reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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divots and heart. [k.s. friday]

we checked our bags. southwest airlines lets you check two and, as long as you trust that they will actually get them to the same destination to which you are traveling at the same time that you are traveling there, it’s a relief for the prior-to-travel packing frenzy.

there were many golf bags going ’round the baggage claim conveyor. none of them were ours.

i have golf clubs. in the basement. or maybe in the garage. no, i think the basement. i am not much of a golfer, though i have golfed. let’s just say that i am not gifted at the swing…or the stance…or the putt. really, none of it, save driving the golf cart.

i think golf would be more fun without the scorecards and the tiny pencils. so much pressure. everyone – despite their ability level – chasing after this one little ball, getting all crabby-like and self-deprecating…all under so much pressure.

one time i got a 91. people seem relatively impressed with this score. they comment, “wow! that’s pretty good for a total novice! (they can’t think of a word that is lower on the golf-ladder than novice.) really, that’s good! a 91 on 18 holes!”

i take my time replying.

“it was 9.”

“9 holes.”

their look tells all – they are trying not to burst into laughter or look astounded and are likely internally blaming me for all the divots on the course – every last one of them. because i have swung the club a zillion more times than any of them, in every part of the course. at least twice as many times as they have. and i am exhausted just thinking about how tired my arms – and really, every part of my body – have been after a “fun” round of golf. yes, indeedy.

i do think that d and i should go play golf together. we would likely laugh our way through the course, so we need to go when no one is behind us, grousing about how long we are taking or commenting on our pathetic swings. if no one was around we could replace our divots without judgement or sneers from the sideline. a smirkless round of golf could actually be fun. pressureless. pencil-less. one of these days. first i need a few golf lessons from sisu sue. she would be the best teacher.

we walked on the bike trail a few times recently. once, it was just after a few snowflakes fell. the tiny divot in the asphalt caught the flakes just so we would notice the heart as we hiked by. prior to that – though i put my heart into every one of those swings and they all just didn’t notice – the word “divot” made me cringe a little, thinking of my personal golf je ne sais quoi.

but now…i’m honoring the chop.

*****

the entire album: RELEASED FROM THE HEART
©️1995 kerri sherwood

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the pink backpack. [k.s. friday]

“it’s projection,” he wrote. yes. bill penzey is right. it is projection. we project love onto objects and we “really see these objects as love.” he continues, talking about his desire – were there to be a fire in his house – to grab the six-quart stainless kettle he has popped corn in for every movie night he has had with his wife, and his love of the heavy-duty spatula his father gave him, adding, “and in a world where nobody gets too much love anymore, i want to do all i can to hold onto that love.” he is clearly thready. i’ve never met him, but he is on my list – people with whom i’d love to have dinner.

we have a pink backpack. it’s packed from back in the days our town was on fire, days i can feel and hear and smell and taste – viscerally – but would rather not. we’ve kept it packed, realizing that it’s wise to have one thing to grab and one place to go to find that one thing. it has important stuff in it…papers and such. it doesn’t have the tiny cheese knife we use every day, the one that was my sweet momma’s. it doesn’t have the wedding ring my dad wore or the matching flannel shirt of a pair. it doesn’t have the toddler drawings of my children or the small bowl turned trinket-holder that babycat ate from. it doesn’t have zillions of photographs. it doesn’t have masters of all my albums or a collection of jpgs or pngs or printed photos of all of david’s paintings. it doesn’t have the rock i picked up hiking with my daughter or the cork i saved from the first fancy dinner my son made for me. it can’t hold my piano or the vintage typewriter 20 gave me or the bowls we love from ken and loida or the snuggly scarf jen gave me or the old torchiere lamp from my growing-up. it doesn’t have room for the old quilt or our favorite mountain mugs or our ukuleles or my guitars or our dvd favorite-movies-collection or the cardinal towels from my sister or the ‘i-found-you-you-found-me” painting of early k.dot-d.dot days.

the one thing about antique stores is that they give you perspective. lots of it. so many items in the world. so much stuff. you ponder why someone might have held onto a plastic flower arrangement in a plastic flower pot long enough that it became part of an estate that passed into an antique shoppe or how it is possible that there are so so so many 45 rpm records out there, collections of so many long-playing albums, and, someday, so many cds. even mine.

and then you know. it hits you like a spatula upside the head.

though none of that will fit in the pink backpack, were there to be any sort of emergency – and all we could grab is the backpack – we would not lose it all.

it’s love. all love.

*****

IT’S A LONG STORY ©️1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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church. [k.s. friday]

he wrote, “that building is not God.”* (john pavlovitz)

the light lit up the sky, a golden glow in a fog toward the heavens. it is one of the chicago botanic garden’s iconic displays, this tunnel of light, begging you to look up, be wrapped in its light, acknowledge the goose bumps. the luminous winter cathedral drawing people toward it. they stood, marveling, they strolled slowly, they posed for photographs, the millions of starry twinkling lights enveloping all.

i’m not much for cathedrals, really. i never have been; it’s nothing new. while i can appreciate their stunning beauty and the incredible feat it often took to build or install, they have never brought me closer to faith than any other place…outside, in the presence of others, at the piano, alone in wonder.

in my life – and in three and a half decades of my work life – i have found churches to not only house beauty. i have found churches to also house ugly. and so, i was relieved to read the words of john pavlovitz. it is important to distinguish the difference – the building is not God. and, sometimes, the best place to find the supreme deity you are seeking – no matter the name, no matter the denomination or affiliation, no matter the book of written word – is not in a place, not in a building.

the people – so many gathered there – under the arch of the winter cathedral seemed softer. the glow of light on their faces, they moved slower, offered to photograph others, gazed up. just as a community of people in a church often do, they seemed to come together, one of the benefits of “the building”. but, as i have found time and again – and, if we are to speak truth – those benefits sometimes run out. and people within become consumed by that which would never be considered a basic tenet of faith – the hypocrisies of power and control and discrimination and subjugation and competition, toxic things that “[don’t] feel like Love anymore”*.

as i walked under the night sky i knew that the cathedral would be close to the last installation on the guided path. i steeled myself for its overtones, even with its undeniable beauty.

we stood back and watched people enter it. in awe. it is truly glorious.

we approached and there was this tiny voice inside my head naysaying “church” to the other tiny voice exclaiming “wow”. both.

yet ethereal was there and it shone down on us as we walked through to the other side. and then we were once again under a night sky, full of stars we could see and stars we couldn’t see. just like faith.

“you are fully freed to run into the wide open spaces of this world, and to experience life and faith and beauty in ways you never thought possible…”*

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – solo piano ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

ALWAYS WITH US – piano with orchestration ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

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the turtles. [k.s. friday]

i think about the turtles. they are there in the warmer months, sunning on logs and rocks that jut out of the river. but, when it dips below fifty degrees or so – and stays there – they disappear. apparently, they dive down to the muddy bottom, their metabolism slows down, they require less oxygen. their mucky homes keep them safe as they bide time, these wise, long-lived creatures of the water and the land.

from time to time on the trail we look for them. we know where they hang out and have watched for telltale signs of small snouts poking out of the water. but then it got cold and we just missed them.

the river is alive with other wildlife. geese and a few hardy ducks, squirrels, deer – we see them as we hike.

but we always talk about the turtles anyway. just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean we forget about them. we know they are there – somewhere – in hidden spots, places they feel sheltered and secure. i think about what they might be doing. they are silent and the fallow is long. i trust they are sorting what is next, kind of like us.

he can tell you i worry about them, despite the fact that i know they are completely capable, totally self-sufficient, quite brilliant actually. nevertheless, i am more comforted by seeing the turtles every now and then – at least – than by wondering how they are faring. time keeps moving, though, and i keep hope that when it warms up and the turtles have a more secure sense of themselves in the world they will reappear, out of the suspension of presence. i’m hoping for an early spring.

i know that the turtles are aware i am watching for them and waiting. and the river freezes. and then it thaws.

*****

LAST I SAW YOU ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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in the questions. [k.s. friday]

i cleaned my studio.

finally.

took everything off every surface. dusted everything. put some things away. moved things around. got rid of excess. hung a favorite print. and – with great care – gently vacuumed the inside of my really beautiful piano, for full-stick is an invitation to dust.

i stood back, stood in the doorway, looking in.

the room was breathing. deep breaths.

i was breathing. immersed.

there is still more to go through. there is more to file away. there is former work-trauma to discard and there are calendars of choir music and ukulele band books and handbell arrangements and contemporary solos to box up. the first pass didn’t get all those and now, two years later, i am still a little paralyzed by all of it. that’s why it all needs to go. this process is taking longer than i would have anticipated. “mind, body, spirit,” she said. “it’s not likely others will understand all the layers. they will expect you to just move on, to get over it. they will not grok the wounds; it is all fraught.”

but there were staff lines in the sky. and the universe prompt is haunting me a little.

it’s always had a purpose – my studio – a direct line from standing or sitting in there to actual work. i’ve not just noodled or played because i was just playing. i’ve stood in there to write – to flesh out an album, to practice, to plan – the arc of music for a concert or for a church calendar, to teach – so many students through the years. it hasn’t been a place i go to without purpose, without an end-product, without a result i could see. as an adult, my studio has represented the potential for income; it has been a professional place. now there are questions. many of them. like living in a blank staff, i live – lost – in the questions.

i played my piano. a few carols.

there is one more day this year. and then 2023.

and i won’t carry carols into the new year. it will be time for something else, something less dusty.

there’s some way to go. it’s not as simple as it sounds.

the staff lines in the sky hold no clues, have no notes.

maybe – instead of reading that as tacet – silent – i might – and “might” is the operative word here – read that as a composition without designated key, without predetermined time signature, without definitive expression markings, sans any direction or boundary.

vacuumed and breathing.

an empty notebook on the stand. pencils.

full-stick.

we’ll see.

*****

lost. in the questions. – kerri sherwood

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in wonder. [k.s. friday]

right now it is a mystery.

accuweather predicts a blizzard. and we wonder if it is truly imminent. on days of heavy holiday travel, there may be fierce winds, whirling snow, no visibility, bitterly cold temperatures well below zero. such extremes, circumstances that might dictate the comings and goings of loved ones trying to be together to celebrate.

we’ll keep watching the weather and the warnings. we’re hoping it’s wrong, that it’s exaggerated, that it’s cautionary but not totally necessary. that we will get to this day without the extremes.

it is days before the day before the eve of the day. and though i respect that app on my phone i continue to plan as if it will be days of celebration and joy and not snowplows and shovels and heet and de-icer.

there is still much to do. there are packages to ship, a few to wrap, a couple to deliver. there are trips to the grocery store and maybe a tiny bit of shopping. there is de-dogga-furring by vacuum and a little dusting and much tidying up.

and all the while sitting in the wonder of the season. people celebrating love and generosity, time spent gathered, kindnesses and the reminder of ancient stories carried into this time, open hearts, hope and light.

*****

I WONDER AS I WANDER

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e.e. [k.s. friday]

“…simple…elegant…splendid…” she wrote about the branch from the big old tree in our front yard, the branch we wrapped in lights and on which we hung a tin star. last year’s christmas tree. sometime after the holiday, we changed the tin star to a tin heart and kept it in the living room, in front of the big window.

i suppose it goes without saying – for anyone who knows us – that each of our christmas trees has a story. well, not just a story, but a full-fledged novel full of threads that wrap around them like $2.99 twinkly lights fresh out of the box. we’ve given meaning to the tiniest pine tree from the side of a trail, to the carcass of a tree behind our garage, to the branch that fell into our back yard, to a straight trunk-of-a-tree we lugged out of the woods, to a christmas-tree-on-a-stick.

this year, we were going to get a permit and go to a state forest to cut one down. only we didn’t.

20 was exasperated with the tree he had gotten his momma. the lights were all knotted – a titanic tangle – and the tree was disheveled. he put it in the box and bought her a new one, planning to toss the old one. we wanted a tree out back and figured we could make this messy tree into something worthy of the deck, so he brought it to us.

david spent time – lots of it – patiently untangling and cutting off the attached multi-colored light strands. then he attached the three pieces of tree, stacking them to see how it looked.

the tree – 6′ – stood limply, likely gasping from the trauma.

we decided to let it get some air and put it in the framed doorway between the living room and the dining room, where it could have a little space while we fluffed it a bit and decided about putting it on the deck.

only…

only, it started growing on us, this sweet little tree – just trying to be a loved-christmas-tree – stood there, quietly watching us and waiting for our decision.

we whispered to each other – about her – on the couch, so as not to offend the little tree. and time to time, we’d take turns stepping into the living room to gaze at it. to ponder.

and then he took four hundred lights and gently wrapped them around the little tree.

magic.

we stood back and knew.

i said, “let’s call it e.e.” not for ee cummings, though he would definitely get it – all our christmas trees through these years. but the little tree knows – inside, in its heart of hearts – his poem “little tree” word for word. e.e.

but the e.e. is for 20’s momma, her first and middle name initials. as she – at 99 – struggles a bit with her health these very days, we will honor her, hold space for her, with e.e.

the silver ornaments shine on e.e.’s branches. e.e. holds out her arms graciously. and those lights. and we are entranced.

little tree

little silent Christmas tree…

look          the spangles

that sleep all the year in a dark box

dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,

the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms

and i’ll give them all to you to hold

every finger shall have its ring

and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed

you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see

and how they’ll stare!

oh but you’ll be very proud

(excerpts from “little tree” – ee cummings)

*****

THE LIGHTS ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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stuff happens. [k.s. friday]

“step confidently,” the stio catalog reads. there is an ad for boots – winter boots – and gorgeous pictures of snowfall and mountains and terrain where confidence could be challenged. we were just talking with 20 about those yaktrax you strap on your shoes to instill a bit of chutzpah as you walk on icy trails. anything to keep us outside. cause stuff happens.

yes. stuff happens.

and it happens fast. without warning.

a couple days ago i was walking from the kitchen to the sunroom – sans yaktrax – to let the dog inside. holiday music was playing and i was busy thinking about my next task as i approached the step down to the tile floor by the back door. i did a little math. i’ve successfully navigated this step – only one – at the very least – one-hundred-twenty-two-thousand times. but, somehow, and i have no idea how, i missed the step and fell flat – kerplunk-kind-of-flat-like-in-cartoons – on my knee. the one time i didn’t reach out my hands to stop myself – i guess those two other falls taught me something – but my knee took the entire brunt of the trip-fall.

i’m not sure the first thing out of my mouth was pretty or anything i’d be proud to mention here. my reaction – as i laid on the cold floor – was incredulous, thinking i was running out of appendages, wondering what vortex in the universe we had fallen into or if mercury was in retrograde or just what was happening here.

the xray technician told me that’s why it’s called an accident – because there is no real reason, but i was about as amused by that as other people to whom i have said those words. no real reason. she said, “stuff just happens!” uh-huh.

the nurse practitioner at the urgent care told me she concurred with the radiologist and – thank goodness – there was no fracture. geesh. she said a few days and we’ll see how it goes.

patience is now in order. time to spend with my knee horizontal doesn’t fall under “my favorite things” column. i’ll be hobbling around and sitting and trying to get things done, in a slew of time i can only label as “fraught”.

and i’ll be trying to figure it all out.

*****

FIGURE IT OUT ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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the fat seagull. [k.s. friday]

“you must begin by knowing you have already arrived. your true nature lives as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.” (richard bach – jonathan livingston seagull)

i followed the seagulls on my ten-speed. to the beach, always the beach. later, i followed them in my little blue volkswagen, their screeches out my open window, their soaring showing me the way. and i felt kin to richard bach, his writings about freedom and passion and dreaming and the meaning of life. we met at the beach – crab meadow – and talked telepathically. well, i talked. i don’t know if he was listening. he was on the west coast and i was on the east, though i suppose jonathan livingston may have been able to deliver any message of gratitude i had.

and so we arrived at the fat seagull. it is beyond me why we had never discovered this bar and grill tucked into the downtown of manitowoc. it’s a cheers! kind of place, people who know each other gathered at the bar and around tables, eating, drinking pints, playing games, talking. in the way of wisconsin pubs, there is a vast menu and we order a thursday special to split. the bartender tells us that the two wine glasses they had were broken so he gives us diminutive stemware and charges us less. we choose the bottle still corked, wondering who last drank out of the open bottle and how long ago that might have been. we are kind of strangers in a strange land…17 draft beers and traditional old-fashioneds surround us and our tiny wines.

we listen to live music and gaze around – at people, at the bar, the old wood floor, the ceiling. it is a study in perfection. we feel alive – out and about – a two hour drive each way – food we didn’t prepare – wine we didn’t pour. we talk about how it feels. we laugh and dance. we don’t realize it’s raining out; it had been a beautifully sunny day. we are glad to be there.

we end this week in uncertainty. we reach backwards, examining all we have done – so far – in life and work, what we have accomplished, what we have not. sixty-something is not youth, nor is it aged. it is somewhere in-between, located wherever we are. we bring all we know – and all we do not know – with us. we try to trust that we have arrived, that we are on the tarmac – or – in the terminal, that we – too – despite our lack of certainty – have flown, screeching and soaring.

“instead of being enfeebled by age, the elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly any gull in the flock, and he had learned skills that the others were only gradually coming to know.”

*****

TAKE FLIGHT ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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off the trail we know. [k.s. friday]

each time the trail curves, i can imagine it. next.

but as weeks go, this one has been harder. we tried our best to be positive, to believe that the new bend in our road is not so fraught. but, the fact of the matter is that it is. fraught.

we are pretty tough. kind of scrappy. definitely frugal. well, most of the time. we have both been presented with lean times in our lives. even our life together has had its lean times. we always eat leftovers. we always repurpose things. we always turn the shampoo bottle upside down. we always keep the heat low. we haven’t bought a vehicle in sixteen years. in some unknown intuitive move for which we are now grateful, we put off the big chimney-fireplace project, necessary but ridiculously expensive. we haven’t flown in three years. we find sanctuary in a forest we know well. we know where the trail curves.

and each time the trail curves, i can imagine it.

as the sun glimmers on what-looks-like the other end, i think – this is just one day, one week, one time in our lives. tomorrow will dawn and it might be a completely different day, starting a completely different week, a completely different time in our lives. and we just don’t know. again.

we are now in a woods we do not recognize, on a path we can not anticipate. off the trail we know. anxiety hikes with us, as do worry, sadness and disappointment. we worked hard on our plan, but the best laid plans are laid down. and this week, as weeks go, this one has been harder.

the sun quivers through the trees in front of us, setting. we keep walking.

day is done, 
gone the sun, 
from the lake, 
from the hills, 
from the sky; 
all is well, 
safely rest, 
god is nigh.  

fading light 
dims the sight, 
and a star 
gems the sky, 
gleaming bright. 
from afar, 
drawing nigh, 
falls the night.

(taps - d. butterfield/unknown)

*****

IN TRANSITION ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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