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farm to table. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

10. there are now ten teeny tomatoes tethered to the tendrils of our tomato plants in our tiny tabletop garden. it’s amazing! i am ridiculously dedicated to them and watch each day as they grow.

on sunday i went outside to this old barnwood and pipe planting stand and, for the second time now, snipped off fresh valentino. it’s heavenly, the scent of fresh basil. with a little olive oil and some boughten* grape tomatoes tossed with leaves of basil, we had a meal from our little farm. (try to contain your amazement, millennial farmer.)

i still marvel at this minor little miracle, simple and so utterly complex, this growing edible food. we clinked our glasses of old vine zin in celebration and reveled in the good fortune we felt having successfully – at least for the last three weeks – raised a few plants, who seem to be happy and flourishing in the hot, humid, rainy days we have been having.

around the corner is an empty and beautiful grass lot on lake michigan, owned by the people who live across the street from it. they have planted a vegetable garden and we watched as they tenderly watered it the other day while we walked past. i wonder if they started with a container garden on their potting bench.

i don’t know how long it will be before these teeniest babies will grow and ripen into cherry tomatoes that will grace our salad bowls or join with basil in pasta-union. it will be a journey of enlightenment for us. what i do know is that we are seriously loving every bit of it. and the tomato and basil plants seem to know it.

*****

*boughten: though i don’t normally use it, this is indeed a word and, for this writing, seemed like the right one to use.

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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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hosta extraordinaire. [k.s. friday]

ordinary. perennially ordinary. hostas are intrepid, robust, shade-tolerant, adaptable plants. they are patient with human-planting errors and magnanimous with dogs who run amuck through their early sprouting. these plants seemingly have boundless energy to reproduce and spread and fill-in gardens in shadow. with low maintenance personalities, they happily populate yards and our hosta garden out back is an easy joy.

right next to the hosta is a garden of ferns. these are a different story. they are, indeed, more particular than hosta and, in our experience, much higher maintenance. they are beautiful, willowy and tall and a gorgeous green that changes in the light. still pretty ordinary but with a little more sass.

there are a few peonies in our backyard gardens. they are more specific about their needs. they like the sun and well-drained soil. they like a little space. they have a short-lived flowering season, but their wafting scent is remarkable. they are still ordinary plants, but need a smidge more attention than the ferns and quite a bit more attention than the hostas.

they all, however, live in community and, were we better garden-planners and were we not to have an aussie running circles in our backyard grass, would present a lovely picture. despite our lack of garden design and despite dogdog’s propensity for a bit of ruin, we are grateful for each of these living plants out back. the extraordinary of their ordinariness doesn’t escape us. they are there, they are steadfast, even without us worrying about them, fussing over them, micromanaging them. they seem to know what to do.

i recently interviewed for a job. it didn’t require a masters degree in the field, but i have one. it didn’t require experience in the area of expertise, but i have forty years. coming away from the interview, i noted to myself that it also didn’t seem to require a sense of humor or a sense of who people on either side of the call really were. is this ordinary? i’ve read many articles recently about leadership and management. the best of the best leaders and managers are human, appreciative of those they work with, looking for potential and collaboration, leaning on a bit of community warmth and pushing back at haughtiness and agenda in the workplace. the best of the best remember we are all extraordinarily ordinary, together.

i suspect i was too old for this job. that thought takes my breath away, but, these days, it seems to be true. i watch as garden centers work in our neighborhood and others we pass through. they carry in plants of great variety, design architectural gardens of varying heights and species and colors. i wonder if these gardens will require owner-vigilance or if they will propagate and grow toward their potential with the freedom that years of gained wisdom and savoir-faire and insight have granted. or if, perhaps, it will be a respectful collaboration, a chance to, in community, laugh at the breeze, bask in a bit of sun, cool off in late afternoon shade, soak in the rain and grow leaps and bounds. ordinary extraordinaires.

just like our hostas.

“it’s the ordinary people who give extraordinary love. when you sit back and look at it all you know this is what life’s made of. it’s not the stuff you accumulate or the title on your desk. it’s the people around you who make living life the best.” (song – this is life: ©️ kerri sherwood)

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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in the may apple village. [two artists tuesday]

once upon a time in the middle of the forest there was a may apple village. canopies of verdant green umbrella-ed a world of little tiny beings living little tiny lives. the village went on and on, deep into the trees. if you got right down on the ground and looked underneath all those canopies you would be amazed at what you saw, er, imagined. the village doesn’t last long. it appears and then disappears, showcasing short-lived flowers blooming and then going dormant in the summer. and the little tiny beings move on.

it is in my nature to try and make people laugh. i want to hear them giggle, guffaw, snort. i want to see cheer on their faces and to know they are amused by some self-deprecating thing i said or some story i told or some weird-action-that-would-instantly-embarrass-my-kids thing i did. i am not afraid to talk for my dog, skip in the airport, talk to strangers in elevators or subways or grocery lines, or make up loud songs-with-his-name i would sing to my cat. the reason i adore rehearsals is the chance to see people, in community, laughing. it’s never about perfection. it’s always about joy.

and so it was pretty darn weird to be on an interview call recently during which … no one laughed. i was stunned by this. i could not elicit one snicker, not even a draw-breath-in-breathe-out-a-soft-‘haha’. it concerned me. after six decades on the planet, i understand seriousness, job dedication, commitment to work. after six decades on the planet, i also understand the best way to get things done is in joy. the big picture. short-lived flowers.

the little tiny may apple village was bustling the other day in the woods. i could see tiny bistro tables and chairs, tiny beings milling about laughing and getting things done. the community was aware of all the work it had to do in the short period of time the encampment – and they – would be there. they were not overwhelmed; they were not undone. they realized that they were each spokes in relationship in the big-picture-wheel.

and they – these tiny beings under their awning-of-green – realized that their mirth was the thing that held the leaf-canopies open and kept things in motion, that kept them sharing and working with each other, through the burdens and the successes, that kept them from being divided and, instead, made them a community of inclusion, exuberant and productive, making their tiny mark.

*****

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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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“it’s either joy or pre-joy.” [not-so-flawed wednesday]

pre joy joy

a fine line.  the place between pre-joy and joy.  for mike libecki there is no space on the continuum between the two.  it is merely one or the other.  pre-joy or joy.

mike is a mountain climber.  because i am an obsessive mountain-climbing-video-documentary-movie-watcher, we watched him and cory richards in their national geographic antarctic mountain climb to summits not reached before.  it was brutal.  the wind.  the weather.  the elements of the climb.  agonizingly difficult.

but mike was adamant, stating above the furious wind again and again, “it’s either joy or pre-joy.” any moment of torturous climbing or bearing the effects of the weather was a moment of ‘pre-joy’.  all other moments were ‘joy’.  it’s an amazing way to look at things.  an amazing way to look at life.  everything leads to joy.  you are always in joy or on your way there.

in what we would describe as a watershed time, this short quote is a lesson in staying grounded.  in sentiment i have heard before, but never as succinctly shorthand, a reminder to look always to the light, the horizon, not backwards, not at the dark, not measuring in the negative.  re-group, re-center, re-evaluate, re-perspective-arrange and move through pre-joy to joy.  a cup always with something in it, never empty.  always a portion waiting for you to add to it, make the best assumptions, hope, appreciate, carry the jug to the next waterhole for it is there.  “we must live sweet,” mike says.

we carry the torch so often for the negative.  we moan and complain and gossip and pick fights.  in this roller coaster of life, what about carrying the torch for joy?  what about lighting the way for yourself, for others, helping to find the light, the joy?  believe that we are only an ice-pick or a few carabiners or a length of rope away.  we are on the mountain.  all of us.

i would like to try to remember this “it’s either pre-joy or joy” and live and work and play by it.

because i believe in joy and the sheer power, potential of joy; it’s a force.  i just need remember to believe that all roads lead there.  one day is joy.  the next is pre-joy.  it is all on the same continuum.  it is all the same life.  we all share the same possibility.  all paths summit.

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

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joy. [k.s. friday]

joy songbox

the video from My Girl made me out and out cry.  it was just a little hello, sent from around a firepit in the high mountains after a long day of working.  and it was perfect timing.  to see her face and hear her voice was pure joy.

we walked and walked and walked.  miles from millenium park’s christmas tree and skating rinks, past beautiful ornate displays of lights and simple twinkling white branches.  in a rare opportunity linking my arm through My Boy’s as we strolled, i was filled with joy.  the loudspeaker music and dancing lights of the lincoln park zoo just echoed my delight.

as adults, the holidays carry a different set of qualities than they did as when we were children.  much pressure, oftentimes grief, maybe a slippery slope feeling of never-doing-enough, some disappointment, a measure of jealousy or envy perhaps as others-with-family-all-in-town gather together in big festive celebrations.  for those of us who work on christmas eve and christmas day, there is a yet another added layer.

we walked through the woods yesterday looking for the right branch laying on the ground.  we don’t yet have a christmas tree up.  we have other little trees – i have collected small trees through the years – but no true christmas tree.  each year in these last years, we have chosen that “tree” carefully, always something we found, something re-purposed into a christmas tree, something that had meaning.  there was the christmas-tree-on-a-stick – a christmas-tree-misfit – we cut down on the tree farm, a piece of the tree that fell into our backyard narrowly avoiding the house, a branch that had snapped off of our beloved tree out front, a star suspended over a straight trunk wrapped in lights to tease The Boy.

this year i thought about just going to a lot and purchasing a tree, thinking maybe, in the midst of the ending of a really tough year for many,  that might put me into the holiday spirit.  but i just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  we figured that the answer would become obvious, as it has done in the past years.  and it did. watching My Boy, clearly proud of the decorations of the neighborhoods north-of-downtown, agree with us about how simple, beautiful and truly elegant the white branches were, made up my mind.

last night we put the first coat of white spray paint on the two sets of branches we brought home.  we’ll finish coating them with paint later today and wrap them in white lights.  we’ll gently place silver ornaments as we play christmas music in the background.  i will miss My Girl and My Boy like crazy.  i will yearn for my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and sister and brother-in-law and nieces and nephew and all their families, david’s parents and extended family.  it isn’t the christmas of christmas-past.

but there still is magic.  those moments of joy – when everything else ceases to exist and joy eclipses it all.

download JOY on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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JOY ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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lucky charms. [merely-a-thought monday]

lucky charms.jpg

H is about the sweetest man you could meet.  he is in choir, sings bass and is a heckuva barbershop singer.   he loves music and adventures and birthdays and hugs and butterfinger bars and the letter H.  and we love him.

i was talking about a piece we were going to sing a particular sunday.  i told the infamous back row they would need to eat their wheaties that day; there were some tough notes in this piece.  H looked up, and with that glimmer in his eye, said, “i eat lucky charms!”

what???!!!  this is a grown man – 93 years grown – and you would think that his breakfast would be practical and of great nutritional value.  but nope!  lucky charms it is.  he added, “when my grandchildren come over, they eat all the marshmallows!”  clearly not a disappointment but, instead, the greatest biggest joy.   see?  the sweetest.

i’m thinking that it would be a smart thing to eat lucky charms if it means i am going to live 93 years and have a glimmer in my eye.  and they’re gluten free!

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

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a creation. joy. [d.r. thursday]

 

Joy copy 2

JOY mixed media 50″ x 56″

he painted this early on in the days he lived in wisconsin. a big canvas, his brushes moving effortlessly, carefully, intentionally, jars of paint by his side. and JOY came to be. i immediately loved it. equally, i loved being present for the process. i got to WATCH. a creation in the making. beautiful. he stood back and looked at his work.

regardless of your belief, you certainly must acknowledge that somewhere along the way there was a big blank canvas. a divine being named whatever-honoring-name-you-want-to-name-this-presence moved brushes effortlessly, jars of unimagined colors, buckets of stars, clouds full of rain and snow, mountains of hills and mountains, fields of fields and open rangeland, oceans and lakes full of water, gigantic test tubes of atoms and cells that would eventually turn into plants and trees, amoeba, bacteria, organisms, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, people – all by the side of the canvas. this supreme being moved effortlessly, carefully, intentionally. and the world came to be. a creation in the making. beautiful.

we hang this painting and gaze at it, interacting with it daily. we feel the joy of it, the color. we have relationship with the painting; it speaks to us and we listen. we respond to it, respecting it, hanging it out of direct sunlight, preserving it and keeping it beautiful.

we stand in the world and gaze at it, interacting with it daily. we feel the joy of it, the color. we respond to it, but do we respect it? do we have relationship with it? do we listen as it speaks to us? do we concern ourselves with its sunlight, its atmosphere, its water, its land, its living things – all of them? do we preserve it? do we keep it beautiful?

view and/or purchase JOY on david’s gallery website

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JOY ©️ 2015 david robinson

 

 


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so much life lived. [merely-a-thought monday]

so much life lived box

we were talking on the phone.  it had been quite some time and there was so much to catch up on it was difficult to know where to start.  we started with this week.  “so much life lived this week,” heidi said.  yes.  so much.

in the last week or so we have traveled both east and west.  from the ocean to the mountains.  from children to parents.  from littlebabyscion to big red.  we traveled from together to missing.  from gathering things for a new home base to removing things forever from a home.  from being known to the dementia-induced-agony of being not-known.  from a new plan to yet another new plan.  from certainty to uncertainty.  from before to after.

we have driven over 3000 miles and flown 1000 miles. we had the absolute joy of being with our children.  we had the absolute joy of being with david’s parents.  we’ve been with beloved family, with our dearest friends, with complete strangers on airplanes, in rest areas, in hotels, in shops.  we laughed, we talked, we questioned, we argued, we cried, we cringed at how life changes, we celebrated life’s changes.

days swirled around us as we turned the pages of our calendar and we kept going.  taking snapshots, memorizing moments, sealing memories for eternity (as mike wrote).  for this was only one week or so.  and yes, there was so much life lived.

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

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