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the path back is the path forward


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butterfly, butterfly. [two artists tuesday]

butterfly butterfly

this butterfly must have known.  my heart was aching and the steps i was taking down the trail were heavy.  and then it appeared.

the glimmer of its wings caught my eye, this iridescent blackish-blue, a red-spotted purple butterfly, inviting me to stop, watch.   it flew around me and i twirled in place watching as it circled.  it landed on the trail time and again, close enough for me to video it opening and closing its wings, a greeting of sorts.  my breathing slowed down.  beauty exists.

even in the midst of everything negative, even in the midst of worry, angst, missing, deconstruction, transformation, reinvention, heartwrenching choices, beauty exists. even in the midst of a pandemic and unrest and a country in chaos, beauty exists.

a little research:  apparently, my little friend, the red-spotted purple butterfly, looks much like a pipevine swallowtail.  the swallowtail butterfly deters predators by being mightily distasteful.  the red-spotted purple butterfly has piggybacked onto the swallowtail’s predatory resistance by its similar markings, albeit without a tail.  predators sometimes shy away from this butterfly based on the vulgar taste of its close-but-not-related twin.  a good scheme.  and yet this butterfly – beautifully exquisite, and, although somewhat protected, is still vulnerable.

this red-spotted purple butterfly visit was serendipitous.  i needed to slow down.  i needed to watch this creature as it invited the sunlight to warm its wings and aid in its nectar-picnic.  i needed to be reminded of the butterfly in all its transitions – its metamorphosis through life, its graceful acceptance of its own life-arc, its changes, its patience, its endurance.

the next times i walk on this trail i will likely think of these two butterflies:  both beautiful and both trying to sustain, to gather nectar, to complete their own circles of life.  but one with such a vulgarity to it, such an acidity that predators stay away.  very few are lost in the lesson that predators are quickly taught about its toxicity; animals learn to avoid them.   i wonder about these swallowtails in community with other butterflies.  and i think about the red-spotted purple, sans toxicity, trying courageously to protect itself in its habitat.  it looks a little like a swallowtail, but it’s not.  it doesn’t poison the animal who consumes it.

much like people.  we look much the same.  each of us, beautifully exquisite.  and yet.  some pipevine swallowtails, toxic and cunning.  some red-spotted purples, pure and vulnerable.

beauty exists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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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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underpainting. a solid foundation. [d.r. thursday]

underpainting

when we moved into this house 30 years ago the kitchen floor was an old green and orange linoleum.  needless to say, this was not my favorite color combination nor was it my favorite floor.  we laid a clean white tile floor on top; a temporary fix to hold us over.  a couple years later we chose to put hardwood down,  mimicking the rest of the house.  that required stripping off the old floors – the white one and the green and orange one.  weren’t we surprised at how many layers we found!  but below all that mess was the sub-flooring, a solid foundation on which to lay new hardwood, a new start for the little kitchen.

peeling back the layers to expose what’s beneath it all can be exhilarating.  but it can also be intimidatingly revealing.  we are nervous to find what is below the surface.  we feel  trepidation about the underlayment; should we rip out and replace? what will we need to do to shore it up?  can it withstand this?

it’s the same for each of us.  we feel vulnerable letting others know what is underneath it all, this positive front of ours.  the complexity of sedimentary-life-layers is confusing and we seek ways to not feel them, not acknowledge them, not share them.

but the firm subfloor is there.  we are resilient and fluid.  we have been shored up by the obstacles we have climbed, by the challenges we have surmounted and we are surrounded by others who all can relate, were we to tell them.

the orange and green linoleum of our lives is still there, underneath, but it is now serving us, either as the underlayment of our ever-learning-ever-growing-future or part of what we found, dealt with, ripped out and replaced.  either way, there is room for the hardwood.  the foundation is solid.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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divine intervention. [k.s. friday]

divine intervention song box.jpg

divine intervention. from whence it all comes…

right at 2:08 in this recording is an ambient sound.  it is a sound that my producer and i deliberately decided to leave in the recording, an audible sound of divine, a tiny punctuation in our project from across the barriers of physical being-ness.

we were recording remotely on one of the northwestern university stages, ken (my amazing “it’s fine” producer) having built a small studio off in the green room, separate from the stage space where the piano was.  everything was moved or padded so as to avoid interruptions or rattling or vibrations or overtones, anything we didn’t want included in this solo piano album.  it was a tedious process and we recorded straight through a twenty-three hour stretch.  with me were items – totems of a sort – to keep me company as i recorded this first album.  one was a stuffed animal i had given my beloved big brother during his chemo treatments, three short missing-him-years prior.

divine intervention was the last piece up.  the last piece of the very first album i was recording, released 23 years ago november 11 on my sisu music productions label.  teetering on that balance point, no idea of where i was to go next or what would become of this album, i was emotional and exhausted, determined and vulnerable.  i spoke words of prayer and began the next take of this piece.

at 2:08 i heard a sound.  it sounded like an old wooden screen door closing, but i didn’t really know what it was.  i was sure, however,  it would be on the recording since i could hear it on-stage.  i kept going anyway, thinking we’d go back and re-record the piece. when i finished playing, tired tears in my eyes, i walked into the green room to find ken standing in astonishment.  there was an empty can of pepsi in that little studio, one i had put in there and secured by towels deep onto a shelf.  at 2:08, the can somehow moved out of the spot it was nestled in and clattered onto the floor.  the sound.  even without listening to the cd i can hear this sound in my head every time i play this piece.

we listened back to the raw recording.  sure enough, it was there.  and so was something else.  a feeling that somehow, some way, the divine interrupted.  intervened with a small nod.  perhaps it was my big brother, in jest, stopping by in the middle of the last take of the very last piece of my very first album, to make a little noise.  perhaps it was something else.  either way, we knew.  and we left it in.

i still have the can.

15. divine intervention (3:16):  the feeling i have about this whole project.  there really isn’t any such thing as chance.  those who are just on the other side sometimes help us to sort and place the clues of our life’s story. (words from released from the heart jacket)

purchase the CD RELEASED FROM THE HEART or download on iTUNES or CDBaby

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

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DIVINE INTERVENTION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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i didn’t know. [k.s. friday]

i didn't know song box

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yesterday, the senate passed the Music Modernization Act, a complex bill that is supposed to help songwriters in these days of streaming.  as quoted in one article questioning the feasibility of pushing through this bill as is:  “…niche labels and independent musicians face either a zero, or statistically insignificant, chance of a return on their investment through streaming. many report barely paying for a sandwich with their royalties.” (maria schneider, musicanswers.org) yes. creatives are still facing a grotesque misalignment of power and income despite an effort to supposedly be “helped”.

i didn’t know, back when i released my first album, that there would be another…and another…and another…

i didn’t know how vulnerable i would feel each time i released a collection of my soul, turned into tracks of music.

i didn’t know how grateful i would feel each time i stood on stage and spoke to an audience that was there to hear this music – my music.

i didn’t know how many stores, in the early days, would carry these cds (and cassette tapes, way back when), how many times i would be live on QVC-TV, how many radio interviews i would be relishing.

i didn’t know how humbling it would feel that many people would respond to something in my music, something would resonate with them, something would be healing or heartening or touch them.

i didn’t know, through the years, how many thousands of cds would sell, how many boxes i would carry, how many wholesale shows or retail shows i would be present at or how many phone calls i (or wonderful people who worked with me) would make or receive, taking and shipping orders.

i didn’t know that the BMI royalty statements i was getting earlier would soon decline as our world and the internet changed them drastically.  the one i got two days ago for a period of the year included 59,000 performance counts and a $47.47 check.  streaming has made it unnecessary to purchase a physical cd or even pay for and download an artist’s music and so i agree with the writer who said: “streaming revenue for most independent musicians doesn’t even amount to pocket lint.” (m.schneider)

i didn’t know that the yearning inside me to compose and record more music to be released on cds would be stymied by the cost vs earnings debacle that has been created by an industry that doesn’t lift up the independent, while the behemoths remain behemoth.

i didn’t know how sad it would make me.  i didn’t know how it would change me.  i didn’t know i would keep wondering ‘what next?’  i didn’t know i would be seeking answers to where i stand as a composer.  i didn’t know my piano would call from my studio and i would ignore it, feeling betrayed by a profession that should pay my bills like any other.

i just didn’t know.

purchase the physical cd THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY or purchase a download of I DIDN’T KNOW (track 4) on iTUNES or CDBaby

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

I DIDN’T KNOW from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1998, 2000 kerri sherwood