Make Better Assumptions [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As a kid, riding up the mountain to Central City (long before it morphed into a casino town) to visit my great aunt Dorothy and uncle Del, I’d always look for the hermit. With my face pressed to the window I’d scan for him.

Perched precariously high above the creek, his shack seemed in constant danger of sliding down the mountain. The only thing holding it in place was the cascade of rusting bean cans that he’d tossed over the edge after each meal. Decades of cans. And, every once in while, I’d catch a glimpse of him.

He was uniquely grey; his clothes, his long miner-forty-niner beard, his pallor. He was always standing still, looking over the canyon. I don’t think in all of my rare glimpses that I ever saw him move. I wondered if he’d just thrown a can over the edge. I wondered if in his moments of standing-stillness he pondered how he came to be the hermit in the canyon. If life forged him into a hermit or if he came into the world wanting to be alone. I wondered where he got his cans of beans. It was a great mystery that I spent long hours considering. Hermits are not known for shopping trips into town and it was long before the age of home delivery. Where did he get his money to buy all of those cans? Was he a wealthy miner, a Howard Hughes type who retreated into a paranoid seclusion? Who facilitated his solitude?

I am mostly an introvert so his retreat from society fascinated me. I’d try ‘hermit’ on like a costume. He wasn’t a monk though I wondered what he did all day; contemplation had to be on the list of things to do. I wondered if his shack was filled with paintings or wire sculpture, a reclusive Alexander Calder? A disenfranchised artist (now, there’s an oxymoron!) I wondered if his shack walls were lined with good books.

I wondered, if I climbed up the mountain to his shack, would he meet me with a shotgun and tell me to go away? Or would he welcome me and tell me that he’s waited a lifetime for someone to come for a visit? I liked the second scenario but the realist in me knew it would be the first. He was grey because he didn’t want to be bothered. He was alone because it was not safe to be in relationship. It’s always easier to close the door and growl than it is to open it and ask, “Can I help you?”

We see this sign often. It marks the door of a house on the road to one of our walking trails. In the absence of a canyon I suppose the only thing to do is paste your anger on your door. Every time I see this sign I wonder what would happen if love came knocking?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GO AWAY

 

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Contemplate [on DR Thursday]

 

I do more than my fair share of contemplating (just ask Kerri. My incessant contemplation drives her bonkers). For instance, years ago, it occurred to me that every thought we human-storytellers have IS a kind of meditation. It’s a fair question – a necessary question – to ask: what are you meditating on? Your pain? Your troubles? Who you blame? Your grudges? Your obstacles? Your joys? Your opportunities? Your privileges? Your love? Your losses? Your list? All of the above?  Keep in mind (where else would you keep it) that most of your thoughts are repetitive. The majority of what you think today is a repeat of what you thought yesterday. Your thoughts are not passive. They are also not truth. They are patterned, mostly made up, and a powerful lens through which you define your experiences. The good news is that you can change your meditation if you want to.

Listening to the news it will make you gag when you stop and realize what actually populates our national meditation and how our angry narrative permeates your personal mediation. We are not as separate as we like to pretend. That’s good news. That, and, we can change our meditation. We can tell a better story.

 

This morsel comes from a painting that recently returned to the stable. It is, quite literally, a blast from the past. What I find most amazing about this particular return-to-the-fold is that, just a few months ago, I uncovered the old drawing that inspired Contemplation and sourced it again for another painting, Softly She Prays. And then, in a fit of good timing, Contemplation arrived at our door.

Paintings are like journal entries. It is not often that happenstance provides such a rich opportunity for comparison. Comparison of contemplation. What was my meditation 15 years ago? What is it now? Horatio told me my body of work is a study of stillness in motion (not a direct quote H, but I love the reflection non-the-less). The deep river story remains. The top layer meditation has shifted.

Ah. Do you see? Incessant contemplation.

 

 

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Contemplation, circa 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Softly She Prays, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CONTEMPLATION

 

 

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contemplation/softly she prays ©️ 2004/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Take The Train

672. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m on a train. It is night so I can see the distant lights, feel the swaying of the car, hear the whistle blow as if from a distance. I love riding trains. They are calming, peaceful. People relax when they are on a train. All around me people are sleeping and the few conversations happening are in hushed tones.

Although it might seem that planes and trains serve the same purpose, they are vastly different. A trip on a plane is nothing like the experience of a train. On the train, we are not crammed in to too tight spaces, buckled in and consistently distracted from where we are – as happens on a plane. When you are on a plane they don’t want you to think too hard about what you are really doing (hurtling through space in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet). The beverage service and movie are there to keep you occupied. They tell me that babies cry on planes because the air pressure hurts their ears but I have a different theory: babies know they are skipping through space at 500 miles an hour and haven’t yet been socialized out of their feelings; they cry because it is the only sensible response to their predicament.

Not so on a train. Here, there is an entirely different philosophy at play. On the train, we are encouraged to look, we are free to walk about; there is a viewing deck! We are encouraged to take in our surroundings, not be distracted from them. We are on the ground. We are “in” it, not above it (if they are not yet sleeping, my car mates are staring out the window, deep in contemplation). Planes transport people from point A to point B; the “in between” space is tolerated. Trains are experiences; the “in between” space is the point. You can’t be in a hurry if you choose the train. Babies sleep on trains; they can’t help it, nothing rocks you to sleep like the motion of a train.

It is a happy accident that I am on this train tonight. And, I am amused at the theme appropriateness of this happy accident: this week I’ve been meditating on presence and slowing down – and wondering where in our contemporary lives does circumstance actually assist us in slowing down. I’ve found my metaphor on a train.