Call Awe [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles, The End

Last week was unusual in that I had a sneak-peek at my end-of-life-review. When a trusted doctor looks at you and says, “This is bad,” when tests that ordinarily might be scheduled a few weeks out are rushed into the next few hours, when the palette of available options are mostly shades of black and all include the word “dire,” the life-movie-reel begins to roll. Mine did.

I’ve known for years that among the few choices we really have is 1) where we choose to focus, and 2) where we choose to stand as we focus. Point-of-view, labels slapped onto experience, the story we tell is a story we project onto the world. Rolling through the CT-scan doughnut, I looked at the story I’ve called into the forest. I listened for the story it reflected back at me, as me.

“Take a deep breath,” the machine instructed, “and hold it.” Holding my breath, I saw a single story comprised of many, many chapters. There are the life-pages that I lived in confidence, and pages that I wrote confusion. The shattering, the story of the pieces of my life scattered in four directions. Kintsugi. The pages of the phoenix. Pages written running from my art and the matching pages of running toward it. The chapter of standing still. The pages of betrayal and the balance pages of being betrayed. “Release your breath,” the machine chirped. “Breathe naturally.”

The forest will show me fear. The forest will offer grace. The forest will reflect back to me peace if peace is what I bring to it. Someday, rather than project onto the forest, I will walk into it, become it. A reflector of projections.

Take a deep breath. I’ve never been so appreciative of breath. Hold it. What a gift. Breathe naturally. Call awe into the forest.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOREST

Dowse Your Data [on Merely A Thought Monday]

My favorite question of the week: What is the science behind divining?

I admit to laughing out loud when I read the question. In a world run amok with science-deniers and rabid propagandists, we might as well answer the question with a qualifier: it depends on what you decide to believe. Or, answer a question with a question: do you really want to know what the science says?

Since belief-divining is all the rage these days, the best available advice for adherents of critical thought is, “Don’t waste your breath.”

I took a peek at ‘dowsing’ in wikipedia. Divining is generally attributed to “ideomotor phenomena.” A psychological response. An accidental movement. Science reports dowsing is projection.

What is the science behind love? What is the love behind science? A moment ago Kerri frowned when I told her she was the sole-object of my ideometric phenomena. She’s learned not to ask and has developed a keen ability to move on from my thoughts to thoughts with more substance.

Science doesn’t prove. Science hypothesizes, gathers data, and then reports findings. Science is objective. It is both rooted in data and is open-minded. New data always come in. It takes an open mind to successfully roll with the theory of relativity. It takes an open mind to open to the data. Excessive carbon in the air is heating the planet. We are simultaneously cutting down the earth’s lungs to make room for more cattle production.

What’s your hypothesis of our recent spate of 1000 year storms year after year? Science is offering a fairly clear picture.

What’s the science behind divination? The science of seeing into the future? Projection?

I was delighted when I stumbled on an NPR story about U.K. Water Companies Sometimes Use Dowsing Rods. The companies admitted to the use of divination but were quick to add, that it’s not a company-wide policy. And then reinforced their disclaimer with the only disclaimer that we universally and wholeheartedly accept: it doesn’t cost money. If it cost money, we’d take it seriously. Like pet rocks. Or reality tv.

Deloitte (using scientific methods) reports the cost of climate change to the U.S.A. economy will be 14.5 trillion dollars over the next 50 years. We can expect to lose 900,000 jobs each year. Ideometric phenomena? Scientific divination? Data-dowsing?

For adherents of critical thought, it occurs to me to update the best available advice with another question: How much time do we have to waste?

read Kerri’s blog post on Y

Make [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The origami crane has become a symbol of peace.”

Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true. Legend will have it so. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of good luck and long life.

Making something into something else. Folding paper into cranes. It is, perhaps, the quality that defines us, makes us human. We turn the flow of water into the force driving the mill. We study patterns in stars and translate it into navigation. We smelt ore and hammer the elements again at the forge to make iron. We use the iron to make trains.

We make.

We look at flowers and see cranes. We look at clouds and see wild horses. We look at blank canvas and see possibility.

We make stories.

Our storymaking cuts both ways. We look at others and see friends; we look at others and see enemies. Either way, our looking is not passive. We make stories. We make connections. We make divisions.

We make wishes. Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true.

Reach your hand to help. Slap a hand away. Either way, it depends on what story you see. What you want to make.

The story we create.

Folded paper. A symbol of peace.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRANES

Look At You Look At Me [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s taken me this long to discover the source of all cartoon characters: orchids. I’m not kidding. At a recent field trip to the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Orchid Exhibit, I was surrounded by brightly colored fantastic faces, playful and chuckling. “Look at this one!” Kerri exclaimed. “It’s the Imperial Margarine guy!” I thought it was a whacky Pope or funny Cardinal, but the idea was the same.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Emerson’s quote was stenciled on the wall as we exited the exhibit. And the laughing flowers made me laugh. Truly. I felt like a little kid at Christmas. Surrounded by color and delight and whimsy, I found myself more than once pointing, “Look at this one! Oh My God!” And, I felt like the colorful faces were staring back at me, thrilled to tears by the odd looking human standing before them. I-look-at-you-look-at-me. “Look at that face!” they snickered.

The thought stopped me in my tracks and filled me with wonder. We personify everything, projecting our humanness into everything. The art of animation, the world of Disney, is rooted in our desire to project ourselves onto and into the world. Talking mice. Dancing candlesticks. Humpty Dumpty. Wise old trees. Wouldn’t it be lovely, and isn’t it hopeful, to think the world projects itself into us? I want the orchids to fill me with color and awe. To project themselves into me. I know the forests I walk through infuse me with quiet. I know Dogga pulls love from my deepest soul.

Participants. Relationship, rather than controllers. Dancers rather than dominators. Would we be so invested in killing each other for imagined supremacy if we allowed ourselves to laugh the laugh of the flowers? If we actually understood that nothing is forever, that our warmongering was at best delusional? That the single trait that makes us human is to turn and help someone in need? The very capacity that allows us to project ourselves into the orchids is the same capacity that makes it possible to stand in the shoes of the other. Empathy is a two-way street.

If the earth laughs in flowers, these days it certainly cries in humans. Yet, standing amidst the orchids, I looked at all the human faces, hundreds of people wide-eyed with wonder and alive with astonishment. The laughing orchids looking back at the astonished faces, open and vulnerable, and they were evoking those qualities from the crowd. Earth’s tears. So hopeful, these faces, drinking in each other’s beauty.

read Kerri’s blog post about FACES

Tell The Story [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In our house, everything is a story. Sooner or later, all things are personified and become a character in our play. The old air conditioner units are cranky. The soap dispenser has eyes bigger than its stomach and routinely takes on too much soap. Gluttony in bubbles.

The cat does a killer soft-shoe, paws dancing on the table. The studio calls. The piano yearns. The pots and pans complain about the inconsistent burners on the old, dare I say ancient, stove. Rather than retirement, the stove dreams of holding the longevity record for kitchen appliances. Frankly, we think it has a good shot at fulfilling the dream.

And then there is the stuff we do. That, too, finds its way into story-dom. For instance, a few weeks ago we took a rug on a train. It went with us to an urban grocery store and helped us buy a bag of chips. It rode the escalator up and then down, went through a revolving door, evaded a collision with a stranger’s hat. Then, it strolled with us for a few miles, looked at the changing leaves and finally came to rest in its new home, Craig’s apartment. I think it appreciated seeing a bit of the world before meeting its destiny as an area rug. At least, that’s the story I tell myself. Rugs are hard to read so I might be projecting the contentment it felt when it finally left my shoulder for the floor.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RUG

 

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Project, And Swim Away! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Sitting on schoolhouse beach, a brilliant clear day, Kerri began her shadow puppet play. Her characters struck poses. They shape-shifted into other characters. Like a kid watching clouds I’d say, “That one looks like a dinosaur!”  And then there was a butterfly. And Mr. Magoo!

Making sense of shapes. Making stories of the shapes in motion. The shapes became powerful or meek, threatening or pleading (“You must pay the rent!” “I can’t pay the rent!”). The shadow players fulfilling their roles.

Shadow puppets, the wayang kulit. Stories told through shadow to remind us that what we see are shadows merely – and then we fill in the gaps with what we project onto those moving shapes. Projection thrown onto projection, an infinity mirror.

Kerri’s shadow puppet Loch Ness monster tried to eat the camera. The camera was too large to fit into its mouth and so Nessie swam away. A story of triumph for the camera (it celebrated wildly) and as for the monster, the hunt goes on.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on SHADOW PLAY

 

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Realize And Reach [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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A beautiful thing happened ages ago when human beings, gazing at the night sky, recognized patterns in the myriad of blinky bright stars. The recognition was so profound that it lit a roaring fire in their curiosity. It propelled them to do what human beings do. They studied the patterns. They mapped them. They philosophized about them. They storied them. They argued about them. They created models. They claimed them and named them. They projected onto them their thirst for meaning and order, their need for reassurance in a greater design. If there is pattern and predictability in the stars then there must be pattern and predictability in the arc of a human life! They navigated their ships and their days according to their relationship with the stars.

During my life in Los Angeles, for a few eye-opening months, I volunteered at a school. The students at the school risked their lives everyday to attend. They had to cross rival gang territory. In some cases, the students had to literally check their guns at the door before entering the building. Some of the faculty, in an attempt to help the students dream of a better future, used the phrase, “Reach for the stars.” One day, watching a class, I recognized that the students had a limited capacity to relate to the phrase because they’d never seen the night sky. In their experience, the meager few stars that they could see through the light and haze of the Los Angeles sky were less than inspiring. The staff took the students to a place where they could see the stars. The shock and awe of standing beneath the unobliterated night sky was profound. It reoriented them to a universe of possibilities more vast than the tiny gritty city that had always before seemed so large and given them context.

It is possible to reach for vast visions when you recognize how tiny you really are.

In a moment of uncertainty and confusion, 20 told us not to fret because the opportunities unfolding before us were in the stars. In the stars. Safe. There was pattern and predictability. Things were lining up and all we need do was play our part. These things were meant to be. Kerri and I held hands and stared, like our ancestors, into the myriad of blinky bright stars, feeling very very small. “Do you think 20 is right?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about STARS

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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Reach With Wonder [on DR Thursday]

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“One of the reasons that we wonder is because we are limited, and that limitation is one of the great gateways to wonder.” ~John O’Donohue

I loved this canvas before I painted Cloud Watchers on it. It was old and used. Chunky with layers. I can’t remember how it came to me but I do remember thinking that it was the Velveteen Rabbit of canvas. Loved. Well worn. A long history – that is to say – filled with lots and lots of story. Perfect.

And, how appropriate that it is living a next chapter as Cloud Watchers, part of a series that  I call ‘narrative.’ All narratives – inner and outer – are projections. Life’s stories are image transfers, meaning imposed just like the meaning we place upon the movement of clouds. There’s a duck! Look! There’s a dragon, a dinosaur, an elephant. A fear. A goal. An opinion. Mr Magoo! Belief! There’s Thomas Jefferson! The Buddha.

We reach with wonder from our isolation. We touch through imagination. We are cloud watchers full of story, filling the air with our stories. We are glorious creators all!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLOUD WATCHERS

 

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cloud watchers/morsel ©️ 2002 – 6/2018 david robinson

Fill It In [on Flawed Wednesday]

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A truism: In everything there is a story and rarely do we know the full story. At best, we see partials, a snippet, and from there we draw conclusions, make judgments, fill in the gaps with dedicated certainty in made-up meanings, interpretations, and projections from our own experiences. Imagination runs rampant whether we recognize it or not.

We laughed when we saw this note. It was lodged in a gutter, having blown from the spot where the last of the 2-4 year olds was claimed. Kerri said, “Darn! I wanted a three year old.”

“Why a three year old?” I asked.

She shivered, shaking a specific memory from her mind and replied, “Anything to avoid the terrible twos.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FREE 2-4 YEAR OLDS

 

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