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pudgy pigeon. [flawed wednesday]

the pudgy pigeon was in the doorway. it didn’t move as we approached. it didn’t move as we took photographs. it didn’t move as i spoke to it and it didn’t move as we moved on. i worried about it after. something seemed awry.

while we were in colorado, we looked at a shutterfly book of pictures taken in 2013 – what was columbus’ 80th birthday party – merely eight years ago, so little time, so much time. but the difference – for us – is between 50-something and 60-something. and there is, shall i say, a difference.

our bodies changing-changing. our faces morphing into, well, i hope, slightly more wizened faces with less self-consciousness and more solid aplomb. aging. we read in headlines today, “fillers, procedures are wiping out generations of beauty.” (jamie lee curtis) we stand firmly in the camp of less-is-more. mmm…firmly and, yet, still, a little shakily, noting this youth and body-image-society.

what does this pudgy pigeon think?

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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and the wind brought fall. [k.s. friday]

the wind brought fall.

iowa and kansas were full of summer-on-its-waning-edge, the sun streaming into the truck making merely having windows open not enough. the highway noise was loud and the air conditioning a welcome buffer so we could talk and ponder what the next days would bring.

we saw it from a distance and assumed it was farmers plowing in dry fields of dirt, billowing cloud dust across the horizon from afar. and then we drove into it. in minutes, touching the window glass cleared up the mysterious billowing. the beyond-blustery front was bringing cold air and as we drove from kansas into colorado, the gusts delivered autumn.

we walked into their living room this morning and the fire was lit. there is nothing like a cup of coffee by an early morning fire. the day is cool and the sun is out. those of us who traveled for yesterday’s celebration of columbus’ life and are still here will gather later around a fire out back. in the meanwhile, we’ll walk and talk and have a little quiet time after much visiting and catching up till later last night. the service is over and next follows.

when these flowers were blooming, they were vibrant and gorgeous, spilling over the old fence along the sidewalk. the petals started to drop off as fall started to arrive, dropping in little by little. bright yellow pistils started to turn mustard then cocoa brown. the picture begged to be taken – beautiful and fallow on its eventual way.

as we drive back to wisconsin, we’ll again pass fields of corn waiting to be cut down, plowed over, vast brown rolling land. we’ll miss the green, we know, even at home, even in our little gardens, on our little potting stand.

but we know that time just doesn’t jump from one season to another. it actually shows signs as it comes, gives fair warning, allows us time to process a bit and adjust. it transitions and gently encourages us to move on, into the next season.

summer yields to fall and we will bring home a little wisdom harvested from the side of the highway.

*****

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PART OF THE WIND from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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blooming. [merely-a-thought monday]

as i stand with david, together with his mom and siblings, watching his dad walk down the path of dementia, i am deep in thought of my own parents, missing them. elusive complexities become simple and unimportant as i think about my sweet momma and poppo and their stamp on the world. though certainly worthy, they will not be detailed in history books or in record-holding guiness lists, nor will they be featured in paintings in state buildings or referenced in periodicals, footnotes of prestige. but, just as the life that columbus is forgetting, a life rich in experience and love, so were the lives of my parents. their lives had purpose, their stories were and are important. their dreams counted and their voices mattered. and, though it need not be said, they made an impact.

there are moments when i gaze around and marvel at the rapid movement around us. i feel as if i step back away from the edge of the chaos that is everyday life in a society that values ‘more’ and i just wonder. i wonder about how we all fit in, how, from beginning to end, our lives – in the swirl of everyone’s lives – play a part in this world. i wonder how our very molecules affect other molecules, how permanent or impermanent this effect we have.

pat said, “it’s why you’re here.” she seemed much more certain of that than i. middle age, or maybe it is later middle age, as ross pointed out the other day, is complicated. there is a bit of that elusive complexity whirling around, waiting for us to reach up and cup it in our hands, like catching fireflies on a muggy summer night. holding memories close, we glance back at our lives, pondering the rights and the wrongs and the joys and blisses and the mistakes and the regrets and the happies and the sadnesses, and we watch the glimmering light, surprised at the time that has gone by, stunned by the arc of life that even the tiniest path-choices brought us. in the looking-back we notice the insignificant. in the looking-back, we notice the significant. and sometimes, when we are lucky, we realize how absolutely preposterous it is that we are here at all, how miraculous that we can feel, that we are breathing in this very time.

and i think about my mom and dad. though perhaps generations from now – even possibly just a few – there may be no more out-loud mention of their names or their stories, but they will have been here and, for that, the world is different. i think about columbus, who, though forgetting, is still here, is still holding to life and the filmy stories he can access, his innate and unspoken courage on that path – so painful – moves us, brings us to tears, yet, inspires us. his forgetting reminds us to remember – to live.

we are all on our way to changing the world. each and every one of us, despite our differences, despite anything. it’s why we’re here. it’s ridiculously simple and ridiculously complex.

