Give It To The Fire [on Two Artists Tuesday]

tiki flame copy

I filled the torches with fuel on the first day that we arrived on island. The torches leaned unused against the deck all summer. We thought of lighting them a few times but there was too much wind so we decided against it.

Fire is transformational. It is used in many rituals. Our ritual was at first unintentional.  On our last night on island we planted the torches in the grass between the littlehouse and the water’s edge. We lit them as the sun went down. We wanted to burn off the fuel. There was little or no breeze so it was safe to let them burn. It was only after the sun was down, as we sat talking about our time on island, watching the line of flame, that we realized what we were doing. Letting go of the negative experiences. Celebrating the positives. Making space for the new. Releasing through fire.

The water lapped the shore. The breeze made the flames dance and the leaves rustle. We sat in the elements and re-storied our time on island. We made sense of things. In the final telling we appreciated all that had transpired.

The torches burned through the night. We awoke the next morning as the final tiny flames flickered and went out. The fuel was burned away. The fury was burned away, too. A new day, a route for new experiences, was open and waiting.

 

read Kerri’s post about THE FLAME

 

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photo: flame through the night ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Burn [on Two Artists Tuesday]

first fire copy

The first fire. It came like a ceremony. We didn’t intend it to mark the passage, the end of the season. But, it did. The lake was angry. The air was cold and wet. Fall had arrived. We could smell it in the air. There was nothing to be done but gather kindling and bring in some wood.

We sat in front of the fire. It dried the wet air. We talked about the events of the summer. We lived a lot of life during our three months on island. We counted the contention, the fire in the organization, by the number of board presidents we’d served: 3 in less than 3 months. It must be a record! It was certainly a sign of the heat transforming the organization. So much ash.

The next night we closed the theatre, the final show was in the books. We locked the doors and stood under the stars and wondered what had happened. The fire burned us, too. We were transformed but will be the last to know how. We just knew that we were different now.

The next morning we began packing the truck for our move off island. We were quiet most of the day, moving. Carrying boxes loaded with the stuff of life. “Next time we will bring less,” Kerri said. “We will know what to expect.”

“Maybe,” I said. She smiled.

We lit another fire on our final night. We watched it burn. The ceremony was complete. This fire was for warmth. Comfort. We sipped wine. No more words necessary. No need to debrief or assign meaning to events. No need to ponder or make sense of things. Ash.

The lake was still angry. The air was still wet. With morning would come the next step, the first step.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the FIRST FIRE

 

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Circle Back To Change [on Two Artists Tuesday]

wheels of change copy

A long time ago, in addition to naming my posts, I used to number them, too. Today, as I considered what to write, I realized that I had an old post sitting on my desk top because I’m slowly (very slowly) working on a maybe-someday-book called For Art Sake. I opened the old post and laughed aloud when I read it. It is  from a younger version of me writing about the wheels of change [I’ve made a few edits]:

1174. MEET THE FIRE

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – each of them had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to realize and fulfill their gift. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; change is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire (you can’t) but, once there, to be alive in it.

After ashes comes honesty. With ashes comes a deeper knowing, call it faith, that  somewhere deep inside, the phoenix-in-you will someday rise just as spring will always return.

[Kerri took these photos. They are the treads of the massive tires on the enormous earth moving equipment that is transforming our beloved Bristol Wood into a high ropes course. We grieve it daily, watching the woods reduced to ashes]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WHEELS OF CHANGE

 

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Skip The Handbook

We walked some great beaches this summer. In this post are my three most recent paintings. Kerri calls them the start of my Beach Series. This one is called, They Draw The Sunset In The Sand

I just made myself laugh out loud. “Lol!” I’d have texted to myself had I not been breathless from my guffaw. No one can accuse me of needing to be entertained.

I was writing about my history with curators, galleries and their consistent criticism of my work: I am stylistically all over the map. And, it’s a valid criticism! I am stylistically schizophrenic. I was overcome with laughter by what I wrote after using the words ‘stylistically schizophrenic:’ If I didn’t know myself (and, most of the time I am the last person to see in myself what is obvious to all – so it is a solid argument to make that I do not know myself)…. Wow. I might have made a good lawyer had I not been so dedicated to seeing things from multiple points of view. My paintings reflect my dedication (as it should be).

When I was younger I tried repeatedly to squeeze myself into a stylistic box. I thought that the advice and feedback I was receiving from gallery representatives meant that I was somehow lacking or out of control. In the handbook of real artists it must say in bold print something about possessing a consistent style. The youthful me looked all over creation for a copy of the handbook but could find it nowhere. How could I call myself an artist if I had not first read the handbook?

This one is titled, A Day At The Beach

My attempts ‘to fit’ into the single style rule made me miserable and, worse, made my work stale. In my mind, achieving real-artist-status meant I must learn to contort myself yet the price of contortion was very high. Twice in my life I took a year long hiatus because my attempt to fit into a single-style-box left me with deep aches and no creative fire. Once, so burdened was I by the pain of my contortion, I burned most of my paintings.

Fire is cleansing. Creative fire is clarifying. I have learned through my fire that the real handbook is internal and uniquely personal. As John once said to me, “Your job is to paint the paintings not to determine how or where they fit.” The painters I admire and feel a kinship with are stylistic pantheists. They are more visual explorers than technical geniuses.

There is a bridge that every artist must cross. It comes in the moment when the inner compass is no longer at odds with the necessities of learning technique, when the well-meaning comments of teachers and mentors and agents and representatives are just that: well-meaning comments. The compass, your internal rulebook, will let you know without doubt whether the comment needs to be considered or discarded. Growth happens either way.

This one is untitled at the moment…

visit www.davidrobinsoncreative.com to see the full extent of my stylistic pantheism.

 

 

 

Meet The Fire

a work in progress. this one is slow going!

a work in progress. this one is slow going!

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – and each had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to turn on the power. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; growth is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire, to protect yourself from it, but to be alive in it, to know what it is to be reduced to ashes and know somewhere deep inside that the phoenix will always rise just as spring will always come.

Remember The Fire

this is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

This is the first painting in a triptych I did for The Creatures Of Prometheus, a performance I did with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. Special kudos to Jen and Brad for housing these enormous paintings for me.

With the spring the storms have come. Brilliant blinding flashes of lightning followed by thunder that rolls and rolls for minutes without ceasing. Joseph Campbell once posited that the voice of the thunder was humankind’s first experience of the godhead; as I listen now to the sky roil and rumble, watching Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog look for a safe place to hide, I am grateful to be inside protected from the god’s displeasure.

Last week I learned that the phrase, “blinding flash of lightning” was more than poetry. Kerri and I were taking our usual late night stroll. There were distant rumbles of thunder, but nothing close or threatening. The crack and flash seemed to come from nowhere. I ducked. Kerri screamed. It felt like we were inside the lightning rather than beneath it. The ground rumbled in concert with the sky. For blocks around us, car alarms whooped and beeped like Chicken Little. I imagined the cars were as taken by surprise as Kerri and I. For several moments after the flash, I was literally blind.

We were already running when sight returned, we laughed and squealed and kept our heads down as if that would make a difference. It seemed as if the storm was far distant one moment and on top of us the next. The sky spit hail. It rained for a moment. And, as suddenly as it was on us, it was gone. We stood still in the wake of the storms departure. I wondered if I’d imagined it except the parked cars were still sounding their alarms.

Once, when I was in high school, I hiked with a friend to the top of a peak. We were above the timber line and although I knew enough to be off the mountain top before the afternoon storms rolled over the divide, the thunder clouds came fast and we were caught in a powerful storm in a meadow just beneath the peak. It seemed as if we were literally inside the cloud as the lightning made the hair on my head stand on end. We wedged ourselves in a sitting fetal position between some boulders, and reflexively closed our eyes and covered our heads. Each flash sent a jolt of fear through me. I’ve rarely been as frightened or exhilarated as I was that day. The storm roared over the mountain top and descended into the valley. It was gone as fast as it came. It was awesome.

In one of the versions of the Prometheus story, Zeus charges Prometheus with the task of creating creatures for the sole purpose of worshipping the gods. Zeus wants the new creatures to be crude and stupid. Prometheus, instead, creates something beautiful and smart: humans. From clay, he sculpts a female and male form. Knowing that Zeus will never give life to his beautiful creatures, Prometheus steals the immortal fire, the lightning, and sparks the human hearts to life. To punish Prometheus, to keep his beautiful creatures from knowing their own beauty, Zeus introduces them to warfare, both the internal and external variety; he makes them doubt. He infuses them with fear. He makes it easy for them to focus on their ugliness so that they might misdirect their awesome power and forget the creative fire burning in their hearts.

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Go Back To Basics

715. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Yesterday in my post I wrote the word “aquifers” but at first badly mistyped it and wrote “aquafire.” Isn’t that a lovely word collision! It sounds like the name of a garage band! I did a quick Google search (is there any other kind?) and found that aquafire is the name of a restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s also the name of a water heater company in New Zealand! You’ll not be surprised to learn that it is also the name of a company that makes floating fire pits, a fire protection company specializing in sprinklers, a blog about fishing, and a sauna and steam bath company.

According to western classical thought there are 4 elements that combine to constitute all matter: earth, air, fire, and water. Aquafire, according to the classical way of thinking, might be steam or lava or acid or a good jalapeno salsa. Once, I was in the ocean and was clobbered by a wave and met the rocky coral bottom with some unintended force; I could consider that experience aquafire.

I like the notion of elements as applied to obstacles; I have been known to think, “It only looks like an enormous boulder in my path. Apply a little heat and then let’s see what you look like!” The boulder calls my bluff every time but the threat of combining elements always frees my imagination so I can see the many possibilities instead of the single impediment. Problems become possibilities almost immediately when you consider their elemental make-up: problems and possibilities are both ways of seeing; they are choices. So, a good question to ask is, “What is the basic element of choice?”

The Greeks (and others) added a 5th element or quintessence. The medieval scientists called it, “ether,” which was considered to be the element that filled the universe (above our atmosphere). To the Greeks, quintessence was the air breathed by the gods and was distinctly different than the air we mortals breathe. It was pure, essential. Essence. If there is a basic element to imagination, choice, possibility, memory, intuition, and inspiration, I’m certain it must be ether, a touch of quintessence, the breath of the gods made manifest here on earth in you and in me.