Flip And Flop [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I admit it. We are both dedicated flip-flop wearers. We’d rather be barefoot and flip-flops are the closest-to-barefoot-shoe-option. We are surrounded by friends with fallen arches and riddled with warnings about proper-support-as-we-age. Yesterday, Yaki told me I was young-at-heart and I took his words as affirmation that Kerri and I have many flip-flop years ahead of us.

All I can say is that we are as capable of denial as anyone. Despite midnight calf cramps, sometimes aching knees and backs, we slip on our flip-flops and head out the door to walk the neighborhood. As counter measures, we eat bananas for potassium to ward off the leg cramps. We drink more water. We drink more wine. There is so much necessary-and-serious-strategy in our flip-flop dedication!

People identify through their footwear choices and, as people, we are no exception. Someday in the far distant future, we are going to get in trouble with Nurse Ratchet for continually taking off our shoes. “Flip-flops are a tripping hazard!” the good nurse will admonish as she reties our blocky sensible shoes onto our feet. We’ll wait for her to leave the room and say, “I never had much sense anyway,” as we kick off the clunkers and slip on our favorite tripping hazards. “It’ll give me a good reason to fall down,” I’ll wink and say, which will inspire Kerri’s favorite oldie-timey moniker for me: “Smartypants,” she’ll sigh, followed by, “Now, help me put on my flops.”

read Kerri’s blogpost on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Imagine The Shadow [on KS Friday]

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.” ~ Grandma Moses

Among the many reasons I love autumn is the color of the light. Looking out of the kitchen window this morning I was bowled over by plants resplendent in orange and pink. I was so taken by the color that I forgot I was cooking and nearly burned breakfast.

We hiked yesterday. The trail was steep and rocky but, thankfully, the trail wound under the canopy of the forest. It was a hot day and the shade made our path bearable. We stopped often to breathe and enjoy the remarkable shadows cast by the trees. The leaves glowed and waved, backlit by the sun.

Imagination. The capacity to make images in the mind. It is the most basic of human capacities. We spend our lives imaging ourselves in tragedy and in triumph. Yearning and fear are both shades of imagination. “What if…?” is a question borne of imagination.

“Wait!” Kerri suddenly instructs, stopping me in my tracks. When the sun is low in the sky and our shadows make us skinny giants, she likes to capture our distortion. Shadows do not resist the curvature of the earth. They do not try-to-be. They simply conform to the circumstance and, inevitably, moving through a festival of color changes, blend into the purple dusk.

While she focuses her camera on our shadow, I appreciate the glow of the negative spaces, the yellow-autumn warmth heightened by our grey-blue silhouette. I giggle imagining we are as skinny-tall as the shadows we cast. “Hold still,” she whispers, not realizing my giggle is making the shot impossible. While stilling my shadow, in my mind, we reach and pluck the reddest of leaves from the tippy top of the maple tree.

Waiting (from Joy)

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHADOWS


waiting/joy © 1998 kerri sherwood

Chisel [on DR Thursday]

The conversation in the car was about astrology. I am an Aquarius. Confusingly, the water-bearer is an air sign. Kerri is Aries; fire. “Air is necessary for fire,” she laughed. As in most metaphors and models, each element transforms the others. It’s creation-in-motion. Life is a great shapeshifter. A single element is undefinable without the others.

The same is true with people. We only know who we are relative to the others in our lives. The heat of our relationships transform us. Transformation is a daily reality, a common experience, but so ubiquitous that it goes unseen. We only notice it when the volcano erupts or when we wake up one day and say to ourselves, “I am different now.”

The beautiful canyons in Utah were, over eons, carved by water. Zion. Arches. The Grand. Everyday, water meets earth. Heat and wind. Sculpture.

Long drives bring reminiscence. Something sparked our conversation about the canyons we’ve carved in our lives. Everyday, trickles of water. Relationship. Slow, almost imperceptible changes. One day, after years and years, you look in the mirror and see the colors revealed by erosion and time. The chiseled shape. Pieces and parts that felt essential, washed away. What remains?

Beautiful. Crucial. Elemental. Still transforming.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WATER

face the rain © 2019 david robinson

Ramble [on DR Thursday]

I’m like a two-year old: I want to know “Why?” For instance, the lichen growing on the birch tree is Hypogymnia physodes, but it’s also known as “Monk’s Hood.” Why?

There’s a wildflower also known as Monk’s Hood. I read that the flower gets its name because its petals resemble the cowls once worn by monks. However, the flower is also known as “Wolfsbane.” Why? What does the bane of a wolf have to do with the hood of a monk? I’m capable of inventing a slew of possible connections but they will be just that: inventions.

In an attempt to bore you beyond rescue, I’ve lately been fascinated by how much of our world is a blizzard of unhinged information in search of a context. For instance, conceptual art needs an explanation. Without a curator, it’s nothing more than a banana taped to a wall. Twine with a dirty sponge. Oddity seeking to be taken seriously.

In the 21st century, we measure relevance by the number of followers, not by the substance-of-the-matter-being-followed. It’s a popularity contest. Lots and lots of flowing information, most of it useless. Without use. Without substance. And, scarily for us: without being questioned.

What is empty content pushed through a fabricated context? “Breaking” news. MAGA. Q.

It occurs to me that society needs more two year olds! A healthy practice of asking “Why” would spare us from certain death-by-bloviation.

A cowl, by the way, is both a monk’s hood AND a loose neckline in contemporary women’s clothing. Wouldn’t the monks be surprised if they’d confused their cowls!

Now, get out there and find context for this bit of useless information.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LICHEN

pieta with paparazzi © 2010 david robinson

Find Your Flower [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I am learning that I don’t need to immediately accomplish every task. Our house has been an excellent teacher and I have gained the useful phrase, “delayed maintenance.”

Kerri and I have two different operating styles. Mine is a straight line and hers is a circle. She can start a project and leave it and think nothing about it. On the other hand, if I start a project, I can’t stop thinking about it until it is complete. I am only now learning that I tend toward the obsessive. I have a gift for the myopic.

I thought I was kind of a zen guy, easy going, and am shocked to discover that I can be a hot mess of fixation. Thus is the nature of self-discovery. Life is helping me loosen up.

We sat on the deck last night and talked of our childhood homes. The games we played. I drew pictures on typing paper with a #2 pencil for hours and hours. The world disappeared. I’d wait until the rest of my family was asleep and then I ‘d get up and paint on my wall. I thrived in the quiet of the night. I suppose myopic comes naturally to me. Single focus. Disappearing into my work.

I marvel that butterflies seem like drunken sailors, careening this way and that, yet they always clear the fence. They always alight on the flower of their intention. My career has been like the flight of a butterfly. I dare anyone to make linear sense of my resume. Drunken sailor. Yet, somehow, I clear the fence. I find my flower.

People ask me if I like my job and I tell them I love it. They, of course, want to know why I love it and I tell them that I never know in the morning what I am going to do that day. Each day the work is good. I fall into my myopic ways, sail into my conceptual universe, but have no expectation of completion. It’s like wrestling with a shape-shifter. And, so, to keep in the match, I, too, must shift my shape. I’m honing my inner chameleon.

There is a post-it note on the wall next to my desk. It reads, “Live as if the universe was tipped in your favor.”

Fly like a drunken sailor. Like Dogga, run in circles of delight. Learn to love your myopic ways, yet do as the Balinese taught: know that “it’ll happen when it happens.” What else? Sight – seeing the flower (myopic and otherwise) – is fully available when practiced without expectation.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WHITE MOTHS

Learn How To Use It [on KS Friday]

The young man came to our house to bid on a job. He is days away from becoming a new dad. We talked about becoming a parent, his hopes, dreams, and his fears. He and his wife have decided to homeschool their son; the very real possibility of his child being shot in a classroom was a major factor in their decision.

Having spent much of my life working in and with public schools, it broke my heart. Kerri and I acknowledged that, were we new parents, we’d probably make the same choice. “Every man/woman for him/her self” is winning the day over “I am my brother/sister’s keeper.”

Who hasn’t seen the video of a mother teaching her son what to do in the event of an active shooter at school? She purchased a bullet-proof backpack to help keep her child safe. Who hasn’t heard the description of what the bullet from an assault rifle does to the body of a child?

About the budding new democracy called The United States of America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” He also wrote, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” And so it is.

As I’ve previously written, as a child in school, our safety drills were about atom bombs. Outside threats. This generation, this young artisan, about to become a new dad, knows his son will have to drill against an internal threat. A country that refuses to protect its children and opts, instead, to protect its gun lobby, its money.

“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville.

Freedom is an art form. A practice. It’s an ideal that a community practices and creates together. No one does it alone. And, therein, lies our problem. Every man/woman for him/herself is not freedom. It is chaos. Anarchy. It has our children ducking under desks and carrying bulletproof backpacks. Or, avoiding school altogether.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about LIGHT IN THE DARK

transience/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Reach Through The Trees [on DR Thursday]

When my time on the planet could be counted in single digits, I drew the same picture over and over and over again. A cabin in the forest. A tree in the foreground. Among my first oil paintings was the cabin-in-my-mind.

For years, my cabin hung on my grandfather’s wall. When we traveled to Iowa for a visit, I was pleased to see it nested in a modest frame in his home office. It may be my first painting to make an appearance beyond the walls of my boyhood home. When he passed, my parents claimed the painting and it circled back to their house, where I painted it.

Last year, with my dad in assisted living, while moving my mom into her new apartment, I brought the painting back with me to Wisconsin. Full circle. We put it in a new frame. It rests in my office, sitting on the floor against the file cabinet because we can’t decide where we want to hang it. Each day, standing at my desk, I am, for a moment, pulled back in time to the boy who had to draw this cabin again and again.

Why? I certainly didn’t feel as if I was inventing it as a drawing exercise. From this vantage point I remember it as a recall, the invocation of a memory. My child-brain never questioned it. My cabin, as if I lived in a world before photographs and was trying to record what once was, trying to reach through the trees to what could no longer be touched. I had to draw it so I might remember it.

Now, with hundreds of paintings between me and my cabin in the woods, I wonder if every painting I’ve ever painted comes from the same impulse, reaching through the trees to what cannot be touched. Canvas on the easel has always pulled me into it, like a good story pulls a reader into a book.

It’s also a great definition of art and artistry. Just try and wrap your fingers around King Lear or grasp the deep well of Martha Graham. Kerri’s piano bounces when she plays it; she is little and her piano is grand. The force that comes through is beyond comprehension.

I laughed when my doctor told me that we rationalize things because we want to control them and, sometimes there is no rational explanation. No way to control it. Art regularly blows through the question “Why?”.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REACHING THROUGH THE TREES

See Beyond [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Breck, the small aspen tree in our backyard, is beginning to change its colors for the season. Although we have yet in our neighborhood to smell autumn in the air, Breck is giving us a heads-up.

A decade ago I wrote that, in order to see beyond preconception (thought), artists and entrepreneurs need to master two skills: pattern recognition and metaphor. Look for patterns and you will eventually see beyond them. See beyond the pattern and, as Ash Bhoopathy said, “The familiar will become strange and the strange will become familiar.” What an amazing definition of metaphor.

In this pattern cycle, the green becomes brilliant golden yellow as Breck turns her summer attention from the sun and sends her focus into the root for winter nourishment.

Kerri’s photographs are often extreme close-ups. She has a bit of Georgie O’Keeffe in her artist’s eye. Often, when showing me the latest photo, she pulls the-already-close-up-image into a detail. I am always amazed at the pattern beneath the pattern beneath the pattern. The plumes of the grasses are a festival of pattern. The many feet of the caterpillar, perfect suction cups.

Despite our dedication to our perceived differences, we, too are a festival of pattern. The operative word is “perceived.” Pull the lens close-in and our divisions disappear as rapidly as our skin color. Pull the focus farther out and we move together in a sweet-and-sour ballet. Koyannisqatsi. History repeats, a pattern, like the cycle of the seasons. Order moves to chaos to order to chaos…mainly in our minds. Order is what we crave, so purblind are we to seeing the ubiquity of pattern.

The plumes explode pink and red on the grasses The chipmunks have picked up their foraging pace. The geese have reappeared. The miracles are in the familiar, strange and surprising when seen again for the first time. The feel of the hand of the one you love. The moon on a clear cold night. The yellow rim reaching through the green quaking leaves.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BRECK’S LEAVES

Call Awe [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles, The End

Last week was unusual in that I had a sneak-peek at my end-of-life-review. When a trusted doctor looks at you and says, “This is bad,” when tests that ordinarily might be scheduled a few weeks out are rushed into the next few hours, when the palette of available options are mostly shades of black and all include the word “dire,” the life-movie-reel begins to roll. Mine did.

I’ve known for years that among the few choices we really have is 1) where we choose to focus, and 2) where we choose to stand as we focus. Point-of-view, labels slapped onto experience, the story we tell is a story we project onto the world. Rolling through the CT-scan doughnut, I looked at the story I’ve called into the forest. I listened for the story it reflected back at me, as me.

“Take a deep breath,” the machine instructed, “and hold it.” Holding my breath, I saw a single story comprised of many, many chapters. There are the life-pages that I lived in confidence, and pages that I wrote confusion. The shattering, the story of the pieces of my life scattered in four directions. Kintsugi. The pages of the phoenix. Pages written running from my art and the matching pages of running toward it. The chapter of standing still. The pages of betrayal and the balance pages of being betrayed. “Release your breath,” the machine chirped. “Breathe naturally.”

The forest will show me fear. The forest will offer grace. The forest will reflect back to me peace if peace is what I bring to it. Someday, rather than project onto the forest, I will walk into it, become it. A reflector of projections.

Take a deep breath. I’ve never been so appreciative of breath. Hold it. What a gift. Breathe naturally. Call awe into the forest.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOREST

Find Peace [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a tradition when we go up north. Kerri and I get into the canoe as soon as possible, paddle across the lake, glide through the lily pads of the channel, and enter the far lake to see the eagle’s nest. In truth, the nest is an arbitrary destination. We love being in canoe. We find peace and calm while on the lake.

We leave a walkie-talkie with our pals because we lose track of time. Once, we were gone so long, they came in the pontoon boat to find us so we’ve initiated the walkie-talkie solution. Also, more importantly, they alert us when there are snacks on the pontoon boat. Snack time gives us another destination, though less arbitrary. We lose our dilly-dally when Charlie’s voice crackles over the walkie-talkie, “Breaker-breaker! The snacks have landed. Repeat. The snacks have landed.” In the background we hear Dan say, “Tell them to hurry up or there won’t be anything left!”

Good people. The best. Good food. No agenda (other than snacks and happy hour). We walk slow. Sit by a fire. Share the meal prep. Laugh. A lot.

On the drive home I was thinking about the peace we find in the canoe. We point it in a direction for no other reason than to have a direction. That’s it. It matters not at all whether we arrive or, somewhere along the way, aim our canoe some other place. The peace is nothing more or less profound than having the experience. Exploring together. No expectation.

It also helps knowing that, if the canoe suddenly sprung a leak, Charlie is on the other end of the walkie-talkie. A simple, “Breaker, breaker…” and the pontoon cavalry would be on the way. Our rescuers would, no doubt, arrive with snacks. Lifting us from the water, Dan might tell us that the snacks were devoured en route to our rescue, but we’d know better.

There is nothing better than the simple peace we find on the lake.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAKE