Unfold [on KS Friday]

September. The air was cool last night. We put on longer sleeves, sat on the deck and listened to the sounds of the summer night. Cicadas. The waves crashing into the shore. The bubbling of the fountain. Distant voices of others enjoying the evening. Dogga sighed and stretched, closing his eyes.

Stephen’s memorial, a gathering of friends and relations. At the same moment, across the country, a baby was born, a new little brother. On the same day, Kim completed another circle around the sun. I missed wishing her happy birthday. Celebrations of life wearing its many faces.

The chipmunks have discovered Kerri’s tomatoes. They are considerate thieves and take only one tomato at a time. Lately, a salmon-colored cardinal sits on the cage and pecks the leaves of the plants. The basil did well until the relentless heat and humidity, the torrential rains. It is ready to retire, old before its time. The crows swarm the hawk. The squirrels have shifted into overdrive, preparations for the coming season.

We stopped on our walk. Kerri approached the tree and snapped a photo of a bright crimson leaf, harbinger of fall. “So much has happened this summer,” she said. “I can’t believe it is already September.”

Textures. Colors. Sounds. Passages. Paying attention. It has us asking that age-old question, “What really matters?’

David sent a photograph. Dawson squeezed a whole tube of blue paint onto a canvas and, with a new cool art-tool, spread the rich thick paint, carving it into creation. An artist dad in play with his artist son.

That age-old question is so easy to answer, wearing longer sleeves, sitting on the deck on a cool summer evening. You can see it from “the plateau,” as George Leonard used to call it. Be in your moment, and you will see that the little things are really the big things. On the plateau, everything unfolds simply and with clarity. Friends gather. A baby is born. Blue paint squeezed onto a canvas.

UNFOLDING on kerri’s album AS IT IS

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

read Kerri’s blog post on TEXTURES

unfolding/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

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

Mark The Passage [on KS Friday]

Just after we met, we dug a small pond in the backyard. It was a party that Kerri called The Big Dig. People came with shovels. We drank mudslides. I met many of her friends and neighbors. We laughed. It took less than ten minutes with so many people to dig the hole. The liner went in and rocks placed around the edges. The pump was placed and the water rushed in. It was a marker in time. It was meant to be a marker, a ritual of passage into the new and the unknown.

She’d planned The Big Dig before we met. Originally, it had nothing to do with me. It was serendipity that I could be present for The Dig. Serendipity or design. Who knows.

The morning after the party, sipping coffee, we sat in lawn chairs on the muddy ground surrounding the now bubbling pond. Kerri used the “M” word, married, “When we are married…” She realized what she’d just said. She blushed and apologized and backpedaled. I was, at the very moment she used the “M” word, doing something I’d never done before: imagining myself married. To her. I was seeing it and, laughing at her anguished retreat, I confessed what I was seeing. We sat by the pond and stared at each other. A ritual passage into the new and unknown.

The pond has always been mine to care for. This marks its eighth year. We just replaced the liner. We had to put flagstone around the pond because DogDog was cutting a deep velodrome path around it, racing in excitement every time John and Michele let their Dachshunds out. Each day we walk to the pond to try and catch a glimpse of the frog-in-residence. This year we named the frog Magic.

Just a few days after The Big Dig, Kerri took me to the marina where the 4th of July celebrations are staged. Bands played. There was a carnival. Too much food. The dog jump is a big attraction (dogs running and leaping into a pool of water in a distance-leap competition). After dark we sat on a blanket and watched the fireworks. Sitting on that blanket, vibrant color exploding in the night sky, I imagined myself living in this town, so far from the west coast that had been my home most of my adult life. “Can I live here?” I asked myself. The answer was immediate: you can’t live anywhere else.

DogDog was born on the 4th of July, probably while we were watching the dog jump. We will celebrate his eighth birthday on Sunday with a rowdy race around the pond. His favorite thing. And then snacks. Also his favorite thing. And then a visit with Unka-John. His really, really favorite thing.

A step into the new and unknown. Ritual passages. You have no idea where they will take you or what the reality of the step over the threshold will bring. You cannot know. You can only step.

“This looks like fireworks,” she said, showing me the up-close-photo of the plant. “I love it,” she smiled.

“Me, too.”

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

read Kerri’s blog post about the FIREWORK PLANT

i didn’t know/this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Smile In Secret

Taking the Sealy for a  test drive.

Taking the Sealy for a test drive.

I never had children so there are certain ritual passages that I’ve never experienced. In my life I’ve ushered a legion of other people’s children through various thresholds so it was surprising how Craig’s Facebook post today struck me. I saw him just last week. We had a late night dinner in Nashville, Indiana and I spent much of the evening secretly smiling. He was different. He’d made the passage and was standing firmly in his independence.

In his post today he wrote, “ And with that final, I’m officially a college senior.”

His passage, like all worthy passages, did not come easily. Nothing worthwhile ever does.

Last August, I helped him move to a new university. We packed the truck and drove out of state. Together, along with Josh, we carried his enormous couch and all the other stuff in the truck into Craig’s first-ever apartment. We helped him set things up and then he needed Kerri and me to go. He needed to be on his own. He needed to step into the unknown places and get lost.

Over the year I was witness to how he got lost, met a multitude of fears and frustrations head on, and how he stood in the fire with all of it. It shouldn’t have surprised me that it transformed him. I know how transformation works and yet this time I was somehow too close to fully see.

Over the year I’ve talked with Craig through the night and into the wee hours about socialism and the difference between a plan A and a plan B. We talked about sarcasm and life without having to push other people under water to feel powerful. We’ve talked about true power. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. On a freezing cold day in December we tromped through a farm and picked out a Christmas tree that I dubbed Satan because the needles were like daggers. I’m still finding those needles in my socks. We smoked cigars and he made a mixed drink for me called something I can’t remember (a testament to the potency of the concoction); it was awful. We laughed and drank it anyway.

I learned to play Apples to Apples when he came home for a surprise visit. We sat around the table into the wee hours with Pierre and Kirsten and Josh and laughed about anything and everything.

He inspired a week of posts when he asked me a single question and I suspect it will not be the last time.

Last week when he met us for dinner at Uncle Bill and Aunt Linda’s house in the woods of Indiana, I couldn’t believe the chatty, funny, informed, strategic, considerate man sitting across the table was the same boy I drove to college in August.

Craig’s post came on the day after I lost one of my champions: Bob. He was a man who made his own destiny and I think Craig will do the same. I wished that the new college senior had met the man who ushered me through so many of my life’s passages. They are cut from the same cloth. I wanted to write Craig and tell him, “You have no idea how many people are cheering for you.” I wanted to welcome him to the other side.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary,title_page Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here for hard copies.

 

Serve Life

Untitled by David Robinson

Untitled by David Robinson

I’m writing language for a website. In the past my website reinventions felt like an exercise of the same old cereal in a new marketing box. This time it’s different. I am a new cereal and I’m not certain that I want a box. It makes a difficult task of telling people what I do when I’m fully invested in container resistance. As I wrangled deep into the night with clever but remarkably meaningless marketing language, I had two mini-epiphanies:

1) Last year, unlike the captain of the Titanic, I sailed my ship directly at an iceberg so that it would sink. I sank the ship with all of the fine china, the gold bars and diamonds in the safe, the furniture, the clothes and fine food. It all went to the bottom of the ocean. I wanted off the ship so why would I now build for myself a new ship? I didn’t bob around in my raft in the vast ocean spearing tuna and catching rainwater so that I might someday step back on to the bridge and do it all over again. What, exactly, am I building?

2) I have tried my whole life to squeeze myself into too small of a box (as, I suspect, all of you have, too). I have worn the jacket of coach, of facilitator, of teacher, of director, of actor and waiter and painter. I am none of these and all of these. I have made websites complete with testimonials and classes, nice pictures and e-books, workshops and retreats. The process of building a site is a two-agenda process: first, locate yourself in space and time for other people so that they might find you and, second, orient yourself toward other people’s concern so they might know why they should seek you. In other words, 1) this is where I am and, 2) this is what I provide. The pronoun is “I.”

What, exactly, do I provide? I am not a plumber or a pizza maker. Every marketing person I’ve ever known has advised me to brand myself. Brand myself as what? Brands are made up. A year ago on New Year’s eve, tarot woman told me that she didn’t see a career for me. Rather, she saw lots of expression. “Brand that!” I thought to myself. Last night I reasoned, “I am not a brand.” Neither can I reduce what I do to a pithy phrase or clever visual. That’s precisely why I sought an iceberg and sank the ship!

I’m an artist (a painter and performer) and I write. I like to write a lot. At the center of all that I do is…disruption or change or spirituality or transformation, words that sound great but what do they mean on the concrete, day-to-day experience of living. I deal in heart, intuition, and soul. Great. I hold people’s hands and walk with them into their dreams. I dive with them into their past so they might let go of their story and sit solidly in their present. I help them unbuckle the weight belt of their story so they might surface for air. Brand that.

To ask, “What do I provide?” is to ask the wrong question. This question will always lead to too tight boxes.

Joe sent me some links: short films of Stephen Jenkinson (The Meaning of Death and Making Humans). Stephen Jenkinson says that humans are made, not born. He speaks eloquently about the necessity of dying to our childhood – which means recognizing that our short lives are limited. That’s the recognition necessary to grow up. We can only really fulfill our gifts when we understand the necessity to serve life, not our life. We end. Life continues. Martin Prechtel writes of his community’s male passage rituals; young men learn that they can only serve their community when they recognize their mortality. The passage ritual is meant to bring them to the realization that they are finite. Only then can they understand the imperative to serve something greater than themselves: life. Tonight in the Taize service, Pastor Tom read a passage about losing yourself to find yourself. It is the same concept wrapped in biblical clothes.

Here’s what I want to say on my site: when you are willing to stop trying to save your life and ready to start giving it, call me. No box necessary.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here for hard copies (amazon)