reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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church. [k.s. friday]

he wrote, “that building is not God.”* (john pavlovitz)

the light lit up the sky, a golden glow in a fog toward the heavens. it is one of the chicago botanic garden’s iconic displays, this tunnel of light, begging you to look up, be wrapped in its light, acknowledge the goose bumps. the luminous winter cathedral drawing people toward it. they stood, marveling, they strolled slowly, they posed for photographs, the millions of starry twinkling lights enveloping all.

i’m not much for cathedrals, really. i never have been; it’s nothing new. while i can appreciate their stunning beauty and the incredible feat it often took to build or install, they have never brought me closer to faith than any other place…outside, in the presence of others, at the piano, alone in wonder.

in my life – and in three and a half decades of my work life – i have found churches to not only house beauty. i have found churches to also house ugly. and so, i was relieved to read the words of john pavlovitz. it is important to distinguish the difference – the building is not God. and, sometimes, the best place to find the supreme deity you are seeking – no matter the name, no matter the denomination or affiliation, no matter the book of written word – is not in a place, not in a building.

the people – so many gathered there – under the arch of the winter cathedral seemed softer. the glow of light on their faces, they moved slower, offered to photograph others, gazed up. just as a community of people in a church often do, they seemed to come together, one of the benefits of “the building”. but, as i have found time and again – and, if we are to speak truth – those benefits sometimes run out. and people within become consumed by that which would never be considered a basic tenet of faith – the hypocrisies of power and control and discrimination and subjugation and competition, toxic things that “[don’t] feel like Love anymore”*.

as i walked under the night sky i knew that the cathedral would be close to the last installation on the guided path. i steeled myself for its overtones, even with its undeniable beauty.

we stood back and watched people enter it. in awe. it is truly glorious.

we approached and there was this tiny voice inside my head naysaying “church” to the other tiny voice exclaiming “wow”. both.

yet ethereal was there and it shone down on us as we walked through to the other side. and then we were once again under a night sky, full of stars we could see and stars we couldn’t see. just like faith.

“you are fully freed to run into the wide open spaces of this world, and to experience life and faith and beauty in ways you never thought possible…”*

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – solo piano ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

ALWAYS WITH US – piano with orchestration ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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the splurge. [two artists tuesday]

it would appear that a giant angel was hula-hooping in the clouds and dropped their hula hoop, which landed in the upper branches of a tree at the botanic garden. or, perhaps, that a spaceship -with no defined interior- had dropped down for a visit. or, maybe, there was a filming of sesame street’s “the letter ‘o'” about to do another take. brightly lit hula hoops of neon light suspended in trees, they cast an eerie glow onto the frozen ground, onto the path. michael bublé sang “walking in a winter wonderland” and we found ourselves inside the magic.

there is definitely something to wandering paths amongst many other people all oohing and ahhing. i had vowed to myself to leave my camera in my purse, but it wasn’t minutes before i failed at this. there were just so many colors and textures to remember, so dreamy. vast installations of creative lighting.

we had hoped to go. the ticket cost was a little prohibitive but we decided – when we woke and new year’s day was to be a little more mild than it had been – to splurge.

we were stunned even at the entrance to the garden, the trees wrapped in lights, every single branch and twig gleaming. we moseyed along the path, pulling over to let groups of people by so that we could be somewhat alone as we strolled.

but this wasn’t a silent and solitary hike in the woods. it was a performance piece we all took in together. each person’s glee added to ours and, dropping all expectations and all analysis of how-do-they-do-that, we were caught up in the captivating displays.

we already have a plan for next year. there are snacks and beverages and fire pits, places to linger, places to immerse. i could stand and watch the water and light “all i want for christmas” over and over and over. i allowed myself to wonder what a garden would look like lit to a piece of my own music.

we talked about our favorite displays driving the backroads. though spaceship fantasies are not my thing, hula hoops definitely are in my wheelhouse and the hulahooplights made my list. by the time we got home we realized that we had listed all of the displays we had seen, each design extraordinary, a celebration of the marriage of color and light and and sound and garden.

our late-night snack had a different air. the gift of being outside in the cold. the gift of beauty. the gift we had given ourselves – permission to splurge a little. a new year and its new intentions.

*****

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the spaces in-between. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we’re guided by the spaces in-between the facts,” she stated. and then continued, “instinct, faith…”

standing outside, inside the beauty of creative lighting, feeling as if we were somewhere between graphic and real, it was easy to wrap around these words. the spaces in-between, the rests between the notes, the white space, even the kerning. all the space in-between counts.

the moments of instinct – action based on sheer gut. the moments of faith – action based on exposed heart.

joey is back. every now and again he is posting a wild country backpacking trip. we are somewhat relieved to see him again; he hadn’t been around in a long time and we weren’t the only ones who seemed worried. we watched him pull out maps and trail books and choose the space in-between all of it, the wilderness through which he could instinctively find his way. joey coconato’s guiding star is not conventional. maybe that’s why we love to watch him.

the fulcrum of balance in daily life is a challenge. balancing the very real needs of living – paying bills, staying healthy, doing good work – with the very real needs of living – the moments, the recognition of time flying by, the autograph we leave behind. in-between the stuff of accumulated years we seek the space of minimal. in-between the daily barrage of tasks we seek the space of quiet. in-between the challenges and troubles we seek the space of grace, of peace.

there is the day we stand in the kitchen – each arguing for our “side” of the story, full-steam ahead fueled by accumulated stress and anxiety – when we look out the window and it has begun to snow. suddenly, there is air, a little space. suddenly the facts-of-the-matter seem less important. suddenly we realize that this moment of discontent counts too – and, just as suddenly, we realize we are tossing the heart out with the angst.

we read an article written by a philosopher/psychologist in finland. he referenced that “for five years in a row, finland has ranked no. 1 as the happiest country in the world”. since david and 20 are constantly trying to convince me to move to finland, i thought it in my best interest to read this article. surely it would shed light on why those sisu folks are so darn happy.

there were three basic tenets. the first – “we don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.” the second – “we don’t overlook the benefits of nature.” the third – “we don’t break the community circle of trust.”

just reading those made me think – for pretty obvious reasons – that the united states of america is doomed to unhappiness. i sighed. it would seem that finns walk in the spaces in-between more than we all do. I am hoping my quarter-finnish ancestry will help me list that way.

so how do we find the balance point, i wonder, that space between.

walking at the chicago botanic garden – in the middle of graphics and lights and magic and real-live-nature called “lightscape” – helped. the way home was a smorgasbord of holiday lights and displays. we passed lake bluff’s stunning square, all green and blue and twinkling white lights.

we arrived home, grateful to have taken the space in-between everything else – the worries, the busy, the not-enoughs – to appreciate awe without measure, to be outside on a cold winter’s night, to delight in what we saw surrounded by strangers who delighted with us.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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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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the window of magic. [two artists tuesday]

the stairs in our home go straight up a few steps, turn 90 degrees to the left and then another 90 degrees to the left before the last few to the landing. if you turn left again you will see straight into the treetops through the office window, will pass the bathroom, and will head down a short hall to our daughter’s room. if you turn right at the landing you walk into our son’s room.

there’s a big window in his room ahead of you and it faces north. it is the window of magic. for if the circumstances are just right and the frost gathers and holds hands with the sun, this is where the crystals are found. and they are divine.

that day, in every corner, from every angle, the ice shimmered, an evanescent presence that would disappear as the window warmed. the ephemeral tiny expressions of frozen wouldn’t last. not yet. it is still fall and there will be warmer days still.

but for right then, to stand and gaze at the strands and shards and bubbly droplets is to take part in the very moment, that very moment of cold. it was to acknowledge it. and to recognize its transient beauty.

a long while ago i was gifted a necklace with a silver snowflake charm. in the tiny box was printed a brief message, “every snowflake is unique; it’s true. each one’s special, just like you.” not the thought-provoking words of mary oliver or john o’donohue, but a simple reminder of unrepeatable gorgeousness, in words anyone can grok.

these last days have been harder, a holiday with empty chairs. we are adults now and we know that this is the way of life. john pavlovitz writes, “in this season each of us learns to have fellowship with sadness, to celebrate accompanied by sorrow. this is the paradox of loving and being wounded simultaneously.”

we walked on the trail and spoke of each member of our family. we each spoke a gratitude for each person, each step on the trail punctuated by a story or some enlightenment. we laughed and i wondered what gratitude would be uttered for us, hoping that words would not be difficult for the utterer to find. our thanksgiving was bookended with early morning pumpkin pie and full bellies of mashed potatoes at day’s end. in the middle was appreciation for the people we love.

it is easy to see the cold, the long winter ahead, the empty chairs. they are apparent and they can be brutal.

it is harder to walk, peer through the window, and see the crystals and their exquisite – even if brief – magical uniqueness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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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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