Cross Check [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“It looks like a horses head,” she said, snapping the photo from her window seat on the plane. We were on approach to land, coming in over the bay.

I remember teaching myself to draw horses. I had (and still have) a passion for drawing people so my foray into horses was more an academic exercise than an inner need. I thought I should expand my horizons so the 8-year-old-version-of-me acquired a “how to draw animals” book. It suggested beginning with geometric shapes. Two connected circles defined the torso, the head – a circle and a trapezoid.

It was the same technique used by the teacher in my very first art class. See shapes. Arms are two tubes connected by a circle/elbow. Knees are circles, too! Foreground and background, what’s in front and what’s behind was taught using spheres and cylinders. Perspective was taught using a box. Transform a circle into a sphere through proper shading and you’ll know forever the magic secret of artistry. See a dragon in the clouds and you’ll know forever the magic secret of the human mind. It projects. It seeks sense from chaos. It projects order onto nature.

All the while Kerri is snapping photos of the island that looks like a horse’s head, I am pondering the normalization of hurtling through the air in a tube. People chat. Some are reading. The man across the aisle is asleep. “Prepare to land” is ordinary, uttered thousands of times each day. It’s the flip side of seeing dragons in clouds, another key to the human mind. Miracles made commonplace through repetition.

One human child is a miracle. It’s why we are making the trip. To meet a miracle. Yet, 7 billion miracles walking on earth?

“We’re flying,” I said.

“It’s been a long time,” she replied, showing me the picture on her phone, “Look! Doesn’t it look like a horse’s head? Well, like horse heads that I draw. No ears,” she qualified and smiled.

Miracles and magic. All the way around. Seen and unseen. Cross check. Wheels down. Prepare to return to the ground.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the HORSE HEAD

Both/And [on KS Friday]

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Dwight sent a book to me: From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. Several months ago at dinner we talked about how to make this next chapter of life the best chapter. As is my practice lately, I am reading it slowly, taking my time. I used to read like a hungry man eats; I gobbled information. Now I savor. I take one bite at a time and taste all of it. Someday soon we will talk about what I am discovering in the book. I’m only a few chapters in and already I’m rethinking my choices, considering different paths moving forward.

Pondering my next steps has also been an exercise of looking at where I’ve been. A lyric from Dan Fogelberg just ran through my mind [The Last Nail, by Dan Fogelberg]:

I left a trail of footprints deep in the snow
I swore one day, I would retrace them
But when I turned around, I found that the wind had erased them
Now I’ll never replace them

With distance it’s easy to see that some of the worst choices I’ve made in my life have also been the best choices I’ve made in my life. I can see that my desperation brought innovation. I can see the prison I made of my judgments and the hard truths necessary to unlock my cell door. I can see I needed a broken heart to arrive at an open heart.

With distance, I’m beginning to understand that no single experience lives in isolation. No day is either “good” or “bad.” No single period of my life defines the worth or wealth of my time on earth. No title, like “artist,” can wrap its fingers around the totality of my time. I am all of those things and none of those things.

On Monday, we interred Beaky’s ashes. She is with Pa in the national cemetery. We sang a song and then an attendant closed the niche. A journey’s end. Later that day I jumped off the back of a couch into a pile of pillows with a two year old, laughing, wiggling our toes. This wild-child is in full discovery mode, everything an adventure. A journey’s inception.

This life is achingly beautiful, each and every moment.

The entire album: Released From The Heart © 1995 Kerri Sherwood

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART DIVOTS

Flip It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Standing on the trail, the cold breeze stinging my face, I stared at the trees in silhouette. I was overcome with the illusion that I was observing the trees upside-down. I was seeing their tangled root system, reaching. My illusion made me dizzy. What’s top is bottom. What’s bottom is top.

I’ve been pondering things like “leadership” and “power”. My belief of these concepts is the reverse of most peoples. I think leadership is a team sport and that power is created with others, not wielded over them. Roots to the sky.

Before the software start-up went away I pondered things like the abundance of content with no relevant context. Information without a home. Information sans application. Information run amok. It requires people to make-up context for the rootless material crossing their screens. In contemporary discourse, we call this made-up context “bubbles.” It’s an apt term since popping is the destiny of every bubble. No substance. The Villages.

Thank goodness for the cold wind. It snapped me out of my flip-flop illusion. The silhouette was righted. I remembered the shadow puppets in Bali. What we see is projection on a screen. Silhouettes. The real stuff, ripe with dimension and color, the massive system of roots and vibrant moving energy, stars and flow, creating forms and taking them down, happens whether we see it fully or not.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SILHOUETTES

Immerse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

The bright green ring in the tree beckoned. A time portal. Climb the tree and slip through the hoop to another time. Another place. What will you find there? It was one of many awe-inspiring moments in the immersive light experience at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

A few weeks ago Rob suggested that I consider producing immersive experiences and my walk through the Gardens started a thought-wander.

Immersive is a new word in town. Well, it’s an old verb sporting a new adjective meaning. It’s a tech term. Surrounding “the user” with a generated 3-D image. Wander around town and you’ll find Immersive Van Gogh or Immersive Monet or Frida Kahlo, also Immersive. Technically, escape rooms are immersive. So is Disney World. A 3-D created experience.

A walk in the woods cannot be considered immersive since no technology is involved.

Immersion, one step beyond immersive, is the “perception of being physically present in a non-physical world.” Virtual reality. Dreams might be considered immersive except, like nature, technology is absent so the experience cannot be considered virtual or immersion.

To immerse means to dunk yourself in liquid or to dive deeply into a passion. When I stand before my easel and brush color onto canvas, I leave the world as I know it. I immerse in my paintings, though viewers of my paintings are incapable of having an immersive experience with my less-than-3-D-paintings. Is paint a technology? When Kerri plays, she enters a transcendent place. She fills the room with energy and light and I am transported. Am I having an immersive experience? I believe so.

Rounding a bend the night we walked through the Garden we came upon a field of illuminated pillars, colors changing and hopping with the beat of the music. I told Kerri that I saw this very display 20 years ago in an art gallery, though the technology 20 years ago was new and not nearly as impressive as what flashed in the field in front of us. The pillar-field was alive and was both mesmerizing and familiar.

The Gardens themselves, sans lights and music, are immersive. Groomed and created, meant to transport us from our everyday lives. We oooh and aaaah every time we visit. An explosion of color in a petal. The shape of a leaf. The quiet of the grove.

I loved the lights, the heightened immersive experience. We’ll make it a tradition. I’m excited to immerse in Van Gogh or thrill my way through Cirque du Soleil. As for producing immersive experiences, I am content to smear color on canvas or fall head-long into a story. Or, best of all, walk our path through the woods. There is no greater transporter of time-and-space than to suddenly find myself eye-to-eye with a fox crossing the trail.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HOOPS

Throw Open The Window [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Sometimes it feels as if we were shot into space for a few years and have come back to much changed Earth. Or, it feels like we were stranded on a desert island and are returning to places now strange in their familiarity. Reentry from isolation. Everything is changed. We are changed. The rituals of the season punctuate the strangeness.

We’ve been delighted to once again have dinner with friends. Unmasked. Unprotected. Indoors. I look at the faces of the people I love as we laugh and I think, “Oh, yes. I remember this.” The warmth of companions-in-life, reaching across time and covid boundaries. “We missed you,” we say, relearning who we are together. Our faces are older. Perhaps wiser in all that has passed.

Last year we drove to North Carolina. We arrived late in the day on Christmas. We walked through the small town, beautifully lit for the season, though seemingly abandoned. Our footsteps echoed off the walls. We were happy to be there, enjoyed the displays in the windows, we walked down the center of the street with no thought of possible traffic. We held hands. The absence of others was so normal that we didn’t think it odd that we had an entire town to ourselves.

This year is the mirror image, an alternate reality. People are out. We are out though the vestiges of isolation hang on us like Marley’s chain. We stop to take photos of the lights like ethnographers fascinated by the ceremonies of the locals. I found myself staring at the row of illuminated trees wondering what it represents. “Why can’t it just be pretty!” I admonished myself. “This is how people celebrate the season.”

And, aren’t we all looking for the moment that Scrooge awakes after a night of ghosts with new eyes and a deeper understanding of precious life, throwing open the window to the morning sun, hoping against all hope that he hasn’t missed it and asks, “Boy! You there! What day is it?”

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about LIGHTS

Get Some Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Oh, god…I feel a fit of moralizing coming on….” ~ Words to myself, uttered just a moment ago.

This would seem like a no-duh: perspective requires distance. Said another way: to see the mountain, one cannot be standing atop of the mountain.

Much to Kerri’s dismay, I think out loud about these things. A lot. She has to listen to my ruminating. Marriage requires her to be in the same space with me and I talk endlessly about the things rattling through my mind. Just ask her. Let’s just say she has no distance from my incessant blather so she lacks perspective. Or, her capacity to ignore my noise is the result of experience which provides her solid perspective. Don’t ask me. I am not in the position to offer an opinion.

When you dip your mind into the pool of information technology as I have, it’s nearly impossible to NOT think about the absence of perspective. Actually, if you read or listen to the news-of-the-day or take a swim in the social media cesspool, and are able to step back from it (thereby creating some distance), you’ll find that meaningful perspective has long ago fled the building.

For years I’ve been reading about the pace of change. At some point – and we’ve arrived at that point – the event horizon (that which enables perspective) is no longer in front of us. We sit on top of it. Information comes too fast and without pause. And, often without substance. Without perspective, the context of our lives is as fleeting and changeable as “Breaking News” or the latest posts on social media. Since the algorithms are driven by the most “likes” not the most relevant, the ugliest and loudest noise-makers garner the most attention and dominate the air-time (thank goodness for cute pet posts providing some humor in the onslaught).

Attention-getting is not known for its grounding in solid perspective. Just ask the boy who cried wolf.

As we know, crying wolf works well – for a while. Attention-getting is addictive. Once hooked, people will do or say anything to keep their buzz going. Sitting directly atop the event horizon, the only way to keep the attention is, of course, to scream louder and louder. Escalate the outrage. A news cycle churns as fast as the social media stream. Remember: the algorithms are not based on meaningful substance but on the ability to grab attention. Louder/uglier wins the day.

Without perspective, escalating outrage – the loudest and nastiest train wreck – will always win the attention grab. It’s human nature. We sort to the negative. It’s why we share complaints with anyone who will listen but dribble-out the good news to a select few.

There is an important disappearance that accompanies the loss of perspective: crap-detecting. Awash as we are in a raucous bluster of vapidness, the only hope we have is to take a step back and question. To descend from the event horizon and ask, “Is this or that assertion true?” Or, is it meant to make me mad, fuel my anger? Is it tailor-made for my perspective-less bubble?

Stepping back, gaining perspective, asking relevant questions. Crap-detecting. If a better world is what we desire to create, dedicated crap-detecting is the necessary first step in being-the-change we wish to make.

read Kerri’s blogpost on PERSPECTIVE

Choose The Lesser Chaos [on DR Thursday]

“If I choose abstraction over reality, it is because I consider it the lesser chaos.” ~ Robert Brault

And what isn’t an abstraction? Dealing with ideas rather than events? Not-the-thing-but-is referential-to-the thing?

Every word in every language is an abstraction. Every thought that zips through every brain is an abstraction. Not the thing but referential to it. The word “chair” is not a chair.

I caught myself in a sticky net. Not once, several times. I’ve tried again and again to paint “abstractions” only to whine, ‘I can’t abstract!” [insert laugh track]. A painting of something is, by definition, not the something. Picasso had a heyday playing with people’s minds around this idea, this abstraction.

After an unexplainable medical event, my doctor shrugged and said, “Sometimes there is no explanation. People like to rationalize things. They think if they can explain it, they can control it.”

Explain Pollock or Rothko. Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series. Ellsworth Kelly.

And who wouldn’t rather spend time pondering the sense of Richard Serra than anything we read in the news?

read Kerri’s blog post about ABSTRACTION

earth interrupted © 2012 david robinson

Sit In The Megaphone [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It was like crawling into a time capsule. The nature megaphone was where we remembered it. The wood weathered into light grey, we crawled inside as we once so often did.

There was a time that we walked this trail several times a week. In winter, we strapped on snowshoes and huffed our way around the green trail. Bristol Wood. It sounds like a place of elves and fairies, a place Shakespeare might set a comedy. We regularly left the difficulties of our day and disappeared into it, emerging after an hour or two refreshed.

The megaphone served as a resting spot on the trail. Like little kids in a fort, we’d crawl inside and soak up the sun. Often we’d pass a small bottle of wine and snack on broken chips from a ziplock bag. Sometimes we’d talk. Mostly we listened, closed our eyes, felt the warmth of the day.

We stopped going to Bristol Wood when the county contracted with an adventure company to build an extensive ropes course in the center of the woods. Suddenly, our sanctuary was transformed into an amusement park. That was 3 or 4 years ago.

On a lark, we drove to Bristol. It was an unseasonably sunny day, mid-week, the ropes course closed until the weekend. No one was there. We tied on our boots and stepped into the woods. We went back in time, our feet shushing through the leaves.

Our bodies knew the trail, pulled along by remembrance, we smiled at the familiar trees. Old friends. At one point we stood silent and still on the trail as the autumn leaves rained down. It seemed that Bristol was happy to see us, too.

And, then, we came upon the megaphone. “It’s still here,” she said, crawling inside. I followed, nestling into the sun, feet planted firmly on the curving side wall.

“I could fall asleep,” I said, knowing we might be risking a Rip-Van-Winkle. A deep and dreamless sleep. If we slept for a hundred years, I wondered what world we’d step back into?

As if she read my mind, she snuggled into the megaphone and said, “This world is so different than the one we knew the last time we sat in here.” True. Too true.

Our time capsule. Nature’s megaphone.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the MEGAPHONE

Recover The Reins [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”Phaedrus

My first question: is this the Phaedrus from Plato’s book or a quote from the guy who hung out with Socrates? Historically, they are one and the same person but one is a character and the other the person upon which the character is based. I suppose it doesn’t really matter since either way the words are sifted through time and translation.

And, either way, they are as relevant today as when they were spoken/written. They are especially relevant on this day since today we vote.

Phaedrus, the character-in-Plato’s-book, offers an analogy of the soul as a charioteer holding the reins of two horses. One horse is good and pulls toward the sacred. The other horse is bad and pulls toward material gain. The charioteer steers them to a common center. The middle way.

Things are not always what they seem. A wild teasel. A strawberry in a skeleton costume. It was my first thought when she showed me this photo. It’s appropriate to the Halloween season-just-passed and the election-day-present.

One thing is as it seems: this nation’s soul has lost the reins of the chariot, if it ever had them. The wild teasels are run amok, their pundits loudly claiming to be strawberries. Many are deceived and deceiving. Conspiracies. Angry thorns in their mouths.

The horses pull this way and that. They are quite capable of ripping the chariot in half.

Today we vote. Perhaps it is possible to see through the seeming. Perhaps we can recover the reins and bring our divided team toward a common center? A middle way?

read Kerri’s blog post about SEEMING

Not So Difficult [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Good human beings.

Since I was a child I’ve been told that Santa keeps a list. Naughty or nice? Naughty means taking from others; being mean. Nice means giving to others; being kind.

It’s not so difficult.

Tomorrow is election day in these un-united-united-states. Election officials fear for their lives. A sad statement for the sacred epicenter of a republic: the right to vote. Safely. Securely. Without intimidation.

It’s really not so difficult. Good human beings look out for each other.

The Big Lie continues to swirl around the folks on the right. Evidence is not required when filling bellies with hot air. All that bloviated gas-bagging makes people angry. Seeing nothing but red, people become easy marks. Red is the color of gullible.

Good human beings are not bullies. They play fair. They do not gerrymander or twist the rules so they win the game before playing. Good human beings bring their best ideas to the center. They offer their ideas. They consider the ideas of others. They need not always get their way. They require a safe place to freely speak and guard that space for everyone.

It really isn’t that difficult.

Naughty means consumed with self-interest. Nice means enlivened by service to something larger than self.

Naughty means hoarding all the pie. Nice means sharing slices with others.

Tomorrow we vote. To bully or be kind? It’s really not so difficult.

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD HUMAN BEINGS