Unearth Your Modtro [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Our latest late-night binge is Bad Hikers. An adorable young couple hiking the John Muir Trail. Never have two people hiked the JMT in such modtro style. Goth meets urban chic. They are at home in their style, comfortable in their bodies, so they are both unaffected and affected at the same time. Glimmers of Mad Max on the JMT. I love it. Their spirit inspires us.

William Blake is another in the canon of artists unrecognized during his lifetime but now considered a creative titan, one of the great artists of the Romantic era. His contemporaries thought he was crazy because he was not like them. He stood out and no amount of hammering would make him fit the mold.

In the dance between the conservative and the creative impulses, the conservative will always claim the safe ground, plant their flag in “normal.” Tradition. “We’ve always done it this way.” The creative will swim to the margins, climb to the tops of the mountains where they can see more clearly. “What’s over the next horizon?” All people are a mix of both impulses, conservative and creative. We dance between the poles.

One of the first lessons I learned in art school is that, in the western tradition, every era reacts against the previous standard (I laughed when it occurred to me that our tradition is to react against our tradition – no wonder we are always at war with ourselves!) Realists rise in response to the Romantics. Impressionism reacts to Realism. And on and on. The other side of that equation is that the artists are generally tuned into societal and technological advances. Picasso’s cubism and Einstein’s theory of relativity hit the world within a few months of each other. Reactivity holds hands with innovation.

And so it goes with clothes, too. To dress as is expected. To dress as a statement. To dress as is comfortable. To find your style. To define yourself within your era. Clothes are how we publicly locate ourselves relative to the two poles. “This is me!” We shop at the same stores, we buy the same brands, all to express our individuality relative to the expectation-of-the-day. Sometimes you find your style and sometimes it finds you. And, mostly, your style changes as you do. Tie-dye puts on a suit and tie.

And so, this long and winding road brings me to a caution: do not, when you unearth the box of sponge curlers in your basement, exclaim as I did, “Oh my god! Who on earth ever used these things! Why do we have these in our house?” My laughter fizzled the moment I realized that the obvious answer was standing right next to me.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SPONGE CURLERS

Keep The Embers Glowing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

If you encourage us to talk about porches of our past, we’ll tell a tale of sitting in the rocking chairs at our airbnb in the mountains of Colorado, one evening, watching the traffic go by, accidentally drinking the whole bottle of wine (at 10,000 feet), “walking” down the street to get a burger, and instead, finding ourselves at the center of what the locals called “experimental drink night.” I’m sure, to this day, they laugh at the two black-clad tourists who were too polite to turn down what came out of the bartender’s blender. We dialed 20 at 1am and too loudly told him the tale. Good friends will listen to anything that comes out of your mouth at anytime, day or night, and 20 is the best.

Last night, sitting on our airbnb porch in this North Carolina mountain town, sipping a glass of wine, watching the traffic go by, I “remembered” that night. This is our first venture out – just for us – since COVID washed over our lives. It’s become habit to plan our travel path – through an ordinary day or, in this case, miles from home – with minimal human contact as a top criteria. Watching the traffic go by, I thought about that, too. Now, we’d never stumble down the street to get a burger. We’d sit tight – as we did last night – and make ourselves a meal.

As part of our meal, we lit a few luminaria. We brought a few sacks and candles with us. I realized that we’re keeping a tradition going, however small, so that one day we’ll tell the tale of how we kept our holiday traditions alive – traditions that were once about gathering together, traditions that were meant to bring people into proximity to each other rather than carefully maintaining distance. Our tradition always includes candles. Luminaria. Fire and light. One day – someday – the light we place on the porch will include other people. For now, we keep a small flame to keep the tradition intact.

We’ve started a new tradition that I adore: pop-up dinners. We carry with us a small bistro table and two folding stools. They are lightweight and, in a moment, can appear anywhere. Last night – our last night here – they popped up on our porch. We made a special dinner, surrounded ourselves with luminaria, and watched the world go by. We greeted the people who walked by. We shouted greetings over the traffic across the street to the old guy who’s so beautifully decorated his house for the holidays. He loved our lights. We loved his. At a distance.

We keep the flame alive. We keep the embers of tradition glowing. We’ve established new variations on our adventure theme. Experimental drink night was a one-off affair. Pop-up dinners are here to stay. Be careful what tales you inspire us to tell. Someday, when we’re all together on the porch, we’ll give you an ear-full.

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHT

Connect [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Last night we watched a documentary on the launch of the James Webb telescope, The Hunt for Planet B. One of the scientists said (I scrambled for a pencil but didn’t get the direct quote), “There’s something deeply human that needs to connect.” True. So true. So, we launch a miraculous telescope into space, far beyond the moon, and aim it at planets that might, just might have life forms capable of looking back at us. Not science fiction. Science. To connect.

There’s a prerequisite to connecting: an intentional step into the unknown. It is as true when shooting telescopes into space as it is when trying to grasp “Who am I?” “Lao Tzu wrote, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Our ancestors painted the walls of caves, not for decoration, but for connection to “something greater”. It is the same reason folks fill up synagogues and mosques and churches and temples. To connect.

Art, science, and religion all serve the same deeply human impulse. To connect. To reach across time, to reach across space, to plumb the depths of inner and outer space, in order to connect. Legacy and imagination. Identity, tradition, progress toward…connection to something bigger, something better. We reach to grasp and breathe life into our best ideas, both future and past.

The first step of the entrepreneur, the artist, the scientist, the explorer, the dreamer…the human, is a step into the unknown, to question the limits of the known. What else? Leeches were once believed to be good medicine until some bright inquiring mind observed and asked, ‘I wonder it that is really true?”

Einstein dreamed a dream and, so, he reached through the math to connect to the inconceivable: light is the only constant. Time and space are malleable. Picasso, initially, hid his first cubist painting, not yet ready risk ridicule. And then, needing to connect to “what might be”, he turned it around, stepped into new unknown territory, and invited the world to see.

read Kerri’s blog post on the UNKNOWN

Spin Off Center [on Merely A Thought Monday]

not too chicken copy

I’ve always been a bit mystified by the hyper-charge surrounding the word ‘change.’ It doesn’t matter which way the word slices, it will either evoke great fear and trepidation [we’ve always done it this way!] or it will reach to the deepest depths of yearning and impatience [we need to be different!]. Guard the bastion. Explore new worlds.

Organizations try to manage change. Yet, organizations sell their products as cutting edge. They promote themselves as leaders of change.

We celebrate change-makers. Game changers. We also honor the keepers of the flame. Rule keepers. We pride ourselves on our innovative spirit while pondering the loss of tradition.

Creative tension. Push, pull. It’s a balancing act, yes? A continuum. Where exactly is the hard line between progress and tradition?

Stepping into the unknown is never easy though, isn’t it true that each day of life is, in fact, a step into the unknown? The wheel spins on and on and on.

Growing old is not for wimps. That’s what Beaky said. We all do it. Movement is life and life is change.

We live in an interesting time. Everything is recorded. Evidence of change is everywhere. Actors get old. Politicians vehemently defend the opposite of what they vehemently defended 20 years ago.

The question is not about change or not change.  It is more about what we desire to be  steadfast in the midst of change. Circumstances change. Opinions change. Beliefs change. Traditions change. But, what is in the center of the wheel? Values like ‘honesty’ and ‘truth?’ Agreements of decency? A constitution?

What happens when those hubs are manipulated and simply fall away?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHANGE

 

snowsteps website box copy

Balance [on Two Artists Tuesday]

prayer flags 1 copy

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

 

 

 

 

skylake website box copy

 

island prayer flags photograph ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

Light The Promise [on Two Artists Tuesday]

luminaria box2 copy

 

I came into Kerri’s life in the same era that her children, all grown up, moved away to pursue their careers. Our third Christmas together was the first time that neither Kirsten or Craig would be home for the holiday. It was the first without her mother. It was an empty nest Christmas, a broken heart holiday, and unbearable for Kerri. Not knowing what to do with the infinite void, she told me that she wanted to start a new tradition. And, like all good new traditions, she reached deep into the recesses of her childhood and pulled one of her parent’s traditions into the present. We initiated a neighborhood Christmas Eve luminaria party.

After she plays the late service on Christmas Eve, we rush home, change clothes, and with aid of John and Michele, pull the fire pits and a few tables onto the driveway. We load the tables with snacks and wine, start a fire, and line the street with luminaria. Our neighbors and friends gather around the fire, drink grog, tell stories, laugh a lot, and sing a song or two. Last year was bitterly cold and still we stamped our feet and stoked up the fire until the wee hours.

This year will be our 4th annual luminaria party. It is my favorite part of the holiday because it reaches to the very root, to the ancient reason for the season’s celebration. A gathering under the stars, amidst the wood smoke and wine, together we bring an infusion of hope to bridge the infinite void, the aching hearts, with the promise of light’s return.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LUMINARIA PARTY

 

TangoMorsel copy

this one is sold but there are others available and on sale through December 20

 

chicago at christmas website box copy

 

Pass It On [on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

MiceWelcomeMat BIGcopy copy 2

It’s best not to pay attention to most lyrics of nursery rhymes and, if you do, it is wise not to ask, “What does that mean?” Just sing to your little babe the words that reach into a far distant past so that someday, your baby all grown up might hum the sweet tune and also stop and ask, “Wait! What does this mean?”

if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copyIt is, after all, how traditions are passed.

 

read kerri’s blog post on Welcome Mat

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

mice welcome mat ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Give Yourself Some Advice (2)

Finishing a painting is really about having a conversation with yourself. This one is talking!

Finishing a painting is really about having a conversation with yourself. This one is talking!

[continued from Give Yourself Some Advice]

Here’s the next bit of an email Horatio sent to me with his Advice To Myself. He wrote it following a question from a reporter about advice he’d give to emerging filmmakers. I am particularly fond of this section as many of my teachers, mentors, and guides are now passing away and I am revisiting what is mine to add to this “ancient conversation.” Here is the next section of Horatio’s advice to himself (for the full text, visit his blog at www.fidalgofilms.com):

Respect the boundaries of others; do not seek to control anyone else. You can only control your own choices.

Learn and honor with absolute integrity your own boundaries so that others may not try to control you or your work. Unfortunately, this is usually only learned through a certain amount of trial and error. 

Learning to trust is an art, and absolutely necessary. Learn to trust yourself first. Learn to trust others.

Always respect the tradition of your work, its ancient human conversation.

Connect to tradition, to all your teachers and your teachers’ teachers. Give yourself to it so that it can give to you and to your work. Honor it with rigor and doubt, with hours and hours of study and practice.

Then let your teachers go, follow the path that you understand as truth. You will know it when you see it. It will be your part of the ancient conversation. Likely, you will find that parts of one or two of your teachers have become part of you.

If you do not let your teachers go, your part of the ancient conversation will not be yours, but rather what you think other people want you to add to the conversation. That is not from you and only clogs up the conversation.

[to be continued]

Horatio asks great questions: What is the tradition that you carry forward? I follow the line of Tom and Marcia McKenzie, who learned from DeMarcus Brown, who learned from Eva Le Gallienne, who learned from…. What teachers/teaching do you need to let go?

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Or, go here for hard copies (Amazon)

 

Accept The Gift

This morning in Tai Chi Saul spoke of his teacher and his teacher’s teacher and soon we students were aware that we are the burning point of a tradition that reaches back thousands of years. We were suddenly alive in a moment that rippled into an unknown future and a distant past. Our study was revealed as a link in a chain. Our weekly meeting dropped into a greater context and mattered in a grander scheme of things. Our practice was no longer about the perfection of a sequence of moves; it became an orientation to life. We realized that we are participants in a tradition in service to the vitality of life as it flows through us and expresses in the world.

I’ve written often about my lessons during this remarkable year, primarily about the release of control. I can control my thoughts. I can control where I place my focus. That’s about it. I can intend (a process of thought). I can control my action (also a process that begins with thought). My work (and I hope my growth) has been about getting out of my way. My lesson over and over has been about listening and letting go. I’ve been amazed how letting go always brings riches unimaginable. Holding on, forcing, resisting, pushing, trying to make things happen always diminishes me – and everyone around me. It has brought great heartache and even greater harm to people I love.

My tai chi practice now extends beyond the studio. Saul tells me to empty. He teaches me to listen. I have become a monk in my studio cell and I spend my days listening and drawing. This morning he led me into a deeper practice when he asked me, “What is your concern?” He showed me how I was orienting myself according to my opponents need. “Address your concern,” he said looking beyond me before adding, “Look into the vast space before you and place your focus on the horizon. Put your energy on a point on the horizon and move to it. Your opponent is incidental. Your opponent gives you their energy, their resistance. Accept the gift and do not give away your energy. Address your concern. You are your concern.”

His lesson: do not engage with the resistance. Do not invest in the obstacle. Place your focus on a point beyond all of the mind games and move your chi in the direction of your chosen point. Move your chi, and yours alone. Others will move their chi as they will. Stop giving your chi away. In this way, you will drop into your present moment. You will drop into your eternal moment and the masters of the tradition will join you there.

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

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.