Step Forward [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In story terms, before leaving home, before walking into the dark woods, it is necessary to take a moment and wander from room to room to remember. One last time, to touch the life you are about to leave.  Just as ‘how’ something is done can only be known after the fact, so too, ‘who’ you are can only be seen at the moment of leaving.

Isn’t that why we look back? To put a period on the sentence before stepping into the unknown. Each run up to the new year, amidst the celebrations and hoo-haw, we review the traveled path. We touch it,  label it, put it on the shelf, let go, celebrate and grieve, and make resolutions based on who we want to become. And then, we turn and step into the unknown woods, the new year.

This week, Kerri and I have been wandering from room to room in the melange. Lingering in a spot, laughing about some of the things we tried to do, amazed at some of the things we achieved, letting go of the ‘should-haves’ and lingering in appreciation of the ‘what-is.’ In a year, we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. In a year, we discovered what we never could have imagined.

Last year, at this time, the melange was the dark woods that we stepped into. We had no idea what we’d find. We had intentions and dreams and ideals (oh, those pesky resolutions!). We started with some good advice. It came from Beaky and was our very first Two Artists Tuesday design. Live Life, My Sweet Potato. Step into that dark wood. There are bears and swamps and mountains to climb. Experience all of it. The celebrations and grieving, the lost-ness and found-ness. Life is not found on the other side. Life is found in living of all of it.

That’s what we found, touching back to the first week of the melange. An affirmation. Step forward. Live it all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MELANGE, WEEK ONE

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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Reason The Random [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It’s cold and getting colder. Alaskans might call us namby-pambies but the wind chill is racing for -52 degrees, so I’ve decided warmth is a much more valuable commodity than pride. DogDog agrees. He’s definitely more interested in a belly-belly than his usual Rin-Tin-Tin backyard run-around fantasy. Usually when I say, “Do you want to go out?” he jumps and yips and races me to the door. A few moments ago I asked and he rolled on his back and yawned. Never underestimate the power of circumstance to influence your choices and change the arc of your day/life!

We chose this image of snow on Sedum long before we knew that the next ice age would begin today.  After last week’s big snow, Kerri called to me from the porch, pointed to the Sedum and said, “Doesn’t that look like ice pops?” Pour Kool-Aid into Tupperware molds and put them in the freezer. The popsicles, ice pops, are shaped just like the snow on the Sedum. A good treat for a hot summers day. A good image to invoke good memories. A good image to invoke even more powerful yearning for a hot summer’s day! From snow on Sedums to ice-pops to the desire for summer sun on my face! I delight in how mind works! Random associations. Color my life rich.

Right now, as I write about the randomness of life and the power of circumstance, Kerri  is sitting next to me. She’s snickering, using a Snapchat filter to send a message to her niece, Wendy.  Amidst a sudden blaring polka, she just smiled and said to her phone in an impish little voice, “Here’s what I look like with a nose ring, lipstick and pink hair!” She laughed, sent the chat and showed her new pink doppelganger to me.

Cogito, ergo sum. Yeah, right! Someone should have told Descartes that thinking has almost nothing to do with it.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ICE POPS

 

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Play Your Part [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is our grocery store ritual. We wander up and down the tissue aisle and Kerri disparages the box designs. “Ugly!” she exclaims. “Who designs this stuff?!” she howls as frightened shoppers turn their carts and flee.

My role in the ritual is to suffer silently, to feign agreement. “Yes, it’s horrible,” I say. Inside, I wonder why I’ve never noticed or given any thought to the design of tissue boxes. “We should get a box cover that you like,” I suggest in ritual male fix-it-mode.

Kerri huffs in disapproval. “They should let me design the boxes!” she mutters as she rejects another design. I imagine the layers of security assigned to prevent her from gaining access to the tissue box design studio. A kind of tissue TSA. I turn away to hide my smile. This is serious stuff!

True to our ritual, on the third pass down the aisle, after each box has been considered and rejected at least twice, she pulls two from the shelf and thrusts them in my direction. “Which of these is least offensive,” she glares, making the decision mine. “Hmmmmmm,” I respond in a desperate attempt to stall. I’d be a fool to express a preference, especially since I don’t have one. I pretending to scrutinize the boxes. I stroke my beard, “I don’t know. What do you think?” I ask in ritual male-avoidance-mode.

“It doesn’t matter!” she frowns, tossing a box with a happy phrase into our basket, handing the losing dot pattern box to me. I gently place the second least offensive design back on the shelf.

“You’d think they’d design more attractive boxes,” she says, completing this ritual and heading for the laundry detergent aisle. Pushing the basket, I prepare myself for our next custom: opening bottles of fabric softener and huffing scents to find the least offensive smell.

As I roll toward this ritual assault on my sense of smell, I always think, “Well, at least the tissue ritual doesn’t give me a headache,” and I wonder how I lived so long without thinking about or at least considering the scent of fabric softener.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TISSUE BOX DESIGN

 

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Open The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The other night, over a glass of wine, I listened as Kerri, Jen and Brad talked of the things they’ve stored from the lives of their children. Finger paintings, drawings, school projects. There are bins of irreplaceable treasures, moments captured in crayon and paste. Their conversation came around to this question: are these treasures as valuable to the children that made them as they are to the parents that collected them? Who are they storing them for?

I don’t have children of my own. I’ll never know what it means to raise a child so the best I can do during these conversations is listen. I can, however, appreciate the enormous love that flows through the conversation. There isn’t gold or rare coins in those plastic bins. Yet, I am certain, that given the choice between a bin of gold doubloons or keeping their children’s artifacts, the response would be unanimous. The doubloons are worthless when compared to the memories stored in those bins.

Over the new year we went to Florida. During our time there we had the opportunity to go through the storage unit that contained the remaining boxes from Beaky’s house. It’s been three years since she passed. Beaky’s daughters opened every box and the majority of the items were sorted into a donation pile or throwaway pile. A few bins, photographs mostly, were too monumental of a task so were put in the third pile: sort someday. A very few artifacts, rare treasures, surfaced from the boxes: a calendar where Beaky jotted thoughts about her days, a special note. Letters and drawings that she’d saved. Something she touched and cherished because it came from one of her children.

My parents are still with me, I am fortunate, so I don’t know what it means to lose them. The best I can do during these times is listen. I can, however, appreciate the enormous love that flows through the conversation. I am certain, that when time blows us all away, our accumulated possessions, our stuff, our oh-so-important achievements, will hold little or no lasting value. Oh, but those small notes, those child-hand scribbles, those shaky old-hand letters…the artifacts of our relationships, for the children sorting through our remaining boxes, priceless.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STORAGE

 

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Fly Above The Clouds [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I was eighteen years old the first time I was above the clouds. It was a revelation. Even then I was in awe that I live in a time that I can see above the clouds. In the history of humanity, that makes me one of the few. One of the fortunate.

Miracles become the new norm and so, routine. Unseen.

Last week I was once again above the clouds. The sun was rising and the colors magnificent. I was propelled back in time to my first flight, my first sight of the thing Leonardo da Vinci could only dream about, what Van Gogh could only touch through imagination. I was revisited by my eighteen year old self and was once again awash in awe.

The cloak of routine drops and the miraculous is revealed. It is merely a matter of seeing it.

As I sat buckled into my seat, I wondered how much of my life I lose to the notion of ‘routine’ and, so, miss the obvious crackling truth: I’ve never lived this day before. I’ve never experienced this moment before. I am flying above the clouds every day. I have no idea what is about to happen, what I am about to see.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

 

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Read The Calendar [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Today we read the 2018 daily calendar and revisit the happenings of the past year. During the year, Kerri records in the calendar the events of each day. She tracks our experiences, big or small, and keeps her account nestled alongside the due date for bills, appointments, and birthday reminders. Astonishing sunsets. A special phone call. A remarkable meal with friends. It is our ritual on the first day of the new year, the inaugural of the new calendar, to read where we’ve gone, to revisit what we’ve encountered in the past 365 days.

I love this ritual. Inevitably, our review is punctuated with phrases like, “Wow! I’d totally forgotten that!” or “Can you believe that was just a few months ago?” It always reminds us how rich and full are our lives. It reminds us how much we forget in this fast moving river. It reminds us of the many challenges we’ve overcome, the troubles we’ve forded, and how much import and stress we gave to things that mattered little. It reminds us that the big events, the achievements, are rarely where the bounty is found.

It reminds us that there is nothing more important than sitting together at the end of  a cycle, the portal of the new year, and telling the story of us. We learn who we are by where we’ve been and how we’ve walked through our days. And, more to the point, telling this story of life-lived reminds us that, we will once again in a not-so-distant future, on the first day, review our year. So, to complete our ritual, we always ask ourselves, in the coming 365 days, amidst the unforeseen circumstances and uncontrollable events, what is the story that we will want to tell?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NEW YEAR

 

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