Decide To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When you come to our house, pay attention to the small things. You will find many, many, many hearts. Heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, shells that are the shape of a heart. This is not an accident. It’s also not a collection of “things” – like a collection of shot glasses or figurines. No, it is altogether different.

Kerri looks for hearts. Often on our walks she will gasp, pull out her camera and take a picture. I know that she has seen another heart. Usually, she engages with it and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and it comes home with us.

To be clear: she doesn’t buy hearts from the store. She is not a collector of heart shapes. Kerri looks for hearts. When we are out in public she will gasp and move toward someone, striking up a conversation. Soon there is laughter; always there is a story. Usually, she engages with the heart and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and  it is in our life forever.

Since seeing the recent Mr. Rogers movie, we’ve been talking a lot about intentional thinking, about focus placement. We’ve been talking about what we look for when we go out into the world – what we decide to see. Everyone decides what they see but very few people know that they have that decision. Everyone decides what they think but very few people know that they have that decision. It’s what made Mr. Rogers so special. He knew he  had decisions and he talked about it with children. Children are capable of listening.

It’s very easy to see the gunk. The dark is an easy choice; fear makes it so. It takes some intention to see the light.  Hearts are always present but they require some attention and resolve to see. They ask that we look beyond the superficial gunk to see the heart-substance. That’s why Kerri picks them up and plants them around our home. It’s a practice. She’s built a practice of seeing the hearts. She goes into each day looking for the hearts.

It turns out that hearts are everywhere. You can see them, too, if you decide to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS

 

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Learn The Lesson [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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The exercise is simple: be an angel to someone for at least 3 hours.

There is only one rule: you can’t tell them what you are doing or why you are doing it.

When assigning the exercise, there is always one panic-question masked as two questions: What does it mean to be an angel/How do I do it? [pull the mask and the real question is: what will they think of me?]

There is only one answer to the question: What does it mean to you to be an angel? Do that.

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel observation: “It was scary at first and then it was really fun!”

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel revelation: “I received waaaay more than I gave.”

Receiving abundantly as the consequence of giving abundantly is the point of the exercise [in this case, define ‘exercise’ any way you want to].

This message is everywhere. It’s a Hermetic Principle. It’s cause and effect. It’s what we learned in kindergarten. It’s the message from grandmothers on every continent. It’s blow-back. It’s a Beatles lyric: the love you take is equal to the love you make. It’s an advertisement to sell Canadian Whiskey.

Because it’s ubiquitous, you’d think we’d have learned it by now. Perhaps we know it already but get hung up on the courage it takes to be an angel. Mean is easy. Division is as easy as falling off a log. Kindness takes a bit of pluck.

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel lesson: there are no sissy angels.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING GENEROUSLY

 

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Help Yourself See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In a particularly dismal period of time in my Seattle years, I decided I needed to focus on the good stuff. I made a game of writing on small bits of paper things in my life for which  I was grateful. And then I left my small gratitude notes around the city as I moved about my day. I left them at bus stops. I rolled some and tucked them in crosswalk signs. A few were tucked into menus or left on coffeehouse tables.

My gratitude notes had an interesting blow-back. They inspired me to seek things that I was grateful for so I might write a note about it. Not only that, but they made me pay attention to the infinite acts of kindness that I saw everyday. People were helping people everywhere! I was blind to it until I started paying attention; until I got out of my misery-head and opened my eyes.

I was struck by the vast difference between the story I was being told about humanity and the story I was witnessing on my daily walks across the city. I could count the acts of aggression. I lost track of the acts of kindness and generosity because there were too many to capture.

When you stop and think about it, isn’t it always the case that the the good stuff, the potential-pool-of-gratitude-possibilities is vast yet the gunk gets all the focus. What is it in us that hyper-focuses on the flaw, sorts to the wound, while the river of beauty roars by unnoticed?

Kerri designed these cards for another project and they made me remember my notes. Encouragement of gratitude. Give it a try. Download the blanks. Scribble a note or two of thanks-giving and leave them behind somewhere. Be prepared for some eye opening blow-back.

 

gratitude blanks PDF copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATITUDE

 

 

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Be An Antonym [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is becoming increasingly apparent that I am not fashionably current. In truth, I have never been near or even remotely close to being in-the-know. I am not a first adopter. The evidence is right beneath my typing fingers; were my computer a child it would be attending middle-school.

I have hermit tendencies. I am at my core a wanderer. I am more comfortable alone in my studio than at a gallery opening (or any other human gathering space, for that matter. Parties strike fear in my heart). My idea of fun is to take a walk in the woods.

It occurred to me – later in life than it ought to have occurred to me – that I am a margin sitter. A looker-in rather than a center-dweller. All of these characteristics that I have embraced as personal deficits, judgments that I have held against myself and used like a sword to cut myself in two, are, in fact, my greatest gifts. Beowulf’s bees. From the margins I can- and do – see. I am supposed to be an antonym.

On the flight to meet this woman named Kerri, a woman I’d been writing to for months, I was worried that she would see me and dismiss me outright. I am – to put it mildly – not the norm. I thought she might reject me for my absence of hip. Emerging from the concourse, to my great surprise and amusement, standing before me, was a woman dressed just like me. A black sweater. Blue jeans. Boots. Another margin sitter. A fellow antonym. We cackled at the realization.

Later that first night, we crawled through a window, sat on on the roof in plastic chairs, and drank wine, looking at the world from our place on the margin, comparing notes on our oddness. Burgers and champagne to this day, partners in seeing from the edges, occupying the place we were always meant to inhabit: the polar antonym of hip.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the ANTONYM OF HIP

 

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Slow Down And See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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There is a theme emerging in my posts this week. Substance vs. the appearance of substance. The flattening of importance.

During an exceptionally stressful and contentious period this summer, we streamed the entire run of Parenthood. Six seasons of escapism!  “Let’s go to  California,” we’d say, all too ready for a leap out of reality. And then, in a moment of horror, the episodes of Parenthood ran out. Our escape hatch closed with a bang. In desperation we surfed and landed in Schitt’s Creek. It was a series a bit too relevant to our circumstance and we howled when one of the characters, in the face of kindness, said that she’d been raised to see that “kindness is a sign of weakness.”

“That’s our problem,” Kerri said, “we see kindness as a virtue.” She was raised to be kind.

That night we had a long discussion about kindness and its general absence in public discourse.

I’ve been thinking much about our conversation since we found ourselves meditating on kindness in Schitt’s Creek. This is my observation: mean is easy. It is fast. Like all forms of reactivity and thoughtlessness, meanness and contention are elementary.

We are surrounded by friends who are kind.  They are kind because they cultivate kindness, thoughts of others, as essential to their character. That’s why we are attracted to them. We are the recipients of unbearable gifts of kindness through our friends. They break us open. They make us bigger.

Kindness is a virtue. It is also a strength. And, it takes time. Kindness is like poetry. It takes development and some higher order thinking.

Lions eat zebras for food. People hurt people for a lesser reason.

In a world obsessed with speed, it is all too easy to run past substance in pursuit of the superficial. Slowing down, taking some time to see, exposes all manner of beauty.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

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Take A Picture [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Our time on island was a polarity. The antagonism of the organization was balanced by the utter peace of the littlehouse. Just as we learned to roll with the quickly changing faces of our board, we stood in awe of the swiftly shifting personality of the lake. One moment it was still and the next moment it roiled and took great bites of the shore. It was (and is) a study of the degrees of change, the subtleties of ever-changing-movement.

Each morning Kerri walked to the water’s edge and took a photograph. Reviewing three months of mornings is eye-opening. So much life! So much variation and beauty and power. If I am ever again bored or delusional enough to think that life is dull, I will remember our morning photographs. Were I still working with artists or corporate types I’d make it a mandatory exercise to take a photograph at the same spot everyday for three months. The review at day 90 could slap awake even the most dedicated blindness.

It is the visual equivalent of morning pages. See what you do not see. Aim your focus and realize that, in fact, you have the power to aim your focus, to determine what you see and, therefore, what you study. And, therefore, how you story your life.

During our last pass on the island, Kerri, as is her custom, took her morning photograph. Later, she wandered out of the little house to capture a midday shot. In the evening, I found her by the water’s edge photographing the sunset. She created a panorama, a sweeping story of the day. “Everywhere I look, it’s perfection,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PERFECTION

 

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Make A Curvy Road [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The approach to the ferry at Northport is made intentionally curvy. It was designed to slow people down.

The intentional slow down is not like a speed bump or round-a-bout. It is not a mechanism to slow traffic before entering the ferry zone. It is meant to help folks to mindfulness. The place is beautiful. In a world dedicated to rushing through to the next thing, at a place on earth where the ferry will not wait for you, a winding road just might help a dedicated-race-to-the-next-thing-mind to recognize that this-moment-might-be-just-as-valuable-as-the-next. Experience it. Be in it.

It is a good design. In the many times this year that we’ve taken the winding road, it never fails that we see multiple cars stopped. People get out. They look. They take pictures. They point and talk and laugh. They stand in silence and breathe it in. It is performance art at its finest.

We slow down, too. Each time, the race to reach the ferry evaporates from our mind. We see. Kerri stops the car, “I have to get a picture of this!” she says. I appreciate her appreciation; there are layers to good design. Each time we greet the winding road I wonder what our world would be like if our design intention was to slow down rather than race through. Rather than divert our attention, what if, like great art, the purpose was to bring us into the vast expanse of this moment?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the WINDING ROAD

 

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