Try To Explain [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s nearly impossible to explain. I’ve had the conversation a thousand times and I know it’s fruitless from the outset. Why did I choose a life without a safety net? A life with stability and benefits? Why was I willing to work 80 hour weeks for not-very-much-pay? I’ve heard more than once that “Artists are indulgent.” Or, “Artists are fools.”

Maybe. I’ll never know because it is impossible to explain to someone who operates from a different imperative. I’ve thought myself foolish more than a few times, and, usually, when I measure myself by the standards of 9-to-5.

For me, like all the artists I know and admire, there has never been a distinct line between work and play. Given any amount of free time, I’d rather be in the studio than anywhere on earth. When I was directing plays and running theatre companies, I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and get back to work. The time between productions or studio time, what most people call “vacation,” was-and-is meant to catch up on sleep and fill up the well for the next project. Often, this thing called ‘vacation’ was an opportunity to visit museums, drink in art/inspiration or stand in a castle or sit in the city where the next play is set.

For most of my life, even before I really thought about artists or artistry, vacation involved a sketchbook. I sat in the back of the station wagon and drew Colonel Sanders from the bucket of chicken or tried to copy a photo from the National Geographic magazine. Fun and play involved a deep dive into the world I could create/discover through a pencil on blank pages.

I can spend hours sitting and watching people. Small dramas. Gestures. Manipulations. Kindnesses. A little burst of love that would otherwise go unnoticed. Traveling for work meant time spent in airports, a goldmine of observation-time. Work or play?

Perhaps that is why there is no line between work and play. I see it in Kerri, too. We are constantly noticing. Paying attention to what is beautiful or interesting. Feeling what is needed and what is not. We’ve talked endlessly about being empathic. Feeling what others feel. I’ve watched Kerri walk into a rehearsal and “know” where there is pain, where there is joy, know when she needs to wrap some humor around a bruised community. Many years ago, a wise-old-artist told me that I had to learn to distinguish between what was my “stuff” and what was not. What were my feelings and what was not. Sage advice. I’ve been witness to many artists imploding, carrying other people’s garbage as their own.

When we walk, Kerri takes photographs. “I’m sorry,” she says, stooping to focus on a leaf or stone. Why does she apologize for noticing? Here’s a hint: all of her life she’s been asked to explain why she stops to notice. What value can there possibly be in stopping forward motion, especially in a world hell-bent on “getting there faster.” What is the value-proposition of noticing? “Can you please explain why you have to stop and see and, of all things, make it into music?” Or a story. Or a painting. Or a dance.

“Why did you climb that tree?” the adults asked. “It’s where I write poetry,” she explained. Work or vacation? Is it play?

Every Saturday we go through Kerri’s photos from the week and choose five as prompts for our Melange. We collect phrases we hear, words that inspire or disturb. Those end up in the Melange, too. Are we working? Is this play? We delight in sitting each day and writing together. We laugh at our Smack-dab cartoon. They are fun to write and draw and color. None of this makes us any money. Is it work or is it vacation?

I’m currently drawing cartoons and tossing thought-bombs into a community of software entrepreneurs – the boss understands that I notice things and can translate what I notice into other shapes and expressions. Is there value in that? Is it work? Is it play? Will it make money?

Are there possibly other measures of value?

It’s nearly impossible to explain.

read Kerri’s blog post about VACATION

Appreciate The Moment [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Monumental moments in a life sometimes seem so small at the time. They pass as incidental but, in retrospect, are profound.

In his recent visit, Bruce and I reminisced about my inability and horror of singing. In the majority of my life, I couldn’t find a pitch if it was sitting on my shoulder. Kerri jumped into the conversation telling Bruce that I’d found my voice. Well, to be honest, she helped me find my voice. A patient teacher who simply taught me how to hear. Bruce’s mouth dropped open when I told him that I sang at my grandfather’s funeral. “It was terrifying,” I said.

“But you did it,” Kerri added.

When I met her, as I’ve previously recounted, I told Kerri that, “I don’t sing and I don’t pray.” And, then came the ukulele band. On the day I flew in for my third visit, Kerri picked me up from O’Hare and we rushed back to make the first rehearsal of her new group, the ukulele band. We met in the gardens of the Kemper Center, Lake Michigan humming by our side. She handed me a black uke. She taught the group to tune. We learned a chord or two. And picked and sang our way through a few easy songs. I dare anyone to avoid singing when they are in a group of silly colored ukuleles. It was my first of many lessons. I was having so much fun strumming, that I forgot that I was singing.

Such a simple moment. The beginning of challenging a faulty life-story. A self-imposed limit. Kerri was wise enough to know that I needed to begin with fun. Laughter is a great maker of courage. The first step.

Eight years ago. At the time it seemed so incidental. Following this amazing musician through her day. Playing along. Carrying her books. And, all along, it was her gentle way of saying, “Let’s challenge that obstacle. There’s a way around it and all you have to do is have fun and learn again to listen.”

read Kerri’s blog post about UKULELES

Ask Why? [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

On a recent walk I was lost in thought and suddenly realized Kerri was no longer holding my hand. When I turned to find where she’d gone I saw the usual. Kerri crouched on the ground, phone in hand, photographing something. It is common on our daily walks for her to gasp, pull out her phone, and snap a picture or capture some small critter adventuring through its existence. She has hundreds of beautiful photographs of leaves, curious bark markings, corn stalks, seed pods, sunsets, spiders, shadows, grasses, and butterflies. Each photograph is her record of a marvel, a snapshot of a miracle. “Look at this!” she exclaims, her voice rich with awe.

Showing me her caterpillar movie, she said, “Why would anyone do that? Why would someone shoot a video of a caterpillar!” It’s an existential question.

“I will call this, “Why’d the caterpillar cross the road?”

Another existential question.

Kerri edited the final few seconds of her film. She cut the part where I warn her of an oncoming cyclist. Fearing for the safety of the caterpillar, she stopped shooting her movie and stood in the path of the cyclist, protecting the caterpillar. The irritated cyclist, unaware of why this crazed woman refused to step aside, swung wide around her.

My favorite existential question in this sea of existential questions is this: Why did the woman help the caterpillar cross the road?

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CATERPILLARS CROSSING ROADS

 

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Smile [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When we started our Two Artists Tuesday designs, our subtitle was “Making Stuff for Humans.” We used the word “stuff” loosely. The idea was to bring smiles. we were rooted in whimsy (something I constantly need to practice…).

Over the course of Studio Melange, our idea has morphed. The “stuff” we bring is not only our designs but our experiences as well. And, our latest experience was a riot of fun and the first of many Sip-N-Strums. What could be better than a beginner’s lesson with wine. It makes a good house party, a killer corporate event (we can teach anything through this magical instrument), as well as a fun night out. Whimsy, whimsy, whimsy in a world of whipped up division, ugly partisan fighting and a dedicated focus on the dark things. The ukulele is good medicine.

The ukulele is smile producing. It is impossible to pick it up without feeling playful. Even if you are being forced to play, as one unsuspecting husband was when he came to the Iron Depot Winery with his wife, only to discover that he’d stepped into a ukulele trap. He was in stage-one-full-resistance-mode until he picked up that little green ukulele. Once he wrapped his big bear paws around that little instrument it was all sip-n-smiles from that moment forward.

The quote on our site captures it best. “The ukulele is a portal through which only happy people can pass.” I’d offer this thought as well: the ukulele is a portal through which grumpy people enter their happy place. It is good stuff for humans.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SIP-N-STRUM

 

pumpkinfarm website box copy

Enjoy The Puddles [it’s Chicken Marsala Monday]

 

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Puddle is a fun word to say. Try it. Puddle. Muddle. Fuddle. In fact, when fuddled or muddled, there is only one thing to be done and that is to find and jump gleefully into a puddle. Essentially, become puddled.

Chicken has a decidedly Buddhist side. If he had three simple rules for spiritual growth, one would certainly involve puddles and play. Speaking to we too serious adult-types, he might say: you can never control the rain, but you can most certainly control how often you play in the puddles .

On this Chicken Marsala Monday, from studio melange, leave behind your muddle and go to the puddle side of life [begin by reading this post out loud to someone you love – puddles are more fun with friends].

ENJOY THE PUDDLES gifts and cool things to remind you to play

read Kerri’s blog post on ENJOY THE PUDDLES.

www.kerrianddavid.com

enjoy the puddles nugget & designs ©️ 2016/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Make Your Own Adventure

TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS

make your own adventure

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