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the truth, the whole truth and nothing but… [flawed wednesday]

whole truth man

i was 18 and on long island the first time i was called for jury duty.  back then, reporting was for two weeks so i drove out to riverhead each day for ten days.  it was serious stuff and i, in my innocence, listened carefully to every detail during jury selection and, later, during the case to which i was assigned.  i was intimidated by the presence of the judge, law enforcement, court bailiffs, attorneys, these people who had dedicated their lives to justice, to maintain rule of law and abide by due process of such, while providing for equal protection, seeking social order.  “courts:  they exist so the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.” (NACM)  i researched my responsibility.  i was respectful of every instruction i was given, and believed that the process was based on constitutional rights and values and that truth would prevail. “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

less than ten years later i was the victim-witness counselor at the state attorney’s office in one of the judicial circuits in florida.  i worked with local law enforcement, the FBI, attorneys, social workers, court bailiffs, judges, all dedicated to the due process of those who had been accused of crimes and those who were victims of crimes.  my position was working with victims of violent crimes or surviving family members of those victims. heinous acts committed upon others, i was intimidated by the presence of cold, calculating types sitting across the deposition table from me, wishing, at times, that i could put a paper bag over my head to avoid identification at a later date.  it was bracing and disheartening, a dark look into what people are really capable of, twisted, distorted minds culminating, often, in the death of an innocent person.  my first case was one of the saddest, though i shudder thinking of many of them, wondering if they are truly rank-able.  the young woman worked at a quick stop gas station/convenience store, her shift the wee hours of the night.  the two men who kidnapped her had planned for a long time to dig an underworld and keep her and other women there.  their efforts were stymied as they began to dig and discovered that sand kept filling the hole, so they assaulted her and murdered her.  one of my very first days: welcome to the state attorney’s office.  each case that was presented was treated with respect and complete attention to detail; the truth was the ultimate goal, for justice, for the memory of the victim, for the victim’s family, for proper sentencing and/or rehabilitation.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

thirty years later i watch as the wisconsin court system, that which is supposed to be non-partisan, apolitical, a fair arbiter of the law, has deemed the governor’s safer-at-home order during a global pandemic unconstitutional and has thus thwarted the ability of the governor to protect the populace.  “courts:  they exist so the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.” (NACM)  hmmm.  yet, instead, leaning heavily on the right side of the political seesaw of a supposed-apolitical supreme court, the justices declared the state ‘open’ and triumphantly, though virtually, just as during their vote, raised their glasses of celebration in every wisconsin bar about five minutes after their declaration.  the truth?  wisconsin’s coronavirus numbers had not ceased climbing; there was not enough testing nor contact tracing as per the federal government’s previously-stated guidelines, which, at the time, were stated as the truth.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

meanwhile, the administration’s truth-seesaw has become the stuff of amusement parks and circuses – long roller coasters of thwacking metal cars on tracks, criss-crossing and reversing direction, houses of mirrors, convoluted stories and warped sideshows.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” would present some challenges in this case – were truth to be told.

the truth flies by the hand of the self-served.  the truth is misrepresented in more artistic mediums than the best fine arts university could offer.  falsehoods are reported on, written about, gushed over.  and people i care about and love believe them.  danger lurks in the darkness of this truth-void; the deposition table will later provide bags to cover all the heads.  made-up stories as adults with impact on a country are not merely child’s play.  this seesaw of truth is about life; it’s about living.  it’s to uphold this: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” (the preamble of the u.s. constitution)

we passed a house flying an american flag.  under the american flag was another flag.  it said:  “trump 2020.  stop the bullsh*t.”

wow.  now that’s calling the kettle black!

stop the bullsh*t???  i should SAY so.

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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“suffer gloriously.” [merely-a-thought monday]

suffer gloriously

when you watch extreme mountain climbing videos every night you are bound to find morsels of wisdom and inspiration.  chris, one of the denali climbers, tossed us this one:   “i think it’s important to learn how to suffer gloriously.”  he added he “tries to put a positive spin on all his suffering.”  chosen suffering, that is, for who would doubt that there would be suffering on a climb up the highest peak on the continent.  alternatively, his suffering yields reward, a summit, or, at the least, an attempted summit, traversing in elevations few have scaled.

in the early 1980s i taught music in the poorest school of a small county in florida.  z was one of my students – he was in first grade.  i know he suffered.  his home was not far from the school campus with buildings attached by covered walkways, my music shed tucked into a swampy corner, complete with 3″ banana spiders.

z was a student who needed a lot of extra attention.  he craved it.  given his grave family situation, i know his heart had to be heavy, but his smile was light-itself and he loved hugs and music class.  in that school, tucked into the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, where people spent days sitting on rotting porches waiting for the next day, there was much agonizing.  and, clearly, a hell of a lot of surrendered acceptance.  it was deeply inspiring to see children being glorious, even in the midst of hurting.

i heard somewhere along the passing years that z was in prison.  i shudder to think of all who might say it was inevitable.  he was truly stuck in a system that allowed very few to escape.  the ‘subs’, as the area was called, was a breeding ground for glorious suffering, proud faces lined with sweat and worry, ponderous minds sorting for ways to survive.

we went back there about five years ago, drove to what-is-now a fenced-in complex and no longer a neighborhood school so i could stare for a few minutes at the old shed in the swamp.  we drove around the neighborhood and stopped and got out to talk to a couple people rocking on a porch.  we talked about the old school and, with shining faces, they spoke with pride about attending it.  glorious faces.

when we pulled away, they went back to the chairs on the porch, under the collapsing portico away from the steamy sun and tucked into trees covered with spanish moss and yards of dry dusty dirt.  still suffering.

we drove away, a few moments of silence as i took it all in.  in my mind i hugged the little boy z used to be and wished for something better for him.  for a summit.

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

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it’s all how you look at it. [two artists tuesday]

THIS from the ferry copy

the ice-breaking bow of our ferry made its way across “death’s door”, the strait that connects lake michigan and green bay.  the windchill below zero, you could hear the hardy vessel crunching its way through the ice.  it was other-worldy.  no one else on the ferry appeared to be as enchanted with it as we were; clearly, they were big-I islanders, unmoved by this half-hour jaunt across frigid waters to washington island.  unfamiliar vs familiar equals enthralling vs mundane.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

when i moved to wisconsin 30 years ago (kicking and screaming at the time) i stood in the pasta aisle of the grocery store – a local piggly wiggly.  there was no mueller’s pasta.  none.  the brand i had grown up with on long island, the brand i found in florida publix grocery stores…it was not here in wisconsin.  i felt instantly lost, instantly homesick.  i sensed people moving around my frozen-in-the-spot-trying-not-to-cry body; they were choosing boxes of spaghetti and penne with no problem.  for me, it was a telling moment.  it was an indicator of change, despite its seeming insignificance.  standing in that aisle i can tell you it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.  (*for an update on this incident, please see below.)

the ferry docked on the tiny island, a mere 35 square miles.  we disembarked and met our friends.  they drove us around, on snow-covered roads, through canopies of trees, past glimpses of water between the pines, their limbs bowing to the snow.  at one point they said we could go to the house if we were bored.  “no,” we answered.  how could we be bored, we wondered.  the quiet, the stillness, the solitude was compelling.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

it was quieter on the ferry ride back with fewer people.  we were just as enthralled.  the ice pieces broken by the bow skittered along the ice plate on top of the water.  lines cracked through the sheet, paths drawn by nature’s etch-a-sketch.  some large slabs of ice raised skyward.  we looked at each other and quietly let out a breath.  we couldn’t imagine how this trip across open water could ever become run-of-the-mill.  but around us were people who acted like it was piggly wiggly brand pasta and they were in the aisle racing to get to the next aisle.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

lake ice copy

*(the rest of the story) i called my sweet momma when i returned home from ‘the pig’ as they say.  she answered and i instantly recounted my no-mueller’s-pasta story, i’m quite sure teary in the telling, yearning for the home we had left.   four days later the UPS truck pulled up at the end of the driveway and the driver lugged a very large box to the front door.  in it i found every shape and size of pasta available…all made by mueller’s.  moms are wise beyond words sometimes.  by the time i finished using the boxes-in-the-box, the unfamiliar had begun to be familiar.  the crisis (yes, fundamentally not a physical crisis, but definitely an emotional one) was over.

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the storage unit. [two artists tuesday]

storage unit copy

on my nightstand next to the bed are two frames.  both written in little-kid-writing, they are notes i saved from long ago.  one is from My Girl and it reads, “goodnight mom” surrounded by hearts.  the other is from My Boy and it has two words on it, “craig” (with a backwards g) and “mom” and has hearts filling up the rest of the notepaper.  each night i see these as i wish them both, from far away, goodnight, sweet dreams, restful sleep.

i come by this threadiness honestly.

we were in florida visiting; two of the days we were there, despite bright sunlight and temperatures in the 80s, we spent in a storage unit.  what was left of my parents’ belongings was packed in boxes, stacked in a unit, waiting for us to put our eyes on all of it and decide what to do with each of these things.  my mom’s impulse was to keep things, especially paper.  photographs and slides aside, there were files and files – some of which we will wade through later.  there were boxes of mugs and baskets and trinkets, a kaleidoscope of the pieces of life, carefully packed by my sister and brother-in-law during a time of sadness, a time that was not ripe with paring down or organizing, a time that is difficult for anyone who has packed up a house. larger items were already distributed – furniture given away or passed down to the next generation.  but these boxes….

i was quite sure that, even if i hadn’t seen anything in any of the boxes, i had all i needed….my treasures of my sweet momma and my poppo are tucked in close to my heart and i have physical memories of them around me in our home.  they are not the high-priced treasures you might think people would save or claim.  instead, they are small, meaningful, invaluable and thready things that speak to me.  old calendars of my mom’s, my dad’s small rickety wooden boxes from his workbench, glasses from which my dad sipped his scotch, a flannel shirt my mom wore that matched my dad’s, a board with hooks that is wood-burned with the word “keys” and hung in our growing-up house for as long as i can remember…

spending time in the storage unit, surrounded by memories and the fading scent of my mom’s perfume and their house, i was heartened to see that i actually could go through and pare down.  it gives me hope about our own basement.  the real things of our past – sweet treasured memories – are not things.  everyone gets meaning from and sees value in different stuff.  two days in the storage unit reminded me again of that.

this time i didn’t cry.  i laughed with my momma, who, no doubt, was rolling her eyes in heaven over the fact that she had saved sooo many pieces of paper…paid bills, old house contracts, warranties from appliances long gone, car receipts from several cars ago.  a collection of life gone by, i know she smiled when every now and then we stumbled onto something i loved to touch….i kept the little scrap of paper that fluttered to the floor that my mom had written my full birth name on…i kept a couple calendars with my poppo’s handwriting…i kept a tiny folder of maps my mom collected in her curiosity about the changing world…i kept my dad’s brown suede cap, the one i bought him a million years ago…i kept a manila folder of letters i had written to them over the years – that my momma saved…these pieces of evidence of who they were, heirlooms of what was most important to them.

i vowed, once again, to go through, give away, sell the things in our own home that are not necessary.  but those bins in the basement labeled “kirsten” and “craig”?  those will stay.  i will delight in going through the artwork and stories and notes and school projects from their childhood and growing up.  and some day, maybe they too will see how infinitely important each of the baby steps and adult steps they have taken are to me.  and maybe some of the thready treasures i have left behind will give them pause and, maybe, they will save a scrap or two, a calendar, a notebook of unpublished songs, photographs, something that reminds them of what was most important to me – the thready things that are memories of love, of family, of them.

it wasn’t sunny or 82 degrees inside the storage unit.  but it was warm in a whole other way.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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above the clouds. [two artists tuesday]

in the clouds copy

we left florida in the rain.  it was a tad bit bumpy as we climbed and i was grateful to come out above the clouds into a clear sky with soft early morning color.  as we flew at this altitude i could see glimpses of what was below us, spaces quickly filled in by soft puffy clouds blocking the view.  i strained to see what terrain we were flying over, curious if i could pick out landmarks and know a little bit more about where we were, wondering about people living in those tiny dots of towns and cities and farmland below the clouds that we were flying above.  it was easy to forget that it was raining down there.

i feel like life is like that.  it has become more telling to me in these times of divisiveness.  we are each at a different altitude…we have different starting points – our backgrounds, our education, our financial status, our various orientations…the starting point list is lengthy; all things combine to make us who we are and all things weave us a different starting point.  at any given moment we are at yet another one; life is fluid like that.  we live above our own clouds – or, at times, in them – either way our view blocked.

here above my clouds – for my clouds are different than yours – my questions are these:  how curious are we about the people who are not at the same place as us?  how much do we strain to see what might not be where we are?  how much do we want to know, to empathize? how much do we forget what is happening someplace else, for someone else, in the places where it is more difficult to see through the clouds?  how engrossed are we only in our narrow bandwidth of sky?  can we see the experience of others?  can we try?

we can either think it is a soft-morning-sky kind of day for everyone or we can actually realize that it’s raining down there.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

where i'm from songbox

it’s circuitous…the way i would define where i’m from.  you have to be prepared to listen a spell if you ask me this question.

just like anyone, i have taken pieces – absorbed – every place i’ve been, every community i have shared in, every experience i’ve had, everyone i’ve met or been influenced by; indeed, those have become where i’m from.  in jeans and boots on stage i talk about where “home” is and try to differentiate by referring to wisconsin as “home”, florida as “home-home” and long island as “home-home-home” which sounds semi-ridiculous, not to mention annoying for people who cringe at redundancy.  plus it doesn’t include time living on a sheep farm in new hampshire nor profound moments i’ve had visiting places that have sought space in my soul.  but it might give you a place to listen from; with your eyes closed you may hear your own story.

when i wrote this piece, 21 years ago or so, i knew it needed to swirl around the theme, travel from one key to another, return to its theme…have continuity yet have places where it started again.  in celebrating my sweet momma and dad this week with the introduction of my song YOU’RE THE WIND it brought me back to my deepest roots, transplanted time and again though they may be.  no matter what, i will always be a northeast girl.  new york is in my blood and long island is ever a part of my heart.

where i’m from…it’s time ago…it’s now…it’s what’s to come.

if you listen you can hear the tide.  in and out…like day, like experiences, like finding home.  it changes.  it’s the same.

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read DAVID’S thoughts about this K.S. FRIDAY

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WHERE I’M FROM from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

 


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in the headlights. [flawed cartoon wednesday]

DeerHeadlights BIGcopy copy

it was close to midnight and we were on a pretty windy and mountainous road (might i mention with no guardrails?!)  The Girl was driving and all of a sudden the deer ran out from the side, sprinting across right in front of us.  she handled it like a pro; driving these roads can be stressful and dangerous, but she is level-headed and careful, a really good driver.  and she kept us all safe.  i was grateful it didn’t just stand there staring at the glare of our headlights.

i taught at a school in florida a longgg time ago.  it was 1982 and i was in the teachers’ lounge eating a small snack lunch with one of the teachers, my friend lois.  there was a group of teachers in there, all gathered around the stove (this alone seemed pretty bizarre to me – a stove in a teachers’ lounge.  who has that kind of time??)  they were cooking something in a large cast-iron frying pan, an economy size container of crisco on the counter next to the stove.  i was new at the school and i was still trying to make friends, so i asked what they were cooking.  “possum,” i was told.  (possum?? insert grossed-out emoji face.)  here’s the part where i slipped up:  i -in all sincerity- said that i hadn’t seen possum in the meat counter at publix and asked, “where do you purchase possum?”  without blinking (no pun intended) they told me that they go out most nights “shinin'” in the woods, snaring animals to hunt with the use of headlights.  “you never know what you’re gonna get!” they added.  i never really fit in there.

for heaven’s sake (and your own), dusty.  blink!!!

read DAVID’S thoughts on this FLAWED CARTOON WEDNESDAY

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