Roll Easier [on KS Friday]

“I feel like I’ve been writing about fall all week!” she said, “What more do I have to say?”

She took this photograph during a walk around our neighborhood. When we left for Colorado the leaves were just beginning to turn. A week later, when we returned, the ground was a festival of color. The sidewalks beckoned children of all ages to drag their feet through the leaves. Shushing sounds. Instead of dragging her feet, she knelt to get closer. “Lookit!” she gasped, all one word. If appreciation is prayer, then sometimes taking a picture is prayer.

Rather than at new years, the fall is when I find myself making resolutions. My resolutions are rarely about achievements – things that I want – and more of what I desire to let go. What will lighten my spirit-load? I am a wanderer to the core and so much of what I’ve accumulated in life is heavy to carry. Making shushing sounds through the leaves, I know this fall that I will leave behind some friction. I’m dropping some long-held resistance, so I might roll easier in the world.

Fall is for reflection. Fall is for dropping brilliant leaves and making sounds with the crunchy color. Synesthesia. What more is there to say?

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

read Kerri’s blog post about FALL

millneck fall/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

See Through It [on Flawed or Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

Light passes through. Transparent. Trans; across or beyond. A prefix of movement.

Last night we had snacks with some pals. Our conversation turned to politics and how resistant we are as a nation to tell our full story. Opaque. The opposite of transparent. Impenetrability of light. “It’s just history,” someone said. “History is history.”

Narrative. With a point of view. The winners of wars tell one story. The opposite side has another tale to tell. History is never just history. A country as deeply divided as ours is warring over its history. What happens if we actually tell our full story? Who are we if we acknowledge our shadow? Shine the light or snuff it?

Boiling our times down to the essence, we’d arrive at these two words. Transparent. Opaque. Isn’t it always the way that people who have something to hide proclaim transparency? Isn’t it always the case that people who lie claim to be holders of the truth? Opacity is a tricky business.

I recently watched again Simon Sinek’s first TED talk. He said, “There are leaders and there are those who actually lead.” We could call it a simple truth: we know those who actually lead because they boldly shine-the-light. They are not afraid of being seen or seen through. They are, however, a threat to those who call themselves “leaders,” those that fear the revelations of light. Reveal-ations. Those leaders will fight to-the-death to maintain their opacity. They will sacrifice the greater for the lesser if necessary to remain opaque.

We are watching – and participating in – history being written. Our question – as has been true from the beginning: will we shine the light without fear of transparency or hide behind the wall of opacity? It’s just history.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRANSPARENCY

Glut And Remember [on Flawed Wednesday]

Max Boot just wrote an op-ed: The GOP has become the stupid party – and proud of it.

Recently, in the Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow wrote, “You Are Living In the Golden Age of Stupidity.”

As we drove across the country I read headlines to Kerri. “It’s all so unbelievably stupid!” we say in unison as the miles tick by. I see vast farms with sign-after-sign declaring anger with government interference though the farmers seem okay with the interference when it comes as a subsidy. A manipulated market. A paved road. A public school.

Ignorant. Dense. Brainless. Foolish. Mindless. Synonyms of stupid. “Maybe we’ve always been this stupid,” I offer as we pass an abandoned Stuckey’s. “Maybe,” she says.

One day, when I lived in LA, I opened my studio to find the space filled with pigeons. I closed the door and called the landlord. The next day, after hearing all was clear, I returned to find my studio filled with dead pigeons. I closed the door and called the landlord. “Oops,” he said.

It haunted me that the pigeons died, their bodies forming a perfect circle. They knew in death something that we can only imagine.

We walked downtown and saw pudgy pigeon in a doorway. He’d eaten himself into a conundrum. Too heavy to fly. Alone. All he could do was sit and glut and remember what it felt like to soar.

“Oops,” I said. “No landlord necessary,” I mused, darkly.

“What?” she wrinkled her brow.

“Nothing,” I muttered.

“So sad,” Kerri replied, looking at the flightless bird.

A metaphor, I thought. No circle. Solitary. Just stupid.

read Kerri’s blog post about PUDGY PIGEON

Hold The Vision Lightly [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Тhe gentle overcomes the rigid.
The slow overcomes the fast.
The weak overcomes the strong.”

“Everyone knows that the yielding overcomes the stiff,
and the soft overcomes the hard.
Yet no one applies this knowledge.” ~
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

If there is a metaphor on this day – or a lesson – it is that a plan or a goal held too firmly is…not useful. Tom Robbins wrote that stability is not rigidity. Stability, like all aspects of balance, is dynamic, constantly adjusting. How’s that for a paradox? Stability is fluid.

My clan is gathering. We are driving a long distance to attend so have plenty of time to talk, to think, to remember. Kerri has lost both of her parents so I have many questions about the river of complex feelings running through me. Joseph Campbell said in an interview with Bill Moyers that “No one lives the life they intend.” I wonder what life my father intended? I think he was more capable of rolling with his circumstance than I, at first, understood.

There are no straight lines in nature and it turns out that we humans, we storytelling animals, are a part of nature and not above it. Our story of dominion is just that, a story. My dad loved to be outdoors. He tried to be a school teacher but there was not enough air in a classroom. He couldn’t breathe so he made a life out in the elements. His skin, at the end, was so sun-baked that it was brittle. He achieved his desire and his desire was simple.

I am, at this point in life, ecstatic that I didn’t achieve what I set out to do when I was 20. I actually thought I was a train on a fixed track and learned through derailing (a few times) that I needed to let go of my notion of the track. I found my artist when I let go of my artist. On this drive, en route to the funeral, I fully appreciate my wanderer heart and my compulsion to step off of edges. I could have done with a bit less chaos but am now of the mind that life has given me a master class in balance. It continues to teach me to open my hand and not hold so firmly to my ideas, my beliefs.

I am currently working with software engineers. They are building a system. It has rules and boundaries and limits. It has a guiding principle. It will do what it is designed to do. And yet, it will never be finished. It grows and changes almost daily. There is a master plan, but the vision does not blind the visionary or the developers to surprises. To changes. They learn as the software emerges. On one hand it is a foreign land to me and on the other, I know intimately how this land works. There are no iron tracks. No straight lines. The movement is in cycles and circles and every time we try to force it into a line, we impede the process, we inhibit the growth.

The lesson is always the same.

We awoke this morning exhausted. And, rather than push our way back onto the road, we sat and sipped coffee. We watched the sunrise. We decided not to put our day on an iron track. We appreciated our moment. So, there is some hope, some small evidence – some – that the lesson is taking root.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRACKS

Make It To Last [on KS Friday]

I’ve watched master carpenters work. They consider the wood, the grain, the feel. Joinery as artistry. When John volunteered in the scene shop I teased him that furniture made for plays need not survive the apocalypse. No matter. He built tables and chairs for plays that will be at auction 100 years from now. He cared about his work, not his circumstance. The future hosts of Antiques Road Show will speculate about the mysterious origins of the unique and fine furniture found in the old prop house.

Standing in the old firehouse I was taken by the floors. They were not mass produced, engineered in a factory, or pre-cut to fit a template. They were planed by hand. Individually cut. They were pegged into place. The human touch was everywhere apparent. Someone, now long gone, cared about the job. Rough carpenter, solid sturdy work. Unlike the contemporary version of flooring, this was made to last. It was meant to outlive the artisan and the artisan took pride in that.

I recently learned that our refrigerator was engineered to breakdown in seven years. “It’s not a good business model to make things to last,” the salesman explained. Years ago, when I bought my truck, Rob told me it would start having trouble at 90,000 miles. It would be junk by 130,000. He was spot on. “They’re made to fall apart,” he said.

It is true, we do things fast. And, there’s a host of praises to be sung about our capacity to produce, the speed at which we invent and adapt. However, I wonder what the person at the factory assembling my destructible refrigerator thinks of their work. It must just be work. What about the engineer and designers? Made to fail? And what about me? A consumer of goods, an easy discarder-of-things.

Standing on the floor of the firehouse, I couldn’t help myself: systems do what they are designed to do. I wondered, in this age of easy discards, what kind of community conversation we would entertain if the business model – if the community model – the leadership model – considered the pride of workmanship, if human hands and hearts were more apparent in the process. Pride in workmanship. What if we made things to last rather than to discard? Would we see each other through different eyes?

read Kerri’s blog post about the FLOOR

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

untitled interlude/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Look For Joey [on Merely A Thought Monday]

It’s been a life-long fascination of mine. In the most individualistic culture on earth, we like to display our status by wearing brand names and shop the same stores in malls that look the same across the nation. We are the inventors of the chain store, the strip mall. The one-size-fits-all. The suburb and cookie-cutter-house. Here in the cult of the individual, we like to do what every one else is doing.

Kerri and I tease about writing a book. It’s called “Looking For Joey.” Google Joey Coconato or his YouTube channel, My Own Frontier, and our blogs pop up at the top. We’ve not written much about Joey Coconato – a few posts – but to our great amusement, we top-the-google-list. And, so, these days, we are regularly contacted by people who are looking for Joey. They think we know him. They think he’s editing his next video in our basement.

Joey lives off the grid. He backpacks the American wilderness and documents his treks with videos. We became avid Joey fans when pandemic-isolating last year and vicariously got “out there” through Joey’s films.

After watching a few of his films it becomes abundantly clear that Joey is what everyone on the grid pretends to be. An individual. His clothes are ripped. His gear is constantly in disrepair. His food is what he can get his hands on at the moment. He is not climbing any ladder. In other words, he is not invested in how he looks, what he wears, or whether or not he’s doing things the way he ought to do them. He’s doing life in his way. At his pace. In his place. According to his star.

After receiving the latest: “Do you know where Joey is? It’s been 8 months since he posted…” I decided that, in these un-united-united-states, everyone is looking for Joey. He has, for me, ascended to the level of metaphor. He is authentic in an age of thin veneer.

While people are draping themselves in tribal-hate-flags and crying “individual freedom”, sticking their heads in the Q-sands as an act of liberation, blinding themselves in a rabid-festival of group think, all the while shaking their fists declaring, “No one can tell me what to do.” Insisting without any connection to reality that an election was stolen, that vaccines in a pandemic are filled with micro chips, that January 6 was an ordinary day at the Capitol – we are a mess of lockstep inanity.

I think everyone is looking for Joey. They – we – no longer know what is real so they -we – are splintering into disparate group-fantasy. Lemmings singing a chorus of My Way as they – we – plummet off our collective cliff.

Honesty is not that hard to spot if you want to look for it. Much of the fight falls away when you are prepared to acknowledge that much of what we profess is cotton-candy, that we are terrified of looking at our full history. Shops and malls and online outlets are not great places to look for answers. Running from critical race theory does not make our past go away.

A walk about in nature has a way of making the absurd abstractions fall away. Carrying your food on your back and looking for water when you need it strips away the investments in the ridiculous.

Individuals – people truly living out of their own center – generally don’t have to wear brands or broadcast their individuality. They are not seeking validation. They are not fighting for their freedom. Like Joey (I imagine) they simply live it.

[ the cool Dr. Seusss plant is called white baneberry or doll’s eyes.]

read Kerri’s blog post about STAND OUT

Attend To The Quiet [on KS Friday]

My studio is a place of quiet. Inside and out. It is the place where I go – where I’ve always gone, when I need to recenter myself of exit the crazy-brain. Lately, my studio has been blown to bits. Water has been a near constant invader, either from the ceiling when the pipe broke in the spring or from the floor when roots clogged the sewer main. Twice. It seems as if water wants me to take a break from painting. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Each time the water rises, the paintings rise, too. We scramble to move everything up the stairs. Mostly, they are stored on blocks so live protected above the rising tide – but pulling up carpet or clearing space for the plumbers has meant a perpetual studio deconstruction. Kerri stubbed her toe – okay, broke her toe – on one of the bigger paintings that now populate our sitting room. It’s a maze of paintings out there. Yet, she is wise. She’s insisting that we leave the paintings where they are, scattered here and there. At least for now. At least until we can clear out and rethink our space.

Kerri is much more sound sensitive than I am. I am much more spatially sensitive than she is. The sign on our deck, “Shh” addresses her need for sound-quiet. It’s all about space-quiet for me. Space-quiet means open space. It’s been that way all of my life: if there’s too much stuff, I shut down.

The water, as it turns out, is trying to tell me something. Lately, when I go down into the blasted-apart-and-now-empty-studio-space, I can breathe. I feel it every time I descend the stairs. I breathe. My space had become too impacted. Too many paintings, too many tables, too little space. “Shh.”

I’ve often written about the time, after I moved to Seattle, that I burned most of my paintings. I needed space. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was tired of hauling and storing paintings. I didn’t know what else to do. I needed air and fire brought it to me.

And, so, the water pours from the ceiling. It bubbles up through the floors. Again. What feels like a catastrophe comes with a cautionary message. No fire is needed this time. To attend to the space is to attend to the quiet. Stop. “Shh.” Breathe.

SILENT DAYS on Kerri’s album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about SHH.

silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Honor Difference [on DR Thursday]

A Double Haiku:

Honor Difference.

A mural in Milwaukee.

Heart of the ideal.

Infinite palette,

Many hands, many painters,

Eyes that choose to see.

Read Kerri’s blog post about Honoring Difference

helping hands ©️ 2012 david robinson

Stand In The Narrow Place [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“Western civilization has been a 2,000 year long exercise in robbing people of the present. People are now learning the joys that hide in the narrow place of the hour glass, the eternal moment.” ~ George Leonard, Mastery

The observation has become something of a yearly ritual. Every 9/11, I hear or participate in this conversation: one day, people got out of bed, drank their coffee, brushed their teeth and went to work or boarded an airplane. And then, they never came home.

We are fairly smothered in sentiments about appreciating life, seizing-the-day, living in the present moment, take nothing for granted… “You never know.”

Quinn gave me his copy of Mastery. As was his practice, he underlined significant passages in red pen – and the book was a festival of underlined passages. For years I kept the book on my desk or beside my bed. I’d flip it open and read the red sections. They served as a daily meditation. They gave my busy mind something generative and hopeful to occupy.

George Leonard called presence, “the plateau.” Eckhart Tolle calls it “the now.” In one of the gospels NOT included in the bible, Jesus is reported to have said, “The kingdom of heaven is on earth but men do not see it.” The Way of the Buddha leads to the present moment.

What do we see if we stop thinking long enough to experience the present moment?

2996 people died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. These people could do nothing about what happened to them on that day. They brushed their teeth. They left for work or got on an airplane.

“You never know.”

This year, there was a new river-of-thought that ran through the annual ritual observation: the daily COVID death toll last week in these un-united states was above 1,000 a day. On January 7th, 2021, 4,147 people died of COVID. In the divided-united states, more than 660,000 people have died of COVID. World-wide 4,550,000 people have perished.

It’s impossible not to look at the numbers and wonder why-and-how we became our own terrorists.

In the past year, with the availability of a vaccine, with the proven effectiveness of masking and social distancing, these people, had they united with the help of their friends and neighbors, had choices. They – we – could have done everything to save their lives. We did not. We divided. 1000 yesterday. 1000 today. 1000 tomorrow. And growing.

Sometimes we know.

Appreciating life is – and always will be, at the narrow place of the hour glass – a community affair. In presence, on the plateau, the line between me and you blurs. It is the reason why all of those firefighters and first-responders ran into the towers that day. My life cannot be precious if I cannot see that yours is also precious. Why – on earth – on any given day – would I not do everything possible – anything possible – to protect your life? Why would you not do the same for me?

read Kerri’s blog post about BLESSINGS ABOVE GROUND

Offer The Chair [on Flawed Wednesday]

“Indeed, the effect of the forum is all the more powerful if it is made clear to the audience that if they don’t change the world, no one will change it for them.” ~ Augusto Boal, Games For Actors And Non-Actors

Many of my pals in the theatre turned their noses up at me when I began doing work in corporations. They thought I was yet another theatre artist doing improvisation-games with the terminally neck-tied. I was not. My work was more in the tradition of Augusto Boal than Keith Johnstone. Some of the best plays I’ve ever facilitated, some of the most profound pieces of theatre I’ve directed and witnessed, happened in board rooms, classrooms or conference spaces. Here’s how I know: the actors and audience were one-and-the-same. Their play was personal. When they left “the theatre” they did not leave the nice story behind and end the evening with a cocktail. They were disrupted. They had seen something that could no longer be ignored or deflected. The hard work was about to begin.

People yearn. People entrench. People plant their flags and claim the most ridiculous territory. I’ve seen teachers come to blows over an overhead projector. I’ve seen lawyers undermine colleagues to gain dominion over a swiveling chair. And, the chair or the projector are never really the issue. The issue is usually an abstraction. Pecking order. Boundaries. Alliances. People have killed each other over a pair of shoes. It’s not the shoes but the status the shoes represent. Abstraction and illusion.

People are generally unconscious about the reasons beneath their passions. I’ve met a score of dedicated meditation practitioners who meditate to control their thoughts rather than realize them. Once I led a group of teachers through the ritual they enact each morning before the arrival of their students. The question was, “What are you preparing to do in your day?” Their answer was unnerving and revolutionary: they were preparing to control the kids. Teaching and learning were secondary.

We are witness to a country-wide communal piece of theatre, an unconscious play. The issue is not the mask. The issue has never been the mask. The issue is, I suppose, people feeling out of control, imposed upon. Fearful. They are, with their bare faces, making a stand. Drawing a line in the sand. That “no one can tell me what to do” might as well be “I am losing control over my life.”

And, as is always the case, as with the office chair and the overhead projector, refusing to don the mask does not really address the real issue, it merely deflects it. The energy and action is focused on non-sense. And when non-sense rules the day, the action taken actually brings about the thing-most-feared. Loss of control. The pandemic continues, the children are being taken, the economy suffers, the community fractures. It’s a lengthy list.

The lesson in the office chair wars and the overhead projector games is always the same. No one wins. Everyone loses in a toxic tug-of-war. The chair might be yours today but it will be theirs tomorrow. The game only ends when one of the players offers the chair to the other or the projector becomes a reason to share. The same will be true of the mask wars. People will die, the pandemic will continue until the mask becomes a generosity. Then, low-and-behold, the virus will abate and real control over our destiny will be within our grasp.

I hope that, like the lawyers or teachers who were brave enough to walk into the real story, to stand face-to-face with a dysfunction, that we meet our story and ask, “Why would so many sacrifice so much over a little piece of cloth?” An overhead projector. A pair of shoes. A chair that swivels…

read Kerri’s blog post about MASKS