Direct Your Gratitude [on KS Friday]

Skip wrote, sharing some of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It was a breath of fresh air in a week that’s been chock-a-block with disrespect, deceit, and hypocrisy:

Skip wrote, “I love her discussion of what the tribe does each morning:

Here the school week begins and ends not with the Pledge of Allegiance, but with the Thanksgiving Address, a river of words as old as the people themselves, known more accurately in the Onondaga language as the Words That Come Before All Else. This ancient order of protocol sets gratitude as the highest priority. The gratitude is directed straight to the ones who share their gifts with the world. 

All the classes stand together in the atrium, and one grade each week has responsibility for the oratory. Together, in a language older than English, they begin the recitation. It is said that the people were instructed to stand and offer these words whenever they gathered, no matter how many or how few before anything else was done. In this ritual, their teachers remind them that every day, “beginning with where our feet first touch the earth, we send greetings and thanks to all members of the natural world.” 

Today it is the third grade’s turn. There are only eleven of them and they do their best to start together, giggling a little, and nudging the ones who just stare at the floor. Their little faces are screwed up with concentration and they glance at their teacher for prompts when they stumble on the words. In their own language they say the words they’ve heard nearly every day of their lives. 

Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.* 

There is a pause and the kids murmur their assent.

 We are thankful to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one. 

The kids sit remarkably still, listening. You can tell they’ve been raised in the longhouse.”

*****

A legacy of respect and gratitude. A duty to live in balance and harmony. An orientation of responsibility both to self AND other. Can you imagine – will you imagine – the members of our red team and blue team meeting on the streets and joining hands with protestors of all colors and religions and sexual orientations, starting each day, together, speaking The Thanksgiving Address, “Today we have gathered…” Directing their gratitude straight at the ones who share their gifts with the world. Gratitude set as the highest priority.

It is a legacy to be admired. Words that come before all else. It is a legacy to be desired.

*The actual wording of the Thanksgiving Address varies with the speaker. This text is the widely publicised version of John Stokes and Kanawahientun, 1993.

LEGACY on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about LEGACY

legacy/released from the heart ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Hug The Pain [on Merely A Thought Monday]

you're my favorite copy

Put on your seat belt. I’m going to indiscriminately fling stereotypes at myself and my wife and that requires me to indiscriminately snag other fish in my broad net of oversimplification. To make you feel safe in reading further, please note that this a not so cleverly disguised survival guide for two people living together in this age of stay-at-home-orders.

We are both artists. I often wonder if the universe put Kerri and me in relationship as some kind of whacky psychological experiment. Imagine the laughter on Mount Olympus! If you are an artist or know any artists, please join me now in making a list of adjectives: volatile, hypersensitive, moody, procrastinating,.. Now, multiply that times two. Let’s just say that we do not cancel out each other. We are certain that our friends invite us to dinner for the sheer entertainment value of hearing about our latest train wreck. We are both good storytellers so we take comfort knowing that at least we make our mayhem amusing.

True story: yesterday I apologized to DogDog that neither Kerri or I was an engineer. “You have hard duty this time around,” I said, patting him on the head. He didn’t disagree.

Since we are already standing at the edge of chaos I can see no reason not to jump. It was too late in our developing relationship when we realized that, not only were we both artists but we are diametrically opposed in our approach . Kerri is so detail-oriented that it makes my head hurt. I am such a big-picture-generalist that she regularly has to run screaming from the the room so as not to get lost in my thought.

Kerri organizes through piles. I organize by eliminating piles. I seem incapable of learning the lesson that what-looks-like-a pile-to-me-looks-like-order to her. I’ve probably set her back a decade by imposing my idea of order to her system of filing. We’re still looking for the project notes she lost the day I moved in and decided to help out by cleaning up the piles. Last week I attempted to hang up her snow pants and her icy glare melted my good intention; I let them slip to the chair where they remain to this day.

She is easier in the world than I am. If I begin a project or a painting it is nearly impossible for me to stop thinking about it until it is complete. I dream about it. I ponder and muse. Okay, go ahead and think it: he is obsessive-compulsive. I cannot deny it. In my defense, by bride is incapable of holding on to a thought or completing a single task. She works in circles. Attention deficit. Now, imagine, if you can, the process we’ve developed in working together. If we were a band, our name would be Creative Tension.

DogDog walks in circles around the house. I used to think it was a trait of his breed but I’ve come to believe that circle-walking is what happens to an over-sensitive dog when one of his parents is obsessive and the other is ADD. He simply can never relax since we are such a danger to ourselves.

She’s a New Yorker.  I am from Colorado. I was taught that talking over someone else was rude. She was raised in a part of the world where it is essential. Our conversations are sometimes hysterical but mostly shattered language fragments and hesitations. If only I were a better playwright!

Now, flip all of this too-much-information over. Perceptive, deeply felt, intuitive, adventurous, improvisational. Sometimes mystic. We crawl out the window to drink our wine on the roof. Our life is never routine, never dull. We cultivate surprise whether we intend to or not. Her artistic eye makes mine better. She pulls me from my obsessive mind so that I might breathe and relax. I help her step back from the detail and see another perspective.

The moral: there is no better collaborator, no more treasured companion, than the pain-in-the-ass pushing back on your idea, the one talking over you, the one challenging your choices, the one that you love and trust with your most vulnerable life & artistic decisions because (you begrudgingly admit to yourself) they see things differently. This equal and opposing force that shares space with you is the very reason you are capable of expanding your mind, your perspective, and your heart.  They are what you mean when you utter this word: together.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PAIN IN THE ASS

 

picnic table website box copy

 

Know They Are Watching [on Two Artists Tuesday]

deer tracks converge copy

We go to Bristol wood to return to center. It is a place of peace. It somehow breathes serenity into our overactive minds.

Sign of deer are everywhere in the woods. We rarely see them but we know they are there. I imagine they watch us. I imagine they silently encourage us to walk slower, to catch our breath. To listen to tree song. We delight when we walk a path where they recently tread.

Deer are a symbol of gentleness and intuition. Balance and peace. This summer, on the Island, we saw deer everyday. We would retreat from the contentious community back to the littlehouse, pour some wine, and take a walk. A deer would inevitably appear and we’d stop talking. We’d breathe. We’d watch. It would watch us, too. After a few moments it would leap and disappear and, with it, our day’s concerns would also disappear. The deer would shift our conversation, from a lengthy list of disgruntlement to the beauty immediately surrounding us.

I’ve decided that, in our broken-wrists-time-out, our goal should be to make the whole world Bristol Wood. That we shouldn’t retreat to find peace but should invite peace and balance and serenity into the rest of the day, no matter where we happen to be living it.

Things I used to know. Things I once practiced.

Know that they are there, everywhere. Watching. Silently encouraging us to walk slower, the breathe, to focus on the beauty immediately surrounding us and not on the other stuff. It turns out that balance and serenity are practices, not pursuits. They are choices. Peace-of-heart-and-mind do not exist in the woods exclusively. Peace comes to the place where I decide to allow it. To practice it. To make it a priority.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on DEER SIGN

 

deer in woods copy

 

tpacwebsitebox copy

 

Balance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

prayer flags 1 copy

Each day we sit on the deck and watch the personality of the lake change. We are witness to the power of the elements at play. Wind drives wave. Wave evaporates and moves wind. Lighting hits earth. Rain feeds the plants. Too much rain, too much wind, too much fire, devastates.

Balancing the elements. It is the central thought in many traditions. The cardinal directions are associated with a color and an element. North, south, east, west. Air, fire, water, earth. People need associations in order to talk about things. In order to know where they fit.

The colors differ from tradition to tradition. Sometimes black, white, red, and yellow. Sometimes blue, green, yellow, red. Sometimes there is a fifth element. There is always a center. When there is the understanding of center point there is also an acknowledgment that separations, experiences like north, south, east and west, are illusions.

Balance is a radically different intention than dominance. Taming-your-nature is not the same as balancing-your-nature. In the tame-your-nature idea, nature, your nature, is corrupt and needs to be controlled. In the balance-your-nature idea, your nature is neither good nor bad, it is a dance of energy, a push-pull of wind and fire, air and earth. In the balance-your-nature idea, there is no such thing as “wild.” because there is no intention to “tame.”

As you might imagine, the artist that explores the tame-your-nature mindset understands their artistry much differently than the artist that explores balance. I was born into and oriented toward the culture of tame-your-nature and so I divine through brush and story the push-pull between goodness and badness. Combat, combat everywhere. Right/wrong. Us/Them. Good enough/lacking.

I desire to see through the other lens. I suspect this desire is the epicenter, the driver behind my paintings. To understand the world I inhabit as energies at play, to know beyond an intellectual understanding that the distinctions don’t really exist; wind is not separate from water, earth is not separate from fire, people are not separate from planet. Illusion. Our division is a play of shadow puppets at best.

I think it is why we hang prayer flags at our littleislandhouse and at our home. Surrounded by combat, we are drawn by the desire to balance, we are enticed by the possibility of harmony.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

 

 

 

skylake website box copy

 

island prayer flags photograph ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Wait And Know [on DR Thursday]

Yoga-Waiting and Knowing sharpened copy 2

Flying above the island in his tiny airplane, Bruce told me about the natural water level cycles in Lake Michigan. They are extreme and run on a more-or-less 27 year rotation. “Everything in nature balances,” he said. “It’s what nature does.”

Balance. This painting, Knowing and Waiting, is about nature, human nature, and just like everything else in nature, we too, have an innate propensity to sort to the balance point. And, often, finding balance takes time.

The words are derived from Carlos Castaneda: you must wait patiently, knowing that you’re waiting, and knowing what you’re waiting for.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KNOWING AND WAITING

 

 

Yoga-Waiting and Knowing sharpened copy 2

knowing and waiting, mixed media, 48 x 48

 

 

arches shadows k&d website box copy

 

waiting and knowing ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 

See Two [on Merely A Thought Monday]

 nature of life box copy

 

“Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

I am fond of symbols. A horizontal line bisecting a vertical line. Two triangles interlocked to create a star. A black and a white swirl,  coupled to form a circle and each containing a dot of the other. All symbols of opposing forces interconnected and counterbalancing.

It is a story of two. Spirit and body. Male and female. Inhale and exhale. The pull of the moon rolling the tide in and out. Birth and death.

Most of us live our lives in abstraction, that is, generally removed from the push-pull of nature. Electric light. Hot and cold running water. Food picked from a grocery store shelf. Our trash easily goes to the curb and disappears.

We do not see that life eats life. We rise with the alarm rather than the sun. Perhaps that is why we engage in the ridiculous debate over whether or not we the have impact on the environment. We somehow have deluded ourselves into thinking we are not part of nature or worse, that we are above it. Our actions do not matter. Isolated, we somehow have come to live in a disembodied story of one.

Kerri and I walk almost every day. We often walk the same trails through Bristol woods or the Des Plaines river trail. We walk them through every season. The barren snowy winter, the budding spring, the full leaf of summer, the color and fall of autumn. As we cycled through the seasons on our trails, I am reminded that these symbols were always meant to help us live and understand life here and now, to engage fully in the dance between the natural forces, the story of the two. Interconnected. Counterbalanced. A part of. The middle way.

It is only when these symbols are mis-taken within the story of one that they become warring emblems. Self-righteous. Inert and other-wordly. Out of balance. Domineering.

Tornadoes are impersonal. Forest fires are not discerning. The tsunami does not pick its direction. The sun melts the snow without ire. Judgment has not place in a story of two. Building up. Tearing down. Sunrise. Sunset.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BUILDING UP & TEARING DOWN

 

 

arches shadows k&d website box copy

Practice. [on DR Thursday]

WaitingKnowingMorsel

a morsel from Waiting & Knowing

The quote is from Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality. In a nutshell, it is this: know that you are waiting. Know what you are waiting for. To me that seemed to be a kind of yoga. A practice. It is a practice that might be useful in the age of one-click fulfillment, twitter diplomacy, road rage, ubiquitous impatience. It is a practice with balance as its intention.

WaitingAndKnowing Process

in process

It is also a practice that in many ways encapsulates the art of painting as I understand it. So, it seemed a useful spark for a painting in my yoga series. Waiting and knowing. Balance. Sisu. The practice of being where you are.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WAITING & KNOWING

 

shadow bristol woods website copy

 

waiting and knowing ©️ 2015 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Fly Between The Poles [on DR Thursday]

Angel Morsel copy

a morsel from ‘angel.’ kerri calls it ‘you can’t hold the sun’

Icarus‘ wings were made of wax and feathers. His father, Daedalus, made them so he and Icarus could escape their imprisonment. Before taking flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too low nor too high. Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and his wings fell apart. He fell from the sky and drowned.

We see most of the Greek stories sifted through a post-Greek moralistic lens. Fly to high, hubris. Fly too low, complacency. The world as defined by polarities. Heaven, hell. Good, bad. Right, wrong. There’s another possibility.

Quinn used to tell me that the point of all the world’s religions, the message in all the great stories, is to find the middle way. To live in the center. This world, he said, will try its best to tug you to the extremes. It will dose you with propaganda, half truths. It will glorify US and demonize THEM. It will bamboozle you into twisted notions like ‘the dehumanization of others is okay.’ It is the lucky person that realizes that it is impossible to strip others of their humanity without also losing their own. Polarities are like that.

So, seek balance. Walk between the tug of the poles. It is the point of presence – live here, not in the scary future nor the regrettable past. Fly, not too close to either pole, but through the middle. Now. It’s possibly the point of the story.

This morsel is called You Can’t Hold The Sun. It’s true. You can’t stop time. No moth can withstand the flame. The sun will melt your waxy wings. The sea will make your feathers heavy with dew. Either way, you fall.

In the face of too much moralizing, Kerri will say, “If it’s not about kindness or joy, it’s not about anything.” That’s a statement from the center. I like to think that this center place, this middle way that Quinn told me about, is what we call love.

 

 

 

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

you can’t hold the sun/angel ©️ 2018/2004 David Robinson

Have Wings [on DR Thursday]

wings copy

This painting jumped to the canvas fully formed. It announced itself and I simply opened the door. It was not what I’d intended  to paint when I entered the studio. I had a wholly different idea In Mind. I’ve learned that the best work has very little to do with what I have In Mind. The best work comes from the other place, the place available when Mind steps out of the way.

Meditation, prayer, inner reaching….is a theme I loop back to again and again. Lately, I’ve been pondering what happens when we cease searching for peace and instead simply bring it. What if prayer/meditation was not a quest for center, a search for inner peace or quiet mind? What if there was no separation? What if prayer/meditation was a bringing to the surface of the peace that already exists? What if you need not search for it because it is already here? What if, like this painting, that place is available when we stop listening to a Mind that tells us the center is lost, that peace is somewhere over there?

I suspect my pondering produced this painting. Kerri calls it Winged.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WINGED

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

winged ©️ david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

Rest [It’s Chicken Marsala Monday]

From studio melange, Rest on Chicken Marsala Monday

rest WITH EYES jpeg copy 2

Karola was old and wise. She was one of those rare people filled with laughter that spilled over into everyone around her. Go visit Karola and you’d leave refreshed and giggling. Each moment, each day for her was new and vital and a siren’s call of unknowns and adventure. She found more miracles in her backyard than most people find in their round-the-world tours. She was alive. She paid attention.

She was also one of those people who always seemed to know what you were thinking before you knew what you were thinking. We met at the pool and swam every morning before work. One morning, climbing out of the pool, she said, “You are exhausted.” It was true. I had no juice in my tank and hadn’t for many weeks. During my swim I was pondering my exhaustion and wondering how I was ever going to get everything done. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to push through it.

“You never let your glass go empty! You fight it so hard that your cup can never refill. Stop fighting! Go empty. Rest. Allow some good space in there so new things can come in! She howled at my puzzled expression. “Rest,” she repeated. It’s the only way you will ever get everything done!”

From studio mélange on this Chicken Marsala Monday, listen to Karola and rest. Let the cup go empty. Make space for balance and into that space all good things will come.

REST gifts and reminders

rest product box bar jpeg copy

read kerri’s blog post about REST

www,kerrianddavid.com

rest and good things will come ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

‘rest…’ product designs ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood