Play Back-Up [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Sometimes life imitates art. And, when it does, there’s nothing better. I painted “Helping Hands” almost a decade ago. I lived it last week. Again and again, that rowdy tyke wanted to scale the higher wall. It was pure joy to play back-up to his adventure.

So many are currently playing back-up to my adventure. Scaling this higher wall is infinitely do-able with so many strong hands ready to catch me if I fall. I am most grateful for all of the hands helping me.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HELPING HANDS

Listen To The Snow [on DR Thursday]

It’s snowing and it’s making me feel like wrapping in a blanket. Cozy and reassuring.

The tall grasses are bowing with the weight of the snow. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. The kind of quiet that only happens in a snowfall, like the world stands still and listens. We stood with our coffee and looked out the kitchen window at the enormous flakes falling. Quiet outside, quiet inside.

Yesterday we were in Florida. Bill called it paradise. I disagree. For me, paradise has seasons, an open window at night, the cold air driving me deeper beneath the quilts. Paradise calls me outside to walk. Paradise includes the infinite space that opens with the hush of the snow, when world rests and takes note. It makes the green shoots of spring that much more magical. Difference hones appreciation.

It’s good to be home. The snow serves as a welcoming committee. “Welcome back,” it whispers, reminding us of life’s rhythms, “It’s time to recharge.”

I look at my list of things to do and decide that I will listen to the snow. Today is a day to rejuvenate. To stand at the window and listen.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOW

In Serenity, 46×30, mixed media [my site is down and under construction]

in serenity © david robinson

Look-At-Me-Look-At-You [on KS Friday]

Crossing the soggy path, the deer left hoofprints pressed deep into the mud. “Those weren’t here before,” she said. It was our second loop around the yellow trail.

A half a mile down the path she suddenly stopped, grabbing my arm in the way that let me know to stand silent and still. She pointed into the woods. The deer stood frozen, looking at us. It’s ears twitched, deciding that we were not a threat. It flicked its tail, a shock of white, and walked a few steps, stopping again to scrutinize us. We stood that way for several minutes. Look-at-me-look-at-you. Boundaries dissolved.

And then, as if released from a spell, we walked on, filled with delight at our communion with the deer. “They’re usually not out this early,” she said. We encounter them at sunset but rarely in the late morning. We decided it was a gift, a sighting of encouragement. We embraced the deer-symbol of life’s regeneration. Moving with grace through obstacles, having a fresh perspective on old impediments. Good perspectives to carry into the new year.

We rounded the corner and crossed to the middle of the bridge. A week ago during the polar freeze we imagined the river was solid ice. Now, it stirred into motion, puddles atop frozen sheets, the current pulling below. The sky and trees reflected on speckled patterns of ice in transformation. It looked like a grey whale swam in for a rest.

Once again we found ourselves under a spell with the river. Moving in an ancient dance with water and sky. Look-at-me-look-at-you. Our stinging fingers brought us back. Time to go home. Warm up. Sip a glass of wine, and revel that deer-spell and river-magic would make it on the list of our Daily Gorgeous.

[this piece of Kerri’s breaks my heart every time I listen]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE RIVER

last i saw you/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Let It Rain [on DR Thursday]

We are reading Raynor Winn’s new book, Landlines. It is terrific. We make a cup of tea, get under a blanket on the old couch in the sitting room, Dogga asleep at our feet, and Kerri reads to me. Life does not get better than this.

A theme in the book is to put yourself in the way of hope. It has become my mantra for the turn of the year. Hope is coming through; stand in its path.

I started a new painting. I’ve been making sketches for a few weeks. It is the theme I snagged on when broken wrists and lost jobs stopped all artistic motion.: train through trees. As David Bayles and Ted Orland write, there is a difference between stopping and quitting. I stopped for a spell. Putting on my painter-clothes and descending into the studio felt like coming back into myself. Embodiment. As I lay out the composition and layered in some under tones, I felt as if air rushed into my lungs after holding my breath for too long.

We mimicked our smack-dab cartoon and took a midnight walk along Lake Michigan to bring in the new year. “Star dust is raining down on us,” Kerri said, in the first minute of 2023.

Stardust. Standing in the path of hope. A deep full breath. A good book and a warm blanket. A cup of tea. The excitement of rushing to photograph a train racing through the trees – and all things that inspire a painter to paint, a composer to compose, and two writers sitting side-by-side to capture their thoughts as the ritual beginning of each new day.

Life does not get better than this.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BUFFALO PLAID

Choose Awe [on KS Friday]

Of course, it’s not enough to appreciate the cloud-stripes that stopped our motion on the trail. I might have painted them in one of my pieces – for no other reason other than they are a cool pattern. Of course, I would have believed I was making it up. Imagination at its finest. But, in mid-trail, to peer up and see them painted on the sky-canvas sent us into a Google frenzy. You’ll be relieved to know that striped patterns in cloud formations are due to an oscillation called the Kelvin-Hemholtz instability. Phew! Not aliens or Van Gogh run amok, just ordinary old Kelvin-Hemholtz, unstable and oscillating. Again.

Nature continues to astound me. Nature continues to blow my imagination to new heights. As an artist, I am relieved knowing that I will never create anything as perfect or profound as what nature tosses up every minute of every day. There’s nothing left to do but play in these fields and appreciate the conversation. Since I am also a unique-form-thrown-up-by-nature, respecting the conversation, having deep gratitude for the moment, wouldn’t hurt.

Standing on the trail, watching the miraculous lines scratched into the blue-blue sky, I re-realized something important: Google might be able to explain it – which is no small feat – but explaining it, labeling it, putting it into a context-box also diminishes it. It gives us the illusion that we are separate from it; that we can control-it-by-rationalization. Visitors at the zoo.

Sometimes I think awe is a better path than explanation. I imagine that we might approach global warming, weather weirding differently, if we weren’t under the illusion that we could Google nature into submission. Awe is participatory, boundaries dissolve. I-am-that. Life beyond definition, beyond category and sub-category, glimmers.

Next time, I will opt for a few more moments of astonishment before reaching for my phone. Explanations and easy answers can wait their turn in line.

Lost. In the Questions ~ Kerri Sherwood

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STRIPES

lost. in the questions © kerri sherwood

Eat! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Sitting at the dining room table late at night on xmas eve, in a lively post-dinner discussion, I suddenly remembered Ms. Brunell. I hadn’t thought of her in years.

She was in her eighties and lived alone in an apartment nearby. Ms. Brunell loved to cook. I was seventeen years old and would visit from time to time, to help her with odd jobs, cleaning her apartment or simply to sit at the table and chat. And eat. Chatting required food. Lots of food.

Thanksgiving day, after eating an enormous meal with my family, I was slipping into a food coma when the phone rang. It was Ms. Brunell wondering where I was. She’d made a Thanksgiving meal for me. She forgot to invite me.

I was desperate. I knew the meal she prepared would come in many courses. She was Italian, and rich, thick lasagna was most certainly on the menu. She was old-school so each bite would be replenished by another scoop of food. “Eat!” she’d chirp and smile, reloading your plate. Food was her love language.

As I drove to her apartment I pondered my-death-by-overindulgence. I was caught in the-good-boy-trap and wrestled mightily with my dilemma. Do I confess that I’d already eaten and disappoint her? Do I lie and tell her that I was starving and find some way to put down yet one more spoonful of food? Neither option seemed tenable. How do I reconcile my moral code of honesty-at-all-times with my third-child-need-to-please?

Ms. Brunell was excitedly waiting for me at her front door. Her shining face resolved my dilemma. I have little memory of that meal. I ate. And ate. And ate. I must have blacked-out somewhere after the second course. Death-by-over-indulgence seemed the only option. My honesty-code didn’t stand a chance when faced with the-need-to-please.

Listening to the laughter at our late-night table this xmas eve, a discussion of impossible dilemmas, I sat back in my chair awash in gratitude both for Ms. B., for surviving her generosity, and for the Thanksgiving meal that taught me that shining faces are sometimes more important that made-up-moral-codes. Real life is never as simple as it seems in the code reduction.

The best thing to do when faced with a genuine quandary; eat! And eat again.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FOOD

The Daily Gorgeous [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I’ve started thinking of our happy hour as “the daily gorgeous.” The intentional act of attention and appreciation. The great bit-of-blowback from the ritual expression of gratitude over a glass of wine and a cracker with cheese is that, the next day, you pay attention. You start looking for the gratitudes you will share. They are everywhere.

There are a few big events. For instance, knowing we lost our job, an envelope arrived in the mail with some money-to-give-us-hope.

It’s the small moments that are the surprise. When you look for them, they are ubiquitous. For instance, right now, I’m sitting next to my wife on a cold and snowy day. We are sitting under a quilt doing something we love to do. We are writing together. Here’s another: this morning while making breakfast, Dogga came into the kitchen and pressed his head into my leg. I stopped what I was doing and ruffled his ears.

Here’s another: each night I set up coffee for the next morning. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans fills the house. We look at each and say, “I can’t wait until morning so we can drink coffee!”

It’s the willingness to stop that brings the awareness. The ever availability of the abundance of gratitude, I’m learning, is readily accessible when the next moment is not granted more status than the present moment.

Central on my wall of quotes is this: I create my own stress. I will add a new Post-it note next to it that reads: I miss the gorgeous by racing through it. Necessary reminders.

My all-time favorite movie is About Time. Richard Curtis both wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It scribes a path to the realization that each day, each moment is gorgeous in all its simplicity. If you fully touch the moment you are in there’ll be no reason to try and lasso it later. Plus, you’ll have plenty to share at the daily gorgeous.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE GORGEOUS

Two Sons and Two Fathers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The original contractor arrived with heavy machinery and an army of men. It was November. Our waterline broke and water was bubbling up in our front lawn. He was the only contractor available and willing to do the job so late in the year. By the time he was finished, he’d busted out portions of the city sidewalk, trenched a 5-foot-deep moat from the street to our foundation, broke out a piece of our front walk, and drilled a sizable hole in our foundation. It was the equivalent of performing open heart surgery for a toothache. Look up “overkill” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this man.

The wreckage that he left behind was prodigious, though he was obligated to return in the spring to fix or replace what he’d broken.

To say we had to fight is an understatement. The city forced him to replace the sidewalk. The burial mound that was our front yard, after weeks of wrangling, was finally leveled and the grass reseeded. He promised to return to complete the final bit of repair work, the last of the pieces: a single square of our front walkway. We knew we’d never see him again.

This story has an extraordinary ending. A series of companies were contacted. None wanted to do the job. It was too small. It was too complicated: the original walkway was scribed with lines and no one knew how to match it.

And then, one day, I looked out the window and saw Frank, hands on his hips, standing on our driveway, staring at our sidewalk. “I remember this job,” he said when I came out to greet him. “I was a kid. I was with my dad when he poured this.” He scrutinized the house. “I’m certain of it.” He smiled, adding, “I think I still have the tool he used to make those lines.”

We talked for several minutes. My dad worked in concrete so we swapped dad stories. He was excited to restore the walk that his father installed. Scribing the lines would not only be easy, but a way to connect his work with his father’s. His connection to his father provided a mainline connection to my father. I was suddenly extremely grateful for the disappearance of the original contractor. Into the void he created walked a heart-legacy, a special opportunity.

Now, the final steps you take approaching our house, will be the place two sons met with their lost fathers, a stone of remembrance and pride. What could possibly be a better welcome to our home.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CEMENT

Feel Their Hands [on DR Thursday]

A Melange Haiku

The woods, remember?

Feet shushing through fallen leaves.

Tree-fingers touch blue.

The trail yesterday was arrow straight, a line running to Chicago. I teased that we need never turn the wheel. The day before we walked by the river so the path snaked with the water course. On Thanksgiving, we walked twice around our yellow loop. It was cold and our finger tips complained. Arrow, snake, and loop.

We are restless and find balance in the woods. Peace-of-mind. We are restless so are searching for new trails. It’s a metaphor, I’m sure of it. We adore our known paths but feel as if we are shedding a skin or busting out of a cocoon. I said, ‘I’m tired of making the same old mistakes, of doing the same old thing.” She is patient and listens without rolling her eyes. She is kind to let my words of frustration dissipate in the cold air. The squirrels sound an alarm. She knows that no response is required.

The sun is down by 4:30. We are fooled again and again thinking it is later than it really is. “It’s too early for dinner!” we exclaim, chopping carrots, eyeing the level of wine remaining in the bottle. We look to each other and laugh.

On the yellow loop we decided to speak of gratitude. We called to mind our nuclear family members and in turn offered thoughts of appreciation. Love is a complex rainbow and I was reminded that much of what we see is by choice. Where we decide to place our focus. I had the sense that our ancestors walked with us on the trail that day. Their hands on our backs.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PERSPECTIVE.

Helping Hands, 53.5×15.25IN, mixed media

helping hands © david robinson

Peel Open [on DR Thursday]

The pods peel open at just the right moment. The fine fluff catches the wind and carries the seed. Nature’s dispersal system. Hope on a sail. The destination is determined by the direction and strength of the wind, not the intention of the seed.

In the United States of America, today is a day of thanks giving. Families gather. Traditional recipes prepared. A pause in the fast moving river for a moment of gratitude. Stories shared; recipes, smells and tastes like seeds are planted in the next generation.

Sitting at a card table with cousins, the adults packed around the kitchen table. Cranberry in a dish, shaped like a can. Blue blue Colorado sky. The crisp air dancing with the sun’s warmth. Coffee. Pumpkin pie. My memories rise from my senses.

Last Thanksgiving, Covid kept us isolated. Our families are far away. Despite our best plans, we will, once again, give our thanks together yet alone. We will walk a trail. We will love on the Dogga. We will make a special meal and tell stories of gratitude. Rob came through for a visit. Dwight called. Mark remains a rock. We heard from Kate. There is no lack of love or laughter in our house.

This pod will peel open at just the right moment. We are burgeoning with hope. In the meantime, we prepare our fine fluff, knowing full well that, despite our best intention, our destination will be determined by the direction and strength of the wind.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SEED

Tango With Me, 39x52IN, mixed media

tango with me © 2018 david robinson