Become Whole [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When Barney came to live in our backyard, he’d been long forgotten in the dank dark basement boiler room. His soundboard was shot. He was headed for the junkyard when Kerri intervened and asked if Barney might come live out his days with us. It has been five years since Barney arrived in the junk man’s pick up truck. He has aged beautifully.

The first day in his new home Barney spoke when Kerri played his keys. He let go of his voice one key at a time. Within a week he was silent, no longer what he once was but not yet sure of what he was becoming.

We adorned him with flowers in pots for a few summer seasons. Certainly, he was content to support the flowers – like a crossword puzzle, it was something to do – but it never rose to the level of purpose. We realized he was doing it for us so when the third season arrived we let go our desire to give him meaning. He heaved a sigh at our revelation, and, at last, purpose-free, he enjoyed the sun for no other reason than it felt good. That season, wild geraniums grew around his baseboard and embraced him, the chipmunks used him as their hiding spot. The little critters made him laugh as they stood on his blistering lid and taunted the rowdy dog.

Initially, we tried to slow his inevitable peel, slathering him with marine oil, but his skin wrinkled and bubbled anyway. The white veneer of his keys was the first to go. We realized that Barney was becoming another kind of beautiful. He was, as Rilke wrote, living his way into the answer to all of his questions.

Jen and Brad suggested in our stay-at-home-seclusion that we exchange images of spring. I stepped onto the back deck and recorded the birds singing. And then I saw the wild geraniums were showing up and gathering around Barney. He was absolutely gorgeous in the morning light, sculptural and at peace. I’d just read something Thomas Merton wrote and it perfectly described Barney on this early spring morning: There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BARNEY IN SPRING

 

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Turn Around [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jen suggested green. So, throughout the day, to keep us sane in our home-stay-life, we shared pictures of green things, surprising and ordinary, that we found around the house or in our walks. The next day was lines. Then circles. We use our seclusion to open our eyes and see what is beautiful and striking – and mostly unnoticed until now.

Late the other night, 20 and Kerri spent an hour on the phone. 20 is among the those at highest risk and has self-quarantined. There is a park close to his house and, once a day, when it is likely that few other people will be out, he walks the paths in the park. He takes amazing photographs and each day sends us his latest pictures. On the phone, he introduced Kerri to the app he uses to tweak his gorgeous photos. “This opens a whole world of possibilities!” she exclaimed.

Have you noticed the hysterical songs, art, games, mock-challenges (the is-it-a chihuahua-or-a-blueberry-muffin? challenge is my current favorite). Creativity flourishes within constraints. It is a form of paradox-magic that I’ve always appreciated. A good constraint has the power to yank people out of their daily problem solving morass and turn them around into the creative.

Robert Fritz has the best definition for this magic: problem solving is trying to eliminate what you don’t want. Creating is trying to bring into being what you do want. It is a matter of direction (wink, wink: the direction of intention). At first glance these challenges and games might seem frivolous but a deeper look always reveals something more profound. We are opening our eyes to what is right in front of us. We are sharing, trying to help each other through a difficult time. Our natural capacity for play and whimsy rises to the top. Possibilities rise to the top. Instead of asking “why?” we begin asking “why not?” We create.

Idealistic blather or pattern? Problem solving has a way of creating more problems – it is a myopic. Turn around and consider the world you want to create. Walk at that. You’ll find that your eyes open, your thoughts expand. Playing-to-play will be valued and necessary. You’ll note, with gratitude, that you are not in this creative ride alone.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CIRCLES

 

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Visit [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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All this week I’ve been lost in memories of childhood. Nothing indoors, my remembering is outside. Running through fields. Aspen trees. The sound of snow. The smells of coming spring in Colorado. The intense blue sky. Standing against a brick wall, face to the sun to drink in the warmth on cold day. These memories are more sensual than story. It’s as if, this week, I need to remember the feeling of being a child.

I’ve always loved to draw and paint. I’d spend hours drawing eyes and faces. I drew portraits of Colonel Sanders from the empty chicken bucket. I spent hours inside of National Geographic magazine drawing the figures I found there. I drew again and again and again a cabin in the woods that lived only in my imagination. I knew the place the first time I scribbled it on paper. There was a period of time in my mid-life that I thought I might someday happen across the cabin-of-my-imagination.  I forgot the feeling of being happily lost inside the world of my imagination. This week, I remember.

Up north, walking on a frozen lake to see the eagle’s nest, we passed this stand of birch trees. Andy Goldsworthy could not have placed them better. White and fragile against the forest, they glowed in the afternoon sun. They shocked me into presence. I was surrounded with people I love, the sun was warm on my face, the creaking of the ice, the smell of pine, Kerri’s delight. “Remember this feeling,” I told myself. Remember this moment. Someday, after you’ve long forgotten this day, you will reach back and be thankful to have this place in memory, this feeling, to visit again.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BIRCH TREES

 

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Receive The Message [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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It is my practice, when an animal crosses my path in a special or unusual way, to research the animal’s symbolism. I love story, mythology and the power of symbols (words are symbols, too!) – and, oddly, as a human, I am given to ask that most basic of human questions, “What does it mean?”

One night I had a very long eye-to-eye communion with a coyote. Two snakes crossed my path. Crows used to plague me on a daily basis. A white owl kept me company for a spell. Each was the impetus for me to dive into the symbol, the possible medicine or message of each visitation.

Kerri is horse crazy yet it hadn’t occurred to me until last week to spend some time with the horse as an animal spirit. We were up north on a brief get-away and Dan, in a fit of genius, arranged a sleigh ride. The horses pulling the sleigh were Bill and Ace. Kerri and Ace were immediate friends. They were more than friends. I watched a sweet magic swirl between woman and horse. There is no simple emoji for what passed between Kerri and Ace.

This past year has, for us, been a time of great upheaval and contention. Kerri’s broken wrists are only the latest-and-greatest slice in a year full of crazy pie. And so,  I stood witness to the immediate magnetism, the power of the horse to touch and raise Kerri’s spirits. In the sleigh, for the first time in months, Kerri completely relaxed. The tension and contention of these many months disappeared. She whispered excitedly about Ace and her love of horses. No doctor could have prescribed a better medicine for what ailed her.

Horses signify the overcoming of obstacles. They speak of how to carry yourself in the face of adversity. They appear to remind us to take care of our spirits, our minds and emotions and bodies. Above all, they symbolize freedom of spirit. Freedom. A horse can serve people but can never be fully tamed by people [I may as well have written of Kerri: she can serve but she will never be tamed].

A few days later, on our drive home, she was full of light and possibility. “I think we may have finally turned the corner,” she said. “Or, maybe, we should just live as if we’ve turned the corner.” Yes. What better way to address an obstacle, to carry yourself in the face of adversity, than to let your spirit run free, to live as if the hurdle was already cleared. No resistance.

I smiled and looked out my window. What does it all mean? Who cares. I whispered a quiet gratitude that a horse crossed our path and now my wife’s spirit is running free.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HORSES & SLEIGHS

 

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See The Series [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The closing moment of the film Love Actually is a wonderful montage of greetings at the arrival gate at Heathrow airport. The Beach Boys sing God Only Knows to images of children greeting grandparents, husbands rushing to their wives, friends opening their arms to friends. Hugh Grant’s voice over: “Love actually is, all around us.”

For reasons I’ve never quite understood, we human beings have an uncanny ability to focus on the negative stuff while completely missing the love all around us. We famously study ourselves and the data is overwhelming: we yammer on and on to all who will listen about the “bad” thing that happened in our day. We share the “good” stuff less and with far fewer listeners. There’s something about a fight that draws our eyes while a kiss will make us look away.

Stand on any street corner and  watch the world go by and one thing becomes immediately clear. There are far more acts of generosity than there are acts of violence. The kind hearts outstrip the mean spirits by far so why do believe the opposite?

Krishnamurti famously said that “Life is a relationship. Living is a relationship. We cannot live if you and I have built a wall around ourselves and just peep over that wall occasionally.”

Violence and division make for better ratings because it’s profitable [and easy] to focus the feed on all things negative. Low hanging fruit. It’s profitable to keep the eye off the thousand tiny miracles. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening all around us, every minute of every day.

What might it take to pull down the wall so we might more than periodically peep over it? So that we might see that love actually is all around us? To borrow a phrase from The Beach Boys, “god only knows.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A THOUSAND TINY MIRACLES

 

 

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Hear The Whisper [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A house remembers.

We took my dad back to his home town. It was a pilgrimage. He wanted to see it one last time. We walked through the cemetery. He pointed to headstones and told stories. He looked for people and grew frustrated when he couldn’t find them. He’d breathe a sigh of relief when, after walking row after row, we finally found them.

The pilgrimage was not to the cemetery. It was to a tiny little house that his grandfather built that he needed to return. To touch. Nowadays it is being used as a shed. His dad grew up in that tiny house. It was the center of his universe when he was a child, his cathedral.

Standing before the tiny house, he told the story of how his grandfather split open and pried apart the rafters, making a second story. He built on a small kitchen. He added a small bedroom on one side. There was a porch.

To our eyes, it was now barely standing. To my dad’s eyes, it was the most beautiful home on earth.

As we walked the perimeter I couldn’t help but feel that the house needed to see him as much as he needed to see the house. It remembered, “You came back!” It seemed to sit up straight, remembering the days that it housed a family, that meals were cooked within its walls, that children slept there. As my dad told the stories, I was overwhelmed with the notion that he wasn’t just telling us, he was talking to the house. And the house was nodding, smiling, “Yes, I remember…” The children ran free. Everyone worked hard.

As we walked away he knew he would never see it again. But he’d shared the story. He’d introduced us to this house, his-and-now-my sacred place. “This is where you come from,” the house and my dad whispered together, “Remember.”

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read Kerri’s blog post about A HOUSE REMEMBERS

 

 

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Point Your Nose Toward The Moon [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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This moon called us. We were leaving rehearsal, pulled out of the parking lot and were hit in the face by an enormous orange moon. “We have to go to it,” Kerri whispered. We drove to the shore and sat with the moon for a while.

Staring out of the truck (it was a very cold night and with broken wrists it was easier to keep Kerri buckled in), my energy running low, this super moon reminded me of a long-ago-book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX. The last few illustrations feature a beckoning moon. This is the Waterfox’s lesson for Lucy and, as it turns out, the Waterfox had a few words for me, too, on this moon-full night:

“The Sky is where you belong! Fulfill your heart’s longing and let the pack think what they think! Everyone knows that most foxes don’t swim and most foxes don’t fly, it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they don’t try. A fox whose heart soars like yours needs to dance in the air. Remember: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word!” With that he gave her a wink, tipped his big hat and swam out of sight.

And so, while the other foxes nestled deeper into sleep, Lucy pointed her nose toward the moon. She took to the sky repeating his words so she’d never forget: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word.”

 

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from my children’s book, Lucy & The Waterfox

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SUPER MOON

 

 

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