Make A Mess [on Merely A Thought Monday]

One cannot know life’s ups without experience of life’s downs. The quality that defines order is chaos. And, vice-versa.

In the same vein, Horatio hit me with a thought that gave me the shivers: wisdom is the blossom of regret.

Regret is one of those special words that is both a verb and a noun. To lament. A feeling of sorrow. It comes from experience. When he was young, Roger told me that he wanted to live a life with no regrets and although we’ve lost touch, my great hope is that he was incapable of living the life he wanted to live. He is made of deeper stuff.

Hermann Hesse’ novel, Siddhartha, is a story of arriving at wisdom. So, too, is his novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Far beyond the lands of understanding and knowledge, the fields of wisdom are born of messy life. Mistakes made. Fears confronted. Loss and awe. Illusions pierced. A protected life may fill your cup and bank account with information but will leave you with a limited palette of life experience. A full closet of clothes for the ghost that wears them.

Coincidentally, last week, Horatio and I both spent some time on sterile medical beds looking up at the bright lights on the ceiling. Doctors looking down. Suddenly filled with gratitude for the regrets that we’ve racked up in this life.

Sitting by the river, watching the river flow by, we compared notes. We shared life stories. How on earth did I get to be so lucky?

read Kerri’s blogpost about CATERPILLAR ON A ROPE

Give It Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Awe” is one of those complex words that contains its opposite. Wonder and dread. Astonishment and fear. Respect for the power of nature. Reverence. It’s a full-spectrum word.

Awe is what you feel standing at the ocean shore, knowing the waves will rush in long after you are gone. Water pulling at your ankles. Toes in the sand. Staring into eternity.

Awe is a perspective-giving word. It makes us both tiny-in-the-universe and fortunate-beyond-words, all in the same moment.

Once, I stood on a mountaintop in the bitter cold of dawn. The sun broke over the horizon and washed over me with a wave of warmth. Life-giving. Literally. I stopped shivering when the sun touched my bones. Filled with awe, I started to laugh and cry. Beautiful, magnificent and painful.

We stood on the deck and watched the cloud tower above us. Threatening and astonishing. She showed me the photo. “The wire makes it,” she said holding the screen so I could see it, “It gives it perspective.”

Perspective. Correct regard for the truly awesome power of nature.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TOWERING CLOUD

Look Around [on DR Thursday]

My sketchbooks are punctuated by weird landscapes. It was a practice. When I felt the need to draw regularly, to exercise my artistry, I worked on compositions for future paintings. And, when I had no idea what to draw, no composition in my head, I sketched my weird landscapes. They were fun and I got lost in them.

There was a blowback effect. I’ve never been a landscape artist. I considered my weird landscapes as not-serious exercises. Yet, they were made of scribbles and patterns and it became a game to collect patterns from nature. My not-serious exercises required me to look around. To get close. To look at the edges and splashes and etchings available in nature. To see. My weird landscapes became eye-opening meditations.

There are miracle-patterns in bark. Orchids, I recently learned, are a master-class of pattern, shape, and color. It is impossible to find a hand painted brush and ink painting as perfect or as spontaneous and lively as the strokes on the rattlesnake plant. Go to the garden if color combinations are in question.

I will never invent anything as imaginable, as impossibly beautiful, as what already exists in this world. I will never produce any painting as glorious as the paintings in nature. The best I can do is play. Look and marvel. And isn’t that a great relief?

read Kerri’s blogpost about RATTLESNAKE PLANT

eve © 2006 david robinson

Look At You Look At Me [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s taken me this long to discover the source of all cartoon characters: orchids. I’m not kidding. At a recent field trip to the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Orchid Exhibit, I was surrounded by brightly colored fantastic faces, playful and chuckling. “Look at this one!” Kerri exclaimed. “It’s the Imperial Margarine guy!” I thought it was a whacky Pope or funny Cardinal, but the idea was the same.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Emerson’s quote was stenciled on the wall as we exited the exhibit. And the laughing flowers made me laugh. Truly. I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Surrounded by color and delight and whimsy, I found myself more than once pointing, “Look at this one! Oh My God!” And, I felt like the colorful faces were staring back at me, thrilled to tears by the odd looking human standing before them. I-look-at-you-look-at-me. “Look at that face!” they snickered.

The thought stopped me in my tracks and filled me with wonder. We personify everything, projecting our humanness into everything. The art of animation, the world of Disney, is rooted in our desire to project ourselves onto and into the world. Talking mice. Dancing candlesticks. Humpty Dumpty. Wise old trees. Wouldn’t it be lovely, and isn’t it hopeful, to think the world projects itself into us? I want the orchids to fill me with color and awe. To project themselves into me. I know the forests I walk through infuse me with quiet. I know Dogga pulls love from my deepest soul.

Participants. Relationship, rather than controllers. Dancers rather than dominators. Would we be so invested in killing each other for imagined supremacy if we allowed ourselves to laugh the laugh of the flowers? If we actually understood that nothing is forever, that our warmongering was at best delusional? That the single trait that makes us human is to turn and help someone in need? The very capacity that allows us to project ourselves into the orchids is the same capacity that makes it possible to stand in the shoes of the other. Empathy is a two-way street.

If the earth laughs in flowers, these days it certainly cries in humans. Yet, standing amidst the orchids, I looked at all the human faces, hundreds of people wide-eyed with wonder and alive with astonishment. The laughing orchids looking back at the astonished faces, open and vulnerable, and they were evoking those qualities from the crowd. Earth’s tears. So hopeful, these faces, drinking in each other’s beauty.

read Kerri’s blog post about FACES

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

 

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assume awe ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood