Tip The Cup [on KS Friday]

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” ~ Ray Bradbury

My grandmother famously hid a horse in her kitchen when the truck from the glue factory showed up to take it away. What makes that story remarkable to me is that my grandmother was 4’7″ tall when she stood on her tiptoes. Although her physical size was diminutive, her spirit was grande.

Another detail of the story that confounds me: from the backdoor, there were stairs up into her kitchen. And then a hard left turn. It was no small feat getting a horse into the kitchen. Sometimes I ponder what it must have looked like, watching this teeny-tiny woman hurriedly coaxing a big-big horse through the backdoor, up the stairs and into the kitchen. I wonder if she shushed it as she peeked out the kitchen window, waiting for the truck to drive away. I can’t help but laugh heartily every time I imagine the scene.

Once, she and my mom drove me to college in Santa Fe. On the way we stopped to have lunch. I was grateful for their efforts, driving me several hours to school, so I reached to pick up the check and my grandma pinned my hand to the table with her fork. We burst out laughing. She was fast and left no room for debate.

The sun streaming into the farmhouse brought grandma to mind. Standing in the kitchen, looking at all the food we’d prepared, the mountain of snacks and beverages Kate and Jerry hauled from Minnesota, the bins of cookies and sweets, I thought, “This place is just like grandma’s purse.” Her purse looked like a punching bag and she could produce anything you needed at anytime from that bag. Screwdriver? Yep. Saltines? Yep. Duct tape. Of course! Water? How much do you need? It was the clown car of purses. Were I to be lost in the desert and had one precious wish to be granted, I’d wish for my grandma’s purse.

Tiny woman. Endless supply of love and support. She knew how to fill our cups. She knew how to tip herself over so all the beautiful stuff could rush out.

where i’m from/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora & iHeart Radio

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUN IN THE FARMHOUSE

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Let Go And Breathe [on KS Friday]

We have been slow to reenter life at home. We were only gone for a few days but it feels like months. There is life before the farmhouse and life after. The time away serves as a hard line of distinction. And, because there is now a before, we are finding our reentry a bit disorienting. Nothing is the same yet everything is the same. Unrecognizable because it is familiar.

We are moving slow. We are noise averse. We are reticent to go to the store or drive on a busy road. Too much stimulus fries our wires. It’s as if we are walking through the life we know – we knew – as witnesses. There is a silent accounting: what stays, what we will let go.

Transformation is like that. Snakes shed old skin. Trees drop their leaves. People clean their closets. Letting go creates necessary space for a new rhythm and new rhythms emerge slowly over time.

Sitting on the back deck this morning, the air was still and warm. The birds were singing, the chippies foraged beneath the feeder for discarded seed, Kerri said, “This is the level of sound that I can tolerate right now.” I nodded.

Long ago, when I facilitated retreats, on the last day someone would usually ask, “How do we take what we’ve learned back into our normal lives?” They were changed by their experiences at the retreat but the circumstance of their daily lives remained unaltered. The real question was “How do I bring this feeling of openness and expansion from the protection of the retreat center to the squeeze and turmoil of the realities of life?” There isn’t a single answer to the question. In fact, there isn’t an answer. There’s a practice. There are decisions. What might fall off the list of to-dos? Spaciousness is not magic. Openness is often the result of generosity-to-self. One must slow down to see and hear and taste. Touch takes time. Positive thought takes intention and letting go of grudges. Forgiveness is a choice made again and again and again.

The first day back we walked our trail. We talked of the changes we want to make. The clearing of old baggage. Making space. Kerri stopped to photograph the honeysuckle. I took a deep breath of the sweet fragrance. Nothing more. Nothing less.

old friends revisited © 1995 kerri sherwood

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora or iHeart Radio

read Kerri’s blogpost about HONEYSUCKLE

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Foster Appreciation [on KS Friday]

In addition to the bunny nest in our yard, I discovered some abandoned nests behind the tall grasses that line the fence. Elegant and intricate constructions meant to protect new life.

The distinction is in the words “meant to”. The critters creating the nests are not necessarily concerned with the aesthetics. Their concern is function. We two-legged critters can’t stroll down a beach without stacking stones, organizing driftwood, or picking the most interesting rock to nestle into the curious pocket found in the wood. Our action is purely to communicate. To leave a trace. To make a mark. To convey something beautiful.

I suppose it’s the same reason that critters make nests. They can’t help it. Nature demands their construction. New life is coming.

We can’t help it, either. Our nature demands playing with possibility. Function need not be a part or party to our frolic. Our creative impulse needs expression. Our active imagination, our spontaneous recognition of opportunity, an intrinsic curiosity and hands-with-thumbs make even the most mundane stroll a canvas-for-the-painting.

We have friends who tell me that they lack creativity. I know better. I’ve walked with them through the woods, across frozen lakes, and strolled down beaches. Rocks are stacked. Flowers gathered. Wood is spontaneously arranged. Not because a nest is necessary. No. Their gathering of texture and color and curiosity is meant to foster appreciation. Inside and out. The function is enjoyment.

No other reason is necessary. No other reason is more essential to us two-legged critters. Nothing better defines us than our innate desire-to-play with the great “What if…”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STONE AND WOOD

dawn at crab meadow/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

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Appreciate The Glee [on KS Friday]

My “word-of-the-day” is bedight. Adorned. It seems most appropriate that this adverb popped in my box on this day of Forsythia. The trail was bedight in Forsythia. A sudden explosion of vibrant yellow.

I always look forward to the first Forsythia sighting. It’s the day Kerri dances in delight, chanting, “They’re back! They’re back!” Her relationship with Forsythia reaches into her childhood and has deep love-roots. My association is more recent: it’s the flower that makes Kerri dance. She runs to the vibrant petals to take a close-up. I stand back and appreciate the glee.

Dogga acts as if we are Forsythia. When we return home from errands – even if we’ve only been gone a few minutes – he jumps vertically at the backdoor, so excited is he to see us. Sometimes I like to go on errands just so I can come home to such a glorious welcome. Who doesn’t want to be greeted with out-of-control enthusiasm!

Yesterday, after a particularly arduous slog through the day, Kerri sat on my lap and declared, “We are successful at nothing!” We burst into laughter. Zero. Nil. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. Nought. Naught. And Zilch. And, into that vast nothing, we pour our good laughter and heart until our nada-cup runneth over.

She did not say that we are unsuccessful. Our particular form of success, apparently, is no-thing. Like Glee. Or enthusiasm. Or music. Or beauty. They are hard to wrap your fingers around. They are even harder to assign concrete monetary value. What is our work worth? What – exactly – is our work? Beyond no-thing?

Yesterday I asked Arnie the to ponder the same question I’ve asked many of my wise-eyes pals: why would people support us? Financially? Beyond caring for us or liking us (trust me, we are wildly abundant in love and friendship), why would someone – anyone who doesn’t know us – support our work? What do we bring of value to the community? For us it’s confusing. Approximately 1,500,000 people listen to Kerri’s music every year through streaming services and she receives nearly-nada. Our blogs and cartoon have reached people in over 80 countries. We love to write together. We love to share what we create. Is there concrete value to what we offer? No-thing? If so, what is it called? What could it be? What shape is graspable? We are sitting on the mountain so we cannot see it. What are we missing?

Mostly, we hope to bedight the life-trail – yours and ours – with the vibrant yellow that lives beyond words and evokes spontaneous dancing. Mostly, if it doesn’t make you dance, we hope it helps you stand back and, like me, appreciate the glee.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about FORSYTHIA

the way home/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

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Follow Your North Star [on KS Friday]

We are on a hummingbird watch. There’s an app that plots their migration. They’ve been spotted to the north of us.The little hummingbird symbols on the map show a veritable cavalry of hummingbirds approaching from the south. Our hummingbird feeders are poised and ready, filled with sugar water. Gay, Jay, and Kerri have an agreement: the first to spot a hummingbird in their yard gets a celebratory margarita.

One of my heroes, my great-aunt Dorothy, had multiple hummingbird feeders on her mountaintop yard. I remember sitting in the sun watching the hummingbird posse dart from feeder to feeder. Dorothy’s little plot of grass was a magical place. Blue bottles caught the sun, special rocks glittered, Poncho the dog lazed in the shade, Del’s old army jeep teetered on the edge of the abyss. A ride in the jeep was certain to take us up the mountain into wild, unimaginable adventure.

They did not live in the world of hurry-up and get-there. Their world was the opposite. They were not trying to be-somewhere-else. They designed their lives on experiencing the here-and-now. Their intention was to appreciate-the-fullness-of-this-moment. It was the only place in my childhood, other than my studio/bedroom, that made sense, though it’s taken me a lifetime to recognize why.

They didn’t split themselves. They chose simple living over anxious striving. When I was young I often looked at Dorothy and wanted to know what she knew, wanted to live as she lived. I loved taking walks through the mountain trails with her. I’ve only recently recognized that Kerri and I walk as Dorothy walked. Slowly. Open to what crosses our path and calls our attention. We are capable of walking the same trail each day and experiencing it anew each time.

My north star has been there all along, even in the times when I jumped into the race because it was what I thought I was supposed to do. Yesterday, I went into my upstairs office, sat at my drafting table, and drew cartoons, modifying scripts generated from chatGPT. “I can’t continue to just apply for positions,” I told myself, “I have to do something different as well.” Cartoons.

I laughed. I was full-to-overflowing with ideas. I’ve not been so happy in weeks. Something different; something sane. Something now.

This morning, while I washed dishes, I gazed out the kitchen window, watching for the hummingbirds. I remembered something Susan said to us at breakfast last week: your yard is a sanctuary. She told us that she makes a pilgrimage to our yard each year to recharge. Our yard is like Del and Dorothy’s mountaintop, not by accident, but through intention. It is the place we sit-in-the-here-and-now. To rejuvenate. To enjoy the chipmunk colony living in Barney-the-piano, the chatter of the squirrels, that flash of the cardinals. To await with great anticipation the arrival of the first hummingbird.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about TINY FEATHERS

i didn’t know/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Restore The Heart [on KS Friday]

Last night I sat on the floor in the corner of the bathroom. It was very late and I couldn’t sleep. I said to no one, “Something, sometime, some way, has to tip in our favor.” I was disheartened after a day of exceptionally discouraging news.

“Disheartened” is an interesting word. Heart removal. An empty cavity where the energy should be. The thought made me laugh and laughter is always good for the disheartened. My laughter brought me back to my senses. I sat on the floor, shifted my focus from woe-is-me and placed it squarely on all that I am thankful for. The list is long and runs through creature comforts like hot showers and electric light to soul-comforts like a crazy Aussie dog to heart-comforts like an incredible wife. Also, there is wine on the deck. Walks in nature which imply good health, walks through imagination which imply an artistic spirit, walks with awe which imply an insatiable curiosity. Through the right lens, my life-view from the bathroom floor is remarkable.

My empty cavity filled to overflowing.

I find it’s a good practice, when fresh from a bout with self-pity, to wander the house slowly. To intentionally touch the stories that live in the furniture or the glasses or the plants. To step out of the fear-mongering and into the riches of the present moment. Laying on our dining room table is a bundle of branches Kerri gathered from a fallen pussy willow. The furry catkins glowed silver and caught my attention. They warmed me with a memory. A walk with dear friends on ground so muddy that we laughed and hopped in search of solid footing. It was cold. Trees were down; the day before the wind and rain was brutal. Finding the pussy willow branch on the ground made both Kerri and Jen giggle with delight. A treasure! So simple. Their excitement turned toward possibilities. Vases or ribbon?

Enhearten: to restore strength and courage to a saddened spirit. The memory was good medicine and sent me to bed where I fell into a deep sleep, paradoxically enlivened and peaceful. Heart restored.

Kerri’s music is available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about PUSSYWILLOWS

watershed/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

See The Awesome [on KS Friday]

Our favorite Wander Women posted the next installment of their through-hike on the Arizona trail. They are 300 miles in and passed through a burn zone that impacted a Saguaro cactus forest. Some of the giant cactus had perished. Many were burned yet somehow, survived. New growth pushed through the top of the blackened resilient plants. I was awestruck.

A decade or so ago, when life was hard, when I least believed in human kindness, I set out each day on my walk across the city determined to count acts of generosity. The acts of benevolence were everywhere and by far outnumbered the aggressive honkers and the impatience of frustrated commuters. By the time I reached my studio I wondered how there could be so much kindness, so much benevolence in the world, unseen. I wondered why our shared story was of a scary-angry-world rather than a world of munificence. The evidence did not support the narrative.

Looking for kindness in others inspired acts of kindness in me. Sometimes, after I witnessed a generosity, I approached the person who gave of themselves and acknowledged their act. I essentially said, ‘I saw that and it was awesome.” You may or may not be surprised to learn how impactful a simple acknowledgement can be. People smiled and blushed. People waved it off as if it was nothing.

Kindness is everything.

My walks across the city were more than a decade ago. The shared narrative of scary-angry-world is louder now than ever yet I wonder if I took a walk across my city-of-yore would I see a different result or the same? Kindness flies mostly under the radar, people wave it off as small gestures; it doesn’t pull high ratings like bullying or blood or scandal. We live within the narrative we feed.

I suspect kindness is as pervasive as fear-mongering but kindness doesn’t care if it gets the headline.

A sentinel stands on our trail. A tall stump, long ago burned by fire, perhaps a lightning strike. Perhaps its blackened scars are from a controlled burn. It reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The birds use it for perching. The squirrels burrow at its base. Life teems around and because of the blackened stump. It always captures our attention. I imagine it is kind since so many creatures and living things find support in its watchful presence. New growth will never push through the top of this stump. It is no longer self-generating. It is, however, like a standing nurse log, new life teems around, on top of, and through it. A silent giver. I am always tempted to step off the path and whisper, “I saw that and it was awesome.”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE STUMP

transience/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Unroll And Tune In [on KS Friday]

I did a stupid thing. A few years ago I rolled several of my canvases and stacked the many heavy rolls. Stacking them was my crime. The weight crushed the bottom rolls, potentially leaving ripples in the paintings. I know better. I’m unrolling each, one roll at a time, weighting the flat canvas so any potential wave is pressed. So far there is no damage.

I have opened three rolls. I have three more rolls to go. The opened rolls remain flat on the ground with the next roll layered on top. A new type of stack. Sedimentary paintings. Each layer provides weight to help flatten the previous roll. It’s slow going. I am being careful. I am treating the canvas – my paintings – with the respect that I should have afforded them long ago.

We took a walk on the road when we were up north. It was snowing and the world became snow-quiet. As without, so within. I became snow-quiet. The gang walked ahead as Kerri took a photo of the silent woods. I turned my face to the snow and felt the sting of each flake. Sometimes, when deep in the snow-quiet, the life-canvas is blank and affords the opportunity to discover the world anew; snow on my face for the first time. This earth is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Unrolling each roll of paintings is like turning my face to the falling snow. It makes me quiet. I am seeing paintings – my paintings – that I have not seen for a few years. I am afforded the opportunity to discover my world anew. I’m finding, as I carefully weight them, hoping the ripples are not permanent, that I have new eyes and new appreciation for my life and work. Unrolling the rolls, caring for the pieces, evokes peace in me.

I painted each of these paintings for the same reason. Standing before my easel quiets my mind and tunes me into something bigger than my tiny frets and future worries. It connects me – and that is whole point of the arts. It connects us. Unites us.

With each roll revealed, just as with each new painting, I become clear, if only for a moment. Like a walk through the woods on a snowy day.

[Peace is one of my favorites of Kerri’s compositions]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOWY WOODS

peace/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Release The Seeds [on KS Friday]

“Creative people are driven to periodic symbolic self-annihilation and rebirth, much like the mythic phoenix.” ~ Alex Grey, The Mission of Art

I loaded my truck with my paintings. I drove to the beach where there were large fire-pits. I burned the paintings, bonfire style. I had so many paintings that it took three days, three truckloads, three successive nights. People helped, strangers who held vigil for me. Only one tried to talk me out of it.

Those nights on the beach were over 20 years ago. All along I’ve understood the conflagration. What I only now understand is the necessity of fire to release the seeds. Not just one seed, but hundreds. Thousands. And not all the seeds found rich soil. Only a few. And, once rooted, most of the seedlings were trampled, overshadowed or eaten. They never made it to the sun.

But the one seed, the single seed, released in fire, without will, intention or knowledge; the fortunate seed, flung into the air by heat and flame, caught the wind at just the right moment and fell to the earth haphazardly in an opportune spot. It took root. It drank in the sun. It survived the hungry deer nibbling close-by. And over decades, through harsh winter and sunny drought, it slowly, ever-so-slowly, grew.

A thousand seeds. One strong tree. New cones, loaded with millions of seeds. Ideas ripe for the wind.

A cycle that cannot be rushed. Each loop, lovingly and faith-full, takes time.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SEEDS

part of the wind/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Spot Her [on KS Friday]

We decided to go off trail. There was a stand of birch trees that she’s always wanted to photograph but getting to them meant crossing the marsh. An untenable task in the warm months, but since it was a cold day, below freezing, the grasses and ice made a step-selective pathway possible.

We zigged and zagged our way toward the birches, my eyes cast down, carefully choosing the next step. I hoped that she was following my path but inevitably the crunching and crackling behind me ceased. I knew I needed to stop and prepare myself for a rescue. Something caught her eye. To get the photo she’d forget about the marsh.

Every artist needs a spotter. The dangers may not be as readily apparent as a gymnast but they are no less real. My friend Albert used to pull me from my studio when I was there too long. He saved my life more than once. Artists are given to self-doubt that congeals into dark despair. I’ve learned to be ready to throw light into the cave just as Albert did for me.

Artists are also myopic when the muse grabs hold of them. Before I met her, Kerri, looking through the lens of her camera, stepped backward off a cliff. Her muse is powerful. Her capacity for instant-hyper-focus is unparalleled. My muse clutches me in safer places like a studio or on a stage. Kerri’s seizes her in marshes and on cliff side. I am her spotter.

“Isn’t this cool!” she giggles as the ice beneath her feet groans.

“Maybe take a step to the left onto the tall grass,” I say. She takes a brief look at her feet, adjusts to slightly safer footing and then returns to the camera. “Maybe one more step?” I suggest.

Later, when we return to the car, she asks in all seriousness, “Are your boots wet? Why are my boots wet and yours are dry?” She studies her soggy boots, indignant.

“I don’t know,” I shrug. “Show me your pictures,” I suggest, deflecting her focus from her wet feet and back toward the muse.

“Oh, you’re going to love this!” she sits next to me, flipping through the many close-up shots of cattails, narrating her experience getting the photographs. Her narration does not include cracking ice, sketchy edges and near missteps into knee deep water holes. “Don’t you just love it!”

“Yes,” I smile. “Yes, I do.”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about CATTAILS

untitled interlude/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood