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the curious. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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my niece (well, technically d’s niece) posted this on instagram.  she and her husband, a pastor, are missionaries and have done pure and amazing hard work in the world.  she encountered this sign on a mirror in cairo, egypt while they are out gathering information to make a decision on their next placement.  i can’t think of two people more curious about others and the lives that people live outside our country; they have done impactful work and are seeking the next location where they can make a difference.  this sign must have felt like a sign to her – a reinforcement of their choices, their passion, their dedication, their direction.

it would be my guess that the moment you cease being curious is the same moment that you cease learning.  curiosity takes guts.  so does learning.  and adjusting.  at any age, we like to think we know.  and yet we don’t.

when my sweet momma entered assisted living, she was, quite understandably, apprehensive.  a person who adored her own home, but yet loved to converse with others – all others – it was hard for her to adjust to a new place outside of her own place, a new rhythm, new people, new things to do.  but she had great courage.  and she participated.  confused on lingo, she called to tell me that she was going to “taize on chair” but what she really meant was she was going to “tai chi on chair”.  and she liked it!  i was speechless with respect for her ability to try and learn new things, even at 93.  she was curious.  she kept asking questions.  she kept learning.  she kept having new adventures, albeit small adventures.  it mattered not to her that these adventures were not staggeringly earth-shattering.  what mattered to her was that it changed her.  it made her grow and think.  it made her try something new.  it made her braver.  it made her even more curious.

like hannah, like my sweet momma, i hope to stay outside the box.   to try new things and walk to the edge.  to look to others for inspiration.  to ask questions and listen to the answers.  to trust being curious.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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maturity in season of life. [two artists tuesday]

maturity with background

this came across my desk last week. “maturity in season of life.” part of a minister of music job description, i was struck by the unguarded language, the bow to what only time and experience can teach.  i have never seen this written as such before.  it was bracing in every GOOD way.  it was appreciatory.  it was a breath of fresh air.

in a society that seeks to remain youthful and puts less emphasis on maturity in season of life than on staying young, we need remember there’s a place for everyone.  some places require youth, fresh and breathing hard from the sprint.  other places recognize the need for the steadfast wisdom of the ages, a decision-maker-doer who brings a lifetime of positive and negative experiences and knows how to differentiate between them, has an intuition built on time and the ever-growing wealth of lessons.  the seesaw has room for both; the fulcrum can only balance with both.

as two artists living together, we are more than aware of the challenge of ageism, the challenge of time spent in our artistry and how that relates to value.  more than a thousand times we have each been admonished for thinking we need to be paid when we should be grateful for the “exposure” we are being “granted”.  more than a thousand times we have each been in a place where we have had to explain why our artistry needs to be financially rewarded just like anyone else’s work.

indeed, pay scales have been built to reflect time spent and job descriptions use verbiage like “pay is commensurate with experience.”  experience.  maturity:  “the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.  being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society (read: job) one lives in (read: one works in).”

i recently was having a written messaging chat with a hard-working young adult whose job is in the arts.  with these challenges facing him every day, he said that people do not realize that “they’re paying me to know what to do if things don’t go well.”  intuition.  working on the fly based on training, knowledge and an ever-building bank of experiences.   he will continue to face that challenge; it will only deepen.  how is that maturity measured?  how will he be paid for that maturity, for that which he cannot describe and for which others cannot fathom?  for some reason, in this society, it is easier to answer that question if you are doing a numbers job, something seemingly more concrete, more measurable, more quantifiable.

but maturity in season of life touches others as well and we have dear friends who have been ‘let go’ from their jobs simply because of their age.  now, their companies would never testify to that and are careful to avoid such language – for that would set them up for all kinds of legal problems – but it has been clear to our friends, struggling to find a new way in later days of their lives.  few and far between are those who are able to benefit by pointing out the error of their ways to the company that is undervaluing a later human-on-this-earth season.  other friends are fortunate enough to be working somewhere that has deeply valued the long time they have spent in their work and these friends have retired with spoken words of gratitude and wishes of continued good living.  where is the fulcrum?

in this particular document that came across my desk, the whole phrase read, “maturity in season of life and maturity in ministry experience.”  shockingly, they are seeking this as a qualifier and they are willing to pay for it.  speaking directly to that qualifier that beautifully honors the wisdom of the ages, there are things that, as a minister of music at 19 i did not know.  there are things that, as a minister of music at 32 i did not know.  likewise, as a 30-years-as-a-minister-of-music at days-away-from-60, of course there are things i do not know.

what i DO know is that every experience i have had as a minister of music has built upon the last.  instead of a chasm where learnings have dropped rapid-fire into an abyss, i have learned what the important stuff is and how to attempt to keep those things foremost.

like anyone in any job, mastery is commensurate with time spent, with growth in that work, and yes, without exception, with maturity in season of life.

“take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” (desiderata)

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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my palette. [k.s. friday]

her palette - the piano

yesterday david wrote these words about his palette.  as i read his words, i realized he was conveying many of my own sentiments.  with his permission, i have only slightly modified his words this morning to express my own artist palette – my piano.  the re-posting of this, and even using the same verbiage, reminds me of the intertwining of all soulful expression.  bear with me as i experiment, my words in red, an exploration of two artistic planes running parallel.

true confessions: i never rarely clean my palette the music stand on top of my piano. i like the messy build up of color. color is found in many forms but mostly notebooks and pa-pads, scraps of paper, snippets of tracks recorded on an iriver or an iphone. i like the chunky texture pile. it serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings compositions past and future. and then, over time, it becomes a tactile work of art in its own right. unfettered by any of the mental gymnastics or over-ponderous considerations that plague my “real” work, it is the closest to child-mind that i will achieve. it is accidental. it is free.  it is idea, melodic gesture, poetry waiting for notes, phrase waiting for the rest of the lyrics.  ready.  waiting.  free.

this might be a stretch but it is, for me, nevertheless true. i love my palette because it is the place of alchemy in my artist process. it is the true liminal space.   long before the space spanning the route taken from introduction to coda.  i begin with pure color. i begin with the rest, silence inbetween the notes, the place for breath so you can hear the vibrations of sound.  i smash the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue i intend. note upon note i build a melody, smashing note upon note i build a small unaccompanied orchestra of harmony, the hue i intend.  on a palette, color becomes intention. sound becomes intention.  and then, once transformed, with a brush or knife i lift the color-intention from my palette and in an action that is often more responsive than creative, i place it onto a canvas. i play, i listen, i play again.  i lift it from the keys of my palette and place it onto the canvas of paper, attempting to capture the fleeting moment it has created and etch it into a piece of music that can be repeated, played again.  it transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. it transforms yet again relative to the air in the room, the echo of an intention, the listening ear it touches.  an image emerges. more color is called for. it emerges, this composition of music, and more color is called for.

and, somewhere in this call and response of color, i become like the palette. the pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful. and somewhere in this call and response of color, i become like the palette.  the pass-through of alchemy, the door that color passes through en route to something beautiful.  this!  can there be a more pure statement of artistry? and, in the process, perhaps i, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. unfettered. accidentally interesting. free.  and in the process, perhaps i, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind.  unfettered.  accidentally interesting.  free.  the rest between the notes.  the breath of music on the air. 

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake  i paint.  i write.  i compose.  i don’t know what is enough until i know what is more than enough.  truth. 

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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his palette. [d.r. thursday]

palette copy

we really never know what it takes to do someone else’s job.  we don’t know all the tools used, the research done, how training and experience play into it, how someone perceives their own work.  we can only guess and, often, fall desperately and even arrogantly off the mark.

walking into d’s studio my eye is drawn to the easel standing in the far corner.  closer to me, though, is an old cart with an old wooden box holding paints and brushes.  there is another cart and on that is this palette – layers upon layers of color and texture, clay pots of water standing next to this widely-understood symbol of “artist”, often associated with the beginning of the process of painting.

now, i’ve painted a few paintings in my life.  i bought very large prepared canvases and dug around in the basement for leftover acrylic house paint to use on my creations.  without a palette, i brushed and re-brushed and threw paint until i knew each painting was done.  and then i hung them on the walls.  in one case, i painted right on the wall and put a clearance frame around the section of wall that i painted – a nod to a painting without the cost of canvas.

all of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how d paints.  for i do not know all the tools, i do not know the process of mixing color or the technique of stretching canvas he uses, i do not know the tricks of the trade he has accumulated over decades of honing his expertise.  nor do i know the knowledge base he brings about other artists, other painters and paintings, the use of light and dark space, the way the viewer’s eye sees, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions he has learned through many, many years of study and practice.  i can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes or doesn’t take for him to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create.  i can respond to his work but i cannot define it, nor would it be meritorious for me to even try to do so.  out of respect for his work, something that is one of the very things that defines him, i know that i really have no idea.  what i can do is appreciate his talent and every last thing that he has done to bring him to this place where he paints beautiful paintings and it seems to take no effort whatsoever.

with regard to anyone and the work that they do, i would hope we could each remember – with humble respect – that we really have no idea.  we can just be grateful that we are each a spoke in the wheel on this good earth.  our palettes, the places from which we begin, are different.  and we can’t do it alone.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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i came into this world…it’s personal [two artists tuesday]

i came into this world collage

every time we get a text from david or molly with a picture of sweet dawson coloring i believe i see an artist-in-the-making.  he is intense, all not-even-two-years-old of him.  his crayons seem deliberate choices, his drawing coming from a place inside that beckons him to the paper, the cardboard box, the canvas. it’s innate.

charlie is a second grader.  he practices batting every day.  he has ground down an area of the backyard so much that seth thinks there will never be grass there again.  charlie can cite all the players on the kansas city royals and their stats and he will narrate his own one-person ballgame in the backyard, an announcer with great animation and accurate details.  such a small person with such a big passion for the game.  it’s innate.

khloe, a teeny but mighty seven year old, would come up to the chancel each week and john would let her play the drum set.  she didn’t pound, she didn’t arbitrarily hit drums or cymbals.  you could see by the combination of joy on her face and an expression of concentration that she was pretty serious.  she has the beat.  it’s innate.

when my sweet beth and i talked on the phone she said, “i’m not sure how i feel about her going into music.” she was talking about her older daughter, who already has been cast as the lead in three plays this coming school year.  i don’t think she has a choice.  for emme, it’s innate.

each of us spokes-in-the-giant-wheel come into this world with something.  something that is just ours.  ours to do.  ours to bring.  it’s innate.  already in us.

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read DAVID’S thoughts on this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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