Define ALL [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Kerri named this photo “peace shadow.” It brought to my mind a project begun by a group of artists in 2009, The Peace Shadow Project. They make and collect shadows all over the world. When the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the force of light released by the bombs burned shadows of people into the walls. As a way to enter a conversation about nuclear weapons and advocate for a nuclear weapons free world, the artists “burned” shadows of survivors – with strong light on photo paper – and displayed them all over the cities. Then, they asked people all over the world to send their shadows.

It’s what I love about artists. They (we) believe that art can transform consciousness. And so, a shadow might make us think of what we do, why we do it, how we do it. Pipe-dreamers all!

It made me ponder what art project I might offer these once-united-states. What might make us think? What could transform our consciousness so that we might occupy a single story, join together in a bigger identity?

I believe that all the many forces at play that ail us can be boiled down into a single word. ALL. We wrote this word in our documents of inception. “All men are created equal.” We have, since the beginning, wrestled with this word, ALL. Who does it include? Who does it exclude? BLM is the latest challenge to the word ALL.

The men that wrote the word ALL into our documents of inception meant white-land-holding-males. They believed that they were chosen, that their destiny was manifest, granted by god. By definition, when you believe yourself to be chosen, the word ALL becomes complex at best. It only applies with caveats.

Does ALL apply equally to women? What about black Americans? LGBTQ people? What about new immigrants? What about people who worship Allah? Or Shiva?

My art project would be the ALL project. I’m not sure what shadow might be burned or face might be photographed – what might be the art of the ALL project. I know that it would be intended to transform consciousness – to confront the forces of ugly exclusion. It would be meant to open doors not only of acceptance, but of belonging.

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE SHADOW

Bring It [on DR Thursday]

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This painting, or snippets of this painting, has found its way into more Melange posts than any other. An Instrument of Peace. It’s a big canvas. It’s an even bigger meditation.

The words are a mish-mash of the Prayer of St. Francis which was not at all written by St. Francis. Its author is anonymous. The Franciscan Order notes that the prayer is too “me” focused to be something that Francis would have written. Let me bring love. Let me bring pardon. Let me bring union, truth, faith, hope, light, joy. Let me be an instrument of your peace. Let me bring.

It’s a prayer of intention. Let me not be reactive.

It’s an appeal that speaks directly to our current climate. Let me respond to fiery times and dedicated division from my better nature. Where there is discord, let me bring union.

Ideals and idealists are often written off as being so much pie-in-the-sky. Idealists, like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, understood that union is not an elimination of differing points of view. It is not utopian or singular. It is wildly diverse and collaborative. Compromise is a meeting ground of unlike minds in service to a common cause.

More than once I have walked into a room populated with dedicated diametrically opposed points of view. Wood cutters and tree huggers.  There is always common ground to be found. Trees are a vulnerable livelihood. Trees as vulnerable heritage.  The conversation begins in vulnerability. More than once I left a room populated with people who found a place to begin, a shared middle ground. The most amazing moment happens when everyone in the room realizes that the middle ground was always present, it was there all along. It becomes crystal clear in shared vulnerability.

It’s possible, regardless of dedicated belief, to bring the middle ground. Yes, bring it. Too often we shout across it so it remains invisible. Too often we plant our flags and defend our territory and justify our position before we check a fact; we listen through a lens of righteousness. Bringing middle ground requires nothing more than a desire to leave behind our dedicated reactivity, our stalwart indignation, and enter the conversation with an intention. Let me bring union. Let me be an instrument of peace. Peace is, after all, nothing more or nothing less than an intention.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE

 

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instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson

Compose Your Differences [on Flawed Wednesday]

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A quick glance at recorded human history and it’s not a stretch to suggest that we’ve done everything BUT give peace a chance. Peace, I imagine, is buried beneath the stacks of untouched gun control legislation towering on Mitch McConnell’s desk.

The centerfold of the June, 2020 National Geographic Magazine is a color-coded chart of the roots of violence across time with corresponding estimates of lives lost. Religious conflicts, wars of conquest, colonial exploitation and revolt, despots, dynastic disputes, wars of dominance, and internal clashes make up some of the variations of the theme. The two most relevant to our current struggle are internal clash and collapse of state.

In an us-and-them world, resources are worth fighting for. There’s not enough pie to go around apparently so taking other people’s pie is reason enough to kill. Defending pie is also reason to kill. It follows.

In 2011 Steven Pinker published a book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He argues that violence has declined over time and provides a mountain of data and theories to support his contention. He suggests that we are not inherently violent. I find that hopeful.

Of course, the decline in violence can only be seen by stepping far enough away. These days it feels like the necessary step is into outer space. Up close and personal, and according to the narrative-of-the-day, we’re a bloody fighting mess. It’s the story we tell. Startlingly, we are living proof that data, fact, and science can’t hold a candle to conspiracy theory and narcissistic fantasy. Gullibility, thy name is human.

Here’s my two cents: war is profitable and peace is not. Make peace profitable and we’d give it more than a passing chance, we’d insist upon it. That sounds jaded but keep in mind that our lexicon includes the phrase “military-industrial complex.” President Eisenhower warned us against this unholy alliance, the marriage of defense contractors and the armed forces. It would become, he foretold, a threat to our democracy. “We must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

Decent purpose.

The second of my two cents goes like this: we’ve built our castle on a bedrock economy of war. It’s a complex system and systems do not go gentle into that good night, they fight to the death to sustain themselves. Peace will have a chance when we decide to embrace a decent purpose and, ironically, that will probably require a fight.

In the meantime, we’ll see multiple conflicts fueled around the globe, military budgets that dwarf every other line item to fund the fighting. Locally, our leaders will douse us in endless thoughts and prayers as the next elementary school is shot up, we’ll see small differences of opinion settled by guns and not intellect, conversation, or simply agreeing to disagree [on a very sad and revealing note: the people at our local grocery store are timid to reinforce their mask policy for fear of being killed. And so, we see up close and personal the threat to our democracy that Eisenhower cried out to no one listening].

As for me, I do not wish to be covered by anyone with an assault rifle. I do not wish to have one pointed at me either. I do not think citizens in a civilized society need military grade weapons unless they are confined to the shooting range. I think a civilized society should operate on the principles it espouses, principles of civility and, yes, intellect and the most decent of purposes: peace.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE

 

 

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instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 

Create Calm [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This word, calm, is a rare bird among words. It is a triple play of words: an adjective, a noun, and a verb. A descriptor, a thing, and an action.

If I had a superpower, it would be to calm. To create calm. To inspire calm hearts. Soothe, make peaceful, generate calm within and beyond the eye of the hurricane.

Last night we watched The Barkley  Marathons, a documentary about a wacky ultra-marathon trail race in Tennessee. Very few people finish the race. One of the racers, an unlikely finisher, told the story of how he came to be in the field. His dad did what he was supposed to do – he worked and saved all of his life so he might retire and then go have experiences. But – you know the story – he died one year shy of retirement. “I decided not to wait,” the runner said. “I want to suck the marrow from every moment of this life.”

Usually, the center of a delayed life smolders. Henny Penny races around the center-cage of a fearful life. But, you’ll know someone who is fully in their moment, who is sucking the marrow out of this tasty life, when you see them. Their center is calm. They are not predetermining their experiences. They’ve stripped off their “should” and “can’t.” Rather, they step onto the unknown field and open their arms to what comes. They play an infinite game, they play-to-play, and perhaps learn a little bit about themselves along the way.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CALM

 

 

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classic ©️ 2013 david robinson

Tuck In [on KS Friday]

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In all of the English language, you’d have to scour the dictionary to find a word more pleasing than ‘lullaby.’ It’s a magic word capable of making hard faces soften with sweet memories. Footie pajamas. Security blanket. Night light. Teddy Bear.

Lullaby is a warm word-cup brimming with the purest intention: a gentle song sung or played to send a child to sleep.

If I could grant a single wish to the children-of-all-ages populating this big chaotic world in this angry and scary time, it would be to take a time out, slip into soft footie pajamas,  zip-up and tuck into bed with a blankie, and give over to a gentle lullaby, a safe and peaceful sleep.

Actually, my wish would be this: that we awake from our quiet sleep, refreshed, with less hard faces and begin our new day, our next era quietly, with an intention as pure and warm and life-giving as Kerri’s lullaby. Being the blanket of security for each other. [a boy can dream…].

I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER AND EVER) on the album AND GOODNIGHT…A LULLABY ALBUM is available on iTunes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about I WILL HOLD YOU

 

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i will hold you (forever and ever)/and goodnight…a lullaby album ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

Become Whole [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When Barney came to live in our backyard, he’d been long forgotten in the dank dark basement boiler room. His soundboard was shot. He was headed for the junkyard when Kerri intervened and asked if Barney might come live out his days with us. It has been five years since Barney arrived in the junk man’s pick up truck. He has aged beautifully.

The first day in his new home Barney spoke when Kerri played his keys. He let go of his voice one key at a time. Within a week he was silent, no longer what he once was but not yet sure of what he was becoming.

We adorned him with flowers in pots for a few summer seasons. Certainly, he was content to support the flowers – like a crossword puzzle, it was something to do – but it never rose to the level of purpose. We realized he was doing it for us so when the third season arrived we let go our desire to give him meaning. He heaved a sigh at our revelation, and, at last, purpose-free, he enjoyed the sun for no other reason than it felt good. That season, wild geraniums grew around his baseboard and embraced him, the chipmunks used him as their hiding spot. The little critters made him laugh as they stood on his blistering lid and taunted the rowdy dog.

Initially, we tried to slow his inevitable peel, slathering him with marine oil, but his skin wrinkled and bubbled anyway. The white veneer of his keys was the first to go. We realized that Barney was becoming another kind of beautiful. He was, as Rilke wrote, living his way into the answer to all of his questions.

Jen and Brad suggested in our stay-at-home-seclusion that we exchange images of spring. I stepped onto the back deck and recorded the birds singing. And then I saw the wild geraniums were showing up and gathering around Barney. He was absolutely gorgeous in the morning light, sculptural and at peace. I’d just read something Thomas Merton wrote and it perfectly described Barney on this early spring morning: There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BARNEY IN SPRING

 

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Know They Are Watching [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We go to Bristol wood to return to center. It is a place of peace. It somehow breathes serenity into our overactive minds.

Sign of deer are everywhere in the woods. We rarely see them but we know they are there. I imagine they watch us. I imagine they silently encourage us to walk slower, to catch our breath. To listen to tree song. We delight when we walk a path where they recently tread.

Deer are a symbol of gentleness and intuition. Balance and peace. This summer, on the Island, we saw deer everyday. We would retreat from the contentious community back to the littlehouse, pour some wine, and take a walk. A deer would inevitably appear and we’d stop talking. We’d breathe. We’d watch. It would watch us, too. After a few moments it would leap and disappear and, with it, our day’s concerns would also disappear. The deer would shift our conversation, from a lengthy list of disgruntlement to the beauty immediately surrounding us.

I’ve decided that, in our broken-wrists-time-out, our goal should be to make the whole world Bristol Wood. That we shouldn’t retreat to find peace but should invite peace and balance and serenity into the rest of the day, no matter where we happen to be living it.

Things I used to know. Things I once practiced.

Know that they are there, everywhere. Watching. Silently encouraging us to walk slower, the breathe, to focus on the beauty immediately surrounding us and not on the other stuff. It turns out that balance and serenity are practices, not pursuits. They are choices. Peace-of-heart-and-mind do not exist in the woods exclusively. Peace comes to the place where I decide to allow it. To practice it. To make it a priority.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on DEER SIGN

 

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Learn The Single Lesson [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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At the end of each day, with great enthusiasm and mission, Dog-Dog herds us into the living room. Because it is hysterical to see how many different strategies Dogga can pull from his Aussie bag of tricks, it has become a game for us to give him several false starts. We step toward the living room and then return to the kitchen. We say, “Let’s go!” and he races away with fervor while we remain firmly planted. He returns moments later with a wildly wagging tail. He never gets frustrated. He only gets more clever, more lively in his intention. He is eternally hopeful and more excited by the chase than the finish.

It is the single lesson I hope to learn from him. He is an excellent teacher and I am a very slow student.

It is the last day of 2019 and it has been, to put it mildly, an exhausting year. We are making special preparations to launch the good ship 2019 into the annals of time-gone-by. We might wave a polite so-long as it departs but most likely we’ll turn our backs on the passage, and, like Dogga, we’ll run into the next year with hopeful-tails a-wagging.

We know it is an imaginary line, a made-up calendar distinction. We don’t really expect a clean break, a new, fresh start. Or, perhaps we do expect it. Or perhaps, we desire it in the same way Dogga desires us to go to the living room. It’s the game of chase!

Perhaps the coming year will be less exhausting and more fulfilling if I learn the single Dog-Dog lesson: drop all expectation of outcome, all fear of circumstance, all investment in things that exist only in my too-active-imagination, and love my people whether or not they meet me in the living room. Love my people when they send me on a wild goose chase, not once, but many times. Love them because they love me and it’s fun to be alive and, after all, the circles I run will bring me back to them. Or to myself. Why not laugh?

Perhaps in this new year I will at last learn to fully live what I preach and enjoy the chase simply because it is ALL a game of chase, even the parts that look momentarily like completions. Even the parts that look overwhelming. They pass, too.

The mantra many years ago was to cultivate surprise. Expect surprise. The truth is, I don’t know what will happen in ten minutes or two seconds or in ten days. Do you? Why do we pretend that we know? I think it is the key to Dog-Dog’s delight, he doesn’t pretend to know. He lives in the truth of surprise as opposed to the preconception of boredom or fear or fulfillment. He leads with his heart and his heart is bursting with hope (another name for the expectation of surprise). It is why, after his people-sheep have ambled to the couch [what?! A surprise!], he can sleep so soundly, so completely unburdened by resistance to the day gone by or trepidation-stories of tomorrow.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE END OF THE YEAR

 

 

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

 

 

 

Go Tiny And Skip! [on DR Thursday]

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Kerri called them ‘morsels,’ little snippets of my paintings. She’d isolate a spot, crop it, perhaps add some words or simply let the cropped image become a new, stand-alone design. We offered her morsels through society6.com [prints, cards, coffee cups, pillows, etc.]. This morsel is from the corner of a large painting, An Instrument of Peace.

The morsels had a profound impact on how I see my paintings. In many cases, I liked the morsels better than the paintings they came from. The morsels said more with less. They took me by the hand and led me back to the forgotten lands of shape, form, and color in their purity.

The morsels helped me comprehend and then dance back and forth across the crevasse between design and painting. Painting [for me] is a deep dive, personal spelunking. It is a meditation. Design is visual play. It’s skipping in the sunshine, looking for shells on the beach. Carefree [Kerri is the designer in our family so it is especially easy for me. I’m like the supervisor on a road crew; she does all the work and I stand there, pat my belly, look important, and get all the accolades].

Originally, Kerri made this morsel as a wish for peace. It is among her many morsels that celebrate this season, the return of the light. Peace seems in short supply in our divided nation, our angry world. She asked that we use this morsel today so I pulled it from the archive. She knows that art carries great power and can inspire people to see anew, to dance back and forth across their personal crevasses, and lead the way back to forgotten lands of community and shared vision. Shape, form, color. Beauty generated and shared inside as well as out. Reaching rather than rejecting as a first action.

All of this possibility, hope, an enormous wish, carried in one little tiny morsel.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PEACE ON EARTH

 

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for a print or wall art of this image, go here

 

 

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an instrument of piece ©️ 2015 david robinson

morsel: peace on earth ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood