Sing, “EEE-AAAWWW!” [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Drive across the country with Kerri and one thing is certain to happen: the moment she sees a donkey, she bursts into a rousing chorus of “EEE-AAAWW-EEE-AAAWWW!” She loves donkeys. She wants one. Or two. “They’re like big dogs,” she assures me. I have my doubts but I confess to picking up her quirk. Now, if I spot a donkey before she does, I point and launch a festive “EEE-AAAWW!”

Bill and Linda have two donkeys. We arrived after dark so had to wait until morning to go to the barn for a donkey-confab. She wiggled all night with excitement. “Smack-dab material,” I thought. I’ll be drawing cartoon donkeys soon. I can’t wait to figure out how to make the Kerri-cartoon character wiggle in anticipation.

Linda knows of Kerri’s donkey-love so she had donkey treats ready. I stood back and watched. “This is my future,” I thought. “Can I have another?” Kerri asked and Linda smiled, handing over the plastic container of orange donkey-cookies. Those lucky donkeys hit the cookie lotto.

Donkey cookies. Who knew! There’s more amazing wonders in this world than any of us can comprehend. Stand outside of anyone’s world, peer in at their passions, and you’ll have to try hard not to drop your jaw in fascination. From inside their world, the quirk seems boringly normal. I try to remember that when people stand agog at something in my world that seems normal-to-boring. “What’s the big deal,” I think.

People are great at reducing the magic in their lives to seem insignificant. I’m a “people” so, like all people, am guilty of my own diminishment. Beware of the word, “normal.”

Bill and I bumped fists. We are brothers-in-quirk. While Kerri and Linda stuffed the donkeys with cookies, Bill and I talked about the-things-that-come-out-of-our-mouths that get us into trouble. We think they are obvious. Ordinary. But, the response to our commentary indicates otherwise. He just retired from a board position and, his peers, in their farewell speech, described him in two words, both beginning with the letter “o”: outspoken and opinionated. All laughed. “It’s true!” he said, “And I’m proud of that,” and added, “No one wants to be a rubber stamp.”

What a perfect summation. EEE-AAAWWW-EEE-AAAWWW. Donkey cookies! Magic-in-the-ordinary. No one wants to be a rubber stamp.

read Kerri’s blog post about DONKEYS!

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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