Pull The Weeds [on KS Friday]

My very first painting teacher offered me some sage advice. I was painting figures while the rest of the class worked on landscapes. Being the odd-child-out I assumed something was wrong with me. She said, “Tree painters are a dime a dozen. Someday, being the only one will seem like a gift so ignore what they are interested in and paint what is interesting to you.” Jospeh Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” It’s the same advice that Jackie Fry gave to the boy-version of me.

I never imagined myself with a back yard. And, now that I have one, I find it a place of rest and peace. This is a confession that I’ll never admit to in the future: weeding is meditative. Each day I find myself taking a few moments to go out and yank the invaders out by the roots. No thought. No other thing to do. I simply tend the garden, knowing I am accomplishing nothing since weeds are good at growing and more will appear tomorrow. We are strange allies, they provide me with a daily meditation.

If I was as an art teacher, I’d send my students into my back yard. Nature is a masterful teacher of color. Orange and green. Highlights of yellow. Barney provides subtle blues, purples, and pinks. The orange and green of the lily pop against the purple and blue of the aging piano. Warm colors come forward. Cool colors recede. It’s all there.

I read somewhere that, as an artist, “to discover” is more potent than “to invent.” See what is there, beyond what you think is there. Everything is fluid so the discoveries are endless. While I weed the sun passes beneath a cloud. Everything changes. The sun reappears and the colors change again. Not the same. Different. I’ll never be able to capture it and that is the best held secret of an artist. Another wisdom from Jackie Fry: you will never succeed. Art is a relationship, not a transaction. So, no pressure. It is a relationship, complex and dynamic. It is not about capturing an image. It is about freeing your sight and possibly freeing the sight of others. Facilitate discovery. Play to play, to become a better player. Open a small door to peek into the vast inner universe.

It’s a paradox. It’s impossible to eradicate the weeds. That is not why I pull them. It’s impossible to capture life in an image. ‘Capturing’ is not why I paint. Relating is why I paint. I do it because I’ll never create anything more beautiful than the Tiger Lily dancing with Barney. I paint so that I might see and share in the dance.

ALWAYS WITH US on the album AS IT IS by KERRI SHERWOOD

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

read Kerri’s blog post about the TIGER LILY

always with us/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Follow Your Bliss [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“And now you ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”/ Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,/ But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee./ For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,/ And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, /And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet [Pleasure]

Yesterday was a rough day. We awoke to some disturbing news. Kerri cried. And, for the rest of the day, uncharacteristically, DogDog and BabyCat were by our sides. It occurred to me, as DogDog rolled over for his 15th belly-belly of the day, that he was making himself available for a pet, not only because it felt good to him, but because it felt good to me, too. He was helping me to feel good. BabyCat was glued to Kerri’s leg. They decided to divide and comfort.

When we first found DogDog at Farmer Don’s, I dove into multiple books by the Dog Whisperer. It had been an eternity since I had a puppy and felt like I needed some guidance. I read that dogs (and cats) are master-aura-readers. They know what we feel before we know what we feel. It’s true. When DogDog runs into the bathroom, his safe spot, I know there is a storm brewing.

BabyCat has claimed one of DogDog’s toys. He rubs his face on the ribbed fabric and literally moans with pleasure. The first time we heard his pleasure-moan, we thought he was in pain. We ran to find him soaking up the single sunny spot in the house, rubbing his face on his toy, unapologetic in his bliss.

We watched him and laughed. His ecstasy was so simple and pure. The warmth of the sun. The satisfaction of the scratch. His pleasure gave us pleasure. It also gave us pause. “Dibs on the sunny spot when BabyCat is through,” I said. “Good luck with that,” Kerri smiled.” BabyCat, like most retirees, follows the sun.

Vicarious-bliss-sharing is one thing. Leaving the sunny spot is a bridge too far, even for our empathetic B-Cat.

read Kerri’s blog post on BLISS

Run With It

The criminal with the evidence. Tripper with Kleenex.

The criminal with the evidence. Tripper with plundered Kleenex.

Tennessee Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog is a fantastic pick pocket. I’m certain he is kin with the Artful Dodger and the other sticky-finger street boys who lift wallets and jewelry without detection. Dog-Dog’s preferred target is Kleenex. With his snout he can reach into the deepest pocket and disappear into a crowd, Kleenex in mouth, and his poor victim is none the wiser. Lately I have had a nasty cold so my pockets are prime targets for his crimes. More than once I’ve reached into my pocket, alarmed by the rising tide of an inevitable sneeze, and found that my pocket has been picked. “Dog-Dog!!” I scream (and then sneeze). He always appears with tiny bits of evidence in his whiskers.

I first noticed his pilfering when he was still more puppy than dog. He was adept at undetected napkin snatching. I knew it was a crime scene when dinner guests started looking on the floor for missing napkins and came up empty. Although publically I’d hang my head and make Tripper confess his misdeed and return his plunder, secretly I was impressed by his stealth and wondered if he would grow up to become a Ninja.

Tripper Dog-Dog does not suffer guilt. He does not question his choices. He rarely debates whether he should or should not do something. He does not mask his confusion or blunt his awe. He races across the yard in full celebration of his speed and how good it feels to run. He does not run to win, he runs to run. Were I still working with actors I’d have them study the pure intentionality of their pets. I’d have them study what undiluted commitment to action really looks like.

One of my favorite themes running through the books of Paulo Coehlo is to find your enthusiasm and follow it; there lives your treasure. Joseph Campbell famously said, “Follow your bliss.” One of the post-it notes on our Be A Ray plan wall reads: Dream big dreams. The sub note adds: Run At It. The other day we heard a man say, “At least when I die, I’ll know I took my shot and gave it my all.” I sat up and wrote his thought as two questions: What is your shot? What would it look like to give it your all?

And then, finding my pocket empty of Kleenex, I added a third question: If “it” was a Kleenex and I was Tripper, what would I do? I’d take “it” with great enthusiasm, no apology, and without doubt or question. And then I’d run with “it” just because I liked the way it feels.

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