Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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Leave It! [on Two Artist Tuesday]

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what you don’t see in a picture is worth an additional word or two.

One of Kerri’s many nicknames is “Brat” and it is more-than-well-deserved. No one knows this better than Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog. He silently suffers her full brat nature. He patiently tolerates her howling laughter when he is, once again, the object of her brat-ocity.

DogDog easily picks up tricks. And, as an Aussie, he is a hyper-sensitive-good-boy, so Brat takes full advantage of his trusting nature, his need to please, and contorts the tricks. This is a photo of “leave it:” drop any snack on the floor, tell DogDog to “leave it,” and he won’t touch it until he’s given the magic sign. Tell him to “leave it” and he won’t move. Instead, he will follow you with his eyes imploring you for the magic sign. On this day, instead of dropping his snack on the floor, she put a tortilla chip on his head. And left it there for a very long time.

I knew I would be in trouble if I gave DogDog the magic sign. I knew I would bring Brat’s focus on to me if I interrupted her chuckling mischief. So, like DogDog, I sat very still and followed her around with my eyes. When would she give the magic signal? Both DogDog and I quaked with unbearable anticipation. When?! She moved back and forth, Dogga’s and my eyes tracking her every move. She took a picture. Moved across the room and took another. “Don’t torture the dog,” I implored.

“I’m not torturing DogDog,” she smiled, giving DogDog the magic sign, “I’ve been torturing you!”

 

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Lydia! Here’s the link: read Kerri’s blog post about BEING A BRAT

 

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Raise A Cup To Unka John [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We are fortunate. When we travel Unka John (aka 20) takes care of DogDog and BabyCat. Not only are our pets in excellent hands but they generally can’t wait for us to leave so they can have some Unka John time. They love their Unka John. We suspect that the party rages from the moment we exit the city limits until the moment we return. DogDog and BabyCat sleep for days after time with Unka John.

As parting advice, Unka John always tells us to “get some coffee! And make it espresso so you don’t have to stop a thousand times.” Sage advice for the over 50 traveler. It is our custom with each espresso stop to snap a photo and text it to him, “Cheers from Nashville. Missing you!” Or, “A double shot to get across Kansas! Want a cup?” If we’re ever lost, Unka John will be able to tell the authorities our location based on our last known coffee stop.

On this Two Artists Tuesday, raise a glass (cup) to those special people, your Unka Johns, who have your back, who cover your base, who worry about you, who care for your beloved DogDog and BabyCat, those precious guardians, givers of care.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about Espresso Cheers!

 

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Run In Circles [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It may not be immediately apparent, but this is a video of a solution. It is a celebration of non-resistance in the face of a force of nature. DogDog (also known as Tripper, also known as Dogga, also known as Don’tDoThat!) is a backyard killer. In his enthusiasm for life he runs circles -or – more accurately, he plows circles. No plant is sacred, no patch of grass is safe. For a few seasons we tried multiple strategies to achieve some semblance of backyard order only have Don’tDoThat! plow a new circle.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copyOne morning, watching the madness, Kerri sipped her coffee and said, “Why fight it?” She went in to the house and ordered a round-a-bout sign, careful to get one for left lane drivers so it would indicate the correct direction of his travels. DogDog is, after all, an Aussie. We planted his sign in the center of the velodrome, added a bit of wild grass around the sign and VA-WA-LA! Order (or, at least, the semblance)

On Two Artists Tuesday, a DogDog inspired reminder to lay down the fight; sometimes you can define the desire lines and sometimes you have to let them define you.

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Round-A-Bout

www.kerrianddavid.com

dogdog round-a-bout ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Look For The Mountain [On DR Thursday]

A mountain morsel for this DR Thursday from studio melange.

Kerri laughed her most devious laugh when I asked, “Where does this morsel come from?” I didn’t recognize it as a slice from any of my  paintings. I usually know immediately where the morsel comes from. This one baffled me.

“Guess,” she said, laughing that laugh again. I knew I was in trouble.

Usually, when I hear this particular devious laugh, I look behind me. Or, I check to see if she is clutching cleverly concealed water balloons. DogDog knows this laugh, too. It means he will have to work very hard, go through all of his tricks, probably twice, before getting the cookie that she holds just above his reach.  He always looks to me for support and I tell him, “You are on your own, Dogga.”  I know better than to redirect her brat impulses on to me.

And so, like DogDog, I guessed. And guessed again. And again. I did tricks. I searched my folio site. With each wrong guess, her pleasure at my bewilderment increased, her laughter goading me on. I looked to DogDog for help. He dropped to the floor and pretended to be sleeping. I was on my own.

Finally, exhausted, beyond begging, she dropped a tiny hint. The painting no longer exists.

Thanks to Skip I’ve made it a practice of taking process shots which means Kerri has made it a practice of mining my process shots. Many of my paintings don’t make it to the finish line. They are either not composed well, are ill conceived from the start, or I overwork them and have to scrub them and start over. Sometimes they serve as rough drafts and i abandon them when I see the better path. This morsel comes from one of those – a painting that did not make it. It was poorly laid out. It broke the rule of thirds (and I didn’t want to cut the canvas to correct the problem).

Kerri jumped up and down with joy when I put it together. She knew that she was going to re-introduce a painting to me. She knew, given the right framing, I’d see the beauty of the unfinished piece. So, the morsel: Mountain in Yellow Sky. And, for my purposes, the beauty in the loose painting that no longer exists: Together On The Beach.

 

It is potent blow-back to help me see the old anew. When I said, “I think I need to learn to stop painting sooner, to redefine for myself what is a rough draft and what is not.” she laughed that laugh again. The trouble I am in is so much bigger than I understand.

 

 

 

 

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about MOUNTAIN IN YELLOW SKY

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mountain in yellow sky/on the beach ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Use Joy Language

joy-croppedTripper Dog-Dog-Dog has moved through several names in his 3 years on earth. He has a cornucopia of names. For a while I dropped the “Tripper” part of his name and simply called him Dog-Dog. Now, much as a mother might use their child’s middle name, we only call him Tripper when he’s in trouble.

Lately I call him Dog-a-Dog (or doggadogga). He answers to Wag-A-Wag. He is an Australian Shepherd and has a bobbed tail that never stops wagging. He is a happy, happy boy. When I let him out in the morning I call him Fuss Bucket. When he comes back in I call him Poop Sack (for obvious reasons) or Bark Monster or Fur Ball. He sheds like a champion. When he circles through the rooms of our house looking for a safe place to deposit his bone, I (cleverly) call him Bone.

All the variations and derivatives are terms of endearment. Dog-Dog knows and responds in kind. Love is like that. Once, sitting on a train, I watched a grandfather lovingly toss his toddler grandson in the air saying, “You’re just Rubbish! That’s what you are! Rubbish!” The boy squealed with delight. The grandfather chuckled with pleasure and repeated the toss, “You’re just Rubbish!”

Language is a beautiful paradox. It is reductive even as it points to the unfathomable universe and the infinity of love. It is referential; we sometimes forget that the word “tree” is not the tree itself. It is merely an invented-phonetic-pointer toward something too complex to comprehend.

Language is powerful beyond comprehension. We use it to narrate our worlds, both inner and outer. The words we choose create the world we see. The words we choose define the world we inhabit. In my consulting/coaching days I used to love playing with exercises that revealed how easily we come to the language of gossip and blame. It requires almost no effort. Like sugar, hate-speak is addictive. It is the mark of a lazy mind.

The language of love takes some intention and consciousness. It demands conscious effort. It requires paying attention. It requires focusing the energy of the mind and, like any focus (or muscle) it demands exercise to be healthy. And, when exercised, it becomes easy. With great love, the word “Rubbish” can generate squeals of pleasure. The name “Fuss Bucket” will engender a full body joy-wag. And, a full body joy-wag will bring the love full circle. Love is like that. Joy is like that.

In his many books, Martin Prechtel writes beautifully about the power and necessity of speaking beautifully. Speaking beautifully creates a beautiful thinker and a beautiful thinker creates – narrates – a beautiful story, a beautiful world.

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Unfetter Kindness

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog on a roadtrip

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog on a road trip

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has no problem communicating his needs. I know without doubt when he wants to go out. I know when he wants his belly scratched or have his ears rubbed. He lets me know where he expects to be scratched. He is abundantly clear when food is his need. He does not second-guess his needs. He does not doubt his desires or confuse himself with obsessing over his reasons why.

Love is one of his needs. To give it and to receive it, exuberantly or tenderly, he does not invest in how I receive or return his love. He is not vulnerable because he has no need to hide or color his love-need. He has no brakes on his exuberance because it is pure, innate, and without story.

One of my favorite exercises to assign during my teacher/consultant phase was the Angel exercise. The assignment was simple: For three hours be an angel to someone. The only requirement was that the recipient could not know. Be an angel with no expectation of recognition; write about what you discover. The assignment was always greeted by a flurry of protests and questions (“I don’t know how…,” or “What does it mean to be….”). Angel-ing is scary business!

Once, to experiment, I assigned the opposite: be a devil/trickster. Instead of protests there were gales of laughter and excitement! No one asked “how.” In midst of their exuberant, fearless plotting and scheming, I reversed the design. Before they went into the world to demonize, I required them to flip their plan and do the opposite to their intended target: be an angel. Their sudden fear was palpable. “Now that you know how to torture this person, do the opposite,” I said. “Be their angel.”

Regardless of how we entered the assignment, the students/clients would return the following week exultant. Their experiences of Angel-ing, of unfettered kindness had profound blowback. They talked of their pre-Angel terror and the unexpected thrill that came with unfettered secret service to another person. They talked of the clarity that came with Angel-ing. They had fun. They felt good. They felt alive. Everything became simple. The greatest surprise of all – something that in this season we see on posters, holiday advertisements, Hallmark cards and screen-savers, something that is a cliché when proffered but rarely experienced: kindness begot kindness. Kindness begets kindness. Kindness clarifies life when it comes with no expectation of reciprocity. Kindness simplifies inner debates when it is wielded without need of reward.

Dog-Dog loves unconditionally. Love may be his only need. For Dog-Dog there is, I suspect, no distinction between giving and receiving. His exuberant love is not meant to gain access to heaven or to change the world in any way. It is without agenda. Angel-ing is like that…

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