Weave Her In [on KS Friday]

These story moments happen spontaneously. We wanted to sit in the dark living room and appreciate the warm light of our branches and holiday trees. We’d spent the evening wrapping “happy lights” around e.e., this year’s christmas tree, adorning her with silver balls of all sizes.

Our trees are rarely traditional. In fact, we almost never choose them; they usually find us. The story of the tree – and I use the term “tree” loosely – is more important than the shape of the tree. We’re not invested in the traditional aesthetic. For us, it’s not a show piece. Our tradition is firmly rooted in the story of how the “tree” finds us. Orphans come in from the cold.

We sat in e.e.’s light and combed through Kerri’s phone looking for the images-of-christmas-trees-past. We laughed when we found photos of them. We recounted the story of each, placing them in time, comparing notes of how they found us. There was “christmas tree on a stick.” There was the year of the stick wrapped in lights, a star suspended above it. There was Satan, the evil tree that Craig wrought. This year is our tenth christmas and our stroll through the trees became a stroll through our time together. “We look like babies,” Kerri said of the younger versions of us, the two people, arms intertwined, standing by a tree almost a decade ago.

When e.e. came to us, she was anemic. Scraggly. We loved on her. Opened her branches and fluffed her. Last night, after our walk through time, Kerri looked at e.e. and said, “She looks so happy.” Yes. She does. Beaming.

And isn’t that the point of the whole season? A little fluffing. Taking some time to pay attention. To love on each other. To infuse new life into depleted spirits? As we weave e.e. into our story, her happiness injects warm happiness back into us. And will for years to come. Our spontaneous story moments always remind me of the essential things sometimes lost in the season of commodity and cacophony called christmas. It’s really not so complicated.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about e.e

the lights/the lights © 1996 kerri sherwood

Retrace Your Steps [on KS Friday]

We completed the first loop and, rather than continue in the same direction as we usually do, we turned and walked the other way, retracing our steps. It was remarkable. Walking in the opposite direction seemed like a different trail altogether.

It is the way of memory. Take a walk backward in life through places you’ve already been. It is a different trail. Often unrecognizable. In fact, with each backward stroll, the path is surprisingly different depending on the reason for retracing your steps.

This is the season for retracing steps. Remembering people and places, tastes and smells. Kerri asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a boy. We spent the next several hours roaming through our forgotten lands. Some were delicious. Some painful. Some made us laugh.

I’ve been talking with Horatio and emailing with Rob about next steps. Where to go from here. This seems like a well-worn path: sudden job loss. Their advice is clear: do not walk the same path. Do not do the same old thing in the same old way. “My advice is mundane,” said Horatio.

As we set our eyes on a new trail, we also walk old paths in our minds. In order to avoid doing the same old thing -again – we must first see the loop that we’re on. Turning around and walking in the opposite direction seems prudent.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about STEPS

figure it out/right now © 2010 kerri sherwood

Imagine The Shadow [on KS Friday]

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.” ~ Grandma Moses

Among the many reasons I love autumn is the color of the light. Looking out of the kitchen window this morning I was bowled over by plants resplendent in orange and pink. I was so taken by the color that I forgot I was cooking and nearly burned breakfast.

We hiked yesterday. The trail was steep and rocky but, thankfully, the trail wound under the canopy of the forest. It was a hot day and the shade made our path bearable. We stopped often to breathe and enjoy the remarkable shadows cast by the trees. The leaves glowed and waved, backlit by the sun.

Imagination. The capacity to make images in the mind. It is the most basic of human capacities. We spend our lives imaging ourselves in tragedy and in triumph. Yearning and fear are both shades of imagination. “What if…?” is a question borne of imagination.

“Wait!” Kerri suddenly instructs, stopping me in my tracks. When the sun is low in the sky and our shadows make us skinny giants, she likes to capture our distortion. Shadows do not resist the curvature of the earth. They do not try-to-be. They simply conform to the circumstance and, inevitably, moving through a festival of color changes, blend into the purple dusk.

While she focuses her camera on our shadow, I appreciate the glow of the negative spaces, the yellow-autumn warmth heightened by our grey-blue silhouette. I giggle imagining we are as skinny-tall as the shadows we cast. “Hold still,” she whispers, not realizing my giggle is making the shot impossible. While stilling my shadow, in my mind, we reach and pluck the reddest of leaves from the tippy top of the maple tree.

Waiting (from Joy)

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SHADOWS


waiting/joy © 1998 kerri sherwood

Speak In Softer Tones [on KS Friday]

On stormy days the sound of the lake greets us in the morning. If we didn’t know better, we’d think it was the Atlantic Ocean. And then there are the days when the lake is glassy smooth. The silence of the lake invokes silence in us; we speak in softer tones.

We are on the road this morning. The sounds that greet us are different. New. In this small town there’s a cricket symphony that accompanies the sunrise. I stood for a moment on the balcony and enjoyed the performance. Masterful. Pink and purple sky.

In a few hours we’ll be back on the road. Unlike yesterday, we’ll drive the backroads. Lately, we are resistant to the frenetic freeway, the angry trucks, the anxious sedans. Sometimes the freeway is unavoidable. Knowing there will be quieter sounds today – and a slower pace – makes us breathe easier. Sound and pace are cousins.

Today is a “we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there” day. I learned years ago that pace and frenetic energy are a team sport. People feed the frantic in each other. People are also capable of creating quiet in each other. Sometime, for an experiment, try and slow walk down a busy-business-walker street. To remain slow you have to ride your inner brakes.

The same is true with sound. We seek the thumping clubs and concerts when we want to amp up. We seek the slow-walk meadows when we want to gear down.

Today is a gear down day. The crickets must have known. They set a perfect starting tone for a backroads intention. We’ll speak in softer timbre, just like the lake.

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

read Kerri’s blog post about THE LAKE

adrift/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Tally [on KS Friday]

“It’s a haiku day,” I said, feeling empty of anything useful to write. She’s already rapidly clicking away on her keyboard.

The sunflower grows/More beautiful over time/Green vine seeks wisdom.

Counting syllables/ on my fingers, I tally/the word “beautiful.”

Three or four? I ask/She’s deep in thought, can’t hear me/Syllables confound.

Beautiful is three!/”My haiku, my choice,” I quip/Who invents these rules?

Green vine seeks wisdom/Rust has seen many seasons/Green seeks. Rust stands still.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about SUNFLOWER

silent days/blueprint for my soul © 1997 kerri sherwood

Meet On The Deck [on KS Friday]

Lately, when I close up shop for the day and come down the stairs from my office, Kerri and I meet on the back deck. We choose sun or shade, settle in, and talk about our day. There are stories to share, ideas to consider, speculations. Sometimes she’ll catch me up on the news, what’s happened in the world since I climbed the stairs in the morning.

Lately, listening to the news-of-the-day is like strapping a large stone to my chest and jumping into deep water. An intentional sink. “Why would I do that to myself?” I ask myself. I call Kerri’s morning surf through social media her “horror trawl.”

The back deck is a place of hope. I can hear the news-of-the-day on the back deck because, while listening, I watch the hummingbirds zip and hover. The evenings are alive with the most extraordinary bird song. The gurgle of the pond is a soothing meditation. The vibrant life on the back deck is immediate and vital. I know the neighborhood fox is actively hunting the neighborhood bunnies so it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it is natural process. It is not excessive or hyped or angry. It’s life without self-indulgence or puffery.

I can hear the news of the day on the back deck because I can detach from it. In comparison to the hummingbirds or the squirrels running atop the fence, it seems like a bad soap opera, a cast of characters dedicated to their guck.

After the intentional sink, for an extra dose of hope, I visit the tomato plants. They seem to be doubling in size every day. The blossoms have appeared. Kerri takes my hand and leads me to the pots. “Lookit!” she smiles “More tomatoes in waiting!”

Tomatoes in waiting. Harbingers of good things to come. The stuff of life – to taste and touch. Little red bursts of captured sunshine. The real stuff. Life expressing life.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost on TOMATOES IN WAITING

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

Look Closer [on KS Friday]

As the cowboy rode passed us he asked if we’d noticed the Mayapples. We laughed. This same cowboy, a few years ago, taught us about the Mayapples. He’d forgotten but seemed pleased when we reminded him. “That cowboy loves his Mayapples,” I said as he rode on down the trail.

We see each other through soda straws. A few brief encounters, a man on a horse dressed as if he just rode in from Wyoming, a lover of Mayapples. I really know nothing of his story or the realities of his life. I thought about him as we continued our walk. He might be a surgeon or a professor of botany. He might be an apparition. I doubt that “cowboy, lover of Mayapples” is the totality of his identity. I have many story-possibilities rolling for the cowboy, yet, my bet is that I’d be surprised if I had more than a straw’s view into his life.

Most of our judgments about others is a result of the straw’s view. We are master storytellers and only require the slightest prompt to spin a full tale. We see a 30 second news spot and believe we have the complete story of someone’s life. I suspect most of what we fear about other people is mostly soda-straw concoction. Laura Blumenfeld’s book, Revenge, is a great reminder of what is possible when the soda-straw view, the assigned role, expands into a full human portrait. A closer look always reveals a richer human story.

Later down the trail I howled with laughter. We’ve been fans of the Mayapple since our first encounter with the cowboy yet never knew there was a blossom hidden beneath the canopy of leaves. “Oh, my god!” Kerri exclaimed, lifting the broad leaf, exposing the white bloom. We lifted a few more leaves, each hiding a surprise flower. “I had no idea!” we chirped in unison.

“Have you noticed the Mayapples?” asked the cowboy. Apparently not.

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about MAYAPPLES

nurture me/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

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

Ready The Wings [on KS Friday]

“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow/Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow/Moonshadow, moonshadow” ~ Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

An appreciation of life, no matter what comes. It is the meaning of this lyric, this song – or so I’ve read. It seems obvious. I’m having many, many conversations about loss these days. This has been an era of loss and, so the cliche’ goes, with loss new opportunity arrives. It’s true though one must move through the loss in order to arrive at the new. On the way, there is weeping and fear and anger and disorientation. Chrysalis. The trick, we are told, is about focus placement. One day we shift our eyes and see what we have instead of what we no longer possess. We move toward rather than look back.

Kerri has, for years, surrounded herself with symbols of peace. They are on our walls, on rings that she wears, on chains draped on the corner of our bathroom mirror. She draws them in the sand on the trail. A prayer for the world she desires to create. Inside and out. Since she fell, my solo-piano-playing wife has lost more than mobility in her wrists. Strange stuff is happening. Fingers that sometimes refuse to respond. Pain that shoots, seemingly from nowhere. After a photograph – a wish for the world, a peace sign in shadow – she said, “Come look at this. Look how much my finger is bending!” Strange stuff.

What is most remarkable about this shadow is, a year ago, it would have been cause for frustration. A reminder of loss. Full of fear. Today, it was a curiosity. She looks back, she looks forward. Each day she writes lyrics and poetry and wisdoms. She hums the music running through her mind and heart and, sometimes, she dances. Standing at the crossroads of what was and what is to become. Peace replaces pain. All in good time. Good time. Wings readying to unfurl.

[peace. this is one of my favorite pieces of Kerri’s]

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

read Kerri’s blogpost about PEACE

peace/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood

Feed It [on KS Friday]

“The devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. My single costs 99 cents. That’s what a single cost in 1960. On my phone, I can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with. Some would say that the fart app is more important. It’s an awkward time. Creative brains are being sorely mistreated.” ~ Vince Gill

I am the first in line to tell you that everyone has a creative mind. Everyone. That river of ridiculousness running between your ears is nothing other than creativity-run-amok. What else? Telling yourself that you are not creative is, in itself, a creative act. Seeds planted early in life grow into mighty obstructions. Creative wastelands are created. If you want to hear a terrific appeal to educators to nurture rather than stifle the creative mind, listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 Ted Talk. It’s appropriately titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

I’ve listened to numerous school boards tell me how much they truly value the arts – until it’s time to pay for it. Sadly, it’s not a question of whether or not they value the arts; it’s that the arts, the creative minds, do not fit any of the standards of valuation against which all things are measured. They do not know how to value the creative minds that they steward. Arts organizations and artists, mostly, are not money makers. Creative minds, creative acts, do not fit in the boxes and are not measurable on standardized tests. Thinking outside of boxes is, after all, the point of a creative mind. Metrics and goals stop a creative mind and heart in its tracks. The cruelest thing you can ask any artist to do is write a grant.

And yet, an artist has to make a living. Yaki asked me if I had to choose between making a living and making my art, which would I choose? I answered, “Art, of course,” but that it was really a question of Maslow’s hierarchy: it’s hard to make art when you are not surviving. What I didn’t say is that his question perfectly captured the reason schools kill creativity and creative brains are sorely mistreated: it is assumed one must choose between. Making a living and thriving creativity are understood as oppositional.

How many parents have tried to dissuade their children from following their passion for the arts? How many times have I heard Kerri say of the stacks of music on her piano waiting to be recorded, “What’s the use?” How many times have I sat in my basement studio looking at my stacks and rolls of paintings and wondered, “Why bother?” We do it to ourselves, too.

And then, the phony metric falls and we breathe, pick up our brushes and sit at our keyboards. There is a river of riches that runs deeper than money. It is, after all, a creative act to kill a passion. It’s also a creative act to feed and nurture an artistic soul. Both. It’s what the school board doesn’t understand: the choice is not between making a living or living as an artist, the choice is between feeding inspiration, expanding a creative mind, or smothering it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about CREATIVE MINDS

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

watershed/as it is © 2004 kerri sherwood