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the color of new growth. [two artists tuesday]

desi is growing up. suddenly, seemingly overnight, there is lime-green new growth rising toward the sky in the way pine trees reach up, up, up. this seedling we adopted has beaten some odds and its tiny shoots show promise.

we’re not sure what kind of evergreen it is. maybe a white pine? though we are curious and want to be sure to tend to desi properly, it doesn’t really matter. we share our table at the window with her every day, watching for changes, carefully rotating her pot. she is present with us in all our lunches and dinners, with glasses of wine and snacks, surrounded by happy lights and joined in potted life next to various succulents, a fluffy ponytail palm and KC, my new adorable birthday gardenia bonsai from my girl and her sweetie.

a little research on firs reveals a plethora of trees i did not realize even existed. fantastic specimens of hardiness, each kind of tree reveals new growth in a different color, in a slightly different way. desi’s lime-green is a stunning color and we wonder what these new shoots will look like as time goes on.

before we rescued her from being mowed over, desi lived in a place of much diversity. pines and oaks and maples and hickories, all living in harmony, co-existing. tall trees reaching for the sun, hardy and stoic through thick and thin, symbiosis at its best. downed trees, decaying leaves, rich soil ingredients for strength, a diet for underbrush and trees alike, no boundaries drawn.

sunday we drove big red to chicago. we like to take the back way, through smaller towns and past homes built on the edges of ravines and lake michigan. it slows us down and keeps us off the anxious interstate. we were on our way to my boy’s new place where he and his boyfriend waited to serve us an amazing four-course dinner for my birthday. my girl and her boyfriend had sent lovely bottles of wine for the occasion, to be there though they could not be there.

on the way down, as we got into the city, a few police cars with lit light strips caught our attention. and then, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people marching, “stop asian hate” signs leading the way. horns blowing and demonstrations of support rang out as they marched in protest and we were proud of their efforts to raise awareness, to alleviate – stop – this prevailing and abhorrent hostility, violence and discrimination committed against AAPI people. the quiet suffering is no longer quiet. what will it take for us, for this community, this country, this world, to achieve healthy symbiosis?

i wonder what color my new growth is. i wonder if it’s visible. i wonder what the shoots will reveal. like desi, i hope, in my tiny spot in this universe, i will turn toward the sun, ever-stoic, ever-inclusive, ever-present, surrounded by happy lights and full of promise.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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chipping away, i suppose. [merely-a-thought monday]

long island has nicer springs than wisconsin. considerably warmer temperatures, more consistent sunshine, earlier flowers, i remember my birthday in late march as sweater-weather, with many birthday pictures taken in front of the yellow forsythia at the front corner of our yard where the grass met the curb of the street. not so much in wisconsin. it’s still cold, still windy, still cloudy, still rainy, even still snowy. as my birthday rolls around i am always hopeful that it will suddenly change and there will be 60 degree days and we will hike with no coats and no 180 earmuffs. invariably disappointed, we layer up and hike anyway. saturday was no exception. no in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb for this state.

birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection. the generosity of wishes texted, emailed, called, zoomed, facetimed, mailed, shipped and wrapped on the doorstep are a heaping portion of goodness and they enveloped me in warmth all day. the lion of march did not reign the day. instead, the only roar i heard was laughter on the trail, on facetime with my niece, on zoom with best friends, reading the glittery-unicorn-poop card from my other niece, the lingering echoes of my girl and her boyfriend singing to me, my son’s voice on the other end of the phone, a dinner invite from him and his boyfriend, singing memojis, exploding confetti on a text from crunch, music and spattered painting in an ecard from my mother-in-law, words in messages penned or typed, thoughtfully chosen. i lit my new candle, named my adorable new gardenia bonsai, and pulled my concentric circles ever tighter to me, hugging them back. there are days i think that every day should absolutely be lived like a birthday.

there was a common denominator in messages. my husband cleverly made a birthday book about life and love from a pa-pad, pads of scrap paper cut and glued by my sweet poppo in his effort to save trees and the environment. a dear friend from elementary school wrote that she hoped all my wishes come true. my oldest friend ever, a cherished friendship that has sustained through the years, wrote that she hoped i was celebrating. in one card that wished me “all things beautiful” i read, “may you always see the beauty in this world and be encouraged to keep pressing on, regardless of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that stand in the way.” in another was simply the word “forever”. another made me laugh aloud, poking fun at growing older. another wished me a better year. and one reminded me that “we are all works in progress.” in that card, my wise friend added “to ever evolving you” to the message “to another good year of chipping away…”

ever evolving.

the spring rains gather on the deck. they clean off the last of the snow and dirt that have been left there through the winter. like periods on sentences, they mark a new time of growth, an end to fallow, warmth on its way. there have been so many periods on sentences this year. too many. it is a time of wondering. clarity is elusive. it is a time of giving over to not-knowing.

i suppose it is possible that this is the lesson after all. not-knowing. ever. i suppose that spring – even in wisconsin – could surprise me. i suppose no time is really a time of stasis. i suppose that is why riverstones are so smooth. i suppose that, no matter what, the promise is to be ever evolving.

*****

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


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“the most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” [merely-a-thought monday]

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i still have it.  the index card is taped to the inside bottom of my old piano bench down in the basement.  these  words, “perfection is an eight letter word.  p r a c t i c e ” written in eight-year-old pencil-printing.  it’s been there – in that old spinet piano bench – since 1967, when i started taking lessons and needed a reminder how to keep the ups and downs in perspective.

i spent long hours on that bench and on the organ bench also in my growing-up living room.  what i could hear in my imagination wasn’t necessarily what was showing up on the keys.  my sweet poppo would encourage me, “remember, practice makes perfect,” he’d say.  i’d add, well, at least practice moves you in that direction.

there’s no guarantee for perfect.  there’s no route to it and any expectation that you will achieve it really is for naught.  the best you can do is the best you can do – moment by moment.   with practice, each best-you-can-do is better than the last.  and so on and so on.

it’s the caring that matters.

i have two amazing children who have shown me examples of the pursuit of how to do something, to a point of excellence, that you’ve never done before.  the keeping-at-it, toughlove-letting-go-of-judgment, the training, the practice, the trying-failing-rinse-repeat-ness of learning.  they approach new things like stoic explorers, adventurers prepared and open to experience.

it’s the very thing that inspired our snowboarding lesson earlier this year – the one where i broke both of my wrists.  every time i hear someone say, “eh, i’m too old; i can’t learn that,” i store my emotional response to that statement away in my memory bank, waiting for the day i’m about to say just that so i might pummel the words before they escape my lips.

even though my wrists broke and might never be the same and even though i cannot point to any great accomplishment or success on the slope, i would not take back the experience or the exhilaration and anticipation of learning something new, particularly, in this case, that very thing that would give me the slightest first-hand touch, not merely a window, into my daughter’s professional world.

in post-cast moments many people, aghast, said to me, “what were you thinking?  don’t you think there’s a point you are too old for that?  remember your age!”  i am more aghast at these words than all the months dealing with uncooperative wrists in a livelihood where they really matter.

knowing first-hand how difficult and humbling pure novice-ness is, i hope i can always release the suffocating self-evaluating that goes hand-in-hand with being new at something; i hope that i always care about learning.

at eight i had no idea what piano lessons would mean to my life.  i simply wanted – really, really wanted –  to learn.  i, at 8, didn’t beat myself up over getting it wrong or failing nor did i get self-conscious about my journey of mastery.  i just stepped into it.  and i cared with all of my eight-year-old heart.

we walk and talk about the day The Girl or The Boy suggest to getting-older-every-day-us that we purchase new technology or download a new app or try a new recipe or consider a new lifestyle or or or …. the day we will want to say, “eh, we’re too old; we can’t learn that.” i look down at my right wrist, which may never bend at a 90 degree angle ever again, and i remember to care.

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

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everything to lose. pay attention. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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“one million plastic beverage bottles are bought every minute around the world. yet recycling rates remain low.”

(article:  our addiction to plastic, national geographic magazine, 12.2019)

close to midnight and the texts started arriving fast and furiously.  a warning from My Girl that she was “fighting with people on instagram”.  her passionate responses to objectors on #pattiegonia’s instagram were well-spoken, well-placed, adamant about the wellness of this good earth, vehemently supportive.  i paid attention.

pattie gonia is an environmental advocate drag queen.  a voice.  a loud, sincere, fervent, educated, inspired, contemporary, courageous voice.  pattie/wyn is out there making a difference.  it is easy to be proud of them, to stand with them.  with the partnership of rei, they have created video to draw attention to the things we, as earth-dwellers, have failed to prioritize.  if you watch their dramatic and profound videos, you will weep.  guaranteed.

we must pay attention.  what plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic netting, garbage, waste….are doing to our mother earth is deplorable.  we would not live in such a house.  why then do we live on such an earth?

i was driven to nausea the other day when we were helping someone clear out a house.  it was our job to load things up in big red and go to the mini-dump not far from us.  we pulled up and backed up to one of many large dumpsters, all connected to a compactor, to throw in what we had in the back of the truck.   it took my breath away watching all the people throwing in all the stuff….just in this tiny corner of the world.  the great pacific garbage patch looms in my mind’s eye.  THIS is the reason we still have our 40-plus-year-old stove.  because i can’t imagine where it will go if we just throw it out to get a shiny new model before it’s necessary, just to make our kitchen look chic (which, incidentally, is impossible anyway.)

we have been conscious, using refillable water bottles, repurposing, recycling everything we could recycle, a practice of being consumers-of-less, less buying, less keeping-up-with-the-joneses, more picking up trash and, scarily, pulling up next to people who throw things out their car windows to tell them they ‘dropped something back there’.  but we have been learning. and we can do more.  we all can do more.  we have to.  pay attention.

“…right now, there are more plastic pieces in the ocean than stars in the milky way…” (everything to lose by pattie gonia)

it’s bracing.  and it’s tragic. and it needs our true attention.  as pattie gonia says, clothed in a dress made of plastic bags, fully standing in garbage, a ticking clock her companion,  “we have everything to lose.”

 

a short documentary to learn more about pattie gonia:

 

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

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improving. a little every day. [two artists tuesday]

wine

but the real question is – do WE improve with age?

yes, lush red wine, dark chocolate, bold roast black coffee – all have risen on my list of chosens.  i remember the days of sugar and cream in coffee.  i remember the creamy milk chocolate days.  and i remember the 1980s and 1990s days of ‘white zin’, the go-to wine of that age and time, a staple of the culture.  but those days are past and we have moved on to rich red blends or old vine zins, 85% dark chocolate with no milkfats, and the boldest of the bold coffees with no sweetener or added dairy/non-dairy product.  all improved (in my opinion) with my age.

me…on the other hand…i’m not so sure.

i read a brief article which proposed that your thoughts are less important than your feelings.  it reminded the reader that, in light of everyone’s hard-to-speak-of mortality,  there is no time more important, nothing more important than feeling the present moment.

how often do we get caught up in the swirling mind games of reviewing all the past?  thoughts.  how often do we find ourselves double-clutching on the future because of something that has happened ‘before’?  thoughts.  how often do we hesitate as we ponder-ponder-ponder until it’s too late?  thoughts.  how often are those thoughts – skewed – which have accumulated all through these supposed improving-with-age years – ruling our moments, nonetheless ruining our moments, the ones right-now?  stick to the topic/don’t go backwards in time and drudge up old stuff/stay in the “i-feel” not the “you-did”…any counseling master’s program notes referencing ‘conversation’ (read:  heated conversation) with a significant other.  feelings.  do we actually improve with age?  do we learn?

i’m guessing the wine cork has it right.  the moments you are sipping wine are quieter moments sitting by the fire.  or moments of laughter with friends.  or moments with a good meal.  the older we get, it seems the more value we place on those things.  we drink-in the heart of these most important times, with or without wine.  feeling.

we gain perspective.  maybe like that glass of wine in the evening.  a little every day.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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a flame through the night. [two artists tuesday]

tiki flame

we lit the torches about 5pm.  it was cold but not breezy and the lake was calm after several days of bigger surf.  it was the last night.

we sat on the back porch steps and watched the flame flicker.  we moved inside and watched it dance from the living room, a fire burning in the woodstove.  we checked the wind and the weather forecast and said goodnight to the torches late that night, flames glowing outside with boxes packed around us inside.  very early in the morning i could see the slightest of flame glimmering in the torches, the light of golden rising sun behind them.  all through the night.  they burned all through the night.

there was something profound about that for us – the flame that kept burning through the night.  i’m not sure i can speak to it.  i can just say that the welcome flame of the torches in the morning was calming, steadying, grounding.  indeed, the sun will set, night will descend, the sun will rise.  the flame continues.  light continues.

it was the last night on island, for now.  the first dawn of next.  and, as these things do – every sunrise and sunset – it has forever changed us.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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flame through the night image ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

 


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in the gray. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

stripes of grey

grey/gray rarely has such a line of demarcation, rarely has distinctive texture such as in this picture beyond our littlehouse yard.  grey is simply gray.  it is the zone of not right/not wrong.  it is the living in-between-ness of doing life this way/that way.  it is the space of not-knowing, asking questions, learning, being vulnerable.  it can be uncomfortable.  but it is necessary.

the most growing i have done has been in the grey zones.  the times when i did not know, the times i made mistakes, the times choices were confusing, the times devastated by life events, the times moving forward meant tiny baby step by baby step, the times i was vulnerable.

last night there was an artist, an author, at TPAC who spoke of vulnerability.  he said that vulnerability leads to gratitude.  it is the path to grace and mercy.  i agree.

i would add we can never know, or even approximate, what someone else is feeling without being unguarded ourselves.  we can never know the unanswered questions, the struggles, the amorphous-ness of life without the grey.  we can never create without the grey – for an artist languishes in grey, if for no other reason than to seek the color within himself.

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

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life lessons. [merely-a-thought monday]

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you have those friends.  the ones you don’t get to talk to or see all the time, but the instant you call or text or, even better, get to be with them, you pick up right where you left off.  sometimes, those calls or visits are really long; there’s so much to catch up on.

susan and i had one of those calls recently.  the conversation ranged across a gigantic prairie of life subjects – from children to lenten service music to food to relationships to age to challenges to direction to joys to disappointments.  there’s always the inevitable “we should talk more often” and “i miss you”; times we realize how much running our crazy worlds past each other matters.  the “tuition” takes just a little bit less of a toll if we can utter the gory details to our friend, divulge our imagined vindication on whatever the “tuition” is, paint a picture – describing in inordinate detail – of each of our chronicles.

linda, infinite in wisdom and groundedness, finds humor and the wise sticking point in situations.  she has been there for me for decades, close by and from afar.  she is a model of loving steadfastness and makes me feel as if she hugged me, even if we are only on the phone.

heidi, another one of those dear people for me, always asks, “what’s the learning?”.  as infuriating as that question can be, it is a perspective-arranger.  it gives you pause for thought and invites another viewpoint.  the thing i may be obsessing on may not be the point after all.

toward the end of our phone call, susan and i laughed about all the things we were ‘learning’.  oh yes, grateful students?  well, maybe not exactly.  but we are pretty enlightened (for the most part) and we kept laughing as susan said, “yeah, all these life lessons are great, but the tuition sucks.”  we hung up with promises to call again soon.  whether or not that happens right away, i know she is right there.

because here’s the thing we can count on – in the midst of the “tuition that sucks” is that our true relationships and the support we receive from them is endless.  the conversation never really stops.  it just hopscotches from one time to the next, a life-thread of lessons shared.

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

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figure it out. [k.s. friday]

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in all the chicken-scratch-notes i have about this piece of music, i have written in the presence of a heartbeat.  the pulse that spans the entire 6 minutes 14 seconds, this heartbeat starts the piece. it is throughout the piece.  it ends the piece.  it is no accident that this composition seems interminable, ever returning to the theme; figuring “it” out often seems that way, a curse of perseverating analysis paralysis, depending on what “it” is.

i just erased what i had next written about this.  i couldn’t help but talk about my repeated use of a rising leading tone gesture in the theme, f# to g, f# to g, off the beaten major root path, but instead the path of starting on my ever-loved ninth in the e minor key, a key that resonates so often with people.  then i thought, “blahblahblah!!” geeeesh.  that’s way too much information.  so i erased it.  (yes…there were even more details before i erased it!)

i composed this at a time that was laden with things to sort, to figure out, to resolve.  it is one of the longest pieces i have recorded.  there are moments you can hear the almost-there-ness of it, but, like life, it reverts back to the initial themes, the initial questions.  and then, punctuating it, from time to time, a firm melodic gesture (f#-g-f#-e) where you can hear the lyrics in your head, “figure it out.”  much easier said than done, eh?  but our hearts keep beating.

purchase the album RIGHT NOW or download FIGURE IT OUT on iTUNES or CDBaby

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FIGURE IT OUT from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

 


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i am alive. [k.s. friday]

 

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the sun was shining in central park the first time i sang this song in public.  we were on stage and it was the conclusion of the “I AM” NYC revlon run/walk for women, an event where all the proceeds are used to help fight cancer, specifically women’s cancers.  it was stunning – tens of thousands of people gathered, unified by a yearning, to make a difference, to help women live healthier lives, longer lives, to help fight the fight.

every time i hear or sing my own song, i quietly dedicate it to a woman i know who is a survivor in the middle of this battle, in the middle of her path back to health.  my own sweet momma tops my list of women who have bravely and stalwartly walked this journey.  but i think of dear friends, relatives, acquaintances…devastatingly, too many to list.  all “bonded by the power of this dream that is i am.”

I’m different than you.

I am the same.

We are strong. We are courageous.

We are more than this disease; we are bigger than this fight.

United, we celebrate life.

it is raining here today as i write this.  the power and fortitude of the mantra ‘i am’ seems a little weaker.  it’s pervasive, this grayness.  for survivorship of disease is not limited to the blunt force blow of cancer.  survivorship spans the spectrum.  women, like me, who are survivors of sexual assault.  women who are survivors of marginalization.  women who are survivors of silencing.  women who are survivors of domestic, workplace, governmental limitations or abuse.

i listen to my own lyrics and i wonder…are we unified by a yearning?  are we truly trying to make a difference to help women live healthier lives, longer lives, fight the fight – whatever that fight might be?

download I AM ALIVE on iTUNES  or CDBaby  or purchase the album AS SURE AS THE SUN

read DAVID’S thoughts on this K.S. FRIDAY

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I AM ALIVE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood