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and the universe says, “shh”. [k.s. friday]

the old radiator in my studio was its home for years. i picked it up at a wholesale show…an old fencepost with equestrian leather…i couldn’t resist. it was perfect next to my piano. shh. quiet. ponder. dream.

it’s outside on the back deck now, really for the same reasons. shh. quiet. ponder. dream. it reminds us to take those moments and just be.

in the middle of the night last night we talked for a few hours. it was a big discussion…about life, about existence. we agreed that life is merely about those rare and outstandingly idyllic moments – a collection you might store in a little special box or place in photographs-in-the-round for a viewmaster – ready, at any time, for you to look at, review, be reminded of, hold close. not usually the gigantic stuff, but the slides of tiny, even silent, markers, instants you recognize as mica.

we had another water episode a few days ago. it seems the theme this summer. once again, drains in the basement yielded water instead of no water. a really lovely young man from the sewer-drain company came; it was their second time in just over a month. the tree roots they had cleared likely had left behind another piece. it doesn’t matter. he cleared it out and we moved on. it wasn’t without a ton of unexpected work…clearing all of david’s paintings out of the space to protect them, moving any and every thing out of the way of the water and allowing room for the technician to work without feeling nervous about anything around him. after he left and we cleaned everything up it was back to quiet.

we exercised down there again yesterday. it’s a peaceful place, even though it is a basement. being surrounded by the muse of david’s time at his easel brings a certain life to it. i imagine he wishes this little sign was in his studio, but there is a hush nonetheless, even without the sign.

our studios – places where time fills in the gaps between noise.

in the middle of existential questions about my wrist and hand, a screeching halt to occupational therapy imposed by the insurance company (don’t get me started), questions and the after-effects of betrayal, a silencing of my professional work, i have not sat there much. i enter to allow in light and fresh air, gaze at my piano and walk out. another silent day.

each morning, for at least a week, as i have sat with pillows propped sipping coffee, the window beside me wide open, i have been visited by a chipmunk. it sits atop the fence post across the driveway right opposite the window and looks in, chirping. i named him ‘sunny’ as it is often that the sun is just reaching that fencepost as he sits and the first time he was bathed in rays of light as he held his spot and said whatever he was saying to me in chipmunk i could not understand.

today, in the quiet of the morning, sun not even yet beginning to stream in the window, sunny was out there, chirping to wake us. i called out the window to him a good morning greeting. we chirped back and forth a bit before he left, satisfied he had awakened me. i watch for him now each day as the sun starts to rise.

three times in a twenty-four hour period over the last weekend i heard or saw the words “everything will be ok”: once written, once spoken and the third time bob marley sang it in the woods as we hiked the river trail.

sunday as we sat at the table on the deck in waning light a not-oft-seen hummingbird came directly over and hovered right in front of me. a couple days later as i stood on the deck, david watching, a monarch butterfly flew over to me and circled less than a foot above my head. and sunny, a chipmunk on a fence post, greeting me each day.

i guess that sometimes the universe is quietly whispering, “it’ll be ok. everything will be ok. shh.”

*****

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SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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sanctuary. [two artists tuesday]

i have sat on the edge of this deck and prayed many a prayer. i have wept and i have laughed. i have sat against the wall, warmed by a winter sun, sipping coffee. i have sat under the umbrella in hot summer sipping cold wine. i have read books and letters, texts and emails. i have written manuscripts and lyrics and poetry and correspondence. i have learned and learned again. i have had hard conversations and gleeful announcements. i have sat – all alone – in the wee hours of the night and i have entertained many, many parties, many rehearsals, many gatherings of relatives, of friends. i have played with my beloved children and potty-trained puppies. i’ve shared a fort with my girl and pushed my boy on swings. i’ve checked kids’ hair for lice and i’ve played basketball and i’ve caught fireflies. i’ve grown black-eyed susans and lavender and hosta and ferns and grasses and basil and tomatoes and weeds. i’ve grown grass and dug out grass and grown it again. i’ve caught snowflakes and i’ve had waterfights with hoses. i’ve dug a pond at our big-dig and carried home rocks to lay around it. i’ve bird-watched and star-gazed and fallen in love with pond-frogs and watched for the owl and studied a cicada’s transformation and cheered on chipmunks. i have strummed ukulele and sang with a community of people i have called family. i have lugged keyboards and amps and music stands out and played with a band. i have danced to music from a record player plugged into the outdoor box. i’ve stared at the firepit and roasted marshmallows. on this deck. on this patio. in this backyard. i have full-spectrum-lived out there.

it doesn’t look like what you think of when you hear the word “sanctuary”, particularly if you have been even remotely involved with any sort of religious institution. but it is indeed a sanctuary. it is a place of refuge and safety. it is a holy place. no less than any building i have ever been in, it offers introspection and meditation, time for wonder and gratitude, moments to connect directly with serenity and my faith, chances to ask the wisdom of the universe hard questions and listen for the answers. it has not ever let me down. though my questions have not always been addressed, though i have unanswered prayers, though i ponder layers of existential, this sanctuary has always embraced me.

i walk out and it whispers to me that it is there, simply waiting. to others’ eyes, it may not appear this way – beautiful and inviting – it may not be pristine or perfectly landscaped, it may not be tended with a keen hand, but it is ever-perfect. it is unfailingly omnipresent, undeniably not ulterior. it calls to me without agenda, without intent, without chance of betrayal. it is inclusive of all who have ever walked there, of all who would ever take time to sit. it is consistent. dependable. a constant.

it is a sanctuary beyond reproach. a place of peace. outside, under the dawning morning and the galaxial sky, the heavens holding us.

it is – as i have learned – everywhere we go, under every rising sun and waxing moon. we are held to mother earth by gravity and the grace of spirit difficult to describe. this great big sanctuary.

i have not yet found a building as worthy.

*****

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water and grace. [k.s. friday]

it’s a mystery.  grace.  it falls on us like morning dew, each and every day.  we rise, buoyant or troubled, joyous or grieving, in clarity or murky, in the light or in the dark. we step into next, knowing we have yet another chance. (nov. 22, 2019)

we live within the grasp of lake michigan. we can feel its power, its potency, its glassy peace, its lostness when fog envelops the horizon line and any sense of direction is blurred. the water draws us to it. it is a magnet, especially on blurry days.

things feel a little blurry right now. people all across the globe are struggling, with a wide spectrum of sickness, of loss, with devastating blows to their lives, their families, their homes, their towns, their countries, causes too many to list. blurry and disoriented and lost. existential questions beckon. yet answers are elusive.

there is something about staring at water. taking us out of the moment. each iridescent drop of water lapping at the shore, the mountain stream in the woods, the ocean waves breaking, the jets of water in the park, the pond in the backyard, the tiny fountain in the sunroom. even in our own blurry it reaches us. water. granting a little peace, a little grace.

i just got a card in the mail from one of my beloved nieces. she wrote, “one day it will all fall into place.”

i suppose grace really is like that. mysterious and ubiquitous. it falls on us. like a new day. unexpected and welcome. like a card in the mail. like a surprise text or an unexpected call. it rains down on us and gently re-directs us into next.

we are aware of how often water has shown up in our last year. not peaceful water that we passively have looked at, admiringly. instead, water that demands our participation. water pouring into the basement from a suddenly-broken pipe gasket. water dripping under the sink. water leaking out of the freezer-bottom-fridge, ice having formed from some drainline issue. water coming up from the storm drains downstairs after a heavy rain. water squirting all over from a suddenly broken shower head.

each time water has taken us out of the moment and propelled us into a different moment, in reality, a series of different moments…hours, even days. instead of being where we were, we were cast into roles working together sopping up, plugging the hole, rube-goldberging the fix, figuring out how to deal with the issue at hand and still maintain a sense of humor.

were i to think the universe was watching our every move, i might suggest that these occurred during times of blurry bleary-eyed-ness when perhaps a little re-direction was a good thing. water that washed us past that very time into next. it forced the change in our focus. gave a little clarity when unmoored seemed the the theme. helped us remember that all will fall into place. grace.

neil degrasse tyson said, “where there is water on earth, you find life as we know it.”

perhaps we also find grace.

GRACE from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

*****

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GRACE ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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nine-million-dollar people. [merely-a-thought monday]

so, yeah, i agree with frankie of ‘grace and frankie’. nine million dollars would solve everything.

i once was in a meeting with a person-in-power who said to me that he could direct me to a financial counselor who would teach me how to budget. it was all i could do to not retort, appalled at his gall. i answered instead that – at that time – it wasn’t a matter of budgeting. it was a matter of not having enough money TO budget. as a life-long math-lover having grown up with a mother who taught me how to balance checkbooks and make soap-socks at a young age, remembering clearly my first $50 calculator and my high school math teacher both fondly, the act of budgeting – and doing taxes and paying bills – is something i kind of enjoy. especially with enough money. that would probably still hold true if i had nine million dollars.

what i do know, even though nine million dollars would be pretty amazing – keeping that out there in the universe – is that it hasn’t taken that kind of money to appreciate here and now, to be present. i know we would love the ability to be more altruistic and generous; those things are gifts that are more rewarding than the money in the first place. but we try to be giving the best we can in any circumstance we find ourselves. and for us, we find joy in the simplest stuff around us – the repurposed, the long-pondered, the deals. each little thing is something we celebrate as we bring it into our home.

there have been people over the last year and a half who have shown up for us. they have acknowledged hard moments and have helped in a variety of ways. when you break both wrists and lose jobs to a pandemic and tear ligaments in your wrist after you had finally healed and get fired from a long-term position – it’s pretty intense. civil unrest, political mayhem, isolation all spice up the anxiety.

but the nine-million-dollar people have written, have called, have sent cards, have helped out with generous gifts. they have surprised us in their magnanimity and we have been the recipients of bounty even from people we have not even met.

there have been other people, who, for some reason or another, have not been there. they have disappeared and would, i suspect, hide behind an end cap should they spot us in the grocery store. they didn’t bring casseroles when i had two casts and didn’t call or write to ask how we were. kind of salt on the wound-ish. but they have their story too and as max ehrmann in desiderata points out, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

life has a way of letting you know who the nine-million-dollar people are. they aren’t the ones with an actual nine million dollars. instead, they are the ones whose hearts are huge, who stand up for you, whose compassion is not measurable by budgets, who have reached out, who want to listen, who ask questions, who inquire what you need, who, oftentimes, just know.

this time of pandemic has been eye-opening in so many ways. it has peeled back layers. the isolation has taught us that, though it is difficult, trying at times, we can be apart. it has shown us those whom we choose to stay in touch with, those who stay in touch with us. it has shown us – with wistful hearts – who we miss, who we wish we could see, who we want to wrap our arms around. it has pointed out those who have stuck close by and those who have fallen off.

we don’t really need nine million dollars, though i doubt we’d turn it down. we already have that in the people who have loved us through this time, in one generous way or another.

and that, like those really wise mastercard commercials say, is priceless.

*****

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forget-me-nots. [k.s. friday]

A0, B0, C1 are missing. entirely. gone. they have disintegrated and have dissolved into the ashy dirt of the piano. it is likely that if we planted the forget-me-not seeds we received when our beloved babycat died, tiny blue flowers would grow, for this spot – the lowest on the keyboard – seems rich soil. though we do not see A-zero, B-zero, C-one, the tones are still there, the timbre of these lowest notes ever-present, the grounding of all else still grounded.

“wherever you are, that’s where i will be…” is needlepointed in an old black frame on the wall in the bedroom. in the way that notes forever linger in the air, that frequencies dance waiting for us to listen, i know that this is also true: those whom we love surround us any where we go, any where we are, they are a whisper away. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i speak of or ‘to’ my sweet momma, my poppo, my big brother, dear ones who have gone on. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i hold close in embrace or in mind those whom i love who are here, whether near or far. the garden is lush with these tiny blooms, the wind a symphony, even maybe a gentle cacophony, of harmonics, seeding my steps each day.

in the midst of it all – changes and challenges, absolute joys and abysmal sadnesses – all that has been whirls around us, all that will be beckons us. we pick and choose the bouquet each day…our words and actions, our intentions. we learn and grow and send roots while at the same time becoming tall and independent and resourceful and capable of blooming.

yet, the wisdom of the ages, the ages themselves, are where we are. the notes play and the harmonics ring. the flowers blossom and spread and the wind takes on seeding, propagating on breezes and stout gales, encircling us. the universe cheers for us. we try to believe it is, ultimately, on our side. as albert einstein encouraged, ‘the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.’ we can bring nutrients or malnutrition to the garden.

the low notes swirl. still there. and all those who have loved us, all those we have loved, all those who love us, all those we love, the greater spiritual power in each of our lives – there. always with us. rich soil for our every single day.

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – from AS IT IS (kerri sherwood)

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ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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and nature strung up prayer flags. [k.s. friday]

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and grimaced to see raging wildfires, upending people’s lives, destroying towns and homes and forests and tiny creatures racing to stay ahead of flames.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and wept at floods sweeping over land, drowning dreams and crops and families, sweeping away livestock and animals trying to escape mudslides.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and, wincing at the pain of what it saw, questioned why brilliant science could not prevail, why habitats were being destroyed, why climate change and global warming were not on the lips of all its people, why something so vital seemed so controversial.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and pondered its resources, its clean water, the fruits of its ecosystem, the sustainability of food and drink for each and every one of its beloved inhabitants on its crowded globe.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and grieved the ramifications of a raging pandemic, sickness and suffering, lives lost, security decimated, together slashed into separate and distant.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and wondered about the division of its people, wondered about deep disagreement, hatred and the brash spewing of vitriol, wondered where truth went.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and wondered about all manners of inequality, wondered about all manners of discrimination, wondered about ill treatment of its dear ones, wondered about cruelty.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and saw anxiety and angst and surging mental health challenges in its own, fear and instability, exhaustion, unassailable peace assailed.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and wished the most basic elements would rise to the top, tending the needs of clean air, food, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare, sanitation, protection, communication, belonging, caring about and for each person.

and the universe glanced down at planet earth.

and hoped for a better time, a better way, a resurgence of compassion, a renewing of a world commitment to collaboration, and a rebirth of what it had given each person: a heart.

and nature, well, she strung up prayer flags.

*****

HOPE (kerri sherwood)

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HOPE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood


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no timely manner. [d.r. thursday]

now i understand. at least, i am beginning to understand.

my sweet momma and poppo would linger…watching birds, gazing at flowers, studying the horizon – be it shorefront or mountainside, cityscape or tiny town or rural farmland, slowly taking it in. in the hurry-hurry of my younger years, i would scurry past, noticing but maybe not really.

i am moving slower now. not because i can’t scurry, but because i am choosing to list to the linger side. though we still watch re-runs after re-runs of joey hiking and climbing and backpacking and pitching tents any and everywhere, imagining ourselves in those canyonlands keeping up, imagining ourselves on the pct or the john muir or the colorado trail, i know that our pace would not match the pace of joey or the exuberant younguns on heading somewhere or walking with purpose or the meticulous norwegian xplorer. we would be slower, lingering, lingering. i’m not sure that would get us from point a to point b successfully or in a timely manner, but i’m thinking that our definition of ‘timely manner’ may have to just be different. because now – in the middle of this grand middle age – is different.

for now i want to watch the birds and gaze at flowers up-close. i want to stop and stare, drop to sit on a nearby log and take it in. i want to notice the intricasies of all of it, the undertones, the overtones.

as i look at the close-up of this milkweed trailside i am struck by the layers of detail. it somehow makes me recall decisions between the major chord and the relative minor, a continuum of impact. it makes me think of melodic gestures, a spectrum of color and of grace. a horsehair brush extended from the heights of the universe, painting perfection in the woods. artists’ hands waving paint on canvas, cupping clay on a wheel, flying over the white and black on a piano, coaxing lines that make you weep from a cello. all the same. creation in all its iterations.

on the call pat told me that the music – my music – had harmonics, tuned with the universe, that made her travel. humbling.

for i see that is what my momma and poppo were doing. traveling. they allowed the beauty around them to touch them, to slow them down, convincing them – in all the infinite glory that beauty -and art- can muster – that ‘a timely manner’ was relative, that time was relative. that time spent in a slow linger was precious.

*****

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sopris gold. [two artists tuesday]

it was a bit cloudy and drizzling when we drove into town and stopped at the market before finding our airbnb. the next day dawned much of the same, but around us the red rock shimmered deep ruby in the rain, the sage glowed and the air was clear and fresh.

we got into big red to lumber into town early that evening, the sun not yet ready to set, clouds breaking up to allow blue skies. down the dirt and gravel road, just around the bend, across a field of wild grasses and beyond the horses, suddenly there it was.

mount sopris, in all its glory, rose above us and above everything else in the valley. it was astoundingly beautiful and made me pull over to laugh aloud at its presence. this giant had been there all along, steady, its very existence a silent companion. just shy of 13,000 feet in elevation, with twin peaks, once i had seen it, i found myself turning to look at it, especially at every bend of the rio grande trail we hiked the next day. it felt grounding and majestic and very, very wise.

mount sopris is named after a gold prospector who led an expedition in the middle 1800s. “there’s gold in them there hills,” led them into the roaring fork valley. i don’t know the whole rest of that story, though they did not find gold.

i do know that the presence of this mountain, for me, definitely has the allure of the precious and captured my desire to stay put in its magnificent power. the surprise of seeing it appear out of the clouds was worth its absolute weight in gold.

it was a reminder of things unseen and yet there. a reminder of strength and steadfastness, quiet and unshakeable. a reminder of beauty where you don’t expect it. a reminder that behind clouds there exists a bigger presence, the universe vast, full of potential.

*****

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alleluia. [k.s. friday]

the crystallized ice on their windows now is enchanting. snowflakes blown sideways onto a cold kitchen window, sticking there, magic.

we have waited through a cold and dismal late fall, through days of unending grey, outside and in. we have studied the accuweather app, searching for a sign of snowfall. and yet, nary a storm, nary a blizzard, save for a few tiny flakes here or there. but those skeletal flakes on those windows…alleluia.

yesterday, on the way home from joyous and cherished time in chicago with my boy, in the twilight of the day, on backroads taking us past ravines and woods and houses decked out for the holiday, twinkling lights strewn in grandiose fashion, it snowed. real flakes softly blowing over the road. alleluia.

we were mostly alone driving on these roads, for we were not in a hurry. we moseyed back home, slowly relishing the time we had spent, not eager to let go of it. we moseyed back home, slowly appreciating the spirit of small towns along our way. we moseyed back home, elated at the snow falling, our headlights lighting the way through tiny squalls. alleluia.

we arrived home and the snow had stopped. there were no snow-covered trees, no white front lawns, no strewn lights twinkling out from under a blanket of snow. but it had happened, even though we could no longer see evidence of it. the snow had fallen and it was magical.

this year – full of broken lives and shattered hearts, all of us smack-dab in a world of hypocrisy…and we wait. we look for light, for hope, for truth. it matters not our story, our particular religious narrative, the specific names we attach to our holidays or our deity. it matters that there is a return of light, that the universe will ultimately, even if it’s eventual, offer healing. the divine. we can choose to believe in its goodness. even if we can’t see it.

i wrote these lyrics, this song, last year while in the position i used to hold. “we’ve waited for you, waited for you a lifetime. and you were out there waiting, a bright light. …and now, you’re here in a world of hypocrisy and your love can heal us all. our broken lives, our shattered hearts, we’ll give them all to you, beloved one. alleluia. alleluia. alleluia…” in the cantata i directed last december, this song preceded another song i wrote two decades earlier. “holy, holy…,” i had penned.

with carols playing softly in little-baby-scion, snow gently falling from the sky, the warmth of a hug still lingering, twinkling lights cutting the darkening night, on our drive back home, i could feel a little healing. it felt holy. alleluia.

*****

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kneel. [d.r. thursday]

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of all his watercolors, i remember this one.  maybe it’s universe-timing but the image of a person kneeling silently in reflection, in prayer, fading into the blue of eternal sky and the hinted suggestion of sun seems particularly synchronistic.  the fluidity of line, the brushstroke revealing the image of humanity – in a transitory time here as part of the whole.  a blurry-edged fleeting existence in all of time’s galaxy.

but the destruction, the disregard, the disrespect.  people who disassociate with the truth of here and now, gone tomorrow.  intent on pillaging the universe’s glee that each of us is here, each of us is exquisite, each of us can positively impact another.  this place is a place of profound beauty, the sky and the sun sure day to day.

perhaps the lure of this painting is the inkblot-exercise.  depending on what you focus on, the figure will be there, the figure will disappear.

perhaps the point is the earnest time on our knees, whether or not literal.  the questions we ask, the things for which we give thanks, the time to focus, the imploring to help us notice it all.

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