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black ‘dack stack. [two artists tuesday]

i was a doubter. i doubted the plastic lumbar support. but i had done my research and, with the budget we were allowing for new chairs – which didn’t include traditional wood, composite or cool new resin – and the fact that we wanted black chairs – these were what i had come up with.

so we went to the ace hardware store not holding out a lot of hope, thinking that we would have to nix this plan and move on to target or menards and get some other color.

the adirondack stacks were outside on the sidewalk. every color you could think of, stacked high against the front windows. a rainbow of adirondacks. we pulled one of the black ones down and drew in our breath to try it out.

in a surprise moment of don’t-expect-too-much-this-is-plastic-after-all it was actually quite comfortable. we bought two, loaded them into littlebabyscion, drove them home and placed them on the back patio to see if we would like them or if they would need to be returned. not shockingly, we quickly decided that we wanted a few more and, as luck would have it in our plastic-chair-budget-world, the ace was having their grand opening the next day and had given us coupons for $20 off purchases.

we went there in the rain. early. we didn’t want the black stack to be gone. you know…a lack of black in the ‘dack stack.

the dj was pumping out music, there were hamburgers and facepainters; it was quite the festival of celebration for a hardware store.

we grabbed four black adirondacks, whipped out our coupons and moseyed off into the wild grey yonder, happy as clams to have six new adirondack chairs in which to sip wine, gather ’round the bonfire, soak up the sun, ponder life and all its mysteries and support our lumbars.

*****

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breck. [d.r. thursday]

breck rode home in the back. just shy of five years ago. it came potted in black plastic and we happily bought it a giant clay pot so that it could live on the deck with us, next to the old glider, tucked in by the house and shielded from too much wind. we watched its tiny leaves quake in the breezes and marveled at this piece of one of our absolute favorite places, breckenridge, colorado.

during the winter we wrapped the bottom in plastic to protect the pot and keep its roots a little warmer; plus we weren’t really sure where to plant our tiny aspen. our yard isn’t that big and there are big trees that could block the sun from breck, not to mention that we wondered about the possibility of breck’s potential height. twenty to eighty feet is a significant range and, even with a norm of fifty feet, planning might be necessary.

we doted on breck and talked to it every time we passed by. when our daughter house-sat for a summer, we asked her to talk to breck as well. we did not want this displaced tree to feel akilter, out of place, lonely.

a couple summers ago we planted breck in the ground. we placed it back in the corner of the yard, right in the center of ferns and hosta, under a bit of shadowy guidance of some big oaks and maples and next to the big pine tree. we could still see it from the deck and the patio and we hoped it would flourish in its new spot, for, surely, it had outgrown its pot.

breck did well in the summer until things grew up around it. the thing about aspens is that they need sunlight. its branches began to suffer; there wasn’t enough sun getting through. we needed to transplant this baby tree.

in the middle of dogga’s running circle there are some ornamental grasses. they live next to his roundabout sign (the european variety – clockwise). very carefully, in the fall, we moved our sapling aspen into this wide open spot, full-sunlight-possible. we have watched it as it adjusts.

aspens have a cloning nature and, though we cannot see this, breck is hopefully sending out other stems underground. one day in the far future when breck is no longer, there will be new growth and, thus, its clone can live thousands of years. as long as there is sun and rain and things aren’t covered in concrete, our backyard will always have the potential of being an aspen stand.

now that it is spring – well, sort of – we are waiting. there is new rich copper-brown growth and there are buds, leaves patiently timing their grand opening. we will watch carefully and research what breck might need to sustain. we want to give breck every chance to thrive.

we can’t wait to sit on the patio in adirondack chairs in warm sun watching the new leaves of our cherished little aspen quake in the breeze.

*****

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peter and company. [k.s. friday]

peter is a welcome visitor.

he just sat there watching us watch him. no fear or aggression, he was peaceful and calm, even appearing gentle. we’ve seen him a time or two before – or perhaps a possum that looks like him – since they are individually hard to discern between. we’ve seen him waddle down our driveway and cross the street. we’ve seen him down by the corner, where the neighbor puts out seed and corn.

but the allure in our yard was the golden-corral-like smorgasbord we were providing in the small compost pile we have out back. i sent a picture of peter and a description of what he was likely eating to a friend who wrote back that it wasn’t golden corral. “that’s the four seasons back there!” a little research showed that opossums love fruit and vegetables, among other things, so we were right on target with our spread. it’s sweet to know that the compost is aiding this beautiful creature in its survival during this cold winter.

we try to keep our birdfeeder full and we generally set out the crusty ends of bread or the last bits of tortillas on the potting bench. the squirrels have discovered it and leave menus with items checked off they’d like to see more often. we haven’t seen our chipmunks, so they must be hibernating under the deck or living in the volkswagen in the garage – who knows – waiting for spring. they won’t be fooled by false starts; i’m certain they’ve enough birdseed from our feeder to last until the temperatures don’t hover near freezing anymore. i know that fox and raccoons, rabbits and skunks are out there, foraging and waiting.

it’s darn cold. and as february drones on and on we seek comfort from warm soups and stews and nourishing foods. i’m grateful that the wild critters in our neighborhood have a fighting chance.

and i swear that peter, gazing at us from the fencepost, seemingly waiting for buffet hours to open below him, telepathically said thank you.

*****

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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back window. front window. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t think that i will ever be able to have a kitchen sink placed without a window above it. in all the homes i have lived as an adult – every single one – both houses in florida, in wisconsin, even on island – there has been a window over the sink. working at the sink, gazing out – a time for pondering, reviewing, sorting. it is the place to watch the world go by, the seasons, time.

the big plate glass window over the sink in our home has given me a view into the flow – filmy strands of babies growing, toddlers on swings, snowmen on the deck, cherished dogs romping, snacks in the fort, oversized plastic t-ball stands, basketball hoops, a bright yellow slide that attracted a bazillion tiny gnats at a certain time in the spring. i’ve watched trees grow and shed and bud and shed, plants planted, transplanted, re-planted, snow fall and cherry tomatoes flourish. there’s been grass and no grass and dirt and grass again. i imagined the patio – where people would gather, play ukulele, dance, laugh – before it was there. and the little pond has been a treasure, inviting birds and squirrels and chipmunks and frogs to its little rock bank. i’ve stared out that window with great appreciation. i’ve stared out that window, wondering.

in this time of covid, lots of our time in the winter is spent looking out. we are not really participating in gathering, trying to minimize risk to ourselves and others. even vaccinated and boosted, we know that so many around us have taken ill, have fallen to the highly contagious pandemic. so it has been rare to see even our neighbors. sightings of them, as we stroll the ‘hood or they walk by, past our front windows, have been about it.

but monday afternoon they all gathered in our driveway. just before 4:30 there were two loud bangs outside. directly across the street, in the driveway, tucked up by the garage and right next to the house, the neighbor’s jeep exploded. the firetrucks were here seemingly instantly and the road was closed off by police cars that came from all directions. and all the neighbors stood together on the apron of our driveway. for the while that it took to extinguish the flames, we had time together. we could see each other’s faces, exchange a few words, exclaim about how scary it was and express relief that our neighbors-across-the-street were safe and unharmed.

a police car or two began to leave. one of the fire trucks left. the neighbors began to disperse. after some time the tow truck came. the tiny bit of time that we were all out there, mostly coatless in the cold, was over. but i could feel something else…the reminder that we are all here.

someone spoke the words: “i hardly ever see or talk to anyone in the neighborhood, but do you remember after the derecho that came through? everyone was out, walking around. eight hundred or so trees down, sidewalks heaved, power out…all in the matter of less than five minutes. and we were all walking around. together. and now…here we are.”

out the big kitchen picture window looking over the backyard are reminiscings, fallowed and growing plants, a bubbling pond fountain, massive trees, tiny creatures, dreamy summer nights, barney, bonfires, grilled eggplant, snowfall.

out the front window is community.

*****

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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

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PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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22″ of fire-bliss. [k.s. friday]

i imagined just that. staring at the flames flickering in the wind, taking in the perfect and imperfect of our lives. with the sun setting and the firepit column dancing, a rare quiet night in the neighborhood, it’s easy to lose yourself into the flicker.

the column just made its way into our backyard. it is not large. at merely 22″ it is portable and does not take up much room. there are not a lot of things i see while browsing that i lust over. this small tower-of-fire, however, was one of those things. it was not at a pricepoint i could justify, so i watched it.

sometimes when i watch items – or look at them time and again in a catalog – the yearning for that item goes away. as an artist, this is necessary, as buying whatever-suits-my-fancy is not reality. so it is convenient that my appetite for whatever-it-is is sated simply by looking at it over and over again. but the fire column didn’t fit under that category.

we don’t buy things willy-nilly these days. everything takes deliberation and an intention for the item’s use. and in my mind’s eye, i could see this firepit giving us countless hours of ambience on our deck – our sanctuary – the place we will spend most of our free time this summer. i started to give it some serious thought.

and then . . . there was a flash sale. thirty percent off. i stopped pondering, ordered it and picked it up at the store.

we really love it. funny how this tiny firepit elevated our space. we have surrounded ourselves with simple things out on the deck this year. inexpensive pillows – for the first time – on furniture that dates back and back, furniture that was handed-down, re-purposed, a wrought iron table and chair set i have painted time and again. an old door we pulled out of the basement storage room leans against the house next to a ficus we re-positioned from the sunroom. a couple old stepladders act as end tables. old barnwood and pipe hold our precious tomato and basil plants. there are a couple adirondack chairs on the patio and our wood-burning firepit; a chiminea is tucked over by the garage.

we read an article about a man who designed his outdoor space. it was pretty gorgeous. somewhere in the article the author shared the cost of this patio-deck-extravaganza: $550,000. five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars. seems slightly high to us; ours was just shy of that.

i seriously don’t know what we’d do if we had five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars to spend, but i’m guessing it wouldn’t be spending it on our outdoor space. though our grass isn’t perfect and the textures of our patio and pond and cement and stone pad don’t necessarily coordinate and dogdog has holes he loves to dig, we find this space brings us peace.

we gaze into the small flames of this tiny fire column and feel the darkness drop out of the sky around us. we are grateful for these moments of reflection, the moments when we see how perfect it all is, even in the midst of imperfection. we sit back, awash in the ahhh of having pillows behind our backs, watch the fireflies and a couple swooping bats, look at dogga laying quietly on the deck near us and take stock of our good fortune.

*****

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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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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barney and the sunflower. [k.s. friday]

we moved the sunflower. it was on the deck for a few years now, rusting behind the aging wooden glider, tucked between the kitchen window and the bedroom window. it greeted us each day we left and came home. it watched over my girl as she house-sat during the summer, a couple ago now, when we were on island. she didn’t know it, but i had asked it to keep her comings and goings safe and each time she left and came back to smile good days upon her. it came home from a cedarburg festival with us, having called us over to ponder its purchase. we walked the length of the festival and talked about the sunflower. then we went back, after more debate than most probably make about purchases, and bought it. about two weeks ago we moved it. now its place is next to barney, surrounded by peonies and wild geranium and daylilies and snow on the mountain. it is happy there.

when you’ve lived somewhere for quite some time there are naturally places that you go that feel better than others. for me, there are places in this town that have immediate warm responses for me, places that have held me, places that are part of my cairns, places where i have dreamed and imagined, places where a community has meant the world to me. there are other places that conjure up memories i would rather forget with visceral responses i can actually feel; i generally stay away from those spots not wanting to relive moments of grief or poor judgement or anger or betrayal or grand disappointment. i have learned, though, that sometimes the best way to process those is to drive past, to acknowledge, to breathe deeply, to maybe weep. in the same way that actual places remind us, mementos from places we hold dear make it into our special boxes or find their way into our home like sticks accumulating in the walking stick vessel in our sitting room or rocks added to the stones around the pond. some mementos are bigger than others, like the sunflower from a gloriously sunny festival-going day in a town we adore browsing or the 5′ long driftwood from a long island beach that graces the mantel or the high mountain aspen branch wrapped in lights in the dining room. and then there’s barney. there’s no escaping this beautiful piano in our backyard, aging with us.

i’ve shared barney’s story before…how he escaped the junk man’s junkyard destination and, for a small price, came here to share life with us. from a basement boiler room to a place of honor near the pond in our tiny yard he sits and invites the company of beautiful plants, munching squirrels and cutie-pie chipmunks. yet he is a memento. and the place he came from is no longer a favorite place. instead, it is a place i now avoid, with emotions that elicit a physical response and a little vibration i can feel in my chest when i think about it. and so how do i avoid attaching these feelings to barney, i have wondered.

my growing-up piano is in our basement. movers moved it there many years ago, before there were walls in the stairwell. i wonder what will become of it if we ever move. it proudly holds art books and a small stereo and sits in david’s painting studio with a couple rocking chairs and his gorgeous old easel. i have thought about ways to repurpose it. and yet, it is so dear that it will, for right now, stay there just as it is, with music in its bench and the little index card on which is carefully printed in eight-year-old font “practice makes perfect”.

there is a piano of size in my studio. it sits at full stick, waiting patiently. i was in there yesterday and it whispered to me, but, for right then, i was consumed with the finishing of putting things away. there is still music to file, organ music still to go back into cabinets. i must decide what to do with the poster that hung on the choir room wall that reads, “if you ask me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud” or the metal cut-out words “it’s all about music” or the white strands of happy lights that were woven around the blackboard that listed rehearsals and demonstrated strum patterns and had dates of parties for that well-loved community held at our house.

maybe once i decide what to do with all of it – including the emotional wreckage part – i will again sit at my piano. drive past, acknowledge, breathe deeply, weep. my piano is full of empathy i can feel and some day, soon i hope, i will be able to sit and play – in a studio cleaned and inviting with mementos of goodness and intentions of evolution. then i will walk out of the studio and down the hall, through the kitchen and the sunroom and outside onto the deck. and i will sit on the old settee and listen to the pond and the birds and watch the chipmunks scurry across the top of the old piano that shares space with the sunflower and a couple green-eyed metal birds.

in answers that have come with a few months of time, i have found that the piano-ness of barney has overcome the where-it’s-from-ness. the peeling back, the wrinkles, the embrace of its tiny community in our yard…these things have usurped the rest.

instead, barney and the sunflower together greet us upon leaving and greet us upon returning home. together, they both bring joy and reassurance to our backyard and they both smile good days upon us.

*****

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood