Listen To The Snow [on DR Thursday]

It’s snowing and it’s making me feel like wrapping in a blanket. Cozy and reassuring.

The tall grasses are bowing with the weight of the snow. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. The kind of quiet that only happens in a snowfall, like the world stands still and listens. We stood with our coffee and looked out the kitchen window at the enormous flakes falling. Quiet outside, quiet inside.

Yesterday we were in Florida. Bill called it paradise. I disagree. For me, paradise has seasons, an open window at night, the cold air driving me deeper beneath the quilts. Paradise calls me outside to walk. Paradise includes the infinite space that opens with the hush of the snow, when world rests and takes note. It makes the green shoots of spring that much more magical. Difference hones appreciation.

It’s good to be home. The snow serves as a welcoming committee. “Welcome back,” it whispers, reminding us of life’s rhythms, “It’s time to recharge.”

I look at my list of things to do and decide that I will listen to the snow. Today is a day to rejuvenate. To stand at the window and listen.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOW

In Serenity, 46×30, mixed media [my site is down and under construction]

in serenity © david robinson

Settle In and Listen [on KS Friday]

Columbus would sit by the stereo for hours and listen to his records. His collection of styles was all over the map: classical, jazz, country, pop…The vinyl itself was wide-ranging: 45’s and 33 1/3 rpm’s, thick records weighing 180 grams or more. One of my favorite memories is of a dark night, sitting with him for hours, as he played selections for me. “I wonder what this one is,” he’d say, pulling a record from its sleeve. Or, “Oh, you’ll appreciate this one. It’s really odd!”

His enjoyment of music was as much an exploration into the unknown as a return to old favorites; he listened to discover. He’d study, laugh at the quirky and savor to sublime.

Growing up I did not know of his love for music. I suppose with four kids there wasn’t space in his life for his passions since he was an avid supporter of our dreams. I knew he thrived in the mountains and liked nothing better than throwing a fishing line into a lake. His deep appreciation for music came as a surprise.

We brought his records home with us to Wisconsin. They aren’t worth much monetarily. Occasionally I thumb through the albums, pull one, and play it on our little suitcase record player. Over the holidays, Kerri brought out her parent’s LP’s and I pulled the Christmas music from Columbus’ collection. We listened and told stories of Christmas past.

Recently we wandered through an antique store and came upon the boxes and boxes of old vinyl records. Kerri quipped that her CD’s would someday show up in the antique store with my paintings stacked against a wall. I looked a the boxes and wondered what I should do with my dad’s albums. They will, inevitably, end up stacked next to my paintings and Kerri’s CD’s in some moldy old antique mall. So, perhaps I need do nothing with them yet.

Really, I am waiting for an opportunity, a night that I will settle in with the record player and pull Columbus’ vinyl from their sleeves and ask, “I wonder what this one is?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about VINYL

it’s a long story/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Take The Time [on Two Artists Tuesday]

20 plays a game with us. When we are on the road he takes care of our house and Dogga. He amuses himself by taking photos of obscure details in the house and then sends them to us. “What is it?” he asks. Kerri inevitably guesses correctly while I might get one in ten. He has a great artist’s eye and is masterful at finding curious patterns or unique views.

Kerri and 20 share an artistic similarity. They are both drawn to detail. The sublime found in the small. I walk through life mostly missing the minutiae so I appreciate being surrounded by two dedicated particularists. Because they torture me with the tiny I now – occasionally – find myself caught on a finer point. However, I will never be able to participate in their passionate conversations about kerning. I love their ardor for fonts but in serifs I have my limits.

The deep freeze over the holidays brought amazing ice formations on the pond. John O’Donohue wrote, “Take time to see the quiet miracles that seek no attention.” Bundled up with hands freezing outside of her glove to get the photo, Kerri snapped this marvel.

I’ve learned from 20 and Kerri that the quiet miracles are all around us. All we need do is take the time to see them.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE POND

Let It Rain [on DR Thursday]

We are reading Raynor Winn’s new book, Landlines. It is terrific. We make a cup of tea, get under a blanket on the old couch in the sitting room, Dogga asleep at our feet, and Kerri reads to me. Life does not get better than this.

A theme in the book is to put yourself in the way of hope. It has become my mantra for the turn of the year. Hope is coming through; stand in its path.

I started a new painting. I’ve been making sketches for a few weeks. It is the theme I snagged on when broken wrists and lost jobs stopped all artistic motion.: train through trees. As David Bayles and Ted Orland write, there is a difference between stopping and quitting. I stopped for a spell. Putting on my painter-clothes and descending into the studio felt like coming back into myself. Embodiment. As I lay out the composition and layered in some under tones, I felt as if air rushed into my lungs after holding my breath for too long.

We mimicked our smack-dab cartoon and took a midnight walk along Lake Michigan to bring in the new year. “Star dust is raining down on us,” Kerri said, in the first minute of 2023.

Stardust. Standing in the path of hope. A deep full breath. A good book and a warm blanket. A cup of tea. The excitement of rushing to photograph a train racing through the trees – and all things that inspire a painter to paint, a composer to compose, and two writers sitting side-by-side to capture their thoughts as the ritual beginning of each new day.

Life does not get better than this.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BUFFALO PLAID

Choose Awe [on KS Friday]

Of course, it’s not enough to appreciate the cloud-stripes that stopped our motion on the trail. I might have painted them in one of my pieces – for no other reason other than they are a cool pattern. Of course, I would have believed I was making it up. Imagination at its finest. But, in mid-trail, to peer up and see them painted on the sky-canvas sent us into a Google frenzy. You’ll be relieved to know that striped patterns in cloud formations are due to an oscillation called the Kelvin-Hemholtz instability. Phew! Not aliens or Van Gogh run amok, just ordinary old Kelvin-Hemholtz, unstable and oscillating. Again.

Nature continues to astound me. Nature continues to blow my imagination to new heights. As an artist, I am relieved knowing that I will never create anything as perfect or profound as what nature tosses up every minute of every day. There’s nothing left to do but play in these fields and appreciate the conversation. Since I am also a unique-form-thrown-up-by-nature, respecting the conversation, having deep gratitude for the moment, wouldn’t hurt.

Standing on the trail, watching the miraculous lines scratched into the blue-blue sky, I re-realized something important: Google might be able to explain it – which is no small feat – but explaining it, labeling it, putting it into a context-box also diminishes it. It gives us the illusion that we are separate from it; that we can control-it-by-rationalization. Visitors at the zoo.

Sometimes I think awe is a better path than explanation. I imagine that we might approach global warming, weather weirding differently, if we weren’t under the illusion that we could Google nature into submission. Awe is participatory, boundaries dissolve. I-am-that. Life beyond definition, beyond category and sub-category, glimmers.

Next time, I will opt for a few more moments of astonishment before reaching for my phone. Explanations and easy answers can wait their turn in line.

Lost. In the Questions ~ Kerri Sherwood

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STRIPES

lost. in the questions © kerri sherwood

Call Attention [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I spent the past two years working with engineers. I was constantly amazed at what they could not see and what I could not see. They were blind to what was apparent to me and I was equally blind to what was obvious to them. It’s what made us a good team. Once, Scott sent a spreadsheet and I stared at it like it was an alien. And it was. Numbers in columns and rows become visual statements for me. I lose the data in the pattern. The information melts into a design on the page. It was beautiful and incomprehensible to me. I had to ask, “What does this mean?”

Yesterday, Kerri and I took a long hike on a trail that we hadn’t walked for a few years. It was a beautiful day. I was overcome with appreciation. I recognized that we do not walk like other people. We stop often to look. Kerri takes photographs of detail. She sees the smallest of miracles and, rather than walk-on-by, she stops. She engages. She calls my attention to it. While she snaps pictures, I close my eyes. I feel the air. I hear the cranes and geese flying overhead. I call her attention to it.

The crystals on the window stopped me in my tracks. Standing in the door of my office, I looked across the hall through a room and to the window. The ice-branches sparkled in the morning light. They were like a magic kelp forest frozen in time. I called to Kerri and she came running, camera in hand.

I cherished the moment, not because it was unusual, but because it is our ordinary. What happens on the trail also happens in our home. We are not in a rush to get “there.” We stop often to look. We call attention to what we see.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS

Do The Important Thing [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

These are the short days of the year. The moment I’m finished with work, we head out the door for a walk before the sun disappears. Sometimes, like this week, when the weather is gorgeous, we walk the neighborhood during my lunch break. We are walk-opportunitsts.

It’s easy on the weekends to fill up the days with the-things-that-need-to-get-done. The gutters need cleaning. The leaves need raking. Winter is coming. Generally, we build the list around a walk but occasionally there is an inversion. The walk goes on the list.

I know we have our priorities straight. Even on the days of inversion, even if the list is lengthy and incomplete, we recognize that the most important thing is not the door that needs fixing or the deck that needs repair. The most important thing is to hold hands and take a walk. Together.

It’s how we appreciate our moment of life. The list can always wait for another day.

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

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Savor The Impossible [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Kerri and I have an ongoing conversation about design. Not graphic design or interior design. Life design. Is there a design, a predetermined path? A destiny? Our verdict lives on a pendulum. Sometimes it seems apparent: there is. Somedays it seems obvious: there isn’t. Both/And.

When we look back at our lives it seems impossible that we met. So many factors – millions, in fact – had to align at just the right moment for the arc of our paths to cross. Change a single aspect, one decision, just one, and our trajectory through space and time would have been wildly different. We would have tumbled through life never having known each other.

It’s hard to recognize in our most ordinary days that the same principle applies. Always. Each moment of every day we are making choices, tiny micro-choices, that bend the course of our lives. I once looked at the “publish” button and thought, “What’s the point?” I almost deleted the newsletter but, in a move that felt utterly impulsive and completely ridiculous, I clicked the publish-button. My life had exploded. Pieces rained down from the sky. I had nothing to lose. Why not. Publish.

Stories are told after the fact. “How” always comes second.

I clicked a button. A woman named Kerri responded. A conversation started.

Our coming together was nothing shy of mystic. Heaven and earth had to move for this possibility to become a reality – and it did. It moved. It felt as if unseen hands gave us a push. What are the odds? Astronomical. What about those hands?

Heaven and earth move everyday. Astronomical odds. Micro-choices. Ordinary life. Miraculous. Looking backward it seems destined. Looking forward it seems random. Design? Arbitrary? Yes. I suppose, either way, the real question is, “Do you appreciate it?” Do you know how impossible this moment is? Where else would you be?

Today is our seventh anniversary. Today, I savor the impossible and appreciate the design. Both/And.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUPPOSED TO BE

Discern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a little over two miles to Steve’s garage. When we drop the car for a repair, especially in the early morning, we like to walk home. The route takes us by the lake. We take our time, more stroll than stride, and breathe in the early morning quiet.

We are dedicated walkers. We’ve become dedicated seekers and creators of quiet. It’s as if we are counterbalancing the crazy-noise-of-the-news with a stalwart sanctuary that we take with us wherever we go. We walk slow enough to notice. We walk slow enough to appreciate.

There is, of course, a direct correlation between pace-of-movement and paying attention. It’s hard to smell the roses when racing through the day. Lately, much of my work-in-the-world involves addressing information overload. The pace-of-movement need not be physical, it also applies to the river of information rushing across our screens. It’s no wonder we’re angry and anxious and aggressive. I’ve adopted a phrase from my colleague, Greg; he calls the info-torrent More/Faster. We live in the age of info-gluttony and have difficulty discerning between what has nutritional value and what is dross.

Until we slow down. There is a correlation between the pace of movement and peace-of-mind. There is a correlation between pace and the capacity to determine relevance.

It’s why we walk to or from Steve’s Garage. It’s why we end the work day holding hands and walking the neighborhood. It’s why we begin each day sitting side-by-side writing. To slow it down. To discern relevance in a fast moving info-river of dedicated draff. To see what matters in a More/Faster world racing too fast to see anything at all.

We smell flowers. Feel the dew on leaves. Turn our faces to the sun as it reaches through the morning clouds. Real stuff. Stuff of the moment. The small discoveries available when racing to the next thing is the last thing you want to do.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MORNING SKY

Drink It In [on Two Artists Tuesday]

…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ~Vincent Van Gogh

We stood for a long time staring at the quaking aspen trees. Initially, we went to the nursery to look at grasses to plant against the fence. Tall grasses. Pampas. Oddly, Colorado called and we were drawn as if hypnotized by the siren song of the aspen stand. In the breeze, the leaves make this sound…

Like all things in our life, our backyard has been blasted to bits by the force of the events of past few years. We are now, slowly, pulling the pieces back together again. We’re working our way toward blank canvas, clawing our way back to zero. We are, at long last, beginning to dream the dreams that percolate beyond mere survival. To design life with more than duct tape solutions.

The aspen quaked for us and we quaked for it. We exchanged a silent promise. Not yet. There are too many things on the list that need to be done. But the promise is made and a design is taking shape.

The gift of free fall is that it indelibly sears appreciation of the small moment, the passing kindness into your soul. It’s a great perspective giver. Precious life is the thing that passes while wishing and moaning to be safe and secure somewhere else. If you’re lucky, as we are, you hold hands and experience the full palette of life experiences.

“The grasses remind me of the beach and Long Island,” she said. “Someday, we’ll bring the aspen and the grasses together. Both of our birthplaces in the backyard.”

A design intention. A new experience. A promise to a vibrant stand of trees made on a sunny day in a quiet nursery. Drinking it all in. Beautiful.

It is enough. More than enough.

read Kerri’s blog post about the ASPEN STAND