Touch The Chair [on Merely A Thought Monday]

healing copy

I am reading books slowly these days. Meditating on words. Sometimes it takes me months to read what I used to blow through in a few days. I am often pleasantly surprised and taken aback by how the words I read on this morning – words written months or years ago – line up exactly with the events of my day. All the time I catch myself thinking, “How did they know I needed to hear that today?”

“There was an altar upon which we could place a photo of someone who had died. Kim chose to put a picture of his “old” self; I found one of him rowing his peapod looking so happy, so strong. Beautiful. We both grieve the loss of that Kim while getting to know and love this new one.” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke.

Grieve the loss. This is the fourth time in my life that world circumstance/events have drawn a hard line between ‘what was’ and ‘who-knows-what-will-become.’ What was normal and true last week will never again be the same. Social distancing. Pandemic. Disruption is scary and confusing.

I’ve many times heard the story of immigrants, preparing to leave their homes forever for some distant and unknown shore, just before leaving, circle the rooms, touching walls, running their fingers along the arm of a well-loved chair. One last look. This is who I was. Who will I become? It is necessary to mourn what is known before making space for the unknown.

In the midst of spinning change, hanging on too long to the way things-ought-to-be or used-to-be is destructive. More than once I’ve stood with a group in full denial of their new circumstance insisting that “This is the way we’ve always done it!”  Perhaps. What is comfortable today was at one time new and uncomfortable. Someday, what is now new and uncomfortable will be a well worn path. The first step: one last look. This is who we were.

“No person is a finished thing, regardless of how frozen or paralysed their self image might be. Each one of us is in a state of perennial formation. Carried within the flow of time, you are coming to be who you are in every new emergent moment.” ~John O’Donohue, Beauty

Imagination lives in the midst of “It happened to me.” One of our greatest super-powers is the capacity to imagine ourselves different, more expansive. It is what we call dreaming. We “see” ourselves” writing the book or scaling the mountain or being a better parent or working at the soup kitchen or losing the weight or…becoming the more perfect union.

Imagination requires leaving. Leaving requires imagination.

“Fate has a way of handing us what we need in order to become whole…” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEALING

 

moon website box copy

 

 

Listen To Chicken [on DR Thursday]

putyourfingersonthekeys WITH EYES jpeg copy 2

The original conceit behind Chicken Marsala came during a road trip. Kerri and I started talking about what life might have been like had we met when we were younger. Our conversation wandered into the question of mutual children and then became utterly hysterical when we started tossing possible names back and forth. Chicken Marsala, the imaginary child of two people who met late in life, was born.

ifpapahasOCD copy 3

Chicken had friends. Chicken went to school. Chicken had a full blown imaginary life. Chicken terrified his parents, making them do and say things that they would not have otherwise done. Chicken became the inner and outer voice of two artists trying to make their way in a world where they do not necessarily fit.

All of my life people who have cut themselves off from their inner artist have asked me, “Where do I begin?” They build studios for themselves, buy supplies, and then sit, frozen. Tom McK used to tell me that there was only one answer to that question: a writer writes and a painter paints. There is no magic. The muse can’t help unless you pick up the clay and throw the pot. Write many, many bad pages and soon you will discover that you are following an impulse rather than grinding “it” out or making “it” up.

One day, someone asked Chicken’s mom a question about composing. “How do you do it? What’s your secret?” It was a question from someone desperate to uncover their long buried inner artist. What’s the secret charm, the divine key? Chicken leaned into his mom and whispered: Sometimes you just have to put your fingers on the keys and follow the music.

It is no mystery, after a few years banished in the drawer, that Chicken is suddenly pulling on my sleeve. I haven’t been active in the studio for months. ‘A dry spell,’ I tell myself. ‘All of my creative energy is going to other things.’ ‘I’m bored with my work!’ ‘I’m blank…’ Yada Yada. Chicken shakes his head. ‘Not again!’ He giggles.

REDOyourimaginationcan'tbe copy 3

Put your fingers on the keys. Pick up your brush. Use that great imagination to play rather than plague yourself. Follow the music. It will always lead you home.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FINGERS ON THE KEYS

 

 

 

 

 

wideopenmouths website box copy

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

play 2 play illustration ©️ godknowswhenprobablybeforeyouwereborn david robinson

 

Change Your Mantra [on Merely A Thought Monday]

dont try to get it over with copy

It was only after the dive that I realized my folly. Rather than enjoy it I repeated to myself, over and over, to just get through it. I’d be fine once I was back in the boat. I was afraid.

It was a very deep dive, the deepest I’d ever attempted. There were sharks swimming beneath me. There were sharks swimming above me. The Blue Hole. The wall was gorgeous, an explosion of red, orange, and yellow. Looking up was a miracle of sunlight on water. Looking down was a study in the color blue, layers of turquoise, cerulean, disappearing into a bottomless (aptly named) ultramarine.

My mantra, just get through it, was a wall between me and extraordinary beauty of it.

Later, in the boat, I appreciated it. I also appreciated that my experience was unnecessarily fearful. Rather, I understood that the only real danger in The Blue Hole was my doubt in myself. The sharks were not man-eaters. The depth was the limit for amateur divers but not extreme. The dive master was world class. I had plenty of oxygen.  I was safe everywhere but in my imagination.

The dive made me wonder how much of my life I’ve spent telling myself fear tales? Instead of having an experience of wonder, how often have I storied myself in fear? How often have I made up monsters and raced to the other side of the moment, raced to get it over with rather than be in it?

Sitting in the boat, I realized that it wasn’t the fear that I was wrangling with. Fear is natural, especially in alien environments like deep water, especially when sharks are involved. It was my mantra that plagued me. Get through it.

Next time, I told myself, I will have a new mantra. Be in it. Fear is an experience, too. It’s part of life and, at the end of my days, I will be sad if the story of my life was simply getting through it. Or over it. I want to know that I was in it, all of it; the fear, the joy, the ugly, the angry, the beautiful blues, the sad days, and the quiet wandering.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GETTING IT OVER WITH

 

bonfire website box copy

Mend The Split [on Merely A Thought Monday]

wonder app quote

This is not my thought. It comes from many directions, is woven through many traditions, and is true no matter what form or from what port it arrives: Fear splits you.

The split is perfect. It cleaves the present moment into dreaded-future-imagining and regretful-past. What if. If only.

I tease Kerri because her imagination is wild and, given a good cleaving, will run amok with tragedy, fiery explosions, and dire consequences. She returns my ribbing when, split like a log, I tumble into hyper judgments of my past. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! It seems the gift we bring to each other in this lifetime is to pull the other back to the center, the un-hewn present moment. We help each other live in and deal with ‘now.’

Each day we take a walk. Deer cross the road ahead or freeze when they spy us. A young eagle flies overhead. The island is a haven for Monarch butterflies. They bob along as we walk, pacing us, breeze-gusted into a seeming drunk-stagger-flight-path. Drunk on the moment. Impervious to the cleave. Without fail, when we are pulled into a future fear yammer, a Monarch butterfly comes along, and our fear sputter stops. Kerri quietly pulls out her camera, tip-toes to the messenger, and snaps a photograph.

“What were we talking about?”

“I can’t remember. Nothing, I suppose.”

“Can you smell the balsam? That butterfly is gorgeous! It’s huge!”

“Yes. It’s beautiful. So beautiful.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post on BUTTERFLY MOMENTS

 

butterfly website box copy

 

Find The Kindergartner [on Two Artists Tuesday]

dogdogbabycatbacktoback copy

On a famous day, we drove the entire width of the state of Wisconsin to pick up the puppy that would one day become known as DogDog. On our drive back across the entire width of the state of Wisconsin, Kerri had a moment of panic. What if BabyCat and the not-yet-named-puppy-dog didn’t get along? What if BabyCat felt rejected? Replaced? What if the dog ATE the cat? What if the cat ATE the dog? The horror story variations of dogs-and-cats-living-together ran amok in her mind.

The flip-side scenarios never occurred to her. What if they love each other? What if they play together? What if they are the best of pals, share bowls, look out for each other? Well, there’d be no problem. Nothing to fret about. No horror story to captivate the imagination.

What is it in an adult mind that defaults to the worst possible assumption? Why, when cutting paper with a razor, do I always think, “I hope I don’t cut my finger off.” It could happen. Once, when my dad was pulling the cord on the chainsaw, I heard him say to himself, “I better not cut my leg off.” Sage self-advice!

We imagine. We assume. We project. It is a potent and powerful force, this capacity to story ourselves through imaging. We learn to imagine the obstacles. We learn not to allow the possibilities.

How many times in my life have I asked students or clients to imagine themselves fulfilled? Too many to count but the actual number is equal to the number of times students or clients have responded, “I can’t.”

What? Yes. You can. Dream in the direction of possibility. Remember that once you were a kindergartner and a teacher asked if you were and artist. Your YES was wild and enthusiastic. Your capacity to dream hasn’t gone away. It’s gone underground.

Guts and gore, dogs fighting cats, fingers flying off; the horror-story-imagination is more immediate.  Sometimes it takes a bit of archeology to find the kindergartner.

Oh, and DogDog and BabyCat? Best of friends. We often find them in the afternoon sleeping back to back. Who could have imagined such a thing?!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DOGDOG & BABYCAT NAPPING

 

dogdog babycat paws touchingwebsite box copy

Juxtapose [on Merely A Thought Monday]

NYE copy

 

I come to this eve of the new year holding two images, two art experiences juxtaposed. One is a review of the past. The other a resolution. Together they resonate.

The first, the review of things past that influence things to come, is Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary film, And They Shall Not Grow Old. It is a miracle of film making (stay to see the segment about how it was made that rolls after the credits. You will shake your head with wonderment). It takes you into the trenches and horrors of war.  We left the theatre both wowed by the film-making and shocked by the utter senselessness of war. Wowed by the human capacity to innovate and despairing at our capacity to willingly destroy ourselves for imagined gains. Both are technical achievements.

The morning after seeing the film I opened Brain Pickings and, given the film, I was smacked by a photograph of Earth taken from The Voyager spacecraft in the mid 1990’s. The Pale Blue Dot. It brought instant perspective to war – and everything else we imagine to be so important. Within the vast expanse of space, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” I had to look twice to see the speck that is Earth. Our imagined importance is out of perspective with the realities of our circumstance. The fragility (the miracle) of our existence is generally lost in our daily myopia.

Two images.  Juxtaposed.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on THE NEW YEAR

 

trinitychristmasphoto website box copy

Figure It Out [on KS Friday]

figure it out songbox copy

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

 

shadow des plaines river trailwebsite box copy

 

figure it out/right now ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood