Give And Receive [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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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

 

 

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Pick Your Star [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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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

 

 

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Ask A Simple Question [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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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

 

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Eat The Marshmallows [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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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

 

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Wrestle And Be Grateful [on DR Thursday]

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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

 

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

See Your Wealth [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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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

 

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Follow Kirsten [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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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

 

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