Know The Poem [on KS Friday]

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainier Maria Rilke

“First robin!” she said.

“What?”

“First robin. That means spring is here!” she looked at me with “duh” eyes. I was new to Wisconsin so the rituals were not yet known to me. I did not yet understand that in this strange land a water cooler is called a “bubbler” and that cheese curds are sacred food. Before the week was out, I’d heard it three times from strangers. “First robin!”

Years ago, during my first winter in Seattle, after months of gray, the sun came out for an hour and all the people working downtown poured out of the tall buildings and stood facing the sun. They moaned with satisfaction. “What’s this!” I exclaimed. Weird behavior. The next year, after months of dreary gray, the moment the sun peeked from behind the drab curtain, I ran out of my apartment to revel in the return. Leaning against a brick wall, eyes closed, feeling the warmth on my face and the heat reaching my bones, I knew this was my passage to becoming a “local”. I moaned with satisfaction.

Poetry is visceral. It has it roots in the moans of sun drinkers and robin-seers. The green pushing up from dark soil. The smell of spring or the first hint of warmth on the winter wind. Words cannot capture feelings but isn’t it glorious that we try?

We were walking the neighborhood on a cold afternoon. She squeezed my hand and pointed. “First robin,” I said and she smiled. “Spring.”

Now, doesn’t “First robin. Spring!” sound like a grand start to a poem of renewal? Ahhhhhh, yes. A hint of warmth on the wind, harbinger of green shoots reaching. Someday soon, sun will call me out of hiding and color my pale face.

read Kerri’s blogpost about FIRST ROBIN

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

baby steps/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Deflect And Dine [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

It’s true. Never go food shopping when you are hungry. It’s also true – for us – after stocking up the pantry, the last thing we want to do is cook. “How about Thai?” she asks.

“My thought, exactly,” I chirp. It’s a ritual.

We let our supplies dwindle to almost nothing before a resupply. It’s become a game: what can we make with what’s left in the fridge and on the shelves? I’m happy to report that some of our favorite dinner-discoveries have come from this game. Enjoying the dinner-surprise-game also serves as a signal: tomorrow is resupply day.

Of course, sometimes, after the signal, when resupply day arrives in all its glory, we don’t feel like doing a massive shop. “How about Thai?” I ask.

“My thought exactly,” she chirps.

read Kerri’s blog post about NOT COOKING

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Choose Your Irritant [on DR Thursday]

The snowplow just scraped down the street. They keep the streets clear of snow but create great heaping snow-walls at the end of every driveway. Some people grumble, especially the early morning shovelers. I’m sure it’s disconcerting to clear the driveway only to have the snowplow block the egress. I’ve seen people shake their fists and curse at the plow drivers. We work from home so have the luxury to sip coffee and wait until the snow stops and the plows finish their great-wall-creation. Only then do I venture out with my big green shovel and clear the way.

Dogga is getting older. While the coffee brews in the early morning he goes outside. He used to race out the door, excited to chase away the squirrels. Now, he lopes. Lately, he locates the geographic center of the backyard, plants all four paws, and barks-and-listens. He is desperate for a return bark. It’s a pooch call-and-response. We’re up early enough that the other dogs are not yet out so he listens and barks in vain. After several disappointing attempts at rousing the troops, he lopes to the back door and barks at me to let him inside. It’s uncanny; his morning ritual takes the exact amount of time for the coffee maker to complete the brew. Sometimes I think he hears the final whoosh of steam. Back inside, he leads the way as I bring my-errand-of-mercy-first-cup-of-coffee to Kerri.

Although I drink less coffee than I once did, it remains the thread that weaves together the fabric of our day. We start our day with it. The last thing I do before retiring at night is to set up the coffee. “I love that smell,” Kerri says, as she turns out the lights.

During a recent visit, my doctor insisted that coffee is an irritant. His timing was curious because I was, in that moment, thinking the same thing about him. However, in that moment I was certain that, given the choice of spending 15 minutes with him or with a cup of coffee, I’d choose the coffee. One must be picky about the irritants they choose to embrace.

It’s still snowing. There’s no sense shoveling for a while. I guess it’s time for a second cup.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COFFEE

greet the world © 2011 david robinson

Enjoy A Cuppajava [on Merely A Thought Monday]

The night is still and it’s hot. I suppose that’s why we’re having trouble sleeping though, if you read our smack-dabs, you’ll already know that sleepless nights make a regular appearance in our life and, therefore, our cartoon.

Sleepless nights and coffee. You might suspect that the coffee causes the sleepless nights but the opposite is true. Sleepless nights contribute to the giant mugs of coffee in our hands each morning so it also shows up in the hands of our cartoon selves. Puffy comic faces and never-enough-coffee. Sleep deprivation and coffee desperation make for good humor.

Coffee has always been central to our story. Before we met, the subject line of our daily emails was cuppajava. We wrote our cuppajava for months. Eventually, we called our combined catalogue of cuppajava The Roadtrip. With coffee in hand, we wrote truth-fests. Confessions. We asked questions and told secrets and laughed at foibles – all over a cup of coffee shared fifteen hundred miles apart. On my birthday, months before we met, a package arrived at my studio with a pound of Sumatra and a coffee mug stenciled with our shared middle-name (we have the same middle name). After months of correspondence, when we finally met, Kerri picked me up from the airport and had a cup of coffee waiting in the car.

Coffee is more than a casual player in our story. That’s especially true now that we are nearly a decade into our tale and have taken several actual road trips and written over a million words sitting side-by-side.

If we come to stay at your house, don’t be offended if we bring our own coffeemaker and coffee. We are coffee snobs, it’s true, but there’s more to our quirk than meets the eye. My old studio coffeemaker, the one that brewed my cuppajava, goes everywhere with us. It’s raspy and gasps the entire time that it’s brewing, but, somehow, all these years later, it continues to deliver coffee for our chats. Like us, it’s not pretty but it perseveres.

read Kerri’s blog post about COFFEE

Await The Return [on KS Friday]

This time of year I do a lot of staring into the night sky, pondering vastness. Reflecting on the year. It’s what we’re hard-wired to do as we approach the darkest night of the year. And, along with the darkest night of the year, comes the turning point. The return of light. This fact of earth’s orbit has spawned ritual, religious metaphor, and all manner of contemplation, letting go, setting new intentions, since humans first started, as I did last night, looking into the sky. We feel our smallness looking into the face of starry infinity.

This year there’s a delightful serendipity associated with the solstice. We cross the line from darkest night to return of the light on December 21. On December 22nd, as we creep our way back into light, the James Webb telescope will be launched into space and, when it unfurls and points its lens into other star systems, it will be looking for life on other planets. It will be looking for other beings staring into the night sky who might also be pondering their relationship with the universe. I look at you, you look at me.

We are candle people. We light them all the time for various reasons, marking auspicious occasions or simply to lift our spirits. We bought a menorah this fall. Kerri’s clan is religiously complex and we wanted to celebrate Hanukkah with her cousins. I read a bit since I am fond of finding the roots of rituals. I learned that the menorahs with seven branches, among other things, represent the five visible planets plus the sun and the moon. The rounded shape of the branches represents their trajectories across the sky. We lit the candles each night, singing poorly but with love and conviction the prayers. Connecting with her cousins, connecting with the light and pondering our place in a spinning universe.

Sitting at my desk, upstairs, too long staring at a computer screen, I heard her at the piano. I crept halfway down the stairs not wanting to break the spell. She played a carol, quietly. It’s rare these days that she plays. Broken wrists. Resistant fingers. Bruised heart. Yet, the piano calls. The lighting of the candles, the quiet pondering of “what’s it all about”, has made a crack in the darkness. There is a vast inner universe, too. We shoot telescopes into our selves. I look at you, you look at me. Smiling on the steps, I realized that I am anxiously awaiting the return of the light.

read Kerri’s blog post about LIGHT

Reinvent [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

As we’ve been told, Kerri and I are simpatico. Yet, at this time of year, the vast differences in our past lives come to the surface. For instance, she’s lived in this house – now our house – for 32 years. She raised her children here. I did not have children and was mostly – until I met her – a wanderer. For Kerri, the holidays are rich with memories and traditions, meal prep for the masses, all things that she now misses. Covid has served to amplify her longing.

I’ve always had to improvise during the holidays and, were I to do an accounting of my experiences, I’d wager that I’ve spent more holidays away from rather than with family. I do not suffer the loss and yearning that Kerri suffers. My holiday memories are not fond or tradition-filled.

It was cold on Thursday but we walked a trail anyway. We held hands and talked of reinventing or rituals. It seems so much of past two years has been an exercise in disruption and loss, letting go of what-was and making space for what-will-be. The holidays in our future need not be populated with the ghosts of holidays past.

We read an article that flipped on-its-head the usual Thanksgiving question. Rather than ask, “What are you thankful for?” the article suggested we ask of ourselves, “What will you do to help others be thankful?”

It’s a good question and a great seed to plant for the ghost-of-our-holiday-future.

read Kerri’s smack-dab. blog post

smack-dab. © 2021 kerrianddavid.com

Read A Tiny Note [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I was still in shock. It was late, beyond midnight. The roosters were watching for the sunrise. The ritual I’d witnessed that night blew the metaphoric wheels off my car. Wave after wave of knife-wielding priests ran at the Rangda, a priest chosen for the evening to wear the mask, to enter the trance and become the demon. The priests stabbed the Rangda but to no avail. The blades bent. They were repelled. Eventually, all entered the trance and turned the knives on themselves, taking the energy, the protection of the Rangda, into their bodies. Into the community. No one was injured. Peace was made with the Rangda. Balance was affirmed.

I held one of the knives after the ritual was complete. It was not a stage prop. I could not have bent the blade on my chest without doing injury to myself.

Budi explained it all to me. I had so many questions. In his culture, the dark forces are not to be resisted or banished. There is no hell separate from heaven. Evil and good are not compartmentalized. There are energies, some dark and some light. There is no need to make peace with the light. The necessity is to face and make peace with the dark. Balance is created, an intentional relationship with a dynamic whole. It’s a dance of responsibility, a balance of dark and light. The middle way.

Balance.

I loved this photo when Kerri showed it to me. Clover. You can’t tell but it is tiny. It is bursting from beneath the stone that serves as the step onto our deck. It made we wonder if the fairy people were close at hand. They serve, in the western tradition, a similar role to the Rangda in Bali. Nature spirits. It was most important to keep in the good graces with the Fairies. Honor their places. Respect and maintain the balance. According to tradition, they went into hiding, they left because we assaulted their spaces; we came to value the path of resources, mining, deforestation, fracking, damming…over the path of balance.

This tiny breath of clover. I sat on the stone last night. The air was cool after a humid and hot day. DogDog was doing his rounds. I had not thought of the Rangda in years. A tiny community on a tiny island. The “mayor” of the town introduced the ritual to us as their art. “We have so little to offer you,” he said in his broken English, “but we bring you our most prized offering, our art.”

Art. A prized offering. The dance of energies, an intentional relationship with the dynamic whole. An ongoing ritual of balance. It was the first time I witnessed a community that had yet to exorcise its art from the sacred. It bent knives. It restored balance. It belonged and gave deep meaning to every member of the community.

Tiny. Like the Fairies or the community on the island. A simple respect for what is good for the whole. Balance is expressed in the tiny things, the choices of where to walk, what to say. What helps in the long run. What does not. What gives meaning and cohesion to a community. What does not.

Budi would caution us with COVID and guns and a globe that is weirding and warming, “Rangda is ignored,” he’d say.

“Yes,” I’d reply, “the fairies have gone into hiding.”

But, all is not lost. They left a tiny note at our back door. Balance, it reads, is a relationship, an intentional act. It is an ongoing ritual, a tiny sacred thing.

read Kerri’s blog post about CLOVER

Create A Comfort Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Our rituals of comfort in the time of COVID are many and sweet. Coffee in bed as the boys, DogDog and BabyCat, snug tightly on either side of Kerri’s legs. At the other end of the day we sip wine at our “pandemic table” – purposefully placed in the sun room so we can watch the sunset, covered in candles, special rocks-from-our-travels, happy lights, and tiny pine saplings growing strong in small pots.

In between the coffee-in-bed-comfort-ritual and the wine-at-the-pandemic-table-ritual, we enjoy other comfort rituals meant to keep our spirits light. We write and read to each other. We visit our respective studios and sit in the silence. We let the dog in-and-out-and-in-and-out. We lace up our boots and walk a trail. We make meals together. At the end of every day, late at night, all tucked in, we watch documentaries of people through-hiking trails or climbing mountains.

Yesterday, a very difficult day, I appreciated how rooted we’ve become in our rituals of comfort. The intentional creation of ease and center amidst a whirling world of gunk.

The violence of the storm has washed us overboard more than once but we’ve been wise to create so many safety rings. Even submerged with my mouth full of water, I know I need not struggle or panic. I need only relax. I need only reach and comfort and safety will be there. We’ve made it so.

There is, in every moment, a hand reaching, a place calling, a walk impending, a dog wagging, a cat purring, that will restore me to center, refocus my eyes and quiet my mind.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNUGGED

Observe The Rituals [on Flawed Wednesday]

washed fruit copy

Like you, we are practicing new rituals that two months ago would have seemed like so much science fiction. We wash and disinfect all the food we buy. Dry goods stay in food-quarantine for 48 hours before they are allowed in the house. The mail is disinfected and banished to in a safe spot for two days before we open it.  Rituals of safeguarding. Rituals of necessity.

All are rituals of distance.

Rituals of cooperation. We walk everyday. We have always walked everyday but in these days we cross to the other side of the street if someone is coming our way. Or they cross to the other side. At first, this who-will-cross-first ritual was negotiated, awkward. Uncomfortable. In just a few short weeks it has become conventional, intuitive. In the time before the pandemic, it would have been a statement of rejection to avoid contact. Now, it is a statement of participation. We cannot safely visit our neighbors yet we daily street waltz with strangers. The world is upside-down.

Rituals of obfuscation. I read this quote this morning: The whole concern of an intelligent person is to see the facts and understand the problem – which is not to think in terms of succeeding or failing [Krishnamurti, Think On These Things]. In these days of pandemic, the President holds a jaw-dropping daily ritual to whip-up a counter-narrative to the facts of his inept leadership, to shut down his experts, to shout down or otherwise maul questions that do not support his pathological lie.  It makes for great TV ratings but lousy governance. And, a substantial number of people are so distracted by the clown that they do not grasp the reality of the fire raging outside of the circus tent.

Rituals of revelation. Marie Antoinette famously said of her starving citizens, “Let them eat cake!” I told Kerri that each week of this pandemic has brought me an understanding beyond the abstract of a specific episode in history. Today, the courts in our state, the Supreme Court of the nation and the Republican party of Wisconsin are essentially blocking the citizens’ capacity to safely vote. They are either gobsmackingly ignorant or astonishingly cruel. The choice: gather and vote in the midst of pandemic or vote not at all.  So few of those trusted with representing the will of the people of this nation are actually concerned with the will or the safety of the people.  It’s a win/lose game played by the privileged few in which the people are disposable. Let them eat cake. I now understand in my gut the moral outrage of the starving citizens of 18th century France.

We wash our fruit. We cross the road when others approach. We try and get out everyday, seeking places that  others have not yet found. We watch the numbers of deaths climb exponentially everyday. We shake our heads in disbelief at our bloviating leader. We call our friends. We now routinely say, “Webex” and “Facetime” and “Google hangout” when we used to say  “get together.” New rituals born of distance. New rituals born of separation in an era of gaping divides. Surely, one day, the pendulum will swing back the other way, the circus will pack up and the clown will go down the road. We will come out of our houses, greet our neighbors and remember what it was like to bridge divides and begin embracing the rituals shared on common ground.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WASHING FRUIT

 

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Attend To The Ritual [on Two Artists Tuesday]

jelly jars & sunset copy

If you knew us, if you came to our house for some wine, chances are we’d serve it to you in a jelly jar. Drinking wine from a jelly jar is more than a simple quirk. For us, it is a ritual, a touch back to our beginnings. It does for us what rituals are supposed to do: it reminds us of what is important. It roots us into our deep story.

And so, it was important that on our first night on island, our first night in our little house, we poured special wine into two jelly jars, went to the water’s edge, and toasted this new chapter of our lives that, perfectly enough, began at the end of a day. And, as we sipped our wine and watched the sunset, we reminisced, we mused about the winding path that brought us to this house on this island at this moment in time to do this work.

With our jelly jars empty and the sun beneath the horizon, we walked back to the little house, deeply rooted into the story of ‘what has been’ and looking forward to a new day and the story of ‘what is yet to be.’

 

read Kerri’s blog post about JELLY JARS

 

sunrisewebsite copy