Be Manly [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Don’t be deceived. Even though I’m a sensitive male, a soft-guy, an empath, an introvert, a painter…I am, after all, still a man. In a pre-google-maps-world, when lost, I’d never stop the car and ask for directions. I’d flex and figure it out. If you have a problem, my first impulse is to fix it. Guy stuff, through and through. Sometimes I even surprise myself. “How manly of me!” I exclaim.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BOY-GIRL STUFF

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Look To The Field [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“…if you observe your mind very quietly without giving explanations, if you just let the mind be aware of its own struggle, you will soon find that there comes a state in which there is no struggle at all, but an astonishing watchfulness. In that state of watchfulness there is no sense of superior or inferior, there is no big man or little man, there is no guru. All those absurdities are gone because the mind is fully awake; and the mind that is fully awake is joyous.” ~ Krishnamurti, Think On These Things

Saul told me to look beyond my opponent to the field of all-possibilities. He even gave it a location, a hundred feet beyond where he stood. We were doing an exercise called push-hands and, as a tai-chi master, he was teaching me not only where to place my focus but also where to place my belief. It took me a few years to grok: believe in resistance and resistance will appear. Call it an opponent and you’ve defined the relationship and, therefore, your choices. An obstacle is only an obstacle because it is identified as so.

I met Kerri because my world collapsed. Did my world collapse or did it open? Saul would say, “Neither.” Energy is energy. It moves and we give story to the movement, thereby shaping it. Storytelling is more powerful than we know.

Saul might as well have said, “The opponent lives in your mind. Look beyond your mind. Look beyond the story.” It’s a good practice to have an experience before naming it. It’s a better practice to have an experience and not name it at all. I’m not there yet, though I can see the field that Saul recommended. It exists beyond my definition-noise.

Saul threw me across the room yet never touched me. He laughed. I wanted to ask, “How did you do that?” but I already knew what his answer would be: “I didn’t. You threw yourself.”

read Kerri’s blog post on this Two Artists Tuesday

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Roll Easier [on KS Friday]

“I feel like I’ve been writing about fall all week!” she said, “What more do I have to say?”

She took this photograph during a walk around our neighborhood. When we left for Colorado the leaves were just beginning to turn. A week later, when we returned, the ground was a festival of color. The sidewalks beckoned children of all ages to drag their feet through the leaves. Shushing sounds. Instead of dragging her feet, she knelt to get closer. “Lookit!” she gasped, all one word. If appreciation is prayer, then sometimes taking a picture is prayer.

Rather than at new years, the fall is when I find myself making resolutions. My resolutions are rarely about achievements – things that I want – and more of what I desire to let go. What will lighten my spirit-load? I am a wanderer to the core and so much of what I’ve accumulated in life is heavy to carry. Making shushing sounds through the leaves, I know this fall that I will leave behind some friction. I’m dropping some long-held resistance, so I might roll easier in the world.

Fall is for reflection. Fall is for dropping brilliant leaves and making sounds with the crunchy color. Synesthesia. What more is there to say?

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read Kerri’s blog post about FALL

millneck fall/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Be Difficult [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I confess that I’ve been struggling to form my thoughts around this prompt. It is a remarkably different task for me to write about women being seen as difficult than it is for Kerri.

I have, my entire life, been surrounded by powerful women. My first sweat lodge experience was with 11 women; I was the only male. It is not uncommon for me, when I take classes or join cohorts or enter groups, to be the single male in a gathering of women. I have been privy more than once to the conversation of veiled power. The necessity of eggshell-walking in a world of male expectations. Deep into the truth-telling, the women remember that I am present and invariably turn to me and say, “No offense.” I usually make light of it, “Don’t worry,” I say, “I know I’m an a**hole.”

What I want to say is, “You’re doing it again. Why should you apologize to me for being honest?”

Kerri just read me her post. It is honest. After she read to me she said, “Do you think it’s too much? Do you think I need to tone it down?”

“You’re doing it,” I replied. “The very thing this prompt is about: questioning yourself because the prospect of speaking your truth will probably make you appear difficult.”

I considered asking her to do an experiment: swap posts. What might we discover if I publish her words as mine? If her words come from a male voice will they be considered offensive? Too emotional? Un-reasonable? Would I be applauded where she would be vilified? Probably. Luckily, I didn’t speak my wacky idea. I realized that we’d be, once again, finding a way to veil her words.

Over the weekend we watched a short film of elder women speaking about the need to return this earth to some semblance of balance. Women’s voices meeting men’s voices as equals. Yang AND Yin.

There’s a hysterical scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The strong women of the family want something done but, in order to make it happen, they must convince the patriarch, Gus, that it’s his idea. Making it appear to be his idea is the only way. Actually, it’s a theme and happens more than once in the story. “The man may be the head of the household.” Maria tells her daughter, “But the woman is the neck and can turn the head whichever way she pleases.”

It’s funny and poignant in the film because it rings so true in life. Powerful women cloaking their power to make the man think the idea is his. Sometimes it is the only way to get things done. It is the path of least resistance.

Perhaps a little resistance is what is called for. Powerful women refusing to veil their strength, willing to be vilified and branded as difficult. From my seat in the corner, listening to the conversation of these incredible women, they understand something that the boy’s club has never understood but clearly fears: power and control are often conflated but they are not the same thing. Power is something created together. Control is something one does to another.

read Kerri’s blog post about DIFFICULT WOMEN

Heed The Thwack [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Have a Drink

It occurs to me now that Marilyn J. was thwacking me on the back of the head. In her comment about my post, AGREE TO DISAGREE, she mirrored back to me something I have taught: without an antagonist there is no story. Without an obstacle there is nothing to drive the story forward. Marilyn was reminding me of two things. First,  the antagonists in my story were giving me fuel for forward movement. Second, that in my post, I was pushing against what I don’t like. She was reminding me that productive movement is toward what I wish to create rather than resisting what I do not want.

We have a new phrase in our lexicon though it feels ancient: social distancing. In thinking about what Marilyn wrote to me I have decided the real social distancing that we are experiencing has less to do with stay at home orders or six feet of space or wearing masks; it is about the distance between the world inhabited by the red and the world inhabited by the blue. They are, I believe, no longer merely divided, they are distinctly separate realities. What makes sense in one reality looks like utter nonsense in the other.

I just took a dive into quotes by E.O. Wilson. He wrote something about brilliant enemies and I wanted to find it: “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.”

This is point of Marilyn’s head thwack. Redouble your energies. There is no denying that my daily disbelief at the malignant narcissist and his propaganda machine is driving me in new and as yet unknown directions. It has filled me with fear for my family and friends. It is also filling me with energy and it is up to me to live what I believe and use my redoubled energy to move toward what I desire to create rather than become “the thing hate:” an angry absolutist incapable of listening. A resister. An energy eddy.

Or, as Saul-the-Tai-Chi-Master so often reminded me, “Look beyond the obstacle to the field of possibilities.” That is where all of life is truly found.

[note: if you want to feel good about humanity or just need some perspective in the time of pandemic, Google quotes by E.O. Wilson. Or, better yet, since we are in this for a while read one of his books].

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this NOT SO FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

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Suspend And Rest [on KS Friday]

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Kerri took a fall earlier this week and broke both of her wrists. For a professional pianist there are few injuries more debilitating and frightening. Needless to say, our world stopped. We’ve stepped out of time.

Judy once told me, after her husband suffered a terrible stroke and she became his full-time caregiver, that she could not think about tomorrow or even an hour ahead. The moment at hand, the task immediately before her, was all that existed. I understood in an abstract way what she was experiencing. The weight of presence. The unbearable lightness of presence.  All that exists is now. Today, I understand what Judy experienced beyond a simple abstract appreciation. At this point, there is no sense in thinking ahead.

A sip of coffee through a straw. Move the hair from her eyes. Help her sit up. There is the task at hand. That is all. And in “that is all” comes a great gift: instant perspective on what has actual importance and what does not. In these past several months everything has felt like a fight to swim upstream. Today, since Monday, there is no fight, there is only stream and it carries us where it will. We let go and are resting. A whole rest.

It is ironic to me that since her fall, in addition to the pain and the real fear of losing her capacity to play the piano [read: lose who she understands herself to be], we have laughed more in four days than in four months. We have let go. We look at what-this-time-last-week appeared to be so heavy with importance and merely shrug. Not important. It floats away. Or we float away from it. In this whole rest there is no capacity to push, no desire to paddle or resist. Suspended, we rest. We take this bite, sweet or savory, and that is all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHOLE REST

 

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Look Up [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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An evening sky awash with salmon pink and orange. Walking down the middle of the road. Strolling home.  We heard the snap of twigs and stopped. The deer was very still, suddenly aware of us. We found ourselves engaged in an old Viola Spolin acting exercise: you look at us and we’ll look at you. Who is the audience? Who is the performer? Who is the watcher? The watched?

I’ve been thinking about Quinn lately. He taught me that there is a marked difference between concentration and awareness. Concentration is a narrowing of the mind. A blocking of other thought. Resistance. Awareness is an opening to experience. All experience. An embrace. It’s a thought straight out of Alan Watts, one of the many, many authors and thinkers that Quinn introduced me to.

Walking the roads and beaches of the island, learning the nuance of this community and the needs of the performing arts center that we now guide, for me, has become an active reminder, a literal exercise of awareness, a class in paying attention. Open, not narrow. Experience rather than judge or resist.

I can hear Quinn laughing at the younger version of me who thought he had to contain it, capture and command it. The one who thought he had to know what to do. The one with a knitted brow who thought that being good at something was a matter of controlling it. So afraid to not know. The mirth-tears would roll down Quinn’s cheeks. “Look up!” he’d say. “If you keep staring at your feet you’ll miss it!”

“Miss what?” I’d ask.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DEER

 

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Name It Or Not [on DR Thursday]

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I sold this painting a long time ago. It’s a big piece, four feet by four feet. George Broderick sold it through his gallery in Portland, Oregon. The day we hung it in his space, he asked me what it was called. He was making a label for the painting with the title and price. I didn’t have an answer and said the first thing that came to me. “It’s called Four by Four,” I said. George wrinkled his brow.

True confessions: I’ve never been good at naming paintings. In fact, I used to resist it. I think a viewer should name the painting. I think a viewer does name the painting in the first moment they see it but then they dump their response when they read the label. But, reality has a way of setting in. As you might imagine, it nearly impossible to keep track of multiple paintings when they are all called Untitled.

For a while – a short while – I tried giving each untitled piece a number. Untitled 624. Untitled 29. “Cop out!” was the cry from friends and gallery staff. “What’s it called?” There was no mercy.

I was much more snarky then than I am now, I so I responded to the requirement of proper names by keeping a notebook of words and phrases that I liked. When a painting was being readied for a show I’d randomly pull a notation from the notebook and tack it to a painting. “There! A name!” That, too, was a ridiculous strategy. It confused everyone, including me. When it comes to tracking things, random associations are not very memorable and I’d inevitably lose the notation. I was constantly opening my notebook and renaming paintings. Plus, at openings, artists are always asked about the names they give to paintings and people were forever asking about a name/painting and I couldn’t remember which painting carried which random tag. More than once I stared blankly and stuttered until the uncomfortable patron moved on.

It has come as a great relief to me that Kerri actually likes to put names on my paintings. Nowadays, my foolproof naming strategy goes like this: “K.Dot, what would you call this painting?” And, without fail, she  always has a response.

“Why did you call this 4 x 4?” she just asked, hoping that the name would spark something to write about on her blog.

“I can’t remember,” I replied, lying outrageously. “What would you call it?” I asked.

She squinched up her face and studied it for a moment. “Slumber,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on 4 x 4

 

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4 x 4/Slumber ©️ some date in the past and really who knows and who really cares?

Risk The Adventure [on DR Thursday]

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On Monday, I pulled out the Chicken-Marsala-rough-draft folio. I was searching for a rough concept sketch. It was an early-Chicken idea, a joke mostly, but I thought it would be a good choice, an encapsulation of the melange, for our anniversary week. In it, Chicken Marsala is a nascent angel en route to his very first assignment. He is in full resistance. His mentor angel is pushing him forward. She’s trying to convince him to that this first mission is ideal, a cake-walk, but he knows better. It’s a mess. He’s being assigned to an aging couple. Newlyweds. Two artists. Chicken screams, “But they’re BOTH artists!” The mentor-angel responds, “Get in there, tiger! They’re lucky to have you!”

How many times in life, in your moment of resistance, have you heard, “It’ll be good for you.” Translation: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. The problem with this bit-of-wisdom is that being killed is one of the options. In the face of hungry tiger, who doesn’t need a push!

I found the sketch of angel-Chicken but got lost looking through the hundreds of drafts and idea sketches in the folio. If you are looking for something to lift your spirits on a cold and bleak winter day, flipping through the Chicken folio is guaranteed to bring some sun and a smile. He became a festival of optimism. He jumps for the joy of jumping.

The  joy of jumping. That is a much better and more accurate encapsulation of the melange. It is not a story of survival or resistance. In fact, at this one year mark, by measures of survival, it makes no sense at all. Our original intention, making a living, has long ago given way to something more essential. We are doing it because we love doing it. We write for the joy of writing. By measures of joy, of vibrant living, nothing else makes sense.

We regularly slip off of rocks and find ourselves sitting in the water. It is the necessary risk for doing what we love. Life rule #1: Have the experience first; make meaning of the experience second. “Risk,” as Chicken has taught us, is just another word for “Play.” Jump. Welcome the adventure. And, see what happens.

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read Kerri’s blog post on RISK & ADVENTURE

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Face The Wind [it’s Chicken Marsala Monday]

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Saul taught me to look beyond the obstacle and, instead, place my focus in the field of possibilities. How I experience my life is largely a matter of where I decide to focus, what I choose to see.

Life, I’ve learned (or finally accepted), never stops throwing new things at me – challenges & opportunities. And, when looking in the rear view mirror of my life , I am generally hard-pressed to distinguish between what was a challenge and what was an  opportunity. The challenges became opportunities, the opportunities brought a basket of challenges.

The winds of change blow all the time. As Chicken, like Saul, reminds me on this Chicken Marsala Monday, the winds of change are never an obstacle. They are a constant force (called life) moving you, moving all of us, to learn, to grow. They are an invitation to turn our faces into the wind, look to the horizon and appreciate the ride.

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read Kerri’s blog post on The Wind Never Stops Blowing You

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