reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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dryer sheets and mountains. [k.s. friday]

a haiku septet

we went to whole foods

on our way, leaving mountains,

they were calling me.

dryer sheets that will

bring me back to such cherished

time, high altitude.

sensor-sensitive

to scents, heart-bound memories

i can see sopris.

reigning blue blue sky

its presence ever pow’rful

time in its shadow.

hold close this visit

until the next time, i wait

to see her and it.

i bring it all back

lavender elicits it.

i revel in it.

time with the mountains.

time with my belov’d daughter.

time time time. precious.

read DAVID’S K.S. FRIDAY HAiKu

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chi’hood home. [d.r. thursday]

a haiku quad

wand’ring through the house

he took photos of distant

memories he had.

they flooded his heart

his mind full, awash, the past

playing again – now.

and i find myself

wishing i could go back there

to my chi’hood home

to relive it all

to remember, to process

life as it marches.

read DAVID’S D.R. THURSDAY HAIKU


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the glimmer and the glint. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the glint in his eyes was there. columbus told us about the business he was running from his memory care apartment, as steadfast as i suspect he has always been about hard work and dedication. though he was imagining that the bathroom was a library and that the lack of customers was due to the inclement weather, he remained dutifully on duty, waiting for the end of his work day with good humor. talking about his “shop” and his customers and challenges he, always humble, admitted, “i can make as good a mistake as anybody.” i took photographs of his sweet face as he talked and gestured, hands lined with age and the evidence of toil. i caught my breath more than once as he spoke and as i looked around, taking in this phase of columbus’ life. though he seemed content, dementia is a cruel robber.

my sweet poppo’s favorite saying was the quote, “be not concerned, be not surprised, if what you do is criticized. mistakes are made, we don’t deny, but they’re only made by those who try.” (unknown) with a glimmer in his eye, he was also famous for repeating (and repeating) “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” a believer in the re-do, the fix, the oh-well, the humanness, my dad never lingered in the mistake. he was also aware that he could make as good a mistake as anybody and i would bet that, given the chance, he and columbus would have been pals. these two gentlemen were raised in a certain era and times of challenge; even fifteen years or so difference would not have mattered. their humility and simple straightforward approaches run parallel, both smart and extraordinarily capable in unique ways. their commitment to family and a strong work ethic would have united them.

up in the mountains we sat at dinner and listened to my amazing daughter talk about physical therapy for a concussion she got while coaching snowboarding. she spoke of climbing and ropes and uncomfortable shoes you stuff your feet into to elicit a better grip. she and her sweet boyfriend talked about the challenges of living spaces in high elevation and adventure and camping. the one thing missing from the conversation was anything about fear. there is no fear of making a mistake, of a choice-gone-wrong. there is only fluid adjusting, correction, a different direction, a new tack. it is acknowledging, without words, that we all can make as good mistakes as the next. it is living without concern of criticism for those mistakes. it is being those who try.

were they to have been at the table with us all, in our first restaurant experience in well over a year, i imagine that columbus and my poppo would nod their heads in proud appreciation. “yes,” they would say in chorus, “that’s the way to live.”

and the glimmer and the glint would smile.

*****

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just like an onion. [two artists tuesday]

time away from home always grants moments for reflection. out of the norm, away from routines and the familiar, it is time to think, to ponder, to wonder, to both anguish and be overwhelmed with gratitude. roadtrips are moments suspended and quiet time in the truck on the highway can take you deeper inside. they are chances to examine the emotional flow-chart, a ping-pong of mapping that is our lives.

yesterday we drove through a snowstorm coming up through the passes. i was driving big red and didn’t want to relinquish the wheel. i wanted to know that i was not too nervous to drive through the snow, the icier road conditions, past runaway truck ramps in high elevation descents. we drove past a semi that had jack-knifed backwards on the highway, literally perched on the edge of the road, hanging over a cliff. we were thankful arriving safely back into spring and onto dry roads. under soaring pines bowing with fresh powder and on slushy lanes, i thought about our past recent days and the bit to come in the mountains. i drove, hands tightly on the wheel, the rhythmic sound of wipers and the wet road the only accompaniment. in the middle of all of it, i pondered my role in these days, the way i fit into each of these stories.

sending out new shoots, seeking to divide and grow, this sprouted red onion looks like i feel inside. peeling back the outer paper, the onion sections itself off so that multiple bulbs may be planted. wanting to hold on to what i’ve known, wanting to learn, new ways of being, of accepting change, of middle-aging gracefully, of holding on and releasing, of sorting, i search the inside layers for answers to questions i ask myself and questions i haven’t yet given words to.

i guess each of us sedimentary-humans must take on these onion-questions when we aren’t too busy denying listening to them. like this red onion, there are mushy parts that are no longer good, that reveal a raw flawedness, that beg letting go. and there are layers of goodness, sweet and refreshing to remember. and, in highway-rolling moments and staring-at-ceiling-deep-in-the-night moments, there are also new sprouts to acknowledge. all are there, bearing fruit, a gentle and prodding reminder that time – years – and life – keep going and stopping either is trying to catch rays of the sun in our hands.

the gift of pulsing-time, the fluidity of planting-harvesting-planting-harvesting of ideas and artistry and work, relationships and love…these remind us to grow anywhere we are planted and, despite the challenge, not to be afraid of peeling back the layers. for there are many germinating bulbs to be found.

*****

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humanity revealed. [merely-thought monday]

in a twist of irony, the measured-computerized female voice on our voicemail the other day admonished us, “sorry. you did not reveal yourself to be human. goodbye.” 

what??! 

the audacity!

we are sitting in the emptied living room of my in-laws as we write.  long grooves in the carpet reveal where the couch was and a few browned leaves lay in a trail of the shedding ivy that was moved yesterday.  pictures are off the wall and the mirrors have been taken down.  we sit at the counter on folding chairs from the shed out back. 

all along the top of the mantel are shot glasses, part of columbus’ collection, the rest of which are on shelving downstairs or on top of the player piano in the family room.  they read things like “green bay” or “maker’s mark” or “south dakota” or “heidelberg” or “cedar rapids, iowa” or “yosemite national park” or “krakow” or “utah shakespeare festival” or “ithaca college” or “chicago” or “estes park” or “florida” or “skagway”.  over a hundred, there are too many to list.  but they are a glimpse into a life – a human life – a timeline shared by others. 

columbus went to some of these places, not all.  but his beloved family and dear friends would bring him tiny glassware from wherever they roamed.  their story became his story in the way that sharing stories works. 

it would be a 100-act play to sit and listen to the narrative behind each of these memory shots; it would reveal times of travel and joy and yearning and the seeking of adventure.  it would traverse across miles of decades; it would travel around the globe.  it would be punctuated with laughter and sighs and maybe a few tears. 

the thing i know – it would be rich with human-ness, rich with revelation, rich with love.

*****

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everywhere we go. [k.s. friday]

we passed all brands of self-movers. in ryders, u-hauls, budget trucks. in vehicles stuffed to the brim with cartop carriers and kayaks and bike racks. couples following each other in cars with license plates from various states. moving west. new dreams leading their way.

in the way that roadtrips and interstates give you time to think, we spent the last couple days with lots of time to think. driving across the country takes you out of the norm, brings you into a somewhat surreal place, gifting you with an empty canvas of thought-bubbles. trying to get somewhere fast precludes us from the back roads we love, but the highways out west are open spaces and having to get through congested cities is rare. we chat, we admire the amazing changing landscape, we ponder about the lives of the people who live near the interstate, whose homes or homesteads we can see as we whiz by. those homes, those lives are mysteries to us, just as we are mysteries to people sitting on sun-drenched porches watching the traffic go by.

we are in colorado now, to help d’s mom make a big move, a big change in her life. we know that this is profound for her and we hope to gently hold her hand as she moves across this liminal time and space. a new home awaits her with new experiences and new opportunities. and that can be downright scary.

and so we’ll help her pack things that bring her a sense of reassurance, a sense of familiarity, a sense of home. perhaps a favorite chair, the plates she loves to use, her every-morning cereal bowls, paintings that will give her visual peace.

we’ve all done it. short or long-distance, we have moved. we have upheaved our lives and followed a dream west or south or north or east. the compass and time and change lured us to a new place, a new space. taking a few specific things – just as we suspect were packed into the subarus and ford focuses and toyota minivans and rented trailers and trucks – help in the transition. the well-loved quilt, the favorite fry-pan, the old braided rug, the rock from the high country. in stoking up, we store all our memories of where-we-were in tiny corners of our heart, accessible for when we need them.

and – everywhere we go – we bring the way home with us.

*****

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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hand-holders. [d.r. thursday]

in my memory bank, i can remember my sweet momma and poppo holding hands. they would grasp each other firmly. they would hold pinkies. they would hold hands often. and, for me, it was one of those telltale signs that they loved each other, despite the day, despite the challenges, despite everything. my dad would not let my momma cross a parking lot without holding her hand. my dad would not let my momma walk on a sidewalk without holding her hand. for that matter, my dad would not let my momma walk on the road side of the sidewalk – ever. he placed himself between momma and the cars zipping past. he opened doors wherever they went and waited to close the car door after she got in. a gentleman always, his stock of niceties was plentiful and momma never had to remind him.

i am a hand-holder. and i, obviously, come by it honestly. but i haven’t always been around hand-holding types. some folks just prefer not to hold hands. for me, it is an intimate sharing of moments, a warm reassurance, a statement of adoration. to adjust one’s stride to match another’s, to hold their hand, is gentle reinforcement – of pooh-piglet “making sure of you” right-here variety.

i don’t know if david’s mom and dad held hands through the years; i haven’t known them that long. but columbus is a sweet man who tears up when it’s time for anyone to leave, who loves to hug, who has a glint in his eye that says, “i like you! you’re in!” and so, i would imagine that he has been a handholding proponent, an advocate of a firm and tender grasp. and david’s mom stands with this man who, if he still understood and remembered all that had gone before these sadly-ever-increasing dementia-ed days, would still grab her hand, declaring his undying love and devotion.

i cannot think of a time that we do not hold hands. we hike holding hands. walk the ‘hood holding hands. watch movies holding hands. sit together to talk holding hands. it is a gift i relish – a many-many-years-yearning during which i spent years watching others. and pining.

in this painting columbus stands in the cornfields of iowa, the place he grew up, the place he packs to go regularly in his memory care apartment. jeanne finds him with bundles of clothing secured by belts or wrapped up between the sleeves tied in button-down shirts. he’s excited to see her when she comes to visit, a new limit that must be incredibly difficult for her to fathom after decades of marriage. most of the time he still knows that she is ‘the one’ – the one he would choose most in the world to hold hands with. but he is confused and sometimes he does not readily recognize her for who she is. he is still settling into his facility. it’s not likely he will go to iowa again now.

it matters not. together they stroll the halls and step into the colorado sunshine. jeanne, steadfast and brave, chats about the family and reminisces and columbus tells tales of the things he believes he has seen that day, visions of beloveds who have gone before, of places he cherishes and stories of the way-past. they walk slower than they used to; columbus breathes with a little bit of oxygen helping him along. jeanne checks in to see how far he wishes to walk, how tired he has become.

i imagine jeanne takes his hand and squeezes it. and i imagine columbus smiles. he knows she likes him. and, just like piglet, he knows she’s right there.

*****

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just like my sweet momma and poppo. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

inosculate: join by intertwining or fitting closely together. “inosculation is a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. it is biologically similar to grafting and such trees are referred to in forestry as gemels, from the latin word meaning “a pair”.” (wikipedia)

tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of my sweet momma leaving this earth. there is not a day that goes by that i do not think of her, miss her, wish i could call her, have questions to ask her. in the way that we all wish on stars, i wish i could have more time with her.

momma lived three years past my dad’s passing. in the very days before he died, he knew that his dying was imminent. i walked into his hospital room and he told me he was ready. i, however, was not. neither was my momma. she was seriously infuriated at him. they had been married – at that time – for 68 years. 68. i haven’t even lived that long yet, and they were together for longer. in every way imaginable, they were, like these trees in the woods, inosculated. a pair.

inosculate: to unite intimately.

my parents had simple routines in their later years. coffee and breakfast. making the bed. reading the paper. coffee break. a few errands perhaps. lunch. my poppo doing a little work at his workbench or in the garden while my mom worked at her desk. sitting and gazing at the waterfowl behind their house. maybe a little snack in the afternoon. reading. dinner. nothing stupendous. nothing extraordinary. but most definitely inosculated.

though i’m sure they drove each other a bit crazy at times (who doesn’t?), in these later years, particularly, they fit together like these trees. sharing responsibilities for the day-to-day. carefully mindful of each other’s health concerns. re-telling old stories. looking forward to any time they would see their family. grateful for this home bathed in sunlight and surrounded by green.

they were indeed “gemel trees”, sharing deep root systems, with prolonged contact, fusing together. and, in the end, their love was no longer complex. it just was.

when we passed these trees off-trail, i wondered about them. i’m not absolutely certain where their connections are and if they are prime examples of inosculation, but they are indeed living in community, united. they somehow rely on each other, sharing nutrients and sun and dirt-space on this earth.

and, once again, here in the forest, i can see the simple example set for humans. the same one my sweet parents set.

*****

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in the may apple village. [two artists tuesday]

once upon a time in the middle of the forest there was a may apple village. canopies of verdant green umbrella-ed a world of little tiny beings living little tiny lives. the village went on and on, deep into the trees. if you got right down on the ground and looked underneath all those canopies you would be amazed at what you saw, er, imagined. the village doesn’t last long. it appears and then disappears, showcasing short-lived flowers blooming and then going dormant in the summer. and the little tiny beings move on.

it is in my nature to try and make people laugh. i want to hear them giggle, guffaw, snort. i want to see cheer on their faces and to know they are amused by some self-deprecating thing i said or some story i told or some weird-action-that-would-instantly-embarrass-my-kids thing i did. i am not afraid to talk for my dog, skip in the airport, talk to strangers in elevators or subways or grocery lines, or make up loud songs-with-his-name i would sing to my cat. the reason i adore rehearsals is the chance to see people, in community, laughing. it’s never about perfection. it’s always about joy.

and so it was pretty darn weird to be on an interview call recently during which … no one laughed. i was stunned by this. i could not elicit one snicker, not even a draw-breath-in-breathe-out-a-soft-‘haha’. it concerned me. after six decades on the planet, i understand seriousness, job dedication, commitment to work. after six decades on the planet, i also understand the best way to get things done is in joy. the big picture. short-lived flowers.

the little tiny may apple village was bustling the other day in the woods. i could see tiny bistro tables and chairs, tiny beings milling about laughing and getting things done. the community was aware of all the work it had to do in the short period of time the encampment – and they – would be there. they were not overwhelmed; they were not undone. they realized that they were each spokes in relationship in the big-picture-wheel.

and they – these tiny beings under their awning-of-green – realized that their mirth was the thing that held the leaf-canopies open and kept things in motion, that kept them sharing and working with each other, through the burdens and the successes, that kept them from being divided and, instead, made them a community of inclusion, exuberant and productive, making their tiny mark.

*****

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the wisdom of the white trout lily. [merely-a-thought monday]

when my big brother died, i was lost in a maelstrom of emotion. it was hard for me to wrap my head around how the world would go on at a point he could no longer feel it. it wasn’t like i hadn’t experienced loss before. at that point in my life, i no longer had any of my grandparents present on this earth with me. that just felt like a more natural thing – to lose those we love who are elderly, who have lived long and full lives. my beloved brother, on the other hand, was merely 41 and there were so many hopes and dreams he still had for himself and his family. i am still struck by the fact that the world does, indeed, go on. the sun rises and sets; the moon lingers in the night sky. and my question, both existential and somewhat obvious, remains unanswered: how it can go on if he can’t feel it anymore. how it will go on – someday – if i can’t feel it anymore.

at some point a few years ago, i played for a memorial service at a synagogue. one of the meditations before kaddish made me weep. penned by merrit malloy, it reads: “when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

the white trout lily humbly bows on the forest floor. much like people, though on a different scale, their presence is ephemeral, fleeting. on sunny days, their petals will curl back, up, towards the sun; on shady days these small flowers may not even open. their simple beauty a mystery to the passerby, their faces shyly downward, they fill the underbrush on the side of the trail, dotting the landscape with fragile white blooms. i trust they are not concerned with the impact they make on the world nor do they wonder about their footprints once they are gone. they are simply there – love – dressed in white floral.

as we have moved through the pandemic and the devastating myriad of even just this past year, it is inevitable to think of all the loss, the loved ones who have died, the families and concentric circles left behind in grief, questioning. it is also – yes – a reminder that we are still here.

my dear friend sent me a link to a new york times op ed by charles blow. she drew my attention to the last line, words of perfection: “when i am gone, and people remember my name, i want some of them to smile.”

yes.

that.

smile. and give me away.

*****

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