Honor The Line [on DR Thursday]

“We often need to lose sight of our priorities in order to see them.” ~ John Irving

Walking down the trail a few days ago, Kerri and I had a hysterical conversation. If you could go back in time, who would you tell to f**k off? There was a long list and some seriously funny stories of misplaced tolerance. We laughed at the moments when younger versions of ourselves were silent, when we should have spoken. We groaned at the moments that we let someone run over us. When we should have held a boundary but did not.

“Why didn’t I say something?” We chortled. Grace comes with time. What was years ago a violation is now head-shaking-story.

The next day, about to enter the local corner market, someone called Kerri’s name. Before she could stop it, in the middle of this pandemic, a time when we’ve been religious about social distancing, a woman threw open her arms and locked Kerri in an embrace. It was an awkward and short-lived hug; Kerri was like a stone cold post, her hand that was rising for protection was squished in the unwelcome clutch. The woman shrunk and retreated. We ducked into the store.

“Why didn’t I stop her?” Kerri asked as we walked home. There was no time. “Doesn’t she know there’s a pandemic?” A space violation.

Context is everything.

I was delighted when Kerri chose this snippet of a painting for the Melange. For her, it represented the moment that she could have interrupted the unwanted hug. She named this little morsel “Back Up!”

For me it is something entirely different. This full painting is called Pieta With Paparazzi. I’d mostly forgotten about this painting since I only showed it one time and that was over a decade ago. It is more relevant today than it was when I painted it. It is about the flattening of importance, the loss of perspective. It is about how – even a decade ago – everything seemed to be a media event. Mary contemplates the body of her dead son while the media circus swirls around her.

The shorthand phrase for our time: nothing is sacred. The line between a simple truth and a manufactured event has been blurred, perhaps irreparably. Lies are celebrated and vehemently defended. Truths discarded. Boundaries crossed. Hugs taken. Shots fired. The other day I heard someone say, “People say things on Facebook that they’d never say in person.” Too true. Social discourse and public policy are tragedies enacted on a social platform for a ready-made audience. All the world’s a stage.

In time, we might ask ourselves, “Why didn’t we do something?” or “What were we thinking?” Perhaps, in time, we’ll have the distance and the grace to see why we should have stepped back and stopped this incessant crossing of boundaries, this white house media circus. Perhaps, in losing sight of our priorities, they will someday come back into focus and we will see them again.

pieta with paparazzi

read Kerri’s blog post about BACK UP!

pieta with paparazzi ©️ 2010 david robinson

Face In [on KS Friday]

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“…gentleness can be a greater force for transfiguration than any political, economic, or media power,…” ~ John O’Donohue

Here is my utopian fantasy: The protesters put down their signs, the police put down their shields, the militia drops their weapons, the citizens of all races, creeds, colors, political identities and economic stripes come out of their houses and hold hands facing into a circle of their creation. Nothing need be said. What are we protesting FOR if not this?

We are excellent at pushing against what we do not want. We are practiced at screaming in rabid reactivity. Finger pointing and blame is among our most popular Facebook pass times.  We like to make noise and bluster about the violation of our rights and ignite fearmongering fires warning of imagined assaults on our amendments. Propaganda and lie make for good reality television ratings. They provide permission to smash glass, loot, denigrate “others” and give cover to murder in all its forms, but are lousy foundations for a civil and civilized society.

Truth is intentional, not reactive. It steps toward an ideal. It provides a national focal point, a guide-star that will not cotton with lie and propaganda.

We seem utterly inept, absolutely incapable at walking toward what we profess. Our ideal is printed on our dollar bills and chiseled into the facades of our buildings: e pluribus unum: out of many, one.  Our division is chiseled into our history.

My utopian fantasy is not so hard to realize but notice it requires a common first step: a putting down of weapon and rhetoric and dedicated division. The  second step is also not difficult: reach out, take the hand that is closest. Circle up with those who you most disagree. The third step may be the hardest: say nothing. Defend and justify nothing. Prove or claim nothing. Face in, not face off.  The greatest intentions, like the most profound truths, are often silent. Step four: live the circle.

We can figure it out. It’s no greater matter than walking toward what we want, what we espouse, instead of forever pushing against what we do not want. Perhaps our first truth is to admit that there is a lie built into what we chisel in walls and what we actually live. We need to intend oneness if we are to realize our central ideal.

Doc Rivers, a black man and coach of the LA Clippers said this yesterday: “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.” Love. Love back. There is no better or simpler statement of intention. Walk toward it.

He also famously said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.” His dictum applies to nations as well as players: great nations want to be told the truth. Average nations want to be left alone.

 

FIGURE IT OUT on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FIGURE IT OUT

 

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figure it out/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

See And Speak [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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We were sitting on a concrete wall, taking a break, when he asked the question. I’ve been asked this very question more times than I care to count and I did what I always do: I took a breath. When you facilitate conversations on diversity and culture change, this question is always lurking somewhere in the room, waiting for a break, a side conversation, so it can be given voice without ramification. Truth often steps forward at the water cooler. It was the question that illuminated for me the real problem with race in America and the mountain we need to move. “Don’t you think black people cause their own problems?” he suggested.

Breathe.

No. I don’t. I believe privilege is blind to itself. And, isn’t this the very conversation we need to have happen in the middle of the room and not at the margins? The mark of institutional racism is that it is utterly invisible to the privileged class.

In the United States we hear a lot these days about tribes and information bubbles as if they were a new phenomenon.  They are not new. Our bubbles, like all bubbled history, is meant to cleanse the narrative to justify the indefensible, to hide the ugly behind a noble mask. Here’s a phrase from our history: The ruling class responded [to Bacon’s Rebellion] by hardening the racial caste of slavery in an attempt to divide the two races from subsequent united uprisings with the passage of The Virginia Slave Codes of 1705.

If you are white in America this might not yet have pierced your bubble. Note these phrases relative to the history you learned in school. It might help to understand the system at play in our current historical attempt to change systemic racism: Ruling class. Harden the racial caste of slavery [yes, a created caste system. The system of slavery was erected and black Americans were legally defined as lesser beings]. Divide the two races [black & white]. The point of the black/white division was and is to prevent subsequent uprisings against the ruling class. Ruling class.  The division we wrestle with was intentional, crafted for a specific purpose, and systematized. It serves the same institutional purpose to this day.

Another tidbit worth gnawing on: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first appearance in print of the adjective white in reference to “a white man, a person of a race distinguished by a light complexion” was in 1671. Colonial charters and other official documents written in the 1600s and early 1700s rarely refer to European colonists as white.

If we are learning anything in these days of fox propaganda and pandemic tales it is the power of people to entrench in their narrative despite data, fact, and personal experience that disputes the narrative. Systematize a narrative and it is nearly impossible to challenge. No see, no hear, no speak. Systems, as I learned in school, are living things – not mechanical – and will fight to the death to keep themselves alive. We are currently watching the fight of a systemic challenge.

The question at the water cooler, “Don’t you think black people create their own problems?” was always asked in earnest. It revealed the successful hardening of racial caste, the power of the mechanism preventing the uniting of the races so as to ensure no possible subsequent uprisings. Us. Them. Bubbles. A vicious cycle.

It’s hard to see a mountain when you are sitting on it. We The People. Ruling class. These two phrases are incompatible but co-exist through the successful creation of division. It’s black and white.

We have a long history and have worked very hard not to see what is right before our eyes. The second rule of systems change: if you know where you are going then it is not change but repetition. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The opportunity for change is, once again, upon us. The conversation needs to move to the center of the communal square and we need to muster the courage to step into unknown territory. Silence and denial are not now nor ever have been valid excuses for perpetuating an ugly system. We betray ourselves.

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something. You have to do something.” ~ John Lewis

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SILENCE

 

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Count Six [on KS Friday]

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“I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.” ~John Guare, Six Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of separation: the notion that all people on earth are only six – or fewer – social connections away from each other. A swelling world population. A shrinking world. Has there ever been a time in which our interconnectivity was more apparent?

Six feet: the distance we are told is generally safe enough to keep my breath from entering your body and vice versa. Distance slows but in no way interrupts our interconnectivity.

The number six in numerology symbolizes the caretaker. It is also known as the motherhood number: caring, healing, sacrificing, protecting. I find it oddly comforting that distance and separation in measures of six are associated – at least symbolically – with caring, protecting, sacrificing for others. Six is other-focused. Six, I just read, is the glue that keeps a community together.

Last night we sat on the deck in silence. Listening. Earlier, during our walk, we spoke little. We mostly listened to the creaking of the trees, the sounds of the birds, the chorus of frogs. In a pandemic, we are learning, there is very little to say that isn’t rooted in  fear. So, we say very little. We hold silence, a vigil of sorts. The silence turns our minds toward listening, toward living. Caring.

This is the warm quiet ripple that rolls through Kerri’s SILENT DAYS: caring. The number of motherhood. A symbolic six. A turn toward living. Inextricably bound together.

 

SILENT DAYS on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL is available in iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SILENT DAYS

 

 

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silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

Rest Full [on KS Friday]

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“The primeval beauty of silence becomes audible in the elemental music of the earth and in our music of instrument and voice. At the core of the world and at the core of the soul is silence that ripples with the music of beauty and the whisperings of the eternal.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

I have said more than once these past few weeks, that the silver lining of two broken wrists is that all the presses have stopped. The endless list of things-to-do fell into dust on the floor and the true priorities jumped into immediate clarity. The superficial things gave way to the essential.

Little things, like showering or getting dressed in the morning, are no longer mindless  rote activities. The are now intentional. Attention is paid to every movement, every moment.  They are care-full. I am learning once again that there are riches all around me when I am not racing to get to the next thing but, instead, occupying the moment that I am living. The other night at rehearsal I nearly burst into tears so beautiful were the people and the laughter surrounding us. A month ago, pre-wristgate, I might have missed it.

Caring for an other.  Caring for one and another. Other caring.

We rest. We do not push through. So many in our amazing community have asked me, as I care for Kerri, am I also taking care of myself? I love this question. It is generous. The answer is ‘yes’ and the question it raises is ‘why isn’t this level of self-generosity the norm?’ Are you caring for yourself? In the midst of all that life flings your way, first and foremost, as you care for others, are you also attending to yourself?

I’m learning that the two things are inseparable: caring for another is also caring for yourself. Or, flip it over: it is impossible to fully care for yourself without caring for others. We know ourselves through relationship. We can only thrive when loved and while loving. People in isolation go mad. Banishment from the group was once considered a punishment worse than death.

As silence is to sound. Caring as making beautiful life-music. We take our quarter rest.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about QUARTER REST

 

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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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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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Pause [on KS Friday]

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Interlude. A pause. Breathing space. The silence between the notes. The space with no name. Untitled.

It seems that we, like all the people in our community, entered the new year exhausted. Our season celebrating the return of the light has become a season of rush and dash with nary a moment to reflect. Kerri said, in a moment of exasperation, “The bears are sleeping through this!” Nature knows what we are supposed to be doing in these dark winter months. Resting. Quiet in the branches sends all the good energy to the roots.

Take a moment. Listen. Breathe. Send some good UNTITLED INTERLUDE energy to your roots.

 

UNTITLED INTERLUDE from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes and CDBaby. Purchase the physical CD here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNTITLED INTERLUDE

 

bong trail, wisconsin website box copy

untitled interlude/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Wait Here [on KS Friday]

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Last night when we came out of rehearsal it was snowing, just barely. There is something immediately meditative about a gentle snowfall. We stopped and stood for a moment watching the flakes flutter like tiny feathers to the ground.

Sometimes snow stops time. Or, better, it interrupts the rush through life and drops us into time. It drops us into the present moment. No other place to be.  Nothing more important to do.

Kerri’s WAITING has the same power as a gentle snowfall. It calms the rush and quiets the noise. It opens the door into this moment, the present moment, and asks nothing more from you than be witness to the stillness, the silent emergence of those tiny flakes traveling through infinite space to the place on earth where, at just the right moment, you happen to be standing. Just in time.

 

WAITING on the album JOY – A CHRISTMAS ALBUM is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WAITING

 

bong trail, wisconsin website box copy

 

waiting/joy-a christmas album ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

ks designs/products ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson