Stand On Any Street Corner [on Merely A Thought Monday]

kindness kerouac copy

For reasons that are beyond my pay-grade to comprehend, human beings are obsessed with seeing conflict and division. The news of the day is generally antagonistic and despair-inducing – and that is not unique to our day. Ancient temples and modern televisions alike are overrun with images of war and hostility.

One of the greatest powers a human being can achieve is the power of focus placement. ‘Seeing’ is, after all, a matter of choice.  It is not passive. In any given moment there are multiple points of focus, there are multiple stories, there are many interpretations to choose from.

Stand on any street corner and watch the world happen. Watch the overwhelming number of acts of kindness and generosity. The small moments of simple kindness and consideration. They are everywhere. People giving way, making way, helping. You will be surprised to find that the kindnesses by far outnumber the rudeness, the antagonism.

Stand on any street corner and watch where your focus goes. In the midst of a tsunami of kindness, if you are human and like all other humans, your focus will be captured by the angry guy honking his horn, the commuter shouting at the bus driver. “Such an angry world,” you think and close your eyes, despairing. Anger is so much louder than kindness.

Tell a story of discord, see a story of discord. Practice a story of discord, live a story of discord. Discord is easily leveraged. Division is easily sold. It is like selling candy to a kid. It is readily chiseled into pillars and hungrily read into teleprompters.  It is so easy to see.

Tell a story of kindness, see a story of kindness. Practice a story of kindness, live a story of kindness. Although it is more readily available it is, somehow, more difficult to see. It is less sell-able and, so, is discarded as trite. It requires choice and discernment rather than default. It requires opening your eyes and your story to what is actual, what lives beyond the thundering chorus of conflict-peddlers.

The angry shooters and tweet-happy presidents live on the far margins yet they garner the majority of the attention. Stand on any street corner and open your eyes. There is a sweeping quiet kindness that permeates the vast majority, that defines the middle ground. You can see it if you so choose.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

 

 

 

 

hands across tree WEBSITE BOX copy

 

 

 

 

Harness The Energy [on KS Friday]

boundaries song box copy

Lately, in my new role as co-managing director of a performing arts space, I find myself repeating the same simile/metaphor over and over and over and over… (insert Kerri’s eye roll). This week, my favorite-simile-repetition goes something like this: communication is like a river, it needs proper banks if it is going to flow. Without banks, it spills out all over the place flooding basements and creating havoc.

Needless to say, our job thus far is largely about placing proper banks on this flood plain of communication. Placing proper banks, at first, creates consternation and resistance. No one likes a limit until the limit works in their favor, until the constraint makes life easier.

Boundaries. Limits. Constraints. It is what I adore about the arts: freedom of artistic expression is the result of discipline, technique, and practice. And, the heart-desire of discipline, technique and practice is unfettered play. It is a paradox. It is boundaries placed on a rushing torrent so it can flow. The harnessing of creative energy. Communication is an intentional art and art is communication with an intention.

Kerri’s BOUNDARIES is a bubbling brook, bright with the morning sun, tumbling and playful within its banks. It seems so easy, her flow. But I know the truth. This ease and flow, this call to put your feet in the brook and rest for awhile with the sun on your face, comes from the years and years of hours and hours and hours of practice. Boundaries. A riverbank, a limit that will work in your favor. It is the creative flow through a heart that desires to play and play and play.

 

BOUNDARIES on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BOUNDARIES

 

tpacwebsitebox copy

 

boundaries/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Say It [on DR Thursday]

Icarus-detail2 copy 2

Icarus flew too close to the sun. The heat melted the wax that held together his wings and he fell to his death. A monumental occurrence. And nobody noticed, so distracted were they by the gossip of the day and the many tasks on their lists. There were clues that something happened. There were feathers everywhere, little bits of wax.

The word distraction has two meanings: 1) diversion, and 2) delirium. ICARUS is the closest thing to a political/social statement that I’ve ever painted. It was painted in the early years of this century and, these days, is as relevant as the day I felt compelled to “say something.”

Like Icarus, the painting fell unnoticed into the stacks in the basement. Feathers and wax. Something happened. But, as Arnie taught me, sometimes it is not really as important to be heard as it is to say-in-paint what’s troubling your mind.

Icarus-withEdge copy 2

icarus, acrylic on canvas, 30.5 x 59.5

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ICARUS

 

 

skylake website box copy

 

icarus ©️ circa 2005, david robinson

Listen Well [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

act well 2 copy

When I wore my life/business coaching hat, many of my clients secretly wanted to be painters or writers. After wading around in the depths of their dissatisfaction, they’d finally say something like, “What I really want to do is write a book.” And then, they’d divert their eyes and say, “I just don’t know how to get there.”

The path was always simple to say but difficult to execute. Write. Write everyday. There is no magic path. As Tom would say, “A writer writes. A painter paints.” The action is rarely difficult to do; the story wrapped around it is…well, another story altogether.

The difficulty comes in the form of a many headed monster called vulnerability. “If I write (paint, dance, act…) people will judge what I write (paint, dance, act…).” It’s a heavy cloak to wrap around the creative heart. Yes. They will judge. Some will diminish you and some will praise you to the sky. However, that has little or nothing to do with being a writer or painter, with becoming a better writer or painter. Neither the praise nor the derision is truth or accurate or meaningful.

Both accolades and critiques can pull an artist off-center. To listen to either is to ignore  the quiet prompting of the muse. The essential will be lost in the chatter.

My mind is a tumble of truism. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” etc. There is no other way to be a writer than to sit down and write. There is no way to become a better painter than to stand at the easel and paint. And, while writing and painting and acting, there is a necessary skill for an artist to develop: learn to let the opinions and judgments of others pass through. They have nothing to do with creating and everything to do with what others are seeing. The artist’s job is not to determine what others see. The job is to write and paint, to create what the muse whispers in your ear.

There is no other way. Artistry is not an achievement. It is an action, a relationship.

Act well your part. Paint well your painting. Write well your novel. Listen well to your muse.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ACT WELL YOUR PART…

 

roadtrip reading website box copy

Turn And Open [on Two Artists Tuesday]

canoe and dock copy

Real education is understanding the significance of life, not just cramming to pass examinations. ~ Krishnamurti

Tom used to call it The Little Green Bottle theory. The illusion of learning at the expense of real learning. It is the worst fate for a curious mind to confuse active pursuit with passing the test.

The worst fate for an artist is to be revered. Artists who are revered regardless of what they do, stop growing – or worse – they twist. They confuse themselves with their art. And, because they are lauded for any and everything thing they do, they lose their muse. They no longer need to listen or seek or try.  They insulate and turn in on themselves. Knowing that their feedback loop – called an audience – will give them a perfect score no matter what they do, oddly makes their work not matter at all. They – and their work – and their audience – become an energy eddy, an empty bottle with no substance. The circle closes.

Long ago, I guest-directed a play at a college. There was a student, an extraordinarily talented young man, who was coddled by his professor. She heaped praise on him. He was cast as the lead in all productions. In fact, I was (hush-hush-nod-nod) required to cast him. He was protected from the rules and rigors his peers were required to follow. He simply needed to show up.  I crossed his path again a few years later and he was a very sad and empty young man. He left his small pond and didn’t have the skills or work ethic to swim in the ocean. He wondered why no casting director would work with him, why no masters program would admit him. He expected reverence. His talent collapsed on itself. Many of his peers, those who had to work, to grapple, to reach, to struggle, had solid and thriving careers. Rather than helping him grow, his professor, his college community, stunted his artistry. His circle closed.

The waters are so calm this morning. Hog Island seems to float in the air. Sitting on the dock, I feel perplexed. Lately, the world so often feels upside-down, in service to the opposite of what it professes. Islands feigning connection. Closed circles working hard to stay closed even awash in the knowing that they can only breathe when opened. They can only grow when challenged, when they open the gates. They can only thrive when they turn, open the circle, paddle toward the limitless horizon and face the unknown.

The muse is out there, waiting.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DOCK

 

sunrisewebsite copy

 

photograph: on the dock of the bay ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go To The Grocery Store [on Merely A Thought Monday]

sneezepneumonia3 copy

Last week we went to the grocery store and had a conversation in every aisle. Such is the virtue of a small community.

Gossip: unconstrained conversation about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true.

This week went to the grocery store to buy bananas and no one would talk to us, including the cash register clerk. It was our first hint that something was up!

Rumor: a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Before an hour had passed, we heard rumor of our offense. It was egregious and downright offensive! It was an affront to the old school islanders. It was, above all, simply not true. Such is the vice of a small community.

Inflate: to fill with air.

As we stood in the middle of the swift moving undercurrent, players jockeying to be the most offended, we watched and listened as our abuse swelled. It took on epic proportions. Such is the nature of hearsay, regardless of the size of community.

We, of course, realized that our little island is a microcosm of an ailing nation. People believing what they want to believe. People eating gossip like sugar and growing fat on a diet with no substance. Gossip is toxic. It is, as an acquaintance used to say, like eating poison and expecting the other person to die.

We collected the names topping the list of the recently-rumored-offended and called them. Nothing interrupts gossip like facing it directly. We made some new friends.

This morning we went to the grocery store and had some nice conversations. Such is the fickle affection of a small community. Grace is good and the sands are ever-shifting.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNEEZING

 

smidgefeetonroadwebsite box copy

 

 

 

Play Again Please [on KS Friday]

nurture me songbox copy

I just broke the first rule of the melange. I peeked over Kerri’s shoulder to see what she was writing. It’s true, she misses her piano. It’s true, last night, as we were closing the theatre, after a day of high anxiety, she walked onto the dark stage, opened the 9 foot grand piano delivered for the chamber music festival currently performing from our TPAC, and began to play. I sat in the dark and listened. Her anxiety and frustration transformed. She nurtured herself into artistry. And, once again, as I always do in these moments, I thought what a pity it is that I am the only person on this planet privy to the full breadth and depth of her artistry.

Streaming services, although great and free for listeners worldwide, have filled artists like my wife with a gigantic Why Bother. The streaming services are making a great living off of her music. More than a million people each year listen to Kerri’s compositions. She profits not at all. The streaming services stand between her and the money her music produces. They toss her less than a bone.

She just wrote that she misses her piano but I think it is more than that. I think she misses the vitality, the good heart that grows inside an artist when they produce, when they challenge themselves, when they explore new territory and bring what they find back for the rest of us to hear. It nurtures the artist. It nurtures the audience. Left unexplored, an artist’s heart fills with anxiety and depression, it closes against the pain.

Last night, after the chamber music had died, in a dark theatre, I listened to a second concert. It was more powerful than the first because it was pure. It was an artist talking to herself, reaching through the Why Bother door and touching, even for a moment, the answer: because it nurtures you to play. It nurtures you to create. I know it nurtures me to listen.

 

NURTURE ME on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART  is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURTURE ME (and don’t tell her I peeked)

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

 

nurture me/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood