Take The Opportunity [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Paul used to teach his actors that, in choosing to step onto a stage, they had a profound responsibility. “Never underestimate your power to influence another person’s life,” he’d say. I took his lesson and passed it along to my students. I hope that a few of my students took Paul’s lesson and, in turn, passed it on. You have a responsibility.

Another lesson I learned, this time from Jim, was that great acting is about standing in truth. “Acting is the honest pursuit of an intention in imaginary circumstances.” Honest pursuit. It’s a misunderstanding to equate the art of acting with pretending. The circumstances are pretend. Actors are meant to be portals to a shared story, a channel to a common experience. They transport. They transform. “Never underestimate your power…”

John O’Donohue writes that the soul does not inhabit a body. It’s the other way around: bodies live within the soul. We only think we are isolated individuals, bubbles. The bubble is singular, soul, and we play our small dramas within it. We fill our bubble by how we stand in it, by what we bring into it. There is no on-stage or off. It’s all the stage.

The other day I was exhausted. I was standing on the edge of despair when my phone dinged. It was Rob. “What kind of wine do you like?” he texted. The edge disappeared.

From across the country, MM sends me cartoons that make me smile. Horatio sent an episode of The Twilight Zone. “You gotta watch this,” he said. David sends photos of Dawson at the easel. There is nothing so freeing to an aging artist than to watch a child draw. No limits.

The bubble is singular. The soul of the earth. These good friends, living honestly on the stage, have no idea of their profound impact and influence on me.

These days, when I think of my good teachers and dedicated mentors, when I think of Jim and Tom McK and Paul, I know that, were I to teach again, I would add a small caveat to our legacy-lesson. I’d say, “In choosing to step onto the stage, you have a profound responsibility and opportunity: never underestimate your power to influence another person’s life.”

Take the opportunity. Each and every moment. Ripples sending ripples.

read Kerri’s blog post about SOUL OF THE EARTH

Direct Your Gratitude [on KS Friday]

Skip wrote, sharing some of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It was a breath of fresh air in a week that’s been chock-a-block with disrespect, deceit, and hypocrisy:

Skip wrote, “I love her discussion of what the tribe does each morning:

Here the school week begins and ends not with the Pledge of Allegiance, but with the Thanksgiving Address, a river of words as old as the people themselves, known more accurately in the Onondaga language as the Words That Come Before All Else. This ancient order of protocol sets gratitude as the highest priority. The gratitude is directed straight to the ones who share their gifts with the world. 

All the classes stand together in the atrium, and one grade each week has responsibility for the oratory. Together, in a language older than English, they begin the recitation. It is said that the people were instructed to stand and offer these words whenever they gathered, no matter how many or how few before anything else was done. In this ritual, their teachers remind them that every day, “beginning with where our feet first touch the earth, we send greetings and thanks to all members of the natural world.” 

Today it is the third grade’s turn. There are only eleven of them and they do their best to start together, giggling a little, and nudging the ones who just stare at the floor. Their little faces are screwed up with concentration and they glance at their teacher for prompts when they stumble on the words. In their own language they say the words they’ve heard nearly every day of their lives. 

Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.* 

There is a pause and the kids murmur their assent.

 We are thankful to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one. 

The kids sit remarkably still, listening. You can tell they’ve been raised in the longhouse.”

*****

A legacy of respect and gratitude. A duty to live in balance and harmony. An orientation of responsibility both to self AND other. Can you imagine – will you imagine – the members of our red team and blue team meeting on the streets and joining hands with protestors of all colors and religions and sexual orientations, starting each day, together, speaking The Thanksgiving Address, “Today we have gathered…” Directing their gratitude straight at the ones who share their gifts with the world. Gratitude set as the highest priority.

It is a legacy to be admired. Words that come before all else. It is a legacy to be desired.

*The actual wording of the Thanksgiving Address varies with the speaker. This text is the widely publicised version of John Stokes and Kanawahientun, 1993.

LEGACY on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about LEGACY

legacy/released from the heart ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Hold And Be Held [on KS Friday]

YOU HOLD ME songbox copy

Tom and I sat on the little deck just off the kitchen of his cabin at the ranch. We watched the sun set on the land his family had owned for generations.  “They’re going to build a Walmart just off McKenzie Road,” he said, not taking his eyes off the setting sun. “That’s about it, I think.” The tide of development would soon gobble up the ranch.

He told me that, without the land, he would not know who he was. It held him. He held it.

It was a complicated relationship. During his life, he’d attempted to flee the land more than once but it would not let him go. During his life, the world tried to take it away from him more than once but he would not let it go.

Tom died on his land. His wife and nephew fought hard to make that possible. They held him and the land together, through their passing. Both are gone now.

Why does a piece of music evoke such a specific memory? Kerri’s YOU HOLD ME always takes me back to that deck and that sunset. A love story. A life story. To hold and be held.

 

YOU HOLD ME on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU HOLD ME

 

aspen silver bull website box copy

 

you hold me/this part of the journey ©️ 2000 kerri sherwood

Read The Back [on Two Artists Tuesday]

WelcomeTo21stCentury copy

Nothing I paint on the front side of this canvas will be as interesting, as vital, as curious, as the note that Duke scrawled on the back. It’s a mystery story. Duke has been gone for a few years now and his son, our dear 20, brought Duke’s canvases to me. Treasure upon treasure. For some reason, one day, Duke dipped a brush into black paint, flipped his canvas around and left us a note. An impulsive celebratory act on New Years Eve? Or, perhaps, in a moment of disbelief of world events, he scribbled his note in sarcasm?

Of course, there’s another possibility- and this is my bet – ‘Welcome to the 21st Century’ was the name he gave to his painting, the image that he created on the front side. He didn’t like it so he painted over it. He returned the canvas to white space, opened it to new possibilities.

That leads to an even greater mystery. After scrubbing the image, he flipped the canvas around, dipped his brush one last time into the white paint, scrubbed the date (3/93) but left the title. And in quick broad strokes for emphasis, framed his title, transforming it into a note. The back of the canvas becomes the front. A title transformed into a message.

I feel as if I’m having a conversation with Duke. The painting I created on the front side, on the white-space-possibility that he reopened, is one of my Earth Interrupted series, number 7. It is ironic or, perhaps, poignant? Put his title and my title together: Welcome to the 21st Century: Earth Interrupted. Apt, yes?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

welcome to the 21st century/earth interrupted ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

KS Friday

On this KS Friday from studio melange, a moment to breathe and listen.

jacketrfthjpeg copyA few hours ago we loaded several large canvases into our car. They were from Duke Kruse’s studio. They are canvas stretched and prepared by Duke. They are blank, the canvas he never got to use before he passed. He was a gifted painter, a brilliant artist. I never met Duke,  but his son John [we call him 20] is most dear to me, a brother. 20 thought Duke would want me to have his canvas. I am moved to tears to be the recipient of this legacy.

When DeMarcus stopped painting, in the middle 90’s of his years, he gave me his brushes and his paint box. I drew all of Chicken Marsala, all of our Flawed Cartoons, all of Beaky’s books with nibs and handles that DeMarcus left for me. They are my treasures and make each image, each drawing that much more special.

Somehow I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of Tom’s story, the carrier of his legacy. Every day of my life I recognize in my bones that I carry a bit of Quinn’s vast wisdom in my marrow, his generous gift to me.

I am rich in Legacy. This sparkling river, this quietly moving piece from Kerri’s first album, always carries me directly to thoughts of my mentors and friends, to a sunset from the porch on the ranch, a room lined with books, yellow pads and red felt-tip pens, a studio with just a hint of turpentine and mineral spirits in the air.

LEGACY from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART (track 12) iTunes

LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART (track 12) CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD: RELEASED FROM THE HEART

NEW! KS DESIGNS on society6.com

society 6 info jpeg copy

 

Vintage tyoe LEGGINGS copy

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.10.14 PM

it's not b:w metal travel mug copy

read Kerri’s thoughts on Legacy

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Reach

photo-6In these few weeks post Lost Boy I’ve been writing thank you letters and sending Kickstarter rewards to the many people who donated to the campaign. I am humbled by the number of people who stepped forward to lend a hand, offer resources (financial and otherwise), and/or heap us with the moral support necessary to produce the play.

The Reminder: no one does anything alone. All creative acts, all things that are useful in this world, all triumphs that seem on the surface to be an individual achievement, are, in truth, a group effort. Life is a team sport. Quarterbacks are nothing without a front line, a coaching staff, a back office, a marketing machine spinning the tale. They also had mothers that for years drove them to practice, families that stood in the cold to watch them play little league, and a host of friends who told them that they could do it if the only kept going. Artists are no different. Even the loneliest painter has a rolling lifetime team whether they recognize it or not. Consider this simple basic: a painting is never complete until someone other than the artist engages with it. A play is never complete until an audience arrives. The whole point is to make or accept an offer to/from an other.

We, the people of these United States, place the accent of our existence on the achievement of the individual and that sometimes makes us blind to the obvious truth of our existence. We do nothing of worth on this earth without the support and participation of others; relationship is at the core of anything worth doing.

from the 2015 Racine snow carving contest. I'm sorry I did not capture the artists names!

from the 2015 Racine snow carving contest. I’m sorry I did not capture the artists names!

Once, many years ago, I lived in Los Angeles. I did not know my neighbors. I had no idea or desire to know who was living in the houses next to me. One night the earthquake came and our illusion of independence was stripped bare. With no power, no water, no heat, and compromised housing, the first thing we did was to reach to each other. When the illusions of comfort and security are stripped, our real need (each other) becomes glaringly apparent.

I wrote this play, The Lost Boy, because someone dear to me, over a decade ago, asked me for help. I was grateful that he asked – it meant I got to spend time with him and return some of the attention and love that he had invested in me. When the metaphoric earthquake hit – when Tom died – I had no recourse but to reach out to others; I produced this play when I realized that I was not alone and all I need do was ask for help. Legacy, like story or life, is an infinite loop of relationships.

End And Begin

photo-2My fascination with this play grows every day. It has had a hold on me for over a decade. I’ve told the story of The Lost Boy to everyone I know. And now, as we approach opening night, the story of the production, the timing of the production, the people coming out of the woodwork for the production, Tom’s relatives appearing with additions to the narrative that Tom originally relayed to me – is equal to or exceeding the marvel of the play itself. The story around the story is, in some ways better than the story itself. Or, perhaps it is an extension to the story, the next chapter. Roger once told me that he believed the most interesting aspect of the story was not the discovery of a trunk plastered into the walls, not the story Tom felt an imperative to pass on to me, but the story of my time with Tom. “I want you to tell that story,” he said.

I have a file of recordings that I made of some of my conversations with Tom. They were in a format that made them inaccessible to me. I kept them but have been unable to listen to them for several years. A few nights ago, on a whim, I searched for conversion programs and in less than an hour, I was listening to one of the recordings. It was like opening the trunk that had been plastered into the wall. I listened to one of our conversations. I listened to our laughter. I listened to the questions I asked and his thoughtful and generous responses. I listened as I told him that I believed the real story was not Johnny’s or Isabelle’s, but his. He considered it but could not see himself as anything other than a messenger. My suggestion to him was prophetic.

On a lovely August evening in 2013 I was on a pier in Wisconsin when I received the call that Tom had passed. I sat on a bench and talked with Marcia, Tom’s widow, for over an hour. After the call I walked with Kerri and as we watched the sun set I told her stories of Tom.

My attempts to produce the play while Tom was alive (though too ill to perform the piece) hit walls of brick and stone. If I wanted disaster to strike I only needed to attempt to mount a production of The Lost Boy. I’d all but shelved it and, although I’d rewritten it so I could perform the story, the script seemed incomplete, somehow awkward. When Tom passed, the end of the play became apparent – I saw the flaw. Tom needed to join the story, not tell it. I did a final rewrite and the play was ready.

I’ve been amused because, after so many obstacles, this attempt is almost producing itself. It is as if we couldn’t stop the transmission of the story if we tried. Jim said, “I think Tom is working his magic from the other side.” The other night, in rehearsal, just as I worked the section about Isabelle (Tom’s great grandmother) reaching through time, ringing a cow bell to summon Tom, the bells from the neighboring church began to toll.

It made me laugh and I recalled a question he often asked: where does a story end? Where does it begin?

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

The PoetGo here for fine art prints of my paintings.

 

Light The Way

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

Yesterday was Ann’s funeral. She died too young but by all accounts lived out loud – she packed a lot of life into her short time. One of the speakers said that she was neither a glass-half-empty nor a glass-half-full kind of person; her glass was always overflowing. I sat in the choir loft and listened to the stories, the grief and the laughter, the music that a community makes when it says good-bye. I only know her through their stories, through their eyes, and I was overwhelmed with the beauty that they saw in her. She was rooted in a community and the community was rooted in her. I was moved by the story she inspired.

Just before the service I was working on my play, The Lost Boy. We open in a few short weeks. I was memorizing the last two pages. The language of the play, the moment in the script that I worked, is about Tom’s ancestors answering his call. He worried about what to do with the ranch and the legacy that he guarded. He didn’t know what to do. There was no one to receive what he had to tell. He summoned the ancestors and, when he needed them most, they came. They didn’t answer his question. Instead, they took his hand and helped him join the story.

Jean Houston called us – the living – the burning point of the ancestral ship. Each of us carry forward the story, we add a chapter to a longer epic whether we realize it or not. Once, many years ago, John was directing one of Shakespeare’s plays for my company. While talking with the young actors about the play, he was moved to tears telling them how he realized that he was a link in a long chain that led all the way back to a first production in the 17th century. This play did not exist isolated in time. It was a burning point. Their work mattered because they were the guardians of a tradition. They were the burning point. The play was remarkable because the actors understood their root; even the smallest action mattered because if fed something bigger.

A few weeks ago we watched the film, The Descendants, with Brad and Jen’s movie group. It is a story of legacy and mattering – a story of what happens to descendants when everything looks like a commodity. The root withers. The story dissipates. As Yeats wrote, “The center cannot hold.” Joseph Campbell said that our mythology was dead and all the proof we needed was in the news. It took me years to fully understand his statement. And, the question he asked was this: once lost can a community revive its mythology? Can it reconnect with the root? Can it look beyond the immediate and see the rich soil of the greater story? As the burning point, can we light the way forward or is our dilemma the same as Tom’s: what do you do when you carry a root-story and no one is interested or capable of hearing it?

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

from my Yoga series

from my Yoga series

Go here to buy art prints, posters and such – of my paintings

 

Return To Center

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 5.16.04 PMMy sister posted some photos and a video of our father dressed as Santa Claus. He was playing the role for her grandchildren, his great-grandchildren. The photo made me smile and the moving images took my breath away. When he came in dressed as Santa he was mostly silent; his voice would have betrayed his true identity. His Santa was gentle and kind. Like every good Santa Claus, he took his cues from the children.

I did not have children, though, recently, there came into my life two amazing twenty-something adults, Kerri’s children, and I am learning the ins-and-outs of the role of parent. It is a complex and rich affair! On Christmas Eve, Kerri and I were up until 5am wrapping packages and hiding gifts for a treasure hunt (the wrapped boxes held clues and the gifts were hidden around the house). It was a riot of fun and gave me some small taste of what being a father must feel like. All night as I wrapped and concocted clues I thought of my dad: what must he feel in a room with his children’s children’s children? If my excitement for the giving of gifts on Christmas morning – also a new experience for me – is any measure, his heart must have been near to exploding as he pulled gifts from a red bag and handed them to his daughter’s daughter’s daughter.

During this season I’ve participated in many conversations about the loss of meaning in this holiday. As P-Tom said, this is the season that everyone seems to be telling us what we need and where we can go and buy it. And, there’s no denying that the commercial has generally overtaken the communal. Yet, when I watched the video of my dad, I knew that his great-grandchildren would someday tell the story of how once, long ago, their great-grandpa played Santa for them. On that day they would not remember what was in the presents he brought, only that he brought them. As I watched the video of my dad, I knew the essential thing was intact, the commerce had not touched the center: family.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Yoga Series 7Go here to get Fine Art prints of my paintings.

Touch The Past

The journal/record Isabelle kept of the fever that killed Johnny.

The journal/record Isabelle kept of the fever that killed Johnny.

I’ve been posting updates to pledgers for my play, The Lost Boy, through the Kickstarter campaign. I’ve been using images of the artifacts – Johnny Quiggle’s possessions – found in the trunk. Jim, the chief Chili Boy, has been doing archival and art shots of the artifacts. The images have served to make a vital point about the play: this story happened. This little boy died. The story that unfolded for me moved both forward and backwards in time. And, while receiving it from Tom, I realized that it was also my story, and your story. It’s universal and, therefore, worthy to tell. My latest update generated much feedback so I’m sharing it here, too:

Jim has completed shooting archive and detail photos of the contents of Johnny’s trunk. This journal was the last thing Isabelle put in the trunk before she closed it in 1885 and secretly sealed it into the walls. Tom told me that this journal told him more about Isabelle than any other object in the trunk. In her record of the fever, he could read her worry, her despair, her fears, a few days of hope, and then the devastation at losing her son. This play is more than a good story well told; it is one of the ways Isabelle reached through time, through Tom, and into me to tell a story that is relevant to all of us.

Thank you for everything you have done to bring this play to life. It is your encouragement and support (financially and otherwise) that will open the trunk to larger audience and extend Isabelle’s intention beyond the walls of the ranch, beyond the Quiggle/McKenzie families, and into the greater conversation.

Johnny crop copySupport the kickstarter campaign for The Lost Boy

 

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.