reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the stuff we see. [two artists tuesday]

we cannot help ourselves. we see stuff. i usually don’t suppose that’s unusual, until someone stares at us – with that blank look on their faces that betrays the “oh-sheesh-they-are-SOOO-weird” thought they are having. and then i realize we might be a little unusual. i shrug it off. “we-are-all-worthy-we-are-all-worthy” i repeat.

the shark was on the side of the trail. lurking. all crusty and gnarly, his face. he was obvious. he was cause for conversation, tales of scuba-diving in cold long island waters and off the coast of tropical islands. we can’t help but see and we laugh and gasp out, “look! it’s a ……..!”

seeing. it’s a burden every artist carries. it’s in the backpack with the parmesan cheese and the twizzlers and the tiny box wine and the kind bars. it’s probably good that we are mostly alone during these moments; our imaginations fly wild and free and we crack ourselves up.

and isn’t that the point? the laughter? i can’t think of anything better than laughing together, even at our own expense. we tell stories to friends, emphasizing the goofy, the silly, the utterly-profoundly dumb, self-deprecating and reveling in it. getting my hair cut and claiming the highest forehead in the guiness book of world records of foreheads. having a pedicure and claiming the biggest big toe in modern history. even, recently, at the doctor’s office, asking, please, for a sticker or a gold star for passing my bloodwork. just silliness. we can’t help it.

but to walk with him and find the sharks on trail and the ducks stuck in trunks (see below) and the tree mooning us (see below) and the desert hills from space (also see below) is to walk inside laughter. it’s to have maybe learned – at long last – not to take everything quite so seriously.

it’s to learn how to get older and crusty and gnarly ourselves and to hold it all lightly.

because in truth, the shark tree was beautiful.

*****

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a weirdfest. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

“but what’s your REAL job?”

it’s been forty years now…over forty, actually. four decades of other people asking THAT question: “what’s your REAL job?”. for a society that values entertainment in all arenas of medium, it would seem a ridiculous query – for this work as an artist – this work providing a piece of heart connection, of balance, this work expressing ideas with the hope of creating beauty, this work exploring perceptions and nudging perspectives, this work generating emotions – this IS my real job. as an artist. a funambulist.

and as a lifelong artist, some things about my life are just different than the norm. it is hard for people to know what to say – or for that matter, what to think – when you mention you are a musician or that you write or paint or dance or sculpt or act. it’s kind of a conversation-stopper. or a chance for the people at the table to push, “but what’s your REAL job?”.

the success of our lives is not measured in rising stocks or 401k’s or retirement portfolios or even bulging savings accounts, for that matter. real jobs are defined by levels of security and solvency that artists, sadly, rarely experience. it’s just hard for others to wrap their heads around such oddity, such tenuousness, such a complex relationship with the imperative to create.

so we point out: the bow, literal or figurative, of any artist is humble gratitude. the joy of any artist is the rippling concentric circle of their work. success is connection, resonance. even with one tiny person-star in the galaxy.

the definition of our lives is complicated to explain, though i expect so is yours. if one artist is awkward, two artists is a weird-fest. sooo not-normal. we will laugh WITH you as you struggle to understand us. weird or not, it is who we are.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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tennis with diebenkorn and pärt. [two artists tuesday]

“now, the idea is to get everything right – it’s not just color or form or space or line – it’s everything all at once.” (richard diebenkorn)

each time i have stood in front of one of the ocean park series paintings, i have been totally engaged. the light, the color, the form, the line, the space – richard got it all right in these. they are fantastic abstracts, luring you in. we left the san francisco museum of modern art with a richard diebenkorn book, one of those coffeetable type books – large with gorgeous illustrations and text. i keep it in my studio, to gaze at and sink into.

i do not know much about painting. at all. i have learned, though, that composition is, across the medium-board, still composition. a painting, a song, a dance, a poem needs someone to receive it, someone to interact, to respond, someone upon which it may fall. and for the artist, though imperative to do the work regardless, it creates the space for the flow to go back and forth, like a tennis ball across a court. each bounce and bounceback adds a little wisdom, a little emotion, breath. as i stand in front of richard’s ocean park paintings, it is as if i can hear his even breathing in my ear.

i stood on the dock up-north, gazing down at the water, light and sun playing on its surface. were i to have chosen colors to paint this, and not the black and white of the paintings i have spattered – the only paintings i have done as an adult, i might have chosen these tones. they are the colors i love to be surrounded by. this would be an abstract painting of getting outside without getting outside, to be there without being there.

but i did not paint this. nature took care of the color and form and space and line and i merely captured what nature made easy. there are many of these now – photographs of the abstract – all with strings tied to my heart and memories in my mind’s eye of outside. i keep thinking they would make a good coffeetable book…”getting outside inside”….a title, an invitation…for those sulky days when one needs the bounceback of the breath of the woods or the water, the space of the mountain trail or the rocky beach.

the gift of glassy lake reminds me that there are other mediums to explore, textures i might consider. i imagine richard diebenkorn and arvo pärt, on two sides of the court, two dimensions, lobbing the ball back and forth. abstractionist and minimalist – both extending an invitation. i start to answer.

*****

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images of water ©️ 2021 kerri sherwood


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thriving. [k.s. friday]

there was a jaguar suv parked in one of the bays when we went to pick up littlebabyscion at the shop. it was shiny black and had an aura of extravagance. i joked as we walked in that it was “practically identical” to our little xb. our beloved – and stellar – mechanic laughed and said, “nah! it’s just ridiculously expensive! fancy doesn’t make it better.” because this society assigns value to things that cost more, i probed a little further, comparing our very-basic vehicle to this one, and he answered, “the reason people buy these – and many other vehicles like it – is for other people to see them driving it. it says ‘i am successful’ to the world.” i laughed and rolled my eyes, joking about the level of success us driving our scion speaks to and he replied, “nope. doesn’t matter.”

“…only about 0.000002% of musicians become ‘successful’.” (one of many statistics found when googling the rate of success for musicians.)

now that is a bracing statistic. it would suggest that there are a heck of a lot of musicians out there – including me – driving un-fancy vehicles with odometers pushing 300,000 miles. it would suggest, too, that there are a lot of musicians out there whose egos are not benefitting from the sideshow and stroke of other people’s ‘that-person-is-successful’ thinking.

but we still keep on keeping on anyway.

successful (synonyms): prosperous. profitable. booming. fruitful. thriving.

the prosperous is evasive. the profitable is of-the-past now that streaming is the preferred mode of listening over purchasing cds or even paying for downloads. the booming has slumped. the fruitful is fallow, often barren, depending on levels of frustration over thinking you should have been a financial analyst, software engineer or investment broker. and the thriving? well, that’s another story.

thriving is growth and growth rays out from the center in an artist. up against a challenge, we seek a different route, a different way. it is not our nature to give up, though an independent artist’s odds of success are clearly stacked. we simply “cannot imagine leaving”. (todd skinner)

instead, we channel the creative energy that keeps stoking up, that keeps us going. we funnel it out into threads of let’s-try-this or let’s-learn-that. when we can’t perform, we play. when we can’t play, we compose. when we can’t compose, we write. we find rivers we can enter and we wade in. we take risks.

in recent days i have come to realize that i still have much to learn…much growing to embrace. there are always more questions than answers. creativity whispers, “do not limit your future by basing it on the past, projecting what you can do based on what you have done. your goal is to be not just better than you were, but as good as you can ultimately become.” (todd skinner)

true in every arena of life…artistry, physicality, emotional health, motherhood, in community. much to learn. always. thriving.

it’s a mystery how it all will turn out. how, in the end, we will be seen. whether we will be prosperous or have a profitable life. if we will have boomed or been fruitful. whether we will have driven a fancy-car, a workhorse old truck or a steadfast littlebabyscion and what that all means to the world watching.

what will really matter – to us artists, adapting in ever-changing light and in each season – is if we thrived.

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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no timely manner. [d.r. thursday]

now i understand. at least, i am beginning to understand.

my sweet momma and poppo would linger…watching birds, gazing at flowers, studying the horizon – be it shorefront or mountainside, cityscape or tiny town or rural farmland, slowly taking it in. in the hurry-hurry of my younger years, i would scurry past, noticing but maybe not really.

i am moving slower now. not because i can’t scurry, but because i am choosing to list to the linger side. though we still watch re-runs after re-runs of joey hiking and climbing and backpacking and pitching tents any and everywhere, imagining ourselves in those canyonlands keeping up, imagining ourselves on the pct or the john muir or the colorado trail, i know that our pace would not match the pace of joey or the exuberant younguns on heading somewhere or walking with purpose or the meticulous norwegian xplorer. we would be slower, lingering, lingering. i’m not sure that would get us from point a to point b successfully or in a timely manner, but i’m thinking that our definition of ‘timely manner’ may have to just be different. because now – in the middle of this grand middle age – is different.

for now i want to watch the birds and gaze at flowers up-close. i want to stop and stare, drop to sit on a nearby log and take it in. i want to notice the intricasies of all of it, the undertones, the overtones.

as i look at the close-up of this milkweed trailside i am struck by the layers of detail. it somehow makes me recall decisions between the major chord and the relative minor, a continuum of impact. it makes me think of melodic gestures, a spectrum of color and of grace. a horsehair brush extended from the heights of the universe, painting perfection in the woods. artists’ hands waving paint on canvas, cupping clay on a wheel, flying over the white and black on a piano, coaxing lines that make you weep from a cello. all the same. creation in all its iterations.

on the call pat told me that the music – my music – had harmonics, tuned with the universe, that made her travel. humbling.

for i see that is what my momma and poppo were doing. traveling. they allowed the beauty around them to touch them, to slow them down, convincing them – in all the infinite glory that beauty -and art- can muster – that ‘a timely manner’ was relative, that time was relative. that time spent in a slow linger was precious.

*****

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clover fluff. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fluff of clover lives at the edge of the stone step. sweet one-half-inch beauties, they grant wishes to passing chipmunks and chickadees lingering at the birdfeeder. beauty at the edges, innocent, simple, unnoticed mostly.

the big picture often doesn’t validate the tiny edge fluff. it’s too big-picture-ish. lofty goals, high aspirations, gigantic expectations, unreasonable accomplishment demands – all take the focus off the soft sides, the padding between imposing idealism and reality. the shallow depth of field captures the up-close and blurs the rest, giving pause to some of what is overwhelming.

i suppose beauty is meant to be like that. the curl of your baby’s tendril of hair, the new leaf bud on the tree, the wisp of pink cloud in the sun-setting sky, the quiet birdcall at dawn – nothing enormous, just simple and life-giving.

so how is it that we get ourselves mixed up in so much measuring, so much set-up for disappointment. we live our minutes as if they are infinity itself. we compare and contrast and yearn and regret. we are striding, striding. even while the clover waits.

and then, sitting on the step of the deck, pondering for a few minutes, we look down and see this magical sight. the tiny world of the tiny clover beckons our attention. it will not be there forever, and, likely with the drought, will disappear before too long. but in the meanwhile it is there and verdant and growing and it counts.

once again, i am reminded, in a wondrous way, of my own tiny-ness. though i know the mark i make on the world is ephemeral, fleeting, and i sometimes, anyway, get lost in the demands and the challenges and the ups and downs of the accompanying emotional seesaw, i hope that there is something up-close about me that gives pause, that offers kindness, that is love.

my-big-picture is actually very tiny and at the edge of the step of the universe. hopefully it is like clover fluff.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

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PLAY TO PLAY ©️ 2005 david robinson


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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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treading water. watershed. [k.s. friday]

watershed the songbox

i don’t feel as much in-a-boat as i feel that i am relentlessly treading water.  but there was no handy treading-water bitmoji and i remember the exact moment that this bitmoji showed up on my snapchat mapping…in the middle of a lot of treading.

treading, treading.  guessing at why what-is-happening is happening – in wide concentric circles around us, tightly close to us.

i can only guess, as i type this with these two now-familiar broken wrists, that this is a watershed time.

watershed pronunciation

definition 2

and today, both valentine’s day and d’s birthday, i want to express gratitude for this man who is standing in the water with me – waves crashing over us, undertow threatening to pull us down, riptide ever present – and holding my fiberglass-cast-encased hand.  the person who is equally as perplexed at this time, who takes turns with me being alternatively flabbergasted, philosophical and soberingly pragmatic.

he continues to zip my jacket, buckle my seatbelt, paste my toothbrush, carry my music, pepper-mill my breakfast and dinner, put the ernie straw in my coffee.  he has learned the fine points of where-on-the-head to place hair conditioner, how best to tie plastic bags on my arms, what stool will work best at the piano, which wine glass i can pick up at the end of a day.  he has watched me learn how to hold mascara with two hands and pull up girl jeans by the belt loops.  he has been treading water with me as we look to the horizon.

maybe this watershed is the thing that elicits change.  at the end of 2019 i could feel it coming.  and i can now, with all authority and certainty, say that the change is not that i will, smack dab in the middle of middle-age, become a professional snowboarder.  nope.  but there may truly be things out there i just didn’t see or consider.  perhaps the things that are vexing us, stunning us, deeply disappointing us, are just the things that will propel us.  ah, if that just didn’t feel so pollyanna-ish.

this life is bigger than anyone can ever live it.  that includes us.  treading water in the watershed might be a time that forces dynamic change.  like everyone, i wish i had some prescient inkling of what’s-out-there, what-will-happen.

my perceived lack of control is maybe a misperception.  maybe that which has taken away control is conversely granting control, granting the creativity that comes with grabbing onto flotsam and jetsam in a sea that seems to be swirling.  maybe the grasping-at-straws is grasping-at-ernie, a touchstone that seems flimsy and unimportant, but which actually is grounding, rooting, and gives voice to more solid footing, less wave-action, more direction-choosing.

the watershed is here.  moment by moment we stare at it.  we roll our eyes, we yell at the angst-y details, we shake our heads in confusion, we stop and stand still and, yet hyperventilating from treading, we wonder.  we try to breathe, to center, to be in the eye of the storm.

holding hand-cast, we look forward and we guess that this ain’t the last watershed on the horizon.

 

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WATERSHED from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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the ernie straw. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

ernie straw

the ernie straw.  this straw has lived in the kitchen drawer for decades.  it served the sesame-street-zeal of My Girl and My Boy when they were little-little and has made various appearances back in the sunlit-world from time to time since then.

this summer when The Girl was here house-sitting i came home and into the kitchen to find her using it to sip her pre-workout drink.  she laughingly told me, “it’s a good straw!”  i can’t tell you how happy i was that ernie was still in the drawer when she went searching for the perfect sipping-utensil.

in the last week, ernie has become my constant companion.  positioned carefully in my coffee hydroflask or perched in my water glass or teetering out of a wine glass, ernie and i have done beverage-life together.

they say necessity is the mother of invention and, particularly, this past week with two broken wrists, i would have to agree.  stuck closer to the right side of my brain as a creative thinker (although admittedly there is quite a bit of ny-style-left-side there as well) i have had to sort out how to do things, let’s say, in-a-different-way.

i can proudly say that i can put on my socks, eat my own meal with a fork or a spoon, cut a steak (with the steak knife lodged into my RH cast), put on a little eyeliner and mascara with my LH steadying my right hand (not easy, but some things are just necessary), and type.  last night i squeezed (!) the toothpaste out of the tube and surprised d with his toothbrush pre-pasted.  in bigger news, i have played my piano four days in a row.  i have 9 fingers to use right now; my right thumb is immobilized.  but there are a lot of notes you can play with nine fingers, especially at the right angle and taking your time.

ernie and i are trying to keep a good attitude.  his curlycue-ness is pretty cute and his smile engaging.  he keeps me from feeling too sad, too limited.  he reminds me that the constraints i feel right now are exercising my creative juju (he’s a ridiculous optimist).  and he, most importantly, ties me to all the years backward, where he, yes, an inanimate object, has been a part of my life and the life of my children.

i couldn’t be more grateful to have found this life-gossamer-thread in our kitchen drawer last monday, the day i was injured.  once again, something profound and something simple –  and both remind me of what’s important.

i sent My Girl a photo of ernie in my coffee vessel.  she quickly replied, “it’s a good straw!”   yes.

thank you, our ernie straw.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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