reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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no time to waste. [k.s. friday]

“…in singing skies and dancing waters…” (john denver)

we sometimes forget.

we forget to look up. to see the blue – singing – sky. we forget, in all the drudgery that can be the world around us, to study the night sky, trillions of stars, our tiny selves. we forget to watch the sun rise over the horizon and the sun set behind us. we forget vast as we are immersed in the up-close-and-personal telephoto lens of our lives.

we forget to see the – dancing – waters. we forget to allow it to wash over us, soothing, soothing. we forget to notice tiny droplets of dew on leaves and the surf’s leaving and returning. we forget to break into song in the shower and float in rivers under canopies of trees. we forget to listen to the stream and we forget to catch the rain on our tongues and we forget to allow ourselves to stand in it. we forget to revel in fountains and even celebrate impermanence, as it is not just all good things that come to an end…

and so the sky sings and the waters dance. they remind us, whether in the cool forest of high elevation mountains or the rockfront edges of a great lake or the sandy beaches of the shore.

for a moment we look up and the purity of water dancing in a singing sky fills us…suspended stunning beauty…humbling…and every good moment we have ever had comes rushing forward.

there’s really no time to waste.

*****

GOOD MOMENTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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corn! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

surely this will attract the attention of agriculture lovers near and far. we – the tiniest farmers of them all – are growing corn.

i would like to say that we have deliberately planted corn, in an effort to have a cob or two, but this isn’t the case. the chippies are likely the generation alpha planters; they are messy at the birdfeeder and, while they are stuffing their little cheeks of birdseed, their tiny paws are flailing and birdseed is flying. they planted the corn and we were, frankly, astonished to identify it. in good-corn-fashion, i’m guessing it was knee-high-by-the-fourth-of-july, only we didn’t notice, as it blended into the ornamental grasses under the feeder. it’s nice to know our soil is good enough for corn.

i looked up if we could actually eat it, and stumbled into the georgia gardener walter reeves who said that “the seed used in bird food is delectable to birds, squirrels and chipmunks.” but “if the seeds sprout, you’ll get more of the same.” to his knowledge, “all of these plants would be edible by humans. but you might not want to eat them, because the varieties used in birdseed might not be digestible by humans. leave them for the birds,” he recommends.

nevertheless, we consider it a win. whether we were passively or actively farming, it grew and we are proud.

it is all beginning to make sense to me. all that time my sweet momma and poppo spent in arboretums and planting fields. all the time they spent watching the birds out their back windows. all the time they simply spent with each other, appreciating the idyllic opportunities that nature and outdoors and together bring.

i am guessing that somewhere – on another plane not too far away – my dad is watching. maybe he’s hanging out with columbus, who was pretty expert at the iowa-corn-in-which-he-was-raised. my mom is rolling her eyes at them, while they’re chuckling at the corn in our garden and maybe scoffing a tiny bit at walter. they’re paying no attention to her eyerolls.

they’re getting their yellow-plastic-tipped-corn-cob-skewers ready.

*****

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a watchful eye. [k.s. friday]

should it get to the point that the vine is obscuring the metal sunflower, we will cut it back. right now the vine is in its glory, billowing on top of the wooden fence, weaving in and out of the decorative wrought iron, and tumbling down our side. it has reached out and is starting to creep over this sunflower, ever so slowly and then, suddenly, the sunflower is wrapped in vine.

we keep a watchful eye.

for the vines of the neighbors, though lovely, are somewhat aggressive and we wish to protect the plants we have beneath their spilling. they are quietly growing, growing beneath these explosive vines and it has taken us years to cultivate even this small garden.

it used to be that the snow-on-the-mountain took over…it was everywhere. it choked out the lavendar garden and its long-branching rhizomes were spreading, spreading, giving our newly planted grasses a run for their life. it was overrunning everything else and its root system sent out feelers all over the yard, even under the driveway, looking for vulnerable plants it could overtake.

now the ground elder, on the other side of the potting bench, is rampant. because it is on-the-other-side and we mostly keep it from the stone patio in our potting garden, we are not as worried. but we watch it anyway.

we’ve discovered that vigilance is key. not so shockingly, we see the vines will win.

so we keep a watchful eye. and we protect the more fragile plants. we are sure to water them and check for the invasives trying to squeeze them out.

because they are beautiful, diligent silent growers, not insistently loud snowballing vegetation, and they each deserve their own space in the sun, their own dirt, air to breathe and our appreciation.

*****

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

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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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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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in it together. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

the up-north gang makes plans that feature rest rooms. we travel distances – often caravaning – but we know that we will be stopping. no ifs, ands or buts.

the drive to cedarburg is not long, but the last thing any menopausal woman OR – let’s-face-it – man wants to do upon arrival anywhere is to desperately look for a bathroom. there is no time for that. no one wants to feel imperiled by the call of nature.

it feels somewhat irresponsible to be writing about paper bags and tic-tacs and mini-mart restrooms while russia invades ukraine and people’s lives are in jeopardy. it feels a little like it could be interpreted as not-paying-attention. we sat with our coffee this morning and talked about families packing up a few things and leaving…just leaving…with no place to really go, not knowing what to take, separating from the men in the household who have been ordered to stay, conscripted. it is nothing shy of terrifying and we wonder, yet again, how it is that this world is so conflicted and broken. yet we look around and we see evidence of division and suffering and methods of control everywhere.

and so, last weekend, our little field trip to cedarburg’s winter festival was exactly the right thing to do. we stopped at the gas station we always stop at. they had added two new restrooms, good news for a bunch of 60plussers on the move. less waiting that way. we watched the sled dogs race, we wondered about whether the river had been frozen the day before for the bedraces. we wandered in and out of shops and finished our day all together in the tiny bar of a bed and breakfast there. faces reddened from the wind, laughter up and down the table.

our up-north-gang mini roadtrip was before the invasion. i would choose it again, though. because we need to be reminded – over and over – that those are moments not to be taken for granted. the silly oh-my-gosh-i-need-a-restroom-right-freakin-now shared times of this gang as we age and age. the familiarity and ease of people you have spent time with, people you are in menopause with, people who talk about utterly anything. presence is not to be underestimated.

we are fortunate. and we know it. and as we give thanks for all we do have – including people we love and new mini-mart restrooms and winter festivals and freshly fallen snow – all under a sky of freedom – we also lift up those in a land not really so far away. and we hope for their safety, their very lives and an end to conflict they did not choose.

*****

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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

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enchanted. [two artists tuesday]

and golden was the glow from the forest as we walked

into the sun low on the horizon,

our feet swishing through leaves on the trail,

our gaze above us, to the canopy.

the quaking aspen invited us, “stay,”

rustling in percussive background

to our hearts beating and wishing.

the respite in the woods,

the time on mountains,

the black and white of this stand,

we immersed in immense beauty.

stopping in the middle, the path forward and back,

we stood tall,

breathing deeply,

and shimmered with them,

enchanted.

*****

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the end goal. [flawed wednesday]

when the exposure notification availability showed up on the iphone, i x-ed it out. it comes every day and every day i delete it. i’m not sure we need any more reminders of covid exposure. we are already hyper aware of the dangers of this virus, the breakthrough possibility, the guidelines. last night we talked about all the places we would go were it not for this pandemic. the list was seemingly endless and we were in wonder about missing all of it.

we know that others are out there living life as any other day, as in any other time. i don’t know how to do that right now. any moment i forget about it and start talking about something fun to do or someplace fun to go, i remember. the benefit-risk factor is mightily dependent on, well, every facet involved, including higher threat and protecting ourselves and people we love. but i do know this – if it is for my children, i will do it. though we don’t get to exercise it much, that risk is unconditional.

we are finding that maybe we are more conservative, more cautious than others as we weigh our activities and destinations. it’s frustrating. we are a year and a half into this and, while vaccinations help us significantly, there is no stopping a mutating virus that wants to spread without the cooperation of everyone.

at the end of this pandemic, when there IS one, we will look around at the wreckage. lives and health and homes and jobs and security have been decimated. there are those who have been ultra-cavalier and have blatantly denied and defied any safety measures. there are those who have gone to disney, who have gathered in large unmasked gatherings, who have traveled widely. and there are those of us who have not. it’s a wide spectrum where, really, the most prudent route seems a narrower band of collaboration. and it – truly – sometimes makes me ponder what we’re missing. and, even though i ask ‘why?’ time and again, we stay on the track we have decided on, committing to an end to this insanity.

i suppose an argument against the way we are navigating through this would be that we are living out of fear, that we are limiting ourselves in a limitless world because, even when we have no guarantee for life in ANY given circumstance, we have bowed to covid-19, a frightening reality that makes us pay attention. it makes me sad to write that.

at the end others will have lived through it and have traveled and celebrated and eaten out. and hopefully we, too, will have lived through it. but our experience-list will be shorter; if traveling and celebrating and eating out are the things that count we have the tiniest list. our experience-list includes a serious respect for medicine, for science, for experts trying to help us mitigate this. it includes a deep concern for others and a wish for their good health and well-being. it lists to the end goal and not the short term. it includes the very-fewest visits with beloved children and family, in some cases none, tearing at my heart, painful. it includes much home-time, gratitude for this place in which we work and learn and cook and grow and dance. it’s much narrower than we would have imagined and, yet, it is rich in ways i also could not have imagined.

and next year, or sooner, i hope, maybe our experience-list will include irish fest and farmer’s markets and eating at the bar at wine-knot and restaurants in chicago and exploring in north carolina and live-in-person conversations with people who have been there for us, national geographic live events and long stays in the rocky mountains with mornings at cabin coffee in breck and winterfest in cedarburg and a slow dance party revisited on our patio, with people spilling into the kitchen, making drinks and preparing hors d’oeuvres.

maybe our experience-list will include a booster shot and no masks and fewer headlines about staggering loss and more news about communities coming together in support of each other.

maybe our experience-list will have less worry and less fear. the end goal.

stay well. stay safe.

*****

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