Balance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Each day we sit on the deck and watch the personality of the lake change. We are witness to the power of the elements at play. Wind drives wave. Wave evaporates and moves wind. Lighting hits earth. Rain feeds the plants. Too much rain, too much wind, too much fire, devastates.

Balancing the elements. It is the central thought in many traditions. The cardinal directions are associated with a color and an element. North, south, east, west. Air, fire, water, earth. People need associations in order to talk about things. In order to know where they fit.

The colors differ from tradition to tradition. Sometimes black, white, red, and yellow. Sometimes blue, green, yellow, red. Sometimes there is a fifth element. There is always a center. When there is the understanding of center point there is also an acknowledgment that separations, experiences like north, south, east and west, are illusions.

Balance is a radically different intention than dominance. Taming-your-nature is not the same as balancing-your-nature. In the tame-your-nature idea, nature, your nature, is corrupt and needs to be controlled. In the balance-your-nature idea, your nature is neither good nor bad, it is a dance of energy, a push-pull of wind and fire, air and earth. In the balance-your-nature idea, there is no such thing as “wild.” because there is no intention to “tame.”

As you might imagine, the artist that explores the tame-your-nature mindset understands their artistry much differently than the artist that explores balance. I was born into and oriented toward the culture of tame-your-nature and so I divine through brush and story the push-pull between goodness and badness. Combat, combat everywhere. Right/wrong. Us/Them. Good enough/lacking.

I desire to see through the other lens. I suspect this desire is the epicenter, the driver behind my paintings. To understand the world I inhabit as energies at play, to know beyond an intellectual understanding that the distinctions don’t really exist; wind is not separate from water, earth is not separate from fire, people are not separate from planet. Illusion. Our division is a play of shadow puppets at best.

I think it is why we hang prayer flags at our littleislandhouse and at our home. Surrounded by combat, we are drawn by the desire to balance, we are enticed by the possibility of harmony.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

 

 

 

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island prayer flags photograph ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Stand On Any Street Corner [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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For reasons that are beyond my pay-grade to comprehend, human beings are obsessed with seeing conflict and division. The news of the day is generally antagonistic and despair-inducing – and that is not unique to our day. Ancient temples and modern televisions alike are overrun with images of war and hostility.

One of the greatest powers a human being can achieve is the power of focus placement. ‘Seeing’ is, after all, a matter of choice.  It is not passive. In any given moment there are multiple points of focus, there are multiple stories, there are many interpretations to choose from.

Stand on any street corner and watch the world happen. Watch the overwhelming number of acts of kindness and generosity. The small moments of simple kindness and consideration. They are everywhere. People giving way, making way, helping. You will be surprised to find that the kindnesses by far outnumber the rudeness, the antagonism.

Stand on any street corner and watch where your focus goes. In the midst of a tsunami of kindness, if you are human and like all other humans, your focus will be captured by the angry guy honking his horn, the commuter shouting at the bus driver. “Such an angry world,” you think and close your eyes, despairing. Anger is so much louder than kindness.

Tell a story of discord, see a story of discord. Practice a story of discord, live a story of discord. Discord is easily leveraged. Division is easily sold. It is like selling candy to a kid. It is readily chiseled into pillars and hungrily read into teleprompters.  It is so easy to see.

Tell a story of kindness, see a story of kindness. Practice a story of kindness, live a story of kindness. Although it is more readily available it is, somehow, more difficult to see. It is less sell-able and, so, is discarded as trite. It requires choice and discernment rather than default. It requires opening your eyes and your story to what is actual, what lives beyond the thundering chorus of conflict-peddlers.

The angry shooters and tweet-happy presidents live on the far margins yet they garner the majority of the attention. Stand on any street corner and open your eyes. There is a sweeping quiet kindness that permeates the vast majority, that defines the middle ground. You can see it if you so choose.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

 

 

 

 

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Look Up [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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An evening sky awash with salmon pink and orange. Walking down the middle of the road. Strolling home.  We heard the snap of twigs and stopped. The deer was very still, suddenly aware of us. We found ourselves engaged in an old Viola Spolin acting exercise: you look at us and we’ll look at you. Who is the audience? Who is the performer? Who is the watcher? The watched?

I’ve been thinking about Quinn lately. He taught me that there is a marked difference between concentration and awareness. Concentration is a narrowing of the mind. A blocking of other thought. Resistance. Awareness is an opening to experience. All experience. An embrace. It’s a thought straight out of Alan Watts, one of the many, many authors and thinkers that Quinn introduced me to.

Walking the roads and beaches of the island, learning the nuance of this community and the needs of the performing arts center that we now guide, for me, has become an active reminder, a literal exercise of awareness, a class in paying attention. Open, not narrow. Experience rather than judge or resist.

I can hear Quinn laughing at the younger version of me who thought he had to contain it, capture and command it. The one who thought he had to know what to do. The one with a knitted brow who thought that being good at something was a matter of controlling it. So afraid to not know. The mirth-tears would roll down Quinn’s cheeks. “Look up!” he’d say. “If you keep staring at your feet you’ll miss it!”

“Miss what?” I’d ask.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DEER

 

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Frame It [on DR Thursday]

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Meaning is made through a frame of reference. Concepts of time, of nature, of community, of the divine, are not universal. They are local and they provide the distinct frame through which individual and communal experience is interpreted. No one reaches the age of 2 without the installation of a frame.

What we call truth is largely a result of the frame we see through. For instance, is it best to protect the rights of the individual or the needs of the community? The preference largely depends upon what kind of society is asking the question, individualistic or communal.

Frames pop forward certain aspects and make other aspects retreat. Put a frame on a painting and various colors and shapes seem to stand out. Put another frame on the same painting and entirely different shapes and colors dominate. The same is true of every lived experience. Mood is a passing frame. Expectation is a made-up frame.

One day, for grins, Kerri and I took a few paintings to the frame store to see how they might change. CLASSIC was one of the paintings we took that day. I had an entirely different vision for what would make it sing. I’m generally not a fan of big frames but, when Kerri placed CLASSIC in a heavy, slightly ornate choice, I nearly fell over. Not only did CLASSIC sing, but it surprised us with an aria. Gorgeous. Grounded. The frame brought forward the simplicity.

I love it when my paintings blow back on me and I see them again as if for the first time. That is the gift of a frame: the opportunity to see again.

 

classic framed copy 2

yoga series: classic, 20 x 16IN

read Kerri’s blog post about CLASSIC

 

 

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yoga series: classic ©️ 2013 david robinson

 

Blink Carefully [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When I first saw them I thought they were leaves growing like ivy on the post office wall. And then, one of the leaves fluttered its wings and took flight. It took a moment for my mind and eyes to adjust. Not ivy. Thousands and thousands of…dragonflies?

We stood for a few moments marveling at the sheer number of them. An older woman, an islander, pulled up and caught us gaping. “Bayflies,” she said in passing. “In all my years I’ve never seen so many.”

Later, in the theatre, we stared out of the window at another mass of…bayflies or dragonflies, clinging to the warm wall just outside the lobby. Pete came up behind us. “Mayflies,” he said. “There are a ton of them.” Pete is given to understatement. What he called a ‘ton’ I’d call a ‘plague.’ Alfred Hitchcock would have had a heyday with this story.

And the next day they were gone. Just like that. Had you told me about the bayfly-mayfly-dragonfly invasion, I might have wrinkled my brow and smiled at your exaggeration. A fishing story; a massive bug infestation? No one really knows what they are? Yeah, right! Here and gone. Uh-huh.

But it happened. Blink and you would have missed it. Just like life.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE INVASION

 

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Look In The Mirror [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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A few years ago Morris Berman wrote a book, Coming To Our Senses, that jumps with both feet into the complexities of mirrors. Believe it or not, there are societies that are not singularly obsessed with self-image.

What do we see when we look in the mirror? What image do we think we ought to project? Create? Reinforce? What image do we think we ought to match? What do we think we need to hide? What about that hair or those crow’s feet? What do we look for in the image that stares back? Have we ever considered that the image in the mirror is the reverse of what’s actual? That we will, in fact, always see the opposite and never see ourselves as we are?

What amazing power do marketers possess when crafting the images that sell stuff? Models with perfect profiles, men with Greek bodies, all of those images filtered through the magic of Photoshop to heighten, hide, or somehow manufacture a more desirable perfection, an unattainable you. That is the point, after all: to create a perfection that no mere mortal can attain. To create a purchase path, a product possibility of attaining the ideal, even for a moment.

On the island, there is a terrific little coffee house, The Red Cup. Someone at The Red Cup must have read Morris Berman’s book or at least caught on to the power of a mirror. They know, even after a few cups of good coffee, when washing your hands in the restroom, you are likely to look in the mirror and find something that needs changing, something lacking. And so, as a counterbalance to the programming, they offer a simple alternative, a suggestion, in fact, a possibility for what you might choose to see in the mirror: you are so cool, and intelligent and strong and fierce.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RED CUP

 

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Gaze Through It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Once, doing a night dive, through the inky black water, the sum total of what I could see was what existed in the beam of my flashlight. That experience provided insights into the limitations of perception and the power of focus placement. We see what we decide to focus on. We never see the whole picture.

It also gave me the Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of looking through a tunnel at an alternate reality. Peering through the portal, strange shapes darted across my beam. I was tempted to swim into the light, toward the illuminated world, but knew that I would never reach it. “There” was in constant motion and moved as I moved. It was hypnotic.

There is a old tree stump on our walks that Kerri likes to visit. It has a knot that serves as a looking glass. She peers through it and sometimes takes a picture to record the changing seasons, life as seen through the magic knot. Her photographs are a record of another kind of portal, another alternate reality only this one is not fluid. It is a fixed point of view. Yet, were I to sit for many days and gaze through this knot hole I’d be overwhelmed by the endless life-in-motion slowly moving within this limited view.

I used to lead groups through an exercise called The Long Walk. It is simple. Walk in any direction for ten minutes. However, if anyone can discern your movement, you are walking too fast. In fact, if you cover more than a few inches of territory in ten minutes, you have moved too fast. The Long Walk creates quite the challenge in a body used to racing through life. After the panic and frustration of slowing way down, an amazing thing happens. Senses open. Perceptions sharpen. The rich sounds and smells and breezes that generally go unnoticed crackle into presence. Tight concentration morphs into wide awareness. And, for a few short breaths, the mind ceases its babble and nothing stands between the walker and the walk.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO VIEWS

 

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©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson