Take A Picture [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Our time on island was a polarity. The antagonism of the organization was balanced by the utter peace of the littlehouse. Just as we learned to roll with the quickly changing faces of our board, we stood in awe of the swiftly shifting personality of the lake. One moment it was still and the next moment it roiled and took great bites of the shore. It was (and is) a study of the degrees of change, the subtleties of ever-changing-movement.

Each morning Kerri walked to the water’s edge and took a photograph. Reviewing three months of mornings is eye-opening. So much life! So much variation and beauty and power. If I am ever again bored or delusional enough to think that life is dull, I will remember our morning photographs. Were I still working with artists or corporate types I’d make it a mandatory exercise to take a photograph at the same spot everyday for three months. The review at day 90 could slap awake even the most dedicated blindness.

It is the visual equivalent of morning pages. See what you do not see. Aim your focus and realize that, in fact, you have the power to aim your focus, to determine what you see and, therefore, what you study. And, therefore, how you story your life.

During our last pass on the island, Kerri, as is her custom, took her morning photograph. Later, she wandered out of the little house to capture a midday shot. In the evening, I found her by the water’s edge photographing the sunset. She created a panorama, a sweeping story of the day. “Everywhere I look, it’s perfection,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PERFECTION

 

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Live In The Middle [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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The first of Don Miguel Ruiz’s 4 Agreements is to take nothing personally. He writes that everyone (in their mind’s eye) is the star of their own movie and you are merely a bit player in their story. Their drama is theirs. Their drama is not yours. So, when they hurt you or shout at you or call you names, it is not personal. It is their story, their drama, and there is no need to make their story yours. In fact, to try and own their story or take responsibility for what is playing through their head is impossible. It is, in fact, madness.

It’s easier said than done: don’t take ownership of other people’s drama.

I laughed aloud when, many years after reading the 4 Agreements,  I read the 5th Agreement: Doubt everything you think. In other words, in addition to not owning other people’s drama, realize that your own drama is not as serious as you might think. It’s a passing cloud, a made-up story in which you are the star and other people are cast as bit players. Take seriously your story and you will yell at others, call them names, try to hurt their feelings as you attempt to force your drama on them.

Bookends. Their drama is not yours. Don’t take it personally. Your drama is not nearly as serious as you pretend. Doubt everything that you think.

What lives between those two dramatic delusion-poles is sometimes called presence. Sometimes it is called peace. It is not a static state, not an arrival or an achievement. It’s a relationship available with others (and the world) when the realization comes that no single story is central or primary or really that important. It is, in many spiritual traditions, called the middle way.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NotSalmon QUOTE.

 

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Balance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Each day we sit on the deck and watch the personality of the lake change. We are witness to the power of the elements at play. Wind drives wave. Wave evaporates and moves wind. Lighting hits earth. Rain feeds the plants. Too much rain, too much wind, too much fire, devastates.

Balancing the elements. It is the central thought in many traditions. The cardinal directions are associated with a color and an element. North, south, east, west. Air, fire, water, earth. People need associations in order to talk about things. In order to know where they fit.

The colors differ from tradition to tradition. Sometimes black, white, red, and yellow. Sometimes blue, green, yellow, red. Sometimes there is a fifth element. There is always a center. When there is the understanding of center point there is also an acknowledgment that separations, experiences like north, south, east and west, are illusions.

Balance is a radically different intention than dominance. Taming-your-nature is not the same as balancing-your-nature. In the tame-your-nature idea, nature, your nature, is corrupt and needs to be controlled. In the balance-your-nature idea, your nature is neither good nor bad, it is a dance of energy, a push-pull of wind and fire, air and earth. In the balance-your-nature idea, there is no such thing as “wild.” because there is no intention to “tame.”

As you might imagine, the artist that explores the tame-your-nature mindset understands their artistry much differently than the artist that explores balance. I was born into and oriented toward the culture of tame-your-nature and so I divine through brush and story the push-pull between goodness and badness. Combat, combat everywhere. Right/wrong. Us/Them. Good enough/lacking.

I desire to see through the other lens. I suspect this desire is the epicenter, the driver behind my paintings. To understand the world I inhabit as energies at play, to know beyond an intellectual understanding that the distinctions don’t really exist; wind is not separate from water, earth is not separate from fire, people are not separate from planet. Illusion. Our division is a play of shadow puppets at best.

I think it is why we hang prayer flags at our littleislandhouse and at our home. Surrounded by combat, we are drawn by the desire to balance, we are enticed by the possibility of harmony.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

 

 

 

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island prayer flags photograph ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Sort And Re-Member [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We often wander through antique stores. While Kerri shops for unique treasures, I find myself lost in the historical, the stuff-ness that lingers when the story is forgotten and only the artifact remains. Shelf after shelf, booth upon booth, of time gone by.  Former possessions awaiting a rebirth, a new story-maker to take them home.

We are helping 20 prepare an estate sale at his parent’s house which simply means we are helping him open drawers, clean out closets, sort what has meaning and worth for him, what will have meaning and worth for an estate sale shopper. It is impossible to do this for someone else without significant blowback. At home, we are opening our own drawers and closets and asking ourselves if we really need all this stuff. What no longer has value? What is still used and use-full? What carries so much story that we will never part with it?

There was a time when women wore gloves and hats. There was a time when people wrote letters with ink and paper, folded their note and put it into an envelope, licked a stamp and dropped the whole affair into a box for a postal pickup. There wasn’t an expectation of immediate momentary reply because it simply wasn’t possible. Things change and that changes us (not the other way around).

“Do you recognize those bowls?” Kerri asked. It is common for us to find duplicates of our stuff in the the antique store. We laugh and make the sound of dialing a rotary phone. Sometimes we hover over the bin of albums and reminisce. “Oh, I played this album over and over!” We ring the bell of a typewriter return. We wrinkle our noses at the musty-dusty smell of hardcover books, “My college library! The stacks!”

Artifact. Possession. Story lost and story found. Expectation. Change. Tom asked of the ranch and a treasured box of an ancestor’s artifacts, “What will happen to it after I’m gone?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GLOVES

 

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Browse now. Buy Wednesday through Thursday

 

 

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Create A Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The deceased horseshoe crab was the perfect marker. It was the place we could leave behind our flip flops and venture onto the sand. And, like all actions that become repetitive, the horseshoe crab parking lot became one of our rituals.

It became assumed. Known. We leave our flip flops at the horseshoe crab. To the horseshoe crab we will return. There is comfort in knowing the leaping point. There is even more comfort in knowing the landing place. Home is just beyond.

Our ritual began like many rituals began – out of necessity.  From the house to the dunes and the beach beyond, it was necessary to cross the land of sand spurs. “You have to step with intention,” Kirsten instructed us. “Otherwise you get stabbed.” And, so, we put on our cheap flip flops and stepped with intention all the way to the dunes. The horseshoe crab marked the safe zone. To park our flip flops meant we were out of danger. It meant the armor required to cross back over to the house was waiting for us when we needed it. After several crossings and returns, the horseshoe crab became a location ritual. And then, the crab grew into a symbol.

Once, late at night, we stayed out too long and the houses in the distance blended into shapes without distinction. For a time we were lost. The only way we found our place, located our path, knew home was just over there, was finding the sentinel crab standing guard over our footwear.

It all sounds silly, doesn’t it? Consider how carefully we protect our holiday rituals, our morning rituals, our rituals of identity (what’s in your closet? Why do you wear your hair that way and not this way?). How vigorously we defend our rituals of location (‘This is where I belong!’). Our known paths. The repetitions that give us comfort. The expectations and the stories we tell. The beliefs we embrace despite all the evidence to the contrary. You are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed. We, humans, create rituals. And then embrace them as story.

The horseshoe crab, for us, will forever mark the leaping place. It will, forever, be a symbol that home, that safety, is just beyond the dune.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FLIP FLOP PARKING LOT

 

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Lose Your Right Mind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I have made some incredibly bad decisions in my life that set off a chain of events that led to some extraordinary, life-illuminating experiences. Conversely, I have made some incredibly good, well-considered decisions that led me to total devastation. My life reads like one of Aesop’s Fables.

The “bad” decisions were “irrational” and “spontaneous” and some of my pals  questioned whether or not I was in my “right” mind.

The “good” decisions were “rational” and I was lauded for using common sense, for my clear-eyed, right-minded logic.

Intuition, following your gut, listening to your heart has very little to do with the rightness of mind.

Back in the previous century (20 years ago), educators were awash in the term “the mainstream.” Getting divergent students back into the mainstream was the stated goal of most alternative education programs. Doug, my hero of the alternative path, champion of finding the stream that worked for the student (as opposed to channeling all students back into a single stream), used to snarl, “I’d love to see this mainstream if someone would be kind enough to point it out to me.” (note: this is not a direct quote as I’ve cleaned up Doug’s language for my less sturdy readers).

In mythology it is called the left-hand path, this route that makes no sense to adherents of the mainstream. The left-hand path is intuitive and counter-intuitive, all at the same time. It seems nonsensical to sail toward the edge of the known world. Explorers, artists, innovators, mystics, must take this road less traveled. They must wander off the main and cut a new path. They must. Their fellows will wonder if they’ve taken leave of their senses. Left their right mind. The answer: no. They are following a deeper call, something speaking to their senses. They’ve left a mainstream that appears to them like total madness.

If logic is your compass it is, of course, best to stay on the road well-traveled. If safety and security is your goal, then a known path holds what you seek.

If knowing where you’re going sounds a lot like a death sentence, then leaving your right mind for a left-hand path is the only choice that makes sense.

Truth? I think the right-mind is bit of rhetoric that has little to do with the realities of being human. We find the rational side of things comfortable so it gets good marks. No one gets a cake-walk in this life. Everyone has a mountain to climb, a valley to get lost in, a spontaneous jump to make, a gut feeling, a heart to be listened to – and some of the worst impulsive decisions inevitably lead to the most profound growth experiences. It is only after the fact, when we need to make sense of our nonsensical leap, our follow-the-heart choice, that we call on the “right” mind to make the story coherent. Just ask Aesop.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about RIGHT MIND

 

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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