Face The Sun [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Brilliant yellow leaves are raining down in our backyard. The pond is disappearing beneath the blanket and although the little fountain has been knocked off center, it refuses to relinquish its duty. November. The temperatures are dropping like a stone.

We were awake deep into the night. We’d given up on sleep. We’d already indulged in a snack and were about to watch a PCT hiking video when we heard the owl. Our neighbor, John, told us it was back but we hadn’t yet heard it. At first, we thought we imagined the quiet who-whoo. Kerri opened the window. Cold air and clear hoots poured in. An old friend returned. We wanted to jump up and dance and clap but refrained. Sometimes quiet revelry is best.

We came around the bend in the trail we’ve come to know so well. The shady parts were cold and the sunny bits felt divine. Warmth to the bone, the kind you drink in through your face and the palms of your hands. Emerging from a shady bend we turned toward the sun when the dandelion caught us off guard. Seasonal confusion? Or, perhaps, dandy-outlier? How on earth was this splash of summer-yellow shining in the late autumn chill?

Kerri knelt to capture the intrepid weed. I thought about her Fistful of Dandelions, a song to warm a mother’s heart. This rebellious single flower was, like me, turning its full face to the sun. A kindred spirit. A weed to warm my hiker’s heart. A spirit-lift in a time of too much darkness.

I’m given to metaphor so decided this hopeful weed with deep, deep roots, was, like the owl, sending me a message. An old friend returned. Offering encouragement. Chin up. Face to the sun. Anything is possible. Optimism need not flee with the onset of cold.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the DANDELION

Lose The Plan [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Plans are maps of territories that do not yet exist.

Working in a software start-up, Skip has taught me a new phrase: infinite regress. The next step is determined by the last step and there is both no end to the steps and no way of knowing a destination because there are so many possibilities. Every step is a plot twist. The Plan would go wrong on a daily basis – an hourly basis – if the expectation to follow it was rigid.

In infinite regress there is no arrival. There are decisions. There are choices. The plan is to take another step.

Taking another step is a good plan! Live another day.

Think of the stress reduction if plans were held lightly, in cupped hands. It’s great to have a destination in mind. It’s not so good to step over the treasure-of-the-moment en route to some imagined gain. Some idea of control or fortress-safety.

Today, as an exercise in reality, every step I take I intend to yell, “Plot Twist!” Kerri will quickly put an end to my yelling, so I’ll transform my exercise into a mental experience. I’ll keep it to myself. That’s the plan, anyway. A mental experience. Hey! It’s an infinite regress.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PLOT TWIST.

Savor The Impossible [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Kerri and I have an ongoing conversation about design. Not graphic design or interior design. Life design. Is there a design, a predetermined path? A destiny? Our verdict lives on a pendulum. Sometimes it seems apparent: there is. Somedays it seems obvious: there isn’t. Both/And.

When we look back at our lives it seems impossible that we met. So many factors – millions, in fact – had to align at just the right moment for the arc of our paths to cross. Change a single aspect, one decision, just one, and our trajectory through space and time would have been wildly different. We would have tumbled through life never having known each other.

It’s hard to recognize in our most ordinary days that the same principle applies. Always. Each moment of every day we are making choices, tiny micro-choices, that bend the course of our lives. I once looked at the “publish” button and thought, “What’s the point?” I almost deleted the newsletter but, in a move that felt utterly impulsive and completely ridiculous, I clicked the publish-button. My life had exploded. Pieces rained down from the sky. I had nothing to lose. Why not. Publish.

Stories are told after the fact. “How” always comes second.

I clicked a button. A woman named Kerri responded. A conversation started.

Our coming together was nothing shy of mystic. Heaven and earth had to move for this possibility to become a reality – and it did. It moved. It felt as if unseen hands gave us a push. What are the odds? Astronomical. What about those hands?

Heaven and earth move everyday. Astronomical odds. Micro-choices. Ordinary life. Miraculous. Looking backward it seems destined. Looking forward it seems random. Design? Arbitrary? Yes. I suppose, either way, the real question is, “Do you appreciate it?” Do you know how impossible this moment is? Where else would you be?

Today is our seventh anniversary. Today, I savor the impossible and appreciate the design. Both/And.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUPPOSED TO BE

Modify The Plan [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

When you are an artist, you begin your career with the understanding that retirement is not really an option. You will work as hard or harder as any of your friends. You will have satisfaction in your work that few people can imagine. And, you will, most likely, unless you are very lucky or have a surprise trust fund, never experience lasting financial security.

Also, when you are an artist, you can’t imagine not making art so “retirement” generally means the-big-dirt-nap.

We have, since our great-double-wrist-break-and-financial free-fall of 2020-21, changed our approach. It’s less easy to improvise when the world perceives you as old-and-should-be-retired (non-dirt-nap-variety). Your networks collapse. Your mask obscures your capabilities.

We’ve modified our plan. We’ve modified our expectations. Now, we need only live long enough to break the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living artists. Anything is possible! That belief, a hard-core dedication to abundant possibility, is what makes us artists in the first place!

Retirement (non-dirt-nap-variety), here we come!

read Kerri’s blogpost on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Embrace The Frenzy [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I’ve written before of Kerri’s brochure addiction. She’s been in and out of treatment but nothing has helped. Her vivid imagination and roadtrip imperative collide in the common brochure. There’s nothing to be done but lean into it. During trips I stash paper sacks under the seat of the car to contain the newest editions to her already mountainous collection. I am – I have become – her brochure enabler.

I confess that I like feeding her imagination. As we drive from the welcome center with the paper bag full of newly acquired possibilities, she tells me of where we might travel and what we might find there. She nearly lifts off her seat (another good reason to buckle up) recounting what she discovered in her brochure frenzy. Her enthusiasm for life and its limitless destinations warms my heart.

All that remains is the logistics. When enthusiasm meets brochure, all things become possible.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BROCHURES

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Open The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Put on your swimmies for a dive into the esoteric.

It was hot last night so I lay awake thinking and that’s never a good thing for the people – like you – who pay attention to the random things I write or say. This is what I thought in the heat of the night: Saul always instructed me to look beyond my opponent and place my focus in the field of possibilities. “Look a hundred feet beyond your opponent,” he said.

It’s universally true that a mind needs something on which to focus. And, left untended, most minds will focus on complaints or problems. During my tilt-at-windmills-consulting phase I’d tease my clients with the notion that, rather than eliminate challenges, people create them. We need them. We call them hobbies. Or play. Or problems. After all, stories are driven by conflict and we are, at the base, storytelling animals. It’s worth noting that a great collaboration is not the absence of conflicting opinions but the capacity to use the heat of creative tension to find/discover a third way.

What does this have to do with Saul and the field of possibilities? A focus, to be useful, needs to be specific. What exactly does the field of possibilities look like?

The reason our untended minds sort to the negative is that the negative is usually concrete, an easy fixation. Fear is a clear picture – even when imaginary. Obstacles are easy to spot. Possibilities are rolling and amorphous. Changeable. It is the nature of a good possibility to shape-shift.

The masters of meditation mostly tell us to soften our focus. Or to let the thoughts roll through the brainpan like clouds; do not attach to what we think. Do not take ourselves so seriously. Practice flow instead of the hard fixing of thought.

And, therein is the source of my late night esoteria: the mind needs something to focus on. Or does it?

If I soften my gaze, if I look beyond the problem-of-the-moment to a vast field of floating possibility, am I tossing myself into a feedback loop? I lay awake wondering what the field of possibility might look like if it was graspable. Some people make vision boards for just this reason. Quinn used to hum and fill his mind with lyrics.

Tjakorda Rai laughed at me and told me I needed to “open my story.” At the time I thought he meant to take responsibility for my story. Now, I know exactly what he meant: let it flow. Get out of the way. The demons and monsters and fears and problems and challenges are…passing things. Story fodder, nothing more. So look beyond them. Flow. Focus on the flow. Open the story.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

Pass The Cheer [on DR Thursday]

We do some quirky things. Driving an aspen tree halfway across America in the back of our car is certainly on the list of quirky.

It’s from a place special to us. We honeymooned at Linda and Bill’s condo in Breckenridge, Colorado. I am from Colorado and our honeymoon trip felt like coming home – for both of us. We return to that special place when we can, though not often enough. There is a trail we like to hike. It’s become an old friend that we need to visit when in the area. If we do nothing else, we strap on our boots and begin the climb. It follows a brook up the side of the mountain. We’ve never made it to the top but one day…

On our mantel is a piece of driftwood from Long Island, Kerri’s home. In our dining room is a log – literally a log – we carried from our trail in Breckenridge. Elemental. We have stones from our respective birthplaces, too. Our house is filled with confused cairns, pointing both east and west.

We named the little aspen tree Breck. It traveled in a pot with its tippy top branches bent against the car ceiling for the ride. It survived the journey. For the first few years it lived in a pot on the deck in the warm months and was wrapped and protected in the winter. Breck’s quaking leaves make us smile and instantly transport us to the special town in the high mountains.

Breck did not like its first spot where we planted it in the yard. The top branches died. When we moved it last fall, we were afraid that Breck would not make it through the winter. We talked to it. We cheered for it. “You can do it!” we chirped. Imagine our relief and celebration a few weeks ago when we went out back and found Breck budding. Lots of buds. More sun. Better soil. New Growth!

A reminder of a special place. A symbol of resilience and a hearty can-do. This spring it feels as if Breck is speaking to us, too. More sun! Better soil! You can do it. New growth. Art-life budding.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BRECK

Use A Bag [on DR Thursday]

To Chris Crites, grocery shopping day is a feast. To Chris, these sacks are more than functional. They are more than ordinary shopping bags. These bags are canvas. They are opportunities for art. They are surfaces meant for brilliant mugshots. The underbelly of society made beautiful on brown paper sacks.

I’m not sure if it was Chris or the other artists in my Seattle pod that prompted me to experiment. One of my forays into “where will this take me” required paper sacks. Lots of paper sacks, torn to bits and pasted on a canvas. I drew and painted on top of the bits.

I forgot about my experiment until I met Kerri and one day unrolled all the canvas to show her what was in the pile. She cooed at my paper bag experiment. “This should be a series,” she said. “It should be called Earth Interrupted.” And, so it was.

I have (mostly) been a painter of people. I’ve learned that art – and theatre – for me are a means and not an end. In other words, I don’t paint because I want to master the craft of painting or make brilliant paintings. I paint to study people. I paint because it is a meditative space. I paint because I lose myself and enter someplace bigger. I paint because it helps me “to see.”

I completed six additions to the Earth Interrupted series and then stopped. I lost my way. That’s always been my experience when I abstract- when I leave the figure and mess with texture and shape. I know I’m not finished with it. Getting lost is part of the process.

Unloading the groceries last week brought me up short. I felt like Chris Crites. So much possibility sitting on the counter. So much material begging to be transformed.

Earth Interrupted I, mixed media, 48x53IN

read Kerri’s blog post about BAGS

earth interrupted I © 2012 david robinson

Choose How [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My friend’s children are having children. The top-of-the-list advice my friends offer their children, now parents themselves, is this: it goes so fast. Appreciate every single moment. Love every phase. You will blink your eye and they will be grown and gone.

I lost my dad in September. I have, like most people who’ve lost a loved one, spent much of the time since his passing remembering and reflecting. It’s a mixed bag of treasuring moments and wondering why I didn’t fully appreciate others. It is true, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

What is so hard about appreciating – fully appreciating – the limited moments of your life?

I used to facilitate an exercise. It had four phases. Working in small groups, the first phase was to have a group member identify a problem in their life and then tell a blame-story about the problem. The rest of the group helped by supporting the person in their story of blame. The groups howled with laughter. Blame is fun. It’s addictive, like sugar.

In the second phase, the groups tried to “fix” the problem. The serious, concerned faces puzzled possible fixes but inevitably dissolved into more laughter: there’s nothing like trying fix a problem to create more problems and loop back into a juicy blame story.

Phase three was simple: I asked the original problem-story-teller to retell their story as a story of choice, not blame. I asked the other members of the group to support the teller in their story of choice. Silence ensued. And then, quiet presence as the new narrative – the story of choice – slowly inhabited the room.

Blame stories are like too much candy. They are easy to eat and yet have no real sustenance.
Stories of choice are much harder to tell but they are rich in awareness and appreciation of the moment.

We never arrived at the fourth phase: stories of opportunity. Activating choice. The notion of taking responsibility for choices always stopped the exploration. Our conversations about choice-avoidance usually filled the time.

What we gain in blame, we lose in appreciation of our moments. In order to taste the moment, one must first choose to be in it – and then choose how to be in it.

Grief is a phase to be loved, not avoided. As is the celebration of a first birthday. A new life. A lost love. A full spectrum. Taste every moment.

read Kerri’s blog post about MOMENTS

Gain The Force [on KS Friday]

It seemed appropriate, in order to conclude our year of water, that we travel to visit a region of the country with 250 waterfalls. Of course, we didn’t know about the waterfalls until we arrived. Water, water everywhere. I howled with laughter and secretly affirmed that our unintentional pilgrimage to the waterfalls might appease the great WHATEVER and finally release us from water-resistance into the watercourse way.

I will someday look back at our journey to the falls and realize the extent to which we “let go.” It already serves as a marker, a breaking through the resistance and fight of the last chapter and into the next. The new chapter.

Yesterday, at work, I had the opportunity to tease apart a question en route to asking a better question. I am fortunate to have a team of collaborators that, instead of rejecting my alternate perspective outright, even amidst the frustration of my challenge of the norm, ask me to lean into it. My assignment was to return next week with a better question. I am a firm believer that the form of a question – the way that it is asked – determines the answers that are seen or – more importantly – not seen.

Better questions are like the watercourse way. They show up when, instead of swimming against the current, against “what is,” the swimmer/questioner turns and allows the current to carry them. Wu-wei. Natural action. Every creator knows the moment of frustration when trying to force something into being. More force can only produce more frustration. Or, it breaks something. The best thing to do, when force can only produce an eddy, is put down the brushes, step back, and look at what-is. Force never produces a better question. Stepping off the mountain so it becomes visible – or acknowledging the direction of the river’s flow and giving into it, always reveals new possibility.

It is what I remembered for myself at the waterfall. It made me chuckle, then, when my first moment back at work, I was doing for my team what I’ve done all my life: attempting to flip or free a perspective by lobbying for flow; acknowledge what exists-in-the-moment versus what we want to exist. The better question – for me – and others – is always found when we turn and gain the full force of the river.

[I can’t imagine a better piece of music to carry us into 2022. Give yourself a treat – truly – and listen to Riverstone]

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WATERFALL

riverstone/as it is is available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

riverstone/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood