Circle Back To Change [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A long time ago, in addition to naming my posts, I used to number them, too. Today, as I considered what to write, I realized that I had an old post sitting on my desk top because I’m slowly (very slowly) working on a maybe-someday-book called For Art Sake. I opened the old post and laughed aloud when I read it. It is  from a younger version of me writing about the wheels of change [I’ve made a few edits]:

1174. MEET THE FIRE

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – each of them had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to realize and fulfill their gift. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; change is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire (you can’t) but, once there, to be alive in it.

After ashes comes honesty. With ashes comes a deeper knowing, call it faith, that  somewhere deep inside, the phoenix-in-you will someday rise just as spring will always return.

[Kerri took these photos. They are the treads of the massive tires on the enormous earth moving equipment that is transforming our beloved Bristol Wood into a high ropes course. We grieve it daily, watching the woods reduced to ashes]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WHEELS OF CHANGE

 

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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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Write Into Life [on KS Friday]

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Kerri and I wrote to each other for nearly six months before we actually met. It was a written conversation that, well,…just happened. Neither of us woke up that day in December of 2012 and thought, “Today I will start a months long conversation with a stranger.”

I’ve read the entire transcript of our correspondence several times. What strikes me most, the reason I believe we wrote day after day, is how real, how vulnerable our words were.  We wrote about the grit and the mess. We wrote about art and love and divorce and loss. We wrote about family. Wine and coffee were consistent themes. The more we wrote the deeper we reached into the everyday and the monumental. One day I realized that I was looking forward to her next installment. I would grow anxious if there wasn’t an email in my inbox by midnight. At the time we called our correspondence The Roadtrip.

Looking back, we quite literally wrote ourselves into a life together. After months of writing I thought I should probably find a way to meet my Roadtripping partner. It was only later, months later, when I read the entire transcript of our Roadtrip, that I realized we’d written a months’ long love letter. I am, after all, a very slow study.

Kerri composed this piece a decade before we met. When I listen to WRITTEN IN YOUR LIFE, I like to think she was somehow prescient, that long before she actually began writing to me, she looked into the future and wrote, “Hey! Are you out there?”

 

WRITTEN IN YOUR LIFE on the album AS SURE AS THE SUN  available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WRITTEN IN YOUR LIFE

 

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written in your life/as sure as the sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

Chase The Bubbles [on DR Thursday]

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Some paintings don’t make it to the finish line and I suspect that this painting, Chasing Bubbles, will be one of those. I’ve been working on and off with it for weeks and that’s the problem. I’m not paying enough consistent attention to the painting to actually develop it into something good. Like an absent father I return to it every once in a while and wonder why the relationship isn’t progressing.

The playwright John Guare said that writers need to write ten bad pages to get one good page. Remove failure from the equation. Place the emphasis on the process and not on the product. Experiment. Play. Make strong offers.

The same principle is the reason why actors rehearse or artists do drawing exercises and rough drafts. A photographer for National Geographic (whose name escapes me) said that he shoots a thousand shots to get one really good photograph.

For an artist, silly notions like perfection interrupt the necessity of flow.

Kerri just thumped me. She looked over my shoulder and read what I was writing. “I like this painting!” she declared. She wants a stay of execution. She rapidly listed all of the reasons why I shouldn’t paint over it. “At least consider it,” she said, glaring at me.

I will consider it. After all, that is exactly what I have been doing. Considering whether or not to keep working it or start anew. Trying to find a way, given my spotty attention, to bring life to this Frankenstein. In either case, I am certain of one thing: this bad page will eventually lead to something good.

 

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Chasing Bubbles in process or perhaps in its last hours (thump).

read Kerri’s blog post about CHASING BUBBLES

 

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chasing bubbles (for better or worse) ©️ 2019 david robinson

Walk Off The Path [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a tale of two quotes. Both are from Jiddu Krishnamurti who is currently sourcing my start-of-the-day reading.

“To be religious is to be sensitive to reality.”

Kerri and I love to walk. In our first few years together we’d walk the streets and parks of our neighborhood, morning evening, midnight, sunrise. Each day, regardless of weather, we’d walk. Lately, we’ve gravitated to a few local trails. More nature. Less concrete. More quiet. Less noise.

When we walk we very intentionally leave behind all of the mind chatter, all the fearmongering of the day, the battles with abstractions. It’s as if we shift a gear and easily pay attention to the actual world around us. We look. We listen. We sense. We point out beautiful things. We stop and close our eyes and listen. “Did you hear it?” Kerri takes pictures of the extraordinary marvels that surround us. They are everywhere. Brilliant red berries in a winter landscape. A nurse log. The astounding color and texture of a strip of bark. Deer prints, like ballroom dance patterns, in the mud. A distant owl.

Our walks are my church.

“Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion or sect.”

I am living a life that is not going according to the plan. Some of my best decisions turned out to be my worst. Some of my worst decisions have turned out to be my best. Lately, I’ve been looking for jobs. This is new to me as I’ve been fortunate and capable most of my adult life of creating work. The gift of looking for work is the necessity of making a list of past experience. A life review called a resume.

I’m finding my work-life-review to be like our walks in the woods. Quiet. Sensitive to the realities. At this age-and-stage I am no longer what Kerri calls a strider. I am not climbing over bodies to get to the top office suite. My sword shattered some time ago. My armor is off and most likely by now covered in moss. Saving the world, becoming the next Picasso, finding the Northwest passage and all of the other battles of abstraction are no longer drivers for me. I have no desire to summit Everest. I have an endless desire to stand in this moment just as I am.

I have (for better or worse) walked a pathless path. And, I suspect that is true of all of us despite what topography we scribble on our resume maps. Truth is a personal path, the face behind the mask.

Master Marsh once asked me, “Why do you need to run at every edge and jump off?” When he asked the question I had witty replies but no real answer. Now, this is what I know: On my quest I’ve read a lot of books and had many, many brilliant mentors and guides. At the end of the day, they were/are pointers at best. The direction they pointed – always – was to the unknown. To the edges. The news from my life-review: It’s never found in a book or well worn path. It’s always found in a moment, in an experience, in a walk in the woods, holding hands.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURSE LOGS

 

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Slog And Smile [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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the melting ice castle

It is the mud season. The time of thaw. When snow and ice like magic return to their elemental form and flow according to the rules of least resistance. Downhill. Always.

It is the season that we wear our black boots, the pair that is good for slogging through the mire. On a recent squish through our beloved Bristol Woods we laughed at the sucking sounds our black boots made when we tried to lift our feet from the bog. The water gurgled around us. The sun warmed our faces even though the day was cold. We were glad that we left DogDog home. He’d have been a mucky mess.

It is the in-between time. Not winter. Not spring. This morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and still it snowed. The winter took a toll and everyone groused, “I thought we were done with that!” These same growlers only a few short months ago celebrated the return of the white stuff. “It’s the first snow!” they laughed and ran out to touch it. How fickle we are.

Or, perhaps, how ritualistic we are. Persephone must return to the underworld for a season. Demeter grieves and so the cold snows come. Months later, when the daughter returns to the light, the mother, over-joyed, allows the plants to grow again. Life returns. Tell the story any way you want. It is the same. A cycle of life. Equinox. Solstice. A time to sow. A time to reap. The root, rejuvenated, now pushes little green tendrils upward the sun. Rituals and celebrations.

Our ritual? Eager to get outside and walk, Kerri asks, “What boots shall we wear?” I respond, “I don’t know. Do you think it will be muddy?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ICE FALL

 

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Turn The Phrase [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I just read this phrase and laughed aloud: Conversation in English is often full of phrases not to be taken literally.

It’s the word ‘often’ that got me chuckling. I’d have been more sober if ‘always’ had been the adverb. Conversation in English is always full of phrases not to be taken literally.

My head exploded! She turned the tables on me! You don’t say! I’ll be dogged. It’s nothing to sneeze at! It’s more than you can shake a stick at! I’d rather stick needles in my eyes!

Isn’t it the best of paradoxes? Language, at it’s best, is inexact. It is referential. It can only point toward experience.  It’s why we have legal opinions, religious debates and news pundits that scream at each other.  It’s why we have differing points of view.

“I didn’t say that!”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Just what are you implying?”

Nothing. No thing. The absence of a thing. The absence of a thought (in English, a thought, however fleeting, is a noun, a thing).

Of course, in it’s inexactness, there is also an infinity of space. There is as much reason to reach, to ask, to discover as there is to push, negate, or differ. To put down your end of the rope. To shake hands not make fists. A common ground.

Word for word. Line for line. To the letter. It’s never black and white. In a toxic time, a poisoned well. Find the middle way. Heart felt. We need not stab each other in the back. Kill two birds with one stone. Pull your head out of the sand. It’s a piece of cake. It literally blew me away. They put down their swords. They reached across the aisle.

Well I’ll be! How ’bout them apples?

 

read Kerri’s blog post BOUT THEM APPLES

 

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