Circle [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

circle copy

Perhaps the most true phrase I’ve read about The Circle is that its symbolism is inexhaustible. It is universal and the ultimate cross-cultural sign. No beginning, no end.

Wholeness. Unity. Infinity. It points to the mystery. Cycles of life. Endless movement.

It also has a meaning-making-flip-side. It can be as vicious as it is virtuous. A closed community. The shape that distinguishes us from them. Loops of reactivity. An energy eddy. An inescapable whirlpool. A widening gyre.

Ask a circle, “What does it all mean?” and the circle will ask in return, “What does it mean to you?”

It is a radically different action to search for meaning than it is to make meaning. And, most likely, the search for and the assignment of meaning are dancing partners. All of us seek. All of us assign meaning.

We can’t help but ask, “Why is this happening?” A few curious scientists and seekers go beyond their circles of understanding and look for answers. They inevitably find more questions. Another loop.

The artists always live on the edge of the circle precisely so they can see in. When the community asks, “Why is this happening?” they scribble lines, make music, write poems, and dance. Communing with what is on the other side of the known. Making meaning. Perhaps incapable of approaching an answer to the question, “Why?” but certainly opening the circle of possibilities to what we might come to understand together. Creating a commons. Another loop.

 

HH heart in sand website box copy

 

 

 

Stand Out [on Two Artist’s Tuesday]

you be you bus copy

You be you. If you think about it, who else can you possibly be? As trite as it may seem, this appeal on the side of a bus captures in simple marketing language one of the greatest paradoxes of living life in the most individualistic culture on the planet. We are reinforced to be hyper-unique but hammered repeatedly to fit in. It is the ultimate split intention. It is why we have such a ubiquitous self-help industry and so many preachers-of-purpose-seeking. Asking, “Where do I fit in?” is a terribly hard question to answer when the expectation is to stand out.

I suspect our current dedication to division is, to some extent, built upon this paradox. Split souls are generally angry souls and anger is an easy organizing principle to exploit. Tribes of anger need nothing more than enemies to bridge the split. A good enemy, real or imagined, can provide to an angry tribe both a sense of individual purpose and a place to belong.

I heard a term the other day that frightened me: low information voter. Years ago I heard an economist speak at a conference and his message was profound. A healthy democracy requires an educated populace. Without the capacity to sort through the heaps of rhetoric, pull apart the agendas to see beyond the manipulation, without some simple capacity  for analysis, or a bigger picture, then votes will be cast from simple, uninformed and often angry belief. In other words, democracies fall when its members do not care enough to know what they are voting for. Power will always corrupt. The brilliance of a democracy is that the people are meant to be the ultimate check on power. In order to be the check, they have to look beyond the political party line and ask, “What really happened here?”

The leaders of angry tribes need low information voters. It’s the only way they can stay in positions of power. It feels good to fit in. But, in a culture known for its individuality, it feels all the more satisfying to stand up, to stand out and ask, “What’s really going on here?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU BE YOU

 

savannah selfie WEBSITE BOX copy

Spin Off Center [on Merely A Thought Monday]

not too chicken copy

I’ve always been a bit mystified by the hyper-charge surrounding the word ‘change.’ It doesn’t matter which way the word slices, it will either evoke great fear and trepidation [we’ve always done it this way!] or it will reach to the deepest depths of yearning and impatience [we need to be different!]. Guard the bastion. Explore new worlds.

Organizations try to manage change. Yet, organizations sell their products as cutting edge. They promote themselves as leaders of change.

We celebrate change-makers. Game changers. We also honor the keepers of the flame. Rule keepers. We pride ourselves on our innovative spirit while pondering the loss of tradition.

Creative tension. Push, pull. It’s a balancing act, yes? A continuum. Where exactly is the hard line between progress and tradition?

Stepping into the unknown is never easy though, isn’t it true that each day of life is, in fact, a step into the unknown? The wheel spins on and on and on.

Growing old is not for wimps. That’s what Beaky said. We all do it. Movement is life and life is change.

We live in an interesting time. Everything is recorded. Evidence of change is everywhere. Actors get old. Politicians vehemently defend the opposite of what they vehemently defended 20 years ago.

The question is not about change or not change.  It is more about what we desire to be  steadfast in the midst of change. Circumstances change. Opinions change. Beliefs change. Traditions change. But, what is in the center of the wheel? Values like ‘honesty’ and ‘truth?’ Agreements of decency? A constitution?

What happens when those hubs are manipulated and simply fall away?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHANGE

 

snowsteps website box copy

Take Another Step [on KS Friday]

my best friend with frame copy

We spent some time last week talking about our beginning. We’d written a post and it prompted us to remember. It was surprisingly necessary to recount our story. To revisit our genesis.

In the guest room in Kerri’s parent’s house was a wall of family photographs. Many were pictures of weddings. A proud man in a uniform about to leave for the second war to end all wars, arm-in-arm with his bride in her wedding gown. A generation back in time, stiff collars, seated brides. There were more recent grooms and brides, too. Kerri’s sister and Bill. Wayne and Jan. Wendy and Keith. Heather and Brian. Beaches and rains of rice. When we stayed in that room, I’d sit on the bed and study the pictures. People standing together on the threshold of a new life. All of the unknowns, the triumphs and tragedies, the obstacles and stories of overcoming, waiting to be lived. But, in this one photographic moment, the vow, the unsullied togetherness, shines: we will walk hand in hand through thick and thin. I promise.

I loved looking at those photographs. The people in them are focused on all good things. There is not a hint of future fear. It’s as if the camera crew at the edge of the mystery was taking snapshots of the bold adventurers on the day the expedition set sail. Anticipation. Hope.

Our photograph is on a wall now. Not Beaky and Pa’s, but on our wall. In our picture, we stand toe to toe. In another, we are skipping out of our ceremony just as we skipped out of the airport the day that we met. Ours, we remembered last week, is a story that began with skipping. With wine on a roof top. With burgers and champagne. With a mystic Taize.

Kerri wrote this song for her niece’s wedding a decade ago. So much life is being lived! So many roads walked. So many adventures ahead.  What would the camera crew at the edge of the mystery capture in their photographs today, at this stage in the adventure? Anticipation? Hope? Holding hands, squeezed in affirmation. Let us take another step together, my best friend.

 

 

the single, MY BEST FRIEND is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MY BEST FRIEND

 

wedding pic with website copy

my best friend ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Look Beneath [on DR Thursday]

underpainting copy

What’s beneath? It’s a question all artists learn to ask. It’s the same question good coaches ask of their clients. Seeing is not a superficial affair.

What’s beneath? What alchemy of color was brewed to make this image or that painting? What alchemy of experience was brewed to make this belief or that perception?

Sometimes “what’s beneath” supports and enlivens the surface layers. It’s magnetic and makes you stare – even if you don’t know why. Sometimes it dulls the painting, pulling the life from it. The same holds true for how a life is storied. Sense-making is as dynamic as color.

Color is a miracle. It is never passive. It is only understood by what it is relative to. That is, color, like a relationship, is fluid, moving, spirited.

What’s beneath all those layers and layers of color?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDER PAINTING

 

 

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under painting, like captain underpants, is under copyright. ©️ 2020 robinson david

Coalesce [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Sometimes, when we are walking through the woods, I imagine myself with none of the labels that I claim as important. What if “artist” did not apply? Or “teacher.” What if none of my opinions or ideas or justifications had any merit or substance? What if they were bits of armor or heavy clothing that I could drop as I walked? So much lighter, less encumbered, who, then, would I be? Divested of my made-up-meaning and my hard-fought-for stress, what might I experience?

These imaginings, my questions – at least to me – are not nihilistic. They are the opposite. When I am walking in the woods and all the clutter and noise and the oh-so-important-to-do-list falls away, when all of my investments in my-very-important-ideas and my-resistances-to-immovable-objects drops off, when my frustrations and anxieties evaporate, I come back to my senses. Literally and metaphorically. The cold air. The limbs waving and groaning in the breeze. The quiet chatter of the brook that ambles through Bristol Wood. I become the moment I inhabit. I inhabit the moment of my becoming. That’s it. My “meaning” takes on a proper proportion, no greater or smaller than life itself.

Listening to the brook, the sound of our feet crunching the snow, I remember something John O’Donohue wrote. “The river is a miracle of presence. Each place it flows through is the place that it is…In a river, past, present, and future coalesce in the one passionate flowing.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WOODS

 

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Check Your Reality [on Two Artists Tuesday]

ice copy

We parked the truck in the Kemper Center lot, far enough from the shore not to be hit by the flying debris, the chunks of seawall and pavement being hurtled from the impact of the waves. Kerri has lived here for over 30 years, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she repeated as a towering wave engulfed the gazebo, took down a piece of the wall of the art center, a hunk of coastline disappeared.

Later, after the storm, we went back. Trees were down, encased in ice. Huge sections of the walking path were shattered and tossed into the flooded mess of the parking lot behind the center. Walking was treacherous. Like the trees, the ground, the rocks, the destruction was coated in a thick layer of ice. It was beautiful and inconceivable.

Words mask all manner of reality. We have a word, nature, that can’t even begin to touch the magnitude, the power of where it points. Mother Nature. I have been thrown out of bed in an earthquake that brought down freeways like they were so much satin ribbon. Go to Pompeii or Herculeneum, visit Mt. Saint Helens, watch with disbelief any of the news  footage of any one of the tsunamis that have wiped communities off the map. Wrap your mind around it, if you can.

We are cavalier in our conversations about global warming. We impact, we do not command. We reduce it to questions of business, of protecting the beef industry. Which economy will suffer most? We make up these strangely insignificant divisions. We imagine that we are the center, holding all the controls. We imagine that it is all about us. So small, a chihuahua yipping at a forest fire.

Sitting in the truck, feeling the boom of the waves in my chest as they tore off chunks of the shore, I felt tiny. I remembered a snippet of film I saw about a man who wore a superhero suit and stood in the face of an oncoming storm. He flexed and stomped and raged for the camera. And then the storm hit. The best he could do was run for his life.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about THE STORM

 

bonfire website box copy

 

ice ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

for prints of “ice” go here