Listen To The Snow [on DR Thursday]

It’s snowing and it’s making me feel like wrapping in a blanket. Cozy and reassuring.

The tall grasses are bowing with the weight of the snow. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. The kind of quiet that only happens in a snowfall, like the world stands still and listens. We stood with our coffee and looked out the kitchen window at the enormous flakes falling. Quiet outside, quiet inside.

Yesterday we were in Florida. Bill called it paradise. I disagree. For me, paradise has seasons, an open window at night, the cold air driving me deeper beneath the quilts. Paradise calls me outside to walk. Paradise includes the infinite space that opens with the hush of the snow, when world rests and takes note. It makes the green shoots of spring that much more magical. Difference hones appreciation.

It’s good to be home. The snow serves as a welcoming committee. “Welcome back,” it whispers, reminding us of life’s rhythms, “It’s time to recharge.”

I look at my list of things to do and decide that I will listen to the snow. Today is a day to rejuvenate. To stand at the window and listen.

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOW

In Serenity, 46×30, mixed media [my site is down and under construction]

in serenity © david robinson

Feel The Space [on KS Friday]

Georgia O’Keeffe might have painted it. The Light Cathedral is iconic and people approached it with veneration. It was as if the Cathedral pulled people into it. They stopped at the entrance to take it all in before stepping inside the light. Once inside, enthusiasm overtook reverence. Smiles erupted. Families posed for portraits made possible with the photo-help of strangers. I was overwhelmed by the crush of the crowd and my built-in-covid-response propelled me to the far side and out. I turned back to locate Kerri, smiling, patient with the slow moving mass, gazing up at the magic of it all.

I confess: I wanted it all to myself. I wanted to walk to the very center and close my eyes and feel it. I wanted to lay on my back and fall into the apex like so many stars. I wanted to slow-walk from portal to portal, free to turn and pause and spin. To linger inside this art space. A place created.

The lights transported me to another life: Barney took me to a fairy ring. A perfect circle scribed by towering redwood trees. He knew I could feel it and suggested I spend some time there. I meditated. I returned early the next morning to the ring and sat in the center of the circle. Time stopped. I felt rejuvenated. I felt ancient. I laughed because it felt good. A natural sacred space.

Art spaces. Power places.

“What are you thinking about?” Kerri asked as she joined me outside the Light Cathedral, bringing me back to this life.

I smiled, “Two of my favorite things.”

[listen to the difference. One composition. Two variations. Art spaces. Power places.]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about the LIGHT CATHEDRAL

always with us/always with us/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Wink With Piet [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My first thought was of Piet Mondrian. Not the colorful compositions but a never-before-seen shadow side. Abstract reduction into simple geometry. An artistic vocabulary concerned with spirituality and universal values. I used to ponder how a utopian pursuit of the spiritual landed on clean hard geometry; bold primary colors set inside hard black lines. I’m certain that, given a similar pursuit, my visual vocabulary would have been softer. Ethereal.

It was the first snow. I looked down at the aging planks of the bench. A criss-cross-apple-sauce of workmanship dusted with white. We’ve never painted the loveseat. After so many years, so many winters and summers, rain and snow and sun, the grain of the wood is alive with texture. An aged face.

One of my favorite rituals of spring is the first sitting. After another freezing winter, another year of age, will the wood continue to hold my weight, our weight? We hold hands and sit slowly, gingerly. Our knees creak before our weight finds the planks. Like a baton pass, the wood takes on the groaning as our knees pass our load to the seat. We sit for a moment with eyes open wide. And then, after a slight bounce-test, we relax. The wood will hold. Our loveseat is like a faithful friend.

The snow melted as fast as it arrived. That is the way of first snow. Blink and you’ll miss it. Except for the love seat and matching chair, we hauled all the other summer furniture into the garage. The table and umbrella. The small ladders that serve as end tables. The fire pit. The first dusting of snow is the cue. The pond freezes so we pull the pump and fountain. Soon, we’ll stack the plastic Adirondack chairs and they’ll take the last available spot in our tiny garage. We push the loveseat to the wall beneath the kitchen window.

We stand on the deck and sigh, feeling the weight of coming winter. The dark days. For a moment, the yard seems bleak. But then, the birds land on the wire. The squirrel highway is open for business. We hear the ancient croak of the cranes in the distance. A cold gust brings a blizzard of falling leaves. A wholly different kind of abundance. The energy moves underground. A time for sleeping and quiet rejuvenation.

Simple geometry. Reduction to cold days and hard lines. Brilliant blue sky. A wink from Piet Mondrian.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE DECK

Refill [on KS Friday]

I confess to being a bit blue. Blue. That’s a metaphor for low-in-spirit.

And, isn’t it odd that we locate our spirits as either high or low? Where, exactly, is your spirit? Today, mine is low. Apparently, I think spirits are spatial.

That means my spirit is either laying down, taking a nap, dancing the limbo, or that its flame is minimal. My spirit isn’t burning much fuel. Don’t try and read a book by the light of my spirit! Not today, anyway.

Last night we had dinner with 20. After he left I told Kerri that I was grateful because he “lifted our spirits.” Spirits are impressionable. 20’s spirit breathed some air into my balloon. Balloon. That’s another metaphor. Expansive-spirit. Receptive of the light-hearts brought by others. Apparently, I think spirits are fickle, malleable. Or connected.

The sunset stopped us in our tracks. We knew the ranger would be waiting in the parking lot. Tapping his foot. He can’t go home until the parking lot is clear and people are supposed to be leaving at sunset. He previously threatened a citation. A citation is not a deterrent when a sunset is filling your spirit. I hoped the ranger was standing outside of his truck (and his role) and, like us drinking it in. Refilling.

Apparently I think spirits can be refilled. Refilled. That’s a metaphor. What’s the full capacity of my spirit?

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNSET

in transition/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Reconnect [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“We are healing our souls by reconnecting to our ancestors.” Nainoa Thompson (quote from The Wayfinders by Wade Davis)

There is a house I sometimes visit in dreams. It is a mountain house and, in the dream, it belongs to my Grandma Sue. I’m always comforted when I go there.

I have some of Casey’s tools and some of Bob’s. I think of them every time I use the wrench or the screwdriver. Both were good mechanics, handy, so I imagine their tools imbue me with some of their wisdom when I attempt to fix what’s broken around the house.

I gingerly page through the handmade book where DeMarcus made his notes about color. The pencil marks are fading but his enthusiasm reaches from the page and rejuvenates me. Inspires me.

A few days ago I happened upon my Lost Boy session recordings with Tom. His bass voice reached through my computer, telling me a story I now know so well. It warmed me.

In my studio, on top of DeMarcus’ wooden paint box, is a nutcracker that Grandpa Chan kept by his pool table. It’s the only thing I wanted when he passed. Something he touched. I hold it sometimes when I stare at works-in-progress. I feel him there.

I wear a chain around my left wrist. Kerri wears one, too. It is pull chain. The current version is a replacement of the original that we took from Pa’s workbench. I never met him but I feel connected to him. Kerri tells me stories of her dad. “How do you like them apples?” One of his phrases.

I imagine he and my dad are on the other side of the veil drinking scotch together. That drink warms me, too.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THEM APPLES

Speak Back To It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Noguchi might have designed this unintentional sculpture. A massive stone made delicate, the smaller carrying the weight of the greater. The shapes are not precise; they tend. As a final touch, the piece is set at water’s edge. Elemental commentary, a sculpture exposing the meeting of forces.

My favorite part: no one intended it. Yet, had Noguchi or Andy Goldsworthy walked by, they would have made flowing sketches, taken photographs, and rushed away to make it their own. Nature inspires. A happy accident. I suspect all great art comes into being this way.

Kerri often talks about placing her piano on a seashore or atop a mountain. Composing by responding to what nature presents. The sound of wind through trees, the pull of water rushing away from the beach. Once, she sat at her piano with a stack of image-phrases. She pulled one from the stack, closed her eyes, and played. I was a most happy witness to the wonders of creation.

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I pulled out my sketchbook and drew. The previous day, we visited the Botanic Gardens and I took dozens of photographs. The patterns and shapes of leaves. Startling color. I drew the shapes. I sketched the patterns. No expectation save the movement of hand and pencil. I felt as if I was blowing the dust out of my system. The patterns moved me.

The best news for any artist? We will never match the power and majesty that we find in nature as we reach to discover and express our own nature. The best we can do is draw from it, play in it, speak back to it, simply saying, “Thank you for the inspiration.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about ROCKS

Find Your Way [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I will never forget the day I followed the stream, watching the life-ending struggle of the salmon as they fought the current the final mile to return to their place of origin, their spawning ground. To the local people, the people who tended the hatchery, the salmon were gods. Gods or not, watching their struggle to return was sacred. The utter necessity to continue life through the next generation – as the final act of life. Cathedral building.

We brought home a Selenite crystal. It is raw, translucent, gorgeous. A Google search of its properties reveals that it promotes calm and provides clarity. I’ve never actually been invested in the debate about whether or not a crystal has powers. I’ve made the association so, when I look at it or hold it, I have in my mind that we brought this beautiful crystal home to elevate our spirits. And, so it does.

I live in the golden age of marketing. I’m told that a new truck will make me sexy, the latest medication will make my life a snap, that a pizza delivery will bring my family together like never before. Status and power are available through the purchase of machines and clothes. One year, no interest. We buy these messages, filling our closets with passing satisfaction. Is the fulfillment of a new pair of shoes imagined, less-than-genuine? We are consumers so doesn’t it make sense that contentment lasts no more than a spin through the washing cycle? Momentarily satisfied. What’s next?

I suppose the question is whether or not the crystal brings peace to me or do I bring more calm to my day because I’ve surrounded myself with messages – and, therefore, intentions – of serenity?

I know without doubt that a new truck will not imbue me with sex appeal. Yet, I have a pair of jeans that I save for the days that I want “to look good.”

Skip drove two days to find the sun so that he might stand in it and rejuvenate. I go to the basement and stand amidst the boxes that currently fill my studio and stare at a large blank canvas. Like the sun, it rejuvenates me. Yesterday, the nurse at the community health clinic said she loved her job because she felt that she was really helping the people who need her the most, “There are better rewards than money,” she said. Imagine the necessity – the hope – she brings to her life and work. Rejuvenation.

I do not know whether we are gods or not, but our struggle to find our way home is no less beautiful or fraught than the salmon. It is breathtaking, this swim upstream. Confusing. Sacred.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRYSTALS

Marvel The Resilience [on Two Artists Tuesday]

The guys at the water utility told us not to bother replacing our yard until the fall. “The dirt needs to settle,” they said. After trenching from the street to the house, tearing up great chunks of the sidewalk and curb, blowing a hole in the foundation, throwing dirt into the moat and covering it with straw, ripping up the street and quickly tossing temporary asphalt over the hole, our front yard is a hot mess of destruction.

Our neighbor owns a landscape design business; he scowls every time he looks our way. It pains him that his pristine yard sits next to our ruin. “The dirt needs to settle,” I say and shrug as he looks in horror at his worst nightmare. To add insult to injury, I’ve threatened to park the truck on our ruin but Kerri gives me THAT look. If I want to stay above ground, the truck stays in the driveway.

Standing on the front porch, amazed at the hardy green shoots reaching up through the devastation, straw and lawn netting, I thought of Tom. He marveled at the resilience of young people, students in the schools that he stewarded. Some of the children lived in extreme circumstances or had suffered terrific injury, and yet, they consistently transcended their situation. Pushing through the wreckage and reaching for the sun. “The human spirit,” he’d say and shake his head in amazement. “Marvelous.”

Despite being trenched, torn, mixed with concrete and rock, thrown about, turned over and over again, covered with straw and netting, the Day Lilies have not only survived, they are thriving. Just as a fire brings renewal to the forest, it seems the destruction served to energize the plants. More than a comeback, this is a riot of Lily return. A reunion.

“The impulse to life,” I whispered to Tom. “Unbelievable.”

“Yep,” he smiled.

read Kerri’s blog post about RESILIENCE

See The Dance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” ~Lao Tzu

We had a hard time choosing the prompt for this day. Traditionally, on Monday, we use a quote, something we’ve heard or come across in the week prior. We had plenty of thought-provoking quotes and appropriate images from which to choose. A few would have inspired rants. We also had a few ready to go that would have required more time than we have this morning to do the thought justice. They were heart-thoughts. And, so, we sat and stared at our screens. We pulled the original choice just before we published our picks for the week. “Let’s wait on this one,” Kerri said, “I feel like I want to give it more time.”

More time. Yes. In a few weeks time, we will cross the four year mark of our Melange. Five days a week. Four years. It’s a significant body of writing. At least to us.

When Kerri offered this image as an option, she said, “Maybe we should write about silence.” The mums bow their head. It is the end of their season. The flower drops and dies but the plant lives on, readying itself through the cold winter for a blossom resurrection in the spring. The buds will appear to be new life and we will celebrate them as a new beginning. The plant will smile at our surface-worship. Life did not disappear with the drooping blossom.

The phone rang last night in the early evening. It was my mom calling, just to chat. We talked of our disbelief that my dad, Columbus, was gone. We talked of her exhaustion and need to be still, like the mum in winter. We talked of the emergence of new friends and, someday, the discovery of a new purpose. All in good time. Good time. She is heroic walking through this chapter of her good time. When energy turns to the root, when it moves to an internal focus, it necessarily feels lonely.

Some things cannot be rushed. Most things, those with the greatest import, cannot be pushed. They must be lived. Experienced. The blossom droops and drops. The plant knows just what to do. It is winter and energy must go to the root – that is precisely why the blossom dropped. The plant is not separate from the season. It’s a dance that only seems to be a movement with two but, in truth, is the motion of one, a push-me-pull-you. The inner focus, hibernation, once recharged, will, someday soon, feel the sun and turn its attention outward. New buds are certain to answer the call.

read Kerri’s blog post about MUMS

Turn The Shield [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

The rains have come. The light retreats. This is the time of year when we say, “I’m tired. Are you tired?” It’s the lack of light. The coming change of time. “It feels later than it is,” we rub our eyes and sigh.

I’ve always thought of this time as an in-between. Not-this-and-not-that. The leaves have dropped but the snow has not yet arrived. The sun and the wet clouds jockey for position and neither gains the advantage. Were we bears, nature’s indecision would signal that the time had come to look for a proper cave, a comfy spot to sleep through the winter. We are people and the signal is similar: it’s time to pull in, reflect, attend to the inner places, nestle into our bear-dreams.

Many years ago I took a class from an elder who taught us how to paint medicine shields. The exercise was not about the painting or the technique of stretching the skin over the willow, the exercise was about identifying the symbols. One side of the shield was the outer life, the sun. This face of the shield was seen by all. The other side, the inner face, was personal. The symbols were private. The moon. This is the season when the attention to the outer face shifts to the inner. The bear considerations turn to the owl, the lizard.

Just as each season is both a leaving and a return, both sides of the shield are beginnings and ends. Barney taught me that, in the winter, the energy of the plant retreats from the branch and, instead, goes to the root. Rejuvenation happens beneath the soil. I feel that shift in this time of increasing cold and rain, the shield flips. My eyes turn inward.

We huddle in the early dark and tell stories of the year past. We attend to our rest, move more slowly in our expeditions. We decide more often to stay in. We open the bin with gloves and scarves, prepare for a different rhythm of walking. We recount the past seasons, not yet ready to dream of the time to come.

read Kerri’s blog post about RAIN