Consider Context [on Merely A Thought Monday]

civility 2 copy

It’s an idiom. A turn of phrase. When push comes to shove. The moment when a decision must be made. Look it up and you’ll read that the expression carries a connotation of escalation. Shoving is more aggressive than pushing.

A moment of decision. On the threshold of escalation.

Like all idioms (or all words, for that matter) context is everything. We saw this phrase on a billboard. It is a campaign promoting civility at a time when civility seems in short supply. We liked it and thought it would be a good quote for Merely-A-Thought-Monday. Context: Civility.

Google the phrase and you’ll discover the disease that plagues us. Namely, the lack of capacity to consider context. Or, perhaps, no capacity to recognize context. Or, perhaps, no capacity to consider a context that differs from one’s own. The top of your Google search will reveal a rage of opposition to the billboard promoting civility.  Shove harder. “…so basically they’re telling you let the son of a b$&@? push you around…”

Wow. It’s an idiom. Context: Civility.

To be fair, a scroll down the Google chain includes motivational stories, a dance piece by Twyla Tharp, more links to PassItOn.com images and tv spots, a song by The Grateful Dead, a lyric by Rascal Flatts. A festival of differing contexts and usages of this phrase when push comes to shove.

Here are a few other idioms: where the rubber meets the road. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the chips are down…, When the dust settles…, When in Rome…

A moment of decision. On the threshold of escalation. Context matters.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CIVILITY

 

shadow des plaines river trailwebsite box copy

Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

her palette - the piano copy

I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she 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 her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

their palettes website box copy

 

Mix It [on DR Thursday]

palette copy

True confessions: I never clean my palette. I like the messy build up of color. I like the chunky texture. It serves as a gunky history of my work, a genealogy of paintings past. 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.

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. I begin with pure color. I smashed the pure color together with another color and transform it into a third color, the hue I intend. On a palette, color 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. It transforms yet again relative to all the color it touches. An image emerges. 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, in the process, perhaps I, too, in my messy build up of life/color, grow closer to that child mind. Unfettered. Accidentally interesting. Free.

“You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough” ~ William Blake

 

read Kerri’s blog post about my PALETTE

 

roadtrip reading website box copy

 

Horses FullSize copy

untitled, mixed media 48 x 48IN

 

 

 

 

Yawn! [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

wide mouth babycat copy

As I’ve mentioned before, BabyCat is not a stealthy kitty. When he jumps off the bed it sounds like someone dropped a cannonball on the wood floor. Mice feel particularly safe in his realm because they can hear him coming from a mouse-mile away.  That, and BabyCat can’t be bothered to actually chase mice. He prefers to yawl while watching them skitter (note: a yawl is a two-masted sailing vessel but I think it is also a near perfect match for the sound BabyCat makes when not-mousing. My apologies to sailors worldwide for my cat-sound-co-opt-yawl-onomatopoeia).

Often, we write these posts from the raft with BabyCat snoozing at Kerri’s side and DogDog chewing his bone at the aft of the raft. When the posts are written, prior to posting, we read them aloud to each other. Inevitably, in mid-read, BabyCat yawns a mighty yawn. Commentary? Oxygenation? Both, most likely. He is not a fan of having his post-breakfast snooze interrupted by our blather.

After his mighty yawn he yowls at us (we are not mice so the vowel is different), and hops off the raft (cannonball drop) and thump-thumps off to find a quieter spot, a place to take his pre-lunch nap.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WIDE MOUTHED BABYCAT

 

babycatContemplating website copy

Release The Peace [on Two Artists Tuesday]

prayer flags copy

Peace. Compassion. Strength. Wisdom. The idea is that prayers and mantras symbolized on the flags are blown by the wind, spreading their peace, compassion, strength and wisdom into the world. It’s not a bad idea. It’s not a bad reminder.

We pass beneath our prayer flags everyday. It is our version of the Balinese split gate. A symbol of bigger things. Coming or going we pass through a moment of meditation, a fluttering reminder of the path that threads through time’s center. The place of presence. It is the place where divisions fade – even for a moment. The place where the drama-of-the-day and turmoil – all expressions of separation – fall away.

The flags quiver and dance. We stop and listen to the quiet flapping, the release of peace into the wind. The basic elements of compassion, strength, and wisdom. Water, fire, earth and sky. A renewed focus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

archeswebsitead copy

 

Bust Yourself [on Merely A Thought Monday]

something wrong with me box copy

As you know, I am a lover of the paradox. Among my favorite incongruities in this American culture is the hyper-celebration of the individual amidst the hyper-pressure to swim in the mainstream. To belong by standing out. To be distinct by shopping the brand stores. Within our national schizophrenia, we are, each of us, a festival of quirks, a riot of split intentions.

I laughed out loud when 20 told us his grocery store story. Standing in an aisle of hundreds of soap brands; ice-blue, blossom-pink, orange-orange, lemon-yellow, cool lilac… stacked taller than most people can reach, 20 carefully scrutinized all of the bottles. He gasped! He spotted a bottle of dish soap that seemed to have an ounce more in it! Elated, he looked left and right to make certain no other shopper had yet seen what he saw. With stealth, he reached way to the back of the shelf to snag his prize. The hunter trapped his game and wrestled it into his basket. He quickly sped from the aisle putting distance between him and other dish-soap-hunters. “There must be something wrong with me!” he exclaimed laughing at himself.

A mountain of choices, an ounce of triumph. Do you recognize it? Life lived in the paradox. It is in our national dna.

It makes for a festival of beautiful quirks. A riot of split intentions. We laugh when we bust ourselves standing in the paradox. You’ll know you are there when through your amusement you exclaim, “There must be something wrong with me.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post on SOMETHING WRONG

 

 

closeup at jonathans website box copy

 

 

 

Listen To The Heart [on KS Friday]

MISSING song box copy

This morning, sitting to write about this piece, I find that I have too much to say. Too much to say about missing and memory and delight and yearning. In trying to choose a thought-path I realized that all of my blah-blah would simply get in the way. My words will get  in the way of this heart composition. I will only offer that this MISSING will lift you. It will bring a knowing smile. It does for me.

I will let this beautiful composition speak for itself. It is MISSING from Kerri’s first album RELEASED FROM THE HEART. Truly, it is from the heart.

MISSING from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MISSING

gate f8 website box copy

 

missing/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood