reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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blather. [merely-a-thought monday]

though the alpaca is considered to be a docile creature, it can get spitting mad. i suspect that if one were to flip “look, i get it” over to an alpaca, it could get a rise out of the lanky, fuzzy one. intelligent and observant, alpacas are known for their quiet. their nonverbal behaviors and the sounds they make belie what could be thought of as non-emotive. on the contrary, they communicate their concern and stress, affection and indignation. linda’s alpaca are a tiny herd among themselves and are magical to watch. i did not toss “look, i get it” over to any of them, knowing it would insult their intelligence and likely make them a bit snarly, as really anyone to whom that is tossed – in any way other than joshing around – should likely feel.

“look, i get it” is just like the expression “i’m sorry you feel that way”. neither is true empathy. both are dismissive. the quickest way to damage a relationship is to wing “look, i get it” over just as someone is telling you something deeply important. or, in a leadership position – let’s just saaaaaay – to flippantly respond “i’m sorry you feel that way” to an employee who has clearly been wronged by some circumstance(s) or policy-thwart. in their succinctly powerful way, inc. magazine has come through again in an article written by jason aten. he states when you say “i’m sorry you feel that way” (or “we apologize for any insensitivity” or any other variation on the theme) you are “trying to absolve yourself of any kind of responsibility or fault for whatever went wrong.” he adds that the (respectful, compassionate, mission-driven) company instead say, “i am really sorry that we didn’t live up to our promise. i know that is so frustrating. here’s what i’m going to do to try and make it right.” mmhmm. my personal experience would suggest that doesn’t always happen.

and “look, i get it”??? bill murphy, jr. in another inc. magazine column calls it a sign of “low emotional intelligence”. i would have to concur. just because they are words – individually and as a sentence: look, i, get and it – doesn’t mean they should come out of one’s mouth at a moment of import. there are a hundred ways to say everything we are trying to say. and sometimes – and we are all guilty of this, including me – we need to take a moment or two before the sentence hits the talk bubble outside our lips.

perhaps this is why alpaca are considered so intelligent. they are quiet, discerning critters who are affectionate and gentle but don’t spew emotionally-disconnected blather.

*****

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free-hearted. [two artists tuesday]

with a cowboy hat perched on his head, he rode toward us on the trail through the woods, his gorgeous horse nickering as they approached. as he passed by he looked down at us, smiled and said, “you look like you like each other.” we squeezed arms, already linked and thanked him, telling him that we do like each other, most of the time.

as we left the trailhead parking lot that day, an athletic-shirted mohawk-haired motorcycle guy looked over at us crossing the lot to littlebabyscion and gravelled, “you two look good!” we are not even close to cool and gravelly in appearance, but this guy’s comment warmed our hearts and put a little jaunt into those last steps after a few miles of hot and humid hiking.

we have been the recipients of many sweet comments along the way. i don’t know if it’s simply because we usually walk – and hike – arm in arm or if we are just somehow comment-magnets. it is usually something like what these gentlemen said to us and it’s always unexpected. the guy trimming his trees, the woman stepping out of her car in her driveway, the guy passing us in gunnison on the sidewalk, the gal in the grocery store…all positive words which have upped the ante of our days, the free-hearted surprise-gifting us.

my momma was like this. she would speak simple kindnesses to people she passed by, gentle words of compliment to people she knew, generous encouragement and – even unruly – cheering on for those she loved. it makes a difference. in each case. just a little positivity wave starts concentric circles outward. every time.

i don’t know if that cowboy speaks to everyone, but i know he impacted our day. he could have just ridden past, me gazing back at his horse, pining, as he rode on. but instead, he spoke and, in seven words, he reminded us of goodness. i wonder how many people he touched that day on the trail.

any time i have reached out to another, recognizing to them something beautiful, something helpful, something of gratitude, something in their demeanor or their appearance, something touching, it has been restorative for me and, though i will never know, i hope it circled out from them. on or off the hiking trail. on or off the sidewalk. in or out of the store.

i know – that on any given day – i have seven extra words to give away. even ten. or more.

i’ll just grab my virtual cowboy hat on the way out to the world.

*****

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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

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in the middle and in the end. [k.s. friday]

were there nothing else to do, no other responsibilities, no outstanding work or chores, no cleaning or laundry or errands, no bills to pay, calls to make, jobs to seek, piles to clear, messes to sort, i could sit and stare at a fire for hours.

it’s easier to evade the thoughts that permeate your worried mind with the heat of fire on your face. it’s easier to stop strategizing around, through, beyond while watching the dance of contained flames. it’s easier to be lulled into all-is-well thinking, sinking into the adirondack chair, moonlight on your brow.

ephemeral moments – the good ones and the bad ones – slip by, each temporary, each a transitory arc, evaporating, evaporating.

yet, our eagle-focus on certain moments, certain actions, certain words, certain emotions, batters us with living, re-living, re-living, re-living.

we obsess. and in a time when there is so much to obsess about, it is none too easy to avoid.

the fire burns through the wood, despite its flammability. it does not choose only wood that is most flammable. with all the different wood in the firepit, it ignites, turning all into ash, intangible and evanescent.

we might do well to toss moments these days into a great cauldron, touch a match to it and light it. perhaps out of that might arise a bit of wisdom, a bit of certainty in the uncertainty, a bit of comfort. maybe living in the recognition it will vaporize would remind us of transience, the impermanence of it all, the pro tempore of any given heated moment, ultimately, the importance of lingering in any goodness we experience, of actually being goodness.

perhaps we should prioritize staring at the firepit. it may serve as a gentle reminder.

in the middle the fire is hot. in the end ash will be ash.

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TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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what to cheer. [merely-a-thought monday]

a quote attributed to several, it appears lauren morrill first tweeted this.

for months now i have been imploring people – publicly – to wear masks. i have hoped for the simple respect of the medical guidelines of social-distancing and hand-washing, along with mask-wearing, to aid in the cessation of the pandemic. for months now i have watched people deliberately ignore the urgings of the medical and scientific experts, wearing masks arrogantly around their chins or under their noses or not at all, gathering closely, shunning the advice. it feels like asking your toddler to be nice to his infant sibling or her playground buddy – over and over and over. but toddlers learn to listen. how is it so easy to be devoid of compassion? how is it so difficult to care about others?

this country, based on supposed independence, is 331 million people inter-dependent on each other. we would cease to function were we to unlink arms in food growth and distribution, product supply, education, medicine…. it is a fool who thinks we are individually able to sustain life in these united states without each other. no matter where.

so why is it so hard to convince people to care about people? why are there rabid attendees at political rallies during a pandemic without masks, without physically distancing? why is it so hard to understand the perils of bringing covid-19 back to families, to friends, to schools, to communities? why are there unmasked motorcycle rallies where people attend and become super-spreaders? why did 65 people attend an indoor celebration in maine, thereby spreading the pandemic to 175 non-attendees, seven of whom have now died? why are people singing in places of worship when we know aerosols are aggressively contagious? why are people gathering en masse in backyards and parks sans masks, sans distancing, sans any evidence of what is really happening? why are there children and teachers in school, crowded into classrooms where social distancing is impossible? why is there any expectation that there are children at college who will not gather and party without heed to being restrictive when there are children with parents who scoff at this pandemic – how would we expect anything different? why are there people at captain mike’s without masks in a county and state that is having a surge of coronavirus? why are people screaming about their “freedoms”? surely freedom is of little value without those you love around you. surely freedom is of little use without health and stability. and yes, surely freedom isn’t free.

so why is anger so cheered on? why is leadership, so unworthy of respect on so many levels, so cheered? why are untruths so cheered on? why is the subjugation of racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious, economic differences so cheered? why is the vehement denial of anything or anyone different so cheered on? why is smug elitism so cheered? why is bigotry so cheered on? why is violence in speech and action so cheered? why are vigilantes so cheered on? why is open-carrying assault weapons in public places so cheered? why is the destruction of all the good intentions upon which this melting-pot-country was built so cheered on? why is the system of pushing down, even further, those-without so cheered?

why is it that caring about other people is not cheered on?

susan wrote that someone stole her “coexist” magnet off the back of her vehicle. sigh. why is coexisting so hard a concept?

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“it matters not.” [merely-a-thought monday]

we all fruit

i never let it stop me.  it didn’t matter to me the title someone held or the notoriety they had.  i always reminded myself that this person i needed to call or meet with or contact was human.  “this person breathes in and out, just like i do,” i would think.  i felt this person – whoever it was – must have some human quality in common with me, regardless of a possible overly-amplified ego or the protected life bubble they might live within.  “it matters not,” my momma, a lover of language, would say.  in the end, nothing really separated me from this person, him or her, human-wise.

and so, my slightly-dialed-back-new-york chutzpah would dial the phone and expect nothing less than speaking with the person i was calling, no matter what rung on the ladder that person clung to, no matter how high the ladder, no matter the pecking order or the person’s perception of self.

because:  people.  we are all people.

now there’s a starting point.

but you wouldn’t know that looking at this country these days.

my sweet momma would be 99 today as i write this.  99.  even in her time on this planet – which devastatingly ended five years ago now – she had seen a lot of change.  “it matters not,” she would say.  we are where we are.  she read, she researched, she asked questions.  and she always arrived at the same place:  people are people and should be – in the crux of all things – equally treated as such.  period.

empty words ticked momma off and she warned me of people who would talk the talk but not walk it.  her sixth sense of intuition was often caution enough in friendships and relationships where people would get all virtuous and principled and, yet, be the same people who could clearly not see the irony in their supposed loftiness, the empty in their words, the do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do-ness, the falsity in their stance.

my momma, our beaky, subscribed to kindness.  it would be to her horror to see the hateful rhetoric nowadays.  she would have no patience for it.  she would point to the horrors that hatred had produced in years past.  she would state in simple terms:  “it matters not,” she’d say, “be kind to each other.  in all things, be kind.”

if momma were here today, she’d wear a mask.  not because she would be in a high-risk category, but because it is the kind thing to do.  a lover of math and science, she would point to the words of scientists, researchers, epidemiologists, medical professionals and she would insist on listening to them.  “it matters not what you think,” she’d point out.  “what matters is what they know.”

if momma were here today, she might protest.  she’d point to inequity and ask what we could do about it.  she’d not draw lines of color or race or gender or sexual orientation or economic status.  “it matters not.  people are people,” she’d insist.  she’d wonder at a country, with so many smart people, continuing to head down such a dark road.  she’d question, she’d challenge, she’d debate, she’d be stalwart and she would hold steadfast to being kind.  period.

it may be oversimplification, but gus had it right in my big fat greek wedding.  “apple and orange…we all different, but, in the end, we all fruit.”  he and my momma would have been grand friends.

because in the end, we are all human.  we breathe in, we breathe out.  we can reject hate; we can choose to love.  nothin’ wrong with a little oversimplification.

BE KIND MASKS – in honor of the wisdom of my sweet momma ❤️

FACE MASKS

BE KIND small print face mask

BE KIND large print face mask

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what you do. [k.s. friday]

ymad

“what you do will live beyond your lifetime.  it transcends the things of this earth.”

(YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ kerri sherwood)

when i think about my sweet momma and my poppo, my big brother, my godfather uncle allen, my grandmother-mama-dear, more beloved family and dear friends – all who have left this earth – i don’t think about their jobs or upward mobility, their income or the status symbols they owned.  i don’t think of the timeline of their school or work or whether they had finished a degree or if they had even gone to college.  i don’t ponder awards or certificates they received or resorts where they may have vacationed.

i think about what a difference they made in my life. my mom’s devotion to cheery kindness, my dad’s quiet and stubborn thoughtfulness, my big brother’s goofy humor and ability to tell a story in all its details, my uncle’s absolute commitment to his fun-loving smile no-matter-what-was-happening.  i think about the joy my mom experienced when my dad brought her grocery-store-flowers.  i think about big bowls of coffee ice cream with my brother, neil diamond playing in the background.  i think about my uncle generously paying for my very first recordings in ny, diligently holding me up and gently pushing me.  i think about simple moments with them.  in what could be a crowded-with-information-obituary in my head for each person, i hold a piece of their heart instead.  they have made a difference in this world.  they made a difference for me.  i remember.

(from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS)  “you know, this obsession you have, with being remembered?  this is your life!  this is all you get! you get me, and you get your family and you get this world, and that’s it!  ….  and i’m going to remember you.  …. you say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me.  i know about you.”

 

we live on an infinite continuum of opportunity.  chances to bring light and hope to others.  deeds we can do out of kindness, goals reached by collaborating together.  we face choice just as soon as the sun-peeking-over-the-horizon wakes us.  we innately or intentionally decide, we head in a direction, we live a day.

 

“We’re all traveling through time, together, everyday of our lives… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.  I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it… As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” (from ABOUT TIME)

 

this song. i have performed it countless times.  in nyc’s central park for tens of thousands of people, in small medical clinics, in large oncological settings, in chicago’s grant park.  at a pharmaceutical conference in puerto rico, outdoors with the lance armstrong tour of hope.  across the country, in pajamas and jeans and all-dressed-up.  in theatres and at walks/runs, in schools and churches.  for organizations including y-me, the american cancer society, gilda’s club, young survival coalition, susan g. komen foundation, the annual breast cancer symposium.  and each time, heidi and i, working together in performance, fighting back tears.  the list is profound.  not because of the innumerable times i have sang this song, but because of all the people in these places and behind the scenes, joining together, remarkably touching the lives of others:  those they know and those they may never know.

we make a difference.  in every arena of our lives.  every place we go.  every interaction.  every gesture.  every assumption.  every conversation.  every every-thing.  every single thing.

what intention will we have?  will we be positive or negative?

“the truth is, I now don’t travel back at all, not even for a day.  …  live life as if there were no second chances.” (ABOUT TIME)

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YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

 


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converge. [two artists tuesday]

deer tracks converge

“i shall pass this way but once. any good that i can do, any kindness i can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer nor neglect, for i shall not pass this way again.” (etienne de grellet)

this saying is tucked into my wallet.  it hangs in our kitchen.  it was my sweet momma’s favorite and she lived by it like a mantra. she did not procrastinate kindness until it was convenient; she lived it.

we pass the deer tracks at bristol woods.  often we are first after the deer.  i wonder what they are like as they pass each other, as their paths converge and diverge.

bold black prayer flag converge framed

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CONVERGE. ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood

 


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reminders. [two artists tuesday]

heart leaf

i stopped and went back.  i had to take this picture.  reminders are everywhere and right now, although, truly, as always,  i knew i wanted to capture as many as possible.

it feels as if we are surrounded by whirling hypocrisy.  those people who proclaim one thing and treat people in an extraordinarily different way.  i’ve been stunned into i-don’t-even-know-what-to-say-silence more than once lately.  people who demand respect but don’t give it, people who are unnecessarily controlling, people who go behind your back, people who list toward cruelty, people who declare appreciation but tear down, people who hide behind glossy words.  what is going on?  narcissism seems to be alive and well as we suffer the effects of those-who-believe-they-are-on-pedestals, pedestals that seem to exist on every step of the ladder.  it’s shocking and more than a little disconcerting.  we each have first-hand in-our-own-life experience.  what a disappointment.  we are humans capable of so much more.

and so, the reminders are incredibly welcome.  the heart leaves or rocks, the sun’s rays glowing through clouds in the sky, the presence of a cardinal or two blue jays crossing our path in the woods.  a text message or call out of the blue, beautiful generous raw-matte-finish words spoken to you.  all reminders.  a kindness extended by a stranger, an eye-contact smile.  the big initiatives, the little gestures.  not picking up the tug-of-war rope.  reaching out to offer the olive branch.  life-giving.  practicing.  we are truly capable of so much.  we need be reminded.

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practice makes perfect. [merely-a-thought monday]

the world will treat you royally

“live generously and the world will treat you royally.” (crown royal commercial)

“practice makes perfect,” it says on an index card in the piano bench of my old piano downstairs in the basement.  written in the careful-penmanship-printing of me-probably-as-an-8-year-old,  i have kept this card in my bench for over 50 years.   i’m sure there were multiple times i rolled my eyes at this, as i opened the bench to take out and work on lesson music.  i still roll my eyes.  everything takes practice.

everything.  including living generously.  there’s always that moment when you have to decide to either take up the rope, as they say, and tug back or let the rope lay still.  so much easier to pick it up and tug, letting it lay there and not touching it requires sheer grit-your-teeth-restraint sometimes.  it’s too easy to tug, to even wrench, and too royally hard to let a sleeping rope lie.

but in those moments, the really tough ones and the little ones, that you actually and intentionally choose to mother-teresa your way through, your generosity spins outward in concentric circles and goodness spreads.  goodness has a way of coming back, returning to center, with centrifugal force and your heart in the middle.  gravity draws back goodness and keeps close the spirit of all with whom you have been generous.  kindness bestowed upon you is royal treatment; it is the world treating you royally.  we are all so fortunate.  we are already receiving lavish unconditional love.  what would happen if we practiced living generously even more?

after all, they say, practice makes perfect.

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