Listen To The Crows [on DR Thursday]

“Sculpture,” they said. “We think you need to do some sculpture.” They were pushing me to get out of my painter-comfort-zone. It was our agreement as an artist collective: help each other grow. Our group shows were driven by a clear intention. Challenge the art-wheels to exit the art-rut.

All of my life I’ve had a special relationship with birds. Owls show up at auspicious moments. Hawks visit when I need to step back and take the long view. The surprise turkey on our roof, harbinger of good things to come. At the time of my sculpture challenge, I was, each and every day, assaulted by crows.

I read that crows have facial recognition so I told myself the daily assault was a case of mistaken identity. I’d never done harm to a crow. Yet, everyday during my walk, I was dive-bombed. Once, a crow was so relentless that I took refuge in a coffeehouse.

The worst was the day, lost in thought as I approached the door to my studio, at the last moment, I saw a baby crow perched on the door step. I heard them before I saw them. An entire murder of crows came to the baby’s defense. I leapt over the baby and into the studio. They pounded the door and pecked at the windows. They circled my studio for hours. Angry cawing. It was a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock.

Crows seemed like the obvious subject matter for my first stab at sculpture.

I decided to use found objects: wood, wire hangers, newspaper, string, a plastic clamp. India ink and glue.

Creating my sculptures became something of a meditation. As I bent the wire and glued the paper it occurred to me that perhaps the crows weren’t confusing me with someone else. Perhaps their attacks were meant for me. Perhaps I needed to listen. In some traditions, crows are the keeper of sacred law. They are heralds of consciousness change, shape-shifting. They thump you on the head when you need to wake up, when you are not living in alignment with your best interests. That was certainly true of me at the time. The crows were literally hitting me on the head.

I loved making my sculptures. I love what they brought me to understand. My artist-friends were more right than they knew; I needed to do some sculpture. I needed to exit my rut and step into a scary void and, in that way, invite new seeing, new forms, and finally, a new way of being.

read Kerri’s blog post about CROW

crow ©️ 2010 david robinson

Walk With Me [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

life is grace sleep copy

Lately, I’m dreaming of walking the Pacific Crest Trail. It is an escape fantasy. I want to unplug from this angry culture and its toxic division. I want to walk until it hurts. I want to listen to the wind. I want to think-no-thoughts.

I’m kinesthetic. Walking is a better form of meditation for me than sitting. I get quiet when I walk. Chris once told me that I should lead pilgrimages. At the time it made me laugh since I was certain I could probably guide the walk but had very little to offer seekers other than this bit of counsel: shhhhhhhhhhhh. Listen.

I grew up in Colorado and camped often. Say the word, “sacred” to me and I immediately hear the sound of wind rustling through the tops of pine trees. Once, walking a trail in the mountains, it began to gently snow. The forest stilled. It was so quiet I thought for a brief moment that I’d grown deaf. The wind. The quiet. I heard myself catch my breath. Sacred.

At the beginning of this pandemic time, we’d wake in the morning and, sometime during coffee, we’d remember. “Oh, right,” Kerri would say, “we’re living in a sci-fi movie.” The night had forgiven the previous day’s stresses.

One day in Bali, walking down a long road, I felt unsettled. A young man came from the fields and joined me. At first I was perturbed because I wanted to be alone but soon I found his company reassuring.  I asked where he was going and he said, “With you. I walk with you.”

I was confused and asked “Why?”

He was confused by my question. “You are a guest here,” he said in his broken English. “To let you walk alone…is not nice.”

I thought of this young Balinese man, my one-day companion, as I drifted off to sleep last night. The gentle courtesy of his act. His deeply felt obligation of presence. His work-of-the-day was less important, less vital, than showing spontaneous kindness to a stranger. Would I need my escape fantasy, my epic walk, if the people in my country were as generous, as respectful of each other, as he was to me?

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.” ~ Frederick Buechner

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANOTHER DAY’S CHALKING

 

 

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held in grace: rest now ©️ 2016 david robinson

Add A Stone [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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I am fond of a labyrinth tucked into the woods at The Whidbey Institute. I’ve spent many a sunrise and sunset walking the meditation path to its center and back again. After each trip into the labyrinth, I’d add a small stone to the cairn that stood adjacent to the entry point. A ritual to mark my passage. A location stone.

I hadn’t thought of the labyrinth for years.

Last week, on a stormy day, we took a long walk through our neighborhood and emerged on to the beach at Southport.  We were stopped in our tracks by what we found there. A field of cairns. Someone – or many someones – had created dozens of stacked stones. Each unique. Some playful. Some sorrowful giants. Markers of the way home? Funeral stones? Sculpture merely? The intention didn’t really matter. They brought us peace.

We approached silently just as I used to approach the labyrinth at Whidbey. We entered the field with a reverence that surprised me. We wandered through them, spent time with them. Some were massive, towering over us. Some very small, a few stones stacked at our feet.

Pebble and red brick trails ran like crazy lines connecting the cairns, a mixed up maze that begged us to follow, to make sense of the impossible. This labyrinth had no center. This meditation maze led nowhere specific, looping back, a dead end here, a path to the water, and over there, a line that stopped at a heart made of rock, a spiral. A wish. A message. An inspiration.

I could imagine no better monument to this pandemic. A shattered labyrinth. Burial monuments. A field of markers standing ready for the day when we might find our way out. A quiet reverent place where we are called to add a stone, a simple gesture to remember our passage through.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CAIRNS

 

 

cairns website box copy

 

 

Reach In [on DR Thursday]

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Reaching way back into my archive, we found this watercolor. A few brushstrokes. A few details. It reminds me of how much I used to like working with watercolor.

Prayer and meditation are themes for me. Reaching in to reach out. Joseph Campbell wrote a book entitled The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. I suspect the umbrella title of my visual body of work is the inverse: the outer reaches of inner space.

Quiet inner space takes some cultivating, some understanding of breathing and movement. I think cultivating inner space was the reason I began drawing and painting in the first place. The outer space made no sense to me. It still feels like an alien world. With so much beauty to create, with so much vast life to explore, metaphor to plumb, meaning to make, why hang out with the fist shakers?

My answer is always found in the quiet of my studio or on a walk in the woods. These days I also enjoy leaning on the piano listening to Kerri play, compose, and sing. Magic. She reaches down into inner space, too, and what comes out is gigantic. Breathtaking. It creates more inner quiet. A feedback loop. Life appreciating life. What else is there?

wings copy

Winged, 27 x 20IN

 

Prayer copy 2

Sacred Series: Prayer, 24 x 9IN

read Kerri’s blog post about OLD WATERCOLOR PRAYER

 

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old watercolor/winged/sacred series: prayer ©️ 2000/2018 /2017

 

 

 

Follow The Intention [on DR Thursday]

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It occurred to me, last night, when writing about the heart symbol, that the mistake we too often make is to hold fluid aspirations as ‘fixed’ states. Heart as a frozen symbol. An achievement. An arrival station on the train of life.

Nothing in this vast universe is still. Every molecule, every cell, is in constant movement. Constant transformation. Peace, hope, heart, love,…are not end-games. They are not winnable sports. They are dynamic, fluid, ever moving. Try to wrap your fingers around them and they will slip through, fog in a butterfly net. They are unattainable.

What, then, does it mean to dwell in your heart? To be at peace?

None of us are ‘fixed’ states. We, too, are in constant movement. Constant transformation. Constant relationship. Constant choice.

Last week I told the choir that their voices would go where their eyes go. Look up. Look to the back of the hall. In that way all are included in the song. It is also true that our actions will go where our thoughts go. Meditate (think about) division and opposition and that’s where we go. That’s what we see. That’s what we create. It’s a choice.

The words on this painting come from the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness. It is a prayer that ripples out, ripples back. Constantly moving. Peace as a motion, hope as a practice. Love as a dynamic action that follows the intention of a fluid mind.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BE PEACE

 

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this image is available here. Scroll down for options.

 

 

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yoga series: may you/morsel: may you be peace ©️ 2015/2017 david robinson

 

 

 

Decide To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

heart leaf copy

When you come to our house, pay attention to the small things. You will find many, many, many hearts. Heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, shells that are the shape of a heart. This is not an accident. It’s also not a collection of “things” – like a collection of shot glasses or figurines. No, it is altogether different.

Kerri looks for hearts. Often on our walks she will gasp, pull out her camera and take a picture. I know that she has seen another heart. Usually, she engages with it and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and it comes home with us.

To be clear: she doesn’t buy hearts from the store. She is not a collector of heart shapes. Kerri looks for hearts. When we are out in public she will gasp and move toward someone, striking up a conversation. Soon there is laughter; always there is a story. Usually, she engages with the heart and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and  it is in our life forever.

Since seeing the recent Mr. Rogers movie, we’ve been talking a lot about intentional thinking, about focus placement. We’ve been talking about what we look for when we go out into the world – what we decide to see. Everyone decides what they see but very few people know that they have that decision. Everyone decides what they think but very few people know that they have that decision. It’s what made Mr. Rogers so special. He knew he  had decisions and he talked about it with children. Children are capable of listening.

It’s very easy to see the gunk. The dark is an easy choice; fear makes it so. It takes some intention to see the light.  Hearts are always present but they require some attention and resolve to see. They ask that we look beyond the superficial gunk to see the heart-substance. That’s why Kerri picks them up and plants them around our home. It’s a practice. She’s built a practice of seeing the hearts. She goes into each day looking for the hearts.

It turns out that hearts are everywhere. You can see them, too, if you decide to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS

 

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Say It Over And Over and Over…[on DR Thursday]

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While Kerri plays the service, I often sit in the choir loft and scribble images on the back of old bulletins. On the left side of this sketch (not visible in the crop) is a running stream of words, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease…

I’ve been playing with words as images a lot in the past few years. The words become pattern, the repetition renders the symbols meaningless-as-language but potent-as-design. I love pattern for this very reason. Too much repetition dulls the eyes and mind and in the dulling, something new emerges. It is how a good ritual works: dance fervently the pattern until you drop. Exhaustion opens the door to let in the spirit.

Pray hard enough and often enough and the words become meaningless. It is exactly at the point of meaninglessness, that perception shifts and something new rushes in. Saul-the-Tai-Chi-master would say it this way: wrestle with the obstacle long enough and you will eventually give up. In giving up, in your defeat, you just might glance beyond the obstacle and, at last, see the field of possibility.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about SCRIBBLES

 

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the sketch is a sketch and not useful and may be pirated and spread widely all over the world so feel free to insert it into your recipes or instagram or populate the cover of your technology with it or send it to china without guilt.

 

instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson

Look In, Look Out [on DR Thursday]

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yoga series: in prayer, mixed media, 67 x 64 IN

Going through my stacks I’m struck by how many of my paintings are about meditation or prayer. Most of my work is inward looking.

When I was a kid I was fascinated with drawing eyes. I spent hours and hours drawing eyes because I wanted to know what was behind them, inside, going on beneath what was visible. It should not be a surprise to me when looking at the mountain of canvas and paper in my studio that most is populated with images of inward looking. I’m still working on what’s behind those eyes, it seems.

Once, in Bali, Budi told me that the high priests were in prayer all of the time. Their whole lives were dedicated to constant prayer. Seeing how I was struck by his comment he added that all people are in prayer all of the time, they just don’t know it. “Thought is prayer,” he said. “The high priests know it so they guide their thought and pray for peace. Most people spend their life praying about their troubles.”

 

read Kerri’s thoughts on IN PRAYER

 

 

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yoga series: in prayer ©️ 2014 david robinson

Start The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

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The mantra goes like this:

may you prayer copy

Actually, it is a meditation of ripples. The second round, after the “I”, someone very close  is named. On the third round, someone a bit farther out, and so on until the wish is for all the world to dwell in its heart. The universe. And then, the ripples return, layer by layer, arriving back to you.

It is a peace mantra, a meditation on connectivity that runs through the heart, the place between I and you, us and them. It is the “and.”

This is one of those paintings that jumped onto the canvas fully formed. It is either disturbing to people (“Why is she falling?”) or intensely comforting (“I wonder what she is reaching for.”) It is, in that way, very much like the meditation, an exercise of thought control or an aspirational prayer.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAY YOU

 

MayYou copy 2

may you, 55x36IN

 

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mayyoucopyright2015davidrobinson

Stand In The Enormity [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When Kerri first showed me this photograph, it read to me like a minimalist painting. A subtle field of color with two splashes and a brushstroke. So much said with so little. A meditation of movement and the immovable.

The lake is different every day. Its color palette is as changeable as its moods. Each day upon awaking, Kerri walks onto the deck and snaps a picture. So far, no two days are alike. So far, no two hours are alike.

Once I stood in La Sagrada Familia and the enormity of it made me quiet. The lake is like that. Immense to the point of stillness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BIRDS AND AN ISLAND

 

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