Listen To The Sound Of The Wind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” ~Frederick Douglas

I began cleaning out old files, something to fill the time. I knew the job had come to an end but the formal announcement had yet to come. The file of voice recordings I made with Tom surprised me. I wondered why I’d stashed it in folder that had nothing to do with The Lost Boy project. I opened one of the recordings and spent a few minutes with Tom. His deep bass voice telling a story of hardship and perseverance. “His daughter’s carried his body out onto the flood plain,” he said, “where they could find softer soil to dig a grave.”

It threw me into a memory with Columbus. Sitting at the table out back, the evening was coming on and he was having a lucid moment in his path through dementia. I asked him what happened in his life that he shifted jobs and started working in construction. A tale of hardship and perseverance. Impossible circumstances. Stable ground was fleeting. A neighbor offered him a job that seemed ridiculous at the time. He took it. A strange unknown land. He loved it. He thrived through adversity. Just before disappearing back into the muddy waters of dementia he whispered, “That man taught me how to be a man among men.”

Today we sit in uncertainty. Life review. “Why does our path have to be so hard?’ she asked in the aftermath of the announcement. “Why can’t we have just a little bit of stable ground?” We are carved in hardwood. We are a study of perseverance. “We’ll find a way,” my only reply.

I stood with Tom in the cemetery. He wanted to show me a grave that he’d shown me several times before. In his dementia, he couldn’t remember so we returned again and again. Frankie, another lost boy in a story of lost boys. This time was different. I knew it would be our last trip. I took him to the grave. I told him the story of his ancestor Frankie.

As I finished the telling, a farmer, a big man, came into the yard, ham-sized-hands clutching a tiny bundle of store bought flowers. He didn’t know we were there or didn’t care. He kneeled at a fresh grave. He wailed his grief. Tom heard the sound of the man’s sobs and stood still, listening. Finally, glancing at me, his voice quiet with awe, he said, “Listen to the sound of the wind.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about YOU’LL MAKE IT

Take One More Step [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Tom and I spent many hours on the deck of his cabin at the ranch watching sunsets. It was during those moments of waning light that he’d reminisce about his life in education and the arts. “To this day I am in awe of what many of my students taught me about perseverance.”

The teacher as student. The lesson – both ways – was tenacity in the face of monumental difficulty. Tom climbed metaphoric mountains in a system dedicated to hurling avalanches against his progress. His was an innovator’s path. He kept climbing, I learned during our sunset talks, because his students inspired him. Some achieved their mountaintop against all odds. In many cases, the mountaintop was – to other eyes – as seemingly simple as showing up for one more day. They kept climbing so he kept climbing. Showing up for each other. A feedback loop of tacit encouragement. They kept climbing because he was present on the metaphoric mountainside every day.

His students inspired him. He inspired me. An ancestry of inspiration.

I might have imagined it. The chipmunk butted in line at the bird feeder, sending the toddler cardinal fleeing to the safety of the Adirondack chair. More birds gathered while the chipmunk gorged. In a moment of chipmunk consciousness, he turned, looked at the growing assembly of hungry beaks, turned back to the feeder and, like Santa Claus, began kicking mounds of seed to the ground. Chipmunk potlatch. Bird extravaganza. Every critter had their fill.

Weeks later, while weeding the garden, Kerri called across the yard: “I think we’re growing corn.” she said. I joined her at the row of dense grasses growing beneath the bird feeder. A tender stalk, against all odds, found enough sun and water to reach through the thick resistance. Nature amazes me. The impulse to life, from chipmunk-seed-toss to corn stalk pushing through impenetrable grasses.

It brought thoughts of Tom. Seeds planted. Mountains to climb. The sunset, glowing orange and pink across his face, he’d smile, “Often the secret is nothing more or less profound than taking the next step, showing up for each other one more day.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about CORN

Ask A Peony Question [on KS Friday]

The peony in our yard is sandwiched between tall grasses. We’re careful to cut back the grasses so the peony has space and air to breathe. Kerri watches it. She checks on it daily. She calls me to “Comesee!” when the buds appear. She pulls my arm, “It’s happening!” on the day the buds open into full bloom. In our house peony-bloom is cause for celebration.

The blossoms do not last long, a week, perhaps a few days more if we’re lucky. And then they are gone.

The blooms are passing but the plant is sturdy. Sometimes I feel that the peony is a good artist. It works all year drinking in sun and water and life so it might produce a few moments of lovely. Every single day, through the dog days of August, the harsh cold of winter, the wet and muddy spring, is necessary for the peony to bring its fragile and passing burst of pink beauty – its expression – into plain sight.

Late at night, the tornado sirens sent us to the basement. We sat in rocking chairs and listened to the roar of the storm, the flash and house-rattling thunder. I looked at my easel. Currently, my studio is filled with boxes. Kerri eyes her studio; it’s next up for a good cleaning-out. Revamp and refresh.

In the basement, sirens blaring and storms howling, we talked about whether or not she would ever play again. Whether or not I would ever again pick up a brush. It’s an open question. It’s a deep-in-the-night question.

It’s a peony question. I wonder if, in the dead of winter, roots reaching deeper than the frozen ground, if the peony knows that it will, with certainty, bloom?

In A Split Second from As Sure As The Sun

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE PEONY

in a split second/as sure as the sun © 2002 kerri sherwood

Say The Word [on Two Artists Tuesday]

“In the realm of ideas, everything depends upon enthusiasm…in the real world all rests on perseverance.” ~ Goethe

To outside eyes it looks like a small stack of plastic Adirondack chairs. To our eyes, it is a marker of something almost unimaginable to us during these past few years: stable ground.

If you want to know what these semi-cheap plastic chairs represent to us, look no further than the movie Gravity. Sandra Bullock in space in a story of “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Through a rolling series of disasters peppered with just-in-the-knick-of-time hand-holds, against all odds, she splashes down to earth, safe. She stands on a beach, shaky legs. For the first time in a seeming eternity: stable ground.

Perseverance is a word used after the fact. During the free fall to earth, nothing feels even remotely like tenacity. Survival-mode does not allow for meaningful reflection or personal congratulations. Look for anything to grab to stop the fall. Believe that the ghost of George Clooney will crawl into the space capsule with a kick-in-the-butt speech at the very moment when giving up seems like the only option.

“There’s always another option,” we told ourselves. There’s always another step to take. Any step. There must be…

During our free fall we sat on our back deck in our broken white, cracking-and-en-route-to-collapsing plastic Adirondack chairs. We felt the sun on our faces. We talked of appreciating our moments. We encouraged and affirmed each other when “hope” was a word that made us roll our eyes and laugh-out-loud.

Last week, in a daring gesture of new times, we bought (on sale!) six black Adirondack chairs. Six! For friends to sit in when they come to visit. A statement of “hope” during a season of pandemic.

Yesterday we sat for the first time in two of our new chairs, faces in the sun, appreciating our moment. And, for the first time in three years, we dared utter the word “perseverance.” Shaky legs. Stable ground.

read Kerri’s blogpost about NEW CHAIRS

Arrive At The Essence [on Two Artists Tuesday]

This past Saturday we passed a milestone. We began writing our Melange on February 12, 2018, four years ago. We’ve published 5 days a week, every week, no matter what chaos or crazy storm blew through our lives.

Our Melange has moved through many phases. Originally, we wanted to regain some control over the publication of our music, paintings, plays, children’s books and cartoons. In our first post I called it our “pile of creative perseverance.” Also, we wanted to make a living from our mountain of work so we set up Society6 storefronts and spent hours each day developing products based on what we published. It was a blast and a total bust.

Eventually, the stores fell off, the daily themes changed, and we arrived at a pure essence: we love to sit together and write. Each day. There’s always a visual prompt, mostly from photos Kerri’s taken during the week. There’s only one rule: we can’t read or know what the other is writing about until we’ve completed our drafts. And then we read to each other, talk about our posts and clean them up. It’s my favorite thing to do. It feeds our hearts, energizes our artistic souls and that is more than enough.

Somedays I feel as if we are writing ourselves into existence. Our Melange is the story we tell each other – and you – of our life together. It’s a continuation of the Roadtrip, the daily emails we wrote to each other before we met. And, if the Roadtrip was a narrative offering of “this is me,” the Melange is a narrative offering of, “this is us.”

We launched the Melange with this Chicken Nugget (below). I wrote, as an introduction in the inaugural post, that this Nugget – and the Melange – was “a quiet reminder that the universe of feelings was – and is – so much bigger than words can possibly contain.” Ironic, yes? Coming from two people who, each and every day, write words as their way of reaching into this vast universe of feelings.

Thank you for reading what we write. We appreciate every step you take with us on our journey.

read Kerri’s blog post about 4 YEARS

chicken marsala © 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

the melange © 2018-22 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Trust The Symbol [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.” ~ Victor Hugo

It is nearly November and the tomato plants are still producing. I’ve come to think of our tomato proliferation as a dance between Kerri and the plants. Each morning, all summer long, with the good advice of 20, she tended the tomatoes. And, the tomatoes tended her. They continue to inspire quiet in her. I’ve watch the gentle morning dance from the window, DogDog circling the yard, Kerri with the watering can, pinching leaves, securing supports, or simply admiring yet another green orb that appeared overnight.

There was also the basil, mint, and lavender. After the tomatoes were nurtured, they joined the dance. Presence.

You know things are not going well when your friends start comparing you to Job. I’m not a bible guy but even I was keen to the reference. We’ve had a few years of rolling bad luck and molehills turned into mountains. 20 is fond of saying, “Karma is a long game,” and there were days that I asked Kerri what she did in a past life to deserve the most recent disaster. After punching my arm, we’d chant in unison, ‘One day at a time.” Take this step. Enjoy this day. The circumstance doe not define us. And, mostly, we lived it, staying in the center of the hurricane.

And, then, about the middle of May, the winds changed. It was palpable. Somethings actually began to tip in our favor. And, for reasons I cannot explain, we needed to grow tomatoes. Kerri needed to grow tomatoes. Last summer we made an anemic attempt at growing lettuce. We ate a salad or two from our mini-farm, but it was more of an exercise, something to do, rather than a symbol of the arrival of better times. The tomatoes came as harbingers, heralds of a new era.

To say that they’ve been prolific is an understatement. All summer long, lines of tiny red miracles sat on our table, ripening. The plants have withstood pounding rain, excessive heat, and withering humidity. Not only have they withstood it, they’ve prospered in it. It’s a hopeful symbol. Somewhere deep down inside, we hope to follow their lead. After a few years of the-other-shoe-always-dropping, we’re slow to trust our symbol. But, like our symbol, we’re taking our time, not getting ahead of ourselves, and will harvest our good fruit when the time is right.

Until then, we persevere, one day at a time, grateful for the portent our good tomatoes bring.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

Fill In The Blanks [on KS Friday]

Richard Stone from The StoryWork Institute often begins his workshops with this prompt: I come from a people who_______________, and from them I learned_________________. It’s a fast-track statement, a mainline revelation to the place you come from.

I thought a lot about this prompt during our recent trip to Colorado and visit with my parents. I come from people who persevere.

I was moved to tears over and over again watching the deep well of calm, the kind patience my mother taps as she travels with my father through his dementia. She is more solid than she knows, more steady in her root than she has ever realized.

Her father had his leg kicked off by a horse. He fashioned his own prosthetic leg – it looked more hoof than foot. He fashioned new gas and brake pedals for his car, a matching pedal for his bike. He did not slow down. He did not invest in self-pity or the notion of a disability. His missing limb became a new ability, a reason to invent.

My mother’s mother was a study in joy-within-difficult-circumstances. She grew up in a gold mining camp. She was a tiny person with a titanic spirit and bottomless capacity to laugh. She once took a neighbor’s horse and hid it in her kitchen because she caught wind that it was due to be shipped off to the glue factory.

I come from a people who keep walking and laughing in the face of hardship. And from them I learned [and continue to learn] perseverance. I will, with a little more resolve, I hope, develop the patience and discover the kindness that both my parents, my rich lineage, reveals.

It’s where I’m from.

WHERE I’M FROM from the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post on WHERE I’M FROM

where i’m from/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Persevere [on KS Friday]

holdingsteadfast songbox copy

To me, the album cover is like a time capsule. The woman who would become my wife looking through a camera lens into a future unimaginable.  Over twenty years later, I look back, peeking through that triangular keyhole, the impish woman, the near smirk. Does she know the path she will walk, the mountains she will climb? The falls she will take? The sturdy resilient woman she will become?

The impishness remains intact. The brat with the wicked laugh I adore even when – especially when – I am the object of her rascal-nature. The kind of perseverance developed over a lifetime. Clinging to the cliff, against all odds, holding steadfast through the storm. This mettle must have already existed in her blueprint! And, look what life built from that blueprint! A ferocious and very kind soul. An artist.

 

HOLDING STEADFAST from the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOLDING STEADFAST

 

gate f8 website box copy

 

holding steadfast/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

Write The Essential [on Merely A Thought Monday]

button to button copy 2

I’m not sure what stacks up around your house. At our house, the stacks are paintings, cartoons, designs, composition notes, manuscripts, folios, notebooks of ideas, scraps of paper jammed into the notebooks of ideas, lyrics a-go-go, and the supplies necessary to make the other stacks possible. Colored pencils, brushes, too many composition books, canvas, tissue paper, paint, sketchbooks, art books, and the stacks-and-stacks of stuff teetering on the piano and bench that somehow resemble a nest.

All of this is to note that we are fantastic generators of content and equally inept marketers of what we generate. Thus, the stacks. It was this realization – and the necessity of making a living – that one year ago gave birth to the melange. Melange means ‘mixture’ or ‘medley.’

The idea was simple: Monday would be dedicated to our cartoon, Chicken Marsala. Tuesday would be dedicated to our Two Artists designs. Wednesday was Flawed Cartoon day. Thursday was for my paintings. Friday was for Kerri’s music. We created a Society6.com store for each day, set about designing 5 product lines a week (oh, god,…more content). Through our blogs we’d write about and publish the day’s selection, he-said/she-said-style. People all over the world would read what we wrote, be captivated by the cartoon, design or composition, and race to the Society6.com store to buy a print or a mug or a laptop sleeve or a greeting card. Content out, income, well…in.

And, it happened. People all over the world read our blogs. And, almost no one raced to the Society6.com stores. We studied a few things, learned a few things, reconfigured, tried a few social-media-marketing variations, bought ad space, waved our hands, jumped up and down, danced silly dances – we pivoted and pivoted again.

More readers. Less-than-no shoppers.

One day, after eight months, we looked at each other and considered pulling the plug and would have pulled the plug except for one small-yet-oh-so-important detail: we love to write together. In the course of a year, the melange managed to boil itself down to its essence. Each day Kerri writes her post. “Don’t look!” she says as I, sitting next to her,  write mine. And then, before posting, we share them. We read to each other. It’s always a surprise (though mine are predictably “heady” and hers are 100% “hearty”).

When I looked back at our first post one year ago I laughed at the irony. Love needs no words. Well, in this case, in our case, love revels in words. There are too many words for the love to contain. And, so, our stacks grow happily higher and higher and higher.

love needs no words jpeg copy

if you'd like to see more CHICKEN... copy

read Kerri’s blog post about A YEAR IN MELANGE

 

chicken and perseverance website box copy

 

chicken marsala ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Catch The Miracle [on Two Artists Tuesday]

 

Walking through Bristol Woods, Kerri stopped, pulled out her phone, stepped off the path and into the trees. I’ve learned that means she’s seeing a little miracle that I’ve missed and is on a mission to photograph it. She walks through life noticing the details while my view is generally at 30,000 feet. I often miss what is right in front of my nose.

marbled orb-weaver copyShe signaled me to join her and I saw it. The aerial acrobatics of a marbled orb-weaver. Bobbing on a single thread that stretched into the sky, climbing back to its egg cocoon. The breeze made the already difficult climb seem impossible.

I was transported back in time. Alaska. Watching salmon struggle up a waterfall. Jumping, exhausted, nearing the end of their quest to return to their source, their spawning ground.  They lay their eggs and then die. I followed them upstream, beyond the waterfall to yet another waterfall and beyond. I came to the place, the spot in the river where their lives began and would now end. I was moved to tears by their struggle.

The salmon. The marbled orb-weaver. This thing called life – nature – is gorgeous and profound.

Watching the spider I whispered to Kerri, “How does it do that?”

“Sisu.” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SPIDER SISU

 

taking pix website box copy

 

spider sisu ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson