Consider The Circumstance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Easy Way Down. We laughed. The sign only makes sense in the context of winter and deep, ski-able snow. Just out of the frame of this photograph is a chair lift. There is an easy way down because there is an easy way up. Later, as we knew we would have to do, we matched our easy walk down with a breathless slog back to the top.

Circumstance is everything. Sense-making requires a context. Stories only make sense within a specific context. Plunk a choice or a story line into an unrelated context and it seems like madness. Or stupidity. Yank Romeo and Juliet from the context of a society deeply divided by conflict and there is no story. There is no obstacle. It becomes the story of two delusional self-absorbed teenagers. Their choices would seem ridiculous without their circumstance.

I’m certain that Captain Obvious is yawning at my pedestrian observation. Circumstance is everything to sense-making. “So what!” the good Captain sighs.

Well, stop for a moment and consider this: we are in the grips of a worldwide pandemic. That is our circumstance. On this day in these once-united-states, roughly 8 months into our pandemic circumstance, over 220,000 of our citizens have perished from the virus. More than 8 million Americans have been infected. There are 42 million cases world-wide with more than 1 million deaths.

I might agree that a mask mandate – absent the circumstance of a global pandemic – might seem like an infringement on my personal liberties. It would make no sense. However, within the context of a global pandemic, railing against simple public protective measures – mask-wearing, social-distancing, washing hands – seems like so-much-lunacy.

The pandemic is our circumstance. Despite whatever noise and misdirection is being circulated within the fox-bubble, the pandemic is our circumstance. Denying the existence of a pandemic while the rates of infection break records daily is the madhouse equivalent of dumping Frodo and his mission into a Hallmark movie [a Hobbit with a mission finds himself in Christmas town where nice looking citizens offer him hot cocoa and the opportunity to find love in a tree farm]. It makes those within the fox-bubble crying “HOAX!” seem angry, petulant, delusional, and self-absorbed. It makes their dedicated resistance to mask-wearing and social-distancing infantile. It makes their gun-toting, testosterone-riddled protestations puerile.

The pandemic is our circumstance. It is the circumstance of the world. Denying it does not make it go away. As Doug might have said, “Wow! Every goddamn country in the world is pretending to have a deadly pandemic just to throw an election in the USA! I’ll bet that took some serious diplomacy!” [note: his language would have been much more salty]. Denying our circumstance creates worldwide incredulity at our utter stupidity and, above all, facilitates the spread of the virus.

I’m certain that theatre companies across this land are planning productions of Romeo and Juliet set in America 2020. Romeo is a child of the Blues, Juliet is the child of the Reds. The two youngsters, for a moment, with hearts full of new love, transcend their circumstance. Their society’s dedication to division will, of course, kill them both. Remember, too, that other cherished family members die along the way. Mercutio. Paris. It’s an old story asking a current question: how many will have to die, what [or who] is the loss so great that it/they will finally and at last open our eyes?

The pandemic is our circumstance.

read Kerri’s blog post about EASY WAY DOWN

Fill In The Blanks [on KS Friday]

Richard Stone from The StoryWork Institute often begins his workshops with this prompt: I come from a people who_______________, and from them I learned_________________. It’s a fast-track statement, a mainline revelation to the place you come from.

I thought a lot about this prompt during our recent trip to Colorado and visit with my parents. I come from people who persevere.

I was moved to tears over and over again watching the deep well of calm, the kind patience my mother taps as she travels with my father through his dementia. She is more solid than she knows, more steady in her root than she has ever realized.

Her father had his leg kicked off by a horse. He fashioned his own prosthetic leg – it looked more hoof than foot. He fashioned new gas and brake pedals for his car, a matching pedal for his bike. He did not slow down. He did not invest in self-pity or the notion of a disability. His missing limb became a new ability, a reason to invent.

My mother’s mother was a study in joy-within-difficult-circumstances. She grew up in a gold mining camp. She was a tiny person with a titanic spirit and bottomless capacity to laugh. She once took a neighbor’s horse and hid it in her kitchen because she caught wind that it was due to be shipped off to the glue factory.

I come from a people who keep walking and laughing in the face of hardship. And from them I learned [and continue to learn] perseverance. I will, with a little more resolve, I hope, develop the patience and discover the kindness that both my parents, my rich lineage, reveals.

It’s where I’m from.

WHERE I’M FROM from the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post on WHERE I’M FROM

where i’m from/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Split The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

One of the great pleasures of having a bevy of cartoons-that-went-nowhere is to pull them out and see them anew through the lens of changing times. Space Invader – which begged for the addition of a mask – has taken on a whole new meaning in these days of COVID-19.

It’s funny and it’s not. Each week we hear stories of the collision of mask wearers and pandemic-deniers. Each week we are witness to the aggressive posturing of the mask-free.

This little piece of fabric has become a split symbol: for those of us who believe in science, a mask saves or could save lives. To wear it is to care for the well-being of others. For those who deny the science and gorge on the rhetoric, wearing a mask has come to represent an affront to their personal freedom. To ignore it is to care only for themselves. Space invading is now a bellicose statement.

These once-united-states has 4% of the world’s population and boasts over 20% of the world’s deaths. This is not an accident. It is utterly predictable. When the simple science of mask wearing and social distancing is whipped into a fruit-smoothie-of-controversy, a dividing line for division, more people will die. More people are dying.

The split-symbol goes further. It has come to represent America-the-Ridiculous. My pals in other nations shake their heads in disbelief at our mask-wrangling. They express sadness for our plight but a river of incredulity runs beneath their concern. Were Americans this superficial all along?

My imaginary future professor, preparing his notes for the seminar, “2016-2020 – What Were They Thinking,” will no doubt utilize the mask as symbol for our collapse. The symbol of the divide. The marker of how shallow, glib, and selfish we came to hold our notion of freedom.

The original. From the time when space invasion couldn’t kill you.

read Kerri’s blog post about SPACE INVADER

space invader/flawed cartoon ©️ 2016 david robinson, kerri sherwood, john kruse

Choose To See [on Flawed Wednesday]

If there are angels, they speak to me through books. Today’s post is a perfect example. We often choose our melange quotes and images a week ahead of time. The point is to NOT know what to write about until we sit down to write. That is the game we play. See what pops up. This morning, I opened Anam Cara, my current slow-read-book, and John O’Donohue’s thought-string could not be a more perfect angel.

“The human eye is always selecting what it wants to see and also evading what it does not want to see. The crucial question then is, What criteria do we use to decide what we like to see and to avoid seeing what we do not want to see?”

I’m hard pressed to find a more appropriate quote for our times. People deciding what they like to see and evading what they do not want to see. In gentler times – in healthier times – people are more willing and capable of challenging their criteria for seeing. Learning, in this sense, is nothing more or less than seeing what was previously unseen. Expanding the criteria.

“Many limited and negative lives issue directly from this narrowness of vision.”

Sadly, we do not live in healthy times. Isn’t it true that our national divide is predicated on NOT seeing? Contraction of thought, reduction of thinking, shrinkage of seeing is the rule of the day. Dedicated narrowness of vision is a necessary prerequisite for clusters of red hats to gather unmasked during a pandemic and cheer for a grifter. Conspiracy theories like Q are only possible when NOT seeing is more vital than seeing. Fox news depends upon viewers dedicated to narrow vision.

“To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed…It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have because they are always haunted by what they do not possess.”

Leona Helmsley and the current occupant of the White House are doppelgangers. Motivated by “naked greed.” I once directed a version of The Taming of the Shrew that dove headlong into the question of what happens when people try to fill their spiritual void with possessions. The short answer is that they twist and become grotesque. They bloat and become blind. You’ll never find a better image for the “greedy eye” or the current potus than Paul Cadmus painting of Gluttony & Greed.

“This greed is now poisoning the earth and impoverishing its people. Having has become the sinister enemy of being.”

Expanded seeing is the gift given to those who orient on this earth according to what they bring. Narrowness of vision is the result of those who orient on this earth according to what they get. It’s no longer a mystery why we are so divided. It’s now our choice to either see or to evade what is right in front of our eyes.

Read Kerri’s blog post about THE LITTLE PEOPLE

Approach The Edge [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It was nearing sunset when we saw the signs for The Royal Gorge Bridge and decided to jump off the road and investigate. We knew the bridge would be closed but thought it might be a nice break to get out of the truck and walk along the canyon rim as the sun went down.

It was a great idea with this single caveat (and minor confession): I. AM. AFRAID. OF. HEIGHTS. Canyon rims are not the most comfortable places for someone like me, especially in waning light.

I grew up in Colorado and visited The Royal Gorge Bridge as a child. I remember stepping onto the world’s highest suspension bridge, grabbing my mother’s hand, and running. I’m sure my poor mother became kite-like as I raced us to the other side. I have no memory of how we got back across the bridge. I’m certain I was not teleported so I must have crawled on my belly or passed-out and been carried. I survived, that’s about as much as I can say of my previous Gorge experience.

We parked the truck in a picnic area and walked a trail to the rim. Kerri ran to the edge and began snapping pictures. I entered a full-blown existential crisis. High edges feel to me like they are alive; they are a force that pulls me toward them. I have to grab trees or wrap my arms around rocks to resist the force. Worst of all, when I see other people approach the edge, I feel the force pulling them, too. In me, it amplifies the yank toward the abyss.

While Kerri cooed and danced on the rim snapping brilliant photographs, I grimaced and writhed, bound myself to a tree and resisted the siren call of the void. I couldn’t help but think of Alex Honnold scrambling up the face of El Capitan without a rope. “Expand your comfort zone!” I chanted to myself as I watched Kerri, a famous stubber-of-her-toes, zip to-and-fro along the rocky ledge with nary a thought of falling over.

The sun dipped beneath the horizon. It was dark and time to go. Have I yet expressed how darkness compounds the pull of the rim? Edges that can’t be seen are yawning maws that view me as a tasty snack. I had to release my grip on the tree, turn my back to the dark hungry mouth, and pretend not to sprint for the safety of the truck.

That was amazing!” Kerri exclaimed as we hiked back up the trail. “I can’t wait to show you all the pictures!” She was invigorated.

Exhausted, I nodded my head. “Yes.” I stammered, happy to be alive. “That was truly amazing.”

read Kerri’s gorgeous blog post about TINY/VAST

Hunt Wabbits! [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When the current occupant of the White House declared this “Character Counts Week” I, at first, fell on the floor laughing. How is it possible that someone so completely empty of ethic and absent a moral compass could ask the rest of us to focus on the virtues of character? We live in strange times.

My head must have hit the floor when I fell because I had an epiphany. This grotesque pretender wasn’t asking us to focus on positive social attributes, he was asking us to choose a character to perform! He wants us, like him, to take on an imaginary persona! While he plays the role of president, he wants us, the citizens of the nation, each to choose a character to play!

Choosing a character to play is serious business! My first thought was to have a go at the Road Runner (“BEEP! BEEP!”). Kerri is trying on Yosemite Sam (“Ya doggone idgit galoot!”). She made me laugh heartily with her bowlegged walk and Sam-ish-indignation so I’m leaping from my fowl first choice to a personal favorite, Elmer Fudd (“I’m hunting wabbits!”). Kerri wants me to stay with the Road Runner as a limited vocabulary will give her a break from my usual incessant running commentary.

This might be the best week we’ve had in four years! Laughter has been in short supply during this era of the bully, the celebration of the lie.

Of course, epiphanies come in bundles. Along with my insight into the real intention behind Character Counts Week came this: the moment I stepped into Elmer Fudd the world, as we currently experience it, made sense. We are living a comic book or, at the very least, a children’s version of The National Enquirer. All of the outrageous conspiracy theories (laughable were they not so dangerous), the stoking of the rage-machine, the-victim-persecutor-in-chief and his foxy-network-megaphone creating scary socialist monsters at every corner…MAD magazine has come to the nation’s capitol wearing orange face and a too-long-tie. The entire cohort is worthy of a Warner Bros. cartoon!

Perhaps history will laugh at this proclamation of character. Some smart professor in the year 2100 will offer a seminar called “2016-2020 – What were they thinking?” The students will slap their thighs and hoot at our ubiquitous-ridiculous. In the meantime, we have no better option than to jump into this week in full character.

(Me-to-Kerri: “Shhh! Be vewwy, vewwy quiet!” Kerri-to-me: “You ornery fur-bearin’ rebel! You’ll pay fer this!”).

read Kerri’s blog post on CHARACTER WEEK

[I told you that you’d miss our haiku-brevity. It’s good to be home…sort of.]

Appreciate The Moment [on KS Friday]

The Final On-The-Road Haiku. A triple. Kerri’s chose this piece before we drove from home and it’s especially appropriate for this week.

We toured the basement.

“Look, this is my son,” he said.

Family picture.

He did not know me,

“He is his own man,” he said.

Dementia owns him.

The sweetest moment:

hearing tales of me, his son,

standing by his side.

Grateful on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATEFUL

grateful/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Climb The Mountain [on DR Thursday]

motherdaughter, mixed media, 20 x 25.5IN

Double – Haiku from the road:

A mother daughter

relationship is complex.

It’s Push-me/Pull-you.

Steep hike up a hill,

She extends her hand, support.

High mountains of love.

The era of roadtrip hotel posts is almost at an end. You will miss these moments of brevity. Thanks to my ‘given’ daughter Kirsten for taking us on a high mountain hike to Lower Lost Man Lake. I’m still shaking my head at the beauty, and the care you gave your mother (and me) during the ascent.

read Kerri’s blog post about MOTHERDAUGHTER

motherdaughter ©️ 2019 david robinson

Hear The Echo [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Hitting the road double-haiku:

The sign speaks the truth.

In the last moment of life:

Food with family.

My face, too, will fade

But the laughter will remain.

Echoes across time.

read Kerri’s road trip haiku

Love The Bells [on Two Artists Tuesday]

A haiku from the road:

Maroon Bells and masks,

Autumn in Colorado,

The hills are on fire.

In 140 weeks of blogging together (5 days a week) this is the first prompt-image that we’ve posted of ourselves. It seemed fitting as we pause, visit family too long unseen, celebrate our anniversary, and ponder next steps.

read Kerri’s Two Artists Haiku