Stop And Rest [on KS Friday]

At the height of the pandemic she recorded music on her phone and posted it for the community. It was a warm blanket, a comfort sent to people separated by the virus. Yesterday, she stumbled upon the recordings. There are hundreds. She played one for me. Pressing pause, she looked surprised and said, “These were good.”

I appreciated her honesty. I smiled at her surprise. Having been taught that it’s not nice to brag, she rarely acknowledges the scope and depth of her gift. Her pat response when I genuinely gush about her latest composition: “It’s okay.” It is good medicine for a gifted artist to say to herself, “My work is good.”

Also yesterday, she had a “talk” with me. She advised that I be less hard on myself. “Hold yourself softly,” she said. She was spot on. She can see it in me because she can see it in herself. She was telling me that, like her, my work is good. I swallowed my immediate response, “It’s okay.”

“Okay” is a hard word. It comes from a long road of vulnerability and a dedication to getting better and better. Minimizing is both armor and a practice. The path of artistic passion runs through, “Love what you do.” Yes, love it, but don’t get lost in it.

A life of mastery is built upon a mountain-range of mistakes and a dedication to never arriving. Keep walking. Keep growing and opening. Keep discovering ways to say more with less. Every once in awhile, it’s nourishing for the artistic soul to stop for a rest and crawl under the warm generous blanket of, “My work is good.”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about QUILTS

and goodnight/and goodnight…a lullaby album © 2005 kerri sherwood

Be The Reason [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Our airbnb porch became the neighborhood evening meet-up spot. After a good day of hiking, we’d take our snack and glass of wine to the porch, set up our pop-up table and chairs, and enjoy the waning light. The porch was close to the street so it was only natural (to us) to talk to passers-by.

Mike and his little dog Makaela stopped to chat. Carole joined us. The guy with the pizza walked by and offered us a slice. The skittish kitty hovered. It became the evening ritual; conversation with the neighborhood. Easy laughter. Sharing stories.

It’s easier to see when traveling, when the stuff-of-life is put on the back burner for a week or so. Put down the worries and the simple gestures, the small kindnesses, become visible. In our travels we were awash in the warmth of the easy smile, the generous hello, the effortless conversation.

Taking a walk in Charlotte, the afternoon was hot so we stayed to the shady side of the street. The tree surprised us. Prayer flags wove through the branches and sweet phrases hung like ornaments and fluttered in the breeze. An invitation to stop awhile and breathe. An invitation to stop awhile and set a generous intention. Be the reason.

What I learned on my vacation: a smile is such an easy gift to give. It’s even easier to receive and reciprocate. And, best of all, the ripples go on and on and on.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SMILES

Beg A Good Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

She stopped, turned and went back to the truck. “What are you doing?” I asked. She pulled her camera from her purse and snapped a photo of the Sara Lee truck. She showed me the photo and slid her phone back into her purse.

“I thought this would make a good blog photo,” she said, adding, “If it wasn’t a marketing phrase it would beg a good question.”

How should goodness taste?

How should equality look?

How should community sound?

How should generosity smell?

How should love feel?

We experience the world through our senses. And then we make a story of what we sense. Senses first. Story second. It’s how the brain works. The language capacity, putting words to experience, is essentially a translation function. It does not lead, it follows. It’s why, for the most part, we choose the story we tell.

The word that strikes me the most on the bread truck photo is “should.” How should goodness taste?

How does goodness taste? To you?

How does equality look? To you?

For you, what’s the sound of thriving community?

To me, generosity smells like fresh baked bread and hot dark coffee. You?

And love? There are no words. But you know it when you feel it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about GOODNESS

Think About It [on DR Thursday]

Generosity works like blowback: offer support to others and you’ll find yourself supported. Offer kindness to others and you’ll overflow with kindness. Give courtesy, get courtesy. And, it’s not the response or reaction of the recipient that generates the blowback. It’s the act of generosity. The blowback is self-induced.

Of course, meanness works along the same principle. Hate and you fill yourself with hatred.

Often on our trail we find painted rocks. Symbols, messages and whimsy that someone planted for us to find. They make us laugh. They lift our spirits. We generally don’t take them home. We leave them for others to find or, sometimes, we move them to a new location. We re-plant them. Either way, we giggle. It feels like participating in the kindness.

“I want to paint rocks, too!” Kerri’s inner 5-year-old pouted. She went so far as clenching her fist and knitting her brow. Pouty mouth. I fell on the floor in delight after glimpsing the insistent child she was-and-still-is.

We gathered rocks. We bought crappy craft brushes. We brought out the paint. On a gorgeous Saturday evening, sitting outside in the summer breezes, we painted rocks. Compared to the clever rocks we find on trail, our first attempt was crude but inspiring. “We need better tools,” she said, hands-on-hips, admiring our gallery of rocks-ready-to-be-placed-on-trail.

She googled. She asked friends. Armed with information and the desire for better rock art, she’s in hot pursuit of the proper supplies to produce magical rocks that will evoke smiles from people we will never meet.

Someone out there – a person – one day on the trail, giggled and placed a colorful painted stone in the knot of a tree. It set off a ripple of trail giggles in us – and others. How many people, just like Kerri, found their inner 5-year-old, and exclaimed, “I want to do that!”

The, “I want to do that,” isn’t about the rock (though that’s great fun). It’s about the giggle it evokes in strangers. Think about it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ROCK PAINTING

chasing bubbles © 2019 david robinson

Consider The Brushes [on KS Friday]

As an artist, I have fondness for brushes. I’ve been known to disappear into an art store and lose significant amounts of time in the brush aisle. I rarely buy them – I am notoriously hard on my brushes and wait until they fall apart to replace them – but when I replace them I feel as if I just hit the lotto or found a buried treasure in the art store.

I cut my hair to make my first brush. It was mostly useless and left strands of my hair in the painting. It was the essential need for a brush that clued me in to my life path. I didn’t want it; I needed it.

Lately I found myself wandering through a strange and alien world: the Ulta store, followed by an eye-opening trip into Sephora. Despite the ubiquitous advertising, the fact that I live in this society, how is it possible that I had no idea of the nuance layers of soaps and cremes and removers and buffers and…brushes. Beautiful brushes. As Stephanie once famously exclaimed of me, “You are a man after all!”

Clueless.

I was, of course, fascinated by the brushes. Not just the brushes, but the need to have the right brush. Buffers and liners, fans and foundation and shadow brushes! I am a painter of people, I paint the image of faces, and was fascinated watching the painters of actual faces consider and choose their tools. The right brush. Blush, smooth, hard line.

I cannot count the number of times people have told me that they are not creative, that they do not have a creative bone in their bodies. Standing in the alien land, watching the painters carefully choose their brushes, I wondered how so much creative energy, so much enthusiasm for the right color, the right medium, the best brush, goes unrecognized.

This alien land was pulsing with imagination, desire for the right tool, and the drive to share and help and create. There was a generosity of spirit rarely found on the other side of the doors. Women helping women. Laughter and advice. I liked being in this strange land of strange brushes and kindness – even as an outsider. A stranger. I found a breath of fresh air (perfumed as it was) while following my guides through the brush aisle.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about BRUSHES

grateful/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

“Get Outside, People.” [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

When the Wander Women pulled the plug on their cross-country cycling attempt, my esteem for them, what they do, and how they live, skyrocketed. No small statement since they were already high on my list of the people I admire.

In this age of manicured image, they are refreshingly real. They decided in their retirement to use their precious lives gathering experiences instead of stuff, to open themselves to adventure rather than live in a comfy fortress. In the past three years they’ve completed thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, The Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Although that is impressive, the reason we follow them is the hope they inspire. They’ve developed a community of support that shows up for them. Because they are generous, they attract generosity. Rides appear. Baked goods show up. Offers of places to stay. They say, “Yes” to whatever life throws at them and know that life will throw a “Yes” back to them.

Sometimes saying “Yes” means to stop. The plan falls apart, the elements do not cooperate. Every good adventurer knows it’s not enough to get up the mountain, one must also make the return trip. The variables have to align and, if they don’t, it’s wise to wait. Saying, “Yes” means saying, “Not today.” As Kristy said, “It’s best not to get lost in the goal.”

It’s the reason I admire them: they are not stacking achievements. They are having experiences. They are enriching their moments rather than hanging certificates on the wall. They lead with joy rather than acquisition.

They end each of their vlog installments with encouragements: Live. Get outside, people. Make the tough decision. Say, “Yes.”

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

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Wag-A-Wag [on DR Thursday]

We call it his wag-a-wag. Dogga came to us with his tail docked, and as an exceptionally happy pooch, his stumpy little tail is often in full expression. He leaves no doubt about his anticipation and enthusiasm. Walk into a room and the wag-a-wag of the supposedly sleeping Dogga will start to flutter. “It would be so good for you to love on me!” And, the wag-a-wag is always right.

Sometimes it seems so simple, this art of living. If I had ten Academy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize or two that would be great, but I wouldn’t trade a single sweet moment with the wag-a-wag for a plaque to hang on my wall or a statue to put on my shelf. Don’t get me wrong, I’d delight in a degree of success, but I know at the end of the day, in my last few moments, I will treasure my life with the wag-a-wag, the mornings on the raft with the sun streaming in the window, drinking coffee, talking about the day, and Dogga rolling over just-within-reach (he’s an Aussie and has a spatial quirk) for his morning belly-belly.

It’s the rule of the wag-a-wag. Walk into the room and signal simple enthusiasm, an expectation of mutual generosity. Not only is it so good for me to love on you but it is so good for you to love on me. One-and-the-same-action.

read Kerri’s blog post about COZY

nap with dog-dog & babycat, 36×48, 2020

nap with dog-dog & babycat © 2020 david robinson

Grow The Grove [on DR Thursday]

To most people, this silver ornament nestled in branches of green needles, signals the holiday season. For us, not so much. We have silver ornaments suspended in all kinds of branches 365 days a year. They are generally – though not always – accompanied by white twinkly lights. Kerri calls them “happy lights.”

It’s true that most of the branches and most of the silver ornaments originated as our version of a christmas tree. A few years ago, we sprayed white paint on interesting branches found on a walk, stood them in cool pots, wrapped them in happy lights and, yes, placed silver bulbs throughout. We liked them so much that, to this day, they glimmer in our living room. Several years ago we found a sturdy, very straight stick for our holiday tree, adorned it with lights and silver balls, and suspended a star over it. The stick, sans star, now lives in the corner of our bedroom. It is versatile and moves through the house according to our fancy. Our current tree, the single star, will probably be with us for some time.

I know it sounds as if our house is slowly becoming a forest of branches, bulbs and happy lights. We are certainly eccentric enough to make that vision come true but, for now, the grove is (mostly) confined to the living room. We are given to ending the day, sitting in the dark, illuminated by happy lights and silver ornament reflections.

I cherish ending our day in quiet appreciation and also our dedication to spilling holiday goodness throughout the other eleven months of the year. The forest makes us feel good. It keeps us grounded. It reminds us – no kidding – that human kindness and generosity need not be confined to a season. It reinforces that how we treat other people matters – in all situations, at all times of the year. And, it helps us remember that happy lights are everywhere – and they have names- and lives – and move through our story as friends and family and neighbors and strangers we meet along the way. Our living room forest, you see, is a metaphor. Perhaps I lied: I think we do intend for the forest grove to fill all of our spaces.

read Kerri’s blog post about SILVER ORNAMENTS

angels at the well © god-knows-when-but-certainly-another-century david robinson

Ask A Better Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

This may be the height of cynicism but I don’t think so. Suddenly, as if dinged by a magic wand, we’ve entered that time of year when people remember to be kind. “After you,” the woman said, when I gestured for her to go first. The check out line was long so I had ample opportunity to witness the instantaneous return of the “After you!” It was ubiquitous. People were thinking of the needs of other people!

Later, we came to a four-way stop and everyone at the intersection waved for the other drivers to go first “Wow!” I exclaimed, “Just like the old days.” In my one-day anecdotal sample set, we’d just experienced more public generosity in an afternoon than we’d experienced in a very long time – twelve months to be exact.

It is possible, for the people in a nation newly-priding-itself on the depths of its divisions, to be considerate, one-to-the-other. If we are capable of a ritual-compassion-practice every year when Santa is looking, I have to believe that we can muster up some kindness and generosity of spirit in the eleven month gap between holiday seasons.

It was the day after Thanksgiving so it’s possible that the crowds were high on tryptophan, that the good mood and kindness I witnessed was turkey-induced. But, I don’t think so. I suspect the turkey consumption simply demarcates the time when we turn from our aggression-fantasy and consider our better nature. It simply feels better to lend a hand, to help another than it does to drive on top of someone’s bumper.

I appreciated the turn-of-question Kerri found in an article in Inc. magazine: instead of asking yourself, “What am I thankful for,?” a better question is, “What will I do to make others thankful?” The first question is a me-me-me question. The second turns the eye out, it first considers the needs of other people. It requires action, doing. What we experienced in the store, what we experienced at the four-way-stop, was steeped in asking the better question.

Sometimes the change we seek need not be legislated or debated or strategized; sometimes it is no more or less difficult than asking – and then practicing – a better question.

[Even though we’d hidden the store on our website, we’ve lately had a small run on Be Kind buttons. That, too, gives me hope that others out there feel as I do: a better world is not so far away. It’s as close as an act of kindness]

read Kerri’s blog post about A BETTER QUESTION

Offer The Chair [on Flawed Wednesday]

“Indeed, the effect of the forum is all the more powerful if it is made clear to the audience that if they don’t change the world, no one will change it for them.” ~ Augusto Boal, Games For Actors And Non-Actors

Many of my pals in the theatre turned their noses up at me when I began doing work in corporations. They thought I was yet another theatre artist doing improvisation-games with the terminally neck-tied. I was not. My work was more in the tradition of Augusto Boal than Keith Johnstone. Some of the best plays I’ve ever facilitated, some of the most profound pieces of theatre I’ve directed and witnessed, happened in board rooms, classrooms or conference spaces. Here’s how I know: the actors and audience were one-and-the-same. Their play was personal. When they left “the theatre” they did not leave the nice story behind and end the evening with a cocktail. They were disrupted. They had seen something that could no longer be ignored or deflected. The hard work was about to begin.

People yearn. People entrench. People plant their flags and claim the most ridiculous territory. I’ve seen teachers come to blows over an overhead projector. I’ve seen lawyers undermine colleagues to gain dominion over a swiveling chair. And, the chair or the projector are never really the issue. The issue is usually an abstraction. Pecking order. Boundaries. Alliances. People have killed each other over a pair of shoes. It’s not the shoes but the status the shoes represent. Abstraction and illusion.

People are generally unconscious about the reasons beneath their passions. I’ve met a score of dedicated meditation practitioners who meditate to control their thoughts rather than realize them. Once I led a group of teachers through the ritual they enact each morning before the arrival of their students. The question was, “What are you preparing to do in your day?” Their answer was unnerving and revolutionary: they were preparing to control the kids. Teaching and learning were secondary.

We are witness to a country-wide communal piece of theatre, an unconscious play. The issue is not the mask. The issue has never been the mask. The issue is, I suppose, people feeling out of control, imposed upon. Fearful. They are, with their bare faces, making a stand. Drawing a line in the sand. That “no one can tell me what to do” might as well be “I am losing control over my life.”

And, as is always the case, as with the office chair and the overhead projector, refusing to don the mask does not really address the real issue, it merely deflects it. The energy and action is focused on non-sense. And when non-sense rules the day, the action taken actually brings about the thing-most-feared. Loss of control. The pandemic continues, the children are being taken, the economy suffers, the community fractures. It’s a lengthy list.

The lesson in the office chair wars and the overhead projector games is always the same. No one wins. Everyone loses in a toxic tug-of-war. The chair might be yours today but it will be theirs tomorrow. The game only ends when one of the players offers the chair to the other or the projector becomes a reason to share. The same will be true of the mask wars. People will die, the pandemic will continue until the mask becomes a generosity. Then, low-and-behold, the virus will abate and real control over our destiny will be within our grasp.

I hope that, like the lawyers or teachers who were brave enough to walk into the real story, to stand face-to-face with a dysfunction, that we meet our story and ask, “Why would so many sacrifice so much over a little piece of cloth?” An overhead projector. A pair of shoes. A chair that swivels…

read Kerri’s blog post about MASKS