Have Fun [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve been working on my painting, Train-Through-Trees. It’s been a while since I painted so I have one intention: have fun. I’m using big brushes and tools Master Miller sent so I don’t too soon lapse into nit-picky detail. It’s in the detail that I begin to take myself too seriously.

It’s harder than you might imagine to “play” after such a lengthy hiatus. Like all artists I puffed myself with fear-fog and wondered if the muse had left the building. This interruption was circumstantial and not a dry-spell. It’s lasted longer than any dry spell I’ve experienced and has left some doubt-residue. To play is akin to re-entering childhood. To not care about the outcome and follow the paint rather than try and control it. The tools from Master Miller mandate the equivalent of finger painting and help my “fun” intention.

Like all fog, fear-fog isolates. It’s a heavy blanket that descends and fools you into thinking that you are alone. It leads you the believe that the landscape is barren – that you are barren.

I am not alone. Master Miller is in NYC recharging his artistic batteries. He’s sent images, paintings of Lucian Freud and Nabokov’s synesthesia. Dwight sent a right-on-time-book. Rob shared his latest 10 minute play. Mark discusses with me what he’s writing and his movie ideas. Kerri wanders into her studio, sits at her piano, and plays; each time I am transported – out of the fog. Enlivened.

These people are like the sun to fear-fog. Their good hearts and dedicated artistry dissipate the wet blanket and warm me to the bone. They open the landscape and infuse me with energy. They remind me that there is really only one intention: have fun. And that is best done with others.

read Kerri’s blog about FOG

Celebrate Renewal [on KS Friday]

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Rebecca reminded me of David Bayles and Ted Orland’s remarkable book, Art & Fear. I flipped it open to this quote and laughed heartily. We discuss what we desire but do not yet possess.

On the opposite page I read this tasty bit: “Once you have found the work that you are meant to do, the particulars of any single piece don’t matter all that much.”

Years ago, watching me draw in an Italian Street Painting festival in San Luis Obispo, Roger commented that making art was what I was meant to do.

The other day, Kerri asked me if I wanted to hear a carol. She stood at her piano and played. There was no doubt – it was visible and electric – the carol she played was one of her compositions. I watched a brilliant artist do what she is meant to do.

Art is born of a service motive. Banking is born of a profit motive. It’s hard to explain a life of artistry in a world that exclusively values the profit motive. It seems foolish until you consider this: bankers, in retirement, play golf. Artists, in retirement, make art. There is no greater gift in this very short life than having an inner imperative. It tips contemporary valuation on its head.

Rebecca sent this quote from Art & Fear. She’d just asked me if I was still painting and I stuttered. “What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the art-making process puts that issue to the test.” I am currently challenging my fear.

Last night the Up-North Gang gathered for dinner at Jay and Charlie’s house. Jay is a remarkable artist. Everywhere I looked in their house I saw her artistry. The meal she made was a bold step into the unknown and it was delicious. She is doing what she is meant to do and it spills out in every room.

At dinner, we talked about our children coming home for the holiday. I was the only person at the table who will never know the full depth of the desire of parenthood. I am a step, not a birth father. The joy of their children glowed in the faces seated at the table. All else seemed irrelevant.

There is a place beyond service and profit motives, a lovely dinner conversation where artists and bankers come together at one table. Family. And isn’t that – in the end – what we are all meant to do. To sit side-by-side and celebrate our renewal?

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HOLIDAY

i wonder as i wander/the lights © 1996 kerri sherwood

Listen To The Zen Master [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Let’s be clear: Dogga is infinitely smarter than I am. Occasionally I fall into the delusion that I am the master – I have thumbs, after all – but my fantasy is never long-lasting. I am here to do his bidding and I am well-trained.

In addition to being smarter, he is also wiser. No matter the enormity of my life-dilemma, he patiently listens to my fear and complaints. He allows me to spin my quandary into a full-blown-fruit-smoothie, to make my mole-hill into an Everest-sized-mountain, and then, usually in the form of a belly-belly, he brings me instant perspective. Nothing on earth could possibly be more important than loving on your pooch. “Be here now,” advises Dogga. “And, since we are here now, how about a good belly-rub?’

It’s hard to argue with a zen-master-in-fur. What could be more meaningful, what possible purpose could I serve other than loving life right now? The rest will take care of itself.

read Kerri’s blogpost on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Stay On The Root [on KS Friday]

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” ~ Albert Einstein

Saul’s words have been ringing in my memory: “Stay on the root.” He was a tai chi master.

He might have said, “Stay grounded,” but his reference to “the root” is more dynamic. When on “the root” there is absolutely no resistance to circumstance. Nothing can knock you off center. You are solid, rooted; not for resistance or fight but for flow. No kinks in the energy-hose.

Presence is a requirement of being on “the root.” If your mind jumps into fear-of-the-future it will pull you off center. If your heart dives into regret of the past, it will yank you off balance. Saul might remind us that our bodies are always present. What else? Our minds story us into stress and, mostly, the horror stories we tell ourselves never actually occur. Or did occur.

Here’s the most important part of his instruction: when staying firmly on”the root,” a place of no-resistance, flow is possible. In fact, anything is possible. That may, to some, sound like new-age nonsense but it is actually age-old wisdom. It’s a practice of getting out of your own way. Assume nothing. Lilies-of-the-field, etc. There’s a timeless fable about a farmer and a horse…

A week ago we walked our trail and the leaves were vibrant with color, electric. Now, they are mostly on the ground. Transforming. Nutrient for the soil. I doubt the leaves felt fear of falling or spent an ounce of life-energy in regret.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE LEAF

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Imagine The Shadow [on KS Friday]

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.” ~ Grandma Moses

Among the many reasons I love autumn is the color of the light. Looking out of the kitchen window this morning I was bowled over by plants resplendent in orange and pink. I was so taken by the color that I forgot I was cooking and nearly burned breakfast.

We hiked yesterday. The trail was steep and rocky but, thankfully, the trail wound under the canopy of the forest. It was a hot day and the shade made our path bearable. We stopped often to breathe and enjoy the remarkable shadows cast by the trees. The leaves glowed and waved, backlit by the sun.

Imagination. The capacity to make images in the mind. It is the most basic of human capacities. We spend our lives imaging ourselves in tragedy and in triumph. Yearning and fear are both shades of imagination. “What if…?” is a question borne of imagination.

“Wait!” Kerri suddenly instructs, stopping me in my tracks. When the sun is low in the sky and our shadows make us skinny giants, she likes to capture our distortion. Shadows do not resist the curvature of the earth. They do not try-to-be. They simply conform to the circumstance and, inevitably, moving through a festival of color changes, blend into the purple dusk.

While she focuses her camera on our shadow, I appreciate the glow of the negative spaces, the yellow-autumn warmth heightened by our grey-blue silhouette. I giggle imagining we are as skinny-tall as the shadows we cast. “Hold still,” she whispers, not realizing my giggle is making the shot impossible. While stilling my shadow, in my mind, we reach and pluck the reddest of leaves from the tippy top of the maple tree.

Waiting (from Joy)

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHADOWS


waiting/joy © 1998 kerri sherwood

Make A Mess [on Merely A Thought Monday]

One cannot know life’s ups without experience of life’s downs. The quality that defines order is chaos. And, vice-versa.

In the same vein, Horatio hit me with a thought that gave me the shivers: wisdom is the blossom of regret.

Regret is one of those special words that is both a verb and a noun. To lament. A feeling of sorrow. It comes from experience. When he was young, Roger told me that he wanted to live a life with no regrets and although we’ve lost touch, my great hope is that he was incapable of living the life he wanted to live. He is made of deeper stuff.

Hermann Hesse’ novel, Siddhartha, is a story of arriving at wisdom. So, too, is his novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Far beyond the lands of understanding and knowledge, the fields of wisdom are born of messy life. Mistakes made. Fears confronted. Loss and awe. Illusions pierced. A protected life may fill your cup and bank account with information but will leave you with a limited palette of life experience. A full closet of clothes for the ghost that wears them.

Coincidentally, last week, Horatio and I both spent some time on sterile medical beds looking up at the bright lights on the ceiling. Doctors looking down. Suddenly filled with gratitude for the regrets that we’ve racked up in this life.

Sitting by the river, watching the river flow by, we compared notes. We shared life stories. How on earth did I get to be so lucky?

read Kerri’s blogpost about CATERPILLAR ON A ROPE

Call Awe [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles, The End

Last week was unusual in that I had a sneak-peek at my end-of-life-review. When a trusted doctor looks at you and says, “This is bad,” when tests that ordinarily might be scheduled a few weeks out are rushed into the next few hours, when the palette of available options are mostly shades of black and all include the word “dire,” the life-movie-reel begins to roll. Mine did.

I’ve known for years that among the few choices we really have is 1) where we choose to focus, and 2) where we choose to stand as we focus. Point-of-view, labels slapped onto experience, the story we tell is a story we project onto the world. Rolling through the CT-scan doughnut, I looked at the story I’ve called into the forest. I listened for the story it reflected back at me, as me.

“Take a deep breath,” the machine instructed, “and hold it.” Holding my breath, I saw a single story comprised of many, many chapters. There are the life-pages that I lived in confidence, and pages that I wrote confusion. The shattering, the story of the pieces of my life scattered in four directions. Kintsugi. The pages of the phoenix. Pages written running from my art and the matching pages of running toward it. The chapter of standing still. The pages of betrayal and the balance pages of being betrayed. “Release your breath,” the machine chirped. “Breathe naturally.”

The forest will show me fear. The forest will offer grace. The forest will reflect back to me peace if peace is what I bring to it. Someday, rather than project onto the forest, I will walk into it, become it. A reflector of projections.

Take a deep breath. I’ve never been so appreciative of breath. Hold it. What a gift. Breathe naturally. Call awe into the forest.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOREST

Give It Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Awe” is one of those complex words that contains its opposite. Wonder and dread. Astonishment and fear. Respect for the power of nature. Reverence. It’s a full-spectrum word.

Awe is what you feel standing at the ocean shore, knowing the waves will rush in long after you are gone. Water pulling at your ankles. Toes in the sand. Staring into eternity.

Awe is a perspective-giving word. It makes us both tiny-in-the-universe and fortunate-beyond-words, all in the same moment.

Once, I stood on a mountaintop in the bitter cold of dawn. The sun broke over the horizon and washed over me with a wave of warmth. Life-giving. Literally. I stopped shivering when the sun touched my bones. Filled with awe, I started to laugh and cry. Beautiful, magnificent and painful.

We stood on the deck and watched the cloud tower above us. Threatening and astonishing. She showed me the photo. “The wire makes it,” she said holding the screen so I could see it, “It gives it perspective.”

Perspective. Correct regard for the truly awesome power of nature.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TOWERING CLOUD

Be Different [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Inadvertently, 20 did me a great favor. On the day Kerri and I married, he carried a concealed camera and captured conversations and special moments of our ceremony. In his footage is a short exchange he had with my dad. My dad said of me, “He’s his own man.”

To that point in my life I’d wondered what he thought of me, my winding career path, my free-form seeming-feral existence. “He’s his own man,” brought me peace.

Once, during a conference that we led, Alan told me I should dress differently. “People would have more respect for you,” he said. Once, trying to fit in, I wore a suit to a facilitation and Rich told me I should dump the suit and dress as myself. I’ve awarded him the blue ribbon for best advice.

In my consulting life I wore clogs. I hated shoes with strings. The first thing I did at every job was kick off my clogs. You’d be surprised how invested people in power suits are in their footwear. You’d be heartened how human they become when they unlace and kick off their shoes. It’s like removing a mask.

People hire me because I am different. Because I see differently. My difference is my gift, the epicenter of what I bring to the world – and that is true of all people.

In a culture that prides itself on its individualism, it’s always been amusing to me how invested we are to “fit in.” Shopping at the right store, wearing the right clothes, we gush about our wild nature while synching tight the corporate tie. To “dress for success” means to fit a prescription, to NOT stand out. Business casual. The real real. All houses must look the same. Revealing behavior betrays the swaggering rhetoric.

Our individualism is at best a thin veneer. In truth, we fear difference. I dare the court of Supremes to uphold a coach’s right to pray before the big game on the 50 yard line if he’s Sikh. Or Muslim. Or Hindu. Or Buddhist. My son is gay. He lives a constant, never-ending battle to defend his difference. Why?

“But the truth is, I am different,” I said to Kerri who was red-faced with anger at the email from the concrete sub-contractor. He turned down the job to replace our bit of sidewalk, broken out during the waterline repair. Among his reasons, “…and he seems a little different.” He was referring to me.

“I’ve dealt with that my whole life,” I said as she furiously typed a reply. “It’s not a big deal. I’m an artist.”

“It is a big deal,” she snarled, typing harder, faster.

Listening to her ferocious key-pounding, I had a sweet wave of appreciation for her. In a lifetime of “different”, it is a rare and precious moment that someone vigorously defends your difference. Rather than hammer you into creased dockers, lace-up shoes or the right haircut, a furious defender was unfamiliar. She, too, is different and knows the bruise of the shame-hammer. I suspect we’ve all experienced its sting.

In my head, I heard my dad say, “He’s his own man.” Peace. I am what I am and the people who love me wouldn’t have me any other way. That makes a difference. All the difference.

This I know: it’s nice – so nice – not to be alone in my difference.

read Kerri’s blogpost about DIFFERENCE

Look Up. Look Higher. [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything.” ~ Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

This will read like a blazing generality and I do not intend it to be so. Some of the best people I have known are readers of the book(s). They learned along the line to read their book(s) as metaphor instead of literally, as a history. There are, after all, many paths up the same mountain.

As for me, I was cured of religion when I was a boy but it’s taken a lifetime to understand what and why – and to find language to express what should (to me) be obvious to all.

It only takes a moment to lift your eyes from the book and look up – all the way up to the sky. The book is a human invention, as are the gods and the stories of the gods told in them. The sky, on the other hand, complete with stars and suns and universes beyond imagining, are not human inventions. The book lives in the human mind. That which the book is meant to illuminate is…wholeness…all around us. We are part of, not separate from. That’s it. It’s that simple. The game of separation and unity.

We are part of, not separate from. This word “Love” is unity, the absence of made-up-separations.

The book will have you believing that your body and its myriad of impulses are, like nature, in need of taming. Separation from yourself. The book will promote the notion of a chosen few, the singular path, a destiny that is manifest. Separation from other. Elevation for team-white. Moral authority for team-straight. It’s probably good to feel above others and certainly feels powerful to believe yourself keeper of the book’s rules. Isn’t it blatantly obvious that the rules were/are made by men to justify, as-the-voice-of-god, all manner of privilege and cruelty? Separation, separation, separation.

Here’s what I understood as a boy: any god that promotes separation in any form is very small, indeed, and probably not worth worshipping. At the very least it is a man-made god meant to make folks feel better about their obvious impermanence in an infinite universe.

There’s so much in this life worthy of our worship.

Whether or not we walk as one or decide to beat the hell out of each other for the color of our skin or the natural orientation of our sexuality has nothing to do with the vast universe outside of the book. We create the separations to justify our fear or to protect our property.

We are completely capable of love. We are completely capable of reaching across the unknown and living our short time on this earth in full support of the rich myriad of wonder and diversity expressed through us in this infinite possibility called life.

The book is an abstraction. The person standing before you is not.

Love is love. Love is not separation or division or privilege or a skin color or gender or sexual orientation. Love has nothing to do with how much money you have or do not have. Separations are the province of small people inventing small gods for very small reasons – so they can feel good about being separate and small.

Love is love.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PRIDE