Join [on KS Friday]

“I wouldn’t mind turning into a vermillion goldfish.” ~ Henri Matisse

To say we were out of place would be an understatement. Two crows in a seagull bar. The Fat Seagull, to be exact. Two artists step into the watering hole of a lumberjack town. The beginning of a joke.

There was a table of ladies playing a rowdy card game. Big guys leaning into the bar, a row of suspenders and worn baseball caps. Bottles of Miller beer. They wrinkled their brows when they caught sight of us. We sat at the only open table. A high bar table pushed into the walkway. Two stools. We knew we were outliers when we ordered wine. The waiter returned a few minutes later having found an unopened bottle. He explained that the only two wine glasses in the bar were broken. We sipped our wine from tiny cups.

We drove two hours north to see a special show. The last performance of a duo. This bar would be their punctuation point. They began to play and slowly the magic happened. Together, people leaned in to listen. Bodies swiveled and danced on stools. Hands clapped at the end of each number. The musicians wove a spell that brought everyone together. Two crows were no longer aliens but integral to the shared experience.

Our waiter refilled our tiny glasses and stayed to chat. He invited us to come back and try the burgers. We smiled and talked to those sitting nearby. Without inhibition, Kerri took photographs of the crowd, the musicians, the coolers, and the ceiling.

The punchline? The power of art. The magic of music. The easy recognition of common center. It is no less potent in a dive bar than in a stadium or auditorium or gallery. The place is incidental when the performance is pure.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FAT SEAGULL

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

take flight/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Refill [on KS Friday]

I confess to being a bit blue. Blue. That’s a metaphor for low-in-spirit.

And, isn’t it odd that we locate our spirits as either high or low? Where, exactly, is your spirit? Today, mine is low. Apparently, I think spirits are spatial.

That means my spirit is either laying down, taking a nap, dancing the limbo, or that its flame is minimal. My spirit isn’t burning much fuel. Don’t try and read a book by the light of my spirit! Not today, anyway.

Last night we had dinner with 20. After he left I told Kerri that I was grateful because he “lifted our spirits.” Spirits are impressionable. 20’s spirit breathed some air into my balloon. Balloon. That’s another metaphor. Expansive-spirit. Receptive of the light-hearts brought by others. Apparently, I think spirits are fickle, malleable. Or connected.

The sunset stopped us in our tracks. We knew the ranger would be waiting in the parking lot. Tapping his foot. He can’t go home until the parking lot is clear and people are supposed to be leaving at sunset. He previously threatened a citation. A citation is not a deterrent when a sunset is filling your spirit. I hoped the ranger was standing outside of his truck (and his role) and, like us drinking it in. Refilling.

Apparently I think spirits can be refilled. Refilled. That’s a metaphor. What’s the full capacity of my spirit?

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNSET

in transition/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

KS Coming Through [on KS Friday]

Last night, in one of the great shocks of my life, Kerri began humming the theme song from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. My dedicated Hallmark movie watching wife, deep in a story of snowy-christmas-romance, the predictable kiss impending, out of nowhere, hummed as if it was her favorite tune, the theme from a spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood flipped his poncho, bit his cigarette, crinkled his eyes.

For a moment I thought she was possessed. Ennio Morricone was coming through.

Humming, she never looked away from the screen, her eyes misted over with the inevitable conclusion. Two lonely people found each other against all odds in the final minute of the movie. Squeaky clean romance to the tune of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

“Where did that come from?” I asked

“What?” she replied.

Moments later a new song hummed to the surface. I asked her to recall the spaghetti western tune but she couldn’t. Apparently she is either a mystic-music-channel or a human radio station.

Life with a world-class musician is never dull. Since I was born without the music gene, I generally find her either magical or mystical. The other day we emerged from the woods to find a thongophone. Yes. A thongophone. Without a moments hesitation, she approached this mountain-that-I-cannot-climb, picked up the thongs, and began to play the pvc pipes with ease. Her tune was whimsical and bright. I sat in the sun and enjoyed the concert she played for fun.

When she was done, she bowed. I applauded and asked, “Where did that tune come from?”

“What?” she replied. “I dunno. I made it up.”

Kerri Sherwood. Coming through.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about the THONGOPHONE

galena/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Stay On The Root [on KS Friday]

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” ~ Albert Einstein

Saul’s words have been ringing in my memory: “Stay on the root.” He was a tai chi master.

He might have said, “Stay grounded,” but his reference to “the root” is more dynamic. When on “the root” there is absolutely no resistance to circumstance. Nothing can knock you off center. You are solid, rooted; not for resistance or fight but for flow. No kinks in the energy-hose.

Presence is a requirement of being on “the root.” If your mind jumps into fear-of-the-future it will pull you off center. If your heart dives into regret of the past, it will yank you off balance. Saul might remind us that our bodies are always present. What else? Our minds story us into stress and, mostly, the horror stories we tell ourselves never actually occur. Or did occur.

Here’s the most important part of his instruction: when staying firmly on”the root,” a place of no-resistance, flow is possible. In fact, anything is possible. That may, to some, sound like new-age nonsense but it is actually age-old wisdom. It’s a practice of getting out of your own way. Assume nothing. Lilies-of-the-field, etc. There’s a timeless fable about a farmer and a horse…

A week ago we walked our trail and the leaves were vibrant with color, electric. Now, they are mostly on the ground. Transforming. Nutrient for the soil. I doubt the leaves felt fear of falling or spent an ounce of life-energy in regret.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE LEAF

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Drop The Veneer [on KS Friday]

It was common during coaching calls, for clients, especially at the beginning, to self-diagnose. Essentially saying, “This is what is wrong with me.” It was an odd start to a process that is about fulfillment of intention or creation of desire. A coaching relationship isn’t therapy and a good coach – one that knows what they are doing – is careful not to let the relationship become about fixing-what-is-wrong. Moving through a creative block or clarifying a fuzzy vision in not an indication of a character flaw. The post-it note on my desk read, “Nothing is broken. Nothing needs to be fixed.”

The self-diagnosis was a veneer. A protective layer, like armor. People have innumerable strategies for hiding their fire, for blunting their passions. Succeeding or creating often implies exposure. Being seen. Stepping into the light can be scary business.

Rather than deal with the diagnosis, a useful and often surprising question to ask is, “What’s beneath that?” What’s beneath the protective layer?

It was also common, after taking the time to take off the armor, after dropping the I’m-broken-veneer, to hear a voice whisper, “You know what I really want? I want to be a writer.” Or a painter. Or a dancer. Stepping into the light is scary business and hearing your voice say what you really want, even in a whisper – especially in a whisper – is powerful stuff!

I loved those moments. Their world spins. The eddy of “fixing” slips into the current and there’s no turning back. Their path forward may be gnarly and steep but that tiny whisper clarifies the picture, releases the desire.

Careful not to be too effusive, I’d say, “Good. Now, what’s the next step?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost on VENEER

holding on/letting go on the album right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

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

Tell The Story [on KS Friday]

The last time I saw Emily she was showing her simple watercolors in a coffee shop in West Seattle. She sat at a table, her head wrapped in a scarf. Emily was not shy. She was wildly alive and would have had no problem revealing her bald head, a result of the treatment. She wore the scarf because she loved it.

At the time, I was telling stories. At conferences. At facilitations. With symphonies. Pulling people together through a story into a shared metaphor. I did a full stop in front of Emily’s piece, The Storyteller. I knew it was coming home with me. Artists love it when one of their creations speak-out-loud to you. I told Emily about my full stop and she confessed that she loved The Storyteller, too.

After I paid for the small painting, we talked about her treatment. We talked of her hope for remission. Recovery. She was upbeat. Laughter-full. As always. In recounting this memory, I remember that she had no health insurance. It was years before the ACA. We talked about her path through experimental treatments, the only route open to her. She was selling her paintings, everything she had, to try and defer the bill collectors.

I left the coffeehouse art gallery with a new treasure and filled with Emily’s bright spirit. How could she be so vibrant against such a monumental wave of adversity? You already know the next chapter of this tale. Emily died less than a month later.

The Storyteller has lived in my studio. It reminds me of many, many things but mostly of Emily’s lesson: I am not my circumstance. Life is vibrant. This little watercolor is among my greatest treasures.

Dan recently gave me this do-rag: Snap-on, Socket-to-Breast-Cancer. It came at the perfect time as my sister-in-law was entering treatment. I wore it for her on the day of her first treatment but I also wore it for Emily. I wore it for Beaky. I wore it for Beth. I wore it as a wish for a someday cure, for anyone who has or will have to sit at a table and hear a doctor say, ‘You have breast cancer.”

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Be a Storyteller and help pull people together.

This is a piece Kerri wrote and sang when she was working with oncologists raising awareness for Breast Cancer Research

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

i am alive © 2005 kerri sherwood

Stumble Forward [on KS Friday]

I stared at the print in our Airbnb. It made me smile. A happy sloth sitting for a portrait. My children’s book-story-imagination ran amok with the possibilities. This sloth might be pals with Pooh.

The image is by Simon Te Tai. He’s a photographer and manipulates his images using other technologies. He alters the personality. He sometimes adds human characteristics.

I’m paying attention to the uproar in the art community over text-to-image software, like Dall-e. Type a simple phrase into the generator and it will produce an image. “It’s the end!” frightened artists cry!

It’s curious to me. A camera is a technology that, when first introduced, produced the same cry from artists. “It’s the end.” And then artists worked with it. The world would not have a Van Gogh or a Matisse without the camera. The camera freed artists from the necessities of realism. It opened paths to other vibrant explorations.

I remember the first time I saw Photoshop. “The end of truth as we know it,” I thought. A photograph was no longer proof that something happened. It was a shock. Disorienting. Now, I sit next to Kerri everyday as she manipulates our cartoons, produces our blog-boxes, and tweaks photos. It is common, everyday. Liberating.

There isn’t an art form that hasn’t been fundamentally altered by technology. Amplification of sound made it possible for us to attend a concert in a stadium of people. The swirling lights, the moving images playing behind Elton John were sophisticated and an integral part of the experience.

Our language is being altered by technology. The text. The tweet. The emoji. The pendulum is swinging back toward the image, the symbol, and away from the written word. Pictographs on screens rather than chipped into the walls of pyramids.

It’s a push-me-pull-you, this dance we do with technology. Something is rendered obsolete while something gained is not-quite-understood. Change is like that, especially the rapid changes introduced by technology. We stumble forward like a drunken sailor, never quite knowing where we’re going because we understand ourselves by where we’ve been.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SLOTH

bridge/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Stop And Rest [on KS Friday]

At the height of the pandemic she recorded music on her phone and posted it for the community. It was a warm blanket, a comfort sent to people separated by the virus. Yesterday, she stumbled upon the recordings. There are hundreds. She played one for me. Pressing pause, she looked surprised and said, “These were good.”

I appreciated her honesty. I smiled at her surprise. Having been taught that it’s not nice to brag, she rarely acknowledges the scope and depth of her gift. Her pat response when I genuinely gush about her latest composition: “It’s okay.” It is good medicine for a gifted artist to say to herself, “My work is good.”

Also yesterday, she had a “talk” with me. She advised that I be less hard on myself. “Hold yourself softly,” she said. She was spot on. She can see it in me because she can see it in herself. She was telling me that, like her, my work is good. I swallowed my immediate response, “It’s okay.”

“Okay” is a hard word. It comes from a long road of vulnerability and a dedication to getting better and better. Minimizing is both armor and a practice. The path of artistic passion runs through, “Love what you do.” Yes, love it, but don’t get lost in it.

A life of mastery is built upon a mountain-range of mistakes and a dedication to never arriving. Keep walking. Keep growing and opening. Keep discovering ways to say more with less. Every once in awhile, it’s nourishing for the artistic soul to stop for a rest and crawl under the warm generous blanket of, “My work is good.”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about QUILTS

and goodnight/and goodnight…a lullaby album © 2005 kerri sherwood

Imagine The Shadow [on KS Friday]

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.” ~ Grandma Moses

Among the many reasons I love autumn is the color of the light. Looking out of the kitchen window this morning I was bowled over by plants resplendent in orange and pink. I was so taken by the color that I forgot I was cooking and nearly burned breakfast.

We hiked yesterday. The trail was steep and rocky but, thankfully, the trail wound under the canopy of the forest. It was a hot day and the shade made our path bearable. We stopped often to breathe and enjoy the remarkable shadows cast by the trees. The leaves glowed and waved, backlit by the sun.

Imagination. The capacity to make images in the mind. It is the most basic of human capacities. We spend our lives imaging ourselves in tragedy and in triumph. Yearning and fear are both shades of imagination. “What if…?” is a question borne of imagination.

“Wait!” Kerri suddenly instructs, stopping me in my tracks. When the sun is low in the sky and our shadows make us skinny giants, she likes to capture our distortion. Shadows do not resist the curvature of the earth. They do not try-to-be. They simply conform to the circumstance and, inevitably, moving through a festival of color changes, blend into the purple dusk.

While she focuses her camera on our shadow, I appreciate the glow of the negative spaces, the yellow-autumn warmth heightened by our grey-blue silhouette. I giggle imagining we are as skinny-tall as the shadows we cast. “Hold still,” she whispers, not realizing my giggle is making the shot impossible. While stilling my shadow, in my mind, we reach and pluck the reddest of leaves from the tippy top of the maple tree.

Waiting (from Joy)

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHADOWS


waiting/joy © 1998 kerri sherwood