See Your Choices [on Merely A Thought Monday]

He began with silence. He looked them all over, one fox at a time, and his eyes looked deep into theirs. Lucy wanted to hide when his eyes came to her but instead she fell into his gaze. He seemed to be listening. Then, he made up his mind, and in a voice that was both powerful and quiet, he said, “Words are strong magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ Lucy & The Waterfox

“Choice” is a very powerful word. Perhaps one of the most powerful.

Lucy was a story I told many years ago at a conference of healthcare workers. Actually, it wasn’t the primary story; it was an addition. The organizers asked if I had a second story in my bag o’ tricks and I’d just written Lucy.

After the conference I illustrated and self-published it. It was the early days of self-publishing so the layout is wonky. I’ve never really liked how the book looks. I’d turn Kerri loose on it if we were bored and didn’t have other things to do. We’re not bored.

Lucy makes two choices in the story. The first is to hide her special talent. To conform. The second is to own her special talent. To take flight.

She achieves both choices through the intervention of others. The first choice was made with the help of social pressure; who doesn’t want to belong, to fit in! To conform. This choice nearly kills her. The second is made with the help of a storyteller, a role model. Who doesn’t want to fulfill their passion! Follow their bliss? This choice fills her with life.

I’d write a sequel but it’s already imbedded in the first book. What happens to Lucy when she chooses the left hand path? She becomes, as all artists do, the carrier of the story, the mythologist and mythology of the pack.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice. To hide your fire. Bend to pressure. To burn brightly. Follow an inner imperative. Yet they are choices, both.

“Lucy was a red fox who lived as other red foxes do, playing in the fields and forests. But Lucy had a secret. She could fly. Not a run-and-jump-to-this-rock kind of fly. No! She could fly like a bird…”

read Kerri’s blogpost about CHOICE

Lucy & The Waterfox © 2004 david robinson

Drop The Veneer [on KS Friday]

It was common during coaching calls, for clients, especially at the beginning, to self-diagnose. Essentially saying, “This is what is wrong with me.” It was an odd start to a process that is about fulfillment of intention or creation of desire. A coaching relationship isn’t therapy and a good coach – one that knows what they are doing – is careful not to let the relationship become about fixing-what-is-wrong. Moving through a creative block or clarifying a fuzzy vision in not an indication of a character flaw. The post-it note on my desk read, “Nothing is broken. Nothing needs to be fixed.”

The self-diagnosis was a veneer. A protective layer, like armor. People have innumerable strategies for hiding their fire, for blunting their passions. Succeeding or creating often implies exposure. Being seen. Stepping into the light can be scary business.

Rather than deal with the diagnosis, a useful and often surprising question to ask is, “What’s beneath that?” What’s beneath the protective layer?

It was also common, after taking the time to take off the armor, after dropping the I’m-broken-veneer, to hear a voice whisper, “You know what I really want? I want to be a writer.” Or a painter. Or a dancer. Stepping into the light is scary business and hearing your voice say what you really want, even in a whisper – especially in a whisper – is powerful stuff!

I loved those moments. Their world spins. The eddy of “fixing” slips into the current and there’s no turning back. Their path forward may be gnarly and steep but that tiny whisper clarifies the picture, releases the desire.

Careful not to be too effusive, I’d say, “Good. Now, what’s the next step?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost on VENEER

holding on/letting go on the album right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Stop And Rest [on KS Friday]

At the height of the pandemic she recorded music on her phone and posted it for the community. It was a warm blanket, a comfort sent to people separated by the virus. Yesterday, she stumbled upon the recordings. There are hundreds. She played one for me. Pressing pause, she looked surprised and said, “These were good.”

I appreciated her honesty. I smiled at her surprise. Having been taught that it’s not nice to brag, she rarely acknowledges the scope and depth of her gift. Her pat response when I genuinely gush about her latest composition: “It’s okay.” It is good medicine for a gifted artist to say to herself, “My work is good.”

Also yesterday, she had a “talk” with me. She advised that I be less hard on myself. “Hold yourself softly,” she said. She was spot on. She can see it in me because she can see it in herself. She was telling me that, like her, my work is good. I swallowed my immediate response, “It’s okay.”

“Okay” is a hard word. It comes from a long road of vulnerability and a dedication to getting better and better. Minimizing is both armor and a practice. The path of artistic passion runs through, “Love what you do.” Yes, love it, but don’t get lost in it.

A life of mastery is built upon a mountain-range of mistakes and a dedication to never arriving. Keep walking. Keep growing and opening. Keep discovering ways to say more with less. Every once in awhile, it’s nourishing for the artistic soul to stop for a rest and crawl under the warm generous blanket of, “My work is good.”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about QUILTS

and goodnight/and goodnight…a lullaby album © 2005 kerri sherwood

Step Out Of Line [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“…the fountain of creative work is an intelligent questioning of the rules.” ~Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way

“If someone tells you they know, they most certainly do not.” It’s not a direct quote from Quinn but it’s close enough. Art school almost snuffed the art in me; there were so many rules and nary a hint of curiosity allowed in the studio. I fled into the theatre after a single year for fear of losing my heart to a book of rules. My theatre professors were explorers of nature. Their refreshing mantra was, “Well, let’s find out!”

What if…? What happens if…?

Nature is boundless expression. Boundless expression is human nature, too, until it is taught otherwise. Boys don’t cry. Be a good girl. Sit in your desk. Follow the rules. There’s a right way. My way or the highway…So much effort to force nature – your nature, your curiosity, to stand on a line.

Einstein revolutionized our world because he dared to posit that Newton had it upside-down. Thank goodness, as Alan Watts observed, “The scientist and the mystic both make experiments in which what has been written is subordinate to the observation of what is.” In other words, they look beyond established belief, expectation and entrenched norms into what is.

What is? Curiosity. A desire to know what’s over that hill. No child begins their life-walk by desiring to color within the lines. Lines are a learned thing. The word “wild” was invented by people whose ancestors emerged from the woods and who have forgotten that they, too, are part of nature – so have become afraid of stepping into the woods. What might they – we – find there?

“It’s not an idea problem,” David Burkus wrote in the HBR, “It’s a recognition problem.” Stepping beyond the known – a great definition of curiosity – is too often seen as an aberration or an assault upon authority. Nip it in the bud. Forcing flow into a fixed state invariably causes idea-blindness and the imperative to think-outside-of-the-box. Innovations are too often smothered in the crib by “What we know,” or “We don’t do it that way.” Coloring in the lines, once ingrained, is a life-long-book-to-follow.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been invited into an organization or hired by a client to help them “see what they cannot see,” and then subtly or not-so-subtly, been rebuked for opening their eyes to what is in plain sight…or the availability of alternative paths. “We want a vital arts program but we only want art that entertains,” said the school board after the student play asked a serious question of their audience. “…the scholastic theologians would not look through Galileo’s telescope because they considered that they already knew, from Scripture, the order of the heavens.” (Alan Watts)

Think outside the box – as long as you stay within the model or the expectation or the rules. So many models. So many lines. So in love with the struggle and afraid of the simple, natural joy of curiosity. Bend your will to the line. See what you are supposed to see and look no further. What, exactly, are we trying to control?

read Kerri’s blog post about CURIOSITY

Feed It [on KS Friday]

“The devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. My single costs 99 cents. That’s what a single cost in 1960. On my phone, I can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with. Some would say that the fart app is more important. It’s an awkward time. Creative brains are being sorely mistreated.” ~ Vince Gill

I am the first in line to tell you that everyone has a creative mind. Everyone. That river of ridiculousness running between your ears is nothing other than creativity-run-amok. What else? Telling yourself that you are not creative is, in itself, a creative act. Seeds planted early in life grow into mighty obstructions. Creative wastelands are created. If you want to hear a terrific appeal to educators to nurture rather than stifle the creative mind, listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 Ted Talk. It’s appropriately titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

I’ve listened to numerous school boards tell me how much they truly value the arts – until it’s time to pay for it. Sadly, it’s not a question of whether or not they value the arts; it’s that the arts, the creative minds, do not fit any of the standards of valuation against which all things are measured. They do not know how to value the creative minds that they steward. Arts organizations and artists, mostly, are not money makers. Creative minds, creative acts, do not fit in the boxes and are not measurable on standardized tests. Thinking outside of boxes is, after all, the point of a creative mind. Metrics and goals stop a creative mind and heart in its tracks. The cruelest thing you can ask any artist to do is write a grant.

And yet, an artist has to make a living. Yaki asked me if I had to choose between making a living and making my art, which would I choose? I answered, “Art, of course,” but that it was really a question of Maslow’s hierarchy: it’s hard to make art when you are not surviving. What I didn’t say is that his question perfectly captured the reason schools kill creativity and creative brains are sorely mistreated: it is assumed one must choose between. Making a living and thriving creativity are understood as oppositional.

How many parents have tried to dissuade their children from following their passion for the arts? How many times have I heard Kerri say of the stacks of music on her piano waiting to be recorded, “What’s the use?” How many times have I sat in my basement studio looking at my stacks and rolls of paintings and wondered, “Why bother?” We do it to ourselves, too.

