reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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tree lessons. [two artists tuesday]

we know the trees well. on all three of the hikes we usually take in our area. we watch them as they change through the seasons, giving their leaves over to fallow, holding snow, reawakening. their portraits shift against the sky – from dense to sparse and back to dense. we notice when limbs fall and when nests are built in their branches. we watch as they turn from photographs of trees to graphic images, of dark and light. ever-changing. evolving. we use no filters.

eyes wide open – sort of – we move about our days. we see the people we see, do the work we do, go the places we go. some days are all about the familiar, the patterned, the every-day-ish-ness of it both reassuring and maybe a little stifling. we look at the days without noticing the days, at the people without noticing the people, at the work without noticing the work, at the places without noticing the places.

sometimes i stand just inside the front door of our home and look in. i try hard to pretend that it is my first step into this home. and i look – really look – to see what i see, feel what i feel, notice.

and days, and people, and work, and places.

the trees are teaching me.

*****

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marvel. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i wonder if the tree looked in the mirror and counted rings, pondering the impetus behind each one, the reasons for the wrinkles of years, ever-forming, ever-widening. it is doubtful that the tree gazed, searching the rearview mirror for clues, connective tissue, remembrances of angst or sublime moments. it seems more likely that the tree just accepted each concentric ring, the truth of time. it seems more likely that the tree recognized the steady strength it gained for each ring, the rootedness each ring-wrinkle brought to it.

it would seem that this could be a good lesson from nature for us. the natural, raw, untouched passing of time shown on our faces, each beautiful in aging. we could acknowledge the years and the easy and the hardships. we could bow to the accumulation of moments, time flying by as we gather minutes in our embrace. we could turn toward each other, accepting and without judgment, full of grace and care, measuring only our love for each other, unbiased by wrinkles or rings, color or patina. we could tenderly touch the faces of our beloveds and marvel.

*****

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faces on a bridge. [k.s. friday]

this darling face was larger than life, a giant print by simon te tai hanging on the wall at our airbnb in charlotte. many times we would find ourselves standing in front of it. it compelled you to do so. is there a “hug-a-sloth” day? we both would like to participate.

other than our sweet dogdog, the next animal face we were close to was the hawk’s.

it was out front in the yard, seemingly enjoying the sprinkler. d watched it out the office window, checking on it while he worked. when he went to turn the sprinkler off and remove the hose from the lawn, it stayed there and watched him. he sent me a photo of it, merely ten feet away, calm and steady. the next time he looked out, it was in the street and in trouble. grabbing a blanket he ran down to it. we have brought other birds to rehab centers so this would not be our first. the hawk was in distress and laid while david talked quietly to it. as he went to gently scoop it up, it flew off, straight up into the tree limbs above.

when i came home d was standing in the middle of the street, staring up, so i knew it had to be something to do with this hawk he had photographed.

there it was. a small raptor perched on a limb 25 feet above us.

we watched it for a while and then thought we should leave it be, believing it must be recuperating from – perhaps – being somehow stunned.

just a bit later, from across the street, at the front door, we watched with horror as this beautiful creature flapped its wings up in the tree and then fell out. grabbing a bin and the blanket we tore out the front door and ran across the street.

i implored him to wait. the eye i could see was closing and i caressed him softly, telling him how grateful the world was for his presence in it, how stunningly beautiful he was.

i don’t know when his tiny spirit floated away.

it was profound for both of us. david wrapped him carefully in a blanket and we placed him in the bin, hopeful that our suspicion was wrong and that it might be possible he was simply unconscious for a bit. but the time went by and each time we checked on him revealed no change. we called all the bird rehabilitation centers.

wisconsin dnr asked us to photograph the hawk. “take as many pictures as you can,” she instructed, “that way we can try to determine what kind of hawk it was and maybe a little information about what might have happened.” there were no obvious signs of injury and we know that the avian flu has been seriously problematic, especially for waterfowl and birds of prey.

his face was truly beautiful. feathers the color of bold coffee and caramel, amber eyes just like dogdog’s, a bit of green above his curled beak. really beautiful.

it’s these two faces of wildlife i will remember this past month.

the face of a sloth – though not three-dimensional – friendly and open, practically begging for a giggly snuggle.

and the face of a hawk – transient, evanescent and spirit-filled – visceral and, quite astoundingly, stroked by our fingertips – a moment we shared we will not forget – when this creature crossed over and we were all one, together. on a mysterious bridge that goes both ways.

BRIDGE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

*****

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never forgotten. [d.r. thursday]

there were big trees where i grew up. solid oaks and maples, a woods behind our house. as dusk would fall earlier in late summer we’d play hide and seek, so many places to tuck behind. i remember the ease of finding a tree or bushes that would shelter your whole body from view. you’d wonder if you would be found and then you might wonder if they didn’t find you whether they would just leave you there wondering. you’d peek around the trunk, just to make sure the game was still going, not to be left behind. because being left behind – forgotten – is exactly what you didn’t want to happen. but sometimes kids can be not-so-nice, just like adults, and you would find yourself standing behind the tree or crouched behind the bush, and the game would move down the street and you’d hear spud starting up.

this morning someone posted the meditations before kaddish online, reminding me i had saved these words since the day we attended a touching memorial service on zoom. extraordinary.

“when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands, and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

we walked up the hill away from the lake, knowing it was time to leave. beautiful places are always hard to leave and it feels that each time i do, i leave a piece of me behind in that space that gave me a chance to sink into its beauty. i peek through the trees on the way up and wonder if the lake will remember us or if it will forget.

i am reassured, though, now as an adult, believing – that in the way we eternally touch another in this universe – one tiny star to another – these birch and the lake and the path to water’s edge will remember our footfalls and our breath.

never forgotten.

*****

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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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full of beautiful. [d.r. thursday]

i worry about the ferns. fragile, willowy, tender shoots determinedly growing up from under the pile of leaves waiting, decaying, protecting the garden through fall’s end and winter’s scourge until, finally, spring. and then, there they are. despite it all. back in the northwest corner of the yard, tucked in along the fence line and next to the old garage.

they start slowly, peeking out, and then – voila – they are taller, taller, and unraveling their curly tops, like a modern dancer, curling up one vertebrae at a time, opening and embracing dappled sunlight. without concern for any part of history or future, they just grow. they are perennials, so keeping them healthy – a bit of simple nurture – ensures this fern garden in the back of our yard.

i’ve grown other plants in this yard through the years. ornamental grasses, day lilies, ferns, hosta, a couple peonies, these are the thrivers. purple iris, black-eyed susans, a planted lavender garden all fell to the wayside.

the neighbor’s snow-on-the-mountain, creeping under the fence, devoured the iris. wild mustard gave the black-eyed susans a run. the lavender was taken over by boxwood elder on a rampage.

but the delicate ferns…through dogdog’s puppyhood and now his adulthood…through the drought and maybe too much sun and maybe too much rain…through the late-late springs and the early winters…have survived.

in each of them i see the fortitude of the dancer, practicing unfurling vertebrae by vertebrae, forgetting all else – all negativity, all lack, all the torrential storms – in the tender, rich, vibrant forward-movement of now. full of beautiful.

“there is an entire forest
full of the most incredible flowers,
plants and trees inside you,
and you are ignoring all of it to nurture a single tree
that they planted inside your heart and abandoned.

the people who left you this way
don’t deserve to become your favourite stories to tell.
you are a massive forest full of beautiful and vibrant stories
and every single one of them deserves you more
than those that abandoned you to hell.”

(nakita gill – a forest story)

*****

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the orange blazes. [d.r. thursday]

there is this thing about being on a mountain in the woods. you don’t realize you are there – on the mountain. oh, you know you are going uphill and downhill and some of it is extreme, but being ON it is different than looking AT it. you are immersed in the scents and sounds and each step you take on the trail, over tree roots and slippery fallen leaves, is a really glorious celebration of being outside.

and then, in-between the branches devoid of leaves and over the tops of pine, you catch a glimpse. it takes your breath away, as do things that you love, things that are beautiful, things that remind you to “be here, now”.

the days were warm and the sun was amazing. it burned off a bit of fog early as it rose over the mountains and drew us outside. to drive down the road a bit meant getting to the national forest in a matter of minutes. hundreds of waterfalls and innumerable trails awaited. with only a couple days, we wondered where to start.

the orange trail blazes were on the trees as we hiked. it was supposed to be a relatively short trail, so we decided to turn off and take the faintly-traveled blue up the side of a steep ridge a good ways as well. we need new hiking boots it seems; the hundreds and hundreds of miles we have hiked in these over the last years have worn down their tread and traction on the leaves was a challenge. i found a stick on the side of the trail and that helped. trekking poles are also on the list. we saw no one on the blue. it was quiet and immense and the babbling stream below us was serene. the mountains around us peeked through branches on our way, more so the higher we got. we watched the sun as it got a little lower in the sky and turned around.

joining back up with the orange we started to hike back toward the lot. or so we thought. it seemed far, much farther than we had thought. the trail app wasn’t cooperating and we began to wonder if we were heading the wrong way. that made us the tiniest bit cranky, though we tried to laugh it off, even as the sun was slipping.

we passed a few people, also confused by a couple signs propped up by rocks that didn’t seem to correlate with the blazes. i took stock of our rations: a mini kind bar, a bottle of water, two halos, one sweater poncho and a thermal shirt tied around d’s waist. though i didn’t actually doubt that we would find our way out, i could imagine what it would be like to truly get lost and be unsure of the way out of the forest. “before we do the pct some day in the futuring-future, get a trail gps,” i made a mental note.

since orange was a large looped trail – and a smaller interior loop choice too – we knew we’d eventually get somewhere, though it did extend to two different parking lots, separated by a whole lot of what-would-end-up road walk. we kept hiking. at one point david thought we should turn around and go the opposite direction. happily we didn’t follow that naggy doubt he had in moments of what-the-heck. littlebabyscion was patiently waiting in the lot at the end and we loaded my stick in the back, checked our mileage – about 8 – and drove down the national park road in the last of waning light.

we hiked up another ridge the next day. we got a later start after a wonderful morning wandering in town. we didn’t make it to the peak. we were told the view was spectacular. but the hike was quiet and the brook babbling, birdcalls plenty and that smell of deep-in-the-woods like the best candle you’ve found.

before the sun set we turned around.

but it’s ok. we’ll be back.

*****

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i left it there. [two artists tuesday]

i left it there.

we had a few hours and needed a fix in the mountains. just a short distance away from congested civilization was a trail that lead into higher elevation and quiet. everything else slipped away as we climbed and followed the columbine.

i was moved by this fragile blossom on the side of the trail. delicate and perfect in every way that flowers are perfect, i picked it up, turned it over, felt its short life. like the sun, its tiny petals radiating from the center. its flawlessness is simple; its budding-lifeline complete. it was laying in the mountain meadow, waiting to be noticed. not much different than any of us.

and then, i laid it back down where i found it. and it will be there for the next person who hikes by, glances over and sees it. one sun-low-on-the-horizon-fall-dried-flower-blossom, past its season but not past its beauty.

that’s why i left it there.

*****

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frankie’s wisdom. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

there was an emphasis on beauty long before mass media made natural aging formidable. women and men, but especially women, went to lengths to be beautiful, taking great pains to conform to whatever was the current measure of beauty.

but in the past century – later 1900s through now – there has been a shift to devaluing the aging process, to undercutting the beauty of what aged looks like. the look of youth is prized disproportionately and has made middle age look inadequate. we are under siege and it is increasingly impossible to measure up to those decades younger.

there is no good reason any woman of any age should be feeling that beautiful is not unconditionally hers, is not inherently attainable. there is no good reason any young woman, glowing with new maturity, should be feeling beauty-challenged. there is no good reason any woman on the menopause roller coaster should be feeling that beautiful is bygone. there was no good reason my sweet momma, at 93, should look in the mirror and sorrowfully cry, “i look like an old woman!”. on the contrary.

the confidence, just like the wrinkles, has been earned over a lifetime of living, over struggling to be healthy, to be engaged, to learn, to be active. there is no measure for the wisdom gleaned and the story each of those wrinkles might tell, the love and struggle and perseverance each grey hair might represent, the days in the sun playing with children and grandchildren reflected in crepey skin and the lines next to her eyes from laughter with her friends.

just like hallmark aggressively pushing made-up holidays or the internet naming days as “national – whatever – day” compelling us to be involved, mass media on all levels, in all arenas, has foisted “youthful appearance” upon us as the measure of value, of validation, of relevance.

the cultural preoccupation fighting the intrinsic processes of aging is surely a mark of ignorance, of superficiality, of contrived campaigns for products and images from which we should gracefully walk away. transformative surgeries and injectibles and laser work are on a stunning rise. for what?

surely in this society we are not as inept as it seems at helping others, particularly women, to develop self-esteem, positive body image, confidence.

surely our preoccupation should be on frank lloyd wright’s words, “the older i get, the more beautiful life becomes.”

my daughter – naturally amazing and naturally beautiful and naturally talented was not even twenty when she chose those words – in french – as her first tattoo. ink as a reminder. words of wisdom.

*****

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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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