Two Sons and Two Fathers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The original contractor arrived with heavy machinery and an army of men. It was November. Our waterline broke and water was bubbling up in our front lawn. He was the only contractor available and willing to do the job so late in the year. By the time he was finished, he’d busted out portions of the city sidewalk, trenched a 5-foot-deep moat from the street to our foundation, broke out a piece of our front walk, and drilled a sizable hole in our foundation. It was the equivalent of performing open heart surgery for a toothache. Look up “overkill” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of this man.

The wreckage that he left behind was prodigious, though he was obligated to return in the spring to fix or replace what he’d broken.

To say we had to fight is an understatement. The city forced him to replace the sidewalk. The burial mound that was our front yard, after weeks of wrangling, was finally leveled and the grass reseeded. He promised to return to complete the final bit of repair work, the last of the pieces: a single square of our front walkway. We knew we’d never see him again.

This story has an extraordinary ending. A series of companies were contacted. None wanted to do the job. It was too small. It was too complicated: the original walkway was scribed with lines and no one knew how to match it.

And then, one day, I looked out the window and saw Frank, hands on his hips, standing on our driveway, staring at our sidewalk. “I remember this job,” he said when I came out to greet him. “I was a kid. I was with my dad when he poured this.” He scrutinized the house. “I’m certain of it.” He smiled, adding, “I think I still have the tool he used to make those lines.”

We talked for several minutes. My dad worked in concrete so we swapped dad stories. He was excited to restore the walk that his father installed. Scribing the lines would not only be easy, but a way to connect his work with his father’s. His connection to his father provided a mainline connection to my father. I was suddenly extremely grateful for the disappearance of the original contractor. Into the void he created walked a heart-legacy, a special opportunity.

Now, the final steps you take approaching our house, will be the place two sons met with their lost fathers, a stone of remembrance and pride. What could possibly be a better welcome to our home.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CEMENT

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

Sit In The Megaphone [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

It was like crawling into a time capsule. The nature megaphone was where we remembered it. The wood weathered into light grey, we crawled inside as we once so often did.

There was a time that we walked this trail several times a week. In winter, we strapped on snowshoes and huffed our way around the green trail. Bristol Wood. It sounds like a place of elves and fairies, a place Shakespeare might set a comedy. We regularly left the difficulties of our day and disappeared into it, emerging after an hour or two refreshed.

The megaphone served as a resting spot on the trail. Like little kids in a fort, we’d crawl inside and soak up the sun. Often we’d pass a small bottle of wine and snack on broken chips from a ziplock bag. Sometimes we’d talk. Mostly we listened, closed our eyes, felt the warmth of the day.

We stopped going to Bristol Wood when the county contracted with an adventure company to build an extensive ropes course in the center of the woods. Suddenly, our sanctuary was transformed into an amusement park. That was 3 or 4 years ago.

On a lark, we drove to Bristol. It was an unseasonably sunny day, mid-week, the ropes course closed until the weekend. No one was there. We tied on our boots and stepped into the woods. We went back in time, our feet shushing through the leaves.

Our bodies knew the trail, pulled along by remembrance, we smiled at the familiar trees. Old friends. At one point we stood silent and still on the trail as the autumn leaves rained down. It seemed that Bristol was happy to see us, too.

And, then, we came upon the megaphone. “It’s still here,” she said, crawling inside. I followed, nestling into the sun, feet planted firmly on the curving side wall.

“I could fall asleep,” I said, knowing we might be risking a Rip-Van-Winkle. A deep and dreamless sleep. If we slept for a hundred years, I wondered what world we’d step back into?

As if she read my mind, she snuggled into the megaphone and said, “This world is so different than the one we knew the last time we sat in here.” True. Too true.

Our time capsule. Nature’s megaphone.

read Kerri’s blogpost about the MEGAPHONE

Listen To The Memento [on DR Thursday]

Stop for moment and look around your house. How many of the objects that populate your shelves and walls are mementos? Keepsakes from travels or special events? I’m always struck, after a devastating fire or tornado, how often I watch people sifting through the rubble of their home to find a photograph or a special ring. There is the shock of losing the home, but the stories! What will happen with the loss of the reminder, the things that carry the story?

Last week, after the night we thought there was a fire in our walls, we talked about our race to get out of the house, and the question of “What do we grab and take?” The dog. The special papers. The computers. A few clothes. Those “items” fall into two categories: what you love (the dog. each other) and what we need to start again (special papers, the computers, a change of clothes). Although losing the passports and birth certificates would be difficult to replace, the first category is really all you need.

I’m certain, because our experience was so recent, I want to sob watching the news footage of families fleeing their homes in Ukraine. What do you grab and take when yesterday you went to work and today you are fleeing bombs and war? Where do you go? We have friends a few minutes away who would have taken us in and helped us back on our feet. When fleeing is the destination…where do you go?

The sun was bright through the cold on the day we pushed LittleBabyScion down the driveway so we could get Big Red out and onto the street. At first, she thought she found a wedding ring poking out of the snow. One of the men who worked so hard to replace our water line must have lost it. But then, we realized it was a brass fitting. We brought it in house. Someday, when the trench has settled, the front yard has grass again, when we feel comfortable leaving the television plugged in, and the house is restored to order, the ring will serve as a memento to remind us of the upheaval.

Yesterday I held the ring for a moment and I wondered why we – humans – build memorials to war that carry messages chiseled in stone, “Never again…” or “Remember…”, sentiments that are meant to remind us that murdering each other for resource or political gain actually achieves nothing but pain and the erection of yet another stone and steel memento – it’s a flip of priority – as if the special papers and computers have more importance than the people. The people become expendable. Where do you flee in the face of such madness?

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RING

Eat The Memory [on KS Friday]

You’d never know it by how we talk and write about food, but we have a smallish sweet tooth. We keep a bit of dark chocolate in the house. Sometimes we split a piece of flourless chocolate cake. Too much sugar is…too much. So, imagine my surprise last week in the grocery store when Kerri came to a full stop in front of the Entenmann’s Crumb Coffee Cake. Using her outdoor voice she exclaimed, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! THEY STILL MAKE IT! WE HAVE TO GET IT!”

Memory runs through and is master of all of the senses. “I grew up eating Entenmann’s Crumb
Cake!” she said, returning to her indoor voice. The cake was in the cart and anticipation was on the rise. “Did you have Entenmann’s Crumb Cake growing up?” she asked, barely able to contain her excitement.

I’d never heard of it. She looked at me as if I was to be pitied, a poor waif raised in a cave without running water or crumb cake. Anticipation became a mission. “You have to have it!” Her eyes grew wide, intense. “You won’t believe it!” and then, the narrowing disclaimer, “I hope it’s as good as I remember.”

There is a rule in Kerri’s family and she carries on the tradition. It is a ritual of delayed gratification. Satisfaction constraint. For instance, when Kerri buys clothes, a new pair of jeans, she can’t wear them for at least six months. There is a magic moment, something I’ve never been able to identify, that signals the purchase is ready to exit its quarantine and can be worn. Or eaten. We have a new rug purchased last June that remains rolled and stored behind the door in the living room. Home decor, I’m learning, has an extended waiting period. We call it The Beaky Rule.

The cake came home. It went somewhere. A closet? A cabinet? A drawer? I’ve learned not to ask, “Where or when?” Had I shouted in excitement in the grocery store, that box would not have made it to the car. I’d have been covered in crumb cake before the keys came out.

A few days later, in the middle of the morning, Kerri called up to my office. “Do you need a break?” Up the stairs, like a precious treasure, came a memory from Long Island, a piece of crumb cake and a cup of coffee. The magic moment. The cake released and revealed. We savored it. And, I can report in my quiet indoor voice, it was definitely worth the wait.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CRUMB CAKE!!!!!!!

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

the way home/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Think On Thee [on DR Thursday]

I memorized Sonnet 30 for an acting class when I was in school. “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought…” For reasons I can’t explain, I still remember it. I can barely remember my zip code but Sonnet 30 has stuck around. “…I summon up remembrance of things past.”

I watched Dogga this morning. Standing in the middle of the yard, barking for friendship’s call. He’s not been the same since BabyCat passed. He’s still trying to find his place. Each morning after breakfast, he returns to the kitchen and lays on the floor. It was his ritual with BabyCat. They’d mooch some bites and when there was no more hope of food, they’d jump down and snooze together in the kitchen. Now, he assumes his usual spot but only for a few minutes. It’s not the same so he moves to the backdoor or the rug in the living room.

He’s always been a snow dog. When we think it’s too cold to go out, he thinks it’s balmy and perfect. After his daily unsuccessful bark-and-response, he finds a good pile of snow and lays in it. I tell Kerri that he is surveying his vast territory. He’s an Aussie so he likes having a job. Surveying the territory, watching for marauding squirrels, provides purpose. There is no more joyful moment in our house than when it’s time to take out the trash. He loves being the advance team. He leaps vertically at the back door, his joy is too great for his little body to contain. Clearing the yard of danger, I have safe and secure passage to the cans and back to the house.

This morning, as I watched him snuggle into his snow pile, Sonnet 30 rushed to the fore of my mind. “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.”

read Kerri’s blogpost about SNOWDOG

all my loves © 2020 david robinson

Choose How [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

My friend’s children are having children. The top-of-the-list advice my friends offer their children, now parents themselves, is this: it goes so fast. Appreciate every single moment. Love every phase. You will blink your eye and they will be grown and gone.

I lost my dad in September. I have, like most people who’ve lost a loved one, spent much of the time since his passing remembering and reflecting. It’s a mixed bag of treasuring moments and wondering why I didn’t fully appreciate others. It is true, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

What is so hard about appreciating – fully appreciating – the limited moments of your life?

I used to facilitate an exercise. It had four phases. Working in small groups, the first phase was to have a group member identify a problem in their life and then tell a blame-story about the problem. The rest of the group helped by supporting the person in their story of blame. The groups howled with laughter. Blame is fun. It’s addictive, like sugar.

In the second phase, the groups tried to “fix” the problem. The serious, concerned faces puzzled possible fixes but inevitably dissolved into more laughter: there’s nothing like trying fix a problem to create more problems and loop back into a juicy blame story.

Phase three was simple: I asked the original problem-story-teller to retell their story as a story of choice, not blame. I asked the other members of the group to support the teller in their story of choice. Silence ensued. And then, quiet presence as the new narrative – the story of choice – slowly inhabited the room.

Blame stories are like too much candy. They are easy to eat and yet have no real sustenance.
Stories of choice are much harder to tell but they are rich in awareness and appreciation of the moment.

We never arrived at the fourth phase: stories of opportunity. Activating choice. The notion of taking responsibility for choices always stopped the exploration. Our conversations about choice-avoidance usually filled the time.

What we gain in blame, we lose in appreciation of our moments. In order to taste the moment, one must first choose to be in it – and then choose how to be in it.

Grief is a phase to be loved, not avoided. As is the celebration of a first birthday. A new life. A lost love. A full spectrum. Taste every moment.

read Kerri’s blog post about MOMENTS

Light A Few Candles [on KS Friday]

“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.” ~ George Santayana

It was like a visual Zen koan. The candles were placed close to the window and the reflection stretched back and back into infinity. What is real and what is reflection? We sat for several minutes, caught in the light trail that seemed to reach into the future/past.

We light candles for remembrance. We light candles for comfort. We light candles for the quiet they invoke. Inspiration. For hope. Buddhist prayer flags flutter and “release” their prayers to the wind. We light candles with the same intention: the remembrance is carried deep into the future/past. The comfort floats and fills our home.

It was our practice, prior to Covid, late at night on christmas eve, after Kerri was finished with work, to illuminate our street with luminaria. Little paper sacks weighted with sand and holding single candles ran up and down the sidewalk, the entire length of the street. We’d place fire pits in our driveway. Neighbors, friends and family would gather around the fire, drink wine and grog, eat snacks, sing a song or two, laugh. Somewhere, deep into the night, our fingers and toes would protest the cold, we’d say goodnight, douse the flames, and call it a night. Crawling into bed, it always felt as if the good humor of our gathering caught the breeze and carried a light-heart into the world.

Tonight, Kerri and I will light a few candles in sacks, weighted by sand. We will sit, sip wine, laugh and remember. Luminaria. Gatherings. Good wishes carried on the wind. The laughter and candlelight from the past will find us as we reminisce. We’ll send a wave of good intention into the future so that it might one day find us standing around a fire pit with neighbors, family and friends, shaking our heads and saying, “Do you remember when…”

you’re here (kerri sherwood rough cut)

hope/this season available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHT INFINITY

hope/this season © 1998 kerri sherwood

you’re here © 2018 kerri sherwood

Remember The Single Story [on KS Friday]

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

When Kerri took this photograph I thought Van Gogh would have loved to paint it. I read that most of his 860 paintings date from the last two years of his life. The romantic in me wants to believe that he knew his time was short and he let all of that imperative spill out onto canvas. He died never knowing success or imagining that his work would in any way impact the world. I doubt he cared. His frenzy was not driven by success or status. He painted because he had to.

Waning time brings retirement to some. To others it brings fire and fuel. The need to bring what is inside to the outside. To compose, to write, to dance, to paint, to build, to design. Michelangelo was driven by his waning time. Some of his final sculpture was 500 years ahead of its time. At the end of his life, his work would have shown well with Picasso.

There simply isn’t enough time to say it all, explore it all. Last night, sitting in a circle with my family, multiple conversations resonating throughout the activity hall, my conversation pod began talking about regrets. When we were younger, we made vows to live lives without regret and now, at this end of the road, we see how foolish was our vow. Life is a series of choices and choices always leave unexplored paths. We laughed at our folly and relished the beauty of a life full of regrets. Paths not taken seed gratitude for the paths we ultimately chose. There is intense beauty in regret.

The morning dawned cold. Autumn has arrived in Colorado. The energy abandons the leaves and goes to the root. Columbus’ passing has brought energy to the root. He would be pleased. There are members of my family that I have not seen for years. In gathering, we bring together our separate stories and for a few days remember that we are also a single story.

A single story. The beauty of regret. The gift in loss. The waning of one season affirms the promise of the new.

All of Kerr’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about WANING SEASONS

part of the wind/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

Carry The Story [on Two Artists Tuesday]

slippersbw copy

Next to the pool table in the basement of my grandfather’s house was a bowl of nuts and an old metal nutcracker. It was the velveteen rabbit of nutcrackers: falling apart, loose joints, the pattern worn because it was so old and so often used. When we’d visit, we’d inevitably go to the basement to shoot some pool. Shooting pool with grandpa was a ritual of fun.

That nutcracker is one of my sacred objects. When my grandfather passed, I wanted something he touched. Something he used. The nutcracker lives in a special box in my studio.

I am austere. Left to my own devices I would have few possessions (I have famously moved twice in a truck loaded with paintings, my easel, a special box, some clothes, art books and a single rocking chair).

It’s funny what carries the deep value of story. Remembrance.

Kerri is thready. She is connected to the story of objects. Or, better, the objects connect her to stories and to the people in her life. Our home is like an alter of objects that carry meaningful stories.  Rocks. Feathers. Driftwood. We have a stack of sweatshirts in the basement that remain for their story value. Early in our relationship I suggested donating the sweatshirts to the Goodwill and I will never forget the look of horror that swept across Kerri’s face. To lose the sweatshirts was to lose the stories. It makes cleaning out the house a very complicated affair.

Connectivity. The energy threads are almost visible.

Last year she was cleaning out a closet upstairs and found these slippers. They were her parents. I remember the squeal of delight. The staging of the picture. I listened to the stories the slippers invoked. We laughed. And then, the slippers went in the bag to go away.

It might be our age or having a husband dedicated to the austere, but she is loving the objects and letting them go. The threads are becoming transcendent, they reach beyond the object and are securely rooted in the deep past.

It’s beautiful when the heart carries the deep connectivity of story. Truly. The energy threads become visible.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SLIPPERS

 

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