Slow Down And See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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There is a theme emerging in my posts this week. Substance vs. the appearance of substance. The flattening of importance.

During an exceptionally stressful and contentious period this summer, we streamed the entire run of Parenthood. Six seasons of escapism!  “Let’s go to  California,” we’d say, all too ready for a leap out of reality. And then, in a moment of horror, the episodes of Parenthood ran out. Our escape hatch closed with a bang. In desperation we surfed and landed in Schitt’s Creek. It was a series a bit too relevant to our circumstance and we howled when one of the characters, in the face of kindness, said that she’d been raised to see that “kindness is a sign of weakness.”

“That’s our problem,” Kerri said, “we see kindness as a virtue.” She was raised to be kind.

That night we had a long discussion about kindness and its general absence in public discourse.

I’ve been thinking much about our conversation since we found ourselves meditating on kindness in Schitt’s Creek. This is my observation: mean is easy. It is fast. Like all forms of reactivity and thoughtlessness, meanness and contention are elementary.

We are surrounded by friends who are kind.  They are kind because they cultivate kindness, thoughts of others, as essential to their character. That’s why we are attracted to them. We are the recipients of unbearable gifts of kindness through our friends. They break us open. They make us bigger.

Kindness is a virtue. It is also a strength. And, it takes time. Kindness is like poetry. It takes development and some higher order thinking.

Lions eat zebras for food. People hurt people for a lesser reason.

In a world obsessed with speed, it is all too easy to run past substance in pursuit of the superficial. Slowing down, taking some time to see, exposes all manner of beauty.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

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Hold It Lightly [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Roll this description around in your thought-bowl:

“The Spoon River Anthology, a sequence of free verse epitaphs spoken from [the occupants of] the cemetery of the town of Spoon River. When the collection first saw publication in 1915, it caused a great sensation because of its forthrightness about sex, moral decay, and hypocrisy…”

We saw a snippet of Spoon River performed last week at our new artistic home, TPAC. It’s almost impossible to see even a bit of Spoon River and not realize how fragile and temporary is life. It’s a not-so-subtle poetry-reminder that most of what we think is sooooooo important is, in fact, a tilt at windmills. In its forthrightness, its perspective on hypocrisy and moral decay, we found Spoon River to be remarkably contemporary.

Tom told me that he always used Spoon River to teach his beginning actors. “It’s all there,” he said, “All of it!”

He read a piece from the anthology at his great aunt Bunty’s funeral. It takes life to love life. After Tom’s death, Kerri and I performed the same piece in my play THE LOST BOY, a script derived from interviews with Tom. Words that end the first act. Words that described Bunty. Words that Tom adored:

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It’s the best of paradoxes. Kerri and I remind each other everyday that our work, our artistry is not nearly as important as we think it is. We remind each other to hold it all lightly. And in holding it lightly, we open the door to experience it richly. To laugh rather than resist. To know, that we will, one day, populate a plot on the hill, and the only thing that will have mattered is that we paid attention and participated in our moment, that we loved the little bit of life that we had.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUST

 

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Bend It [on DR Thursday]

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The terminology in art reads like so much poetry. Zero point perspective. Chiaroscuro. Foreshortening. Rococo. Image plane. Vanishing point. Oblique projection. Intaglio. It goes on and on, these tasty and magical words.

They should be poetry. They describe fields of possibility. They attempt to codify the making of illusion or the impulse of an explorer. Bending space. Deconstructing and reconstituting. Perceptual distinctions. The visual language of cultural norms.

There has been for centuries a mathematics of art. Optics and relativity, movements in science that have their conjoined artistic twins. Rebellions. The maintenance of form. Rules and rule breakers.

I sat in on a class taught by a master artist. He was a lover of landscape (another yummy word) and taught his students an earth-shattering lesson: reality, like time, cannot be caught. It’s a fools errand to try. Painting is a conversation. It is an infinite game. Bend space. Move the tree. Color is fluid, moving, never fixed.  Be like color. Play. Discover. Transform.

I do not consider myself a landscape painter. And then I remember the master teacher and I remove the word ‘landscape’ from my vernacular. And then, suddenly, there is a universe of movement, color, light, and shapes to bend.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about a LANDSCAPE SKETCH

 

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newborn. deconstruction. reconstitution.

 

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newborn /landscape sketch ©️ 2019 david robinson

 

 

Let It Catch You [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of Earth Interrupted IV: shadow of division

Sometimes you have to stand still to let what you seek catch up to you. Kerri said that to me one day. Her words found their way into me and then became a poem and then the poem found its way into a painting, Earth Interrupted IV.

This week the painting found its way into a morsel for Studio Melange. A wisdom inspired a poem, became a painting, became a morsel called Shadow Of Division. Today, it becomes a post. Which, I am sure, will inspire another poem or a song (anything is possible in our house).

Art begets art. The well of possibilities is bottomless. And, rather than chase the possibilities as was once my strategy, I am learning to stand still. A wisdom, a poem, a painting, a morsel, a post about cycles and all things life giving.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHADOW OF DIVISION

 

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My favorite thing about shadows? They blend divisions. They make cool new and surprising shapes out of seemingly separate things. Transformation is so simple and just a small shadow away.

 

shadow of division/earth interrupted IV ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Find Your Poetry Tree [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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I stood before a school board and found myself defending daydreaming. I’d piloted an experiential learning program in the district and the board wanted to ensure my students would be “nose-to-the-grindstone” every moment of every day.

Learning (a creative process) has nothing to do with grindstones. Constant activity, rote exercises and busy-work-for-the-sake-of-busy-work may give the appearance of learning but that’s about it. People learn when in the pursuit of something real and my students were making movies, writing plays or starting businesses. Staring out of the window, I explained, was not only valuable but necessary. I wasn’t making excuses. I had brain science and learning theory to back me up.

There are very good reasons that most “aha moments” happen in the shower, while driving, or, like my students, staring out a window. Inner-space and quiet are necessary ingredients for insight. A good gaze out the window is, in actuality, an inward look, it’s a mental walkabout, a mind-stroll that allows a noisy brain to take a breath and let the logjam of thoughts to relax and flow.

Quinn used to tell me to cultivate my serendipity. He meant that I should open myself to insight, to make myself available to surprises and possibilities, to the utter magic of “where did that idea come from?” Opening yourself requires a good window or, like Chicken, a special poetry tree. On this Chicken Marsala Monday, get your nose off the grindstone, find your poetry tree, and allow the insights to find you.

POETRY TREE gifts and reminders

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Read Kerri’s blog post about FIND YOUR POETRY TREE

www.kerrianddavid.com

find your poetry tree ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

find your poetry tree designs/products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Taste It Fully

ice circles on the lake

ice circles on the lake

We heard the angry barking of crows before we saw them. They were haranguing an owl. It flew into a tree only a few yards in front of us. For several moments, through the ruckus of the crows, we stared at the owl and it stared at us. Time stopped. Nothing else existed. The owl’s eyes, our breathing, the crow’s chorus.

For our wedding gift, H and Teru sent several collections of poetry, “Manuals on marriage,” they wrote in the note that came with the poems. Kerri and I are savoring the poems, reading one or two aloud to each other every day. They are a source of warmth and inspiration during these cold dark winter months. A poem cannot be rushed or read merely. It must be slowly tasted. It is meant to be entered like a meadow; to be experienced. Try to make sense of a poem and you will miss it. Just like life.

She said, “inner quiet is low maintenance,” and I laughed. Yes it is. The trick is in getting quiet. It is not something that can be found or achieved. It is not a place or a state-of-being. It is what happens when you stop looking for it. Like the hermit says to Parcival when the Grail Castle suddenly reappears, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

For years Sam the poet was afraid of his poems. Like all great art, his poems, his art, revealed the artist, and so he kept them locked up, un-tasted. He came alive and supremely dissatisfied when he finally unleashed his poetry. He let himself want more but also refused to let himself experience more; one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. To taste fully one must be willing to be tasted.

A snippet of a poem (a koan imbedded in a poem), RELAX by Ellen Bass:

The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But, there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

Taste your moment. Taste it fully.

I wrote in my black and red notebook a simple recognition. The field of possibilities cuts both ways: in your despair you must remember that anything is possible. In your joy you must remember that anything is possible. Tiger above (the past), tiger below (imagined future). Do not reject your moment or attempt to hold on to it – both are methods of missing the moment. Taste it regardless of the circumstance. Taste it fully.

 

 

 

Fall Into It

lingering

lingering

Scott said, “In today’s world, if you can’t say it succinctly, you might as well not say it.”

Guitar Jim teases me each Sunday, saying, “Hey, I read the first 80 words of your blog!” I always laugh and he adds, “No, seriously. I didn’t have time to read the rest of it.”

I am like everyone else. I give only 3-to-5 seconds to any website that I visit. If it doesn’t capture me in that vast span of time, I move on to the next and the next and the next….

Click. Click. Click.

We are slaves to brevity.

In The Art of Living, Wilferd Peterson wrote: Travel with curiosity. It is not how far you go, but how deeply you go that mines the gold of experience. Thoreau wrote a big book about a tiny Walden Pond.

Going deeply takes time. My grandfather lived his entire life within a 10-mile patch of earth. He could smell a storm on the wind when all I – a visitor – could see was blue sky.

When I go to a museum, when I need to recharge my artist battery, I find the paintings that demand my attention, the pieces that want a relationship with me. Relationship takes time, too. Like Thoreau, I need to stare into the pond deeply, to spend time with it, to know it beyond mere thinking. Then I can breathe it in, feel the impact that only comes available with an engagement beyond the cursory. When I fall into it, it falls into me.

This is the challenge of our time, the artistic challenge of our time, the expectation that depth can be found by skipping a stone across the surface.

A good poem will not fully open without lingering in it.