reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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barney and the sunflower. [k.s. friday]

we moved the sunflower. it was on the deck for a few years now, rusting behind the aging wooden glider, tucked between the kitchen window and the bedroom window. it greeted us each day we left and came home. it watched over my girl as she house-sat during the summer, a couple ago now, when we were on island. she didn’t know it, but i had asked it to keep her comings and goings safe and each time she left and came back to smile good days upon her. it came home from a cedarburg festival with us, having called us over to ponder its purchase. we walked the length of the festival and talked about the sunflower. then we went back, after more debate than most probably make about purchases, and bought it. about two weeks ago we moved it. now its place is next to barney, surrounded by peonies and wild geranium and daylilies and snow on the mountain. it is happy there.

when you’ve lived somewhere for quite some time there are naturally places that you go that feel better than others. for me, there are places in this town that have immediate warm responses for me, places that have held me, places that are part of my cairns, places where i have dreamed and imagined, places where a community has meant the world to me. there are other places that conjure up memories i would rather forget with visceral responses i can actually feel; i generally stay away from those spots not wanting to relive moments of grief or poor judgement or anger or betrayal or grand disappointment. i have learned, though, that sometimes the best way to process those is to drive past, to acknowledge, to breathe deeply, to maybe weep. in the same way that actual places remind us, mementos from places we hold dear make it into our special boxes or find their way into our home like sticks accumulating in the walking stick vessel in our sitting room or rocks added to the stones around the pond. some mementos are bigger than others, like the sunflower from a gloriously sunny festival-going day in a town we adore browsing or the 5′ long driftwood from a long island beach that graces the mantel or the high mountain aspen branch wrapped in lights in the dining room. and then there’s barney. there’s no escaping this beautiful piano in our backyard, aging with us.

i’ve shared barney’s story before…how he escaped the junk man’s junkyard destination and, for a small price, came here to share life with us. from a basement boiler room to a place of honor near the pond in our tiny yard he sits and invites the company of beautiful plants, munching squirrels and cutie-pie chipmunks. yet he is a memento. and the place he came from is no longer a favorite place. instead, it is a place i now avoid, with emotions that elicit a physical response and a little vibration i can feel in my chest when i think about it. and so how do i avoid attaching these feelings to barney, i have wondered.

my growing-up piano is in our basement. movers moved it there many years ago, before there were walls in the stairwell. i wonder what will become of it if we ever move. it proudly holds art books and a small stereo and sits in david’s painting studio with a couple rocking chairs and his gorgeous old easel. i have thought about ways to repurpose it. and yet, it is so dear that it will, for right now, stay there just as it is, with music in its bench and the little index card on which is carefully printed in eight-year-old font “practice makes perfect”.

there is a piano of size in my studio. it sits at full stick, waiting patiently. i was in there yesterday and it whispered to me, but, for right then, i was consumed with the finishing of putting things away. there is still music to file, organ music still to go back into cabinets. i must decide what to do with the poster that hung on the choir room wall that reads, “if you ask me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud” or the metal cut-out words “it’s all about music” or the white strands of happy lights that were woven around the blackboard that listed rehearsals and demonstrated strum patterns and had dates of parties for that well-loved community held at our house.

maybe once i decide what to do with all of it – including the emotional wreckage part – i will again sit at my piano. drive past, acknowledge, breathe deeply, weep. my piano is full of empathy i can feel and some day, soon i hope, i will be able to sit and play – in a studio cleaned and inviting with mementos of goodness and intentions of evolution. then i will walk out of the studio and down the hall, through the kitchen and the sunroom and outside onto the deck. and i will sit on the old settee and listen to the pond and the birds and watch the chipmunks scurry across the top of the old piano that shares space with the sunflower and a couple green-eyed metal birds.

in answers that have come with a few months of time, i have found that the piano-ness of barney has overcome the where-it’s-from-ness. the peeling back, the wrinkles, the embrace of its tiny community in our yard…these things have usurped the rest.

instead, barney and the sunflower together greet us upon leaving and greet us upon returning home. together, they both bring joy and reassurance to our backyard and they both smile good days upon us.

*****

tune in to my little corner of iTUNES

or tune in to my ever-growing PANDORA spot in the world

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the moose and the pig and me. [k.s. friday]

it is said – and clearly there are many people in the news now’days who subscribe to this – that any press…good or bad…is better than no press. you have to wonder.

way back in 2002 i released this album. ‘as sure as the sun’ was the culmination of much writing, practicing, arranging, driving, singing, hydrating, listening, reviewing, re-writing, more singing, more practicing, more driving, recording, listening, sitting and watching my producer, more sitting and watching my producer, re-recording tracks, more practicing, more driving, more hydrating, more singing, more writing, more listening, more reviewing, re-writing, practicing, singing, hydrating, more driving and a lot of worrying. i recorded the album in nashville and drove back and forth for sessions, in between which i spent my time finessing each piece of music, each song i had composed for the project.

as an independent solo artist and not a complete band with others to lean on or a label financially chugging it forward, it was a big project, a big investment in heart, time and money. my producer and i had to believe in it to keep it going. bottom line, i had to believe in it to keep it going. when it was done and i drove home with a mastered CD, it was with a mix of feeling proud, wiped out, anxious and full of dreams. ‘as sure as the sun’ was my sixth album and the first that was a full-length vocal. it was stepping out of my comfort zone. it was the edge.

i hired an agency to help with its release and a radio promoter to aid in its adds to radio airplay. i don’t recommend either. to the tune of almost $40,000 they took me for a ride and i wonder now how this was possible. but when your professed dreams come knocking it is hard to turn away and do it yourself. in retrospect, i should have just continued doing it all on my own as i had done with all the instrumental albums that preceded it. but ah, that whole retrospect thing is such a fine perspective arranger.

amazon, and various other entities, added the album to my lineup online and radio stations added songs to their airplay. ‘slow dance’ charted at number 13 on the secondary adult contemporary radio chart. i’m not really sure how important that was now – at the time, however, it kept me paying for the promoter. i suspect that was the goal.

i played concerts and interviewed on radio and drove around to wholesale and retail shows with product, selling to large box brick and mortar chains and small privately owned shops that played music and displayed cds for customers to purchase. at the label in our offices on lake michigan we put together more cardboard display boxes than i can count, shipping out displays and cds regularly. it was busy and fun and a time when people still purchased actual cds.

in the zeal of the after-release glow, i looked everywhere for reviews of this new album. i wanted to know how it resonated with people, how it measured up, what i could learn by reading others’ commentary.

and then there was this.

the title was just the start. dang. sounding like a “hoofed mammal in heat” or a “squealing pig” was a tad bit much, i thought. the first-grader-lyric-writing comment was, well, kind of first-grader-like. i noted the misspelling of norah’s name. and, much as i appreciate his style, i really wouldn’t use “soulful” to describe jim brickman’s vocal music. but i digress.

i was stunned to have such a review and didn’t know what to think. i spent lots and lots of time, an inordinate amount of time, pondering who might have written such a statement. for some reason, i did not give as much time to the emails i received, the notes, the non-promoter-sought airplay, the adds in box stores and shops around the country, and the thousands of cds that were shipped out. this review nagged me.

it’s funny to me now how i let this one commentary puncture a pinhole in my confidence. but that’s the way of negativity. to stand firmly rooted, to take on the edge, to step new steps, to grow, to believe in your ability to shift gears, sway in the wind – the inner job of every artist. one moose and one pig should not be enough to undermine you and yet, there it was.

somewhere along the line i mostly forgot about this review and got on with the business of the music business: making more music. nine albums and several singles followed this album’s release. but i never really looked for reviews. i listened to what was inside and kept stepping. one of these days, maybe when i decide that i am still relevant, i will step again.

artists of every medium adjust and re-adjust too often to the whim of the viewers’/listeners’ fancy. they lose something every time in their pursuit of wanting their work to be liked by others. yet, the artist is most certainly riding the value-train with every project released. for that project, the last project, the next new project – all represent making a living. they represent a vulnerability not broached in other life-work paths. they represent a piece of someone’s heart and soul, hoping against hope not to be pounced on. all together – the projects of all artists of all mediums – they represent the woven fabric of our narrative, diverse and rich.

as my sweet momma used to say, “if [someone] has nothing nice to say, [someone] should say nothing at all.”

though i generally like moose and pigs and am in good company either way, i trust the moose and the pig agree with her.

*****

listen to music in my little corner on iTUNES

listen to music in my little growing corner on PANDORA

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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and the gasket smiles. [d.r. thursday]

every day i hold my breath and touch it. i slowly open the closet, bend down and approach it. i nudge the tiny trap door over to allow space for my hand. the coupling has no idea it wields such power, such angst. but it does. it is disconcerting what 1/2″ pvc pipe can do to your psyche. and so… i reach out and grasp the connection. i daresay i even close my eyes. and every time it is dry i thank our lucky stars. a search of great proportion, text messages and voicemails from our “village” and treks to every plumbing supply house in the area later, we seem to (knock wood!) have solved the problem with a 99¢ rubber gasket and a little repositioning of the pipe. and so we attempt to move on. the ptsd of waterinthebasement demands i test it often; i am trying to release some of this and move from every day to maybe every other day. suffice it to say, the big black plastic bin remains – and will remain – in its spot directly below the offending coupling for some time to come.

this little adventure has set us on a course in the basement. the havoc created a ripe invitation to sort, to clean, to reminisce, to give away. a task undeniably time-consuming and cumbersome, but gratifying nonetheless. the leak itself was smack in the middle of david’s studio, but fortunately had not affected any canvasses. now, at last, as he puts his studio back into place, he will dance with the black bin and his patina-rich easel.

we love patina. perhaps it is because we have patina ourselves. at 60 (whatever) you have no choice but to own it, this “gloss or sheen on a surface resulting from age or polishing”. i never thought of it as “polishing” before. age, yes. polish, no. it seems the opposite. it seems that one removes patina with the act of polishing, an action misguided and not recommended by antique collectors everywhere. which does make me think about all the work we do in this country, in particular, to avoid ‘looking our age’, to eliminate wrinkles and age spots and the bumps and lumps of time-spent-on-earth. seems contrary to the upholding of patina, the celebration of the worn, the shabby-chic, the tattered, the threadbare, the velveteen-rabbit-ness. let’s just call it all wizened-beauty.

much of the basement is dedicated to glorifying wizened-beauty as this is an old house, 93 years worth. in the section of the basement where it is studio, all the pipes and walls are painted bright white. there are spotlight tracks in each area. it does not feel old-basement-ish. instead, it feels to us simply a cozy space, inviting our presence. the studio that holds david’s standing easel, the space that holds paintings-waiting-for-homes, the storage that holds boxes of my cds, all analog in a digital world. that studio also holds two rocking chairs, both with treasured history. one from spaces-of-painting past and one from the nursery upstairs that only exists in memory now. how often we have each rocked in those respective chairs. how much time has gone by. not fancy and definitely sans polish, they hold steadfast. they are there for the times of muse and the times-in-between the muse. and times like now.

the studio in the basement waits, just as my studio where my piano waits. raw opportunity, beckoning each of us as we rearrange, store away, go through, readjust and re-enter.

the gasket, up above and comfy in the coupling, looks down and smiles at what it started.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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where do we go from here? [d.r. thursday]

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“where do we go?  where do we go?  where do we go from here?”

an empty canvas.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, davidrobinson?

sheet music clean

an empty staff.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, kerrisherwood?

artists’ journeys, rife with intersections, foist decision-making upon us in our quest to create.  simply starting is sometimes an uphill challenge.  the questions are never easily answered.  the value of what we are doing is never really clear.  or is it – the value assigned to what we are doing is never really clear?

journey synonyms according to google: travel, leg, trek, ride, jaunt, expedition, drive, outing, mush, passage, junket, long haul, circuit, schlep/shlep, digression, transit, pilgrimage, excursion, sashay, traveling, tour, pleasure trip, odyssey, trip. 

i think schlep about covers it.

where do we go from here?

we have a daily decision, a choice to “begin anywhere” (john cage) and speak to the world around us and what we see through artists’ eyes.  we write, we paint, we compose.  we either create or we step away from the canvas, the staff paper, the qwerty keyboard.  we know that nothing we do will change the world.  we know that everything we do, like you, will change the world.

where do we go from here?

last night anderson cooper’s chyron read, “meanwhile, back in the real world.”  the real world.  a world fraught with chaos, trembling with the fever of a pandemic and the disease of racism.  we, as people, turn to the sages of old for words of wisdom.  we turn to art for honest displays of emotion.  we turn to music for expressions of pain and hope, grief, despair, love, action, change, fear, questions.

questions like – where do we go from here?

Every day just gets a little shorter, don’t you think?
Take a look around you and you’ll see just what I mean
People got to come together, not just out of fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

Try to find a better place but soon it’s all the same
What once you thought was a paradise is not just what it seemed
The more I look around, I find, the more I have to fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

I know it’s hard for you to
Change your way of life
I know it’s hard for you to do
The world is full of people
Dying to be free
So if you don’t, my friend
There’s no life for you
No world for me

Let’s all get together soon, before it is too late
Forget about the past and let your feelings fade away
If you do I’m sure you’ll see, the end is not yet near

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

(peter cetera, chicago – where do we go from here?) 

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