Step Off [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A tree is not made of wood, it is wood.” ~ Alan Watts, The Watercourse Way

Language is powerful. It’s a drum I have beat for a long time, the notion that we insist that the narratives we wrap around ourselves are somehow “reality.” We are told that 50% of Russians believe the hell wrought on the Ukraine is merely propaganda. A made-up story. Not true. It is the narrative they are fed and, in order to eat it, they must ignore any evidence to the contrary. Their economy crumbles. The ruble falls. How could they not see it? Don’t laugh. 40% of USAmericans still believe the last presidential election was stolen, a plausible story only if wearing blinders with fingers placed firmly in ears. Burying your head in the sand is not a Russian or American trait, it’s uniquely human. We see what we believe, not the other way around. Our language makes it so.

Years ago I read that the word “wild” could only come from a people who believe all things must be tamed. Wild makes no sense without the concept of tame. Wild, bad. Tamed, good. So, a people afraid of their own “nature” must become tamers. A people who think “nature” not only can be but must be managed. To be “above” it all, in charge and atop the pyramid, giver of names. It is the necessary narrative for such tamers of the wild, those who story their very nature as corrupt. Tamed, good. Above it all. Separate. Is it any wonder the intrinsically conflicted human world rarely embraces peace? Our narrative leads us to believe, amidst so much inner and, therefore, outer conflict, peace is something to be created because we are naturally conflicted. What else?

Where, exactly, does wild end and tame begin? Where’s the line that delineates nature from civilization? What if nature is neither good nor bad? What if your nature was neither good nor bad? Perhaps self-love would be within reach and, as a natural extension, the love of others, too. It’s an alternative narrative though not possible in a belief-story that fears the wild. Wholeness begins with a step off the pedestal.

It’s in the language. Somehow separate from the world in which we live, not “in” nature or “of” nature , we are deluded to believe we are made of different stuff. Above it. Divinely manufactured. Made.

Manufactured. Made. Trees made of wood.

And, just what are we made of? I guess it depends on the story we decide to tell. Wild stuff.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TREES

Seed The Pocket [on Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve appreciated this sunflower for many years and until a month ago it never made me think of Ukraine. Now, that’s all I see. Thus, the power of a symbol. Sunflower seeds placed into the pockets of Russian soldiers by brave Ukrainian elders. “So, some good may come from your death.”

Walking through the antique mall, Brad spotted an ugly homemade sculpture. Golf balls with multiple screws protruding, spray painted and supported by wire rods. “Look, the coronavirus!” he exclaimed. Three years ago spheres with spiky knobs would have made me wrinkle my brow but never associate the shape with a virus. Now?

And masks? Will we ever see a surgical mask without feeling the divide in our nation? A confederate flag paraded through the Capitol? Members of the Capitol Police beaten with the stars and stripes; symbols matter.

Every year more and more our written communication is reimagined with emojis. Visual symbols. The new Ideogram. A thumbs up. A heart. Laughing face. Saying more with less or at the very least opening up our communication to broader interpretation. I find that I’m symbolically rolling my eyes more and more. Exclamation point. HAHA! Know what I mean? Winky face.

Leonard Shlain wrote some remarkable books about how our brains are wired by how we communicate; he posits that linear language, the introduction of writing drove us into our left brains and away from our holistic right. Perhaps in our movement back toward the ideogram we are rebalancing? A course correction or returning to center? It takes more than a few years for brains to rewire. Our descendants will, no doubt, either write books about it or communicate their thoughts through a combo platter of alphabet and pictograph.

Either way, we can only hope they grasp the meaning of the peace symbol. Or, at the very least, learn how to give it more preference than the dollar sign. Or, better yet, figure out how to make peace profitable. Can you imagine? Certainly there will be a symbol for that.

Until then, sunflowers in the killing fields. Sad face. Broken heart.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SUNFLOWER

Ready The Wings [on KS Friday]

“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow/Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow” ~ Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

An appreciation of life, no matter what comes. It is the meaning of this lyric, this song – or so I’ve read. It seems obvious. I’m having many, many conversations about loss these days. This has been an era of loss and, so the cliche’ goes, with loss new opportunity arrives. It’s true though one must move through the loss in order to arrive at the new. On the way, there is weeping and fear and anger and disorientation. Chrysalis. The trick, we are told, is about focus placement. One day we shift our eyes and see what we have instead of what we no longer possess. We move toward rather than look back.

Kerri has, for years, surrounded herself with symbols of peace. They are on our walls, on rings that she wears, on chains draped on the corner of our bathroom mirror. She draws them in the sand on the trail. A prayer for the world she desires to create. Inside and out. Since she fell, my solo-piano-playing wife has lost more than mobility in her wrists. Strange stuff is happening. Fingers that sometimes refuse to respond. Pain that shoots, seemingly from nowhere. After a photograph – a wish for the world, a peace sign in shadow – she said, “Come look at this. Look how much my finger is bending!” Strange stuff.

What is most remarkable about this shadow is, a year ago, it would have been cause for frustration. A reminder of loss. Full of fear. Today, it was a curiosity. She looks back, she looks forward. Each day she writes lyrics and poetry and wisdoms. She hums the music running through her mind and heart and, sometimes, she dances. Standing at the crossroads of what was and what is to become. Peace replaces pain. All in good time. Good time. Wings readying to unfurl.

[peace. this is one of my favorite pieces of Kerri’s]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about PEACE

peace/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Sit On The Fence [on KS Friday]

We have a small compost pile behind the garage that we call The Golden Corral. The squirrels line up like seniors at the buffet and scurry away with the good bits before they turn into soil.

When John texted a photo of the opossum on the fence, we ran outside to take a look. He – we named him Peter – was in no hurry to run away and hide. He was perfectly content to sit on the fence and gladly participated in our photo shoot. I suspect the word is out about The Golden Corral.

Our neighborhood has always been a lively haven for critters. Red fox and raccoons, skunks and rabbits, squirrels and hawks and chipmunks. In the summer months we sit out back and watch the animal escapades. We feel honored when the owl appears. We laugh when the turkey lands on our roof. The crows alert us to the comings-and-goings of predators.

Peter is a new addition. We’ve seen him or his kin down the street at Pam’s place. She scatters birdseed at the base of her tree and the furry nocturnal fraternity gathers there after the bars shut down. They stare us down when we come home late at night, their eyes red in our headlights.

Possums symbolize peaceful transitions, conflict avoidance, and cooperative effort. “We could use more of that in the world,” Kerri said. They also represent the development of insight and uncovering hidden truths. After the events of the past few years, surfacing a few hidden truths would be welcome. I could use an insight or two.

Peter posed. He definitely wanted us to photograph his good side. “He’s really beautiful,” Kerri said, snapping pictures.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about PETER POSSUM

nurture me/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Eat And Evolve [on Merely A Thought Monday]

DogDog actually sat still long enough to don antlers and have his picture taken. This is progress. Our Aussie pup rarely sits still and is known for his committed resistance to headwear. He is, however, responsive to the promise of treats and the real story of his antler success is Kerri’s ability to juggle the antlers, the camera and the waving of a treat – all in one balletic gesture. I suspect we are not so different from DogDog: all evolution is probably snack driven.

More than once we’ve made the 45 minute drive to Lake Geneva to buy a single piece of flourless chocolate cake. In pre-Covid times we’d stay awhile and visit the shops or walk part of the path around the lake (it’s a 21 mile loop), but lately, we grab our cake and go. I also want to confess that, in our recent drive to Denver, we went through Lake Geneva and, not only did we buy a piece of cake but also an entire loaf of freshly baked Turkey Red Rustic bread. And a brownie. It was all gone before Kansas. I am certain that decadent cake and warm bread are signs of incremental evolution. We are slightly better people for having indulged our food fantasies. We are slightly bigger, too.

It’s the holidays. I know this because my dog is wearing antlers. I also know it because people are making plans to gather and have meals together. There will be singing and gifts and other events but mostly there will be food. Cookies. Pies. Hams. Yams. Kerri asked Jen for a recipe in our evening Zoom happy hour. Yesterday, the grocery store was packed with enthusiastic shoppers carrying lengthy lists, racing through the aisles, all to hunt and gather the ingredients necessary for evolution to continue.

Sworn enemies find a path to peace when breaking bread together. A community knows it is prosperous when none of its members want for food. The same will be true of the world. Peace and enough to eat are bedfellows. We have a ways to go in our evolution.

When this world really wants to break bread, might I recommend Simple Bakery in Lake Geneva. The Turkey Red Rustic has always brought us great peace and I’m certain the same will be true for the bevy of committed enemies the world round. In the meantime, it’s my turn with the antlers. Kerri has promised me a treat and a sip of Bailey’s Irish Creme if I am good boy and sit still. Let’s just say that DogDog and I share the same sitting-still-for-headwear gene. I love evolution though I fear the photo. I suppose there’s always a price to be paid.

read Kerri’s blog post about EVOLUTION

Place It In The Hollow [on DR Thursday]

For some reason, people need to leave a trace of their passage. We paint on the walls of caves. We erect monuments to ourselves and our heroes. We build cairns to mark the way for those who come behind; we build cairns so others will add stones to the marker. We put plaques on benches and engraved bricks in walkways. We graffiti bridges and walls. Banksy has made a fortune tracing his masked passage.

Growing tired as we hiked up the trail, we sat on an old log. We looked over the valley, turned our faces to the sun. And, as we stood to continue up the trail, Kerri pulled a sharpie from her bag. We left two small dots on the log. “We were here.”

Our work in the world not only can be a marker, it is a marker. Every little action is a stone on the cairn: we contribute to the whole whether we like it or not. The person who delivers packages to my door makes my life better. Easier. The score of people who created this computer, invented this software, manufactured the chip that makes it all work, have made my life better. Someone coming behind us will see the cairn we’ve constructed and add to it. Improve upon it. The first computer I touched was a toy compared to this miracle sitting on my lap.

I’m an artist and sometimes wonder if my paintings will live beyond me or will they end up in the Goodwill as so much used canvas. I hear the advice, so often offered to me: “Yours is to paint them, not decide what happens to them.” Too true. Mine is to make the offer. I have no control over the acceptance.

Returning down the trail, Kerri peered into the hollow of a stump. It was filled with stones! Hikers, just like us, had left a note that also served as an ancient invitation: I was here. We picked up stones, the sharpie came out of the bag, scribbled a heart and a peace sign on our rocks before placing them in the hollow. “Do you think anyone will see our stones?” Kerri asked.

An ancient question. Deeply human. Heart and Peace.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE HOLLOW

three graces © 2012 david robinson

Exhale [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I was younger I had a dream. I was walking through an aspen forest in autumn. I was not trying to get anywhere. I was not lost nor did I need to know where I was – other than wandering through the forest. The dream was visceral. Real to me. And, I’ve never felt more peaceful or present or quiet.

Because of my dream I equate aspen forests with peace. If I am off balance and need to regain center, I think of aspen forests.

The leaves make a specific sound. It is completely accurate to say they “quake.” Quaking also describes how they move when the breeze catches the leaves on the branches. If the light is right, they shimmer as well as quake. They can be electric in yellow, pale green and orange. Their quaking and shimmering serves as a mind-cleanser. And, not just for me. I dare anyone with a troubled mind to hold onto their troubles when in the presence of an autumn aspen grove.

Before leaving Colorado, we drove into the mountains. People were flocking to see the leaves. We found our destination off the beaten path: the lake, surrounded by stands of brilliant quaking aspen. We thought we’d spend a few minutes there but hours passed before we realized it. That’s the thing about peace, it does not dance with time. We walked. We took pictures. We sat in the resounding, shimmering quiet. And, for the first time in days, we exhaled.

read Kerri’s blog post about ASPEN FORESTS

Light A Candle [on DR Thursday]

A Double Haiku

Candle on a rock,

His favorite fishing hole.

Observance, our own.

Electric aspen,

Trout slide through glassy water.

Quiet, like his voice.

read Kerri’s blog post about OBSERVANCE

www.davidrobinsoncreative.com

Attend To The Quiet [on KS Friday]

My studio is a place of quiet. Inside and out. It is the place where I go – where I’ve always gone, when I need to recenter myself of exit the crazy-brain. Lately, my studio has been blown to bits. Water has been a near constant invader, either from the ceiling when the pipe broke in the spring or from the floor when roots clogged the sewer main. Twice. It seems as if water wants me to take a break from painting. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Each time the water rises, the paintings rise, too. We scramble to move everything up the stairs. Mostly, they are stored on blocks so live protected above the rising tide – but pulling up carpet or clearing space for the plumbers has meant a perpetual studio deconstruction. Kerri stubbed her toe – okay, broke her toe – on one of the bigger paintings that now populate our sitting room. It’s a maze of paintings out there. Yet, she is wise. She’s insisting that we leave the paintings where they are, scattered here and there. At least for now. At least until we can clear out and rethink our space.

Kerri is much more sound sensitive than I am. I am much more spatially sensitive than she is. The sign on our deck, “Shh” addresses her need for sound-quiet. It’s all about space-quiet for me. Space-quiet means open space. It’s been that way all of my life: if there’s too much stuff, I shut down.

The water, as it turns out, is trying to tell me something. Lately, when I go down into the blasted-apart-and-now-empty-studio-space, I can breathe. I feel it every time I descend the stairs. I breathe. My space had become too impacted. Too many paintings, too many tables, too little space. “Shh.”

I’ve often written about the time, after I moved to Seattle, that I burned most of my paintings. I needed space. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was tired of hauling and storing paintings. I didn’t know what else to do. I needed air and fire brought it to me.

And, so, the water pours from the ceiling. It bubbles up through the floors. Again. What feels like a catastrophe comes with a cautionary message. No fire is needed this time. To attend to the space is to attend to the quiet. Stop. “Shh.” Breathe.

SILENT DAYS on Kerri’s album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about SHH.

silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Look At The Display [on Flawed Wednesday]

Del and Dorothy’s house sat on the side of a mountain. It was small. The kitchen table accommodated two and was placed close – very close – to the front door. Dorothy cooked on a wood burning stove. The house listed to the downhill side. It had a small yard that seemed carved out of the mountain. Del’s WW II jeep sat close to the edge. Dorothy populated the yard with blue glass and hummingbird feeders. It was a quiet home. A peaceful place.

Artifacts of a time gone by. Del fought in the second world war. He kept a corner display cabinet with things he’d brought home from the war. A Luger. Nazi insignia. A flag. Patches and medals. Booty from the enemy. It seemed out of place, especially in a home dedicated to simplicity and peace. The display was a curiosity for me. Why enshrine in your home objects from an enemy-of-the-past? I wanted to ask Del about it but he was not a talker. In fact, while, 50 years later, I would recognize Dorothy’s voice if I heard it today, I have no recall of the sound of Del’s voice. I can’t remember him uttering a word. I never broached the subject of the artifacts.

Each day we receive an alert on our phone. Exposure Notification Available. Recently, when Kerri officiated a wedding, we both took two Covid tests to make certain, while also vaccinated, that we were negative. Dangling from a clip on the side of our refrigerator are masks. Many, many masks. We put in our special box the flag they gave us on the day we were vaccinated. Wave the flag if you have a question or need help. The artifacts in a time of pandemic, now so normal that we barely see them.

This weekend, with all of the observances of 9/11, I watched a tour of the 9/11 museum. A crushed firetruck. A shoe. Xerox pages with faces and the word, “Missing.” Del whispered into my ear, “Pay attention. This is why I kept my display.” The tour guide said, “So we never forget.” The Luger. The Nazi flag and insignia. The medals and ribbons. The reason Del and Dorothy retreated to the mountainside, the reason they simplified and built a life of quiet and peace, the reason he kept his glass-cabinet-display. So they wouldn’t forget. The horrors that people enact upon each other in the name of…righteousness, control. Superiority. The madness people embrace when they are angry or scared. The lies so easily told and so hungrily gobbled.

People are capable of great things. We know because those things are meant to draw us together. They unite us. Great art.

People are capable of appalling acts. We know because those actions are born of and meant to divide. They rend us apart.

Del lived through the full savagery of what people are capable of doing, one to another. He came home and with Dorothy lived an intentional life of quiet, on the mountain, out of the main. I’ve noted of late that Kerri and I talk often, dream, of a mountain retreat. We are witness of what people are capable of doing, one to another. We are also witness of and generators of the beauty meant to draw people together. Her music. My paintings. The things people are capable of doing, one for another. We are surrounded by artists and art. Both/and.

History repeats itself. The story is told – again and again – through the art and artifacts we display, the symbols we keep. The memories we carry forward. Guernica. Empty shoes. A simple mask.

read Kerri’s blog post about ARTIFACTS