Move The Mountain [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The box of avocados arrived like a gift a familial love. It was. Kerri’s sister sent them and they found us like surprise Christmas. “Holy Smokes!” Kerri, said, lifting the first football-sized avocado from the box. “This is too much!” Eyes filling with tears. She misses her sister.

It takes so little. Avocados in a box.

The day following my health scare, my older brother called. I fell immediately into my role of younger brother and was comforted-to-the-bone to hear his voice. He has always been a rock. Stable ground when the world tilts.

A phone call. A small gesture. Profound in impact. Stable ground.

It seems a cliche’ yet remains the human-seminar that is most difficult to grasp. The grand gesture is fine, but mountains are moved by the small reach. A touch on the shoulder. A call to check in. Simple presence. A box of avocados.

read Kerri’s blog post about AVOCADOS

Flap Your Ears [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

If one of the great life lessons is “control what you can control and let the rest go,” then Dogga is a master teacher. He has minimal investments in what most people think or do or feel. He is an equal opportunity barker.

As he ages, he becomes more and more a hedonist. He finds the coolest spot in the house to nap. He thoroughly enjoys his food. Lately, cold watermelon sets his wag-a-wag in fervent motion. Take him for a drive and he cares not-a-whit for the destination but savors the rushing air blowing back his ears. Ask him if he wants to drive and he’ll decline every time. Face the wind; flap the ears.

He is never shy about his desire for petting. He bumps his head against my leg for an ear-ruffle. He flops on his back when a full-belly-belly is his fancy. He is also clear when he wants space and to be left alone. He parks just out of reach. Nothing personal.

I think James Herriot has it right: “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” Dogga’s soul isn’t really invested in what he can’t control. It leaves a lot of space in his universe for love – that which he can control – and for that, I am most grateful. It’s a lesson worth learning.

read Kerri’s blogpost about EARS FLAPPING

Stop At The Oasis [on KS Friday]

It was the end of a brutally hot day. The chipmunk peered over the edge of the deck, located the dog, and calculated the risk. It decided to go for it. Popping onto the deck, it raced along the wall, hopped onto the edge of Dogga’s metal watering bowl, reached down and took a hearty deep drink. Checking to see if Dogga remained oblivious, it took another long quaff, jumped down and raced to safety.

Alarmed at the idea of thirsty chipmunks, Kerri leapt to her feet. “We have to put water in safe places!” she chirped and ran into the house. 20 and I reminisced about the Ely chipmunk she’d trained to sit on her lap and take peanuts from her hand. We named it Humpy because of the large hump on its back. Ever since Kerri bonded with Humpy, all chipmunks are related to Humpy. They are family.

She returned with a deep plate, something that held plenty of water but, unlike the dog’s water bowl, didn’t put them in danger of drowning. “I wouldn’t have thought of that,” said 20, “You?”

“Nope,” I replied. “I’d have found a chipmunk swimming pool. They can swim, right?” 20 shrugged. Kerri narrowed her eyes so we hastily sipped our wine.

We watch their travels every day so know the chipmunk trails through the yard. The chipmunk highway runs beneath the potting bench and there’s a gate that prevents Dogga from getting in. The new chipmunk watering plate went there. “It’ll keep the sun off, too,” she said.

A chipmunk oasis. Roadside chipmunk assistance. First, we gave them Hotel Barney (the piano) for shelter that also provides high ground to mock Dogga while also enjoying pilfered bird seed in relative peace and comfort. Now, a safe watering hole.

“Do you suppose they’ll write an email to Humpy” 20 quipped. “He should know how well you’re taking care of his kin.”

“I hope so!” I said as Kerri gave us the evil eye for a second time. “Do you need a refill?” I chirped, suddenly feeling a kinship with the chipmunks. I scoped Kerri’s location, grabbed 20’s glass from his hand, and raced for the relative safety of the house.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CHIPMUNKS

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

sweet ballet/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Say “Good Morning” [on DR Thursday]

My dad always kept a garden. He grew up in a farm community. I watched as he attended to his fruits and vegetables and it seemed innate, second nature. Without thought, he knew what to do. His garden knowledge did not find its way to me so I am grateful that Kerri’s thumb is green. Her potting bench is alive with tomatoes and basil.

This is the first summer of my life without my dad and I am finding in the tomatoes a deep sense of reassurance. Connectivity to my dad that transcends time. He loved his garden as Kerri loves hers. In her garden, he stands.

Kerri’s mom and dad watched birds and cardinals were special to them. In the past few years, cardinals have taken up residence in our neighborhood. Brilliant red, salmon, antique pink…Gorgeous. When one stops to visit, I say, “Beaky’s saying ‘hello.'”

I suspect connectivity is what we experience when we slow down. It’s hard not to realize how deeply interconnected we are when stopping all motion to watch the sunset. It’s impossible not to realize how small and passing we are when taking the time to gaze through a telescope at the night sky.

I am taken by surprise by the tomatoes, though I should have seen it coming. I love that each day, I take a break and go to Kerri’s bench. I stop all motion, feel the sun, look for the new growth, and whisper, “Good morning, Columbus.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW GROWTH

Experience It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Dogga was fast asleep just outside the back door. The early morning air was cool and the sun was shining on the deck. He found the perfect spot for a re-pouch.

I was concerned because his usual morning habit is to raise a ruckus and run in circles. His silence brought me to the back door. I was so surprised to find him sleeping that I was at first concerned but the morning was so still, so unusually quiet, that I, too, felt overcome by the peace of it all. I watched him sleep. I wanted to lay down in the sun and cool air and enjoy the rare moment.

Kirsten was here for the weekend. She and Dogga have a special bond. He was laying at her feet; sleepy eyes bobbing. I told her that Dogga was just beginning to have some old-dog behaviors. More naps. Sometimes he allows the squirrels to run across the yard without a chase. He’ll be nine years old soon.

There’s a phrase that’s recently popped up several times in my reading. The purpose of life is to experience life. I thought about that on Saturday night. Kerri was inside prepping for dinner and Kirsten was upstairs. I sat on the back deck to watch the waning light. Dogga came and rested his head on my shoulder.

There are moments that you want the world to stop, moments that you want to rest in, drink deeply and savor, yet you know they are special because they are passing. That particular combination of loves will never again coalesce in just this way. A snowflake .

The purpose of life is to experience life. In all of its snowflake forms. Fully. Deeply.

[Jim Seals passed this week. His passing has Kerri singing We May Never Pass This Way Again]

read Kerri’s blog post about WE MAY NEVER…

Do It Together [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Our house is beginning to breathe. As each bag or box leaves, as another load goes to Goodwill, space opens. Air moves. Stuck spaces relax. New possibilities circle our imagination. And, as the house takes a deep inhale and long slow exhale, so do we.

This is a task she must do on her own. In the past I tried to make it happen and only created more turmoil. I am a relative newcomer to this house so my memories do not run as deep. What looks like junk to me might carry a sacred family story.

That is the continual lesson of my life. My eyes can never see the full extent of your story. Your eyes can never see the complexity of my story. The creation of “our” story requires constant tending. It’s always best to ask a question. “Our” story becomes vital, rich, and inspiring the moment I cease trying to get you to see my way. There’s a space between – called “relationship”- that we can both see because, together, we create it. Together, we speak to it.

Those few simple lessons apply to all relationships, even the most casual.

And so, while I’m working upstairs, she is downstairs unpacking boxes and bins. Sometimes I hear her sigh. Sometimes there is laughter and I know a good story will come my way. Each day, before I climb the stairs, I ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Her reply is always the same. “I don’t know but, if there is, I’ll let you know.”

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEANING OUT

Lean On Poppo’s Cane [on KS Friday]

Next to the closet where we keep our shoes and old sweatshirts is a bucket. In the bucket are a few walking sticks we’ve plucked from the trail, used and brought home. We rarely walk with sticks so the few that made the trip home are in the bucket to remind us of special walks, the times we needed some stick-aid. And thank-goodness there was a stick available when we needed it.

In the bucket, alongside the walking sticks, is Poppo’s cane.

Poppo’s cane came in handy this week when Kerri broke her foot. She is a circle-walker and our house has square rooms so she regularly arcs too close to the doorjambs. She’s adept at breaking her pinky toe.

This time she broke more than one bone. When the yellow-green swelling hit her ankle we took her to the doctor and then she went for a spin in the x-ray machine. For a few days, I was her mobility prop and then Poppo’s cane took my place and became her trusty stick-aid.

She looked at me this morning and, with knitted-brow, asked the obvious question, “What’s going on?” I had no answer. In the span of a couple of years, she’s broken her wrists, torn ligaments, had fingers that simple refused to bend, lost mobility in her left shoulder, tendonosis, a tendon injury in her left foot, a digestive system that refused to digest,… She’s had a heaping plate of “what’s going on with my body? What’s going on with my life?”

Both are great questions to ask.

What do you do when your questions have no definitive answers? Lean on Poppo’s cane and take another step. What else? Appreciate the stick-aid. Perhaps one day, with a little perspective, while looking at the bucket of useful sticks, the story will make some sense. The questions will find understanding.

In the meantime, I’m considering moving Kerri into a furniture-less yurt. My theory is that circle walkers are safer racing around in obstacle-free circular homes.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about POPPO’S CANE

in these times/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Attend [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~Thomas Merton, Love and Living

I had an odd-thought-revelation as we drove into the parking lot of the Hospice Alliance. We were there to make a donation. In cleaning out the house, Kerri found several throw-blankets. She washed and freshened them, preparing them for donation. In a past life she was a volunteer at the Alliance and wanted the blankets to go where they would be the most useful, provide the most comfort.

My mom tells me that my dad’s last days were lovingly tended by amazing hospice caregivers. His passage was eased by their guidance and attention. In some small way, the blanket donation felt like a thank-you-note. I was not present in his final weeks and it brought me comfort knowing he was in the care of such extraordinary people.

And that was the seed of my odd-thought-revelation. As we pulled into the parking lot, on the first bright sunny day in weeks, I stepped out of the car and turned my face to the sun.

In the warmth I understood that we are all in hospice care. Our time is limited. Every single moment is precious. Every single moment is shared. We’d do better if we realized it. We’d do better if we attended to each other, to relieve pain and suffering, to pay attention to the quality of each and every life in our passing moment. In our tender and oh-so-temporary lives.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLANKETS

Call It A Life [on KS Friday]

Seven years ago today, Beaky passed. The last time we saw her she was clutching a blue notebook to her heart. “You found it!” she exclaimed, rocking back and forth in glee. The journal she kept of a special trip to Europe. A memory, a connection to Erling she thought was lost. We searched the house high and low. We stayed an extra day knowing that meant a 24 hour drive/sprint home. In the last bin, truly , the very last, tucked in the far recesses of the garage, we discovered the notebook.

What I recall about that search is how many times we stopped, dust coated and tired. We sat in the middle of boxes, stacked papers and bins and said, “We’re never going to find it.” Or, “It’s not here.” And then we’d go to the next room of the house, open closets, pull out boxes, the search resumed.

As you might imagine we found more than the blue notebook. That night Kerri told me many stories of family and events sparked by something we’d unearthed. “Oh, my god!” she’d exclaim. “Look at this!” The vet papers for the dog named Shayne. A photo of the family at the house on Long Island. Good times. Stories. Our search became a connection for Kerri to times that she thought were lost.

Memories. Legacy. Doing what is yours to do, looking back and calling that a life.

Eric recently wrote in our Slack channel about my play, The Lost Boy: Your introduction — chronicled on Skips blog — stuck with me, and comes to mind frequently in daily interactions. “This is a memory, after all. It all happened. Though because it’s memory, it probably isn’t factual. So, if I contradict myself, if you catch me saying the opposite of what I just swore was true, if you find me standing smack in the middle of a paradox, it’s not that I’m lying to you. It’s a memory.” The Lost Boy was a story told to me by Tom. Originally, it was meant for him to perform, the story of doing what was his to do. It only became possible to produce after he had slipped into the land of memory. It became mine to do.

And isn’t that the magic of life. What is mine and what is yours to do is never separate. 50 years ago Beaky and Pa took a trip to Europe and she kept a journal of the trip in a blue spiral notebook. 7 years ago Kerri and I spent a long day and night scouring a house to find it. I am now part of the memory of her journal. Her journal is now part of the story of Kerri and my past.

“Never underestimate your power to impact or influence another person’s life,” Paul said to his actors. Doing what is yours to do. Never really understanding or knowing the impact of the simplest action. Calling it a memory. Calling it a life.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARNEY

legacy/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Say Uff Da [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I never met Kerri’s dad. He passed before I came into the picture. I feel as though I know him. When a nasty bit of home repair is staring me down, I often ask his advice. “What should I do with this one, Pa?” I ask. Generally, he crosses his arms in quiet consideration and mutters, “Uff da.” And soon a solution comes to mind.

Hanging beside our back door is a bamboo wind chime. It was Pa’s. Sometimes when we open the back door it voices and I respond with a hearty, “Good morning, Pa.”

His nickname for Kerri was “brat.” I know exactly why Pa gave her that nickname. Let’s just say she earned it and, to be clear, has never outgrown it. 20 often looks at me in desperation and says, “She’s torturing me!” He wants me to intervene, to come to his rescue. I know better. Kerri laughs. So does Pa. We love the brat even if we are the recipients of her mischief.

Earlier this year I lost my dad. Yesterday while on the trail, I confessed that I was overwhelmed with a wave of missing him. “Cycles of grief,” as the Wander Women say. Growing older is filled with cycles of grief and I had cycled in. I sighed. Kerri squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“This sucks,” I thought.

“Uff da,” Pa said.

read Kerri’s blogpost about UFF DA