Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

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Enjoy The Hallway [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Arnie’s mom was wise. She used to say that when one life-door closes another door will always open. But, the time in the hallway sucks. There’s nothing to do but enjoy the hallway.

Once, in a seemingly endless period in the hallway between life-doors, I wrote my friend Rob and complained that I felt like I was completely lost in the forest. He told me to sit down and enjoy the forest.

Sometimes it seems that life is one big location joke. Doesn’t it strike you as odd how much time we silly critters give to trying to locate ourselves. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Life as one long episode of House Hunters. Gut job! In looking for location, in trying get somewhere else or be someone else, we miss the obvious: I’m right here.

At a seminar I heard a participant complain, “I thought I learned that lesson! I thought I was done with it. It keeps coming back!” The facilitator laughed and said, “That’s why it’s called a life lesson.”

Have you ever noticed that all of these life-doors only open into other hallways? No one promised that this maze would be easy. If I were me (and I am), I’d listen to Arnie’s mom.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TUITION.

 

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Step In The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jen told Kerri about it. Make a square on the floor with blue tape. It will act like a siren call to your cat who will NEED to sit inside the square. I was a doubter. Worse, I was a loud doubter.

During one of our famous Sunday night dinners, Kerri told 20 about the blue tape square and its kitty magnetism. I remained a stalwart disbeliever. After a glass of wine we retrieved the blue tape from the studio and slapped down a rough square on the kitchen floor. We poured more wine and waited. I scoffed.

In a few minutes BabyCat (lovingly known to me as Sumo) thump-thumped into the kitchen, went directly to the tape, circumnavigated the square (counterclockwise) and like a kitty in a current, was  pulled as if by a force into the square. He sat down. Kerri roared with triumph and took a picture for proof. She knows I am capable of denying the undeniable so she was quick to get photographic proof. 20 shook his head at me and said, “I thought you’d have learned by now that she is always right.” I am, as previously reported, a slow study. Very slow.

BabyCat sat tight in his blue tape square throughout our turmoil. He seemed oblivious to our antics, He was content. And, to add further insult to my injury, he laid down. He closed his eyes. He purred. He fell asleep, safe and sound in his blue tape box.

DogDog runs in circles. Circles are in his DNA. I suppose box attraction, real or imagined, must be encoded into BabyCat. It was true. He couldn’t stop himself from stepping into the box. I imagine the defined space made him comfortable. It made him feel safe.

I found myself wishing that somewhere in my DNA was the coding for box attraction. Or, at least a balance to the chain-of -command written into my coding: box avoidance. I wondered what it must feel like to see a defined space and not want to stir it up or redefine it. To open it up. I wondered what it must feel like to see a box, step inside, and give in to contentment. To purr with confinement.

20, watching me move through my troubled thought process, laughed. He sipped his wine and said, “You’ll never learn.”

True. Too true.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the BLUE TAPE SQUARE

 

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Slog And Smile [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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the melting ice castle

It is the mud season. The time of thaw. When snow and ice like magic return to their elemental form and flow according to the rules of least resistance. Downhill. Always.

It is the season that we wear our black boots, the pair that is good for slogging through the mire. On a recent squish through our beloved Bristol Woods we laughed at the sucking sounds our black boots made when we tried to lift our feet from the bog. The water gurgled around us. The sun warmed our faces even though the day was cold. We were glad that we left DogDog home. He’d have been a mucky mess.

It is the in-between time. Not winter. Not spring. This morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and still it snowed. The winter took a toll and everyone groused, “I thought we were done with that!” These same growlers only a few short months ago celebrated the return of the white stuff. “It’s the first snow!” they laughed and ran out to touch it. How fickle we are.

Or, perhaps, how ritualistic we are. Persephone must return to the underworld for a season. Demeter grieves and so the cold snows come. Months later, when the daughter returns to the light, the mother, over-joyed, allows the plants to grow again. Life returns. Tell the story any way you want. It is the same. A cycle of life. Equinox. Solstice. A time to sow. A time to reap. The root, rejuvenated, now pushes little green tendrils upward the sun. Rituals and celebrations.

Our ritual? Eager to get outside and walk, Kerri asks, “What boots shall we wear?” I respond, “I don’t know. Do you think it will be muddy?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ICE FALL

 

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Yawn! [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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As I’ve mentioned before, BabyCat is not a stealthy kitty. When he jumps off the bed it sounds like someone dropped a cannonball on the wood floor. Mice feel particularly safe in his realm because they can hear him coming from a mouse-mile away.  That, and BabyCat can’t be bothered to actually chase mice. He prefers to yawl while watching them skitter (note: a yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel but I think it is also a near perfect match for the sound BabyCat makes when not-mousing. My apologies to sailors worldwide for my cat-sound-co-opt-yawl-onomatopoeia).

Often, we write these posts from the raft with BabyCat snoozing at Kerri’s side and DogDog chewing his bone at the aft of the raft. When the posts are written, prior to posting, we read them aloud to each other. Inevitably, in mid-read, BabyCat yawns a mighty yawn. Commentary? Oxygenation? Both, most likely. He is not a fan of having his post-breakfast snooze interrupted by our blather.

After his mighty yawn he yowls at us (we are not mice so the vowel is different), and hops off the raft (cannonball drop) and thump-thumps off to find a quieter spot, a place to take his pre-lunch nap.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIDE MOUTHED BABYCAT

 

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Organize Your Principle [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

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On a snowy cold day a few weeks ago, Brad and Jen rearranged the books in their library according to color. Their shelves are now a gorgeous gradation of color through the spectrum. “It’s cool,” Brad said laughing, “but now we can’t find anything.”

Organizing principles. They are the silent partners in most collaborations and conflicts. If shared, they make things easy to find. If not, they make things impossible to see. The genius of our government is based on the simple recognition that there is more than one way to organize. The breakdown of our government comes with the refusal to consider that there is more than one way to organize. My-way-or-the-highway is a great organizing principle if you are a hermit but a lousy choice if community is part of your equation.

‘I am my brothers’/sisters’ keeper’ is an organizing principle. As is ‘every man/woman for him/her self.’ “We The People…” is a declaration of an organizing principle.

With growth comes new necessities. That generally also brings a need to revisit the principles of organization. A teenager operates according to an entirely different set of imperatives than did their 5 year old self. Nations grow and change. They mature (one hopes). We have courts ostensibly to help us hold a common set of principles amid the pains of growth and change.

Distraction and deflection, intentional clutter, concocted chaos sometimes obfuscate the presence of organizing principles. But the greater principles do not go away. Dust settles. The principles remain. We will hear them again when we speak in quiet voices.

Kerri and I walked through School Days Antique Mall, through booths, many stacked with clutter. It is fun to sort through but hard to see what’s really there. Because I am usually awash in metaphor I thought how much the Mall felt like our nation. Stacks of chaos. Warring organizing principles. But, just when I felt like I couldn’t breathe, we rounded a corner into a highly organized room of colorful Tupperware. Hope! There was space and air. It stopped me in my tracks. Tupperware organized by color. The same system as Brad and Jen’s books!  I laughed aloud. The color-organizing-principle! Applied to Tupperware, I could in an instant find anything. I could see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COLORFUL TUPPERWARE

 

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Read The Calendar [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Today we read the 2018 daily calendar and revisit the happenings of the past year. During the year, Kerri records in the calendar the events of each day. She tracks our experiences, big or small, and keeps her account nestled alongside the due date for bills, appointments, and birthday reminders. Astonishing sunsets. A special phone call. A remarkable meal with friends. It is our ritual on the first day of the new year, the inaugural of the new calendar, to read where we’ve gone, to revisit what we’ve encountered in the past 365 days.

I love this ritual. Inevitably, our review is punctuated with phrases like, “Wow! I’d totally forgotten that!” or “Can you believe that was just a few months ago?” It always reminds us how rich and full are our lives. It reminds us how much we forget in this fast moving river. It reminds us of the many challenges we’ve overcome, the troubles we’ve forded, and how much import and stress we gave to things that mattered little. It reminds us that the big events, the achievements, are rarely where the bounty is found.

It reminds us that there is nothing more important than sitting together at the end of  a cycle, the portal of the new year, and telling the story of us. We learn who we are by where we’ve been and how we’ve walked through our days. And, more to the point, telling this story of life-lived reminds us that, we will once again in a not-so-distant future, on the first day, review our year. So, to complete our ritual, we always ask ourselves, in the coming 365 days, amidst the unforeseen circumstances and uncontrollable events, what is the story that we will want to tell?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NEW YEAR

 

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