Allow Good Things [on DR Thursday]

Pre-Covid we regularly had dinner parties or hosted gatherings of Kerri’s choirs and ukulele band. Each week the big dining room table was piled high with food and drink. People crowded into the kitchen and living room. People spilled out onto the deck.

Now, we use the dining room table when we have large projects that require space for organization. We use it as a staging ground when we’re preparing for a trip. Covid ushered in an era of reclusion and the necessity for space and quiet.

Last weekend we had a surprise large project to assemble. Tons of paper to sort. As Kerri prepared the plan I headed to the dining room to clear the table. I stopped in my tracks with what I found there. The table was covered with rocks. There were several gallon size ziplock bags with painted rocks and rocks ready to be painted. Mostly, there were paper towels spread like islands across the table surface, each populated by dozens of hagstones. Odin Stones. Adder stones. Magical stones of many names, all sizes, from tiny bead-size to fist-size rocks, each with a naturally eroded hole. The power of water working on earth.

I hadn’t realized that we’d collected so many. We’d inadvertently converted our dining room into a hagstone sanctuary, an epicenter of ancient folk magic: nature’s talisman of healing, protection and wisdom. I laughed. Apparently we could use a bit of ancient protection. I certainly could use a healthy dose of wisdom. I considered laying on the table, body across the bumpy stones and saying, “I’m ready! Do your stuff!”

We bumbled onto the secluded beach a few months ago. The power of the lake is palpable. The beach is a festival of wave-polished rocks and treasured hagstones. The gulls circle and chase. The portal to the beach requires crawling through trees recently burned. Fire. Air. Water. Earth. People have created whimsical structures, crude altars and twisted sculpture from the driftwood.

We’ve returned a few times to comb the beach for the miracle stones with holes made from years and years of their dance with water. A feather on the stone. Time disappears as we slowly walk the beach, heads down, sensing as much as looking for the rare hagstones.

According to tradition, only good things can pass through the hole in the stone, made magic by the watercarver. Our growing collection, a prayer-pile or incantation cairn. Good things.

I will, someday soon, lay on the beach after dipping into the cold Lake Michigan water, warm myself in the sun, and feel the large hole that life has worn through me, myself now a magic hagstone. Grateful, I will think, “Only good things. I’m ready. Let’s do it.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about HAGSTONES

winged, 26x20IN, acrylic, nfs

visit my perpetually unfinished new site

like it. share it. tip it. comment.

Grasp The Natural Truth [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I often tell Kerri that she’s beautiful and her built-in-response is to deflect or deny it. I believe her response is learned – I’ve yet to meet a child who is overly concerned with how they look. Kerri is not unlike most of the women (and men) I’ve met in my life: they’ve learned to not like their bodies. In fact, I just spent a few moments searching my vast memory banks for the women I’ve known who loved their bodies and I can recall a whopping two.

The message-assault on a woman’s psyche is intense and begins young. Change it, mold it, shape it, cut it, starve it, lift it…The industry demands that a woman continually strive for the unattainable shape, size, color…They can never-ever look into the mirror and think, “I’m beautiful. No changes necessary.”

If I had a magic wand, I’d ding Kerri and all women on the noggin and make it possible to grasp the natural truth of these words: you are unbelievably beautiful.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BURLAP

smack-dab. © 2023

if you love it, like it. or share it. or or write to us. all are greatly appreciated

Bring It On! [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

My favorite Smack-Dab cartoons are drawn directly from our conversations. This one happened verbatim. We howled when Siri replaced our “wilty” with “wealthy”. I’m shallow enough to admit that I hope to someday experience the challenge of being un-hire-aable because I am too wealthy. “We’d hire you Mr. Robinson but you’re too stinking rich”.

I’m already familiar with the wilty part.

This is, perhaps, the only time I will suggest that you keep your comments to yourself. Unless, of course, you have suggestions about making me too wealthy to hire. In that case, bring it on!

read Kerri’s blogpost about WILTY

smack-dab. © 2023

if you’d like to support what we do: (or use the qr code). like it. share it. all are appreciated!

Simply Celebrate [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I wasn’t there when our babies picked dandelions for her. It was waaaay before my time. I just know how she felt when they did. Price-less.

It’s one of my favorite parts of our relationship. A dandelion is more valuable than a diamond. A homemade card, a painted rock…a story is most precious of all.

We read together. We walk together. We cook together. We struggle and triumph together. What could be more meaningful than a bouquet of freshly picked dandelions and the memories they bring to mind?

read Kerri’s blogpost about DANDELIONS

get this beautiful song here.

smack-dab. © 2023

fistful of dandelions © 1999 kerri sherwood

if you like it, like it. or share it. or (qr or link). or comment. we delight in hearing what you think.

Foster Appreciation [on KS Friday]

In addition to the bunny nest in our yard, I discovered some abandoned nests behind the tall grasses that line the fence. Elegant and intricate constructions meant to protect new life.

The distinction is in the words “meant to”. The critters creating the nests are not necessarily concerned with the aesthetics. Their concern is function. We two-legged critters can’t stroll down a beach without stacking stones, organizing driftwood, or picking the most interesting rock to nestle into the curious pocket found in the wood. Our action is purely to communicate. To leave a trace. To make a mark. To convey something beautiful.

I suppose it’s the same reason that critters make nests. They can’t help it. Nature demands their construction. New life is coming.

We can’t help it, either. Our nature demands playing with possibility. Function need not be a part or party to our frolic. Our creative impulse needs expression. Our active imagination, our spontaneous recognition of opportunity, an intrinsic curiosity and hands-with-thumbs make even the most mundane stroll a canvas-for-the-painting.

We have friends who tell me that they lack creativity. I know better. I’ve walked with them through the woods, across frozen lakes, and strolled down beaches. Rocks are stacked. Flowers gathered. Wood is spontaneously arranged. Not because a nest is necessary. No. Their gathering of texture and color and curiosity is meant to foster appreciation. Inside and out. The function is enjoyment.

No other reason is necessary. No other reason is more essential to us two-legged critters. Nothing better defines us than our innate desire-to-play with the great “What if…”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STONE AND WOOD

dawn at crab meadow/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Like it. Share it. Coffee. Thoughts?

Turn Around And Look [on DR Thursday]

One little line gives reference to the whole. The horizon line. It is how we naturally – visually – orient in space. It is a baseline of perception. It’s the beginning of discernment.

It is a line that disappeared.

Among other things, art is a reflection of its time. In the past century, art leapt into the abstract. We are “post-modern”. Expressions of personal fantasy rule over community truth, a breaking apart of shared ideals, instant doubt of objective theories…we are mirrored in post-modern art. What is art? What is it not? There’s not a whit of agreement to be found.

General distrust is the beating heart of the post-modern ideal. Division, aggression, tribalism, conspiracy…are its blossoms. Our children perform active-shooter-drills in school; a performance we shudder to attend while our leaders smile and look the other way. Post-modernism at its finest. The absence of a baseline.

Shared truth, group trust, community…requires an undeniable horizon line.

What is up? What is down? What has value? What does not? What has merit? What is undeserving? There is a line. Where is it?

Walking through the antique mall, Brad and I discussed chatGPT. I’m playing with it; he’s using it in his work. It’s raising some very big questions. The questions are not new. They are the next step in a series of questions people have been asking for the past 30 years: what is true? A photograph was once proof that something happened. That hasn’t been true for a few decades. A video was once proof an experience occurred. That is no longer true. News – a word that once implied the accurate reporting of an event. No more. No horizon line.

Brad and I turned our discussion to a sorely missing quality in our times: discernment. In the absence of a horizon line, people will – and do – believe anything. We speculated that, with the introduction of chatGPT into our world, perhaps discernment will once again become important. Perhaps the complete absence of a truth-anchor will turn us toward a common center and require us to look at each other, to seek and restore general trust. The post-modern tide will someday turn and we will draw an old/new line in the sand: we’re-all-in-this-together.

I know, I know. Pie-in-the-sky. However, I’d like to point out that shared dreaming brought us here. Shared dreaming is how we stood on the moon. It is how we can talk to someone across the planet using a small device that fits in our pockets. When a dream becomes shared it becomes powerful. Manifest. A shared dream is a form of a horizon line.

If a shared dream isn’t powerful enough to establish trust, try remembering the other one; the original line of discernment. The line that invites curiosity. It need not be debated. Turn around and look. The horizon line is everywhere.

Four-by-Four, 48x48IN, acrylic, (sold)

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HORIZON

4×4 © 2007 david robinson

Focus Pocus [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

The technical term is “hyper-focus.” I am gifted at becoming absorbed in my tasks. I have a knack for stepping out of time. Especially when my task is an art project. A painting. A cartoon.

Kerri will tell you that my hyper-focus is less a gift and more a maddening quirk or slightly annoying defect of character. She quips that, when I am painting, the house could blow away and I wouldn’t notice.

She’s exaggerating, of course. I would definitely notice if the house blew away. Eventually.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HYPER FOCUS

smack-dab. © 2023

Weigh The Cost [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

We are, like the rest of the nation, astounded at the weekly escalation of prices. It’s not just food; the cost of heating our home jumped 20% last month. We piled on layers of clothes through the winter so our usage actually went down. Use less. Costs more. There’s something wrong with that equation.

When you seek jobs in the non-profit sector, as I have recently been doing, you get an overview of desperation. Elders making choices between food and medication. Families with parents working as hard as they can and still not able to afford the inflated rents and cost of food. Each day I read celebratory news about the thriving markets while assisted living facilities evict seniors on Medicaid. What a sad dichotomy we’ve become. Not surprising, the real cost to us as a nation has very little to do with money.

The question is rhetorical because the answers are all around us: What if it all keeps going up?

read Kerri’s blogpost about COST.

smack-dab. © 2023

Note The Antidote [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Master Marsh said it best: customer service is a firewall against serving the customer. Epically long hold times, hold-music meant to invoke a migraine, dropped calls, mixed messages…I have no doubt that the people attempting to serve the customers are good people caught in an inept system.

Kerri’s latest bout with service-less-customer-service had one hugely positive outcome: they actually managed to put her to sleep. Now, in the middle of the night, when she tells me that she can’t sleep, I have the perfect antidote. I dial customer service – any customer service – and hand her the phone…

read Kerri’s blogpost about CUSTOMER SERVICE

smack-dab. © 2023

Bonus. From the Flawed Cartoon archive:

Unroll And Tune In [on KS Friday]

I did a stupid thing. A few years ago I rolled several of my canvases and stacked the many heavy rolls. Stacking them was my crime. The weight crushed the bottom rolls, potentially leaving ripples in the paintings. I know better. I’m unrolling each, one roll at a time, weighting the flat canvas so any potential wave is pressed. So far there is no damage.

I have opened three rolls. I have three more rolls to go. The opened rolls remain flat on the ground with the next roll layered on top. A new type of stack. Sedimentary paintings. Each layer provides weight to help flatten the previous roll. It’s slow going. I am being careful. I am treating the canvas – my paintings – with the respect that I should have afforded them long ago.

We took a walk on the road when we were up north. It was snowing and the world became snow-quiet. As without, so within. I became snow-quiet. The gang walked ahead as Kerri took a photo of the silent woods. I turned my face to the snow and felt the sting of each flake. Sometimes, when deep in the snow-quiet, the life-canvas is blank and affords the opportunity to discover the world anew; snow on my face for the first time. This earth is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Unrolling each roll of paintings is like turning my face to the falling snow. It makes me quiet. I am seeing paintings – my paintings – that I have not seen for a few years. I am afforded the opportunity to discover my world anew. I’m finding, as I carefully weight them, hoping the ripples are not permanent, that I have new eyes and new appreciation for my life and work. Unrolling the rolls, caring for the pieces, evokes peace in me.

I painted each of these paintings for the same reason. Standing before my easel quiets my mind and tunes me into something bigger than my tiny frets and future worries. It connects me – and that is whole point of the arts. It connects us. Unites us.

With each roll revealed, just as with each new painting, I become clear, if only for a moment. Like a walk through the woods on a snowy day.

[Peace is one of my favorites of Kerri’s compositions]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOWY WOODS

peace/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood