Follow The Path [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

thepathforward WITH EYES jpeg copy

Rule #1: When a path announces itself it will make no sense. Trying to understand it will make stepping onto the path problematic. The order is clear: Step first. Make sense second.

Rule #2: A path is a living thing, a relationship. A path requires engagement, experience. If you confuse yourself into thinking that the path is about achievement then you are most certainly off the path. Achievements are fixed, like trophies. Paths are fluid, like friendship. Achievements are finite games. Paths are infinite games.

Rule #3: Paths do not speak in loud voices. They whisper. To hear the path’s announcement it is often necessary to get quiet. A path is patient. It will know you are ready to listen when it sees you turn away from the chatter.

Rule #4: A path requires a single action: pick up the paint brush, preferably the big brush, dip it in the bucket of paint, and start. The need is not to know where you are going. The need is not to be right or best or wise or clever. The path merely needs you to start.

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sometimes the path forward announces itself ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Feel More [on KS Friday]

song box copy

I’m sure that accountants never sit at their desks and review their accounting of the past 30 years. Lawyers, I suspect, may review a case here and there but I doubt that they ever sit in a room, surrounded by all their cases, and consider them as a body of work. Artists necessarily review their work all the time.

Because of our melange both Kerri and I have been sitting in our studios surrounded by our life’s work, revisiting every era. She listens, pours through old notebooks, tinkers with pieces that never made it to the recording studio. I pull out canvases, flip through old sketchbooks, and portfolios. We compare notes. We share our favorites. We disavow our least favorites (“Someone else  painted that and stuck into my stack. That piece is awful!”)

if you'd like to see kerri sherwood.. copy 2It is much more emotional than you might imagine. Each piece comes thanks to a potent life experience, a funny story, a period of loss, lostness, foundness, utter ful-fill-ment, the vast and empty void. We stare at what we achieved, we face what we aimed for and missed.  We stand on the edge of what next calls to be explored.

It is not an intellectual review, a study. It is a feeling pathway, a conscious opening to experience in all its many colors. There is no rational sense to be made in what we do or have done. “Making art” is a dedication to feeling more. It is a love song.

 

BUT I FEEL MORE on  AS SURE AS THE SUN is available on iTunes & CDBaby

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but I feel more/as sure as the sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

 

Think “Isn’t It Weird…?”

my new tree;-)

Wide awake in the middle of the night, we snacked on handfuls of Chex cereal and indulged in my favorite kind of conversation: “Isn’t it weird that…?” Little did we understand that our late-night conversation would set the theme for the week.

The next night high winds toppled our neighbor’s ENORMOUS aging maple tree into our backyard. The insurance company called it “an act of God.” It is a phrase implying no fault, no responsibility. It just happened. I laughed aloud when, immediately following the “act of God” designation, the insurance adjuster heaped on us a load of legal cautions, new responsibilities (the tree now ‘belonged’ to us), property line designations, and small print reminders meant to minimize financial risk and responsibility to the insurance company. The layers of irony are too many to count though I suppose if wacky preachers can assign responsibility for hurricanes and other natural disasters to the wrath of God, then it is no less ridiculous for insurance companies to invoke the fickleness of God to absolve themselves of liability.

Isn’t it weird that…?

P-Tom reminded us that the “act of God” was that no one was hurt in the tree fall. For P-Tom the act of God was a kind of intervention. A few degrees to the right, a slightly different wind direction, and the tree would have landed on our bedroom. Life does seem fragile by the slightest of degrees. We told people that we were lucky. Intervention? Fortunate? Fate? Design?

Isn’t it weird that…?

We cut a branch from the fallen tree and brought it in the house. It is now our Christmas tree.

Had you asked that branch a week ago if it would ever become a Christmas tree it might have laughed at you.

As a maple branch it had no aspirations or intentions of being wrapped in lights or decorated with silver baubles. In truth, it probably cares little if it makes us laugh or invokes a smile each time we enter the room. But it does. Or, better, we make sense of it that way. Sense making? Story telling? Either way.

Isn’t life weird?

Our work-in-progress

 

 

 

 

 

Make No Sense

these hands will change

these hands will change

The woodpecker hammered high atop the ancient television antenna. He seemed not to be bothered by his lack of progress, beak on metal. At first I thought it made no sense and then it occurred to me that progress was not the goal. Perhaps the woodpecker hammered for the pure pleasure of the sound of it. It need not make sense. This woodpecker was an artist to his or her core!

Yesterday was a “no-power-tools” day. No sharp objects were allowed. No walking near ledges permitted. I was distracted; tired to the core. Late in the day we drove 45 minutes to a bakery called ‘Simple’ in Lake Geneva. They make the world’s best flourless chocolate cake. “This makes no sense,” Kerri said as we stepped out of the bakery with our cake. We laughed and ate a slice in the car; pure pleasure before driving home.

Every time the neighbors let their dogs out, Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog runs a frenetic figure eight in the backyard, over and over and over. He exhausts himself. He is having some exotic shepherd fantasy or perhaps he cannot contain his delight. It makes no sense for him to run a trench in our backyard for dogs he’s never even seen. He runs for the pleasure of it.

We sat in the sun this morning drinking coffee. The sky was cloudless, the air was cold but the sun was warm. We leaned against the house, saying little, feeling the warmth seep into our bones. We both knew that on this day we would do nothing. There would be no visible progress toward any defined goal. The wheels of society would have to grind on without us. We needed most to stop, to sit, to stare, to laugh at the Dog-Dog.

photo-2I started a painting a few weeks ago. It is a figure falling through space. Something has been wrong all along and sitting in the sun I figured it out. The hands are all wrong. Rather than reaching for something to grasp they ought to be letting go.

 

 

Begin Here

photo-6

Begin Anywhere

In our house, hanging on the wall like a painting, is an old window frame. In the top pane is a card that reads, “Begin Anywhere.”

Earlier this week I had a great conversation with Diane. She laughed and said, “In my meditations I was whining to God because I wanted to see the plan of my life. I got the clear message that I was never going to see the plan but I could always see the next step. The next step is always right in front of me.” Dancing with what’s right in front of you is sometimes called faith. Sometimes it is called play. Sometimes it is called art.

Diane and I are good reflectors for each other; we are usually on parallel paths. For both of us, the past year or two has been a process of letting things go and stripping things back: paths, patterns, and presuppositions. It has been the mother of all house-cleanings (she had a literal flood!) and, like all good house cleaning it took some elbow grease and few hard decisions about what to keep and what to throw. After the job is done, nothing feels better than a clean house and along with the good feeling, new space, and wide-open possibilities, comes the question, “What’s next?”

Diane told me her story because my next step is so clear that I can focus on nothing else. With such a myopic focus I can see nothing else and that’s why I called her. I must do this play. I must. I cannot see beyond this dance. It is my first thought in the morning. It is my last thought falling into sleep. This step, my dance with The Lost Boy, makes no sense and Diane’s point was well taken: the next step rarely makes sense. Sense-making requires context. Sense-making is a skill of relativity – and since we can never know the plan (if, indeed, there is one), we can only make sense based on old information. That is good news for plumbers but is dubious at best for leaders, explorers, seekers, and artists.

After our call I realized that dancing with what’s right in front of me is how I paint. It’s also the key to a good conversation – and painting, for me, is a good conversation. After my good conversation with Diane, she sent me an email of affirmation and concluded her thoughts with this: “Stay focused on what is before you now and let the creations show you how and when they are ready to play.”

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Enter The Castle

[continued from Tell A Good Story]

Shuttering the business, closing down my coaching practice, ending all corporate work, cleaning out the metaphoric closet – created quite a void. Standing solidly in a void of my own making I found myself once again enrapt with the Parcival tale. I’ve told this story dozens of times to audiences of all sizes, in performance and in facilitation. I wove it through The Seer as the main character’s stalking story (the story that follows you throughout your life and only opens when you are ready for it). It continues to open for me, a flower with many petal layers.

title_page

The Parcival story is woven throughout The Seer

It’s a grail quest story. Because every human being is in search of his or her personal grail (their true selves), once the metaphors are understood, it is a very useful story for navigating life. At one point in the story, after years of trying to prove himself worthy and save the world from becoming a wasteland – something that he is personally responsible for causing – believing himself to be invincible, he is defeated. A “nature warrior” knocks him off his warhorse and his magic sword shatters into a thousand pieces. Parcival strips off his armor (his role) and weeps. He lets go. He shutters his business. Despite his best efforts, despite fighting every dragon and ogre, despite defeating every dark knight, the wasteland still happened.

As is true in life, in the moment of greatest defeat, the second master appears and for Parcival it is a hermit. Parcival follows the hermit back to his cave and retreats from the world. He waits impatiently for the hermit to teach him, becomes frustrated, and finally resigned to the absence of any useful lesson, all the while, each day, chopping wood for the fire, carrying water to the cave. Over time he forgets that he was ever a knight. He forgets that he felt broken. He forgets his quest. He becomes present to the moment and is no longer invested in a role or purpose. He chops wood. He carries water. He feels the sun on his face. He appreciates his moment.

And, as is true in life, that is the moment that the grail castle appears for the second time. To re-enter the grail castle, to become the grail king (or queen), we must see ourselves as we are, beyond the role we use for armor, beyond the mission we use for meaning making, beyond the things we think we need to say, or do, or be. We have to recognize that we are enough, just as we are created, sacred and beautiful and complete. We are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed or changed or achieved. Parcival, enters the grail castle (life) in this consciousness, speaks his truth, and the wasteland, in a single moment, disappears.

[to be continued]

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Ponder The Pieces

Kerri's head exploding.

Kerri’s head exploding.

My beautiful Kerri’s head just exploded. I am currently surrounded by exploded head-bits and a dog-dog running loops around the house from the thrill of experiencing his first head explosion. Baby cat had the good sense to hide. There’s nothing for me to do but drink wine and write this post. And drink more wine.

Heads explode when the world ceases making sense. Beaky, Kerri’s mom, 93 years old, is no longer capable of crossing the room with her walker. Mobility is a problem and the source of Beaky’s despair. For months Kerri has been working to get Beaky an electronic wheelchair. Her doctor prescribed it. A physical therapist diagnosed it. A bevy of nurses recommended it. A mountain of paperwork was filled out and filed for it. Medicare did the expected and requisite thrice denial before begrudgingly approving a lesser model (apparently, Beaky looks like a reckless driver and can’t be trusted with too much speed). At long last, after hours of phone calls, pleading, cajoling and begging, the chair was ordered and scheduled for delivery. And then there was Jose. The man who measures aging bottoms to make sure the chair is a perfect fit decided that, while measuring Beaky, she was not yet ready, at 93 years of age, to have an electronic wheelchair. His reason: Beaky is too mobile.

Kerri playing for her mom and the other ladies.

Kerri playing for her mom and the other ladies.

I wish I had filmed Kerri’s head explosion. I’d send it to Jose, the man with the measuring tape and the power to explode heads. As I watched the pieces of her mind drift back toward the earth I couldn’t help but remember the statistic – relative to the rest of the developed world – of how much Americans pay for their health care and how little they actually receive. Our costs are astronomical. Jose just showed me why. I wondered how many man/woman hours of work that Jose just annihilated. As Kerri said to the electric wheel chair supply company representative, every day of Beaky’s life is an extra inning or like a dog year. It is a gift. To tell this woman that it will only be a few more months before she will be approved is cruel. It need not make sense. It is merely cruel.

On another related note, today was Josh’s first day of work as a nurse in an emergency room. He wrote that he had a very good first day. The highlight was extracting a penny from a young boy’s nose. Apparently, the boy tried unsuccessfully to swallow the penny and coughed it up and into his nose. A hole in one! What are the odds of such a perfect shot? If I ever have a penny up my nose I want Josh to do the extraction. He cares for people. He is kind. Mostly, I want Jose, the man with the tape measure, to meet Josh, the man who helped a kid with a penny problem, so that Josh can explain to Jose how to recognize a person in need and what it means to serve. Service often requires dropping the tape measure and looking at the person being measured.

I suppose this is yet another tribute to Doug whose wisdom is worth repeating: “Your problem,” he said to me, “is that you want it all to make sense.” The path to happiness, according to Doug, is to cease the expectation of sense. No mother can make sense of a penny lodged up the nose of her son and Kerri will never be able to make sense of the man with the tape measure. It was her attempt at sense making that caused her head to detonate. I’ll keep that bit of information to myself until all the pieces find their way back to earth. In the meantime, let’s have more wine!

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for a hard copy and Kindle.