug for granted again,” Jen said. Touch. Yes. We remember with longing the ease of touch.

Little miracles. Sitting close to a friend. A dinner party. We don’t know what we have until we do not have it. Isn’t it true that within the ordinary is always found the seed of the extraordinary? And, what, exactly, isn’t extraordinary? Relative to the very few life forms we have discovered in this vast universe, it seems that another day of life on this abundant planet of ours is, out of the chute, more than we should expect. Little miracles. To hold a hand. To walk side-by-side.

What exactly is normal?

Doug was one of my heroes. He was a champion of the misfit, a cheerleader of the unconventional path. As a young man he was a soldier in Vietnam. During his tour, he read poetry to keep himself sane. Another day of life was never guaranteed. It changed him.

He was a challenger to the norm because he believed the norm didn’t exist.  His belief in the unusual made him an excellent teacher. With excessive bluster, he used to say, “I wish somebody would show me this fantasy called the mainstream. Everybody talks about it but I’ve never seen the goddamn thing!”

We saw the sign from the road: A little normal would be nice. Yes. Grandmothers fist fighting. Packed bars in a pandemic. Broken glass. Follow the leader over the edge. The band plays on.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A LITTLE NORMAL

 

 

not our best morning minturn website box copy

 

 

 

Become More [on Merely A Thought Monday]

what now bcat copy

“Whoever cannot seek the unforeseen sees nothing, for the known way is an impasse.” ~ Heraclitus

It’s funny how the smallest thing can set a mind off in a different direction entirely. For instance, it seems the entire nation is asking “What now?” Some are asking the question filled with hope. Some are asking it filled with fear. I had some thoughts to share about what now and before I began to write, I checked my email. There was a note from my mother.

She found him this morning standing on the patio weeping. He couldn’t see the water coming from the sprinkler. He wanted to help her take care of the yard but simply could not see. My father has the double challenge of going blind while also slipping into dementia. He’s pretty far along in both. She wrote that “she is amazed that he is not perpetually angry.” Instead of being angry, he is unbearably kind. He just wants to help. He cries, not because he cannot see, he cries because he cannot see the water. He can’t remember what to do. He cannot help and, somewhere in his increasing darkness, he knows my mother needs his help .

Kerri believes that people don’t change over time, they simply become more of who they’ve been all along. Age reveals our character. I can only hope, as I age, that the character revealed as my control drops away, is as beautiful as my father’s. He is kind. He is kind. He is kind. Each day he steps further into the darkness and he is kind.

What now?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHAT NOW?

 

? website box copy

 

Listen To Beaky [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

good morning sunshine copy

Today we turn our thoughts toward Beaky. A bright light. Five years ago, on this day, she passed away.

Not only does it seem impossible that she died five years ago but it seems more impossible that I only knew her for 18 months. If you were to ask me how long I knew Beaky I’d say, “Forever.” Some people are just like that. Kindred.

She and I were co-conspirators. We plotted strategies – all unsuccessful – to convince Kerri that her natural curls were gorgeous and did not need straightening. She gave me a lesson in applying lipstick and rouge, standing next to her walker, looking into the mirror, popping our lips. After being catheterized, she cautioned me to be careful what I wished for. “When I was young I wished I could pee standing up.” she said. “MOTHER!” Kerri blushed as Beaky winked at me.

Time and again, I was moved by her kindness, her generosity to others. After taking a fall, rushed to the emergency room, writhing in pain, she looked up at the attending nurse and said, ‘You have a beautiful smile.” The role of nurse fell off, the woman flushed pink and was transformed by the compliment. Beaky did that a lot, she hit people with a dedicated kindness when they least suspected it. Her kindness was not manufactured, it was matter-of-fact. It was sturdy,  genuine.

The night before we saw her for the last time, we scoured her house for a blue notebook, the journal she’d kept during a long ago trip through Europe with her husband. Beaky was a recorder of life’s events. Not merely notes, her journals and calendars were threads to a vital time, to living memory. She thought the notebook was lost. When Kerri gave her the journal, Beaky hugged it to her breast and rocked it like it was a long lost child come home.”Oh, you found it! You found it!” she cried.

As we left her that day, she said, as she always did when we departed, “Be kind to each other!” Much more than a salutation, it was an invocation. Be kind to each other.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE

 

 

momma, d & k website box copy

 

Give And Receive [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

sleeping dogga copy

DogDog has two distinctly different personalities. In the sunny hours he is high strung, high energy, high joy. He rarely stops moving, circling the yard, circling the rooms of the house, moving his toys from here to there and back again. When it is time to take out the garbage, he delights in clearing the yard of marauding squirrels. I am always well protected when I deliver the trash to the can.

At night, our energizer-bunny-of-a-dog collapses. He gently herds us into the living room and, if we sit, even for a moment, he believes that his people are securely in the pen and he is off duty for the day. He punches out,  settles on the cool floor and is asleep in a nanosecond. In that moment he is transformed into ‘sweet dog.’

Rather than serving as the protector, sweet dog is a sponge for affection. If we move, stand, cross the room, cough,… he rolls onto his back, availing himself for a belly-belly. Sweet dog does not bark. Sweet dog knows our nighttime travel patterns and is somehow always positioned in our path. Sweet dog is a no-apology opportunist.

High joy. Sweet. Giver. Receiver. Both are qualities to be admired.

At night, before he retires to his crate, he waits for us on the foot of our bed. We spend several minutes loving on him. He gives himself over completely to our affection. It is among my favorite rituals of the day to heap love on DogDog before putting him in his crate.

I read once that the phrase “unconditional love” was redundant. The quality that makes love love is the absence of condition. If what we call “love” comes with qualifiers or expectations then it is not love at all. It is something else.

High joy. Sweet. Love (unconditional). I am always, everyday, in awe of this furry teacher and mostly grateful that he is endlessly patient with the glacial pace of his student.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG SLEEPING

 

 

dogga front yard website box copy

Pick Your Star [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

pre joy joy copy

Mike Libecki is a mountain climber. He calls the necessary suffering of his sport pre-joy. “That way,” he explains, “I get to use the word joy in all of my sentences.” There’s joy at the summit. There’s pre-joy on the way up. It’s not a bad orientation to life, everything is relative to joy.

Skip’s meditation these days is on resilience. After a horrific car accident, he has more than a few tales of pre-joy. He has even more tales of joy. Human beings have a remarkable capacity to choose their stories, to orient to a path that is life-giving or to collapse their story into a state of no-joy. Skip chose resilience. The capacity to recover. To spring back in order to spring forward. Pick your star and sail toward it. That is Skip’s lesson to me.

Judy just wrote a book, Summoned By A Stroke. It is the blog posts she wrote to her community of support after her husband, Kim, suffered a major stroke. It is a remarkable testament to the invincibility of the human spirit when it intentionally orients to joy. It is also pays homage to the magnetic pull joy has on a community. There is  no attempt in Judy’s story to deny the pre-joy; there is a deep understanding that there would be no real joy without it.

During my Seattle years, when I was feeling blue, I would jump on the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit Judy and Kim. This man wrecked by a stroke and, my friend, Judy, his wife, never failed to lift my spirits, to fill me up with laughter. More than once, on the return ferry, I would sit in utter amazement. I told myself that I should be bringing comfort and support to them but the opposite was, in fact, the case. What I experienced with them was beyond words. So much joy. If there is a place where pre-joy and joy blend together, Judy and Kim inhabited it. Today, this is Judy and Kim’s lesson to me:

“Kim and I are learning that happiness is not about what we do or where we go but how loving we are in relationships, how open and curious we are about where we find ourselves, and how inventive we can be with what we are given.” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PRE-JOY/JOY

 

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

Ask A Simple Question [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

everything to lose copy

Here’s a very sexy beginning to a blog post: this morning I read that sales of durable goods in these United States are up .06%. Stoves. Washing machines. Dryers. It is a dubious statistic. The week before our wedding, our washing machine AND dryer died. The nice salesman at the appliance store, an older man, began his sales pitch with reminiscence. “I remember when we actually made good products built to last. Now we make crap built to fall apart.” The next 45 minutes was a lesson in what’s built to break in 5 years or less. He steered us away from more appliances than he tried to sell. It was eye opening.

“Durable” goods, these days, are built to be less than durable. They are built to be replaced. They are built to be thrown away. They are built to produce nice looking economic statistics. [note: Kerri and I have and still cook on a stove that is at least 40 years old. It looks like hell but works like a dream. It was built in the era before planned obsolescence was considered a consumer best-buy]. The seedy dark side of our consumer culture is 1) the mountains of refuse we leave behind and 2) how rarely we turn and look at the consequences of our consumption.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch , one of five garbage patches gyrating around our oceans, is at least twice the size of Texas and growing. When I was in graduate school I took a class about my city and the environment. Like me, none of my classmates knew what happened to our trash. None of us knew our watershed. None of us knew how our trash impacted our water.  We take our refuse to the curb. It goes away. Magic!

Where does it go? The latest National Geographic Magazine (12.2019) has an eye-opening article on our addiction to plastics and the pollution/environmental devastation it creates. One of the chief denials of the modern era is that humans are somehow separate from the environment in which we exist. We can do whatever we want to do to “it” and “it” will have no impact on “us” at all. According to the story, we are above it all. And, as is true of all denial tales, we either wake up and reorient or we hold fast to our delusion and drown as the unsinkable ship goes down.

Speaking into steadfast denial often requires a new, courageous, and unlikely voice. Enter Pattie Gonia, an environmental advocate drag queen. A modern berdache.  A powerful presence, an artist, standing in the trash, wearing the trash, asking (and answering) a very simple question: what do we have to lose?

 

 

Watch this short documentary to learn more about EVERYTHING TO LOSE and PATTIE GONIA:

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERYTHING TO LOSE

 

heart in island sand website box copy

Eat The Marshmallows [on Merely A Thought Monday]

lucky charms copy

I know it’s confusing. In my life there is H, also called Horatio. And then there is H, not Horatio at all, but a 93 year old man who is one of the few elders in my life that did not grow angry with age. H grew sweeter with time, and, therefore, wiser. He is my master teacher in how to age with joy.

I sit next to H in choir. He loves to sing. He has been singing his entire life and, so, he is easy in his voice. Ease of voice. I suspect that’s one of the main reasons he has such ready access to his humor. He isn’t trying to keep his voice down. He’s not editing himself or otherwise tying off his expression. He’s paid attention to keeping his creative channels open and free flowing. He wheels in with his walker, drops his coat, and teeters to-and-fro before dropping into his chair with a giggle. Even sitting down has become an oddity and rather than grouse about it, he smiles. “Made it!” he announces after hitting the chair with a thud.

‘Yes,’ I think to myself, ‘You made it.’ We should all make it like H.

I know H has had tragedy in his life. I know he had and continues to have a hard road. He sings in a church choir but I accuse him of being a secret Buddhist, so joyfully is he participating in the sorrows of the world.

Picasso famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” H has made of his life a great painting that even Picasso would enjoy. He has circled back to the child, the innocent appreciation of the great gift of living.

There are no lines of import in H’s coloring book and he inspires me to take out my great big Jethro Bodine bowl and fill it full with Lucky Charms. Pour the milk! Why wait.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about H

 

handshadowstones website box copy

 

Wrestle And Be Grateful [on DR Thursday]

Watercolor - Jacob and Angel copy 2

Among the cruelest things I’ve ever said is that I didn’t want to be like Quinn. I spoke those words in frustration, anger and fear.

The truth is that I have spent most of my life trying to be just like Quinn. Articulate, well read, capable of seeing from many points-of-view. Funny. Following his own star. A great teller of stories. He was so wise.

Quinn died last weekend and, today, I am wrestling with my cruelty.

I imagined that one day I’d be able to take back or explain my angry words.  I imagined sitting with him in his study, surrounded by his books and yellow pads and red pens and old coffee and laughing at my folly. He had a great laugh.

The last time I saw him he came to a class that I was teaching. Even after my cruel words he showed up, happy to help me. He thrilled my students with his hilarious musings and tales of serendipity. “Cultivate your serendipity,” he’d say. Intend your happy accident.

I walked him to the door and he hugged me. I was sheepish and he was kind. “That was fun,” he said, mostly to help me in my discomfort.

Kindness. Another quality to emulate.

Mostly, as I wrestle with my angel, I am grateful that providence brought to my life such a good man, such a great teacher.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WRESTLING WITH ANGELS

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy

 

this watercolor, wrestling with an angel, is old so let’s just say ©️ 2019 david robinson

See Your Wealth [on Merely A Thought Monday]

your day copy

Not only does 20 take care of DogDog and Babycat while we are away, he always has a hot meal waiting for us when we arrive home. He is our anchor, our safety net. Our brother.

Once, a week before our wedding when we were harried and exhausted, we sent Linda a text. “Can we come to your house for dinner?” She fed us a feast. She and Jim made us laugh. We drank wine. They feast us to this day.

John and Michele watch out for us. They are the source of a thousand kindnesses. They tell stories that make us cry with laughter. They live with intention and inspire us.

When I was sick Russ showed up at our door with food. MaryKay plied us with brownies.

I call Horatio, Skip, or Arnie to stir my thinking, to seek perspective, or just because. They are always available. Always.

Dan helps us fix things, protect things, make things better. He is always on the lookout for ways to make our lives easier.

The Up-North-Gang comes to find us when we’ve been out in the canoe too long. “It’s time for snacks!” Jay says. We laugh with them and go on adventures. We drink special recipe Long Island Iced Teas and then have to sit down.

We call Jen and Brad for advice. We call them when we want to bounce ideas off sensible minds. We call them when we want to hear loving voices. They rejuvenate us. They lift our spirits. We look forward to every ounce of time spent with them.

Fact: it is the people in our lives that make our days some kind of awesome. Ask me if I am rich and I will smile and say, “Yes. Oh, yes. More than you can possibly know.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AWESOME

 

wineglassesthreehands61 website box copy

Follow Kirsten [on Merely A Thought Monday]

2legstiredhearthappy copy

At the end of the day I can say that I’ve coached or mentored many, many people. This is what I’ve learned: most people have a yearning and will take a timid step or two toward it. They will build the studio and then fear going into it. Many take a look at their dream and run screaming away from it.  The dream is too hot. Previous dream-touches came with shame or disappointment. Better to not try at all.

Then, there are those precious few people, those rare birds, that look at the edge and run at it. They jump. Safety, control, and security…fear…have no voice in the pursuit of their dream. Kirsten is one of those rare birds. When I met her, her heart was not happy. She was, I suppose, doing what she thought she should do. And then she saw her dream. In short order, she left her job, her security, her known-prescribed path. She left her should-dos. She dropped it all and ran at the edge and leapt without once looking to see if there was a bottom. She changed her body, her thoughts, her intentions. In a few short years – the blink of an eye where deep change is concerned – she transformed her life from a protected, armored experience, to something more vulnerable, crackling, spontaneous and alive.

She is on an artists’ path. Her life makes no sense to a world that worships 401k’s and picket fences. She works harder than any doctor, grinds out more hours than any accountant, or stock analyst, and does it for a pittance of the pay. Her pay comes from an internal driver, a soul satisfaction. She touches something that cannot be explained or justified. It also, once touched, cannot be denied. She stands solidly and with great intention on the burning point.

She heard the call and heeded it. Now, when we tell people of Kirsten they most often reply, “She’s living the life!” And I want to say, “No! Unlike most people she is living life.” She is one of those rare birds who can say, without doubt or equivocation, “My heart is happy.”

What could be a better gift to give the world – your family and friends – than a happy heart?

 

read Kerri’s blog post on MY HEART IS HAPPY

 

oversizedjoy copley place website box copy