Step Out Of Time [on DR Thursday]

The color was other-worldly. The morning was cool. Low clouds hung in the valley. We walked on a deep carpet of leaves through a white oak forest. We chatted. Periodically, Linda and Bill stooped to move branches off the path. I couldn’t take my eyes off the beech trees. The leaves of the beech were paradoxically soft yet electric, quietly luminous. I felt as if they were guardian spirits. Forest creatures. I could have watched them all day.

The path led to a tiny cemetery. Bill told stories of the man who owned the forest, now the newest resident in the grave yard. There were stones so weather-worn that the names and dates had vanished into time. The 19th century. We wandered. “Look at this one,” and we’d gather. Speculate on a life lived before electric light and power tools. The beech trees holding vigil. Another paradox: time made timeless.

I will paint my entire life and never be capable of capturing the color of the beech leaves. I have no name for the hue. Not to worry: the camera could not capture it, either. It was like attempting to photograph a specter. The life of the spirit dodged the lens.

The path led back to the road. The alpaca led the way. Stepping onto the asphalt felt like waking up after a long quiet sleep; blinking into time. Rip Van Winkle. I stood for a moment and wondered about the world we’d find, now that we were re-entering time. I was disoriented.

“Are you okay?’ Kerri asked, taking my hand.

“Yeah,” I said, “I just can’t stop thinking about those leaves.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LEAVES

Three Graces © 2012 david robinson

Choose How [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My friend’s children are having children. The top-of-the-list advice my friends offer their children, now parents themselves, is this: it goes so fast. Appreciate every single moment. Love every phase. You will blink your eye and they will be grown and gone.

I lost my dad in September. I have, like most people who’ve lost a loved one, spent much of the time since his passing remembering and reflecting. It’s a mixed bag of treasuring moments and wondering why I didn’t fully appreciate others. It is true, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

What is so hard about appreciating – fully appreciating – the limited moments of your life?

I used to facilitate an exercise. It had four phases. Working in small groups, the first phase was to have a group member identify a problem in their life and then tell a blame-story about the problem. The rest of the group helped by supporting the person in their story of blame. The groups howled with laughter. Blame is fun. It’s addictive, like sugar.

In the second phase, the groups tried to “fix” the problem. The serious, concerned faces puzzled possible fixes but inevitably dissolved into more laughter: there’s nothing like trying fix a problem to create more problems and loop back into a juicy blame story.

Phase three was simple: I asked the original problem-story-teller to retell their story as a story of choice, not blame. I asked the other members of the group to support the teller in their story of choice. Silence ensued. And then, quiet presence as the new narrative – the story of choice – slowly inhabited the room.

Blame stories are like too much candy. They are easy to eat and yet have no real sustenance.
Stories of choice are much harder to tell but they are rich in awareness and appreciation of the moment.

We never arrived at the fourth phase: stories of opportunity. Activating choice. The notion of taking responsibility for choices always stopped the exploration. Our conversations about choice-avoidance usually filled the time.

What we gain in blame, we lose in appreciation of our moments. In order to taste the moment, one must first choose to be in it – and then choose how to be in it.

Grief is a phase to be loved, not avoided. As is the celebration of a first birthday. A new life. A lost love. A full spectrum. Taste every moment.

read Kerri’s blog post about MOMENTS

Stand In Time [on DR Thursday]

Stephen Hawking asked why we remember the past but not the future. Yesterday, in the middle of a meeting, I received a slack message with a sentiment from Russ Ackoff: entrepreneurs stand in the future and look at the present. I was fascinated by an article by Wade Davis, writing about a culture that experiences time as movement backwards; we row our way into the future.

Declan Donnellan writes that it is impossible to try and be present because we already are present. We live in it. We have to try very hard not to be present. In fact, we have to split ourselves in two halves. One looking backward. The other looking forward. We are, each and every one, Janus.

It is the time of year that time changes. It’s an odd ritual to “fall back” in time. What was 5 o’clock will soon be 4 o’clock, not because of a strange universal movement between planets and stars, but because we say so. A few states in the union don’t participate in the ritual so their time stays the same.

Time on a line. So many different realities, even in the most basic experience. Constructs of time.

I’ve read that old age is a return to childhood. Many, many great thinkers and writers from many disparate cultures tell us that we will journey through life and arrive where we began. The destination is ourself. Have you ever tried to describe your self and found the task impossible? Words simply cannot reach that level of complexity. There is a notion popular in the self-help world to define your life mission, your single life purpose. It’s meant to give you focus-of-action and certain-location on your line of time. It is also nearly impossible to articulate and becomes an exercise in metaphor selection. I’ve smiled knowingly as people in my past have asked, “Is this my mission or am I making it up?” The answer to both is, of course, yes. In a more universal peek, the exercise is meant to take you one more step around the circle that will bring you back to your self.

When I was doubting myself, judgmental because I “didn’t know” what I was doing, Quinn pointed to the tallest building and said, “The person on the top floor is just making it up, too.” He was standing in my future, looking back.

It’s just a matter of time.

Just.

read Kerri’s post about TEA LIGHTS

Greet The World © 2011 david robinson

See The Dance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“You can only push the truth down for so long, and then it bubbles back up.” ~ Cassandra Clare

“Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Last night we made a fire in the fire pit. We decided to have a pop-up dinner by the fire so we set up our table, lit candles, poured some wine, and brought our dinner out under the stars on a chilly October night. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky so we looked at the stars. We wondered if the brightest lights were planets.

There are many, many works of art from a genre in the Middle Ages known as the Dance Macabre. Dance with death. The scary images were meant to remind people of life’s fragility, its passing nature. They were also meant to point out the obvious: we are all united in our final destination. No one is better or worse than any other in the grand scheme of things, in the Dance Macabre. In the Middle Ages, the allegory was meant to suggest it was best to aim your focus at the afterlife. Do good works as an investment in your future or go to the fiery place below.

Were I to paint a series of Dance Macabre images today, my intent would be the exact opposite: aim your eyes at this moment. There is nothing more precious or wonder-full than this moment. If there is a heaven, it is now. And, it will go unnoticed if the dance is not acknowledged. There is no sadder phrase on earth than, “Same-old-same-old.”

According to some cultures, I am now in sacred space. I’m seeing all things relative to my dad’s recent passing. Sitting by the fire, our dinner complete, we talked about his death and my inability lately to invest too much emotional energy in anything. Things that would have upset me a few months ago barely register. I’m watching the usual list of anxieties and worries drop off. Why would I give an ounce of my wonder to something so…small? Perspective is the gift of the dance macabre. Clarity of sight and intention comes with this kind of perspective.

We clinked our glasses, the cold night and the heat from the fire colliding around us under the stars. DogDog slept on the deck, a few feet away. We realized our moment. Fully. Magic was alive, bubbling everywhere.

read Kerri’s blog post about BUBBLES

Go To The Mountains [on DR Thursday]

For Mike, it was the ocean that called. For me, it was the mountains. When Columbus passed, more than a service, more than any gathering, I needed a walk in the mountains. I needed the quiet of aspen, the smell of pine. A moment in time, time that keeps moving through the monumental and the everyday. The trees and stream were here before I was born and they will be here after I am gone. I went to the mountains for perspective.

I am working with brilliant people. We are developing something that we hope will help people. Our conversations are genuine. Our intentions are pure. And, yet, how easily do we get lost in the minutiae. How often do we spin out into abstraction. Right now I have a unique perspective on life. I am in no hurry to get anywhere. I easily let go of my end of the rope in any potential tug-of-war. Will what we create actually help others? That is like asking, “Will they like my painting?” That is not for me to decide. Mine is to paint it. All I know is that our conversations are genuine. Our intentions are pure. None of the rest really matters.

I’ve decided to put two paintings into a local show. I’ve only shown and sold online since moving to Wisconsin eight years ago. I was tired. Before I moved, I had paintings in galleries or office spaces or bars or restaurants every single day for over a decade. I was moving or mailing paintings all of the time (and my paintings are mostly large). Once, I took 15 paintings, loaded on a cart, on the light rail. I arranged for a truck that did not show up and I had to deliver the paintings that day, within a specified time-window. I wheeled 15 large paintings down the street, onto an elevator and maneuvered them onto the train. The train-police came to make sure I meant no harm. We had a nice chat and I showed them my work. We laughed heartily at my delivery method. I wheeled them off the train and through a neighborhood to the gallery. “I’ll never do that again,” I said to the train-police when I wheeled my empty cart back onto the light rail. It all seemed so necessary, important.

A specified time-window. We only have so much time. The clock is ticking. The funds may run out. Will we get there in time? Will our/my work matter? Is the message clear? What is the message? What am I willing to do and not do?

And, so, I went to the mountains for perspective.

read Kerri’s blog post about PERSPECTIVE

Chasing Bubbles © 2019 David Robinson

Remember The Single Story [on KS Friday]

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

When Kerri took this photograph I thought Van Gogh would have loved to paint it. I read that most of his 860 paintings date from the last two years of his life. The romantic in me wants to believe that he knew his time was short and he let all of that imperative spill out onto canvas. He died never knowing success or imagining that his work would in any way impact the world. I doubt he cared. His frenzy was not driven by success or status. He painted because he had to.

Waning time brings retirement to some. To others it brings fire and fuel. The need to bring what is inside to the outside. To compose, to write, to dance, to paint, to build, to design. Michelangelo was driven by his waning time. Some of his final sculpture was 500 years ahead of its time. At the end of his life, his work would have shown well with Picasso.

There simply isn’t enough time to say it all, explore it all. Last night, sitting in a circle with my family, multiple conversations resonating throughout the activity hall, my conversation pod began talking about regrets. When we were younger, we made vows to live lives without regret and now, at this end of the road, we see how foolish was our vow. Life is a series of choices and choices always leave unexplored paths. We laughed at our folly and relished the beauty of a life full of regrets. Paths not taken seed gratitude for the paths we ultimately chose. There is intense beauty in regret.

The morning dawned cold. Autumn has arrived in Colorado. The energy abandons the leaves and goes to the root. Columbus’ passing has brought energy to the root. He would be pleased. There are members of my family that I have not seen for years. In gathering, we bring together our separate stories and for a few days remember that we are also a single story.

A single story. The beauty of regret. The gift in loss. The waning of one season affirms the promise of the new.

All of Kerr’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about WANING SEASONS

part of the wind/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Consider It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

At the first theatre company I artistic directed, we cut silk screens and pulled ink to make our posters. They were crude but we didn’t know it at the time because that was the most advanced process available. At the time they looked cool and we were proud of them. They took some effort.

I remember the day a student came into my office and showed me how we could design our posters on the computer. His designs were gorgeous, easily adjusted, took almost no time, and came back from the printer quicker than I could cut a good screen. We felt like our status bumped up a notch. We looked professional, and, what we’d been so proud of only a year before, now looked primitive.

My first website cost an extraordinary amount of money. It took weeks of working with a designer. Changes were costly so were made rarely. Now, Kerri and I design, redesign and make changes to our site every week. A few years ago we set up a site for a theatre company, complete with ticket service, database and newsletter capacity all in one easy-to-use app. It cost them almost nothing and any fool could adjust and make changes to it.

People who only a few short years ago considered themselves voiceless can now say any old thing they want to an audience no less than world-wide. Patti once asked a conference attendee, “If you had a voice, what would you say?” If I could go back in time I’d beg her to retract that question.

We live in a time of high anxiety. There are few substantial anchors to moor our reality. I’m about to make the ultimate old guy statement: I remember when…a few limited news channels actually attempted to broadcast the news. They had a limited window of time to tell the news so they made their information count. We now have hundreds of information and misinformation sources that can rattle at us 24/7 and from multiple devices. The challenge is not editing-down-to what-matters, it is filling too much time with loads of spin that mostly has limited substance.

Information spreading – for me, too – has become easy-peasy. I can lob an opinion as easily and as readily as the next person. But, as Marshall McLuhan said – and I whole-heartily concur, “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.” In other words, (don’t tell Kerri) I am sometime reactive. Sometimes, I think I know more than I do. Sometimes, I make mistakes. Slowing down seems to be the only cure. Thinking things through. Researching before spouting. Breathe and breathe again. Consider what matters. Really matters.

I’ve walked a complete circle in my life. Now, in all it’s shiny capacity, within the amazing miracles of technology, I find much of what people say and do and assert with this glorious ability – to be crude. Without thought. It’s too easy so it doesn’t much matter. The stream will quickly carry away even the most offensive opinions and endlessly wash in some more. I wonder how considerate people might become if their easy voices were less easily shared? If saying something actually took some time and effort – let’s say, as much time as it took to design, transfer and cut a silkscreen – what might they say? If it was less easy to “like” or “dislike.” If one slip would send the thought back to the arduous start? Maybe we’d be more considerate because we’d take the time to consider what we were expressing – to think about what we were saying and why we were saying it.

I suspect most of our “whys” would get our knuckles rapped by grandmothers who held decorum and polite communication as a high virtue. Saying stuff so-as-to-belong-or-pile-on…or to hear ourselves talk, certainly wouldn’t spare the rod.

That whole thought stream came from taking a walk, looking down, and finding a rock smiling back at me. Someone took some time. Chose a rock. They chose what to paint and had a grandma-approved-reason-why. And, they did a good job of it. “Ahhhhh,” Kerri said, smiling back at the rock. “How considerate,” I added to her awe.

read Kerri’s blog post about ROCKS THAT SMILE


Share The Sketchbook [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Bruce came through town with his son Ben. Ben is a budding Renaissance man, an artist and philosopher. A quiet deep thinker. We marveled at the drawings in his sketchbook. Faces and hands. Figures in motion. A bold sense of color. I remember the terror of sharing my sketchbook and was moved by how eager and easily Ben shared his. A sketchbook, like a diary, is vulnerable, a place to work out ideas, make mistakes, record pain and joy and confusion. We were touched that he was so generous in opening his diary to us.

Big changes are coming Kirsten’s way. Kerri and I laughed at her news, at the ease and enthusiasm she brings to her step off the edge of the known. “I suppose it’s easier to make big changes,” Kerri said, “when you have the bulk of your life still ahead of of you.” I suppose. Or, perhaps, after so many big changes, you come to realize that the real transformations are not in location moves or new jobs. They happen on the inside and don’t seem to be changes at all. More, it’s layers falling off. Discovery of what was there all along.

Bruce and I have known each other for a very long time and have not seen each other in a very long time. Sitting on the deck, a humid hot day, we sipped cold wine and talked about the people we once were. We talked about some of the layers that have fallen off. We laughed at our foibles. There were too many stories to pack into a single visit. There were too many questions to ask and notes to share. I hope we will have more time to sit and share our life-sketchbooks.

Each morning, opening the house, I enjoy the small fountain in our sunroom. The water runs. As a Buddhist would say, “You can never step into the same river twice.” Our fountain reminds me that time runs. Each day is a new sketch. That is true especially if I think I know what will happen that day. I am always surprised by day’s end. Life takes some surprising turns. Some big. Most less noticeable. And, time runs.

I watched Bruce’s face as Ben showed us his drawings. A proud father. Ben looked to his dad, still anchored to some degree in his dad, just as it should be. I remember looking to my dad in just that way. This trip across the country, father and son, will be a good story for them. It is already. It will be told many years from now. A son rolls his eyes. A dad laughs. An old friend and his new wife delight in being part of the day’s sketch.

There is no higher art.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FOUNTAIN

Live Life At The Pace Of A Letter [on KS Friday]

“…what we feel is always larger than our means to express it.” ~ Declan Donnellan

Ruby, like Columbus is winding down. The forwarded-email let me know that she enjoyed my letter but also that she was not getting out of bed. Over the weekend she did not want to eat or drink. Pete is in hospice care.

I’ve not heard from Mike in months. Like Ruby, she is in her 90’s and I often wonder how she is doing. She is made of sturdy stuff and has a curious mind but even those powerful forces are no match for the running sands.

Although we live in the age of email and text, fast communication, these dear ones are solidly old school. A letter. A stamp. A mailbox. News comes at a different pace.

Ruby wrote a letter. It was dated last October and was mailed sometime in April. She typed it because she feared that I would not be able to decipher her handwriting. I typed my reply because I knew for certain that she would not be able to read my scribbles. Although it was lost on my young ears, time is different when you age. Both more meaningful and less. I’m living my way into hearing the simple wisdom of elders.

Tom Mck and I used to sit on his porch and watch the sunset over the fields. One evening he told the story of a letter mailed to his great-grandfather Lak. The pony express took six years to deliver the letter. It had to come all the way across the country. It was from his siblings telling of his mother’s passing. Although six years in the past, the news was fresh to Lak. His grief, therefore, was timeless.

It is always a time of transition but, sometimes, it is simply more apparent than others. This is one of those times. There is a pandemic. There is civil unrest. Moral upheaval in the nation. I feel none of that as acutely or potently as I do Columbus taking a labored breath or Ruby no longer interested in eating. It is the reason we sit on the back deck each night, light the lamps, and, often in silence, we enjoy the evening as it wanes. Living life at the pace of a letter.

It’s not that there is nothing to be said, it’s that no words – no matter how quickly delivered or slow – can properly capture the enormity of this time, this inevitable rolling transition.

all of kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FLAME

in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Use Your Chalk [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There are two words floating around in my universe these days: structured and unstructured. Structured data. Unstructured data. Structured time. Unstructured time.

The world as seen through the Puritan lens gives great preference to structure. Unstructured anything is suspect. “Idle hands,” we are taught, “are the devil’s workshop.” Yikes. Apparently it’s dangerous to take a stroll, to sit and ponder, to clear the day and do nothing.

I suspect it explains why our notion of business is hyper-focused on the bottom line and often misses the value of relationships. Bottom lines are easy structure. Relationships, not so much. It is the same with test scores in education. Easy structure. However, stepping into the unknown – the very definition of learning – is largely eschewed because it begins in an unstructured pursuit. Creating the structure, making the meaning, discovering the connectivity is what our hearts and brains like to do. When learning isn’t merely a factory, when business is more than a bottom line, people prosper. They come alive.

Unstructured time. There was a time when time had no structure. Monks attempted to “keep” time by monitoring water through a bucket or sift sand through an “hour” glass. Sometimes the water froze in the bucket so the structure of evening prayer was disrupted. The sand clumped in the hour glass and the measure of time clumped with it.

There are moment on the stage when the actor forgets their lines. It’s called “going up” or “drying.” It is always, in the re-telling, the moment when everything becomes real, alive. It is the moment when the structure becomes unstructured. Hearts race. Eyes widen. The stakes are suddenly palpable. The actor breathes, stands in the vast unstructured universe, and the words return like a swinging bar to a high-flying aerialist. The play is infused with aliveness. Presence is mostly unstructured.

As is common in the structured and unstructured use of the English language, oppositions are easily constructed. Unstructured simply means the meaning has yet to be made. Structured data, structured time, are the tip of a largely unknown iceberg. Love, joy, despair, awe…the full spectrum of experiences, bubble in the unstructured spaces. Numbers can describe a moment in time, can orient for a moment, but will never “explain” yearning or desire or our fundamental need to tell stories (put structure on unfathomable experiences). Structure & Unstructure: they are dancing partners, not combatants.

Where do we come from? What are we here to do? I am going to die, what then? It takes a good deal of unstructured time to sit in these unanswerable questions. There are, of course, plenty of people who will gladly provide structure to your unanswerable – and therefore uncomfortable – questions. Perhaps that is why we adore our structure and demonize the empty spaces? Comfort. Ease.

Kerri cannot pass a hopscotch template chalked on the street. It’s almost automatic. Step, hop, hop, step, hop. The little girl in her connects to the child who chalked the squares on the sidewalk. A simple game. Play. It’s one of the things people do with unstructured time. Set challenges. Make up obstacles. Seek puzzles. Invent. Dream. Connect to the deeper places. Where’s the structured bottom line watching the little-girl-in-my-wife hop and skip and turn in the game-chalked-on-the-sidewalk? The laughter of remembering? The giggle and freedom of the woman hopping the scotch, just because she can?

read Kerri’s blog post about HOPSCOTCH