Get Some Perspective [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Oh, god…I feel a fit of moralizing coming on….” ~ Words to myself, uttered just a moment ago.

This would seem like a no-duh: perspective requires distance. Said another way: to see the mountain, one cannot be standing atop of the mountain.

Much to Kerri’s dismay, I think out loud about these things. A lot. She has to listen to my ruminating. Marriage requires her to be in the same space with me and I talk endlessly about the things rattling through my mind. Just ask her. Let’s just say she has no distance from my incessant blather so she lacks perspective. Or, her capacity to ignore my noise is the result of experience which provides her solid perspective. Don’t ask me. I am not in the position to offer an opinion.

When you dip your mind into the pool of information technology as I have, it’s nearly impossible to NOT think about the absence of perspective. Actually, if you read or listen to the news-of-the-day or take a swim in the social media cesspool, and are able to step back from it (thereby creating some distance), you’ll find that meaningful perspective has long ago fled the building.

For years I’ve been reading about the pace of change. At some point – and we’ve arrived at that point – the event horizon (that which enables perspective) is no longer in front of us. We sit on top of it. Information comes too fast and without pause. And, often without substance. Without perspective, the context of our lives is as fleeting and changeable as “Breaking News” or the latest posts on social media. Since the algorithms are driven by the most “likes” not the most relevant, the ugliest and loudest noise-makers garner the most attention and dominate the air-time (thank goodness for cute pet posts providing some humor in the onslaught).

Attention-getting is not known for its grounding in solid perspective. Just ask the boy who cried wolf.

As we know, crying wolf works well – for a while. Attention-getting is addictive. Once hooked, people will do or say anything to keep their buzz going. Sitting directly atop the event horizon, the only way to keep the attention is, of course, to scream louder and louder. Escalate the outrage. A news cycle churns as fast as the social media stream. Remember: the algorithms are not based on meaningful substance but on the ability to grab attention. Louder/uglier wins the day.

Without perspective, escalating outrage – the loudest and nastiest train wreck – will always win the attention grab. It’s human nature. We sort to the negative. It’s why we share complaints with anyone who will listen but dribble-out the good news to a select few.

There is an important disappearance that accompanies the loss of perspective: crap-detecting. Awash as we are in a raucous bluster of vapidness, the only hope we have is to take a step back and question. To descend from the event horizon and ask, “Is this or that assertion true?” Or, is it meant to make me mad, fuel my anger? Is it tailor-made for my perspective-less bubble?

Stepping back, gaining perspective, asking relevant questions. Crap-detecting. If a better world is what we desire to create, dedicated crap-detecting is the necessary first step in being-the-change we wish to make.

read Kerri’s blogpost on PERSPECTIVE

Call Attention [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I spent the past two years working with engineers. I was constantly amazed at what they could not see and what I could not see. They were blind to what was apparent to me and I was equally blind to what was obvious to them. It’s what made us a good team. Once, Scott sent a spreadsheet and I stared at it like it was an alien. And it was. Numbers in columns and rows become visual statements for me. I lose the data in the pattern. The information melts into a design on the page. It was beautiful and incomprehensible to me. I had to ask, “What does this mean?”

Yesterday, Kerri and I took a long hike on a trail that we hadn’t walked for a few years. It was a beautiful day. I was overcome with appreciation. I recognized that we do not walk like other people. We stop often to look. Kerri takes photographs of detail. She sees the smallest of miracles and, rather than walk-on-by, she stops. She engages. She calls my attention to it. While she snaps pictures, I close my eyes. I feel the air. I hear the cranes and geese flying overhead. I call her attention to it.

The crystals on the window stopped me in my tracks. Standing in the door of my office, I looked across the hall through a room and to the window. The ice-branches sparkled in the morning light. They were like a magic kelp forest frozen in time. I called to Kerri and she came running, camera in hand.

I cherished the moment, not because it was unusual, but because it is our ordinary. What happens on the trail also happens in our home. We are not in a rush to get “there.” We stop often to look. We call attention to what we see.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS

Stroll [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Yesterday, for some reason, I revisited days of early childhood. I played four-square in the driveway. I threw dirt clods at the site of new home construction. I raced my cars off the side of the abandoned building above Del and Dorothy’s house in the mountains; the cars tumbled and I ran to retrieve them so I might send them flying again and again. I ran home in a panic the day I learned that Nancy’s little sister had drowned in utility hole that was filled with water. It was on the route I walked to school and passing the hole filled me with trepidation, it was a dark portal, my first experience of death. I didn’t really understand it.

Late at night, Kerri and I sometimes talk about everything that has happened in the short time of our relationship. We’ve lost parents and lost careers, spiraled in a free fall of uncertainty, had surgeries and broken bones. We’ve also climbed mountains, watched sunrises and meteor showers, we hold hands when we walk, we write together every day. We dance in the kitchen. I am the sous chef to her cooking artistry.

I’m not sure if we practice paying attention to our moments or it’s something that has come naturally to us. She is rarely without her camera, noticing the smallest flower, capturing the angry sky. I hold the space and hope someday she stops apologizing for stopping again to take a photo; I love watching her discover the shapes and colors of this world. Besides, I get to see what she captures in her lens with an excited, ‘Lookit!”

Today the plumber comes. Yesterday we appealed to the company that destroyed our yard replacing the waterline to come back and strip off the top layer of soil, now filled with hardware and concrete and asphalt. Slowly, we are digging out, repairing and replacing all that was destroyed or delayed in our free fall. Our lessons seem to be about stress – or, rather – not stressing. We are having experiences, rich and varied. Some things we can control. Most, we cannot. The best we can do is hold hands and stand together in each experience. Appreciate them no matter whether they look like tragedy or comedy. We’ll make meaning of them later down the road.

The artist dances with death. The appreciation of the fragility of life. Each day I walk by that metaphoric utility hole, only now it does not fill me with trepidation. It makes me squeeze her hand and fills me with gratitude for this life, this moment, this shadow we cast together as we take our time strolling through the garden.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SHADOW

Watch For Turtles [on DR Thursday]

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” ~ Alan Watts

The ferns have returned. Last week they were sharp tendrils poking through the leaves and earth; little green aliens. A mere seven days later, they are over three feet tall, fern-flags unfurling.

Driving to our trail we saw a turtle crossing the road. Kerri whipped a u-turn and I jumped out of the car, picked it up, expedited its journey, moving it from the pavement to the grass. There’s something special about the turtles. Throughout March and April, while walking on our trail, we’d cross the bridge over the Des Plaines River, and look for the turtles’ return. The turtle in the road was our first sighting of the season. Later, on the bridge over the river, we saw a dozen. “They’re back!” she said and smiled.

Lately we’re given to walking the same trail. We’ve seen it change through several seasons. We followed our loop last week and I swear, this week, it’s an entirely different trail. The trees are flowering. The trillium are showing their purple.

I used to wonder how Emily Dickinson thrived looking at the same garden for years and years. How did she write such beautiful poetry with such a small window to the world? Now I know that her world was enormous and my question was too small.

“Hope is the thing with feathers…”

read Kerri’s blogpost about FERNS

iconic © 2010 david robinson

Know Their Name [on Merely A Thought Monday]

As I let Dogga out each morning, I stand for a few moments and listen to the birdsong. Our particular spot on the earth is alive with birds: starlings, finches, sparrows, robins, hawks, crows, owls… The Mourning Doves always stop my motion. Their song is hypnotic.

The pandemic changed – and continues to change – many things. Our world became significantly smaller. The table in the sunroom. The backyard. Our trails. As someone with his head in the clouds I am a dedicated generalist. I have always appreciated bird song yet never, not once, thought of identifying the specific birds and their song. “Sparrow? Finch? Who cares! They are beautiful and that’s enough for me! I spend too much time in my left brain as it is! The last thing I want to do is categorize the birds!”

COVID changed that. Sitting on the back deck or at the COVID table staring out the window for hours on end, our relationship with the birds grew. From general appreciation to specific experience. From passive appreciation to personal connection. We began to see nuance. Pattern. We wanted – and want to know more about these beings that sing us awake each morning, that alert us to changes in the weather, that signal alarm in the neighborhood.

While visiting the Botanical Gardens, Kerri found a small book, coded by color, that identifies the birds in our region. In a flash we can open the book and identify the bird. “Hey! Look! That’s Paul!” I say.

“Stop!” Kerri scowls. “It’s Martha. Paul’s on the fence.”

Just kidding. House Sparrow. Carolina Wren. My favorite to pronounce is Grackle. Great-tailed Grackle to be exact. I’ve decided that, were I to somehow achieve tough-guy status and ride a Harley to breakfast, my motorcycle-dude name will be Grackle. “Hey, Grackle,” the waiter will say, as I come through the door en route to my usual stool. “Hey,” I respond. Motorcycle-dudes named Grackle are birds of few words.

Deb showed us an app. Merlin. It identifies birds by their song. Now, armed with our book from the Botanical Garden and our Merlin app, when I ask, “What’s that?” Kerri – who is always alarmingly way ahead of me – has the answer. “Eastern Towhee,” she says.

“You’re making that up!” I cry, knowing she can’t stand to be challenged so will immediately jump to prove to me that she is right (it’s my secret fast-track to knowledge).

“Look it up!” she insists, showing me both the book and the Merlin return.

“Wow,” I say. “Towhee. Who knew. Maybe my pen name should be Grackle Towhee!”

She yanks the book from my hands. “Oh, Look!” she exclaims. “Merlin has identified you: Midwest DoDo.”

read Kerri’s blog post about BIRDS!

Look Again [on DR Thursday]

When I first moved by the lake I was astounded by the colors of the water. From deep turquoise to chocolate brown, azure with the sky, and foreboding green, it took my breath away. It changed every day and many times during the day. The lake is a festival of color.

When we stopped the car to take a picture I realized that I’ve stopped looking at the lake. It’s become normalized so I no longer see it. The day was frigid. I rolled down the window and the cold air stung our faces and made my eyes water. And, there it was. This vibrant lake, alive with color. Had the cold air not wrung water from my eyes, the beauty and power of this lake would have. Double tears.

There’s a moment in the Parcival tale that I appreciate. The knight has stripped off his armor and spent years in the woods with a hermit-master, chopping wood, carrying water, forgetting that he ever had a purpose. One day, he turns and sees the Grail Castle standing in the meadow. He’s shocked. He thinks he’s imagining it. The hermit laughs at him and says, “Boy. It’s been there all along.”

That’s how I felt looking at the lake. I rolled down the window and was bowled over by the color that has been here all along.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAKE

may you © 2015 david robinson

Wash And Wonder [on DR Thursday]

I actually like washing dishes. It gives me a sense of completion. Rarely do I finish a day of work with anything that resembles closure or accomplishment. Doing the dishes satisfies my western goal oriented needs. Ask me what I achieved today and I will proudly respond, “The dishes.”

While washing and rinsing the plates and pots I have a terrific view into the back yard. It’s like having a big screen tv into our teeming-with-life sanctuary. The squirrels and Dogga have a game (Dogga does not know that it is a game), the cardinals visit the pond, the rabbits and foxes and the occasional turkey, hawk or owl excite the noisy crows. The chipmunks are masterful ninjas finding ways to access the bird feeders and make off with pouches full of seed.

Sometimes, the window – the actual glass – becomes more interesting than the games unfolding beyond it. During a storm, in the winter cold, crystals form and migrate across its surface. It’s a giant kaleidoscope, especially as the string of lights stretching across the yard pop on. It’s enough to make me pause my dish washing fervor and stare in amazement. Window-wonder satisfies my eastern presence desires. Ask me to what I gave my full attention and I will smile and respond, “The window.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WINDOW

joy © 2014 david robinson

See The Life [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There was a transformation the moment we raised the branch and secured it in the pot. “It looks happy,” Kerri said. I was thinking the exact same thing. This broken branch, muddy and discarded and sad, we brought into the house, trimmed it, lifted it, and positioned it, was instantly revivified. The moment was palpable.

“Are we just making it up” she asked.

“No,” I responded, not certain what, exactly, I was seeing, but this branch was suddenly full of life. It was warm and energetic where, only a few moments before, it was downcast. “I think it likes being here.”

We stood and stared and tried to make sense of what we were seeing. “This would make a good children’s book,” we said at the same moment. Happy, happy, happy.

We added a few simple lights, a single ornament, but mostly we let it be. Its happiness is decoration enough.

We visit our tree during the day. Its exuberance is infectious. Before retiring each night, we turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree. We sit with it and drink in the warm feeling it radiates.

“That tree is like good sculpture,” 20 said, admiring it. “It reaches,” he added. Good energy.

We remain amazed. We’ve not yet grown used to the sudden metamorphosis. I hope we never do. It’s become more than a symbol for the season. It’s a possibility. A promise. A reminder.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TREE

Unfold [on KS Friday]

September. The air was cool last night. We put on longer sleeves, sat on the deck and listened to the sounds of the summer night. Cicadas. The waves crashing into the shore. The bubbling of the fountain. Distant voices of others enjoying the evening. Dogga sighed and stretched, closing his eyes.

Stephen’s memorial, a gathering of friends and relations. At the same moment, across the country, a baby was born, a new little brother. On the same day, Kim completed another circle around the sun. I missed wishing her happy birthday. Celebrations of life wearing its many faces.

The chipmunks have discovered Kerri’s tomatoes. They are considerate thieves and take only one tomato at a time. Lately, a salmon-colored cardinal sits on the cage and pecks the leaves of the plants. The basil did well until the relentless heat and humidity, the torrential rains. It is ready to retire, old before its time. The crows swarm the hawk. The squirrels have shifted into overdrive, preparations for the coming season.

We stopped on our walk. Kerri approached the tree and snapped a photo of a bright crimson leaf, harbinger of fall. “So much has happened this summer,” she said. “I can’t believe it is already September.”

Textures. Colors. Sounds. Passages. Paying attention. It has us asking that age-old question, “What really matters?’

David sent a photograph. Dawson squeezed a whole tube of blue paint onto a canvas and, with a new cool art-tool, spread the rich thick paint, carving it into creation. An artist dad in play with his artist son.

That age-old question is so easy to answer, wearing longer sleeves, sitting on the deck on a cool summer evening. You can see it from “the plateau,” as George Leonard used to call it. Be in your moment, and you will see that the little things are really the big things. On the plateau, everything unfolds simply and with clarity. Friends gather. A baby is born. Blue paint squeezed onto a canvas.

UNFOLDING on kerri’s album AS IT IS

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

read Kerri’s blog post on TEXTURES

unfolding/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Really Look [on KS Friday]

20 watches the house, the dog and our very large cat when we are away. To keep us in touch with what’s going on at home, he sends us mystery photos: common things around our house made mysterious through an extreme close up or unusual angle. Our job is to solve the photo-riddle. I love the game because, no matter where we are, it instantly makes me look at the world in a different way. Or, better said, it makes me look. Really look.

I also appreciate the game because, upon returning home, I run around the house looking at the objects he transformed into enigmas. All that I have grown dull to seeing re-emerges as rich in color and shape and texture and story.

Kerri has the visual sensibility of a contemporary artist. She went down a path of music but might just as well aimed her artistry at the visual. Hers is a natural sense of design. Her camera might as well be an accessory or visual-opportunity-attachment since she moves through the day capturing photographs of passing detail. I’ve known her to be paying bills and jump up suddenly to catch the light on the wall or the texture of the door. Her eye is never passive. She and 20 are alike in that. They are visual twins with unique sensibilities and both serve to keep my eyes open and looking-beyond-what-I-think.

Yesterday, in mid-sentence, she stopped and said, “Oh! I want to show you something!” turned and ran down the hall. When I started to follow she said over her shoulder, “You can’t look! Stay there!” A minute later she returned, sheepish, and showed me the photo she’d just taken. “Do you know what this is?” she beamed. Too excited to wait for my answer she announced, “It’s the laundry chute! Isn’t it cool!” She walked away studying her photograph, muttering, “It’s so coooool.” I ran to the laundry chute to have a look. To really look as if for the very first time.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE CHUTE

find Kerri’s albums on iTunes