Witness The Generosity [on Merely A Thought Monday]

You know the ritual is over when the sacrifice is made. Sometimes the sacrifice is literal, an offering of thanks to the greater powers. A life given for life received. It’s the elemental story cycle with gratitude as the final act.

Sometimes the sacrifice is unconscious and, therefore…unconscious. Unseen. Not felt.

In the weeks before the holiday, the delivery trucks were ubiquitous, zipping this way and that. The deliverers-of-packages worked overtime to ensure all good things arrived on time. We tracked the good people hauling our packages to remote destinations, a luxury of the modern world. As I stroll down my street this week I see, post-holiday, the garbage collectors are working overtime, mechanical arms groaning and methodical, clearing the mountain of debris, boxes, empty bottles (I contributed my share), wrapping paper and remnants of our ritual. Our offering of thanks to the greater powers leaves a mighty litter trail.

The day after Christmas, at the mouth of the lot where we park to hike our trail, the discarded trees were already stacking up. Kerri speculated that the people who enjoyed the trees must certainly be going on travels. Why else would they discard their trees so fast? “Or,” she speculated, “maybe they’ve had them up since the first of November. Maybe they are ready to move on.”

The sacrifice is too easy. It’s piled on the curb. It’s hauled away.

Despite how this reads, it is more meditation than criticism. This holiday season was one of my favorite precisely because we could take nothing for granted. 2020 was brutal for us as it was for many. With our patterns blown to bits, with our security nowhere to be found, our community fragmenting, with no easy choices, we were – and are – conscious of every single step. We are grateful for every moment of heat in the house, for every kindness that has come our way, for every small kindness we’ve been able to offer. We imbue our meals with a deep thankfulness that we did not a scant one year ago.

Why is it that gratitude is so easy when everything else is hard – and why is gratitude merely lip-service when everything is easy? It is, I suspect, why our congress can’t move to help a struggling populace; they have it too easy to identify with the people they represent. We are too easily taken to the curb, to readily swept away.

It has been my role in this lifetime to walk the margins and look inward at the mechanics of my community. To see. It’s the role of the artist to see the patterns, the shapes and colors of their culture and reflect them back, to make conscious what is too easily ignored. To bring the heart, the eye and the mind to the ugly as well as the beautiful.

By the backdoor of our house are bags we’re filling with crackers and peanut butter, socks and sweatshirts. The bags are for the army of people appearing on our streets with signs that read “Homeless” or “Hungry.” It’s not that I am a fan of hard times, I am not, but I’m grateful for what these times are evoking in me – in us. It’s waking us up, helping us reach to others rather than push them away. It’s moving us to see and wildly appreciate our simple abundance.

In the early days of this new year, with the glitter all but swept up, the champagne bottles hauled away, I am moved to tears at the acts of generosity I’m experiencing and also seeing pop up all around me. The holiday is over, the sacrifices made, but the generosity-of-spirit continues. It’s rising in hard times. It’s there. It’s everywhere, if you care to see it.

read Kerri’s blog post about DISCARDS

Find The Deeper Impulse [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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See a penny, pick it up. All that day you’ll have good luck. 

I saw a penny in the parking lot of the UPS store and, wanting to have a full day of good luck, I swooped down and picked it up. Kerri, horrified, said, “What are you thinking? Put that down!” I was marched back to the truck and slathered myself with hand sanitizer.

My penny swoop debacle in the parking lot of the UPS store is how I mark the beginning of the pandemic. It was the first time that the danger of a simple action, touching what someone else had touched, penetrated. The penny dropped [sorry – I couldn’t help myself]. It was early in this experience called pandemic, before masks, before social distancing. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And, above all, leave the good luck penny on the pavement.

And it seems like years since I touched that penny.

My penny swoop was an impulse. Kerri asked me what I was thinking but I wasn’t thinking. I was riding on the instinct train. The child-rhyme ignited my luck desire and I went in for the grab. And, isn’t that the real hardship of this pandemic? Quashing the impulse to hug your friends, to walk toward your neighbor to say hello, to let the kids play together, to stop in the store and chat with acquaintances? 20 stands outside  his mother’s assisted living apartment; she stands on the balcony and they shout to each other. Each day I watch Kerri override the deep-mother-instinct to run and find her children, all-grown-up-and-moved-away.

It’s unnatural, this veto of instinct. And, it is what makes us human. It is natural to run from danger and yet doctors and nurses everyday walk into hospitals during this pandemic. They walk into exposure. First responders, police and fire people, everyday put the public safety above their own. It is what lifts us into our humanity; placing the needs of others above our own. It is what we celebrate, what we admire. What we claim as our highest ideal. People giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

We call that sacrifice. We call it service. We call it sacred. We  call it grace and generosity. We go to houses of worship and proclaim it. We make movies about it. Frodo must destroy the ring of power for the benefit of all. Otherwise, he twists in his selfish personal power lust and becomes like Gollum. This tale is universal for a reason.

And, I suspect that I am wrong. The survival instinct has a deeper nature. Soldiers talk about it just as first responders do: in the moment of real danger there is not a question about throwing themselves on top of their companion, sacrificing self to save the other. It, too, is an impulse. A purer survival instinct. It is not an override.  It is, when all else is stripped away, what we are.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PICKING UP SPARE CHANGE

 

 

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Listen To Beaky [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Today we turn our thoughts toward Beaky. A bright light. Five years ago, on this day, she passed away.

Not only does it seem impossible that she died five years ago but it seems more impossible that I only knew her for 18 months. If you were to ask me how long I knew Beaky I’d say, “Forever.” Some people are just like that. Kindred.

She and I were co-conspirators. We plotted strategies – all unsuccessful – to convince Kerri that her natural curls were gorgeous and did not need straightening. She gave me a lesson in applying lipstick and rouge, standing next to her walker, looking into the mirror, popping our lips. After being catheterized, she cautioned me to be careful what I wished for. “When I was young I wished I could pee standing up.” she said. “MOTHER!” Kerri blushed as Beaky winked at me.

Time and again, I was moved by her kindness, her generosity to others. After taking a fall, rushed to the emergency room, writhing in pain, she looked up at the attending nurse and said, ‘You have a beautiful smile.” The role of nurse fell off, the woman flushed pink and was transformed by the compliment. Beaky did that a lot, she hit people with a dedicated kindness when they least suspected it. Her kindness was not manufactured, it was matter-of-fact. It was sturdy,  genuine.

The night before we saw her for the last time, we scoured her house for a blue notebook, the journal she’d kept during a long ago trip through Europe with her husband. Beaky was a recorder of life’s events. Not merely notes, her journals and calendars were threads to a vital time, to living memory. She thought the notebook was lost. When Kerri gave her the journal, Beaky hugged it to her breast and rocked it like it was a long lost child come home.”Oh, you found it! You found it!” she cried.

As we left her that day, she said, as she always did when we departed, “Be kind to each other!” Much more than a salutation, it was an invocation. Be kind to each other.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE

 

 

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Help Yourself See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In a particularly dismal period of time in my Seattle years, I decided I needed to focus on the good stuff. I made a game of writing on small bits of paper things in my life for which  I was grateful. And then I left my small gratitude notes around the city as I moved about my day. I left them at bus stops. I rolled some and tucked them in crosswalk signs. A few were tucked into menus or left on coffeehouse tables.

My gratitude notes had an interesting blow-back. They inspired me to seek things that I was grateful for so I might write a note about it. Not only that, but they made me pay attention to the infinite acts of kindness that I saw everyday. People were helping people everywhere! I was blind to it until I started paying attention; until I got out of my misery-head and opened my eyes.

I was struck by the vast difference between the story I was being told about humanity and the story I was witnessing on my daily walks across the city. I could count the acts of aggression. I lost track of the acts of kindness and generosity because there were too many to capture.

When you stop and think about it, isn’t it always the case that the the good stuff, the potential-pool-of-gratitude-possibilities is vast yet the gunk gets all the focus. What is it in us that hyper-focuses on the flaw, sorts to the wound, while the river of beauty roars by unnoticed?

Kerri designed these cards for another project and they made me remember my notes. Encouragement of gratitude. Give it a try. Download the blanks. Scribble a note or two of thanks-giving and leave them behind somewhere. Be prepared for some eye opening blow-back.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about GRATITUDE

 

 

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Stand On Any Street Corner [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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For reasons that are beyond my pay-grade to comprehend, human beings are obsessed with seeing conflict and division. The news of the day is generally antagonistic and despair-inducing – and that is not unique to our day. Ancient temples and modern televisions alike are overrun with images of war and hostility.

One of the greatest powers a human being can achieve is the power of focus placement. ‘Seeing’ is, after all, a matter of choice.  It is not passive. In any given moment there are multiple points of focus, there are multiple stories, there are many interpretations to choose from.

Stand on any street corner and watch the world happen. Watch the overwhelming number of acts of kindness and generosity. The small moments of simple kindness and consideration. They are everywhere. People giving way, making way, helping. You will be surprised to find that the kindnesses by far outnumber the rudeness, the antagonism.

Stand on any street corner and watch where your focus goes. In the midst of a tsunami of kindness, if you are human and like all other humans, your focus will be captured by the angry guy honking his horn, the commuter shouting at the bus driver. “Such an angry world,” you think and close your eyes, despairing. Anger is so much louder than kindness.

Tell a story of discord, see a story of discord. Practice a story of discord, live a story of discord. Discord is easily leveraged. Division is easily sold. It is like selling candy to a kid. It is readily chiseled into pillars and hungrily read into teleprompters.  It is so easy to see.

Tell a story of kindness, see a story of kindness. Practice a story of kindness, live a story of kindness. Although it is more readily available it is, somehow, more difficult to see. It is less sell-able and, so, is discarded as trite. It requires choice and discernment rather than default. It requires opening your eyes and your story to what is actual, what lives beyond the thundering chorus of conflict-peddlers.

The angry shooters and tweet-happy presidents live on the far margins yet they garner the majority of the attention. Stand on any street corner and open your eyes. There is a sweeping quiet kindness that permeates the vast majority, that defines the middle ground. You can see it if you so choose.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

 

 

 

 

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See What’s There [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On this Two Artists Tuesday we give a nod to all the special people who are willing to help – even when it makes no sense. They are everywhere though, because they eschew drama, they remain largely unseen. They put down what they are carrying to open doors for complete strangers. Late for a meeting, they slow their pace and cross the busy intersection, an invisible shield for an elderly crosser. Sometimes, at night, they are servers at restaurants, kind and patient with everyone, even after a long day working their first job. They make soup for hungry people they’ve never met. They leave fifty dollar tips for ten dollar tabs. They step into the street to shield a dog-on-the-loose from oncoming traffic. They walk into the wind and rain to deliver packages and junk mail. They carry a snowboard out to a car to reassure a mother that her daughter’s snowboard will, indeed, fit in the back.

Kindness. Paying attention. Little acts, big ripples. It’s breathtaking. It’s everywhere.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE THINGS PEOPLE DO

 

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

In Beauty I Walk [it’s Two Artists Tuesday]

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“I am only so beautiful as the character of my relationships, only so rich as I enrich those around me, only so alive as I enliven those I greet.” ~ Derrick Jensen

I know many many artists who do what they do for love; their motivation is intrinsic. Their work is beautiful. I don’t mean their finished pieces (although they, too, are beautiful). I’m referencing their relationship to their work. It is lively, mysterious, expansive and generous. And, in order to stay healthy, they’ve long ago abandoned the notion that they might make a living through their artwork. Some do. Most do not.

I know many many artists who no longer do what they used to love to do. In the absence of an extrinsic reward (money), they began to see their love-work as worthless. They reduced themselves to a monetary equation and found themselves lacking. Considering their love without value, their well went dry. Their muse withered.

In our confused times it is the fortunate person who understands value as something greater than dollars and cents. Love, beauty, joy, family, generosity, learning, community, surprise, mystery…all words of relationship, all valuable beyond measure. All defy easy quantification.

From studio melange on Two Artists Tuesday, a gentle reminder to look to the space between, to value the process of living, the right-now-relationships where beauty is always to be found. Walk there.

IN BEAUTY I WALK gifts and cool stuff

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read Kerri’s blog post about IN BEAUTY I WALK

www.kerrianddavid.com

‘in beauty i walk’ image & products ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

KS Friday

On this KS Friday from studio melange, a moment to breathe and listen.

jacketrfthjpeg copyA few hours ago we loaded several large canvases into our car. They were from Duke Kruse’s studio. They are canvas stretched and prepared by Duke. They are blank, the canvas he never got to use before he passed. He was a gifted painter, a brilliant artist. I never met Duke,  but his son John [we call him 20] is most dear to me, a brother. 20 thought Duke would want me to have his canvas. I am moved to tears to be the recipient of this legacy.

When DeMarcus stopped painting, in the middle 90’s of his years, he gave me his brushes and his paint box. I drew all of Chicken Marsala, all of our Flawed Cartoons, all of Beaky’s books with nibs and handles that DeMarcus left for me. They are my treasures and make each image, each drawing that much more special.

Somehow I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of Tom’s story, the carrier of his legacy. Every day of my life I recognize in my bones that I carry a bit of Quinn’s vast wisdom in my marrow, his generous gift to me.

I am rich in Legacy. This sparkling river, this quietly moving piece from Kerri’s first album, always carries me directly to thoughts of my mentors and friends, to a sunset from the porch on the ranch, a room lined with books, yellow pads and red felt-tip pens, a studio with just a hint of turpentine and mineral spirits in the air.

LEGACY from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART (track 12) iTunes

LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART (track 12) CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD: RELEASED FROM THE HEART

NEW! KS DESIGNS on society6.com

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Vintage tyoe LEGGINGS copy

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read Kerri’s thoughts on Legacy

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kerrianddavid.com

LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Chicken Marsala Monday

A Chicken Nugget from the melange to help you start the week

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I appreciate the Chicken Nuggets – especially today’s – because I know the back story.  Without knowing where these drawings with words came from or why we took the time to develop them, they could be tossed off as so much fluff. A nice sentiment. But.

What is it to stand in another person’s shoes? To understand the feelings of another? An other. Not me. Nice sentiments are rarely easy when put into practice.

There is a direction in Empathy. It is a reach toward an other. To reach out. To reach across a boundary, seen or unseen.  To try. The direction is important to grock. ‘To understand’ is a fundamentally different thing, a radically different direction and intention than ‘trying to be understood.’ It suggests an openness to possibility, a willingness to consider. A shedding of the armor. It unlocks the magic of “what if….”

There is a big drum banging the opposite narrative – closed doors, closed ears, closed eyes. It is easy to believe that we-the-people are incapable of listening, that we are unwilling to consider and are only adept at shouting each other down. Putting each other down. Closing off. Closing down. But.

Take a walk today. Count the moments of generosity that you see. Count the times that others reach. Count the times that you reach. You might be surprised how different your actual experience is from the prevailing narrative. Human beings are, for lack of a better analogy, a pack animal. We run together. We die when we close-off. We wither when we turn in. No human being, if we are honest with each other, knows who they are absent of relationship with others. We know each other together. Reaching is what we most naturally do. We reach when we see others hurting.  We open doors. We run into burning buildings, not for ourselves, but for the sake of others. It is infinitely more common to reach than to withdraw. Fear may demand a narrative of opposition, of irreconcilable difference, of standing alone in singularly righteous shoes. But, to believe it, you’ll have to close your eyes. You’ll have to disappear in the corridors of your busy, busy mind.

Today, do what is most natural. Open your eyes. Reach out. See what they see.

TRY TO SEE WHAT THEY SEE merchandise like gift cards, wall art, apparel,…

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read Kerri’s thoughts on Try To See What They See

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kerrianddavid.com

try to see what they see ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

Attempt What Is Not Certain

Revelry

A painting from the archives. This one goes way back…

“Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.” Richard Diebenkorn, Notes To Myself On Beginning A Painting

Yesterday we went to Linda and Jim’s house to do some Irish dancing. They are terrific and dedicated dancers – with a dance floor in their basement – and thought it would be fun to teach their pals a waltz cotillon. It was, as they suspected, a riot of laughter, wrong-direction, toe-stepping and left-footed-entanglements. We drank wine, ate snacks, and found ourselves boldly waltz-stepping into the great unknown. 20 called it “an afternoon of happy insanity.”

All my life I’ve been fascinated at what happens to (and for) people when they open themselves to new experiences. Generosity rises. When people allow themselves to step outside of their safe-place, challenge their need to control and open to the new, they come alive. I mean that literally. They come into the present moment, out of their obsession with replaying the past and fearing/manipulating the future, and into the place where life actually happens. Now. It is the artist’s job to open the door to the place where life happens. It is the door Linda and Jim opened for us yesterday.

Krishnamurti wrote, “Have you ever noticed that when you respond to something totally, with all your heart, there is very little memory?” Horatio and I have an ongoing conversation about art and artistry. Lately, we’ve been discussing how completely we disappear when working on a canvas. Hours go by and it feels like minutes. And, more to the point, we don’t disappear, we become present. We show up. We experience the fullness of life at the burning point. Time, that grand master of illusion, disappears.

After our dancing, standing in the kitchen with a glass of wine, I heard, “Where did the time go?” We were revitalized and giddy, compatriots and survivors of a journey into the surprises of the unknown. I smiled when there rose a rowdy chorus of, “When can we do it again?” Life had burst through – as it wants to do – and left its charge.