reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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this. a happy swiss cheese plant. [d.r. thursday]

there is a magazine i look at most every day. it is a simple-magazine publication and features container gardens of all sorts. each time i page through it i see something new, get ideas, wonder about unique re-purposing, changing old typewriters or baskets into succulent planters or large-animal feed scoops or galvanized tubs into fence pots. the photography shows beautiful plants in all seasons of growth and it makes creative juju pick up pace.

we walked slowly through the daniel stowe botanical garden with our daughter and her boyfriend, enjoying every second. the greenhouse was steamy and we got misted as we walked. gorgeous orchids punctuated the tropical plants. we stopped to read information, take pictures, admire textures and the colors that looked like dr seuss had taken crayons to everything.

the monstera deliciosa (or aptly-named swiss cheese plant) captured our attention. nature has a way of making sure that rainwater and dew are properly retained yet the leaves are not perpetuating algae or molds, fungus or disease. amazing. instead, waxy fronds or holey swiss-cheesed leaves let the droplets roll off, keeping them open to sunlight. each plant has its own system for balance, all depending on its ever-changing circumstances.

the day at the garden was over too soon; visiting is like that. there were only a few days and it’s hard to fit months and months of not-seeing into bits and pieces of 72 hours.

i now know why my sweet momma always had lists when i called or visited with her. there were things she wanted to know, needed to know, that she didn’t want to forget to ask. there were tiny and big questions about my daily life she wondered about – the extraordinary and the mundane, my feelings about things happening in the world, curiosities she had about my comings and goings and adventures and challenges and transitions. she just simply wished to hear my stories, have a window into my life. without being too invasive, without crossing the ever-changing-invisible-tightrope-line, she wanted to share in it, be a part of it. i get it.

kc, my bonsai gardenia plant, is difficult, “one of the most loved and challenging plants”. i never know if i am watering her enough or too much, if her brown-edged leaves are due to too much attention or too little attention. she has not had a bloom, though she did have two hopeful buds. she is not easy, but she is beautiful and particular and i am determined. charlie, my heart-leaf philodendron, the other plant that was also a lovely gift from my beloved daughter, is easy. she grows no matter what. she is healthy and thriving. she is green and lush and i can practically see her smiling. charlie is the opposite of kc. treasured plants on our garden table in ever-changing light and seasons as they grow, so much like the diversity of real living, i talk to them every day; i appreciate and adore them. they are lessons.

and it occurs to me that these two beautiful plants, both on the table in our sunroom, are – indeed – the spectrum definition of motherhood, the nature of every single cherished relationship, the easy-hard, the fragile-resilient, the holding-on-letting-go, bursting blooms and foliage or the missing of blooms, the learnings, the balance of unconditional love. perhaps a good addition would be this happy swiss cheese plant, a reminder to let it all roll off and keep on keeping on.

no wonder my momma had so many plants.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the birdies. [merely-a-thought monday]

ehhhhh, i’ve turned into my parents.

that’s not a bad thing. it’s just a fact. well, at least it’s partially a fact.

on long island, in the middle of growing up, riding my bike with susan, writing poetry in my tree, practicing the piano and organ, doing my homework, playing frisbee at the beach all-year-round, toting my camera around, hanging out at the dive center, fishing with crunch, cruising around in my bug, adoring my baby nieces and nephew, i didn’t notice. maybe i just didn’t pay attention.

they talked birds. birds in the yard, birds on roadtrips, birds upstate, birds at the beach. birdcalls from the woods behind our house, birdcalls passing overhead. they tossed birdnames around and, every now and then, i’d catch one and it would stick somewhere in my memory. but for the most part, their lobbing of vital bird information swooped over me and flew by.

and now.

now i want it all back. because we.love.birds.

we watch their antics in our backyard…at the birdfeeder, at the pond, on the fence, tucked under the awning over the back door, in the trees, hopefully building a nest inside the old barnwood birdhouse on the pine. they are sweet, sweet, sweet.

we guess what they are…sparrow, grackle, mourning dove, starling, crow (oh, so obvious), junco, wren, finch, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, bluejay, chickadee, tanager, oriole… i recognize some from home-home, but some have so many similarities that identification is tricky.

surely they are not looking at us thinking human or ….? they just know. so it feels important to know the difference.

on a great adventure at the botanic garden, we picked up the handiest little spiral pocket-sized quick-guide book called “birds of the midwest“. there are color-coded tabs and you open to the color page that correlates with the primary color of the bird you are trying to identify. such a remedial approach is good for us. (it’s kind of like avoiding the issue of looking up a word when you don’t know how to spell it…you don’t have to look up the bird under what kind it is when you don’t know what it is.) we keep it on our table in the sunroom and use it often as we gaze out back. i imagine we will take it with us as we hike.

in other amazing tools, thanks to dear deb-on-island, we have an app on our phone that is a bird identifier. not only can it identify a bird from a photograph or a list of questions you answer, but – and this is soooo cool – it can identify a bird from the birdcall you record. amazing! the cornell lab of ornithology deserves a giant round of applause for this app, which can identify up to 6000 bird species. the power of science. !!

my sweet momma had an iphone. she adored it, sending random photos to people and receiving photos from everyone in the family. it kept her in the loop and, at almost-94, she was a texting maven. we were in easy contact with each other and she with family and friends from all walks. she both embraced it and made silly technological mistakes, just like us, but nothing a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-back-on couldn’t really solve. it assured her that she was involved, particularly after my poppo died. the power of connection cannot be underestimated.

i wish that i had known – back then – about this app. it would have rocked her bird-loving world.

as it is, i know that every time we are sitting and pondering what a bird is or admiring one aloud or peacefully listening intently or just simply watching the bird-play in our yard or in the woods or at the shore or anywhere, she and my dad are giggling, knowing i’d get there someday.

*****

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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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first gear, clutch out. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

clearly, he is an instigator. just the mere suggestion that he’d be ok with registering a complaint, asking for a refund, asking to speak to management sets me in motion. i am not afraid to speak up in these situations. it’s writing-a-letter (ala my sweet momma’s chutzpah) but in person. i’m the one who goes to the service desk. i’m the one who asks for the discount. i’m the one who returns stuff. i’m the one who will go back and let someone know that their product/service/pricing was not acceptable. he shudders. he set me in first gear and released the clutch; he knows there is no stopping. there have truly been times when he will linger at the sidelines of a store simply while i return something – like chicken that was spoiled when we purchased it or something even easier – like dog food when i meant to buy cat food but the dog food package was on the cat food shelf. i mean, c’mon…that is not a big deal nor is it fodder for embarrassment, but he just sort of wanders off, a little spacey, sometimes like a toddler in a department store playing hide-and-go-seek in the rounders of displays. ahhh.

and let me just say – the aarp discount is a thing, though. i will ask ANYwhere if they offer the aarp discount. you would be surprised how often the answer is yes. you should check it out. it’s a deal. the first day i purchased an aarp membership i booked hotel reservations and saved twice as much as i had just spent on the membership fee. a deal, yes?

a long time ago my sweet poppo was the regional president of the aarp chapter. my parents went to aarp conventions and conferences all over. they were avid aarp-ers. he would be happy with my dedication to his cause.

because i was the product of older parents, i read modern maturity magazine well before my time. even now, i thoroughly enjoy the revised, renamed aarp magazine. great articles. many that are empowering. particularly about speaking up. asking for better service. getting a discount. free cups of coffee. starting a ruckus.

yup.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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steady and predictable. [k.s. friday]

each time we stood in line at the little grocery in paris, we had a kinder bueno bar in our hands. we also had a baguette and camembert and a container of caprese salad and a bottle of wine. sometimes we had a fruit tart. just one.

i didn’t know it then, but the bueno bar is related to ferrero rocher which is related to tic-tacs. and so, in a roundabout way, we were honoring my sweet momma’s passion for tic-tacs. the ferrero group, clearly brilliant sweet-tooth satisfiers.

momma always had tic-tacs in her purse, in the car, in the cabinet in her kitchen. she never bought just one container, like when you are standing in line at target and see them and suddenly think of purchasing a tiny plastic box with the hinged flip-top. she bought multiples, all shrink-wrapped together, and shared them with everyone.

in recent days i decided to go through and reorganize the pantry in our kitchen. our kitchen, like our house, is old, so the pantry is not a walk-in, plastic-wrapped-wire-shelved cavern of space. there is a limit to this miniature cave of goodness, so one must plan and shop accordingly. we set up some metal shelves in the laundry room downstairs to hold rarely-used appliances, which gave us the illusion of more space in the kitchen. anyway….i was pulling everything out of the cabinet to restructure things.

diving into the recesses of the pantry, there it was, kind of hidden. a tiny plastic box of unopened tic-tacs. my momma was instantly there with me.

it is likely that this box came to wisconsin in a care package, for i cannot remember ever buying tic-tacs myself. we all had a never-ending supplier in my sweet momma, who eagerly gave them out “for your purse”, “for your pocket”, “for your backpack”, “for in the car”. and along with kraft macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, andes candies, poptarts, bags of peanut m&m’s, twizzlers, interesting news articles she cut out, coupons she painstakingly clipped just-for-you, she would tuck tic-tacs, her favorite freshmints. when the boxes would arrive, you knew what was in them. some things are just steady and predictable. some things you just know.

it was a good time for my momma to be standing with me in the kitchen. it’s been a helluva couple years for us, for so many of us. last night, in the middle of the night, sharing a banana, we talked again about these last two years. in some strange way things feel both foggily distant and freshly raw. but they are no less astonishing, no less confusing, no less painful. it is a grand mix – a caldron of emotions.

i spoke aloud to my mom in the kitchen. i told her in bits and spurts – though i’m certain she already knew – about all that had happened in the last years. i told her about how i had just alphabetized the spice cabinet, which made her slightly gleeful. i told her thank-you for all the care packages, all the letters, all the ramen and the mac-and-cheese and the clippings and coupons and m&ms and twizzlers and the unwavering belief, the unconditional love. i told her i was sorry for the times, like everyone, i got too busy. i asked her to hug my dad. i told her i missed her.

and i saved the tiny box of tic-tacs. not to eat them. they are on the shelf in the pantry. steady and predictable.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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momma’s crumb cake. [k.s. friday]

10.5 x 15. the size of my sweet momma’s crumb cake.

back in the 90s, her crumb cake preceded her. everyone knew about her crumb cake. and everyone loved it. “beaky’s crumb cake,” they’d anticipate it.

based on the beloved new york entenmann’s crumb cake, she took crumb cake to another level. she’d, very specifically, tell you about how to make crumbs, that you MUST mix with your hands. she’d tell you how to sprinkle the confectionary sugar on top. and she’d proudly march it into the school, the hangar, the state attorney’s office, the church, the party. her recipe is dated 10/87; she didn’t start making her own crumbs until almost a decade into living in florida.

the other day – the day i was writing last monday’s blogpost – i was craving her crumb cake. i just wanted to sit down with a huge slab o’ cake and a piping-hot cup of coffee and chat with her. i wanted to hear her voice, her laugh, see her raised eyebrow and piercing blue-hazel eyes. i wanted to tell her stories. i wanted to ask her questions. i wanted to hug her tightly. i wanted her to hug me.

i wanted crumb cake.

we went to woodman’s and looked for the entenmann’s display. sure enough, it was there, this brooklyn-based bakery from way-back-when.

if entenmann’s crumb cake tastes like anything, it tastes like long island and the table in the kitchen by the window overlooking the patio where you could look out and see the dog run and the woods and clay pitts park in the distance and, at different times, different years, the above-ground pool or the vegetable garden and the grove with the big stump where we’d place the metal picnic sticks in the ground to hold brightly colored aluminum tumblers. it tastes like family gathered around a table with placemats labeled in the corner with initials that spell out shabaeawaka. it tastes like after-school and sunday-brunch. it tastes like saturday morning. it tastes like my dad, whistling, and pouring coffee from the percolator. it tastes like early spring and forsythia, salty breezes and bike hikes.

we bought the crumb cake.

and each day, for a few days, i made us a nespresso and placed each tiny mug on a clear glass plate with a piece of crumb cake. i savored each bite, each sip, getting lost in thought as only taste and scent can evoke.

and each day, my sweet momma and my poppo smiled from just-on-the-other-side. i could hear my dad whistling and my mom ask, “another piece?”

*****

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


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cold french fries. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

he’s a convert. we weren’t out of this sweet holiday town a half hour when i asked him to take out the baggie of cold french fries.

my sweet momma is the one who taught me how to eat these. step one: you fry them up. (or bake them) step two: you eat them. step three: you put the leftover in some kind of container. step four: you take them out of the fridge the next day and eat them. cold. preferably with momma’s iced tea, but straight up if there is none of that around.

and so, we turned around littlebabyscion in the back part of the driveway, drove out onto the road, waved to buffalo-plaid-man across the street, drove up the hill to downtown and down the hill out of town toward the mountain range in the distance. stopped and got gas, cleaned our sunglasses and i asked about the french fries.

granted, it was early, but breakfast was way earlier and all that packing and loading and saying goodbye used up a lot of energy. it was time.

and so now, when it used to be that the baggie would solely be for me, we shared the remainder of the french fries that we made with baked clams last night for our pop-up dinner on the porch, our last night in this perfect little town. they tasted like crisp outdoors late at night and my sweet momma’s homemade-just-for-me all rolled into one.

we passed a tiny stand on the side of the road. “boiled peanuts” the sign read.

“yuck,” i said, curling my lip. he agreed, laughing.

but i’m pretty sure i could hear the guy in the sun next to the table he had set up as he turned to his companion: “have you EVER heard of ANYONE eating cold french fries?!”

*****

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mini-marshmallows and gogo boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

if you are wondering where mini marshmallows come from, wonder no more. clearly they grow on white baneberry bushes in dr. seuss-land. passing it on the trail i could not get over how oh-the-places-you’ll-go this bush was. a standout in a green forest floor, confidently colorful and nicknamed “doll’s eyes” for obvious vintage-china-doll reasons, it got my attention and it piqued my curiosity.

we watched a silly movie a couple nights ago. my sweet momma loved sandra bullock so every time i watch a sandra bullock movie i feel like my mom is right there with us, giggling or cheering her on. the movie was “all above steve” co-starring bradley cooper. its silliness is comedic fun, particularly on an evening we were not looking to be intellectually challenged. but there was an unexpectedly sweet message in this movie. mary (sandra bullock), a brilliant young woman who is a crossword puzzle constructor and has a brain full of random knowledge and would kick anyone’s patootie playing trivial pursuit, is trying to be “normal” to fit into the world. in the end she discovers the power of standing in her own shoes, which were, in her case, red gogo boots.

artists are often looked at as misfits, a little outside the box, not quite fitting in. perhaps more colorful, perhaps louder, perhaps more questioning, the job of an artist is to elicit movement in thought, in action, in emotion, in sensitivity. we are hot-pink-stemmed mini-marshmallow plants in a world of green underbrush, ever being told that exposure will grant us the ability to live in this world, to pay our bills, to get ahead. artists everywhere under the sun shudder upon hearing those words, “think about the exposure.” we don our courageous metaphoric gogo boots, go to town trying to be ‘normal’ and realize that we were really ok all along, in our own skin.

often i have heard others comment on the re-purposed stuff in our house. empty window frames, screen doors, travel-worn suitcases, branches wrapped in lights, old coffeepots doubling as canisters. we’ve been asked, “how did you think of that?” i don’t know how to answer that other than “how couldn’t i?”

i’m guess i’m not ‘normal’. in the world of christian louboutin and jimmy choo footwear desires, i’m wearing old navy flipflops and hundreds-of-miles hiking boots. in a world of oscar de la renta and ralph lauren aficionados, i’m wearing my dad’s old flannel shirt and jeans. in a world of cle de peau beaute and guerlain and creme de la mer, my face is lucky to see an oil of olay original and coppertone 30spf combo.

and i, just like artists everywhere, love to be reminded, time to time, that we were all born to stand out. each and every one of us. artist or not. no matter the road we walk. no matter the red gogo boots or hot-pink stems. stand out. in our own skin.

mini-marshmallow, anyone?

*****

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momma’s 100th birthday. [merely-a-thought monday]

i hope there is chocolate ganache cake and asti spumante. today is my sweet momma’s 100th birthday and, wherever she is roaming in that other plane of existence, i want there to be an enormous celebration of this day she was born back in 1921. there is not a moment i don’t miss her. there is not a moment that i am unaware of her presence.

the dining room table is piled with all kinds of finnish glassware and etched crystal and scandinavian birchwood as i empty bins that have been packed for years. i carefully unwrap the end-of-roll-clean-newsprint that layers between these and i’m immediately reminiscent. every here and there there is a tiny note, written by my mom, to explain the origins of this vase or that kissing-couple-wine-stopper. i have many questions and know that they will now go unanswered. i find myself researching and researching, a google-fest of information about these items, some of which have no story i can access.

i am drawn to pieces and carefully clean them. we poured chilled white wine into a pair of chunky goblets, ittala ultima thule glass designed by tapio wirkkala, inspired by melting ice in lapland. yesterday i made strawberry rose sangria and poured it into glasses from a heavy crystal etched pitcher, which i remember was a gift to my parents early in their marriage. the other day we had happy hour snacks out on the deck, olives and crackers and goat cheese on hand-painted japanese china, a post-world-war-two-origin lost to me, served on a glass mid-century hazel atlas boopie berwick party platter (which is actually called a ‘smoke and snack tray’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that.)

the history gathers in our dining room and i can almost feel the cheers of my momma and my dad, my grandmother mama dear and grandfather gramps. they encourage my googling and they also encourage me to sort through and find the things that really resonate with me. i can hear my momma telling me, “pass it on to someone” or “sell it!” as i unpack more bins of things, things, things that would otherwise remain packed. although i still abide by the unspoken ‘beaky rule’ to saaave new things for a bit before using them, keeping all these things packed in bins for years, no, decades – unused – is silliness and it is rewarding time spent opening it all up, seeing what’s there, going through, incorporating these jewels into our daily life. i know that is making my momma smile.

today we will lift our glasses to my momma, our beaky, and celebrate her. her spirit and spunk live on. her stink eye penetrating look, her raised eyebrow “oh?”, her ‘write-a-lettuh’, her sisu, her new-yorkishness. her kindness, her storytelling, her love.

today i will light a candle and gently ring the delicate glass bell she and my dad received as a wedding gift and i will be grateful that this day – 100 years ago – my momma was born on this earth. for that, this world is better.

*****

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the broken salad bowl. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i broke my mom’s salad bowl last night. it wasn’t fancy; it was a simple glass bowl, shaped in the letter v. but i loved using it for salads and quinoa tabouli and all kinds of fruit. it slipped from my grasp in the sink and, despite my best efforts at rescue, broke in two large pieces. i was instantly saddened, not because i get upset when things break, but because it was my sweet momma’s and using it was a silken connected tie.

we were on i-70 driving across denver and stuck in traffic. we played leap-frog with several vehicles as we inched forward. one of them had a sticker that read “extreme rightwing” and another had this sticker “humankind. be both.” i am betting you can guess the one with which i felt in alignment. i wanted to roll down big red’s window further than i already had it and call out the window, “love your sticker!” but i didn’t. instead, i photographed it, trying to look casual, like i wasn’t taking a picture of their vehicle, and thought about how i instantly liked them.

my sweet momma, the former owner of the now-broken salad bowl, was a firm believer in kindness. her favorite saying, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” was a john wesley quote. this is not the first time i have told of her kindness to others…all others.

as my mom prepared to move into assisted living she started giving away things she wouldn’t be bringing with her. she gave away her couch to a neighbor who needed one; she gave her dining table to another neighbor without a place around which to gather her family. she let things go, with love and caring moving them out the door to their new homes. she didn’t hesitate. it wasn’t about the stuff; it was simply about helping those in need of something she had. we just heard that many of the things in david’s parents’ house, that is being emptied now, have been given to neighbors and people who need particular items. a gesture of paying the generosity we are afforded forward, i immediately thought back to my mom’s own altruism in her time of transition.

these last months have been very challenging for us. i was devastated when, in this time of pandemic and after losing our other two positions, and at the start of my ninth year there, i lost my job. confusion and fear and dreadful sadness at losing my living, all the effort and love i had put into growing a music program, the loss of my dear community, all ran rampant in my heart. the stages of grief, including anger, lined up and for the last five months, i have tried to sort through all of what i have felt. the other day i drove past my former place of employment and just was overcome with how intensely weird it felt, how intensely weird the whole travail has been.

but in the middle of all of this weirdness, the lack of communication, the non-effort at mitigating whatever was seemingly accepted as an ousting-reason, there have been people. humans. kind humans. little by little people have reached out – in generosity and kindness. and, for that, the way has been a little less scary, a little less painful. the ties to the place, astoundingly, considering the place, are broken – irretrievably – shattered into a dark hole in a million shards. but the silken connections of people – from a full compass of our lives – extend in warm embrace. humankind. be-ing both.

i guess the next time i make salad or tabouli i’ll use the big stainless steel bowl – the one that also used to be my mom’s. it’s unbreakable. just like my tie to her.

*****

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