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

Go Will-Hunting [on KS Friday]

In the middle of the day, Skip sent a quote: “We take ourselves too seriously these days. Something sad appears to have happened to our sense of humor. It is true that our outlook is grim; we face many tough problems. We have to tackle them with determination, and we will do a better job at it if we do not let them get us down—pitch us into gloom and frantic despair. Have we lost our sense of humor?” 

I snapped back a reply, “Timely,” I wrote, “Humor relies on shared context – and shared values…we have definitely lost our shared context.”

“Not bad for being written 50 years ago,” he responded – laughing, I’m sure. It’s a quote from Pieces of the Action by Vannevar Bush. The rest of the quote:

“Have we lost our sense of humor? I don’t think so. But I sorely miss Will Rogers, who could remind us of our absurdities, and do so without rancor. One new Will Rogers would do us more good than a dozen economics professors lecturing us on our sins. I have been looking for him, and have not found him.”

Sitting on the back deck after work, watching the sky morph into electric orange, purple and pink, I wondered if people in every era have shaken their collective head in utter amazement at the absurdity of their time. Who hasn’t thought, “If we can’t laugh about it, we’ll cry.” I’ll bet Abe Lincoln regularly pinched the bridge of his nose and whispered, “…unbelievable.”

We often start our day sipping coffee and reading the news. Sometimes we end the day sipping wine and reading the news. Toxic bookends. I wish I had kept count of the number of times we spontaneously combusted with, “Can you believe it!” Absurdity abounds.

I have a choice to either put my head in the sand (again) or go in search of my inner Will Rogers. I know he’s in there (here) and I’ve never had more reason to go searching for him.

To laugh without rancor at the absurdities of our time. A worthy pursuit! I’m going good Will Rogers hunting!

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE PINK ORANGE SKY

the way home/this part of the journey © 1997/2000 kerri sherwood

Intend Renewal [on DR Thursday]

Context is everything. When we chose this picture for our Melange, I thought I’d probably write about renewal. Out of devastation, a phoenix rises. Or, perhaps the kind of renewal that doesn’t just happen but requires a bit of scraping, new soil, scattered seed, and hay-net to prevent the birds from feasting on the seed. Intentional renewal.

Context. Between the day we chose this photo and this cool quiet morning that I’m attempting to write about it, the mass shooting at Highland Park happened. I’m finding it nearly impossible to write about renewal.

Highland Park is not far away. We attend the annual art fair on their small-town Main Street. We’ve driven through 4 times in the last two weeks.

We were about to go out the door and walk to our local 4th of July festival when the news arrived. We looked at each other, no words necessary. We kicked off our shoes. We decided to stay home. Going to a place where people congregate – like grocery stores or elementary schools or places of worship or movie theatres or parades meant to celebrate our “independence” – seemed unsafe.

Context.

HIghland Park was one of three locations in the USA that experienced mass shootings on the 4th of July. No, check that. Four locations. Even as I type, Kerri brought news of the mass shooting that happened here – not so many blocks away – on the 4th. Staying home was a good choice. Oops. Check that. More news. There were eight. Oops (again). Check that. Eleven.

I cannot write about renewal but, for the third time this week, I am tapping out thoughts about interconnectivity.

It is a trick of language to say, “I broke my toe” and believe that only the isolated body-part called “toe” is injured while everything else is fine. Except it’s not fine. An injury anywhere to the body is an injury to the whole body. Everything is impacted. Everything adjusts. The pain-impulse you feel in your toe has already completed a round trip to your brain. Your posture adjusts so expect your hip or back to be sore tomorrow. Your spatial awareness goes on high alert: it’s best to avoid toe contact with any immovable object. If you desire to understand interconnectivity, consider how your whole body might respond if you happen to stub your seeming-isolated-and-already-broken-toe. Whole body response. Imagine it.

There have been over 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. So, the single most puzzling comment to come out of HIghland Park? “How could it happen here?” As if “here” is somehow isolated from Uvalde or Buffalo or Boulder or…it’s a long list and growing.

The whole nation-body is injured. It’s the illusion of isolation that underpins the mad-thought that more guns, unrestricted, are a solution to gun violence. Build a fortress? Isolate? Better doors? Arm yourself? It’s only the toe.

Where exactly is the boundary of “here?” And why would it be okay for “it” to happen “there”?

We’re all here. There is no “there” that is “safe.” Context is everything.

Perhaps I am writing about renewal. The intentional kind that requires some leadership scraping, new soil, seed, and a whole-body community united and relentless in their demand for proper protections from the insanity of guns.

read Kerri’s blogpost bout NEW GRASS

may you © 2015 david robinson

Take The First Step [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“That is what marks out the warrior: the knowledge that willpower and courage are not the same thing. Courage can attract fear and adulation, but willpower requires patience and commitment.” ~ Paulo Coelho, Aleph

And so begins my tale of two quotes.

It’s true, I have not been very courageous in this lifetime. I’ve run from most of my demons until circumstance or readiness required me to turn and face them. Left to my own devices I’d be running still.

“I learned long ago that in order to heal my wounds I must have the courage to face up to them.” ~ Paulo Coehlo, Aleph

Luckily, life ran me into a dead-end. It was not courage but conditions that stopped the run and necessitated the turn. Demons are never as big as fear makes them out to be. In fact, turn and face them, and they will often shrink to nothingness. Their job is to make you run.

The real work happens after the demons shrink. Standing in your dead-end, the race from your life now complete, an obvious and disconcerting question arises: now what? Actually, there’s a deeper question implied: in the absence of running away, what will you choose to walk toward?

The deeper question is one of willpower. The deeper question cannot be answered by anyone else and can only be found in the space once occupied by the demon. Facing the demon was merely a prerequisite. Standing still in your dead-end, reaction transforms to intention.

Breathless and vulnerable, it is willpower (perhaps a kind of courage?) that is needed to take that first timid step toward…

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE CANOPY

Look Up. Look Higher. [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything.” ~ Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

This will read like a blazing generality and I do not intend it to be so. Some of the best people I have known are readers of the book(s). They learned along the line to read their book(s) as metaphor instead of literally, as a history. There are, after all, many paths up the same mountain.

As for me, I was cured of religion when I was a boy but it’s taken a lifetime to understand what and why – and to find language to express what should (to me) be obvious to all.

It only takes a moment to lift your eyes from the book and look up – all the way up to the sky. The book is a human invention, as are the gods and the stories of the gods told in them. The sky, on the other hand, complete with stars and suns and universes beyond imagining, are not human inventions. The book lives in the human mind. That which the book is meant to illuminate is…wholeness…all around us. We are part of, not separate from. That’s it. It’s that simple. The game of separation and unity.

We are part of, not separate from. This word “Love” is unity, the absence of made-up-separations.

The book will have you believing that your body and its myriad of impulses are, like nature, in need of taming. Separation from yourself. The book will promote the notion of a chosen few, the singular path, a destiny that is manifest. Separation from other. Elevation for team-white. Moral authority for team-straight. It’s probably good to feel above others and certainly feels powerful to believe yourself keeper of the book’s rules. Isn’t it blatantly obvious that the rules were/are made by men to justify, as-the-voice-of-god, all manner of privilege and cruelty? Separation, separation, separation.

Here’s what I understood as a boy: any god that promotes separation in any form is very small, indeed, and probably not worth worshipping. At the very least it is a man-made god meant to make folks feel better about their obvious impermanence in an infinite universe.

There’s so much in this life worthy of our worship.

Whether or not we walk as one or decide to beat the hell out of each other for the color of our skin or the natural orientation of our sexuality has nothing to do with the vast universe outside of the book. We create the separations to justify our fear or to protect our property.

We are completely capable of love. We are completely capable of reaching across the unknown and living our short time on this earth in full support of the rich myriad of wonder and diversity expressed through us in this infinite possibility called life.

The book is an abstraction. The person standing before you is not.

Love is love. Love is not separation or division or privilege or a skin color or gender or sexual orientation. Love has nothing to do with how much money you have or do not have. Separations are the province of small people inventing small gods for very small reasons – so they can feel good about being separate and small.

Love is love.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PRIDE

Sit On The Horizon [on KS Friday]

We are the first wave of humans to experience a pace of change so fast that the media of our memories becomes irrelevant – and sometimes inaccessible – even before the paint on the memory is dry. A crank driven film camera caught a toddler version of me running down the hall in my footie pajamas on Christmas morning. Images rare and, at the time, expensive to develop, our technology makes those films seem prehistoric. Kerri and I work on computers that are separated by over a decade. Mine works lightning fast and hers…is teaching her patience.

I’ve recently been pondering a quote attributed to many: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” Facebook is a tool. Twitter, too. This screen that opens entire universes for me is a tool. These screens that pull us into them are tools. Our stories, our expectations, our experience of time and space and each other, shaped by our tool. This river runs so fast that front page news is less than an afterthought tomorrow. We take so many photos and movies that we can’t remember taking them. It’s a million miles from the days of precious and rare footage in footie pajamas.

Kerri found the bin. It holds many treasures. Movies that her dad recorded of her first album release concert. Early performances. Recording of movies complete with commercial breaks (before tevo was a glimmer in its inventor’s eye). Luckily, we have a VHS player. And it works! Some night, very soon, we’ll plug in the player and I will get to see her, at the very beginning of her career, long before we met, play.

Reaching back. Racing forward. Little miracles of remembrance rendered obsolete by faster and smaller miracles of moment-capture.

We sit squarely upon the event horizon, our memories both a bin found in the basement and an intentional composition – Instagram stories, Facebook memories, a story shaped by our tools, tools shaping us, a creative act.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE BIN

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

let me take you back/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood