Buckle Up [on DR Thursday]

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ~ Irving Berlin

There’s nothing like flying in a plane to shake-up and challenge your perceptions. Board a plane on a snowy overcast day and, after a few minutes of lift, punching through to brilliant sun and the curvature of the earth. What was true on the ground is not true in the sky. And vice-versa.

The first time I flew I was 18 years old. I remember thinking that, of all the people who’d walked the earth throughout time, very few had seen the clouds from above. Most looked to the sky and wondered what it felt like to fly like a bird. During our recent flight, looking down at the clouds, I was taken by the fact that the population of humans-on-earth has doubled since the 18-year-old-me first looked out the window of an airplane. Something that has never happened in the span of a single lifetime. If I live an average lifespan, it will triple. The challenges we face, from the migration of people to the warming globe to the crisis of resources, can be traced back to this simple statistic. The stress levers get lost in the rhetoric-shuffle.

From the sky, it’s easy to see that we are one team, occupying one planet. From up there, the wrangling over red or blue, the movement of the fickle markets, the fist-pumping red-faced divisions, all disappear. It’s easy to punch through the dense fog and see a bigger picture. A more perfect union.

I chuckled after I wrote that last metaphor because my inner cynic rolled his eyes and muttered, “Yeah, but first you have to WANT to get on the plane.”

My inner optimist, not to be outdone, replied, “Exactly. It’s human nature to want to see what’s over the next hill or above the fog. Everyone wants to get on the plane.”

Well, there you have it. Scintillating perspectives from the cynic on the ground and the optimist in the sky. Creative tension at its finest. While my cynic and optimist work this one out, I think I’ll fasten my seatbelt and prepare myself for a smooth landing. As the saying goes: What goes up must come down.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CLOUDS

A Prayer of Opposites, 48×48, acrylic

a prayer of opposites © david robinson

Flip It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Standing on the trail, the cold breeze stinging my face, I stared at the trees in silhouette. I was overcome with the illusion that I was observing the trees upside-down. I was seeing their tangled root system, reaching. My illusion made me dizzy. What’s top is bottom. What’s bottom is top.

I’ve been pondering things like “leadership” and “power”. My belief of these concepts is the reverse of most peoples. I think leadership is a team sport and that power is created with others, not wielded over them. Roots to the sky.

Before the software start-up went away I pondered things like the abundance of content with no relevant context. Information without a home. Information sans application. Information run amok. It requires people to make-up context for the rootless material crossing their screens. In contemporary discourse, we call this made-up context “bubbles.” It’s an apt term since popping is the destiny of every bubble. No substance. The Villages.

Thank goodness for the cold wind. It snapped me out of my flip-flop illusion. The silhouette was righted. I remembered the shadow puppets in Bali. What we see is projection on a screen. Silhouettes. The real stuff, ripe with dimension and color, the massive system of roots and vibrant moving energy, stars and flow, creating forms and taking them down, happens whether we see it fully or not.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SILHOUETTES

Look-At-Me-Look-At-You [on KS Friday]

Crossing the soggy path, the deer left hoofprints pressed deep into the mud. “Those weren’t here before,” she said. It was our second loop around the yellow trail.

A half a mile down the path she suddenly stopped, grabbing my arm in the way that let me know to stand silent and still. She pointed into the woods. The deer stood frozen, looking at us. It’s ears twitched, deciding that we were not a threat. It flicked its tail, a shock of white, and walked a few steps, stopping again to scrutinize us. We stood that way for several minutes. Look-at-me-look-at-you. Boundaries dissolved.

And then, as if released from a spell, we walked on, filled with delight at our communion with the deer. “They’re usually not out this early,” she said. We encounter them at sunset but rarely in the late morning. We decided it was a gift, a sighting of encouragement. We embraced the deer-symbol of life’s regeneration. Moving with grace through obstacles, having a fresh perspective on old impediments. Good perspectives to carry into the new year.

We rounded the corner and crossed to the middle of the bridge. A week ago during the polar freeze we imagined the river was solid ice. Now, it stirred into motion, puddles atop frozen sheets, the current pulling below. The sky and trees reflected on speckled patterns of ice in transformation. It looked like a grey whale swam in for a rest.

Once again we found ourselves under a spell with the river. Moving in an ancient dance with water and sky. Look-at-me-look-at-you. Our stinging fingers brought us back. Time to go home. Warm up. Sip a glass of wine, and revel that deer-spell and river-magic would make it on the list of our Daily Gorgeous.

[this piece of Kerri’s breaks my heart every time I listen]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE RIVER

last i saw you/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Add A Ring [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

We teased Dogga this morning, telling him not to forget to date his checks with 2023. As an Aussie, he is fairly high-strung and riddled with the need to please. He tried his best to grok what we were saying and then he gave up when he realized no food was involved. He retreated to the end of the bed for a snooze.

Count the rings. A year of life. Last night at pot-luck-dinner Jen said, “It all goes so fast!” Add another ring. And, another. Attending a funeral several years ago, my dad quipped to Ted, “Well, it looks like we’re on the front line.” Both had lost their parents. Ted chuckled and shook his head, “Now, how in the hell did that happen?” he asked.

Last week Justin asked me if I thought there was an absolute truth and I replied, “No. Truth is a cultural construct.” Today, I would answer differently. There are two absolute truths. You are born. You die. Absolutely. The best advice for everything in between the absolutes comes by way of the Dalai Lama: An open heart is an open mind.

An open mind is wide-eyed with awe and curiosity. This ride is amazing. The number of rings accumulated is probably less important than what’s filled into the spaces between them. And, remember, if you still use paper checks, before you take a snooze at the end of the bed, don’t forget to date them with 2023.

read Kerri’s blogpost about RINGS

Locate The Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The very center of your heart is where life begins. The most beautiful place on earth.” ~ Rumi

What, exactly, is the heart of the matter?

If you listen, what does your heart tell you?

What does it mean to “Follow your heart”?

Heart land? Heart song?

This weekend the question was asked, “Do you think there is an absolute truth?” I amused myself thinking of the oxymoron in the terms ‘absolute’ and ‘truth’. I am almost certain – but not absolute – that the question was really about the location of the center of heart. Is there a heart center? Where is the center of the universe? Here. And everywhere else.

Kerri pitched the small piece of chain onto the counter, saying, “This goes in the special box.” It landed in the shape of a heart.

“Hi, Pa!” I thought, and we laughed.

We wear pull chain as bracelets around our left wrists; the original pieces came from her father’s workbench. They are connective tissue to him and to each other. Heart chain. They periodically break so we are many generations from the original. The current chain is symbolic. This heart-piece was from my most recent chain break.

“What are the odds?” she asked.

Yes, indeed. What are the odds that a piece of pull-chain could so quickly bring us to the heart of the matter?

read Kerri’s blogpost about HEART

Throw Open The Window [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Sometimes it feels as if we were shot into space for a few years and have come back to much changed Earth. Or, it feels like we were stranded on a desert island and are returning to places now strange in their familiarity. Reentry from isolation. Everything is changed. We are changed. The rituals of the season punctuate the strangeness.

We’ve been delighted to once again have dinner with friends. Unmasked. Unprotected. Indoors. I look at the faces of the people I love as we laugh and I think, “Oh, yes. I remember this.” The warmth of companions-in-life, reaching across time and covid boundaries. “We missed you,” we say, relearning who we are together. Our faces are older. Perhaps wiser in all that has passed.

Last year we drove to North Carolina. We arrived late in the day on Christmas. We walked through the small town, beautifully lit for the season, though seemingly abandoned. Our footsteps echoed off the walls. We were happy to be there, enjoyed the displays in the windows, we walked down the center of the street with no thought of possible traffic. We held hands. The absence of others was so normal that we didn’t think it odd that we had an entire town to ourselves.

This year is the mirror image, an alternate reality. People are out. We are out though the vestiges of isolation hang on us like Marley’s chain. We stop to take photos of the lights like ethnographers fascinated by the ceremonies of the locals. I found myself staring at the row of illuminated trees wondering what it represents. “Why can’t it just be pretty!” I admonished myself. “This is how people celebrate the season.”

And, aren’t we all looking for the moment that Scrooge awakes after a night of ghosts with new eyes and a deeper understanding of precious life, throwing open the window to the morning sun, hoping against all hope that he hasn’t missed it and asks, “Boy! You there! What day is it?”

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about LIGHTS

Weave Her In [on KS Friday]

These story moments happen spontaneously. We wanted to sit in the dark living room and appreciate the warm light of our branches and holiday trees. We’d spent the evening wrapping “happy lights” around e.e., this year’s christmas tree, adorning her with silver balls of all sizes.

Our trees are rarely traditional. In fact, we almost never choose them; they usually find us. The story of the tree – and I use the term “tree” loosely – is more important than the shape of the tree. We’re not invested in the traditional aesthetic. For us, it’s not a show piece. Our tradition is firmly rooted in the story of how the “tree” finds us. Orphans come in from the cold.

We sat in e.e.’s light and combed through Kerri’s phone looking for the images-of-christmas-trees-past. We laughed when we found photos of them. We recounted the story of each, placing them in time, comparing notes of how they found us. There was “christmas tree on a stick.” There was the year of the stick wrapped in lights, a star suspended above it. There was Satan, the evil tree that Craig wrought. This year is our tenth christmas and our stroll through the trees became a stroll through our time together. “We look like babies,” Kerri said of the younger versions of us, the two people, arms intertwined, standing by a tree almost a decade ago.

When e.e. came to us, she was anemic. Scraggly. We loved on her. Opened her branches and fluffed her. Last night, after our walk through time, Kerri looked at e.e. and said, “She looks so happy.” Yes. She does. Beaming.

And isn’t that the point of the whole season? A little fluffing. Taking some time to pay attention. To love on each other. To infuse new life into depleted spirits? As we weave e.e. into our story, her happiness injects warm happiness back into us. And will for years to come. Our spontaneous story moments always remind me of the essential things sometimes lost in the season of commodity and cacophony called christmas. It’s really not so complicated.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about e.e

the lights/the lights © 1996 kerri sherwood

Spot The Angel [on KS Friday]

This is a true confession: one of my favorite holiday rituals is watching The Season of Miracles. Patty Duke plays an angel. Lynne Redgrave makes a cameo appearance that reaffirms my belief in justice. A young Mae Whitman steals my heart. I blubber at the ending every time, even though I know it’s coming. Who doesn’t want to love-blubber during the holidays?

This is another true confession: we’ve walked in and around Library Park dozens of times and never spotted the angel. She looks similar to the angel statue from the movie. I’d like to suggest that she’s usually hidden behind the foliage but that would be untrue. Apparently, we are not nearly as observant as we like to believe. Recently, on a walk to the post office, Kerri gasped and pointed. “It’s the angel from the movie!” she exclaimed. She wrinkled her brow and asked, “When did they put an angel there?”

She’s been there for quite awhile. She is a memorial statue for fallen soldiers from World War I. I’ve actually read the plaque at the base but, somehow, not noticed the angel atop the pillar.

In the movie, people have significant encounters with the angel-in-disguise. They turn away for a moment and she is gone. I’ve decided that we’re having the mirror of the movie experience. Our angel has been here all along, unnoticed. Hiding in plain sight. One day, we turned and she was present. Now, it’s impossible not to see her.

I’ve also decided to claim the angel-in-the-park as our metaphor. She’s been here all along, a guardian helping us on our fraught journey. She’s visible now because, like Patty Duke in the movie, we need an angel-nudge toward the best path forward. And who doesn’t want their good angel to be Patty Duke!

True confession: we’re very, very lucky.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ANGELS

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

this season/this season © 1998 kerri sherwood

Ask A Familiar Question [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I’ve asked this question of clients a thousand times: What’s beneath? What’s beneath the fear, the yearning, the resistance, the denial, the dream? Asking, “What’s beneath?” is one way of “getting to the heart of the matter.”

The-heart-of-the-matter is rarely visible on the surface. The engine room, the place of power and life, is usually hidden at the bottom of the ship. It makes a lot of noise and is generally deemed “not pretty.” Getting to the-heart-of-the-matter usually requires a trip to the lower decks, a willingness to take off the mask or the armor, at least for a little while.

There is a stop on the way to the-heart-of-the-matter. This stop holds two contradictory options and both are misunderstood as the heart. Option #1: To stand out. Option #2: To fit in. To be valued and to belong. Both are wildly important and provide fuel for the trip but neither is the heart, yet it is a common stopping place for most people in their search for the heart-of-the-matter.

The real work of a heart is never dependent on the opinions of others. To get to the heart, one needs to press on.

When my job fell to dust, my first action was to let go of my symphony project. That choice surprised me. A younger version of me would have held onto that performance as if it was a life buoy. A way to stay afloat. A way of knowing who I am. This version of me knows the folly in that way of thinking: my artistry is not a flotation device. It is not a separate thing.

This time, near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself in a wide open space, with an abundance of love and belonging and no absence of esteem. I am at the top and bottom of the pyramid at the same time! It’s a great opportunity to ask myself an all too familiar question: What’s beneath?

In this life, what is the heart-of-the-matter?

read Kerri’s blog post about BENEATH

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood