Listen To The Call [on Two Artists Tuesday]

For the past 25 years, I have lived next to water. My Seattle apartment was steps away from Puget Sound. The lighthouse was just around the corner. My Wisconsin home is a block away from Lake Michigan. The sounds of the lake are the soundtrack of our life. A curious elemental flip for a man born at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

It begs a question.

A few weeks ago, I needed to supply casual bio-pictures for a project. Kerri showed me photographs we’ve taken of each other, some in the Colorado mountains. It was startling. There’s something different about the photos of us in mountain pictures. “We’re different people,” she said. “You can see it. It’s where we belong.”

I could see it. My language: in the mountains, we are in our bodies. Fully. Present. No where else to be. Home.

It makes sense for me to feel the deep rhythm of the mountains. Kerri was born and raised on Long Island yet she comes alive in aspen forests, on the trail just above Breckenridge. The western slope. The mountain song reaches her inner being and she sings it back to the mountain. In the photos, she is radiant. At peace.

We walk along the lake all the time. We talk about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. We are in awe of the power and changing faces of this mysterious lake. And, that’s precisely the point. The Lake is mysterious in its power. To us, the pulse of the mountains is known.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LONG SHADOW

Shimmy Dance [on DR Thursday]

Barney the piano has been in residence for over 7 years. His sound board was ruined and he was on his way to the junkyard when Kerri intervened. She played him on his first day here. He gave sweet voice for a few musical lines and then went silent. We’d occasionally wander out and press his keys but he was absolute. He was finished with his former purpose and ready for the next chapter.

Over time he lost his facade. The white veneer peeled from his keys and exposed the wood beneath. His decorative layer also began to curl. Pieces fell in strips like bark from a tree, exposing the rougher wooden structure.

Chipmunks have taken up residence. The squirrels glory in sitting high on his bald pate while lecturing Dogga. He’s beginning to sag in his middle and sink into the ground. He has been home to flower pots and once acted as our herb garden. Currently, we’re on the prowl for an appropriate chandelier to hang above him. I understand that pianos, at any age, love a good chandelier.

Barney has become an institution in our backyard. A fixture. I mow around him and never give it a second thought. We turn on the sprinklers to water the grass and water Barney, too. The first time we watered Barney, 7 years ago, Kerri cringed. It seemed sacrilege to spray a piano with water. She couldn’t look and retreated into the house. Now, Barney and the grass are one.

Sometimes at night we sit on the deck and watch the daylight wane. The pond light is on a timer and illuminates the fountain. The shadows dance on Barney. If we sit in the right spot, it seems the fire from our small tower dances in time with the fountain shadow on Barney. Fire and water move in a perfect shimmy dance. The elements come together. Alchemy.

Sitting in the waning light, watching the dancers dance with Barney, I’m reminded that magic is happening all around us. Everyday. Every moment. And, if I stop moving long enough to pay attention, I can see it. Barney also reminds me that we are never the same moment to moment. The changes are visible over time – long periods of time, but the movement is continuous. Slow. Joseph Campbell said that the universe creates forms and take them down. Creates forms, takes them down. Barney was once a piano. Now? To us, he is many, many things.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARNEY AND FIRE

Add To The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Our water theme continues though, instead of pipes breaking, surprise waterfalls in the basement, or spontaneous fountains in the front yard, we’re dancing on the other side of the theme. What was broken or compromised is slowly, as we can afford it, being fixed or replaced. And, as metaphors go, I welcome what this implies.

It is our very own kintsugi. Golden repair – or in our case – copper repair.

“…treating breakage and repair as part of the history…rather than something to disguise.” We’ve consciously created our home to be a keeper of stories: the driftwood that adorns our mantel, the rock cairns stacked by the plants, the chairs in our sunroom… all tell a story. A walk on a special beach. A mountain top. The day the car broke down in Minnesota. Adventure. Routine. Accident. Surprise.

We have a series of old suitcases stacked in our dining room. They are our “special boxes.” Each is filled with momentos of our life together. Concert ticket stubs, birthday cards, notes, old calendars, the bits chain from Pa’s workbench that we once wore as bracelets… Our story fodder. Connective tissue to our shared history.

The copper that Mike-the-plumber has installed in key locations around the house serve as connective tissue to the era of water. Our house is a special box, too. It’s nearly 100 years old so we are a chapter in its story, stewards merely. The copper repair is a visual keepsake, a golden repair from a time when the old pipes and fittings, having done good work, let us know with no uncertainty that they were retiring.

We love this house. We love being stewards to its story. We love that it is the keeper of our story. And, lately, we especially love being on this side of the water era, putting all the pieces back together again, adding to our entwined history, with undisguised copper-gold.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COPPER PIPES

Open The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Put on your swimmies for a dive into the esoteric.

It was hot last night so I lay awake thinking and that’s never a good thing for the people – like you – who pay attention to the random things I write or say. This is what I thought in the heat of the night: Saul always instructed me to look beyond my opponent and place my focus in the field of possibilities. “Look a hundred feet beyond your opponent,” he said.

It’s universally true that a mind needs something on which to focus. And, left untended, most minds will focus on complaints or problems. During my tilt-at-windmills-consulting phase I’d tease my clients with the notion that, rather than eliminate challenges, people create them. We need them. We call them hobbies. Or play. Or problems. After all, stories are driven by conflict and we are, at the base, storytelling animals. It’s worth noting that a great collaboration is not the absence of conflicting opinions but the capacity to use the heat of creative tension to find/discover a third way.

What does this have to do with Saul and the field of possibilities? A focus, to be useful, needs to be specific. What exactly does the field of possibilities look like?

The reason our untended minds sort to the negative is that the negative is usually concrete, an easy fixation. Fear is a clear picture – even when imaginary. Obstacles are easy to spot. Possibilities are rolling and amorphous. Changeable. It is the nature of a good possibility to shape-shift.

The masters of meditation mostly tell us to soften our focus. Or to let the thoughts roll through the brainpan like clouds; do not attach to what we think. Do not take ourselves so seriously. Practice flow instead of the hard fixing of thought.

And, therein is the source of my late night esoteria: the mind needs something to focus on. Or does it?

If I soften my gaze, if I look beyond the problem-of-the-moment to a vast field of floating possibility, am I tossing myself into a feedback loop? I lay awake wondering what the field of possibility might look like if it was graspable. Some people make vision boards for just this reason. Quinn used to hum and fill his mind with lyrics.

Tjakorda Rai laughed at me and told me I needed to “open my story.” At the time I thought he meant to take responsibility for my story. Now, I know exactly what he meant: let it flow. Get out of the way. The demons and monsters and fears and problems and challenges are…passing things. Story fodder, nothing more. So look beyond them. Flow. Focus on the flow. Open the story.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

Roll With Every Punch [on DR Thursday]

And on the fourth night, just before retiring, I stepped onto the stoop and unplugged the colored lights. Forever. The ancient plug had had enough. It was weary and left behind one of its prongs. “No worries,” Kerri said, “I wouldn’t trust those wires to replace the plug. And, I loved them while they lasted.”

Yes. Just enough. A satisfying gesture. I believe that is our theme for the season. Just enough. Satisfying gesture.

Lately, I’ve made it a practice to ask friends and family, with all the water problems that Kerri and I have had this year, what’s the metaphor they see? What’s the universe trying to tell us? The responses have been great fun: build an ark. The slate is washed clean. Put on your waders. I’ve decided it is none of the above (or all of the above). I’m going with the Lao Tzu paradox:

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”

Fluid, soft, and yielding. We are rolling with every punch. Soft is strong. Not much gets us riled up these days. There have been so many punches; rigid wasn’t working. Yielding seemed the better path. We are, as Kerri so aptly articulated, ” Leading with surprise.” Not that a waterline break is to be desired but, ours, although intensely disruptive, brought good stories and good people into our sphere. “I want to be like Kevin,” I said. He’s the engineer at the water utility. Kind, funny, easy in his life. His dedication was to make easier our path through disruption. He and Kerri are sharing holiday recipes.

We are, out of necessity or intention, either way, walking the middle path and being careful not to wander into oppositions. Just enough. Satisfying gestures. Love them while they last. Lighten up. Let go. Fluid, soft and yielding.

No worries.

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHTS

nap with dogdog & babycat © 2020 david robinson

Attend To The Quiet [on KS Friday]

My studio is a place of quiet. Inside and out. It is the place where I go – where I’ve always gone, when I need to recenter myself of exit the crazy-brain. Lately, my studio has been blown to bits. Water has been a near constant invader, either from the ceiling when the pipe broke in the spring or from the floor when roots clogged the sewer main. Twice. It seems as if water wants me to take a break from painting. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Each time the water rises, the paintings rise, too. We scramble to move everything up the stairs. Mostly, they are stored on blocks so live protected above the rising tide – but pulling up carpet or clearing space for the plumbers has meant a perpetual studio deconstruction. Kerri stubbed her toe – okay, broke her toe – on one of the bigger paintings that now populate our sitting room. It’s a maze of paintings out there. Yet, she is wise. She’s insisting that we leave the paintings where they are, scattered here and there. At least for now. At least until we can clear out and rethink our space.

Kerri is much more sound sensitive than I am. I am much more spatially sensitive than she is. The sign on our deck, “Shh” addresses her need for sound-quiet. It’s all about space-quiet for me. Space-quiet means open space. It’s been that way all of my life: if there’s too much stuff, I shut down.

The water, as it turns out, is trying to tell me something. Lately, when I go down into the blasted-apart-and-now-empty-studio-space, I can breathe. I feel it every time I descend the stairs. I breathe. My space had become too impacted. Too many paintings, too many tables, too little space. “Shh.”

I’ve often written about the time, after I moved to Seattle, that I burned most of my paintings. I needed space. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was tired of hauling and storing paintings. I didn’t know what else to do. I needed air and fire brought it to me.

And, so, the water pours from the ceiling. It bubbles up through the floors. Again. What feels like a catastrophe comes with a cautionary message. No fire is needed this time. To attend to the space is to attend to the quiet. Stop. “Shh.” Breathe.

SILENT DAYS on Kerri’s album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about SHH.

silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Be The Rain [on KS Friday]

Simple elegance. Courteous goodwill. Thoughtfulness. Consideration. Do honor. Ennoble. Look up the word “grace” and these are the phrases and synonyms that you will find.

John Updike wrote that “Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” California is on fire. So is Greece and Turkey. Siberia. Reservoirs are shrinking. So many are looking to the sky awaiting its descent to the earth. Awaiting simple grace.

When I lived in Seattle I delighted on a hot summer day of running through the International Fountain. I was not alone. Children and adults alike squealed as they played in the dancing jets of water. It was a joy to go to the fountain, sit in the spray and watch people play, rest, and rejuvenate with and in the water.

We are following couples as they through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. They plan their days according to their water sources. There are water-less stretches that are made do-able only because a trail-angel maintains a cache of water for the hikers.

Trail-angels, people who, for no other reason than having the satisfaction of helping ease the journey of others, give me hope. They bring respite, perhaps because someone in their past did it for them and it mattered. They make difficult passages do-able. Sometimes they provide a ride into town. They look for opportunities to help. They are the rain when rain is nowhere to be found.

Isn’t that grace? Rain meeting earth? Angel meeting a need, providing water so a thirsty traveler might drink and continue walking?

Grace on the album Right Now

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

read Kerri’s blog post about WATER

grace/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Fear The Babbling Brook [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I find the sound of a babbling brook soothing unless, of course, it is coming from our basement. Knowing with certainty that we did not install a brook in the basement, I knew the soothing sound bubbling up the stairwell was problematic.

It was more waterfall than brook. A steady stream of water cascaded down a pipe from the ceiling, a large pond was already forming in the carpet.

I’m confessing here and now that I am not a handyman. My first response to most home emergencies is to stare, to flood myself with utter disbelief and brainless-white-noise. So, I did that. And then, a miracle: from somewhere completely unknown to me, a voice of reason, a whisper from deep within, said, “Turn off the water.” So, I did that, too.

The waterfall stopped immediately.

We found the source of our problem in the wall. Some farsighted human-from-the-past installed a Hobbit door in the upstairs closet, knowing that there might be a future plumbing problem and a Hobbit door would make the fix possible without having to also experience demo-day. Kerri and I both stared at the offending plumbing knob. She took photos. She sent texts.

And, although I may not be able to appreciate basement babbling brooks, I very much appreciate friends from all over the country who immediately sprang into action to help us. The digital world met the ultimate analog problem. The advice from Portland and Texas and across town was unanimous: you can fix this. Don’t call a plumber. Our waterfall was the result of a simple gasket failure, a washer gone bad. Unscrew the offending knob, remove the wasted gasket, go to the hardware store, find someone with know-how, buy a replacement, insert the new gasket, tighten the offending knob. Va-Wah-La! Well. Almost.

Our basement now looks like a conceptual art piece in the museum of modern art. The carpet raised, the sodden padding removed, plastic Adirondack chairs, plastic crates, plastic bins stuffed beneath have turned the carpet into a 3-D topographic map, fans blow under and over, baking soda swirls like micro-tornadoes across the mini-mountain range. The waterfall was right smack in the middle of my studio, so surrounding the mountain range, are willy-nilly un-art-ful stacks of old school paintings, lifted above the waterline. An art history statement: the conceptual art explosion forcing the canvas-and-paint-crowd to the margins.

And, so, we do what all good artists do in times like this: we sip wine and wait for things to dry. We spin our experience into tell-able and re-tell-able tales (our generous friends listen whether they want to or not). We send heaps of gratitude to the folks with real practical knowledge who led us by the nose through our watercourse way.

read Kerri’s blog post about WATER

Gather Around The Fire [on Merely A Thought Monday]

keep the fire burnin copy

An unseasonably cool June evening. We sat around the fire. At social distance and wearing masks. Friends. “It’s so odd,” we said more than once. Eyes and assumed smiles. Muffled laughter. “I’ll never again take for granted a hug or being able to sit close together around the table,” she said. “It’s the little things that I miss.”

Fire is elemental. Water. Air. Earth. And, sometimes, Spirit though I think the 5th is always implicit. Friendship is elemental and spirit-full. Especially when the world is off center. It is a forge for strength and determination. Our friends, so generous, feed air into the fire. Support. Encouragement.

As we talked through face coverings about our newest daily obstacles, I wondered how hard it must have been to communicate across distance with smoke signals. Measured fire. Kerri said, “My mask is slipping again! There must be something wrong with my face.” We laughed and made up problems with her nose.

So much fire on the streets across the land! Transformation is afoot! Creative fire is out of the barn and teasing the status quo. This hot fire illuminates. It smacks of a ritual fire and, if properly honored and tended, can set us on a new path. Dark corners revealed and more than simply acknowledged, truly addressed.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods to spark life into his new creatures.  To ignite breath. Humans, made from earth and water. Four elements, come together. He was punished for his transgression. The spark lit an entire forest fire of humanity and creative potential. Beings capable of looking at the elements within themselves, at asking each other in magical moments, “How can we be better?”

All of this wonder and wandering on an unseasonably cool summer evening. Meeting with friends across a fire. A sip of wine. In earnest, we ask the question of each other, through our masks and across our distance, “How can we be better?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

 

 

bonfire website box copy

 

 

Slog And Smile [on Two Artists Tuesday]

ice castle 1 copy

the melting ice castle

It is the mud season. The time of thaw. When snow and ice like magic return to their elemental form and flow according to the rules of least resistance. Downhill. Always.

It is the season that we wear our black boots, the pair that is good for slogging through the mire. On a recent squish through our beloved Bristol Woods we laughed at the sucking sounds our black boots made when we tried to lift our feet from the bog. The water gurgled around us. The sun warmed our faces even though the day was cold. We were glad that we left DogDog home. He’d have been a mucky mess.

It is the in-between time. Not winter. Not spring. This morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and still it snowed. The winter took a toll and everyone groused, “I thought we were done with that!” These same growlers only a few short months ago celebrated the return of the white stuff. “It’s the first snow!” they laughed and ran out to touch it. How fickle we are.

Or, perhaps, how ritualistic we are. Persephone must return to the underworld for a season. Demeter grieves and so the cold snows come. Months later, when the daughter returns to the light, the mother, over-joyed, allows the plants to grow again. Life returns. Tell the story any way you want. It is the same. A cycle of life. Equinox. Solstice. A time to sow. A time to reap. The root, rejuvenated, now pushes little green tendrils upward the sun. Rituals and celebrations.

Our ritual? Eager to get outside and walk, Kerri asks, “What boots shall we wear?” I respond, “I don’t know. Do you think it will be muddy?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE ICE FALL

 

icefall website box copy