Use Your Magic Wisely [on DR Thursday]

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…and the wily old story fox told the pack, “Words are like magic, misused they are tragic…”

“Words are like magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ The Story Fox

I wrote and illustrated Lucy & The Waterfox in 2004, long before this common era of weaponized language use.

Declan Donnellan wrote that, “There will always be a gap between what we feel and our ability to express what we feel. The more we wish the gap to be smaller, the more we want to tell ‘the truth’, then the wider the perverse gap yawns.”

The more we need words, the less capable they are at expressing what we mean. That is the blessing and curse of language: it can never achieve the goal. It can only point us in a direction. The closer we step toward ‘the truth’, the less language can actually reach it. Which, if you think about it, requires us to keep reaching for it. Conversely, we can stand directly on a lie and say exactly what we mean. Dead air.

‘The truth’ is a verb. It is a moving, alive, relational thing.

Language is imprecise and, so, easily manipulated. Endlessly interpreted to fit an agenda. That is precisely why language requires respect and care in the handling. Words are more powerful than most people understand. They are capable of starting wars. They are capable of creating peace. They are capable of inciting division. They are capable of inviting unity.

When the ‘perverse gap yawns’, when words become the weapon of the small minded, it is incumbent upon us – all of us – to listen beyond the words, to recognize and acknowledge the agenda. It is incumbent upon us all to handle our powerful magic with care and use it wisely.

Waterfox coverLUCY & THE WATERFOX is a story for children and adults about believing, following your own path, the power of word

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LUCY

 

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lucy & the waterfox ©️ 2004 david robinson

See The Mica [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Recently, Kerri wrote about making a “mica list.” I thought it was a great phrase and an even better idea.  Capture the small, shiny bits, those sparkling moments amidst the gray rock of each day that are often overlooked. In other words, pay attention. The gem-moments are everywhere and most often missed in the rush to be some other place.

Mindfulness is not a new idea. The desire to be present in life is an ancient aspiration. It is the message of all the masters. Life goes by. It can be missed. Open your eyes, see the mica.

In terms of the senses, it is impossible not to be present. As for the ever-busy-storytelling-mind, it is can be almost impossible to be present. The dance of life between the senses and the story. I love this quote by David Abram:

“A story must be judged according to whether it makes sense. And ‘making sense’ must be here understood in its most direct meaning: to make sense is to enliven the senses. A story that makes sense is one that stirs the senses from their slumber, one that opens the eyes and the ears to their real surroundings, tuning the tongue to the actual tastes in the air and sending chills of recognition along the surface of the skin. To make sense is to release the body from the constraints imposed by outworn ways of speaking, and hence to renew and rejuvenate one’s felt awareness of the world. It is to make the senses wake up to where they are.” ~ David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

We picked the green leaf lettuce for a salad just as we always do. It went unceremoniously into the basket. Other items were piled on top. A cucumber. Bananas. Diced tomatoes. Chips. Wine. Checking out of the store, Leticia, our checker, held up the green leaf lettuce and with great enthusiasm and humor pronounced, “Green leaf…the forgotten lettuce!”  We howled and saw the beautiful vibrant green as if for the first time. “Everyone buys romaine. I don’t know why people like romaine. Green leaf is so much better!” Everyone in line agreed. A lettuce-induced communal moment.

Mica. The green green leaf lettuce. The laughter in the grocery store. Leticia. And, later, the flavor. Oh, the salad that we made…

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FORGOTTEN LETTUCE

 

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Listen To Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Saul taught me to look beyond anything I understood as an obstacle and, instead,  place my focus on the field of all possibilities. “Place your focus on the obstacle and you will deal with the obstacle. Place your focus on the possibilities and you will deal with possibilities.”

Tom taught me to choose my battles and to fight only those worth fighting. “You don’t want to die on every hill,” he said. “In life there are really only one or two hills worth dying on.”

Ironically, Quinn, one the best storytellers I’ve ever known, taught me not to make up stories. Pointing to the big tall bank building he said, “See those people up there on the top floor? They don’t know what they are doing, either. They’re just making it up, too.” Or, maybe, he was attempting to teach me to tell a better story about myself.

It is not an understatement to say that I am rich in guides, teachers and mentors.

Doug, a Vietnam vet and one of the best teachers I’ve known, one day called me into his office and showed me a tattered, ruined book of poetry. “I bought it in the airport on the way to the war,” he said. “It saved my life.” He told me the story and it made me weep. Doug taught me the power of art. So did Paul and Roger. My two MM’s (Master Marsh and Master Miller) continue to teach me this lesson. Dawson, too.

Kerri and I are in a period of change that is simmering with unknowns. It is not the first time in my life that the dense fog has come in. She asked, “What do you think will happen?” I said, “Well, ultimately we’ll die.” She punched me. “That’s not what I mean!” she groused, adding a second punch. “Geez.”

Later, after the double punch, we took a walk on the Des Plaines river trail. An elderly man came around the bend and said with great jest and enthusiasm, “I cleared the path for you! It’s all clear.”

“Clear.”  It’s a poetic term. It means ‘possibility.’ And I heard them, my chorus of teachers and guides. All of them. Loud and clear.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEAR PATH

 

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Mess With It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A simple image skewed. It becomes something else. The original was beautiful, simple stark contrasts. Iron grey corrugated metal meeting untouched snow.  Textures. Man made meeting nature made. It looked like an abstract painting.

When Kerri is restless she plays with images. My composer wife has a better visual eye than her painter husband. She can play for hours with a single image, designing from an inner imperative that words cannot reach. “What are you messing with?” I ask, already knowing the answer. Silence. She shakes her head, my question a horsefly to her concentration.

A curator might tell you that this photo represents a dream gone awry. A door that opened. A possibility that whispered. And then, like the iron grey metal meeting the snow, the dream met the realities of the moment and tilted. The door, the possibility was a mirage, a vanishing oasis.

Of course, a curator might say it represents any number of things and we’d affix their meaning to the image, even if we didn’t want to.  Words are powerful. Sticky.

A simple image. Another day. Another step. Skewed. What are you messing with? I already know the answer. Tell me what it means.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SKEWED

 

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Lose Your Right Mind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I have made some incredibly bad decisions in my life that set off a chain of events that led to some extraordinary, life-illuminating experiences. Conversely, I have made some incredibly good, well-considered decisions that led me to total devastation. My life reads like one of Aesop’s Fables.

The “bad” decisions were “irrational” and “spontaneous” and some of my pals  questioned whether or not I was in my “right” mind.

The “good” decisions were “rational” and I was lauded for using common sense, for my clear-eyed, right-minded logic.

Intuition, following your gut, listening to your heart has very little to do with the rightness of mind.

Back in the previous century (20 years ago), educators were awash in the term “the mainstream.” Getting divergent students back into the mainstream was the stated goal of most alternative education programs. Doug, my hero of the alternative path, champion of finding the stream that worked for the student (as opposed to channeling all students back into a single stream), used to snarl, “I’d love to see this mainstream if someone would be kind enough to point it out to me.” (note: this is not a direct quote as I’ve cleaned up Doug’s language for my less sturdy readers).

In mythology it is called the left-hand path, this route that makes no sense to adherents of the mainstream. The left-hand path is intuitive and counter-intuitive, all at the same time. It seems nonsensical to sail toward the edge of the known world. Explorers, artists, innovators, mystics, must take this road less traveled. They must wander off the main and cut a new path. They must. Their fellows will wonder if they’ve taken leave of their senses. Left their right mind. The answer: no. They are following a deeper call, something speaking to their senses. They’ve left a mainstream that appears to them like total madness.

If logic is your compass it is, of course, best to stay on the road well-traveled. If safety and security is your goal, then a known path holds what you seek.

If knowing where you’re going sounds a lot like a death sentence, then leaving your right mind for a left-hand path is the only choice that makes sense.

Truth? I think the right-mind is bit of rhetoric that has little to do with the realities of being human. We find the rational side of things comfortable so it gets good marks. No one gets a cake-walk in this life. Everyone has a mountain to climb, a valley to get lost in, a spontaneous jump to make, a gut feeling, a heart to be listened to – and some of the worst impulsive decisions inevitably lead to the most profound growth experiences. It is only after the fact, when we need to make sense of our nonsensical leap, our follow-the-heart choice, that we call on the “right” mind to make the story coherent. Just ask Aesop.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about RIGHT MIND

 

 

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Emerge [on KS Friday]

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There is a famous season of fog unique to the San Joaquin valley called The Tule Fog. It is dense and otherworldly. Early in my life, as the stage manager of a children’s theatre company, I drove into The Tule Fog almost daily.

Early each morning, in a van loaded with actors and sets and costumes, we’d leave the  highway en route to a school, dropping down into the wetlands and into the white wall of fog. The entire known world would disappear. The horizon vanished. Any sense of up or down faded. We’d creep through the Tule Fog with no actual feeling of progress; the wheels turned, the engine hummed, but there was no way of knowing whether we progressed down the road or whether our wheels were spinning on a treadmill.  Occasionally, a car would pass going the other direction. We knew it more as a disturbance in the fog, something we felt rather than saw. It was harrowing.

Time suspended. All conversation, all noise ceased. It was a true liminal space, not here or there, all orientation gone. It was as if were in the boat on the river Styx, crossing over.

And then, we’d rise. Or the sun would reach to us. And the dense white Tule Fog would release its grip on us. It let us go. And we’d emerge like time travelers coming home to a place we once knew. I’d relax my grip on the wheel and breathe a sigh of relief.

WHEN THE FOG LIFTS, is my soundtrack to those early mornings in The Tule Fog. Moving forward fueled by nothing greater than the belief that there will be another side, somewhere. And then, the rise, the reach of the sun, and flood of quiet gratitude.

 

WHEN THE FOG LIFTS on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHEN THE FOG LIFTS

 

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when the fog lifts/this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Collect Your Stories [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We haunt the local antique stores. We rarely buy anything but, if we do, you can be certain the purchase is one of these: an old coffee pot, a wooden box, an old suitcase.

The suitcases are transformed into our “special boxes.” We keep the artifacts of our life – notes, ticket stubs, travel mementos… in our special boxes. They are stacked in our dining room and made more special by the flat rocks collected from our travels and cleverly arranged on and around our special boxes.

Kerri and I both have a thing for boxes and old wooden containers. Stand in the middle of our home and look any direction and you will spy a box. Some are small. Some are large. All are well traveled and have a story to tell. My brushes and paints live in one. I keep an altar-of-sorts in and around DeMarcus’ paint box. We have a box in our living room that is for the not-flat-rocks that we’ve taken from the beaches and forests and rivers that we’ve visited. Each rock tells a story.

Once, driving through Massachusetts, we stopped at a little antique shop and were attracted to a collection of small coffee pots. Four of the pots made the trip home with us and now live in our kitchen. They functionally serve as tea canisters (clever, yes?) but in deeper truth, they are markers in time. We moved out the old story and brought in the coffee pots, symbols of the new.

Coffee pots. Wooden boxes. Old suitcases. Containers of story. Containers for story. They make us conscious of the stories we collect and intentional about the story we live and tell.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE POTS

 

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this beautiful photo courtesy of our dear 20