reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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exit. stage right. [merely-a-thought monday]

exit

metaphorically speaking, the gravel hadn’t even settled after we pulled out of the parking lot and our newly-created-recently-released website had already been changed.  david warned me about this, telling me how tom m used to tell him this very thing about the moments – even just mere moments – after you leave a position.  you are forgotten, your ideas are left behind in the dust; you are the person who used to do the job.

i had spent hours and hours and hours and weeks and months designing, branding, carefully trying to portray this unique place in a fresh, interesting, vital-to-the-community way.  i painstakingly chose fonts and always included “xoxo” in posts.  i pored over hundreds of pictures i had taken there, looking for the right imagery to represent this performing arts center to which, just over a year ago, i had felt an instant attachment.  TPAC, a beautiful 253-seat theatre on a tiny island.  i added a small heart to advertising, social media posts, communications.  my heart was attached and it seemed apropos to subtly include love from TPAC in everything to the residents who have shared their island with it.

for the last year – until the end of the day yesterday – we, two people with lifelong immersion in the arts, have been the co-managing directors of this theatre.  on this island-you-cannot-drive-to, across death’s door from the mainland of door county, we weathered our way through waves of challenges.  we were brought there to create, to bring TPAC into next, to carefully elicit change in a place that pushed back against change.  we made dear new friends; we gauged our days and our progress by the greetings at the grocery store.  my fondness grew.

managing a performing arts center is not for the weak of heart.  it is not, as some would think, simply about booking performers into the space.  instead, it is weaving the place in which it exists into its very fabric, acknowledging the importance of the local arts organizations and forging relationships with their people, listening, working together to make the theatre accessible and intrinsic – necessary – to all.  it is fundraising, addressing personality issues, graphic design, ad sponsorship, strategizing, gently and firmly guiding.  for us, it was seeing the infinite details (i’m the detail one) and the arcing scope into the future (he’s the big picture one).  it was sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-wooden-stage-dreaming at its best and cleaning-the-backstage-refrigerator at its most practical.

we lived in the littlehouse on the water, a place we still cherish.  every morning i took a photograph over the lake; every night we marveled at the million stars in the sky.  we walked on quiet roads and hung out laundry to dry.  in the middle of enacting progressive forward-moving dreams, we had also returned to a simpler place, a simpler time.  washington island is indeed away-away and the ferry that makes it possible to come and go dictated our few comings and goings.

there were moments, as you would suspect, of difficulty, for no tiny place is immune to that, to agenda or powerplay.  indeed, no dense urban city is immune, so a somewhat homogeneous island with generations-long-standing residents proves no different.  when we accepted this position we put on our ‘what’s best for TPAC?’ hats and, with more objectivity than those who have been immersed in the politics and life of a place for most of its tenure, we were determined to leave those hats on, despite all odds, regardless of any pressure to bow differently.  we brought heart to TPAC and we leave pieces of our hearts behind in it.

every journey has meaning.  today i grieve the inevitable exit from this place.  they will continue on, outsiders-be-gone, with one of their own at the helm to take them into next, the island way.  TPAC will continue to grow and change; there is so much potential there.  we can see it.

and today, as i close my eyes and see the traditional red-cushioned theatre seating of the house and feel the wooden stage under my boots, i know my heart will mend a bit as the dust settles.  and the key sticks in the lock of the backstage door just as it always has.

(a farewell video post to TPAC)

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

sunsetonisland website box

©️ 2020 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 


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contrail pondering. [two artists tuesday]

contrail

on island we rarely heard airplanes overhead.  if we did, they were small cessnas and pipers, low-wing and high-wing single engine airplanes, buzzing over the shoreline heading for the small grass strip airport.  otherwise, it was quiet. very.

lately, here, we have noticed that it is quieter than normal.  we are in what is generally an approach for the milwaukee airport and we often see airplanes overhead heading north or airplanes coming across the lake in line for o’hare, south of us.  it seems more of a rarity now to hear a jet overhead.  it makes us pay attention.  it makes us look up.  it makes us ponder.

we wonder where it is coming from, where its final destination.  we wonder how many passengers are on board.  in these times of no-travel, the contrail seems a contradiction of this time, a plane leaving its mark on the day.

in my previous life i had some time at the controls of both small airplanes and helicopters.  the jargon was language i was accustomed to.  there are languages of career.  we all have them, words, expressions, theories specific to our chosen work; we learn our spouse’s language, even just enough to understand just enough.

i’m better at the controls than in the passenger seat of a small airplane; motion sickness rules less if you are ‘driving’.  i never got near the point of solo-ing on any flying machine.  there was much to learn in ground school and hours rented on an airplane or a helicopter were expensive for an already-stretched budget.  but, stick in hand, flying a helicopter over the woods of new hampshire while employed at an aviation college there, brilliant new england fall colors beneath us, i could see how the flying-bug could bite.

and now it is quiet.  a few moments ago, while writing this, a jet flew overhead.  i stopped typing to pay attention and looked out the window.  i wondered:  where is that plane going?  who is on that plane?  do they feel safe?  are they wearing masks?  did they turn their blower off?  are they sitting six feet apart?

and i pondered:  what state might that plane be flying here from?  what are the covid-19-numbers in that state?  are people staying safe-at-home?  are there protests in that state, people who are placing everyone in their ever-widening concentric circles at risk for contagion?  are there people who are laissez-faire-individualizing this global-everyone-is-affected-pandemic, rejecting commonsense social distancing and simple respectful preventative measures? are there people making homemade masks, like here, because there isn’t enough PPE to go around?  are they wondering why the federal government of fifty states and five territories is hostage-taking necessary supplies, pitting governors against each other, encouraging a competition for lifesaving devices, blaspheming good works, eliminating knowledgeable workers, warping what is important vs not important, encouraging bracing and dangerous practices?  are they shocked and dismayed at the ever-widening inequity, the gross partisanship?  are they stunned into disbelief at the absolute lack of sane and measured leadership?  are they embarrassed and profoundly saddened?

and i wondered:  when will we go on an airplane next?  where will we go? when will we feel safe?  will everyone wear a mask?  will everyone sit six feet apart?

and i thought, as we are apt to do after-the-fact:  i should have gotten my pilot’s license.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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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.

view CANOPY on david’s virtual gallery

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

megaphones website box

CANOPY ©️ 2009 david robinson

 

 

 


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laugh. [k.s. friday]

creativity is not always a serious thing.  songwriting isn’t always serious.  today we offer you the attempt we made on washington island to record our brilliant and profound song SITTING HERE IN THE SUN.  we understand, with 7 takes, if you can’t bear to watch it all.  and we understand if you are underwhelmed by the song (not to mention the angle of video recording) – when you finally get there.  but right now – at the very beginning of a new year and a new decade – we are thinking maybe the laughter is the most important song of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jaunt over to DAVID’S blogsite to see if he added anything esoteric to my meanderings

for real recordings, go to iTUNES: kerri sherwood here

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

 


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a flame through the night. [two artists tuesday]

tiki flame

we lit the torches about 5pm.  it was cold but not breezy and the lake was calm after several days of bigger surf.  it was the last night.

we sat on the back porch steps and watched the flame flicker.  we moved inside and watched it dance from the living room, a fire burning in the woodstove.  we checked the wind and the weather forecast and said goodnight to the torches late that night, flames glowing outside with boxes packed around us inside.  very early in the morning i could see the slightest of flame glimmering in the torches, the light of golden rising sun behind them.  all through the night.  they burned all through the night.

there was something profound about that for us – the flame that kept burning through the night.  i’m not sure i can speak to it.  i can just say that the welcome flame of the torches in the morning was calming, steadying, grounding.  indeed, the sun will set, night will descend, the sun will rise.  the flame continues.  light continues.

it was the last night on island, for now.  the first dawn of next.  and, as these things do – every sunrise and sunset – it has forever changed us.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

lastlittlehousefeet website box

flame through the night image ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

 


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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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24 hours. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

24 hours

every morning on island i grabbed the phone and, usually still with pjs on, walked outside, to water’s edge, to take a picture.  in this way i have an amazing collection of the moody displays of our little bay-of-lake-michigan during the months we were there.  living right on the water was a gift…it balanced out all the other-ness of our time there…a collection of life and work and its challenges and joys from back at home as well as on our new little island.

we continue to be grateful to deb, who is generously sharing the magic of this sweet littlehouse with us as we live there. many times this summer and early fall we would get a text message from her house around the cove, pointing out the moonrise or the glittering of sun on the lake…gentle reminders of what was really important.

as fall rolls into winter i will miss sharing that bay and hog island with d and with deb-just-around-the-bend.  i will miss the lake as it greets the day and lingers at day’s end.  i will miss the sound of gentle waves and deeply unsettled surf.

i know that each tide brought with it new hurdles, new hiccups, new pitfalls.  provocation is alive and well.  but each tide also brought with it new triumphs, new delights, new joys, new learnings.  inspiration is alive and well.

24 hours of breathing, living, seeing.  looking outward 180 degrees.  perfection.

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

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slow down. [two artists tuesday]

curvy road

you have to slow down.  as you drive in door county toward the ferry dock on the southern side of death’s door, the road begins to curve.  it is imperative to slow down.  after you arrive at the dock, as you wait for the ferry, IF you have a signal, you google the route, wondering.  you find:

“Jens Jensen was a vehement believer in the power of nature to enrich the lives of men and women. His parks are famous for their water features, rock gardens, and meandering paths meant to mimic and incorporate nature rather than shape it.”

it is said that this scandinavian man (a landscape architect) designed this road to do just that:  enrich people’s lives by nature.  slow them down.  i give a lot of credit to a person who chose to do what was likely an unpopular decision in a society that wants to get as-quickly-as-possible from point a to point b.  slowing people down takes some guts.  (have you ever driven the speed limit in the fast lane?)

i tend to go slower than d.  we are both project-driven and completion-oriented.  but once he is on a mission, he is relatively unstoppable.  he likens it to being OCD (i’m not sure i’d entirely agree) but his focus is intense and he, like many, is not as tangential or multi-tasking-ish as i am.  he doesn’t circle around or circle back like i do.  it makes me wonder if circling is perceived as intense as straight-line-aheading, but i digress.

each time we have driven the road to the ferry that takes us to our little island i have thought about stopping and taking a picture of it.  many people are parked on the side of the road, pausing to do just that, trying to wait until all the cars are gone and there aren’t other people standing in the middle of the road photographing the ideal photograph.  i have joked about how they should maybe buy a postcard, but then, it’s not their personal moment and i really understand that.

the other day, because this route has grown on me and because it is really beautiful, i thought again about stopping to take a picture, to remember…all the times we have driven this way.  i drove past the curvy part and then, because there was this nagging debate in my brain, said, “would you mind if we went back so i could get a picture?”  of course, d’s answer was, “no, turn around!  we’re in no hurry!”  so i did.  i circled back.  i stood in the road and waited until there were no other cars or other people standing in the middle of the lane.  i could smell the colors of the fall leaves, could feel the briskness of air and the smile of the sun, knew the ferry to the island was at the other end of the curves.

the idea of decelerating people to appreciate nature and moments in it speaks to me.  the idea of incorporating nature rather than shaping it speaks to me.  believing in the power of nature speaks to me. i vote with jens – slow down.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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windsong of the flags. [two artists tuesday]

windblown flags

“So welcome the wind and the wisdom she offers
Follow her summons when she calls again
In your heart and your spirit let the breezes surround you
Lift up your voice then and sing with the wind” (john denver – windsong)

the ferry raised up on the crest of the wave, angry sea all around us, the wind howling.  then, just as smoothly as it rode the way up, it trounced down into the trough between the waves.  the water rose over the ferry, splashing all the cars and running down the deck toward the stern.  the wind kept howling.

it was a day like that.  flags at 90 degrees, parallel to the ground.  our prayer flags have seen many like that; the wind has tattered them.  prayers have been released into the universe with gentle breezes; prayers have been thrust into the universe with forceful winds.

i tend to prefer the days without tempestuous winds.  the lake has an uneven surf on those turbulent days, the rhythm as they hit shore not intuitive or familiar and one that i find unsettling.

yet i am reminded that this same wind i face down at the shoreline is also the wind at my back.  it is the wind of wisdom and movement.  the wind that carries me away, the wind that surrounds me with those who have gone before me, the wind of growth and courage.

and so, i welcome the wind.  i watch as so.many.prayers. are freed to fly.  i give thanks for the gusts, unfettered dreams and wishes, each step aided by the wind.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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best-laid plans. [two artists tuesday]

dock.jpg

what is it they say about the best-laid plans?

we loved the old dock on this property.  the old dock and the canoewith the exception of the spider webs that formed in-between the metal tying posts and the snakes that took to sunning on the warm old boards of the walkway,  it was charming.  the old bench at the end of the dock invited us to sit.  it stood stubbornly during rougher waters, its weathered patina and rusting pipes.

******

they decided it was time to refurbish the dock and two strappy island guys came in to do the job.  they took a few days over the period of a couple weeks to re-construct, to lay new boards over the old, to eliminate the spider-web-gatherers and to build a new bench. then they were done and the new dock was open for business.

less than a week, only one brief sit-on-the-bench moment and probably-before-the-bill-arrived later, the storm blew in.  the waves crashed on our shoreline, eroding away a good two to three feet, throwing debris onto the grass.

the dock tried.  it stood firm against the waves, larger than they said they had ever seen them in twenty years.  but it didn’t last.  the bench blew apart into the water, the new boarded walkway listed, listed.  and finally, gave way.  pieces of the new dock were angrily tossed to shore; even still, wood floats in the bay, riding the waves ever-closer to our little beach.

the best-laid plans, carefully schemed and financed.  much thought and choosing, each angle pondered.  solid weather-proofed wood purchased, big wood screws that could withstand stress chosen.  yet, the storms come.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

flipflops on the deck website box.jpg

the old dock and the canoe © 2019 kerri sherwood, david robinson