reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the edges of autumn. [two artists tuesday]

somehow breck knows. nature, in all its wisdom, whispers “it’s approaching” and breck’s gorgeous aspen leaves begin to turn.

we sat against our pillows with coffee this morning, a cool breeze through the bedroom windows. the crows were cawing and i could hear the lake pound the rocky shore. there is a beach hazards alert today calling for rip currents and higher waves. it’s a little grey out – the day i am writing this – and you can feel fall in the air. the wistfuls are at bay, waiting just a little longer to kick in.

but the grasses are evidence, as plumes of gold and maroon shoot up toward the sky. the cherry tomato leaves are beginning to yellow. the long stems of daylily flowers – sans blooms – are drying. the chippies are amping things up. there are just a few less birds in the morning and we hear geese overhead. up-north, along the side of the lake as we paddled, there were pockets of color. maples turning just a bit, reds and yellows, catching the sunlight. the mornings were cool, sweatshirt-worthy. playing bags in the garage invited a few yellowjackets, their quest to stay alive in september always pre-empting my ease outside as i try to avoid getting stung. it is quieter here at home during the day; school has started. it’s dark now when we wake up and the sun is setting earlier in the evening. autumn is arriving. we are standing at the edges.

we sat on the deck late saturday afternoon after a day of chores around the house. we talked about how it is already september. we tried to remember june. i opened the photo gallery on my phone and went back to the end of may so we could track the events these months. dates and happenings blurred as we strolled through pictures and not-too-distant memories. how does this happen? time flying by.

at the end of a week fraught with sudden worry, we were grateful. we had ridden the roller coaster of fear and intense concern, we had been lingering for days in not-knowing. we reached the end of the week with a few answers, the best of the possible worrisome scenarios. and we were grateful.

breck’s leaves quaked in the breeze that picked up that evening. a few raindrops fell on us. we stayed in our adirondack chairs on the deck and turned our faces to the sky. autumn is coming – in the way seasons roll round and round – and we are happy to greet it.

*****

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the grass. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

we are making headway.

at long last, there is not an unsightly mound in our front yard and our grass is actually growing. it is astounding what a little attention will yield.

we will never quality for the lawn olympics, but neither will we get the worst-on-the-block award. we bought a used edger and are defining the daylily garden with vintage bricks that match the old brick wall behind it. we used to have a beautiful old brick patio up by the front door – back in the day – but had to remove it in order to have the (non-disclosed-at-the-time-of-sale) underground oil tank removed. i’ll not forget the day we found a 7′ stick in the garage with carved inch and foot marks. we wandered the yard and discovered the cap, hidden in plain view, that spelled out the epa no-no. our poor yard has been through upheaval more than once.

and so, here we go. the backyard and the frontyard have consumed us this summer. but we are making headway. yup. no medals but it makes us just a little bit happy watching both flourish. just a little attention.

it’s always that way, isn’t it?

*****

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ithinkican chandelier. [two artists tuesday]

it’s glittering.

the crystals on our outdoor chandelier are catching the sunlight, their exquisitely-cut facets sparkling toward the sun, the clarity of spheres throwing prisms of light and, in the dark, casting intricate shadows – strung pendalogues with silhouettes illuminated by moonlight.

uh-huh.

ok. i give. it’s plastic. all plastic. except for a couple metal strap parts and the solar pack.

so when we ordered it – this solar chandelier – we expected some heft and prepared how to hang it on the old door that sits behind the glider on our deck. we talked to jeff at the ace and decided upon a hinge we’d attach to the door with a wrought iron arm that we could move in an arc, depending on how we wanted the chandelier to be hanging. we had wanted to hang it over barney – for that old piano in our backyard deserves a chandelier – but it turned out that the chippies and squirrels and birds won over a lighting fixture, regardless of its beauty.

the box came. lighter than, well, we expected.

and when we took it out of the box and attempted to unwind it from itself, we were a little skeptical that it would fulfill the lofty dreams we had for a chandelier outside.

nevertheless, we are not the kind of people who give up on something before we give it a chance. we decided to try it on for size before packing it and shipping it back.

we hung it on one half of the birdfeeder’s shepherd hook. turned on the solar pack and waited. night fell and this earnest little ithinkican-chandelier lit up. “sweet,” we both thought aloud. we hung it under the umbrella over the table and it cast ridiculously interesting shadows up. then we hung it on the awning and wondered if it would ever make it to the door and the hinge-arm-shenanigans we had ready for it.

plastic or not, it has us intrigued.

this morning i can see it out the window of the bedroom. the eastern sky is full of warm summer early morning color. as the sun rises, the crystals catch it. they glitter.

and the little chandelier grins.

*****

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walking sunsets. [two artists tuesday]

there are days that go by that we don’t notice. we hear the waves crashing or the wail of the foghorn, we feel the wind shift over the cool water surface, we listen to seagulls over our house or boats racing the shore. and, though those are all familiar to us, we don’t notice.

we walk the sunset along the lake, night dropping in around us. it’s quiet but we hear faint strains of music from the harbor and the festival on the channel. the lights to our left balance out the ever-diminishing clarity of view to our right. it is pretty exquisite. we are lucky, we repeat.

we live in an old house with an old garage and an old yard in an old neighborhood. we are steps from lake michigan and its glorious power, its ferocity, its smooth-as-glass silk, its wide spectrum of personality. and, sometimes, we don’t notice.

because sometimes, like you, we get caught up in the stuff of life, the challenges of life, the confusing relationships of life, the weariness.

those are the days we should walk the sunset.

for there is not much that reminds you of time passing like watching the giant eastern sky answer the western setting sun. there is not much that reminds you of your absolute tiny-ness in the overall scheme of things. just shy of eight billion people on this good earth and everyone shares this one sun, able to watch colors over lakes, deserts, meadows, cityscapes, neighborhoods, ballfields, cornfields, highways, bayous, mountains.

to sometimes notice, sometimes pay attention, gives us petite pause, like the air you feel staring at a richard diebenkorn ocean park painting, the all-over softened loll of arvo pärt’s music unwinding you, slower-than-slow-dancing on the patio, the hush of a hammock.

“we think we have about twenty good summers now,” the wander women talk about choosing their adventures. we are the same age, so it’s a little bit bracing.

but a good reminder. even from the very start. if we only have about 70 or 80 good summers in all, if we are fortunate, it would seem each one really, truly counts. and, if the height of summer is – in most parts – about three months long, then that’s about ninety days. that means somewhere between 6300 and 7200 good summer sunsets in all, possibly more, possibly less.

it makes me wonder how much i noticed in the first 5670 summer nights to date.

i’ve got some work to do.

i’ve got some walking sunsets to pay attention to.

*****

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hairnets. [two artists tuesday]

though a red and white striped jumper, accompanied by white tights and saddle shoes, was not my favorite outfit, i really loved being a candystriper when i was in high school. the local hospital – huntington hospital – had a training program and then you could choose as many days as you wished to volunteer. there were many options – to help in the coffeeshop, to deliver meals, to offer magazines or books on a cart, to visit with patients. my favorites were the coffeeshop and visiting with patients, but i loved all of the work i was assigned. i learned about origami from one of the patients and spent hours with him making cranes and lightening his spirit. i don’t know what his diagnosis was, but i do know it was very serious and he was only a little older than we were. he needed light and we all tried hard to bring it to him whenever we could.

the coffeeshop was a blast, always filled with patrons. i have this unusually tactile memory of making toasted onion bagels with butter – giant new york bagels – i can even still catch a whiff, mixed with coffee wafting from large pots we continually refilled.

the worst part of the job – as a candystriper – was wearing a hairnet. clearly it was for sanitary reasons, but no sixteen-year-old-girl really wants to scoop all her hair into a net and plaster it against her head. especially not if she has a nordic high forehead – which i did – well, and still do. yup. at the end of our shifts, we would go out into the sunlight and yank off our hairnets, leaving our long hair to blow wild and free.

our front lawn is wearing a hairnet. it kind of made me giggle a little as they laid down the haynet and rolled it out. the dirt and seed under it likely groaned – confined! – but the hay will keep the birds from snacking on the new seed and dan said that the hay will dry and then you can rake up the netting. easy-peasy.

mostly, it is astonishing to look out the front window or drive up to the house and see a flat yard. for the last seven months or so we have had a giant lump in the front yard, a debris pile with cement and rocks and asphalt and chunks of hard rubber and copper fittings and some cast iron – and, i’m guessing, lead – since that is what they were removing – bolts. when grass-trying-to-be-a-yard-again grew on the lump (which was all the way from the house to the street and at least twenty feet across) there was no way to cut it. we quickly became “those people” on the block, with the messiest (and ugliest) yard. david went out with the mower, but that was impossible, so he took trimmers and diligently trimmed the top of the mess. a lower mess is better than a higher mess. but – a mess nonetheless. i’m quite sure that people drove by and pointed. i can’t say i blame them.

they came and excavated the debris lump. it was a big job and they had big scraping machinery and a big dumptruck. it was quite the process. the guy in charge was particular and, thus, particularly annoying to the other workers. but they were a hardworking crew and, a few hours later, drove off with our water line replacement leftovers.

and so now we are primed for new grass. we are watering appropriately and we are conferring with dan, who has the best grass ever. he will guide us into better grasshood. we will tend our new yard carefully as it comes back from its turmoil and wreckage.

and one of these days we will be able to remove its hairnet and verdant grass will blow wild and free.

*****

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desi is messy. too. [k.s. friday]

because we see desi every day, it is hard to notice its growth. she is likely changed at every sunrise streaming through the window behind her, yet we can’t see it. we’re too close, sitting at the table with her every day; the changes are imperceptible.

desi is a tiny pine tree, an evergreen whose genus and species are unknown. maybe a white pine, we wonder; she’s a messy little thing. her tiny branches are not orderly; she has a bit of wild-troll or kramer-esque (“seinfeld”) hair-branches going on. but her trunk has gone from a tiny needle stalk to something a bit more solid, a bit more grounded.

we talk to desi, just as we talk to all our plants. they each have a name (plants are people too). and, though i haven’t checked on each plant’s tolerance for this, i touch each one. we talk about the sun and the spring ever-coming and their stoic thriving through the winter. i tell them i can see their growth, for i cannot imagine any one or thing not liking positive reinforcement.

yesterday, in mid-basement-clean, i called up to david in his office. i asked him if he could take just a couple minutes to come downstairs and see my progress. i told him i could use the positive reinforcement. plus, if he didn’t look at the progress along the way, he would likely not realize what it took to get there.

it will take tons more time. i have so much to go through…more than thirty years of accumulation. it’s been an ongoing project. but the space i cleared in the workroom yesterday was significant and, if you looked, you could see the change.

some clearing out will not look like much. there will be boxes or bins that i will go through and things will get messier before they get cleaner. it will be hard to discern what i’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild down there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

not unlike the stuff going on inside. we can’t really see that growth either. we sit at the table with ourselves every single day. one day someone tells us we seem lighter, a good trend. positive – and negative – changes, both worthy of our attention, both glimpses into direction we choose to travel, the way we want to be in the world, how we want to ground, how we want to grow.

clearing out – on the inside – does not look like much. things get messier before they get cleaner and it is hard to discern what we’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild in there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

desi nods her wild-hair-branch head.

*****

taking stock

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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restless and fidgety. [d.r. thursday]

and the saga continues. april. “april showers bring may flowers,” someone quips. everyone turns and snarls. that kind of positivity is just a bit much.

i looked at my weather app – again. we have several important places on there: chicago and charlotte (to see what our kids are experiencing), denver and tampa and columbia (family), breckenridge and dory (mountain towns we check in on), brevard (another mountain town we check in on), washington island (because we lived there), northport (because it was home).

the weather was iffy this past weekend (no surprises there). as we drew closer to it, i started googling real estate companies. zillow and realty.com, redfin, trulia. looking at houses in places with better weather, houses in places with different terrain, looking at house plans for places we dream about being. i’ve lived here a long, long time – longer than i have lived anywhere. it’ll be thirty-four years this year – thirty-three of them in this cherished house – more than half my life.

and like spring poking at us, teasing, causing us to be restless and fidgety, thoughts of living somewhere else do the same thing. poke, poke. prodding me…think about it. “what’s keeping you here?” someone asked me. “you grew into it because you had to,” else someone explained my midwest life.

the sky is glowing orange right now. literally glowing. there is some fog over the lake so the rising sun is diffusing into it. it’s pretty stunning. i suspect it’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize for the rain and snow. uh-huh.

the sun pops out over the cloud of fog and streams into the bedroom. the quilt lights up, david peeks out the window, dogga stirs at our feet, the mourning dove outside coos. and one more morning – yet again – i think about how much i love this home.

*****

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dining. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are not fancy-schmancy froo-froo types. we don’t have chandeliers or swagging silk curtains. we don’t have china or sterling silver utensils. we don’t have a matchy-matchy dining room set or linen tablecloths graced with taper candlesticks. but we do have rich dining experiences, nevertheless.

whether at our cozy table in our old kitchen – the square one that my sweet poppo refinished in our basement – the one with a couple white painted legs dogga chewed on as a puppy – the one that i had to wipe clean every week as babycat would rub up against it leaving a dander mark – the one that my babies sat by in their high chairs and that many a cuppajava was sipped….or at the covid table in the sunroom – the one with snakeinthegrass and leticia and nonámē and stubby and boston and, now, charlie – the one with happy lights and tealights – the one looking out back….or at the big table in the dining room – the one with the memories of big gatherings and games played and pass-the-mashed-potatoes and pasta dinners…any table, it doesn’t matter. we sit together and, in our together, are grateful for the chance to prepare our meal and share it.

we choose our plates carefully. it might be a white crock night or a black plate night or maybe kenandloida colorfully-painted ceramic bowls or small plates. the vessel matters. and so do the cloth napkins. no matter what we are having for dinner – vegetable soup or a tagine or plant-based meatloaf – we try to pay attention to dining and not just eating.

we can count the number of times we have been dining inside a restaurant since before the pandemic – on one hand. it has been for very specific reasons – mostly our children, but once, the up-north gang, freezing from winterfest, gathered indoors at a pub to sip drinks and gorge on kettle corn. these times have been rejuvenating and joyfilled, though i have to say, blame-it-on-covid, i usually count the days hence. sigh.

regardless, our two-years-heading-into-the-third have not been without a richness that comes with choosing to make a big deal out of meals. nothing lavish, but still meaning-affluent. nothing opulent, but still flush with deliciousness. nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing froo-froo, but dining. definitely dining.

not just sitting and eating.

*****

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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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the new mandoline. [d.r. thursday]

i read the reviews. i always read the reviews. before purchasing. before booking. before going. before clicking.

this one said, “and the first thing we made was potato chips! because we could!” it made up my mind – that would be the first thing we’d make too. homemade potato chips. goodness! we were jazzed.

the new mandoline was a little bit of an investment for sparing people who already own cutting boards and knives. i kept the tab open on my laptop for about a week, pondering, for we do not buy in haste here. but in the middle of the indecision – and still, the middle of this pandemic – in lieu of restaurants, pubs, bistros – eateries of any kind – we felt we could justify it. plus it was on sale. plus it had a zillion reviews raving about how it changed the lives of the people who purchased it. plus, potato chips!

the slicing was a dream! it took little to no time to have thin slices of three large potatoes. tossed in olive oil (maybe avocado oil would be good too) with a bit of sea salt, we laid them out on the old cookie sheet. (note to self: buy new insulated cookie sheets) the recipe gave a raaaaange of temperatures in the oven so we went with almost the highest. and… bake!

having to turn each individual potato slice over to bake the other side was a tad bit tedious. i cannot imagine the lays people doing that with their baked-chips. we quickly realized that we needed fewer chips-to-be on the sheet in order for them to self-actualize. that would mean three potatoes of potential chips would take a few rounds in the oven. nevertheless, we persevered, knowing that this was an experiment and experiments are supposed to be, er, experimental.

they may not have looked like the homemade chips at red robin, but they did not require driving anywhere or concerning ourselves with a restaurant’s ventilation system. they were browned and crunchy and just sea-salty enough. even the ones that were not-quite-there were devoured. we figure we will try it again. and we can try sweet potato chips too.

cause this new mandoline is pretty cool, just like the reviews said. 2022. who knew?

*****

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