reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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to mask or not to mask. [flawed wednesday]

four of us. there were four of us at costco with masks on. me and three costco associates.

yet, we personally know more people – right now – who have covid, who just got over covid, who were just diagnosed with covid, who are in the hospital with covid – than at any other time during the pandemic.

yes. it is a royal pain to wear a mask. yes. they are completely optional. yes. you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. but every time – which is daily – we hear about someone else “testing positive” it serves as the impetus to – again – put on our masks before heading into the grocery store, into costco, into the home repair store, into crate and barrel, into the ace.

maybe we are overly conservative. we wonder this aloud. as artists, we have taken many chances, we have risked much, including financial stability. these choices – as artists – have not rendered us the label “conservative”. our political views are not conservative. our leaning toward simpler living is not run-of-the-mill conservative. “granola” maybe, but not “conservative”.

but the whole mask thing has us pondering over and over and over. in truth, we are trying to recognize the interconnectivity of everyone – what we do affects you, what you do affects us. we are trying to – in community – be cautious, be responsible. and we are trying not to test positive.

weeks – maybe even a couple months – ago we railed against it all. for one day we literally went into every store maskless. it was liberating. we could breathe easily, we could smile at other people. we wandered, our faces exposed, reveling in what-used-to-be. we exchanged glances at each other, an “ahhh”, rebels out and about.

later we heard that an entire family we knew was covid-positive. they were very ill and it had already lasted at least a week. we sheepishly donned our masks the next time out.

with all the home tests, we know that “the numbers” are not actually significant these days. there are many, many more people who have covid (or have had covid) than the government is aware of. it’s not like john or jane doe picks up the phone and calls the cdc when their home test is positive. we scarcely know the reality anymore.

we missed the phil vassar concert – twice now – because of this. we still haven’t dined out in our own town in two and a half years. you can still count the number of times we have dined out – period – on two hands over the entire course of this pandemic. we measured our risk those times and the benefit outweighed them. they were opportunities to be with our children, our family or ones very dear to us. when phil was playing a very crowded people-sandwiched-with-people summerfest last saturday, we were playing phil vassar on our deck, sipping wine, singing along in the waning light. granola.

yes, it’s completely optional to wear masks. and yes, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to; you are free – well, unless, of course, that includes things that the “apolitical” (ahem!) supreme court is now overturning or wishing to overturn, in which case your freedoms are limited and anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-contraception, anti-equality, anti-environment-protection, pro-gun-carry, pro-christian-only-public-prayer, pro-gerrymandering rulings will rule over you, should their push-against be successful. kinda makes masks child-play.

it gives me pause for thought as i think about all the people who have been giant and loud anti-maskers. are these all the same people? (yes, that’s rhetorical.)

the other day in costco i was walking down an aisle. coming the other way was a young woman, a worker, also in a mask. our eyes met. our eyebrows raised up a little. tiny lines appeared at our temples. and we exchanged a little granola love. i swear i could see a rainbow appear out of nowhere, peace signs floating, unicorns singing lyrics, something about “liberating strife”.

i took off my mask after i exited. and i breathed in the air of the land of the free and the home of the brave, the sweet land of liberty. from someone’s car radio system i could hear aretha spelling out “r-e-s-p-e-c-t….just a little bit…”

my sister texted her dear friend was in the hospital, with covid, on oxygen.

i tucked my mask into my purse, to use the next time.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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not-still-life. [d.r. thursday]

there is a gold frame around the old black and white photograph. a still life of a family. it was taken in the 1920s and it captures the still-life of my sweet poppo’s family…at that very moment: his dad, his mom, his brothers and sisters as young children and babies.

i don’t have another like it; there is not another portrait – at least not in my collection of photos – that has both his biological parents and all his brothers and sisters. my dad lost his mom to metastasized breast cancer when he was merely eight years old. my grandpa married a woman – the only paternal grandmother i knew – who was willing to take on six growing children. life was not still.

in the way that families sometimes splinter, my dad’s family lost touch after the death of my grandparents. there was some rift and there were plenty of hurt feelings and, then, there was silence. i grew up the rest of my life without my cousins, without sharing in their stories, without the chance to know them or love them. it was like the still-life-portrait was carefully cut up and only my dad was left.

one of my uncles had drowned in the swimming hole in upstate new york during their teenage years. another uncle was lost at sea during the war. i think my third uncle passed somewhere along the way maybe in brooklyn, where they all grew up, as did one of my aunts, a fun-loving californian who always went by her nickname. and the aunt who had children – who would be my first cousins, wished for but lacking in my own circles – was in new england.

a couple years ago – after i broke my wrists – when i was sitting with casts and a laptop and the pandemic had just begun, i decided to google them. i wrote a bit about finding them – a golden moment of connection. suddenly, through research and social media and, unfortunately, posted obituaries, i discovered two of my four cousins.

i reached out, one on either coast. they reached back. and the ripped pieces of portraits that could have been taken through the years began to assemble. tiny bits of photo paper, a little glue, stories to be told.

my dad – on the other side but not too far away – smiled when i had my first conversation with his sister, my aunt. he no longer remembered the details of whatever the rift was and, besides, it was a ridiculous fifty years prior. how long does one hold onto these kinds of things?

my aunt, with a touch of brooklyn and a touch of boston, told me stories and i really pined to meet her, to hug my dad’s sister, to hear of my dad as a youngster, to sit with her. but covid and fragile health sadly combined to prevent this.

my cousin called while we were driving to the grocery store. he told me that earlier in the morning his momma, my 99-year-old-would-have-been-100-in-three-months-aunt helen, had died. once again, the still-life photo shattered. i would not capture a picture of us together, our jowls matching, perhaps our eyes, perhaps the curve of our faces. i watched her service online yesterday, trying to memorize the smiles and tears of my lost-now-found relatives.

i’m grateful for the brief conversations and the fact that she knows i looked for her, for her children. i’m grateful to have contact with two of my cousins and to someday meet their families and the families of my other two cousins who were holding a spot for their momma in that other plane. with great joy i listen to stories they tell me and i know that we’ll share time and snapshots, close-ups, wide angles, portraits, candids – reaching back and reaching forward – of our lives together.

i learn every day to let go, to hold on, to appreciate it.

the still-life is never really still.

*****

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back window. front window. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t think that i will ever be able to have a kitchen sink placed without a window above it. in all the homes i have lived as an adult – every single one – both houses in florida, in wisconsin, even on island – there has been a window over the sink. working at the sink, gazing out – a time for pondering, reviewing, sorting. it is the place to watch the world go by, the seasons, time.

the big plate glass window over the sink in our home has given me a view into the flow – filmy strands of babies growing, toddlers on swings, snowmen on the deck, cherished dogs romping, snacks in the fort, oversized plastic t-ball stands, basketball hoops, a bright yellow slide that attracted a bazillion tiny gnats at a certain time in the spring. i’ve watched trees grow and shed and bud and shed, plants planted, transplanted, re-planted, snow fall and cherry tomatoes flourish. there’s been grass and no grass and dirt and grass again. i imagined the patio – where people would gather, play ukulele, dance, laugh – before it was there. and the little pond has been a treasure, inviting birds and squirrels and chipmunks and frogs to its little rock bank. i’ve stared out that window with great appreciation. i’ve stared out that window, wondering.

in this time of covid, lots of our time in the winter is spent looking out. we are not really participating in gathering, trying to minimize risk to ourselves and others. even vaccinated and boosted, we know that so many around us have taken ill, have fallen to the highly contagious pandemic. so it has been rare to see even our neighbors. sightings of them, as we stroll the ‘hood or they walk by, past our front windows, have been about it.

but monday afternoon they all gathered in our driveway. just before 4:30 there were two loud bangs outside. directly across the street, in the driveway, tucked up by the garage and right next to the house, the neighbor’s jeep exploded. the firetrucks were here seemingly instantly and the road was closed off by police cars that came from all directions. and all the neighbors stood together on the apron of our driveway. for the while that it took to extinguish the flames, we had time together. we could see each other’s faces, exchange a few words, exclaim about how scary it was and express relief that our neighbors-across-the-street were safe and unharmed.

a police car or two began to leave. one of the fire trucks left. the neighbors began to disperse. after some time the tow truck came. the tiny bit of time that we were all out there, mostly coatless in the cold, was over. but i could feel something else…the reminder that we are all here.

someone spoke the words: “i hardly ever see or talk to anyone in the neighborhood, but do you remember after the derecho that came through? everyone was out, walking around. eight hundred or so trees down, sidewalks heaved, power out…all in the matter of less than five minutes. and we were all walking around. together. and now…here we are.”

out the big kitchen picture window looking over the backyard are reminiscings, fallowed and growing plants, a bubbling pond fountain, massive trees, tiny creatures, dreamy summer nights, barney, bonfires, grilled eggplant, snowfall.

out the front window is community.

*****

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backwards. [merely-a-thought monday]

maybe it was the glass of wine in my hand, but i doubt it.

we sat at the table in our sunroom, happy lights on, gazing into the inky blackness of the backyard. it was still rather early in the evening but, these days, dark happens early. it suddenly caught my eye and it made me laugh. the backwards “let the adventure begin” seemed just about right, right about now.

we bought ourselves this little wooden sign a few years ago now, for the littlehouse on washington island. it graced the table that looked out on the lake and was the opening line of our time with TPAC, a magical performing arts center on that tiny island. a treasured adventure. and then covid. we packed our sign into a bin and brought it back home.

it sat in the bin in the basement, quiet, for months or so, i guess. then we redid the sunroom…more plants, our table, a new rug, an old door on horses, happy lights, an old suitcase. a few more adventures later – and i went downstairs, seeking the sign.

it sits on the old door in front of the old suitcase that holds the old cd player and lost-man, who is a stuffed mountain goat that reminds us of an amazing hike our intrepid girl took us on – to lost man lake on independence pass, with exquisite high elevation views and tufts of mountain-goat-fur snagged on the branches of bushes along the trail.

“let the adventure begin” makes me smile every time i see it. for it has already begun. we are in the middle of it. covid and wrists and job loss and angst and incredible-joy-times and glasses of wine and dogdog moments and new work and questions and hikes and dancing and music and plans and tiny trips and big trips and grief and laughter and babies and water and cartoons and writing. the middle of it. no re-sets necessary. like the tide, it ebbs and flows, but it’s ever-present, this adventure. like john lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” while you are waiting. it’s right there.

when i was in junior high or maybe early high school i had to do a project for science class. i had this clock that, for some reason, ran backwards. a big round face, the second hand ran backwards, which pushed the minute hand backwards, which pushed the hour hand backwards. with a master bulova watchmaker as my dad, we collaborated on this mysterious phenomenon: time running backwards. we researched and experimented, asked lots of questions, tried to get the clock to go forwards. it never did. instead, we devised a new face for the clock. and we learned how to read the time as it ran backwards. it made us think and laugh and think more and, also, gave us an interesting perspective on time. it’s happening. whether it’s forwards or backwards, it’s marching on. we simply need to adjust and adapt. at dawn, in midday, at dusk, in the darkness.

it was particularly funny to me when this sign – “let the adventure begin” – was backwards in the window reflection. well, maybe not really funny. maybe just really, really wise.

it feels like it might have been an even-greater little sign painted that way.

*****

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


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better. [two artists tuesday]

if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.

the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.

we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.

these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.

and yet.

as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.

in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.

i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.

*****

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pop-up dinner. [ k.s. friday]

we popped up at the old beachhouse.

it’s under construction; they are restoring it, this beautiful art-deco historic building, finished in 1940. the southport beachhouse “used recycled materials to cut costs. this way, rather than paying for new materials, the city paid workers to tear down condemned buildings as well as build new ones. the beach house uses luxurious slate, stone and marble materials salvaged from the old kenosha post office, which would have been otherwise unaffordable.” part of the new deal and roosevelt’s wpa (works progress administration) it is a gorgeous structure on the shore of lake michigan and the place we had our reception six years ago, a bonfire on the beach to end a stunning day.

in the middle of the beginning of covid – last year – i read an article about a new york couple’s ingenious solution to the inability to go to restaurants or pubs or gather with others, instead to isolate and social distance. i saved it and thought it was something worth pursuing.

this year, after a lot of research and a couple false starts sent back, i found a lightweight (mostly plastic) folding table and lightweight (mostly plastic) folding stools. i showed them to david and said, “let’s have pop-up dinners!”. small enough to be kept in littlebabyscion or big red, it’s an intention that begs spontaneity.

our first pop-up was this past sunday after our trip to the orchard.

we carried the table and stools and the picnic basket, the one from my sweet momma and poppo, onto the beach and found a spot in front of the scaffolds on the cement by the building, lit our candle-in-a-jelly-jar, set out our plates and cloth napkins and cheese and crackers and olives, our metal stemware. easy.

i imagine this fall, and even winter, will bring many pop-up dinners and happy hours. i can already list the places at which i’d love to pop up. snowpants and mittens won’t deter us. we’ll carry blankets, maybe thermoses of warm soup.

it was a little chilly at the beachhouse on sunday. the breeze was picking up. i picked up my phone and turned on the one piece of music i have saved to it. cherish the ladies began playing if ever you were mine and i watched david rise off his stool. he came over to me, held out his hand and invited me to dance.

as the sun began to dip below the horizon and the colors in the sky began to rise above the lake, on a honeycrisp apple kind of day, we danced on the sandy beach, scaffolding and a smiling cream city brick beachhouse our backdrop, a pop-up dinner waiting.

*****

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MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️1996 kerri sherwood*

*if you are near MILLNECK MANOR on long island, please visit and have a pop-up dinner for us. ❤️


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not-knowing. squared. [flawed wednesday]

i passed by these words: “try being informed instead of just opinionated.” i laughed and then frowned, thinking it was a great mantra for these times. it doesn’t even need any additional blah-blah. it simply can stand on its own, shining a spotlight on, well, most of us at some point or another.

i was recently reading some writings of noam chomsky, a linguist and philosopher and so much more. he is “widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences”. his work is interesting and profoundly thought-provoking. and, he is one of those scholars who have quotes galore attributed to him, smidges of wisdom, tomes prompting controversy, questions that parry ignorance.

“the general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know” is one of these quotes. bracing.

any scroll through news media apps in these times is pretty scary. intense drought, raging wildfires, ferocious storms erupting, melting glaciers and rising oceans, a global pandemic morphing and morphing again but not going away, the rise of authoritarianism in the global world, the attack on democracy and fundamental truths, the support of lies and personal agenda by people in trusted positions, the new climate change report issued by the united nations…the doomsday list seems endless.

we stumbled into a short documentary the other evening about doomsday bunkers. people in south dakota and texas purchasing $35k bunkers and tricking them out into homes in which they live, preparing, prepared. it was kind of daunting to see – these underground homes with pantry rooms full of canned goods, homes with no windows, homes that are more-or-less safe – or at least removed – from all that goes on above ground. i expected to see wily extremists but that wasn’t the case in the short we viewed. these were people who wanted to be ready to go on if all else failed – leaving “all else” to your imagination, easily fed by the horrors we read and watch in the news. i personally cannot imagine living this way. though the bunkers are in a community, the premise is removing yourself from the rest of the world and i wonder what is left of value then. a little more googling and other bunkers emerge – bunkers for the super rich, bunkers that are more extreme. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.

i used to teach in the state of florida, though i have not lived there now for over thirty years. in the mixed miracle of social media, some of my previous students are friends of mine on facebook and i am delighted to see them in their lives as adults. i am horrified to watch the governor of that state remove protections for the children attending school there, not to mention teachers and administrators and other valued employees of school systems. barring mask mandates, downplaying vaccinations, issuing warnings to remove funding, threatening the withholding of salaries – all power ploys for his own sick agenda, which clearly is not to protect or encourage protecting the residents of his state, his constituents. i don’t understand this. and yet, his actions are mostly undeterred and it is only now that there are some superintendents pushing back, placing lives over one man’s warped authority. i wonder why every parent in the state isn’t lined up, pushing back. had my children been little while we lived there, i would have been appalled by the cavalier attitude about their health and well-being. they – and every single other child in that state – are not expendable. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.

we’ve all heard the expression “ignorance is bliss.” is it really? is not-knowing the best way to go about living? is getting all hooked-lined-and-sinkered into opinion-land responsible? is watching the circus networks opine and distill truth and hatch conspiracy communal? is it ok to not know what’s really happening and not know that you don’t know? is it prudent – without asking questions – to fetch every bone thrown igniting rhetoric, encouraging vitriol, spewing hate, forwarding inequality, ignoring climate peril, wreaking chaos? even dogdog can discern firestarter sticks from real branches.

let’s not waste that cognitive revolution.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY