reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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every waterfall counts. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we stood in a quiet forest, the only sounds – birds and running water.

we had taken a sketchy gravel forest service road – a single-car-width-wide – to get to the trailhead up the mountain, encouraging littlebabyscion the whole way and grateful we had gotten new tires before our trip. the brochure directions were not as straight-forward as we would have liked, and we lost signal for most of the time, but eventually the alltrails app helped us find our way.

250 waterfalls. there are more than 250 waterfalls to discover in brevard, north carolina. choosing where to go is overwhelming. but once you start laying feet on the dirt, hiking, it really doesn’t matter. we were surrounded by intensity every which way we looked. we stood by the side of the waterfall, silent.

it wasn’t one of the grand falls; it wasn’t listed on the “top 10”. but it was serene and light dazzled through the trees. millions of droplets captured the sun. a tiny miracle of beauty in the woods. haloed waterfall. stunning. perfect.

“and the moon said to me, my darling daughter, you do not have to be whole in order to shine.” (nichole mcelhaney)

we hiked on up further, a steep climb to a destination unknown.

*****

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unadorned. [d.r. thursday]

unadorned.

a water lily rises to sunlight. it is unaware of its astounding beauty, of the draw it has on us as we pass by. we turn the canoe around and attempt to get close, to take a photograph, without paddling over the pads. it is the arvo pärt in the lake…simple, exposed. were there to be music performed by this lily, i suspect it would be clear and distinct, though soft and warm, bell-like fragments of sound, minimal, arvo’s tintinnabuli.

it is never the fancily decorated that attracts me. it is never the overly done makeup-ed, the bejeweled, the gold-and-diamond-studded, the finery in attire, swanky or haute couture. it is never the ornamented, embellished singer, the bombastically orchestrated. it is never the heavy classical painting or big ornately carved furniture or heavy drapery.

it is the old piece of desk that holds a lamp and a few books. it is the small farm table in our sitting room. it is the driftwood on our mantle. the finches at the feeder. our little aspen in the yard. the chippie on the fence out the window. the look of new motherhood on my niece’s face. the framed notes from my children on the bedside table. the ceiling fan chain bracelet from my dad’s workbench. the jeans with holes. the sweatshirt hoodie sans one cuff. the old hiking boots and flipflops thinned by sidewalks.

it is the simple lone lily.

*****

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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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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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like loons. [two artists tuesday]

i wonder if they wondered.

we had stopped right in front of their front steps. like came to a dead stop. and just gazed.

but their blue eryngo had called to us, their seafoam green step risers, the perfect backdrop. a dead stop. full immersion. color – like the sound of loons on a quiet lake. so beautiful.

i took just a few pictures, knowing we should keep going on our sidewalk-amble, breezes off the shore beckoning us to walk through the park.

saturday we spent the day in our front garden beds. we transplanted the sedum being overrun by the tall ornamental grasses marching toward the old brick wall. we cleaned up the daylilies, proudly wearing their glorious orange blossoms, high above the green leaves. we – well, he – dug out a line all the way across the front, so that we can place a stone wall of sorts. nothing fancy and certainly nothing measured or pristine, a wall that will mark where the lily garden and the growing-grass meet.

ornamental grasses love this yard and the beachy feel suits this house. we know there are many fancy-plants out there, but we have learned, through experience – finally – to not fight with what works. ornamental grasses it is.

as we walk the ‘hood we try to get some ideas. our neighbors own a garden business and are gifted gardeners, so their yard is precise and, elegant and, well, pretty perfect. we are not making an effort to achieve perfect. we’re artists. we know there’s no getting there from here and we kinda like it that way. our yard is less magazine-like and more a folksy invitation to hang out, kick off your shoes, tell a story, laugh, sing, dance.

but it’s a treat to wander in this neighborhood, every house different than the next. there is no sameness here and there is no real garden or lawn-olympics. there are gorgeous ideas and there are misses. there are old hedges and new wildflowers. there are yew and big stately oaks and pines and delicate daisies and coneflowers, and there are hosta and ferns and container gardens and raised beds we can see peeking down driveways and around the sides of houses.

i suppose that there is an hoa somewhere that would cite the homeowner with the seafoam green step risers. they’d get a note that would give them a certain amount of time to re-paint those risers, wearing from weather and the front of many shoes climbing to go inside and be home or go inside and visit.

i’m glad we don’t live where this would be cited. because the day i took this photo all i could think about was what an eye – an aesthetic – the owners must have who put blue eryngo next to their seafoam-green-weathered steps. and what a gift it was to those of us wandering by who noticed.

*****

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cowboys and mayapples. [k.s. friday]

he sat easy in the saddle, cowboy hat planted on his head, his horse striding down the trail. “have you seen the mayapples?” he turned his head toward us. “yes, you were the one who told us about them,” i replied. satisfied, he rode on.

it’s hard to miss the canopy. they stand tall and the leaves intersect like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, gone a little wild. it is as if the mayapple all joined hands, agreeing that their mutual umbrella is the point, their canopy of protection a priority. the green is beautiful, lighting the floor of the forest. i bend down to photograph them, again.

and there it was. a stunning white flower. hidden under the umbrella of a wide expanse of leaves above. only stems with more than one leaf will flower; the delicate white bloom grows out of the axil of two leaves.

we had never noticed the flowers before. i don’t know why. but the canopy stretches on and on and you must bend and peek to see the flowers. they exist in this other-world, beautiful, showy, fragrant. it came as a shock to us – how many times we had passed by the mayapple – to not know the existence of these pinwheel flowers, each one ever-important to the thriving of the colony. the canopy provided shelter, guarding the precious flowers that will need be cross-pollinated and will then produce a berry ripe with seeds, ensuring mayapple’s continued spread. so much going on in this tiny underworld of the forest. nature continues on her merry way.

the cowboy seems to really love the mayapple. though he doesn’t remember, each year he quietly tells us about them as he and his horse walk by. it never appears that he is in a rush. instead, he is slow and deliberate. and those mayapples.

what beauty we all might find…were we to bend down and peek into the world. what shelter we might provide were we to join hands, spreading out like the canopy of mayapples. how we might protect what is precious to us, the delicate, the fragile, the children among us. how we might lift each bloom and help it thrive.

we walk under a canopy of blue sky and inky stars. we can do this.

*****

nurture me

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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cautious discernment. [d.r. thursday]

and the dried grassy flower stands tall, not yet shrinking back, not yet bowing to the wind. it opens its arms to the sun and, equally, to the rain; it intimately knows how each feels. it waits – for there is nothing else to do. it stokes energy – for it cannot survive unless it conserves. we pass by, admiring the firework of its winter bloom.

soon, soon, it will regenerate. soon, soon, a stem will grow, sturdy, tall. soon, soon, a rosette will green. soon, soon, it will bloom, tiny flowers, clusters on its thick stem.

and one might think how lovely it would look in a simple bud vase, on a side table, in its winter simplicity or soon-soon-spring-blossoming.

quick research reveals it could be golden alexander or perhaps queen anne’s lace, not-toxic and somewhat toxic, respectively. a google-photo-search suggests it is possibly wild parsnip, absolutely toxic, invasive, causing severe burns and years-long discoloration of the skin, like queen anne’s lace with a big bite.

“things are [- sometimes -] not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.” (buddha)

identification – now – in the fallow – is not easy.

when there are tiny flowers, when there is foliage…maybe then it will be easier. it will, clearly, be an important discernment.

often we gaze upon things that seem to be attractive, seem to be beautiful, that tease us to reach for them.

perhaps a reminder to exercise caution.

*****

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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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that crooked smile. [merely-a-thought monday]

his crooked smile stopped me.

we were wandering slowly through the orchid show at chicago botanic gardens, drinking in the colors, the fragile blooms, the deliciousness of being-out-somewhere-doing-something. in the hallway between two larger spaces, there he was. waiting. wearing the imperial margarine crown, large bulbous nose, really long kind-of-jay-leno-chin and a crooked smile, his eyes squeezed a little shut in an engaging invitation, he was waiting.

i stood there staring at him, laughing. he was sitting in front of an old piano painted in bluebird-sky-blue-peely-paint and he winked at me. all the other orchids didn’t have to do anything to get our attention, and, truthfully, neither did he – they were all stunning and refreshing hopeful harbingers of maybe-spring-will-come – but he tried extra hard anyway.

i see him as toothless. but i have no judgements about that at all. i suspect most orchids are toothless, well, except for the one that made me do the “duh-chomp, chomp, chomp—what’s up doc?” bugs bunny imitation in the middle of a room full of people. that one most certainly had teeth. two buck teeth just screaming for us to notice. nevertheless, this guy – the imperial margarine guy – did not have teeth. his jimmy durante schnozzola was all he needed. and those eyes. and that crooked smile. sheesh! what charm!

when we left the botanic garden we felt a rush of fresh air. this wasn’t just the difference between a heightened-warm greenhouse and the cold chicago air. it was a sense of newness. a refreshing, though albeit tiny, touch of “normal”, a reminder of beauty. it was sheer magic. it was diving into a rainbow and immersing, coming out the other side dripping with colors we hadn’t seen in a long time.

it was admiring blossoms of solid colors and stripes and polka-dots and marveling over shapes and sizes and textures. it was reading of orchid seeds sailing over oceans and great expanses of land, steadfastly enduring. it was laughing with orchids which had personality, confidence and humility, joie de vivre.

they reminded us of life, in the middle of a neverending pandemic, in a period of time that would mark the beginning days that ukraine was invaded by russia, the world shocked by the wickedness of it all. the country-of-sunflowers was under siege and the orchids were blooming. all existing at the same time, on the same plane, in the same world. a gentle prod – yet again – to appreciate every last little thing.

maybe that’s what his crooked smile was all about.

*****

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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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