Do Good Work [on Two Artists Tuesday]

As a purveyor of story, I’ve regularly explained away the large mound of dirt in our front yard as either the tunnel-sign of an enormous gopher or an ancient burial mound. Neither story had sticking power but I had to say something about the mountainous mess left behind after the crew dug a moat to fix our broken water line.

Kerri and I visited the mound daily and asked each other the same question: what are we going to do? The paperwork for the repair mentioned our responsibility for possibly doing “light landscaping” after the repair. With weeds wildly growing atop the burial mound, snaking their way through the chunks of concrete and asphalt, an answer to our question became pressing. Our neighbor, the landscaper, wheezed every time he looked our way. “We have to do something,” she said, marching inside and picking up the phone.

These are a few of the responses to her initial appeal to the company that dug the hole and made the mound: It will eventually settle. It can’t be that bad. It’s not our responsibility.

These are a few of Kerri’s replies to their responses: It is that bad. It will never settle. It’s your responsibility.

Initially they thought it was a smart move to send someone out to see the mound that was not so bad and would eventually settle. I’m certain they sent someone as a gesture, a token visit to demonstrate their concern, to quiet the complaint of the customer. The guy that came took one look and said, “This is a mess. We did this?”

A few days later a dump truck appeared, followed by a large scraper. They took away the mound. They smoothed the scar with a layer of new top soil. They scattered new grass seed. They covered it all with protective hay. We were shocked. We expected mound removal and nothing more.

Kerri and I visited the new hay-covered flat land front yard. Gopher and burial mound tales suddenly a thing of the past. She texted the story of the mound disappearance to Dan, our new-grass advisor and renowned-lawn-master. He wrote, “It’s nice to find people who want to do good work, who want to take responsibility for their work.” True. So true.

“I can’t believe it’s gone,” she said and smiled. “The squeaky wheel…”

Clapping imaginary dirt from my hands, feigning boy bravado, strutting with mock accomplishment, “Well. What’ll we take care of next?” I asked.

read Kerri’s blog post on HAYNETS

Use Your Words [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Kerri calls this photo ‘Dish rack with orange cup.’ “It sounds like the title of a painting!” she exclaimed.

We generally go through our day making fun of the words we paste on our experiences and pull from our conversations. I am forever proclaiming, “That sounds like the name of a band!” Or, “Hey, that sounds like a lyric!” For a guy that can’t hear lyrics in songs – and is famous for singing my-own-made-up lyrics – I’m particularly adept at thinking I hear lyrics in conversations all around me. I know, I know. I am a walking paradox, a living conundrum, a human-thought-puzzle with a few pieces missing from my box.

Lately, our language game has a new and always surprising twist: simple words that refuse to come to mind. For instance, reaching for the word”ravioli” necessitated, “You know, little pasta pillows with stuff inside.” Tell me honestly, doesn’t that description sound like the beginning line of a poem or a silly lyric? Little pasta pillows with stuff inside. 20 drew a little green orb on his shopping list because the word ‘avocado’ refused a timely recall.

I was on the ground howling with laughter when Kerri’s brain refused to pull a word from the abyss. Twisting her wrist back and forth, making a Tin-Man-esque-joint-with-no-oil sound, she begged for my help. “Come on!” she pleaded, “What is it?”

“Arthritis?” I offered, tears rolling down my cheeks.

“YES!” she danced. “ARTHRITIS! That’s it! That’s it!”

Side note: YES was a rock band in the 70’s. The band members most certainly now have arthritis. Their biggest hit was Roundabout. The song lyrics begin with this: I’ll be the roundabout/The words will make you out n’ out…[side note to side note: I’m not making up the lyric. I Googled it to avoid worldwide criticism].

Speaking of roundabouts, we took down Dogga’s roundabout sign in the yard. Actually, the weather did it for us when it snapped the metal support pole. He doesn’t seem to care. He continues to run circles without his sign giving him direction. The sign will soon go up in my office as a reminder that my brain’s movement and Dogga’s running path are one and the same: circular. Each cutting a trail in our own way.

It’s simple really. Arthritis! Dish rack with orange cup. A still life or almost-haiku-line? “What’s the word for…?” Reminders all to take ourselves less seriously. To never invest too much in or believe too heartily in the words used or the stuff we think. It’s all made up poetry, a band name, a lyric, anyway.

read Kerri’s blogpost and BUY THE PRINT!

Open The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Put on your swimmies for a dive into the esoteric.

It was hot last night so I lay awake thinking and that’s never a good thing for the people – like you – who pay attention to the random things I write or say. This is what I thought in the heat of the night: Saul always instructed me to look beyond my opponent and place my focus in the field of possibilities. “Look a hundred feet beyond your opponent,” he said.

It’s universally true that a mind needs something on which to focus. And, left untended, most minds will focus on complaints or problems. During my tilt-at-windmills-consulting phase I’d tease my clients with the notion that, rather than eliminate challenges, people create them. We need them. We call them hobbies. Or play. Or problems. After all, stories are driven by conflict and we are, at the base, storytelling animals. It’s worth noting that a great collaboration is not the absence of conflicting opinions but the capacity to use the heat of creative tension to find/discover a third way.

What does this have to do with Saul and the field of possibilities? A focus, to be useful, needs to be specific. What exactly does the field of possibilities look like?

The reason our untended minds sort to the negative is that the negative is usually concrete, an easy fixation. Fear is a clear picture – even when imaginary. Obstacles are easy to spot. Possibilities are rolling and amorphous. Changeable. It is the nature of a good possibility to shape-shift.

The masters of meditation mostly tell us to soften our focus. Or to let the thoughts roll through the brainpan like clouds; do not attach to what we think. Do not take ourselves so seriously. Practice flow instead of the hard fixing of thought.

And, therein is the source of my late night esoteria: the mind needs something to focus on. Or does it?

If I soften my gaze, if I look beyond the problem-of-the-moment to a vast field of floating possibility, am I tossing myself into a feedback loop? I lay awake wondering what the field of possibility might look like if it was graspable. Some people make vision boards for just this reason. Quinn used to hum and fill his mind with lyrics.

Tjakorda Rai laughed at me and told me I needed to “open my story.” At the time I thought he meant to take responsibility for my story. Now, I know exactly what he meant: let it flow. Get out of the way. The demons and monsters and fears and problems and challenges are…passing things. Story fodder, nothing more. So look beyond them. Flow. Focus on the flow. Open the story.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOUNTAIN

Add More Pulp [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Last night Jupiter and Mars converged without us. We had the best of intentions to rise at 3:30am and walk east to the water’s edge where we might see the event. Somehow, we slept through it. “Do you think they converged anyway?” I asked in a moment of grand ego inflation. I’m not the first human to delude myself into thinking the heavens spin around me. Kerri sipped her coffee and pretended she was alone.

Do you remember Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree? A story of the sacrifices made in relationship. The little boy in the story takes everything the tree has to offer. And the tree, in return, is happy. I was not aware – though I’m not surprised – that such a simple book for children could be so controversial. Banned and excoriated for sexist messages. Loved and embraced for altruism. Both/And. Symbols and metaphors are open to interpretation, planets of meaning circling the life-experience of the interpreter.

Jonathan once told us that “A tree must split its bark to grow.” Though he did not know it at the time, I was gaining weight and en route to splitting my bark. Now that the splitting is done and I am at least one size bigger, I’m wondering if my new expanse provided space for wisdom or if I’ve simply added another ring of wood. More pulp.

Don’t ask Kerri. She’s sipping her coffee, quietly pondering the inordinate sacrifices made in relationship. While she’s suffering her obvious conclusion, I’m think I’ll phone Jupiter and Mars and apologize for not showing up. Who knows, maybe when I didn’t show, they decided to reschedule! It wouldn’t be a proper convergence without me, right?

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARK

Ode The Basement Floor [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Ode to the basement floor.

Though little acknowledged and less appreciated, you carry without comment the brunt of the load. When water runs where it ought not run, you, master of the Tao, let it flow, knowing the drains in your design will surely win the day. Or not. No matter. What happens will happen and we will make stories with either result, never once mentioning your stalwart participation, unseen support in every storm.

The washer jumps, the dryer rolls, the boxes stack, the shelves stand guard, you accommodate and hold space for all.

Sometimes I stand on you, toes a-wriggling, lost in thought, or wrinkle-brow-perplexed, all the while missing the wise message of patience you proffer. “Stand long enough,” you suggest but do not say, “and everything will look different. Or the same.” Were I to ask – and you to answer – you might imply that my paint and carpet solutions are surface remedies merely. Perhaps I should consider lasting and deeper alternatives?

We rearrange. We are cleaning out. We see more of you than before! Yet increasingly exposed and in full reveal you do not attempt to hide your age as we might. As we do. Your pocks and chips and scratches galore the proud chronicle of your era.

“Tread on me” your flag must wave, as we step and stride and dance and tramp and plod and stomp, fulfilling your purpose with our every footfall. I wonder, as I carry a load to the stairs, do you mind or even note that I am lost in the cause of singing your praises?

[this post comes to you without the assistance of mind altering drugs of any kind. Just sayin’]

Make ’em Laugh [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“I know what I want!” she exclaimed. “I just saw it.” Little-Baby-Scion whipped a sudden u-turn and we drove back into the park. We’d just finished a hike around our favorite loop and were discussing the choices for this week’s Melange. We had a problem day, a prompt that could only go one way: a rant. It would evoke a topic we’ve already beaten to death.

The car screeched to a halt in front of the stop sign. “It’s not possible!” she said. “You can’t stop and go one way all at the same time!” She jumped out to take a photo of the sign. I smiled at the irony. We were about to replace a problematic blog-prompt, an image/topic that could only go one direction, with a stop-one-way combo sign. Our new replacement prompt would be the universe’s message to us.

I’ve received – we’ve received – this message more than once and at times far more weighty than an upcoming blog prompt. Stop. This can only go one way. Or, the more hopeful variety: Stop. There is only one way to go.

As Kerri likes to say, “We have good angels.” Our good angels employ a special hammer on our heads when we need to stop. It is a full abrupt stop. Those whacky angels have great senses of humor. They giggle to see us mistake the wall for a door. I’ve quietly suggested to our angels that they consider using airbags with us but so far they are sticking to the hard-stop-no-cushion strategy.

And, the door that opens is never subtle. We sit in the hallway for a long time. No doors to be found. We lose all hope of doors, resigning ourselves to life in the hallway. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a door pops open. It’s a definitive, “Take this door or continue to sit where you are.”

Those whacky angels. All of those Renaissance painters led us astray, portraying gentle, harp playing, soft robe wearing winged guides. I suppose some people might have that variety. Not us. Our good angels are pranksters. Billiard-playing-Harley-riding-pastrami-eating-blue-jeans-wearing-tricksters who let us run blind toward the cliff and hit us with a stop sign at the last possible minute. “Hold on there, artists-types,” they snicker. “Stop. This can only go one way.”

An angel in the back row whispers, “That looked like it hurt.” The entire chorus of angels guffaws.

read Kerri’s less random blogpost about STOP!

Step Off [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A tree is not made of wood, it is wood.” ~ Alan Watts, The Watercourse Way

Language is powerful. It’s a drum I have beat for a long time, the notion that we insist that the narratives we wrap around ourselves are somehow “reality.” We are told that 50% of Russians believe the hell wrought on the Ukraine is merely propaganda. A made-up story. Not true. It is the narrative they are fed and, in order to eat it, they must ignore any evidence to the contrary. Their economy crumbles. The ruble falls. How could they not see it? Don’t laugh. 40% of USAmericans still believe the last presidential election was stolen, a plausible story only if wearing blinders with fingers placed firmly in ears. Burying your head in the sand is not a Russian or American trait, it’s uniquely human. We see what we believe, not the other way around. Our language makes it so.

Years ago I read that the word “wild” could only come from a people who believe all things must be tamed. Wild makes no sense without the concept of tame. Wild, bad. Tamed, good. So, a people afraid of their own “nature” must become tamers. A people who think “nature” not only can be but must be managed. To be “above” it all, in charge and atop the pyramid, giver of names. It is the necessary narrative for such tamers of the wild, those who story their very nature as corrupt. Tamed, good. Above it all. Separate. Is it any wonder the intrinsically conflicted human world rarely embraces peace? Our narrative leads us to believe, amidst so much inner and, therefore, outer conflict, peace is something to be created because we are naturally conflicted. What else?

Where, exactly, does wild end and tame begin? Where’s the line that delineates nature from civilization? What if nature is neither good nor bad? What if your nature was neither good nor bad? Perhaps self-love would be within reach and, as a natural extension, the love of others, too. It’s an alternative narrative though not possible in a belief-story that fears the wild. Wholeness begins with a step off the pedestal.

It’s in the language. Somehow separate from the world in which we live, not “in” nature or “of” nature , we are deluded to believe we are made of different stuff. Above it. Divinely manufactured. Made.

Manufactured. Made. Trees made of wood.

And, just what are we made of? I guess it depends on the story we decide to tell. Wild stuff.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TREES

Dance The Future [on DR Thursday]

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in you philosophy.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

We opened the oat milk ice cream container and read the message printed on the protective cover. It made me laugh. I appreciate marketing messages with a sense of humor. The best news, beyond the giggle-inducing package, is that the ice cream was delicious. Coffee. The woman in the store recommended Salted Caramel but we were on a mission to find some coffee ice cream.

We watched some of the events at the recent winter Olympics. I always appreciate watching the athletes, prior to their competition, imagine their path down the mountain or performing on the ice. They quietly dance the future they envision. They “see” themselves perform. Actors do it, too. Jim taught me, rather than push my voice so I might be heard by the people sitting in the back of the hall, to walk to the edge of the stage and imagine that every person in every seat is included in the embrace of my voice. Not push or reach. Include. Draw in.

Have you ever said, “I just knew it was going to happen!” Or, “My gut told me…” Or, “I knew in my heart.” Even the most hardened scientist follows their intuition. Happy accident, good luck, serendipity, right-place-right-time. Where preparation meets opportunity. Luck of the draw.

Hamlet saw a ghost. His pal from the university had doubts. Reason draws a wide circle but, despite what it thinks of itself, does not encompass all things. Accidents happen. “It’s as if it was meant to be.” Kismet. Follow your heart.

Kerri and I talk of our meeting as destiny. “What are the odds?” we ask. I’m filled with stories of “knowing.” Aren’t we all? And, isn’t it also true, the most oft used phrase following, “I knew it,” is “I can’t explain it.”

And, isn’t that where the wonder lives? In the land beyond explanation?

read Kerri’s blog post about SEEING THE FUTURE

Sit On The Fence [on KS Friday]

We have a small compost pile behind the garage that we call The Golden Corral. The squirrels line up like seniors at the buffet and scurry away with the good bits before they turn into soil.

When John texted a photo of the opossum on the fence, we ran outside to take a look. He – we named him Peter – was in no hurry to run away and hide. He was perfectly content to sit on the fence and gladly participated in our photo shoot. I suspect the word is out about The Golden Corral.

Our neighborhood has always been a lively haven for critters. Red fox and raccoons, skunks and rabbits, squirrels and hawks and chipmunks. In the summer months we sit out back and watch the animal escapades. We feel honored when the owl appears. We laugh when the turkey lands on our roof. The crows alert us to the comings-and-goings of predators.

Peter is a new addition. We’ve seen him or his kin down the street at Pam’s place. She scatters birdseed at the base of her tree and the furry nocturnal fraternity gathers there after the bars shut down. They stare us down when we come home late at night, their eyes red in our headlights.

Possums symbolize peaceful transitions, conflict avoidance, and cooperative effort. “We could use more of that in the world,” Kerri said. They also represent the development of insight and uncovering hidden truths. After the events of the past few years, surfacing a few hidden truths would be welcome. I could use an insight or two.

Peter posed. He definitely wanted us to photograph his good side. “He’s really beautiful,” Kerri said, snapping pictures.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about PETER POSSUM

nurture me/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Help Them Smile [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I howled with laughter when she said it. “You can buy anything that looks like something.” She was referring to the sweet Italian sausage that was not sausage at all but made of plants. I thought she was making a political statement. We are solidly in the age of things-are-not-what-they-seem. Photos can be manipulated. Words that come out of mouths can be placed there, not by the speaker. Propaganda is called news and American cowboy culture does not see its full-lemming transformation. Sausage-not-sausage is everywhere!

“What are you laughing at?” she asked, placing the sausage look-alike in our basket. Linda made us a yummy vegetable hash that included the not-sausage and we enjoyed it so much that we left with the recipe. “The age of enlightenment is officially over,” I thought but did not say. Had I answered honestly she would have told me to “gear down.” The grocery store is no place for philosophical hoo-haw.

“Nothing,” I said, giggling.

Standing in front of the cold not-sausage-section, looking down the aisle at people masked and not masked, some wearing masks on their chins, I felt thrust out of all reality and into the tragi-comedy that is our times. Peter Barnes wrote a terrific play, a comedy called Red Noses about the plague that swept Europe in the 14th century. A priest and his band of fools traveling through the villages offering humor as the only relief for the fear and pain. They wore red noses.

“When people in the future look back at us, I hope they laugh,” I said.

“What?” she asked, furrowing her brow.

“We need a band of fools.”

If we could laugh at ourselves, we’d probably have a better time of life during the pandemic, I thought, as an unmasked woman sneered at my fully masked face. I wonder how we’d have fared had there been a red nose mandate? Protect your neighbor by helping them smile.

Kerri stared at me and smiled. “Don’t make me tell you to gear down.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “I think we need Dogga food.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about ANYTHING AND SOMETHING