Walk With Shadows [on Two Artists Tuesday]

These are not the pine forests of Colorado. The trails in North Carolina are a crazy cross-hatch of roots and shadows. Rhododendron explosion and cedar. Kudzu. “This is a Hansel and Gretel forest,” Kerri whispers.

“Luckily for us,” I reply, “we are too old to taste good. No witch would have us.” She punches my arm. I laugh, but not too loud.

This forest is different than our ideal. That is why we come here. It opens us. It challenges our “should-be.” New experiences and unknown places dissolve expectations and elevate awareness of “what is.” It shakes the stone fortress of imagined security. Each step is alive and unexpected.

Renewal. It’s a special branch of the slow-moving-river called curiosity.

After many miles we arrive back at the car. We emerge from the Grimm Brother’s forest and step onto the comfort of paved parking lot. Exhausted, we are thrilled with our hike. The forest sprites retreat back into the dark recesses of our minds while the new shapes and smells and colors and sounds energize our spirits.

“We did it!” She is elated. Then, “Do you think that crashing sound was a bear?” she asks.

“Could be,” I lie, certain that we were followed – and rejected – by a hungry Ogre. Too boney. There are, after all, certain benefits to aging.

read Kerri’s blogpost about ROOTS AND SHADOWS

Ramble [on DR Thursday]

I’m like a two-year old: I want to know “Why?” For instance, the lichen growing on the birch tree is Hypogymnia physodes, but it’s also known as “Monk’s Hood.” Why?

There’s a wildflower also known as Monk’s Hood. I read that the flower gets its name because its petals resemble the cowls once worn by monks. However, the flower is also known as “Wolfsbane.” Why? What does the bane of a wolf have to do with the hood of a monk? I’m capable of inventing a slew of possible connections but they will be just that: inventions.

In an attempt to bore you beyond rescue, I’ve lately been fascinated by how much of our world is a blizzard of unhinged information in search of a context. For instance, conceptual art needs an explanation. Without a curator, it’s nothing more than a banana taped to a wall. Twine with a dirty sponge. Oddity seeking to be taken seriously.

In the 21st century, we measure relevance by the number of followers, not by the substance-of-the-matter-being-followed. It’s a popularity contest. Lots and lots of flowing information, most of it useless. Without use. Without substance. And, scarily for us: without being questioned.

What is empty content pushed through a fabricated context? “Breaking” news. MAGA. Q.

It occurs to me that society needs more two year olds! A healthy practice of asking “Why” would spare us from certain death-by-bloviation.

A cowl, by the way, is both a monk’s hood AND a loose neckline in contemporary women’s clothing. Wouldn’t the monks be surprised if they’d confused their cowls!

Now, get out there and find context for this bit of useless information.

read Kerri’s blogpost about LICHEN

pieta with paparazzi © 2010 david robinson

Be The Feast [on DR Thursday]

This time of year, if you want to walk the Des Plaines river trail, do it early in the day. The mosquitoes come out in the afternoon. They are vicious little critters.

The Des Plaines mosquitoes are subject to one of the great mysteries in my life. At home – in fact, everywhere else on the planet – the mosquitoes prefer Kerri. I can be mosquito-free while she’s a mosquito-buffet. Not true at Des Plaines. Those wicked flying needles feast on me and give her a pass. Why?

Last week we started our walk a little later than planned. It’s as if the folks in the Des Plaines control room throw a switch. One moment, there’s not a mosquito to be found. The next moment, the mosquito dinner bell is rung and I am the main course. I run-walk, slap and silly dance my way back to the relative safety of the car. Kerri walks leisurely asking, “Are there any on me?”

It’s been a great equalizer in our relationship. For years, in the early summer evenings, writhing, she asks in desperation, “Are you getting bitten?” My smug response has always been, “No. Are they out?” Now, as I wiggle and swat my way through the forest, she strolls and smiles and asks, “What’s the matter?”

Equalizer. Compassion-builder. Though, now I understand why she suggested a later start for our walk in the woods. “What about the mosquitoes?” I asked.

She smiled.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MOSQUITOES

earth interrupted I © 2012 david robinson

Tally [on KS Friday]

“It’s a haiku day,” I said, feeling empty of anything useful to write. She’s already rapidly clicking away on her keyboard.

The sunflower grows/More beautiful over time/Green vine seeks wisdom.

Counting syllables/ on my fingers, I tally/the word “beautiful.”

Three or four? I ask/She’s deep in thought, can’t hear me/Syllables confound.

Beautiful is three!/”My haiku, my choice,” I quip/Who invents these rules?

Green vine seeks wisdom/Rust has seen many seasons/Green seeks. Rust stands still.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNFLOWER

silent days/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Go Roman [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Today we begin the Whole 30. The first time, we did it because Kerri’s system had run amok. The only way to find the culprit of her system’s craziness was to eliminate all the suspects, rebalance her system, and then slowly reintroduce foods. That’s the idea behind the Whole 30. It worked like magic.

This time, Kerri and her nieces are doing it together. They’ve made a pact. I am going along for the ride.

There’s a distinct difference between the days before our first experience and our run up to beginning today. Last time we were desperate. We needed to find something that would help her system. This time, we went full-Roman. We ate everything, even things we normally would not have thought to eat. We’ve made a full-on-food-assault on both our systems. “Since we can’t have wine for a month, I think we should have another glass,” I said…every day last week.

It’s human, isn’t it? To pretend that what you are about to do is nigh-on-impossible, so, the strategy to make it possible is to front-load the rewards. It’s the thought behind Lent. It’s the reason diets fail. It’s the story of “We deserve this…”

We created our own personal Mardi Gras.

I knew we’d given up all pretense the night Kerri looked at me and said, “When was the last time we had a Hostess cupcake?”

“We’ve never had a Hostess cupcake,” I said. “I used to eat them when I was a kid but you and I have never had one.”

“What!” I saw the wild cupcake intention in her eyes. It was late in the evening. “We have to have one!” she exclaimed jumping up. “Hurry! Ann’s is about to close!” Ann owns the local corner market. She carries cupcakes. And wine. And ice. And has a terrific deli. Kerri grabbed my arm. We ran-walked to Ann’s. Roman, Roman, Roman.

None of this would have happened without the looming Whole 30.

It’s not yet 8:00 in the morning, day one, and Kerri’s already asked me, “Do you remember the cupcake?”

Truth: I do. And my second thought? Cupcakes are better with red wine.

Human, human, human.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CUPCAKES

Stop At The Oasis [on KS Friday]

It was the end of a brutally hot day. The chipmunk peered over the edge of the deck, located the dog, and calculated the risk. It decided to go for it. Popping onto the deck, it raced along the wall, hopped onto the edge of Dogga’s metal watering bowl, reached down and took a hearty deep drink. Checking to see if Dogga remained oblivious, it took another long quaff, jumped down and raced to safety.

Alarmed at the idea of thirsty chipmunks, Kerri leapt to her feet. “We have to put water in safe places!” she chirped and ran into the house. 20 and I reminisced about the Ely chipmunk she’d trained to sit on her lap and take peanuts from her hand. We named it Humpy because of the large hump on its back. Ever since Kerri bonded with Humpy, all chipmunks are related to Humpy. They are family.

She returned with a deep plate, something that held plenty of water but, unlike the dog’s water bowl, didn’t put them in danger of drowning. “I wouldn’t have thought of that,” said 20, “You?”

“Nope,” I replied. “I’d have found a chipmunk swimming pool. They can swim, right?” 20 shrugged. Kerri narrowed her eyes so we hastily sipped our wine.

We watch their travels every day so know the chipmunk trails through the yard. The chipmunk highway runs beneath the potting bench and there’s a gate that prevents Dogga from getting in. The new chipmunk watering plate went there. “It’ll keep the sun off, too,” she said.

A chipmunk oasis. Roadside chipmunk assistance. First, we gave them Hotel Barney (the piano) for shelter that also provides high ground to mock Dogga while also enjoying pilfered bird seed in relative peace and comfort. Now, a safe watering hole.

“Do you suppose they’ll write an email to Humpy” 20 quipped. “He should know how well you’re taking care of his kin.”

“I hope so!” I said as Kerri gave us the evil eye for a second time. “Do you need a refill?” I chirped, suddenly feeling a kinship with the chipmunks. I scoped Kerri’s location, grabbed 20’s glass from his hand, and raced for the relative safety of the house.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CHIPMUNKS

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

sweet ballet/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Notice It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I’m chuckling at the absurdity of myself.

Yesterday, I wrote that the theme this week at the melange was “noticing.” I wrote that everything we write is, in one way or another, about noticing. Paying attention.

Nothing gets by me! Nope.

Recently, we shared with the Wander Women our smack-dab cartoon featuring their impact on our lives. They shared our cartoon and blogs with their audience. Our readership exploded, some very nice comments rolled in, and while reading the comments, Kerri urged me to check the “comments” tab. “The what?” I asked. “What ‘comments’ tab?”

Years of generosity and kind responses flowed just beneath my nose and I had no idea. None. I never saw it. In my very weak defense, there’s a notifications-pull-down menu with comments and I assumed…

To the writers of kindness and sharers of thoughtful story, thank you. Tom told me of his great grandfather, Lak, who, as a young man, travelled west across the country in a covered wagon and took a ship through the Panama canal to arrive at last in California. A letter from his siblings took several years to travel from Ohio to his promised land. I live in the age of the internet and, although your letters reached me instantly, it took me longer than the pony-express-letter-delivery-service to notice your correspondence. Lak saw his mail faster than I saw reader’s comments.

There is, of course, no expiration date on gratitude, and I am as grateful today as I would have been on the dates those thoughts were sent. I can only hope my appreciation reaches you with the same force as your words impacted me.

And, remember, I notice everything except for what passes just beneath my nose.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CHERISH

Laugh [on KS Friday]

I should not be surprised that a plant named Creeping Bellflower is considered a weed. An invasive plant. The horticulture websites warn that it is a “too vigorous herbaceous perennial.” In other words, left to its own devices, it will take over. I am planning on incorporating that phrase into my vocabulary. I can’t wait for the Cyrano-de-Berjerac-day I pull from my bag of witty rejoinders, “You, sir, are an invasive plant! A too vigorous herbaceous perennial!”

I confess, at the end of this latest fantasy, I thought “Creeping Bellflower must be a republican. Invasive. Not what it seems. Unchecked it will take over.” Shame on me. I laughed at my own horticulture-joke.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about CREEPING BELLFLOWER

pulling weeds/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

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!