out there ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood
i suspect that my sweet momma and mike would be friends. just this quote alone would qualify him.
it’s a simple premise….listen before you speak. and then, think before you speak. and it goes hand and hand with momma’s “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”
in today’s outspoken world, this is not so easy. the love of candor seems to supercede the love of respect. one-up-ness rises above humility. but-listen-to-what-happened-to-me out-volumes quietly listening what happened to you. complaining-in-public tantrums over mature restraint. bullying pushes back compassion. kindness is lost in angry, impatient words. helpful advice goes the way of competition and judgment. condemnation is mute consolation. louder seems to be the way of the land, the horizon punctuated by harsh decibels of bitter noise. less quiet. more frenzy. less listening. more clamoring.
“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” mike said. in heaven, my sweet momma was nodding, a smile on her face.
there are those places – where you sit and your breathing slows down. the blue of sky calms you, the warm sand molds to your shape and the water beyond where you sit lulls you and quells the inner mixmaster of your thoughts.
for me, many many years ago now, that place was crab meadow beach. i felt some kind of kinship with the seagulls and the lure that shoreline had on them. off-season still found me sitting on the pebbles along the waterline, in the sand gathered in small wind-dunes, on the cement dolphin or walking, walking, walking, ankle-deep in a surf that changed daily. a place where i could sort out growing up, it soothed me, challenged me, spoke to me.
it’s not always a beach. or the top of a mountain. or a quiet lakeside cove. or an inviting stump on a thick woodsy trail. most of the time we don’t all have access to these things on a daily basis.
but there is a place. where you can find the silence you need. for david, this is often in front of his easel, a fresh canvas waiting or an unfinished painting beckoning. this painting – ALKI BEACH – reminds me of that place. the places nearby, the places within. the rocking chair in the room upstairs, the adirondack chair in the backyard, the piano bench. the place you draw the seagulls close, whisper your thoughts to them and send them on their way back into the world.
ALKI BEACH ©️ c.2009 david robinson
we started our day with mimosas. the up-north-gang was in cedarburg and we descended upon the stagecoach inn’s pub, a place built in 1853, dedicated to their bed & breakfast. we sat at wood and iron tables surrounded by vintage stone and brick walls and chatted away a very fast almost-two-hours. we hadn’t ever been at this little pub before to start our winterfest fun. but it was perfect and it was an easy choice when the day was over and we stopped back there to sip wine or old-fashioneds (a wisconsin staple), review the parade and bed races on the river and talk about any old thing. i grabbed a brochure (because i, well, love brochures) and looked at it later at home. “where you can actually hear your conversation” the little pub (named the five20 social stop) advertised. it was true. it was refreshing to be able to actually have a conversation and hear each other.
we do our best work in the woods. d and i will take a walk and solve things that have stymied us. the quiet, the beauty – it’s centering and it removes all the interruptions of home-office-work. it offers us a chance to actually have a conversation and hear each other.
at this point, i don’t know what it would take for this world, this country, our state, our community to actually have conversations and hear each other. so many seem to be yelling, reacting. certainly not conversing. it’s tempting to turn off the news app on my phone, but i don’t want to bury my head in the sand. and yet, lately, this earth seems oddly tilted on its axis, bent on anger and strife, inflated egos, name-calling, exponential self-serving, and pointed blame. it’s all so toxic. where is the listening going on?
i would think about suggesting mimosas and a walk in the woods but, with all the noise out there, i don’t know who would hear me.
we walked past the store window in ridgway, colorado and i stopped to laugh and take this picture “dear brain…please shut up!” i’m not sure i can count how many times i have wished my brain would just stop talking to me for a few minutes. as a detail person, it is always engaged in figuring something out, sorting or strategizing. there seems to be always something i am wondering, worrying about, thinking-thinking-thinking-through. even while hiking, in the middle of the woods or on a trail of bountiful beauty, i ponder.
now, there are times i have managed to ignore it – moments sitting on a precipice staring out at mountains, sitting on the rocks staring at the lake, sitting on the beach watching the waves hit the shoreline, sitting and warming up by a bonfire, sitting on a pew absolutely silent. all those involve sitting still. in those rare moments of slower breathing and meditative peace, i can feel my whole body let down. more of that, please.
wishing you – wherever you are – a few moments to sit. for your body to be still, your thoughts to be quiet.
having avoided the inevitable summer onslaught of mosquitoes in these woods, we recently went back to one of our favorite local hiking spots. bristol woods – with the pringle nature preserve – is an easy decision for us, at any time of day that we can step away. it is off the beaten path and serene and two loops through the trails give us about a five mile hike, a perfect revitalizing. we adore this place and the priceless quiet it affords us.
walking the trails recently, we came upon a wooden structure that invited me to go to the narrow end and speak into the woods…seemingly a megaphone, but a size we hadn’t seen before. it’s a nature megaphone. it draws in the sounds from around it and, as you sit inside, with the sun on your face, surrounds you with nature, amplified a bit closer and more personal. this one needs to be turned around into the woods, as there is a busy road in the distance and it pulls in those sounds as well, but that’s a mere detail. i love the concept. a little googling shows that there are nature megaphones of great size in estonia, placed there for the healing power of the sounds of the outdoors, the quiet. ahhh.
the other thing we notice as we walk are the red and green ribbons encircling trees, the little red flags planted in the dirt. fearing what we had read earlier in the summer, we asked the naturalist what these ribbons and flags were for. she verified our fears, telling us that they were markers for the new aerial ropes course that the county has decided to move forward. the article states that there are no high ropes courses in the area; a very quick google search shows one in lake geneva and three (!) in east troy. but money talks (is this shocking?) and the county will share in the gross revenue. and the quiet of this small county park, the well-being of the wildlife in the woods, the educational value of a pristine teaching environment untouched by commercialism will all cease to exist. is “teaching confidence” and “learning about yourself” not found in the quiet woods? is a “family-oriented, wholesome” experience no longer a hike together? what exactly does “putting people in touch with nature” mean?
while i don’t question the opportunity for learning that a high ropes course might afford children and adults on all different levels, i do question the sacrifice of an active nature facility and its woods for this purpose. an official associated with the county is quoted as saying, “(bristol woods) is not going to be significantly impacted.” hmmm. i disagree. during the construction of and upon the completion of the high ropes course, what sounds will be amplified in their beautiful new nature megaphone?
my poppo would sit in the chair and gaze out at the lake behind their house. in the house before that, he would sit out on the lanai and gaze at the pool. in previous houses, he had chairs or his workbench, where he would sit or stand and gaze, clearly thinking, thinking, thinking.
now, when you’ve gotten to 91, there’s plenty to think about, many memories, many stages of life, many ways the world has changed. my poppo was a POW in world war II, escaping and coming back at a time that PTSD had little to no attention given to it. the atrocities he had experienced were his alone to process, with the help of my sweet momma, if he felt that he could burden her with it. my parents lost a child, a little girl named barbara lynn, who would be my oldest sister – even older than my sister sharyn! – while my dad was still missing in action, a little person, a part of him, he never met. i know that as they established themselves as a family, there were challenges that befell them, joys that they cherished, times of much sorrow, small moments and large moments of laughter and goodness. plenty to think about.
i always wondered what my poppo was thinking about, quietly sitting or puttering. sometimes i would ask, but other times i would respect his quiet-ness. now that i am getting older, i find myself spending time quietly thinking. memories, moments, decisions, good things, sad things, questions, things that make me cringe, things that make me laugh aloud. i think about what’s coming up…what is planned, what will remain a mystery. i wonder. i give thanks. i pray. pondering is a good thing. it’s necessary.
each time now when i sit outside or inside curled in a chair and find myself just staring off into space, i can’t help but think about my daddy. and i kind of feel him right there, quietly staring with me. pondering.
pondering life is a very useful thing to do. ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood