Move The Mountain [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The box of avocados arrived like a gift a familial love. It was. Kerri’s sister sent them and they found us like surprise Christmas. “Holy Smokes!” Kerri, said, lifting the first football-sized avocado from the box. “This is too much!” Eyes filling with tears. She misses her sister.

It takes so little. Avocados in a box.

The day following my health scare, my older brother called. I fell immediately into my role of younger brother and was comforted-to-the-bone to hear his voice. He has always been a rock. Stable ground when the world tilts.

A phone call. A small gesture. Profound in impact. Stable ground.

It seems a cliche’ yet remains the human-seminar that is most difficult to grasp. The grand gesture is fine, but mountains are moved by the small reach. A touch on the shoulder. A call to check in. Simple presence. A box of avocados.

read Kerri’s blog post about AVOCADOS

Make A Mess [on Merely A Thought Monday]

One cannot know life’s ups without experience of life’s downs. The quality that defines order is chaos. And, vice-versa.

In the same vein, Horatio hit me with a thought that gave me the shivers: wisdom is the blossom of regret.

Regret is one of those special words that is both a verb and a noun. To lament. A feeling of sorrow. It comes from experience. When he was young, Roger told me that he wanted to live a life with no regrets and although we’ve lost touch, my great hope is that he was incapable of living the life he wanted to live. He is made of deeper stuff.

Hermann Hesse’ novel, Siddhartha, is a story of arriving at wisdom. So, too, is his novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Far beyond the lands of understanding and knowledge, the fields of wisdom are born of messy life. Mistakes made. Fears confronted. Loss and awe. Illusions pierced. A protected life may fill your cup and bank account with information but will leave you with a limited palette of life experience. A full closet of clothes for the ghost that wears them.

Coincidentally, last week, Horatio and I both spent some time on sterile medical beds looking up at the bright lights on the ceiling. Doctors looking down. Suddenly filled with gratitude for the regrets that we’ve racked up in this life.

Sitting by the river, watching the river flow by, we compared notes. We shared life stories. How on earth did I get to be so lucky?

read Kerri’s blogpost about CATERPILLAR ON A ROPE

Turn And Look [on KS Friday]

Sometimes in the middle of the night the monsters come out and dance through my mind. Last night was one of those nights. I’ve learned not to take them seriously. I’ve learned that their visit is meant to inspire gratitude. Rather than fight, forgive. Rather than run, turn and look.

I’ve always felt deeply connected to birds of prey, especially hawks. Many years ago, during an “art as transformation” class, an elder came to teach us how to make medicine shields. We gathered and designed our symbols, bent willow, stretched hide. I was visited by a hawk as I walked the mountain so the sun side of my shield includes a hawk. I keep it in my studio.

There’s a hawk in our neighborhood. We know it’s around when the crows explode in alarm. To see the hawk, follow the crows’ relentless assault.

While planting pampas grass against the fence, Kerri gasped and whispered, “Turn around slowly.” Before I could reposition, the hawk disappeared. It had perched on the fence above our heads. A ghost. No crow alarm. Kerri and the hawk looked each other in the eye. “It was huge!” she said.

Moments later, the planting complete, the hawk flew through and landed in the neighbor’s tree. Squirrels froze in place. The crows, sleeping sentinels, awoke. The alarm went out. The hawk paid it no heed.

A visit. A monster in the dreams of squirrels and chipmunks, I felt nothing but awe. The hawk remained in the tree for a long time. We looked at it. It looked at us. Gratitude.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HAWK

take flight/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Flap Your Ears [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

If one of the great life lessons is “control what you can control and let the rest go,” then Dogga is a master teacher. He has minimal investments in what most people think or do or feel. He is an equal opportunity barker.

As he ages, he becomes more and more a hedonist. He finds the coolest spot in the house to nap. He thoroughly enjoys his food. Lately, cold watermelon sets his wag-a-wag in fervent motion. Take him for a drive and he cares not-a-whit for the destination but savors the rushing air blowing back his ears. Ask him if he wants to drive and he’ll decline every time. Face the wind; flap the ears.

He is never shy about his desire for petting. He bumps his head against my leg for an ear-ruffle. He flops on his back when a full-belly-belly is his fancy. He is also clear when he wants space and to be left alone. He parks just out of reach. Nothing personal.

I think James Herriot has it right: “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” Dogga’s soul isn’t really invested in what he can’t control. It leaves a lot of space in his universe for love – that which he can control – and for that, I am most grateful. It’s a lesson worth learning.

read Kerri’s blogpost about EARS FLAPPING

Drink It In [on Two Artists Tuesday]

…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ~Vincent Van Gogh

We stood for a long time staring at the quaking aspen trees. Initially, we went to the nursery to look at grasses to plant against the fence. Tall grasses. Pampas. Oddly, Colorado called and we were drawn as if hypnotized by the siren song of the aspen stand. In the breeze, the leaves make this sound…

Like all things in our life, our backyard has been blasted to bits by the force of the events of past few years. We are now, slowly, pulling the pieces back together again. We’re working our way toward blank canvas, clawing our way back to zero. We are, at long last, beginning to dream the dreams that percolate beyond mere survival. To design life with more than duct tape solutions.

The aspen quaked for us and we quaked for it. We exchanged a silent promise. Not yet. There are too many things on the list that need to be done. But the promise is made and a design is taking shape.

The gift of free fall is that it indelibly sears appreciation of the small moment, the passing kindness into your soul. It’s a great perspective giver. Precious life is the thing that passes while wishing and moaning to be safe and secure somewhere else. If you’re lucky, as we are, you hold hands and experience the full palette of life experiences.

“The grasses remind me of the beach and Long Island,” she said. “Someday, we’ll bring the aspen and the grasses together. Both of our birthplaces in the backyard.”

A design intention. A new experience. A promise to a vibrant stand of trees made on a sunny day in a quiet nursery. Drinking it all in. Beautiful.

It is enough. More than enough.

read Kerri’s blog post about the ASPEN STAND

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

Live Inside The Altar [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Dear reader, you have done me a great service. You’ve connected my past to my present.

I’m not sure why but, initially, I numbered rather than named my blogposts. My 623rd blog post was about a practice I’d all but forgotten. Building an altar of gratitude.

Someone out there read #623 so it popped up in my analytic. “This is old!” I thought, staring at the screen. A numbered post! Another era. “I wonder what I was writing about?”

2012. Thanksgiving. Among the darkest days of my life and yet, on that day, I was deeply, profoundly grateful. Life had chased me to a cliff. There was nothing to do but leap. I remember like it was yesterday wandering the streets of Seattle placing notes of gratitude in the cracks of walls, at bus stops, at coffee shops. I felt as if I was invoking. I wanted a better world. If I wanted it, I needed to offer betterment to the world. It was a prayer. A weaving. It was the last time I built my “altar of gratitude.”

A year later I lived in an entirely different world. Everything went to ashes.

2022. Kerri and I are walking our trail. We’re giggling because we just planted a painted rock in the elbow of a tree. “Do you think someone will find it?” her inner 5 year old asks, too wiggly with excitement to stand still. I expect her to skip in circles of enthusiasm.

“Yes,” I laugh. “Someone, someday, will find it.”

As I reread #623 I realized that, in rising from the ashes, I was no longer building my altar on a single day in a single season. I was no longer invoking gratitude. I was no longer hoping for a world that might someday come into being.

I am creating it. Not on a single day or special occasion. I’m practicing gratitude every day. I’m living gratitude every day. Painting rocks, making dinner, watching sunsets, buying groceries, writing blogposts.

Because you sent #623 back to me, a marker in time, I’ve realized I’m living inside my altar. All the world….

read Kerri’s blogpost about EXPLORE

Reflect [on DR Thursday]

This reflection spiraled me into a fond memory. A long ago chance dinner in London with Jonathan Miller. He was kind and funny and took me upstairs to his studio to show me photographs he was readying for a gallery show. I could have talked with him all night. As I left he gave me a copy of his most recent book, On Reflection. Questions of reality and identity in the arts and beyond, explored through reflections. I had the book for years and lost it in a loan.

Reflections. I have crossed paths with many brilliant artists. Some, like Jonathan Miller, a single evening, a passing glance. Others, I had the good fortune to spend many years assisting and watching and learning from their work. James Edmondson. If I ever delude myself into the notion that my artistry is unique and truly individual, I only need stop for a moment and track the people who shaped me, who inspired me, who challenged me, who passed to me their traditions, who gave me an hour of their time to share their work and thoughts with me. I am a reflection of those many, many people.

My work in the world is made better by the reflections of Horatio and David and Master Marsh, people who give me their time by reading my work and sharing their thoughts. People who have jumped into my mad projects and made me and my work better.

I am the luckiest man alive. Each morning I get up early and sit next to my wife. We drink coffee and write. She edits my posts. We read to each other and offer advice or talk about word choices. I take her hand and bring her into my studio and ask, “Will you tell me what you see?” Lately, as I draw in pencil cartoons for work, she digitizes them, dumps them in Photoshop, cleans up my messes and makes them better. She makes suggestions. She offers reflections. She formats them for publication. They are transformed from my work to our work.

And, that is the secret I learned from my many master teachers. A unique perspective, an artist’s eye, is the blossom of many, many wise eyes coming together, expressing through a single moment, an opportunity. It’s all collaboration. Artistry is nothing more than a hologram of reflection.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REFLECTIONS

pax © 2015 david robinson

Say The Word [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“In the realm of ideas, everything depends upon enthusiasm…in the real world all rests on perseverance.” ~ Goethe

To outside eyes it looks like a small stack of plastic Adirondack chairs. To our eyes, it is a marker of something almost unimaginable to us during these past few years: stable ground.

If you want to know what these semi-cheap plastic chairs represent to us, look no further than the movie Gravity. Sandra Bullock in space in a story of “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Through a rolling series of disasters peppered with just-in-the-knick-of-time hand-holds, against all odds, she splashes down to earth, safe. She stands on a beach, shaky legs. For the first time in a seeming eternity: stable ground.

Perseverance is a word used after the fact. During the free fall to earth, nothing feels even remotely like tenacity. Survival-mode does not allow for meaningful reflection or personal congratulations. Look for anything to grab to stop the fall. Believe that the ghost of George Clooney will crawl into the space capsule with a kick-in-the-butt speech at the very moment when giving up seems like the only option.

“There’s always another option,” we told ourselves. There’s always another step to take. Any step. There must be…

During our free fall we sat on our back deck in our broken white, cracking-and-en-route-to-collapsing plastic Adirondack chairs. We felt the sun on our faces. We talked of appreciating our moments. We encouraged and affirmed each other when “hope” was a word that made us roll our eyes and laugh-out-loud.

Last week, in a daring gesture of new times, we bought (on sale!) six black Adirondack chairs. Six! For friends to sit in when they come to visit. A statement of “hope” during a season of pandemic.

Yesterday we sat for the first time in two of our new chairs, faces in the sun, appreciating our moment. And, for the first time in three years, we dared utter the word “perseverance.” Shaky legs. Stable ground.

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW CHAIRS

Call It A Life [on KS Friday]

Seven years ago today, Beaky passed. The last time we saw her she was clutching a blue notebook to her heart. “You found it!” she exclaimed, rocking back and forth in glee. The journal she kept of a special trip to Europe. A memory, a connection to Erling she thought was lost. We searched the house high and low. We stayed an extra day knowing that meant a 24 hour drive/sprint home. In the last bin, truly , the very last, tucked in the far recesses of the garage, we discovered the notebook.

What I recall about that search is how many times we stopped, dust coated and tired. We sat in the middle of boxes, stacked papers and bins and said, “We’re never going to find it.” Or, “It’s not here.” And then we’d go to the next room of the house, open closets, pull out boxes, the search resumed.

As you might imagine we found more than the blue notebook. That night Kerri told me many stories of family and events sparked by something we’d unearthed. “Oh, my god!” she’d exclaim. “Look at this!” The vet papers for the dog named Shayne. A photo of the family at the house on Long Island. Good times. Stories. Our search became a connection for Kerri to times that she thought were lost.

Memories. Legacy. Doing what is yours to do, looking back and calling that a life.

Eric recently wrote in our Slack channel about my play, The Lost Boy: Your introduction — chronicled on Skips blog — stuck with me, and comes to mind frequently in daily interactions. “This is a memory, after all. It all happened. Though because it’s memory, it probably isn’t factual. So, if I contradict myself, if you catch me saying the opposite of what I just swore was true, if you find me standing smack in the middle of a paradox, it’s not that I’m lying to you. It’s a memory.” The Lost Boy was a story told to me by Tom. Originally, it was meant for him to perform, the story of doing what was his to do. It only became possible to produce after he had slipped into the land of memory. It became mine to do.

And isn’t that the magic of life. What is mine and what is yours to do is never separate. 50 years ago Beaky and Pa took a trip to Europe and she kept a journal of the trip in a blue spiral notebook. 7 years ago Kerri and I spent a long day and night scouring a house to find it. I am now part of the memory of her journal. Her journal is now part of the story of Kerri and my past.

“Never underestimate your power to impact or influence another person’s life,” Paul said to his actors. Doing what is yours to do. Never really understanding or knowing the impact of the simplest action. Calling it a memory. Calling it a life.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about BARNEY

legacy/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood