Keep Playing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As I reported several weeks ago, if you where standing on the far side of the piano, you’d never know Kerri was playing with casts on both of her wrists. You’d never know that she was playing with two broken wrists, her right thumb completely out of the line-up. Nine fingers doing the job of ten.

As a composer, singer-songwriter, a person whose entire career, her livelihood, has been about playing the piano, she was at the keyboard four days after her fall. She had to know if she could play. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears. In my best mother hen voice, I suggested, “Maybe you should wait a bit.”

“I have to know,” she said with THAT tone in her voice.

When I first met her, I took note that she stands when she plays the piano. She is not a bench sitter. Rather, she is a full-body player. She is a full body composer. Sometimes the piano literally hops with the force of her playing. She is little but grows exponentially in energy and presence when she steps up to the keys. The first time she played for me I had to step back from the power that came through her.

Now, several weeks into her mending time, the casts are off and the splints are on. I tell her that they make her look all Mad Max. Michael Jackson’s glove is bush-league compared to her performer-fashion-statement: double black splints.  She looks like a pugilist getting into the ring with her piano. The disparity between her bruiser-piano-vogue and the beautiful music she creates makes my head swirl.

Of course, all of that piano punching has brought a new hurdle in the wrist recovery saga: tendonitis. She went on a Google frenzy when the hard nodules began forming in her palm. They hurt. “My palm is on fire!” she said, “What do you think they are?” Google inflamed her already wild imagination with horror diagnoses and none of the scenarios were good. In fact, they were downright dire.

Doctors were called. Photos of palms sent. A scary foray into the medical facility mid-pandemic was arranged. She emerged from the facility, pulled off her protective mask and climbed into the truck. “Well?” I prompted.

“I didn’t touch anything,” she announced.

“I’m asking about your hands,” I huffed. “What did they say about the nodules growing in your hands?”

“My tendons don’t like that I’m playing with casts,” she said. “Probably tendonitis.”

“That’s good news!” I said and she hit me with THAT look. “Okay, so. Well. Not great news. What are you supposed to do?”

“Keep playing,” she said, looking out the front window. “They gave me some exercises. Advil. But, I keep playing. What else can I do?” she asked, a question not to me.

“Good then. You’ll keep playing.” My mother hen suggestion went unvoiced: maybe some rest? I didn’t want to be hit with THAT look two times in a row. Instead, knowing full well that she is not a bench sitter, knowing that she is a full-body artist and that, for her, to play is to heal, I said, “Okay. Let’s do it. Let’s keep playing.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SAGA CONTINUED

 

 

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Become Whole [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When Barney came to live in our backyard, he’d been long forgotten in the dank dark basement boiler room. His soundboard was shot. He was headed for the junkyard when Kerri intervened and asked if Barney might come live out his days with us. It has been five years since Barney arrived in the junk man’s pick up truck. He has aged beautifully.

The first day in his new home Barney spoke when Kerri played his keys. He let go of his voice one key at a time. Within a week he was silent, no longer what he once was but not yet sure of what he was becoming.

We adorned him with flowers in pots for a few summer seasons. Certainly, he was content to support the flowers – like a crossword puzzle, it was something to do – but it never rose to the level of purpose. We realized he was doing it for us so when the third season arrived we let go our desire to give him meaning. He heaved a sigh at our revelation, and, at last, purpose-free, he enjoyed the sun for no other reason than it felt good. That season, wild geraniums grew around his baseboard and embraced him, the chipmunks used him as their hiding spot. The little critters made him laugh as they stood on his blistering lid and taunted the rowdy dog.

Initially, we tried to slow his inevitable peel, slathering him with marine oil, but his skin wrinkled and bubbled anyway. The white veneer of his keys was the first to go. We realized that Barney was becoming another kind of beautiful. He was, as Rilke wrote, living his way into the answer to all of his questions.

Jen and Brad suggested in our stay-at-home-seclusion that we exchange images of spring. I stepped onto the back deck and recorded the birds singing. And then I saw the wild geraniums were showing up and gathering around Barney. He was absolutely gorgeous in the morning light, sculptural and at peace. I’d just read something Thomas Merton wrote and it perfectly described Barney on this early spring morning: There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BARNEY IN SPRING

 

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Allow [on KS Friday]

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“If we allow time for soul, we will sense its dark and luminous path. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

These days are edge days. We began to feel strangers in our own lives. That is a sign to be heeded. It’s time for us to sit in silence.

“Beauty inhabits the cutting edge of creativity – mediating between the known and the unknown, light and darkness, masculine and feminine, visible and invisible, chaos and meaning, sound and silence, self and others.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

Kerri doubts her beauty. And then she approaches the edge. She stands at her piano. When she plays all doubt leaves the room because the polarity finds its middle way, there is no this or that.

Sometimes it is enough – it is necessary – to stand at the piano with hands nowhere near the keys.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

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Kerri on iTunes

 

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Grow More Beautiful [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Barney is growing more beautiful with each passing year. New colors emerge. His wood splinters and new patterns play across his keys. The laminate that once served as skin is loose, wrinkled and twisting.

He was once forgotten.  Years ago, someone thought it was a good idea to store him next to the boiler in the basement of the church. He sat in the dark for decades. He provided a surface for loose tools. He stood in water more than once; the basement floods and the boiler breaks. Over time his soundboard was ruined. He was no longer useful according to his original purpose.

He was rediscovered. He was rolled into the light. It was determined that he was too broken to be fixed and he was scheduled to be taken away by the scrap man. It took some convincing but we talked the scrap man into bringing Barney to our house. He helped us roll Barney across the grass. He helped us lift him into his resting place.

Barney has been a fixture in our backyard for the past 4 years. Kerri played him on his first day here and he sounded pretty good. The next day his sound collapsed, his keys stuck; he let us know his time for giving voice was over. He is content in his silence.

Now, he rests. He weathers. He drinks in the sun and the snow and rain as the years cycle through. The plants grow up around him as he slowly sinks into them. We watch and note his changes, the pieces falling off, the chipmunks who live beneath his lid. The purples and ochres and deep rich blues that were hiding beneath the laminate have surfaced. The changing weather, the long road of his life, has teased them to the top.

He quite simply grows more and more beautiful. We think that was his purpose all along.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BARNEY

 

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Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

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I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she has learned through many, many years of study and practice. I can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

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KS Friday

jackettpotjjpegIn this age of brevity, tweets, freeways, fast tracks, efficiency and ubiquitous worship at the alter of time-is-money, I find this piece of music to be heart-full and hopeful.  It reminds me of the simple truth in this life: the important stuff lives in the fields beyond the achievements and striving. It’s A Long Story is beautiful and evokes a profound paradox: each moment is a long story  – especially if I choose to live IN it rather than rush to pass THROUGH it.

I listened to this album long before I met Kerri in person. I listened over and over again to this track, It’s A Long Story, and knew we were kindred. It asks you to stop and listen. It asks you to take time, to surrender any nagging efficiency, cost cutting race through life and sit in your moment. It’s a warm bath in the simple appreciation of living. It has made me smile and sometimes served as the soundtrack to my weeping. It always serves as a siren call into the present moment. That’s the heart of the artist’s gift and Kerri, my wife is a remarkable artist. On this KS Friday, hear her call from the melange, and fall into your Long Story.

ITS A LONG STORY from the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY (track 1) iTunes

KS FRIDAY

www.kerrisherwood.com – buy the album

read Kerri’s thoughts about IT’S A LONG STORY

www.kerrianddavid.com

IT’S A LONG STORY from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 2000 kerri sherwood