Cozy In [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

New flannel sheets in winter are down-right-Dionysian. Yummy, snuggly and warm.

I thought about the god of pleasure, sensuality, and wine the first time I cozied into our new flannel. There is no way a Puritan mind was involved in the invention of something so seductive. “These sheets are pure-Greek-hedonistic,” I thought as I burrowed in for the night.

Life leads with the senses. We experience – and then we story the experience. That means we feel, taste, touch, hear, smell…and then we make sense of what we’ve sensed.

As someone who’s spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make sense of things, I’m inclined to believe that the ever-elusive meaning of life will never be reduced to a tidy sentence or contained in a big book, but is certainly available in the stories we wrap around our messy experiences. We don’t find meaning, we bring it.

My story, as I nestle deeper and deeper into my delicious new flannel sheets on a cold winter night with Kerri at my side and Dogga laying on my feet: beyond words. New flannel perfection. I am the luckiest man alive.

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW FLANNEL

Remember This Vivid Moment [on Merely A Thought Monday]

When we first met, we sat on the living room carpet staring into the fire, and talked the night away. The sound of the birds at dawn surprised us. I remember the coming light and sweet birdsong like it was yesterday.

A few days ago we sat on the living room carpet in the sun, and talked the afternoon away. Our quiet conversation reminded me of that very first night. Our topic in the winter sun: letting go of too-tightly-held-ideals. “Truth will out,” wrote Master Shakespeare in his Merchant of Venice. Our truth was out in quiet voices that brought affirmations of better days.

A story I once loved to tell was The Crescent Moon Bear. The heroine, a young wife, must go on a journey. She must leave all that she knows in pursuit of her purpose. Leaving all that you know is easier said than done. It doesn’t happen in a moment; it requires some sweet visitation of the past. “What was” as launching pad to “What will be.”

Before I left my studio in Seattle, I had to touch the walls, run my fingers along the sill. I knew I would never be back. Even in that moment, all I could remember was the goodness I experienced in that space. The refuge. The sanctuary. The creative fulfillment. The hard times I’d known there dissipated like mist.

What was. Krishnamurti wrote, “You can only be afraid of what you think you know.” I marvel that the hardships of my past soften into pastel remembrance, translated into useful lessons, while my future fears are as sharp as broken glass, monsters around the corner. Acute imagination.

I marvel that the generosities heaped upon my life are vivid and bring tears to my eyes just as they did the day that I first experienced them. Keen remembrances.

Sitting on the carpet, the low afternoon sun warming us, I realize that I will always remember this vivid moment. The day we opened our hands and let fly illusions. We both took a deep breath. New air rushed into the open space, Not knowing where we might now go or what we might now do, we sat in the waning light, surprised that the sun was setting so soon.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REMEMBERING

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

Listen To The Sound Of The Wind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” ~Frederick Douglas

I began cleaning out old files, something to fill the time. I knew the job had come to an end but the formal announcement had yet to come. The file of voice recordings I made with Tom surprised me. I wondered why I’d stashed it in folder that had nothing to do with The Lost Boy project. I opened one of the recordings and spent a few minutes with Tom. His deep bass voice telling a story of hardship and perseverance. “His daughter’s carried his body out onto the flood plain,” he said, “where they could find softer soil to dig a grave.”

It threw me into a memory with Columbus. Sitting at the table out back, the evening was coming on and he was having a lucid moment in his path through dementia. I asked him what happened in his life that he shifted jobs and started working in construction. A tale of hardship and perseverance. Impossible circumstances. Stable ground was fleeting. A neighbor offered him a job that seemed ridiculous at the time. He took it. A strange unknown land. He loved it. He thrived through adversity. Just before disappearing back into the muddy waters of dementia he whispered, “That man taught me how to be a man among men.”

Today we sit in uncertainty. Life review. “Why does our path have to be so hard?’ she asked in the aftermath of the announcement. “Why can’t we have just a little bit of stable ground?” We are carved in hardwood. We are a study of perseverance. “We’ll find a way,” my only reply.

I stood with Tom in the cemetery. He wanted to show me a grave that he’d shown me several times before. In his dementia, he couldn’t remember so we returned again and again. Frankie, another lost boy in a story of lost boys. This time was different. I knew it would be our last trip. I took him to the grave. I told him the story of his ancestor Frankie.

As I finished the telling, a farmer, a big man, came into the yard, ham-sized-hands clutching a tiny bundle of store bought flowers. He didn’t know we were there or didn’t care. He kneeled at a fresh grave. He wailed his grief. Tom heard the sound of the man’s sobs and stood still, listening. Finally, glancing at me, his voice quiet with awe, he said, “Listen to the sound of the wind.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about YOU’LL MAKE IT

Put It On The Wall [on DR Thursday]

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” ~ Buddha

I sometimes wonder what the Buddha might think about how words, attributed to him, are now available on Wayfair.com as posters or large decals for every living room wall. Does the ease and ubiquity of the message make it less meaningful? A decoration rather than a wisdom? Or, that we are capable of immersing ourselves in inspiration, a reminder-to-live-well in every room, are we meditating on the messages? Are we incorporating them into our actions and choices?

I’ve read that the only requirement when hanging prayer flags is to hold positive thoughts and intentions in the mind. Intend goodness and goodness will spread. That is, after all, the point of the flag. To spread on the wind goodness, peace, kindness,…

Kerri’s philosophy – her religion – is much the same as Dolly Parton: “You just try to be nice to everybody ’cause you know everybody’s got a dream.” Kerri’s version: “If it’s not about kindness it’s not about anything.” It’s simple.

Minds are powerful things. It’s why stories are so impactful; stories are the stuff that fills-the-minds. What you feel. What you think. What you imagine. It’s not passive. Although a trick of the English language, your thoughts, your feelings, your imaginings, are not really separate from “you.” They are you. The story you tell yourself about yourself in the world.

I suppose that’s why we rub the sentiment onto the living room wall. A desire to be better in the world. To tell a better story. Better about each other. Better for each other. What else?

read Kerri’s blogpost about PRAYER FLAGS

in serenity © 2018 david robinson

Harvest Tales [on KS Friday]

We sat on the back porch of the farmhouse. Columbus stared across the fields and told stories of his youth, working on a farm. He never talked about that time in his life, at least I didn’t remember hearing about the harvest times.

We rented the airbnb to take him back to his hometown. He wanted to see it one last time. He was slipping deeper into dementia and knew this visit would be his last. Earlier in the day, I found him in the kitchen. He was lost. He couldn’t remember how to make coffee. I’m not sure he knew who I was. We made coffee together and pretended all was well.

I was surprised that he didn’t want to spend more time in the little downtown. He wanted to walk the cemetery. He wanted to tell stories of his friends. He knew where every headstone was located. He knew right where his friends were and I listened, gathering more stories from his life. Sometimes I asked questions, prompts, to keep the storytelling going.

After the cemetery, we found the little house his grandfather built, the little house where my grandfather was born. It was being used as a storage shed because it was no bigger than a storage shed. It was in someone’s backyard. There wasn’t a fence and no one was home so we crossed the yard and walked around it. Holy ground for my dad. Now, it is sacred ground for me, too. He was a salmon swimming upstream returning to his origin. He was planting stories in us, reaching deep into his beginning tale. I was quiet, now. Listening.

We ended the day on the farmhouse porch. Staring across the field. Harvest tales.

read Kerri’s blogpost about HARVEST

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

millneck fall © 1997 kerri sherwood

Tell The Story [on KS Friday]

The last time I saw Emily she was showing her simple watercolors in a coffee shop in West Seattle. She sat at a table, her head wrapped in a scarf. Emily was not shy. She was wildly alive and would have had no problem revealing her bald head, a result of the treatment. She wore the scarf because she loved it.

At the time, I was telling stories. At conferences. At facilitations. With symphonies. Pulling people together through a story into a shared metaphor. I did a full stop in front of Emily’s piece, The Storyteller. I knew it was coming home with me. Artists love it when one of their creations speak-out-loud to you. I told Emily about my full stop and she confessed that she loved The Storyteller, too.

After I paid for the small painting, we talked about her treatment. We talked of her hope for remission. Recovery. She was upbeat. Laughter-full. As always. In recounting this memory, I remember that she had no health insurance. It was years before the ACA. We talked about her path through experimental treatments, the only route open to her. She was selling her paintings, everything she had, to try and defer the bill collectors.

I left the coffeehouse art gallery with a new treasure and filled with Emily’s bright spirit. How could she be so vibrant against such a monumental wave of adversity? You already know the next chapter of this tale. Emily died less than a month later.

The Storyteller has lived in my studio. It reminds me of many, many things but mostly of Emily’s lesson: I am not my circumstance. Life is vibrant. This little watercolor is among my greatest treasures.

Dan recently gave me this do-rag: Snap-on, Socket-to-Breast-Cancer. It came at the perfect time as my sister-in-law was entering treatment. I wore it for her on the day of her first treatment but I also wore it for Emily. I wore it for Beaky. I wore it for Beth. I wore it as a wish for a someday cure, for anyone who has or will have to sit at a table and hear a doctor say, ‘You have breast cancer.”

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Be a Storyteller and help pull people together.

This is a piece Kerri wrote and sang when she was working with oncologists raising awareness for Breast Cancer Research

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

i am alive © 2005 kerri sherwood

Beg A Good Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

She stopped, turned and went back to the truck. “What are you doing?” I asked. She pulled her camera from her purse and snapped a photo of the Sara Lee truck. She showed me the photo and slid her phone back into her purse.

“I thought this would make a good blog photo,” she said, adding, “If it wasn’t a marketing phrase it would beg a good question.”

How should goodness taste?

How should equality look?

How should community sound?

How should generosity smell?

How should love feel?

We experience the world through our senses. And then we make a story of what we sense. Senses first. Story second. It’s how the brain works. The language capacity, putting words to experience, is essentially a translation function. It does not lead, it follows. It’s why, for the most part, we choose the story we tell.

The word that strikes me the most on the bread truck photo is “should.” How should goodness taste?

How does goodness taste? To you?

How does equality look? To you?

For you, what’s the sound of thriving community?

To me, generosity smells like fresh baked bread and hot dark coffee. You?

And love? There are no words. But you know it when you feel it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about GOODNESS

Protect The Heartwood [on DR Thursday]

Conk!

No, that is not cartoon-speak for being hit on the noggin. It’s a formal name, the body-shape of the shelf-fungi that grows on local trees. Not having grown up here, the first time I saw them, I thought they were aliens. Trees with tongues. A Little Shop of Horrors; Audrey II. Get too close and tree-Audrey would feed on me. Conk! Chomp! (burp).

Polypores. Now, there’s a word that rolls trippingly off the tongue – and is made more fun because polypores actually look like a tongue. Shelf-fungi (a polypore) is not a good thing if you are a tree. In fact, it has no interest in feeding on me but consumes the heartwood of its host.

Heartwood.

I’m not kidding when I admit that, in passing this shelf-fungi, I imagined the conks to be visible stories. Each conk represented a story of insecurity or fear. The stories that feed on our heartwood. What would we look like if our conk-stories where visible on our trunks?

If the rot-story was visible, what might we do to tell a self-tale intended to protect our heartwood and eliminate the conks? How might we help our children tell life stories of self-love, knowing they’d wear their conk-stories? How might we address our neighbors? What would we do to protect the heartwood of the forest from wearing rot-stories?

I think I’ll stop there. Conk!

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHELF FUNGI

shared fatherhood © 2018 david robinson

Make [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The origami crane has become a symbol of peace.”

Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true. Legend will have it so. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of good luck and long life.

Making something into something else. Folding paper into cranes. It is, perhaps, the quality that defines us, makes us human. We turn the flow of water into the force driving the mill. We study patterns in stars and translate it into navigation. We smelt ore and hammer the elements again at the forge to make iron. We use the iron to make trains.

We make.

We look at flowers and see cranes. We look at clouds and see wild horses. We look at blank canvas and see possibility.

We make stories.

Our storymaking cuts both ways. We look at others and see friends; we look at others and see enemies. Either way, our looking is not passive. We make stories. We make connections. We make divisions.

We make wishes. Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true.

Reach your hand to help. Slap a hand away. Either way, it depends on what story you see. What you want to make.

The story we create.

Folded paper. A symbol of peace.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRANES