Split Your Bark [on merely-a-thought Monday]

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Angels come in all shapes and sizes and Jonathan is my latest proof. Appearing from nowhere, disappearing into the ether, impossible to nail down on what he does each day (“I spent the day packing,” he says every-single-time-I-ask), he has an uncanny way of  dropping a much needed thought-bomb at just the right moment. Boom.

Lately, Kerri and I have been steeped in the angst and frustration of the latest inevitable drought that comes with an artist’s life. The well has run dry. There is no rain in sight. The Artist’s Almanac forecasts drought.  Feeling defeated we showed up at rehearsal wearing hang-dog faces and found angel-Jonathan already there, practicing his bass.  He greeted us with laughter and a smile. He regaled us with hysterically funny stories of his weekly foibles. He got us laughing. He transformed our self-pity and woe into a conversation about necessary change and growth.

That’s when he velvet-hammer-smacked us with the metaphor: trees must split their bark to grow. There is pain. Matter. Of. Fact.

Contrary to popular mythology, angels do not take away your pain. They do, however, help you see it for what it is: an experience of life. They punch through the horror story spinning out of control in your mind and guide you back to the present moment. There is growth so there are unknowns. There is today. “Isn’t it great!” he laughs. “You two kill me,” he says smiling.

Yep. Angel.

 

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angel at the well

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

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where’s chicken?

Take Another Step [on KS Friday]

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In the past year I’ve been reading books a few pages at a time. Some days I only read a few paragraphs at a time. I’m not reading to get through a book. I’m reading to ponder. It’s become a form of reading meditation.

A few weeks ago, I began a slow read of my own book, The Seer. I published it nearly five years ago and immediately abandoned it. Today I read this: change never comes from the direction of what you know. It is a prerequisite of learning, growth and change to step away from what is known, from what is comfortable. From what feels safe. Learning and change are always in the direction of the unknown.

Kerri’s IN TRANSITION is a musical mantra for stepping into the unknown. As is true of all transitions, it is a yearning in two directions. Yearning for what was. Yearning for what will be. But more than yearning, it is a river of determination. Take another step. And another. And another. Discover.

If you are in transition, as we are, stand still for a moment and listen to the yearning, steep yourself in the simple encouragement of IN TRANSITION.

 

IN TRANSITION on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART available on iTunes & CDBaby. The physical CD is available here.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about IN TRANSITION

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

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in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Become Inspired [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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Brad asked a great question. What is it in us that needs to climb the highest mountain, run a faster mile, touch the moon, cure the disease, develop better and better widgets, sail toward the edge?

It is in our nature. Or, better, it IS our nature. Insatiable curiosity, the yearning to know en route to the next unknown. We are storytellers all! What’s next?

Boredom and apathy are learned skills. They are unnatural. It takes years of sitting in a desk to blunt a spirit. It takes 10,000 hours to grow deaf to the call of your soul.

The next time you tell yourself that “you don’t like change” or that “tomorrow will be just like today,” stop. Take a long slow breath and then do the dangerous thing: doubt what you think. It might just happen that you will hear the deeper call, the natural voice, inviting you out to play.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about Become Inspired

www.kerrianddavid.com

be careful you just might become inspired ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Surf Uncertainty [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I love this image. It is a visual of the burning point. For me, it captures a singular truth in life. You can’t control the wave, but you can learn to ride it. So, be in it. Ride it.

I can already hear Kerri in my mind saying, “What the heck does that mean?” Go outside tonight and look at the night sky. If you understand what you are seeing you might realize how little in this life you actually control. Mostly, in this moment of life, we surf the unknown, whether we recognize it or not. We can deny it or we can learn to ride the wave of constant change. Trying to control it is a recipe for misery.

Happiness ensues when you learn to distinguish between what you control and what you cannot. Surfing life is the art of riding the uncontrollable wave and enjoying the ride.

Enjoy SURF UNCERTAINTY gifts and products

read Kerri’s blog post on LEARNING TO SURF UNCERTAINTY

www.kerrianddavid.com

learn to surf uncertainty/designs ©️ 2016/18 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Notice The World

my latest painting. another addition to The Beach Series.

It’s a constant source of the giggles for me now. So many things that used to seem so complex and unknowable, so serious and weighty, have morphed into utter simplicities. And, I’ve unwittingly accumulated or created shorthand phrases, adages, that encapsulate the simplicities.

Stephen used to ask me, “Why don’t people see how important art is? Why don’t people value the arts?” He is a prolific and gifted painter and, like most artists, was struggling financially. I used to sit around with other artists and actors asking the same type of questions. Why don’t they value us. Our conversations made us into a frustration-club, so certain were we that we carried in our art pouch the cure for the worlds’ ills. But the world, they, were not noticing us. No matter how great our play or heartfelt our paintings or how loudly we proclaimed and marketed our work or trumpeted our capacity to help people to think or feel more deeply – to change the world! – the community (they) seemed mostly inattentive (to us).

Art as castor oil. Non-profit non-prophet.

Wearing my corporate consulting hat, I taught this core principle for years: you can never determine what other people think or feel or see. And, it took years for this simple adage to penetrated my life – especially my artist life (we do, in fact, teach what we most need to learn…).

I still believe in the importance and great power of the arts but not in the same way I did all those many years ago. I actually believe in it more than I once did only now it seems so simple: ‘Do what you love…,’ so the saying goes. Do what you love because you love to do it. That’s all. The world (how’s that for a sweeping generality!) does not need to be saved or changed. Mostly, it needs less frustrated artists waving to be noticed while perpetuating the narrative that they are undervalued. The world could do with a wee bit less of ‘us and them.’

The simplicity: I would much rather root my energies, my focus, my creative powers in the love of it all. Frustration makes the well run dry. There is no us and them when standing solidly in the love of creating. The real power of the arts – the only real power of the arts – is to open access to the commons, the shared space beyond separations (real or imagined). At best, artists reach across boundaries, not create them. In the end, artists (I believe) are mirrors, not medics.

Kerri gave me this new adage for my collection (and I giggled): It’s not about the world noticing you. It’s about you noticing the world.

Change Nothing

a detail from In Peace I Pray.

Thoughts from the mountain.

I grew up with these mountains so it should come as no surprise that I get quiet the moment I step into them. Like a too-tight coat the chaos I wear in my day-to-day life simply drops off; stepping into the mountain is to step out of the noise. Literally and figuratively.

Tom once told me that people change when they are ready. Rich once told me that people change when the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of making the change. Change when you are ready, change when you are in pain. Skip taught me that a business intending to change people was destined to fail. It is a fool’s errand. Business is about business not change. I loved this bit of advice from Skip because he is a natural-born change agent, a mentor of mentors (and, poetically, entrepreneurs). In a moment of frustration Kerri told me that people don’t change, they simply become more of who they really are. The masks drop off and we unwittingly reveal ourselves. Change as revelation.

As I hike through the snow toward the summit I wonder if change, at least the human notion of change, is as made-up as the rest of the stories we tell. It is in the forest, which is a festival of the cycles of life, that ideas of different ways of Being seem…superficial. Disconnected. Within seasons there are plenty of changes that roll around and around and around again. Perhaps this thing we call ‘change’ is nothing more than a recognition of the cycle, a readiness to release our dedicated resistance to life? A readiness to release our stories of limitation and division.

Kerri caught me staring at the mountain

Toward the end of his life, Joseph Campbell said that he suspected that all life (energy) was consciousness. There is 1) energy and 2) the forms that energy takes. Although seemingly disparate, seemingly separate, all forms fall back into energy. He said, “The universe throws forms up, then takes them down again.”He might have said that change is nothing more than the cyclical movement between energy and the forms it expresses.

Jim taught me that the art of acting was the art of being present. I know that when I stand in front of a canvas and begin to work, all notions of time disappear. Another day on the mountain, sitting in an adirondack chair midway up the slope, basking in the sun on warm day, we watched Kirsten snowboard. She flew by us several times. When she rides, it is clear, there is no other place, there is no past or future. There is now. She is vital, alive. In that place, riding the present moment (the only place that actually exists), the noise drops off. I know, and Jim knew, when fully in this moment there is no need to pester yourself with misplaced notions of being somewhere else, being anyone else.

 

a blast from the waaay past: August Ride. I lost track of this one and if you know where this painting is, let me know.

Find The Way Home

holdtheworldinpeace-lowerfontcopy-jpeg“Our search for truth must be wide open, even when it takes us in directions we preferred not to go. This is the difference between propaganda and truth. Propaganda has a certain end in mind, and so it marshals and manipulates the ‘facts’ to support its conclusion. Truth weighs evidence, seeks proof, is appropriately skeptical of authoritarian claims, welcomes questions, and doesn’t fear dissent.” Philip Gulley, The Quaker Way of Living*

Kerri and I often read books aloud to each other. On cold winter days we sit beneath a blanket, Dog-Dog at our feet, BabyCat snoring by our side, sip coffee, and read. We like to discuss and compare perceptions, ask questions, and re-read passages for clarity or the simple poetry of the language. Sometimes we savor a book, moving through it slowly. Sometimes we devour a book and go back to reread especially potent sections.

Propaganda resists close inspection and must continually be defended. Truth welcomes doubt and skepticism; indeed it is best served by questions, suggestions, and corrections.”

I am guilty of burying my head in the sand. My move to Wisconsin came with an intentional unplugging from the news. I was tired of pundits shouting each other down. I was weary and wary of conversations with family and friends that seemed to be territory-guarding regurgitations of our news-channel-of-choice. I was using the language given to me by my news sources and rolled my eyes at the predictable language leveled by the “other” side. One day as I raged at family members to pay attention to how they were being manipulated by their news source, I thought that it was probably a good idea for me to do the same. At the time, unplugging, stepping out of the toxic stream, seemed the only option to clear my mind.

The search for truth begins within the seeker, for if we are not honest with and about ourselves, we will find it impossible to be honest with and about others.”

On a recent trip to Indiana, Bill and Linda suggested a book for us, The Quaker Way Of Living by Philip Gulley. They read it with their church group and found it compelling, especially given our corrosive political climate and collapse of civil discourse. We bought it when we returned home and a few days ago started reading it together. We couldn’t put it down. It asks some powerful questions. It doesn’t pretend to have answers [that, I’ve learned, would be the antithesis of the Quaker Way] but it does speak directly to the quandaries of personal and communal integrity in a climate of self-righteousness, blame, and distrust. It is hopeful and funny and places the onus of creating a better world squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us. It reminded me that burying my head in the sand is not very useful while also affirming that their are options beyond planting a flag in the sand.

“To say a person has integrity means several things. Most commonly, we mean the person is honest, that his or her word can be trusted…. But there is another level of meaning that has to do with the integration of our values and lifestyle. In that sense, to say we have integrity is to say the separate parts of our lives combine to form a unified whole. What we believe is consistent with how we live. Our beliefs influence the work we choose, the way we use our time and spend our money, the relationships we form and the goals to which we aspire. This integration is critical for inward peace.”

While reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation I had a few years ago with Jim Marsh, one of the people I most admire in this world precisely because he walks his talk. He told me of an issue in his community that had deeply concerned him and that he’d been grousing about for long time. One day he’d had enough and to move forward he recognized that he had three options: First, to stop complaining (he said, “to just shut up.”). Second, to move away. Leave. Get away from the source of his irritation. That didn’t seem like a healthy option. The third was to strap on his boots and do something about it. To act instead of complain. But, (and here’s the reason why I adore him) not to act against, but to work to create what he wanted. His responsibility was not to fight or resist. It was to create.

“We preserve our integrity and wholeness when we are aware of what threatens it and then choose to act deliberately and prudently when tempted. When we fail to do this, we disintegrate, creating a chasm between who we are and who we wish to be.”

I practice tai chi and had the good fortune to have, for a few years, a master teacher, Saul, whose teaching transcended the specifics of tai chi. He was teaching me how better to live. One day, while I was in a fit of resistance, he quietly showed me the power of looking beyond my “opponent” and placing my focus, instead, in the field of possibility. I understood (intellectually) that the opponent was always of my own making and my dedication to having an opponent (inside or out) would always pull me off balance. In other words, as long as I invested in resistance I would always pull myself off balance.

“Integrity isn’t conditional…There is a seamless nature to integrity that transcends situations and relationships. Integrity does not present one face in public and another in private. It delights in transparency, having nothing to hide.”

Now, with my head freshly out of the sand, I understand Saul’s teaching beyond my thinking (I’ve had a lot of time to meditate on things with my head in the sand) and, taking my cue from Jim, I recognize that I have three options but only option-number-three holds the promise of integrity. The best news: no one creates alone…

*all quotes in this post are from the chapter on Integrity from The Quaker Way of Living by Philip Gulley

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THE WAY HOME on itunes – Kerri Sherwood-Track 13 on THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY

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