Wash Your Spirit [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” ~ John Muir

I did not know how badly my spirit needed a good washing until we were hiking the Ditch Trail. The aspen trees were just beyond their autumn peak so the mountainside popped with islands of orange and vibrant yellow. The only noise was the breeze murmuring through the trees, quaking the leaves. I literally felt the world of angry people drop away. I breathed deeply the air, the sun warmed me to the bone. The cleansing commenced. Silence of the mind.

Jim once told me that people go to the seashore to experience the eternal. The tides were coming and going long before your birth and will come and go long after you are gone. It puts everything into perspective.

The mountains are like that, too. They are perspective-givers. This week Horatio told me “This life is short so we better get out there and do what we want to do.” The mountains are in constant motion but our lifespans are too short to see the waves rising and falling. On our last day in Colorado, while climbing above timberline, I realized (again) that in my short life I have been less and less concerned with what I want to do and more and more interested in how I want to be. Standing at the edge of Lower Lost Man Lake with Kerri and Kirsten, a bitter wind watering my eyes, I wanted nothing more. The spirit washing continued.

Driving back to Wisconsin, we mused that our re-entry into the world of people would be difficult. It was nice to be out of the fighting and the lying and the aggression. It made me wonder how the mountains perceive us. Such a small creature steeped in a full-blown-delusion-story of having dominion over all things. “Hubris,” the mountain blinks and we are gone.

In the midst of our incessant search for value and meaning and achievement and worth and dominance, our bitter fight over whose story we will tell, the mountain issues an invitation. Come. Walk awhile. Exit the chatter and stand in this moment. What else do you seek?

read Kerri’s blog post about THE MOUNTAINS

Gather Around The Fire [on Merely A Thought Monday]

keep the fire burnin copy

An unseasonably cool June evening. We sat around the fire. At social distance and wearing masks. Friends. “It’s so odd,” we said more than once. Eyes and assumed smiles. Muffled laughter. “I’ll never again take for granted a hug or being able to sit close together around the table,” she said. “It’s the little things that I miss.”

Fire is elemental. Water. Air. Earth. And, sometimes, Spirit though I think the 5th is always implicit. Friendship is elemental and spirit-full. Especially when the world is off center. It is a forge for strength and determination. Our friends, so generous, feed air into the fire. Support. Encouragement.

As we talked through face coverings about our newest daily obstacles, I wondered how hard it must have been to communicate across distance with smoke signals. Measured fire. Kerri said, “My mask is slipping again! There must be something wrong with my face.” We laughed and made up problems with her nose.

So much fire on the streets across the land! Transformation is afoot! Creative fire is out of the barn and teasing the status quo. This hot fire illuminates. It smacks of a ritual fire and, if properly honored and tended, can set us on a new path. Dark corners revealed and more than simply acknowledged, truly addressed.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods to spark life into his new creatures.  To ignite breath. Humans, made from earth and water. Four elements, come together. He was punished for his transgression. The spark lit an entire forest fire of humanity and creative potential. Beings capable of looking at the elements within themselves, at asking each other in magical moments, “How can we be better?”

All of this wonder and wandering on an unseasonably cool summer evening. Meeting with friends across a fire. A sip of wine. In earnest, we ask the question of each other, through our masks and across our distance, “How can we be better?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

 

 

bonfire website box copy

 

 

Receive The Message [on Two Artists Tuesday]

sleigh ride copy

It is my practice, when an animal crosses my path in a special or unusual way, to research the animal’s symbolism. I love story, mythology and the power of symbols (words are symbols, too!) – and, oddly, as a human, I am given to ask that most basic of human questions, “What does it mean?”

One night I had a very long eye-to-eye communion with a coyote. Two snakes crossed my path. Crows used to plague me on a daily basis. A white owl kept me company for a spell. Each was the impetus for me to dive into the symbol, the possible medicine or message of each visitation.

Kerri is horse crazy yet it hadn’t occurred to me until last week to spend some time with the horse as an animal spirit. We were up north on a brief get-away and Dan, in a fit of genius, arranged a sleigh ride. The horses pulling the sleigh were Bill and Ace. Kerri and Ace were immediate friends. They were more than friends. I watched a sweet magic swirl between woman and horse. There is no simple emoji for what passed between Kerri and Ace.

This past year has, for us, been a time of great upheaval and contention. Kerri’s broken wrists are only the latest-and-greatest slice in a year full of crazy pie. And so,  I stood witness to the immediate magnetism, the power of the horse to touch and raise Kerri’s spirits. In the sleigh, for the first time in months, Kerri completely relaxed. The tension and contention of these many months disappeared. She whispered excitedly about Ace and her love of horses. No doctor could have prescribed a better medicine for what ailed her.

Horses signify the overcoming of obstacles. They speak of how to carry yourself in the face of adversity. They appear to remind us to take care of our spirits, our minds and emotions and bodies. Above all, they symbolize freedom of spirit. Freedom. A horse can serve people but can never be fully tamed by people [I may as well have written of Kerri: she can serve but she will never be tamed].

A few days later, on our drive home, she was full of light and possibility. “I think we may have finally turned the corner,” she said. “Or, maybe, we should just live as if we’ve turned the corner.” Yes. What better way to address an obstacle, to carry yourself in the face of adversity, than to let your spirit run free, to live as if the hurdle was already cleared. No resistance.

I smiled and looked out my window. What does it all mean? Who cares. I whispered a quiet gratitude that a horse crossed our path and now my wife’s spirit is running free.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HORSES & SLEIGHS

 

Horses FullSize copy

 

ace and bill website box copy

 

 

Invite Magic [on DR Thursday]

NapMorsel

We are going on an adventure. Our adventure comes with a house on the lake. It is work and although some people might not consider work an adventure, we are not those people. The challenge is great. The work seems oddly destined. It “fits.”

Among the first things we moved into our adventure-home was this painting, Nap On The Beach. One of the quirks of being an artist is investing in the belief (or, perhaps, the cultivated-and-embraced-delusion) that the art you make sometimes carries “power.” This painting is autobiographical. It carries a good memory. It evokes a way-of-being. An intention for living. Once, early in our lives together, we fell into a magic sleep on a beach. We were so comfortable, so at ease entering our new life together.

Magic.

We wanted to invite magic and this way-of-being-together into our adventure-home and our next phase of work. And, so, we hung this painting. There are other paintings poised to join Nap On The Beach. They invite a different spirit. Unfettered, free. But, for now, there is this: comfort. Ease. Peace. Giving over to something much, much bigger. An invocation. An adventure.

 

 

preadventure painting sale box copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NAP ON THE BEACH

 

feet on the street WI website box copy

 

nap on the beach ©️ 2017 david robinson

See Two [on Merely A Thought Monday]

 nature of life box copy

 

“Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

I am fond of symbols. A horizontal line bisecting a vertical line. Two triangles interlocked to create a star. A black and a white swirl,  coupled to form a circle and each containing a dot of the other. All symbols of opposing forces interconnected and counterbalancing.

It is a story of two. Spirit and body. Male and female. Inhale and exhale. The pull of the moon rolling the tide in and out. Birth and death.

Most of us live our lives in abstraction, that is, generally removed from the push-pull of nature. Electric light. Hot and cold running water. Food picked from a grocery store shelf. Our trash easily goes to the curb and disappears.

We do not see that life eats life. We rise with the alarm rather than the sun. Perhaps that is why we engage in the ridiculous debate over whether or not we the have impact on the environment. We somehow have deluded ourselves into thinking we are not part of nature or worse, that we are above it. Our actions do not matter. Isolated, we somehow have come to live in a disembodied story of one.

Kerri and I walk almost every day. We often walk the same trails through Bristol woods or the Des Plaines river trail. We walk them through every season. The barren snowy winter, the budding spring, the full leaf of summer, the color and fall of autumn. As we cycled through the seasons on our trails, I am reminded that these symbols were always meant to help us live and understand life here and now, to engage fully in the dance between the natural forces, the story of the two. Interconnected. Counterbalanced. A part of. The middle way.

It is only when these symbols are mis-taken within the story of one that they become warring emblems. Self-righteous. Inert and other-wordly. Out of balance. Domineering.

Tornadoes are impersonal. Forest fires are not discerning. The tsunami does not pick its direction. The sun melts the snow without ire. Judgment has not place in a story of two. Building up. Tearing down. Sunrise. Sunset.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BUILDING UP & TEARING DOWN

 

 

arches shadows k&d website box copy

Two Artists Tuesday

be kind

I love this image. It works as a subtle infinity mirror, two parallel mirrors that create a ripple of ever smaller reflections that seem to extend into infinite space.

Be Kind. The first and most obvious mirror is an ideal and like most ideals it is unattainable. It is unattainable because it is not a fixed state, a grasp-able thing.  It can’t be bought. Kindness is not an achievement.  Instead, it is a way of being, an aspiration, a flowing river. Like most things unattainable,  it is easily tossed into the dustbin of cliches. Why be kind in a dog-eat-dog-business-is-business-every-man/woman-for-him/her-self world?

Be Kin. The second mirror, the parallel that creates the ripple, is not an ideal, it is a simple reality. It is also not attainable because it simply is.  It cannot be attained but it can be ignored. In fact to ignore our innate kinship requires a serious dedication to denial, an elaborate fantasy of control. It  seems we humans, we makers-of-belief, have a choice to either recognize or deny our kinship.

With inclusion, with the recognition of like-ness, comes the desire to reach for the unattainable kindness. The desire to reach for a greater spirit, a better nature, our natural state.

Exclusion, on the other hand, is a sad and scary state. It is a lonely single mirror, self-directed, single-reflective, a “me” space, and, thus, it is incapable of seeing or participating in the infinite ripple.

On this Two Artists Tuesday, step into the melange and consider looking through the ripple. Be kind. Be kin.

BE KIND. BE KIN merchandise

be kind framed print    be kind mug  be kind pillow

 

kerrianddavid.com

check out Kerri’s thoughts on this Two Artists Tuesday

be kind. be kin ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

 

 

 

Seek Solitude

from my Yoga series of paintings

from my Yoga series of paintings

It is easier to sail many thousands of miles through cold and storm and cannibals, in a government ship, with five hundred men and boys to assist one, than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being alone. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I remember watching a documentary of the painter Lucien Freud. He said he couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to be a painter because the choice meant living a solitary life. His comment struck me as odd because, for me, solitude was necessary for the muse to come through. I often yearned for solitude. I always looked forward to my time with the muse.

More than twenty years ago, for a period of time, I was painting exclusively. I had an abundance of solitude. Each evening my dear friend Albert would show up at my door, force me out of the studio and take me to a coffeehouse. He told me that he feared my isolation, that without human contact and conversation, I might twist. His fear, although probably valid, also struck me as odd.

A solitary life can be quiet, prayerful; it can be full. A solitary life can also be lonely and empty. The difference, of course, is in the presence of a relationship. Most painters that I know, most artists, feel as if they are a “channel to something bigger.” Something comes through and it is in the solitary moments that the channel opens. It is in the solitary moments that the relationship becomes available. The relationship with the muse can be full, rich, and three-dimensional. I imagine monks, nuns and ascetics of all spiritual traditions know this relationship, too. Solitary need not be lonely just as, paradoxically, the loneliest place on earth can be in the middle of city teeming with people.

The exploration of the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being is the province of the artist. The relationship with “something bigger,” with the muse, is the seed from which all art forms grow. The seed is visible in the adornments found in pyramids, in the harp of Orpheus, and in the paintings of Marc Chagall. It is present when children with gusto run their fingers through paint or dance all alone in the grass just because it feels good.

 

What Do You Value?

One of the windows by Max Ingrand at Saint Pierre de Montmarte

One of the windows by Max Ingrand at Saint Pierre de Montmarte

What has value? What has merit?

Or, here’s a better question: What is value? What is merit?

During our travels I looked at a lot of art and architecture from across the centuries and across many different cultures. There is a very old church, Saint Pierre of Montmarte, one of the oldest in Paris, seated adjacent to Sacre Coeur high on the hill overlooking the city. This ancient church has been outfitted with stained glass windows, designed by Max Ingrand, that I can only describe as cubist. The collision of ancient church and modern window is breathtaking and perfect. The windows were so beautiful (to me) that they brought tears to my eyes. It was hard for me to leave the church as I was so taken by the windows yet I was also aware of the number of people moving through that were not impacted at all. Later, I entered Sacre Coeur and felt nothing. To me, it was impressive, impersonal, and left me cold – yet I watched others catch their breath with its scope and grandeur. They were moved to tears.

Is value purely personal and subjective?

I remember listening to a recorded lecture by Joseph Campbell. He said that you could tell what a society valued by the buildings constructed in the city center. For centuries, churches occupied the village center. Financial institutions occupy our village/value center. Is value an agreement? Is it a focal point of worship? Take a gander at the titles in the local bookstore and you will find that money, morality, spirituality, and success are odd bedfellows. Is a good life richly lived demarcated by the size of a bank account? Tourists in the distant future will visit the holy sites occupying our village center and read placards about what we valued.

Near Sacre Coeur is the cemetery at Montmartre. We descended the hill to the cemetery and walked the paths through the monuments and graves. They fascinate me. They are essences, value statements distilled to a thick concentrate of marble and stone. There are angels and gargoyles, draped figures in repose and riders of the apocalypse. There are statements: loving father, devoted mother. There are roles: composer, writer, soldier, painter, baker, philosopher, politician. The famous are interred next to the ordinary. In a cemetery, all lives are even. Standing amidst the graves I see lives lived, dreams dreamed and realized or unrealized, and I wonder what each person valued during their allotment of days, and what they valued on the very last day.

Value is relative and passing? An extraordinary moment, when conscious, is valuable.

This is from Rumi: Spirit is so mixed with the visible world that giver, gift, and beneficiary are one thing. You are the grace raining down; the grace is you.

Value is grace? You? What surrounds you?

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

Give Time.

Here's a watercolor study for a larger painting that has yet to happen.

Here’s a watercolor study for a larger painting that has yet to happen.

She said, “I can’t do it because it takes too much time.” I didn’t respond. I didn’t validate her inability to do what she said she desired to do. I waited. “There’s only so much time in a day!” she exclaimed.

“That true. That will always be true,” I responded. I didn’t say it but I’ve noticed that it is usually the things we say that we desire to do that get short shrift. Spaciousness takes time. So does relationship. So does physical health, mental health and a spiritual practice. It all takes time. I’ve coached a legion of people who’ve set up art spaces in their homes and then avoided them like the plague. Their excuse for establishing the physical location but fleeing from what they might do in it: it takes too much time.

She was silent and I could tell that she was caught in her web of justifications. She was swirling in a reasoning-eddy called, “I have no choice.”

“Listen to the language you use,” I said, seeing her distress. She wrinkled her brow.

“Everything takes your time. It’s like life is a pickpocket stealing your precious time and you never have enough. You are divided against yourself. Who decides where your time goes if not you? You lack because you pretend that you have no control over your time. Choose to do it or choose not to do it. It’s in your language.”

She was quiet for a moment and then said, “It seems too easy to just change the way I talk about things.”

I smiled. “I know but imagine who you might be if, instead of life taking all your time, you started talking about where you choose to give your time. If life takes your time, then you are a victim. If you own where you give your time, then you are a creator. The actions of your day might look the same but who you are within them will be radically different. A whole world of possibilities would become visible if you realized that no one else is in control of your time. Where do you choose to give your time?”

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 hard copies and Kindle.

 

Truly Powerful People (453)

453.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I never knew Margaret before Alzheimer’s. She was well into the disease the first time I met her. Even then she had more life, more piss and vinegar (as my grandmother used to say) than almost anyone I knew. She was an outrageous flirt and we made eyes at each other from across the room. And then she’d laugh and put her fingers to her mouth and say, “Oh, my.”

Margaret was filled with fun. Play was the core of her apple, the seed of her being. One night we took her to dinner to tell her that we had to move her into an adult care foster home; she’d nearly burned the house down a few too many times and was no longer safe even with the live-in caregivers. Lora cried when she told Margaret we were going to move her from her home – and through the ravages of the disease I saw the power of a mother reach through Margaret as clarity came into her eyes and she took Lora’s hand and said, “Honey, I know you are doing what you think is best for me.” And then she disappeared again, back beneath the waters of confusion.

It seems to me that each year the disease eats a layer of her being, slowly stripping away her personality and 14 years into the disease, long after she no longer knows who we are or who she is, her core of playfulness remains. And, not surprising, the core is really a membrane of play wrapped around a heart of gratitude. She is a fragile little bird in body and a giant of gratitude in spirit. I love to visit her. I love to sit with her. She rarely responds to us but when she does, her face lights up, her blue eyes shine, her smile grows and she says, “Thank you,” and then she drifts away. I find myself so honored, so moved to know such pure gratitude that I touch my fingers to my lips and respond, “Oh, my.”