Save Your Nickel [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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We walk on snowy trails through the woods because it is quiet. I retreat to my studio to work because it is quiet. It inspires quiet. Quiet evokes quiet.

Scrolling through her news app, Kerri said, “Everyone in the world is angry.” It certainly seems that way, especially if the news is the lens through which the world is defined. Headlines shout. The advertisements flash and disrupt.  Tom used to say that watching television, plugging into the news-of-the-day, reminded him of his childhood. The circus would come to town. Carnival barkers and bright signs, lots of noise and distractions. The one sure moneymaker, the tent everyone clamored to get into, lining up to pay their shiny nickel, was the freak show. Two headed cows in jars of formaldehyde. Things that gross us out or make us mad. “Nowadays, they call it reality television,” he’d say, shaking his head. “Or the news. It’s a lot of noise.”

Here’s a simple truth: conversation is impossible in too much noise. People shouting to be heard. A room full of shouting people actually makes listening more difficult and conversing impossible. It’s a feedback loop. Noise evokes noise. And, noise isolates. It is a perfect recipe for being alone together.

The Five20 is a little bar at the Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg.  Their tagline, “Where you can actually hear your conversation” is refreshingly accurate and seems a throwback to another era. People valuing conversation; a place, a space, intended to facilitate interaction sans noise. Our group, 10 people strong, the up-north-gang, began and ended our yearly trek to Winterfest there. Sitting at the far end of the long table, I could hear every word spoken at the other end. Even when the bar was packed.  And, the best part, today, I can’t tell you what we talked about – the simple stuff  of life – but I can tell you that we laughed and shared and left the Five20 full of friendship, warmed by sharing rather than exhausted from shouting.

As Tom would have said, “Save your nickel.” Sometimes the thing you seek is not in the tent amidst the noise but outside, far from the circus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR

 

 

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Paint With Sand [on KS Friday]

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Many years ago I was lucky enough to see a sand mandala created by Tibetan monks. It was intricate and vibrant. It seemed impossible to create something so complex with sand. The day after I saw the painting the monks ceremoniously destroyed it. The process, the painting, is a mediation on the impermanence of all things.

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now 58 years old. More and more the transience of all things is less a metaphor and more of a reality. If there is wisdom that comes with age it is at least partially attributed to the awakening reality of our transitory lives. As the monks remind us, we are, in truth, a beautiful intricate sand painting.

Kerri and I took a walk yesterday through our beloved and soon-to-be-passing Bristol woods. A sizable ropes-adventure-course is being constructed that will cut through the center of the woods. More than ever we appreciate our walks through Bristol because we know these are probably among the last. We stopped along the path to catch our breath and, laughing, found ourselves spontaneously rolling balls of snow to create a snowman. Permanence is not a high priority in making a snowman.

Later, sitting together in the nature megaphone, we were being silly and howling with laughter. I realized that, because it was my birthday, we’d granted ourselves a free pass for the day. Nothing need be achieved. Nothing need be created. We had no agenda so, therefore, no time constraints. There was no attempt at permanence or investment in importance or thought to fill-up-time and so, in the absence of a purpose-filled-day, we found great open space for play and laughter. Pure enjoyment of our fleeting moment and of each other. I found myself in the mandala, appreciating the passing moment of vibrant colored sand.

In TRANSIENCE, Kerri builds a snowman, she takes us on a stroll through the passing woods, a mandala of rich musical color, and, if we give over to it, she knows, we might just find that great open space teeming with play and presence and the simple enjoyment of being alive.

 

TRANSIENCE on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

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read Kerri’s blog post on TRANSIENCE

 

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transience/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Risk The Adventure [on DR Thursday]

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On Monday, I pulled out the Chicken-Marsala-rough-draft folio. I was searching for a rough concept sketch. It was an early-Chicken idea, a joke mostly, but I thought it would be a good choice, an encapsulation of the melange, for our anniversary week. In it, Chicken Marsala is a nascent angel en route to his very first assignment. He is in full resistance. His mentor angel is pushing him forward. She’s trying to convince him to that this first mission is ideal, a cake-walk, but he knows better. It’s a mess. He’s being assigned to an aging couple. Newlyweds. Two artists. Chicken screams, “But they’re BOTH artists!” The mentor-angel responds, “Get in there, tiger! They’re lucky to have you!”

How many times in life, in your moment of resistance, have you heard, “It’ll be good for you.” Translation: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. The problem with this bit-of-wisdom is that being killed is one of the options. In the face of hungry tiger, who doesn’t need a push!

I found the sketch of angel-Chicken but got lost looking through the hundreds of drafts and idea sketches in the folio. If you are looking for something to lift your spirits on a cold and bleak winter day, flipping through the Chicken folio is guaranteed to bring some sun and a smile. He became a festival of optimism. He jumps for the joy of jumping.

The  joy of jumping. That is a much better and more accurate encapsulation of the melange. It is not a story of survival or resistance. In fact, at this one year mark, by measures of survival, it makes no sense at all. Our original intention, making a living, has long ago given way to something more essential. We are doing it because we love doing it. We write for the joy of writing. By measures of joy, of vibrant living, nothing else makes sense.

We regularly slip off of rocks and find ourselves sitting in the water. It is the necessary risk for doing what we love. Life rule #1: Have the experience first; make meaning of the experience second. “Risk,” as Chicken has taught us, is just another word for “Play.” Jump. Welcome the adventure. And, see what happens.

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read Kerri’s blog post on RISK & ADVENTURE

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here’s the full panel

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Count It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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People like to count things. Kerri and I are people so it only follows that on this melange anniversary week that we’ve been counting all manner of things. 52 weeks. 5 posts a week. 260 posts times two. 520 posts between us. What does it mean? Nothing of consequence.

People like to count things. Isn’t it true that, as the proverb states, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, after the thousand miles journey, sitting in the sun by the side of the road, who wouldn’t try to calculate the actual number of steps? Just for kicks? What does it mean? Nothing really.

187. The number of product lines that Kerri designed in the first 6 months of the melange. Not single products, but entire lines. From art prints to bath mats to tote bags to cell phone cases. In our week of counting, it is the single number that astounded me. It was the aspect of the melange that required the most amount of time and effort.

It was also fun. I loved watching Kerri design. She becomes hyper-focused. Passionate. Impeccable. I was mostly beckoned for feedback. “What do you think about…?” Usually, there was no answer required. In asking the question she generally identified her preference and was back to working before I said a word.

People like to count things. It is another way of telling the story. Well, at least a part of the story. 187. 520. What does it all mean? Nothing really.  The numbers are the least part of the story. The simple joy of working together, the river of ideas shared along the way. The heart conversations. The laughter. There is no number capable of capturing what happened in the midst of all those steps.

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read Kerri’s blog post about 187

 

[Here’s the very first Flawed Cartoon Wednesday. I thought (and still think) these cartoons are hysterical. The number of people who went to the Flawed Cartoon store: 0. What does it mean?]:

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if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copy[Do it! Go to the store just for kicks! You’ll be the first!]

 

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flawed cartoon ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Step Forward [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In story terms, before leaving home, before walking into the dark woods, it is necessary to take a moment and wander from room to room to remember. One last time, to touch the life you are about to leave.  Just as ‘how’ something is done can only be known after the fact, so too, ‘who’ you are can only be seen at the moment of leaving.

Isn’t that why we look back? To put a period on the sentence before stepping into the unknown. Each run up to the new year, amidst the celebrations and hoo-haw, we review the traveled path. We touch it,  label it, put it on the shelf, let go, celebrate and grieve, and make resolutions based on who we want to become. And then, we turn and step into the unknown woods, the new year.

This week, Kerri and I have been wandering from room to room in the melange. Lingering in a spot, laughing about some of the things we tried to do, amazed at some of the things we achieved, letting go of the ‘should-haves’ and lingering in appreciation of the ‘what-is.’ In a year, we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. In a year, we discovered what we never could have imagined.

Last year, at this time, the melange was the dark woods that we stepped into. We had no idea what we’d find. We had intentions and dreams and ideals (oh, those pesky resolutions!). We started with some good advice. It came from Beaky and was our very first Two Artists Tuesday design. Live Life, My Sweet Potato. Step into that dark wood. There are bears and swamps and mountains to climb. Experience all of it. The celebrations and grieving, the lost-ness and found-ness. Life is not found on the other side. Life is found in living of all of it.

That’s what we found, touching back to the first week of the melange. An affirmation. Step forward. Live it all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MELANGE, WEEK ONE

 

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if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copy

 

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two artists designs ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I’m not sure what stacks up around your house. At our house, the stacks are paintings, cartoons, designs, composition notes, manuscripts, folios, notebooks of ideas, scraps of paper jammed into the notebooks of ideas, lyrics a-go-go, and the supplies necessary to make the other stacks possible. Colored pencils, brushes, too many composition books, canvas, tissue paper, paint, sketchbooks, art books, and the stacks-and-stacks of stuff teetering on the piano and bench that somehow resemble a nest.

All of this is to note that we are fantastic generators of content and equally inept marketers of what we generate. Thus, the stacks. It was this realization – and the necessity of making a living – that one year ago gave birth to the melange. Melange means ‘mixture’ or ‘medley.’

The idea was simple: Monday would be dedicated to our cartoon, Chicken Marsala. Tuesday would be dedicated to our Two Artists designs. Wednesday was Flawed Cartoon day. Thursday was for my paintings. Friday was for Kerri’s music. We created a Society6.com store for each day, set about designing 5 product lines a week (oh, god,…more content). Through our blogs we’d write about and publish the day’s selection, he-said/she-said-style. People all over the world would read what we wrote, be captivated by the cartoon, design or composition, and race to the Society6.com store to buy a print or a mug or a laptop sleeve or a greeting card. Content out, income, well…in.

And, it happened. People all over the world read our blogs. And, almost no one raced to the Society6.com stores. We studied a few things, learned a few things, reconfigured, tried a few social-media-marketing variations, bought ad space, waved our hands, jumped up and down, danced silly dances – we pivoted and pivoted again.

More readers. Less-than-no shoppers.

One day, after eight months, we looked at each other and considered pulling the plug and would have pulled the plug except for one small-yet-oh-so-important detail: we love to write together. In the course of a year, the melange managed to boil itself down to its essence. Each day Kerri writes her post. “Don’t look!” she says as I, sitting next to her,  write mine. And then, before posting, we share them. We read to each other. It’s always a surprise (though mine are predictably “heady” and hers are 100% “hearty”).

When I looked back at our first post one year ago I laughed at the irony. Love needs no words. Well, in this case, in our case, love revels in words. There are too many words for the love to contain. And, so, our stacks grow happily higher and higher and higher.

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if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copy

read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

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chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Take A Slow Walk [on KS Friday]

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Many years ago, on a beautiful fall evening, I was in San Francisco. My work  was complete. Thinking that my work would stretch into the evening I’d planned to stay the night before driving back to Los Angeles. It was a rare treat to have so much free time.

I walked. I let the winds of fancy blow me, going in any direction that caught me. The sun went down. I wound my way up a hill and came upon a park with a view of the city. It sparkled. I sat on a wall and watched the city shimmer, listened to the sounds, and reveled in the remarkable absence of any demand-on-my-time. A space between.

Kerri’s BRIDGE brings me back to that evening, to that slow walk to nowhere-in-particular on a crystal clear fall evening. It brings me to the peace of sitting on a wall, overlooking a city, with no desire or need to be anywhere else. May this BRIDGE, Kerri’s remarkable BRIDGE, bring you the peace and presence that it always brings to me.

 

BRIDGE on the album AS IT IS, available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BRIDGE

 

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bridge/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood