Choose The Measure [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’d just like to begin by confessing my inferiority complex. In the time it’s taken me to squeeze my eyebrows together and dribble out a first thought, Kerri has finished her post. In fairness, I am a painter and an introvert [I’ll bore you to tears at a party, that is, if you can find me hiding in the bushes] and Kerri is a poet and lyricist. “Are you done yet?” she asks each day when we sit down to write our melange. Good god! I haven’t even sharpened my pencil yet!

And, so, my inferiority confession can only be salved by a headlong dive into the poles. North/South. Right/Wrong. Good/Bad. Black/White. Worth/Worthless. I could go on but Kerri would have a book written by the time I extract myself from my pole-litany.

Polarity – as understood as fixed points on a line: The state of having two opposite or contradictory tendencies, opinions, or aspects. [Definition by Oxford Languages]

Polarity – as understood as fluid movement: Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature but different in degree. Extremes meet. [The Hermetic Law of Polarity]

If nothing else, we live in a post-Heisenberg-Uncertainty-Principle-World. Perceptions, like atomic particles, can be understood as either fixed points or as fluid movement – but not both at the same time. Those in the fixed camp are mostly unwilling to see things in the fluid camp, and vice-versa, though, those in the fluid camp can’t help but intellectually reach for the possibility of the extremes meeting.

We get into trouble when all sides lapse into fixed points of view. We get lost when all sides slip into fluid points of view.

In a nutshell, it’s the challenge we are facing in these once-united-states and in many other chunks of the world. We’ve all reduced ourselves into fixed points. Survival has made it so. And, a side note: the first words Kerri ever spoke to me were these: I don’t do nutshells.

Rule-bound-folk, seers of absolute good and evil, tend to be fixed. “How can there be good in evil, evil in good?” they will ask, looking at you like you are a martian. “You’re either for us or against us!” Life is a recipe. A reduction. A simple step by step cake to bake. Reds and blues with no possibility of purple.

Relationship-driven-folk, seers of possibility, tend to be fluid. “It depends!” they will chime. “Right and wrong depends upon your point of view.” “Alliances are ever-changing.” Life is a complexity. No set of rules applies to every circumstance. Purple everywhere though, in these divided times, the fixed primary colors rule the day.

Which brings me solidly to my inferiority complex. I live in the complexity camp. I am fluid to the core. Perhaps Kerri’s speed of articulation need not be the measure of my skill. Perhaps slow, sloppy, and mostly incoherent is a valid and worthy process! Yes! I know when to put down my brushes! I know when to sign the painting!

Suddenly, I am awash in personal revisionist history. I am the turtle and she is the rabbit!

And what if there was no race to win?

It’s possible that this is a good time to put down my brushes, cease writing for the day, stop. Full stop. Except for this question: when are you fixed? When are you fluid? As atomic particles, Heisenberg suggests that we are both. Turtle and Hare. What we see depends upon what we measure.

What, exactly, at this point in time, is important for us to measure?

read Kerri’s blog post about START/STOP

Become An Experiment [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Because we walk the streets of our neighborhood almost everyday we’ve inadvertently made a study of holiday decoration practices. “It’s too soon for Halloween!” we declare. “Look at that wreath! The colors are all wrong!” We are snotty decoration critics.

Among Kerri’s greatest holiday-decoration-pet-peeves is over-extended-Christmas decorations. “Don’t they know that Christmas is over!” she raves at the colored lights adorning the eaves. “Why do they still have a tree! It’s February! Santa is gone!” she howls to (almost) no one listening. We laugh at our mock-decoration-disdain. “We’re regular killjoys!”

This year we’ve had to check our derision. We’ve somehow joined the ranks of the eternally decorated. “Look at those people,” Kerri says of our house as we pull into the driveway, “don’t they know that they should take down their lights!”

It’s hard to know exactly how it started. A fall. Two broken wrists. The year began with disruption. One day we realized that the happy lights festooning the garland on the front rail had been burning for months. In an effort to evade our obvious hypocrisy, we agreed it was no longer a decoration but had become an experiment. How long will the happy lights last if we keep them plugged in 24/7? We took bets as hard proof just in case our neighbors looked at us with decoration-scorn.

“They’re still going,” we said throughout the spring, looking up and down the street to see if anyone was listening. “Who would have thought our experiment would last this long!” I’d loudly declare. Amazement set in sometime in July. “I’m going to write a letter to the company,” Kerri said. “They should know that their lights are really good!”

In the eighth month of our experiment, coming home after dark, we saw that half the strand was burned out. The next night the strand was completely dark. We stood on our front stoop and applauded the hardy happy lights before ceremonially taking them down.

“I suspect that the snotty couple that judges everyone’s decorations will be relieved,” I said. “The holiday is finally over.”

“I think they’ll miss them,” Kerri opined. “They made our house happy and, especially this year, who doesn’t need a happy house in their neighborhood.”

read Kerri’s blog post about HAPPY LIGHTS

Clack! Strike! Ding! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s true. I didn’t touch a computer until I was 25 years old. It’s not that I was deprived or grew up in a cave, the personal computer simply wasn’t a thing in the world. I hearken back to phones with cords, three stations on a black-and-white television, rabbit ears for reception, no reason not to play outside. My high school graduation present was the latest and greatest technology: a typewriter.

I had a dubious relationship with typewriters. I hated typing class. I failed every timed exercise. I couldn’t take my eyes off the keys lest disaster would strike. Once, the teacher had to free my hands from the monster machine because my big-fat-fingers slipped between the keys. I was caught, wiggling like an animal in a trap. She puckered her face and rolled her eyes before slowly moving down the aisle, making a show of releasing me from the hungry jaws of the typewriter-beast.

Kerri found this quote and I had no idea what it meant. Evidently, I was supposed to learn in typing class to double space after periods and other selected punctuation. I’m certain I was taught the rule but was too busy fighting for my life with the demon machine to learn the finer points of typing etiquette. I was doing my best to live-another-day and  was concerned only with how to increase the space between me and the dreaded class. However, this quote does explain the abundance of red pencil circles that appeared on every one of my poorly typed papers throughout college. Another mystery solved!

“YES!” Kerri just shouted in triumph. It’s not that my wife is a nerd but, take my word for it, never challenge her on a question of grammar or punctuation. Never enter a game of Scrabble with her if you don’t want to lose. She’s vicious. A moment ago she disappeared and returned with an APA manual from 1983 (she keeps EVERYTHING and remembers EVERYTHING!!!). I was doubtful about double spacing after colons [in the typewriter era – these rules do not apply in the post typewriter epoch] but guess what?

She just puckered her face and rolled her eyes at me as she slowly strutted around the room, arms raised in ancient-punctuation-triumph. All of these years later and it turns out that I’m still wiggling in the trap, my fingers inexorably stuck between the keys.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOUBLE SPACING

 

 

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tango with me ©️ 2018 david robinson

 

 

 

Take Another Step [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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During my corporate-facilitation-of-change-and-diversity phase, I learned that the best way to warm up my always-defensive audience was to enter the space and, before saying a word, take off my shoes. People have a surprising amount of identity-investment wrapped up in what they put on their feet. Inevitably, taking off my shoes gave people permission to relax, take off their shoes – remove one layer of identity armor – and take a tiny step toward vulnerability. Tough conversations generally require all parties to step out of their fortifications. If I ruled the world, my policy makers would have to take off their shoes before debating issues. Reporters would be encouraged to step out of their leather and heels before asking questions.

My foot-identity-investment required me to wear shoes without laces. I’ve never been at peace with things tied to my feet. Quick escape from shoes is among my highest fashion priorities. Clogs. Boots. Flip flops. Crocs.

Yesterday we retired two pairs of boots. Neither had been worn in years. My contribution to the footwear release party was my drug-dealer-boots. I loved them and wore holes in them. They were very comfortable. They took me to many countries and to many trainings. I could step out of them in a snap. I met Kerri wearing my silver-tipped, well worn, out-of-character-for-me drug dealer boots.

When I bought them, they had taps in the heels. I took the taps off because I don’t like making sound when I walk (hmmmm, yet another revealing foot identity characteristic) though the taps were slippery and great assistance in my predilection for public pratfalls.  Falling down with great intention is also a good way to loosen up  a defensive crowd.

Kerri wanted to sing a song as we wrapped our old boots in plastic and prepared them for the dumping – but we couldn’t pull up a single appropriate song so a strange cascade of laughable lyrics sent our boots on their way.

But, here’s my bet: before the trash truck arrives, the boots will be retrieved and de-shrouded. They will have a resurrection, another life. They will sit on the edge of the deck, filled with dirt and basil plants. There is still one more road for these old boots to walk.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OLD BOOTS

 

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a day at the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

Know The Pet Peeve [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Kerri has a pet peeve and because she is from New York she expresses her annoyance with all of the out-sized force and bluster that comes with her east coast roots. “OH MY GOD! DO YOU SEE THAT?!!!” She gales as we drive down the road, gesturing wildly, letting go of the steering wheel. I close my eyes because I do not want to see the fiery crash that we are most certainly about to experience.

“DID YOU SEE IT?!!!” she repeats, demanding an answer. I open one eye to see if she’s regained control of the car or if she is still gesticulating with gusto. She looks at me with disdain, “YOU DIDN’T SEE IT?” I shake my head. “HOW CAN THAT NOT DRIVE YOU CRAZY?!!!” I shrug my shoulders and secretly look for a way to safely exit the car.

The offense? The horrid transgression that causes such wild arm flinging, finger pointing, and loud outdoor-voice-exclamations? A license plate renewal sticker placed on the wrong part of the plate. “DO YOU THINK THEY CAN’T READ?!!! she bellows. “DO YOU THINK IT’S TOO HARD TO FIGURE OUT WHERE THE STICKER GOES?!!! She snarls. I slide down in my seat. I practice my cloak-of-invisibility act.

Once, early in our history, before I realized this peeve was her pet, I said, “Maybe they are being creative, like trying to color out of the lines.” My perky suggestion was not welcome. It was as if I whispered the magic words that unleashed all the demons from hell. Smoke came from her nostrils. Lightning from her eyes. My perky backpedaled and disappeared leaving me all alone with no place to hide. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! she growled. “IT’S A STICKER!!!!!!!! IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO IN THE RIGHT SPOT!!!!!! THERE’S A SPOT AND THE STICKER IS SUPPOSED TO GO THERE!!! WHAT’S SO HARD?!!!!!!”

I had no answer. Or, more to the point, I dared not have an answer. I had better run away from anything that looked remotely like an answer. Pet peeves are best left alone!

In that moment I knew only one thing for certain: the path to a happy life was predicated on one small action – I simply need to place the sticker in the right spot when it was time for the license plate renewal.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on OH MY GOD!!!

 

 

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Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

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Consider Madness [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Our scene opens in a global pandemic. A camera collage reveals people, young and old, furiously tapping away at keyboards; through the miracle and misery of technology, people are working from home.

The shot settles on a couple – definitely NOT technology natives – working hard not only to do their work but simultaneously learning the technology necessary to do their work. They are recording audio files, making slideshows, movies, translating files from one format to another format, posting and pulling down the work they just completed because this platform does not accept the same type of file as THAT platform. They nuance, tweak, twist, crash, rinse and repeat. Their learning curve requires ropes, crampons, and pitons (it is a steep climb).

They are also creating language combinations that will certainly make this film unsuitable for small children.

Their technology is old by modern standards. Ancient, really. They are children of depression era parents so they make things last rather than regularly trade up or buy new. The proof is in their kitchen: their stove is almost as old as they are – three of the four burners are still working – so they see no reason to buy something new. Imagine this mindset meeting the computer age! The combined age of their laptops is greater than the age of a graduating college senior. That is to say, although they do not yet know it, they are becoming masters of making old programs work with new software. Electronic-duct-tape-solutions.

Occasionally a madness overtakes them. Their test projects border on the insane, the utterly silly. They cackle. They pop the cork a few minutes earlier than might be advisable. They consider posting their mad-mad test project instead of the sober iteration that they’d intended. They leap from the sanity ledge and plummet into the ridiculous, pulling the rip cord at the last possible moment, slowing their fall. They post the sober work and heave a sigh of relief. Bullet dodged! The absurd remains a secret.

What would the world think if they actually saw the rough draft? The test project? We slowly fade to black as the couple closes their laptops, clinks their wine glasses, refusing to acknowledge the madness that nearly overtook them. They casually walk to their ancient and simplistic stove, asking, “So what shall we make for dinner?”

[music swells. roll credits]

read Kerri’s blog post about RANDOM LEARNING

 

 

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Consider Levitation [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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And what does this mean, this pear sitting atop a wine bottle? Certainly this was not a naturally occurring event! No pear could possibly achieve so grand a seat without some form of assistance. Or, could it?

Levitation is a possibility but it is doubtful that this pear – or any pear, for that matter – is capable of the necessary powers of concentration required to raise itself to wine bottle heights. And, if levitation is the answer, we are still left with the primary question: what does it mean?

The pear might answer, as George Mallory answered when asked why he might want to place himself atop Mt. Everest, “Because it is there.” Meaning making does not require depth but it does necessitate curiosity. “Because I can” really means “because I want to.” The grass is always greener. Why step on the moon? Why sail to the edge of the world? Why paint a painting or compose a song? Something calls.

Because it feels good. Because it is beautiful in my eyes. Because I might learn something about myself and, therefore, the world in which I create/inhabit. Most explorations are internal journeys even if they look like mountain ascents. Soul searching leads to more experiences with soul. The best questions lead to bigger questions, like this one (last week’s winner for best question): Does the soul live in the body or does the body live within the soul?

It seems like a good time to borrow a title from Joseph Campbell: what exactly are The Inner Reaches Of Outer Space?  What are the outer reaches of inner yearning?

Does this pear have yearnings? What does it mean, this pear sitting atop a wine bottle? Believe me, I’ve asked the pear and it remains silent on the subject. Wise pear! It knows I must make my own meaning and hopes that I will never cease asking my questions and, above all, never delude myself into thinking I have even the slightest bit of an answer.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the PEAR & THE BOTTLE

 

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Meander [on KS Friday]

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In my mind, everything is a metaphor. Everything. Well, maybe not everything. There is a simile thrown in here and there. You might imagine it drives Kerri to the brink (yes, poor thing, is regularly driven to a metaphoric edge).

I tell her that my metaphor mind is a gift but she doubts me. For instance, would it make any sense if I said that my metaphor mind drives her to the rink? Absolutely not. Which is why my way of thinking has occasionally driven her to drink. Metaphorically speaking. And, would you rather be driven to the rink or to drink. Think about it. These things matter! I rest my case.

So, you can imagine the horror she felt when on a walk in our beloved Bristol Wood we came upon divergent paths. Robert Frost was long standing there, sorry that he could not travel both. One path led to muddy shoes while the other was newly trod, dry and grassy, wanting wear. We took the path less traveled by, our shoes most grateful, heaved a sigh.

“Life is a journey…” I launched my boat of words but Kerri’s wince brought my poetic ship hard upon the rocks. So, undaunted I launched another ship, “Love is a thrill ride…” I began, but my wife, too metaphor-tortured and way past the point of no return, pinged my metaphor with a clever pong of her own: “Love is about to be a battlefield,” was all she said.

Ah, I see (I said to no one listening). Silence is golden.

[note: you will enjoy her MEANDER so much more than mine. Also, life with me is AS IT IS. Kerri will confirm my assertion. Also, I believe she knew I was coming into her life so she was compelled to record this album. How’s THAT for a story!? ]

MEANDER on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MEANDER

 

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meander/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

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Greet The Sentinel [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On the backside of Bristol Wood, on the winding green trail, there stands a new sentinel. Dedicated to her role, she watches over the path, guarding the safety of all walkers.

Similar to the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, try as you might, you can mock, make faces, do silly dances,… this guardian will not flinch. This guardian will not break from her duty [note: I’m only supposing. Kerri and I DID NOT do silly dances on the green trail at Bristol Wood! Ridiculous! Who would do such a thing?].

I am comforted by her presence. I find solace in the dichotomy between her serious role and her whimsical uniform. In a time of too much seriousness, I feel encouraged in her dedication to bringing smiles to strollers as part of her mission as sentry of safe passage.

Each time we pass her, I think, this watchwoman has much to teach us in the time of pandemic, in the time of fear and isolation. We can, each and everyone of us, keep the trail safe, take our role of guardian-of-the-other very seriously while, at the same time, inspire smiles and silly dances [note: okay, truth? Kerri MIGHT have done an abbreviated silly dance before the Guardian but I held my integrity intact and showed the utmost respect for the difficult job of the Guardian. Really.].

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Read Kerri’s blog post about THE BRISTOL GUARDIAN

 

 

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