Reach Through The Trees [on DR Thursday]

When my time on the planet could be counted in single digits, I drew the same picture over and over and over again. A cabin in the forest. A tree in the foreground. Among my first oil paintings was the cabin-in-my-mind.

For years, my cabin hung on my grandfather’s wall. When we traveled to Iowa for a visit, I was pleased to see it nested in a modest frame in his home office. It may be my first painting to make an appearance beyond the walls of my boyhood home. When he passed, my parents claimed the painting and it circled back to their house, where I painted it.

Last year, with my dad in assisted living, while moving my mom into her new apartment, I brought the painting back with me to Wisconsin. Full circle. We put it in a new frame. It rests in my office, sitting on the floor against the file cabinet because we can’t decide where we want to hang it. Each day, standing at my desk, I am, for a moment, pulled back in time to the boy who had to draw this cabin again and again.

Why? I certainly didn’t feel as if I was inventing it as a drawing exercise. From this vantage point I remember it as a recall, the invocation of a memory. My child-brain never questioned it. My cabin, as if I lived in a world before photographs and was trying to record what once was, trying to reach through the trees to what could no longer be touched. I had to draw it so I might remember it.

Now, with hundreds of paintings between me and my cabin in the woods, I wonder if every painting I’ve ever painted comes from the same impulse, reaching through the trees to what cannot be touched. Canvas on the easel has always pulled me into it, like a good story pulls a reader into a book.

It’s also a great definition of art and artistry. Just try and wrap your fingers around King Lear or grasp the deep well of Martha Graham. Kerri’s piano bounces when she plays it; she is little and her piano is grand. The force that comes through is beyond comprehension.

I laughed when my doctor told me that we rationalize things because we want to control them and, sometimes there is no rational explanation. No way to control it. Art regularly blows through the question “Why?”.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REACHING THROUGH THE TREES

Call Awe [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The Beatles, The End

Last week was unusual in that I had a sneak-peek at my end-of-life-review. When a trusted doctor looks at you and says, “This is bad,” when tests that ordinarily might be scheduled a few weeks out are rushed into the next few hours, when the palette of available options are mostly shades of black and all include the word “dire,” the life-movie-reel begins to roll. Mine did.

I’ve known for years that among the few choices we really have is 1) where we choose to focus, and 2) where we choose to stand as we focus. Point-of-view, labels slapped onto experience, the story we tell is a story we project onto the world. Rolling through the CT-scan doughnut, I looked at the story I’ve called into the forest. I listened for the story it reflected back at me, as me.

“Take a deep breath,” the machine instructed, “and hold it.” Holding my breath, I saw a single story comprised of many, many chapters. There are the life-pages that I lived in confidence, and pages that I wrote confusion. The shattering, the story of the pieces of my life scattered in four directions. Kintsugi. The pages of the phoenix. Pages written running from my art and the matching pages of running toward it. The chapter of standing still. The pages of betrayal and the balance pages of being betrayed. “Release your breath,” the machine chirped. “Breathe naturally.”

The forest will show me fear. The forest will offer grace. The forest will reflect back to me peace if peace is what I bring to it. Someday, rather than project onto the forest, I will walk into it, become it. A reflector of projections.

Take a deep breath. I’ve never been so appreciative of breath. Hold it. What a gift. Breathe naturally. Call awe into the forest.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE FOREST

Sing With Pooh [on KS Friday]

Why does a song suddenly pop-up in your mind and beg you to hum along? Yesterday, for no apparent reason, out of the blue, Loggins and Messina’s song, The House At Pooh Corner, washed over me and forced me to maul the lyrics. At the time I was writing a business blogpost about assembly lines (uff-da). House At Pooh Corner was released in 1971, it’s a bubble from the deep-deep archives.

It changed my day. I made such gumbo of the lyrics that I pulled it up on YouTube. I sang along so I might refresh the muddied words in my mind. In addition to word-recall, it lightened my spirits. Writing about spirit-stripping manufacturing processes, command-and-control structures, had my brows knitted and my brain squeezed. Maybe that’s why Pooh decided to visit. I had a honey jar stuck on my nose. I sang along and laughed.

By the end of the sing-along I was dedicated to taking myself less seriously. I suspect that’s the message and gift A.A. Milne released upon the world with Pooh and Piglet. None of it is as serious as we pretend. Will my knitted brow blogpost about new systems illuminate the world? Yawn. Probably not. Did it feel good to write? Absolutely. I love thinking about a better world. Pooh lives in one – and maybe that’s yet another reason he jumped a bubble and rode to the surface of my thinking. He came as a song. A lovely light-hearted wish. A seed pod of silly presence.

“…So I sent him to ask of the owl, if he’s there, how to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear…Help me if you can I’ve got to get back to the house at Pooh corner by one, you’d be surprised there’s so much to be done….” Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about WISHES

i will hold you (forever & ever)/goodnight: a lullaby album © 2005 kerri sherwood

Hold Vigil [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

BabyCat waited until I was traveling. He was with Kerri long before I arrived in her life. I believe, to leave, he needed to have her all to himself. He passed suddenly, with little warning that something was wrong. She raced him to the vet. He was gone. In the blink of an eye.

When you wake up in the morning you never really know how your life will change that day.

We have a photograph that kills me every time look at it. Dog-Dog standing at the door, looking out. Not understanding. Holding vigil for BabyCat’s return. Sometimes I feel like I am Dogga standing at the door. I hear a sound in the house and think, “What’s that BabyCat doing now?”

And then I catch myself. Dog-at-the-door. Holding vigil.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MISSING BABYCAT

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Wear One Sock [on saturday morning smack-dab]

My elders warned me but I scoffed. It will never happen to me! “Words,” they cautioned, “will become like socks in the dryer. Two sock-words will go into the spinning barrel of your mind. Only one will come out.”

What happens to the other sock? Where is that perfect word match? I open the drawer of my brain only to find half the word-socks have gone missing. Poof.

I should never have scoffed. I wander through my days trying to mask the fact that I’m only wearing a single word-sock.

I imagine the satisfied smiles of all the ancestors getting the last laugh. “Told you so,” they smirk, frown, and ask, suddenly snapping their fingers to stimulate their synapses, “And, what’s your name, again?”

I’d tell them (in my imagination) but think it’s good practice to exercise their brains so I smile and quip, “Who’s asking?”

read Kerri’s blogpost about WORD LOSS

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Try To Remember [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

I made a list of all the stuff I forgot and now I can’t find it. I’ll add “the list” to the list if I can remember where I put the list. Of course, there’s also that business with my pen. I can only imagine the pen is with the list. Somewhere. If not, I have no idea where it might be. The pen. If I can’t find my pen I’ll have trouble adding “the list” to my list of things I forgot. I could try to remember to add “the list” to my list but we all know where that story leads.

Poor Kerri. She has to deal with me every day.

read Kerri’s blogpost about REMEMBERING

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Sit On The Horizon [on KS Friday]

We are the first wave of humans to experience a pace of change so fast that the media of our memories becomes irrelevant – and sometimes inaccessible – even before the paint on the memory is dry. A crank driven film camera caught a toddler version of me running down the hall in my footie pajamas on Christmas morning. Images rare and, at the time, expensive to develop, our technology makes those films seem prehistoric. Kerri and I work on computers that are separated by over a decade. Mine works lightning fast and hers…is teaching her patience.

I’ve recently been pondering a quote attributed to many: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” Facebook is a tool. Twitter, too. This screen that opens entire universes for me is a tool. These screens that pull us into them are tools. Our stories, our expectations, our experience of time and space and each other, shaped by our tool. This river runs so fast that front page news is less than an afterthought tomorrow. We take so many photos and movies that we can’t remember taking them. It’s a million miles from the days of precious and rare footage in footie pajamas.

Kerri found the bin. It holds many treasures. Movies that her dad recorded of her first album release concert. Early performances. Recording of movies complete with commercial breaks (before tevo was a glimmer in its inventor’s eye). Luckily, we have a VHS player. And it works! Some night, very soon, we’ll plug in the player and I will get to see her, at the very beginning of her career, long before we met, play.

Reaching back. Racing forward. Little miracles of remembrance rendered obsolete by faster and smaller miracles of moment-capture.

We sit squarely upon the event horizon, our memories both a bin found in the basement and an intentional composition – Instagram stories, Facebook memories, a story shaped by our tools, tools shaping us, a creative act.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE BIN

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

let me take you back/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

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

Eat The Memory [on KS Friday]

You’d never know it by how we talk and write about food, but we have a smallish sweet tooth. We keep a bit of dark chocolate in the house. Sometimes we split a piece of flourless chocolate cake. Too much sugar is…too much. So, imagine my surprise last week in the grocery store when Kerri came to a full stop in front of the Entenmann’s Crumb Coffee Cake. Using her outdoor voice she exclaimed, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! THEY STILL MAKE IT! WE HAVE TO GET IT!”

Memory runs through and is master of all of the senses. “I grew up eating Entenmann’s Crumb
Cake!” she said, returning to her indoor voice. The cake was in the cart and anticipation was on the rise. “Did you have Entenmann’s Crumb Cake growing up?” she asked, barely able to contain her excitement.

I’d never heard of it. She looked at me as if I was to be pitied, a poor waif raised in a cave without running water or crumb cake. Anticipation became a mission. “You have to have it!” Her eyes grew wide, intense. “You won’t believe it!” and then, the narrowing disclaimer, “I hope it’s as good as I remember.”

There is a rule in Kerri’s family and she carries on the tradition. It is a ritual of delayed gratification. Satisfaction constraint. For instance, when Kerri buys clothes, a new pair of jeans, she can’t wear them for at least six months. There is a magic moment, something I’ve never been able to identify, that signals the purchase is ready to exit its quarantine and can be worn. Or eaten. We have a new rug purchased last June that remains rolled and stored behind the door in the living room. Home decor, I’m learning, has an extended waiting period. We call it The Beaky Rule.

The cake came home. It went somewhere. A closet? A cabinet? A drawer? I’ve learned not to ask, “Where or when?” Had I shouted in excitement in the grocery store, that box would not have made it to the car. I’d have been covered in crumb cake before the keys came out.

A few days later, in the middle of the morning, Kerri called up to my office. “Do you need a break?” Up the stairs, like a precious treasure, came a memory from Long Island, a piece of crumb cake and a cup of coffee. The magic moment. The cake released and revealed. We savored it. And, I can report in my quiet indoor voice, it was definitely worth the wait.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRUMB CAKE!!!!!!!

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

the way home/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Fill The Pot [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It’s food week at the Melange. Well, truth be told, it’s always food week here. When we’re not in our studios we meet in the kitchen and either eat food or talk about eating food. Sometimes – okay – everyday, when I am up in my office working, Kerri sends me a midmorning text: “Are you staaaaarving?” My reply never waivers: “Yes. Yes I am.” Snacks appear and happiness ripples throughout the house.

It’s winter and it’s covid so our circle of experience has shrunk mightily. Kerri injured her foot so our daily winter walks through the frozen tundra are on hiatus. As our recent photographs have betrayed, we are explorers in our own house. Photos of Dogga. Photos of the moon. Clever shots of candles and glasses of wine. And food, food, food.

Because it is winter, the big pot has re-emerged. Soups or spaghetti sauce are often simmering on the stove. During the warm months, the big pot goes on vacation but faithfully returns when the temperatures drop. There are weeks when the big pot never makes it back to the cabinet. It’s a workhorse.

I appreciate the reappearance of the big pot because, in addition to being essential for soups, it evokes stories. It never fails. The pot comes out. The chopping commences. And the stories start to roll. Our big pot has been around for a very long time so it is alive with story. Big pots bring memories of parents and grandparents, holiday meals, Dorothy cooking on the cast iron stove. It evokes remembrance from childhood, steam rising from the pot and fogging the kitchen window. Once, as a boy, I couldn’t breathe and leaned over the big pot. The steam helped.

This week we are excited: we have a new soup to try. Last week we made a simple vegetable soup, a recipe we lifted from 20. The big pot also helps us to dream. We remember a pre-covid world when we had gatherings and dinner parties, when we squeezed people into chairs at the table, elbows negotiating heaping plates of pasta, crusty bread, and wine. Laughter. “It’s the first thing we’re going to do,” Kerri says, “when this is all behind us.” The pot will come out. A vat of sauce will bubble on the stove. Friends will pack into the kitchen, asking, “When do we eat?”

read Kerri’s blogpost about BIG POTS