Stroll [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Yesterday, for some reason, I revisited days of early childhood. I played four-square in the driveway. I threw dirt clods at the site of new home construction. I raced my cars off the side of the abandoned building above Del and Dorothy’s house in the mountains; the cars tumbled and I ran to retrieve them so I might send them flying again and again. I ran home in a panic the day I learned that Nancy’s little sister had drowned in utility hole that was filled with water. It was on the route I walked to school and passing the hole filled me with trepidation, it was a dark portal, my first experience of death. I didn’t really understand it.

Late at night, Kerri and I sometimes talk about everything that has happened in the short time of our relationship. We’ve lost parents and lost careers, spiraled in a free fall of uncertainty, had surgeries and broken bones. We’ve also climbed mountains, watched sunrises and meteor showers, we hold hands when we walk, we write together every day. We dance in the kitchen. I am the sous chef to her cooking artistry.

I’m not sure if we practice paying attention to our moments or it’s something that has come naturally to us. She is rarely without her camera, noticing the smallest flower, capturing the angry sky. I hold the space and hope someday she stops apologizing for stopping again to take a photo; I love watching her discover the shapes and colors of this world. Besides, I get to see what she captures in her lens with an excited, ‘Lookit!”

Today the plumber comes. Yesterday we appealed to the company that destroyed our yard replacing the waterline to come back and strip off the top layer of soil, now filled with hardware and concrete and asphalt. Slowly, we are digging out, repairing and replacing all that was destroyed or delayed in our free fall. Our lessons seem to be about stress – or, rather – not stressing. We are having experiences, rich and varied. Some things we can control. Most, we cannot. The best we can do is hold hands and stand together in each experience. Appreciate them no matter whether they look like tragedy or comedy. We’ll make meaning of them later down the road.

The artist dances with death. The appreciation of the fragility of life. Each day I walk by that metaphoric utility hole, only now it does not fill me with trepidation. It makes me squeeze her hand and fills me with gratitude for this life, this moment, this shadow we cast together as we take our time strolling through the garden.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SHADOW

Look Back [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Our 3am conversation was about the horrible clothes we once wore. We both lived through the 70’s and 80’s so there was plenty of fodder for shudders and laughter. I couldn’t be more delighted that cameras in that era used film that was expensive to process, and were not ubiquitous, so there’s limited visual proof of the alarming garments of my past.

Looking back. My favorite aspect of our horrible-clothes-conversation is how much we loved the offending items when we wore them. I had a Huckapoo shirt that was only worn on special occasions. I’d scream and run from that shirt if I opened my closet and found it there today. Kerri described a favorite periwinkle blue dress with black polka dots that had me crying with laughter. The woman I know would faint in fright if she awoke wearing that dress. “Get it off! Get it off,” she’d scream, as if it was a spider.

For two people who spend most of their lives wearing black thermal shirts and blue jeans, it was delicious to trace our past lives through the costumes we’ve worn. The people we were. The investments we made. The colors we donned.

What was sacred is now profoundly silly. What was serious is now grin-worthy. What seemed so important turned out to be so-much-powder.

“Time just rolls. It just keeps rolling,” she said. The hard times and the good times. Hang on long enough and what-is will become what-was and a new-thing will have replaced the previous thing. “It just rolls on through.” At 3am, what matters in life could not be more clear. It’s the conversation. The laughter at our foibles, the sweet, “Shall we try and get some sleep?” It’s what we will see of this age when time rolls on and, late one sleepless night, we look back.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LOOKING BACK

Know The Moment [on KS Friday]

“A work needs to relax toward finality. It cannot be pushed, it cannot be worried, it cannot be analyzed to completion. Pushing against the natural rhythms of creation will just churn up the waters. Clarity comes only when the waters settle and the air clears.” ~Kent Nerburn, Dancing With The Gods

Because I tend to speak in metaphors in a world enamored with goals, what I say often, at first, goes unheard. Skip is stewarding an amazing creation and has, from my perspective, just passed a significant milestone. I told him that, in working with many playwrights and painters and actors, there is an initial phase in every creative process in which the creator works for form. It’s like the tide going out, dumping everything down on the page to gather and find the story-form. Then, in a beautifully mysterious moment, the tide turns and finding form is no longer the intention. Clarity becomes the aim. Skip is a listener. Metaphors tossed into an analytic frame generally seem out of place or perhaps arrive too early to the party. But I’ve learned they are seeds that, when planted, begin to work their way up through the crusty soil.

John Guare said that a writer has to write ten bad pages to arrive at a single good page. The ten bad pages are the search for form. Reducing ten into an essence of one is the work of clarity. The phases, the exhale for form and the inhale of clarity, are two different yet interrelated energies.

When I am working on a canvas I might evolve the image for days. Sketching, painting, wiping, adjusting, wiping, sketching, painting. The search for form. Adding and subtracting. Moving the composition, tilting the symmetry. And then, something clicks and I know. The painting is formed and now the pursuit is to hold its hand and bring it into the light. Inhale.

Because my father recently passed, followed hard upon by my dear Ruby, I have been reviewing much of my life. Roger used to say that the first 30 years of life were about trying to become something and then, one day, you realize that you are that thing you were trying to become. The rest is learning how to be it. Searching for form. And then, clarifying. I think Roger was half-right. Becoming and being are cycles, not arrivals.

The cycles of my life are explicit. I enter into worlds that I know nothing about – either by accident or invitation. That I know nothing about the world is precisely why I’m invited in – or bumble in. I see it. I bring it metaphors. It is uncomfortable to not-know so I learn about the world as an outsider. It helps me see more clearly. I know the moment when form turns toward clarity. I see when the process roils into an eddy. I understand how to free stuck energy. I’m a midwife to creative process, a guide across unseen bridges.

We stood in the November sun admiring the giant flowers against the blue sky. I loved the idea that I was experiencing an ant’s view. These past many years I have been looking for the new form. Pushing. What was I? What am I now? And, in a beautifully mysterious moment, I realized that the tide was at long last coming in.

read Kerri’s blog post about GIANT FLOWERS

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See The Shape [on DR Thursday]

The Balinese would call this an auspicious day. They would never perform a funeral rite on a day that was not promising. This soul will come back in seven generations and requires a providential sending.

The Greeks placed coins on the eyes of their departed loved ones. Fare for safe passage over the river Styx.

Columbus’ son will give his eulogy. His son-in-law will guide the ritual. His granddaughter will sing for him. His daughter-in-law will play her compositions, prelude and postlude, and sing a special song for him. His coins are his family. They will pay his passage. Actually, that his family will perform every aspect of his service – his sending – is testament to his earth-passage, what he did during his time while walking on this planet.

Heart.

We laughed while driving across Kansas. The day was fraught with obstacles. Breakdowns and high winds. “Columbus is making this trip eventful,” I said. He was full of mischief.

“I can see that sparkle in his eye,” Kerri responded. Nothing was going to stop us from getting to his service. Nothing. Not even mischief.

I have often been asked, “What is the shape of your day?” A curious question to ask a visual artist. “Not flat nor two-dimensional,” I think but do not say. “Certainly organic. Not geometric. My days are rarely geometric.” I never know what lines-of-thought or surprise events actually close to give definition to my day until the end, when I stand back and look at the whole. That is true for all of us. No one knows the shape of their day at sunrise.

Today, the lines have closed so we gather to look at the shape of Columbus’ life.

Heart. Big heart.

read Kerri’s blog post about HEART LEAVES

Columbus circa 1998

Turn Out The Lights [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There are first-times and there are last-times. I occurred to me, as we sat on the back porch of the house where I grew up, watching the sun go down, that this night would be a last-time. In the morning we would drive away and never again come back to this place.

We’d driven to Colorado to move my mom into an independent living community. The move was complete. The house nearly empty. My sister was coming to finish the clean-out and clean-up and then the house would be sold.

Kerri is much more “thready” than I am. She leads with her heart and feels deeply the story-threads that extend back through time. With the sun beneath the horizon, the light of the house beckoning, we talked of what it must feel like for my mom to leave this house after 54 years. We talked of the turtle that buried itself in the window well each fall and would claw its way back into the sunlight each spring. Climbing the crab apple tree when it, too, was young. Camping in the back yard in a musty green canvas tent. Riding bikes around the driveway in mock stock car race fashion. The Irish mail. Volleyball, basketball, and cranking ice cream on hot summer days. The small rituals that largely go unnoticed until the last-times, the experiences that fill life full-to-bursting.

These rich, amazing moments that we call ordinary, that happen with ease every single day, that pass unnoticed or unappreciated until the-last-time.

She asked me what I felt and my answer surprised me. “Relieved,” I said. “Just relieved.”

Tired, we went into the house, closed the back door, and turned out the lights. Last time.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAST TIME

Evolve And Laugh Heartily [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I find the notion of evolution to be hopeful. Evolution of species. Evolution of consciousness. I assume in my wild idealism that the evolution is toward betterment. Reading Ken Wilber’s thoughts on our chaotic and troubled post-truth times, we are, he suggests, in the throes of an evolutionary step. Evolution is not a smooth stepping dance. It’s more a stumbling forward drunkard.

Last week I posted about the lake in my studio and how the clean up facilitated a life-work review. I was surprised by how many notes I received from life-long friends asking me not to burn my paintings this time. I’d forgotten that, after my move to Seattle, I took most of my paintings and drawings to a fire pit on a beach and burned them. I had so much work that it took three days to complete the purge. That life-work-review ended in fire. This latest life-work-review began with water. I actually loved, post flood, going through my paintings. The paintings that went to the fire felt like a burden, a weight. From heavy burden to love; not a bad progression in my personal stutter-stepping evolution.

We drove to Colorado last October to see my parents. In his dementia, my dad cast me in the role of his college roommate and took me on a tour of the basement. We stopped in front of a large photograph taken at his parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration, a photo of the whole clan. He pointed to my twenty year old face in the photograph and said, “Now, I don’t believe you ever met this one.” It was true. As I listened to his description, I had the overwhelming feeling that he was right. Later, I returned to the photograph and visited that version of myself. I thought, “I think dad’s right. I don’t believe I ever met this one.”

The months that followed set the stage for my flood-inspired-work-review. I’ve discovered that I am more apt to be kind, more given to the positives, than I was a decade ago. Evolution has softened me. Or, opened me.

I’m not alone in reaching back, in sifting through the evolutionary drunken stumble to the present. This pandemic era serves as a marker-in-time as well as a great disrupter of pattern and path. It has inspired many a life review among those in my circle. Together, we ask the questions that have no answers, Quinn’s big three: Who am I? Where am I going? What is mine to do?

There are no answers but from time-to-time it’s necessary to ask.

There’s a fourth question that kept Quinn in stitches every time I asked it. What’s it all about? He’d howl and snicker and snort whenever the question came up. I am now the age he was when that younger version of me sat in his study and wrinkled my brow, disconcerted at his hearty laugh. Now, I know without doubt what’s so funny. I find myself laughing to tears when I hear the un-answerable-fourth-question. It’s about what you make of it as your illusion drops away in the course of your own personal evolution.

What else?

read Kerri’s blog post about EVER EVOLVING

Stand In It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Adding to the pandemic-time-disorientation-syndrome, gas prices dropped to a level that we haven’t seen for 20 years. I looked at the sign while filling up and asked Kerri, “Wow. Where are we?”

She shook her head. “This is weird.”

“What were you doing the last time gas was this cheap?” I asked.

“It’s ironic, isn’t it,” she replied, “cheap gas and we can’t go anywhere.” We are road tripping fools so inexpensive gas is a titanic tease amidst a stay at home order.

There are cultures on this planet that believe we move through time backwards, we row ourselves through life with our eyes firmly fixed on where we’ve been rather than where we are going.

This makes sense to me since making sense of life is a backward looking affair. And, the really great thing about sense-making is that it is never completed. The story we tell ourselves about our life and choices is…a story. A new day brings a new perspective on an old well-storied choice. Some of my dumbest decisions, the actions I have been most critical for taking, from my current view, now look wise. Or, at the very least, inevitable.

We afford ourselves more grace with a longer view and several revisions of the old story.

It has been said that the fear of death is not, as advertised, the fear of the unknown. It is the fear of the loss of what is known. We hold fast to our oars, grip with all of our might onto what we think we know and  can control.  We row our little boat in a vast uncontrollable sea.

Actors come alive on stage when they forget their lines. Suddenly the “real” penetrates the pretend. The loss of control ignites life both on the stage and off. The audience sits forward. Something real and unknown is unfolding!

Fear of losing the known. Like actors on the stage, people come alive when they turn and stare into what cannot be controlled. The now. When they forget their lines, lose their name and stare blankly into the dark house. And, the only thing to be done is to stand in it. Relax. Sit forward. Something real is unfolding.

The words will return. We’ll get a grip on the oars sooner or later. The illusion will be restored. A good actor knows that panic only perpetuates the blankness. Relax. A good actor knows the others on the stage will lend a hand if necessary. Good assurances for all of us in this pandemic play. Stand in it. Our boat is going someplace we cannot control.

Something real is unfolding.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHEAP GAS

 

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Enjoy The Chase [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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It’s always an interesting exercise to revisit past work and see it through eyes of the present. It ‘opens’ in ways that were unavailable when the work was first produced. That’s true of my paintings and Kerri’s music. It is also true of our Chicken Nuggets. We created most of these single panel “nuggets” two years ago – along with a full cartoon strip for proposals to syndicates.

My present-day eyes see essences. For instance, this Nugget perfectly encapsulates the the work I do with most of my coaching and consulting clients. The growth happens when the sheer enjoyment of the chase takes precedence over the obsession on the catch. The catch is temporary, passing. The chase is infinite. It’s the chase that matters.

Shift your focus. Said another way: It’s not the achievements. It’s the relationships that matter. It sounds like so much hoo-ha, a Hallmark card philosophy. Yet….

Joseph Campbell said that people think they are looking for the meaning of life but in truth they are looking for the experience of life. The experience of life is found in the moment, in the relationship, in the chase. Meaning is always found in the experiences, not the other way around.

On this Chicken Marsala Monday, shift the focus of your eyes. Embrace a simple dose of hoo-ha, enjoy the chase. It is what matters.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post on IT’S NOT THE CATCH, IT’S THE CHASE THAT MATTERS

 

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it’s not the catch, it’s the chase that matter/products ©️ 2016/18 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Pull Weeds [on KS Friday]

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This piece of Kerri’s could be the soundtrack to the past half decade of my life. Almost five years ago I moved from Seattle, WA to Kenosha, WI, and, during that time, I have been cleaning out, clearing out, paring down, letting go. Pulling weeds.

Some weeds are easy to pull. Others have roots that seem to have no end. They require multiple pulls, daily in some cases. They are great teachers of persistence.

I love PULLING WEEDS because it is gentle, a cycle. In the midst of the weeds it is warm and hopeful. It ambles. It reminds me that there’s no sense trying to control things or to race. There is much pleasure to be found in the tending – and perhaps that is a good rule for a happy life. Let go of the control and tend. Attend.

Feel the sun today and begin by PULLING WEEDS with Kerri.

 

PULLING WEEDS on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby. Purchase the physical CD’s available here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PULLING WEEDS

 

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www.kerrianddavid.com

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pulling weeds/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Feel More [on KS Friday]

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I’m sure that accountants never sit at their desks and review their accounting of the past 30 years. Lawyers, I suspect, may review a case here and there but I doubt that they ever sit in a room, surrounded by all their cases, and consider them as a body of work. Artists necessarily review their work all the time.

Because of our melange both Kerri and I have been sitting in our studios surrounded by our life’s work, revisiting every era. She listens, pours through old notebooks, tinkers with pieces that never made it to the recording studio. I pull out canvases, flip through old sketchbooks, and portfolios. We compare notes. We share our favorites. We disavow our least favorites (“Someone else  painted that and stuck into my stack. That piece is awful!”)

if you'd like to see kerri sherwood.. copy 2It is much more emotional than you might imagine. Each piece comes thanks to a potent life experience, a funny story, a period of loss, lostness, foundness, utter ful-fill-ment, the vast and empty void. We stare at what we achieved, we face what we aimed for and missed.  We stand on the edge of what next calls to be explored.

It is not an intellectual review, a study. It is a feeling pathway, a conscious opening to experience in all its many colors. There is no rational sense to be made in what we do or have done. “Making art” is a dedication to feeling more. It is a love song.

 

BUT I FEEL MORE on  AS SURE AS THE SUN is available on iTunes & CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BUT I FEEL MORE

www.kerrianddavid.com

but I feel more/as sure as the sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood