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

See Your Angels

angelsallaroundyou-jpeg

Products with this and other images available at society6.com

One of my favorite rituals is the reading-of-the-calendar on the last day of the year. It is no ordinary peruse through an ordinary calendar. Kerri, every day, writes in her calendar the events, the important calls, the amazing sightings, the simple and the profound moments. The day we first spotted the owl, the ice circles in the harbor, the generosity of the clerk at the store; they find a spot in the calendar. The tough stuff is in there, too. It is a habit she picked up from her mother. Calendar-as-diary. With a hot cup of coffee and nothing but time, we read through and talk about the days of our life.

It is probably not surprising that our most common exclamation is, “I’d forgotten about that!” I’m always amazed at how many of the years happenings are lost in the stream of time. The review not only helps me remember but also refreshes my appreciation for all that we navigated, discovered, survived and created in a mere 365 days.

At our gathering that night I laughed when Mary Kay told us that she dislikes New Year’s Eve because it always makes her feel as if she hasn’t done enough. I recognized Mary Kay’s disdain because earlier in the day I’d levied the same judgment against myself. The ritual reading of the calendar put my self-judgment to rest. After reviewing all that we’d done in a year, Kerri looked at me (tired of hearing my endless self-criticism) and asked, “Now, doesn’t that give you a greater respect for what we’ve done?” Yes. It did.

Although we didn’t say it this way, we told Mary Kay and Russ, Linda and Jim, John and Michele that they had made it into the calendar. This year was tough for us and when I was ill, when things were going badly, they brought us food, they offered to carry some of our load, they showed up to shovel our walks. So, rather than thinking of the year as bad, in our ritual we read about year of generosities extended to us.

Mary Kay said, “But that was nothing.” Kerri responded, “That was everything! It changed our world.” We were reminded in our ritual that the world is changed for the better everyday, not by the grand gesture, but by the small things, the passing kindnesses. From the point of view of the doer, they are often too tiny to remember. From the standpoint of the receiver, they are monumental. Opening a door can change someone’s day. And who knows how far a kindness-ripple will travel?

From the archive: 'Angels At The Well.'

From the archive: ‘Angels At The Well.’ This painting is available at zatista.com

Fun products featuring details of my artwork are available at society6.com.

 

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Know Your Stuff

my latest and the first of a new series. Held In Grace: Rest Now

my latest: Held In Grace: Rest Now

This a note of gratitude. Unashamed and unabashed.

Yesterday was our third annual trip to Cedarburg for Winterfest. It is one of my favorite adventures of the year with some of my favorite people. The temperatures were unseasonably warm, in the 50’s, so there was no snow and the river ran freely. The ice sculptors lining the streets tried to carve but soon abandoned their too-rapidly-melting blocks of ice. I stood with my back to a brick wall and drank in the sun.

Like the rest of the crowd, we wandered in and out of the many boutiques and shops, ate brats, sipped coffee, watched the sweet -small-town-parade and cheered at the bed races, an event that usually takes place on the frozen river but this day was held on a side street. The team with the best wheels won.

The shops, like shops in every town dependent on tourism, are chocked full of trinkets, greeting cards, clothes, and tchotchkes galore. Some of the shops are so stuffed with stuff that shoppers routinely flee to the streets to avoid imminent suffocation. I am generally crowd-averse so I hovered near the door and watched the games that emerged when the rules of personal space also fled to the streets. I delighted in the dance of strangers-in-too-tight-aisles bumping bellies, stepping on toes, laughing and blushing at unintentional nose touches and unfortunate hand placements.

In one of the shops I found displayed among the stuff a book entitled, Less Stuff, More Life by Amy Maryon. Ironies abound! I laughed heartily and was surprised when I found the same book in the very next shop we entered. So, I made a game of finding how many shops stuffed with stuff carried the book about collecting less stuff. The count: I found it in every shop we entered with the single exception of the antique store. It’s okay to load up on old stuff.

Each time I found the book I assigned it as a trigger for me to turn and appreciate the amazing people sharing the day with me: Dan and Gay, Sandy, Noelle, Daena, Jay and Charlie. Kerri above all. I also made it a game of giving gratitude for the riches of my life: 20, Linda and Jim, Russ and Mary Kay, Marilyn, Arnie, my Jims, …I could go on and on. I am the recipient of infinite kindness and support, love and friendship. This is the stuff of my life – as it is the stuff of life for us all. I suspect (the author) message is that the stuff in our closets obscures the real stuff of life. The shoes and houses and dish towels are not in themselves negative, they are, in fact, nothing at all. They are stuff. And, in the midst of the stuff, if we can see the forest through the trees, is our family and friends and community. There are people in our lives that we will never meet who make it all richer, better (for instance, I’d like to hug the human that first made a cup of coffee). They are the people we read about in the newspaper who donate time to make playgrounds, volunteer at the library or to man the local firehouse. There is the woman in the shop in Cedarburg that prays that we will buy something so she can pay her mortgage and feed her children.

 

Love To Laugh

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my bride on our wedding day.

Today marks our one month anniversary. Kerri and I were married one month ago at 11:11am. There are two things that probably best define our wedding: 1) the very first thing we bought for use in our reception was a wiffle ball set and a kickball. It’s taken me a long time to learn that ‘sacred’ and ‘fun’ are essential to each other. Love without laughter is empty, indeed, and I cannot now imagine anything more sacred than love. We wanted to laugh and we wanted our guests to laugh with us.

There is, I’ve learned, a very good reason that the Hopi include tricksters in their important rites. They know that laughter lets the god in. It is a paradox. If you take the god too seriously you will inhibit your relationship with it. You will abstract yourself from it. You will abstract yourself from what is most essential. Laughter is a great facilitator of relationship. Friends laugh together. Kerri often talks about the Amish quiltmakers building a flaw into their quilts. The flaw allows the grace to come in. The laughter, the fun, plunks relationship squarely in the center of the sacred. It makes it real. It makes it relevant. It makes it personal (the three most oft used words to describe our wedding: personal, real, relevant).

To that end, 2) of the wedding week, Jim said it best, “You do know how to throw a great litter of parties.” Truer words were never spoken. We threw 5 consecutive parties in 5 consecutive days, each growing in size and scope. We wanted the people we love to have ample opportunity to meet, talk, and grow to love each other. It took a litter of parties, multiple touches, multiple opportunities, to sow our new garden. More than once Kerri and I watched as the circles of our lives crossed and recrossed, a new tapestry of friendships and stories emerging. Linda taught folks Irish dances on our back patio. Jim and Jim met and played a spontaneous mini-concert. It was gorgeous and spontaneous and rich, rich, rich in laughter (see #1).

This morning Kerri sat with coffee in bed and talked about our wedding (“Can you believe it’s been a month?”). We told stories and compared notes. We laughed. “My one regret,” Kerri said, “was that we never played kickball! I wanted to play kickball!” It’s true. The wiffle ball set and kickball never made it to the beach. There was dancing, so much dancing. The hula hoops even found their way to the dance floor (the bride had four going at one point). So, the kickball remains unrequited. However, the plan for our first anniversary is now set: October 10, 2016, a game of kickball on the beach. An after party of wiffle ball will follow with any and all comers. It will be casual, like the wedding. No need to bring anything. Simply come prepared to laugh.

Bumble

photo-1I’m sitting on the deck sipping red wine. It is twilight. Jim is playing the mandolin (he is an extraordinary musician) and Kerri is playing her keyboard. They are rehearsing outside because it is too hot in the house. The breeze off the lake is a godsend. Dog-Dog does not know what to do with all the activity. He is running around and around; there is no sense to his crazy figure-eight patterns. I’ve learned his looping is actually Dog-Dog glee. He likes their music, too.

The fireflies are sparking. Kerri and Jim are working through a series of slow tunes for a performance this weekend and I am falling into their playing. I routinely tell them that they need to make an album together and they routinely smile and laugh at me. It is their laughter that comes through their playing and I love it. This world, I believe, like me, needs more laughter.

There is magic in a mandolin and I am suddenly reminded of my conversation with Arnie earlier today. We had a much needed phone conversation. Over the many years of our friendship Arnie has walked me through multiple mazes of my own construction. He has listened to more than one of my epic rants. He has a gentle way of asking just the right question to stop my rant in its tracks. I seek his counsel when I am lost. He somehow knows when I need an ear to bend or just a walk with a friend. His superhero name might be The Velvet Dope-Slap. I am grateful to be the dope to his slap.

During our conversation we bumbled into the topic of wisdom. I am now old enough to understand that bumbling is the only path to wisdom. No one seeking wisdom will ever find it. Seekers are notoriously serious. I have always been suspect of the dour saints that pock western sacred spaces. The Buddha laughs. Shiva dances amidst the destruction. There is wisdom in dancing, too.

Arnie and I agreed that wisdom only comes from repeated and dedicated folly. Sooner or later, if we are lucky, the mask of comedy breaks through the sad mask of tragedy; we learn to laugh at ourselves and our dedication to drama. It is through the laughter that wisdom finally reveals itself.

Kerri just gasped and stopped playing, “Oh my god! Look at the moon!”

Jim laughed at the interruption, and, pulling his glasses off his forehead, said, “Wait, I have to put my far-eyes on.”

 

Walk With Your Ally

another painting in the Yoga series

the latest painting in the Yoga series

David is among my chief muses. He was the first person I met in my spontaneous-no-plan-move-to-Seattle over 15 years ago. We sat next to each other at a conference and he asked me if I wanted to be in a play. When I said yes he said, “Great. Can you be at rehearsal tonight?” Like me, he is a painter as well as a theatre artist. He steps through life with his eyes firmly focused on the possibilities. He reminds me that obstacles are nothing more than interesting process steps. When I wander through museums or galleries David goes with me whether he is there or not. When I see a play that inspires me, I wish that he might see it, too, so we might talk about it.

Recently, he sent this quote: “My intention has been, often, to say what I had to say in a way that would exemplify it; that would, conceivably, permit the listener to experience what I had to say rather than just hear about it.” – John Cage, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists.

When I was in college studying acting I had a professor who would say, “You will always know a good play from a bad play because a bad play wants to tell you what happens. A good play wants to include you in what happens.” He also used this rule to define good acting from bad acting. His shorthand phrase was, “Show me, don’t tell me.” It is the artistic equivalent of, “Give a man a fish and he will have a meal; teach a man to fish and he will eat forever.” Art, regardless of the form it takes, is meant to teach people to fish.

Art is not a “thing,” it is a relationship. It is a dynamic orientation to life. It is an experience (not a possession). My interpretation of my professor’s rule goes something like this: a good play/performance/painting includes; a bad play/performance/painting excludes. Vital art reaches for others. Empty art rejects or attempts to elevate itself above others.

The best artists I know have learned to get out of their own way. They have essentially, let go of all investment in self-importance. They serve the art and, so, are not terribly invested in whether a critic or a friend likes or dislikes their work. They have grown beyond attempting to control the perceptions of others (control is an act of exclusion); they are attempting to reach the soul of the matter, touch the soul of the other.

finally finished: May You Be

finally finished: May You Be

It is also true that great artists are constantly learning. And, since growth is always in the direction of the unknown, it is terribly important to have allies to walk with you. Stepping into the unknown is best done in the company of others, those special few wanderers who you can turn to and say, “Whoa! Did you just see that?” David, who is always there with me, laughs in response to my awe, and says, “Tell me! What did you see?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clutch Your Stinky Blanket

Dog-Dog with stinky blanket

Dog-Dog with stinky blanket

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has a morning ritual that I do not understand. He returns to his crate, stands on his stinky blanket, and attempts to pull it from the crate. After a few moments it occurs to him that he’s unsuccessful because he’s standing on the blanket. It is a revelation. He exits the crate, walks halfway across the room, turns, returns to the crate, grabs the stinky blanket, finds his reverse gear and pulls the stinky blanket out of the crate and out of the room. His stinky blanket ritual happens every morning (that is why it is a ritual).

For the rest of the day, the blanket travels to new and exciting places around the house. Sometimes he takes great care of the stinky blanket. Sometimes he takes great delight in shredding it (often there are so many stinky-blanket-fragments littering the floor that it looks like a clown exploded in the house). Either way, great care or delight-in-shredding, his stinky blanket is a source of comfort not unlike a small child’s security blanket. For Dog-Dog, the world is a better place with a stinky blanket.

Last week, after Beaky was found on the floor of her apartment and rushed to the hospital, after we recognized that the incredibly resilient Beaky would not bounce back this time, Kerri needed to see Heidi. We drove an hour to where she was working and it was enough – more than enough – to grab a quick hug and spend a few passing moments with her as she worked. We sought out John, aka 20, and took great comfort in his good humor and kind heart. The family turned in and circled around Beaky. “This is hard…,” we cry as we reach for one another, giving and receiving comfort.

It occurs to me that we do this everyday. It is our ritual. Mike and Sabrina sent a text, “Think happy thoughts for us today…,” I emailed my mother, more for me than for her “Just thought you should know…,” Arnie tells me of his adventure and closes with, “Let me know how things are going.” David called and left a message, “Wanted to continue our cycle of communication…!” Each day, in many ways, in small ways, we reach out. We touch base. The world is a more secure place – a better place – in the reaching, in the touching base.