Play [on DR Thursday]

“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” ~ Rainier Maria Rilke

The poet would have us understand this: our dragons are waiting to see us. They do not transform once we are beautiful and brave. Dragons do not suddenly appear as princesses. No, we transform. What we see changes. Through beautiful and brave eyes, princesses no longer appear as dragons.

Waiting to be seen. Waiting to see. I think Rilke knows that we are all beautiful and brave but are convinced otherwise. So, we hide. Or pretend. We don armor. The view from inside a tank is not as clear or expansive as the view from the outside. The poet would have us feel safe enough to open the hatch and step outside. It is there, in the expansive outside, that dragons facades fall away revealing princesses.

Another poet, Rumi, wrote, “Live as if everything is rigged in your favor.” Even before you see them as princesses, know that the dragons are on your team. That’s why they are waiting to see us as we are. Knowing the game is rigged in our favor is the surest path to seeing them as they are.

We decided to take a day away from the grindstone. We lifted our noses from the stone and took a drive to a small town. There was a specific shop in the tiny town that we wanted to visit. We drove back roads and successfully lost all sense of time and direction.

Instead of the warm day we’d hoped for, it was cold and rainy. Our fingertips ached and the ends of our noses were crimson so rather than wander the streets as we planned, we spent our time inside, imagining outrageous purchases and talking with shopkeepers. In those shops, laughing with those warm-hearted-people, our dragons fell from our sight.

We remembered: beautiful and brave are qualities of playfulness. To be seen, to see the dragons transform, play. The poet would have us play! Why wait?

The town was alive with sparkling light. Colorful picnic tables, undaunted by the rain, waited patiently for warmer times. We played and everything tilted in our favor.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COLORFUL TABLES

Kerri’s Christmas albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

a dragon’s tale illustration © david robinson

waiting/joy! a christmas album © 1998 kerri sherwood

See Through The Trees [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I was about to paint a new composition over an old canvas. Kerri flung herself in front of the old painting claiming that she loved it and had recently admired it. I wrinkled my brow at the impossibility of her claim. The old painting was an experiment I labeled “hotel art.” Also, it was sideways in the stacks. IF she admired it at all she was admiring it sideways. Standing between me and my canvas she said in all seriousness, “Do what you want, it’s your painting.”

Now, I will never paint over that painting. First, because I can never forget the face she made when she sprang into painting-savior mode. It melted my boorish heart. Next, because her “Do-what-you-want” manipulation was so unmasked and shameless that I’d suffer deep guilt for the rest of my days on earth if I did what I wanted and dared touch my dreaded hotel art. It’s no longer my painting. It’s become a moment that I adore, a memory that I cherish.

The new painting, had it made it into the world, would’ve been called, “Trains Through Trees.” I’ve been making sketches for a few years but, until recently, never arrived at something I liked. It’s a narrative. Our favorite yellow trail circles near railroad tracks and often on our walks a train rumbles through. For weeks Kerri made a series of videos, trying to catch the movement of the colorful graffitied train cars through the trees. Train performance art. I loved her excitement at the approaching train as she raced to a good spot to take her video. Those moments inspired an idea for a painting. The dreaded hotel art was the ideal canvas shape.

Two passing moments collide. The trains through trees. The painting-savior. They speak volumes about our life. Tiny moments like a hot cup of tea on a cold misty afternoon. They warm me. And, aren’t all of our days rich-rich-rich with the best moments of our lives, if we only took the time to notice them?

read Kerri’s blogpost about TINY MOMENTS

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Call Attention [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I spent the past two years working with engineers. I was constantly amazed at what they could not see and what I could not see. They were blind to what was apparent to me and I was equally blind to what was obvious to them. It’s what made us a good team. Once, Scott sent a spreadsheet and I stared at it like it was an alien. And it was. Numbers in columns and rows become visual statements for me. I lose the data in the pattern. The information melts into a design on the page. It was beautiful and incomprehensible to me. I had to ask, “What does this mean?”

Yesterday, Kerri and I took a long hike on a trail that we hadn’t walked for a few years. It was a beautiful day. I was overcome with appreciation. I recognized that we do not walk like other people. We stop often to look. Kerri takes photographs of detail. She sees the smallest of miracles and, rather than walk-on-by, she stops. She engages. She calls my attention to it. While she snaps pictures, I close my eyes. I feel the air. I hear the cranes and geese flying overhead. I call her attention to it.

The crystals on the window stopped me in my tracks. Standing in the door of my office, I looked across the hall through a room and to the window. The ice-branches sparkled in the morning light. They were like a magic kelp forest frozen in time. I called to Kerri and she came running, camera in hand.

I cherished the moment, not because it was unusual, but because it is our ordinary. What happens on the trail also happens in our home. We are not in a rush to get “there.” We stop often to look. We call attention to what we see.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS

Stay On The Root [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I wrote a note to myself and put it on the stairs. Later, I’ll carry the note up to my studio/office. It reads: standing still in the sacrament of uncertainty.

I know well this sacrament of uncertainty, this thing of mysterious and sacred significance. I’ve been here before, many times. Standing still is becoming easier.

This morning these words caught me so I underlined them in pencil: They are fully aware that their common ancestors, the Tairona, waged fierce but futile war against the invaders. In their mountain redoubt, lost to history for at least three centuries, they chose deliberately to transform their civilization into a devotional culture of peace.” ~ Wade Davis, The Wayfinders.

Deliberate transformation into a devotional culture of peace. Imagine it if you can.

She was so wise! Karola’s advice to the 30 year old version of me: let the glass go empty. That was terrifying advice to my younger self. At that age, I feared losing myself in the emptiness. At 60, having been empty (and emptied) more than a few times, her advice is sage. As she knew, empty is the only place that you have a chance of finding yourself.

I know now that I used to go into my studio to escape the noise. It was the only place where I could make sense – or find sense – of this crazy world. Studio as fortress. As armor. I will, at some point, re-enter my studio. I wonder what I will paint now that sense-making is no longer a priority. I wonder what I will imagine now that the armor is off.

I tell myself to “stay on the root.” Advice from Saul. That means to stay in the moment. Even in the intense discomfort of uncertainty I do not want to rush through a day of my life. Uncertainty and loss are life experiences, too. Colors on the palette. No less valuable than joy or conviction. When I listen to myself, when I sit solidly on the root, the circumstance remains but the discomfort disappears.

I’m doing what I’ve so often advised others to do: when you cannot see, ask those you trust to tell you what they see. Perspective requires some distance and I am sitting squarely atop my event horizon. I cannot see. These days I’m happily borrowing perspective. My friends have wise-eyes. They tell me – each in their own way – to stand still. Honor the sacrament. Listen. Empty and make space for imagination.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BEGINNING

Find Your Flower [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

Lately I am learning that I don’t need to immediately accomplish every task. Our house has been an excellent teacher and I have gained the useful phrase, “delayed maintenance.”

Kerri and I have two different operating styles. Mine is a straight line and hers is a circle. She can start a project and leave it and think nothing about it. On the other hand, if I start a project, I can’t stop thinking about it until it is complete. I am only now learning that I tend toward the obsessive. I have a gift for the myopic.

I thought I was kind of a zen guy, easy going, and am shocked to discover that I can be a hot mess of fixation. Thus is the nature of self-discovery. Life is helping me loosen up.

We sat on the deck last night and talked of our childhood homes. The games we played. I drew pictures on typing paper with a #2 pencil for hours and hours. The world disappeared. I’d wait until the rest of my family was asleep and then I ‘d get up and paint on my wall. I thrived in the quiet of the night. I suppose myopic comes naturally to me. Single focus. Disappearing into my work.

I marvel that butterflies seem like drunken sailors, careening this way and that, yet they always clear the fence. They always alight on the flower of their intention. My career has been like the flight of a butterfly. I dare anyone to make linear sense of my resume. Drunken sailor. Yet, somehow, I clear the fence. I find my flower.

People ask me if I like my job and I tell them I love it. They, of course, want to know why I love it and I tell them that I never know in the morning what I am going to do that day. Each day the work is good. I fall into my myopic ways, sail into my conceptual universe, but have no expectation of completion. It’s like wrestling with a shape-shifter. And, so, to keep in the match, I, too, must shift my shape. I’m honing my inner chameleon.

There is a post-it note on the wall next to my desk. It reads, “Live as if the universe was tipped in your favor.”

Fly like a drunken sailor. Like Dogga, run in circles of delight. Learn to love your myopic ways, yet do as the Balinese taught: know that “it’ll happen when it happens.” What else? Sight – seeing the flower (myopic and otherwise) – is fully available when practiced without expectation.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WHITE MOTHS

See The Pattern [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives.” ~ Oliver Sacks

Entrepreneur Ash Bhoopathy said, “The more you see, the more you see patterns.” It’s true. Take some time and sit on a busy street corner and watch. If your eyes are open, you’ll notice that you are surrounded by patterns. Not only the bricks in the buildings but the patterns of travel. The space between a red light and green light. The beeping of the crosswalk. The suits and ties. The paths walked by busy commuters.

“Comfort” and “home” are defined by patterns. What do you do to get comfortable? How do you signal the end your busy workday? Is it the same as you did yesterday?

Expectations are patterns, too.

Study “story” long enough and you’ll discover, as Kurt Vonnegut did, that there are patterns beneath every plot. We tell ourselves the same storyline over and over. Hallmark has its story pattern defined to the minute. It’s the secret to their appeal: the comfort of knowing the pattern. The comfort of asking, not “What” will happen, but “How” will it happen.

It’s a great paradox. The more you see, the more you see pattern. Yes. Yet, in order to see, often it’s necessary to disturb your patterns. That’s the beauty of patterns. When you are inside them, living a day of your life, you rarely see your patterns. It’s the reason Julia Cameron built artists dates into her Artist’s Way. Do something different. Break your routine. Challenge your expectation. Get out of your pattern rut. Only then will you be capable of seeing the pattern.

If you desire to change anything about your world, about this world, the change you seek will ultimately be a change in pattern. It’s a good practice to begin seeing them.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PATTERN

[the pattern image is the mat at our backdoor]

Discern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a little over two miles to Steve’s garage. When we drop the car for a repair, especially in the early morning, we like to walk home. The route takes us by the lake. We take our time, more stroll than stride, and breathe in the early morning quiet.

We are dedicated walkers. We’ve become dedicated seekers and creators of quiet. It’s as if we are counterbalancing the crazy-noise-of-the-news with a stalwart sanctuary that we take with us wherever we go. We walk slow enough to notice. We walk slow enough to appreciate.

There is, of course, a direct correlation between pace-of-movement and paying attention. It’s hard to smell the roses when racing through the day. Lately, much of my work-in-the-world involves addressing information overload. The pace-of-movement need not be physical, it also applies to the river of information rushing across our screens. It’s no wonder we’re angry and anxious and aggressive. I’ve adopted a phrase from my colleague, Greg; he calls the info-torrent More/Faster. We live in the age of info-gluttony and have difficulty discerning between what has nutritional value and what is dross.

Until we slow down. There is a correlation between the pace of movement and peace-of-mind. There is a correlation between pace and the capacity to determine relevance.

It’s why we walk to or from Steve’s Garage. It’s why we end the work day holding hands and walking the neighborhood. It’s why we begin each day sitting side-by-side writing. To slow it down. To discern relevance in a fast moving info-river of dedicated draff. To see what matters in a More/Faster world racing too fast to see anything at all.

We smell flowers. Feel the dew on leaves. Turn our faces to the sun as it reaches through the morning clouds. Real stuff. Stuff of the moment. The small discoveries available when racing to the next thing is the last thing you want to do.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MORNING SKY

Learn A Thing Or Two [on KS Friday]

A decade ago I wrote and self-published a book. I called it The Seer. The see-er. A few days ago I pulled it off the shelf and began a slow-read-through. It’s a good book! I’m actually learning a few things from my younger self.

Yesterday I made a spreadsheet (I’ll never again confess to making a spreadsheet so appreciate this moment). The purpose of my spreadsheet was to build a database for Kerri of the cartoons that I’ve drawn for work. She takes my pencil drafts and digitizes them, colorizes them, and adds some quirky dynamics. They begin as mine and complete as ours. To finish my database it was necessary to open every file and look at each cartoon. They made me laugh. I’m proud of those cartoons, our work. I’m excited to share them beyond the small circle of eyes that currently see them. I know I’ve learned a few things because they are so simple.

We have a few sparse analytics on our blogs so can see when someone reads a post from the deep past. Lately, when someone reads a post from several years ago, we read it, too. “Where did that thought come from,” Kerri asked herself after rereading her long-ago-post. Often, after I dive into the archive, I want to rewrite what I read. I’m a much better writer now that I have a great editor reviewing my posts every day. The grammar police should have sent me to the gulag years ago. I am fortunate now to have a daily read through and revision with the-daughter-of-beaky-who-won’t-tolerate-improper-grammar. It’s too soon to know but I might be learning a thing or two.

We had occasion to revisit 2015. We didn’t mean to but were looking for a picture of a lanai and a pizza. It was the year we produced and performed The Lost Boy, illustrated and produced the first of Beaky’s books, we lost her a few weeks after the book release party, we were married in the fall of that year, we inadvertently created our first cartoon character, Chicken Marsala. “We’re content-creating monsters,” I said during our reminiscence. “We’ve learned a few things,” Kerri replied.

We walked to the channel. The last time we took this walk was before Covid. It seemed like a stroll into the past. A walk into a former life. So much has changed. We stopped at the waterpark to take some photographs. Children danced in the fountains. Parents smiled. Innocence at play. Elders occupied benches.

“Look at this,” she said, showing me the picture of the fountain. “I think maybe I’ve learned a thing or two.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

good moments/this part of the journey © 1997/2000 kerri sherwood

Find The Universe [on DR Thursday]


“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

I don’t know why but Van Gogh is lately on my mind. He died at age 37. Most of his paintings came through him in the last few years of his life.

He wrote letters to his brother. That’s why we have so many of his words. His contemporaries thought he was mad. They had plenty of evidence of his mania so that was what they saw. Crazy Vincent making crazy paintings. Nothing serious. Swirls of color in an age of dreary.

Only a crazy man would assert that artistry is to love other people, right?

As a young man he was an art dealer and his experiences in the market drove him to become a missionary in Belgium. The art market drove him to religion and he found religion so depressing that he started to paint. This, of course, is my telling of the tale.

Like Vincent, run to the edge of society. Run to the very margins, turn around and look. What do you see?It’s enough to make anyone turn away from sane society and start painting swirls of color. You’re certainly crazy if you consider society and its politics sane. Right?

Vincent painted and moved further out, beyond the margins. Beyond the power games and posturing. The pretending-to-be. He left behind the Joneses. He found entire universes in simple things: sunflowers, the night sky. Bowls of blueberries.

He must, at the very end, have turned and looked back, again. This time seeing through the eyes of a painter. Was it wishful thinking that he saw artistry as love? Was it a prayer for humanity?

Oscar Wilde, Vincent’s contemporary, a man brutalized by the society that once adored him, wrote, “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” Oscar tried to live on the margin and in the center, all at the same time.

Love makes us giddy. It helps us drop our pretense and gaming. I think Vincent saw, not through the lens of madman, but life without a lens., into pure life, pure love. Swirls of color. Entire universes in bowls of blueberries and in other people. Artistry.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLUEBERRIES

bass player © 2002 david robinson