Pause And Listen [on KS Friday]

A pause. Unspecified length. Fermata. It reads like poetry. I, a consummate non-musician, am learning and loving new musical terms.

We live in a world of noise. Too much noise. Too much talking. Too many screamers competing for our shrinking attention spans.

So much noise blocks access to the still small voice, the soul voice. That whisper-voice of inner truth never shouts. It is very hard to hear things-of-depth in a world so enamored with the superficial, so consumed by the marketing-moment. The breaking news. The voguish sale. The hip. The hop. The latest tweet. The newest outrage. Tik-Tok, Facebook, Instagram, spin-your-noggin-round-and-round.

This morning I’ve heard and read a thought surfing atop all the noise-feeds: we have to find a shared truth. Without it, we will enter the ranks of the failed states, if we are not there already.

Standing on the streets shouting at each other is guaranteed to further gape-our-void. Running deeper into fact-less-“news”-bubbles that spit blather 24/7 will send us deeper and deeper into banana-republic-status.

Our hope of unity lies in the fermata. The pause of unspecified length. Quiet.

It is from the silence that we might recognize that shared truth never pops out of its hole in the middle of a street fight. Truth stays clear of cacophony. It is in the silence that we have a slight prayer of hearing some truth.* We’ll know when we’re ready to share truth again when, out of the shared silence, we begin our conversation with some form of this simple question: “What did you hear?”

[*this highly idealistic and slightly naive thought assumes the restoration of respect for facts & science in all parties, a shared baseline for all inner-listeners]

read Kerri’s blog post on FERMATA

find all of Kerri’s albums on iTunes

Walk With Me [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Lately, I’m dreaming of walking the Pacific Crest Trail. It is an escape fantasy. I want to unplug from this angry culture and its toxic division. I want to walk until it hurts. I want to listen to the wind. I want to think-no-thoughts.

I’m kinesthetic. Walking is a better form of meditation for me than sitting. I get quiet when I walk. Chris once told me that I should lead pilgrimages. At the time it made me laugh since I was certain I could probably guide the walk but had very little to offer seekers other than this bit of counsel: shhhhhhhhhhhh. Listen.

I grew up in Colorado and camped often. Say the word, “sacred” to me and I immediately hear the sound of wind rustling through the tops of pine trees. Once, walking a trail in the mountains, it began to gently snow. The forest stilled. It was so quiet I thought for a brief moment that I’d grown deaf. The wind. The quiet. I heard myself catch my breath. Sacred.

At the beginning of this pandemic time, we’d wake in the morning and, sometime during coffee, we’d remember. “Oh, right,” Kerri would say, “we’re living in a sci-fi movie.” The night had forgiven the previous day’s stresses.

One day in Bali, walking down a long road, I felt unsettled. A young man came from the fields and joined me. At first I was perturbed because I wanted to be alone but soon I found his company reassuring.  I asked where he was going and he said, “With you. I walk with you.”

I was confused and asked “Why?”

He was confused by my question. “You are a guest here,” he said in his broken English. “To let you walk alone…is not nice.”

I thought of this young Balinese man, my one-day companion, as I drifted off to sleep last night. The gentle courtesy of his act. His deeply felt obligation of presence. His work-of-the-day was less important, less vital, than showing spontaneous kindness to a stranger. Would I need my escape fantasy, my epic walk, if the people in my country were as generous, as respectful of each other, as he was to me?

“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.” ~ Frederick Buechner

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ANOTHER DAY’S CHALKING

 

 

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held in grace: rest now ©️ 2016 david robinson

Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

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Tuck In [on KS Friday]

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In all of the English language, you’d have to scour the dictionary to find a word more pleasing than ‘lullaby.’ It’s a magic word capable of making hard faces soften with sweet memories. Footie pajamas. Security blanket. Night light. Teddy Bear.

Lullaby is a warm word-cup brimming with the purest intention: a gentle song sung or played to send a child to sleep.

If I could grant a single wish to the children-of-all-ages populating this big chaotic world in this angry and scary time, it would be to take a time out, slip into soft footie pajamas,  zip-up and tuck into bed with a blankie, and give over to a gentle lullaby, a safe and peaceful sleep.

Actually, my wish would be this: that we awake from our quiet sleep, refreshed, with less hard faces and begin our new day, our next era quietly, with an intention as pure and warm and life-giving as Kerri’s lullaby. Being the blanket of security for each other. [a boy can dream…].

I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER AND EVER) on the album AND GOODNIGHT…A LULLABY ALBUM is available on iTunes.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about I WILL HOLD YOU

 

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

Reach In [on DR Thursday]

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Reaching way back into my archive, we found this watercolor. A few brushstrokes. A few details. It reminds me of how much I used to like working with watercolor.

Prayer and meditation are themes for me. Reaching in to reach out. Joseph Campbell wrote a book entitled The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. I suspect the umbrella title of my visual body of work is the inverse: the outer reaches of inner space.

Quiet inner space takes some cultivating, some understanding of breathing and movement. I think cultivating inner space was the reason I began drawing and painting in the first place. The outer space made no sense to me. It still feels like an alien world. With so much beauty to create, with so much vast life to explore, metaphor to plumb, meaning to make, why hang out with the fist shakers?

My answer is always found in the quiet of my studio or on a walk in the woods. These days I also enjoy leaning on the piano listening to Kerri play, compose, and sing. Magic. She reaches down into inner space, too, and what comes out is gigantic. Breathtaking. It creates more inner quiet. A feedback loop. Life appreciating life. What else is there?

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Winged, 27 x 20IN

 

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Sacred Series: Prayer, 24 x 9IN

read Kerri’s blog post about OLD WATERCOLOR PRAYER

 

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old watercolor/winged/sacred series: prayer ©️ 2000/2018 /2017

 

 

 

Dance A Simple Dance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~Lao Tzu

“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” ~ Steve Jobs

I am at home in my studio. Even during the times – like now – when my well is dry, I go into my studio and the world makes sense. It is quiet. My intention is pure: I seek an experience, an exploration, not an achievement. In other words, I enter into a relationship with something so much bigger than me. It is a simple dance with no end. The paintings are a map of this relationship.

Krishnamurti wrote that “stillness is the act of worship – not going to temple to offer flowers and pushing the beggar aside on the way.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (thus, not being still;-) in our world of angry competing narratives. Screaming moral high ground. All the shouting down of others. All the static and noise and agenda-masked-as-righteousness. The celebration of the lie (the official term is a ‘post-truth world’). The difference between rhetoric and lived realities. We ask almost every day, “How does this make sense?”

Rome fell. Ask Google the question why? and you’ll get a list of eight simple reasons. Over reliance on slave labor. Military overspending. Government corruption and instability. The loss of values. Weakened and eating themselves from the inside out, they became exposed to easy invasion. Lots of noise. Loss of center.

We know there is no sense to be made so we walk in our beloved Bristol wood. We walk the trails next to the Des Plaines River. We walk the streets of our neighborhood. We hold hands. Simple. We talk about the leaves, the color of the sky. Kerri takes photos of things that catch her eye. Beautiful shapes. Geese flying en masse. An ancient tree. Radiant purple vines climbing from the ochre grass.  We attempt to leave the angry noise even for a short while, to dip our toes into the quiet.

Yesterday we came to the end of the trail and heard a bagpipe playing The Water is Wide. It was lovely. Haunting. So out of place yet so perfect. It made sense. We stopped and listened as the music reverberated through the woods. It brought us fully into the moment. The cool air and sun. The music mixing with the rustling of the leaves. No where else to be. Nothing to change or control or get through. Simple.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about keeping things SIMPLE

 

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Sip [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Unlike wine, I am not getting better with age. The cliche’ would have me growing wiser with my years but the closer I walk to my end the farther away wisdom seems. I know less and less the more I live.

Yesterday, Kerri told a young man – a budding preacher – that he’d reach and impact more people through vulnerability than through knowledge. To be vulnerable is to open to life’s experiences. Knowledge is too often a protection against experience. A younger me used knowledge as a sword – just like this young man. I am only now finding gratitude for the day my sword shattered.

Perhaps standing at the edge of the mystery and acknowledging that I know nothing useful marks the beginning of wisdom. Quinn told me that wisdom had nothing to do with the stuff that you think you know.  I am catching glimpses of what he meant. Isn’t it true that the real stuff, the stuff of deep value, always leads to silence? To quiet? To listening? To sitting comfortably in the space between and enjoying the moment just because?

These are the reasons I enjoy wine more and more. I drink it with friends. I sit on the back porch and sip it as I watch the sunset. As my agendas fall away, I find more open space for simple appreciation, utter appreciation, for this single sip of life.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WINE

 

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Make A Small Gesture [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We’ve built our towering life together on the small gesture. Coffee in bed. A note stashed in a suitcase to be found when far away from home. We hold hands everywhere we go. When getting ready for bed, the first one in the bathroom always puts toothpaste on both brushes. Little kindnesses. The smallest of signals and courtesies that say nothing more and nothing less than, “You matter most of all.”

Looking for the grand plan that will change the world or, better, trying to be the grand plan, often blinds us to the real necessity of the moment. We look for the mountain that needs to be moved and miss the hand that needs to be held.

My younger, revolutionary self screams, “WHAT?! WE NEED TO PUSH BACK! WE NEED TO FIGHT THE SYSTEM!! WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD!!! THIS SMALL-MOMENT STUFF IS THE CRAP-THINKING OF AN OLD PERSON! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!!!!

I’ve been more changed by a smile from across the room than by all the agitation that I’ve engendered across the span of my life. I have initiated more change by holding my tongue than by wagging it. Listening, I’ve learned, is a most powerful small gesture.

If I am old (I don’t feel old), if I have learned anything, then I have learned that real love is not noisy or flashy or grand. It is quiet. It steps behind you when you are frightened, puts its hand on your back and whispers, “I’ve made you a toothbrush.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SMALL GESTURES

 

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Stand In The Enormity [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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When Kerri first showed me this photograph, it read to me like a minimalist painting. A subtle field of color with two splashes and a brushstroke. So much said with so little. A meditation of movement and the immovable.

The lake is different every day. Its color palette is as changeable as its moods. Each day upon awaking, Kerri walks onto the deck and snaps a picture. So far, no two days are alike. So far, no two hours are alike.

Once I stood in La Sagrada Familia and the enormity of it made me quiet. The lake is like that. Immense to the point of stillness.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BIRDS AND AN ISLAND

 

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Save Your Nickel [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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We walk on snowy trails through the woods because it is quiet. I retreat to my studio to work because it is quiet. It inspires quiet. Quiet evokes quiet.

Scrolling through her news app, Kerri said, “Everyone in the world is angry.” It certainly seems that way, especially if the news is the lens through which the world is defined. Headlines shout. The advertisements flash and disrupt.  Tom used to say that watching television, plugging into the news-of-the-day, reminded him of his childhood. The circus would come to town. Carnival barkers and bright signs, lots of noise and distractions. The one sure moneymaker, the tent everyone clamored to get into, lining up to pay their shiny nickel, was the freak show. Two headed cows in jars of formaldehyde. Things that gross us out or make us mad. “Nowadays, they call it reality television,” he’d say, shaking his head. “Or the news. It’s a lot of noise.”

Here’s a simple truth: conversation is impossible in too much noise. People shouting to be heard. A room full of shouting people actually makes listening more difficult and conversing impossible. It’s a feedback loop. Noise evokes noise. And, noise isolates. It is a perfect recipe for being alone together.

The Five20 is a little bar at the Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg.  Their tagline, “Where you can actually hear your conversation” is refreshingly accurate and seems a throwback to another era. People valuing conversation; a place, a space, intended to facilitate interaction sans noise. Our group, 10 people strong, the up-north-gang, began and ended our yearly trek to Winterfest there. Sitting at the far end of the long table, I could hear every word spoken at the other end. Even when the bar was packed.  And, the best part, today, I can’t tell you what we talked about – the simple stuff  of life – but I can tell you that we laughed and shared and left the Five20 full of friendship, warmed by sharing rather than exhausted from shouting.

As Tom would have said, “Save your nickel.” Sometimes the thing you seek is not in the tent amidst the noise but outside, far from the circus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR

 

 

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