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the path back is the path forward


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an octopus and a hissy fit. [d.r. thursday]

in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.

tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.

it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.

we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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bareback and honest. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

calm.

the mug calls for calm.

yet, in these times, calm is elusive. it is the floating dust glistening in sunlight. it is the golden ray through the cloud. it is the snowflakes silently falling in the woods. it is the sound of soft laughter, the sound of the dog’s feet running in dreams and the cat snoring in slumber. it is hard to hold onto, hard to touch; it is hard to find.

in these times, with coffee in our hands, we start the new day. we wake, wishes and burdens on our minds, both. the things that kept us awake in the middle of the night, the things that pushed us into sleep: exhausting, worrisome, celebratory, quietly reassuring, sleep-depriving, sleep-inducing. we start the morning, on the roller coaster, one of us holding the “calm” mug.

we have found that – the conversations over-morning-coffee, the conversations over evening-wine, the conversations on the trail, in the sunroom, at the kitchen counter – these conversations need a little help, a little preface, a tiny guideline. for him, a guy, though not a-macho-guy-type-still-a-guy-nonetheless, he is looking to solve. for me, a girl, well, i am looking to just talk, to just go on, to be redundant, to vent. we discovered early on that any talk-talk could easily dissolve into ugly if we didn’t clarify a few things, well, really one thing, first. was this a conversation where i wanted comfort or solutions? was this a conversation where i wanted him to listen or problem-solve?

i honestly can say these two questions – just this simple strategy – could have saved many a relationship moment dating back decades and decades. it took me way too long to realize this glaringly obvious simplicity – that men and women, women and women, men and men – any two people in relationship – approach from vastly disparate directions. i am riding my feisty mare in from the rising sun in the east and he is galloping on a sassy stallion from the setting sun in the west. meeting in the middle ground requires a little gps-ing, dispensing of the drawn word-swords and negotiating some clarity shortcuts. that simple. that makes all the difference.

in these times, though calm is illusory, we find that we can be in this world of unknowns mostly by just being. solutions are hiding with the calm, behind puzzling shadows.

but comfort, listening, empathy are right out in the open, in that field of possibility between the rising sun and the setting sun, riding a steady quarter horse, bareback and honest.

*****

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


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contrail pondering. [two artists tuesday]

contrail

on island we rarely heard airplanes overhead.  if we did, they were small cessnas and pipers, low-wing and high-wing single engine airplanes, buzzing over the shoreline heading for the small grass strip airport.  otherwise, it was quiet. very.

lately, here, we have noticed that it is quieter than normal.  we are in what is generally an approach for the milwaukee airport and we often see airplanes overhead heading north or airplanes coming across the lake in line for o’hare, south of us.  it seems more of a rarity now to hear a jet overhead.  it makes us pay attention.  it makes us look up.  it makes us ponder.

we wonder where it is coming from, where its final destination.  we wonder how many passengers are on board.  in these times of no-travel, the contrail seems a contradiction of this time, a plane leaving its mark on the day.

in my previous life i had some time at the controls of both small airplanes and helicopters.  the jargon was language i was accustomed to.  there are languages of career.  we all have them, words, expressions, theories specific to our chosen work; we learn our spouse’s language, even just enough to understand just enough.

i’m better at the controls than in the passenger seat of a small airplane; motion sickness rules less if you are ‘driving’.  i never got near the point of solo-ing on any flying machine.  there was much to learn in ground school and hours rented on an airplane or a helicopter were expensive for an already-stretched budget.  but, stick in hand, flying a helicopter over the woods of new hampshire while employed at an aviation college there, brilliant new england fall colors beneath us, i could see how the flying-bug could bite.

and now it is quiet.  a few moments ago, while writing this, a jet flew overhead.  i stopped typing to pay attention and looked out the window.  i wondered:  where is that plane going?  who is on that plane?  do they feel safe?  are they wearing masks?  did they turn their blower off?  are they sitting six feet apart?

and i pondered:  what state might that plane be flying here from?  what are the covid-19-numbers in that state?  are people staying safe-at-home?  are there protests in that state, people who are placing everyone in their ever-widening concentric circles at risk for contagion?  are there people who are laissez-faire-individualizing this global-everyone-is-affected-pandemic, rejecting commonsense social distancing and simple respectful preventative measures? are there people making homemade masks, like here, because there isn’t enough PPE to go around?  are they wondering why the federal government of fifty states and five territories is hostage-taking necessary supplies, pitting governors against each other, encouraging a competition for lifesaving devices, blaspheming good works, eliminating knowledgeable workers, warping what is important vs not important, encouraging bracing and dangerous practices?  are they shocked and dismayed at the ever-widening inequity, the gross partisanship?  are they stunned into disbelief at the absolute lack of sane and measured leadership?  are they embarrassed and profoundly saddened?

and i wondered:  when will we go on an airplane next?  where will we go? when will we feel safe?  will everyone wear a mask?  will everyone sit six feet apart?

and i thought, as we are apt to do after-the-fact:  i should have gotten my pilot’s license.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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assumptions. [d.r. thursday]

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the sun lights our room early in the morning.  we don’t have room-darkening shades so   if artificial measures haven’t been used (read: obnoxious alarm clocks) we wake with the light.

thoughts stream in with the light in this just-past-the-dark-hour.  our quiet as we sip coffee, like jiffy-pop starting to pop on a hot stovetop, is punctuated by bits of conversation.  the dreams we are climbing out of, the babycat’s snoring through the night, dogdog’s sweet need for early pets, what the weather looks like out our window peering into the backyard, projects we are working on, what is on the docket for the day.  ideas, reminiscences patter through.  we stretch into the day yawning in front of us, putting on, and trying to keep on, caps of making-good-assumptions.  today is a good day to have a good day, as the saying goes.

good assumptions.  apparently, they are a high ticket item.  for we all are, in the world, surrounded by those who do not make good assumptions.  my sweet momma would tell me, “don’t jump to conclusions.”  “ask questions,” she would admonish. a difficult lesson worth oft-repeating.

we would sit on the couch at the end of the day, sipping tea and eating chips ahoy cookies.  we’d talk about the day, bitter jabs by classmates or exclusionary moments i had endured.  “try to find something good,” she’d remind me, while at the same time not underplaying the hurtful behaviors.  “make good assumptions.”  this is the same woman who, on the emergency room table in the wee hours of the night, in great pain and fearing a broken hip, looked up at a cranky and tired nurse and remarked, “you have a beautiful smile.”  it changed the moment; i suspect it changed the rest of the nurse’s day; perhaps it changed all those who she interacted with thereafter and so forth.  those undeniable concentric circles.

in early days with david, clearly in the beaky-beaky school of thought, one of the most-oft-repeated things i remember him saying is “ask questions.”  don’t assume you know.  don’t assume anything.  ask.  listen.

quite some time ago, mike stated, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  watch, ask questions and listen, he advised.  don’t make assumptions.  the best way to learn, the best way to collaborate, the best way to approach challenge, the best way to move in the world.

momma would smile and look at me, facing down adversity or standing tall on a personal summit, and say, “wowee!”

i can practically hear her now, her eyes dancing, saying, “see?  if you ARE going to assume anything, assume awe.”

thank you, chicken marsala, for the reminder.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 


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frosting and connection.

network connections

cupcakes.

and frosting.

i would talk to my piano students about practicing.  i drew a comparison of the time they spent, the way they allocated their time to cupcakes and frosting.   i would start by saying let’s talk about practicing, whereupon most of my sweet students would roll their eyes, a common reaction to the word ‘practice’.  i would suddenly switch topics to cupcakes and they would happily skip down that path, thinking they were avoiding the ‘practice’ chat.  we would talk about our favorite cupcakes and the very best frosting that could possibly earn the top spot on those treats.  and once we discerned that very-important-information, i would pose a question:

let’s say you have a small cup of frosting.   delicious, fluffy, sweet-as-can-be frosting.  it’s just a small cup – like the tiny sippy cups you drank from as a baby.  and you have a choice.  you can either frost one cupcake with that sippy-cup-full or you can frost all 24 of the cupcakes that are waiting on the counter from the oven.  which will you do?

my students, all brilliant cupcake-lovers and bright lights in the world, would sit and ponder for a second and then reply that they would frost the one cupcake.  otherwise, they would explain, the frosting would be so thin that you would barely know it is there, you would barely taste it, and it would be like there was no frosting at all.   and besides, if they got to eat the one cupcake, they wanted the one rich with frosting.  who can argue with that?

contrary to their belief that the ‘practice’ talk was over, i would clutch and shift gears back to the piano.  “if you have a little bit of time to practice and pieces of music that might be difficult to play, would it be better to hurry through every piece spending a few moments on each OR would it be better to spend that little bit of time on one or two?” i would ask (in student-age-appropriate language).   invariably they would frost one cupcake.

i believe the same applies to connection.  with the advent of the vast array of social media choices, we have applied an ultra-thin layer of frosting to our connections.  we have thinned out the time we truly spend on relationship – pure individual relationships.  we have, oddly, chosen to spend easily-addicted quantities of time and emotional energy on social media “relationships” with people we do not know rather than being in real touch with the people closest to us.  we expect those people to learn of things on outlets and from posts instead of simply telling them, picking up a phone and calling or texting them.

we are not connected to a network.  we are connected to a network.  both of these are true.

the question for me, one that i must look at as well,  is – how much time are we spending on that network, on individual people we love and care about?  is there any frosting at all?

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

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waiting. and waiting. [k.s. friday]

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on an unusual foray into facebook-scrolling, i came across a post by a friend that quoted tom petty.  “the waiting is the hardest part,” it read.  yes.  the hardest part.

i remember d telling me that arnie’s mom had an addition to the adage that when one door closes, another one will surely open.  she said, “it’s the waiting in the hall that’s hell.”

i feel like i am waiting.  just like this sunrise, there is a division of light and dark – a line you can see.  the hall.  it’s not still dark.  it’s not quite light.  it’s the in-between zone of co-existence.

i suppose we can co-exist with waiting.  we can co-exist with not-knowing.  not-knowing about tomorrow.  not-knowing where it goes.  not-knowing what will happen.  not-knowing if dark will linger or if light will overtake the dark.  not-knowing how the story turns out.

questions on the keys.  answers somewhere in-between the notes.  quarter tones of ambiguity.  i stand an arm’s length from creating.  i wait.  there is no sign, there is no clear indicator of any return-on-my-creative-investment.  the hall doesn’t provide a reason to write.  it is not a door.  it is full of question.  it is a gathering storm of hope.  it is a waiting place.

the hall is just for me.  jumbled and clear, both.  a stew of hearing all the old notes floating – thousands of them – and seeking the new ones.  lyric snatches appear on scraps of paper, waiting.  melodic gestures fall from my hands as yearning to keep-on-keeping-on falls from my eyes.

i’m trying to be patient in it.  to reconcile all the other mysteries and issues and complexities before i step closer.  to do the ‘other work’ first.  to be solvent and steady.  for the time on the bench to be worthy.

why does a composer compose?  why does a composer wait?

download WAITING on iTunes or CDBaby

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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WAITING from JOY ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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the box. [k.s. friday]

the box songbox

“the box: a place to put all the stuff of our lives.”  (from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL liner notes 1996)

the old black suitcases store stuff.  treasured moments, all in a jumble, some decipherable, others bits and snatches of times we want to remember, so we keep these feathers and ticket stubs, notes and river stones, scraps of wrap, cards, red rock.  they proudly sit in the dining room, in a stack, their vintage scrapes and broken handles call to me each time i pass them by.  they shower me with memories and times i have passed through, moments i have lived.  i can feel what is in them.

in another box, in another place, are old dreams.  torn vestiges of paper with lyrics, a few notes scribbled in the margins of old spirals.  there are visions and imaginings, goals and undetermined outcomes.  like you, these are the things undone.  there are no ticket stubs or photos in this box; these are the things that have not come to fruition.  these are the things that beckon over and over.  these are the things that demand i consider and reconsider what i am doing today, tomorrow.  these are the things that make me question.  each time i pass them by.  i can feel what is in them.

i am reminded:

“a ship in harbor is safe.  but that is not what ships are built for.”  (john a. shedd)

these are the full liner notes:

“the box:  a place to put all the stuff of our lives.  sometimes this place really hurts.” (BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL 1996)

download THE BOX from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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THE BOX from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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holding steadfast. [k.s. friday]

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it is against the odds that this tree clings to rock and doesn’t topple into the lake with a great splash and float away.  instead it stubbornly holds on, a steadfast intention.  the rock, the basso ostinato.

at a time when holding steadfast seems mightily important, i wonder about the questions we have been asked.  will you stay?  will you leave?  will you love it here?  in the midst of all the infighting, are you going to give up? will you hold on?

the answers may not be directly related to the actual intent of those questions.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  we will hold steadfast to our integrity.  we will hold steadfast to the reasons we came here in the first place.  to make a difference, to bring ideas and change, to apply that which we have learned, studied, experienced over at least 80 combined years of work, higher education and profession.  to be honest and transparent and collaborative.  to try and instill a sense of working together into a community divided by narratives too numerous to list.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  we will hold steadfast to our belief that people should be kind to each other, that people should not work around others nor should they undermine others, that people should instead lift each other up, not drive stakes into another.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  steadfastly.  to honoring art, the driving force behind this initiative.  to honoring creativity and the blossoming of beauty and wisdom, staunch tenets of artistry.

will we hold on?  yes, we will hold on.  steadfastly.  to believing all is possible.

but, in answer to the real intent of the question asked us….will we hold on?

we will not hold on if others cannot join us in what is real, what is truth, what is most important.  we will not hold on in the fire of pettiness or shameful self-serving underhandedness.  we will not hold on, holding still while others take turns throwing rocks at us, at the real goals of this place, if those are indeed about art.

the answer to the question is not up to us.  we can either cling to the rock, holding steadfast or we can topple, with a refreshing splash, into the lake and float away.

download HOLDING STEADFAST from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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HOLDING STEADFAST from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 


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what is home? [k.s. friday]

the way home songbox 2.jpg

on this very day, at this very time, i do not feel at home.  and i believe i take home with me, so this is truly a statement of much discontent.

what is home to you?

how important is it to you to be surrounded by people who, with consciousness of others, support you?  how important is it to you to be amongst those who are kind, who are magnanimous, who are respectful to all, who are collaborative?  how important is to you to be around people who lead with goodness, who work together, who do not embrace divisiveness?

how important is the place?  does an idyllic location exempt bitter disputes and argumentative people?  does it matter if the sun rises and sets in dramatic color if the timbre of the place is ugly, combative, rift-producing, breach-exacerbating?  what flowers override belligerence, competition and antagonistic voices?  what soaring birds and graceful wildlife eclipse closed minds and turning a blind eye to others’ pain?

important questions, i believe.  eye-opening questions.

home is indeed subjective for each of us.  our hearts lead us.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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i cleared the path for you. [merely-a-thought monday]

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there have been times when a clear path would have been my choice.  something that was predictable, “normal”, serene.  a path upon which i wouldn’t have to ask a lot of questions about direction.  sense-making would be easy; “right” choices would be obvious.

how many times have i hoped for a sticky note to float down from the heavens above, simple instructions listed like on an ikea bookshelf leaflet.  how many times have i wondered about how to forge through the muddy waters, how to get where i can see but not touch.  a clear path seems maybe too much to ask.  we seek mentors to aid us, to ask tough, blunt questions. expecting candid answers, they help us see.  perhaps we would miss too many lessons – or just too much – along the way were we to have a clear path.  there is no “normal”.

the elderly hiker in the woods approached from the opposite direction.  his hat pulled down over his forehead and his jacket zipped up keeping him warm along the trail, he smiled, inviting a response, and said, “i cleared the path for you.  it’s all clear.”

we laughed and thanked him, but i know we both wished he meant it literally.  in a life sense.

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

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