Sip It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

There are deep, meaningful layers to this story-image. The first is an answer to the all-important-question, “How do we entertain ourselves at a bar?” We make fun contemporary art, of course! Or, we make fun of contemporary art. I’m not sure since the line of distinction is blurred in real life so it is more blurred at the bar, where life isn’t really real and escapism is to be expected.

Have I confused you? It’s simple really. Limit your palette to two bar napkins, two sipping straws, and the fruit remnants from a brandy old-fashioned. Arrange a composition. Snap a photo for posterity. Ask yourself and others, “What does it mean?” And, when you find yourself concocting answers to the great amusement of your friends, you might recognize that the actual art-of-the-moment is the performance of the improvisational play entitled What Does It Mean?

You’ll conclude – if you are honest – that it – your art work – has no inherent meaning – and all supposéd meaning is projected onto the image. It can mean many things or nothing at all. Just like life outside of the bar [that sneaky escapism always loops back to the real stuff!] The composition might simply be appreciated for its clever arrangement and varied texture. It might conjure up fond memories of old-fashioned’s past.

Here’s what it means to me: I could not be considered a local Wisconsinite until I had a palette of experiences, like eating cheese curds or attending a fish boil. On the tippy top of the list was to enjoy a brandy old-fashioned. More, to know whether I preferred my drink sweet or sour. This composition, the scattered remains of the drink-of-the-state, reminded me of the day I ascended to the top of the list and sipped my first ritual old-fashioned. I would anoint this piece with the worthy title BELONGING AT LAST.

read Kerri’s blogpost about POST OLD-FASHIONED

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Watch Your Fingers [on DR Thursday]

After several weeks with its face to the wall, I turned the painting around to see it with fresh eyes. “OMG!” I thought. “This needs some serious work!” It’s too tight in some places, not finished in others, and it’s missing an all important element. The florals are rock hard and the dog – part of the original composition – is nowhere to be found. What was I thinking!

I’m a bit too famous for painting over paintings. It’s a habit that evokes finger-wagging from friends. Kerri has been known to fling herself between me and a painting that I put on the easel-chopping-block. “I hate it!” I cry.

“Touch it and I’ll break your fingers,” she quietly threatens. I like my fingers so I relent.

Actually, she’s provided me with the perfect response to gallery-goers when they ask the ubiquitous question, “How do you know when a painting is done?”

In the past I’d say something amorphous like, “It’s not something you know; it’s something you feel.” Intuition. Gut feeling. Artistic argle-bargle.

Now, my perfect reply is definitive and goes like this: “Oh, it’s easy! I know it’s complete when my wife threatens to break my fingers.” She might look like a delicate columbine-flower but watch out.

It’s a conversation stopper but the real fun comes when I add, “She’ll break the fingers of anyone who doesn’t appreciate my work.”

I turn and walk away as they debate asking the obvious next question: Is she here?

read Kerri’s blogpost about COLUMBINE FLOWERS

The offending painting. It needs work and Kerri has yet to threaten my fingers.

My site-placeholder.

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train through trees – in this state of development © 2023 david robinson

Eat And Wait [on KS Friday]

“Neither the hummingbird nor the flower wonders how beautiful it is.” ~ unknown

Jay, Gay, and Kerri are waiting. They are watching for the return of the hummingbirds. The anticipation is palpable. Each day I come upon Kerri, staring out the kitchen window at the untouched feeder. She turns, and, mimicking a voice-over from a commercial for the television show, Wicked Tuna, she asks “WhehAuhThey?” I shrug. She returns to her watch.

A line from a book flashed into my mind. “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.” Siddhartha replies to the beautiful Kamala when she asks what he can do. Hold on! Waiting is a marketable skill! Of course!

Inside my mind, I practice my answer in an imaginary job interview: “Now, tell me, Mr. Robinson, what are your most valuable skills?”

“I can think. I can wait.” I say to the too-serious-HR manager. Note how I cleverly omitted the part about fasting. As a rule I’m hungry all of the time. I want to create the illusion of value without having to outright lie. If I don’t eat, I can’t think. Period. And, if I can’t think, waiting-to-eat is virtually impossible. Just ask Kerri about that day in Minturn, Colorado. It was almost ugly. I have a long way to go before I add fasting to my short list of valuable skills.

In my mind I don’t get a second interview. “We want someone who can fast,” the too-serious-HR manager smiles thinly.

“I’m certain I can work on my delayed gratification skills,” I say as I’m escorted to the door. Wow. Another lie. I’ve been working on delayed gratification for a lifetime and have made very little progress. “I didn’t want that job anyway!” I declare as I stumble onto the noisy street-in-my-mind.

All of this fantasy lying to myself has made me hungry. “Do you want to eat something?” I ask Kerri who’s keeping her hummingbird vigil. “I’m starving.”

“Yes,” she says. “When do you think they’ll get here?” she asks, suddenly becoming a 5 year old. “How will they find us?”

“They’ll be here soon,” I say, perhaps telling another fib. I have no idea when they will be here. “All we can do is wait,” I offer, quickly adding, “So, what do you want to eat while we wait?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about HUMMINGBIRDS

waiting/joy! a christmas album © 1998 kerri sherwood

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Thank Dale [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Dale is back. And he has an attitude. The people in the neighborhood know better than to approach Dale. He wants to be left alone on his daily constitutional and will answer even the friendliest “Hello!” with a harsh retort. Gobble-gobble.

We saw the young couple before we saw Dale. They were frozen, mouths a-gaping. They were pushing a stroller and were caught between curiosity and caution. Spelled. You’d have thought they just spied a Leprechaun strutting down the street. We slowed the car, stopped, and followed their gaze. A turkey was in the hood. Dale was just outside our door. Strutting down the sidewalk. He warned us to mind our own business and crossed the street behind our car just to make his point.

Here’s the weird idea that flashed through my mind as Dale stomped across the street: he reminded me of Scrooge. Suddenly, my imagination was awash in the turkey version of The Christmas Carol. I was particularly taken by the possibilities of the ghosts! How might the turkey Jacob Marley appear to the Scrooge-like Dale? The Ghost of Christmas future? The options were hysterical and inspiring. I wanted to thank Dale for the idea but he was already strutting far down the opposite sidewalk. I wanted to tell Kerri but she’d had enough of me for one day. I kept my idea to myself.

The young couple were suddenly released from their spell and the husband looked at us, child-like, “Turkey!” he pointed and smiled.

“Yes,” Kerri replied in a sing-song affirmation, “We saw it, too.”

I wondered at the final scene in my Turkey Carol. Dale, after a night of ghost-visits, flings open his window to the morning light, unable to fully comprehend what he’d just experienced. He asks a small child on the street, “Boy! You there! What day is it?”

The boy, taken aback by the sudden question coming from a notoriously unfriendly bird, replies, “It’s Christmas, sir!”

Dale, newly made, throws his wings above his head and dances with relief.

read Kerri’s blogpost about DALE – if you’d like to support our writing and workintheworld

Ask The Bird [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” FDR

I laughed aloud when I read this quote. Luck certainly comes from a point of view. The good luck of the early bird is not great for the worm. I’ll add that tasty tidbit to my book of low-bar-wisdom: It’s never good news when you are on the breakfast menu.

Luck, good or bad, is never an incident isolated in time. That’s the point of the famous Chinese fable. Is it good luck or bad? Who knows. It’s all dominoes. I met Kerri because my career (and life) was collapsing. Was my career collapse good luck or bad? Ask Kerri if meeting me was good luck or bad and her answer will probably waver given the events of the day.

These past few months, after the software start-up went away and we tumbled into our latest reinvention, I’ve been pondering the Chinese fable more than usual. It felt like great luck when the opportunity appeared. If feels like bad luck in its disappearance. Both/And. I was certainly prepared when the opportunity came along. No amount of preparation-meeting-opportunity kept the company from vanishing. Bird or worm? We’ll see.

I love the notion that luck, the good side, is out there, looking for us. I imagine Luck standing on the horizon each day, shielding her eyes and whispering, “Where are they?” With us standing on our horizon looking for Luck and Luck standing on her horizon looking for us, it’s only a matter of time before we spot each other.

And, maybe we already have. That’s the tricky thing I’ve learned about Luck. She sometimes comes in disguises. That wily Luck is a trickster and has a wicked sense of humor.

This is all I know: if I was writing the children’s-book-for-adults-about-luck, the worm would have just crawled out of a tequila bottle and the newly intoxicated early bird would be left with an important question: was that worm good luck or bad?

read Kerri’s blogpost about LUCK

Change Your Name [on Two Artists Tuesday]

With great fanfare, I announced to Kerri that I was changing my name to Zdravko! I gleaned from her scowl that my new name might not be an acceptable idea.

Zdravko is Saint Valentine in Slovenia. I was curious about the origins of Valentine’s Day and what I found is a trail of martyrdom and subsequent reliquaries enshrined in churches across Italy and beyond. There may or may not have been more than one Saint Valentine with various legends embellished over the centuries to transform their demise and dismemberment into a day of lovers, hearts and chocolate.

Good gracious.

I was born on Valentine’s Day. All of my life, when people learn that this day is my enter-the-earth day, they get doe-eyed and say things like, “Of course you were born on Valentines Day.” All of these years I thought their comments referred to my soft soul and chocolate heart but now I’m suspicious.

Deep in the wiki I found a reference that brought some comfort. Zdravko. “…the saint of good health, beekeepers and pilgrims…it is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day…” Imagine it! On this day, that chirping you hear might be a bird getting down on one knee and popping the question! Now that’s an association I can embrace!

Besides, Zdravko is a much better name for an artist. When people learn that my name is David Robinson, I inevitably hear the joke, “Wow! You’re smaller than I thought.” The artist identity gets lost in the basketball player joke every time. By the way, he’s younger than I am. And NOT born on Valentine’s Day. And much more successful. And, he already has an entry in Wikipedia so I’ll have to change my name if I want a unique wiki page. Zdravko!

Kerri’s still not buying it. In the spirit of domestic bliss I’ll drop it for now. Mostly, I’m grateful that I didn’t have to compose my valentine from a prison cell or while hiding from the emperor’s centurions. She’ll scowl when she reads it but I can’t erase the crayon signature…

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Your Zdravko

read Kerri’s blogpost about VALENTINES DAY

Feel The Dope Slap [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

This morning I awoke agitated. Restless. I’m blaming my dreams. I know I had tons of dreams last night but I can’t remember a single one. I find it useful to blame my restlessness on something as slippery as an unremembered dream. It prevents any significant self-reflection or responsibility for my unease.

I just popped Rob on the head for diminishing his own work. He’s a prolific and gifted playwright and referred to his latest piece as “…another corpse being thrown on a mass grave of scripts.” After I sent the email-head-pop I admitted to myself that I was actually ALSO popping myself on the head. I used his head as a proxy. Popping other people on the head is also useful for avoiding any significant self-reflection. Although I admitted to myself that my head deserved a good slap, I successfully transferred the impact to Rob. No further self-reflection needed! I’ll wait for Rob to write me back with a return dope-slap. He’s a great friend and I deserve nothing less. Really, I deserve a good slap but I refuse to slap myself. That would require taking responsibility for my actions and my indulgent restlessness is getting in the way.

I’ve known for years that Dogga is a master teacher. Among his many lessons is contentment. And, what constitutes contentment is unique to each individual. For instance, most folks want to find a nice beach to lay on. Not Dogga! His nirvana is found in a deep pile of snow. He’s never happier than when the temperature plummets and the white stuff falls. He can linger for hours on the snowy deck in blissful satisfaction, doing nothing more than appreciating his moment. His teaching method is gentle. Unlike me, he eschews head slaps. He lives his peace, affording me the opportunity to emulate it or not.

The other thing I appreciate about Dogga’s lessons: he has absolutely no investment in how long it might take for me to learn. He is not concerned about whether or not I ever learn his lesson of contentment. His job is to make the offer. He is not concerned at all with the reception.

Perhaps the cure to what currently ails me is a few moments sitting with Dogga in the snow. I think I’ll invite Rob. It’s the least I could do after using his head to slap mine.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOWDOG

Buckle Up [on DR Thursday]

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ~ Irving Berlin

There’s nothing like flying in a plane to shake-up and challenge your perceptions. Board a plane on a snowy overcast day and, after a few minutes of lift, punching through to brilliant sun and the curvature of the earth. What was true on the ground is not true in the sky. And vice-versa.

The first time I flew I was 18 years old. I remember thinking that, of all the people who’d walked the earth throughout time, very few had seen the clouds from above. Most looked to the sky and wondered what it felt like to fly like a bird. During our recent flight, looking down at the clouds, I was taken by the fact that the population of humans-on-earth has doubled since the 18-year-old-me first looked out the window of an airplane. Something that has never happened in the span of a single lifetime. If I live an average lifespan, it will triple. The challenges we face, from the migration of people to the warming globe to the crisis of resources, can be traced back to this simple statistic. The stress levers get lost in the rhetoric-shuffle.

From the sky, it’s easy to see that we are one team, occupying one planet. From up there, the wrangling over red or blue, the movement of the fickle markets, the fist-pumping red-faced divisions, all disappear. It’s easy to punch through the dense fog and see a bigger picture. A more perfect union.

I chuckled after I wrote that last metaphor because my inner cynic rolled his eyes and muttered, “Yeah, but first you have to WANT to get on the plane.”

My inner optimist, not to be outdone, replied, “Exactly. It’s human nature to want to see what’s over the next hill or above the fog. Everyone wants to get on the plane.”

Well, there you have it. Scintillating perspectives from the cynic on the ground and the optimist in the sky. Creative tension at its finest. While my cynic and optimist work this one out, I think I’ll fasten my seatbelt and prepare myself for a smooth landing. As the saying goes: What goes up must come down.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CLOUDS

A Prayer of Opposites, 48×48, acrylic

a prayer of opposites © david robinson

Embrace The Mix [on Merely A Thought Monday]

mirepoix: a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables used in sauces.

mélange: a mixture; a medley.

“The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” ~ Rainier Maria Rilke

If Rainier were here right now I’d tell him to shut up. Who wants a buzz-kill poet spilling simple truth all over an otherwise good start to the day? The least he could do is wait until I’ve finished my coffee.

Yesterday was harsh. Well, okay, it was also good. And, okay, okay…sometimes great. I woke up stuck under a dark cloud. If I drew myself as a cartoon I’d have a raincloud pouring rain over my head in every panel. Well, until we took a long walk in the cold. My fingers started to sting. For reasons I can’t explain, stinging fingers made us laugh and laughter made the cartoon rain stop. The cartoon cloud was still there though the weather report improved. And then there was the 10pm concert with Barker. What a treat! We watched until the streaming was interrupted at 1:20am, but by that time I was thrilled and filled with music and with no hint of cloud-cover.

When we awoke this morning with a too-late-night-hang-over, Kerri called us, “Dirty stay-ups.”

“What’s a dirty stay-up?” I exclaimed (okay, I was too tired to exclaim. It was more of a croak or whine but that’s not the point).

“Us,” was her one-word answer that convinced me I’d better get some coffee going or it was going to be a day of one word answers.

Among humanity’s greatest achievements is denial. Denial is why we also invented poetry. If it hurts, at least make it sound pretty and pretend that it’s not as bad as you know it is.

Take that, Rainer!” A well-deserved early morning pre-coffee-poet-dis! I’m capable of spilling some hard truth even as I’m right in the middle of being defeated by greater and greater things! And, I have to say, as a recent dirty stay-up, with not yet enough caffeine in my veins, and with one word responses coming to my every question, I can say with conviction that this, too, will be a mirepoix of a day.

Thank goodness.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MIREPOIX

Warm Hearts [on DR Thursday]

The past few days in Wisconsin have confirmed my suspicion: the ice age will not be fun. Long underwear is no match for mother nature when she’s giving you the cold shoulder.

It was an uncomfortable coincidence that we watched the movie The Day After Tomorrow a few short hours before the temperatures plummeted. It was almost as uncanny as the night we watched Contagion with Brad and Jen because we heard news stories of a virus in China that might become a pandemic. In both cases, when life mimicked the film, Kerri said, “I feel like I’m living the movie.”

I can only conclude that we need to watch different movies.

While hunkered down and very much appreciating the modern thermostat, heat at the touch of a button, I think Love Actually might be an excellent choice of film-invocation (Hugh Grant voice over: Love actually IS…all around us). The Family Stone is another good option. The complex nature of love. It makes me laugh and warms my heart every time.

Invoking warm hearts on frigid days is a worthy pursuit. Invoking warm hearts on any-old-day is a worthy pursuit but is certainly made more poignant when facing the ice age. Now, if only Dennis Quaid would show up with a helicopter cavalry and whisk us away to warmer climates! A boy can dream.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DEEP FREEZE

A Day At The Beach, 38x52IN

a day at the beach © 2017 david robinson