Feel The Mountains [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

mountains in the distance CO copy

Look carefully. In the distance you will see the mountains. “It kills me, “Kerri said, staring out the window as we drove east out of Colorado. She craned her neck and watched as the mountains faded into the distance. She took a picture more to reach than record them.

The mountains make her weep. Seriously. Driving up the canyon, leaving the flats of Denver behind, she catches her breath and then the tears roll down her cheeks. “It’s so beautiful.” she utters, wide-eyed, incapable of taking it all in.

Leaving them is harder still. I watch her writhe in her seat, growing more agitated the further away that we get. “Damn it,” she fumes. These mountains are her holy land. They inspire songs and poems and musing. Leaving is not a geographic equation. She feels the separation.

In every corner of our home you will find a pile of rocks, mementos from our travels. And, in each pile, among all the other treasures, there is always a special rock, a mountain rock. She surrounds herself with mountains, even living on this great plain, a block away from a great lake. An artist knows where her power comes from.

She sits at her piano. She opens her computer to write. Surrounded by mountains, she composes. She feels the connection and it fills her with inspiration. Going home is not a geographic equation.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MOUNTAIN IN THE DISTANCE

 

 

roadtrip website box copy

 

 

 

 

Tend One Way [on KS Friday]

be thou my vision songbox copy

This is what I’ve learned. Boil away the rules and regulations penned into the great spiritual traditions and you will find they all pretty much say the same stuff:

~presence is not something you can seek because you are already present. What else? It is not a matter of finding it as much as realizing it. Fear is a story in your head and will always split you into yesterday and tomorrow. I’ve learned: get out of your head.

~in this dual-reality world you can make sense of your life in one of two ways. You can either put the accent on separation (us/them, right/wrong, rules and regulations) or you can put the accent on unity (love, the middle path, relationship). You will most likely dance between these two in a miracle of creative tension. Sometimes you will feel alone, self-righteous and under assault (separate). Sometimes you will feel connected and a part of something bigger than your little self (united). Eventually, you will tend one way or the other. I’ve learned: either way, you will make meaning of your limited days on earth according to where you place the accent. “God” has nothing to do with the choice you make. That is all on you.

Mostly I’ve learned: it is the lucky few who are able to see that fear is the story in their head that always splits them (separation). The love-path opens when we get out of our heads and into our hearts (unity).

The title of Kerri’s hymn album is Always With Us. This beautiful hymn, played beautifully, is called Be Thou My Vision. Listen. Kerri just might help you, for a moment, stand in your presence (love), which is, of course, the only real way of getting out of your head. Thus, the real power of the arts and the extraordinary gift of this great artist.

 

BE THOU MY VISION on the album ALWAYS WITH US is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BE THOU MY VISION

 

PrayerOfOpposites10.17 copy 3

prayer of opposites. a perfect image for my lessons learned.

 

hands website box copy

be thou my vision/always with us ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 prayer of opposites ©️ 2004/2019 david robinson

Change Nothing

a detail from In Peace I Pray.

Thoughts from the mountain.

I grew up with these mountains so it should come as no surprise that I get quiet the moment I step into them. Like a too-tight coat the chaos I wear in my day-to-day life simply drops off; stepping into the mountain is to step out of the noise. Literally and figuratively.

Tom once told me that people change when they are ready. Rich once told me that people change when the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of making the change. Change when you are ready, change when you are in pain. Skip taught me that a business intending to change people was destined to fail. It is a fool’s errand. Business is about business not change. I loved this bit of advice from Skip because he is a natural-born change agent, a mentor of mentors (and, poetically, entrepreneurs). In a moment of frustration Kerri told me that people don’t change, they simply become more of who they really are. The masks drop off and we unwittingly reveal ourselves. Change as revelation.

As I hike through the snow toward the summit I wonder if change, at least the human notion of change, is as made-up as the rest of the stories we tell. It is in the forest, which is a festival of the cycles of life, that ideas of different ways of Being seem…superficial. Disconnected. Within seasons there are plenty of changes that roll around and around and around again. Perhaps this thing we call ‘change’ is nothing more than a recognition of the cycle, a readiness to release our dedicated resistance to life? A readiness to release our stories of limitation and division.

Kerri caught me staring at the mountain

Toward the end of his life, Joseph Campbell said that he suspected that all life (energy) was consciousness. There is 1) energy and 2) the forms that energy takes. Although seemingly disparate, seemingly separate, all forms fall back into energy. He said, “The universe throws forms up, then takes them down again.”He might have said that change is nothing more than the cyclical movement between energy and the forms it expresses.

Jim taught me that the art of acting was the art of being present. I know that when I stand in front of a canvas and begin to work, all notions of time disappear. Another day on the mountain, sitting in an adirondack chair midway up the slope, basking in the sun on warm day, we watched Kirsten snowboard. She flew by us several times. When she rides, it is clear, there is no other place, there is no past or future. There is now. She is vital, alive. In that place, riding the present moment (the only place that actually exists), the noise drops off. I know, and Jim knew, when fully in this moment there is no need to pester yourself with misplaced notions of being somewhere else, being anyone else.

 

a blast from the waaay past: August Ride. I lost track of this one and if you know where this painting is, let me know.

Look To The Living Thing

my latest, as yet un-named, painting

Kerri looked at this painting and told me it captures how she feels when our daughter is hurting and calls home. “Describe that feeling to me?” I asked. She pointed to the painting, and said, “Just like that.”

Some things are universal and understood regardless of political affiliation or religious belief. What does a mother need to know to support her child? The political investments and religious doctrines are abstractions, separations. Motherhood is direct; it lives beyond the capacity of language to capture and articulate. It is the impulse to unity. It transcends all divisions. It knows nothing of conceptions like the rational and irrational.

Jim and I just had one of our famous phone calls. Our discussion romped through many fields but we returned again and again to the notion that the important things in life cannot be rushed. For instance, relationship takes time. Relationship takes attention and tending. It is fluid and dynamic so it is nearly impossible to slap a single word-label on it. It changes. It grows. In a single day it can pass through many descriptors. Dog-Dog can drive me crazy in one moment and melt my heart the next. The important stuff, like relationship, is not static or containable. It is not a concept. It is a living thing.

So What?

The best language can do is point to the living. Language can describe experience but can never be experience. Language, of necessity, reduces while the important stuff – like relationship – like love – expands. Language, as a tool of abstraction, can never be true. It can only point toward truth. Language separates. Truth is like relationship. Truth is a living thing, dynamic and changing. To be known, it must, like motherhood, be experienced directly.

Again, so what?

Direct experience is always (obviously) personal. Truth is not so easily captured. Is it exclusively liberal or conservative? Is it Christian? Buddhist? Is it unique to Islam, Judaism, or the Tao? Leave the city lights some night, take a good long look at the stars, and realize what you are staring into.

Last week we rushed 20 to the hospital. He couldn’t breathe. He walked to the edge of the abyss and looked into it. We watched him teeter on the edge. As we watched, all other concerns, pursuits, bills, frustrations, news,…, dropped away. The stuff of separations and abstractions went to dust in the face of the actual. Ask me what I experienced watching 20 grasp for life? There are no words. Ask him what he experienced in those long hours and he will shrug his shoulders. There are no words – but it is clear in his eyes.

The important stuff, the stuff beyond words, leaps the boundaries of separation and abstraction; all else falls away. The important stuff always leads to a universal place, a common ground. It is a beautiful paradox.  As a test, try this: if language can reach it, ask this very important and often absent question: Is it really true or merely another entrenched point of view?

a detail

Live Your Metaphor

2mayyoubepeace-jpegA view from 30,000 feet (a meditation on metaphor):

Joe used to say that the universe tends toward wholeness. “Tends” is a precarious word of movement, like a tree that leans. Still, to me, Joe’s sentiment – his metaphor – is hopeful. He might have said that the universe tends toward confusion.

Chris and Janelle are starting a new theatre company, The Seadog Theatre Company. They are dedicating their work to exploring stories of alienation and reconciliation. Both alienation and reconciliation are words of movement. The first, alienation, is a movement away from wholeness (toward confusion?). The second, reconciliation, is a movement toward wholeness. Push away. Reach across.

Chris and I agree that all stories, from the deepest mythology to the most whimsical lampoon, are explorations of alienation and reconciliation. It is the human journey, it is humanity’s journey. It is the human experience. Journey is a word of movement, from here to there.

The Big Bang is science’s great narrative of alienation and reconciliation. Out of nothingness (formlessness) in a violent explosion of energy, all forms took shape. Stars, meteors, planets, atoms and oceans and daisies and Dog-Dog. Energy expressed in form. And then, so the narrative goes, form returns to energy. Like the tides going out the energy of the explosion will eventually turn, exhausted, and fall back toward the center in the Big Merge.

The eye blinks open, a universe comes into being. The eye blinks closed, a universe disappears. The tide comes in. The tide rolls out. It’s a cycle of movement. Metaphor.

“Your words are alienation and reconciliation,” I wrote to Chris, “mine are separation and unity. Same thing, yes?”

I’ve never been comfortable with religions because they often claim their metaphors as fact – and that freezes movement. For instance, Adam and Eve were Big-Banged out of the Garden of Eden for eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. One bite of the apple blew their minds open to differences. Separation. It is the experience of birth into this whacky world of duality and confusion. And just like all the stars and planets and oceans and daisies of the field hurtling through space and time, it is a story meant to help us seek wholeness as we stride though this field of opposites.

The universe may tend but we can intend. We can create. We can choose. We can point our ships toward alienation, we can cleave our world into us-and-them, run in fear and separation. Or, we can make conscious our stories (as Chris and Janelle intend in their theatre), we can walk the middle path (a potent metaphor), and recognize that the separation is at best temporary and arbitrary. Like the stars and planets and oceans and daisies, we will also exhaust the force of our explosion into form and fall back into the Big Merge.

products-may-you-be-jpegcool stuff like prints/mugs/pillows/cards/iphone cases/clocks

 

Peace.

kerrisherwood.com

PEACE on iTunes:  kerri sherwood – track 5 on AS IT IS

 

 

 

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Have A Conversation

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

Yesterday I learned that my conversation with the stained glass window was only on hiatus. Several months ago we simply stopped talking. In the silence I thought the conversation was complete. For almost two years we had a weekly chat. I took lots of notes.

I recognize that one is not supposed to have chats with windows – at least not admit to it. Master Marsh teased me saying, “There’s help for things like this.” I’ve decided that my conversation with the window is more ordinary than odd: plenty of people around the world talk to statues. Most of us have had silent reckoning with the sky. I’ve witnessed mechanics talking to their tools and bakers wooing their dough. Who hasn’t cursed the object of a home fix-it job-gone-wrong (plumbing regularly gets a tongue lashing from me!) or praised a project done well? Traffic gets a regular talking to. In this region, at this time of year, more than a few brides make deals with the weather. A soul in exchange for sunshine.

Who hasn’t, in a moment of turmoil, looked inside themselves and asked for help? Who hasn’t uttered a quiet thank you or asked for guidance or made an appeal? Call it prayer, meditation, epiphany, catharsis, intuition, gut instinct, reading the signs, hearing the call, or communing with nature, it’s a conversation.

I’m not the only artist – or scientist for that matter – that, in moments of flow, feels as if something bigger is coming through. In that sense, all of my paintings might serve as the record of a conversation with something bigger. Writers often speak about having the experience of the characters writing themselves, of following rather than creating. Following, surrendering, allowing, listening, responding, getting out of the way. Play the chords long enough and you no longer need to think about them. In the land beyond thinking about it, music becomes possible. It’s a conversation.

Sitting on the chancel, listening to Kerri play, I stared as I often do at the morning light pouring through the colored glass. I studied the symbols. Birth and death. Tree of knowledge, Tree of Everlasting Life. The Grail standing between two flames. It’s a repetition in symbol of the same idea. Born into an experience of duality and distinctions, a world fighting over its differences, we have the opportunity to walk the middle path, the unity consciousness, the “something bigger.” “Between the two, one,” I the heard the window whisper. “It’s simple, really.”

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

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Step Into Your Sanctuary

An oldie simply called ANGEL

An oldie simply called ANGEL

It is night and I am hanging out in the sanctuary while Kerri attends a meeting. I never in my life thought I’d hang out in a sanctuary but I quite like it. It is quiet and I am by myself. It is a good place to meditate or just get still. I am sitting with my stain glass window wondering if there is a conversation in the offing. I’ve spent many nights in my life sitting alone in dark empty theatres and always felt the same sense of peace that I feel at this moment.

I like the word “sanctuary.” It implies a safe place, a resting place. If all the world is my studio then it is also my aspiration to live as if all the world is my sanctuary. I’ve always understood my studio to be a holy place, a place of creation and presence. Going to my studio has always been a step into a safe space. It is where I rejuvenate. Tonight, sitting here, it occurs to me that “studio” and “sanctuary” are very similar words. They are very similar places just as “theatre” and “church” have, for me, been mostly interchangeable: where we go to affirm the stories that identify and transform us; where we go to find our community. My sister finds her community in a church. I have, until lately, found mine in the theatre.

This rambling path begs the question, “What is sacred and what is not?” Yesterday Diane told me that she is a spiritual teacher and I believe that is true. This morning while walking I remembered her words and wondered if we are all spiritual teachers to each other. Some of my greatest teachers had no idea that they were teaching me.They had no intention of teaching me. One great teacher was sweeping a floor and had no idea that I was watching him. He was one of the happiest people I have ever seen. He was shining. He was doing a job that most people would deplore. Everyone who saw him smiled, myself included. He was not his job. He was not his body. He was…connected and alive in his moment. He was living in his sanctuary and helped me know that all the world can be a holy place. He helped crack my understanding of what is possible.

These lines we draw between the sacred and profane are mostly imagined. They are convenient and sometimes useful but they are illusions that I am beginning to understand as destructive. Us and them. A divided house begins in a belief of divisions – a need for division. I’ve often told the story of the executive, red in the face, pounding the table with his fist, shouting, “I know how to compartmentalize my reason from my emotions!” I remember thinking, why would any one want to cut off their emotions from their reason? A better question might have been, who, in their right mind, willingly cleaves themselves into pieces? What delusion is necessary to entertain the notion that reason and emotions are distinct and separate? Separations are generally an indication of not-right-mindedness and a dedication to controlling the uncontrollable.

The angry executive was also a great spiritual teacher for me, too. He taught me to check my assumptions and step over the lines of false distinction that I draw. I can connect the dots directly from his table pounding exclamation to my desire to define my studio as all the world; to live consciously in my sanctuary all of my days.

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