Taste And Adjust [on Merely A Thought Monday]

In our kitchen, I am the sous chef. Second in command. I chop, slice and dice. Then, I place my colorful preparations in glass bowls, carefully arranged relative to the stove so the chef need only reach to add an ingredient to her magic-making. “What’s first?” I ask. “Onions and garlic,” the chef replies, tying on her apron. I know the answer before I ask but it’s our ritual signal, like the kitchen version of “On your mark,” to the runners at the starting line. The onion steps onto the cutting board.

We love to cook together. I have learned through the many phases of my life that my relationship with food mirrors the relationship I have with life. If I attend to the the palette of tastes and textures that I eat, if I take the time to savor and appreciate my food, I carry that attention into every moment of my day. If I rush through and jam any food-like-object into my mouth, I carry that same inattention into my life. Appreciation, savoring, is mindfulness. Slowing down to plan and fully fill the palette of flavor fosters anticipation. Moving through a grocery store or farmer’s market is a wholly different affair when favorite recipes call.

I did not arrive easily at my understanding of food and life. The first recipes I tried were utter disasters. Don’t ask BK about my inaugural batch of lentil soup. It will send him into waves of horror-laughter. I ate it to prove that my cooking was not so bad but could not hide that my soup nearly killed me. And, I remember the moment that I decided to learn to cook. I remember like it was yesterday the understanding that sent me to the stove: I wanted, perhaps for the first time in my life, to take care of myself. More than that, I wanted to fully taste the richness of being alive and to do it, I had first to stop running. One must stand still to fully taste. To savor, one must stand still with others. “What do you think? Kerri asks, “More salt?”

Experimentation, trial and error, are the only way. Taste and adjust. And, isn’t that a terrific life credo?

In the recent past, each week, we try new recipes with 20. We’ve discovered some incredible flavors, our repertoire is expanding. Soups and chilis and stir fry. Mostly, that we intend to make meals together, that we slow down and enjoy each other’s company en route to a new taste, an ingredient that we can’t pronounce, a spice that is unknown. “This might be a disaster,” we say as steaming bowls of deliciousness hit the table. “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” we say as we click together our spoons and dive in.

read Kerri’s blogpost about EATING WELL

a photo from before the pandemic. we can’t wait for this to end so we might create more memories like this one.

Wash And Wonder [on DR Thursday]

I actually like washing dishes. It gives me a sense of completion. Rarely do I finish a day of work with anything that resembles closure or accomplishment. Doing the dishes satisfies my western goal oriented needs. Ask me what I achieved today and I will proudly respond, “The dishes.”

While washing and rinsing the plates and pots I have a terrific view into the back yard. It’s like having a big screen tv into our teeming-with-life sanctuary. The squirrels and Dogga have a game (Dogga does not know that it is a game), the cardinals visit the pond, the rabbits and foxes and the occasional turkey, hawk or owl excite the noisy crows. The chipmunks are masterful ninjas finding ways to access the bird feeders and make off with pouches full of seed.

Sometimes, the window – the actual glass – becomes more interesting than the games unfolding beyond it. During a storm, in the winter cold, crystals form and migrate across its surface. It’s a giant kaleidoscope, especially as the string of lights stretching across the yard pop on. It’s enough to make me pause my dish washing fervor and stare in amazement. Window-wonder satisfies my eastern presence desires. Ask me to what I gave my full attention and I will smile and respond, “The window.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WINDOW

joy © 2014 david robinson

See The Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There was a transformation the moment we raised the branch and secured it in the pot. “It looks happy,” Kerri said. I was thinking the exact same thing. This broken branch, muddy and discarded and sad, we brought into the house, trimmed it, lifted it, and positioned it, was instantly revivified. The moment was palpable.

“Are we just making it up” she asked.

“No,” I responded, not certain what, exactly, I was seeing, but this branch was suddenly full of life. It was warm and energetic where, only a few moments before, it was downcast. “I think it likes being here.”

We stood and stared and tried to make sense of what we were seeing. “This would make a good children’s book,” we said at the same moment. Happy, happy, happy.

We added a few simple lights, a single ornament, but mostly we let it be. Its happiness is decoration enough.

We visit our tree during the day. Its exuberance is infectious. Before retiring each night, we turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree. We sit with it and drink in the warm feeling it radiates.

“That tree is like good sculpture,” 20 said, admiring it. “It reaches,” he added. Good energy.

We remain amazed. We’ve not yet grown used to the sudden metamorphosis. I hope we never do. It’s become more than a symbol for the season. It’s a possibility. A promise. A reminder.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE

Hold A Greater Space [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The sun was setting as we drove away from the memorial service. A celebration of life. We were quiet, lost in our thoughts. “I don’t know if I’ve ever before been to a celebration of life where I LEARNED something about life,” Kerri said. I was thinking the exact same thing. I’d just received a master class on how to live a good life. I just learned about the untenable nature of love.

It was Nancy’s service. Her husband of many years spoke. Her daughters spoke. Her stepchildren sang and read poetry. She was a longtime member of the church so the pastor told stories about her. The service was alive with laughter and with tears. Both. People applauded at the end of the slideshow, a photographic journey of a life that began in 1933.

We are inundated with notions that ‘the good life” should have no pain. It should be above hardship. Nancy’s life did not support that half-narrative. She experienced canyons of loss. As her daughter said, “She could have become hardened and bitter.” But, she didn’t. She didn’t ignore her pain or deny it, she allowed it. It was part of the color of her life. She did as the Buddhists recommend: joyfully participated in the sorrows of the world. She participated. She chose. She decided. She created.

She surrounded herself with flowers and loved her garden. She made her table a magnet for family and friends. She did not sit and complain, she had no time for woe-is-me. She found opportunities to give and engage. Story after story of a woman, even in the heat of cancer, while awaiting the results of the latest scans that would determine the number of days she would have on earth, turned trips to the doctor into opportunities to shop with her daughters. Lunches. Expeditions to a beloved bakery. Create the extraordinary in the simple moment, regardless of the circumstance. We heard again and again these companion phrases, “She chose love.” The pain and the love, “Both belong,” Heidi said.

In an intentional life, one does not negate the other. Tragedy and triumph. Devastation and joy. It’s a decision. Where we focus will determine our experience of life. Nancy stood in her pain and uncertainty; she had every opportunity to become bitter. Instead, she focused on love. She created it. Nurtured it. Grew it. Offered it. She didn’t deny her pain. She held space for it in a greater container.

It was apparent in the laughter evoked in the stories told, it was apparent in the generosity of the service we experienced. This was not a Hallmark movie. It was a celebration of a life of texture, of impossible mountains to climb and of enormous blessings. It was the lesson Nancy lived because it was woven through every story told about her. “It’s what she taught me,” Heidi said, “Both belong.”

read Kerri’s blog post about BOTH BELONG

Look Again [on DR Thursday]

I’m not sure when I started using floral shapes and imagery in my paintings. There was Sam The Poet and Eve, trees as symbol.

Sam The Poet, acrylic, 48 x 48IN
Eve, acrylic on hardboard, 48 x 48IN

I know my sketchbooks began filling up with flower shapes and symbolic landscapes. Petals appeared throughout my Yoga Series. Leaf and flower shapes found their way into the bodies as well as the surrounding spaces.

Joy, mixed media, 50 x 56IN

I played with tissue paper over color as a ground for the images. When Tony recently visited my studio, he said my paintings were sculptural, visually commanding. I wrote his words on a scrap of paper since artists are mostly terrible at describing their work. He is an artist so he knows that the proper answer to the question, “Tell me about your work?” is “Go look at it and then you tell me about my work.” He didn’t ask the question; he went straight to the looking.

Tango With Me, mixed media, 39 x 52IN

We walked down a path at sunset. Kerri saw the sunflowers and I knew a photo op had arrived. “You should use this as your Thursday post,” she said, showing me her photo, “because your paintings always have flowers in them.”

Well, good enough, then. Sunflowers, shape and symbol, will find their way into the next painting, I’m sure of it.

read Kerri’s blog post about SUNFLOWERS

copyrights for all paintings in this post, 2010 – 2021, david robinson

Welcome The New Day [on KS Friday]

Strip the religiosity out of the word ‘Alleluia’ and you’re left with its essence: a sunrise. Pure and simple.

Last year – a decade ago – Kerri needed a song for her cantata. She noodled for a few minutes. There was a phrase. A line of music. The next day she said, “What about this?” She played and sang. Magic. I took out my phone and recorded it. “Someday,” I tell her, “someday we’ll record it in a studio.”

She sings of our broken lives, our shattered hearts. Strip the religiosity from it and her song is about tension seeking resolution. Natural order. Basic physics. Broken lives and shattered hearts seek wholeness. Sunrise. A new day. Pure and simple.

Joy does not have to complicated. No symphonic soundtrack necessary. No fireworks required. Yesterday, after spending a few moments with her son in Chicago, we drove the back roads home. It was dark. Gently snowing. She was heart-warm after having received the single item on her wish list. A few moments. No more. No less. Joy, like the first quiet rays breaking over the horizon, announcing a new day.

Years ago, decades ago, standing in the self-made-wreckage of my life, I sent a change of address card to friends so they’d know where I was. An arrow pointing to the earth. “I’m here,” it read.

We’re here. A new day. Pure and simple. Alleluia.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU’RE HERE

you’re here ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

rest now ©️ 2016 david robinson

Pick Your Star [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

pre joy joy copy

Mike Libecki is a mountain climber. He calls the necessary suffering of his sport pre-joy. “That way,” he explains, “I get to use the word joy in all of my sentences.” There’s joy at the summit. There’s pre-joy on the way up. It’s not a bad orientation to life, everything is relative to joy.

Skip’s meditation these days is on resilience. After a horrific car accident, he has more than a few tales of pre-joy. He has even more tales of joy. Human beings have a remarkable capacity to choose their stories, to orient to a path that is life-giving or to collapse their story into a state of no-joy. Skip chose resilience. The capacity to recover. To spring back in order to spring forward. Pick your star and sail toward it. That is Skip’s lesson to me.

Judy just wrote a book, Summoned By A Stroke. It is the blog posts she wrote to her community of support after her husband, Kim, suffered a major stroke. It is a remarkable testament to the invincibility of the human spirit when it intentionally orients to joy. It is also pays homage to the magnetic pull joy has on a community. There is  no attempt in Judy’s story to deny the pre-joy; there is a deep understanding that there would be no real joy without it.

During my Seattle years, when I was feeling blue, I would jump on the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit Judy and Kim. This man wrecked by a stroke and, my friend, Judy, his wife, never failed to lift my spirits, to fill me up with laughter. More than once, on the return ferry, I would sit in utter amazement. I told myself that I should be bringing comfort and support to them but the opposite was, in fact, the case. What I experienced with them was beyond words. So much joy. If there is a place where pre-joy and joy blend together, Judy and Kim inhabited it. Today, this is Judy and Kim’s lesson to me:

“Kim and I are learning that happiness is not about what we do or where we go but how loving we are in relationships, how open and curious we are about where we find ourselves, and how inventive we can be with what we are given.” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PRE-JOY/JOY

 

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

Invite Some Joy [On KS Friday]

joy songbox copy

David and Molly are taking their amazing young son, Dawson, home to Seattle for the holidays. Margaret, Dawson’s equally amazing grandma, adores them and will heap huge joy on them.

Quinn’s daughter wrote after his death that she is who she is in the world because her dad delighted in her. It’s true. His intense delight forged a joyful intrepid spirit.

We walked with our son in the bitter cold from Ogilvie Station to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights. Kerri threaded her arm through Craig’s and I could literally feel the joy, mother and son, walking together.

Last night we went to 20’s house and tried a new soup recipe. We laughed and drank wine and talked about…everything and nothing at all. Late in the evening 20 said, “People don’t get it. This is what the holiday is about. Being together. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about time together. That’s what makes life rich. Joyful.” Sounds like a cliche’, doesn’t it?  It will until you, for whatever reason, spend a holiday alone.

Kerri was missing Kirsten. The holidays come with a hot yearning to be close and Kirsten is far away. And then, a text binged in. Mother and daughter are deeply connected. It is a joke in our house that if Kerri speaks Kirsten’s name, inevitably, within a few minutes, we hear from her. It’s uncanny. With Kirsten’s text, a simple ”hello” to her mom, Kerri’s despair flared into huge Joy. I wrote to Kirsten, “Best gift ever.”

It’s true. What could be better than the gift of presence? What could be better than Joy?

Joy! on the album Joy! A Christmas Album is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JOY!

 

 

by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

Joy! A Christmas Album ©️ 2004 Kerri Sherwood

Eat The Marshmallows [on Merely A Thought Monday]

lucky charms copy

I know it’s confusing. In my life there is H, also called Horatio. And then there is H, not Horatio at all, but a 93 year old man who is one of the few elders in my life that did not grow angry with age. H grew sweeter with time, and, therefore, wiser. He is my master teacher in how to age with joy.

I sit next to H in choir. He loves to sing. He has been singing his entire life and, so, he is easy in his voice. Ease of voice. I suspect that’s one of the main reasons he has such ready access to his humor. He isn’t trying to keep his voice down. He’s not editing himself or otherwise tying off his expression. He’s paid attention to keeping his creative channels open and free flowing. He wheels in with his walker, drops his coat, and teeters to-and-fro before dropping into his chair with a giggle. Even sitting down has become an oddity and rather than grouse about it, he smiles. “Made it!” he announces after hitting the chair with a thud.

‘Yes,’ I think to myself, ‘You made it.’ We should all make it like H.

I know H has had tragedy in his life. I know he had and continues to have a hard road. He sings in a church choir but I accuse him of being a secret Buddhist, so joyfully is he participating in the sorrows of the world.

Picasso famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” H has made of his life a great painting that even Picasso would enjoy. He has circled back to the child, the innocent appreciation of the great gift of living.

There are no lines of import in H’s coloring book and he inspires me to take out my great big Jethro Bodine bowl and fill it full with Lucky Charms. Pour the milk! Why wait.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about H

 

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Learn The DogDog Way [on Merely A Thought Monday

dogga end of day copy

DogDog is an Aussie and takes the job of herding his people very seriously. We are a tough bunch. Two artists (one A.D.D. and the other O.C.D) and a BIG cat are not easily collected or moved in a consistent or singular direction. It is not an understatement to say that DogDog was not given an easy task in this lifetime.

On top of the endless challenge of gathering the un-gatherable, he is a hyper sensitive boy; he knows what we are feeling before we do. He runs all of our emotions through his filters. The Dog Whisperer says that dogs are masters at reading energy and DogDog must have graduated at the top of his pooch class. Anticipating our every move is made more complex by his innate skill in surfing our full palette of turbulent and uninhibited feelings. Were he human, he’d be a nervous wreck.

His days are full, chaotic, and active. And so, at the end of the day, when we at last settle, when the perimeter is safe and we are secure, he collapses. It is almost as if someone disconnected the cable to his battery. He hits the floor. His sleep is immediate and sound (unless, of course, we move).

I realized, in watching his deep and peaceful sleep, the kind of sleep that I rarely experience, that he is teaching me to love the impossible task. In fact, he simply loves the task before him with no regard to its achievement. He engages the impossible with joy and a hearty wag-a-wag. He participates. He delights. He loves. He, therefore, has no need for either the possible or the impossible. Those are abstractions and he deals with the reality of the moment.

Neither does he resent the turbulence we toss in his path. He takes no ownership for how we feel and, so, is not compelled to control what we feel. He simple reads the color of our mood and loves accordingly. He does not deflect or dodge or manipulate. He does not ignore or pretend or deny. He stands without judgment in the daily bedlam of his humans as if there was no better place to be on earth.

I desire the peaceful sleep he experiences. He shows me the way everyday. Admittedly, I am a slow study but he is a patient and generous teacher. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, “I will love the impossible task.” Or, perhaps, if I really learn the DogDog way, I will give up the notion of possible or impossible altogether and simply attend with joy to the task at hand.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Sleeping

 

doggadeck website box copy