Locate The Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The very center of your heart is where life begins. The most beautiful place on earth.” ~ Rumi

What, exactly, is the heart of the matter?

If you listen, what does your heart tell you?

What does it mean to “Follow your heart”?

Heart land? Heart song?

This weekend the question was asked, “Do you think there is an absolute truth?” I amused myself thinking of the oxymoron in the terms ‘absolute’ and ‘truth’. I am almost certain – but not absolute – that the question was really about the location of the center of heart. Is there a heart center? Where is the center of the universe? Here. And everywhere else.

Kerri pitched the small piece of chain onto the counter, saying, “This goes in the special box.” It landed in the shape of a heart.

“Hi, Pa!” I thought, and we laughed.

We wear pull chain as bracelets around our left wrists; the original pieces came from her father’s workbench. They are connective tissue to him and to each other. Heart chain. They periodically break so we are many generations from the original. The current chain is symbolic. This heart-piece was from my most recent chain break.

“What are the odds?” she asked.

Yes, indeed. What are the odds that a piece of pull-chain could so quickly bring us to the heart of the matter?

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART

Celebrate The Pivot [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Rob and his family celebrate the solstice. Arnie and his family celebrate Hanukkah. My sister and her clan observe Christmas. The earth travels. There is a moment when the tide of retreating light tips and returns. A touch more light than dark. Minimum declination pivots and slow walks, minute by precious minute, toward maximum. For eons, humans have celebrated, personified, and symbolized the moment of light’s return.

The best story. The fewest words.

[in preparing for a cantata, she wrinkled her brow and said, ‘I need another piece!” She noodled for a few minutes on the out-of-tune church piano, pulled a few phrases from the imagination-sphere, and then sang this song. It sprang into earth fully formed. Thank goodness I had my old iPhone at the ready to capture it. We didn’t record the performance. I tell her, again and again, that she needs a proper recording of this beautiful song. She says, “Someday. And maybe with a cello line…” In our own way, we await the return of the light]

read Kerri’s blogpost on this saturday morning smack-dab.

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Stumble Forward [on KS Friday]

I stared at the print in our Airbnb. It made me smile. A happy sloth sitting for a portrait. My children’s book-story-imagination ran amok with the possibilities. This sloth might be pals with Pooh.

The image is by Simon Te Tai. He’s a photographer and manipulates his images using other technologies. He alters the personality. He sometimes adds human characteristics.

I’m paying attention to the uproar in the art community over text-to-image software, like Dall-e. Type a simple phrase into the generator and it will produce an image. “It’s the end!” frightened artists cry!

It’s curious to me. A camera is a technology that, when first introduced, produced the same cry from artists. “It’s the end.” And then artists worked with it. The world would not have a Van Gogh or a Matisse without the camera. The camera freed artists from the necessities of realism. It opened paths to other vibrant explorations.

I remember the first time I saw Photoshop. “The end of truth as we know it,” I thought. A photograph was no longer proof that something happened. It was a shock. Disorienting. Now, I sit next to Kerri everyday as she manipulates our cartoons, produces our blog-boxes, and tweaks photos. It is common, everyday. Liberating.

There isn’t an art form that hasn’t been fundamentally altered by technology. Amplification of sound made it possible for us to attend a concert in a stadium of people. The swirling lights, the moving images playing behind Elton John were sophisticated and an integral part of the experience.

Our language is being altered by technology. The text. The tweet. The emoji. The pendulum is swinging back toward the image, the symbol, and away from the written word. Pictographs on screens rather than chipped into the walls of pyramids.

It’s a push-me-pull-you, this dance we do with technology. Something is rendered obsolete while something gained is not-quite-understood. Change is like that, especially the rapid changes introduced by technology. We stumble forward like a drunken sailor, never quite knowing where we’re going because we understand ourselves by where we’ve been.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SLOTH

bridge/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Turn And Look [on KS Friday]

Sometimes in the middle of the night the monsters come out and dance through my mind. Last night was one of those nights. I’ve learned not to take them seriously. I’ve learned that their visit is meant to inspire gratitude. Rather than fight, forgive. Rather than run, turn and look.

I’ve always felt deeply connected to birds of prey, especially hawks. Many years ago, during an “art as transformation” class, an elder came to teach us how to make medicine shields. We gathered and designed our symbols, bent willow, stretched hide. I was visited by a hawk as I walked the mountain so the sun side of my shield includes a hawk. I keep it in my studio.

There’s a hawk in our neighborhood. We know it’s around when the crows explode in alarm. To see the hawk, follow the crows’ relentless assault.

While planting pampas grass against the fence, Kerri gasped and whispered, “Turn around slowly.” Before I could reposition, the hawk disappeared. It had perched on the fence above our heads. A ghost. No crow alarm. Kerri and the hawk looked each other in the eye. “It was huge!” she said.

Moments later, the planting complete, the hawk flew through and landed in the neighbor’s tree. Squirrels froze in place. The crows, sleeping sentinels, awoke. The alarm went out. The hawk paid it no heed.

A visit. A monster in the dreams of squirrels and chipmunks, I felt nothing but awe. The hawk remained in the tree for a long time. We looked at it. It looked at us. Gratitude.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HAWK

take flight/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Overflow With Artistry [On Two Artists Tuesday]

Sitting amidst the boxes that currently fill my studio space, I realized that I’m rolling into the third year since I’ve completed a painting. I’ve been staring at the same canvas set on my easel for a very long time. Broken wrists, the pandemic, another broken wrist, lost jobs and economic free fall initiated an era of blank canvases.

I’ve done this almost every day for two years. I stand at the edge of the boxes. I look at the large canvas layered with undertones of red, covered with layers of tissue, preparing the ground for the image. Charcoal sketch marks barely visible, images I drew and wiped away. I suppose it’s not accurate to say the canvas is blank.

My sketchbook is closed. It sits on the table next to the easel. If I opened it, on the last pages, I would find rough sketches for the painting. Ideas in rude pencil scribbles.

Memory is an organizing principle. A story plot line. We make sense of today based on how we organize our memories into a tellable tale. Looking at the canvas is like looking into a mirror and I ask myself what made me pick up a pencil the very first time. The small-boy-me was seeking. “Running or seeking?” I ask. My studio has always served as a sanctuary. A place where I found quiet, made sense of the chaotic world. “Running or seeking?” I ask again.

Staring at the canvas I should feel loss but I don’t. Each morning, Kerri and I sit next to each other and write. This is the 232nd consecutive week that, five days a week, we’ve written together. She edits what I write, makes suggestions, and I do the same for her. We produce a cartoon every week. For my work I’m also drawing a series of cartoons that, after I script and draw final drafts, I hand them off to Kerri. She digitizes them and, quite literally, adds elements that improves them. I’m not empty of artistry but full to overflowing. I no longer need to retreat to enter my sanctuary.

It’s hard to know where my work ends and hers begins. They are ours. A perfect collaboration. Two as one.

Last week we had a fence installed. Invasive neighbors, throwing rocks at Dogga, lobbing toys into our pond, we’d finally had enough. The fence felt like reclamation of space. The impact was immediate. We hadn’t realized how completely the space invaders – like broken wrists and job losses, had interrupted every rhythm and pattern of our life. Basking in our space – our space – Kerri started to laugh and point. Two birds, lawn art purchased in a small town on our long drive from Seattle, always in our yard but always barely seen, we’d hastily placed them next to the new fence. “Two birds, one shadow,” she said, jumping up to snap a photo.

“Two birds. One shadow,” I repeated her words. I’ll take it as an affirmation. A new fence. A new era. All the world is my studio. My sanctuary. It’s what the small-boy-me was seeking all along.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TWO AS ONE

Welcome The Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The daisy plays a central role in our story. And, not surprisingly, daisies represent, among other things, new beginnings and rebirth. When I first met Kerri, a friend, a wise older woman, told me that the universe was offering me a second chance.

At our first meeting, she waited for me in the concourse holding a daisy. Three weeks later I flew back for a second visit. She awaited me in the concourse holding a bushel of daisies. An abundance of renewal. At our wedding, daisies ringed the altar. Daisy cupcakes, instead of a wedding cake, were made special by our miracle-baker Susan.

Daisies are also symbolic of love, cheerfulness, hope, and affection. All are present in our second chance.

Unlike other people, Kerri doesn’t toss the daisies when they wither. She considers them beautiful and carriers of story. One of the daisies from our wedding sat atop the shelf by our bed and only recently passed beyond brittle into daisy dust. The dust made its way into the back yard, sprinkled with appreciation like a magic love potion.

During the pandemic-job-loss-broken-wrist epoch, there was a distinct absence of daisies in our house. Hunkering down and isolating brought a daisy void. A few weeks ago, I came down the stairs from my office to find a row of chipper daisies adorning the dining room table.

“I thought we needed some daisies,” Kerri said and smiled.

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

New beginnings. Rebirth.

If I could, I’d dose this sad discordant world with a hundred million daisies but, for now, it’s a great start welcoming home our special symbol of hope, beauty, cheerfulness, regeneration.

read Kerri’s blogpsot about DAISIES

Consider The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

Because it is outside, she grabs her camera. Were it inside, I’d hear the special scream saved for spiders and I’d come running. The power of a screen, flipping fear to fascination. “It’s amazing,” she said and cringed.

Spider symbolism – like all vital symbols – carries the power of a complex split-metaphor. On one side of the screen they are toxic, malicious, potential bringers of slow venomous death. On the other side of the symbol, they are world creators, weavers of life and interconnectivity. Certainly, they are central characters in this world-wide-web that we enjoy.

In this era, we attempt to restrict our symbols, preferring them to be absolute, one-sided, either this or that. Symbols never work that way. They lose their power when cut in half. To be potent, a symbol must embody both sides of the moon. Limiting a symbol to only one side flattens it, robs it of dimension, renders it useless. The real power of the symbol ignites when both aspects are understood and embraced. Symbols are polarities.

We would be wise, in our nation, to look at both sides of our symbols. Our history, embodied in our symbols, is both shining and dark. Vapid fear-stories like “replacement theory” fester in a flattened symbol culture, a half-told history. Ugly nationalism grows in the spaces left empty by a cleaved symbolism, a highly-edited narrative.

Gaze through the screen at both sides of the symbol, and a fuller, richer, more color-full story emerges. An honest narrative.

Nations, like people, become healthy when they embrace all sides of their story, the dark side and the light, when they acknowledge both aspects of their symbol, when they take responsibility for their actions, the venomous and the virtuous alike.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SPIDER.

Prometheus Resurrection © 2008 David Robinson

Add More Pulp [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Last night Jupiter and Mars converged without us. We had the best of intentions to rise at 3:30am and walk east to the water’s edge where we might see the event. Somehow, we slept through it. “Do you think they converged anyway?” I asked in a moment of grand ego inflation. I’m not the first human to delude myself into thinking the heavens spin around me. Kerri sipped her coffee and pretended she was alone.

Do you remember Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree? A story of the sacrifices made in relationship. The little boy in the story takes everything the tree has to offer. And the tree, in return, is happy. I was not aware – though I’m not surprised – that such a simple book for children could be so controversial. Banned and excoriated for sexist messages. Loved and embraced for altruism. Both/And. Symbols and metaphors are open to interpretation, planets of meaning circling the life-experience of the interpreter.

Jonathan once told us that “A tree must split its bark to grow.” Though he did not know it at the time, I was gaining weight and en route to splitting my bark. Now that the splitting is done and I am at least one size bigger, I’m wondering if my new expanse provided space for wisdom or if I’ve simply added another ring of wood. More pulp.

Don’t ask Kerri. She’s sipping her coffee, quietly pondering the inordinate sacrifices made in relationship. While she’s suffering her obvious conclusion, I’m think I’ll phone Jupiter and Mars and apologize for not showing up. Who knows, maybe when I didn’t show, they decided to reschedule! It wouldn’t be a proper convergence without me, right?

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARK

Pass The Cheer [on DR Thursday]

We do some quirky things. Driving an aspen tree halfway across America in the back of our car is certainly on the list of quirky.

It’s from a place special to us. We honeymooned at Linda and Bill’s condo in Breckenridge, Colorado. I am from Colorado and our honeymoon trip felt like coming home – for both of us. We return to that special place when we can, though not often enough. There is a trail we like to hike. It’s become an old friend that we need to visit when in the area. If we do nothing else, we strap on our boots and begin the climb. It follows a brook up the side of the mountain. We’ve never made it to the top but one day…

On our mantel is a piece of driftwood from Long Island, Kerri’s home. In our dining room is a log – literally a log – we carried from our trail in Breckenridge. Elemental. We have stones from our respective birthplaces, too. Our house is filled with confused cairns, pointing both east and west.

We named the little aspen tree Breck. It traveled in a pot with its tippy top branches bent against the car ceiling for the ride. It survived the journey. For the first few years it lived in a pot on the deck in the warm months and was wrapped and protected in the winter. Breck’s quaking leaves make us smile and instantly transport us to the special town in the high mountains.

Breck did not like its first spot where we planted it in the yard. The top branches died. When we moved it last fall, we were afraid that Breck would not make it through the winter. We talked to it. We cheered for it. “You can do it!” we chirped. Imagine our relief and celebration a few weeks ago when we went out back and found Breck budding. Lots of buds. More sun. Better soil. New Growth!

A reminder of a special place. A symbol of resilience and a hearty can-do. This spring it feels as if Breck is speaking to us, too. More sun! Better soil! You can do it. New growth. Art-life budding.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BRECK

Seed The Pocket [on Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve appreciated this sunflower for many years and until a month ago it never made me think of Ukraine. Now, that’s all I see. Thus, the power of a symbol. Sunflower seeds placed into the pockets of Russian soldiers by brave Ukrainian elders. “So, some good may come from your death.”

Walking through the antique mall, Brad spotted an ugly homemade sculpture. Golf balls with multiple screws protruding, spray painted and supported by wire rods. “Look, the coronavirus!” he exclaimed. Three years ago spheres with spiky knobs would have made me wrinkle my brow but never associate the shape with a virus. Now?

And masks? Will we ever see a surgical mask without feeling the divide in our nation? A confederate flag paraded through the Capitol? Members of the Capitol Police beaten with the stars and stripes; symbols matter.

Every year more and more our written communication is reimagined with emojis. Visual symbols. The new Ideogram. A thumbs up. A heart. Laughing face. Saying more with less or at the very least opening up our communication to broader interpretation. I find that I’m symbolically rolling my eyes more and more. Exclamation point. HAHA! Know what I mean? Winky face.

Leonard Shlain wrote some remarkable books about how our brains are wired by how we communicate; he posits that linear language, the introduction of writing drove us into our left brains and away from our holistic right. Perhaps in our movement back toward the ideogram we are rebalancing? A course correction or returning to center? It takes more than a few years for brains to rewire. Our descendants will, no doubt, either write books about it or communicate their thoughts through a combo platter of alphabet and pictograph.

Either way, we can only hope they grasp the meaning of the peace symbol. Or, at the very least, learn how to give it more preference than the dollar sign. Or, better yet, figure out how to make peace profitable. Can you imagine? Certainly there will be a symbol for that.

Until then, sunflowers in the killing fields. Sad face. Broken heart.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SUNFLOWER