See The Dance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“You can only push the truth down for so long, and then it bubbles back up.” ~ Cassandra Clare

“Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Last night we made a fire in the fire pit. We decided to have a pop-up dinner by the fire so we set up our table, lit candles, poured some wine, and brought our dinner out under the stars on a chilly October night. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky so we looked at the stars. We wondered if the brightest lights were planets.

There are many, many works of art from a genre in the Middle Ages known as the Dance Macabre. Dance with death. The scary images were meant to remind people of life’s fragility, its passing nature. They were also meant to point out the obvious: we are all united in our final destination. No one is better or worse than any other in the grand scheme of things, in the Dance Macabre. In the Middle Ages, the allegory was meant to suggest it was best to aim your focus at the afterlife. Do good works as an investment in your future or go to the fiery place below.

Were I to paint a series of Dance Macabre images today, my intent would be the exact opposite: aim your eyes at this moment. There is nothing more precious or wonder-full than this moment. If there is a heaven, it is now. And, it will go unnoticed if the dance is not acknowledged. There is no sadder phrase on earth than, “Same-old-same-old.”

According to some cultures, I am now in sacred space. I’m seeing all things relative to my dad’s recent passing. Sitting by the fire, our dinner complete, we talked about his death and my inability lately to invest too much emotional energy in anything. Things that would have upset me a few months ago barely register. I’m watching the usual list of anxieties and worries drop off. Why would I give an ounce of my wonder to something so…small? Perspective is the gift of the dance macabre. Clarity of sight and intention comes with this kind of perspective.

We clinked our glasses, the cold night and the heat from the fire colliding around us under the stars. DogDog slept on the deck, a few feet away. We realized our moment. Fully. Magic was alive, bubbling everywhere.

read Kerri’s blog post about BUBBLES

See The Wonder [on Merely A Thought Monday]

What is this thing called ‘wonder’ and where does it go? Awe. Astonishment. Surprise. The stuff of sunrises and sunsets. The first. The last.

I am of the opinion, like most people I know, that wonder does not go away. We simply stop looking through eyes that see it. Been there, done that. Nothing new. The daily grind. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It’s too bad. It’s no way to live.

We moved our chairs to catch the sliver of sun. We sat, closed our eyes, bathed in the warmth, and sighed. Wonder need not be complicated. Tom Mck, his mind already slipping, forgetting why we came to the cemetery, heard the grieving husband across the way wail in pain. “Listen to the wind!” he said to me, eyes wide in amazement.

“We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on and our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep.” ~ William Shakespeare, The Tempest. We are such stuff. It is a very short window, a single moving moment, rounded with a sleep. The real question is: What moment in this brief life is NOT alive with wonder?

read Kerri’s blog post about WONDER

Meet The Saw [on Merely A Thought Monday]

As the magician saws the woman in half, he tells her that, “Magic is not an exact science.” It is among my favorite Flawed Cartoons.

“There’s nothing sadder than a forty year old production assistant,” she said, sipping her drink, looking across the room at a man she clearly thought was a loser. I was living in Los Angeles and was at a party with movers-and-shakers. The gathering also included a few of the people who carried the cables, loaded the trucks, moved the electrics – the lowest rung on the ladder. The runners. I swallowed hard. At the moment she said it, I was thinking the exact opposite. There is nothing more interesting than a forty year old production assistant. I wanted to be standing with the very man she considered a loser. He’d have stories to tell. Experiences to share. The movers-and-shakers bored me. Dulled by their dedication to security, thoroughly protected from the unknown or surprising experiences, they sneered at the people who’d actually lived. I found my way across the room and spent the rest of the evening sitting in the kitchen talking with a man who traveled the world.

Were I at the party today, she would look across the room at me and whisper, “Sad.”

Life is like magic. It is not an exact science. Ideals collapse. Dreams implode. Yet, the luckiest people I know are the few who have stepped out of their seats and volunteered to climb on to the stage. They’ve taken chances. Built wood buses or put their lifeblood into starting a theatre company or went boarding instead of dying in a cubicle. They’ve stepped beyond traditions and expectation. They’ve been cut in half, opened, challenged, surprised, disappointed, scared, triumphant, awed. They’ve learned. They’ve questioned their beliefs and perceptions. They’ve made titanic mistakes. They’ve stared down their demons. They’ve opted for curiosity rather than being right. They stepped off the edge. They followed, “What if…”

There’s no shortage of people who watch life from the safety of their seats. As Tom used to say, “They paint with a limited palette.” There are those lucky few who, if you see them at the party, most likely the people serving drinks, who’ve been cut in two and know from scary experience that there’s nothing more numbing or illusory than certainty. Follow them into the kitchen and ask about their lives. You’ll be amazed at the full spectrum of colors you find in them.

read Kerri’s blog post about SAWED IN HALF

flawed cartoon ©️ 2016 david robinson

Live A Sockdolager [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Word genius sends me a word everyday. Some I know. Most I do not. Yesterday, my word-of-the-day was sockdolager. Sockdolager is a word that, when typed, is unrecognizable to the vocabulary in my spellcheck and is adorned with a screaming-dotted-red-line meant to notify me that either I spelled the word incorrectly or it’s not a word at all. Language is a fickle companion.

In Seattle, when the rains clear, people are fond of saying, “The mountain is out.” Mount Rainier, hidden in the clouds, makes a grand – almost impossible – appearance when the weather clears. Where there was no mountain, suddenly a Titan appears. It is a sockdolager, an exceptional occurrence. A forceful blow. The first time I saw it I almost crashed my car.

Mount Sopris hit us with a similar wallop. We arrived in Carbondale “in weather.” A day later, making a run to Main Street to meet Kirsten, we rounded a corner and nearly crashed the truck. There was a mountain towering over us where, previously, there was none. Clouds swirled around the summit. The late afternoon light made it glow. Sockdolager! Sockdolager!

I very much appreciate that my snotty spellcheck does not recognize or appreciate my use of sockdolager. No word can adequately capture the experience of being hit by a mountain. “Awe” is a word. So is “amazement.” They fall short, too. Language can reach toward but never quite touch that which it hopes to describe.

The day after the wallop we took a stroll on the Rio Grande Trail. We intentionally walked away from Mount Sopris, knowing that, at some point, to get back to our airbnb, we’d need to turn around and walk toward it. Like Orpheus leading Eurydice, we tried not to turn and peek but the majesty was too much. We’d giggle and turn and gasp. “My god!” we whispered.

We go to the mountains to remind us, to refresh our eyes and hearts and minds. This life. An exceptional event. A forceful blow. Grander than words can describe. Sometimes the mountain is hidden. Sometimes it shows its face. Either way, it never ceases to surprise you, to take your breath away. Sockdolager.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE MOUNTAIN

Leave It At The Door [on DR Thursday]

assumeawe WITH EYES jpeg copy 2

There is a simple exercise that I am particularly fond of but less than terrific at practicing. It goes like this: don’t drag yesterday’s trash into today. See this day as it is: new. Live this day without the control fantasy of believing that you know what will happen, that you know or can control what other people think. Recognize that the burden you carry is exactly that – something you carry. Put it down for a spell. It will be there when you are ready to pick it up.

It’s not an exercise in denial. It’s actually the opposite. It’s an exercise in dealing with the real moment rather than the imagined monster. You’ll be amazed at the world of light, color, and possibility that opens when yesterday’s trash stays in yesterday, when the weighty story wrapped around the past-moment drops away.

I used to tell my actors, when entering the rehearsal hall, to leave their day at the door. Rehearsal halls, like artist studios, are sacred places. The art of the theatre is the mastery of presence and it’s a necessary skill to tuck the story-of-the-day into a safe keeping box before stepping onto the stage. And, what if, as master Will wrote, all the world is a stage? It seems to me that the art of living is the mastery of presence.

I call it the “garbage layer,” those moments when I am first coming out of sleep. Coming up from the bottom of the slumber-ocean there is a surface layer where all the trash floats. It is coming through the garbage layer that I have the option of leaving behind or picking up yesterday’s flotsam. The nagging to-do list, the contention, the worries, the fears and fights can all be scooped up and hauled into the new day or the story-of-yesterday can be left at the door.

And when I leave yesterday’s garbage in yesterday? An entirely different set of experiences and assumptions become available. Awe at the light in the trees. Awe at the smell of coffee brewing. Awe at the sun and the enormous cat that purrs when I sit close.

[Chicken Marsala was one of our cartoon creations. He tickled the syndicates but never got picked up. We love him still. We designed all manner of cool prints, cards, cups and other stuff that you can find here]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ASSUME AWE

 

chicken and dogga roadtrip website box copy

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

FaceTheSun copy

face the sun, mixed media, 18 x 24IN

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

face the sun ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

Chicken Marsala Monday

Chicken Marsala thoughts from the melange to help you start your week:

MASTER assumeawe WITH EYES jpeg copy 2.jpg Almost every spiritual tradition offers a form of this thought: make no assumptions. Sometimes it is called ‘detachment.’ Sometimes it is called ‘the middle way.’ Often, it is referred to as ‘presence.’

It sounds so simple. Be where you are. Be here now. Aspirations always sound easy but are never easy to realize.

In my past life as a consultant/facilitator I regularly issued two “caveats” prior to beginning the work of the day. The first was, “Have the experience first, make meaning of the experience second.” The idea of opening to an experience, that they might actually be capable of stepping out of their roiling story of assumptions, was a revelation to my clients.

And, that’s the point. The revelation, the insight, the heaven-that-you-seek is just on the other side of the story-fog that obscures your experience of life. That is why it shows up so often in all-practices-spiritual. Quiet your mind. Make no assumptions. Open to what is there beyond what you think is there.

However, we are human. That fast running inner monologue, that incessant storying of experiences, pre-and-post occurrence, is what we do. So, a good first step toward the quiet mind, toward the suspension of assumptions, is to make life-giving assumptions. Our runaway minds chug down a track so why not put that train on a generative track: assume awe.

ASSUME AWE merchandise

assume awe rect. pillow copy

assume awe TOTE BAG copy

assume awe framed print copy

assume awe METAL WALL ART copy

metal wall art

 

assume awe leggings copy

read Kerri’s thoughts about Assuming Awe on Chicken Marsala Monday

 

melange button jpeg copy

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assume awe ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Play The Ukulele

888. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Last night I was at Ukulele practice in a garden on the shores of Lake Michigan. I am a rank beginner and learning to play the Ukulele with 47 other people. We were laughing our way through Over The Rainbow. I was playing air Ukulele pretending that I was expert at my chord progressions, when a sphinx butterfly circled us, flew into the garden right next to me, and began drinking from the flowers. It was close enough to touch. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was so captivated by the butterfly that I forgot to pretend that I was strumming.

A sphinx butterfly looks like an exotic hummingbird. It is shaped like a hummingbird, its wings beat like a hummingbird, it hovers like a hummingbird, and yet it is not a hummingbird. My section of the ukulele band completely dropped their chord progressions and joined me in gaping at the butterfly. We entered an intense debate about whether it was a hummingbird or indeed a sphinx butterfly. The people seated to the left of the garden voted for hummingbird. Those of us on the right were solidly in the butterfly camp. I had no idea so I went with those seated around me. Each camp had solid justifications and good reasons for their point of view. The butterfly paid us no attention. It was not concerned about our debate or our need to identify its species. It continued feeding regardless of the label we attached to it.

I can’t help it. In moments like this I step into the role of witness. I watched people enrapt by a butterfly. I watched their loving debate, their laughter, their awe. I watched this group of amazing people hold their treasured ukuleles of many colors – green, purple, midnight blue, orange, red, pink and sky blue, white and black – watching a butterfly of many colors – pink, orange, purple, salmon, white, blue and black – and I was in awe of their awe. They did not see how beautiful they were as they admired the beauty of the butterfly.

This is the role of the human being isn’t it? To see the beauty of the world. To appreciate and give a name to the awesome and unimaginable. To engage with the beauty and then to join in a simple way with the creation of beauty: this group who gathers each Wednesday night to play their ukulele’s together and laugh and drink wine and gape in utter amazement at a butterfly.

Await

696. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I awoke this morning to snow. It has been bitter cold during my days in Illinois but no snow. I put on my boots and took a walk across campus so mine might be the first footprints across the quad. There is rarely snow in Seattle so it was a treat to leave tracks, circles, arcs and squares in the fresh snow. And then I was very cold so ran into the Union for more coffee. The Barista said, “Welcome Back!” My first cup of coffee came just before my walk so it hadn’t been an hour since I was last at the counter looking desperate. “Your nose is red,” she said. I replied, “Yeah, I’ve been on a bender.”

My taxi didn’t show so the front desk called another cab. It, too, did not show up. The third and lucky cab came and the driver got lost on the way to the airport. I have been really bad at some of the jobs I’ve done in life and I wondered if my cabbie was having a moment of career revelation. I was certain I would miss my flight and busy making back up plans when we found the airport. Dashing into the counter, I learned that my flight was delayed for more than an hour due to snow in Chicago. I laughed and loitered and finally went through security. I’d be worried about my connection to Seattle but so far tmy assumptions have been distinctly off the mark so I’ve decided to deal with what’s in front of me and not what I think is in front of me. Lessons re-learned!

Megan-the-brilliant despairs and I am to blame and at a loss for words. Isn’t that an interesting phrase! I’ve lost all of my words. It is a blatant lie – clearly I am using words now – and yet I remain speechless. So, I sit in the airport more alive than I have been in years. It is not yet noon and the day has already been full of experience and texture and stress and forgiveness and snow. And coffee. And cabs. And, unexpected tours of Champaign. And, baseless assumptions (like all assumptions). I am in awe of a language that without question makes sense of a phrase like, “full of holes.” I am full of holes or perhaps full of wholes and either way I await what the next step will bring.