Both/And [on KS Friday]

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Dwight sent a book to me: From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. Several months ago at dinner we talked about how to make this next chapter of life the best chapter. As is my practice lately, I am reading it slowly, taking my time. I used to read like a hungry man eats; I gobbled information. Now I savor. I take one bite at a time and taste all of it. Someday soon we will talk about what I am discovering in the book. I’m only a few chapters in and already I’m rethinking my choices, considering different paths moving forward.

Pondering my next steps has also been an exercise of looking at where I’ve been. A lyric from Dan Fogelberg just ran through my mind [The Last Nail, by Dan Fogelberg]:

I left a trail of footprints deep in the snow
I swore one day, I would retrace them
But when I turned around, I found that the wind had erased them
Now I’ll never replace them

With distance it’s easy to see that some of the worst choices I’ve made in my life have also been the best choices I’ve made in my life. I can see that my desperation brought innovation. I can see the prison I made of my judgments and the hard truths necessary to unlock my cell door. I can see I needed a broken heart to arrive at an open heart.

With distance, I’m beginning to understand that no single experience lives in isolation. No day is either “good” or “bad.” No single period of my life defines the worth or wealth of my time on earth. No title, like “artist,” can wrap its fingers around the totality of my time. I am all of those things and none of those things.

On Monday, we interred Beaky’s ashes. She is with Pa in the national cemetery. We sang a song and then an attendant closed the niche. A journey’s end. Later that day I jumped off the back of a couch into a pile of pillows with a two year old, laughing, wiggling our toes. This wild-child is in full discovery mode, everything an adventure. A journey’s inception.

This life is achingly beautiful, each and every moment.

The entire album: Released From The Heart © 1995 Kerri Sherwood

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART DIVOTS

Sail At It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Kerri said it best: I can’t believe we are back in this place again.

I’ve been rolling this quote through my mind each day as I enter the job-hunt. I remember Tom telling me that he’d crossed a magic line and the world perceived him as “old.” He desperately wanted to direct more plays but his vast experience wore grey hair and a chiseled face. Even former students turned the other way when he called. Eventually he stopped believing the opportunity was out there. He made his peace with retirement on the ranch. He settled into a quiet life and a quiet life settled into him.

As I stare at job listings I dream of wealthy patrons knocking at my door or a fast-track Patreon membership that floats my/our artistic boat into new and exciting explorations. There are paintings in the stacks that are gorgeous and worthy. I fantasize that a syndicate will want Smack-dab or a publisher will ride over the horizon with a book deal. I know that Kerri has more music to play and record. I am not imagining that.

Tom’s reflection is poignant because he felt he was, after a lifetime of experience, coming into his most potent artistic years. I feel that now. I am now the age he was when he uttered his disbelief at crossing the magic line. It’s taken a long time to recognize the worth of my doubt, the power in my perseverance stepping into the unknown. There’s potent artistry in here. As the Wander Women said best, “We might have 20 summers left and want to be intentional in how we spend them.” Yes. How to best dedicate and experience the time? This day?

I believe the opportunity is out there. I wear a grey beard and, as my niece said, a weathered face. But, beneath the wear-and-tear, my heart is young and my tank is full. I am foolish enough or naive enough to imagine. To dream. To point my intention toward the edge of the earth. To believe opportunity is serendipitous as well as something created.

read Kerri’s blogpost about OPPORTUNITY

Locate The Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The very center of your heart is where life begins. The most beautiful place on earth.” ~ Rumi

What, exactly, is the heart of the matter?

If you listen, what does your heart tell you?

What does it mean to “Follow your heart”?

Heart land? Heart song?

This weekend the question was asked, “Do you think there is an absolute truth?” I amused myself thinking of the oxymoron in the terms ‘absolute’ and ‘truth’. I am almost certain – but not absolute – that the question was really about the location of the center of heart. Is there a heart center? Where is the center of the universe? Here. And everywhere else.

Kerri pitched the small piece of chain onto the counter, saying, “This goes in the special box.” It landed in the shape of a heart.

“Hi, Pa!” I thought, and we laughed.

We wear pull chain as bracelets around our left wrists; the original pieces came from her father’s workbench. They are connective tissue to him and to each other. Heart chain. They periodically break so we are many generations from the original. The current chain is symbolic. This heart-piece was from my most recent chain break.

“What are the odds?” she asked.

Yes, indeed. What are the odds that a piece of pull-chain could so quickly bring us to the heart of the matter?

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART

Ask A Familiar Question [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I’ve asked this question of clients a thousand times: What’s beneath? What’s beneath the fear, the yearning, the resistance, the denial, the dream? Asking, “What’s beneath?” is one way of “getting to the heart of the matter.”

The-heart-of-the-matter is rarely visible on the surface. The engine room, the place of power and life, is usually hidden at the bottom of the ship. It makes a lot of noise and is generally deemed “not pretty.” Getting to the-heart-of-the-matter usually requires a trip to the lower decks, a willingness to take off the mask or the armor, at least for a little while.

There is a stop on the way to the-heart-of-the-matter. This stop holds two contradictory options and both are misunderstood as the heart. Option #1: To stand out. Option #2: To fit in. To be valued and to belong. Both are wildly important and provide fuel for the trip but neither is the heart, yet it is a common stopping place for most people in their search for the heart-of-the-matter.

The real work of a heart is never dependent on the opinions of others. To get to the heart, one needs to press on.

When my job fell to dust, my first action was to let go of my symphony project. That choice surprised me. A younger version of me would have held onto that performance as if it was a life buoy. A way to stay afloat. A way of knowing who I am. This version of me knows the folly in that way of thinking: my artistry is not a flotation device. It is not a separate thing.

This time, near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself in a wide open space, with an abundance of love and belonging and no absence of esteem. I am at the top and bottom of the pyramid at the same time! It’s a great opportunity to ask myself an all too familiar question: What’s beneath?

In this life, what is the heart-of-the-matter?

read Kerri’s blog post about BENEATH

Stay On The Root [on KS Friday]

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” ~ Albert Einstein

Saul’s words have been ringing in my memory: “Stay on the root.” He was a tai chi master.

He might have said, “Stay grounded,” but his reference to “the root” is more dynamic. When on “the root” there is absolutely no resistance to circumstance. Nothing can knock you off center. You are solid, rooted; not for resistance or fight but for flow. No kinks in the energy-hose.

Presence is a requirement of being on “the root.” If your mind jumps into fear-of-the-future it will pull you off center. If your heart dives into regret of the past, it will yank you off balance. Saul might remind us that our bodies are always present. What else? Our minds story us into stress and, mostly, the horror stories we tell ourselves never actually occur. Or did occur.

Here’s the most important part of his instruction: when staying firmly on”the root,” a place of no-resistance, flow is possible. In fact, anything is possible. That may, to some, sound like new-age nonsense but it is actually age-old wisdom. It’s a practice of getting out of your own way. Assume nothing. Lilies-of-the-field, etc. There’s a timeless fable about a farmer and a horse…

A week ago we walked our trail and the leaves were vibrant with color, electric. Now, they are mostly on the ground. Transforming. Nutrient for the soil. I doubt the leaves felt fear of falling or spent an ounce of life-energy in regret.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE LEAF

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Put It On The Wall [on DR Thursday]

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” ~ Buddha

I sometimes wonder what the Buddha might think about how words, attributed to him, are now available on Wayfair.com as posters or large decals for every living room wall. Does the ease and ubiquity of the message make it less meaningful? A decoration rather than a wisdom? Or, that we are capable of immersing ourselves in inspiration, a reminder-to-live-well in every room, are we meditating on the messages? Are we incorporating them into our actions and choices?

I’ve read that the only requirement when hanging prayer flags is to hold positive thoughts and intentions in the mind. Intend goodness and goodness will spread. That is, after all, the point of the flag. To spread on the wind goodness, peace, kindness,…

Kerri’s philosophy – her religion – is much the same as Dolly Parton: “You just try to be nice to everybody ’cause you know everybody’s got a dream.” Kerri’s version: “If it’s not about kindness it’s not about anything.” It’s simple.

Minds are powerful things. It’s why stories are so impactful; stories are the stuff that fills-the-minds. What you feel. What you think. What you imagine. It’s not passive. Although a trick of the English language, your thoughts, your feelings, your imaginings, are not really separate from “you.” They are you. The story you tell yourself about yourself in the world.

I suppose that’s why we rub the sentiment onto the living room wall. A desire to be better in the world. To tell a better story. Better about each other. Better for each other. What else?

read Kerri’s blogpost about PRAYER FLAGS

in serenity © 2018 david robinson

Make Some Sense [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When standing at life’s crossroads, there is a choice to be made. Take the right-hand path or the left-hand path? Or, turn around and go back. Turning around is never an option since it’s akin to going back in time. So, right or left?

Symbolically, the right hand path represents the safe path. The conservative choice. The path that “makes sense.”

The “road less travelled” is to the left. Destination unknown!

It’s never made sense to me (ahem) that choosing the path to the right is considered the sensible choice. We’re a culture that celebrates the cowboy! We’re a nation that prides itself on its rugged individualism. We stomp across the wilderness, aim for the moon, yet the clear message to our children is “know where you’re going.” Choose the sensible path, “Go to the right.”

Sometimes I wonder why these two paths are set in opposition to each other. There can be no further-left-hand-path than the one free-solo climber Alex Honnold has taken, yet he is studied, methodical in his passion. Some of our greatest historians are actors and dramaturges; it takes precise study to be the mirror of a culture.

To act like you “got some sense” does not mean to ignore your heart. Every high wire artist begins with a net. Michelangelo and Leonardo were intense studiers on their left-hand-path, scientists both. Going to the left does not mean recklessness but it does imply vulnerability to new experiences. Curiosity. Sailing toward the horizon. Opening to the awe of being alive. Taking chances; try, try again. Following an impulse.

Knowing the value of a mistake as the vital necessity of learning.

What could make more sense than that?

read Kerri’s blogpost about GOT SOME SENSE

Feel The Stir [on DR Thursday]

“It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.” ~Henri Matisse

The canoe glided silently through the lily leaves. I counterbalanced the canoe as she stretched over the side to take a photograph. Leaning, I stared down at the leaves. Vibrant color and pattern, Matisse might have painted them. They stirred within me the deep desire to paint, something I haven’t heeded for too long. Nature is a great artist.

The trees surrounding the lake signaled autumn’s imminent arrival. Crimson reds and yellows dotted the shore. Fall paints me melancholy and I felt the first whispers of the coming-sweet-sorrow. Deep quiet. Still water reflection. Hearing rhythms beyond sound. Nature, I am told, is a great healer.

Although I’ve painted all my life I’ve never thought of myself as a painter. For me, painting is not about the image I produce. It is about walking into the dark cave or soaring into the blinding light. Icarus. Nature’s call.

My sister remains confounded that I have not given myself over to the wealth and riches of pet portraiture. Early in my life I was paid-not-well to copy masterworks, alter the colors so they might match a client’s couch. I can paint anything. I can paint like anyone. I left that behind. It was soul draining. I paint to answer Nature’s call, to discover how to paint like myself.

Counterbalancing the canoe, staring at the Matisse leaves, the brilliant white lily, I acknowledged the stir. I promised myself, my easel, like autumn’s imminent arrival, “Soon.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about LILY

icarus © 2008 david robinson

Protect The Heartwood [on DR Thursday]

Conk!

No, that is not cartoon-speak for being hit on the noggin. It’s a formal name, the body-shape of the shelf-fungi that grows on local trees. Not having grown up here, the first time I saw them, I thought they were aliens. Trees with tongues. A Little Shop of Horrors; Audrey II. Get too close and tree-Audrey would feed on me. Conk! Chomp! (burp).

Polypores. Now, there’s a word that rolls trippingly off the tongue – and is made more fun because polypores actually look like a tongue. Shelf-fungi (a polypore) is not a good thing if you are a tree. In fact, it has no interest in feeding on me but consumes the heartwood of its host.

Heartwood.

I’m not kidding when I admit that, in passing this shelf-fungi, I imagined the conks to be visible stories. Each conk represented a story of insecurity or fear. The stories that feed on our heartwood. What would we look like if our conk-stories where visible on our trunks?

If the rot-story was visible, what might we do to tell a self-tale intended to protect our heartwood and eliminate the conks? How might we help our children tell life stories of self-love, knowing they’d wear their conk-stories? How might we address our neighbors? What would we do to protect the heartwood of the forest from wearing rot-stories?

I think I’ll stop there. Conk!

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHELF FUNGI

shared fatherhood © 2018 david robinson

Stand Still [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The understanding of what you actually are is far more important than the pursuit of what you should be.” ~ Krishnamurti, Think On These Things

I wrinkled my brow the first time I heard Kerri say it: “We don’t change. We just become more of who we already are.” I didn’t like it. I wanted to pop the notion with pithy ideas of transformation. Something made me hold my tongue. “Consider it,” I said to myself.

Now, a full decade into the latest phase of my life-long-onion-peel, I see the wisdom in her words. The layers of protection, the suits of armor, the wall of respect, the race from shame, the measuring sticks and self-inflicted-social-expectations stripping away. Trying-to-be falls to the floor like a robe. The story-husks and fear-shells and false skins, false faces, false labels and roles and masks falling to the forest floor.

And, there you are. Just as you are. Naked and vulnerable and oh, so passingly human. Standing still. No ghosts to chase. No monsters chasing you.

And, there you are.

No distance between you and what you desire to create or experience. Finger painting. A child with a crayon and an empty wall for scribbles.

Kerri looks for hearts. She finds rocks shaped like hearts and leaves, heart-impressions in walls and heart-shaped clouds. Each one is a first-and-only and evokes delight. Last week on the trail, it occurred to me that she finds them everywhere, not because she looks for them, but because she expects to see them.

Seeing old friends. There you are.

read Kerri’s blog post about the HEART LEAF