Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

it's in the stars copy

A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

moon website box copy

 

 

Step In The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

bcat tape box copy

Jen told Kerri about it. Make a square on the floor with blue tape. It will act like a siren call to your cat who will NEED to sit inside the square. I was a doubter. Worse, I was a loud doubter.

During one of our famous Sunday night dinners, Kerri told 20 about the blue tape square and its kitty magnetism. I remained a stalwart disbeliever. After a glass of wine we retrieved the blue tape from the studio and slapped down a rough square on the kitchen floor. We poured more wine and waited. I scoffed.

In a few minutes BabyCat (lovingly known to me as Sumo) thump-thumped into the kitchen, went directly to the tape, circumnavigated the square (counterclockwise) and like a kitty in a current, was  pulled as if by a force into the square. He sat down. Kerri roared with triumph and took a picture for proof. She knows I am capable of denying the undeniable so she was quick to get photographic proof. 20 shook his head at me and said, “I thought you’d have learned by now that she is always right.” I am, as previously reported, a slow study. Very slow.

BabyCat sat tight in his blue tape square throughout our turmoil. He seemed oblivious to our antics, He was content. And, to add further insult to my injury, he laid down. He closed his eyes. He purred. He fell asleep, safe and sound in his blue tape box.

DogDog runs in circles. Circles are in his DNA. I suppose box attraction, real or imagined, must be encoded into BabyCat. It was true. He couldn’t stop himself from stepping into the box. I imagine the defined space made him comfortable. It made him feel safe.

I found myself wishing that somewhere in my DNA was the coding for box attraction. Or, at least a balance to the chain-of -command written into my coding: box avoidance. I wondered what it must feel like to see a defined space and not want to stir it up or redefine it. To open it up. I wondered what it must feel like to see a box, step inside, and give in to contentment. To purr with confinement.

20, watching me move through my troubled thought process, laughed. He sipped his wine and said, “You’ll never learn.”

True. Too true.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the BLUE TAPE SQUARE

 

babycatContemplating website copy

 

Yawn! [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

wide mouth babycat copy

As I’ve mentioned before, BabyCat is not a stealthy kitty. When he jumps off the bed it sounds like someone dropped a cannonball on the wood floor. Mice feel particularly safe in his realm because they can hear him coming from a mouse-mile away.  That, and BabyCat can’t be bothered to actually chase mice. He prefers to yawl while watching them skitter (note: a yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel but I think it is also a near perfect match for the sound BabyCat makes when not-mousing. My apologies to sailors worldwide for my cat-sound-co-opt-yawl-onomatopoeia).

Often, we write these posts from the raft with BabyCat snoozing at Kerri’s side and DogDog chewing his bone at the aft of the raft. When the posts are written, prior to posting, we read them aloud to each other. Inevitably, in mid-read, BabyCat yawns a mighty yawn. Commentary? Oxygenation? Both, most likely. He is not a fan of having his post-breakfast snooze interrupted by our blather.

After his mighty yawn he yowls at us (we are not mice so the vowel is different), and hops off the raft (cannonball drop) and thump-thumps off to find a quieter spot, a place to take his pre-lunch nap.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIDE MOUTHED BABYCAT

 

babycatContemplating website copy

Expand Your Bubble [on Merely A Thought Monday]

alex honnold quote box copy

Everyone has their insurmountable mountain to climb. Everyone has their fear to face. Everyone bumps against the edges of their comfort zone. Everyone.

And, the beauty of this life is that the insurmountable mountain is different for everyone. What seems easy to you might be impossibly scary to me. You show me it is possible. I show you it can be done. We inspire another look at what’s possible.

In the film, FREE SOLO, Alex Honnold says that, for him, fear is not something to be conquered. Comfort is something to be expanded. And, comfort is expanded through exploration and practice. Through experiences and reaching. Testing and discovery. Trying again and again until what once looked like a monster becomes known. It’s remarkably practical. It is what education is supposed to be.

How we ask the question determines the paths we see or don’t see. It’s all in the language we use. “Facing a fear” is oh, so, warrior-esque. We are inundated with “going to battle” metaphors. Defeating a part of myself in a battle against myself seems…contrary to the bigger picture. Win by losing. Division as the only available route? Armor, armor everywhere.

There is wisdom in putting down the swordplay. There is hope in choosing cooperation instead of conflict. Instead of picking a fight, instead of perpetuating the power of the fear, how much better might it be to turn and look. Really look. Study. To reach and test. To take a step. To try and fall down so that you might try again with a little bit more experience. Study. Open to possibilities.

It’s a pattern. Focusing on the obstacle, fighting the fear, is learned. It’s a great strategy for keeping yourself afraid and encased in armor. Other patterns are available and far more productive. It’s possible to climb like Alex: study your mountain, learn the terrain, practice the difficult moves over and over, internalize safety, and one day, when you are ready, when you have a relationship with something other than fear, climb your once insurmountable mountain.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on COMFORT ZONES

 

 

million dollar highway, colorado websitebox copy

Run In Circles [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It may not be immediately apparent, but this is a video of a solution. It is a celebration of non-resistance in the face of a force of nature. DogDog (also known as Tripper, also known as Dogga, also known as Don’tDoThat!) is a backyard killer. In his enthusiasm for life he runs circles -or – more accurately, he plows circles. No plant is sacred, no patch of grass is safe. For a few seasons we tried multiple strategies to achieve some semblance of backyard order only have Don’tDoThat! plow a new circle.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copyOne morning, watching the madness, Kerri sipped her coffee and said, “Why fight it?” She went in to the house and ordered a round-a-bout sign, careful to get one for left lane drivers so it would indicate the correct direction of his travels. DogDog is, after all, an Aussie. We planted his sign in the center of the velodrome, added a bit of wild grass around the sign and VA-WA-LA! Order (or, at least, the semblance)

On Two Artists Tuesday, a DogDog inspired reminder to lay down the fight; sometimes you can define the desire lines and sometimes you have to let them define you.

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Round-A-Bout

www.kerrianddavid.com

dogdog round-a-bout ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

See The Sacred

First Anniversary Sunrise

First Anniversary Sunrise

“…it seems to me absurd to consider problems about other beings while I am still in ignorance about my own nature. Phaedrus by Plato

I’m sitting alone in a sanctuary and thinking about sacred spaces. Here’s the thing I’ve come to understand about sacred spaces: slower motion is required to experience the power of the place. People in a hurry to get somewhere have little or no access to the sacred. Race through a meadow and you will miss it. Sacred spaces do not lose their power; people lose their access to the power of the space.

Once, many years ago in Bali, I made it a practice to walk the same pace as my Balinese hosts. To me, they moved at an impossibly slow pace. As an American, patterned to be forever in a hurry, I walk quickly “to get” somewhere else. There must always be a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. The Balinese were not patterned for transit but for presence. Over time, as I picked up their rhythm of movement I also picked up their pattern: it is possible to walk in presence. It is possible to be where you are with no imperative to get somewhere else – even while walking. It is possible to be in your life instead of racing through it.

A most amazing thing happens when “being here” becomes primary to “getting there”: everything becomes sacred space. Slow down enough and it is possible that you will recognize yourself as a sacred space.

After returning home from Bali I was able to sustain my capacity to move slowly for only a few months. It is easy to move slowly and be present when the culture you are in is patterned for presence. It is an entirely different challenge to move slowly and be present in a fast moving river. In the months after returning home I was either trampled or the cause of others (trying to navigate my slow movement) being trampled. We are not nearly as separate as we think we are. As I resumed my American pace I also dropped my capacity for presence and lost my lens on the sacred.

A recent surgery has necessitated slower moving. I have, in these past few weeks, found myself walking once again like a Balinese. I’ve stepped out of the fast moving river. Yesterday, standing on the back deck, I watched Dog-Dog delight in chasing squirrels. I listened to Kerri talk on the phone with a friend. I felt the sun on my face. There was no other place on earth I would rather be. There was nothing necessary to achieve.

Study Your Practice

During his recent visit, Skip wanted to see my latest paintings so we went down to the studio. He is a great studier of people and processes and while flipping through my work he asked if I’d ever taken process shots or filmed my process of painting. Occasionally I take photographs of a painting in process – not to record the stages of development but so I can see what’s there. I’ve learned that a photograph can sometimes help me see what I’ve grown blind to seeing. I agreed to take and share some process shots. Yesterday, I started a new piece and here is the day’s progress:

#1

#1

 

#2

#2

This is the next in my “Yoga series” of paintings. A “yoga” is a practice and I started this series because I was curious about my practices: I was meditating on this question:what is the difference between what I actually do and what I think I do? For most of us the gap is vast between those two points. This series is my ongoing meditation/inquiry into the gap.

#3

#3

A study of your practices will surprise you. What you do and think each day is a practice – it is your yoga; your actions and thoughts constitute the rituals of your life. So, for instance, when I was younger (lots younger) I believed my paintings were “not good enough.” Each day I’d approach the easel and practice “not good enough.” It’s amazing the transformation that becomes possible when you simply change your practice. Practice dropping the judge from your menu. Why not?

Last night I had a conversation with someone who asked, “Why don’t people care?” I suggested that people do care but you have to practice seeing it. It’s all around us if we refocus our eyes. And, in cultivating the practice of seeing the acts of kindness and caring, we become kind and caring (because that is the object of our focus).

photo-5

#4

My yoga series has brought me to this (so far): The world does not need changing; we need, as Doug used to say, to close the gap between what we think we do and what we actually practice doing.