reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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rooting for midwest express. [two artists tuesday]

it’s exactly how i draw horses. back in the day i had a book that taught me how to draw them. i was horse-crazy and i studied this book and practiced over and over. i did not retain much of all that study – or all of the other books i read about horses – but i can still draw a horsehead. so when we flew over this island on our approach to the tampa airport, i was astounded to see the first vestiges of my own drawing. i named it van gogh horse – for obvious reasons. high tide and angle and an active imagination helped, but i sure do think it looks like a horse.

it had been three and a half years since i had flown. we’ve read many articles about aggressive passengers and, i must admit, that doesn’t sound too enticing. i can’t imagine being rude to people who are tending to your needs as you zoom through the sky. not to mention all that recirculated air and the folks in the seat behind us hack-coughing. ahem. so it was a little nerve-wracking.

but it was also magical. you forget. i spent a lot of time looking out the window, mesmerized by the cloud formations and the landscape below, checking the flight plan on my phone to see where we were (technology is pretty amazing!) and taking photographs. i looked – i am sure – like the quintessential tourist-on-the-airplane. but i didn’t care. we have driven everywhere in the last years so it was like a small miracle to jaunt from milwaukee to tampa in two hours and forty minutes.

i remember days i flew often. midwest express airlines and real plates and real silverware and gourmet meals and mimosas in the morning or wine in the afternoon. and, the pièce de résistance…warm chocolate chip cookies. it was an experience – a whole experience. i flew midwest as often as i could, flights to los angeles and nashville and south and out east.

the most memorable experience was the – only – one time the airline lost my luggage. i had concerts and appearances in boston and all my attire was in my suitcase. a midwest express representative – jimbo – who is still my friend on facebook – immediately set to helping me, told me to go buy some necessities, including concert attire, and send midwest the bill. i am mostly a jeans-wearing performer – though there were some exceptions that particular trip – so that kept the costs down a bit, but they covered every last thing i needed. customer service at its best. i called all those items “my midwest express collection” and flew midwest loyally until the airline was no longer.

in a memory-filled moment with the smell of baking chocolate chips in my mind’s eye, i googled the milwaukee-based airline and was jazzed to see it is hoping to make a comeback one of these days. i wish them well. here is the best news:

“the airline plans to bring back the cookies if it starts flying again.” (milwaukeemag.com)

i know that can take some time and some luck. but warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the airline’s tiny kitchen could encourage me to start flying more again. i mean, people can’t be ornery with cookies.

if i had to draw an airplane experience – even though i am clearly not gifted at drawing – i would draw people in cushy two-across-seats, trays down, real plates and silverware, coffee cups and mimosas, warm chocolate chip cookies, linen napkins. smiles and horses out the window.

i am rooting for midwest express.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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

download on my little corner of iTUNES

stream on PANDORA

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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out loud. [d.r. thursday]

and nature studied jackson and drip-technique-painted the leaf on the trail. strategically placing small muddy potholes, it invited hikers and dogs and horses to step in. just as strategically, it placed the leaf nearby, deep brown in leftover autumn paint. soon, creamy splotches and drips and spatterings pollocked the leaf, ever-changed. i couldn’t help but notice as we walked. i felt some slight validation for the paint-spattered-paintings on our walls, the ones where i stood back and threw paint and threw paint and threw paint until i knew it was done.

i was tempted to pick up the leaf, to carry it home with us. i kind of wish i had. i wonder if anyone else noticed it, really noticed it as we did. and then i realize, that it is in our noticing – even just us – that it became a complete work and that it had a place in the world and that it wouldn’t be forgotten.

it was a good reminder for me, and i remind myself to tell d as well, to remind him. the size of the audience never matters, the number of viewers or listeners. even in one person’s experience of any work of art there is meaning.

“if you asked me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud.” (émile zola)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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maraschino dreams. [two artists tuesday]

and they dreamed dreams and waited in the woods…winterberries with visions of becoming maraschino cherries in their mind’s eye…actualizing with starring roles in traditional wisconsin brandy old-fashioneds…

no, no. do not put winterberries in your old-fashioned. they are completely toxic. but they are striking and unexpected. and the color in the woods is intoxicating. gorgeous red punctuating a dim brown-grey, save for a few evergreen, they are clustered beautiful.

it had been a while, what with the freezing temperatures and snow. we finally made it out to our favorite trail and it was – truly – a breath of fresh air. there is nothing quite as restorative as hiking, surrounded by stillness and the sound of wind rustling through the tops of trees. we needed to get outside. we slogged through the trails, getting a better workout than usual. the mud splashed up onto the back of our jeans, like when you ride your bike in the rain. we reveled in it.

the deer tracks went across the path. they hadn’t been there the first time we passed through. it was early in the day, early for the deer to be moving around, but we started looking through the brush.

her sweet face was staring right at us, her body blending into the scrub and trees around her. we stood, gazing at each other, none of us moving. i slowly took my phone out to capture what i knew would be hard to discern in a photograph – this deer in the woods, this shared moment of time. she didn’t move, but her tail wagged and her ears pitched forward and back, listening. i was hoping she could hear the words i whispered to her – telepathically, a little dr. doolittle-ish. her continued gaze at us, grace for our presence, her head held high, no obvious fear. unexpected.

she never left the spot while we were standing there. she took a few steps but didn’t flee, as so often happens when you start to move in the forest. we blew her a kiss and continued on, feeling lucky to have seen her and to have spent a few minutes with her.

we passed more winterberry holly as we hiked, laughing about old-fashioneds and marveling at our new deer friend in the woods.

we exited the trail, none too anxious to leave, wanting to just linger.

“sometimes,’ said pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” (a.a. milne)

****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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

download music from my little corner of iTUNES

stream on PANDORA

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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a chicken and a cow in autumn. [two artists tuesday]

my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.

whimsical.

i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.

from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.

“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”

we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.

i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.

right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.

*****

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a tall spikelet. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

she was a coloratura soprano. her leaps, her trills, her range were atmospheric. bell-like and of angel quality, rayna sang effortlessly.

i have no idea if she is singing now. the last i heard – after i graduated with a degree in composition – she left and was in med school, seeking a degree outside of the arts. she must have had a wise mentor along the way. someone who told her she could always sing “on the side”. like rice pilaf.

“on the side.”

it’s the ever-present albatross of artists. even those who stand out in a crowd are thrust – by a society that doesn’t place as much value on the arts – into the yin-yang of opposing forces: stay. go. full-time. on the side.

every now and then there is a whitetop sedge spikelet in the field that is strikingly more successful than the rest… the mariah carey, the ariana grande, the beverly sills, the joan sutherland. delivering exquisite bel canto, they do not render the other spikelets any less important, nor should they be. each voice is unique in the meadow and this spikelet is just a little taller.

before i finished my bachelor’s degree i was accepted into the business school at usf. “accounting,” i thought. “i love math, therefore accounting.” the “normal-job” world was taunting me. but i declined the placement and continued on my merry way, writing music. i did not have rayna’s mentor and i believed there was a way to stand out, somehow.

it took some time just to get around to writing. life and its put-the-art-making-on-the-side-and-get-a-real-job-and-make-a-living had me directing and teaching. but not writing. i dabbled a bit relatively early on, did some recording and visited nashville – but didn’t move there. i don’t think i recognized the garden there when i saw it.

it wasn’t until a decade later that the muse caught back up to me. and when it did, it was with some gusto.

and now i’ve seen “the fault in our stars”. and i’ve witnessed mortality. i have loved and lost and changed and learned and made giant messes and have ridden the tide in and out, in and out.

and i’ve written some of my best and some of my worst. and it all counts – whether i – or you – are a tall spikelet or not.

i wonder now if rayna is practicing medicine. i wonder if she is singing.

*****

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i am an artist. [two artists tuesday]

i read it on a thread. someone commented to an author i follow. “never be shy about your work,” she encouraged. i took a screenshot.

never be shy about your work.

humility is a virtue, we are taught. desiderata reminds us, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” always.

but somewhere in there – in the spectrum between meekness and arrogance – is the space to be proud of what you do, to stand in it, to share it.

“what do you do?” people ask. many people can answer that in a word. as artists, it often takes a paragraph, all run-on sentences with no breath so as not to get that lost-in-space glazed look on the asker’s face.

when i broke both of my wrists, the medical staff wrapped up both of them, casting and explaining the possible ramifications of the breaks “at my age”. when i fell the second time on a wet floor and re-injured my right wrist to the point of it having a frighteningly small amount of range of motion, the specialists asked questions and each politely said, “i heard you play the piano” as if i sat around noodling, surrounded by porcelain figurines and teacups, playing chopin-light or maybe little easy-piano-pop-hits. i was literally hesitant (!) to speak and qualified my statement-to-come by saying, “i’m not saying this to be self-aggrandizing, but….” and then i continued, “but because it’s a fact that i have 15 albums out in the world and piano is my major instrument and this could change my life work.”

those specialists had no qualms about saying they were specialists. none. i wondered why i hesitated, why i was apologetic.

never be shy about your work.

i have worked hard in my area of specialty. i have struggled like any artist, have written on scraps of paper and flimsy napkins, have squeezed out time in-between everything else that takes time, have stood in the rain playing and singing on flatbeds, have lugged boxes and boxes and boxes of cds. i have also sold thousands and thousands of albums and have millions of streams. it doesn’t equate to any kind of riches except the kind that is the deep satisfaction of doing something you love.

i used to be much more aggressive – and assertive – about “getting the word out” about my music. though i recognize that vocal styles come and go, instrumental piano is not irrelevant…it has no shelf life. it’s just as peaceful and evocative today as the days i composed it, the days i recorded it. so that would mean that 14 of these 15 albums still have some sales merit, not just the $.000079 cent so “generously” royaltied by online streaming.

never be shy about your work.

in the last church position i held, i was in a meeting with two of the leaders. they were streaming the services and i was commenting on the level of professionalism we needed to try to achieve. i wasn’t willing to link my personal and professional social media to this online streaming until the sound quality (in particular) was indeed much better. one of the leaders stared at me, clear disdain on his face, and told me he had no idea why i would say such a thing or hold such a stance. i explained that i am a yamaha artist and that only PART of my work in the world was the job (which he deliberately pointed out was part-time) i had at that place. for the umbrella of my life i was an artist and that i have always strived to bring the best quality to my work. i told him that it was important to me to make sure that nothing i did musically in the public arena was schlocky (including at that place) and that, as a yamaha artist with fifteen albums, i would hold to my position of not-sharing until there was something more professional to share. i would not undermine my own artistry because mediocrity was ok with him.

never be shy about your work.

he – eventually – found a way to fire me. in the deep dark cloak of covid. with no one really knowing why, including me. well, except, maybe, for retaliation. que sera.

never be shy about your work.

i am proud of the albums that will eventually find their way into antique stores around the country. i see them on resale sites now.

but i also know that – from time to time – someone writes to me. and in their writing they tell me that my music has meant something to them. my music has helped them, given them a sense of serenity, made them think, made them dance.

and that is what counts.

so before the vintage-store-influx i guess it’s my job now to not be shy.

i am a composer. i am a pianist. i am a singer-songwriter and recording artist. i am a writer. i love being on stage, telling stories, playing music. i love the feel of wood under my feet, a boom mic in front of me. i have fifteen albums and a few singles. i’m researching how to get more out of pandora and itunes and all the streaming devices out there. i’m 63 but i’m thinking i might still be relevant. i may need your help because no one gets anywhere in a tiny bubble; no one walks this path alone.

i’m pulling up my not-shy-boots.

*****

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the stuff we see. [two artists tuesday]

we cannot help ourselves. we see stuff. i usually don’t suppose that’s unusual, until someone stares at us – with that blank look on their faces that betrays the “oh-sheesh-they-are-SOOO-weird” thought they are having. and then i realize we might be a little unusual. i shrug it off. “we-are-all-worthy-we-are-all-worthy” i repeat.

the shark was on the side of the trail. lurking. all crusty and gnarly, his face. he was obvious. he was cause for conversation, tales of scuba-diving in cold long island waters and off the coast of tropical islands. we can’t help but see and we laugh and gasp out, “look! it’s a ……..!”

seeing. it’s a burden every artist carries. it’s in the backpack with the parmesan cheese and the twizzlers and the tiny box wine and the kind bars. it’s probably good that we are mostly alone during these moments; our imaginations fly wild and free and we crack ourselves up.

and isn’t that the point? the laughter? i can’t think of anything better than laughing together, even at our own expense. we tell stories to friends, emphasizing the goofy, the silly, the utterly-profoundly dumb, self-deprecating and reveling in it. getting my hair cut and claiming the highest forehead in the guiness book of world records of foreheads. having a pedicure and claiming the biggest big toe in modern history. even, recently, at the doctor’s office, asking, please, for a sticker or a gold star for passing my bloodwork. just silliness. we can’t help it.

but to walk with him and find the sharks on trail and the ducks stuck in trunks (see below) and the tree mooning us (see below) and the desert hills from space (also see below) is to walk inside laughter. it’s to have maybe learned – at long last – not to take everything quite so seriously.

it’s to learn how to get older and crusty and gnarly ourselves and to hold it all lightly.

because in truth, the shark tree was beautiful.

*****

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the pod of our diapause. [two artists tuesday]

the color of a palomino, the pod of milkweed off the side of the trail captures my attention. though i want to touch it, to feel what looks like a velvety ear, i don’t disturb it. this pod has burst open, its seeds scattered, waiting for verdant spring and the eventual arrival of monarchs. the butterflies left the midwest for the winter, migrating, traveling up to 2500 miles to shelter and hibernate through winter in coolness that is not cold.

their diapause is a period of suspended development. it is common in the insect world, this inactivity: “a state in which their growth, development, and activities are suspended temporarily, with a metabolic rate that is high enough to keep them alive.” it’s a kind of dormancy. it sounds a little like isolating in the middle of a pandemic, a little like a response to a few more-difficult years. a slowing down, an insulating, a turning-in, heartbeats enough to sustain yet not enough for vast inspiration. hmm.

back on our favorite local trail, we are watching it wake. we take note of the changes in color, the changes in the woods, in the meadows. sipping coffee this morning we listen to the new sounds – birdcalls we have missed in the quietude of winter, the middle of our diapause.

we start to feel the pull of the outside more, the draw of places to see, the falling-off of quilts we have wrapped around us. i begin to wonder – with a little more energy – what next and next look like. the sun streams in the window and stays up later, pushing back night like feet on a crab soccer ball.

we begin to break open the pod of our diapause, long after milkweed but before the butterflies come back.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY