Love The Trade [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

There’s nothing more jolting than getting a new passport photo. It’s a forced opportunity to compare photos of yourself separated by a decade. The old passport photo is what you think you look like. And the new one? Well, let’s just say that denial can only go so far. “Someone photoshopped my face!” I declared. Kerri rolled her eyes. I also disparaged the camera and the photographer but neither of those ruses gained traction. “Wow,” I said in full acceptance, “I’d better start smiling more so the grooves in my face will be appealing.”

I’m spending an inordinate amount of time on Zoom these days so I have ample opportunity to watch myself watching others. The harsh morning light poured in the window yesterday amplifying my age. “I need a better videographer,” I said, but no one got the joke. The light made my grey beard glow so I soothed my startled soul with daydreams of someday becoming a wizard.

20 says that young people look at him like he’s furniture. “It’s like I don’t exist,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed and added, “but I’d rather be happy in my new role as furniture than go back in time and be lost in the nonsense of my youth.”

I like the guy in my new passport photo. I don’t recognize his face but he laughs more and cares less. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good trade. And, no one ever promised that progress was pretty.

read Kerri’s blog post about AGING

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Reinvent [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

As we’ve been told, Kerri and I are simpatico. Yet, at this time of year, the vast differences in our past lives come to the surface. For instance, she’s lived in this house – now our house – for 32 years. She raised her children here. I did not have children and was mostly – until I met her – a wanderer. For Kerri, the holidays are rich with memories and traditions, meal prep for the masses, all things that she now misses. Covid has served to amplify her longing.

I’ve always had to improvise during the holidays and, were I to do an accounting of my experiences, I’d wager that I’ve spent more holidays away from rather than with family. I do not suffer the loss and yearning that Kerri suffers. My holiday memories are not fond or tradition-filled.

It was cold on Thursday but we walked a trail anyway. We held hands and talked of reinventing or rituals. It seems so much of past two years has been an exercise in disruption and loss, letting go of what-was and making space for what-will-be. The holidays in our future need not be populated with the ghosts of holidays past.

We read an article that flipped on-its-head the usual Thanksgiving question. Rather than ask, “What are you thankful for?” the article suggested we ask of ourselves, “What will you do to help others be thankful?”

It’s a good question and a great seed to plant for the ghost-of-our-holiday-future.

read Kerri’s smack-dab. blog post

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Relax And Prime [on KS Friday]

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon yesterday drawing cartoons. I had to get away from the computer screen. I’ve learned – relearned – that staring into the screen too long makes me myopic and unimaginative. I’m not certain if this is true for everyone but I am kinesthetic. There’s a necessary balance. Sitting still and staring at a screen without the opposite focus are creative-killers for me. I do my best thinking when I move around, when I stop trying to solve or deconstruct. I’m fortunate that drawing with a #2 pencil at an old-fashioned light table is part of my job.

Greg lives his life in front of a screen – multiple screens – and, to get away, he dives. His underwater photography is gorgeous. In a meeting a few days ago, he said that diving clears his mind. His greatest insights come when he’s underwater or sitting on the beach after a dive. There’s good science behind his insight. Relaxation triggers dopamine: the more dopamine, the more creative. Comfort and relaxation prime the creative pump. Stress and tension unplug the pump.

The best thing to do when trying to squeeze out a revelation is to walk away. Take a drive. Take a shower. Stop thinking so hard. Daydreaming is very productive. I’ve learned that anger and frustration rarely – if ever – lead to creative insight and generally produce the opposite of what’s desired. Anger (like too much time in front of a computer screen to me) is myopic. It narrows. It squeezes off the dopamine. It blinds the mind and heart to possibility.

Kent Nerburn wrote that, “For those of us in the arts, enthusiasm is never outlived. The sun is always rising before us, and our wonder at the world, the true source for all meaningful art, only grows stronger as life slows from passage to moments…” There’s always a next painting to paint. Another song to write. A photograph to take. It’s one of the reasons I love taking walks with Kerri: we rarely get very far before she gasps, and stops to take a photograph of some small miracle. And, while she’s collecting images of small miracles, I look to the sky and let my mind wander, a walking meditation, a creative pump primer.

And, almost always, somewhere on the trail, the dot that refused to connect while I was too-long staring at the screen, takes me by the hand and says, “It’s so simple. Do you see?”

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERGREEN

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

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

Say ‘Hello’ To Humble [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Suffering indignity is one of the surprises of aging. For every forty-something out there who feels on top of the world, for every thirty-something who feels invincible, for every twenty-something who feels immortal, I recommend that you enjoy it while it lasts. It does not last. Some day in your too-soon-to-come-future, you, too, will plan your travels according to the availability of bathrooms. Even a trip to the store will necessitate careful consideration. Monitoring fluid intake relative to the plan for the day will become a high priority – so much so that you will normalize it. “Is that all the coffee you’re having?” Kerri asks.

“We’re going to Chicago later,” I reply.

“Oh, right,” she says, putting down her cup.

You’ll arrive at your new-normal because, along the way, you’ll have surprise panic moments. There’s nothing more humbling than wetting yourself in public. There are few greater stress inducers than, “I gotta go now!” with no place to go.

And, the greatest indignity of all: at the time of your life that you need to run the fastest, your joints will creak and your muscles hesitate. Your sprint into the woods will look to others like…

Humble, humble, humble.

read Kerri’s blog post about KNOCKING ON THE NEIGHBORS DOOR

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

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

Move Beyond The Bucket [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

The proper term is “deferred maintenance.” We have a leak under the bathroom sink and, rather than fix it, a bucket works just fine. When 20 comes over to dog-sit, he knows just what to do and where to go with the post-it note-reminder: empty the bucket.

Deferred maintenance is a habit developed in lean years. Weigh the cost of repair versus the potential for greater damage. Can you eat and fix the chimney? If yes, proceed to tuck-point. If no, look the other way. If the potential for greater damage outweighs the cost of repair but there’s no funds to do the repair, a duct tape solution always arises. Strange calculus. Weird math. Mother of invention.

We generally tag-team the “let’s see what happens” approach to thunks in the car. Today, I panic at the sound and she votes for ignoring it. Tomorrow, she panics and I ask, “What sound?” When she listens intently, she squeezes her eyebrows together and cocks her head. It’s adorable.

What have I learned in our tag team approach to car maintenance? She has better ears. When her ears perk up – and then stay up, when she cannot move beyond eyebrow-squeeze-and-head-cock, it’s time to move beyond the bucket solution; deferred maintenance will leave us standing on the side of the road.

read Kerri’s blog post about THUNK-THUNK-THUNK

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Appreciate It [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Hays, Kansas. The ‘Welcome Center’ on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. The curb in front of the BMO Harris Bank. And, of course, our driveway. What do these locations have in common? They are the thunk sites, the places where our driving machines expressed sudden discord and then ceased all forms of forward motion.

We’ve been fortunate. Our machines go “Thunk” in convenient places. Coasting into the ‘Welcome Center,’ dashboard lights ablaze, has to be my favorite. Had the “Thunk” arrived 5 minutes later we’d have been roadside in the middle of nowhere. Instead, the nice people at the Welcome Center chatted with us while we awaited our tow truck. DogDog had a designated place to walk. There was coffee had we desired to have a cup.

Our vehicles are old but they are considerate. They’ve taken good care of us and we, in turn, take good care of them. Kerri has musicians ears and she is constantly tuned into the sounds they make, the creaks and groans, the usual rattling. Sometimes she asks, “Did you hear that?” I never hear the subtle noises, much to Kerri’s chagrin. “Nooooo,” I reply and she sighs. Our cars must know about my limited-hearing-band-width because, when it’s time for a hiatus, they choose a nice spot and make it obvious enough for me to hear.

They’re good that way. Considerate. And, I mostly appreciate it.

read Kerri’s blog post about THUNK

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Get Lost [on DR Thursday]

We delight in taking Sunday drives. Sometimes we have a destination but most of the time we have no idea where we are going. We head “out into the county,” the farm land, and with great intention, we get lost. “Left or right?” Kerri asks when we come to a crossroads. “Left.”

The goal is to “not know.” Drive down roads we’ve never experienced. There is a direct correlation between “not knowing” and “clear seeing.” When lost, we open our eyes. It’s something that every artist understands, “always-knowing-where-you’re-going” is a killer of the magic. It is the dividing line between art and craft.

I’m currently working with a team of analytical minds. “Lostness” is often interpreted as failure. It’s not welcome. But, to my great delight, even in the most analytic of creative processes, the engineers and entrepreneurs, shaking their fists at the sky when adrift, find their greatest magic arrives only after time spent wandering the wilderness.

After many twists and turns, rolling country roads and, “Which direction are we headed?”, we pop out of lostness and know exactly where we are. “Hey!” we laugh, “How did we get here?”

The art of getting lost. The art of exploration. The art of having an experience without a predetermined outcome. The art of having an outcome and letting it go, making space for something better. It is the art of cultivating surprise, allowing for the bigger idea to come through. “Left or right?”

It’s a practice. Learning-to-see and letting-go-of-needing “to know.” It’s the same thing. And, a great way to practice, is taking a nice Sunday drive.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ROAD

pax © 2015 david robinson

Scare Yourself Silly [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

Our house is old and, when I first moved in, I had to learn to discern the many sounds an old house can make. Two sounds in particular woke me each night and sent visions of intruders dancing through my imagination. The first was the clunk of the radiator. The second was BabyCat walking around upstairs. Our heavy-footed cat sounded like a man in boots walking from room to room. I woke Kerri more than once with my startled, “What’s That?”

“It’s the cat,” she’d laugh, and roll over.

Sometimes the radiator still gets me. There’s very little warning. The creeeeak sounds like a foot on a floorboard. And, since it is my job to fetch the midnight snack, in a creaky old house, deep into the dark and cold of an October night, the creeeak-clunk is resonate with the slide-thump of scary stories from my youth. I have a vivid imagination. I can scare myself silly.

Happy Halloween.

read Kerri’s SMACK-DAB blog post

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com