Make Better Assumptions [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As a kid, riding up the mountain to Central City (long before it morphed into a casino town) to visit my great aunt Dorothy and uncle Del, I’d always look for the hermit. With my face pressed to the window I’d scan for him.

Perched precariously high above the creek, his shack seemed in constant danger of sliding down the mountain. The only thing holding it in place was the cascade of rusting bean cans that he’d tossed over the edge after each meal. Decades of cans. And, every once in while, I’d catch a glimpse of him.

He was uniquely grey; his clothes, his long miner-forty-niner beard, his pallor. He was always standing still, looking over the canyon. I don’t think in all of my rare glimpses that I ever saw him move. I wondered if he’d just thrown a can over the edge. I wondered if in his moments of standing-stillness he pondered how he came to be the hermit in the canyon. If life forged him into a hermit or if he came into the world wanting to be alone. I wondered where he got his cans of beans. It was a great mystery that I spent long hours considering. Hermits are not known for shopping trips into town and it was long before the age of home delivery. Where did he get his money to buy all of those cans? Was he a wealthy miner, a Howard Hughes type who retreated into a paranoid seclusion? Who facilitated his solitude?

I am mostly an introvert so his retreat from society fascinated me. I’d try ‘hermit’ on like a costume. He wasn’t a monk though I wondered what he did all day; contemplation had to be on the list of things to do. I wondered if his shack was filled with paintings or wire sculpture, a reclusive Alexander Calder? A disenfranchised artist (now, there’s an oxymoron!) I wondered if his shack walls were lined with good books.

I wondered, if I climbed up the mountain to his shack, would he meet me with a shotgun and tell me to go away? Or would he welcome me and tell me that he’s waited a lifetime for someone to come for a visit? I liked the second scenario but the realist in me knew it would be the first. He was grey because he didn’t want to be bothered. He was alone because it was not safe to be in relationship. It’s always easier to close the door and growl than it is to open it and ask, “Can I help you?”

We see this sign often. It marks the door of a house on the road to one of our walking trails. In the absence of a canyon I suppose the only thing to do is paste your anger on your door. Every time I see this sign I wonder what would happen if love came knocking?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GO AWAY

 

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Listen To Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Saul taught me to look beyond anything I understood as an obstacle and, instead,  place my focus on the field of all possibilities. “Place your focus on the obstacle and you will deal with the obstacle. Place your focus on the possibilities and you will deal with possibilities.”

Tom taught me to choose my battles and to fight only those worth fighting. “You don’t want to die on every hill,” he said. “In life there are really only one or two hills worth dying on.”

Ironically, Quinn, one the best storytellers I’ve ever known, taught me not to make up stories. Pointing to the big tall bank building he said, “See those people up there on the top floor? They don’t know what they are doing, either. They’re just making it up, too.” Or, maybe, he was attempting to teach me to tell a better story about myself.

It is not an understatement to say that I am rich in guides, teachers and mentors.

Doug, a Vietnam vet and one of the best teachers I’ve known, one day called me into his office and showed me a tattered, ruined book of poetry. “I bought it in the airport on the way to the war,” he said. “It saved my life.” He told me the story and it made me weep. Doug taught me the power of art. So did Paul and Roger. My two MM’s (Master Marsh and Master Miller) continue to teach me this lesson. Dawson, too.

Kerri and I are in a period of change that is simmering with unknowns. It is not the first time in my life that the dense fog has come in. She asked, “What do you think will happen?” I said, “Well, ultimately we’ll die.” She punched me. “That’s not what I mean!” she groused, adding a second punch. “Geez.”

Later, after the double punch, we took a walk on the Des Plaines river trail. An elderly man came around the bend and said with great jest and enthusiasm, “I cleared the path for you! It’s all clear.”

“Clear.”  It’s a poetic term. It means ‘possibility.’ And I heard them, my chorus of teachers and guides. All of them. Loud and clear.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEAR PATH

 

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Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

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Yearn [on KS Friday]

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Kerri breaks my heart regularly. I listen to her play and I have to put down my brushes. She is a magician who can transport me in a moment to another time, another place. She can take me to the top of a mountain. She can leave me lost and yearning.

LAST I SAW YOU is the magician at her finest. What or who do you long for? This composition will take you there. It will break your heart in all the best ways.

Out there in the field of possibility, Yaacov Bergman conductor and past collaborator of mad, mad symphony projects, is considering including Kerri playing her PEACE in a future concert. I’ve pitched the notion of a sequence of her pieces, a longer program.  In that future evening in the concert hall and my imagination, if it ever comes to pass, LAST I SAW YOU would be included. It is magic.

 

LAST I SAW YOU on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LAST I SAW YOU

 

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

 

Close Your Eyes And Unfold [on KS Friday]

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Hopeful. Playful. Lighthearted. A birthday surprise. DogDog romping through a new snowfall.  Chasing the surf on a summer day. The discovery of a spring meadow in the middle of the forest. A good story told with an open heart. An evening of potluck dinner and laughter with friends.

Listen to UNFOLDING, as I do, with your eyes closed. Happy, life-giving memories and images will flood your being and lift your day. What could be a better gift to give yourself on this Friday.

 

UNFOLDING on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNFOLDING

 

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unfolding/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Recognize The Moment [on KS Friday]

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I don’t know about you but my watershed moments usually pass without my notice. I rarely recognize them when they happen. It is only later, looking back, that I recognize the moment that changed my life. An email. A decision to take advantage of a layover. The choice to turn around and see if what I thought I saw was true.

And, once the choice was made, I stepped into a river of forces that took over and swept me along. A left hand path to an unforeseen destination. A destiny.

This piece, WATERSHED, begins as all watershed moments begin. Simply. And then…

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

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watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Listen To BabyCat [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Everyone has there safe spot. The place where they can relax, let their guard down. Rest. Mine is the chair in my studio. For years my dad’s safe spot was his reclining chair. He’d melt into it and fall fast asleep. Safe spots are contained spaces. Quiet. Known. Cocoons.

BabyCat has many safe spots. He moves with the sun from safe spot to safe spot around the house. He recently added another to his holdings. It is not fancy. There is nothing designer about his tastes though this choice surprised us: a toothpaste box from Costco.

Moments before it became a BabyCat safe spot, the box was loaded with coffee, eggs, a bottle of wine.  It had no importance. We tossed the box to the floor merely to make space on the counter. A discard en route to the recycling bag. And then BabyCat occupied it. We knew immediately that this was not temporary housing by the way he settled in. This was the real deal. He purred.

Though we’ve moved it to a less trip-able spot, the toothpaste box remains one of BabyCat’s favorites in his safe spot rotation. Watching him move from zen to zen I realized he is never far from a safe spot. He has constructed his life according to maximizing his inner quiet and comfort. It is his top priority.

There must be a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. This year, as I run from place to place, from one stress spot to the next, enrapt in my all-too-important list of things to accomplish, I will stop (periodically) and remember the power of a toothpaste box, the lesson of BabyCat and the real  possibility of moving through life prioritizing my peace  instead of raising my blood pressure.

BabyCat Lesson One: identify more than one safe spot. Then multiply.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BABYCAT’S BOX

 

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