Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

There is so much good mischief in our studio melange! If trying to syndicate Chicken Marsala in strip and single panel [nugget] form was not enough, in our spare time, with the help of our dear friend 20, we also made a run at another cartoon, Flawed. Everyone needs a good laugh on hump day. Wednesdays – especially this Valentine’s Wednesday – belong to Flawed.

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WIENER DOG SLED

kerrianddavid.com

 

wiener dog sled ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Chicken Marsala Monday

We were 14 hours into a 17 hour drive when she asked the question. “If we’d had a child, what would we have named it?” After much laughter and too much coffee we settled on Chicken Marsala.  Chicken kept us awake for the rest of our drive.

No one can accuse us of not being productive. We are a creative melange of paintings, music, plays, books, children’s books, and, now, cartoons. For over a year we attempted to syndicate our strip, Chicken Marsala (the imaginary child of an aging couple…) and were met with much enthusiasm but not syndication. We produced months of strips and single panel nuggets (chicken strips and chicken nuggets. Titanic wit, yes?).

Brewed from our studio, from the pile of creative perseverance that is stacking up below and above the ping pong table that serves as our archive , we’ve decided to offer a daily blend of goodness, thought, laughter and beauty. It may come fresh off the press or it might be aged and, like Chicken Nuggets, it might be looking for some light. Art is made to share, not archive. Either way, welcome to the melange. Chicken’s day is Monday. This nugget has everything to do with Valentine’s week and a quiet reminder that the universe of feelings is so much bigger than words can possibly contain.

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LOVE NEEDS NO WORDS

kerrianddavid.com

love needs no words ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.

Capture The Essence

Dog-Dog and treasure

Dog-Dog and treasure

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog gathers his stuff around him. He has two stinky blankets that he pulls from his crate each morning, a red Kong, a blue chew bone with a handy looped rope pull, another blue toy that once looked like a jack but has been chewed beyond recognition, a once-stuffed moose from Josh that is now an unrecognizable shredded mess though he carries it around as if it was precious cargo. There is also a muddy tennis ball, a raw hide bone and usually a sock pilfered from my sock basket. If Kerri and I shift locations within the house, move from the living room to the sun room, Dog-Dog’s worldly possessions will slowly migrate with us. He is subtle and I rarely see the migration in progress; I suddenly realize that I am sitting within a nest of Dog-Dog treasure.

My favorite section in The Lost Boy is a series of questions that Tom asked: 1) if you were given a cardboard box and it was all that was going to be allowed to provide proof that you walked on this earth, what would you put in your box? 2) Beyond proof, what would you put in the box that captured the essence of who you were, that distinguished you from all the others? 3)What are the collections, the things you gather around you that are somehow supposed to tell others who you are? These questions might seem simple but are surprisingly complex. How does your stuff tell the story of who you are? Or, a better question: does your stuff define you? Can your stuff – your car, your house, your granite counter tops, your clothes, your jewelry,…, – capture your essence?

Tom asked two other related and relevant questions: In packing your box, would you be tempted to scrub your life of its messiness? Would you try to eliminate the mundane, the everyday? Would you throw away your rough drafts? Would you ignore the relationships that didn’t work out? Would you explain away the ugliness, the ruthless choices? Would you burn your personal journals so that the future might never glimpse your doubt, your struggles, your frailty?

I would add these questions: What if your essence was only available to you once you value the messiness? What if, in throwing away the mundane, you actually eliminate what is truly special about you? I’ve often taught and touted a tenet from improvisational theatre: drop your clever and pick up your ordinary – most of us diminish/neglect our greatest gifts because we label them as ordinary. They come naturally to us so we don’t always recognize them. In trying so hard to be clever, to be right, to be flawless,…to be other, we regularly overlook the real treasure and relegate ourselves to that most shameful pile labeled ‘ordinary.’

Scrubbing life to a sterile, conflict-less blandness is a recipe for….boredom and, at the end of the day, a very uninteresting box. Of this I am certain: if Dog-Dog had to pack his box today, I would be proud to sit amidst the stinky blankets, blue bones and remnants of moose toy. Dog-Dog hides none of his messiness.

 

Delight In Delight

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has taught me a game. The rules are simple: I pick up a stick. He rushes me and snatches the stick from my hands. I exclaim, “Hey, that’s my stick!” (saying my line was the hardest part for him to teach me). And then I give chase. We have a small pond in our back yard and it makes a perfect track for running in circles. The game becomes more fun when I reverse directions and force Dog-Dog evasive maneuvers. Sometimes he drops the stick so that I will pick it up so that he will be able to snatch it from my hands so that I will exclaim, “Hey! That’s my stick,” and the game begins anew. The game ends when I can no longer breathe.

I’m not sure which of us loves it more. I find myself laughing uncontrollably at the look he gets in his eyes, the combination of intensity and glee. He delights in the pure pleasure of the chase. I delight in his delight.

During these bitter cold days, when I am dedicated to warmth and staying inside, he has a specific bounce and shirt nip technique that is the equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. I know he wants to play THE GAME – not some namby-pamby indoor game, but the real thing. He is insistent and persistent – which has become another game: I pretend that I don’t understand to escalate his insistence. When he is near to outrage at the dull wit of his master, I feign a revelation. His relief is palpable. His excitement is unbridled, bouncing at the back door as I slowly (another game) pull on my coat and gloves.

Dog-Dog is helping me see life simply. Many things that used to seem so complicated now look to me like infinite games (see James Carse’s terrific book, Finite and Infinite Games). There is abundant joy everywhere if the game is recognized as a game, if playing the game well is more important than winning. If the game is not recognized, if winning is all that matters (a finite game), there will be serious faces, an existential tug-of-war, loads of stress, and dis-ease. “Hey, that’s my stick!” but with deep investments in stick ownership and control.

Each day that Dog-Dog tugs my sleeve, throws down the gauntlet, and bounds outside, I find myself bounding outside, too. I find that I am laughing before we start, before the stick is snatched from my hands. If the mark of a good life is the capacity to run for the love of running, the sheer joy of the pursuit, then I am blessed with a master teacher who believes that the best way, the only way to learn is in the doing: play to play.

 

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Unbridle Your Enthusiasm

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog's trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog’s trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog is tough on toys. He does well with hard rubber Kongs and rawhide bones but the stuffed animal variety haven’t got a prayer. We long ago stopped buying them for him. Even as a small puppy he’d make short work of anything that squeaked or resembled a creature. More than once, moments after giving him a new toy, I found him sitting happy and content amidst a nest of fiberfill with the empty body-shaped sack of toy remnant clutched firmly between his paws. Dog-Dog has several admirers who are unaware of his destructive talents and bring him stuffed animals as gifts. Like offerings to a high priests in days of old, Tripper graciously accepts their offer and removes to the backroom for immediate slaughter. For reasons I can’t explain, we keep the heads from his sacrifices. We use the heads as sleeves for our knife set or as wine bottle covers; it’s our own little version of Game of Thrones.

I’m learning much from master Dog-Dog. Lately his lessons are about faith and exuberance for the sheer pleasure of being alive. For Tripper, every doorway is an opportunity for bounding, every fence an opportunity for discovery. Even if he hopped at the fence 30 seconds prior, his return to the same spot is no less enthusiastic. He does not assume that he knows what he will find there, in fact, he assumes that the world is new no matter which way he looks. He does not blunt himself with notions of knowing like we bipeds. He is a four-legged master of beginner’s mind. If he had an inner monologue I’m certain it would be, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,…”

During our late night pre-bed visits to the backyard, Dog-Dog routinely stops and stands very still (unusual behavior for an Australian Shepherd), and for several moments he listens. He feels the breezes. He smells the air. He checks in with me to make sure that I am standing firmly rooted in the present moment. When he is certain that I am present with him in his quiet enthusiasm for life, that I have given up all of my stories and distractions from the day, that I, like him, am breathing in the miracle of existence, revels for a moment longer and then lets me know that I am ready for sleeping. He turns and prances toward the house, satisfied with my progress and exhausted by the sheer wonder of it all.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go to Amazon for hard copies and Kindle.