Add A Stone [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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I am fond of a labyrinth tucked into the woods at The Whidbey Institute. I’ve spent many a sunrise and sunset walking the meditation path to its center and back again. After each trip into the labyrinth, I’d add a small stone to the cairn that stood adjacent to the entry point. A ritual to mark my passage. A location stone.

I hadn’t thought of the labyrinth for years.

Last week, on a stormy day, we took a long walk through our neighborhood and emerged on to the beach at Southport.  We were stopped in our tracks by what we found there. A field of cairns. Someone – or many someones – had created dozens of stacked stones. Each unique. Some playful. Some sorrowful giants. Markers of the way home? Funeral stones? Sculpture merely? The intention didn’t really matter. They brought us peace.

We approached silently just as I used to approach the labyrinth at Whidbey. We entered the field with a reverence that surprised me. We wandered through them, spent time with them. Some were massive, towering over us. Some very small, a few stones stacked at our feet.

Pebble and red brick trails ran like crazy lines connecting the cairns, a mixed up maze that begged us to follow, to make sense of the impossible. This labyrinth had no center. This meditation maze led nowhere specific, looping back, a dead end here, a path to the water, and over there, a line that stopped at a heart made of rock, a spiral. A wish. A message. An inspiration.

I could imagine no better monument to this pandemic. A shattered labyrinth. Burial monuments. A field of markers standing ready for the day when we might find our way out. A quiet reverent place where we are called to add a stone, a simple gesture to remember our passage through.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CAIRNS

 

 

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Observe The Rituals [on Flawed Wednesday]

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Like you, we are practicing new rituals that two months ago would have seemed like so much science fiction. We wash and disinfect all the food we buy. Dry goods stay in food-quarantine for 48 hours before they are allowed in the house. The mail is disinfected and banished to in a safe spot for two days before we open it.  Rituals of safeguarding. Rituals of necessity.

All are rituals of distance.

Rituals of cooperation. We walk everyday. We have always walked everyday but in these days we cross to the other side of the street if someone is coming our way. Or they cross to the other side. At first, this who-will-cross-first ritual was negotiated, awkward. Uncomfortable. In just a few short weeks it has become conventional, intuitive. In the time before the pandemic, it would have been a statement of rejection to avoid contact. Now, it is a statement of participation. We cannot safely visit our neighbors yet we daily street waltz with strangers. The world is upside-down.

Rituals of obfuscation. I read this quote this morning: The whole concern of an intelligent person is to see the facts and understand the problem – which is not to think in terms of succeeding or failing [Krishnamurti, Think On These Things]. In these days of pandemic, the President holds a jaw-dropping daily ritual to whip-up a counter-narrative to the facts of his inept leadership, to shut down his experts, to shout down or otherwise maul questions that do not support his pathological lie.  It makes for great TV ratings but lousy governance. And, a substantial number of people are so distracted by the clown that they do not grasp the reality of the fire raging outside of the circus tent.

Rituals of revelation. Marie Antoinette famously said of her starving citizens, “Let them eat cake!” I told Kerri that each week of this pandemic has brought me an understanding beyond the abstract of a specific episode in history. Today, the courts in our state, the Supreme Court of the nation and the Republican party of Wisconsin are essentially blocking the citizens’ capacity to safely vote. They are either gobsmackingly ignorant or astonishingly cruel. The choice: gather and vote in the midst of pandemic or vote not at all.  So few of those trusted with representing the will of the people of this nation are actually concerned with the will or the safety of the people.  It’s a win/lose game played by the privileged few in which the people are disposable. Let them eat cake. I now understand in my gut the moral outrage of the starving citizens of 18th century France.

We wash our fruit. We cross the road when others approach. We try and get out everyday, seeking places that  others have not yet found. We watch the numbers of deaths climb exponentially everyday. We shake our heads in disbelief at our bloviating leader. We call our friends. We now routinely say, “Webex” and “Facetime” and “Google hangout” when we used to say  “get together.” New rituals born of distance. New rituals born of separation in an era of gaping divides. Surely, one day, the pendulum will swing back the other way, the circus will pack up and the clown will go down the road. We will come out of our houses, greet our neighbors and remember what it was like to bridge divides and begin embracing the rituals shared on common ground.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WASHING FRUIT

 

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Give It To The Fire [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I filled the torches with fuel on the first day that we arrived on island. The torches leaned unused against the deck all summer. We thought of lighting them a few times but there was too much wind so we decided against it.

Fire is transformational. It is used in many rituals. Our ritual was at first unintentional.  On our last night on island we planted the torches in the grass between the littlehouse and the water’s edge. We lit them as the sun went down. We wanted to burn off the fuel. There was little or no breeze so it was safe to let them burn. It was only after the sun was down, as we sat talking about our time on island, watching the line of flame, that we realized what we were doing. Letting go of the negative experiences. Celebrating the positives. Making space for the new. Releasing through fire.

The water lapped the shore. The breeze made the flames dance and the leaves rustle. We sat in the elements and re-storied our time on island. We made sense of things. In the final telling we appreciated all that had transpired.

The torches burned through the night. We awoke the next morning as the final tiny flames flickered and went out. The fuel was burned away. The fury was burned away, too. A new day, a route for new experiences, was open and waiting.

 

read Kerri’s post about THE FLAME

 

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photo: flame through the night ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Say It Over And Over and Over…[on DR Thursday]

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While Kerri plays the service, I often sit in the choir loft and scribble images on the back of old bulletins. On the left side of this sketch (not visible in the crop) is a running stream of words, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease…

I’ve been playing with words as images a lot in the past few years. The words become pattern, the repetition renders the symbols meaningless-as-language but potent-as-design. I love pattern for this very reason. Too much repetition dulls the eyes and mind and in the dulling, something new emerges. It is how a good ritual works: dance fervently the pattern until you drop. Exhaustion opens the door to let in the spirit.

Pray hard enough and often enough and the words become meaningless. It is exactly at the point of meaninglessness, that perception shifts and something new rushes in. Saul-the-Tai-Chi-master would say it this way: wrestle with the obstacle long enough and you will eventually give up. In giving up, in your defeat, you just might glance beyond the obstacle and, at last, see the field of possibility.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about SCRIBBLES

 

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the sketch is a sketch and not useful and may be pirated and spread widely all over the world so feel free to insert it into your recipes or instagram or populate the cover of your technology with it or send it to china without guilt.

 

instrument of peace ©️ 2015 david robinson

Burn [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The first fire. It came like a ceremony. We didn’t intend it to mark the passage, the end of the season. But, it did. The lake was angry. The air was cold and wet. Fall had arrived. We could smell it in the air. There was nothing to be done but gather kindling and bring in some wood.

We sat in front of the fire. It dried the wet air. We talked about the events of the summer. We lived a lot of life during our three months on island. We counted the contention, the fire in the organization, by the number of board presidents we’d served: 3 in less than 3 months. It must be a record! It was certainly a sign of the heat transforming the organization. So much ash.

The next night we closed the theatre, the final show was in the books. We locked the doors and stood under the stars and wondered what had happened. The fire burned us, too. We were transformed but will be the last to know how. We just knew that we were different now.

The next morning we began packing the truck for our move off island. We were quiet most of the day, moving. Carrying boxes loaded with the stuff of life. “Next time we will bring less,” Kerri said. “We will know what to expect.”

“Maybe,” I said. She smiled.

We lit another fire on our final night. We watched it burn. The ceremony was complete. This fire was for warmth. Comfort. We sipped wine. No more words necessary. No need to debrief or assign meaning to events. No need to ponder or make sense of things. Ash.

The lake was still angry. The air was still wet. With morning would come the next step, the first step.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the FIRST FIRE

 

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Attend To The Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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If you knew us, if you came to our house for some wine, chances are we’d serve it to you in a jelly jar. Drinking wine from a jelly jar is more than a simple quirk. For us, it is a ritual, a touch back to our beginnings. It does for us what rituals are supposed to do: it reminds us of what is important. It roots us into our deep story.

And so, it was important that on our first night on island, our first night in our little house, we poured special wine into two jelly jars, went to the water’s edge, and toasted this new chapter of our lives that, perfectly enough, began at the end of a day. And, as we sipped our wine and watched the sunset, we reminisced, we mused about the winding path that brought us to this house on this island at this moment in time to do this work.

With our jelly jars empty and the sun beneath the horizon, we walked back to the little house, deeply rooted into the story of ‘what has been’ and looking forward to a new day and the story of ‘what is yet to be.’

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JELLY JARS

 

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Create A Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The deceased horseshoe crab was the perfect marker. It was the place we could leave behind our flip flops and venture onto the sand. And, like all actions that become repetitive, the horseshoe crab parking lot became one of our rituals.

It became assumed. Known. We leave our flip flops at the horseshoe crab. To the horseshoe crab we will return. There is comfort in knowing the leaping point. There is even more comfort in knowing the landing place. Home is just beyond.

Our ritual began like many rituals began – out of necessity.  From the house to the dunes and the beach beyond, it was necessary to cross the land of sand spurs. “You have to step with intention,” Kirsten instructed us. “Otherwise you get stabbed.” And, so, we put on our cheap flip flops and stepped with intention all the way to the dunes. The horseshoe crab marked the safe zone. To park our flip flops meant we were out of danger. It meant the armor required to cross back over to the house was waiting for us when we needed it. After several crossings and returns, the horseshoe crab became a location ritual. And then, the crab grew into a symbol.

Once, late at night, we stayed out too long and the houses in the distance blended into shapes without distinction. For a time we were lost. The only way we found our place, located our path, knew home was just over there, was finding the sentinel crab standing guard over our footwear.

It all sounds silly, doesn’t it? Consider how carefully we protect our holiday rituals, our morning rituals, our rituals of identity (what’s in your closet? Why do you wear your hair that way and not this way?). How vigorously we defend our rituals of location (‘This is where I belong!’). Our known paths. The repetitions that give us comfort. The expectations and the stories we tell. The beliefs we embrace despite all the evidence to the contrary. You are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed. We, humans, create rituals. And then embrace them as story.

The horseshoe crab, for us, will forever mark the leaping place. It will, forever, be a symbol that home, that safety, is just beyond the dune.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FLIP FLOP PARKING LOT

 

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Clink [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Not that Starbucks should be our sponsor but Starbucks should be our sponsor. And every independent roaster across the country, too. A quick stroll through our photo roll will reveal way-too-many shots of our espresso-cup-clinking-toast-pix. When traveling, we send them to 20 to let him know that we are alive and well and attending to our priorities. Coffee rules our world. Coffee is the organizing principle of our day. If you wanted to pry deep-secret-information from us, the best and most effective torture would be to withhold coffee. We’d weep and tell all.

Our play, The Roadtrip, is taken from the 5-month daily email chain that Kerri and I wrote to each other prior to actually meeting. When we invited an audience to hear the  play in order to get feedback before attempting a performance run, one audience member exclaimed, “You talk about coffee a lot!” It’s true. In the play, as in life, we talk about coffee a lot.

For us, coffee is a ritual. For kicks, I just Googled ‘coffee rituals’ and read about the varied and rich traditions that coffee inspires all over the world. Some are new. Some are ancient.

The riches in our life are simple and accessible and never taken for granted. And, that is exactly how we like it. A good day includes a walk holding hands. DogDog and BabyCat antics. A sip or two of wine. Good bold coffee. A moment when we stop and realize how fortunate we really are. And another cup of coffee to clink and celebrate.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE

 

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[note: All product placement and logo shots are merely coincidental. Any resemblance to products, actual or imagined, is purely accidental and should not be taken for an outrageous appeal for support. Really. No, Really.]

 

Slog And Smile [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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the melting ice castle

It is the mud season. The time of thaw. When snow and ice like magic return to their elemental form and flow according to the rules of least resistance. Downhill. Always.

It is the season that we wear our black boots, the pair that is good for slogging through the mire. On a recent squish through our beloved Bristol Woods we laughed at the sucking sounds our black boots made when we tried to lift our feet from the bog. The water gurgled around us. The sun warmed our faces even though the day was cold. We were glad that we left DogDog home. He’d have been a mucky mess.

It is the in-between time. Not winter. Not spring. This morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and still it snowed. The winter took a toll and everyone groused, “I thought we were done with that!” These same growlers only a few short months ago celebrated the return of the white stuff. “It’s the first snow!” they laughed and ran out to touch it. How fickle we are.

Or, perhaps, how ritualistic we are. Persephone must return to the underworld for a season. Demeter grieves and so the cold snows come. Months later, when the daughter returns to the light, the mother, over-joyed, allows the plants to grow again. Life returns. Tell the story any way you want. It is the same. A cycle of life. Equinox. Solstice. A time to sow. A time to reap. The root, rejuvenated, now pushes little green tendrils upward the sun. Rituals and celebrations.

Our ritual? Eager to get outside and walk, Kerri asks, “What boots shall we wear?” I respond, “I don’t know. Do you think it will be muddy?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ICE FALL

 

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Yawn! [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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As I’ve mentioned before, BabyCat is not a stealthy kitty. When he jumps off the bed it sounds like someone dropped a cannonball on the wood floor. Mice feel particularly safe in his realm because they can hear him coming from a mouse-mile away.  That, and BabyCat can’t be bothered to actually chase mice. He prefers to yawl while watching them skitter (note: a yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel but I think it is also a near perfect match for the sound BabyCat makes when not-mousing. My apologies to sailors worldwide for my cat-sound-co-opt-yawl-onomatopoeia).

Often, we write these posts from the raft with BabyCat snoozing at Kerri’s side and DogDog chewing his bone at the aft of the raft. When the posts are written, prior to posting, we read them aloud to each other. Inevitably, in mid-read, BabyCat yawns a mighty yawn. Commentary? Oxygenation? Both, most likely. He is not a fan of having his post-breakfast snooze interrupted by our blather.

After his mighty yawn he yowls at us (we are not mice so the vowel is different), and hops off the raft (cannonball drop) and thump-thumps off to find a quieter spot, a place to take his pre-lunch nap.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIDE MOUTHED BABYCAT

 

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