Remember This Vivid Moment [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When we first met, we sat on the living room carpet staring into the fire, and talked the night away. The sound of the birds at dawn surprised us. I remember the coming light and sweet birdsong like it was yesterday.

A few days ago we sat on the living room carpet in the sun, and talked the afternoon away. Our quiet conversation reminded me of that very first night. Our topic in the winter sun: letting go of too-tightly-held-ideals. “Truth will out,” wrote Master Shakespeare in his Merchant of Venice. Our truth was out in quiet voices that brought affirmations of better days.

A story I once loved to tell was The Crescent Moon Bear. The heroine, a young wife, must go on a journey. She must leave all that she knows in pursuit of her purpose. Leaving all that you know is easier said than done. It doesn’t happen in a moment; it requires some sweet visitation of the past. “What was” as launching pad to “What will be.”

Before I left my studio in Seattle, I had to touch the walls, run my fingers along the sill. I knew I would never be back. Even in that moment, all I could remember was the goodness I experienced in that space. The refuge. The sanctuary. The creative fulfillment. The hard times I’d known there dissipated like mist.

What was. Krishnamurti wrote, “You can only be afraid of what you think you know.” I marvel that the hardships of my past soften into pastel remembrance, translated into useful lessons, while my future fears are as sharp as broken glass, monsters around the corner. Acute imagination.

I marvel that the generosities heaped upon my life are vivid and bring tears to my eyes just as they did the day that I first experienced them. Keen remembrances.

Sitting on the carpet, the low afternoon sun warming us, I realize that I will always remember this vivid moment. The day we opened our hands and let fly illusions. We both took a deep breath. New air rushed into the open space, Not knowing where we might now go or what we might now do, we sat in the waning light, surprised that the sun was setting so soon.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REMEMBERING

Move The Eye [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human; ergo, art is error.” ~ Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

The winterberries came as a shock. Vibrant red pops in a bleak landscape of brown and grey. “They look like maraschino cherries!” Kerri laughed as she waded into the brush to get a photograph. In Wisconsin, the mere mention of maraschino cherries invokes immediate and widespread mixing of brandy old-fashioneds. Even though it was early in the day, I imagine people for miles around sensed the invocation and sprang toward their liquor cabinets.

“Sour or sweet?’ I asked, trying to be clever, but she was too engrossed in her photograph to hear my quip.

Watching her crouch to capture the shot, I thought, “Red makes the eye move.” It’s a lesson I learned beyond the abstract and used in my narrative paintings – a series that I’ve had on the back burner for ages. Limit the palette, move the eye with winterberry red. It’s a director’s thought. Guide the eye. It’s a playwright’s plot; tell the story through the anomaly. Create movement through curiosity rather than control.

Explode the idea. Run toward the edge. Extol the sore thumb!

I let my eye roam across the fields. Winterberry shock to Winterberry shock, electric reds pulling my eye across muted purple and drab green. The wind rattling branches, antlers clacking in the sky. I breathed it all in as she waded through the grasses back to the path. “Make big mistakes,” I heard Quinn whisper.

“The bigger the better,” I whispered in reply.

read Kerri’s blogpost about WINTERBERRIES

Witness [on DR Thursday]

It’s almost impossible for us to keep walking when the sun sets. We stop wherever we are. In quiet, we watch it descend. It’s as if we are full participants in the day’s end. Holy moments. Holding sacred space. It’s the role of the witness.

I feel the same is true now, at this year’s end. It’s not always true in December but this year is different, It’s almost impossible for us to keep walking. In quiet, holding hands, we are watching the year descend into the past.

I wonder what we are, in fact, witnessing? We stepped off the known path and are once again traveling the unknown trail. That is not new in our experience. It is actually more common in our lives to be stepping into new territory. To not know where we are going. This time feels different.

A few years ago I painted a picture that I like very much. It is simple. Kerri calls it Pax. Peace. The figure in the painting is satisfied. Present. At peace. I’ve not thought about this painting for a long time but it’s walking with me right now. It’s asking to be pulled from the stacks.

Witnessing is not passive. This painting will be our witness during the setting of the year. We will witness it as it daily reminds us to be at peace. Holding hands in sacred space. Not rushing to get out of the woods even as the light wanes.

I have sometimes wondered why I paint. Today I know without doubt the reason.

Pax, 24x24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNSET

pax © 2015 david robinson

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Take A Closer Look [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“Knowledge is rarely completely divorced from power, and interpretation is too often an expression of convenience.” ~ Wade Davis, The Wayfinders

Discussing our project, Yaki and I agreed that we needed to step lightly. “We wouldn’t be allowed to perform this piece in Florida,” I quipped. Yet, sadly, it’s true. The piece is Beethoven. Nothing controversial there! I’ve written and will perform the narrative, an update of the piece from 2008. Yaki asked me to rewrite the narrative to speak to the issues of 2022.

It’s odd. Were we to perform the new script in the world of 2008, it would be benign. No one would deny or take issue with the fact that slavery is part of the history of the United States. It would have been laughable to challenge the era of Jim Crow or that the struggle for Civil Rights was and is a part of our story. Our division is not new. It’s institutional, systemic. Yet, in 2022, in red states, the dark side of colonialism is being scrubbed from curricula. They’re attempting to rewrite our nation’s history as a Hallmark movie.

Things are rarely what they appear. It’s one of the reasons why art is so powerful and necessary in a healthy society. When a community goes off the rails, claiming truth is fiction while aggressively promoting fiction as truth, the truth deniers always attempt to shut down and/or shout down all conversation. The theatre, the arts, during turbulent times, can reach into dark fiction, and resurrect the soul of truth.

Things are rarely what they appear. Staring out the kitchen window I was amazed that the bird perched on the wire fence was so still. It was so uncanny that I walked out back to get a closer look.

It’s the only way for people, for ideas, for communities, for nations, to grow. To question. To be curious enough to have a closer look. To laugh at themselves when the bird is discovered to be a leaf. To not be afraid to have their illusions popped, their history unpacked, or to welcome another point of view.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE BIRD

Make Some Sense [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When standing at life’s crossroads, there is a choice to be made. Take the right-hand path or the left-hand path? Or, turn around and go back. Turning around is never an option since it’s akin to going back in time. So, right or left?

Symbolically, the right hand path represents the safe path. The conservative choice. The path that “makes sense.”

The “road less travelled” is to the left. Destination unknown!

It’s never made sense to me (ahem) that choosing the path to the right is considered the sensible choice. We’re a culture that celebrates the cowboy! We’re a nation that prides itself on its rugged individualism. We stomp across the wilderness, aim for the moon, yet the clear message to our children is “know where you’re going.” Choose the sensible path, “Go to the right.”

Sometimes I wonder why these two paths are set in opposition to each other. There can be no further-left-hand-path than the one free-solo climber Alex Honnold has taken, yet he is studied, methodical in his passion. Some of our greatest historians are actors and dramaturges; it takes precise study to be the mirror of a culture.

To act like you “got some sense” does not mean to ignore your heart. Every high wire artist begins with a net. Michelangelo and Leonardo were intense studiers on their left-hand-path, scientists both. Going to the left does not mean recklessness but it does imply vulnerability to new experiences. Curiosity. Sailing toward the horizon. Opening to the awe of being alive. Taking chances; try, try again. Following an impulse.

Knowing the value of a mistake as the vital necessity of learning.

What could make more sense than that?

read Kerri’s blogpost about GOT SOME SENSE

Call Awe [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles, The End

Last week was unusual in that I had a sneak-peek at my end-of-life-review. When a trusted doctor looks at you and says, “This is bad,” when tests that ordinarily might be scheduled a few weeks out are rushed into the next few hours, when the palette of available options are mostly shades of black and all include the word “dire,” the life-movie-reel begins to roll. Mine did.

I’ve known for years that among the few choices we really have is 1) where we choose to focus, and 2) where we choose to stand as we focus. Point-of-view, labels slapped onto experience, the story we tell is a story we project onto the world. Rolling through the CT-scan doughnut, I looked at the story I’ve called into the forest. I listened for the story it reflected back at me, as me.

“Take a deep breath,” the machine instructed, “and hold it.” Holding my breath, I saw a single story comprised of many, many chapters. There are the life-pages that I lived in confidence, and pages that I wrote confusion. The shattering, the story of the pieces of my life scattered in four directions. Kintsugi. The pages of the phoenix. Pages written running from my art and the matching pages of running toward it. The chapter of standing still. The pages of betrayal and the balance pages of being betrayed. “Release your breath,” the machine chirped. “Breathe naturally.”

The forest will show me fear. The forest will offer grace. The forest will reflect back to me peace if peace is what I bring to it. Someday, rather than project onto the forest, I will walk into it, become it. A reflector of projections.

Take a deep breath. I’ve never been so appreciative of breath. Hold it. What a gift. Breathe naturally. Call awe into the forest.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOREST

Extend The Peace [on KS Friday]

Most of my life I’ve been an apartment dweller. A studio liver. Since moving to Wisconsin, into a house, I’ve had a yard to tend. I’m not very good at it but I confess to enjoying the work. I like being outside. Pulling weeds has, I’m slightly worried to admit, become a meditation.

Since Dog-Dog is a gifted destroyer of backyards – digging holes, wearing multiple velodrome paths in the grass – tending the yard has mostly been reactive. My actions are determined by his actions. Let’s just say I don’t worry too much about winning the lawn Olympics. I doubt that I’d qualify.

In the past year, in addition to the inside of the house being wrecked by interior waterfalls and other surprises, outside our yard, front and back, has also been blown to smithereens. We are slowly digging out. We are slowly putting the pieces back together again. And, we’re doing it at a time that Dog-Dog is slowing down. These days he’d rather sit in the shade than cut a new velodrome.

So, we’re designing our space. We’re extending the peace we created in our sunroom into the yard. Last year, our peace spilled out onto the deck. Now, with the addition of the back fence, our peace is pressing the lot line.

I was surprised to learn that Kerri has hosta preferences. She’s not a fan of the variegated variety that lined our yard. Bert and Sue gave us those plants from their yard. We were trying to get something – anything – to grow. Sally gave us ferns and day lilies. We rolled those down third avenue in a wheelbarrow. Now, with everything in disarray, we have a blank canvas.

With tall grasses as the center of her design, she pulled me across the nursery to see “the right hosta.” There’s a certain shape of leaf. A certain color of green. “Look,” she said, pointing out the differences. “Don’t you love that?”

What I love is the specificity of her compositional eye. She tells me that the grasses will dance and pop against the white fence. The green – not any green – but the specific green of the hosta will sing next to the swaying grasses.

Hosta singing. Grasses dancing. Out of the ashes…design, and peace that reaches all the way to the fence.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE RIGHT GREEN

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

longing/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Teach The Full Story [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Viewed from space, the earth is round.

That simple fact has led some truly dedicated reality-deniers to the startling conclusion that the earth is flat. They argue that it’s absurd to think that half the population of the earth lives upside-down. Of course, no one has yet been able to prove that there is a top or bottom to the universe so it’s anyone’s guess which hemisphere of the earth is right-side-up and which is up-side-down. Be careful on those vacation cruises not to sail too close to the edge.

The Republican party in these un-united-united-states have become the political equivalent of flat-earthers. Cherry-picked half-data spun by a dedicated-nonsense-media into a Flat Stanley reality. Two-dimensional thinking in a three-dimensional world. It’s a problem. It’s a scary problem. The good ship USA is on course to meet the edge while the captains on the bridge wrestle for control of the steering wheel.

What is the steering wheel? The story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Our history. The Manifest Destiny story is meeting the realities of demographics. The party of white-dominance is in a panic to maintain its story of supremacy. They’d rather run us over the edge than let this richly diverse nation fulfill its promise. Fulling the promise begins with telling the full story. In Florida, the governor has literally banned the schools from telling the full history of this nation.

In other times, more clear-headed times, these laws would be acknowledged as authoritarianism. In our times, it’s marketed as the Republican response to “woke-ness.” In other words, education is the enemy. Stick your head in the sand. Hear-no-evil-see-no-evil. Proclaim the earth is flat or be prosecuted.

It was inevitable. The rhetoric of “All men are created equal” would someday need to reconcile the reality of a system built on the institution of slavery. Our forefathers wrote about it as the single greatest threat to the survival of our nation, this vast difference between our rhetoric and actions. In a school – capable of teaching our history – that would seem to be a very important and timely history to explore.

Systems do what they are designed to do and ours has performed as intended, elevating one group while suppressing others. It’s in our legislative record. It’s in the writing of our founders. It’s history.

For the second time this week I’m using this phrase: As I learned in school, systems are living things and will fight to the death to maintain themselves. We are watching a system – our system – fight to the death to maintain itself. In this fight, it will lie, cheat, scratch, steal, bite and squeal. It will incite fear. It will turn citizens against other citizens. It will whip up division and demonize those it brands as “other.” It will toss away all ethic and morality to maintain itself. It will make laws to protect itself. We are witness to it. We are participants in it.

The national story will maintain itself as flat, or, at long last, take a hard look at itself and change.

I was truly alarmed when I read that teachers in Florida are afraid to teach the history of the United States.

Our nation is round. Plump and full of rich diversity with a rich complex history. It is, after all, the reality of our nation, the story we are living. It is the reason for our successes – cultural crossroads have always been places of innovation. Perhaps it should be the story we at long last embrace. Perhaps, rather than muzzling our story, legislating for white-fragility, we will someday – as a nation – be proud of our iridescence and work to tell our full story rather than the flat-lie the reality-deniers are asking us to swallow.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BE

Live Inside The Altar [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Dear reader, you have done me a great service. You’ve connected my past to my present.

I’m not sure why but, initially, I numbered rather than named my blogposts. My 623rd blog post was about a practice I’d all but forgotten. Building an altar of gratitude.

Someone out there read #623 so it popped up in my analytic. “This is old!” I thought, staring at the screen. A numbered post! Another era. “I wonder what I was writing about?”

2012. Thanksgiving. Among the darkest days of my life and yet, on that day, I was deeply, profoundly grateful. Life had chased me to a cliff. There was nothing to do but leap. I remember like it was yesterday wandering the streets of Seattle placing notes of gratitude in the cracks of walls, at bus stops, at coffee shops. I felt as if I was invoking. I wanted a better world. If I wanted it, I needed to offer betterment to the world. It was a prayer. A weaving. It was the last time I built my “altar of gratitude.”

A year later I lived in an entirely different world. Everything went to ashes.

2022. Kerri and I are walking our trail. We’re giggling because we just planted a painted rock in the elbow of a tree. “Do you think someone will find it?” her inner 5 year old asks, too wiggly with excitement to stand still. I expect her to skip in circles of enthusiasm.

“Yes,” I laugh. “Someone, someday, will find it.”

As I reread #623 I realized that, in rising from the ashes, I was no longer building my altar on a single day in a single season. I was no longer invoking gratitude. I was no longer hoping for a world that might someday come into being.

I am creating it. Not on a single day or special occasion. I’m practicing gratitude every day. I’m living gratitude every day. Painting rocks, making dinner, watching sunsets, buying groceries, writing blogposts.

Because you sent #623 back to me, a marker in time, I’ve realized I’m living inside my altar. All the world….

read Kerri’s blogpost about EXPLORE