Wink With Piet [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My first thought was of Piet Mondrian. Not the colorful compositions but a never-before-seen shadow side. Abstract reduction into simple geometry. An artistic vocabulary concerned with spirituality and universal values. I used to ponder how a utopian pursuit of the spiritual landed on clean hard geometry; bold primary colors set inside hard black lines. I’m certain that, given a similar pursuit, my visual vocabulary would have been softer. Ethereal.

It was the first snow. I looked down at the aging planks of the bench. A criss-cross-apple-sauce of workmanship dusted with white. We’ve never painted the loveseat. After so many years, so many winters and summers, rain and snow and sun, the grain of the wood is alive with texture. An aged face.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is the first sitting. After another freezing winter, another year of age, will the wood continue to hold my weight, our weight? We hold hands and sit slowly, gingerly. Our knees creak before our weight finds the planks. Like a baton pass, the wood takes on the groaning as our knees pass our load to the seat. We sit for a moment with eyes open wide. And then, after a slight bounce-test, we relax. The wood will hold. Our loveseat is like a faithful friend.

The snow melted as fast as it arrived. That is the way of first snow. Blink and you’ll miss it. Except for the love seat and matching chair, we hauled all the other summer furniture into the garage. The table and umbrella. The small ladders that serve as end tables. The fire pit. The first dusting of snow is the cue. The pond freezes so we pull the pump and fountain. Soon, we’ll stack the plastic Adirondack chairs and they’ll take the last available spot in our tiny garage. We push the loveseat to the wall beneath the kitchen window.

We stand on the deck and sigh, feeling the weight of coming winter. The dark days. For a moment, the yard seems bleak. But then, the birds land on the wire. The squirrel highway is open for business. We hear the ancient croak of the cranes in the distance. A cold gust brings a blizzard of falling leaves. A wholly different kind of abundance. The energy moves underground. A time for sleeping and quiet rejuvenation.

Simple geometry. Reduction to cold days and hard lines. Brilliant blue sky. A wink from Piet Mondrian.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DECK

Cross The County Line [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Drive west from our house near the lake for a few miles and you’ll come to the interstate freeway that runs north to Milwaukee and south to Chicago. Cross under the freeway, continuing west and you enter what we call “the county.” Rich farmland. The freeway serves as a dividing line from urban to rural.

Sometimes it feels like crossing the line into another culture. Blue to red. The county redness puzzles me but that’s a topic for another post. We drive into the foreign culture with the same curiosity we might bring to Tunisia or India. “I wonder what they see…” is a common refrain.

Sometimes crossing the freeway line feels like an escape into open space and a breath of fresh air. Once upon a time we took Sunday drives; the point was to go get lost in the county. “Left or right?” Kerri would ask. Both choices leading to the unknown.

We are avid freeway avoiders. It doesn’t bother us to take extra time traveling to Chicago or Milwaukee on the backroads. Less aggression. We relax and enjoy the ride. Often, especially during rush hour, our backroads travel proves faster than the traffic jam.

Last week, en route to the hand specialist in Milwaukee, we traveled our usual backroad path, winding through the county. There was no snow at our house when we left. We crossed the freeway into another landscape, blanketed with white. It was as if we crossed the line into another season. We entered an alternate reality.

“That’s so odd,” I said.

“No,” Kerri replied. “That’s the county.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE COUNTY

See The Signs [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Religions around the world and across time have personified this moment. The return of the green. From one day to the next buds appear on trees. The signs of life’s vibrant enthusiasm returning (again) from long winter, barren earth, metaphoric death. Persephone’s homecoming from the underworld and Demeter, her mother, goddess of the earth, allows the return of life.

It’s a very, very old story told in many, many different ways. Human beings, storytellers all, making sense of death and life, generalized across the real experience of cycles and seasons, all pressed through the lens of this-causes-that. Reduce us to an essential oil and we are makers of metaphor and seers of pattern.

I told Kerri that I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. An idiom. Imagine the power in brains that utilize idioms! The meaning cannot possibly be carried by a literal interpretation of the individual words. We pull the meaning out of or inject it into the collection of words. We know what it means because the meaning has a long history. The Romans, I’ve read, believed there was a correct side of the bed. Arising on the correct side of the bed would ensure good luck. The right side of the bed was positive, the left side was dubious. Jump out of bed on the left side and the day was ruined!

Superstition: making sense of the happenings of a day or a life, pressed through the lens of this-causes-that.

Mostly, I am restless. It snowed all day yesterday. I yearn for the moment when I can, for the first time of the returning (pattern) spring, lean against the wall and feel the warm sun on my face. I will, like I did last spring, enjoy the moment to the point of non-thinking. I will drink it in with no need to wrap a story around it or make sense of what I am feeling. I will appreciate it to my bones and revel in the return of warmth, new growth, and light.

read Kerri’s blog post on GREEN

See The Signs [on KS Friday]

Although it is not quite here, I know spring is coming. How do I know? The blinds are open on one side of the room. They are closed on the other side.

During the winter, the blinds are closed on both sides of the room. During the winter, we turn in. We close out the world. All of the energy goes to the root, beneath the soil, to recharge our lives. Hibernation. And then, one day, though it is still cold, the birds return, we wake to their song, the sun plays hide-and-seek. In the morning, well rested, we open the blinds to the east.

We’re watching the squirrels. They gather the fallen leaves in their mouths and adeptly climb the maples and oaks to high notches, deposit their load, and return to the ground to gather more. Up and down. Over and over. Preparing their nests. The birds are courting. It looks like a hearty game of chase but we know the females are dodging the insistent pesky males.

Life is returning from the deep. Preparation for Persephone’s homecoming. Restless buds appear on branches. It’s close, but not quite yet.

Not quite yet. The third covid springtime. We are not yet past it and are fidgety.

We sat in the car staring at the door to the store. “I’m so goddamn tired of putting on this mask, ” I said as I put it on. We know we’ll be among the few wearing masks as we shop. No matter. It’s not over yet, this long winter of pandemic. As much as we want it to be spring, as much as we can see the signs, it’s not here yet. Not yet. Blinds open on one side of the room. Blinds closed on the other side.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about BLINDS

that morning someday/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Choose Your Irritant [on DR Thursday]

The snowplow just scraped down the street. They keep the streets clear of snow but create great heaping snow-walls at the end of every driveway. Some people grumble, especially the early morning shovelers. I’m sure it’s disconcerting to clear the driveway only to have the snowplow block the egress. I’ve seen people shake their fists and curse at the plow drivers. We work from home so have the luxury to sip coffee and wait until the snow stops and the plows finish their great-wall-creation. Only then do I venture out with my big green shovel and clear the way.

Dogga is getting older. While the coffee brews in the early morning he goes outside. He used to race out the door, excited to chase away the squirrels. Now, he lopes. Lately, he locates the geographic center of the backyard, plants all four paws, and barks-and-listens. He is desperate for a return bark. It’s a pooch call-and-response. We’re up early enough that the other dogs are not yet out so he listens and barks in vain. After several disappointing attempts at rousing the troops, he lopes to the back door and barks at me to let him inside. It’s uncanny; his morning ritual takes the exact amount of time for the coffee maker to complete the brew. Sometimes I think he hears the final whoosh of steam. Back inside, he leads the way as I bring my-errand-of-mercy-first-cup-of-coffee to Kerri.

Although I drink less coffee than I once did, it remains the thread that weaves together the fabric of our day. We start our day with it. The last thing I do before retiring at night is to set up the coffee. “I love that smell,” Kerri says, as she turns out the lights.

During a recent visit, my doctor insisted that coffee is an irritant. His timing was curious because I was, in that moment, thinking the same thing about him. However, in that moment I was certain that, given the choice of spending 15 minutes with him or with a cup of coffee, I’d choose the coffee. One must be picky about the irritants they choose to embrace.

It’s still snowing. There’s no sense shoveling for a while. I guess it’s time for a second cup.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COFFEE

greet the world © 2011 david robinson

Wash And Wonder [on DR Thursday]

I actually like washing dishes. It gives me a sense of completion. Rarely do I finish a day of work with anything that resembles closure or accomplishment. Doing the dishes satisfies my western goal oriented needs. Ask me what I achieved today and I will proudly respond, “The dishes.”

While washing and rinsing the plates and pots I have a terrific view into the back yard. It’s like having a big screen tv into our teeming-with-life sanctuary. The squirrels and Dogga have a game (Dogga does not know that it is a game), the cardinals visit the pond, the rabbits and foxes and the occasional turkey, hawk or owl excite the noisy crows. The chipmunks are masterful ninjas finding ways to access the bird feeders and make off with pouches full of seed.

Sometimes, the window – the actual glass – becomes more interesting than the games unfolding beyond it. During a storm, in the winter cold, crystals form and migrate across its surface. It’s a giant kaleidoscope, especially as the string of lights stretching across the yard pop on. It’s enough to make me pause my dish washing fervor and stare in amazement. Window-wonder satisfies my eastern presence desires. Ask me to what I gave my full attention and I will smile and respond, “The window.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WINDOW

joy © 2014 david robinson

Watch The Dance [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It was once a guilty pleasure. After a snowfall, through newly plowed streets, I’d tie on my red Nike shoes and go for a long, long run. In Colorado, the sun and the cold air play well together. Atmospheric sweet and sour. Run toward the sun in the snow quiet. Sensual pleasure. I’ve never felt more alive than during those treasured runs.

Our yard is a miracle of shadow-play after the snowfall. Between the trees and the tall grasses that grow along the property line, the cool blue sways and dances across the ice-white canvas, a visual conversation between limb and wind. It can be mesmerizing. Sometimes it reminds me of Wayan Kulit, the shadow puppets of the Balinese. An epic tale told on the screen of our front yard. The lesson of Wayan Kulit: we are not substance, not really. Rather, we are passing shadows projecting our story onto the canvas of our minds.

The mailwoman told me that she adored bringing our mail during the winter afternoons. “The light on the grasses,” she said, “they knock me out.” We wait until spring to cut back the grasses for exactly that reason. The pink, orange and purple light of a late winter afternoon makes the grasses luminous. And the shadows they cast! A gentle blue waving, aloha! Greeting or parting? Longing or fulfillment? I’m never sure.

Sylvia Plath wrote in The Bell Jar, “I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow.” Staring out our front window watching the dance, the frigid air and sun at play together, I think she was right. What could possibly be more heartbreakingly beautiful?

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

See The Dance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” ~Lao Tzu

We had a hard time choosing the prompt for this day. Traditionally, on Monday, we use a quote, something we’ve heard or come across in the week prior. We had plenty of thought-provoking quotes and appropriate images from which to choose. A few would have inspired rants. We also had a few ready to go that would have required more time than we have this morning to do the thought justice. They were heart-thoughts. And, so, we sat and stared at our screens. We pulled the original choice just before we published our picks for the week. “Let’s wait on this one,” Kerri said, “I feel like I want to give it more time.”

More time. Yes. In a few weeks time, we will cross the four year mark of our Melange. Five days a week. Four years. It’s a significant body of writing. At least to us.

When Kerri offered this image as an option, she said, “Maybe we should write about silence.” The mums bow their head. It is the end of their season. The flower drops and dies but the plant lives on, readying itself through the cold winter for a blossom resurrection in the spring. The buds will appear to be new life and we will celebrate them as a new beginning. The plant will smile at our surface-worship. Life did not disappear with the drooping blossom.

The phone rang last night in the early evening. It was my mom calling, just to chat. We talked of our disbelief that my dad, Columbus, was gone. We talked of her exhaustion and need to be still, like the mum in winter. We talked of the emergence of new friends and, someday, the discovery of a new purpose. All in good time. Good time. She is heroic walking through this chapter of her good time. When energy turns to the root, when it moves to an internal focus, it necessarily feels lonely.

Some things cannot be rushed. Most things, those with the greatest import, cannot be pushed. They must be lived. Experienced. The blossom droops and drops. The plant knows just what to do. It is winter and energy must go to the root – that is precisely why the blossom dropped. The plant is not separate from the season. It’s a dance that only seems to be a movement with two but, in truth, is the motion of one, a push-me-pull-you. The inner focus, hibernation, once recharged, will, someday soon, feel the sun and turn its attention outward. New buds are certain to answer the call.

read Kerri’s blog post about MUMS

Turn The Shield [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The rains have come. The light retreats. This is the time of year when we say, “I’m tired. Are you tired?” It’s the lack of light. The coming change of time. “It feels later than it is,” we rub our eyes and sigh.

I’ve always thought of this time as an in-between. Not-this-and-not-that. The leaves have dropped but the snow has not yet arrived. The sun and the wet clouds jockey for position and neither gains the advantage. Were we bears, nature’s indecision would signal that the time had come to look for a proper cave, a comfy spot to sleep through the winter. We are people and the signal is similar: it’s time to pull in, reflect, attend to the inner places, nestle into our bear-dreams.

Many years ago I took a class from an elder who taught us how to paint medicine shields. The exercise was not about the painting or the technique of stretching the skin over the willow, the exercise was about identifying the symbols. One side of the shield was the outer life, the sun. This face of the shield was seen by all. The other side, the inner face, was personal. The symbols were private. The moon. This is the season when the attention to the outer face shifts to the inner. The bear considerations turn to the owl, the lizard.

Just as each season is both a leaving and a return, both sides of the shield are beginnings and ends. Barney taught me that, in the winter, the energy of the plant retreats from the branch and, instead, goes to the root. Rejuvenation happens beneath the soil. I feel that shift in this time of increasing cold and rain, the shield flips. My eyes turn inward.

We huddle in the early dark and tell stories of the year past. We attend to our rest, move more slowly in our expeditions. We decide more often to stay in. We open the bin with gloves and scarves, prepare for a different rhythm of walking. We recount the past seasons, not yet ready to dream of the time to come.

read Kerri’s blog post about RAIN