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the path back is the path forward


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smack-dab-in-the-middle. [merely-a-thought monday]

the family photo changes through the years. i read the other day that it was a friend’s 39th wedding anniversary and noted that it would have also been mine. but things change and times change and the family photo changes. i am grateful for the years before and i am grateful for the years now. both. either way, both family photos have similarities. one would show a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, looking to get to know each other again. the other shows a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, getting to know each other in the first place. a common thread – that getting-to-know-each-other – it is all fodder for much laughter, many foibles, much self-deprecation, many questions, few answers, and a lot of punting on the journey through aging smack-dab in the middle of life.

it became obvious to us that our roadtrip together, the-second-time-around-roadtrip, was a source of humor and a reason for lightheartedness. there is simply no other way to look at it. this is not the stuff of princess and prince, nor the stuff of harlequin romance novels, where the boy-who-inherited-the-kingdom finds the bereft-girl-quietly-sitting-in-the-shadows. it is not the stuff of ease nor the stuff of perfectly-smooth-trails. but it is the stuff of happily-every-after, just like so many other stories smack-dab in the middle of middle age as couples navigate through change and challenge, glee and sadness. we are just like everyone else. and our story is your story, with a few different details.

and so we thought it might be fun to celebrate being smack-dab in the middle, to raise up the questions of being there and the elation of being there, to poke fun at the confusion of revisiting the beginning of romance – so many years ago – or the actual beginning of romance – just a few years ago or, maybe, right now. to look at each other through fresh eyes, a fresh horizon. to notice, to hear, to see, to intuit each other. to dance in the too-empty and too-neat kitchen. to make noise in the too-quiet house. to make plans and dream dreams, even ones that are different than we imagined.

ours is a story of second chances. but so is the story of my friend and her husband of 39 years. and the story of the dear young man who used to be in my choir class in the 80s, now married to his husband for years. all of us have second chances each day. to sit across the table and gaze back at eyes we have known for ages, eyes we are in the middle of knowing, eyes we are just beginning to know. to laugh together and lift each other from wistful moments. to understand and hold each other with compassion our guide. to listen and discern what we each are saying, what we each need. to step into futures of unknown voyages. we live smack-dab in the middle of the middle, holding hands, loving each other in old and new ways. and cherishing every photograph along the way.

smack-dab. in the middle. a new cartoon.

*****

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

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in KC’s family. [two artists tuesday]

just past the eyelash phase, in a tightly woven and protected calyx of green sepals (leaves), the gardenia bonsai flower waits. a little research reveals that it will take about two months of growing to reach the point of a cracked bud, hopefully flowering after. KC is reportedly “one of the most loved and challenging plants in the bonsai world” and i hope that i am up to the task. these beautiful and somewhat-difficult-to-grow plants offer “a unique opportunity for anyone who wishes to take the time to attend to their needs.” they are particular about sunlight, particular about direction of window exposure, particular about temperature, particular about humidity, particular about watering, particular about feeding with fertilizer, particular about shape and pruning, particular about training, particular about insects and mold, particular about repotting, particular about touch. they do well without any negative stressful environmental factors. it occurs to me that perhaps i am in the bonsai gardenia family.

KC sits together with some other lower-maintenance plants (read: succulents you can’t really mess up) and is clearly different than them. its leaves are rich in color, two whorls protecting promising buds, and its presence demands to be noticed. i talk to it every day, encouraging it, paying attention, hoping i am tending to it properly. i truly cherish this little bonsai; my beloved daughter and her boyfriend sent it to me for my birthday and it was a joyous and glittering moment to receive such a beautiful gift. i want to do my best helping this little gardenia along. and, in light of the last year, the last couple years, i can understand and relate to its eccentricities. mmm, can’t we all?

in the evening KC is bathed in the sparkle of the sunroom’s happy lights. proudly in the spot it has claimed on the table, it sits, basking. it is one of the sparkles of the year. there have been many, despite the difficulties, within the difficulties, despite the challenges, within the challenges, despite these times, within these times. if it were possible, i would set each around us in the sunroom, also bathed in happy lights, like laundry clothespinned to a clothesline, reminding us of the best times, the memorable times, the happiest snapshots, the most poignant moments, the yin-yang of relationships, reassuring love in trying-to-stay-centered, the times we balanced stress and the times we succumbed to it, successful and unsuccessful zen, and exhausted times of rest.

i would place the clothesline in the middle of the room so that you could not help but see each item, each old wooden clothespin, memory-laundry crowded onto a timeline, reminding us that the minute does not stay. that whether the minute is feverish or beauty-laden, it moves on.

we are all particular; we are all particularly needy. our lists and our baggage surpass that of the little bonsai gardenia. we are all up to the task. we do our best in each moment, whether it is dark or sparkling. and we remember we can try again. we can help each other; we are “most loved and challenging”. KC already knows that.

i am excited to see KC bloom. i wait patiently for this amazing flower to arrive. in the meantime, i light the white gardenia candle, talk to my plant and drink in the glow of the happy lights, trying. each day. living just past the eyelash phase.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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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so as not to forget. [d.r. thursday]

KDOT sketch

a few years ago i went through all the thousands of photographs taken for the previous three to four decades.  they were not neatly in photo albums, which would have made it much simpler.  instead, with a mere few albums capturing the earliest of years, they were in envelopes in boxes, envelopes in drawers, envelopes in bins, envelopes, envelopes, envelopes.  it was a gigantic task with the dining room dedicated to boxes marked with years and headings like “christmas”, “birthdays”, “summer fun”, “trips”, “visitors”, “losing teeth”… an opportunity to re-live all of it, the heart of life lived.

one thing i noticed in my goingthroughgoingthroughgoingthrough and sortingsortingsorting was that it was really obvious that i had most often been the one taking the pictures.  through my lens, my focus, my read of the moment, the wisp, the instant the aperture closed, my blink.

there is always the picture-taker, a designated recorder, the secretary of the emotions, the faces, the light and shadow, the view, the action, the moment-in-time.  i grab my camera all the time.  it’s second nature for me.  and now that it’s the same device as my phone, it is incredibly easy to always have it at-the-ready.  i just told a friend that i am difficult on a hike – always stopping to take pictures on the trail.  it’s not because i’m so much a collector of things-to-have.  it’s because i am a collector of things not-to-forget.  each photograph, each image reminds me not-to-forget a certain time, a certain place, a certain interaction, a certain story, a certain feeling.

so when i walked into the basement in july and i saw the wisp of me on the easel, it moved me.  that wisp is now gone and in its place, paint-over-paint, is this whispered iteration, on its way as d says.  a moment snapped of my time, a moment of his.  but this one, this wisp, this color-put-to-canvas photograph, is one i didn’t take and, my heart gently points out, one he clearly didn’t want to forget.

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©️ 2020 david robinson


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the old file cabinets. [k.s. friday]

it's a long story

two old file cabinets.

the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio.  at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing.  there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor.  maybe someday i’ll get to those.

yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had.  i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music.  every title i looked at brought back memories:  “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully.  “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes.  “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.

i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer.  books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day.  i whispered to them i would be back for them.   it has probably been decades since they were opened.

standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing.  it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.

had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade.  in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra.  in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons.  in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.

other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources.  there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work.  and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.

it made me want to just clear a day off.  liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility.  brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.

i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”,  through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise.  through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time.   just take a day – a whole day – and sing.  and remember together.

in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose.  so that might not be such a good idea.  but maybe d and i could just take that day.  think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us.  our long stories.

a few things can instantly place you back in a moment.  songs, scents, pictures.  a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her.  john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island.  wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.

two old file cabinets.  filled to the brim.

so many treasures.

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IT’S A LONG STORY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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paint-by-number. [two artists tuesday]

paint by number .JPG

some things just stop me in my tracks.  strolling through school days antiques mall i turned the corner and screeched to a halt.  familiarity swirled around me as i stared at this painting – a paint-by-number.  my breathing slowed.  the scene, the hues…all made me feel like i was embraced.  by my sweet momma.  i texted a picture to my sister, to check in, to see what she said.  she texted back that it, indeed, felt familiar and we tried to remember what happened to this painting of my mom’s.  every time i look at this photo on my phone i feel ‘home’.  even right now.

this wasn’t the first time this happened.  back a couple years ago ON mother’s day we were tooling around an antiques store in woodstock, illinois.  we had taken a ‘sunday drive’ (i am turning into my parents!) and looked for antiques stores to visit.  as i turned the corner from one booth to the next it was there, staring at me.  the paint-by-number-jesus that my mom had painted.  i photographed it and called everyone that day.  this painting was hung somewhere in our growing-up house that we can’t all agree on.  but we know it was there.  i turned the painting over looking for my mom’s signature on the back, but didn’t find it.  i studied the frame, one that was identical to a frame that my sweet poppo had made on a paint-by-number-nude (yes, it’s ok to laugh aloud here) my mom had painted and hung in their bathroom (which i know i have written about before).  i pondered how it might have gotten to woodstock, if indeed this painting and truly-identical-wooden-frame might have been my mom’s paint-by-number-jesus.  it wasn’t likely.  our growing-up-house was on long island and then my parents moved to florida so illinois was a bit off the mark (unless she had given the painting to my brother a million years ago and he “generously” donated it, which would make me laugh aloud.)  we left and went home and a few days later drove all the way back, just to study it a little more, to touch it again.  i thought holding it in my hands might tell me if i should buy it and bring it home and, well, i had no idea what to do with it then.  i mean, what does one do with a paint-by-number-jesus?  i didn’t buy it.  i left paint-by-number-jesus in woodstock and i gratefully welcomed my mom’s embrace from afar.

so the other day, in the midst of the stresses of life, we took a stroll in one of our favorite antiques stores, chatting and reminiscing and laughing about all the stuff we used to have growing up and all the stuff that we still have in our cabinets that are now considered antiques.

we tried not to talk about the things that were nagging us, the things we are worried about, the things that seem insurmountable.

and my beloved sweet momma showed up.

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and now. the song. who knew? [k.s. friday]

and now songbox .jpg

the sun set on another day on island.  and the moon rose.  who knew?

four years ago, when david walked down the aisle to this song, who knew?  who knew what would come, what adventures would appear, what challenges would rear up, what tiny moments would tear up in our eyes, what heartaches would befall us?  who knew?  who knew what chaos would reign our world, what gentle calm would envelop us, what times with family would look like, what times without loved ones would feel like?  who knew?

four years ago, when david walked down the aisle to this song, we were decades younger, starting out all over again, baby-stepping into an unknown, beguiling, mysterious future.  who knew?  who knew the times of decisions, of direction-choosing, of sacrifice, of abundance?  who knew the dances we would dance, the cries we would cry, the pages of life filled with, well…life?  who knew?

there we stood, last night, on the back porch, white happy lights glowing on the railing, watching the moon rise over our little bay, high in the sky, gigantic, tiny hog island in the distance.  we wondered aloud, in wonder, about the wonderment of it all.  who knew?

and now…….looking forward…..outward….onward….with great love….

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AND NOW ©️ 2015 kerri sherwood


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what’s important. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

butttobutt

in the last few days, both of us have heard the deeply sad news that someone in our lives – each a unique voice of great wisdom – has passed.  it’s bracing.  we are here and then we are not.

in all the difficult moments we have had these past months, both on-island and off-island, these past few days once again remind us of what is actually important.

it’s not the work challenges or politics. it’s not the worry over details and relationship snags. it’s not competition or one-upping someone else, nor is it about power-struggles and issues of control.  it’s not about being undervalued or serving those who do not appreciate you, nor is it about the tippy-top of the ladder where lower rungs are no longer visible to you.  it’s not what you don’t have or what you wish you had.

instead, it’s what you do have.

it’s the simplest of moments.  when you look over and dogdog and babycat are butt-to-butt snuggling. or you are sitting next to your beloved, writing or reading together.  or your grown children call to chat a bit, out of the blue.  you spend time together.  you do good work and stand in it.  or you take a walk, in fresh air, under a sunlit sky or in a night full of stars.  you savor a hot cup of coffee or raise a glass of wine in a toast with friends. you embrace or hold hands with someone you love.  the simplest.

with gratitude to a man, alan walker, who encouraged me to love both the piano and open-faced peanut butter sandwiches.  and my thanks to a man i never met, quinn, who, in innumerable conversations in his study, brought many moments of wisdom and perspective to david.  you both remain reminders of what is really important.

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HH. perfect. [d.r. thursday]

HH sketches

david’s sketches on hilton head

i researched.  for months.  looked at tons of sites and reviews.  i ordered brochures from the chamber of commerce (which, incidentally and almost predictably, arrived after we returned from the trip.)  i poured over other people’s adventures and stories, made lists of things to do and places to go.  it was a really important time for me and i wanted it to be perfect:  my-children-under-the-same-roof-at-the-same-time.  the perfect mom-gift.

always up for a roadtrip adventure, we drove to hilton head in our littlebabyscion.  first thing upon arrival, we opened the shades in the living room.  the dunes and the ocean exploded into view, the sunset beckoned us.  without unloading, we took two juice glasses of wine and a blanket down to the water’s edge and watched the sky relinquish day.  night arrived and it was perfect.

My Girl flew in the next morning and My Boy the very next day.  the sun was bright, the sky was blue, the sand hot, the ocean was a constant lure.  walks and conversation, games and homemade sangria, bold coffee and generous glasses of wine, watching crabs on the sandbar and googling jellyfish, chips and guac and kirsten-margaritas, eating out on the deck under the umbrella and time in the pool, watching kirsten or craig prepare a meal or two, relaxing on lounge chairs and a one-time bowling adventure.  this was the stuff.  it was hot; over 100 degrees with the heat index; a bit too hot for kayaking or standupboarding under a sunburning sun.  but time seemed to morph and days passed us by in the way time on the beach does.

later i wondered why i didn’t take out my lists, my research, my reviews, the brochures i got from the grocery store.  why i didn’t insist on an adventure-a-day, an activity.  but jen encouraged me to let that go.  she said she does that every time she is lucky enough to have her children all-under-the-same-roof-at-the-same-time as well. a mother’s brain (and heart) on overdrive.

it isn’t the activities or the adventures.  it’s simply the time.  when you are there and you are real and you share bits and snatches of life, joyful or trying.  when you catch your breath gazing at your children, beautiful human beings experiencing the wide spectrum that life offers.  and you love them beyond words, grateful that they have given you this time.  together.  under-the-same-roof-at-the-same-time.  HH.  hilton head.  perfect.

drc website header copy 2

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this heart outside of mine. [k.s. friday]

ffod song box copy

“…it overwhelms me what i feel…this heart outside of mine….is walking in another person, in another life…” (lyrics)

there is something mysterious and knock-you-to-your-knees-powerful about feeling like you have a heart walking in another person.  i know – now – how my sweet momma felt.  each time she asked me to let her know i arrived safely while driving cross-country, each time i shared good news, each time she checked in on me after any sort of gritty life-drama, each time she sent cards with messages of encouragement or congratulations, each time i saw her try not to weep upon my leaving.  i get it.  she could feel her heart – out there – moving around in the world, just outside her sight view.

motherhood is not for wimps.  it is, by far, the most gratifyingly-toughest-most-important job i will ever know.  i have had to grow two extra hearts and then let them go, wandering and exploring this good earth, finding themselves and their happiness.  i can feel it, these hearts – out there.  but, with the exception of the time i can actually put my arms around My Girl or My Boy,  it’s all just outside my sight view.  overwhelming.  yes.

and, although i have told it before, here is the story – again:

we walked The Girl to kindergarten.  it was spring and sunny and warm.  dandelions were everywhere.  on the way home, The Boy dropped my hand to toddler-zigzag around a yard where dandelions > grass by far (kind of like ours.)  he bent down and picked yellow flower upon yellow flower.  until he came running back to me.  he held up his sweaty-dirty-little-boy fist, full of bright yellow and green dandelions and said, “woses for momma.”

better than roses.  what more could a momma want?

that is the moment this song was born.

happy mother’s day.

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k & c

my hearts

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FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS from THE BEST SO FAR ©️ 1999 kerri sherwood