See The Series [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The closing moment of the film Love Actually is a wonderful montage of greetings at the arrival gate at Heathrow airport. The Beach Boys sing God Only Knows to images of children greeting grandparents, husbands rushing to their wives, friends opening their arms to friends. Hugh Grant’s voice over: “Love actually is, all around us.”

For reasons I’ve never quite understood, we human beings have an uncanny ability to focus on the negative stuff while completely missing the love all around us. We famously study ourselves and the data is overwhelming: we yammer on and on to all who will listen about the “bad” thing that happened in our day. We share the “good” stuff less and with far fewer listeners. There’s something about a fight that draws our eyes while a kiss will make us look away.

Stand on any street corner and  watch the world go by and one thing becomes immediately clear. There are far more acts of generosity than there are acts of violence. The kind hearts outstrip the mean spirits by far so why do believe the opposite?

Krishnamurti famously said that “Life is a relationship. Living is a relationship. We cannot live if you and I have built a wall around ourselves and just peep over that wall occasionally.”

Violence and division make for better ratings because it’s profitable [and easy] to focus the feed on all things negative. Low hanging fruit. It’s profitable to keep the eye off the thousand tiny miracles. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening all around us, every minute of every day.

What might it take to pull down the wall so we might more than periodically peep over it? So that we might see that love actually is all around us? To borrow a phrase from The Beach Boys, “god only knows.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A THOUSAND TINY MIRACLES

 

 

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Bother to Ask A Question [on Flawed Wednesday]

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All of us know this tale: A farmer loses his ax. He saw the neighbor boy playing in his field so he suspects the boy took his ax. He tells his wife the neighbor boy is a thief. The wife goes to town shopping and tells everyone she meets the story of the neighbor boy stealing her husband’s ax. People share the story and the story magnifies. An ax is now the least of the boy’s crimes! They tell other people and when things go missing or worse, the boy is their suspect. If he could steal an ax he could also steal a shirt off the line. He’ll take your horse when you’re not looking! He’s a chronic thief! The boy is shunned. His family is ostracized. The farmer feels satisfaction until the day he finds his ax resting on the tree – right where he’d left it.

Narratives are very, very powerful.

Yesterday I listened to a speaker from SelahFreedom present on the growing “industry” of sex trafficking. It was horrifying. One of the slides on the speaker’s Powerpoint was from a pimp’s notebook, instructions about how to keep his women under his control. Drugs help but the narrative weave is all. It could have been notes taken from the commandant at a concentration camp or a cult leader’s handbook. Paranoia tactics. Isolationist, us-versus-them strategies. Lies and distortions repeated to the point that it is impossible, once inside the narrative, once hooked in the story, to distinguish between reality and the distortion.

We live in the age of information and misinformation. We now inhabit the era of hyper-magnified distortion. A single post, a tweet, can reach millions in an instant. The boy stole the ax! They are trying to make us all socialists! The judge was biased! Don’t believe what you see! Witch hunt! Hoax! Believe what I say not what I do.

When was the last time you checked the veracity of your news sources? When was the last time you bothered to fact check or research something that alarmed you in your stream?

Fear is a great brain scrambler. Robert Sapolsky, researcher of stress in animals, has shown that zebras are capable of shaking off their stress after the lion gives up the chase. People, on the other hand, whip up and maintain their stress by repeating the story over and over to all who will listen. And, more to the point, there need not be a real lion chasing us, just someone who knows how to manufacture a lion and get us to spread the terror, to share without question.

It’s the pimp’s strategy. Stoke fear. Discourage thinking.  Threaten. Sow doubt. Play on insecurity. Keep them hooked. Encourage thoughtless sharing of an empty narrative. It validates the perspective of the pimp and the farmer who couldn’t possibly have lost his ax all by himself.

Despite what they tell you, the pimp is never protecting your interests. The pimp is only concerned with his own interests and needs a deep state of delusion running rampant through his stable, to control the narrative.

Imagine what might have been possible if anyone in the ax chain had thought to ask a question, had stepped back to think about what they were hearing before they hit the easy button to share.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THINK BEFORE YOU SHARE

 

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Tickle Open The Closed [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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It used to be one of my favorite exercises to facilitate. Ask one person in a small group to tell a story of blame. Ask the rest of the group to invest in the story. In no time the small groups would be indignant, talking over each other in disgruntlement. A klatch of agitated victims, howling.  They’d laugh in their aggravated frenzy. They’d devise clever revenge or ways to torment the object of their blame story. They’d grow a monster.

Blame stories are like sugar. They are easy to eat and highly addictive. There’s rarely any real substance, so much gossip-cotton-candy, but there is an odd pleasure in playing the role of  “the injured party.” The groups would always reflect that the exercise was fun. So much so that they’d often forget it was an exercise. Commiseration and validation, after all, are the point of a blame story. That, and making someone else responsible for how we feel.

Ask the same groups to tell a story of choice or opportunity and most times, after only a minute or two, they’d sit in silence. Their, “Great. That’s really great,” support would dwindle. Feeding an idea is not nearly as easy as feeding a story of blame.

Quinn used to tell me that creativity is not for the faint of heart.

The groups were always shocked to discover how much of their lives were spent chewing the gristle of discontent, of feeding the notion that someone else was to blame for their choices or their circumstance. They’d generally comment on how easy it was to commiserate and how difficult it is to question, challenge or stop the blame-game. Mostly, they were shocked to discover how little of their time they dedicated to feeding ideas, theirs or another persons.

Blame stories are easy because they are reductive. They engender tight little balls of closed minds and closed circles. They close hearts. They take almost no energy at all to spark but, once burning, like a wildfire, they are capable of consuming entire forests.

Idea exploration is expansive. Seeing possibilities requires eyes that look up and out.  It takes much more energy to imagine, to question, to ponder. To try. To experiment. To ask. To challenge what you think you know. Opening minds, opening circles and hearts requires a deep sense of self-responsibility. It requires an even deeper sense of responsibility to others.

One of the purposes of the artist is to open closed circles, to tickle open closed minds. To help their community see anew and entertain never-before-imagined possibilities.

It takes more effort and courage to sail to the edges of the known world than it does to hang out around the water cooler and complain about others. Great minds do not have more capacity than any other mind, but they do require a very different focus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GREAT MINDS & IDEAS

 

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FaceTheRain

feel the rain, mixed media, 2019

Point Your Nose Toward The Moon [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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This moon called us. We were leaving rehearsal, pulled out of the parking lot and were hit in the face by an enormous orange moon. “We have to go to it,” Kerri whispered. We drove to the shore and sat with the moon for a while.

Staring out of the truck (it was a very cold night and with broken wrists it was easier to keep Kerri buckled in), my energy running low, this super moon reminded me of a long-ago-book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX. The last few illustrations feature a beckoning moon. This is the Waterfox’s lesson for Lucy and, as it turns out, the Waterfox had a few words for me, too, on this moon-full night:

“The Sky is where you belong! Fulfill your heart’s longing and let the pack think what they think! Everyone knows that most foxes don’t swim and most foxes don’t fly, it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they don’t try. A fox whose heart soars like yours needs to dance in the air. Remember: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word!” With that he gave her a wink, tipped his big hat and swam out of sight.

And so, while the other foxes nestled deeper into sleep, Lucy pointed her nose toward the moon. She took to the sky repeating his words so she’d never forget: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word.”

 

Illustration 25

from my children’s book, Lucy & The Waterfox

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SUPER MOON

 

 

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Check Your Reality [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We parked the truck in the Kemper Center lot, far enough from the shore not to be hit by the flying debris, the chunks of seawall and pavement being hurtled from the impact of the waves. Kerri has lived here for over 30 years, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she repeated as a towering wave engulfed the gazebo, took down a piece of the wall of the art center, a hunk of coastline disappeared.

Later, after the storm, we went back. Trees were down, encased in ice. Huge sections of the walking path were shattered and tossed into the flooded mess of the parking lot behind the center. Walking was treacherous. Like the trees, the ground, the rocks, the destruction was coated in a thick layer of ice. It was beautiful and inconceivable.

Words mask all manner of reality. We have a word, nature, that can’t even begin to touch the magnitude, the power of where it points. Mother Nature. I have been thrown out of bed in an earthquake that brought down freeways like they were so much satin ribbon. Go to Pompeii or Herculeneum, visit Mt. Saint Helens, watch with disbelief any of the news  footage of any one of the tsunamis that have wiped communities off the map. Wrap your mind around it, if you can.

We are cavalier in our conversations about global warming. We impact, we do not command. We reduce it to questions of business, of protecting the beef industry. Which economy will suffer most? We make up these strangely insignificant divisions. We imagine that we are the center, holding all the controls. We imagine that it is all about us. So small, a chihuahua yipping at a forest fire.

Sitting in the truck, feeling the boom of the waves in my chest as they tore off chunks of the shore, I felt tiny. I remembered a snippet of film I saw about a man who wore a superhero suit and stood in the face of an oncoming storm. He flexed and stomped and raged for the camera. And then the storm hit. The best he could do was run for his life.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about THE STORM

 

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ice ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

for prints of “ice” go here

 

Take One Glorious Step [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This post marks the 100th week of our Studio Melange. As it turns out, to my great surprise, the body of work I leave behind in this lifetime will probably have nothing to do with my paintings. I write everyday. I do not paint everyday.

I read that Graham Greene, one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, wrote 500 words a day. Sometimes those 500 words took an hour. Sometimes they took several hours. Either way. Write 500 words a day, every day, and you, too, will be prolific.

Listen to enough mountain climbers and you’ll receive the same advice. One step at a time. One hand hold at a time. Don’t think of climbing the whole mountain. Rather, pay attention to the next step and the next and the next. The action of stepping will take you farther than the wishing. Step consciously and the summit will cease to be a goal and will become another glorious step en route to another glorious step [and, best of all, your odds of survival will skyrocket].

Were Kerri and I to scrabble together into book form our 100 weeks of writing, we’d have more than a few tomes on the shelf. A single prompt. He said/She said. Mounds of accumulated thoughts. Lots of writing. A few precious and treasured readers. Every once in a while, especially on these dark winter days, one of us asks, “Why do we keep doing this?”  The other will inevitably say, “Well, let’s stop.” The answer is always, “Nooooo! I love doing this!”

Why do it? Why climb the mountain? Why walk toward the horizon? Why paint what no one sees or compose what no one hears? Our answer, after 100 weeks, is becoming clearer and clearer: do what you love. Even better, do it with someone you love. One glorious step en route to another glorious step.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAKING HUNDREDS

 

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Let Go The Conditions [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Change the world. It’s a hefty aspiration. It’s a daunting mountain to move when all that needs happen is to forgive. And what does that mean? To forgive. It sounds so simple! Forgive and BAM! The world is changed. Phew.

In a world that needs so much changing, you’d think we’d be more forgiving.

Take the wrapper off the word “forgiveness” and a skinny naked vulnerability is exposed. What might be lost or surrendered or compromised or released in this simple forgiveness? What must be let go? It’s scary stuff to take off the wrapper. It’s scary stuff to forgive.

What must be ‘let go’ is another reduction, a simple word or two. The wound. The grudge. Let it go and forgive? Language makes all things possible! Just let go. BAM! The world is changed.

Isn’t it true that, once wounded, once offended, we hang on tight. We claim it. Indulge in the hurt? Once wronged, isn’t it is the other person’s responsibility to make it right? I’ll forgive if and when they apologize?

Conditional forgiveness. Feuds are built on it. Marriages are destroyed by it. Wars are hungry for it.

It’s a log jam. Stuck-ness. Energy eddy. Does the knot create the toxin or does the toxin create the knot?

Sometimes, as Rich taught me, when the pain of holding the grudge becomes greater than the fear of letting it go, forgiveness becomes possible. People open their hands and reach rather than withdraw. The log jam breaks and movement begins again. Readiness is all [another simple word].

The world is not a fixed state. It is fluid. It require movement for health. Forgiveness is nothing more than movement. A release of conditions. Simple? BAM!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FORGIVENESS

 

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