Go Inward

a new painting perfect for winter and inward looking. it’s part of a set in my sacred series.

“The doctor may explain why the patient is dead, but never why the patient is alive.” ~Declan Donnellan

Once, tromping through a biodynamic vineyard, Barney explained to me that winter is the time for the energy of the vine to go to the root. The vine that appears dormant above ground is, in fact, actively recharging below the surface. The energy goes inward. The root rejuvenates, drinking in the minerals necessary for the new growth of the coming spring. The fruit of the summer is impossible without the rejuvenation of winter.

We are not so different from the vines though language can trick us into compartmentalizing, perceiving winter as distinct and separate from summer, the inhale as a separate action from the exhale, tides that ebb and then flow. Cycles of life have compartments in study but never in real life. The compartments are made up for the convenience of categorization and conversation.

These past few weeks we’ve been cleaning out our house, going through old boxes and files, shredding old bills, carrying furniture and computer carcasses to the curb. Old clothes are going away. Closets and bins are emptied. The house is beginning to breathe. There is space. Spaciousness. We are laughing at old pictures, sometimes cringing. This day’s new-found spaciousness inspires the next day’s cleaning rampage. It is invigorating. Rejuvenating.

and this is the other half of the set. winter has me looking inward and exploring simplicity in line and space.

Our cleaning tsunami wasn’t planned. Our computer crashed. Our work was interrupted. Our expression was limited. We complained and resisted and then turned our energies elsewhere. Inward. Going through and releasing old stuff, past lives, creating space, is rejuvenating. We are taking our time. We are going slowly. It is oddly restful.

Driving home from our walk in the woods, we laughed at ourselves. Mock-praising our virtuous cleaning, exaggerating and inflating our new found spaciousness to full spiritual illumination, we pretended we’d achieved life beyond wanting, living without yearning. Consciousness beyond compartments. Wiping laughter-tears from her eyes, Kerri said, “Wait! This could be boring! What is life without desiring some red wine while cooking dinner? What about the pleasure of yearning for morning coffee? With all this new found space….”

 

Live Your Metaphor

2mayyoubepeace-jpegA view from 30,000 feet (a meditation on metaphor):

Joe used to say that the universe tends toward wholeness. “Tends” is a precarious word of movement, like a tree that leans. Still, to me, Joe’s sentiment – his metaphor – is hopeful. He might have said that the universe tends toward confusion.

Chris and Janelle are starting a new theatre company, The Seadog Theatre Company. They are dedicating their work to exploring stories of alienation and reconciliation. Both alienation and reconciliation are words of movement. The first, alienation, is a movement away from wholeness (toward confusion?). The second, reconciliation, is a movement toward wholeness. Push away. Reach across.

Chris and I agree that all stories, from the deepest mythology to the most whimsical lampoon, are explorations of alienation and reconciliation. It is the human journey, it is humanity’s journey. It is the human experience. Journey is a word of movement, from here to there.

The Big Bang is science’s great narrative of alienation and reconciliation. Out of nothingness (formlessness) in a violent explosion of energy, all forms took shape. Stars, meteors, planets, atoms and oceans and daisies and Dog-Dog. Energy expressed in form. And then, so the narrative goes, form returns to energy. Like the tides going out the energy of the explosion will eventually turn, exhausted, and fall back toward the center in the Big Merge.

The eye blinks open, a universe comes into being. The eye blinks closed, a universe disappears. The tide comes in. The tide rolls out. It’s a cycle of movement. Metaphor.

“Your words are alienation and reconciliation,” I wrote to Chris, “mine are separation and unity. Same thing, yes?”

I’ve never been comfortable with religions because they often claim their metaphors as fact – and that freezes movement. For instance, Adam and Eve were Big-Banged out of the Garden of Eden for eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. One bite of the apple blew their minds open to differences. Separation. It is the experience of birth into this whacky world of duality and confusion. And just like all the stars and planets and oceans and daisies of the field hurtling through space and time, it is a story meant to help us seek wholeness as we stride though this field of opposites.

The universe may tend but we can intend. We can create. We can choose. We can point our ships toward alienation, we can cleave our world into us-and-them, run in fear and separation. Or, we can make conscious our stories (as Chris and Janelle intend in their theatre), we can walk the middle path (a potent metaphor), and recognize that the separation is at best temporary and arbitrary. Like the stars and planets and oceans and daisies, we will also exhaust the force of our explosion into form and fall back into the Big Merge.

products-may-you-be-jpegcool stuff like prints/mugs/pillows/cards/iphone cases/clocks

 

Peace.

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PEACE on iTunes:  kerri sherwood – track 5 on AS IT IS

 

 

 

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Do What Is Most Natural

IMG_0817The snows have come. The temperatures are grindingly low. Sitting at my desk, staring out the window at the world’s hibernation, I had a few thoughts about transformation. Actually, just before coming to the desk I flipped open the Bibles of Mankind for my random-thought-of-the-day. Today I landed on the Tao and specifically, this line: “By a transformation they live. By another transformation they die.”

In our births and our deaths we are all experts at transformation. In fact, in our progression through the many bodies we will in habit, the many phases we will navigate during the span of our singular life, we need not think about transformation or try to achieve it. Transformation is what we do. It happens. Track the progression of any life from infant to old age and you will witness a remarkable transformation.

I’ve just completed the first full cycle of seasons in my new home. Because it is all new to me, I’ve had the eyes to see the nuances, the profound changes in the trees, the lake, the rhythms of life including the migrations of geese. Nothing is normal (yet) so everything is special and alive. The cycle of the seasons, like the continual movement through the long body of life, is an ever-present transformation. The seasons do not try to transform; they are transformation.

People think they need to intend transformation. We seem to think we need to work at it to achieve it and somehow do not transform if we don’t marshal the process. Consciousness, like the body and the cycles of the seasons, transforms whether we intend it our not. That is the nature of consciousness. That is the natural movement of awareness.

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'Dancing In The Front Yard' by David Robinson

‘Dancing In The Front Yard’ by David Robinson

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Make No Sense

Untiltled Narrative by David Robinson

Untiltled Narrative by David Robinson

The cliché: life is a cycle. Order begets chaos and chaos begets order. Both are necessary. Just as spring is not possible without winter, order without chaos makes for only half a life. Safety without uncertainty makes for only half a life and a very boring life story.

Ann passed away last night. Her battle with cancer was long and nothing short of heroic. Kerri said, “She was such a bright light! Damn cancer. This makes no sense.” Too true.

Last night, John came back into our lives. We sat for hours talking of the events and changes of the lost years. He told us of the necessity to finally stop trying “to make things work” and how he stepped into the discomfort of uncertainty. Now, standing solidly in his uncertainty, he feels both lost and found. That is a great description of how change feels. We got the news of Ann’s death while John was visiting. We had a glass of wine and made a toast to her life. And then we made a toast to appreciating life in all of its textures. John said, “At the end of the day, all that really matters is a bottle of wine to share with friends.” Too true.

More clichés: rejuvenation necessarily begins in the province of disorder and the unknown. The journey back to self winds through miles and miles of uncharted territory.

Each journey is made beautiful by the monsters and masters we meet along the way. Both are teachers. Both bring gifts and force changes of direction. The Cyclops is as necessary as the sage and both serve new sight and the refocusing of the eye. Both are necessary to strip away our resistance to the cycles, to peel away the protective layers we pile on to life that obscures what truly matters.

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Laugh For Warmth

'The Wind' by David Robinson

‘The Wind’ by David Robinson

Someone threw a switch and it’s winter. There was no gentle drop in temperature, no ease into the cold. Monday was balmy. Tuesday was bitter. Today, the pond is frozen and I am watching the front edge of the snowy season dip its toes into the world. Last night we cut short our usual walk; we were shy a few layers of clothing and feeling was leaving all fingers and toes. We laughed for warmth and walked faster.

Life changes fast. We are reminded of that when tragedy strikes. When death comes to the too young or the fire consumes the neighbor’s house and all their treasures, we say, “Remember how precious this life is! Remember to be more grateful for what we have!”

Sometimes that seems to be the single salient point of tragedy: to make the rest of us stop, remember and appreciate what has real value. And, the moment of appreciation, like all moments, is passing. We get caught again in the dull pull of routine and stop seeing the miracle.

I just entered an art competition (note: isn’t it strange that “art” and “competition” can exist in the same sentence?); the theme is peace (note: isn’t it strange that the theme of a competition could be peace?). In my artist statement I wrote that peace is a practice, not an outcome. It is something people bring to the table, not something negotiated at the table. Conflict is at the core of every story and, therefore, is the engine of movement in every story. That is also true in every life story. We tell stories of enmity and we tell stories of amends and, if we are paying attention, we realize that both are a single story told from a different point of view. The story we tell, like peace, is something we bring to the table, not something we find there.

Flip the switch, stand in the others’ shoes, laugh for warmth and walk faster or simply slow down and feel the cold. Life not only changes fast, it passes fast, too. It seems impossible that I moved here a year ago. It seems like last week. Today, looking out the window as big snowflakes float to the ground, watching the Dog-Dog chase them with great delight and snap them out of the sky, I made a conscious decision to see the miracle and forgo the necessity of a thump to wake me from dullness. This winter is like no other.

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Explore The Human

photo-2

my latest work-in-progress. No name yet, approximately 5ft x 9ft.

Standing on the stair to her studio, Pam said, “I’m not sure where my work is going. I’ve pulled out all of the old paintings so I can see where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and maybe that will help me live into what’s next.” Like me, Pam has been a painter most of her life. She’s been through this transition many times before and recognizes the necessity of fallow artistic fields. Rather than push or panic, she’s matured as an artist and knows enough to value the emptiness.

With maturity comes faith. The muse never leaves. She rests. Artistic cycles are no different than seasons. Like a farmer living through the winter months on the harvest of the fall, Pam will spend hours sitting with her old work, thinking nothing, drinking in the nutrient of her artistic yield, allowing her inspiration fields to recharge and rejuvenate. She will allow herself to go empty, creating ample space for the new work when the muse reawakens. And then, one day, she will pick up a brush and be surprised by what comes through her.

Hans said, “An artist matures when he or she ceases working from their pain and begins exploring the human condition.” Working from the wound is necessary as adolescence is necessary. Most artists in our western tradition begin in rebellion, pushing against, making statements. We celebrate the outsider, the margin-sitter and so the wound can be difficult to escape: artistic pain becomes a role, an expectation. In practice it is akin to a developmental stall. The only place to go when pain is the norm is into the intellect: to produce, to make statements. Pain isolates and ultimately, an isolated artist is ineffective. Artistry, like all things vital, must occupy a shared space. It is communal or it is impotent.

Potency comes when the eyes turn out, when the question of “we” becomes more vital and interesting than the question of “I.” Artists mature when they reorient, when instead of the art expressing their pain, they serve the art and, make no mistake, art is another word for “human condition.” Art is bubbling life in all its forms: visual, kinesthetic, aural. As Hans said, “I want to fall deeper and deeper into the music. I want to find the edges and follow where it takes me, give myself over to it.”

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Return To Life

Tripper-dog-dog-dog listens to birds

Tripper-dog-dog-dog listens to birds

I’m writing this from the choir loft. It’s gorgeous outside and I wonder what I’m doing inside on such a beautiful morning. Kerri is playing the organ for an early morning service. I’ve decided – just this moment – that the organ is an instrument for the dark days of winter. It is heavy and fills your belly like good hearty stew. Birdsong is the music of spring.

Before coming here this morning I was hanging out in the back yard with Tripper-dog-dog-dog. We were watching birds. We were listening to their worship service. He is mystified by them. They are a relatively recent discovery for him. He cocks his head sideways as he stares at them as if to say, “What the heck!” Then he looks to me to see if I’m having the same revelation. I say, “Pretty incredible, huh!” He nods in agreement (no exaggeration. really. no really).

My conversation with the stained glass window continues. The three panels of the window are, of course, the nativity on the left, the crucifixion on the right, and the resurrection in the center panel. It is the largest image. The focal point. The return to life is the center and perhaps this is the meta-point of my window conversation. Many years ago in a class on ritual and life cycles, the instructor said that each one of us would die and be reborn 12 times in the course of our lives. These mini deaths and rebirths were preparation for the main event. Energy does not die, it changes form.

The window is a perfect cycle of the seasons. Throughout the winter the window and I have been talking about the return to life. We’ve talked about birth and rebirth. We’ve talked about pilgrimages. Every life is a pilgrimage. There are long stretches of walking, rich with discovery, sometimes with achy legs and exhaustion. There are days of rest. There are arrivals and departures. Sometimes the weather is fair and sometimes not. The bad weather days make better stories; protagonists need obstacles to move things forward. Flow rarely requires lengthy recounting. Sunrise and sunset are, of course, our daily birth and death cycle, a solar pilgrimage!

Birth and rebirth is the mirror image of death and resurrection and, of course, this is the season of things coming back to life. Both are progressions, movement through the cycle of life. This cycle, punctuated by my first Wisconsin winter, is especially pronounced for me. Three weeks ago we were knee deep in snow. I can see and feel the return of life, the warmth of the sun’s return.

One year ago I was wandering, in the exhaustion phase of my pilgrimage, dropping the old knapsack; it was too heavy to carry any longer. I enacted and presided over one of my mini deaths. This morning I breathed in the cool air and watched the worship of birds. Nests are being built and I am enjoying the sweetness of life’s return.

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