Not So Difficult [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Good human beings.

Since I was a child I’ve been told that Santa keeps a list. Naughty or nice? Naughty means taking from others; being mean. Nice means giving to others; being kind.

It’s not so difficult.

Tomorrow is election day in these un-united-united-states. Election officials fear for their lives. A sad statement for the sacred epicenter of a republic: the right to vote. Safely. Securely. Without intimidation.

It’s really not so difficult. Good human beings look out for each other.

The Big Lie continues to swirl around the folks on the right. Evidence is not required when filling bellies with hot air. All that bloviated gas-bagging makes people angry. Seeing nothing but red, people become easy marks. Red is the color of gullible.

Good human beings are not bullies. They play fair. They do not gerrymander or twist the rules so they win the game before playing. Good human beings bring their best ideas to the center. They offer their ideas. They consider the ideas of others. They need not always get their way. They require a safe place to freely speak and guard that space for everyone.

It really isn’t that difficult.

Naughty means consumed with self-interest. Nice means enlivened by service to something larger than self.

Naughty means hoarding all the pie. Nice means sharing slices with others.

Tomorrow we vote. To bully or be kind? It’s really not so difficult.

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD HUMAN BEINGS

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

Be The Reason [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Our airbnb porch became the neighborhood evening meet-up spot. After a good day of hiking, we’d take our snack and glass of wine to the porch, set up our pop-up table and chairs, and enjoy the waning light. The porch was close to the street so it was only natural (to us) to talk to passers-by.

Mike and his little dog Makaela stopped to chat. Carole joined us. The guy with the pizza walked by and offered us a slice. The skittish kitty hovered. It became the evening ritual; conversation with the neighborhood. Easy laughter. Sharing stories.

It’s easier to see when traveling, when the stuff-of-life is put on the back burner for a week or so. Put down the worries and the simple gestures, the small kindnesses, become visible. In our travels we were awash in the warmth of the easy smile, the generous hello, the effortless conversation.

Taking a walk in Charlotte, the afternoon was hot so we stayed to the shady side of the street. The tree surprised us. Prayer flags wove through the branches and sweet phrases hung like ornaments and fluttered in the breeze. An invitation to stop awhile and breathe. An invitation to stop awhile and set a generous intention. Be the reason.

What I learned on my vacation: a smile is such an easy gift to give. It’s even easier to receive and reciprocate. And, best of all, the ripples go on and on and on.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SMILES

Drink It In [on Two Artists Tuesday]

…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ~Vincent Van Gogh

We stood for a long time staring at the quaking aspen trees. Initially, we went to the nursery to look at grasses to plant against the fence. Tall grasses. Pampas. Oddly, Colorado called and we were drawn as if hypnotized by the siren song of the aspen stand. In the breeze, the leaves make this sound…

Like all things in our life, our backyard has been blasted to bits by the force of the events of past few years. We are now, slowly, pulling the pieces back together again. We’re working our way toward blank canvas, clawing our way back to zero. We are, at long last, beginning to dream the dreams that percolate beyond mere survival. To design life with more than duct tape solutions.

The aspen quaked for us and we quaked for it. We exchanged a silent promise. Not yet. There are too many things on the list that need to be done. But the promise is made and a design is taking shape.

The gift of free fall is that it indelibly sears appreciation of the small moment, the passing kindness into your soul. It’s a great perspective giver. Precious life is the thing that passes while wishing and moaning to be safe and secure somewhere else. If you’re lucky, as we are, you hold hands and experience the full palette of life experiences.

“The grasses remind me of the beach and Long Island,” she said. “Someday, we’ll bring the aspen and the grasses together. Both of our birthplaces in the backyard.”

A design intention. A new experience. A promise to a vibrant stand of trees made on a sunny day in a quiet nursery. Drinking it all in. Beautiful.

It is enough. More than enough.

read Kerri’s blog post about the ASPEN STAND

Notice It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’m chuckling at the absurdity of myself.

Yesterday, I wrote that the theme this week at the melange was “noticing.” I wrote that everything we write is, in one way or another, about noticing. Paying attention.

Nothing gets by me! Nope.

Recently, we shared with the Wander Women our smack-dab cartoon featuring their impact on our lives. They shared our cartoon and blogs with their audience. Our readership exploded, some very nice comments rolled in, and while reading the comments, Kerri urged me to check the “comments” tab. “The what?” I asked. “What ‘comments’ tab?”

Years of generosity and kind responses flowed just beneath my nose and I had no idea. None. I never saw it. In my very weak defense, there’s a notifications-pull-down menu with comments and I assumed…

To the writers of kindness and sharers of thoughtful story, thank you. Tom told me of his great grandfather, Lak, who, as a young man, travelled west across the country in a covered wagon and took a ship through the Panama canal to arrive at last in California. A letter from his siblings took several years to travel from Ohio to his promised land. I live in the age of the internet and, although your letters reached me instantly, it took me longer than the pony-express-letter-delivery-service to notice your correspondence. Lak saw his mail faster than I saw reader’s comments.

There is, of course, no expiration date on gratitude, and I am as grateful today as I would have been on the dates those thoughts were sent. I can only hope my appreciation reaches you with the same force as your words impacted me.

And, remember, I notice everything except for what passes just beneath my nose.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CHERISH

Think About It [on DR Thursday]

Generosity works like blowback: offer support to others and you’ll find yourself supported. Offer kindness to others and you’ll overflow with kindness. Give courtesy, get courtesy. And, it’s not the response or reaction of the recipient that generates the blowback. It’s the act of generosity. The blowback is self-induced.

Of course, meanness works along the same principle. Hate and you fill yourself with hatred.

Often on our trail we find painted rocks. Symbols, messages and whimsy that someone planted for us to find. They make us laugh. They lift our spirits. We generally don’t take them home. We leave them for others to find or, sometimes, we move them to a new location. We re-plant them. Either way, we giggle. It feels like participating in the kindness.

“I want to paint rocks, too!” Kerri’s inner 5-year-old pouted. She went so far as clenching her fist and knitting her brow. Pouty mouth. I fell on the floor in delight after glimpsing the insistent child she was-and-still-is.

We gathered rocks. We bought crappy craft brushes. We brought out the paint. On a gorgeous Saturday evening, sitting outside in the summer breezes, we painted rocks. Compared to the clever rocks we find on trail, our first attempt was crude but inspiring. “We need better tools,” she said, hands-on-hips, admiring our gallery of rocks-ready-to-be-placed-on-trail.

She googled. She asked friends. Armed with information and the desire for better rock art, she’s in hot pursuit of the proper supplies to produce magical rocks that will evoke smiles from people we will never meet.

Someone out there – a person – one day on the trail, giggled and placed a colorful painted stone in the knot of a tree. It set off a ripple of trail giggles in us – and others. How many people, just like Kerri, found their inner 5-year-old, and exclaimed, “I want to do that!”

The, “I want to do that,” isn’t about the rock (though that’s great fun). It’s about the giggle it evokes in strangers. Think about it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ROCK PAINTING

chasing bubbles © 2019 david robinson

Live The Words [on Merely A Thought Monday]

We awake each morning to birdsong. I imagine the birds’ song raises the spirit of the sun. Or, the birds sing because the sun raises their spirits. Both are good stories.

When I was in college I had a professor who seemed a bit radical. Now I recognize that he was not radical. He was a scientist and his data was prophetic. He was sounding an alarm for his students, knowing that his students could not yet hear him. He was the first person to introduce me to the notion of climate change. At the time, the world was still smarting from the oil crisis of the 1970’s. One day in class he said, ‘If you think the oil wars are bad, just wait until the water wars.” I heard his voice this morning while looking at photographs of Lake Mead and the river Po. Dwindling water meets rising population. Panic is in the air. In the meantime, Australia is drowning. Desperation is on the rise.

I like to imagine the birds raising the sun while the sun raises the song in the birds. It’s a story of interconnectivity. It’s to understand the question, ‘what causes what?’ – as a two way street. You impact your environment and your environment impacts you. Or, better stated, you and your environment are not separate events. (“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles)

Though he never used the word, “interconnectivity” was the construct my seeming-radical professor was asking us to consider. He understood that his students were products of a long tradition of disconnection. A dedicated delusion of dominance over nature ruled our construct and he was attempting to puncture that absurdity bubble. Pour toxins into your river and your water will poison you. Pour carbon into your air and your air will eventually pour carbon into you.

The same applies to governance and society in general. What we pour into it is what we will experience as it. H wrote that, “Politics is simply the exercise of being a good neighbor for the sake of the neighborhood.” Interconnectivity. For the sake of the neighborhood. Demonize your neighbor and they will, in turn, demonize you. Refuse to listen to your neighbors and they will refuse to listen to you. Pour guns into your community and your community will inevitably aim its guns at you. Lie to gain power and the lie will gain power over you.

Pour support, service, acceptance, consideration…into your community and it will respond in kind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not so complicated a concept when seen through the lens of interconnectivity. Kindness begets kindness. Acceptance begets acceptance. Honesty begets honesty. Intend it. Practice it.

These are easy words to say. Living the words is quite another story. Unless you happen to be a bird, singing the sun awake as the sun pours its rejuvenating warmth over your song.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THIS DAY AND AGE

Consider The Brushes [on KS Friday]

As an artist, I have fondness for brushes. I’ve been known to disappear into an art store and lose significant amounts of time in the brush aisle. I rarely buy them – I am notoriously hard on my brushes and wait until they fall apart to replace them – but when I replace them I feel as if I just hit the lotto or found a buried treasure in the art store.

I cut my hair to make my first brush. It was mostly useless and left strands of my hair in the painting. It was the essential need for a brush that clued me in to my life path. I didn’t want it; I needed it.

Lately I found myself wandering through a strange and alien world: the Ulta store, followed by an eye-opening trip into Sephora. Despite the ubiquitous advertising, the fact that I live in this society, how is it possible that I had no idea of the nuance layers of soaps and cremes and removers and buffers and…brushes. Beautiful brushes. As Stephanie once famously exclaimed of me, “You are a man after all!”

Clueless.

I was, of course, fascinated by the brushes. Not just the brushes, but the need to have the right brush. Buffers and liners, fans and foundation and shadow brushes! I am a painter of people, I paint the image of faces, and was fascinated watching the painters of actual faces consider and choose their tools. The right brush. Blush, smooth, hard line.

I cannot count the number of times people have told me that they are not creative, that they do not have a creative bone in their bodies. Standing in the alien land, watching the painters carefully choose their brushes, I wondered how so much creative energy, so much enthusiasm for the right color, the right medium, the best brush, goes unrecognized.

This alien land was pulsing with imagination, desire for the right tool, and the drive to share and help and create. There was a generosity of spirit rarely found on the other side of the doors. Women helping women. Laughter and advice. I liked being in this strange land of strange brushes and kindness – even as an outsider. A stranger. I found a breath of fresh air (perfumed as it was) while following my guides through the brush aisle.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about BRUSHES

grateful/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Point The Way [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“You can accomplish with kindness what you cannot by force.” ~ Publilius Syrus

It’s one of the most interesting Wikipedia pages I’ve come across. Publilius Syrus. A life described in two sentences that conclude with this: “…but by his wit and talent he won the favor of his master, who freed and educated him. The rest of the page are maxims attributed to him. A Syrian. A Roman slave. An observer of human-kind.

We live in a world of ubiquitous maxims. They are posted everywhere, in stores, billboards, and elementary school signboards. Appeals to our better nature. Choose kindness. There are, of course, plenty of appeals to our worse nature, too. It’s as if our maxims are in a tug-of-war. I imagine that Publilius Syrus experienced in his short life both ends of the rope, the cruel and the kind, which is why he wrote so many maxims.

This quote came across my screen so I wrote it on a lilac colored post-it note and stuck it to my monitor. It may or may not be from Christina Wodtke: “When you make complex things, words eventually fail.” Life is a complex thing that words will always fail to describe or contain. The best a word can do is point to something, or the way to something. A maxim, an ideal, is, after all, a signpost, a direction. A choice of path. A point-of-view is created during those moments of choosing.

Kindness is not a thing. It’s not a word – not the word. The word simply points the way to something so complex, so boundless, that the word will always fail. But, we know it when we see it. We know it when we offer it. We know it when we receive it. We know with certainty when we choose it and when we do not.

read Kerri’s blog post about CHOOSE KINDNESS

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