Wink With Piet [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My first thought was of Piet Mondrian. Not the colorful compositions but a never-before-seen shadow side. Abstract reduction into simple geometry. An artistic vocabulary concerned with spirituality and universal values. I used to ponder how a utopian pursuit of the spiritual landed on clean hard geometry; bold primary colors set inside hard black lines. I’m certain that, given a similar pursuit, my visual vocabulary would have been softer. Ethereal.

It was the first snow. I looked down at the aging planks of the bench. A criss-cross-apple-sauce of workmanship dusted with white. We’ve never painted the loveseat. After so many years, so many winters and summers, rain and snow and sun, the grain of the wood is alive with texture. An aged face.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is the first sitting. After another freezing winter, another year of age, will the wood continue to hold my weight, our weight? We hold hands and sit slowly, gingerly. Our knees creak before our weight finds the planks. Like a baton pass, the wood takes on the groaning as our knees pass our load to the seat. We sit for a moment with eyes open wide. And then, after a slight bounce-test, we relax. The wood will hold. Our loveseat is like a faithful friend.

The snow melted as fast as it arrived. That is the way of first snow. Blink and you’ll miss it. Except for the love seat and matching chair, we hauled all the other summer furniture into the garage. The table and umbrella. The small ladders that serve as end tables. The fire pit. The first dusting of snow is the cue. The pond freezes so we pull the pump and fountain. Soon, we’ll stack the plastic Adirondack chairs and they’ll take the last available spot in our tiny garage. We push the loveseat to the wall beneath the kitchen window.

We stand on the deck and sigh, feeling the weight of coming winter. The dark days. For a moment, the yard seems bleak. But then, the birds land on the wire. The squirrel highway is open for business. We hear the ancient croak of the cranes in the distance. A cold gust brings a blizzard of falling leaves. A wholly different kind of abundance. The energy moves underground. A time for sleeping and quiet rejuvenation.

Simple geometry. Reduction to cold days and hard lines. Brilliant blue sky. A wink from Piet Mondrian.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DECK

Recover The Reins [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”Phaedrus

My first question: is this the Phaedrus from Plato’s book or a quote from the guy who hung out with Socrates? Historically, they are one and the same person but one is a character and the other the person upon which the character is based. I suppose it doesn’t really matter since either way the words are sifted through time and translation.

And, either way, they are as relevant today as when they were spoken/written. They are especially relevant on this day since today we vote.

Phaedrus, the character-in-Plato’s-book, offers an analogy of the soul as a charioteer holding the reins of two horses. One horse is good and pulls toward the sacred. The other horse is bad and pulls toward material gain. The charioteer steers them to a common center. The middle way.

Things are not always what they seem. A wild teasel. A strawberry in a skeleton costume. It was my first thought when she showed me this photo. It’s appropriate to the Halloween season-just-passed and the election-day-present.

One thing is as it seems: this nation’s soul has lost the reins of the chariot, if it ever had them. The wild teasels are run amok, their pundits loudly claiming to be strawberries. Many are deceived and deceiving. Conspiracies. Angry thorns in their mouths.

The horses pull this way and that. They are quite capable of ripping the chariot in half.

Today we vote. Perhaps it is possible to see through the seeming. Perhaps we can recover the reins and bring our divided team toward a common center? A middle way?

read Kerri’s blog post about SEEMING

Knit It Together [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Bold lines that break the visual plane. Once upon a time it was how I started a painting. Impulsive, reactive, spontaneous slashes that fractured the image and, in my mind, made it more interesting. Those lines gave me a popcorn trail to follow. A hard edge to push against.

Sometimes I think my life’s work can be reduced into a single word: disruption. I was the guy brought in to offer a counterpoint. I am the guy brought in to tell the story that no one wants to speak. What if? Why not? The bold line to break the visual plane. There is always a pattern. There is rarely a problem. Problems incite blame-games. With pattern comes responsibility and the revelation of choice.

John Muir famously wrote, “And into the woods I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” We walk in the woods for the same reason. The circle comes around. The big bold slashes no longer break the visual plane but pull it together.

Mind breaks it. Soul knits it together. Ebb and flow.

Today is a day to walk in the woods.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLACK TREES

Reconnect [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“We are healing our souls by reconnecting to our ancestors.” Nainoa Thompson (quote from The Wayfinders by Wade Davis)

There is a house I sometimes visit in dreams. It is a mountain house and, in the dream, it belongs to my Grandma Sue. I’m always comforted when I go there.

I have some of Casey’s tools and some of Bob’s. I think of them every time I use the wrench or the screwdriver. Both were good mechanics, handy, so I imagine their tools imbue me with some of their wisdom when I attempt to fix what’s broken around the house.

I gingerly page through the handmade book where DeMarcus made his notes about color. The pencil marks are fading but his enthusiasm reaches from the page and rejuvenates me. Inspires me.

A few days ago I happened upon my Lost Boy session recordings with Tom. His bass voice reached through my computer, telling me a story I now know so well. It warmed me.

In my studio, on top of DeMarcus’ wooden paint box, is a nutcracker that Grandpa Chan kept by his pool table. It’s the only thing I wanted when he passed. Something he touched. I hold it sometimes when I stare at works-in-progress. I feel him there.

I wear a chain around my left wrist. Kerri wears one, too. It is pull chain. The current version is a replacement of the original that we took from Pa’s workbench. I never met him but I feel connected to him. Kerri tells me stories of her dad. “How do you like them apples?” One of his phrases.

I imagine he and my dad are on the other side of the veil drinking scotch together. That drink warms me, too.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THEM APPLES

Feel The Stir [on DR Thursday]

“It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.” ~Henri Matisse

The canoe glided silently through the lily leaves. I counterbalanced the canoe as she stretched over the side to take a photograph. Leaning, I stared down at the leaves. Vibrant color and pattern, Matisse might have painted them. They stirred within me the deep desire to paint, something I haven’t heeded for too long. Nature is a great artist.

The trees surrounding the lake signaled autumn’s imminent arrival. Crimson reds and yellows dotted the shore. Fall paints me melancholy and I felt the first whispers of the coming-sweet-sorrow. Deep quiet. Still water reflection. Hearing rhythms beyond sound. Nature, I am told, is a great healer.

Although I’ve painted all my life I’ve never thought of myself as a painter. For me, painting is not about the image I produce. It is about walking into the dark cave or soaring into the blinding light. Icarus. Nature’s call.

My sister remains confounded that I have not given myself over to the wealth and riches of pet portraiture. Early in my life I was paid-not-well to copy masterworks, alter the colors so they might match a client’s couch. I can paint anything. I can paint like anyone. I left that behind. It was soul draining. I paint to answer Nature’s call, to discover how to paint like myself.

Counterbalancing the canoe, staring at the Matisse leaves, the brilliant white lily, I acknowledged the stir. I promised myself, my easel, like autumn’s imminent arrival, “Soon.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about LILY

icarus © 2008 david robinson

Flap Your Ears [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

If one of the great life lessons is “control what you can control and let the rest go,” then Dogga is a master teacher. He has minimal investments in what most people think or do or feel. He is an equal opportunity barker.

As he ages, he becomes more and more a hedonist. He finds the coolest spot in the house to nap. He thoroughly enjoys his food. Lately, cold watermelon sets his wag-a-wag in fervent motion. Take him for a drive and he cares not-a-whit for the destination but savors the rushing air blowing back his ears. Ask him if he wants to drive and he’ll decline every time. Face the wind; flap the ears.

He is never shy about his desire for petting. He bumps his head against my leg for an ear-ruffle. He flops on his back when a full-belly-belly is his fancy. He is also clear when he wants space and to be left alone. He parks just out of reach. Nothing personal.

I think James Herriot has it right: “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” Dogga’s soul isn’t really invested in what he can’t control. It leaves a lot of space in his universe for love – that which he can control – and for that, I am most grateful. It’s a lesson worth learning.

read Kerri’s blogpost about EARS FLAPPING

Melt And Hammer [on Merely A Thought Monday]

We are easily entertained. Once, we nearly crashed the car laughing-so-hard at the names we gave to our alter-egos. Who drives around naming their alternative selves? We do. Sit us in a corner and we’re pretty good at finding something to do.

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton

Igneous is volcanic. Fiery. A few weeks ago we painted rocks to put on the trail. Since we’re both cycling through an artistic-growth-crisis, we painted and fantasized about our new career intentions. When Kerri suggested we call ourselves “igneous artists” I howled. The layers of meaning are too vast to count. Plus, I thought it sounded suspiciously close to “ignorant artists” and I liked that, too. “We should hang out a shingle,” she said, “For Hire!”

Igneous artists.

Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.” ~ Albert Einstein

Because we tend to riff on everything, while painting rocks, we rolled around our new art-moniker until we had an appropriate clever (to us) sub-phrase. “It sounds like a lyric,” I announced, mostly as enticement for my lyricist wife to spin out a theme song. She did not take the bait.

Igneous artists with sedimentary souls.

‘Layers of soul’ is a yummy image. Especially if the layers are born of elements like fire. Like all artists, we’ve been forged, melted in a hot furnace and hammered into shape. The smith hammers out the impurities. “People don’t change,” Kerri often quips, “They become more of who they already are.”

I could stand to lose a few impurities. I look forward to becoming what I am already.

“To draw you must close your eyes and sing.” ~ Pablo Picasso

read Kerri’s blogpost about IGNEOUS ARTISTS

View The World [on DR Thursday]

Dogga is a wrecker of backyards. He’s a destroyer of pristine spaces. His joyful enthusiasm propels him in rapid circles and his circles have become etchings in our smallish yard. Initially, we tried to cover his etching path in stone. Were you to visit you’d find flat stones covering a wide spiral around the pond, his first velodrome. To no avail. He is a living Spirograph, a dervish of delightful circles. Viewed from the air, I’m certain our backyard smacks of alien visitation, mysterious crop circles.

We’ve learned. Rather than resist nature, attempt to control it or cover it up, it’s a much better plan to work with it. I knew we’d crossed a thought-bridge the day Kerri suggested we install a round-about sign. We had to be direction-correct so we bought one for right-sided drivers. The details matter. If Dogga was to suddenly switch and run in the opposite direction we’d have to issue a citation or get a new sign.

If there is a devil in the details there must also be an angel. As I’ve previously noted, I am not naturally a detail-guy; my head is at home in the clouds. I’m conceptual and can see great distances. It’s why metaphors are my currency, movement and pattern my friends. Please do not ask me to write a grant or make sense of the world through a spreadsheet. I can. I have, mostly out of necessity. But the cost to my soul is mighty. Luckily, as this great world spins, and the draw to a comfortable center is the force-at-play, I’m currently surrounded by teachers-of-detail, Kerri and Dogga are my favorite two but there are many in my circle. Angels, all.

Kerri runs to show me the photo she’s just taken. A close-in shot. A texture. A bud. An entire world in minutiae. See the beauty in the detail. For me, that’s the passage to the center. There’s entire universes to be found in the smallest detail. The up-in-the-clouds and close-in are relative terms. There’s a whole other worldview available from the grasses.

Lay on the ground and the Dogga will run circles of joy around you, his center point. There’s nothing better and that’s the kind of detail that’s not to be missed.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FROM THE GROUND UP

face the rain © 2019 david robinson

Create Something [on DR Thursday]

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

I’m on a Vonnegut bender. Lately, I’ve fallen into his quotes and I think I’m about to re-read everything he wrote. Standing on the threshold of synesthesia, he submitted his master’s thesis in anthropology on the shapes of stories. It was rejected by “the committee” as being too simplistic, but embraced by the world after he achieved success as a writer. The man was as witty as Quinn and a definite stander-on-the-margins of society, reflecting back both its beauty and brutality.

Trapped in the amber of the moment. Gorgeous. And, standing at the center of the moment, all the explanations necessarily fall away. There is no “why” because there is no separation, no other place to be or person to become. The committee would reject the notion outright since committees are dedicated to explanations and justifications. The elevation of one idea above another. The writer, the artist, serves a different master. “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.” Yes, another Vonnegut quote. Create something. Soul growth rather than reasoning.

At the center of the moment there is no why. There is no space for puzzling-it-out. There is simply this: a rousing and rowdy “why not!” Blue sky. Tall grasses dancing. Feel it. All of it. No single explanation can possibly contain it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about GRASSES AND SKY

prayer of opposite © 2004 david robinson

See The Good [on KS Friday]

“…the measure on ones mental health is the ability to see the good in everything. Perception is the key.” ~ Kristine Klussman, Connection

If I kept a gratitude journal, my entry yesterday would be that Bruce was happy. I could hear it in his voice. Although it had been seven years since we last spoke, we talked like we were picking up a conversation from yesterday. Life has changed dramatically for both of us.

It seems we have both reached the revelation of simple appreciation. No longer focused on the big stuff, we talked of the sweet moments, the moments that feed our souls. He asked me to describe my days and I was happily taken aback to tell the tale of walks on trails, beginning each day writing posts with Kerri, ending each day with a glass of wine. Drawing cartoons. A dog that runs enthusiastic circles. Good friends.

I am reminded again and again that goodness is not found in the world. It is brought to the world. We don’t perceive what is already “there,” we wrap what is “there” in a story-blanket. We give it meaning. And then we feel the impact of the meaning we give it. Viktor Frankel famously wrote that “Happiness ensues.” It follows. Despair ensues, too. Anger, too, if that is what is brought.

Earlier this year a friend asked how Kerri and I were doing amidst the job losses and broken wrists. I responded that our circumstance was dire. It was. It just didn’t feel that way, so full was our sense of appreciation. In the midst of a dire circumstance, we started our days writing. Good friends called. DogDog ran enthusiastic circles and made us laugh. We sipped a glass of wine at the end of each day and enjoyed our simple meals. Today, things are less dire and, although we are still standing on shaky ground, we start each day writing together. We hold hands and take walks. We breathe deeply the smell of coffee in the morning. Our gratitude for our days has not changed a bit. Good moments are everywhere.

And today, Bruce is back in touch. He is happy and his happiness, like all happiness, comes from a hard decision that took tremendous courage: he decided to see the good. To bring light. To be light. He is doing the work of savoring the good moments that he now sees all around himself.

good moments/this part of the journey is available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD MOMENTS

good moments/this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood