Collect Your Stories [on Two Artists Tuesday]

coffee pot copy

We haunt the local antique stores. We rarely buy anything but, if we do, you can be certain the purchase is one of these: an old coffee pot, a wooden box, an old suitcase.

The suitcases are transformed into our “special boxes.” We keep the artifacts of our life – notes, ticket stubs, travel mementos… in our special boxes. They are stacked in our dining room and made more special by the flat rocks collected from our travels and cleverly arranged on and around our special boxes.

Kerri and I both have a thing for boxes and old wooden containers. Stand in the middle of our home and look any direction and you will spy a box. Some are small. Some are large. All are well traveled and have a story to tell. My brushes and paints live in one. I keep an altar-of-sorts in and around DeMarcus’ paint box. We have a box in our living room that is for the not-flat-rocks that we’ve taken from the beaches and forests and rivers that we’ve visited. Each rock tells a story.

Once, driving through Massachusetts, we stopped at a little antique shop and were attracted to a collection of small coffee pots. Four of the pots made the trip home with us and now live in our kitchen. They functionally serve as tea canisters (clever, yes?) but in deeper truth, they are markers in time. We moved out the old story and brought in the coffee pots, symbols of the new.

Coffee pots. Wooden boxes. Old suitcases. Containers of story. Containers for story. They make us conscious of the stories we collect and intentional about the story we live and tell.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE POTS

 

coffeepots website box copy

this beautiful photo courtesy of our dear 20

Capture The Essence

Dog-Dog and treasure

Dog-Dog and treasure

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog gathers his stuff around him. He has two stinky blankets that he pulls from his crate each morning, a red Kong, a blue chew bone with a handy looped rope pull, another blue toy that once looked like a jack but has been chewed beyond recognition, a once-stuffed moose from Josh that is now an unrecognizable shredded mess though he carries it around as if it was precious cargo. There is also a muddy tennis ball, a raw hide bone and usually a sock pilfered from my sock basket. If Kerri and I shift locations within the house, move from the living room to the sun room, Dog-Dog’s worldly possessions will slowly migrate with us. He is subtle and I rarely see the migration in progress; I suddenly realize that I am sitting within a nest of Dog-Dog treasure.

My favorite section in The Lost Boy is a series of questions that Tom asked: 1) if you were given a cardboard box and it was all that was going to be allowed to provide proof that you walked on this earth, what would you put in your box? 2) Beyond proof, what would you put in the box that captured the essence of who you were, that distinguished you from all the others? 3)What are the collections, the things you gather around you that are somehow supposed to tell others who you are? These questions might seem simple but are surprisingly complex. How does your stuff tell the story of who you are? Or, a better question: does your stuff define you? Can your stuff – your car, your house, your granite counter tops, your clothes, your jewelry,…, – capture your essence?

Tom asked two other related and relevant questions: In packing your box, would you be tempted to scrub your life of its messiness? Would you try to eliminate the mundane, the everyday? Would you throw away your rough drafts? Would you ignore the relationships that didn’t work out? Would you explain away the ugliness, the ruthless choices? Would you burn your personal journals so that the future might never glimpse your doubt, your struggles, your frailty?

I would add these questions: What if your essence was only available to you once you value the messiness? What if, in throwing away the mundane, you actually eliminate what is truly special about you? I’ve often taught and touted a tenet from improvisational theatre: drop your clever and pick up your ordinary – most of us diminish/neglect our greatest gifts because we label them as ordinary. They come naturally to us so we don’t always recognize them. In trying so hard to be clever, to be right, to be flawless,…to be other, we regularly overlook the real treasure and relegate ourselves to that most shameful pile labeled ‘ordinary.’

Scrubbing life to a sterile, conflict-less blandness is a recipe for….boredom and, at the end of the day, a very uninteresting box. Of this I am certain: if Dog-Dog had to pack his box today, I would be proud to sit amidst the stinky blankets, blue bones and remnants of moose toy. Dog-Dog hides none of his messiness.