Settle In and Listen [on KS Friday]

Columbus would sit by the stereo for hours and listen to his records. His collection of styles was all over the map: classical, jazz, country, pop…The vinyl itself was wide-ranging: 45’s and 33 1/3 rpm’s, thick records weighing 180 grams or more. One of my favorite memories is of a dark night, sitting with him for hours, as he played selections for me. “I wonder what this one is,” he’d say, pulling a record from its sleeve. Or, “Oh, you’ll appreciate this one. It’s really odd!”

His enjoyment of music was as much an exploration into the unknown as a return to old favorites; he listened to discover. He’d study, laugh at the quirky and savor to sublime.

Growing up I did not know of his love for music. I suppose with four kids there wasn’t space in his life for his passions since he was an avid supporter of our dreams. I knew he thrived in the mountains and liked nothing better than throwing a fishing line into a lake. His deep appreciation for music came as a surprise.

We brought his records home with us to Wisconsin. They aren’t worth much monetarily. Occasionally I thumb through the albums, pull one, and play it on our little suitcase record player. Over the holidays, Kerri brought out her parent’s LP’s and I pulled the Christmas music from Columbus’ collection. We listened and told stories of Christmas past.

Recently we wandered through an antique store and came upon the boxes and boxes of old vinyl records. Kerri quipped that her CD’s would someday show up in the antique store with my paintings stacked against a wall. I looked a the boxes and wondered what I should do with my dad’s albums. They will, inevitably, end up stacked next to my paintings and Kerri’s CD’s in some moldy old antique mall. So, perhaps I need do nothing with them yet.

Really, I am waiting for an opportunity, a night that I will settle in with the record player and pull Columbus’ vinyl from their sleeves and ask, “I wonder what this one is?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about VINYL

it’s a long story/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Celebrate Renewal [on KS Friday]

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Rebecca reminded me of David Bayles and Ted Orland’s remarkable book, Art & Fear. I flipped it open to this quote and laughed heartily. We discuss what we desire but do not yet possess.

On the opposite page I read this tasty bit: “Once you have found the work that you are meant to do, the particulars of any single piece don’t matter all that much.”

Years ago, watching me draw in an Italian Street Painting festival in San Luis Obispo, Roger commented that making art was what I was meant to do.

The other day, Kerri asked me if I wanted to hear a carol. She stood at her piano and played. There was no doubt – it was visible and electric – the carol she played was one of her compositions. I watched a brilliant artist do what she is meant to do.

Art is born of a service motive. Banking is born of a profit motive. It’s hard to explain a life of artistry in a world that exclusively values the profit motive. It seems foolish until you consider this: bankers, in retirement, play golf. Artists, in retirement, make art. There is no greater gift in this very short life than having an inner imperative. It tips contemporary valuation on its head.

Rebecca sent this quote from Art & Fear. She’d just asked me if I was still painting and I stuttered. “What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the art-making process puts that issue to the test.” I am currently challenging my fear.

Last night the Up-North Gang gathered for dinner at Jay and Charlie’s house. Jay is a remarkable artist. Everywhere I looked in their house I saw her artistry. The meal she made was a bold step into the unknown and it was delicious. She is doing what she is meant to do and it spills out in every room.

At dinner, we talked about our children coming home for the holiday. I was the only person at the table who will never know the full depth of the desire of parenthood. I am a step, not a birth father. The joy of their children glowed in the faces seated at the table. All else seemed irrelevant.

There is a place beyond service and profit motives, a lovely dinner conversation where artists and bankers come together at one table. Family. And isn’t that – in the end – what we are all meant to do. To sit side-by-side and celebrate our renewal?

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HOLIDAY

i wonder as i wander/the lights © 1996 kerri sherwood

Two Sons and Two Fathers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The original contractor arrived with heavy machinery and an army of men. It was November. Our waterline broke and water was bubbling up in our front lawn. He was the only contractor available and willing to do the job so late in the year. By the time he was finished, he’d busted out portions of the city sidewalk, trenched a 5-foot-deep moat from the street to our foundation, broke out a piece of our front walk, and drilled a sizable hole in our foundation. It was the equivalent of performing open heart surgery for a toothache. Look up “overkill” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this man.

The wreckage that he left behind was prodigious, though he was obligated to return in the spring to fix or replace what he’d broken.

To say we had to fight is an understatement. The city forced him to replace the sidewalk. The burial mound that was our front yard, after weeks of wrangling, was finally leveled and the grass reseeded. He promised to return to complete the final bit of repair work, the last of the pieces: a single square of our front walkway. We knew we’d never see him again.

This story has an extraordinary ending. A series of companies were contacted. None wanted to do the job. It was too small. It was too complicated: the original walkway was scribed with lines and no one knew how to match it.

And then, one day, I looked out the window and saw Frank, hands on his hips, standing on our driveway, staring at our sidewalk. “I remember this job,” he said when I came out to greet him. “I was a kid. I was with my dad when he poured this.” He scrutinized the house. “I’m certain of it.” He smiled, adding, “I think I still have the tool he used to make those lines.”

We talked for several minutes. My dad worked in concrete so we swapped dad stories. He was excited to restore the walk that his father installed. Scribing the lines would not only be easy, but a way to connect his work with his father’s. His connection to his father provided a mainline connection to my father. I was suddenly extremely grateful for the disappearance of the original contractor. Into the void he created walked a heart-legacy, a special opportunity.

Now, the final steps you take approaching our house, will be the place two sons met with their lost fathers, a stone of remembrance and pride. What could possibly be a better welcome to our home.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CEMENT

Feel Their Hands [on DR Thursday]

A Melange Haiku

The woods, remember?

Feet shushing through fallen leaves.

Tree-fingers touch blue.

The trail yesterday was arrow straight, a line running to Chicago. I teased that we need never turn the wheel. The day before we walked by the river so the path snaked with the water course. On Thanksgiving, we walked twice around our yellow loop. It was cold and our finger tips complained. Arrow, snake, and loop.

We are restless and find balance in the woods. Peace-of-mind. We are restless so are searching for new trails. It’s a metaphor, I’m sure of it. We adore our known paths but feel as if we are shedding a skin or busting out of a cocoon. I said, ‘I’m tired of making the same old mistakes, of doing the same old thing.” She is patient and listens without rolling her eyes. She is kind to let my words of frustration dissipate in the cold air. The squirrels sound an alarm. She knows that no response is required.

The sun is down by 4:30. We are fooled again and again thinking it is later than it really is. “It’s too early for dinner!” we exclaim, chopping carrots, eyeing the level of wine remaining in the bottle. We look to each other and laugh.

On the yellow loop we decided to speak of gratitude. We called to mind our nuclear family members and in turn offered thoughts of appreciation. Love is a complex rainbow and I was reminded that much of what we see is by choice. Where we decide to place our focus. I had the sense that our ancestors walked with us on the trail that day. Their hands on our backs.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PERSPECTIVE.

Helping Hands, 53.5×15.25IN, mixed media

helping hands © david robinson

Peel Open [on DR Thursday]

The pods peel open at just the right moment. The fine fluff catches the wind and carries the seed. Nature’s dispersal system. Hope on a sail. The destination is determined by the direction and strength of the wind, not the intention of the seed.

In the United States of America, today is a day of thanks giving. Families gather. Traditional recipes prepared. A pause in the fast moving river for a moment of gratitude. Stories shared; recipes, smells and tastes like seeds are planted in the next generation.

Sitting at a card table with cousins, the adults packed around the kitchen table. Cranberry in a dish, shaped like a can. Blue blue Colorado sky. The crisp air dancing with the sun’s warmth. Coffee. Pumpkin pie. My memories rise from my senses.

Last Thanksgiving, Covid kept us isolated. Our families are far away. Despite our best plans, we will, once again, give our thanks together yet alone. We will walk a trail. We will love on the Dogga. We will make a special meal and tell stories of gratitude. Rob came through for a visit. Dwight called. Mark remains a rock. We heard from Kate. There is no lack of love or laughter in our house.

This pod will peel open at just the right moment. We are burgeoning with hope. In the meantime, we prepare our fine fluff, knowing full well that, despite our best intention, our destination will be determined by the direction and strength of the wind.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SEED

Tango With Me, 39x52IN, mixed media

tango with me © 2018 david robinson

Harvest Tales [on KS Friday]

We sat on the back porch of the farmhouse. Columbus stared across the fields and told stories of his youth, working on a farm. He never talked about that time in his life, at least I didn’t remember hearing about the harvest times.

We rented the airbnb to take him back to his hometown. He wanted to see it one last time. He was slipping deeper into dementia and knew this visit would be his last. Earlier in the day, I found him in the kitchen. He was lost. He couldn’t remember how to make coffee. I’m not sure he knew who I was. We made coffee together and pretended all was well.

I was surprised that he didn’t want to spend more time in the little downtown. He wanted to walk the cemetery. He wanted to tell stories of his friends. He knew where every headstone was located. He knew right where his friends were and I listened, gathering more stories from his life. Sometimes I asked questions, prompts, to keep the storytelling going.

After the cemetery, we found the little house his grandfather built, the little house where my grandfather was born. It was being used as a storage shed because it was no bigger than a storage shed. It was in someone’s backyard. There wasn’t a fence and no one was home so we crossed the yard and walked around it. Holy ground for my dad. Now, it is sacred ground for me, too. He was a salmon swimming upstream returning to his origin. He was planting stories in us, reaching deep into his beginning tale. I was quiet, now. Listening.

We ended the day on the farmhouse porch. Staring across the field. Harvest tales.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HARVEST

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

millneck fall © 1997 kerri sherwood

Reconnect [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“We are healing our souls by reconnecting to our ancestors.” Nainoa Thompson (quote from The Wayfinders by Wade Davis)

There is a house I sometimes visit in dreams. It is a mountain house and, in the dream, it belongs to my Grandma Sue. I’m always comforted when I go there.

I have some of Casey’s tools and some of Bob’s. I think of them every time I use the wrench or the screwdriver. Both were good mechanics, handy, so I imagine their tools imbue me with some of their wisdom when I attempt to fix what’s broken around the house.

I gingerly page through the handmade book where DeMarcus made his notes about color. The pencil marks are fading but his enthusiasm reaches from the page and rejuvenates me. Inspires me.

A few days ago I happened upon my Lost Boy session recordings with Tom. His bass voice reached through my computer, telling me a story I now know so well. It warmed me.

In my studio, on top of DeMarcus’ wooden paint box, is a nutcracker that Grandpa Chan kept by his pool table. It’s the only thing I wanted when he passed. Something he touched. I hold it sometimes when I stare at works-in-progress. I feel him there.

I wear a chain around my left wrist. Kerri wears one, too. It is pull chain. The current version is a replacement of the original that we took from Pa’s workbench. I never met him but I feel connected to him. Kerri tells me stories of her dad. “How do you like them apples?” One of his phrases.

I imagine he and my dad are on the other side of the veil drinking scotch together. That drink warms me, too.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THEM APPLES

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