reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the thunder of the silence. [merely-a-thought monday]

TPAC empty seats

“…a silence like thunder…”

“no distinction is made between the sacred and the everyday.”

“our attitude toward the world resonates in the objects around us.  they reveal our intention.”

(from plain and simple, sue bender)

the first day i walked into the tiny lobby at TPAC i wondered why the table holding brochures was light blue.  it matched nothing there and was a statement of a kind of thoughtless we-need-a-small-table-does-anyone-have-one thoughtfulness.  all season long i kept thinking that it should be painted black.  the very last day in the theatre, outside in the chill air, surrounded by golden and crimson leaves, i painted it.  it dried fast and we placed it back in the lobby.  still the same little table doing its job, but its new distinction mattered and it fit in the space.  it did my heart good.

with multiple bags of old mayonnaise and mustard, an old container of kale and a moldy loaf of some kind of unidentifiable home-baked bread, i finished cleaning out the fridge, an appliance i had never opened for an entire season.  clearly, others had, and the accumulation of old-ness was ripe.  i scrubbed it out and stood back to look at how neat and tidy it was.  the whole kitchen area looked neat and tidy, a new keurig replacing an old coffeemaker and broken carafe.  shelves cleaned, toothpicks that had poured out swept up, a welcoming backstage entrance for staff and artists.  moving that space up to sacred-everyday from messy-everyday did my heart good.

the last couple weeks have been nesting weeks at TPAC, moments when d and i have had the space to ourselves.   having now passed through the shoulder season, it’s empty and it’s quiet.  the 250 seats wait for the next event, the off-the-shoulders season, the next new high season.  i can feel its curiosity, its expectation.

we sat in various seats around the theatre, talking about the dreams we had when we first saw it.  getting mired in the muck of being the you-aren’t-from-here-newbies had slowed things down.  it had paused our ownership of the actual space.  eh, who am i kidding?  it brought most of that to a screeching halt.  drama, three board presidents and a reticence to consider change from people hired as change agents (us) brought the gate down before we could even start.

we discovered the word ‘glacial’ and applied it generously to the direction we were going.  we didn’t try to change a space that didn’t feel like ours yet.  we didn’t try to change too many processes.  we stopped trying to change mindsets.

instead, we embraced people.  we listened; we learned.  we set out to weave relationships where they had eroded, where tattered feelings were wrung out, where we were told no relationship could work.  we befriended those we were told would never like us.  we struggled to understand allies who weren’t so much allies.  with deep roots of experience, we led with intention, with the questions of what would be best for this space, what would be best for the artistry on this little island, what would be long-lasting and truly make the making of art – whatever the genre – foremost?

and so, it was in the last days, when it was quiet and empty that we were able to take the time to really listen to the thunder of the silence of that really beautiful space.  we strove to honor the sanctity of this art-making place.  and we intended, with every move of cleaning and straightening and re-arranging and planning and yes, dreaming, all the best things we could.  it did my heart good.

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

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ladders. [two artists tuesday]

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gay pointed to the ladders in the backstage of tpac and said, “see those ladders?  the front silver one on the right is where you are.”

this is true.  we are clumsily perched on that front silver ladder.  there are people scattered about on the other ladders, many of whom are on the top of the tallest orange ladder up against the wall.  our view, on the shortest ladder, affords us the opportunity to look out, to look up and still to be able to easily see the ground.  the view from the highest ladder, extended well up the wall, is a view of vast height, a view without a cluster of other ladders, a view more singular.

it has been our experience as artists that we must explain our livelihood, we must fight for acknowledgement of experience, we must advocate for our own fiscal equality.  our work is not easily measurable, our effort not easily defined.  we bring to every experience all we have learned about what touches the hearts of others, what resonates, what we can do to lift a message, how we can craft a concept, how we can build a program and forge a community, how we can help others see what is inside each of them.  from our rung, we can still see the ground so we know that there are others less fortunate than us and we remember pretty clearly the route up this ladder, each rung a step, each rung a gratitude.

it has also been our experience that, in a world defined by financial success, there are many on those tall extension ladders, firmly grasping the tippy-top, who have lost the story of getting there.  it is my belief that, too often, there are those who, each rung they clamber up, have forgotten what it is like to be on the rung below.  the climb to success foregoes memory, it exempts empathy, it elicits a sense of superiority; it is not kind.  the naysayers poke at those who are on rungs below, prodding them but, alas, with no reality for where those below-climbers are.  assumptions are unfairly made about ability, intelligence, budgetary decisions, effort.

in this world of bills and responsibilities, work and play, absolute joys and deep sorrows, brilliant hopeful sunrises and exhausted sunsets, i wonder about the tippy-top.  i wonder if it is possible to be clinging to that tippy-top and still remember.

as much as that tippy-top sounds like a world without worry, i don’t mind being on the silver ladder in the front.  and every step we step, i want to remember the silver ladder in the front.

i know that each day there might be someone who just may need me to understand, without feigning it, where they are.  to be able to really grasp how they feel, despite not being in their very shoes.  i don’t want to be the person who looks back at them, fear filling their eyes with tears as they tell me they don’t have enough to make it, and condescendingly ask them if they want me to point them to a budget counselor.  instead i want to understand their frustration in poverty, be complicit in their growth – real growth, empathetic in their fear.  i want to hold their hand on the rung they are on and remember what it felt like on that rung.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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in the gray. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

stripes of grey

grey/gray rarely has such a line of demarcation, rarely has distinctive texture such as in this picture beyond our littlehouse yard.  grey is simply gray.  it is the zone of not right/not wrong.  it is the living in-between-ness of doing life this way/that way.  it is the space of not-knowing, asking questions, learning, being vulnerable.  it can be uncomfortable.  but it is necessary.

the most growing i have done has been in the grey zones.  the times when i did not know, the times i made mistakes, the times choices were confusing, the times devastated by life events, the times moving forward meant tiny baby step by baby step, the times i was vulnerable.

last night there was an artist, an author, at TPAC who spoke of vulnerability.  he said that vulnerability leads to gratitude.  it is the path to grace and mercy.  i agree.

i would add we can never know, or even approximate, what someone else is feeling without being unguarded ourselves.  we can never know the unanswered questions, the struggles, the amorphous-ness of life without the grey.  we can never create without the grey – for an artist languishes in grey, if for no other reason than to seek the color within himself.

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

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ferdinand. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

ferdinand

i distinctly remember my sweet momma talking about FERDINAND THE BULL.  she would refer to him from time to time, a twang on the third syllable slipping into her new york accent.  i am wracking my memory for her other wise words about him.  my guess is that, despite not remembering her exact words, her message isn’t lost on me.

FERDINAND is a book published in 1936, the story of a gentle bull who loved to smell flowers (aka “flowuhs”).  he spent his time sitting under a tree, daydreaming, sniffing flowers.  upon finding himself in the madrid bullfighting ring, he sits calmly in the middle, refusing to take the bait.   the grace of a mashup of “i want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.”  (oriah mountain dreamer) and “when push comes to shove, don’t.” (unknown)  we have much to learn.

FERDINAND was performed by the Washington Island Music Fest this past week and was among my favorite moments of this two week music festival at TPAC.   it was sweet on many levels, read aloud, depicted on violin, slides of the original illustrations on screen.

and my momma, in my mind’s eye, reminding me to be like FERDINAND.  a bull, by definition fully expected to want to fight, presumed to fight, just like all the other bulls – and yet, brave enough to be different, to sniff the flowers, to turn away from participating in dissension or violence, to be at peace being true to oneself.

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

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nurture me. carrots, pianos and frogs. [k.s. friday]

nurture me songbox

i miss my piano.  i didn’t realize how much until late last night, in the darkened theatre, my hands touched the keys and i could breathe.  my neck and shoulders, stiff and aching from undue stress, relaxed just a little.  tears fell down my face.  they are still there now, as i write this.

this morning, as d was making breakfast, a tree frog hopped out from between the cabinets and landed on the stove.  fortunately, we were able to coax him from the hot burners and take him safely outside.  it was unclear how he got inside.  but his message was clear, a message we had learned from helen quite some time ago.  f.r.o.g. = fully rely on God.  and so, a giggle and a time of fresh, deep breaths.

when i have performed this piece NURTURE ME (as i mentioned in a previous post) i have loved to tell the story of the carrot seed, the absolute knowing that nurturing can lift anyone, any living thing, from fallow, from despair, from seed into grandness, into thriving, into life.

carrots, pianos, tree frogs.  all are capable of telling the story.  nurture trumps hate.

 download RELEASED FROM THE HEART on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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slow. slow. [two artists tuesday]

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slow. slow.  when we drove home the other day, we realized how very slowly we were moving here on island.  the comparison began the instant we were on the mainland.  we hadn’t driven over 40mph for a couple weeks; suddenly we could feel the push, the frenzy to get somewhere, fast, faster.  it’s pervasive, that frenetic energy, and the closer we got to milwaukee, the more we could feel it.  our heartbeats raced as cars darted in and out of lanes, as horns beeped and drivers gestured impatiently.  no one noticed each other.  they just drove, destination their only intention.

slow. slow.  we walked home the other night.  after porch-sitting and having a short meeting, we ambled down the middle of the road.  no one was coming; no one passed us.  the interruption in quiet would have alerted us to any oncoming car.  we shared the woods around us with a deer, who was still, watching us for signs if we were going to approach.  our pause on the road and our slow movements convinced the deer to not run, but to stay and just be still.  to watch.  an eagle flew above us.  looking up, there was a moment we recognized that this eagle saw us.   the deer, the eagle, noticed us.  we were in the world together in those moments.  no intention but to breathe the same air.

slow. slow.  we are learning, slowly, about this community.  connecting the dots, discerning the culture, perceiving the nuances.  we are studying this place that is our job – a performing arts center with 250 seats on a tiny island you can only get to by ferry.  a step away-away.  a place in which we want to elevate artistry and growth.  we move slowly, thoughtfully.  our intention, our work, the maturing of this place that has been germinated and cared for.  a rich garden, a rich forest of verdant adolescence, waiting to flourish.  slow.  slow.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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life. dust laughing. [merely-a-thought monday]

humorous thing called life.jpg

every time you think you have it all figured out, life has a way of poking fun at you, pulling the rug from underneath you, making you re-evaluate, maybe roll your eyes, maybe cry out and push back, maybe giggle in abandon.

the island players performed a short at TPAC from spoon river anthology (e. l. masters), a collection of epitaphs spoken as monologues by the deceased residents of the fictional town called spoon river.  it is gripping.  a not-so-subtle reminder of our brief time on this earth and the absolute into-thin-air-ness of our lives.  perspective-arranging, yes, as you listen to the tales of each person, ephemeral, transitory, all fleeting moments in a deep milky way of vast time.

one of the characters, a finely and properly dressed older woman, brags of renting a house in paris, entertaining the elite, dining at fine restaurants, taking the cure at baden-baden, a spa town in germany’s black forest.  she returns to her hometown of spoon river, only to realize that no one really cares about where she dined or what she ate or who she entertained or if she took the cure at baden-baden.  a sobering moment for her and, if you let it in, another one of those lessons.  the kind where you realize that what you do and what you have is – not – who you are.

instead, the dust of us will later snicker, laugh, out and out guffaw at how invested we all were in the things of life that didn’t really count, the things that will disappear into the outer atmosphere of the universe, never to be retrieved.  instead, we should chuckle now, realizing that indeed the best-laid plans are only that.  plans.  that doesn’t make them life.  life has its own ideas.  perhaps we should just remember that, cut ourselves a bit of slack and recognize how funny it really is that each of us, formed of zillions of random cells, somehow ended up here, right here, right now.  for this time.

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

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