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

Cross The County Line [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Drive west from our house near the lake for a few miles and you’ll come to the interstate freeway that runs north to Milwaukee and south to Chicago. Cross under the freeway, continuing west and you enter what we call “the county.” Rich farmland. The freeway serves as a dividing line from urban to rural.

Sometimes it feels like crossing the line into another culture. Blue to red. The county redness puzzles me but that’s a topic for another post. We drive into the foreign culture with the same curiosity we might bring to Tunisia or India. “I wonder what they see…” is a common refrain.

Sometimes crossing the freeway line feels like an escape into open space and a breath of fresh air. Once upon a time we took Sunday drives; the point was to go get lost in the county. “Left or right?” Kerri would ask. Both choices leading to the unknown.

We are avid freeway avoiders. It doesn’t bother us to take extra time traveling to Chicago or Milwaukee on the backroads. Less aggression. We relax and enjoy the ride. Often, especially during rush hour, our backroads travel proves faster than the traffic jam.

Last week, en route to the hand specialist in Milwaukee, we traveled our usual backroad path, winding through the county. There was no snow at our house when we left. We crossed the freeway into another landscape, blanketed with white. It was as if we crossed the line into another season. We entered an alternate reality.

“That’s so odd,” I said.

“No,” Kerri replied. “That’s the county.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE COUNTY

Cope! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Let’s just call it a coping mechanism. Job loss came fast and furious. The news came on the coldest, greyest week of the year. Hollywood could not have provided a better scene. Job loss. Freezing rain.

Escapism, for us, often looks like a long drive and on our long drive we had a sudden hankering for french fries. Escapism provides an open invitation for all the foods you normally avoid. The rules of escapism also allow for over-indulgence. At the Culver’s drive-thru, we didn’t order the human-sized fries. We ordered the family pack. They had to use a forklift to bring the fries to our car. And, we ate them. Almost all of them.

The rules of over-indulgence require deniability. We left ten fries in the tray so we might in good faith tell the food police that we didn’t eat the whole thing. We didn’t over-indulge! We didn’t eat the whole truckload of fries! Who would do such a thing! Not us, certainly.

I’m giggling a bit since our topic yesterday was choice. In the way of all perfect hypocrisy I claim the choice of deniability. I’m following the rules. We ate them, maybe, but we had to do it, if we ate them – and I’m not saying that we did though they might have been good – but I can’t remember. There may or may not have been a food coma.

Good heavens! French fries have made me a politician! I’ve always wondered why on earth anyone would become a politician…

Politics. A new career, perhaps? Not a chance. I want to escape my escapism, not make it a way of life. Though, from here, there may or may not be a few more fries needed to get to the other side. I’ll keep you posted. However, I can say with certainty that, in the short term, you can’t believe a word I write.

Now, who wants to go for a drive?

read Kerri’s blogpost about FRIES

Re-Invert [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Three snakes crossed our path. A sign, some would say, that the world is about to go upside-down. Topsy-turvy. Of note: Topsy-Turvy is a brewery in Lake Geneva and also a movie about Gilbert and Sullivan. Also of note: our world flipped over a few days after the snakes-on-the-path.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when things are upside-down. Inversion need not be dramatic or accompanied by a marching band. It can be a slow process. A multitude of weirdness piles up. Also, we live in “interesting times” so upside-down is not so easy to spot because, mostly, our national-world-order is already on its noggin.

Sitting at our kitchen table late at night, we had a hysterical conversation with Rob about panic. The inner-voice of reason advising calm while you thrash around making things worse. Even though relaxing-amidst-the-tangle is the only way to extract yourself, every muscle in your body flails. Panic eats reason for lunch.

As the blood rushes to our brains and we realize that the leaves ought to point in the other direction, we diligently go out on the trail to entice a different number of snakes to cross our path – or perhaps a nice deer or two. We happily entertain the possibility of another sign or symbol, something to foreshadow the righting of the upended ship. Feet on the ground. Blue sky above.

In the meantime, there’s a brewery in Lake Geneva. A movie about Gilbert and Sullivan.

read Kerri’s blogpost about Topsy-Turvy

Send The Cash [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

Evidently, we’ve made it to the swanky-wine-promotion-(scam)-list. This came as a text. No words. At first, we treated it as a mystery. A quick Google of the bottle reveals this wine is more expensive than both of our cars combined. “Ooooh, Maybe this is a heads-up! Maybe They’re sending us a bottle!” I suggested.

“Maybe we should call them and tell them to keep the bottle and just send the cash,” Kerri replied.

Victor is Betsy Ade’s manager. He recently posted an attempted scam. Someone wanted to hire Betsy to do a show. They needed to pay with a check and also needed to make it out for a larger amount (insert ridiculous scenario) and requested that Victor return the difference. In the scam world, it’s an old saw. You may or may not be amazed at how many people have reached out to buy paintings but, since they were sailing in the North Atlantic on a scientific expedition, needed to send a too-large-amount-check. After deposit, would it be possible to return the difference?

I’ve thought of papering my bathroom with the schemes, a hall-of-fame for imagination gone bad. To do it, I’d have to print the emails and photos, including the bottle of wine – but I want my paper to be used for worthier causes so I’ve rejected the idea. Plus, the ink would fade over time. I’m having enough trouble with my eyes as it is and don’t want my future self to have to squint to have a chuckle.

“Don’t they know that we’re incapable of enjoying a bottle of wine that costs that much?”

“Yes. We’re goats,” I agreed. “We’d never be able to discern the difference between our wine and this bottle. But, maybe that guy in the North Atlantic would be interested!”

read Kerri’s blogpost about WINE

Go With It [on DR Thursday]

If I was a hunter-gatherer, I’d have no choice. There is one option and it is called ‘flow.’ Going against the flow would mean a quick trip to join the ancestors.

Because I am a modern city dweller, I have ample opportunity to fret, to resist, to complain and yearn for another option. I can demonstrate my impatience with my lot and cut people off in traffic. I can scream at the top of my lungs “Me first! Me first! Me first!” as the central identifier of my culture. Fight rather than flow.

It is much more difficult to go with the flow when, standing in the grocery store, there are 17 different choices of stewed tomatoes. Which tomato can is best? Where is flow to be found when the national narrative mimics the National Enquirer? So much turmoil! So many choices. Amidst so many easy-reach stacks-of-food, you’d think we’d be awash in abundance, awash in a river of flow. Standing at the far end of the paper towel aisle, I giggled at the stacks towering above my head. I slow-walked through a canyon of paper towels, thinking, “The point of the fight is to stand atop the paper-towel-mountain.”

No wonder flow is an abstract concept, the topic of every self-help book and creativity-mantra, but nowhere to be found. “Improve thyself” is the heart of the conundrum. What chance do we have to go with the flow when we can’t possibly be good enough?

Sometime for kicks, try painting because it feels good. Achieve nothing. Sing loud like Charlie in the shower just because you can. Give a leg up to your neighbor and let them stand atop the paper-towel-mountain – just to have the experience of sharing, helping, thriving together. Float-all-boats is a good statement of flow.

After all, flow is ultimately an act of joining, of sharing, of giving over. Hold hands; find flow.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FLOW

A good yuck from our Flawed Cartoon archive. Paintings? Go here

Flawed Cartoon © 2016 david robinson, kerri sherwood, john kruse

Walk With Shadows [on Two Artists Tuesday]

These are not the pine forests of Colorado. The trails in North Carolina are a crazy cross-hatch of roots and shadows. Rhododendron explosion and cedar. Kudzu. “This is a Hansel and Gretel forest,” Kerri whispers.

“Luckily for us,” I reply, “we are too old to taste good. No witch would have us.” She punches my arm. I laugh, but not too loud.

This forest is different than our ideal. That is why we come here. It opens us. It challenges our “should-be.” New experiences and unknown places dissolve expectations and elevate awareness of “what is.” It shakes the stone fortress of imagined security. Each step is alive and unexpected.

Renewal. It’s a special branch of the slow-moving-river called curiosity.

After many miles we arrive back at the car. We emerge from the Grimm Brother’s forest and step onto the comfort of paved parking lot. Exhausted, we are thrilled with our hike. The forest sprites retreat back into the dark recesses of our minds while the new shapes and smells and colors and sounds energize our spirits.

“We did it!” She is elated. Then, “Do you think that crashing sound was a bear?” she asks.

“Could be,” I lie, certain that we were followed – and rejected – by a hungry Ogre. Too boney. There are, after all, certain benefits to aging.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ROOTS AND SHADOWS

Ramble [on DR Thursday]

I’m like a two-year old: I want to know “Why?” For instance, the lichen growing on the birch tree is Hypogymnia physodes, but it’s also known as “Monk’s Hood.” Why?

There’s a wildflower also known as Monk’s Hood. I read that the flower gets its name because its petals resemble the cowls once worn by monks. However, the flower is also known as “Wolfsbane.” Why? What does the bane of a wolf have to do with the hood of a monk? I’m capable of inventing a slew of possible connections but they will be just that: inventions.

In an attempt to bore you beyond rescue, I’ve lately been fascinated by how much of our world is a blizzard of unhinged information in search of a context. For instance, conceptual art needs an explanation. Without a curator, it’s nothing more than a banana taped to a wall. Twine with a dirty sponge. Oddity seeking to be taken seriously.

In the 21st century, we measure relevance by the number of followers, not by the substance-of-the-matter-being-followed. It’s a popularity contest. Lots and lots of flowing information, most of it useless. Without use. Without substance. And, scarily for us: without being questioned.

What is empty content pushed through a fabricated context? “Breaking” news. MAGA. Q.

It occurs to me that society needs more two year olds! A healthy practice of asking “Why” would spare us from certain death-by-bloviation.

A cowl, by the way, is both a monk’s hood AND a loose neckline in contemporary women’s clothing. Wouldn’t the monks be surprised if they’d confused their cowls!

Now, get out there and find context for this bit of useless information.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LICHEN

pieta with paparazzi © 2010 david robinson

Be The Feast [on DR Thursday]

This time of year, if you want to walk the Des Plaines river trail, do it early in the day. The mosquitoes come out in the afternoon. They are vicious little critters.

The Des Plaines mosquitoes are subject to one of the great mysteries in my life. At home – in fact, everywhere else on the planet – the mosquitoes prefer Kerri. I can be mosquito-free while she’s a mosquito-buffet. Not true at Des Plaines. Those wicked flying needles feast on me and give her a pass. Why?

Last week we started our walk a little later than planned. It’s as if the folks in the Des Plaines control room throw a switch. One moment, there’s not a mosquito to be found. The next moment, the mosquito dinner bell is rung and I am the main course. I run-walk, slap and silly dance my way back to the relative safety of the car. Kerri walks leisurely asking, “Are there any on me?”

It’s been a great equalizer in our relationship. For years, in the early summer evenings, writhing, she asks in desperation, “Are you getting bitten?” My smug response has always been, “No. Are they out?” Now, as I wiggle and swat my way through the forest, she strolls and smiles and asks, “What’s the matter?”

Equalizer. Compassion-builder. Though, now I understand why she suggested a later start for our walk in the woods. “What about the mosquitoes?” I asked.

She smiled.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MOSQUITOES

earth interrupted I © 2012 david robinson