Open, Open, Open [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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“I found that I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

The first time Jim, one of the most brilliant actor/directors I have known, played the role of King Lear, he told me that he didn’t have enough colors in his paint box to do the role justice. He had more to learn.

It is the common thread and what I love about all the great artists. mentors, and teachers that have had so much impact on my life – they know there is always more to discover. They know that ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ is – is unachievable. So they look, engage, experiment, play, expand, reach, open, open, open…. Artistry is a life-long practice. It is a relationship with life.

“No one sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t got time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

 

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there aren’t enough crayons in the world ©️ 2016/18 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Be Small [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Arches copy

On a crisp fall day, watching the waves roll in at Pismo Beach, Jim told me that people come to the beach to touch their mortality. “The waves were here long before we were born. They’ll be here long after we are gone.”

It is only in the moments when we recognize how infinitesimally small we really are that we ‘re also capable of grasping how glorious, how profound, how immense are our fleeting few moments of life. It’s a paradox. It is a joining. Watching the waves, standing on the mountaintop, feeling the sunrise, holding your newborn. Boundaries blend with beauty so vast it makes you ache.

While in Colorado, we jumped the border into Utah for a day and visited Arches National Park. It is one of those places. I felt so incredibly small. I grabbed Kerri’s hand and the paradox door swung open. For a few moments, we were part of the monument, life burned so keenly, so intensely, we joined the timeless, and laughed at the utter impossibility of it all.

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arches national park ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

In Beauty I Walk [it’s Two Artists Tuesday]

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“I am only so beautiful as the character of my relationships, only so rich as I enrich those around me, only so alive as I enliven those I greet.” ~ Derrick Jensen

I know many many artists who do what they do for love; their motivation is intrinsic. Their work is beautiful. I don’t mean their finished pieces (although they, too, are beautiful). I’m referencing their relationship to their work. It is lively, mysterious, expansive and generous. And, in order to stay healthy, they’ve long ago abandoned the notion that they might make a living through their artwork. Some do. Most do not.

I know many many artists who no longer do what they used to love to do. In the absence of an extrinsic reward (money), they began to see their love-work as worthless. They reduced themselves to a monetary equation and found themselves lacking. Considering their love without value, their well went dry. Their muse withered.

In our confused times it is the fortunate person who understands value as something greater than dollars and cents. Love, beauty, joy, family, generosity, learning, community, surprise, mystery…all words of relationship, all valuable beyond measure. All defy easy quantification.

From studio melange on Two Artists Tuesday, a gentle reminder to look to the space between, to value the process of living, the right-now-relationships where beauty is always to be found. Walk there.

IN BEAUTY I WALK gifts and cool stuff

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‘in beauty i walk’ image & products ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

(Y)Our Earth [It’s Two Artists Tuesday]

Take a moment to take a look around you. A thought to ponder and share from the melange.

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Tibetan monks have been in residence this week at a local technical college. They are creating a mandala sand painting. For the monks, creating the mandala is a spiritual practice, a meditation. As they construct the design they contemplate the meaning of the symbols within the design. In other words, they are in a constant state of prayer while they create. They invite the community to enter the prayerful space and contemplate with them; the “space” is, of course, the essential part of their creation. More to the point, the shared space of peace, an intentional communal tranquility, is the creation. And, to make sure we grasp the point, the final step in their creative process is to blow the design away. Nothing is permanent. Beauty is passing and so are you and me. It is, we are, energy in motion. The process, rather than the product, is the meditation.

our earth SQ PILLOW copyWhen Kerri drew this design it immediately reminded me of the Earth’s currents, a perfect sentiment for the coming Earth Day celebrations. The essential convection currents that create our wind, our weather. The currents in the earth moving layers of magma, the transfer of energy in the heating and cooling of the ocean. Motion creates life, tosses up forms and pulls them down again. Motion is life, life is motion. And, in this mandala we call Earth, there is a deeper meditation found within the sand and the impermanence: it’s all connected. We are all connected. Blowing sands. The process, the quality of our participation in impermanence, is the art.

From studio melange, an earth day meditation: this is your/our earth.

THIS IS (Y)OUR EARTH reminders/merchandise

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OUR EARTH BEACH TOWEL copy

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(Y)Our Earth Leggings

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this is (y)our earth ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Heed The Call

A detail from my painting, Will Is Belief

A detail from my painting, Will Is Belief

“It’s hard to explain to people,” said Chris. “I’m answering a calling. I know in my bones that I’m doing with my life exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. There is nothing else that gives me life. There is only this that I can give my life to. I don’t have a choice and that makes no sense to my family and friends.”

Chris is an artist, a brilliant actor. He acts because he needs to act and that is impossible to understand to those who’ve never had a soul-deep calling. It makes no sense to those witnessing the hardship his life path requires. His family and friends want him to have a better life. They want him to have a big home and two cars. They want him to have a back yard and a barbecue. What they can’t grasp is that Chris, like all artists with a calling, is acting from a selfless imperative. They aren’t doing it for themselves. They are not indulging an ego-need. They are, as Chris said, “creating to translate experiences for others.” Artists are meaning makers in a world that often makes no sense.

It is simple. Artists serve the force of unity in a world dedicated to the forces of division. And, that makes no sense.

Pastor Tom has a calling. He left a big salary career for the meager salary of a pastor because he could no longer ignore the inner voice demanding that he answer his call. It need not make sense because Pastor Tom can say that he answered God’s call. Chris’ calling is coming from the same source though, in our world, the connective tissue of his claim is not as easy to grasp.

Many people can draw, write, dance, act, sculpt, trumpet, and paint. A very few actually need to do it. They can do nothing else. Just as many people are capable of sermonizing and leading a church, it is the rare person who has to do it, who can do nothing else. Chris would wither if he did, as his elders suggest, leave his crazy pursuit and get a real job that pays real money and provides real stability. They do not know what Chris knows: stability has nothing to do with money or jobs that make sense.

Sense-making is a matter of the head. Chris is a servant of the heart.

There is a very powerful Hungarian film, called White God (though if you are a dog lover as I am you should probably steer clear). It is film about violence and suppression begetting nothing but more violence and suppression. It makes sense. In the final scene of the movie, when faced with a tide of horrific violence, a young girl pulls her trumpet from her backpack and begins to play. The beauty of her playing stops the unstoppable. It breaks the cycle of violence. It makes no sense: beauty has the power to extinguish violence.

Beauty has the capacity to unify a world dedicated to division and violence. This is what Chris’ call is all about. This is what he knows in his bones. It is the reason he gets on the stage for meager pay. It is the reason he spends his days going to endless auditions and producing plays on subway platforms and other places where few will ever stop and take notice. It is the reason a big backyard and sensible job make no sense. He is a servant to the power of beauty, the wonders of art, the necessity of illuminating unity amidst the madness of division. With this calling, all other paths are closed. They simply make no sense.

Sit By The River

photoThe back deck of the Minturn Inn overlooks the Eagle River. We sit in the sun and are mesmerized by the sound of the rushing water. It is liquid peace. In this moment I believe that people seeking to develop a meditation practice should begin sitting by a river. The water easily carries away all thought and worry.

The river is a great giver of perspective, a great deliverer of presence.

I am struck by this power of the river – and it is a power. We easily grasp nature’s power when a tornado levels a town or an earthquake devastates a city but forget that there is a flip side, a quieter side to nature’s ominous power. There is a vast quiet. In our world peace seems nearly impossible to achieve yet in less than a minute, sitting by the river, I am steeped in peace. That is an awesome power!

I once read (somewhere) that we have a vibrant internal compass capable of ringing true from false, right from wrong. If we make a choice that is out of our integrity, the compass spins wildly out of control, setting off an unstoppable inner monologue, a great inner debate. If the choice is in alignment, the moment passes unnoticed. True north is known by the absence of spinning. Inner quiet is an affirmation. Nature – including our inner nature – doesn’t lie.

Sitting on the deck, breathing in the mist and peace of the rushing water, I know that what’s most important in this life, the real art, happens in the quiet spaces, the moments that thought cannot penetrate, the spaces that require no definition or justification. They are the moments ripe with gratitude. They are the moments dripping with appreciation. I know that all the debates and disagreements and defenses are paper tigers. I also know that this peace is not the province of the river. It is, in fact, available all the time. The river simply reminds me to hush up and listen.

Drop Beneath The Noise

my latest work in progress

a detail of my latest work in progress

“Oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.” Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality

A year and a half ago, when I moved to Wisconsin, I made the very conscious decision to unplug from the daily news cycle. I stopped watching it, listening to it, and reading it. My theory was that, if there was something truly newsworthy, I would hear about it. My intention was not to stick my head in the sand but the opposite. I wanted to drop the noise level so I might hear the stories with real value that were being obscured by the hype.

I was feeling more and more assaulted at the way the news was coming at me. I felt that it was literally coming AT me. I was disturbed that friends, family, and acquaintances oriented their truth (their opinions) according to their news source of choice. Events were not being reported as much as created for attention and spun for political leaning. It was feeding us a yummy addictive soap opera as context for our lives. Danger and deception were everywhere. “Us and Them” replayed at the top of the hour. One day, riding a bus through downtown Seattle, listening to the conversations around me, I realized that we were not consuming the media, it was consuming us. Division and drama sell.

Many years ago, Neil Postman in his brilliant book, Technopoly, like a prophet warned of the coming days when everything under the sun would be “breaking news.” What would serve as the touchstone of value (and values) when the monumental and the minimal were granted equal import, when news sources waved the flag of surrender and served the gods of entertainment? How might we hold a healthy center when we’ve so thoroughly blurred the line between ratings and reality?

So, I decided to live at the metaphoric edge of the village. An amazing thing happens when you drop beneath the chatter: with quiet comes the capacity to see how much of the chaos is concocted. Beauty becomes infinitely more accessible. The divisions drop away.