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light or apathy. [merely-a-thought monday]

normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.

like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.

so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.

cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”

goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.

i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.

we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.

yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?

we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.

do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?

“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)

“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)

hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”

apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)

and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?

how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?

might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?

what a blessing that would be.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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love. no caveats. [merely-a-thought monday]

in a few weeks i will officiate a wedding. a gigantic honor, it is the wedding of dearest friends’ son. though i have known him over a decade, we sat in their backyard and he and his fiancee told the story of their romance, sweet and full of lovely vulnerable anecdotes. i asked a lot of questions and we all laughed a lot. there were a few tears – joy does that. they left it up to me to write the ceremony. gigantic honor. celebrating love.

in the weeks since our backyard circle together, we have wordsmithed and finessed, added ritual and music and i’ve reminded them to take their time, to not rush through this ceremony – that which is most important – to give themselves the space to be able to memorize each second of it. i want them to be able to see in their mind the look in each other’s eyes as they exchange the vows they have written, the scent of flowers on the breeze in the outdoors, the way her dress moves as she moves, the way he grins at her. slowly, deliciously, celebrating love in front of family and friends.

i have participated in so many weddings through the years. i have played pipe organ or piano or guitar and i have sang. i have run wedding rehearsals and i have offered thoughts on pieces of music that express what a couple might want expressed. celebrating love for each other, love for the unconditional support of those present witnessing their marriage.

i have also participated in many funerals through the years. again, playing or singing. again, offering thoughts on music. always celebrating love for the person no longer on the earth.

i read a disturbing account of a funeral this morning. the comments that followed were even more appalling. completely filled with -isms of all sorts, i was dismayed at pointed comments made toward the mayor of chicago, a woman of color, in a same-sex marriage, a different religion than the place of the funeral, attending to show her condolences. she was given communion and all hell has broken loose. the comments by hundreds of crowing allegedly-well-studied and righteous folks were enlightening. there was no love expressed here. only pious opinions, statements of judgment and wishes for her conversion, declarations of ‘faith’ rules, but no love.

clearly the people responding to this post about this funeral have not read anne lamott, “the movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.” “…try(ing) not to feel and act so entitled” was apparently not in the wheelhouse of those writing. and, taking a breath before spewing, they clearly did not pray the words, “help me not be such an ass,” which, as anne writes, is “actually the fourth great prayer” after ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’. i was utterly disgusted. celebrating love?

i keep learning. the lessons come each day. a little progress. i try to remember the movement of grace, try to express gratitude, try to let go, try not to be an ass. i check in at the end of the day and realize, once again, that sometime in that day i failed.

but the words of raymond carver (in his poem ‘late fragment‘) remind me of something: “and did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? i did. and what did you want? to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” love.

all around us, people are celebrating belovedness – the challenges and the blisses. in new commitments, longheld relationships, new babies, children flying, new adventures together, routine days, mistakes, forgivenesses, long nights, new days.

“grace, progress, blessings continue to be given to you, because god gives. it’s god’s job.” (anne lamott)

no matter who or what deity in the universe you feel connected to, no matter what you call this supreme being, no matter your religion or not, i personally believe this. goodness pretty much is the bottom line.

when it was time to leave a visit together, my sweet momma would say, “be kind to each other.” she had no caveats. neither does love.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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forget-me-nots. [k.s. friday]

A0, B0, C1 are missing. entirely. gone. they have disintegrated and have dissolved into the ashy dirt of the piano. it is likely that if we planted the forget-me-not seeds we received when our beloved babycat died, tiny blue flowers would grow, for this spot – the lowest on the keyboard – seems rich soil. though we do not see A-zero, B-zero, C-one, the tones are still there, the timbre of these lowest notes ever-present, the grounding of all else still grounded.

“wherever you are, that’s where i will be…” is needlepointed in an old black frame on the wall in the bedroom. in the way that notes forever linger in the air, that frequencies dance waiting for us to listen, i know that this is also true: those whom we love surround us any where we go, any where we are, they are a whisper away. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i speak of or ‘to’ my sweet momma, my poppo, my big brother, dear ones who have gone on. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i hold close in embrace or in mind those whom i love who are here, whether near or far. the garden is lush with these tiny blooms, the wind a symphony, even maybe a gentle cacophony, of harmonics, seeding my steps each day.

in the midst of it all – changes and challenges, absolute joys and abysmal sadnesses – all that has been whirls around us, all that will be beckons us. we pick and choose the bouquet each day…our words and actions, our intentions. we learn and grow and send roots while at the same time becoming tall and independent and resourceful and capable of blooming.

yet, the wisdom of the ages, the ages themselves, are where we are. the notes play and the harmonics ring. the flowers blossom and spread and the wind takes on seeding, propagating on breezes and stout gales, encircling us. the universe cheers for us. we try to believe it is, ultimately, on our side. as albert einstein encouraged, ‘the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.’ we can bring nutrients or malnutrition to the garden.

the low notes swirl. still there. and all those who have loved us, all those we have loved, all those who love us, all those we love, the greater spiritual power in each of our lives – there. always with us. rich soil for our every single day.

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – from AS IT IS (kerri sherwood)

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ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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our H. [merely-a-thought monday]

the last time i had an in-depth conversation with him, H said, “i have my hope on the generation coming up…that they will be a force for the good.” i cannot imagine a bigger force for good than sweet H.

the candle is burning now. we have had it lit many times in recent days as H has struggled with the fine line between living and dying. the image of his dear face in our mind’s eye reminds us of how to grow old gracefully, how to live into aging, how to participate, how to be in the river not on the river’s edge.

we just heard that H died last night and, as i write this on saturday morning, the sun bursting outside and the birds in full song, my heart is breaking. i have adored H – now ninety-something-something – since the first day he walked into the choir room in which i used to direct choirs, ukulele bands, handbells and be a part of all the joy and community mutually created in that room. his spirit entered before he did, flowing positive energy and a will to try anything, laughter his guide. his bass voice in our choir, in our ukulele band, in our lives was grounding and the gift of angels who had gone before him. H was intrepid. rain, sleet, snow or ice did not deter him or any adventure he took on. he worked harder than most in his earlier years and he played with childlike glee in his later years. mostly, he was not afraid. he wasn’t afraid to learn new things or take on technology. he wasn’t afraid to sing solo or rap in front of others. he wasn’t afraid to travel or to just simply be who he was. he was fiercely devoted to his family, each of them. he wasn’t afraid to love or to state how he felt or what he thought. he was more genuine than many who claim authenticity as their core. a faithful human being, he was.

the refrigerator magnets cluster together from places he went; he always proudly brought me back a magnet from his travels. at the end of the year he’d give me a multitude of those calendars you get in the mail – from all different organizations he had contributed to or of which he was a part – and i’d pick one to hang in the choir room, one to hang at home and one to use for notes. the charlie brown coffee mug in our mug cabinet, that he had carefully wrapped in its suitcase-journey from the peanuts museum in california, is a favorite treasure. he loved butterfingers. he was H.

our last conversation, just a few days ago, was a little disjointed. H couldn’t hear what i was saying on the phone but was trying hard to speak. unlike all our other calls, we didn’t really talk about anything that time. but one thing was clear – shared love and respect for each other and the absolute happiness we each felt having this special friendship. he was H and, oh, his heart.

in an earlier longer call he had talked about the dynamics of our country. he was worried and said that his concern was that current circumstances were like a snowball going downhill…getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. while i would agree that our country, in big places and small, is in desperate need of a thawing-out of mean-spirited snowballs going rapidly downhill, i would offer that there are other domino effects as well, the kind that take frosty snowflakes and build magical snowmen and the snowforts of children’s imaginings. H is such snow magic, if you will – a trillion unique flakes joined together by infinite molecules of kindness. a snowball that gains in momentum and size – in every good way – each time he was around people. brilliant snowflakes attracted to a genuine and gentle man who would dedicatedly stick with you through thick and thin, persons drawn to each other like perfect individual crystals, stars together.

H lived his hope for the future – he was a force for good. there is no reckoning about this. he will shine in the stars and in all the bass solos. he will gather angels around him, singing, and create fairy-dust-snowflakes. he will be missed and he will be remembered. he was H and his heart was gigantic.

*****

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alleluia. [k.s. friday]

the crystallized ice on their windows now is enchanting. snowflakes blown sideways onto a cold kitchen window, sticking there, magic.

we have waited through a cold and dismal late fall, through days of unending grey, outside and in. we have studied the accuweather app, searching for a sign of snowfall. and yet, nary a storm, nary a blizzard, save for a few tiny flakes here or there. but those skeletal flakes on those windows…alleluia.

yesterday, on the way home from joyous and cherished time in chicago with my boy, in the twilight of the day, on backroads taking us past ravines and woods and houses decked out for the holiday, twinkling lights strewn in grandiose fashion, it snowed. real flakes softly blowing over the road. alleluia.

we were mostly alone driving on these roads, for we were not in a hurry. we moseyed back home, slowly relishing the time we had spent, not eager to let go of it. we moseyed back home, slowly appreciating the spirit of small towns along our way. we moseyed back home, elated at the snow falling, our headlights lighting the way through tiny squalls. alleluia.

we arrived home and the snow had stopped. there were no snow-covered trees, no white front lawns, no strewn lights twinkling out from under a blanket of snow. but it had happened, even though we could no longer see evidence of it. the snow had fallen and it was magical.

this year – full of broken lives and shattered hearts, all of us smack-dab in a world of hypocrisy…and we wait. we look for light, for hope, for truth. it matters not our story, our particular religious narrative, the specific names we attach to our holidays or our deity. it matters that there is a return of light, that the universe will ultimately, even if it’s eventual, offer healing. the divine. we can choose to believe in its goodness. even if we can’t see it.

i wrote these lyrics, this song, last year while in the position i used to hold. “we’ve waited for you, waited for you a lifetime. and you were out there waiting, a bright light. …and now, you’re here in a world of hypocrisy and your love can heal us all. our broken lives, our shattered hearts, we’ll give them all to you, beloved one. alleluia. alleluia. alleluia…” in the cantata i directed last december, this song preceded another song i wrote two decades earlier. “holy, holy…,” i had penned.

with carols playing softly in little-baby-scion, snow gently falling from the sky, the warmth of a hug still lingering, twinkling lights cutting the darkening night, on our drive back home, i could feel a little healing. it felt holy. alleluia.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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in the middle and in the end. [k.s. friday]

were there nothing else to do, no other responsibilities, no outstanding work or chores, no cleaning or laundry or errands, no bills to pay, calls to make, jobs to seek, piles to clear, messes to sort, i could sit and stare at a fire for hours.

it’s easier to evade the thoughts that permeate your worried mind with the heat of fire on your face. it’s easier to stop strategizing around, through, beyond while watching the dance of contained flames. it’s easier to be lulled into all-is-well thinking, sinking into the adirondack chair, moonlight on your brow.

ephemeral moments – the good ones and the bad ones – slip by, each temporary, each a transitory arc, evaporating, evaporating.

yet, our eagle-focus on certain moments, certain actions, certain words, certain emotions, batters us with living, re-living, re-living, re-living.

we obsess. and in a time when there is so much to obsess about, it is none too easy to avoid.

the fire burns through the wood, despite its flammability. it does not choose only wood that is most flammable. with all the different wood in the firepit, it ignites, turning all into ash, intangible and evanescent.

we might do well to toss moments these days into a great cauldron, touch a match to it and light it. perhaps out of that might arise a bit of wisdom, a bit of certainty in the uncertainty, a bit of comfort. maybe living in the recognition it will vaporize would remind us of transience, the impermanence of it all, the pro tempore of any given heated moment, ultimately, the importance of lingering in any goodness we experience, of actually being goodness.

perhaps we should prioritize staring at the firepit. it may serve as a gentle reminder.

in the middle the fire is hot. in the end ash will be ash.

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TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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this world needs you. [d.r. thursday]

thisworldneedsyour WITH EYES jpeg copy

all of us.  we will all need to participate.

this world will never be the same.  we need to ponder, we need to dream, we need to imagine:

a better place, a more fair place, a place that is based on equity and equality, kindness and compassion.  a place that assumes virtue and intends the same.  a place that protects its peoples, that encourages individuals to care for each other.  a place that doesn’t incite rancor, celebrate the weapons of violence, or create enmity and spite.  a place where the downtrodden are lifted up and those with excess are generous.  a place where inhabitants don’t self-aggrandize or strategize to find ways for more-more-more, ways that take from those with less, ways that undermine those in need.  a place that doesn’t normalize language of vitriol, hatred, and antagonism.  a place where all races are equivalent, all genders are respected, all ethnicities are indistinguishably included.  a place where the environment counts and sustaining it beyond our own time on this good earth is a priority.  a place that recognizes the sacred in the out-of-doors, the borrowing of this dirt, this water, this air for the short span of time we are here.  a place where we are always seeking ways to better life for each other, to enhance daily living, health, happiness.  a place of truth.  a place of goodness.

yes.  this world needs your good imagination.  or we will never get there.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 


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blue prayer. [d.r. thursday]

BluePrayer

because i have this thing about everest, high-mountain-climbing tales and the arctic, we have a propensity to seek out movies we can view that tell these stories.  we stumbled upon an explorer series that followed the adventures of an arctic explorer at the north pole.  the photography was stunning.  so much white.  and then the blues.  a turquoise aqua that you just can’t accurately describe.  the explorer described the north pole as elusive, as theoretical, since it continually moves and the longitude/latitude is never constant, always fluid.  he is there at the exact north pole and he is not. both.

this painting BLUE PRAYER feels like there.  sitting at the very top of our mother earth, the deep night sky behind her, she prays.  for our planet, all people, tenets of goodness, generosity, peace.  she is quietly still and bowed in fervently verbose prayer.   she is praying for the elusive, the theoretical.  she knows it is all out there and she knows it is not. both.

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BLUE PRAYER ©️ 2019 david robinson

 


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practice makes perfect. [merely-a-thought monday]

the world will treat you royally

“live generously and the world will treat you royally.” (crown royal commercial)

“practice makes perfect,” it says on an index card in the piano bench of my old piano downstairs in the basement.  written in the careful-penmanship-printing of me-probably-as-an-8-year-old,  i have kept this card in my bench for over 50 years.   i’m sure there were multiple times i rolled my eyes at this, as i opened the bench to take out and work on lesson music.  i still roll my eyes.  everything takes practice.

everything.  including living generously.  there’s always that moment when you have to decide to either take up the rope, as they say, and tug back or let the rope lay still.  so much easier to pick it up and tug, letting it lay there and not touching it requires sheer grit-your-teeth-restraint sometimes.  it’s too easy to tug, to even wrench, and too royally hard to let a sleeping rope lie.

but in those moments, the really tough ones and the little ones, that you actually and intentionally choose to mother-teresa your way through, your generosity spins outward in concentric circles and goodness spreads.  goodness has a way of coming back, returning to center, with centrifugal force and your heart in the middle.  gravity draws back goodness and keeps close the spirit of all with whom you have been generous.  kindness bestowed upon you is royal treatment; it is the world treating you royally.  we are all so fortunate.  we are already receiving lavish unconditional love.  what would happen if we practiced living generously even more?

after all, they say, practice makes perfect.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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