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the path back is the path forward


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better humans. [two artists tuesday]

one of my sweet momma’s favorite stories to tell me, about me, was when i used to stand in place and bellylaugh. she said i would put my tiny hands up in the air and then deeply bend at the waist and bring my hands down, up, down, repeating over and again, all while laughing heartily. it made everyone nearby laugh, hearts-open. it made her giggle to tell me this old story. and each time she told it i felt deeply loved.

i remember my first baby’s – The Girl’s – bellylaugh. it was extraordinary hearing this wee child, knowing little about the world, laugh. it felt like the same miracle when it was my second baby’s – The Boy’s – turn to chortle with all his little body. their giggles made everything in the moment alright. they are deeply loved and their giggles still to this day make everything in the moment alright.

so perhaps that’s a good place to start in the quest to be better humans. perhaps bellylaughing first about the sheer unlikeliness, the improbability, that you get to live this very instant, in this very place, at this very time. nevermind the division, the hostility, the challenges, the histrionics of forces-human-designed. you are here. i am here. no matter how same we are, no matter how different we are. we are in this together. that’s a start. now commence betterment.

“so, i wanna laugh while the laughin’ is easy. i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile. we may never pass this way again. that’s why i want it with you.” (seals & crofts)

he spoke about humans today. how it all really boils down to a measure of how we live in community that is the important stuff. the never-pass-this-way-again moment-after-moment-ness of how we help each other, hold each other, support each other, raise each other up, love each other, regardless of the each or the other.

momma loved the verse “i shall pass through this world but once. any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. let me not defer or neglect it, for i shall not pass this way again.”

maybe the beginning of being better humans is that simple. let’s share this moment. let’s be amazed we are in it together. let’s be amazed we are in it at all. let’s learn how to be in community together. even in the hardest stuff. it’s a worthy exercise to see two people or two disparate groups defuse a hot and angry moment communicating with humor, to temper down with a lightness of spirit, to divert what could divide them forever, instead focusing on how to move forward with generous hearts.

maybe “let me drown in your laughter” (john denver) is a good start. maybe love will take shape in the pause of anger overtaken by a wave of kindness and gentle temperament, an intentional defusing of heat. maybe then grace will flow in like the tide of change. maybe then we can recognize what we have been, what we are, where we want to go, who we want to become – together. mindfully knowing “we all do better when we all do better.” (paul wellstone) maybe then we can – together – have the real conversations, sob the gut-wrenching and worthwhile cries, see our human failings. and we can take a tiny baby step toward being better humans.

yesterday a small peaceful protest drove and walked by our house. we live on a street perpendicular to the more important streets, the more likely avenues for protest. yet, right in front of us, right in front of our house, was this marvelous group of people marching and driving, chanting and beeping. we stood and clapped, joining their enthusiasm, echoing their pleas, and couldn’t have been more proud to see them go by. and we laughed in those moments of living, joining, hearts-open. not bellylaughs, but audible smiles, exulting in the baby steps, right here, right now.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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just know. [two artists tuesday]

loves me loves me not

we passed the daisy on the trail and i went back to take a picture.  it was instant recognition of  “loves me, loves me not” as i saw it.  the questions we threw willy-nilly to the universe, the don’t-step-on-a-crack, knock-wood, bread-and-butter reflexes of our 60s-70s childhoods.

were it all still to be so easy.

i remember sitting in the grass making clover chains.  i remember the transistor radio playing on the bazooka bubble gum beach towel.  i remember playing in the woods out back with the neighbors.  i remember kickball in the street and badminton and croquet in the yard.  i remember hula-hoops and skateboards on my driveway.  i remember the “boing” the pogo stick made.  i remember koolaid and ice pops that seemed to never run out.  i remember bike hikes with sue and carvel ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles.  i remember frisbee at the beach and making apple pies.  i remember listening to cassettes and practicing piano.  i remember the trunk of the maple tree against my back, the branches holding me as i wrote.  i remember the sound the pressure-filled-from-the-sun-light-purple-hosta-flowers along our sidewalk made when popped.  i remember it was time to go home when it got dark and i remember catching fireflies in jars with holes punched in the lids.  i remember sunday drives and picking apples and kentucky fried chicken on picnic tables further out on the island.  i remember cabins in state parks and wide-eyed flirting with older lake lifeguards upstate.  i remember duck ponds and friendly’s.  i remember my puppy riding in my bike basket and ponytails.  i remember loves-me-loves-me-not.

it seemed an innocent time.  a time of marvel.  a time of safety.  never did i wonder if my parents loved me.  i just knew.

babycat just rolled onto his back, all four paws outstretched, his big black and white belly just begging for a pet.  he doesn’t ask questions.  his world is relatively small – since his kittenhood adoption, the littlehouse was the only other house he has known other than our house.  yesterday we brought him and dogdog into the basement as the tornado siren went off.  dogga was nervous but babycat adapted, finding a place to lay on the carpet.  his only demand is for food, several times a day with clockwork precision.  otherwise, he is unconditional.  his presence in my life has brought me eleven years of a gift i really needed when he arrived.

babycat is laying right next to me now as i type.  tucked close in, his snoring is punctuated only by his purring – it’s a two measure repeat in 4/4, each breath a half note.  it is the 11th anniversary of his “gotcha day” and he’s marking the day with a celebration of naps. no worry of “loves me, loves me not” crosses his mind.  he just knows.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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a long while. [k.s. friday]

last i saw you

a long while.

since last i saw you. and you. and you. it is dizzying. the yous and the longwhiles.

it makes me want an RV, updated map apps and a little bit of time.

i’m finding myself talking to people these days – people who have gone on to different planes of existence like my sweet momma or my poppo.  i ask them advice.  i tell them tales of the day.  i bemoan the challenges of our world with them; i wonder with them.

twenty-eight years ago today my big brother crossed over.  the transition of here to there is something of great ponderance for human beings.  we don’t know.  we profess to knowing, but we hardly know.  we only know what it feels like to be left behind, missing and yearning.  i will forever-and-ever yearn to be within embracing distance of my parents, my brother, and loved ones who have no tangible form but whose silken threads-of-being are eternally wrapped around me, always reminding me.

it’s like that for people still here on this very planet, people who we have not seen, people who we pine about when last we saw them.

truth be told, i spent the last couple of days in tears.  not slow-motion-tears that quietly weep down my face.  but the kind of tears where your ribs and your back hurt the next day; the kind of tears that swell your eyelids and make mascara application undoable.  the kind of tears that remind you how much you love someone and how much you miss them.  for me, this time, this was about my children.  it’s impossible to really explain what this missing feels like.  i can say it is wrapped up in the act of breathing, in every aspect of living a day, in the darkening of light.

the pandemic has brought exponential pain to people in our world.  suffering its disease, we worry about those who have been diagnosed, we grieve those who have succumbed to its ugliness, we wrangle with the illogical, implausible, grossly inadequate response of our land.  we are floored at those who are picking fights over this monster that is on a path of destruction which has unfathomable fallout.  we cannot understand the division and the planting of flags-of-the-ridiculous when peoples’ very health and lives are at stake; what truly matters more than that? it’s insanity: how can so many people be so lost? we try to sustain good attitudes and do the right thing.  we try to protect each other.  we try to avoid being a reason that this pandemic is spreading.  and we miss everyone we love in the process.

we wonder:  when?  when will “last” be now?  when will we see you?

and we hope, with great desperation, that it is not a long while.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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LAST I SAW YOU ©️ 1997, 1999 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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“pretend that i care.” [d.r. thursday]

AtTheDoor13 jpeg copy

“E-N-O-B,” we spell aloud when we are thinking about giving dogga a new b-o-n-e but don’t want him to know it, because he has learned what a “B-O-N-E” is.  the vocabulary of these sweet pets is astounding, considering, well, everything.

i remember spelling words around my children when they were little.  they were fast to learn, so this trick didn’t last too long.  we were careful to not ‘cuss’ around them or say things that were foul.  we knew they were little sponges; we didn’t want them mimicking that kind of disrespect.  the time beth reported to me that The Boy, a toddler, said a swear word, i was mortified.  it was both funny in a he’s-a-toddler-and-has-no-idea kind of way and stunning that he had picked up a word somewhere we had been so careful not to use.

so when i drive down the street and see bumper stickers that say “f**k you” or “trigger happy” or flags flying in someone’s yard stating “no more bulls**t”, it confounds me.  “small children can READ,” i think, while picturing My Girl or My Boy sounding these out from their booster seats.

i wonder what these people are thinking.  did they think at all?  did they hesitate for even an instant when they hoisted up the flag or peeled the backing off the vinyl?  did they think about their children, other people’s children, their parents, their grandparents?  did it occur to them that, although we are all entitled to our opinion, we also have a responsibility to decency in community?  what carseat ride taught them this lack of couth, lack of regard of respectfulness.

and then i wonder, if i stopped and spoke to the person in the driveway with the crudely-stickered-vehicle or along the sidewalk of the flag-flying-house, if i maybe asked “why?”, would that person apathetically stare at me and sneer, “pretend that i care!”

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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AT THE DOOR cartoon ©️ 2017 david robinson, NAP painting ©️ 2020 david robinson

 


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my lullaby. for them. [k.s. friday]

i will hold you forever and ever

and as yesterday passed into today and i drifted off to sleep i knew, despite that she is on a different plane of existence, my sweet momma was holding me close to her.  it was bracing to think of the five year mark that has just passed now since she has been gone and the every-day-missing-her that goes along with that.  no different with my dad.  in a month it will be eight years and i can hear his “hi brat” in my heart.  i have no doubt that he is right there, holding on tightly.  both of them.  forever and ever.

it is a fact.  this parenthood thing is mind-bogglingly paramount.  ever forward from the day they are born.  it is all-consuming.  in every good and every daunting way.  every most-jubilant and every brutally-difficult way.  every securely-confident and every tumultuously-distressing way.  every way.

in this pandemic time of chaos we pine for a sense of normal which escapes us.  anxiety barges in and replaces our regular routines; peace escapes us.  we long to see each other.  we feel tired; we feel restless.  we sleep more; we cannot sleep.  we are astounded by the surrealness of this; we are crushed by how real this is.  and we worry.  it is hard to be away from those whom we love and knowing that right now we cannot go to them compounds it.  my heart needs to hug My Girl and My Boy and see that all is well.  we feel anxious.  our wishes go unfulfilled.

and yet as today passes into tomorrow and they drift off to sleep i know, despite how busy they may be or where they are in the world, that i am holding them close.  that no doubt can exist –  i am right there, holding on tightly.

and i hope, like you with your beloved children, that they can feel it.  forever and ever.

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read DAVID’s thoughts on this K.S. FRIDAY

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I WILL HOLD YOU FOREVER AND EVER ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood


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we all wait. [d.r. thursday]

they wait

anticipation.  it’s the stuff of songs.  the stuff of great love.  the stuff of waiting for the worst to be over.  the stuff of all moms everywhere.

we wait.  we wait for them to be born.  we wait for them to fall asleep.  we wait for them outside the elementary school, gleefully skipping down the sidewalk toward us.  and then we wait for them outside the middle school, hidden in the shadows down the road to avoid seventh grade embarrassment.  we wait for them at the end of sport meets and music recitals, to congratulate or cajole.  we wait for them after the day is done at school. we wait for them to return home in the family car.  we lay awake, waiting for them a wee bit past curfew.  we wait for them to return home from college.  we wait for them to come home from afar.  we wait for them to say, “yes, all is well,” and we wait for them to sound genuinely happy.  we are not settled if they are not settled.

and now we wait – apart.  all of us.

we all wonder what day it is and we wonder when this waiting will be over.  we look to each other – on texts, on the phone, on social media, on videoconferencing – for words of wisdom, for encouragement, for reassurance, for a chance to say, “yes, i feel that way, too!”  we need meet on common ground; we are alive and we are vested in staying well and staying safe.  so we compare notes and share ideas and recipes and cartoons and articles and youtube songs and moments that make us weep.

and, like the day that your beloved child doesn’t tell you of their arrival ahead, surprises you and makes your heart swell with joy by walking in the front door, we wait for the hoped-for-but-unexpected.  the flattened curve.  the antibodies that prevail over the virus.   the vaccine.  the end of this profound worry, this herculean effort of medical workers, this exponentially terrifying pandemic.  in our world, our country, our state, our community, our midst.  in our circle.

we know one of these days this too shall pass.  and in the meanwhile, we are honing our waiting skills.  becoming adept at patience and being in the moment, not sure of what day it is exactly, but sure of the passing of days.  time will bring us to a new day and one of these days, just like our grown child unexpectedly bursting through the front door, Next will burst in and exclaim, “surprise!  i am here!”  and our hearts will explode with gratitude.

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THEY WAIT ©️ 2018 david robinson

 


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there is a place, a canopy. [d.r. thursday]

canopy

CANOPY 48″x48″

there is a place on a washington island road where the rest of the world disappears.  you are walking alongside forest and can see the sky as you look up, tall trees framing blue, the sound of sandhill cranes and red-eyed vireos accompanying your steps.  and then you enter this place.  the trees gently arc over the road and you are covered by a canopy; we have sheltered in this spot during more than one sudden rainfall.  even in the bright day, the green above you – which turns to brilliant umber, rich red, flaming orange during summer’s release on the forest – allows for little light.  and at dusk, while the sun sinks into the water hundreds of feet away, walking in the middle of the road, it is dark-dark, the canopy a lure for night creatures, safe in the shadows.

there is a place in a tree in the yard of my growing-up house outside the window of my old room where the branches invited sitting.  for hours i would sit there, write, ponder.  in the summer the maple seemed to grant me privacy from the world, its branches full of leaves and canopying my little spot.  a shelter.

there was a place in the wooden structure in our backyard that had a yellow awning that made a fort.  when My Girl and My Boy were little they would play up there for hours, The Boy lining up matchbox cars, The Girl often reading a book.  a special space, this little fort, it was hard when it was time to dismantle it and pass it on to friends with little ones.

these places of shelter – places of canopy – provide such a sense of protection, a sense of being held from harm – from the elements, away from others, in our own private place.  much like our homes, they can give us pause, a deep breath, safety.

in this time of distancing and stay-safe-stay-at-home, i look around our house and give thanks for its canopy of shelter, for the way it holds us from harm, for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years it keeps us safe.

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CANOPY ©️ 2009 david robinson

 

 

 


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“you’re my favorite pain in the ass.” merely-a-thought monday

you're my favorite

we bought it on our honeymoon.  we knew, even by then, that we would need this sign’s lighthearted truth to remind us – some days – of what we even liked about each other.  in these days of isolation it’s front and center.

these are profoundly difficult times.  without the balance of getting out or having a little space, we are all finding ourselves in close isolation with the others in our home.  we two, here, are often together 24/7.  we work together in a variety of capacities, so we have gotten a little more accustomed to the dynamics than, say, some of you who have been thrown into the deep end with no feathering of getting-used-to-the-water time.  but…that doesn’t mean it’s always pretty.  so we are all here, separately together, figuring it out.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

the stress level is palpable.  you can feel the world out-there functioning at a completely different frequency than it had been.  it is like that high pitch in your ears, making you teeter on yelling, “make it stop”.  we all try to go with the flow, try to make the best of it.  we are fortunate to be here together, at home, in a safe place.  we seek ways to stay relevant and do meaningful work.  we follow stay-at-home orders.  we reach out to visit, virtually, with our family and friends.  we video-conference with colleagues.  we wear leggings and sweatpants on a daily basis.  my boy, in a city with ever-exponentially-growing-covid-19-numbers, said that’s a given – sweats, sweats, sweats and the perfunctory button-down shirt.  we know what’s visible and what’s not.  we desperately hope for the best.  we get in each other’s way.  we help each other.  we brainstorm new ways to cope, new ways to work, some with steep learning curves.  we sigh.  we take naps, tired and wrung out.  all are true.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

and we try to stay in touch.  we desperately miss our children, our family, our friends, the people in our day-to-day life route.

even in times of ‘normal’, if my daughter, whose home is in a covid-19 hotspot and whose work, like too many, has been decimated, texts me with no punctuation and clipped answers, i know i have either a) stepped past the edge of the chatting time limit b) asked too many questions c) said something completely too mom-ish or d) encountered her at a time she needs space for herself.  no matter which option, it’s smart (and in my best interest) to back up.  she, just like my son, knows she is loved beyond words and i know that, in order for me to stay loved, or, er, tolerated, i need to utter less painintheass words.  but i am their mom and it is an intrinsic part of my job.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

if david, the other artist in my two-artist-household equation, mentions an idea to me, i dig under the idea pile of leaves to find the base of it – to order the details of what the idea means, to parse it out.  i can’t start at the top and assume thebigidea will work.  i have to see how the ingredients of the idea will work, the steps to get there.  if the tiniest piece of the idea doesn’t seem plausible, i argue, how could thebigidea be possible.  i don’t mean to be a bigidea killer; i just need to see the practical details.  i’m sure he invokes the youareapainintheass eyeroll when i am not looking, but that’s ok.  he can’t see me rolling my eyes either.

and so, we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

in the biggest way we have seen in decades we have a challenge.  to stay healthy.  to keep others healthy.  what we do affects you and vice-versa.  we all have to be responsible.  we all have to work together.  we are not all favorites of each other.  some of us are the biggest pains in the ass to others of us.  we are learning, bending, flexing.  we are finding out that we are more resilient than we thought, we are capable of negotiating the bumps in the relationship-road.  we are gumby in the real world.

and we are all here.  separate and together.  despite our wildly differing stories, we have a common story.  we are here.

and we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

i, for one, am grateful for my absolute favorite painintheass even though he is totally a painintheass.  for what would i do without him?

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

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always. with us. [k.s. friday]

always with us prayerflags

my emotional well was full when i woke up today.  thinking of us, our children, our families, our dear friends, our community, this world.  i desperately want to gather our beloveds in, hold them close, protect them.

i have no words for all of this; i have too many words for all of this.  i fear that none of them are helpful, none of them are wise.  it’s just me.  and, like you, carrying the weight of the world one step at a time, one quiet minute at a time, staring out the window and wondering.

always with us

we are alone

 

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ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 


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a time to close your eyes. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

sleeping dogga copy

there is little as comfortingly sweet as watching your dog sleep.  dogdog is whirling motion so when he sleeps in your presence it is a magical time of trust and deep respite.  the vision of him asleep on the bed or in the middle of the living room rug is a picture of all-is-right-in-the-world; he has no other cares except he is with his people and he can rest.

some of the times i remember most about when My Girl and My Boy were young are the times they fell asleep with me holding them, in my arms, on my lap.  the moment you feel their little-child-body relax and fall into you.  exquisite.

it’s that moment you sigh and lay your head back to nap with someone you love.  the moment you close your eyes on the beach towel in the sun, warm sand beneath you.  the moment you drift off in the grass watching the clouds.  oh yes, the moment your face plants against the window at the rest area during your long journey and a couple hours pass by.  the moment, hiking in high mountains, you lean against a tree and your eyes close to the sound of the wind in the aspens.

rest.  a time of no real conscious worry.  a time of innate trusting that all-will-be-well.  a time of repose, of tranquility, of solace.

i have found, sometimes, if i want to go to sleep and cannot, that if i watch dogga or babycat sleep it will slow my overthinking-breathing.  it will settle my heart and mind a bit.  it will remind me that my own whirling motion – physical, intellectual, emotional – needs time to rest, to curl up on the living room rug and close my eyes.

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

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