*****

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time is flying. [saturday morning smack-dab]

these days, in the middle of middle age, time seems to just fly by. at inordinate speed. slowing it down doesn’t seem to be an option. i guess my sweet momma was right when she said, “live life, my sweet potato.” don’t wait.

“LIVE LIFE, MY SWEET POTATO” stuff

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the lateral list. [merely-a-thought monday]

it’s on the list. i explained to d yesterday that i have a lateral list of things that need my attention, in addition to a vertical list. cleaning the attic, sorting through the basement, going through the closets, these are all on the lateral list somewhere vertically among a number of other things that need to be done. every so often, this lateral push-pull bobs to the top. but procrastination is a fierce reactor and readily slaps the bobbing tedium down.

lately, though, it has risen – triumphantly – and called my name. since the attic is hotter than heck right now, the basement will be first up. it may take me weeks just to decide what to wear down there – how to dress for the plethora of memories mixed with spider carcasses and a whole bunch of sunflower seeds i noticed a while back in the storage room. at the time i wondered why the boy had eaten sunflower seeds and disposed the shells in the storage room and how i hadn’t noticed these and cleaned them out years earlier. the realist raised her hand, shooing off the ridiculous and suggested that cute little mice had made the mess. the boy is now off the hook and there will be a broom ready. so, yes, the outfit might be important…something i might leave down there to specifically don for the lateral look-through. as chores go, this one will be to leave no stone unturned, to peer into every box, unearth each bin, gingerly throw away every spider and centipede carcass. there is no telling what treasures we might find. if it wasn’t so much work, i would be totally looking forward to it. ok, admittedly, part of me is happily anticipating it. because – it is rich in memories. and therein lies the root problem.

i explained to d that this will take some time. that he should not be thinking that – poof! – it will be done quickly. oh no…every single everything down there has a story. and, to jump on ann landers’ bandwagon, some things have words. lots of them. like old greeting cards, stories my children wrote when they were little, scrapbooks of adventures, brochures saved from, well, everywhere. not to mention old report cards, newspaper clippings, letters penned by my sweet momma, tiny notes on pa pad paper written by my poppo. so, draw up a chair, d, this could take a while. but, hey, don’t go away, because i’d love to share it all with you.

we recently brought home a bin from colorado in which david’s mom and dad had saved miscellaneous clippings and photos and playbills about him. we combed slowly through it; for me, it was my first viewing of many of these pieces. articles and wedding invitations, school letters and the note that the man in the neighborhood wrote to the editor of the paper bragging about what “a little gentleman” david was as his paperboy. sitting at the table going through all these was like having a viewmaster toy full of different slides, snippets of his life during which i wasn’t there.

though i may have a few more slides, bins full, shall we say, it will be a chance for him to peek into the viewmaster and see me as a little girl, a teenager, a young woman, someone who wore a bikini and went water-skiing and sought out all the lighthouses on long island. to see the tangible evidence of me as a young mother: art projects and cheerios containers, favorite rattles and the tassels of high school graduations. so many artifacts, so many stories to tell.

this might be the right week for that. the temperatures will be in the high 80s, the humidity will be drippy and this-old-house-with-no-central-air will be cooler in the basement.

i need to plan my basement work clothes. cue-up the lateral list. full-speed ahead.

*****

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marriage and/or a parakeet. [saturday morning smack-dab]

suddenly it’s all different. suddenly, walking past other people’s tiny children makes you wistful. suddenly, in what seems like a very few split-seconds, your own formerly-tiny children are all grown-up. and the nest is empty. what’s next, you wonder. possibly a parakeet?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SMACK-DAB SATURDAY

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the beauty of $2.99. [k.s. friday]

my sweet dad would buy my mom grocery store flowers often. she kept a vase on the table in the high ceiling-ed foyer near the front door in their last home together and flowers would welcome you as you entered. momma wasn’t really a red-rose-florist-delivery kind of gal. she was more a bundle-of-flowers, a miscellaneous-bunch, a day-old-flowers-sale woman, always so pleased with the simplicity of her own arrangements. now, don’t get me wrong, she was delighted to receive flowers that arrived on her doorstep, but those were not required of my poppo. instead, she reveled in the extraordinarily ordinary blooms they found at publix.

we went to the citymarket when we got to carbondale. needing to find lunch and some dinner items to bring to our airbnb we walked into a new store, inviting and with lots of light. it was in the produce section that i passed the display, advertising a clearance – merely $2.99 for cellophane-wrapped bundles beyond their recommended dates. the hypericum beckoned to me whispering a suggestion, “table centerpiece”. we travel with a small jelly jar and tea lights and i knew we could find something we could use as a vase in our place. as it turned out, it was a ball jar and, together, ball jar with berries and jelly jar with candlight paired on our table. it was time to embrace a precious stay in the high mountains.

scrolling through my photos, the pictures of the hypericum berries on our table easily bring back the moments we had with my daughter and her boyfriend. so much anticipation when a child lives far away and yet the time uncontrollably flies by and, today, i am reeling with wistful thoughts that just over one short week ago we had already been to and left those giant red rock mountains, the snow-capped mount sopris, a trail along the rio grande, horses down the road, dinners at the gathering table, laughter at the high counter in our sweet unit, a pedicure and a few errands with my girl. it would seem the stuff of songs and somewhere, deep inside, they are writing themselves.

we left the hypericum berries in our airbnb. still beautiful, it was a way to say thank you to our hosts. besides, they belonged there on a little slate plate in the middle of the table in a room filled with sunlight. promise for the next occupants, perhaps. a little gratitude left behind.

we aren’t frivolous. especially not these days. anyone who knows me knows that i am a slow decision-maker when it comes to purchases for myself. most places we go we try to find a couple cloth napkins to bring home with us. as we sit at our own table it is a way to remember other places we have sat, meals we have shared. we didn’t find any on this last trip but at the hardware store we discovered after our river-trail hike, we picked up two tin camp mugs for our coffee. they have mountains on them and will remind us of our time this trip.

i already miss my girl and wish i had run outside for one more hug – an extra – the morning she drove off. but she was in a hurry, i knew, and i know a mom-hug can get in the way. so i held back and just waved, trying to be nonchalant about the tears running down my face.

i returned back into the space we had lived in for those fewest of days and looked around at the now packed-up airbnb. my eye caught the sun-rays through the window lighting up the hypericum berries. and i whispered back to them, “thank you.”

*****

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my dad’s jowls. [d.r. thursday]

over-exposed and blurry. that’s how i prefer photographs of me these days.

this morning i opened facebook and there was one of those “you have a memory” pictures. it was from nine years ago when my girl graduated from college and she and i and one of my nieces were all in a pub gathered closely together. adding to my over-exposed and soft-focus-photo-capture-desires, this memory looked different – younger – than when i looked in the mirror shortly thereafter. hmm. the marks of time.

my sweet momma would look in the mirror and, in a singsong whiny voice whine, “i look like an old woman!” she was 93. i would gently remind her both that she was a woman of age and she was amazingly beautiful wearing that age. but as i look into the mirror each day, i’m wondering if she was as dismissive of my words as i am dismissive of david’s “you’re beautiful” compliments. we are so hard on ourselves. our grooves, impressions like the ones in the carpet at the old family home, are earned from the long haul, from all that we have encountered, from the sun in day and dreams at night.

the wear and tear – or lack thereof – on each of us belies the courage and tenacity beneath the surface. we keep on keeping on, adding a wrinkle here or a grey hair there. i thought i was getting used to the appearance of tiny evidences of middle-aging until one famous morning. it all had gone basically unnoticed until that one day when i looked in the mirror and WHAMMO! my dad’s jowls had appeared. what?!? i stared at myself. my dad’s jowls stared back. it was all i could see. what on earth had happened overnight??

i ran to the next room to get a photograph of my sweet poppo and, sure enough, there they were. a perfect match. i pulled up a recent photo of my dad’s sister, his only surviving sibling, and voila! there they were. i am in a perfect-harmony-trio of jowls. i looked for a picture of my sister. though i was hoping to, i didn’t really see any jowls. what’s up with that, dna? seems slightly unfair to me. ahh, indents and jowls. the marks of time.

i look sideways to the window as i write this. below the sill are a variety of lines in the wall, many of them. on summer nights, when the window was wide open and you could feel the breeze blowing and the sweet smell of mown grass drifted in, this was the window that babycat jumped into to sleep. his lumbering body stretched out on the sill, he would lay there throughout the night. in the morning, he would put his paw down in front of his body and drag it along the wall to carefully get down out of the window. the scratched lines remain. indented in the wall, i am not eager to remove them in these times of dearly missing our beloved cat.

one day, like the vacuum that will remove the ridged lines in the carpet in david’s parents’ living room, a little sanding and paint will remove these scratched lines. but their import won’t go away. the sofa that sat in the living room may no longer be there, but the times spent there will always be a part of that space. the scratches on the wall may be fixed, but the cat that graced our lives will always be a part of this space.

the jowls that are now on my face will remain, however, and i suspect become more pronounced, just like the wrinkles and the grey hairs. all that i have been – including the times when i didn’t care about over-exposure and blurred photos – will remain. all that i have experienced, just like you, makes its mark. and we will be lucky if we someday glance in a mirror at 93 and whine-like-we’re-45, “i look like an old woman!”

jowls or not.

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just like an onion. [two artists tuesday]

time away from home always grants moments for reflection. out of the norm, away from routines and the familiar, it is time to think, to ponder, to wonder, to both anguish and be overwhelmed with gratitude. roadtrips are moments suspended and quiet time in the truck on the highway can take you deeper inside. they are chances to examine the emotional flow-chart, a ping-pong of mapping that is our lives.

yesterday we drove through a snowstorm coming up through the passes. i was driving big red and didn’t want to relinquish the wheel. i wanted to know that i was not too nervous to drive through the snow, the icier road conditions, past runaway truck ramps in high elevation descents. we drove past a semi that had jack-knifed backwards on the highway, literally perched on the edge of the road, hanging over a cliff. we were thankful arriving safely back into spring and onto dry roads. under soaring pines bowing with fresh powder and on slushy lanes, i thought about our past recent days and the bit to come in the mountains. i drove, hands tightly on the wheel, the rhythmic sound of wipers and the wet road the only accompaniment. in the middle of all of it, i pondered my role in these days, the way i fit into each of these stories.

sending out new shoots, seeking to divide and grow, this sprouted red onion looks like i feel inside. peeling back the outer paper, the onion sections itself off so that multiple bulbs may be planted. wanting to hold on to what i’ve known, wanting to learn, new ways of being, of accepting change, of middle-aging gracefully, of holding on and releasing, of sorting, i search the inside layers for answers to questions i ask myself and questions i haven’t yet given words to.

i guess each of us sedimentary-humans must take on these onion-questions when we aren’t too busy denying listening to them. like this red onion, there are mushy parts that are no longer good, that reveal a raw flawedness, that beg letting go. and there are layers of goodness, sweet and refreshing to remember. and, in highway-rolling moments and staring-at-ceiling-deep-in-the-night moments, there are also new sprouts to acknowledge. all are there, bearing fruit, a gentle and prodding reminder that time – years – and life – keep going and stopping either is trying to catch rays of the sun in our hands.

the gift of pulsing-time, the fluidity of planting-harvesting-planting-harvesting of ideas and artistry and work, relationships and love…these remind us to grow anywhere we are planted and, despite the challenge, not to be afraid of peeling back the layers. for there are many germinating bulbs to be found.

*****

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all the riches. [k.s. friday]

i don’t suppose it matters how old we get. we are ok if they are ok. conversely, we are not ok if they are not ok.

our children. that moment that your entire life changes – the earth tilts on its axis – and things are never the same again. it’s a conversation i have had again and again.

written when my son was a little boy with a dirty little fist of yellow flowers and my daughter was just a smidge older and taller than he, i am no less gobsmacked by the passage of time now than i was then. days become weeks and months and suddenly many more candles on the birthday cake. and time does what time does. these tiny people become grown human beings in the world and no longer need you to help tie their shoes or put bandaids on owies. no yearning will slow it all down, yet we tend to want to linger in feeling a sense of being needed. the earth keeps spinning; the laugh lines and worry wrinkles appear suddenly in the mirror as we glance on the way past. and the riches are a deep and vast trunk we keep close, always mindful of every tiny or big opportunity to add to it.

it really is the simple stuff. hearing your grown child laugh, watching them adventure, applauding their successes, reassuring them in times of trial. blissful moments you can spend with them, texted pictures of their lives, unexpectedly hearing their voice on the other end of the phone, hugging them. always walking the fine line. so much pressure to hold that line. always learning. knowing their star is still in your galaxy, but is independently forming its own constellation. the emotional perils of motherhood, of parenthood.

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

and always, the bottom line, it seems in each conversation i have had, is the ok-ness. for truly, if they are not ok, there is no way to rest easy. if they are not ok, it changes how we are in the world, how we engage. if they are not ok, it is the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing in our prayers at night.

little or big, they – indeed – are the riches. they are every single dandelion.

in the whole wide world.

*****

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FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS ©️ 1999 kerri sherwood