Witness The Generosity [on Merely A Thought Monday]

You know the ritual is over when the sacrifice is made. Sometimes the sacrifice is literal, an offering of thanks to the greater powers. A life given for life received. It’s the elemental story cycle with gratitude as the final act.

Sometimes the sacrifice is unconscious and, therefore…unconscious. Unseen. Not felt.

In the weeks before the holiday, the delivery trucks were ubiquitous, zipping this way and that. The deliverers-of-packages worked overtime to ensure all good things arrived on time. We tracked the good people hauling our packages to remote destinations, a luxury of the modern world. As I stroll down my street this week I see, post-holiday, the garbage collectors are working overtime, mechanical arms groaning and methodical, clearing the mountain of debris, boxes, empty bottles (I contributed my share), wrapping paper and remnants of our ritual. Our offering of thanks to the greater powers leaves a mighty litter trail.

The day after Christmas, at the mouth of the lot where we park to hike our trail, the discarded trees were already stacking up. Kerri speculated that the people who enjoyed the trees must certainly be going on travels. Why else would they discard their trees so fast? “Or,” she speculated, “maybe they’ve had them up since the first of November. Maybe they are ready to move on.”

The sacrifice is too easy. It’s piled on the curb. It’s hauled away.

Despite how this reads, it is more meditation than criticism. This holiday season was one of my favorite precisely because we could take nothing for granted. 2020 was brutal for us as it was for many. With our patterns blown to bits, with our security nowhere to be found, our community fragmenting, with no easy choices, we were – and are – conscious of every single step. We are grateful for every moment of heat in the house, for every kindness that has come our way, for every small kindness we’ve been able to offer. We imbue our meals with a deep thankfulness that we did not a scant one year ago.

Why is it that gratitude is so easy when everything else is hard – and why is gratitude merely lip-service when everything is easy? It is, I suspect, why our congress can’t move to help a struggling populace; they have it too easy to identify with the people they represent. We are too easily taken to the curb, to readily swept away.

It has been my role in this lifetime to walk the margins and look inward at the mechanics of my community. To see. It’s the role of the artist to see the patterns, the shapes and colors of their culture and reflect them back, to make conscious what is too easily ignored. To bring the heart, the eye and the mind to the ugly as well as the beautiful.

By the backdoor of our house are bags we’re filling with crackers and peanut butter, socks and sweatshirts. The bags are for the army of people appearing on our streets with signs that read “Homeless” or “Hungry.” It’s not that I am a fan of hard times, I am not, but I’m grateful for what these times are evoking in me – in us. It’s waking us up, helping us reach to others rather than push them away. It’s moving us to see and wildly appreciate our simple abundance.

In the early days of this new year, with the glitter all but swept up, the champagne bottles hauled away, I am moved to tears at the acts of generosity I’m experiencing and also seeing pop up all around me. The holiday is over, the sacrifices made, but the generosity-of-spirit continues. It’s rising in hard times. It’s there. It’s everywhere, if you care to see it.

read Kerri’s blog post about DISCARDS

Pursue The Quiet [on KS Friday]

If I were going to write an autobiography I’d call it IN PURSUIT OF QUIET. Drawing has always quieted my mind. The simple act of descending the stairs into my studio has the same effect. I’ve learned that it is not the picture on the page or the image on the canvas that I’m chasing, it is the quiet mind I enjoy.

When I was a teenager, Mahlon and I drove into the mountains, hiked through the snow and set up camp. It was so quiet, the cold wind whispering through the treetops, the only meaningful voice in the conversation.

During the first winter that Kerri and I spent together, the snow was a siren call. We had to go into it. More than once, late at night, we’d bundle up and walk and walk and walk. The sound of our feet crunching newly fallen snow, the wind off the lake – no words necessary.

I reread what I wrote on this day last year, the first day of the new year. I vilified the previous year. I spouted hope for a better year to come. I know better now. It’s best to be quiet. It’s best to reserve judgment, to stay far away from “should-be” or “might-have-been.” It’s best to stand on the back deck, face to the sky, feel the flakes hit my face, and appreciate…all of it. Every last bit of it.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW WHISPERS

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Chase Out The Spirit [on DR Thursday]

Let’s just call it intentional superstition. With apologies to DogDog and BabyCat, at midnight tonight, we will fling open the back door and bang big pots and chase all of those bad 2020 spirits away. And then, we will rush to front door and open it to let in the new good spirits of 2021. It makes no difference whether the good spirits or bad spirits actually exist, whether the ritual is ridiculous or not. It makes no difference. We want 2020 out of the house. We want to invite some positive change into our lives. We’ll do whatever it takes.

2020 made me feel like Lieutenant Dan strapped to the mast of the shrimping boat shouting at the storm. Bring it on. It’s you and me! 2020 was a violent storm. It was a reckoning. It is a reckoning.

We know there will be a new day. Calm waters. Peace. This storm will pass. Perhaps with banging our pots and flinging open our doors we can speed it up a bit.

Years ago I had a student who was about to boil over. I bought a box of ceramic plates for him at the thrift store. We took them out back and he hurled them at the brick wall. At first he was timid. And then the storm took him and he smashed plates and screamed at the universe and wept. And then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

We are at the laughing stage of things. Thus, intentional superstition. Imagined causation. 2020 has been utterly irrational so why can’t we meet it on its own ground? Play by its rules? Fear the big pot, 2020!

We just changed our menu. Kerri read a list of Irish folk wisdom for the new year. It recommends pork. Pork it is. Black-eyed peas. Great! Also, if you have red hair, we will not let you over the threshold until someone with dark hair enters. Sorry about that. Our Celtic magic must be honored. There’s a good-and-ancient-story in there somewhere but we don’t really care what it is.

Goodbye 2020. See ya’. So long.

read Kerri’s blog post about 2020-BE-GONE

Read The Calendar [on Two Artists Tuesday]

our shadows in the sand cape cod copy

Today we read the 2018 daily calendar and revisit the happenings of the past year. During the year, Kerri records in the calendar the events of each day. She tracks our experiences, big or small, and keeps her account nestled alongside the due date for bills, appointments, and birthday reminders. Astonishing sunsets. A special phone call. A remarkable meal with friends. It is our ritual on the first day of the new year, the inaugural of the new calendar, to read where we’ve gone, to revisit what we’ve encountered in the past 365 days.

I love this ritual. Inevitably, our review is punctuated with phrases like, “Wow! I’d totally forgotten that!” or “Can you believe that was just a few months ago?” It always reminds us how rich and full are our lives. It reminds us how much we forget in this fast moving river. It reminds us of the many challenges we’ve overcome, the troubles we’ve forded, and how much import and stress we gave to things that mattered little. It reminds us that the big events, the achievements, are rarely where the bounty is found.

It reminds us that there is nothing more important than sitting together at the end of  a cycle, the portal of the new year, and telling the story of us. We learn who we are by where we’ve been and how we’ve walked through our days. And, more to the point, telling this story of life-lived reminds us that, we will once again in a not-so-distant future, on the first day, review our year. So, to complete our ritual, we always ask ourselves, in the coming 365 days, amidst the unforeseen circumstances and uncontrollable events, what is the story that we will want to tell?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NEW YEAR

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy

 

 

 

Light A New Hearth Fire [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

HalloweenTree copy

Even during the summer we call it the Halloween tree. An ancient oak, gnarled and twisted, surely a home to gnomes and sprites, a rest stop for wandering spirits. An inciter of wild imagination. It watches our passage through the seasons, our walks though the woods.

Halloween has a history, an origin story. It has evolved and changed from a sacred to our now secular celebration. It once marked the end of the year, the line between the end of harvest time and the onset of dark winter, the day when the boundary between the living and the dead became soft and permeable. A liminal day when the future could be seen and told. Ghosts returned. People donned costumes to fool the spirits and speak for the future. Mischief was made. The hearth was stamped out and then reignited from the communal flame. With the sunrise came the new year and the boundary between worlds and the future was restored.

Costumes and carved pumpkins. Neighbors coming out of their houses for trick-or-treating. Corn mazes and haunted houses. We are not so different, not really. In this way, whether we acknowledge it or not, through our coming together to carve scary faces, through our meeting on the street to watch our children walk the neighborhood and perpetuate this yearly ritual, through our parties and dressing up, we light a new hearth fire to keep us warm and full of hope through the cold months of dark winter.

KDot Halloween Tree

k.dot at the halloween tree

read Kerri’s blog post about THE HALLOWEEN TREE

 

halloween box copy

 

 

 

 

See Your Angels

angelsallaroundyou-jpeg

Products with this and other images available at society6.com

One of my favorite rituals is the reading-of-the-calendar on the last day of the year. It is no ordinary peruse through an ordinary calendar. Kerri, every day, writes in her calendar the events, the important calls, the amazing sightings, the simple and the profound moments. The day we first spotted the owl, the ice circles in the harbor, the generosity of the clerk at the store; they find a spot in the calendar. The tough stuff is in there, too. It is a habit she picked up from her mother. Calendar-as-diary. With a hot cup of coffee and nothing but time, we read through and talk about the days of our life.

It is probably not surprising that our most common exclamation is, “I’d forgotten about that!” I’m always amazed at how many of the years happenings are lost in the stream of time. The review not only helps me remember but also refreshes my appreciation for all that we navigated, discovered, survived and created in a mere 365 days.

At our gathering that night I laughed when Mary Kay told us that she dislikes New Year’s Eve because it always makes her feel as if she hasn’t done enough. I recognized Mary Kay’s disdain because earlier in the day I’d levied the same judgment against myself. The ritual reading of the calendar put my self-judgment to rest. After reviewing all that we’d done in a year, Kerri looked at me (tired of hearing my endless self-criticism) and asked, “Now, doesn’t that give you a greater respect for what we’ve done?” Yes. It did.

Although we didn’t say it this way, we told Mary Kay and Russ, Linda and Jim, John and Michele that they had made it into the calendar. This year was tough for us and when I was ill, when things were going badly, they brought us food, they offered to carry some of our load, they showed up to shovel our walks. So, rather than thinking of the year as bad, in our ritual we read about year of generosities extended to us.

Mary Kay said, “But that was nothing.” Kerri responded, “That was everything! It changed our world.” We were reminded in our ritual that the world is changed for the better everyday, not by the grand gesture, but by the small things, the passing kindnesses. From the point of view of the doer, they are often too tiny to remember. From the standpoint of the receiver, they are monumental. Opening a door can change someone’s day. And who knows how far a kindness-ripple will travel?

From the archive: 'Angels At The Well.'

From the archive: ‘Angels At The Well.’ This painting is available at zatista.com

Fun products featuring details of my artwork are available at society6.com.

 

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No, Right!

662. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

The man in front of me in line calls me “Dude!” and affirms my statements by saying, “No, right!” He speaks in exclamation points and I like him a lot. He’s a free spirit although, like me, his hair is going grey and he’s traveled more than a few miles. He asked me if I make resolutions this time of year. I liked the question because it includes the possibility that I might make resolutions at other times of the year. I told him I make resolutions everyday right before I don’t keep them and he laughed and said, “No, right!”

There is a moment I look forward to when flying out of Seattle. It is the moment that the plane lifts through the clouds and punches into a clear blue sky; it is a cusp moment and I see that the clouds are local and temporary; the broad blue expanse is universal, ever present. Occasionally the plane rises above the clouds at the moment the sun rises. The moment before was grey and bleak and in an instant it is vibrant orange, turquoise, cold and clear shades of blue. Those moments are rich in paradox: they evoke quiet and excitement, a thrill that washes me in peace

I am more capable than ever before of living with my head above the clouds, seeing the universal and standing in awe of the color even when my eyes can’t see it. I know it is there if I open myself and breathe it in. “Dude! What are you thinking?” my line mate asked. “I think I’m going to fly above the clouds this year,” I replied. He wrinkled his brow at my odd resolution before nodding his head and saying, “No, right!