And then, the phony metric falls and we breathe, pick up our brushes and sit at our keyboards. There is a river of riches that runs deeper than money. It is, after all, a creative act to kill a passion. It’s also a creative act to feed and nurture an artistic soul. Both. It’s what the school board doesn’t understand: the choice is not between making a living or living as an artist, the choice is between feeding inspiration, expanding a creative mind, or smothering it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CREATIVE MINDS

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

watershed/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Take Another Sip [on DR Thursday]

I am spending a significant amount of time studying software. An unlikely task for an artist that prefers brushes and canvas over screens and keyboards. This improbable exploration follows a trend in my life: much of my work has taken place in foreign arenas. I love it because I learn. I love it because I am completely prepared to fail: a trait necessary to walk an artist’s path. To learn, it is necessary to begin in unknown places and make big mistakes. The same rule applies to creation. “Make big offers,” John used to say to his actors. “See what happens.”

Yesterday in my software study, I read about Mathilde Collin, the CEO of Front. She inspires me. She believes work should make people happy. She believes people shouldn’t dread getting out of bed in the morning. She believes in balanced-lives and finding each person’s “genius zone” and leaning into it. She knows a healthy culture doesn’t just happen, that it must be created and tended. And modeled. She believes paths to prosperity must include everyone.

I’ve also spent some time with Evariste Galois. He was a French mathematician who died in a duel at the age of 20. The night before he died, so the story goes, believing it was his last night on earth, he compiled and wrote his thoughts, his life’s work. What he left behind has kept mathematicians busy for more than two centuries. I’m not a mathematician but I am a systems guy and Galois’ Group Theory is useful when studying cultural change – or, more to the point, why it often looks like change but doesn’t really change. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s useful to consider when products are being developed – or stories – when they iterate but go nowhere.

When I come down from the office I am often glazed. Kerri gives me a glass of wine and steers me to the Covid table. While I stare at the bubbles in the wine she makes a snack. Food and wine always bring me back to the land of the living. After a cracker and cheese, a sip or two, I blink my eyes and she says, “Welcome back.” She knows better than to ask what I did at work. A time or two I’ve taken her hand and headed back toward the mind-cave and she’s learned to dig in her heels. “I learned the most amazing thing,” I say. She responds, “Take another sip and we’ll talk about it later.”

Mathilde Collin. Evariste Galois. Both are French and it only just occurred to me that they share the same country of origin. Revolutionaries both, believing that the systems should work for the people – rather than the people working for the system. Life should feed passions. Evoke personal genius. Happiness.

All of this good stuff from a stumble into the land of software.

“Take another sip,” Kerri prompts. I blink my eyes. “We’ll talk about it later.”

read Kerri’s blog post about WINE BUBBLES

in dreams i wrestle with angels © 2017 david robinson

Count It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

187 box framed copy

People like to count things. Kerri and I are people so it only follows that on this melange anniversary week that we’ve been counting all manner of things. 52 weeks. 5 posts a week. 260 posts times two. 520 posts between us. What does it mean? Nothing of consequence.

People like to count things. Isn’t it true that, as the proverb states, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, after the thousand miles journey, sitting in the sun by the side of the road, who wouldn’t try to calculate the actual number of steps? Just for kicks? What does it mean? Nothing really.

187. The number of product lines that Kerri designed in the first 6 months of the melange. Not single products, but entire lines. From art prints to bath mats to tote bags to cell phone cases. In our week of counting, it is the single number that astounded me. It was the aspect of the melange that required the most amount of time and effort.

It was also fun. I loved watching Kerri design. She becomes hyper-focused. Passionate. Impeccable. I was mostly beckoned for feedback. “What do you think about…?” Usually, there was no answer required. In asking the question she generally identified her preference and was back to working before I said a word.

People like to count things. It is another way of telling the story. Well, at least a part of the story. 187. 520. What does it all mean? Nothing really.  The numbers are the least part of the story. The simple joy of working together, the river of ideas shared along the way. The heart conversations. The laughter. There is no number capable of capturing what happened in the midst of all those steps.

anniversary haiku copy

read Kerri’s blog post about 187

 

[Here’s the very first Flawed Cartoon Wednesday. I thought (and still think) these cartoons are hysterical. The number of people who went to the Flawed Cartoon store: 0. What does it mean?]:

wienerdogsledcorrectspellingJPG

 

if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copy[Do it! Go to the store just for kicks! You’ll be the first!]

 

standing in vail website copy

 

flawed cartoon ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood