Make A Small Gesture [on Two Artists Tuesday]

small gestures copy

We’ve built our towering life together on the small gesture. Coffee in bed. A note stashed in a suitcase to be found when far away from home. We hold hands everywhere we go. When getting ready for bed, the first one in the bathroom always puts toothpaste on both brushes. Little kindnesses. The smallest of signals and courtesies that say nothing more and nothing less than, “You matter most of all.”

Looking for the grand plan that will change the world or, better, trying to be the grand plan, often blinds us to the real necessity of the moment. We look for the mountain that needs to be moved and miss the hand that needs to be held.

My younger, revolutionary self screams, “WHAT?! WE NEED TO PUSH BACK! WE NEED TO FIGHT THE SYSTEM!! WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD!!! THIS SMALL-MOMENT STUFF IS THE CRAP-THINKING OF AN OLD PERSON! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!!!!

I’ve been more changed by a smile from across the room than by all the agitation that I’ve engendered across the span of my life. I have initiated more change by holding my tongue than by wagging it. Listening, I’ve learned, is a most powerful small gesture.

If I am old (I don’t feel old), if I have learned anything, then I have learned that real love is not noisy or flashy or grand. It is quiet. It steps behind you when you are frightened, puts its hand on your back and whispers, “I’ve made you a toothbrush.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SMALL GESTURES

 

cropped head kiss website copy

Stand In The Enormity [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

two birds and an island copy

When Kerri first showed me this photograph, it read to me like a minimalist painting. A subtle field of color with two splashes and a brushstroke. So much said with so little. A meditation of movement and the immovable.

The lake is different every day. Its color palette is as changeable as its moods. Each day upon awaking, Kerri walks onto the deck and snaps a picture. So far, no two days are alike. So far, no two hours are alike.

Once I stood in La Sagrada Familia and the enormity of it made me quiet. The lake is like that. Immense to the point of stillness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BIRDS AND AN ISLAND

 

feet on the deck steps website box copy

 

 

Save Your Nickel [on Merely A Thought Monday]

where you can actually hear copy

We walk on snowy trails through the woods because it is quiet. I retreat to my studio to work because it is quiet. It inspires quiet. Quiet evokes quiet.

Scrolling through her news app, Kerri said, “Everyone in the world is angry.” It certainly seems that way, especially if the news is the lens through which the world is defined. Headlines shout. The advertisements flash and disrupt.  Tom used to say that watching television, plugging into the news-of-the-day, reminded him of his childhood. The circus would come to town. Carnival barkers and bright signs, lots of noise and distractions. The one sure moneymaker, the tent everyone clamored to get into, lining up to pay their shiny nickel, was the freak show. Two headed cows in jars of formaldehyde. Things that gross us out or make us mad. “Nowadays, they call it reality television,” he’d say, shaking his head. “Or the news. It’s a lot of noise.”

Here’s a simple truth: conversation is impossible in too much noise. People shouting to be heard. A room full of shouting people actually makes listening more difficult and conversing impossible. It’s a feedback loop. Noise evokes noise. And, noise isolates. It is a perfect recipe for being alone together.

The Five20 is a little bar at the Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg.  Their tagline, “Where you can actually hear your conversation” is refreshingly accurate and seems a throwback to another era. People valuing conversation; a place, a space, intended to facilitate interaction sans noise. Our group, 10 people strong, the up-north-gang, began and ended our yearly trek to Winterfest there. Sitting at the far end of the long table, I could hear every word spoken at the other end. Even when the bar was packed.  And, the best part, today, I can’t tell you what we talked about – the simple stuff  of life – but I can tell you that we laughed and shared and left the Five20 full of friendship, warmed by sharing rather than exhausted from shouting.

As Tom would have said, “Save your nickel.” Sometimes the thing you seek is not in the tent amidst the noise but outside, far from the circus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR

 

 

boots on frozen river cedarburg website box copy

 

Take A Walk In The Snow [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

snow on the lakefront copy

I just wrote a post about global warming and then I cut it. In truth, I spent a about an hour reading and researching and cross-checking things. We’ve been measuring the ocean temperatures everyday for decades. We’ve been recording levels of human carbon emissions into the atmosphere for decades. The data is there. The science is there. The evidence is there. So, too, is the counter-narrative. A Chinese hoax? The Deep State? So much conspiracy! And, really, what does that have to do with a photograph of snow at night? Delete!

The embrace of the counter-narrative fascinates me. The committed belief in what is demonstrably false -led me to read a bit about denial psychology. Here’s the dictionary definition: “a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.”

So, then, I started writing a post about the denial psychology run amok these days in the USA. If you don’t know what I’m writing about then (to borrow a phrase I read today) you are either a Martian or a watcher of Fox news. I cut that post, too. I suspect you are as sick of the lazy-minded debates, entrenchment and ever-present fearmongering as I am. Even I am bored by what I wrote. Nothing new! Nothing new! And, what does that have to do with a photograph of snow? Delete!

It is not uncommon for Kerri and I to take late night walks in the snow. Especially, when it is actually snowing. There is peace. There is quiet. We hold hands and listen to the sound of our feet crunching the new snow, the whisper of wind through the trees. Peace. Quiet. Listening.

We haven’t had one of our late night walks lately. There hasn’t been any snow. A dusting here and there but that hardly qualifies. And so, we wait for the return of the snow. The return of the listening, the quiet, and perhaps, too, the return of the peace.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW ON THE LAKEFRONT

 

snowheart website box copy

 

snow on the lakefront ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood

Pause [on KS Friday]

untitledinterlude songbox copy

Interlude. A pause. Breathing space. The silence between the notes. The space with no name. Untitled.

It seems that we, like all the people in our community, entered the new year exhausted. Our season celebrating the return of the light has become a season of rush and dash with nary a moment to reflect. Kerri said, in a moment of exasperation, “The bears are sleeping through this!” Nature knows what we are supposed to be doing in these dark winter months. Resting. Quiet in the branches sends all the good energy to the roots.

Take a moment. Listen. Breathe. Send some good UNTITLED INTERLUDE energy to your roots.

 

UNTITLED INTERLUDE from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes and CDBaby. Purchase the physical CD here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNTITLED INTERLUDE

 

bong trail, wisconsin website box copy

untitled interlude/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Prayer [on DR Thursday]

Prayer copy 2

prayer product boxBAR jpeg copy

Naming paintings is problematic for me. I’ve never been good at it. Sometimes I bristle at it. People project their own meanings into the images I paint (as it should be) and sometimes the name I’ve given the piece gets in their way.  A favorite quote from a Joseph Campbell lecture: “If the artist doesn’t like you he will tell you what the painting means.” At openings, when people ask me what the painting means, my standard response is, “What does it mean to you?” I like most people though most people dislike my standard response.

Nowadays Kerri helps me find names. I ask her what she sees. We talk about the paintings and usually a phrase or name that I like floats to the top.

This one is simple and obvious. Prayer.  One who looks inward and entreats.

PRAYER gifts and cool stuff like wall murals

prayer FRAMED PRINT copy

buy the original painting

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER

www.kerrianddavid.com

prayer ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood

prayer – 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.