React [on Two Artist’s Tuesday]

The answer is herbicide. That blue coloring sprayed on stumps and shards of stumps along our path is meant to prevent the invasive species from sending up new shoots. Eliminating the invasive species so the native plants might someday make a comeback is the point. It only looks like total plant decimation with performance-art-blue dotting the eradicated forest. It is, in actuality, rejuvenation.

We met a couple walking the path. They were bird watchers and thrilled about the rejuvenation project. They explained how the work would allow the river to return to its natural course. The invasive plants were choking the waterway. With the removal of the invasive plants, the wildlife, like the plants, might have a renaissance. They assured us we’d see the difference when spring returned.

When I lived in the pacific northwest, there was deep concern about the salmon. Damming the rivers interrupted the natural cycle of the salmon’s return to spawn and the entire ecosystem was suffering because of it. Salmon are considered a “keystone” species; without the keystone, the ecosystem falls apart.

As we walked our loop I wondered how the invasive plants were introduced and how long had it taken for the invaders to choke the native plants? What prompted the preserve to act now?

Most likely, the invasive plants were introduced unknowingly by people. We cultivate land. We “utilize” nature as a resource. We study. We explore. We develop. We trade. We migrate. We are a force of nature. We walk well tended paths constructed for our ease and enjoyment. Sometimes conscious and sometimes unconscious of our impact.

I had a great conversation with a forest ranger about the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone. The thought of “managing” nature has always struck me as paradoxical. We eradicated the wolves and then felt the impact. We re-introduced the wolves to try and correct the mistake before the ecosystem collapsed, and set off another chain reaction of unintended consequences that required further intervention. It’s like prescribing a drug to manage the side effects of a medication.

As we walked I wondered if the concept of natural balance is just too hard for us to grok. We generally don’t realize that interdependence applies to us, too. We believe we are nature’s managers rather than part of the chain. That prevents us from seeing ourselves as invasive, responsible, reactive.

We manage. And sometimes that looks like forest-performance-art-devastation with accents of green-shade-blue.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HERBICIDE

Find The Treasure [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Every so often in the grocery store I am struck by how many people are involved in making sure I – we – have food to eat. Pick any item from the shelf and work backwards. It was carried, priced, stocked, delivered, warehoused, produced, picked, manufactured, marketed, accounted, inventoried, scheduled. Imagined. And, I wonder, how many of the hundreds of people involved realized that their labor makes my life – our lives – better?

Sitting in front of my computer yesterday I was swirling in a thought-eddy. Attempting to map a workflow, the mechanics of a process, I was befuddled. There were too many variables. As is my practice when perplexed, I stood up and walked away. Halfway down the stairs my mind jigged. I re-remembered that the only thing that mattered in my silly map was the desire to make someone’s life better, someone I would never meet. I realized (again) that I didn’t need to figure it out. I shouldn’t figure it out. There was and is no single answer. Too many variables simply means I cannot know – but I can intend. I will “know” how it all works after the fact. I know that, if I keep focused on my north star, making a life better, then, at this phase, that is all I need to know. It’s an unbeatable criteria for clarifying what to do.

“Do you think someone found our buttons?” she asked. “Do you think they liked them?” On our last hike in North Carolina, she left a small sack of Be-Kind buttons in the knot of a tree. “I wonder who found them,” she giggled.

A small treasure left in the knot of a tree. A sack of potatoes found in the grocery store. Kindness. We get snarky when we divorce our actions – even the smallest action – from the very thing that makes them matter. We get lost when we forget how deeply interrelated are our every action and thought. Cause and effect, as Alan Watts wrote, are not sequential but simultaneous. If you think your actions do not matter or have no purpose, think again. If you think it does not matter how you treat others or that bottom lines are more potent than people, think again. It’s the miracle of a circle or a cycle: where does it begin? Where does it end?

read Kerri’s blogpost about BUTTONS IN A TREE

Read The Walk [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Between the morning rehearsal and the evening wedding, we had several hours without commitments so we did the thing we most like to do. We walked. It was a gorgeous September day. We were in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, a miracle of reclaimed and converted warehouses, shops and condos that line the waterway. We followed the Riverwalk, Kerri snapping photographs, ambling our way to Lake Michigan.

It’s odd in this age of pandemic, to be in a city on a beautiful weekend day. The rules of engagement are different. The rules of enjoyment are different. Be out in the day but avoid the crowds. There was an art fair, a crush of people, so, as artists, normally pulled toward art gatherings, we walked the other way. In years past we would have waded in to the fray, talked to the artists, enjoyed people enjoying art.

Instead, we found a bounty of art on our walk. The shadows playing on the walls. The flowers. The finials. The sculpture. Everywhere we looked we found riches of intentional design. People dedicated to creating beautiful spaces had a field day re-imagining what had once been an industrial wasteland on the water.

Chiseled into the the boards upon which we walked was a narrative history of the city. We stepped on top of important dates of the Civil War. We walked across innovations, breweries arising in a city of beer, World Wars and the changes they wrought. Sports victories. We walked across the story of a previous pandemic, a hundred years ago. A few thin boards, markers of a tragic toll.

For a moment I stood and watched the kayaks paddling, the pontoon boats cruising the channel, the diners seated beneath umbrellas, the strollers, like us enjoying the day with no destination calling. Full moments in lifetimes that someday might be told in a few thin boards of narrative highlights.

I wondered how many people, how much dedicated action, it took to make this moment beautiful and possible. The architects. The artists. The artisans. The craftsmen and women. The laborers. The florists, The gardeners. The shopkeepers. The waiters. The chefs. The suppliers. The mail carriers,…Dreamers all, stretching back through time. Interconnected and interdependent in ways that only few recognize.

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Were I to chisel the story of our pandemic in a boardwalk, or create a sculpture meant to capture our moment in narrative time, my theme would be interconnection and interdependence unnoticed. Unmasked. A myopic madness, a messy delusion of every-man-for-himself, a sure-fire way to perpetuate a pandemic or warm a globe.

There is, of course, no evidence for life thriving in a vacuum. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence, apparent on a stroll in a city on a beautiful sunny September day, killing some time before a wedding, that it takes all of us, every last life, to thrive. An artist needs an audience. A developer needs a supplier. A doctor needs a patient who wants to be healthy. Who wants to do more than survive. Thriving is, after all, a group sport. A careful reading of the boards tells a very specific tale: no one does this walk alone.

read Kerri’s blog post about OUR WALK

Pop The Bubble [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“I think we all see the world from our own little unique bubble.” ~ Julie Taymor

“You never know you’re in a bubble until it pops.” ~ Andrew Revkin

The word “bubble” has taken on wildly new significance in the past few years. We refer to our information-tribes as bubbles. This notion of “bubble” is defined by ideological agreement. The universe in the conservative bubble is unrecognizable to the universe in the progressive bubble and vice-versa.

We also create support bubbles, friends and family who have quarantined so they can safely gather together in their bubble. This bubble is defined by an agreement of safety.

We see photographs of people dining in plastic pods. Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere.

These bubbles are ultimately about safety. A support bubble provides a measure of protection from the pandemic. An ideological bubble provides a measure of protection from opposing points of view.

At the end of his days, Stephen Hawking popped his own multiverse theory – an infinite number of “pocket universes” – bubbles by another name – and posited something simpler and provable. It is the beautiful progress of science to burst previous understanding once new information is available. In science, as in life, nothing is static. We admire people like Stephen Hawking, who pursue truth, who are expansive and capable of saying, “I know more now. I had it wrong.”

Growth, maturity, is a parade of bursting bubbles.

We are currently witness to the latest in bubble-fossilization, the outright infantile resistance of fact driving a deeper retreat into the hard-shell bubble of reality denial. A Fox Parler. It’s a pressure cooker of conspiracy theory and magical thinking – anything to explain away those pesky facts, data points, and court rulings. All bubbles eventually pop and we know from history that angry-insular-bubbles burst violently. The killing fields. German villagers sweeping ash from their sills each morning. Planes flown into buildings. Mustard gas.

This violent bubble burst will be shared by all.

I suppose that is the point. If we’ve learned anything from this time of pandemic it is how utterly interconnected we really are. No matter how far we think we can retreat, bubbles, no matter how well blown, are permeable. The air I breathe is the same air you breathe which, lately, has been the problem. The air I use to blow my bubble is shared with all other bubble-blowers. My perceived independence is an illusion in a dynamic universe of interdependence.

Our dedicated bubbles will someday burst and, with any luck, as we form new bubbles, we will, like Stephen Hawking, be capable of saying, “I know more now. I had it wrong.”

read Kerri’s blog post about BUBBLES

chasing bubbles

chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson