Welcome Home [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The people that bought my parent’s home flipped it in a few months. They remodeled the bathrooms and updated the kitchen. They refaced the fireplace. They pulled up the carpet and refinished the hardwood floors. It was gorgeous. It was a surprising chapter of what has become my unintentional 2021 mediation: home. At the beginning of the summer, after days of hauling and cleaning, as my last act before leaving for good, Kerri suggested that I crawl into the cedar closet of my boyhood bedroom (I loved sitting in that closet as a boy) and sign my name. A sweet goodbye and thank you. Home is a memory.

It was only a few months ago that we moved my mom into her “new home.” She wanders the halls and we know that time is the only cure for what she seeks. Home, for her, will be a feeling that finds her, at last, only after the wear and tear in the rooms is of her making. Her pacing is wearing a trail, carving a path. Home is a feeling.

In the past 8 months my dad has moved three times into his “new home.” Memory care facilities are surprisingly inept at caring for elders who’ve lost their memories. High price. Low care. Everything is a business: a theme/rant for another post. In his current home, finally, he feels safe and, after a trip out, wants to return to his room. Home is safety.

Before his memory was gone, we took my dad back to his hometown, Monticello, Iowa. His primary need was to show us the tiny Home that his grandfather built. It’s the place where his dad was born. It is across the yard from where he was born. His tales were glorious in their hardship. They needed very little to make good memories. Today, the tiny house built with no money and huge heart is a storage shed but through my father’s eyes it was nothing short of a castle. I will always savor the image of him standing in front of his Home. Home is an origin and an anchor.

When we pull into the driveway, after a long trip or a jaunt to the store, we always greet our home, “Hello, happy house!” Our home feels alive, a presence or being. The walls carry our story. The rooms remember and replay the voices of her children. We’re packing a lot of story into the walls of our old house. It is packing a lot of story into us. Home is a relationship.

When we came upon the woodpecker-condo-tree, Brad said in jest, “Why don’t you stick your hand in there.” We laughed. “I told him I’d be like the monkey with its fist in the coconut, I wouldn’t be able to let go of the critter inside and also wouldn’t be able to get my fist out of the small hole. I’d be stuck on the trail forever. The woodpecker condo would be my new home. Kerri and Jen were inspecting the perfect circles. It felt good to be on a walk with them. It had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just hang out. Home is a friendship.

We had tacos at Jay and Charlies with the Up North gang. Jay showed us her new porch. We sat in the shade and drank margaritas and laughed. I told Jay that her porch and yard felt serene. She smiled and told me that it was her sanctuary. I was, for a moment, completely overwhelmed by how much life we’ve walked with these special people. Passages. We’ve shared and received so much support – immediate presence when need arose – from our stalwart gang. Sanctuary. Home is a community.

It’s just as the needlepoint declares: Home is sweet.

read Kerri’s blog post on Home Sweet Home

Walk As WaWo [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It was past 3am when Kerri asked me if I wanted to “watch a trail.” We were wide awake. The air was hot and still. We’d recently stumbled upon The Wander Women: Kristy, Annette, and Lynn, woman our age, walking the PCT. They’re doing a flip flop, having started their hike in the middle of the 2600 mile trail and walking to Canada, then, they’ll return to the center point and walk the distance to Mexico. We watched the installment, posted this week, as they reached the Canadian border.

Still wide awake, we went to their channel and listened as they answered questions about their hike of the Appalachian Trail. They are sirens of the possible, guides of give-it-a-try. They are not hikers who pound out miles to reach a goal. As Kristy said, “We want to enjoy every single moment.” Their yoga is a matter-of-fact-presence. They plan and improvise; both/and.

We’ve listened to more than one Q&A with the Wander Women. In an answer to their follower’s questions about living full time in an RV and life on the trail, Annette responded, “Home is where we put up our tent. You carry home inside yourself.” It was the answer of someone who’d transcended their stuff. It was the response of someone who’d internalized her security.

We couldn’t plug our windows with air conditioners this summer. We had too much of isolation last year. We needed to hear the birdsong and feel the summer air. We knew that would bring uncomfortable days, humid and hot nights. We have always walked our neighborhood and the local trails, but our decision to feel-the-summer pulled us more out-of-doors than usual. We extended the sanctuary of our sunroom out onto the deck. We placed torches along the patio and fixed the lights around the pond.

Each evening, after our work is done, we sit outside in our ever-expanding sanctuary. We listen to the cicadas. The cardinals and the chipmunks vie for a place at the bird feeder. Sitting at our table I had a mini-revelation about why I was so enjoying The Wander Women and following the few couples also out on the trail and posting weekly updates. They talk about the community of support that they find in the trail. It is often unexpected and yet ubiquitous. Both/and. They offer a staunch counter narrative to the horror we hear in the news, the contention and division. There are people dedicated to helping them and they, in turn, are dedicated to helping others. “You can do this!” they say to anyone listening. “We’ll help you do this,” their followers echo back to them. They broadcast friendship, kindness and support.

It is a breath of fresh air, a sparkling optimism for the best in humanity. It rises on the trail. Generosity that cultivates generosity. Hope that is grounded in the experience of the unprotected, the heat and cold and bugs and rain and challenge of being-what-they-are-doing. Shared experience. Sanctuary. Here. Everywhere.

read Kerri’s blog post about SANCTUARY

Listen To The House [on KS Friday]

Our house is telling a tale. If you wandered through the rooms you’d see two related intentions. First, there is a transformation in the sunroom that reaches into the outside spaces, the deck and patio. They are now designed for quiet and for simple gathering. They are beautiful no matter which direction that you look. We are attending to our peace-of-mind. The ripple is reaching into all of the rooms.

Second, the dining room is full of bins and boxes. The table is a place for sorting and reviewing. We are cleaning out. We are making space. We are letting go of non-essentials.

My favorite part of both intentions is that there is no rush. Our cleanse is not manic. Our space-creation is rolling, meditative, fluid. We are, quite literally, taking our time. Appreciating our time, our space, our sanctuary. We are using dishes that have never been used, attending to the beauty as well as the taste of our meals.

We are not spending vast sums of money to achieve our design. In fact, almost none-at-all. We’ve bought a few plants. Some pillows. Replacement bulbs for the string of outdoor lights. We are mostly working with what we have. Rearranging. Eliminating.

As Heather once told me, what you do outside you are also doing inside. I hope she is right in that. It implies that, inside, we are making our peace-of-mind a priority. We are removing much of the clutter from our souls. Cleaning out the garbage bag or, perhaps, simply letting-go-the-non-essential-fight. Taking stock. Making space. Appreciating the day.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about the FIRE TOWER

taking stock/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Come Home [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

The first time I walked into this house, I felt that I’d come home. It was a potent moment because I’d never felt that before, not in my entire life. I was a wanderer, even as a small child.

I’d come to meet this woman named Kerri. I’d been writing emails to her daily for the previous six months. A job afforded me the opportunity to stop over and meet her face-to-face. She picked me up at the airport [she was the one holding the daisy], we held hands and skipped to the car, talked non-stop during the hour-plus drive from O’Hare airport. When we arrived at the house, I laughed when she asked me to wait at the front door. She wanted me to come into the house through the front door but the key hadn’t worked in years, so she ran around back to come through the house to let me in. When the door opened, with my rolly-bag in tow, I stepped into the house and caught my breath. I almost started to cry but inhaled my overwhelm back into my body. Home. I knew this place.

It was a festival of texture. Raw wood exposed through the aging, flaking paint. Immediately I could see that this woman populated her world with stories, surrounded herself with rocks and wood and tin. She lived in a tangible world, loved the raw and the real, and had a designer’s eye. The dining room was a miracle of tortoise-esque pattern made when she stripped the wallpaper. She loved it so much that she abandoned her plan for paint and left the marks exposed.

This was an artist’s house. The hardwood floors creaked. Some of the antique door handles popped off if you pulled too hard. “It’s an old house and has its quirks,” she explained as she pulled a screwdriver from the silverware drawer to tighten the screw that holds the screen door latch in place. I learned over time that there are somethings you fix and others that you don’t because to fix them would interrupt the relationship with the house. Now I, too, weekly pull the screwdriver from the silverware drawer and tighten the aged-nearly-stripped-screw that holds the screen door latch in place.

Shabby-chic. They gave her style a name and she beamed the first time she heard it. “That’s me!” she exclaimed, “Shabby-Chic!”

When my dad came for our wedding, he stood on the back deck and said to me, “If you don’t put a finish on this deck, you’re going to lose it.” I told him that Kerri liked it that way. In fact, she’d throw herself in my path, she’d break my fingers, if I attempted to clean it, let alone paint it. He nodded and said, “Well, that’s all that matters really.”

Home. All that matters. Alive with stories that reach back and back and back. Texture and piles and projects everywhere I look. The lock on the front door still doesn’t work. And, like my wife, Kerri, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

read Kerri’s blog post on SHABBY-CHIC

Turn Out The Lights [on Two Artists Tuesday]

There are first-times and there are last-times. I occurred to me, as we sat on the back porch of the house where I grew up, watching the sun go down, that this night would be a last-time. In the morning we would drive away and never again come back to this place.

We’d driven to Colorado to move my mom into an independent living community. The move was complete. The house nearly empty. My sister was coming to finish the clean-out and clean-up and then the house would be sold.

Kerri is much more “thready” than I am. She leads with her heart and feels deeply the story-threads that extend back through time. With the sun beneath the horizon, the light of the house beckoning, we talked of what it must feel like for my mom to leave this house after 54 years. We talked of the turtle that buried itself in the window well each fall and would claw its way back into the sunlight each spring. Climbing the crab apple tree when it, too, was young. Camping in the back yard in a musty green canvas tent. Riding bikes around the driveway in mock stock car race fashion. The Irish mail. Volleyball, basketball, and cranking ice cream on hot summer days. The small rituals that largely go unnoticed until the last-times, the experiences that fill life full-to-bursting.

These rich, amazing moments that we call ordinary, that happen with ease every single day, that pass unnoticed or unappreciated until the-last-time.

She asked me what I felt and my answer surprised me. “Relieved,” I said. “Just relieved.”

Tired, we went into the house, closed the back door, and turned out the lights. Last time.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAST TIME

Go Home [on KS Friday]

Haiku From The Road

The blue mountains rise,

Like phantoms from the prairie.

Cairns to the way home.

Read Kerri’s blog post about THE WAY HOME

Catch His Hand [on DR Thursday]

Many years ago, somewhere in the middle of the 1990’s, I painted a portrait of my dad. It is monochromatic and a fairly quick study. In the painting, he is either emerging or returning to the corn. Or both. I can’t remember why I painted him in the corn except that he was born in Iowa and wished his entire adult life to return to the small town where he grew up. Perhaps this is a painting about yearning. Perhaps it is a painting about returning home.

It occurred to me, when I found it while re-stacking paintings after the great studio flood, that I painted this when he was roughly the age I am now. For a fleeting moment I wanted to paint a monochrome self-portrait simply so I might place it across the room. We’d have a staring contest that reached beyond both of our lives.

I chucked the idea for many reasons but mostly because I had no idea what “field” I might emerge from or into? My symbolic return home would be…what? I am not connected to a single place, a tiny town in Iowa or, like Tom Mck, a ranch in California. I have been a wanderer.

I’ve always loved hands. They are, in many ways, more expressive than faces. They are not as guarded and rarely put on airs. My dad was a working man and has working man hands. He was proud of the work he did. It was hard and broke his body but he loved it. It was out of doors under the open sky. He started his career as a teacher and, although he never confessed as much, I think he hated teaching. The classroom was suffocating. He needed to get his hands in the dirt, feel the sun on his face. Even after he retired, as he aged, he sat on the porch in the mornings, he worked his garden or clipped his grass or cleaned his gutters; anything to be outside.

I had a dream many years ago that has stayed with me. My dad and I were free-falling through time. As we fell, he reached out his hand. I stretched out my arm, tried to grasp his hand, but in falling, we were just out of reach. In the dream I stared intently at his hand as I tried to extend my arm, tried to grasp his hand. I knew, if I was successful, if we could catch his hand, it might not stop our fall, but we, neither of us, would fall alone.

read Kerri’s blog post about COLUMBUS HANDS

Hear The Whisper [on Two Artists Tuesday]

a house copy

A house remembers.

We took my dad back to his home town. It was a pilgrimage. He wanted to see it one last time. We walked through the cemetery. He pointed to headstones and told stories. He looked for people and grew frustrated when he couldn’t find them. He’d breathe a sigh of relief when, after walking row after row, we finally found them.

The pilgrimage was not to the cemetery. It was to a tiny little house that his grandfather built that he needed to return. To touch. Nowadays it is being used as a shed. His dad grew up in that tiny house. It was the center of his universe when he was a child, his cathedral.

Standing before the tiny house, he told the story of how his grandfather split open and pried apart the rafters, making a second story. He built on a small kitchen. He added a small bedroom on one side. There was a porch.

To our eyes, it was now barely standing. To my dad’s eyes, it was the most beautiful home on earth.

As we walked the perimeter I couldn’t help but feel that the house needed to see him as much as he needed to see the house. It remembered, “You came back!” It seemed to sit up straight, remembering the days that it housed a family, that meals were cooked within its walls, that children slept there. As my dad told the stories, I was overwhelmed with the notion that he wasn’t just telling us, he was talking to the house. And the house was nodding, smiling, “Yes, I remember…” The children ran free. Everyone worked hard.

As we walked away he knew he would never see it again. But he’d shared the story. He’d introduced us to this house, his-and-now-my sacred place. “This is where you come from,” the house and my dad whispered together, “Remember.”

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read Kerri’s blog post about A HOUSE REMEMBERS

 

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Love The Journey [on KS Friday]

tpotj song box copy

This morning, sitting on the steps off the back deck, sipping coffee, DogDog sniffing around the yard, I watched the eagles fly across the bay, dodging seagulls protecting their brood. I fell into one of those moments, those precious few moments, of profound appreciation for my life. This part of my journey is surprising and as orienting as it is disorienting. Both/and.

I like to travel precisely because it throws me off center. Even the simplest things require attention. Which side of the road am I supposed to drive on? Oh my god, where is the corkscrew? What did I just order (I couldn’t even pronounce it)? Once, in a barter culture, I failed miserably because I bartered myself to a higher price. The merchant and I laughed until we cried and then he patted me on the back and only accepted half of my money. Laughter was my coin. That part of my journey changed the trajectory of my life entirely.

Read the order of the tracks on Kerri’s album, THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY, and you notice that the final two titles on the album are This Part Of The Journey followed by The Way Home. She is hyper-intentional so I believe she did that on purpose. Sitting on the deck this morning, I knew without doubt that this part of the journey, no matter how complicated or lost-feeling or unnerving or uncomfortable…or peaceful, is a great gift. It is a step on the way home. And, it will someday make for the best stories, perhaps the best part of my story.

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY sparkles like the sun on the lake. It is as abundant as DogDog’s curiosity on his discovery trip around the yard. It is as full of laughter as a merchant in Bali who, to this day, tells the story of the tourist who had no idea what he was doing.

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY

 

not our best morning minturn website box copy

 

this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Paint The Can [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

duke's painting copy

I imagine this still life is a painting that Duke merely tossed off. It was an exercise, something he painted because, well, he wanted to paint but wasn’t awash in inspiration. He looked around for a subject, any subject, and laughed when it occurred to him that the coffee can stuffed with brushes and tubes of paint lying willy-nilly on his table would make a sufficient study. When it was complete, he liked it enough to hang in the hallway of his house. It hung there for years. I imagine he and his wife, Eileen, looked at it everyday – to the point that they probably stopped seeing it. It was the norm. Part of the hallway.

It remained in the hallway after his death.

A few weeks ago Kerri and I helped Duke’s son, 20, move his mom into a nice assisted living apartment. After the furniture was moved in and the dishes and lamps, the final piece was Duke’s painting of brushes in a coffee can. It is the piece that made Eileen’s new apartment feel like home. Before we hung it on the wall we took some time and studied the painting. Duke was great painter!  I imagine that he had no idea on the long-ago-day that he decided old brushes in a coffee can would make a nice study, that his coffee can, like the Velveteen Rabbit of paintings, would come to mean so much. That it would carry associations like “home” and “Duke.”

It’s probably good that an artist cannot know the destiny of their work.

I imagine he put on the final touches of paint, the highlights, stood back and thought, “It’s good. I like this one.” He dropped his brush in some turpentine and made his way upstairs the get another cup of coffee.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUKE’S PAINTING

 

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy