i know you have never experienced this. nope. never.
mars-venus. saturn-pluto. smack-dab in the middle.
SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com
34 – the combination of 14 & 20 – love to cook together. they chop and laugh and saute and bake and grill, punting their way through recipes. with glasses of wine in hand (and lately, maybe old-fashioned wisconsin old-fashioneds) these two brothers-of-different-mothers gleefully prepare dinner.
twice a week we three (61 when you add us all up) used to dine together. and then covid. for well over a year, dinners stopped and phone calls commenced. but even zoom doesn’t come close to the ritual of preparing good food and sitting down all together around a table. finally, fully-vaccinated and still wearing masks out in public spaces, we are back. and so there is a piece of our world that has righted; the axis is just a little less tilted. we are grateful.
20 goes way back for me. shortly after my beloved big brother died, i believe he looked down from heaven and hand-picked out 20 to stand in for him. he didn’t expect 20 to be exactly who he was, he just expected him to be there for me. and vice-versa.
my little girl and 20’s little girl took ballet lessons together as tiny ballerinas and 20 and i sat on the wood floor with other parents just off the studio, morning light spilling in through the windows. my little boy drove his matchbox cars up and down the hall, including on and off 20’s legs, clearly seeing in him a man who adored the magic of small children and their imaginations. it was like group therapy, this cadre of parents on the wooden floor, and we still think of those times fondly. we followed ballet class with an ice-cream-sundae trip across the street to andrea’s and sitting on high stools at jack’s cafe in front of the soda fountain. cups of hot coffee and watching our tiny girls make straw dolls with paper napkins and my little toddler boy having soup-that-race-cars-eat with a side of saltines and pickles were glittery times…priceless. in the way that life and mystery goes, 20 happened to be a graphic designer at a time in my life when i needed a graphic designer. we celebrated my first album together and he designed many of the next ones. there for meetings or reviews, i watched him and justine and duke at work. i had the good fortune of secondhand learning; i still credit 20 with the way i design things now. it was inevitable that we would still be almost-brother-sister 27 years later. i imagine this will go on forever and ever, in the way that my own big brother devised it. only now, we are a trio of compadres. we’d have it no other way.
in this time of so much loss for so many, we have not gone unscathed. jobs and security, finances and healthcare, communities-within-communities, relationships – all have an iota of decimation. the rituals of our life together are the things we hold onto, the firm footing that delivers us from one day to the next. for us, resuming the twice-a-week dinners with 20, friday night potlucks with our dear-dear friends which have temporarily become happy-hours in their backyard, our familiar-trail hikes watching the seasons change in the woods…these are real, three-dimensional and steady and are evidence of life beyond these times. they are evidence of a return to some semblance of normal, though we suspect things may never actually be normal again.
we are still careful out in public. we still wear masks and use sanitizer. at OT appointments they still take my temperature, have a pile of masks at the door and ask a slew of covid questions. we are wary of too much exposure – our innermost circle demands it, for this pandemic is still alive and well and we do not wish to place our dearest close ones at any potentially devastating risk.
yesterday we passed a teen girl walking down the sidewalk, mask at her chin, with a sad, sad face. it made me think about all the people who have lost loved ones during this year-plus of covid. i wonder how they feel as they watch others, in seeming cavalier fashion, gather in crowds, throw out their masks and throw any remaining caution to the wind. i’m guessing maybe they are heartbroken. because there is no going back. it can’t be undone. and the loss of their beloveds has not changed others who do not walk in their shoes.
i guess it’s the lack of empathy, the lack of looking-out-for-each-other, the lack of small efforts of willingness to aid the big community that i find most disturbing. because, really, in the ritual-festooned-relationship-rich-shimmering-end we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.
just ask 34.
in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.
tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.
it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.
we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.
CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood
dogdog is right. the sun IS out. and you can feel the difference in the air. it is palpable. it is the morning after.
the morning after – when we woke up, it was the 21st day of the 21st year in the 21st century.
the morning after – when we woke up, we were in a better place. a place of hope, a place where unity is that which we are striving for, a place where the poetry of a young black woman is the ultimate prayer of gratitude, of healing, of work to be done, of aspiration.
the morning after – when we woke up, we did not sink in despair into the news of the day, we did not grimace in disgust nor did we feel sickeningly without prospect.
the morning after – when we woke up, we spoke of yesterday, a day of moments, each one lifting us just a wee bit more, higher, higher. a day of firsts, a day of confidence, a day of celebration, a day of music and prose and prayers and pledges and promises, fireworks that lit the sky and drew tears on our faces, a day without parallel.
the morning after – when we woke up, we spoke of the daydream of more new mornings, more new days – just like today.
the morning after – when we woke up, we had a new president and a new vice-president. we have bright light and responsibility, authority and accountability, brilliant minds and the power of working together, truth and science, deep empathy and a commitment to the most basic of all – decency.
the morning after – when we woke up, we stepped forward. we carry all we have learned – the good and the ugly – and we intentionally forge ahead.
AT THE DOOR ©️ david robinson, kerri sherwood
“there are 100 ways you could have said that,” he would say. yep. probably more than 100. somehow you have to have your intellect, emotions, sensitivity all line up in perfect harmony so that what actually comes out of your mouth might be a teensy bit worthy, attentive to the moment. we all know this is not an easy thing. it is far easier to react, to scoff at sensitivity, to employ little to no brainpower, to not check your emotions, to not rein in your anger, your wrath, indeed, your rage. yes, it is far easier to spew.
and spewing has become the haute couture of communicating, the cape of the superhero of speak. instead of being gauche, it has become cheered, jollied on, mimicked. we have sunk down low, low, low.
somewhere between engaging your mouth – somewhere between start and stop – there must be a filter, heck, multiple filters. instead of the arrogant stance, the ready-go of putting someone in their place or pushing them down under the waves, the offensive weaving of untruths, the rotisserie of steroid-injected pretend-it-happened stories, perhaps there might be subtle moments of consideration. perhaps there might be the pause of checking-your-reactionary-self minutes where you attempt to take into consideration the other’s shoes and walking in them. perhaps, even more so, though quite a stretch, there might be … empathy.
but this is not a time that empathy is in vogue. this is not a time that trying to understand another’s point of view is fashionable. this is not a time that measuring your words and being mindful is favored. instead, this is a time that the space between start and stop is not infinitetismal.
this space – between start and stop – is, instead, of giant proportions. it is a space not measured by integrity or kindness. it is not thoughtful or contemplative or introspective. it is instead consumed with preoccupation of self, with selfish, unsympathetic agenda-driven drivel. it does not consider the other 100 ways. it races to the satisfied finish, like a green racehorse out of the gate, with no even gait and no finesse. there is no stop, no pause. it gallops without forethought, without watching where it is going. it is spewing.
saddle up. we all deserve better.
“now i can be really vicious,” the loving and enthused words of the [impeached] president of the united states at a rally saturday evening.
“vicious” is not a word you would associate with the behavior of the leader of the free world. “vicious” is not a word used by empathetic, compassionate, caring presidents about how they plan to treat their populace. “vicious” is not a word used in fair, properly and factually prepared, carefully articulated, mature campaigns. “vicious” is not an adjective used by politicians who are trying to unite, to heal, to raise awareness of inequalities, to thoughtfully bring health back to a nation, suffering from layers of dis-ease.
no. let’s face it: “vicious” is not even a descriptor used about dogs you want to be around.
and yet, there are people screaming for more at these rallies. there are people screaming on facebook, on twitter, on message boards, on signs, from stages and pulpits and country club dining rooms and the house-of-white. “vicious.”
where do we go from here? this president has given gross permission for people to be as base as possible, as vulgar as possible, as nasty as possible, as deceitful as possible, as mercilessly unremorseful as possible. he has conquered the heightened epitome of divisiveness, the “no” in no-moral-compass and has created seemingly insurmountable animosity in a country now brewing unrest between its citizens, its families, its friends, its colleagues, its communities, its states, its every-category.
“american decline” was graffitied across the bottom of a freight train. we sat and watched the cars go by, the xb in park just in front of the tracks. it was a long train, car after car, coal hopper after coal hopper, tank car after tank car, stunning graffiti on pretty much each one. it went by too fast to grab a phone to take a picture, but there it was – american decline – spray-painted across the bottom of the car. we read it aloud and then sat quietly.
what is there to say?
“at no time before has there been a clearer choice between two parties or two visions, two philosophies, two agendas for the future. there’s never been anything like this,” read this president at his narcissistic-ego-stroking-power-quenching-non-masked-socially-close-up-and-personal-maga-hat-wearing-rabid-fist-pumping-non-fact-checking-fear-mongering-descent-into-delusion-via-hook-line-and-sinker rally, a rally with an appalling lack of regard for the 194,000 people who have died of the pandemic that still rages across this country…the same pandemic he knew about in february and brutally lied to the public about. the same pandemic that has ravaged the lives of over 6.5 million families: their health, their work, their homes, their security, their futures.
there has never been anything like this. how true is that. it’s vicious.
two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:
“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”
and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?
yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.
this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?
“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?
realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:
“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”
and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.
and they laughed? how dare they.
CONNECTED ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood
1980. it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it. i was a mere 20. listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag: this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.
it is shocking to hear the innocence. it is shocking to hear the pain. if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well. this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process. it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s. it’s the story of sexual assault any time. it changes everything. every trajectory. it’s my story.
NO BALLOONS is a song of the times. especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus. simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.
i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss. it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger. instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.” only it’s not. it’s about no air. no breath.
“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…” and that was a product of the times as well. i closed my eyes and silenced my voice. i stopped feeling it. or did i? “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?
until this week i really never thought i would share this song again. after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore. but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.
we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life. things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget. things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence. the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.
i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them. i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction. i have searched for answers.
but i also know that my heart was blown open. i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.
i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen. i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.
NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood
i remember heidi telling me about a conversation she was having on a mother-daughter weekend with her sweet mom, among other mothers and daughters. they were sipping glasses of wine and started listing some of the things that were disconcerting to them about themselves.
we women (and men) have all done it. we are sitting smack in the middle of a society that puts great value on appearance and youth, rather than the wrinkles of wisdom, the not-perfect-shape of having children and nurturing families, the heart-showing-on-our-face that has learned great empathy through the years, the grey hair of hard work and compassion. and so we complain about the obvious changes we are going through.
i have looked in the mirror numerous times and thought, “wait! hold on! that is NOT how i look!” followed closely by, thinking, “it must be the lighting! good grief, why do they use these dreadful florescent lights? where are the soft white light bulbs? what about indirect lighting?! haven’t they invented soft focus mirrors yet?? umm, i prefer my photos over-exposed, thankyouverymuch.” we are hard on ourselves. understatement.
instead of recognizing the beauty, the light in our eyes, the smile lines on our faces, the brow of concern, we list to the negative. we do not look like the photoshopped version in the magazine; we cannot measure up to the three-or-four-decades-younger version of even ourselves. life changes us. why is it so easy to minimize ourselves and so difficult not to maximize what those changes have brought?
heidi’s mom interrupted the conversation. she gently stopped the flowing list of self-deprecating complaints. and she said, “you will never be more beautiful than you are right now.”
we passed this spray-painted graffiti in chicago. i grabbed the phone out of my purse and tried to quickly capture it. my finger blurred part of the image and i ruminated after on how i had ruined the photo. and then i realized that no, indeed i had not ruined it. for that blurry flaw in the photo would remind me (much better than were it not to be there) that we were walking fast down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, trying to capture the photo inbetween lots of traffic, laughing and excitedly on our way to see The Boy. that blurred sixth of the photo – a photo that was not perfect – would remind me of that day, imprinting in my life right then, the reminder timely and empowering.
you are beautiful. right now.