Lose Your Right Mind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

in your right mind copy

I have made some incredibly bad decisions in my life that set off a chain of events that led to some extraordinary, life-illuminating experiences. Conversely, I have made some incredibly good, well-considered decisions that led me to total devastation. My life reads like one of Aesop’s Fables.

The “bad” decisions were “irrational” and “spontaneous” and some of my pals  questioned whether or not I was in my “right” mind.

The “good” decisions were “rational” and I was lauded for using common sense, for my clear-eyed, right-minded logic.

Intuition, following your gut, listening to your heart has very little to do with the rightness of mind.

Back in the previous century (20 years ago), educators were awash in the term “the mainstream.” Getting divergent students back into the mainstream was the stated goal of most alternative education programs. Doug, my hero of the alternative path, champion of finding the stream that worked for the student (as opposed to channeling all students back into a single stream), used to snarl, “I’d love to see this mainstream if someone would be kind enough to point it out to me.” (note: this is not a direct quote as I’ve cleaned up Doug’s language for my less sturdy readers).

In mythology it is called the left-hand path, this route that makes no sense to adherents of the mainstream. The left-hand path is intuitive and counter-intuitive, all at the same time. It seems nonsensical to sail toward the edge of the known world. Explorers, artists, innovators, mystics, must take this road less traveled. They must wander off the main and cut a new path. They must. Their fellows will wonder if they’ve taken leave of their senses. Left their right mind. The answer: no. They are following a deeper call, something speaking to their senses. They’ve left a mainstream that appears to them like total madness.

If logic is your compass it is, of course, best to stay on the road well-traveled. If safety and security is your goal, then a known path holds what you seek.

If knowing where you’re going sounds a lot like a death sentence, then leaving your right mind for a left-hand path is the only choice that makes sense.

Truth? I think the right-mind is bit of rhetoric that has little to do with the realities of being human. We find the rational side of things comfortable so it gets good marks. No one gets a cake-walk in this life. Everyone has a mountain to climb, a valley to get lost in, a spontaneous jump to make, a gut feeling, a heart to be listened to – and some of the worst impulsive decisions inevitably lead to the most profound growth experiences. It is only after the fact, when we need to make sense of our nonsensical leap, our follow-the-heart choice, that we call on the “right” mind to make the story coherent. Just ask Aesop.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about RIGHT MIND

 

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Play Your Part [on Two Artists Tuesday]

tissue box copy

It is our grocery store ritual. We wander up and down the tissue aisle and Kerri disparages the box designs. “Ugly!” she exclaims. “Who designs this stuff?!” she howls as frightened shoppers turn their carts and flee.

My role in the ritual is to suffer silently, to feign agreement. “Yes, it’s horrible,” I say. Inside, I wonder why I’ve never noticed or given any thought to the design of tissue boxes. “We should get a box cover that you like,” I suggest in ritual male fix-it-mode.

Kerri huffs in disapproval. “They should let me design the boxes!” she mutters as she rejects another design. I imagine the layers of security assigned to prevent her from gaining access to the tissue box design studio. A kind of tissue TSA. I turn away to hide my smile. This is serious stuff!

True to our ritual, on the third pass down the aisle, after each box has been considered and rejected at least twice, she pulls two from the shelf and thrusts them in my direction. “Which of these is least offensive,” she glares, making the decision mine. “Hmmmmmm,” I respond in a desperate attempt to stall. I’d be a fool to express a preference, especially since I don’t have one. I pretending to scrutinize the boxes. I stroke my beard, “I don’t know. What do you think?” I ask in ritual male-avoidance-mode.

“It doesn’t matter!” she frowns, tossing a box with a happy phrase into our basket, handing the losing dot pattern box to me. I gently place the second least offensive design back on the shelf.

“You’d think they’d design more attractive boxes,” she says, completing this ritual and heading for the laundry detergent aisle. Pushing the basket, I prepare myself for our next custom: opening bottles of fabric softener and huffing scents to find the least offensive smell.

As I roll toward this ritual assault on my sense of smell, I always think, “Well, at least the tissue ritual doesn’t give me a headache,” and I wonder how I lived so long without thinking about or at least considering the scent of fabric softener.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TISSUE BOX DESIGN

 

wideopenmouths website box copy

Recognize The Moment [on KS Friday]

WATERSHED SONG BOX copy

 

I don’t know about you but my watershed moments usually pass without my notice. I rarely recognize them when they happen. It is only later, looking back, that I recognize the moment that changed my life. An email. A decision to take advantage of a layover. The choice to turn around and see if what I thought I saw was true.

And, once the choice was made, I stepped into a river of forces that took over and swept me along. A left hand path to an unforeseen destination. A destiny.

This piece, WATERSHED, begins as all watershed moments begin. Simply. And then…

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

aspen silver bull website box copy

 

watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Be Kind To Each Other

Eating a celery stick loaded with peanut butter, Kerri paused and asked, “If there is going to be celery on this earth, why does it have to have strings?”

“That,” I said, “is an existential question and, so, an answer is above my pay grade.” She gave me THAT look and crunched another bite, saying, “Too many strings!”

When I stop and think about it, most of the questions I have are existential and, therefore, unanswerable.

On the drive to Florida I passed the time by reading billboards. Fast food, Strip clubs, lawyers encouraging me to get what’s owed to me, all interspersed between fiery messages warning that “Hell is real,” or that “The path to Heaven is straight and narrow.” I smiled when it occurred to me the billboard messages were a smorgasbord of easy answers. In this life we are peppered with advertisements, a litany of easy answers to the things we are supposed to lack.

This drive to Florida is different from all the others. In the past, we made the drive to visit Beaky. This time we are driving to say goodbye. So, I am seeing everything through a very different lens. Easy answers are attractive when pretending that life’s questions are not tough.

My billboard reminiscing reminds me to beware of the easy answer. Gaps are not easily filled. Meaning is never found on a prescribed path. Sustenance is not available at the drive-through. These things are glaringly obvious when someone you love dies. Life is made rich through the questions that have no answer.

It’s human to want an explanation. It is human to want to know why. On the roadside in Illinois, having just received the news, Kerri asked if I thought Beaky knew we were coming. Somewhere in Tennessee, Kerri asked if I thought Beaky in her final moment was scared. In Alabama, she asked what happened, why so fast, and why now?

photo-1After a visit with Beaky, when we were taking our leave, she always said two things. The first was “Be kind to each other.” That might at first sound like a billboard sentiment except that Beaky knew that kindness was not an easy answer to anything. Blame is easy. Judgment is easy. Kindness, extended to the self and to all others, is a constant practice, a way of life. Being kind in all situations, Beaky knew, was not easy and that was precisely the point.

The second was a family tradition of sorts. It was always the last phrase exchanged when taking leave of her: “Bye for now.” She was ever hopeful and that, too, was a practice – a life choice – and not an easy answer. It was a focus of the eye, an orientation to life.

So, from Beaky, I learned two practices : Be ever hopeful. Be ever kind. Beaky, bye for now.