Overflow With Artistry [On Two Artists Tuesday]

Sitting amidst the boxes that currently fill my studio space, I realized that I’m rolling into the third year since I’ve completed a painting. I’ve been staring at the same canvas set on my easel for a very long time. Broken wrists, the pandemic, another broken wrist, lost jobs and economic free fall initiated an era of blank canvases.

I’ve done this almost every day for two years. I stand at the edge of the boxes. I look at the large canvas layered with undertones of red, covered with layers of tissue, preparing the ground for the image. Charcoal sketch marks barely visible, images I drew and wiped away. I suppose it’s not accurate to say the canvas is blank.

My sketchbook is closed. It sits on the table next to the easel. If I opened it, on the last pages, I would find rough sketches for the painting. Ideas in rude pencil scribbles.

Memory is an organizing principle. A story plot line. We make sense of today based on how we organize our memories into a tellable tale. Looking at the canvas is like looking into a mirror and I ask myself what made me pick up a pencil the very first time. The small-boy-me was seeking. “Running or seeking?” I ask. My studio has always served as a sanctuary. A place where I found quiet, made sense of the chaotic world. “Running or seeking?” I ask again.

Staring at the canvas I should feel loss but I don’t. Each morning, Kerri and I sit next to each other and write. This is the 232nd consecutive week that, five days a week, we’ve written together. She edits what I write, makes suggestions, and I do the same for her. We produce a cartoon every week. For my work I’m also drawing a series of cartoons that, after I script and draw final drafts, I hand them off to Kerri. She digitizes them and, quite literally, adds elements that improves them. I’m not empty of artistry but full to overflowing. I no longer need to retreat to enter my sanctuary.

It’s hard to know where my work ends and hers begins. They are ours. A perfect collaboration. Two as one.

Last week we had a fence installed. Invasive neighbors, throwing rocks at Dogga, lobbing toys into our pond, we’d finally had enough. The fence felt like reclamation of space. The impact was immediate. We hadn’t realized how completely the space invaders – like broken wrists and job losses, had interrupted every rhythm and pattern of our life. Basking in our space – our space – Kerri started to laugh and point. Two birds, lawn art purchased in a small town on our long drive from Seattle, always in our yard but always barely seen, we’d hastily placed them next to the new fence. “Two birds, one shadow,” she said, jumping up to snap a photo.

“Two birds. One shadow,” I repeated her words. I’ll take it as an affirmation. A new fence. A new era. All the world is my studio. My sanctuary. It’s what the small-boy-me was seeking all along.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TWO AS ONE

Speak Double Speak [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I’m a big-picture-guy. Kerri is a detail-girl. And, although that sounds like a great country music lyric, it makes for some interesting conversations. We can talk about the same thing and never know it. Or, we can talk about diametrically opposed points of view and think we’re in utter agreement.

With my head in the clouds, I often have to talk things out. Sense-making happens for me when I can get thoughts out of my head via my mouth. One day, a few years into our relationship, while I was in mid-yammer, Kerri looked at me and said, “Gear down.” It had never occurred to me that I might have to find a lower gear when climbing steep-thought-grades. “Gear down” has become a relationship-saving-shorthand.

Her other defense mechanism is to tune me out. I know I need to stop-talking when I see white noise behind her eyes. When I try to pull her into my hot air balloon for a higher view, her detail mind has learned to spin the knob and find another station.

I float to the sky and look at the future. She drops roots into the moment. It’s a wonder that she hasn’t smothered me with her pillow or pushed me out of the car.

read Kerri’s blog post on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2021-2 kerrianddavid.com

Round The Corner [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Kerri breaks a pinkie toe about once a quarter. She is circular in her thinking so it only makes sense that she is circular in her movements. She regularly gets tangled in the vacuum cord – vacuuming in circles. The challenge for every circular thinker is that, unless they live in a yurt, they actually live in straight-line spaces. Circle in the square. Straight-line spaces, rooms shaped like rectangles, have corners and people that move and think in arcs often try to cut corners. Baby toes pay the price.

There is a special sound she makes when she’s re-broken her toe. There’s a special sound she makes when she sees a big spider. I’ve learned to discern the sounds. These days, instead of asking, “Is everything okay?” I know it is more efficient and helpful to ask, “Left or right?” Then, I find her writhing in a doorway and help her get off the floor.

read Kerri’s blog post about BABY TOES

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Appreciate The Other Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Every so often we pick images for the melange according to a theme. A few weeks ago all of the images were green. This week we noticed that we had several photos of words or phrases so we decided to have a theme week. Yesterday featured a message on the tailgate of a truck, “Every day above ground is a blessing.” Today, the other life. La Otra Vida.

Kerri and I met in middle age so our history together is short. Our pals are couples who’ve been married for decades. It is common for us to leave dinner with friends, after lively conversation of raising kids, vacation stories or tales of pets from the past, and need to talk about the eras in life that we didn’t pass through together. Our cartoon, Chicken Marsala, came from a conversation about the kids that we didn’t have. What kind of parents would we have been together? What would we have done differently in life had we met when we were younger? Would we have fallen in love had the previous-versions-of-ourselves met at an earlier phase in our lives?

La Otra Vida. The other life. We’ll never know the answers to our speculative questions. I was not the person at 25 that I am today. Kerri did not know me during my train-wreck years. I was – and in many ways still am – a restless wanderer but I have developed over the years the capacity to sit still. To appreciate where I am.

Last night, sitting on the deck sipping wine, the sun was down and we had the torches burning. Dogga was asleep at our feet. We were listening to the soundtrack from the movie About Time and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, a heartbreaking piece for piano and cello, began playing. I memorized the moment because, in another life, at a time that I was not so happy, I knew that La Otra Vida was out there somewhere. The other life. I knew someday, minus a few demons and with a few more miles behind me, that I would one day sit outside on a cool evening, my wife’s hand in mine, my dog asleep at my feet, and know with absolute certainty that life could not possibly be better.

I savored the moment. I will never take for granted this, the other life.

read Kerri’s blog post about LA OTRA VIDA

Miss The Point [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Kerri is a detail girl. I’m a big-picture guy and generally live at 30,000 feet. It is common for us to have conversations about diametrically opposed topics and think we are talking about the same thing. It is also common, when we have a spat and are in mid-turmoil – to realize that we are, and have been all along, in absolute agreement. We’re simply looking at the same elephant from radically different points-of-view.

It is the reason that one of the most oft-spoke phrases in our house is: Wait! What are we talking about again?

read Kerri’s blog post about YELLOW AND GREY

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Look. Really Look. [on KS Friday]

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).” ~ e.e. cummings

The ritual became real when Kerri asked the bride and groom to turn and look at the community of people assembled as witnesses to their wedding, “No, really look,” she said. Eyes met eyes. Family. Friends. The unspoken but oh-so-apparent moment: We’re here for you.

Rituals, like a good story, are about single moments. Everything builds to the moment. In the ceremony, Kerri told the couple that they would have days that they could not take their eyes off of each other and that they would have days that were…not so much, but in all of their days, through all of their challenges and celebrations, they would have this moment, and this single-moment, when all else dropped away, would carry them through everything: standing before their community of support, they looked into each other’s eyes and said, “I do.” I carry your heart.

Initially, when they asked her to perform their wedding, she was stunned. “Why me?” she asked. After their ceremony, unique in all the world, simple and profound, I wanted to ask but did not, “Now do you know why they asked you?” My wife understands the power of a moment, the deep river of a ritual, and the long ripples that simple words and intentional actions can send through the long-body of a lifetime.

“Are you ready?” she whispered to the couple when the music faded. “Yes. Oh, yes,” they replied.

read Kerri’s blog post about I CARRY YOUR HEART

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

Pack! [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

There is no greater torture for Kerri than having to pack for a trip. Her packing-panic begins weeks before we leave. The stress of trying to plan for and cover multiple clothing scenarios – infinite possibilities given weather, unknown and unplanned formal affairs, nail polish color and shoe requirements… all to fit within the limited space of a suitcase (or the back of the car) is unbearable. The torture lasts long after the trip begins, long after the trip actually ends. “I should have thought to bring…” is a common refrain, sometimes weeks after we’ve come home.

On the other hand I pack in a few minutes with almost no thought. My formal clothes and my ratty clothes are often one-and-the-same. My unintentional packing strategy has been to reduce my choices to one: black on blue jeans. As 20 says, “Easy Peasy.”

I have learned that it is sometimes helpful to pretend that my packing is more difficult than it actually is. I fret over my choice of t-shirts. Do I bring both pairs of boots or just one? Sometimes help looks like indecision. After all, no one likes to suffer alone.

read Kerri’s blog post about PACKING

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Soothe The Storm [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

My favorite early Chicken Marsala sketch was of an angel delivering Chicken to his new assignment on earth. The angel says, “Get in there, champ! You can do it!” And a very resistant Chicken cries in desperation, “But they are BOTH artists!” Kerri and I are artists with all that term implies. Passionate opinions. Quirky (okay…volatile). Often in need of a perspective-giver. What Chicken didn’t know is that the two artists in his assignment, namely Kerri and me, are great soothers of each other’s storms. We have the gift of never ranting at the same time. When one of us becomes a rocket, the other becomes grounded earth. There is a beautiful equal-and-opposite equation, too. When one of us enters into a creative high, it pulls the other up.

Chicken had a great assignment and just needed to look beyond the wrapper. That angel knew what she was doing.

read Kerri’s blog post about RANTS

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Prepare To Dine! [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

When I first moved to Wisconsin, Kerri barely let me into the kitchen. One night, Craig and I literally had to remove her from the stove so we could make her dinner. The kitchen was her domain. I knew I was “in” when she “let” me make dinner and didn’t pace behind my preparations. The real score came the night 20 and I made her dinner and she sat at the table, ate snacks and sipped wine. Angels sang. Hell froze over. Dinner was delicious.

Let’s just say that it’s been a process. Mostly, we cook together. I am an excellent sous chef. It gives me great pleasure to chop ingredients and put the readied vegetables in little bowls; Kerri imagines she is hostess of a cooking show. One way or another, we’ve always managed to make our meals into fine dining experiences – or just fun experiences.

The bottom line: we are dedicated eaters.

read Kerri’s blog post about DINNER

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Detach and Dream [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Here’s the truth. I hardly ever have trouble sleeping. Where sleep is concerned, I am easily detached. Thought-less. When I awake in the morning, I pass through a phase that I lovingly call, “The Garbage Layer:” all the thoughts and worries and lists and…stuff-of-the-day. It’s the stuff I left behind when slipping into sleep. I’ve come to realize that the garbage will be waiting for me in the morning so there’s no need to carry it with me to the world of my dreams. I suppose that’s a guy-thing though 20 assures me that he rarely sleeps through the night.

If I’m awake at night it’s because Kerri has poked my shoulder, asking, “Are you up?” My thoughtless and detached male response is always, “Yes. Are you?”

read Kerri’s SMACK-DAB thoughts.

smack-dab. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com