As Sure As The Sun [It’s KS Friday]

When you visit our melange page the first thing you read is our intention: brewed from our studio, sometimes fresh and sometimes aged, we offer a daily blend of goodness, thought, laughter, and beauty. Our offer. We offer what we have to give and what we have to give is an abiding artistic impulse expressed through many forms: cartoons, music, paintings, design, and our thoughts. A true medley. We have no lack of content.

One of the first things I learned about Kerri is that her artistic epicenter is a deep-well belief in kindness. She believes her work is a popcorn trail that leads people back to that deep-well. We regularly discuss spirituality and religion and she will often shut down my yawn-inducing-rants with, “If it’s not about joy, it’s not about anything.” From most people that would come off as a platitude but for Kerri it is a conviction.

ASATS jacket copy 3Joy. Kindness. It is what she has to give. It is her offer. As Sure As The Sun is a song sprung from that well. What could be better on a cold where-is-spring Friday than a song of sunny warmth and the certainty of love. Our offer on this KS Friday from studio melange.

AS SURE AS THE SUN from the album AS SURE AS THE SUN (track 1) iTunes

Also available on CDBaby

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AS SURE AS THE SUN LOGO merchandise

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asats LEGGINGS copy

LEGGINGS!

asatsRECT PILLOW copy   as sure as the sun SQ PILLOW copy

as sure as the sun TOTE BAG copy

BAGS  & TOTES

as sure as the sun mUG copy

MUGS & TRAVEL MUGS

asats SHOWER CURTAIN copy

SHOWER CURTAINS & TOWELS

read Kerri’s blog post about AS SURE AS THE SUN

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kerrianddavid.com

 

AS SURE AS THE SUN from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

Two Artists Tuesday

CHILDRENarethebestwithframe jpegI knew from a very young age that I would never have children of my own. I knew. It was an intuitive knowing, not an intellectual resolve. My life, I knew, would be a wandering through the wasteland. I would tilt at windmills. I would seek for things that can never be found. Children, I believed (and still believe), needed the kind of stability that a restless seeker like me would never have been capable of providing.

Last night we went to the foreign film festival and saw an inspiring, funny and poignant Irish film called Sing Street. The ingenue explains to her suitor, an aspiring musician, that love is happy-sad. To love is to experience both.

I now have two amazing step-children. They were adults when I came into their lives and both live far away. I am slowly developing relationships with them, creating memories with them. I listen with fascination (and sometimes horror) as Kerri converses with her friends, mothers all, about their children.  There is so much suffering, to want to be near their children and yet want them to fulfill their dreams and fly. They want to be present and available BUT not too present or available; those wacky offspring want full support AND they want mom to stay out of their business. Motherhood, I’m learning, is a bottomless yearning, a constant ache, and there is nothing better. There is nothing more fulfilling.

Fathers, I’m observing, are mostly confounded. They shake their heads, not so much in agreement, but in concession. Their spouses are capable of reconciling and celebrating the ambiguity of parenthood. Fatherhood, it seems, is a surrender to the unsolvable. A submission to the mystery. The ache is no less profound. The joy is no less intense.

Happy – sad. A full spectrum of living. Love. From studio melange on this Two Artists Tuesday.

CHILDREN ARE THE BEST THING merchandise

TwoArtists childrenAre TOTE BAG  TwoArtists ChildrenAre FRAMED PRINT  TwoArtists ChildrenAre PILLOW

kerrianddavid.com

read Kerri’s thoughts about this Two Artists Tuesday

children are the best thing ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Use Joy Language

joy-croppedTripper Dog-Dog-Dog has moved through several names in his 3 years on earth. He has a cornucopia of names. For a while I dropped the “Tripper” part of his name and simply called him Dog-Dog. Now, much as a mother might use their child’s middle name, we only call him Tripper when he’s in trouble.

Lately I call him Dog-a-Dog (or doggadogga). He answers to Wag-A-Wag. He is an Australian Shepherd and has a bobbed tail that never stops wagging. He is a happy, happy boy. When I let him out in the morning I call him Fuss Bucket. When he comes back in I call him Poop Sack (for obvious reasons) or Bark Monster or Fur Ball. He sheds like a champion. When he circles through the rooms of our house looking for a safe place to deposit his bone, I (cleverly) call him Bone.

All the variations and derivatives are terms of endearment. Dog-Dog knows and responds in kind. Love is like that. Once, sitting on a train, I watched a grandfather lovingly toss his toddler grandson in the air saying, “You’re just Rubbish! That’s what you are! Rubbish!” The boy squealed with delight. The grandfather chuckled with pleasure and repeated the toss, “You’re just Rubbish!”

Language is a beautiful paradox. It is reductive even as it points to the unfathomable universe and the infinity of love. It is referential; we sometimes forget that the word “tree” is not the tree itself. It is merely an invented-phonetic-pointer toward something too complex to comprehend.

Language is powerful beyond comprehension. We use it to narrate our worlds, both inner and outer. The words we choose create the world we see. The words we choose define the world we inhabit. In my consulting/coaching days I used to love playing with exercises that revealed how easily we come to the language of gossip and blame. It requires almost no effort. Like sugar, hate-speak is addictive. It is the mark of a lazy mind.

The language of love takes some intention and consciousness. It demands conscious effort. It requires paying attention. It requires focusing the energy of the mind and, like any focus (or muscle) it demands exercise to be healthy. And, when exercised, it becomes easy. With great love, the word “Rubbish” can generate squeals of pleasure. The name “Fuss Bucket” will engender a full body joy-wag. And, a full body joy-wag will bring the love full circle. Love is like that. Joy is like that.

In his many books, Martin Prechtel writes beautifully about the power and necessity of speaking beautifully. Speaking beautifully creates a beautiful thinker and a beautiful thinker creates – narrates – a beautiful story, a beautiful world.

Prints/Mugs/Pillows/Cards/Totes

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Taste It Fully

ice circles on the lake

ice circles on the lake

We heard the angry barking of crows before we saw them. They were haranguing an owl. It flew into a tree only a few yards in front of us. For several moments, through the ruckus of the crows, we stared at the owl and it stared at us. Time stopped. Nothing else existed. The owl’s eyes, our breathing, the crow’s chorus.

For our wedding gift, H and Teru sent several collections of poetry, “Manuals on marriage,” they wrote in the note that came with the poems. Kerri and I are savoring the poems, reading one or two aloud to each other every day. They are a source of warmth and inspiration during these cold dark winter months. A poem cannot be rushed or read merely. It must be slowly tasted. It is meant to be entered like a meadow; to be experienced. Try to make sense of a poem and you will miss it. Just like life.

She said, “inner quiet is low maintenance,” and I laughed. Yes it is. The trick is in getting quiet. It is not something that can be found or achieved. It is not a place or a state-of-being. It is what happens when you stop looking for it. Like the hermit says to Parcival when the Grail Castle suddenly reappears, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

For years Sam the poet was afraid of his poems. Like all great art, his poems, his art, revealed the artist, and so he kept them locked up, un-tasted. He came alive and supremely dissatisfied when he finally unleashed his poetry. He let himself want more but also refused to let himself experience more; one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. To taste fully one must be willing to be tasted.

A snippet of a poem (a koan imbedded in a poem), RELAX by Ellen Bass:

The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But, there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

Taste your moment. Taste it fully.

I wrote in my black and red notebook a simple recognition. The field of possibilities cuts both ways: in your despair you must remember that anything is possible. In your joy you must remember that anything is possible. Tiger above (the past), tiger below (imagined future). Do not reject your moment or attempt to hold on to it – both are methods of missing the moment. Taste it regardless of the circumstance. Taste it fully.

 

 

 

Dance!

A painting called JOY

A painting called JOY

“A dancer’s body breaks down,” she said, “Painters can paint all their lives. Musicians can play until they are old, but a dancer’s instrument, her body, gives out.”

To be a contrarian I responded, “And then there is Martha Graham. She danced into her 80’s, didn’t she?”

She wrinkled her nose and said, “Not very well.”

The lights dimmed, the movie started, and our conversation ended.

She was, in her youth, a dancer, classically trained. She’d spent the bulk of her adult life teaching and choreographing. And, as she told me, “Those things are all you can do when you can no longer dance. They are what’s left.” Had our exchange not bothered me so much I might have felt sadness for her.

Like an art-mantra, Tom used to say, “A writer writes and a painter paints.” I wanted to say to my seatmate, “A dancer dances.” I thought immediately of Linda who dances even when she is not dancing. She is a riot of movement, joy-in-motion; her need to dance is infectious. Even non-dancers find themselves jigging across the floor when Linda is dancing at the party. I once told her that she is my secret weapon for throwing a successful party.

I imagined my seatmate as a young girl. Before all the training, before the technique and expectations, there was enthusiasm. There must have been joy. There must have been lots of joy. She must have known the world by moving, twirling, spinning in it. Artists – before they call themselves artists – make sense through sound, through scribbles, through spinning. They only way forward in life, the only way to make meaning and to learn, is to scribble more, to engage and translate through movement. Lazy educators write off this imperative as self-expression.

The great artist deathtrap is called technique. It is a paradox. It is necessary. It is a kind of language mastery. It is, at first, a struggle of control. How do you say what you need to say when your language is visual, aural, or kinesthetic? Training is necessary. The path to full expression is always paradoxically through constraints, control of breath or brush. Yet, too often, as is the case with my seatmate, technique replaces the enthusiasm. It can turn joy into judgment. It can make an artist forget their WHY and replace it with a too rigid HOW. It is how artists limit themselves with their artistry. It made my seatmate, a healthy ambulatory woman, believe that she is not capable of dancing.

Later, I told Kerri about my conversation at the movies. She said, “That’s why fewer and fewer people are going to symphonies or galleries. People draw lines. Artists not only limit themselves with their artistry but they also limit access to their artistry.” Joy is infectious. Artistry without it is not very interesting (and, arguably, not artistry).

Meet Shayne

frontcoverscreenshotAbout six weeks ago, Beaky called to discuss her writing and the viability of sharing it. Beaky is a few months shy of 94 years old and puts pen-to-paper almost every day. She calls it chicken scratch and is mostly unaware that she is a fantastic storyteller (actually, I believe she knows it but is too humble to apply the word ‘fantastic’ to herself). She can’t help it; storytelling is in her bones. Some of my favorite days of the past few years have been at Beaky’s side listening to her tell a tale.

At 93 she is reviewing her life and, like all of us, she wants to do more, be more. It is hard to understand for those of us who know her because she is a rare and special person. She is a bringer of joy; Beaky makes people smile. That, too, is in her bones. Some months ago we spent a long night in the emergency room with her. She’d taken a fall and we feared she’d broken her hip. Deep in the night, writhing in excruciating pain, Beaky looked into the eyes of an exhausted attending nurse and through her pain said, “You have the most beautiful smile.” The nurse giggled, blushed and beamed. Laughter, blushing and beaming are common occurrences when hanging out with Beaky. Even while in pain she seeks the giving-moment.

Almost sixty years ago she wrote a trilogy of stories for her children. For months we looked high and low for the folder of her stories. Not long ago we found them and discovered that each had a submission cover page; Beaky wanted to be published. So, we decided to put our heads down and make it happen. I illustrated the first book and Kerri did the layout and design. Today, Beaky’s first book, SHAYNE, is now available; it is published. Beaky is published. Within the next two months the second and third books of the trilogy will be published, too (SHAYNE AND THE YELLOW DRAGON and SHAYNE AND THE NEW BABY). Next week we will travel to be with her as she has her very first book reading & signing party. She is, of course, busy practicing her signature (wouldn’t you?).

Jim has a magnet on his refrigerator that reads, “It is never too late to become what you might have been.” In Beaky’s case I might add: It’s never to late to realize what you have always been AND be a children’s book author, too.

One of my favorite photos: Kerri with her mom, Beaky

One of my favorite photos: Kerri with her mom, Beaky

[check out Beaky’s website! www.beakysbooks.com]

Delight In Delight

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Dog-Dog throwing down the gauntlet!

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog has taught me a game. The rules are simple: I pick up a stick. He rushes me and snatches the stick from my hands. I exclaim, “Hey, that’s my stick!” (saying my line was the hardest part for him to teach me). And then I give chase. We have a small pond in our back yard and it makes a perfect track for running in circles. The game becomes more fun when I reverse directions and force Dog-Dog evasive maneuvers. Sometimes he drops the stick so that I will pick it up so that he will be able to snatch it from my hands so that I will exclaim, “Hey! That’s my stick,” and the game begins anew. The game ends when I can no longer breathe.

I’m not sure which of us loves it more. I find myself laughing uncontrollably at the look he gets in his eyes, the combination of intensity and glee. He delights in the pure pleasure of the chase. I delight in his delight.

During these bitter cold days, when I am dedicated to warmth and staying inside, he has a specific bounce and shirt nip technique that is the equivalent of throwing down a gauntlet. I know he wants to play THE GAME – not some namby-pamby indoor game, but the real thing. He is insistent and persistent – which has become another game: I pretend that I don’t understand to escalate his insistence. When he is near to outrage at the dull wit of his master, I feign a revelation. His relief is palpable. His excitement is unbridled, bouncing at the back door as I slowly (another game) pull on my coat and gloves.

Dog-Dog is helping me see life simply. Many things that used to seem so complicated now look to me like infinite games (see James Carse’s terrific book, Finite and Infinite Games). There is abundant joy everywhere if the game is recognized as a game, if playing the game well is more important than winning. If the game is not recognized, if winning is all that matters (a finite game), there will be serious faces, an existential tug-of-war, loads of stress, and dis-ease. “Hey, that’s my stick!” but with deep investments in stick ownership and control.

Each day that Dog-Dog tugs my sleeve, throws down the gauntlet, and bounds outside, I find myself bounding outside, too. I find that I am laughing before we start, before the stick is snatched from my hands. If the mark of a good life is the capacity to run for the love of running, the sheer joy of the pursuit, then I am blessed with a master teacher who believes that the best way, the only way to learn is in the doing: play to play.

 

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