Exhale [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I was younger I had a dream. I was walking through an aspen forest in autumn. I was not trying to get anywhere. I was not lost nor did I need to know where I was – other than wandering through the forest. The dream was visceral. Real to me. And, I’ve never felt more peaceful or present or quiet.

Because of my dream I equate aspen forests with peace. If I am off balance and need to regain center, I think of aspen forests.

The leaves make a specific sound. It is completely accurate to say they “quake.” Quaking also describes how they move when the breeze catches the leaves on the branches. If the light is right, they shimmer as well as quake. They can be electric in yellow, pale green and orange. Their quaking and shimmering serves as a mind-cleanser. And, not just for me. I dare anyone with a troubled mind to hold onto their troubles when in the presence of an autumn aspen grove.

Before leaving Colorado, we drove into the mountains. People were flocking to see the leaves. We found our destination off the beaten path: the lake, surrounded by stands of brilliant quaking aspen. We thought we’d spend a few minutes there but hours passed before we realized it. That’s the thing about peace, it does not dance with time. We walked. We took pictures. We sat in the resounding, shimmering quiet. And, for the first time in days, we exhaled.

read Kerri’s blog post about ASPEN FORESTS

Come To The Table [on DR Thursday]

Duke and Eileen sat at this table for many years. And, because St. Vincent de Paul wouldn’t take it for second hand sale because the top had dings in it, it rode around in the back of Big Red for many months. We forgot it was there.

When Covid roared in and the world shut down, we wanted to put a table in our sun room. That way, we could sit and look out at the day. We thought it would help buoy our spirits while in isolation. In the middle of wondering-out-loud where we could possibly get a table in a world-shut-down, we remembered that Duke and Eileen’s table was camping out in the back of Big Red. It was a perfect fit.

It began the transformation of a room that has become our favorite place in the house to sit and hang out. We’ve populated our former work table with plants. Duke and Eileen’s table is also home to many succulents and a Bonsai Gardenia sent as a birthday present from Kirsten and Chris. We resurrected an old fountain so the sound of peace is the sound of gurgling water. There are candles. Special rocks from special places. Water, earth, fire, and air; lots of air. We’ve created a sanctuary.

Watching Kerri and 20, Duke and Eileen’s son, sit at the table filling out paperwork for Eileen, I was struck by the circle coming back around, the story that this table might tell. 20, sitting at his mom and dad’s table, now center to our sanctuary, doing the work of a son to care for his mom.

It also occurred to me, standing outside, looking in at these two siblings-from-different-mothers sit at the table filling out forms (Kerri and 20 are truly brother and sister), that in the midst of “living in interesting times,” our response to the pandemic, to civil unrest, to our town literally being on fire, amid job losses and wrists breaking, has been to create a place of peace. A center of quiet around which the chaos spins.

“Make all the world your studio” was once – and still is – a mantra for me. And, now at the center of my spinning-world-studio is an intentional space, a bright and happy room bringing together all of the elements, built around the long history of comfort etched in the top of Duke and Eileen’s table.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TABLE

meditation, 48x48IN, mixed media, 2012

meditation ©️ 2012 david robinson

Balance The Opposites [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Skip told me that the only problem Kerri and I would face is that we are both CEO personalities but come at it from entirely different directions. Truer words were never spoken! For instance, when we walk, my eyes are generally in the sky pondering the greater meaning of the universe while Kerri’s eyes are on the ground looking for a cool photo op. I see big pictures and she is a master of detail. I am easily lost in thought and she is snagged in nuance. Most of our wranglings are hysterical arguments for the same thing but from diametrically opposed points of view; we are quite capable of making agreement sound like dissent. Word magic.

Our walks, with my eyes in the sky and hers on the ground, have become a metaphor for why we are so good for each other. She pulls my eyes to the ground. I pull her eyes into the sky. I’ve recently been awed by a nurse log covered in ice crystals, the lines running through a tiny rock, the composition of a fallen pine branch in undisturbed snow. She helps me see in life what I easily miss. It’s a paradox – from my view at 30,000 feet – pulling my eyes to the ground is expansive. I see more. I appreciate more. I stop and look. It is my favorite paradox that, in our house, I’m considered the visual artist but she is teaching me to see.

Balance. It comes from opposition. Like a yoga pose, energy sent in opposite directions creates stable grounding. It creates space, creative tension. Center.

When Terry was teaching me to scuba dive he often instructed me to “get neutral.” He was Buddhist and his teaching was as much spiritual as it was practical. “Getting neutral” meant not to struggle. Maintain or change depth with breathing. Inhale or exhale. “Getting neutral” meant not to swim through the dive like a tourist but to be in it. Be in the enormous power of the ocean. Balance the opposites. Begin with your breathing.

On the trail, Kerri often stops, kneels close to the ground, focusing her camera. “I love this,” she whispers. “This is beautiful.” She carefully frames her shot. “Do you want to see?” she asks, standing after taking a few shots.

“Yes.” I say. “Yes, I do.”

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDISTURBED

Create A Comfort Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Our rituals of comfort in the time of COVID are many and sweet. Coffee in bed as the boys, DogDog and BabyCat, snug tightly on either side of Kerri’s legs. At the other end of the day we sip wine at our “pandemic table” – purposefully placed in the sun room so we can watch the sunset, covered in candles, special rocks-from-our-travels, happy lights, and tiny pine saplings growing strong in small pots.

In between the coffee-in-bed-comfort-ritual and the wine-at-the-pandemic-table-ritual, we enjoy other comfort rituals meant to keep our spirits light. We write and read to each other. We visit our respective studios and sit in the silence. We let the dog in-and-out-and-in-and-out. We lace up our boots and walk a trail. We make meals together. At the end of every day, late at night, all tucked in, we watch documentaries of people through-hiking trails or climbing mountains.

Yesterday, a very difficult day, I appreciated how rooted we’ve become in our rituals of comfort. The intentional creation of ease and center amidst a whirling world of gunk.

The violence of the storm has washed us overboard more than once but we’ve been wise to create so many safety rings. Even submerged with my mouth full of water, I know I need not struggle or panic. I need only relax. I need only reach and comfort and safety will be there. We’ve made it so.

There is, in every moment, a hand reaching, a place calling, a walk impending, a dog wagging, a cat purring, that will restore me to center, refocus my eyes and quiet my mind.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNUGGED

Rise [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Signs of the the times. 1) The salutation in almost very email I send, every email I receive, is this: Stay safe. Stay well.  2) The most common response to”How are you?” is some variation of this: Staying more or less sane.

More or less sanity.

I expect a revival of Salvador Dali, a new wave of surrealism. What was solid melts and drips. What was fluid is frozen. None of the rules of normality apply. “So this is what pandemic feels like,” Chris wrote.

The hat we call “normal” has been knocked off our heads. Nothing is normal. Or is it? In our house we have an ongoing socio/political conversation about whether things have always been this way and, in the severity of the moment, we are now seeing it. The ugly politics. The gaping disparity. Or, is this madness new?  Are we more or less sane now?

We’re taking our afternoon walks in the cemetery at the end of the street. It is the only place we can walk without having to be constantly vigilant about bumping into other people. “It’s weird that, in the midst of a pandemic, we have to go to a cemetery to safely walk.” Kerri noted.

Yes. It is weird. Is it more or less sane? The only thing we can know is that all measuring sticks are broken, all of the old navigation points have gone missing. We are standing solidly in the midst of the unknown. What will be true next week? Anything is possible.

And, that is the point. The sword of possibility cuts both ways. Right now, anything is possible. If we get caught in the sticky notion that our circumstance defines us, then we are hurled to the side of less sanity. Panic. Chaos. Fear. Every man/woman for themselves. If we hold fast the notion that we are creators and are experiencing but not defined by the present pandemic fire, then renewal and re-imagination pull us in the direction of sanity. We stay centered in the midst of the fury. People helping people to survive, to thrive. The best rises in us. Brother’s/Sister’s keeper, and all of that. More sane. Not less.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MORE OR LESS SANE

 

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may you….[be healed]

Know They Are Watching [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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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

 

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Affirm The Possible [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The day we brought DogDog home, Kerri was concerned that he and BabyCat would never get along. DogDog was a tiny puppy and BabyCat was (and still is) a formidable kitty. Would they hate each other? Would they fight? Would DogDog ever stand a chance against a mountainous cat?

We are a few years down the road. DogDog now outweighs BabyCat though the master of the house is the smaller of the two. And, although cartoons are rife with dogs chasing cats, felines and pooches engaged in mortal combat, it turns out that peace is possible. Cartoons are not always true! Who knew.

When lightning strikes and the world rumbles, they head for the same bed to crawl under. When we are gone they share the same rug while awaiting our return. They beg as a team, side-by-side.  In the morning, while we work, they nap together on the foot of the bed.

They occasionally steal each other’s food. BabyCat makes a face while chewing dog kibble that has dropped me to my knees with laughter. Their favorite game (dog-puts-cat’s-head-in-his-mouth-and-pulls-cat-around-the-hardwood-floor) looks more like murder than fun. Dog-mops-floor-with-cat. That took some getting used to. Now, we barely notice when they play the mop game.

This is the sweet blowback from our initial concern: when the world looks bleak and overly contentious, as it does so often in these times, it is the dog and the cat, the stereotypical foes, that bring us back to some semblance of center. They reaffirm what is possible, what is good, what opposites are capable of creating together.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT

 

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Follow The Trail [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Max Ehrmann died. His poem, Desiderata, was mostly unknown. He did not write it for fame and few poets, unless they are delusional, write for fortune. Desiderata found its way to the light because it struck a chord, people shared it. Today it is known and treasured all over the world.

Vincent Van Gogh died. His paintings were mostly unknown. They were mostly rejected. Only one of his paintings sold in his lifetime.  He did not paint them to increase his fame and few painters, unless they are delusional, paint for fortune. His paintings found their way to the light because they struck a chord, people sought them out. Today, they are known and treasured all over the world.

No one knows the impact of their work. No one controls the ripples that they send. Everyone knows the truth of their intention, the source from which they act. Max Ehrmann wrote his poems during a life that spanned world wars. Vincent Van Gogh endured a lifetime of intense internal warfare and painted in response. Amidst the intensity of chaos they reached for more eternal things.

John told me that my job was to paint the paintings, not to determine how they are seen or received. In this age in which the arts have been detached from all things sacred, I sometimes feel our poems, our music, our dance, our paintings serve as a popcorn trail that point, not in the direction of personal gain or achievement, but to the soul’s home. That place where we sit together and experience the bigger things that live beyond words or names, beyond the nonsense and power games. The popcorn trail reminds us amidst the fighting to stand back and remember that neither side in any fight wins. Not really. The oppressed becomes the oppressor. Ripples and time.

For perspective, look to the stars at night. Poets and painters try to touch the vastness. The popcorn trail reminds us not to forget the center.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on DESIDERATA

 

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Fly Between The Poles [on DR Thursday]

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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

Pivot [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I learned many things following Skip through the curious world of technology entrepreneurism. Peculiar terms like ‘incubator” and “accelerator,” once reserved for premature babies or the gas pedal in my car, were reassigned to ideas: ideas in need of nurturing or, more remarkable, ideas pumped up with steroids and released ravenous upon investors (who were also ravenous but more composed by virtue of their power position).

Among the most important lessons was this: despite the best incubation, even with warp speed acceleration, the best idea, the best product, was probably obsolete the day it hit the market. Someone, somewhere in the world, had already improved upon it. A better mousetrap has little or no shelf life. And so, I also added to my vocabulary a new understanding of the word ‘pivot.’ I love how similar an entrepreneur’s terminology is to a ballet dancer. Pivot, move, fluid, flow, swivel, turn, revolve. Keep your center. Keep your eyes on the spot or you will grow dizzy and fall. The spot is not the individual product, the single idea. It is the business spawned from the idea. It is the ongoing relationship with relevance/obsolescence.

Those in my age group are distinguished by our dance with obsolescence. Graphic designers, publishers, musicians, educators,…artists. We are distinct in having one foot in an analog world – I prefer easel and canvas to stylus and computer screen –  and the other foot in the digital tsunami. The art is innate. Relevance is another story entirely. Reinvention (another word for pivot) is a necessity. Entrepreneurs and artists are not so different.

After seeing our melange post on Surfing Uncertainty, Master Marsh  reflected that surfing uncertainty was more than a design, it was my credo. Horatio jested that I was either a dilettante-from-hell or a bodhisattva. I laughed. Illumination seems a bit out of my reach. I think technology makes dilettantes of us all!

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read Kerri’s blog post about ART ALREADY IN ME

 

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i was came into the world with art already in me ©️ 2016/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson