Make A Savory Day [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I only believe in pleasures.” ~ Ira Glass

Among other things, covid has been a great disruptor of our patterns. Our life today barely resembles the life we knew two looooong years ago. Yesterday, while driving through the farmlands en route to buy a loaf of bread at Simple Bakery in Lake Geneva, Kerri said, “It’s all so weird.”

Among our new patterns is more appreciation of our time. We are less willing to stuff our day with things to do, rather, we’ve established a slower rhythm and points during the day to stop, sit together, and savor the events of the day. It began at the onset of the pandemic with our covid-table in the sunroom. A place to sit and watch the sunset at days end. Soon, there were snacks. And then a glass of wine. It became a ritual. Now, there is nothing more important in our day than to meet at our table. Talk. We call friends and family from the table. Dogga leads the way. He meets us there, positioned just behind our chairs with his bone or a few mauled toys. Sometimes we sit for hours – far beyond sunset. We eat our meals there.

We’ve also established patterns of anticipation within our patterns. My favorite, the silliest but most effective, is french fries for snack. There’s nothing more satisfying on a cold winter evening, than hot salty french fries. We make sure that it’s not a common, every night affair. We save it for the tough days or as a surprise. “Is it french fry night?” Kerri hops and claps in anticipation when she notices that the oven is preheating. Yes. Oh, yes.

The new pattern, of course, is not the table or the fries. It’s the decision to make moments special. We decided amidst the pandemic, the broken wrists, the job losses, the civil unrest, the loss of family and friends, to make lemonade from this time of abundant lemons. We decided to accent the pleasures. To walk slower. To meet our days, not with a list of things-to-do, but with the intention of making a most savory day from the ingredients found in our pantry.

Pattern disruption. Within the hard breakdown of the known, the loss of the comfortable, we are fortunate. Many times, sitting in our sunroom, the happy-lights reflecting in the windows, Dogga quietly behind us chewing his bone, Kerri says, “I love this space.” I nod my head. Me, too. The literal and the metaphoric.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FRENCH FRIES!!!!

Look To The Field [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“…if you observe your mind very quietly without giving explanations, if you just let the mind be aware of its own struggle, you will soon find that there comes a state in which there is no struggle at all, but an astonishing watchfulness. In that state of watchfulness there is no sense of superior or inferior, there is no big man or little man, there is no guru. All those absurdities are gone because the mind is fully awake; and the mind that is fully awake is joyous.” ~ Krishnamurti, Think On These Things

Saul told me to look beyond my opponent to the field of all-possibilities. He even gave it a location, a hundred feet beyond where he stood. We were doing an exercise called push-hands and, as a tai-chi master, he was teaching me not only where to place my focus but also where to place my belief. It took me a few years to grok: believe in resistance and resistance will appear. Call it an opponent and you’ve defined the relationship and, therefore, your choices. An obstacle is only an obstacle because it is identified as so.

I met Kerri because my world collapsed. Did my world collapse or did it open? Saul would say, “Neither.” Energy is energy. It moves and we give story to the movement, thereby shaping it. Storytelling is more powerful than we know.

Saul might as well have said, “The opponent lives in your mind. Look beyond your mind. Look beyond the story.” It’s a good practice to have an experience before naming it. It’s a better practice to have an experience and not name it at all. I’m not there yet, though I can see the field that Saul recommended. It exists beyond my definition-noise.

Saul threw me across the room yet never touched me. He laughed. I wanted to ask, “How did you do that?” but I already knew what his answer would be: “I didn’t. You threw yourself.”

read Kerri’s blog post on this Two Artists Tuesday

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Receive The Message [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

We just made a pact to lighten up. It’s not the first time we’ve made this pact and it probably won’t be the last. What’s important in this particular version of our pact is that we are growing more capable of keeping it.

The week before Columbus died, my sister-in-law sent some pictures of him. He was at the very beginning of what would become a rapid decline. She sent the photos to reassure us but they had the opposite impact on me: I was shocked.

Those photos threw me into a pendulum: some days, nothing seems worth getting riled up about. This ride is short and it ends. I know my mind can whip up a fruit-smoothie of drama in a nano-second but that doesn’t mean I need to drink it. And, on the other end of the pendulum, everything seems worth getting riled up about. This ride is short and it ends. Both/And.

I know the pendulum will settle. I know equilibrium is merely a matter of not indulging in the swing but stepping back and watching. The thoughts will sway to-and-fro and I need not sway with them. To lighten up, as Don Miguel Ruiz advises, “Doubt everything that you think.” Or, as someone once told me, “What we think is the mother-lode of comedy.” Changing a mind begins with realizing that a mind, although it will tell you otherwise, is not the keeper of truth.

We hit the trail for many reasons but first and foremost a good walk serves to restore our balance. Someone has been leaving good spirits along our favorite trail and we delight in discovering them. We leave them for others to find. We’ve encountered happy messages, halloween goblins, and folks just like the red and orange googly-eyed fellow that made us laugh. He was sitting with his back to us in the middle of the path. Kerri did a photo shoot with him; he was a willing subject.

I’ve decided that he crossed our path to affirm our pact: he is the spirit of lighten-up. He is the messenger of you-are-not-all-that so enjoy the day. A trail jester to remind us that nothing we imagine or create compares or is more real or important than the step we are currently taking. “Alas, poor Yorick…” he had his time and so do we. What we decide to do with it, how we decide to live it, is not happenstance; it is completely up to us.

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOGLY EYES

Attend To Beauty [on Two Artists Tuesday]

We are fans of ornamental grass. They line our walkway and populate the area along the fences. DogDog’s round-about sign is now nearly obscured, standing in the middle of tall grasses.

Some folks cut back their grass plants at the end of the season but we let ours stand through the winter. The reason has nothing to do with the health of the plant and everything to do with aesthetics. There are few things more beautiful than ornamental grasses aglow in the winter sun. I have been brought to tears watching the dance of the grasses, alight in pink and orange against the cold blue of a snowy afternoon. Magic beings swaying. [My grass-inspired-tears brought Kerri to consider that my heart just might not be made of cardboard (single ply) after all].

We attend to beauty, not because we are artists but the other way around: we can’t help but attend to beauty and that is what makes us artists. Yamaha paid Kerri a great compliment when she said of our home, “Everywhere I look I see something beautiful.”

Saturday, while raking the leaves, the air was crisp and birdsong, so unexpected, called to me to listen. As I stood listening to the birds, a breeze caught the grasses and they bristled, caught the wind and swayed. I dropped my rake and watched the performance, birds singing to the modern dance of grasses.

Our mail carrier broke my revelry with a greeting. She said, “I’d rather be doing my job than yours. I hate raking leaves!” I laughed. The color of the leaves, the sound, the fall smells. The performance. At that moment, I felt like the luckiest person alive.

“Oh, I don’t mind it,” I replied. “Actually, I’m enjoying it.”

“Well,” she said, “It’s a good thing then. I think I’ll stick to the mail.”

Yes. It’s a good thing. A very good thing, indeed.

read Kerri’s blog post about GRASSES

Go To The Shoe Room [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I managed the theatre conservatory at PCPA Theaterfest, I occasionally gave backstage tours. It was great fun because the favorite stop on the tour – on every tour I gave – was the shoe room. Visitors always enjoyed standing on the stage, they were impressed with the scene and costume shop, they delighted to watch the prop master at work, but the moment we entered the shoe room, they were transcendent. Wide-eyed and giggling, pulling period shoes from the shelves to show their companions, it was as if they’d entered a candy store. The magic was released through the shoes.

The shoes, I suspect, harkened back to a time of dress-up. Childhood. The shoes touched their spirit of play. They beckoned to be worn and, as any actor knows, the shoes will inform how a character moves. The sooner you don the shoes, the sooner you will “find” the character. The shoe room was a portal to possible-other-lives.

I am more enamored by sketches than I am by final drafts. I delight in watching master craftsmen and craftswomen work. Theatre artists do not create illusions, they provide access to other worlds, unknown paths. They invite us to the shoe room to try on another life, even for a moment. The process, to me, is more beautiful than the performance.

As we walked the paths of the Botanical Gardens, the technicians were preparing for the festival of lights. Walkie-talkies crackled. Connections were checked. Battery packs were carefully placed. Multi-colored light strands ran like rivers up the trunks of trees. E-candles on armatures floated in the waterways. Magic was in the making. During the daylight, the entire expanse of the Garden is backstage – exposed wires and explicit design. At night, the mechanics will fade behind the light curtain. Backstage will become fore-stage. The light will invite us into another world. The light will touch the spirit of play.

I have always believed that people, lurking behind those serious faces, really just want to play. It’s the reason I kicked off my shoes every time I entered a room to do a facilitation. Lose your shoes and it’s no longer a serious affair. Play threatens. Play is suddenly a real possibility. The spirit of play cracks even the most harden entrenchment. Play necessitates collaboration and sharing. Pirates and Princesses need mates and parrots and knights in order for the world to be complete. Lawyers will take off their ties and wear them as headbands when the shoes come off and the serious topics are approached in socks and bare toes.

I recently – as we all have – been privy to an endless contentious debate about what this nation needs to do to get back on track. I believe it is not so complicated. We can carry on our oh-so-serious-division, but the single rule should be that no one can open their mouth – politician, pundit, and pedestrian alike – before first taking off their shoes.

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHT STRANDS

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

Step Forward [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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In story terms, before leaving home, before walking into the dark woods, it is necessary to take a moment and wander from room to room to remember. One last time, to touch the life you are about to leave.  Just as ‘how’ something is done can only be known after the fact, so too, ‘who’ you are can only be seen at the moment of leaving.

Isn’t that why we look back? To put a period on the sentence before stepping into the unknown. Each run up to the new year, amidst the celebrations and hoo-haw, we review the traveled path. We touch it,  label it, put it on the shelf, let go, celebrate and grieve, and make resolutions based on who we want to become. And then, we turn and step into the unknown woods, the new year.

This week, Kerri and I have been wandering from room to room in the melange. Lingering in a spot, laughing about some of the things we tried to do, amazed at some of the things we achieved, letting go of the ‘should-haves’ and lingering in appreciation of the ‘what-is.’ In a year, we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. In a year, we discovered what we never could have imagined.

Last year, at this time, the melange was the dark woods that we stepped into. We had no idea what we’d find. We had intentions and dreams and ideals (oh, those pesky resolutions!). We started with some good advice. It came from Beaky and was our very first Two Artists Tuesday design. Live Life, My Sweet Potato. Step into that dark wood. There are bears and swamps and mountains to climb. Experience all of it. The celebrations and grieving, the lost-ness and found-ness. Life is not found on the other side. Life is found in living of all of it.

That’s what we found, touching back to the first week of the melange. An affirmation. Step forward. Live it all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MELANGE, WEEK ONE

 

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Land Safely [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Two artists can get into a world of trouble. They (we) can also create our share of trouble. Our idea pile is mountainous. The word ‘reality’ requires more than a few footnotes.

If you’ve ever spent the time considering the melange (as I know you have…) you recognize that we lack the simple wisdom of knowing when to stop. In the corporate world we’d be known as constant content creators. In the mad mad realm of entrepreneurs, we’d be understood as being in a constant state of pivot. Our Two Artists designs were initially intended to be improvisational, gestural-let’s-see-where-this-goes statements. I dare you to find the bottom of that idea pool!

All of this is to say, you could leap from a very tall building and land safely – even comfortably – on the stack of pillows we’ve imagined and designed. There’s no need to test my assertion. Stay in your swivel chair. But, if you have impulse control issues, it might be a good time to buy a pillow. And I know just the place. Follow the link.

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THE LINK

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THROWING PILLOWS

 

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Leave It! [on Two Artist Tuesday]

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what you don’t see in a picture is worth an additional word or two.

One of Kerri’s many nicknames is “Brat” and it is more-than-well-deserved. No one knows this better than Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog. He silently suffers her full brat nature. He patiently tolerates her howling laughter when he is, once again, the object of her brat-ocity.

DogDog easily picks up tricks. And, as an Aussie, he is a hyper-sensitive-good-boy, so Brat takes full advantage of his trusting nature, his need to please, and contorts the tricks. This is a photo of “leave it:” drop any snack on the floor, tell DogDog to “leave it,” and he won’t touch it until he’s given the magic sign. Tell him to “leave it” and he won’t move. Instead, he will follow you with his eyes imploring you for the magic sign. On this day, instead of dropping his snack on the floor, she put a tortilla chip on his head. And left it there for a very long time.

I knew I would be in trouble if I gave DogDog the magic sign. I knew I would bring Brat’s focus on to me if I interrupted her chuckling mischief. So, like DogDog, I sat very still and followed her around with my eyes. When would she give the magic signal? Both DogDog and I quaked with unbearable anticipation. When?! She moved back and forth, Dogga’s and my eyes tracking her every move. She took a picture. Moved across the room and took another. “Don’t torture the dog,” I implored.

“I’m not torturing DogDog,” she smiled, giving DogDog the magic sign, “I’ve been torturing you!”

 

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Lydia! Here’s the link: read Kerri’s blog post about BEING A BRAT

 

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Reach [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Someone snapped their fingers and it is fall. Less than a week ago we skirted the Des Plains river trail, hugging the shade. We’d underestimated the intensity of the heat-humidity combination punch. “Are you dying?” Kerri asked. I nodded my head, too hot to answer. This morning, the air is cool and we are pulling out our flannel shirts.

With fall comes a sweet melancholy that usually creeps in slowly but this year, absent of any transition, I awoke fully awash in the seasonal sorrows. It is, oddly, like a warm blanket. An old friend that calls, “Remember me?”

Kerri tells me this melancholy is the feeling of time passing. It is the season of standing still and remembering. It is a reach to the past when the past feels like the autumn sun on your face. Turning toward the warmth, eyes closed, basking.

Haven’t you heard your elders say that the older you get the faster time moves? This morning, pulling my flannel shirt around me, I know that it is true. Time races. Time is relative to “the long body,” the entire span of a lifetime. With so much time behind me, so many memories, the road traveled seems to have passed in a blink. Life happens in the blink of an eye.

There’s no better reason to stand still, eyes closed, and reach for the sun as its rays reach for me.

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read Kerri’s blog post about REACH

 

 

 

 

 

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