reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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my momma and chicken soup. [two artists tuesday]

i wish i could sit with my mom right now. i wish i could be at her kitchen table with a giant bowl of her homemade chicken soup and a big glass of red wine. i wish i could be talking with her, really talking, not merely chit-chatting, but sharing all the stuff that we – very-human human-beings – go through. i wish i could feel that kind of comfort, that kind of never-ending fierce support, that kind of unconditional love, that kind of mothering right now. i wish she were here.

making my own homemade chicken soup will have to suffice. pouring a glass of wine and turning on the happy lights in the sunroom will have to do. sitting with david and pouring out my heart, tears and laughter intermingling, will have to satiate me. looking out over the backyard, staring at the lights strewn up between the trees, will have to be enough.

adulthood has its challenges. we race through our younger years at seemingly warp speed, our ever-widening circles further and further away from home. so much presses us. too much sentimentality is rejected; this world does not run on threadiness and success is not deemed reached with a collection of rocks, feathers, branches collected to remember times with beloveds. we are encouraged to push back against emotions that are confusing, that are overwhelming; this world does not reward our angst, our fear, our grief. instead it suggests that teflon hearts, insular, tough, impervious to the outside, will forward us down the road. we give less and less time to nurturing relationships; we are immersed in making a living, in getting by, in our own self-actualization.

and then suddenly, we screech to a stop. and we are there. we are adults. and, despite all the trappings, we are a little bit lost. we look around, we look back, down the disjointed path, and we realize it’s all fleeting and we, struggling, our hearts quivering, the gift of retrospect bright and shining, pine for simple. we wish we could sit and have chicken soup with our mom, or with our children, and listen and share. we wish we could say that we have learned, in all our human-imperfection, that most important of all, just as we might have suspected, are those rocks and feathers and branches. most important of all are those moments spent with beloveds. most important of all is the honest exchange of ideas and thoughts, choices good and bad, learnings and re-learnings. most important of all is the sharing of our emotions, the visceral, the belly laughs, the sobs, the mistakes and the forgiveness of our flawedness, our common denominator. and hopefully, if the world is as full of grace as we are told, most important of all is the giving and receiving of unconditional love.

i wish i could sit with my sweet momma right now and ask her…how did she make it to almost-94 without a broken-heart-from-life-stuff time and again. i wish she could, once again, reassure me that “this too shall pass” and remind me that moments in time are just that – moments in time. i wish she could tell me her coping strategies, the way she found her zen in this big old damaged perfect world.

i’m guessing chicken soup played a big part.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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first. [merely-a-thought monday]

it’s rare to wander into a place without footprints. a combed beach, an untouched snowfield, beckon you to step, to be first, to be the only one.

after a snowfall a few years back we went hiking out in the county. the only being there before us was a deer, its tracks evident in the snow. and then ours. the three of us in quietude together, before anyone else. it made everything feel pure and connected; it was a jewel of a day.

we went hiking on one of our favorite trails closer by. snowpants swishing and our feet breaking through the snowcrust, we were the only ones. the snow was untouched, a blank canvas, inviting both our steps and the humble retreat we considered to preserve it. it’s magical to look backwards on the trail and see only the tracks you have laid there.

yes, “there’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on.” (c.r. brunt)

in the opening notes of a new composition, many composers, artists, writers feel that they are going where no one else has trod before. we are given to the thought that in our uniqueness we will have something to say, sing, play, paint, draw that no one – ever – before has said, sung, played, painted or drawn. it is not likely that this is true.

in the way that everything cycles around us, so do the notes, the colors, the words, waiting in clouds of possibility all around us to be positioned together, partnered, brought into one. we, as artists, choose from these barely visible pots. we fuss, we nuance, we finesse, we fingerprint, we make it our own.

and yet, much later, decades even, in looking back over the trail – the song, the poem, the story, the painting – we recognize glimmers from those who have walked before. threads of connection, purity of the artist-collective-story, souls woven in the telling of the human-tale. original-first and cyclically-repeating.

because, indeed, as the snow melts on the trail, it reveals evidence of others who have been there, others who have left their words, their notes, their colors. others who have left their footprints, their tracks, back to another day when someone else was first.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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unpredictable beauty. [two artists tuesday]

“sometimes beauty is that unpredictable; a threshold we had never noticed opens, mystery comes alive around us and we realize how the earth is full of concealed beauty.” (john o’donohue)

a simple errand. we needed to pick up some furniture to transport in big red for a friend. destination: ikea.

there is something magical about ikea. we hadn’t been there in ages and were relieved to find few people there and everyone masked properly. vowing to hopefully come back soon and browse a bit, we pulled the boxes off the shelves on our pick list. pushing our cart to the front checkout lines, david, more than once, had to re-focus me away from the enormous displays of product. iphone in hand, we wove our way through the covid-floor-circles-disney-style line, waiting our turn at the cash register.

every where i looked, we were surrounded by interesting color, repeated pattern, textures that begged to be touched. david, more than once, softly called my name from the other side of the pushcart, gently spurring me out of the threshold-of-alive-mystery-of-concealed-beauty, snapping pictures with inordinate joy. “k-dot,” he would quietly prod.

the spatulas called my name too, repeating patterns of red-mama-dear-lips making me smile. spatulas are usually not mysterious creatures, but their color, design, stacking lures you out of ordinariness, opening that threshold, the place for glitter to be seen.

it wasn’t just the spatulas, though. i was victim to the lint rollers, the stainless steel utensil holders, the cork trivets. hidden beauty everywhere. i could feel my sweet momma and poppo cheering me on; they were likewise entranced by ikea.

if safety allows, we will return. there are a few small things on my own pick list i’d like to consider purchasing. but mostly, i just want to wander the aisles with my camera, noticing the unpredictable beauty.

yes, not a bad way to spend any day. noticing the unpredictable beauty.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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it’s not about us. [k.s. friday]

it’s not about us.

it really is no longer about us. it is now about those who come behind us. it is about those who follow our footfalls and any who step in moments beyond ours. we owe them – in advance.

we owe them a country based on life, liberty for all and the pursuit of happiness.

we owe them a country truly practicing equality in every way, be it gender or race or sexual orientation or economic status or religious preference.

we owe them a country that is healthy and mindful of its environmental future, a country that has clean water, clean air, clean vegetation, clean food sources.

we owe them a country with an openly crossed aisle, where respectful conversation takes place and negotiation is paramount.

we owe them a country where leaders are cherished examples of goodness, stalwart and compassionate role models for their children and their children’s children.

we owe them a country where truth is valued, where fallacy and falsehoods are not propagated like the wind, where honor stands tall.

we owe them a country where voting makes a difference and every voice counts.

we owe them a country and policies that hold every citizen’s safety in high regard.

we owe them a country that chooses kindness.

we owe them a country where national treasures are relationships not tangibles.

we owe them a country that cares about their good health, that supports them if they are hungry, that encourages them to learn, that embraces their new ideas, that cares when wrinkles grace their faces.

we owe them a country, a world, that helps them dream.

we owe them sunrises, sunsets and moonrises that hold promise, light and hope.

it is our legacy to them. it’s not about us any more.

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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the green. [two artists tuesday]

“and into the woods i go to lose my mind and find my soul.” john muir

the green makes me breathe differently. the scent of the underbrush, of towering pine trees, of the breeze brushing by me, whispering sweet nothings. the sounds of rustling leaves, of birdcalls, of the crunch of my feet. the green.

entering a different space entirely, i succumb to the green. my mind slows down a bit, my pulse in tandem. my steps are less frantic; frenzy is left at the side of the gravel, at the side of the dirt worn down by the tread of other soul-quenching-seekers. this is the lure of the trail.

“in the woods we return to reason and faith.” ralph waldo emerson

the green makes me think differently. we are silent. we talk. we review. we ponder. mostly, we take one step after another. in beauty. we remember this place, this earth, this universe. we remember it is simply on loan to us. just for the briefest of times. our tiny flash of star is ephemeral. and, simultaneously, it is on loan to billions of other people, all just as deserving of the green as we are.

“each and every one of us can make changes in the way we live our lives and become part of the solution to climate change.” al gore

we simply cannot deny climate change any longer. the apocalyptic weather events across our nation point their – rightfully – accusing fingers at this nation, a nation financing the denial of this climate crisis. this place, victim to colossal weather events, massive wildfires, eroding shorelines, calving glaciers and shrinking arctic, human-contaminated air and water, disregard for the preservation of natural resources, big-money-agenda-ized lands. we have a responsibility to this good earth, which has nurtured and fed and watered us throughout our lives. we need preserve it. there will be those who follow. they will need the green.

“i don’t want your hope. i don’t want you to be hopeful. i want you to panic and act as if the house was on fire.” greta thunberg

shall we all participate in the evanescence of the green? or shall we all fight for the sustenance of this mother earth?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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apples and numbers. [k.s. friday]

it’s approaching. you can feel it in the morning air. fall. its scent lingers in the fields of wildflowers, succumbing to cooler nights, a lower sun on the horizon. the bees are desperately, frantically, trying to hang on for dear life. the mosquitoes, thankfully, are writing their wills and the cicadas are singing as if the judges of ‘american idol’ or ‘the voice’ were gathered beneath the trees, an audience of appreciators.

it’s different though.

this fall is all about numbers. covid-19 pandemic numbers. lethal-force racial fatality numbers. protest numbers. healthcare numbers. unemployment numbers. eviction numbers. payroll tax numbers. rally numbers. poll numbers. we are surrounded by a plethora of numbers with an increasingly urgent need to be aware of all of them.

there will be no relaxing inside starbucks sipping pumpkin spice lattes. there will be no apple festivals or street fairs celebrating fall. there will be no hayrides, bale-bouncing with friends on a rickety wagon. there will be no chili cook-offs or slow dance parties on the patio. this was the stuff of pre-pandemic. the stuff of the olden days. the stuff of 2019. the stuff of 1996. the stuff of 1973.

there will be thoughtfully attended protests. there will be emotional vigils. there will be testing sites. there will be virtual funerals. there will be video-conferenced schools and meetings and religious gatherings. there will be jobs sought, financial devastation for too many, unreachable healthcare. there will be speeches to listen to, about which to have hope. there will be speeches to fact-check, about which to have righteous anger.

the numbers have risen to the surface and rightfully demand our attention.

but there’s this – written one year ago: every fall, my sweet momma and my poppo would load us up in the dodge with the old wicker picnic basket and a small cooler.  we would drive out east on long island or head north into upstate new york.  the baby of the family with siblings already out of the house, i always had a friend along.  susan went everywhere with us.  we would take mad libs and gum, snacks and cans of soda and we would talk and giggle our way to the apple farm. it wasn’t like we couldn’t find apples near us; the jaunt away to apple-picking was the point.  the walk in the orchard, the drive through leaves of indescribably stunning color.  we’d stop at roadside picnic tables and take back country roads.

and now, a long while later, i think of those places, those times.  the memories are sweet, macintosh-apple-sweet.  but the yearning is real.  every autumn makes me just as wistful.  i think of my children jumping in leaves and pumpkins carved with silly faces.  my parents and the old dodge.  pies with homemade crust, hot soup and cocoa, the smell of cinnamon and caramel candles.  fires in the fireplace or outside around the firepit.  jeans, sweaters, boots.  and apples.

and so now that the time for jeans and sweaters and boots is in the offing, i need remember. there are still quiet fires in the firepit to have. there are pies we can make and cocoa we can brew up. there are big stock pots of soup to steep. there are trails with crunchy leaves. there are pumpkins to carve, sunflowers to vase, and backroads to drive.

there are things that must be done. the numbers insist. it’s a profound time filled with information and a call to speak up, to question, to research, to, yes, wear a mask and yes-yes, to vote.

but my wistful-near-autumn heart also needs apples.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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artists. funambulists. [two artists tuesday]

available

between us we have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees, four businesses, a coaching and consulting practice, various certifications, multiple states of teaching credentials, fifteen albums, four singles, hundreds of paintings, multiple play-scripts, countless productions and concerts and performances and gallery showings, a radio show, four cartoons, books, blogs that contain a few thousand posts, numerous and diverse leadership positions in theatres and churches and educational institutions, too many non-profits to count, long resumes and a combined total of over eighty years of work experience.

we are artists.  and, as you know, that is not the easy path.  it’s gig economy in a corporate environment.  it means piecing things together, working a plethora of jobs at once, purchasing your own healthcare, investing in your own so-called retirement, advocating for your own value, balancing, balancing, balancing.  the tightrope is thin, but anyone doing the tightrope dance (funambulism) is well-acquainted with the balancing pole and standing tall in the center of mass on the rope, necessities in an artist’s life.

in a workplace conversation once, i was asked how i would even speculate about having a second job.  an incredulous moment, as a person who has always had simultaneous multiple jobs, it was ludicrous to me that the person asking this, who apparently has always lived in absolute bullet-pointed stability, could not fathom having more than one job at a time.  were artists to be so lucky.  were any gig workers, in their area of professionalism, to be so lucky.  that is another world entirely.

so we are always on the lookout for additional gigs, so to speak.  education, experience and skills from the wide spectrum of the first paragraph speak well to helping with growth and change processes and insight and honoring students and employees, not to mention the separate and interwoven threads of music, painting, theatre.  these experiences that span decades speak to the arts, that which the world turns to in times of chaos, unrest, dis-ease, periods marked by adjectives like distraught, devastated, frenzied, unprecedented, uncertain, arduous, splintered, divided, distrustful, untrue, exhausted.  the arts – that which feeds society.  yet, “creativity takes courage,” understated henri matisse (painter, 1869-1954).

as many of you, we receive solicited and unsolicited lists of jobs in our email.  we peruse through the obvious ill-fitting options like neurosurgeon or stem cell biological researcher; we look for opportunities to plug our work as artists into the world.  we are also emailed positions that line up with our professional abilities and tenure in the arts.

and this is what we’ve been sent:  sandwich ARTIST and GALLERY advisor.  it’s hard to know whether to laugh or be insulted.  sandwich artist?  if this is really what subway calls their employees, i would say most of us have related experience since the first time, at like age 3, we spread peanut butter and jelly on our wonder bread.  and gallery advisor?  tesla, really?  car dealer concierge maybe?

it’s a dim future if you cannot see relevance for the arts in a society, if they are secondary to anything and everything else, if they present in sandwiches and on dealership floors.  where are the organizations, the institutions, the employers who recognize the multi-faceted diamonds in an artist’s perspective, an artist’s drive, an artist’s commitment, an artist’s vision, an artist’s project-driven dedication and multi-layered stamina, an artist’s sensitivity, an artist’s heart?

as two artist-funambulists, we’d like something better for the gifted artists giving breath to joy and hope and tomorrow.  from the tightrope of this gig economy, it makes our toes curl to think any differently.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the wisp. [d.r. thursday]

KDOT Underpainting

david’s underpainting of One Chord Ahead

no instructions.  no gps.  no map.  no paint-by-number numbers.  no light-up-the-keys guidance.  nothing.

from here to there.  blank to image.  silence to sound.  from nothing to color, timbre, tone.

we begin with maybe a wisp of an idea, maybe something dancing in our mind’s eye, something teasing us, encouraging us, perhaps goading us, “start it.”  artists choose whether or not to follow the spur.

i know there are times i don’t listen.  i ignore the sweet pining of the piano, a soft, nagging voice from the studio.  sometimes it is just impossible.  impossible to answer.  instead, scoffing at the mere suggestion, i walk the other way.  i find something that seems more constructive, that has a tangible reward, that doesn’t necessarily feed my heart but where i can actually see what effect finishing “it” has.  it’s a product of a culture that does not financially reward artistry.  despite an immediate synchronized turn to the arts for comfort in times of struggle and need, when you google “how hard is it to make a living as an artist?” this is what you find:

“Making a living as an artist is hard to do. Making art is hard to do. There are lots of limitations. But limitation is an important tool in the creative process so you can use the fact that it’s hard to your advantage.”

riiiight.

i have a very few experiences painting.  the times i chose to paint were absolute – a call and a response.  i had no second guesses, no real concern for the finished product, no worry about how these pieces of art – outside of my own medium – would support me.

i suspect my piano was insanely jealous…there i was, in the basement, wildly throwing paint, when all it asked me to do was stand by its side and “start”.  there i was, in the basement, feeling, when all it asked me to do was breathe all i felt through it once again.  there i was, in the basement making art, while it sat silently imploring me to make art.

i can hear it calling.  i know i’ll someday listen.  but first.  first i must see the wisp of meaning.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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©️ 2020 david robinson

 

 


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batting averages and painting. [d.r. thursday]

the story of a miss

ty cobb’s career batting average over 24 seasons was .366.  this is the number of hits divided by the number of at-bats.  i know that is an extraordinary batting average and yet my math-brain looks at that and thinks, “wow.  that’s shy of 37%!  only 37%!”  what if only 37% of my recordings were complete?  or 37% of dinners cooked all the way?  or 37% of the work for our employers done?  or 37% chance of wearing appropriate clothing outside our home?  disregarding the possibility of grading on a curve, my school-brain thinks, “37% does not look like an A!”  so when david went on about how his painting has been a miss, i thought, “well heck! you need to lower the bar a bit!”

artists are harsh.  we are generally not self-congratulatory, although there is definitely a percentage that defies that.  we have a vision of where a project is going and we will jump at the chance for perfecting it every time.  there is a point when you know; the time has come to stop, start over, wipe clean the slate.  (pfffft – can you hear lifting up the cellophane on those cool vintage magic slates made of cardboard and equipped with a plastic stylus?)  david walks away from the easel, huffing.  i walk away from the piano, sighing.  the muse has left the room before us.  at least that is what we invariably think, when it’s our own work.

and yet, it’s so often the case that i will stare at his work, downstairs on the easel and think, “wait!  stop!  don’t do ANYthing!  it’s perfect!”  but it’s his project and his creation and he fought with the vision he had in his head.  they disagreed; they went to battle and the easel reigned supreme time and again as he walked away, disgruntled.

for me, the third iteration of this painting (see above) is the moment.  he could have stopped right there and i would have loved it.  it had a dreamy,  surreal quality to it.  it was graceful and lovely.  i’d say at the very least a .375.  ty would be proud.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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