reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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thirteen seconds. [k.s. friday]

even the lake moaned in answer to the cold. waves pummel the ice from below, desperate for release, anxious to swirl and crash, and we can hear the sound of cracking, of squeaking, of water begging to be free. we stand and listen, transfixed by it all, this symphony in a frozen-solid world, a bit of music in the stillness of sub-zero.

for thirteen seconds we record the song of the lake, feeling a little like mother-nature-copyright-infringers. we marvel and watch, up over our knees in snow on the edge of the giant rocks that line the lake shoreline. ice, for as far as we can see, is shifting and the groans signal to us that, soon, water will win over ice, flow over stasis. soon, a lake that appears unmoving will reappear in all its moody glory and the suspended moment-in-time will pass. in the meanwhile, the lake will appear as a tundra, vast and flat, the horizon meeting the clouds, a straight white line of demarcation. the fury, the passion, the tides are hidden below the surface, furrowing their brows and incessantly working to break down the ice.

we stand there inside the song of the lake and take note of this measure of transformation.

we know in a day or two the ice will be broken up, the waves will return and the lake’s song will resume a cacophony of crashing, a minuet of quiet lapping, wild some days and gently calm others. just as we ourselves seem in suspended moments, we, too, trust the return of movement, of purpose, of the tides.

the sub-zero song of lake michigan.

*****

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snowcake and lemonade. [d.r. thursday]

david, wearing his birthday tiara, waiting to have birthday cake

he said that he stood at the back door and thought, “i’m going to like this time of life best.” out the door, surfing through piles and piles of snow, dogdog ran the yard, bowing to the snow and snacking on it, his chin and face covered. a snowglobe day, david stood and watched our dog in his glee while the coffee brewed. moments later, he brought a steaming mug of strong black coffee to me, lounging in my flannel pjs in bed, sleepy eyes and a warm cat by my side. we clinked mugs and sipped while we talked of birthdays and time.

our day was simple. we ate, we wrote, we ate again. dogdog and babycat were by our sides, not eager to be anywhere else on this frigid day. negative temperatures in the minus-twenties weren’t at all encouraging for hikes outside, or even walks, and i made a mental note to start asking around about a treadmill. we unwrapped a winter-scene jigsaw that had been in the hall closet for years, called people, answered texts, opened a surprise gift that arrived on our frozen doorstep and puzzled at the dining room table. a late dinner and a couple of glasses of red and dogdog was begging to go sleepynightnight. he led the way to the end of the day, a valentine’s-day-birthday, a day of marveling at how dear people are, how fast time goes, how vested we are in adjectives like ‘peaceful’ and ‘promising’ and ‘content’ to describe our next. ‘euphoric’ and ‘carefree’ would be lovely too; so many adjectives, so little time.

on the deck right out the sunroom window, the wrought iron table and chairs were laden with the accumulation of days of snow. i could not help but see the round snowpile on the table as a giant birthday cake; i could not help but see the snow-shape in the chair as a little alien snowman, waiting patiently for a piece of cake. it was just too tempting and david was out front shoveling. with a couple silver christmas balls, a tiara found upstairs in my girl’s room, a tall white taper and some vintage pink-plastic-cake-numbers-that-hold-tiny-birthday-candles, i made myself laugh. sinking well over my knees in snow as i inadvertently stepped off the side of the deck into a drift, i collapsed into the snow, cracking up, just too excited for david to come around the corner of the house, shovel in hand. lemonade, i thought. this is lemonade.

and that, i believe, is what he meant by, “i’m going to like this time best.” a time when you know that lemonade – and the making of it with or without lemons – is most rewarding.

*****

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#ewbok. [d.r. thursday]

sarcasm is babycat’s modus operandi. his viewpoint is much more cynical than dogdog’s, who is a tumbling optimist. dogdog listens to the rise and fall of our voices and reacts accordingly. babycat merely takes a look at things and lists his sweet hulking body to the sardonic.

we read it on a wall in chicago: “everything will be ok.” i really want to believe that. there’s so much.

we are not 65. nor are we essential. workers, that is. so it will take some time before we are eligible for vaccines. the mutation of the virus sounds like it will give the vaccine a run for its money and, still, we drive past full restaurant parking lots, bustling bars.

yesterday was the year mark on my broken wrists. my right wrist refuses to cooperate, having been stunned into re-injury in september. i wonder how it will be in the future. there’s a lot i want to do with that wrist.

we are sharing the crossroads of before and after with the millions of unemployed people in this country. we search for ways to use all we have learned, all we have done, all we have experienced, to make a difference in the world today.

we wonder about people who used to be an integral part of our lives. we try to understand things that have no real explanation. i try to shove the grief into a corner and the anger into another corner and take off the boxing gloves. we hike on the snowy trail and those gloves are nowhere to be seen. but reality returns back in the car somewhere on the way home and then we try to move beyond the big disagree, this thing that lurks, the poison that was pointed my way.

we watch from afar, our hearts hurting, as d’s sweet dad is moved into care, out of his home, away from his wife and all that he used to recognize. we tether ourselves to our phones to field any calls from his momma as she tries desperately to deal with all the details, the loneliness and worry and fear that brings her. she made sure he has his record player and records to listen to and she yearns to be around people at a time that is most dangerous.

and we scroll through the news. our sigh of relief with this new administration is consumed by lies perpetuated by complicit voices of violence, of extremism, of overthrow. it takes our breath away to read of legislative branches, in states and in the federal government, making excuses for the dreadful and inexcusable mayhem, the inciting of riot, in our nation’s capitol. racism, gender-discrimination, ignorant social injustices are rampant. the chasm is ever-widening and the bridge is ever-crumbling.

the wall in chicago reassures, “everything will be ok.” #ewbok

and i remember hearing the saying, “it will all be ok in the end. if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”

yep.

it musn’t be the end.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson, kerri sherwood


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i agree. we agree. [flawed wednesday]

the train quickly passed by us, first in line at the crossing, as i snapped the pictures. graffiti adorned most of the cars and i randomly pressed the shutter as they blurred past. we’ve seen some insightful messages spray-painted on the side of boxcars and this day was not an exception. “agree” it read. timely.

there are things in the night that are reassuring. for my sweet momma, it was trains. she could sink deeper into sleep when she heard the trains in the distance, the whistles of arrival, departure, crossing. i share that with her. we can hear the trains from our house. and many times, in the middle of the night, as the 2am hour passes by, so does the train, its loud whistle echoing on empty streets. i wonder, in the fog of sleep/no-sleep, why it’s blowing its whistle, where it’s going. the lumbering of freight trains slightly shakes the house, even blocks away from the tracks. it’s lulling. i agree, momma.

“i agree.” “we agree.” powerful words. beyond simply concurring, granting acceptance to another’s idea, another’s conception, another’s opinion. it’s easy to agree that trains in the night are the stuff of of sublime entry into dreams. it doesn’t cost anything to agree to trains-in-the-night. there is no research involved, no fact-checking, no questions, no real critical thinking. you can’t lose anything by agreeing about the melancholy of train whistles.

it’s the other stuff that’s harder. the stuff where you have invested – in a big way – in your idea, your concept, your opinion. where you have not necessarily done the research, checked the facts, asked the questions or critical-thought your way into your opinion, but where you are stubbornly attached to it. it’s mind-boggling how this happens and yet it does. each of us has experienced being leeched onto something come-hell-or-high-water and not really knowing why, not really being able to give voice to concrete reasons. we wonder about others so feverishly vested and we gently and generously excuse ourselves for the same unrooted behavior. none of us are innocent.

this holiday season we received many greeting cards. i love getting mail. we’d save the cards and open them at special times so we could read the enclosed letters, the personal notes to us. this december one of our cards disturbed me. it felt like an attempt at absolution. it came from someone who had been dear, who was surprisingly so ensconced in their opinion – before the big disagree – that they did not even attempt to research, to check the facts, to ask questions, to use critical thinking. the pre-printed card spoke of love, hope and peace and they wrote inside, “you are in our thoughts and prayers.” while these words sound like the meat-and-potatoes of agreement, of accord, my heart begs me to wonder aloud – to them – why on earth they would include us in their thoughts and prayers – after the big disagree – when they didn’t include us in their research, their questions, their fact-checking, their thoughts and prayers – before – at a time when it was vital.

i store away in my mind, now, once again, the ever-important repeating lesson that it is much easier and more bottom-line-decent to do the research, ask the questions, check the facts, think-it-through before taking action than it is to attempt to absolve from it after.

the foghorn, another favorite of my momma’s, is not too far, in the other direction. its melancholy blast is also the stuff of sublime entry into dreams. i hear the foghorn and sink into my pillow, the long-island in me relishing the sound of coastlines, reassured by the cozy of being inside on a foggy night. it’s lulling. i agree, my sweet momma.

“i agree.”

“we agree.”

easy. and so hard.

*****

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a good old chinwag. [merely-a-thought monday]

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. conversation. back and forth.

conversation: (noun) a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

conversation – synonyms: discussion. gabfest. heart-to-heart. dialogue. conference. confab. exchange. chinwag.

chinwag??

probably one of the most frustrating things in human community is the willingness for people to forego hard conversations and, instead, accept things as-is, invest in misinformation and make assumptions. toxic in almost every situation, assumptions are the stuff of poison apples and they will destroy everything in their wake.

a good old chinwag would do wonders for forward movement. people – together – back and forth – who are candid and honest, forthcoming and steadfast, who ask the hard questions and demand straightforward answers, who don’t leave out pertinent details, who expect truth and speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, freely upfront.

a good old chinwag is a mature opportunity for growth, for learning, for progress. silence is the opposite – it is a wound that will fester, a mistake that will become exponential, an injustice that will become a wart, a carbuncle on the integrity of a community.

a good old chinwag is not easy. it is the stuff of bravery, the stuff of guts, of risk-taking, of fortitude and perseverance. it is the stuff of dedication to the bigger picture, to progress, to being proactive. it does not yell or scream; it is quietly respectful, using language of negotiation, of reconciliation, of courtesy, a deference to thoughtfulness.

a good old chinwag may lead to tears. it can be the stuff of renewal, of healing, re-establishing relationship, correcting wrongs. it can be the stuff of granting forgiveness and the stuff of receiving forgiveness. it can be powerful and it can be most tender. it can bring weeping into the back and forth, drowning out toxins and harvesting hope.

a good old chinwag can never be a bad thing. it can forge or strengthen mature friendships and dig deep foundations with honesty and candor. it can elicit change. it can revitalize and reinvigorate. it can rebuild.

a good old chinwag. simply caring enough to have a conversation.

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. back and forth.

*****

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the glowing orange ball. [k.s. friday]

the sun was setting over the mown hayfield. i pulled over to capture it, to watch. the heavy cloud cover was passing and the glowing orange ball owned the horizon. day was ending. night would bring rest. and a new day would dawn.

in this world where we rotate ever-in-motion, there is assurance of a new day. there will be another dawn. and then, after a day of time-spent, there will be another dusk. and then, after a night of time-spent, there will be another dawn.

as we wake these mornings now, we look to the horizon for little bits of hope, little bits of new-day reassurance.

we grasp onto the transition to a new administration for our country, compassion and decency and brilliant minds guiding us.

we clench onto the way out of the pandemic raging across our country, across our world. we double-down on our decision to choose safety over the overwhelming desire to be done-with-it.

we try to feel a little less tired, a little less exhausted by it all. we try to refill our meager energy with the adrenaline of new.

we all seize tiny pieces of sun as we struggle with the anxiety of these recent days. we crawl out of the shadows bit by bit. so many of us have much to try and comprehend, much of which to try and make sense.

all of our personal stories include the loss of loved ones, the loss of good health, the loss of stability, the loss of basic needs, the loss of movement, the loss of community. all of our personal stories bring shade into places we yearn for sun.

i grapple with the grief of losing a career, with hypocrisy and isolation, with no real understanding of what-just-happened. i have conversations in my mind with people who turned a blind eye, who collegially turned their backs, who refused to have any conversation, who never asked questions, who alluded, who made assumptions, who never reached out, who seemed to care less, who would not even look at me. i squeeze closed my eyes tightly to try and forget and look to the glowing sky of a new day and take a step.

we grapple with starting the story of a new beginning. in the middle of all this, new beginnings are elusive, like trying to catch a ray of light in your hands.

we all grapple with this time of darkness. we know we are waiting for the sun to touch our faces and bring hope.

we know it will show up each new day – in people who love us, in kindnesses and care we receive and offer to others, in reaching out, in honest eye-to-eye contact, even over our masked faces, in generously listening to each other, in asking questions and learning, in working together, in the glowing orange ball on the horizon. and each new day we take it in, just a little bit more.

*****

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EACH NEW DAY from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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so be it. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

congratulations to president joe biden and vice-president kamala harris.

so be it. amen.


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chaos. [flawed wednesday]

1000 pieces. we finished it in two days. two blustering cold, freezing rain, pallid grey days. we moved the tiny pine tree forest to the end of the dining room table and turned on all the twinkling lights. we had snacks early and glasses of wine later in the day. we’d leave the table and then return to it. there is something deeply satisfying about piecing together the outer edges of a puzzle and then, slowly but surely, gaining on the whole image, tiny sections of the picture emerging.

if only life were quite that easy.

the puzzle of our lives is in pieces. though i suspect we can pull the ones with straight edges and fashion them together into a frame of sorts, it is the rest of it that will prove challenging. we are upended. there is no picture on the front of the box to follow. it is disarray. chaos.

a friend recently chided me on my distraught emotions. “you were plucked out of a snake pit,” he texted. although i mightily disagreed at the time, i am beginning to see the wisdom of his words. people are not what they seem, sometimes, and communities can easily become poisoned by the actions of a very few. i don’t know when i will rest easily again. every night i am awake, reviewing, wondering, trying to figure it all out with little to no information. i am appalled time and again by ruthlessness. our friend may be right. it’s beginning to look more and more like a snake pit. and his words of reassurance and encouragement may be spot on. but it is chaos for us right now.

this week is pivotal in our country and in our own town. between a president psychologically and constitutionally off the charts, congressional leadership following along nose-tail-nose-tail in his feverish and fraudulent election-fraud wake, a senate run-off of significant proportion, a deadly pandemic spiraling out of control, our country, its democracy, and its constituents’ health are in peril. it is chaos in this country.

in our own town, they are erecting concrete barricades, blocking roads, re-attaching window boards, putting a potential curfew in place. the boy-with-the-big-automatic-gun who blithely killed two people on the street a few streets away is being arraigned. the district attorney is announcing his decision on whether or not to criminally charge the officer who shot a young black man seven times in the back in the line of duty earlier this summer. there will be unrest. there will likely be violence. it will be chaos in this town. again.

we have a couple other puzzles in the closet ready to be tackled. i’m thinking it is entirely possible that we will clear the table of this one we completed, stashing the pieces in a ziplock bag inside the box with the picture on the cover. we might choose another. empty the pieces onto the table, turning the cardboard pieces over to see the colors on the other side, placing the box-with-the-picture so we can work from it. in the moments we feel the most chaos we may walk over to the table, pick up a piece or two and, because we have a post-chaos-pieces-in-the-box picture, begin to sort and put it together. it will feel like a little bit of accomplishment in the middle of real chaos.

if only life were quite that easy.

*****

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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

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2020. and black-eyed peas. [d.r. thursday]

black-eyed peas. we are iso a recipe for black-eyed peas. we read that eating black-eyed peas on new year’s day brings general good luck and financial good fortune to the eater-of-the-peas.

we also read that we should eat pork – which might explain why my sweet momma often insisted on pork for new year’s day. apparently, the fact that pigs root forward suggests that the eater-of-the-pork will indeed move forward as well in the new year. we will stay away from chicken and turkey on new year’s day because chickens and turkeys scratch in the dirt and we have done enough dirt-scratching this year so would like to avoid that at all cost in 2021.

at midnight tonight – new year’s eve – we are going to open both doors to our house – the front and the back – to allow the old year – the mighty-roaring 2020 – to leave, exit, escape, make an exodus, get the heck out.

at midnight tonight – new year’s eve – we will have the stockpots ready and the big finnish wooden spoons. we’ll bang lids and pots together and drum on the metal as loud as we can. (i know it’s “loud-ly” but we are just going to be utterly loud!)

we are heeding any and all suggestions, any and all superstition, any and all custom so as not to impede 2020 and its mean-spirited-spirit to leave and also generously allow for a kinder 2021 to arrive. our list goes on…

yes. tonight we will usher out this year-of-years and, maybe like you, smooching with great expectation, we will greet the new year.

*****

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