Say Uff Da [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

I never met Kerri’s dad. He passed before I came into the picture. I feel as though I know him. When a nasty bit of home repair is staring me down, I often ask his advice. “What should I do with this one, Pa?” I ask. Generally, he crosses his arms in quiet consideration and mutters, “Uff da.” And soon a solution comes to mind.

Hanging beside our back door is a bamboo wind chime. It was Pa’s. Sometimes when we open the back door it voices and I respond with a hearty, “Good morning, Pa.”

His nickname for Kerri was “brat.” I know exactly why Pa gave her that nickname. Let’s just say she earned it and, to be clear, has never outgrown it. 20 often looks at me in desperation and says, “She’s torturing me!” He wants me to intervene, to come to his rescue. I know better. Kerri laughs. So does Pa. We love the brat even if we are the recipients of her mischief.

Earlier this year I lost my dad. Yesterday while on the trail, I confessed that I was overwhelmed with a wave of missing him. “Cycles of grief,” as the Wander Women say. Growing older is filled with cycles of grief and I had cycled in. I sighed. Kerri squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“This sucks,” I thought.

“Uff da,” Pa said.

read Kerri’s blogpost about UFF DA

Step Back And Realize [on Flawed Wednesday]

If you are like us, every day brings another report of a friend or loved one who has Covid. As someone recently said to me, “With Omicron, it’s only a half degree of separation between you and someone who’s carrying the virus.” I’d say, given the wave of people we know falling sick and reporting positive test results, it’s true. It’s no time to let down your guard.

On Saturday we watched a documentary film, The First Wave. It’s a film everyone should see. It chronicles the first few months of the pandemic in a New York hospital. It is shocking how, in a few short years, we’ve normalized hospitals being overrun. How removed we, the populace, are from the tangible horror of this pandemic. Refrigerator trucks used as temporary morgues. We stand today at 865,000 deaths and counting. People. By comparison, 620,000 people died in the Civil War. 418,500 US citizens, military and civilian, died in World War 2. We ought to be grieving instead of dividing. We ought to be reaching to help rather than peacocking our politics. This film will slap you awake. It will help you step back and realize what we – all of us – are passing through. It might help you grieve.

Kerri tells me that the woman in the next car thought she and 20 were doing a drug deal. He felt sick, needed a test and could find none. We had a few so they met in a parking lot to make a safe pass. While making the exchange, he handed her an envelope. Money for the phone bill but I’m sure it looked suspicious.

It reminded me of the time, many years ago, that Sam asked me to meet him in a parking lot. He rolled down his window and passed to me a sheaf of poems. The window went up. I was to tell no one. It was terribly vulnerable for him to share. I cried the day he published his first book of poetry. It was a titanic journey from fear-of-certain-shame to proudly publishing his beautiful work. He was transformed.

I imagine someday we will stand and look back at this titanic journey. I hope that I remember with fondness the story of Kerri and 20 making an exchange in the parking lot, the women one-car-over shocked by what she thought she was seeing, and we smile. Transformed. Remade as better people in a better community making better assumptions of each other. Stronger.

For now, as the credits rolled on The First Wave, we looked at each other and together said, “I’m exhausted.”

read Kerri’s blog post about THE EXCHANGE

Live Life At The Pace Of A Letter [on KS Friday]

“…what we feel is always larger than our means to express it.” ~ Declan Donnellan

Ruby, like Columbus is winding down. The forwarded-email let me know that she enjoyed my letter but also that she was not getting out of bed. Over the weekend she did not want to eat or drink. Pete is in hospice care.

I’ve not heard from Mike in months. Like Ruby, she is in her 90’s and I often wonder how she is doing. She is made of sturdy stuff and has a curious mind but even those powerful forces are no match for the running sands.

Although we live in the age of email and text, fast communication, these dear ones are solidly old school. A letter. A stamp. A mailbox. News comes at a different pace.

Ruby wrote a letter. It was dated last October and was mailed sometime in April. She typed it because she feared that I would not be able to decipher her handwriting. I typed my reply because I knew for certain that she would not be able to read my scribbles. Although it was lost on my young ears, time is different when you age. Both more meaningful and less. I’m living my way into hearing the simple wisdom of elders.

Tom Mck and I used to sit on his porch and watch the sunset over the fields. One evening he told the story of a letter mailed to his great-grandfather Lak. The pony express took six years to deliver the letter. It had to come all the way across the country. It was from his siblings telling of his mother’s passing. Although six years in the past, the news was fresh to Lak. His grief, therefore, was timeless.

It is always a time of transition but, sometimes, it is simply more apparent than others. This is one of those times. There is a pandemic. There is civil unrest. Moral upheaval in the nation. I feel none of that as acutely or potently as I do Columbus taking a labored breath or Ruby no longer interested in eating. It is the reason we sit on the back deck each night, light the lamps, and, often in silence, we enjoy the evening as it wanes. Living life at the pace of a letter.

It’s not that there is nothing to be said, it’s that no words – no matter how quickly delivered or slow – can properly capture the enormity of this time, this inevitable rolling transition.

all of kerri’s albums are available on iTunes or streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FLAME

in transition/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Pace The Loss [on KS Friday]

The loss of BabyCat will be forever linked with my father’s disappearance into dementia. I was away from home, helping my mother move my father into memory care, when Kerri called about BabyCat. One loss was sudden. The other loss is glacially slow.

The pace of loss.

I read once that we don’t lose our beloveds all at once. No matter what, sudden or slow, it happens in stages, the heartbreak comes in pieces. Missing daily rituals. Holidays. Last night, as has been my practice these many years, I peeked over the couch to see if BabyCat was going to “check into the hotel” (sleep on the couch) or spend the night with us. And then I remembered.

When I saw him in Colorado, I thought I had grown accustomed to my dad not being able to recognize me. I wasn’t. The tidal wave of loss nearly knocked me off of my feet. Empty eyes.

It’s been several weeks since Kerri chose a piece of her music for our melange. Both of us have, for reasons we cannot articulate, lately eschewed using our artistry in the melange – my paintings, her compositions. I’ve sorely missed diving into her chosen piece of music when preparing our KS Friday posts. When she decided this morning to use her piece, MISSING, I was strangely relieved. A bit of normalcy returned. As I listened, I found myself lingering in the comfort of her composition, the warm yearning of her solo piano, sun through shades, the promise of spring. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. The comforting refuge of memory evoked in Kerri’s MISSING. A sweet-bitter pathway through this forest of loss.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about MISSING

missing/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Feel The Absence [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Because I was in Colorado helping my mother navigate her way through a maze-like life transition, I was somewhat detached from the reality of BabyCat’s passing. The full weight of loss smacked me when, coming through the back door late at night, returning from my travels, my ordinarily overly-effusive Australian Shepherd was not bouncing at the door to greet me. I came in, put down my bags and, out of the darkness, DogDog emerged, walked slowly to me, and pressed his head to my leg.

Kerri warned me that DogDog was hurting. She told me about his vigil at the door, waiting for BabyCat to come home. She described his looking-looking-looking around the house for his constant companion. She told me of his quiet, his disinterest in going-in-and-out-and-in-and-out during the day.

He stays close to us. His sadness is palpable. His light is dim.

Initially, when DogDog appeared in our lives, Kerri was worried that BabyCat would never accept a dog into his domain. We knew they’d crossed the bridge into friendship when, one day, to our great dismay, DogDog had BabyCat’s head in his mouth and was dragging him across the hardwood floors. We shouted for DogDog to stop. Always an obedient boy, he released BabyCat, who promptly slapped him. The cat-head-went-back-into-the-gentle-dog-mouth and the game resumed. “Boys,” Kerri looked at me and sighed, “are a mystery to me.”

This morning, as I made breakfast, rather than go out and clear the yard of marauding squirrels, his usual enthusiastic activity, DogDog stood in the sun room, sniffing the spot BabyCat always occupied when it was time to be fed. I sat on the step and ruffled his ears. We’ve explained to him that his BabyCat isn’t coming home, that his BabyCat loved him. We’ve accompanied him as he searches the house, telling him that it will be okay. Now, as is true for us, too, we’re beyond words. We sit together in the silence, in the place where no word can reach, and, together, feel the absence, that only great love, in loss, brings.

read Kerri’s blog post about CONSTANT COMPANIONS

Say Farewell [on Two Artists Tuesday]

And just like that, our BabyCat was gone.

He waited until I was traveling so I experienced his death through Kerri’s eyes. His sudden illness. The race to the vet. A dire diagnosis. He died before any decisions were made or treatments considered.

When I first met Kerri there were two approvals I needed to secure. Beaky’s [Kerri’s mother] and BabyCat’s. Beaky’s approval was easy. We took to each other right away. BabyCat’s acceptance took some time. He’d had Kerri all to himself for years and was cautious about this newcomer. It didn’t help that my entrance to his quiet world also came with a rambunctious puppy. After our honeymoon, one evening, with no warning, BabyCat jumped up into my lap and I knew I was in. “Well, look at that!” Kerri said. BabyCat purred. I beamed.

He joined me in my morning yoga. He bumped my legs to alert me of his empty bowl. He trained me to carry him up the stairs for his late night snack [his bowl was on the landing, safe from invasion, since DogDog is afraid of climbing stairs]. He crawled into bed with us each night as we watched our late night trail and made himself available for lavish pets. I willingly became his grateful servant.

Two days after his death BabyCat came to me in a dream. I was still in Colorado and felt badly that Kerri was all alone with her grief. In the dream, BabyCat came to the backdoor and yowled; he wanted to come in. He was an indoor kitty his entire life so I was surprised to find him outside. I opened the door and knelt down. He came in and crawled into my lap and we had a nice pet. He purred. I told him that I was going to miss him.

I awoke with a profound sense of peace. BabyCat was okay. I will always be grateful that he crawled into my lap. I will always be grateful that he gave me a sweet farewell.

read Kerri’s blog post about BABYCAT

Appreciate The Moment [on KS Friday]

The Final On-The-Road Haiku. A triple. Kerri’s chose this piece before we drove from home and it’s especially appropriate for this week.

We toured the basement.

“Look, this is my son,” he said.

Family picture.

He did not know me,

“He is his own man,” he said.

Dementia owns him.

The sweetest moment:

hearing tales of me, his son,

standing by his side.

Grateful on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATEFUL

grateful/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Weep [on DR Thursday]

and so he weeps copy

‘and so he weeps.’ a morsel of weeping man

And so the story goes that one day, deep in the forest, Parcival was knocked from his stallion by a warrior who wore no armor. His magic sword, the object that he believed carried all of his power, was shattered. He lay on the ground like a turtle on its back, trapped by the weight of his shiny armor. He was tired of fighting. He was sad that, despite all of his victories, – he’d never been defeated – the world kept getting worse and worse. And so, laying on his back, exhausted from the fight, he stopped struggling. He gave himself over to his death. He let go.

But the nature-warrior disappeared. Parcival, alive but shattered, for the first time in his adult life, stripped off his armor. He dropped what remained of his sword. And, sitting amidst the wreckage of his life, the fragments of his power, he wept. He let go.

There is a path out of the wasteland. It necessarily leads through weeping. Through loss of illusion. P-Tom would call this a sacrament. Joseph Campbell would call it a threshold.

In any case, letting go of the illusion is necessary before the next chapter can begin.

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WEEPING MAN

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Hear The Whisper [on KS Friday]

hear you whisper song box copy.jpg

One of my favorite books is John Irvings, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. The narrator of the book, after losing his mother, tells us that when we lose someone we lose them in pieces, not all at once. A birthday comes. A holiday. A graduation day. The absence is acute, fresh.

Kerri told me that when she listens now to  HEAR YOU WHISPER, she hears it differently than when she wrote it. Distance and time have transformed it. The experience of loss that inspired this song is mostly remote, with the exception of a few notable days when she discovers another piece. Like the song, distance and time – and the experience of loss – have transformed her.

Early in my career in the theatre I had the opportunity to assist old warhorse directors in auditions. They’d watch an especially talented actor do an especially polished and heartfelt audition and afterwards say, “They were great but they haven’t lived enough life yet. They are operating out of an abstraction.” Artistic depth comes from experiences and many experiences are painful. It takes artistic heart to walk into the hurt, take hold of the tender pieces and rather than wallow in them or add yet another layer of armor, work an alchemy and share them through image or dance or song.

Give yourself a gift on this KS Friday. Let this huge artistic heart work her powerful alchemy on you through her song, HEAR YOU WHISPER, so you might transform your life experiences, your pieces, from base metal into life’s gold.

HEAR YOU WHISPER on the album AS SURE AS THE SUN available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEAR YOU WHISPER

 

john denver sanctuary in aspen WEBSITE box copy.jpg

hear you whisper/as sure as the sun ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood

Take One Single Step

836. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am thinking today about loss. Every path taken leaves a life path unexplored and therefore unknown. Sometimes that feels like loss. Sometimes it feels like extraordinary loss. Sometimes the grief of the loss is crushing and it reduces you to nothing. And, it is from nothing that the new has space to take shape and grow. It’s a cliché until you live it.

A simple dip into the thesaurus gives me four options: Damage. Defeat. Bereavement. Deficit. The dictionary tells me that loss is a fact: the fact of no longer having something. I think the dictionary is wrong because it assumes possession. It assumes that the loss is a “thing.” Loss, real loss, has nothing to do with possession.

A year ago I sat on a lakeside beach in New Hampshire. I was alone and had a troubled heart because I did not want to do the thing that I knew I needed to do. I did not want to start walking the path of loss. Donna emerged from the woods and sat beside me. She is wise and somehow knew what I was struggling with. She helped me see that my reticence was about the hurt that my choice would bring to others. She helped me see that the hurt was necessary and would begin a path of growth for all involved. When I left the beach that day I knew what I had to do and although it took a few more months to work up my courage, I did it. And the trail of loss began. The trail of growth began.

Little did I know that the trail would take me to a loss at the far end that would be greater – exponentially greater – than the loss that began on the shores of the lake in New Hampshire. Along the way, each successive loss has been like a layer falling off, like the rings of a tree dropping away until only the core remains. This last and greatest loss-layer has brought me to a core. My core. There is no more armor, no more deflection, no more pretense, no more masking, no more illusion. There is only this raw exposed core and an intense amount of gratitude for the first step, for Donna coming out of the woods and all the guides and friends that appeared along the way, and mostly for the clay that for a brief and special time formed a container for heat, healing, exploration, laughter, and a desire to learn to pray. It is in that desire that a new step beckons. It is a call that requires one single step out of this loss and into the space that the new has space to take shape and grow.