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

Find Peace [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a tradition when we go up north. Kerri and I get into the canoe as soon as possible, paddle across the lake, glide through the lily pads of the channel, and enter the far lake to see the eagle’s nest. In truth, the nest is an arbitrary destination. We love being in canoe. We find peace and calm while on the lake.

We leave a walkie-talkie with our pals because we lose track of time. Once, we were gone so long, they came in the pontoon boat to find us so we’ve initiated the walkie-talkie solution. Also, more importantly, they alert us when there are snacks on the pontoon boat. Snack time gives us another destination, though less arbitrary. We lose our dilly-dally when Charlie’s voice crackles over the walkie-talkie, “Breaker-breaker! The snacks have landed. Repeat. The snacks have landed.” In the background we hear Dan say, “Tell them to hurry up or there won’t be anything left!”

Good people. The best. Good food. No agenda (other than snacks and happy hour). We walk slow. Sit by a fire. Share the meal prep. Laugh. A lot.

On the drive home I was thinking about the peace we find in the canoe. We point it in a direction for no other reason than to have a direction. That’s it. It matters not at all whether we arrive or, somewhere along the way, aim our canoe some other place. The peace is nothing more or less profound than having the experience. Exploring together. No expectation.

It also helps knowing that, if the canoe suddenly sprung a leak, Charlie is on the other end of the walkie-talkie. A simple, “Breaker, breaker…” and the pontoon cavalry would be on the way. Our rescuers would, no doubt, arrive with snacks. Lifting us from the water, Dan might tell us that the snacks were devoured en route to our rescue, but we’d know better.

There is nothing better than the simple peace we find on the lake.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAKE

Extend The Peace [on KS Friday]

Most of my life I’ve been an apartment dweller. A studio liver. Since moving to Wisconsin, into a house, I’ve had a yard to tend. I’m not very good at it but I confess to enjoying the work. I like being outside. Pulling weeds has, I’m slightly worried to admit, become a meditation.

Since Dog-Dog is a gifted destroyer of backyards – digging holes, wearing multiple velodrome paths in the grass – tending the yard has mostly been reactive. My actions are determined by his actions. Let’s just say I don’t worry too much about winning the lawn Olympics. I doubt that I’d qualify.

In the past year, in addition to the inside of the house being wrecked by interior waterfalls and other surprises, outside our yard, front and back, has also been blown to smithereens. We are slowly digging out. We are slowly putting the pieces back together again. And, we’re doing it at a time that Dog-Dog is slowing down. These days he’d rather sit in the shade than cut a new velodrome.

So, we’re designing our space. We’re extending the peace we created in our sunroom into the yard. Last year, our peace spilled out onto the deck. Now, with the addition of the back fence, our peace is pressing the lot line.

I was surprised to learn that Kerri has hosta preferences. She’s not a fan of the variegated variety that lined our yard. Bert and Sue gave us those plants from their yard. We were trying to get something – anything – to grow. Sally gave us ferns and day lilies. We rolled those down third avenue in a wheelbarrow. Now, with everything in disarray, we have a blank canvas.

With tall grasses as the center of her design, she pulled me across the nursery to see “the right hosta.” There’s a certain shape of leaf. A certain color of green. “Look,” she said, pointing out the differences. “Don’t you love that?”

What I love is the specificity of her compositional eye. She tells me that the grasses will dance and pop against the white fence. The green – not any green – but the specific green of the hosta will sing next to the swaying grasses.

Hosta singing. Grasses dancing. Out of the ashes…design, and peace that reaches all the way to the fence.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE RIGHT GREEN

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

longing/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Discern [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It’s a little over two miles to Steve’s garage. When we drop the car for a repair, especially in the early morning, we like to walk home. The route takes us by the lake. We take our time, more stroll than stride, and breathe in the early morning quiet.

We are dedicated walkers. We’ve become dedicated seekers and creators of quiet. It’s as if we are counterbalancing the crazy-noise-of-the-news with a stalwart sanctuary that we take with us wherever we go. We walk slow enough to notice. We walk slow enough to appreciate.

There is, of course, a direct correlation between pace-of-movement and paying attention. It’s hard to smell the roses when racing through the day. Lately, much of my work-in-the-world involves addressing information overload. The pace-of-movement need not be physical, it also applies to the river of information rushing across our screens. It’s no wonder we’re angry and anxious and aggressive. I’ve adopted a phrase from my colleague, Greg; he calls the info-torrent More/Faster. We live in the age of info-gluttony and have difficulty discerning between what has nutritional value and what is dross.

Until we slow down. There is a correlation between the pace of movement and peace-of-mind. There is a correlation between pace and the capacity to determine relevance.

It’s why we walk to or from Steve’s Garage. It’s why we end the work day holding hands and walking the neighborhood. It’s why we begin each day sitting side-by-side writing. To slow it down. To discern relevance in a fast moving info-river of dedicated draff. To see what matters in a More/Faster world racing too fast to see anything at all.

We smell flowers. Feel the dew on leaves. Turn our faces to the sun as it reaches through the morning clouds. Real stuff. Stuff of the moment. The small discoveries available when racing to the next thing is the last thing you want to do.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MORNING SKY

Make [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“The origami crane has become a symbol of peace.”

Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true. Legend will have it so. In Japan, the crane is a symbol of good luck and long life.

Making something into something else. Folding paper into cranes. It is, perhaps, the quality that defines us, makes us human. We turn the flow of water into the force driving the mill. We study patterns in stars and translate it into navigation. We smelt ore and hammer the elements again at the forge to make iron. We use the iron to make trains.

We make.

We look at flowers and see cranes. We look at clouds and see wild horses. We look at blank canvas and see possibility.

We make stories.

Our storymaking cuts both ways. We look at others and see friends; we look at others and see enemies. Either way, our looking is not passive. We make stories. We make connections. We make divisions.

We make wishes. Fold 1,000 cranes and your heart’s desire will come true.

Reach your hand to help. Slap a hand away. Either way, it depends on what story you see. What you want to make.

The story we create.

Folded paper. A symbol of peace.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRANES

Step Off [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“A tree is not made of wood, it is wood.” ~ Alan Watts, The Watercourse Way

Language is powerful. It’s a drum I have beat for a long time, the notion that we insist that the narratives we wrap around ourselves are somehow “reality.” We are told that 50% of Russians believe the hell wrought on the Ukraine is merely propaganda. A made-up story. Not true. It is the narrative they are fed and, in order to eat it, they must ignore any evidence to the contrary. Their economy crumbles. The ruble falls. How could they not see it? Don’t laugh. 40% of USAmericans still believe the last presidential election was stolen, a plausible story only if wearing blinders with fingers placed firmly in ears. Burying your head in the sand is not a Russian or American trait, it’s uniquely human. We see what we believe, not the other way around. Our language makes it so.

Years ago I read that the word “wild” could only come from a people who believe all things must be tamed. Wild makes no sense without the concept of tame. Wild, bad. Tamed, good. So, a people afraid of their own “nature” must become tamers. A people who think “nature” not only can be but must be managed. To be “above” it all, in charge and atop the pyramid, giver of names. It is the necessary narrative for such tamers of the wild, those who story their very nature as corrupt. Tamed, good. Above it all. Separate. Is it any wonder the intrinsically conflicted human world rarely embraces peace? Our narrative leads us to believe, amidst so much inner and, therefore, outer conflict, peace is something to be created because we are naturally conflicted. What else?

Where, exactly, does wild end and tame begin? Where’s the line that delineates nature from civilization? What if nature is neither good nor bad? What if your nature was neither good nor bad? Perhaps self-love would be within reach and, as a natural extension, the love of others, too. It’s an alternative narrative though not possible in a belief-story that fears the wild. Wholeness begins with a step off the pedestal.

It’s in the language. Somehow separate from the world in which we live, not “in” nature or “of” nature , we are deluded to believe we are made of different stuff. Above it. Divinely manufactured. Made.

Manufactured. Made. Trees made of wood.

And, just what are we made of? I guess it depends on the story we decide to tell. Wild stuff.

read Kerri’s blogpost about TREES

Seed The Pocket [on Flawed Wednesday]

I’ve appreciated this sunflower for many years and until a month ago it never made me think of Ukraine. Now, that’s all I see. Thus, the power of a symbol. Sunflower seeds placed into the pockets of Russian soldiers by brave Ukrainian elders. “So, some good may come from your death.”

Walking through the antique mall, Brad spotted an ugly homemade sculpture. Golf balls with multiple screws protruding, spray painted and supported by wire rods. “Look, the coronavirus!” he exclaimed. Three years ago spheres with spiky knobs would have made me wrinkle my brow but never associate the shape with a virus. Now?

And masks? Will we ever see a surgical mask without feeling the divide in our nation? A confederate flag paraded through the Capitol? Members of the Capitol Police beaten with the stars and stripes; symbols matter.

Every year more and more our written communication is reimagined with emojis. Visual symbols. The new Ideogram. A thumbs up. A heart. Laughing face. Saying more with less or at the very least opening up our communication to broader interpretation. I find that I’m symbolically rolling my eyes more and more. Exclamation point. HAHA! Know what I mean? Winky face.

Leonard Shlain wrote some remarkable books about how our brains are wired by how we communicate; he posits that linear language, the introduction of writing drove us into our left brains and away from our holistic right. Perhaps in our movement back toward the ideogram we are rebalancing? A course correction or returning to center? It takes more than a few years for brains to rewire. Our descendants will, no doubt, either write books about it or communicate their thoughts through a combo platter of alphabet and pictograph.

Either way, we can only hope they grasp the meaning of the peace symbol. Or, at the very least, learn how to give it more preference than the dollar sign. Or, better yet, figure out how to make peace profitable. Can you imagine? Certainly there will be a symbol for that.

Until then, sunflowers in the killing fields. Sad face. Broken heart.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SUNFLOWER

Ready The Wings [on KS Friday]

“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow/Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow” ~ Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

An appreciation of life, no matter what comes. It is the meaning of this lyric, this song – or so I’ve read. It seems obvious. I’m having many, many conversations about loss these days. This has been an era of loss and, so the cliche’ goes, with loss new opportunity arrives. It’s true though one must move through the loss in order to arrive at the new. On the way, there is weeping and fear and anger and disorientation. Chrysalis. The trick, we are told, is about focus placement. One day we shift our eyes and see what we have instead of what we no longer possess. We move toward rather than look back.

Kerri has, for years, surrounded herself with symbols of peace. They are on our walls, on rings that she wears, on chains draped on the corner of our bathroom mirror. She draws them in the sand on the trail. A prayer for the world she desires to create. Inside and out. Since she fell, my solo-piano-playing wife has lost more than mobility in her wrists. Strange stuff is happening. Fingers that sometimes refuse to respond. Pain that shoots, seemingly from nowhere. After a photograph – a wish for the world, a peace sign in shadow – she said, “Come look at this. Look how much my finger is bending!” Strange stuff.

What is most remarkable about this shadow is, a year ago, it would have been cause for frustration. A reminder of loss. Full of fear. Today, it was a curiosity. She looks back, she looks forward. Each day she writes lyrics and poetry and wisdoms. She hums the music running through her mind and heart and, sometimes, she dances. Standing at the crossroads of what was and what is to become. Peace replaces pain. All in good time. Good time. Wings readying to unfurl.

[peace. this is one of my favorite pieces of Kerri’s]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about PEACE

peace/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Sit On The Fence [on KS Friday]

We have a small compost pile behind the garage that we call The Golden Corral. The squirrels line up like seniors at the buffet and scurry away with the good bits before they turn into soil.

When John texted a photo of the opossum on the fence, we ran outside to take a look. He – we named him Peter – was in no hurry to run away and hide. He was perfectly content to sit on the fence and gladly participated in our photo shoot. I suspect the word is out about The Golden Corral.

Our neighborhood has always been a lively haven for critters. Red fox and raccoons, skunks and rabbits, squirrels and hawks and chipmunks. In the summer months we sit out back and watch the animal escapades. We feel honored when the owl appears. We laugh when the turkey lands on our roof. The crows alert us to the comings-and-goings of predators.

Peter is a new addition. We’ve seen him or his kin down the street at Pam’s place. She scatters birdseed at the base of her tree and the furry nocturnal fraternity gathers there after the bars shut down. They stare us down when we come home late at night, their eyes red in our headlights.

Possums symbolize peaceful transitions, conflict avoidance, and cooperative effort. “We could use more of that in the world,” Kerri said. They also represent the development of insight and uncovering hidden truths. After the events of the past few years, surfacing a few hidden truths would be welcome. I could use an insight or two.

Peter posed. He definitely wanted us to photograph his good side. “He’s really beautiful,” Kerri said, snapping pictures.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about PETER POSSUM

nurture me/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Eat And Evolve [on Merely A Thought Monday]

DogDog actually sat still long enough to don antlers and have his picture taken. This is progress. Our Aussie pup rarely sits still and is known for his committed resistance to headwear. He is, however, responsive to the promise of treats and the real story of his antler success is Kerri’s ability to juggle the antlers, the camera and the waving of a treat – all in one balletic gesture. I suspect we are not so different from DogDog: all evolution is probably snack driven.

More than once we’ve made the 45 minute drive to Lake Geneva to buy a single piece of flourless chocolate cake. In pre-Covid times we’d stay awhile and visit the shops or walk part of the path around the lake (it’s a 21 mile loop), but lately, we grab our cake and go. I also want to confess that, in our recent drive to Denver, we went through Lake Geneva and, not only did we buy a piece of cake but also an entire loaf of freshly baked Turkey Red Rustic bread. And a brownie. It was all gone before Kansas. I am certain that decadent cake and warm bread are signs of incremental evolution. We are slightly better people for having indulged our food fantasies. We are slightly bigger, too.

It’s the holidays. I know this because my dog is wearing antlers. I also know it because people are making plans to gather and have meals together. There will be singing and gifts and other events but mostly there will be food. Cookies. Pies. Hams. Yams. Kerri asked Jen for a recipe in our evening Zoom happy hour. Yesterday, the grocery store was packed with enthusiastic shoppers carrying lengthy lists, racing through the aisles, all to hunt and gather the ingredients necessary for evolution to continue.

Sworn enemies find a path to peace when breaking bread together. A community knows it is prosperous when none of its members want for food. The same will be true of the world. Peace and enough to eat are bedfellows. We have a ways to go in our evolution.

When this world really wants to break bread, might I recommend Simple Bakery in Lake Geneva. The Turkey Red Rustic has always brought us great peace and I’m certain the same will be true for the bevy of committed enemies the world round. In the meantime, it’s my turn with the antlers. Kerri has promised me a treat and a sip of Bailey’s Irish Creme if I am good boy and sit still. Let’s just say that DogDog and I share the same sitting-still-for-headwear gene. I love evolution though I fear the photo. I suppose there’s always a price to be paid.

read Kerri’s blog post about EVOLUTION