Expect Nothing [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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The man was about to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail. The interviewer asked, “What do you expect it will be like? What do you expect will happen?” The man replied, “I try not to have any expectations. I want to be open to what comes along, whatever that might be.”

It’s a spiritual practice. Make no assumptions. Release all preconceived notions. Open to what is and not what you think should be. Have the experience first, make meaning second. All good advice for attempting presence: that place we fully occupy but rarely visit.

Making meaning. It’s what people do. Wrap an experience in a story. Wrap it in a blanket of belief. Often we muffle the experience in a heavy cloak  before we’ve had it.”It’s going to be hard.” “I don’t think they will like me.” Or, “This will be the best!” “I’m going to crush it!”

Joe used to call this high-dream/low-dream. Imagine the best. Imagine the worst. Like a magical invocation. Either way, an expectation is set. The story has begun and imposes a slick layer over the happenings. The story bleaches the experience-space, that full range of color available between the high and low.

It’s no wonder we can’t find compromise in our current nation-story.

I watch DogDog in the morning. He can’t wait to race outside. He barks for no other reason than it feels good. He sits in the sun. He chases birds with no hope or expectation that he will catch one [he wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what to do if he actually caught one]. DogDog does not know there is a pandemic. He does not care about people politicizing mask wearing. He holds no expectation for the direction of the day. His to-do list is blank. He is happy going on errands. He is happy sleeping on the cool tiles.  He holds no grudges. He makes no judgments. He holds his story lightly. He is happy both before and after he eats. Sometimes he even tastes his food. Above all, he is happiest when we are happy.

Open to experience, DogDog has much to teach me. He has much to teach the world.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HAPPY DOING

 

 

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The quote “happy doing something, happy doing nothing” comes from an article about Augie the dog.

Knead And Listen [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I am now among the legion of people that turned to baking bread during the pandemic-stay-at-home era. This loaf is gluten free, made with rice flour, since Kerri is allergic to gluten.

In truth, I’ve wanted to bake bread since I knew Brad the baker in California. He was a genuine hippie, a believer in peace and simple living. “Bread is a living thing,” he once said as I watched in fascination his kneading of the dough. You can tell a true master craftsman at work by watching their hands. They feel something in the dough or the wood that the rest of us do not.

My loaf was not made by a master. Not even by an apprentice.

Bill sent a photo of his first loaf and I asked for the recipe. It came as screen shots and I scribbled them into a recipe on notebook paper. Easy steps to follow but I knew from watching Brad that I would not find in my recipe any easy guidance on how to feel the life in the dough. That would come with time. Maybe. If I was lucky and diligent and practiced listening through my hands.

I’m not surprised people are turning to bread during this time of pandemic uncertainty. It is essential. The making of bread, the cultivation of wheat, made civilization, as we know it, possible. It is, therefore, a central symbol in many belief systems. Separate the chaff from the wheat. A time for harvest. This is my body. Eat.

Brad told me that the dough kneads you as much as you knead the dough. It’s a simple relationship between living things and requires complete focus. Mutual respect. Attention must be proffered.

Perhaps that is why we turn to bread in times like these. Simple relationships of attention and mutual respect are increasingly rare. Bread reminds us of what is possible, what is healthy. It reminds us of the patience that is required if we are to find our way to harvest. It reminds us of the necessity of knowing what is chaff and what is wheat, or remembering that there is a direct relationship between what is planted and what is grown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BREAD

 

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Pop Your Bubble [on KS Friday]

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There is a sad mantra in the not-for-profit world: people don’t give money, time, or attention to “causes” until the cause impacts them personally. It has to be personal – it has to be MY son-with-cancer or MY daughter-who-was-shot-at-school or MY community-that-has-no-grocery-store in order for us to care beyond the superficial.  In other words, it is someone else’s problem until it knocks on MY door.

The word “cause” provides some cover – it keeps the cancer at arm’s length. It abstracts and sanitizes. The word “poll” does the same thing. Throughout this pandemic we’ve actually reduced the reality of the virus to a number that indicates personal belief, which has nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with whether or not  it has penetrated your personal bubble. To date, there are over 2 million bubbles impacted and, of those, 113,000 deaths. That is 113,000 people who, on New Year’s Day 2020, had every reason to believe they’d see 2021. Their belief number sits solidly at 100%. Their family’s belief number is way up there, too.

Masks have become a split symbol – or perhaps better stated, a symbol of our split. Wearing a mask is meant, as we all know, to protect others. It is not a measure of personal protection which is perhaps why it is so messy an issue here in these United States. We’ve somehow managed to transmogrify a gesture of protecting our neighbors into an assault on individual rights. It is not merely a consistent problem, it is a national pattern. The pattern plays itself with great symphonic insanity every time we have another mass shooting and can do no more than offer condolences to the dead.  It is the river that runs beneath the richest and most innovative nation on earth and its inability to provide affordable (or any) health care to its citizens. We keep ourselves brilliantly schizophrenic by insisting that this abundant creative citizenry is only capable of considering two choices. EITHER individual rights OR what’s best for the community! BOTH/AND is nowhere to be found. “We” is the word we run from.

This morning Kerri read an article about a server going back to work at a restaurant. She does not feel safe. Her customers are solidly in their bubbles caring only for their dining experience and not their server’s health. Our daughter supplements her life by bar tending and serving. Kerri cried. It’s personal.

She chose her song for this week’s melange in that moment. EVERY BREATH. And, ironically, it is found on the album AS IT IS. The present condition. Every breathe; as it is. It reads like the I-Ching: The air you breathe. The air I breathe. No difference.

One bubble. And, like it or not, believe it or not, we all inhabit it.

 

EVERY BREATH is on the album AS IT IS. Find it on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY BREATH

 

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every breath/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

helping hands ©️ 2011 david robinson

Step Into The Ripple [on DR Thursday]

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I’ve never understood faith as a religious term. Look up the word in the dictionary and you’ll come across trust, belief, and conviction. Rather than a lofty word reserved for worship day, it has always struck me as an everyday something – that becomes extraordinary when you realize how ever-present-and-ordinary it actually is. Stepping blindly. Blindly stepping. Each and everyday.

We surround ourselves with calendars and lists and routines and rituals and patterns – all necessary mechanisms to plan our days but they also serve to protect us from the truth of our walk on this earth: there is not a moment, an hour, or day that is actually known before it is lived. Every moment of every day is a step into the unknown.

The real practice of faith is not about an abstraction.  It is a recognition that walking in faith is an essential part of the human condition. The real practice is in realizing it. Being right where you are, open to the reality and empty of the illusion of certainty that you know what is coming. You do not. The true spiritual practice is to empty yourself of the need for the illusion of control.

Fully inhabiting the moment. Standing at the crossroad of past and future without the map of ‘I-know-what’s-going-to-happen’ dulling the experience.

Spiritual practices are not meant to be other worldly. They are, at their best, concrete relationships found at the intersection of past and future, in that tiny slice of infinity called “the moment.” It is a miracle of unknowns and surprises.

The practice of faith is the practice of putting down what you think you know – dropping the notion that you know what will happen- and stepping fully and with intention into the rippling unknown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FAITH

 

 

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chasing bubbles ©️ 2019 david robinson

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Point Your Nose Toward The Moon [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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This moon called us. We were leaving rehearsal, pulled out of the parking lot and were hit in the face by an enormous orange moon. “We have to go to it,” Kerri whispered. We drove to the shore and sat with the moon for a while.

Staring out of the truck (it was a very cold night and with broken wrists it was easier to keep Kerri buckled in), my energy running low, this super moon reminded me of a long-ago-book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX. The last few illustrations feature a beckoning moon. This is the Waterfox’s lesson for Lucy and, as it turns out, the Waterfox had a few words for me, too, on this moon-full night:

“The Sky is where you belong! Fulfill your heart’s longing and let the pack think what they think! Everyone knows that most foxes don’t swim and most foxes don’t fly, it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they don’t try. A fox whose heart soars like yours needs to dance in the air. Remember: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word!” With that he gave her a wink, tipped his big hat and swam out of sight.

And so, while the other foxes nestled deeper into sleep, Lucy pointed her nose toward the moon. She took to the sky repeating his words so she’d never forget: words are like magic, misused they are tragic and belief is a great and most powerful word.”

 

Illustration 25

from my children’s book, Lucy & The Waterfox

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the SUPER MOON

 

 

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Spin Off Center [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I’ve always been a bit mystified by the hyper-charge surrounding the word ‘change.’ It doesn’t matter which way the word slices, it will either evoke great fear and trepidation [we’ve always done it this way!] or it will reach to the deepest depths of yearning and impatience [we need to be different!]. Guard the bastion. Explore new worlds.

Organizations try to manage change. Yet, organizations sell their products as cutting edge. They promote themselves as leaders of change.

We celebrate change-makers. Game changers. We also honor the keepers of the flame. Rule keepers. We pride ourselves on our innovative spirit while pondering the loss of tradition.

Creative tension. Push, pull. It’s a balancing act, yes? A continuum. Where exactly is the hard line between progress and tradition?

Stepping into the unknown is never easy though, isn’t it true that each day of life is, in fact, a step into the unknown? The wheel spins on and on and on.

Growing old is not for wimps. That’s what Beaky said. We all do it. Movement is life and life is change.

We live in an interesting time. Everything is recorded. Evidence of change is everywhere. Actors get old. Politicians vehemently defend the opposite of what they vehemently defended 20 years ago.

The question is not about change or not change.  It is more about what we desire to be  steadfast in the midst of change. Circumstances change. Opinions change. Beliefs change. Traditions change. But, what is in the center of the wheel? Values like ‘honesty’ and ‘truth?’ Agreements of decency? A constitution?

What happens when those hubs are manipulated and simply fall away?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CHANGE

 

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Believe [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Kerri just said, “I think I’d believe more if I had another glass of wine.” After I was done laughing (and getting her another glass of wine), I realized that belief is too often like that – contingent on circumstance.

When I was a wee lad (seriously, this stuff ran rampant around my little kid brain), I’d wonder what happened the day after the bloody battle when both sides raged about god being on their side. What do you need to reconcile when your team loses? Why do you need to win to confirm your belief? A side note, another of those rampant ramblings  racing through of my too tiny skull (no wonder my parents were at a loss of what to do with me)  – this one is to really get me in trouble: if your god takes sides, chooses a team or otherwise reinforces a separation from the whole, how can you not see that it must be a very small god indeed? For perspective, an existential reboot, go outside and look at the stars and understand what you are seeing. No sides. Beyond comprehension.

Conditional belief. It is run amok.

If our capacity for belief was not conditional, what might we actually believe? Who might we become if we understood that we are expressions of this great universe and that this great universe was cheering for us and those rowdy huzzahs  had nothing to do with our winning or losing, with borders or righteousness or rules or books or councils or sexual orientation or money or the color of our skin? Or beliefs. Every atom a delight. Every creation a miracle. Would we be hope-full?  Would ‘the enemy’ look the same through the eyes of unconditional belief?

I know. Pie-in-the-sky thinking. Only a child could believe so completely, so unconditionally in…goodness.

Anything is possible if you just believe.

[note: this beautiful ornament was a gift that came atop a container of ‘slushy’ – a life giving concoction brewed in Dan’s secret laboratory and delivered each year to my squeals of delight. If my belief is conditional it is Dan’s fault and I blame Gay for not reining him in. She found this beautiful ornament so I also blame this post on her generosity and good taste. These two people make me believe wholeheartedly, without condition, in goodness].

 

read Kerri’s more coherent blog post on BELIEVE

 

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Emerge [on KS Friday]

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There is a famous season of fog unique to the San Joaquin valley called The Tule Fog. It is dense and otherworldly. Early in my life, as the stage manager of a children’s theatre company, I drove into The Tule Fog almost daily.

Early each morning, in a van loaded with actors and sets and costumes, we’d leave the  highway en route to a school, dropping down into the wetlands and into the white wall of fog. The entire known world would disappear. The horizon vanished. Any sense of up or down faded. We’d creep through the Tule Fog with no actual feeling of progress; the wheels turned, the engine hummed, but there was no way of knowing whether we progressed down the road or whether our wheels were spinning on a treadmill.  Occasionally, a car would pass going the other direction. We knew it more as a disturbance in the fog, something we felt rather than saw. It was harrowing.

Time suspended. All conversation, all noise ceased. It was a true liminal space, not here or there, all orientation gone. It was as if were in the boat on the river Styx, crossing over.

And then, we’d rise. Or the sun would reach to us. And the dense white Tule Fog would release its grip on us. It let us go. And we’d emerge like time travelers coming home to a place we once knew. I’d relax my grip on the wheel and breathe a sigh of relief.

WHEN THE FOG LIFTS, is my soundtrack to those early mornings in The Tule Fog. Moving forward fueled by nothing greater than the belief that there will be another side, somewhere. And then, the rise, the reach of the sun, and flood of quiet gratitude.

 

WHEN THE FOG LIFTS on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHEN THE FOG LIFTS

 

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when the fog lifts/this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Stand It Up Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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On the high shelf above our sink are 3 tin letters that spell the word ‘Joy.” They’ve lived up there for a long time and have, until recently, been faithful spellers of joy. Lately, the tin “J” has lost all sense of balance. Either that or it has developed narcolepsy. Either that or it has a drinking problem. Either that or it’s developed a dreadful case of self awareness and, like a shy two year old, is hiding behind the “O.” In any case, our “Joy” now routinely defaults to “Oy.”

We’re sailing through some choppy waters so it’s tempting to assign too much meaning to our “Oy.” After finding the “J” once again laying down on the job I said, “Maybe that’s the universe talking to us.” Kerri punched me in the arm. She said over her shoulder as she left the room, “You better knock on wood.” Apparently the universe listens but does not speak. To be safe I did as she suggested and knocked on the cupboard.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. ~ The Beatles

Live by the sword, die by the sword ~ Aeschylus

Isn’t there is some truth to the notion that what you put out into the world is related to what you get back from it? Of course, then there is this little pinch of conundrum: bad things happen to good people. Also, true. In story terms, it’s called competing narratives. Many people have spent their lives attempting to reconcile or explain this beautiful opposition.

Kerri came back into the kitchen, grabbed a chair , jumped up and returned the “J” to its sober position. “Joy” once again reigned in our kitchen. Perhaps there is no connection at all between what you put out and what comes back to you. I am certain it is one of those great unknowable questions that make believers believe, professors write, preachers pronounce, and seekers seek.  I am also certain that, in the moment, the only thing that really matters is our capacity to see the “J” amidst the “Oy” and stand it back up again.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OY!

 

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Figure It Out [on KS Friday]

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Sometimes I am surprised at the memories a piece of music evokes. While listening to FIGURE IT OUT I was propelled way back in time into a specific moment, an acting exercise Jim Edmondson led with actors in the company at PCPA Theaterfest. It was an exercise in belief. He told them to imagine that their toddler had wandered away on the campus and was lost. “Find your child.”I watched Lisa, a terrific actress, tear across the campus calling out her child’s name. Searching, desperate. She was so committed that campus security came. People left their administrative offices to help with the search. She created belief. She brought us into her play. Jim stopped the exercise before the search for the imaginary child got out of hand.

It is the power of the artist. To pull us into a common story. To propel us into our distant past. To open possible paths forward, to stand in a shared vision. To help us across the boundaries of time and space and belief.

FIGURE IT OUT will propel you. The only question is where Kerri, through FIGURE IT OUT, will take you?

 

FIGURE IT OUT on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FIGURE IT OUT

 

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figure it out/right now ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood