reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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la vida. [two artists tuesday]

i don’t remember what grade i was in when it was assigned: a project detailing what your ideal life would look like. it was either later junior high or early high school years. if i could find it in one of the bins in the basement i’m sure it would be predictably naive. i remember designing a house, writing about family, but not too many other details come up for me. designing an ideal life is never really inclusive of actual reality, difficulties, disappointments, hardships. i think it would be interesting to find this report anyway. the 1970s were a different time and this project would reflect that. were i to write a report now to reflect my ideal life, it would be a much simpler picture than i would guess that old paper would paint.

i remember columbus saying that he worked his whole life to have weekends with his family. to enjoy his backyard, his garden, a little fishing, time with the masons. he was living his ideal life each day, though the look in his eyes when we took him back to iowa and he stood in the fields gazing out at maize corn and blue sky would belie that. his dream was to raise his family in his hometown and, though he ended up in colorado, his other life was, i’m sure, somewhere in the farmland daydreams that swirled in his heart. he was wise, though, and didn’t wait to live until he was back in the midwest. instead, he set his sights on now. he didn’t wait. and each time his children or grandchildren visited he would cry upon their leaving, giant tears falling on this rugged man’s face. dolce.

some people are fortunate enough to have both: real life and the other life, la otra vida. crunch always felt that way about his boat too, so he’d understand the boat owner who named his boat ‘the other life’. moments of escape away, drifting, piloting to block island and fishing in long island sound, these are crunch’s ideal moments. though many of the boats and yachts in our harbor never leave their slips, perhaps just sitting on them in fresh lake air yields much peace for these boaters.

a house with lots of windows and open space, lots of repurposed old stuff, a kitchen in which we love to cook. nothing fancy. wood floors and a lot of white paint. a fireplace, my piano, david’s easels, places to sit and write and room for our beloved children, family, friends to come with significant others and visit. mountains and a lake out the window, a couple horses grazing.

last night as we sat on the deck in waning light turning to dark, tiki torches and our tiny firepit burning, dogdog sprawled out at our feet, we listened to the soundtrack of richard curtis’ movie about time. arvo pärt’s piece ‘spiegel im spiegel’ came on, a long piano-cello interplay of simplicity. we both had tears. if contentment was a piece of music, it would look like this.

though there are not mountains, a lake and horses out the window, perhaps someday there will be. it’s my maize-corn-blue-sky vision. but columbus was right. there’s the rest of it. the other life is always right there.

andrea wrote to me in 2009, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”

la otra vida = la vida. ideal living.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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discovery. [d.r. thursday]

back in the day crunch and i went to every lighthouse on long island’s shoreline and its peripheral islands off the coast. i was doing a photographic study for a college class and crunch was a happy participant, lugging me around in his big green truck and taking us out in his boat, a few boats before his current beloved ‘elephant ears’. the day i got to go up into the fire island lighthouse was memorable. it wasn’t open to the public but the lighthouse keeper was there and generously offered us a tour. the textures – going up the 182 steps on that spiral staircase to the light tower – were photographically inviting: the iron stairs, the cement walls, the ribbed glass of the light. every so often there was a peek out one of the windows built into the structure in 1826 and rebuilt, more than twice as high, in 1857, its eventual black and white bands of color distinguishing it along the ocean front. my essay is all on slides and, after borrowing one of those kodak carousel slide projectors (you can hear the ca-chunk of the slides changing even in your memory), we watched it a couple years ago. all those lighthouses – some steadfast, tall and proud, some crumbling, some pristine and unmanned, each a source of a study in woven texture and, when you are lucky enough to hear the mournful sound of the foghorn and breathe in thick salty air, a synthesis of senses. discovery.

when we were walking along the seine river in paris the sun was setting. i had never been to the eiffel tower and, though i had seen pictures, kind of expected to be underwhelmed. i’ve never been a really big tourist-attraction kind of person, preferring places of nature. we kept walking toward it, strolling, and i could see it in the distance starting to loom into the sky. the lights turned on as we got close and i caught my breath. it was stunning. gold against the early evening sky, light of day dropping away, it was one of my favorite moments in paris. discovery.

every time we come over the pass and start to drop down – the vista of high mountains before us – i cry. forests of evergreens to our side, snow-caps ahead, towering mountains that make my toes curl. i literally want to pull over every few feet to capture the sheer stunning beauty of it all, to remember the green and the blue, to breathe in the cooler air and the scent of pine. we keep driving and i memorize it for the days i am at sea level, wondering if, were we to live there, i would ever not see the incredible-ness of it. or would it always and always be a discovery?

as we walk around our ‘hood, as we hike familiar and unfamiliar trails, i feel open. open to seeing the textures of life as it goes on around us, as it goes on through us. back in the day, with crunch and my blue jean cap, i took a lot of photos on my old 35mm camera. nothing has really changed. my camera is an iphone these days, i don’t have my old blue jean cap and, missing him, david and i haven’t seen crunch in a few years.

but on the best days, in the best moments, when everything else drops off and we are nowhere but right where we are, i am aware of texture after texture, grain and weave and nap and frequency and harmonics, a composition of smooth and rough, woven and intermingled, softly and intensely waiting to be discovered.

isn’t it grand?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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relics. [two artists tuesday]

stop sign quarter

we stopped there every time we rode our bikes past on the way to the beach or the harbor.  north shore outdoor recreation center & school of skindiving was a shop downtown east northport, a couple blocks from the railroad tracks and across the street from the old auto parts store.  our high school biology teacher jim owned it and we’d stop in and visit, looking around at gear and flirting with the just-slightly-older-than-us-guys who worked there.

when i was 17 i started working there after school and on weekends.  i’d do office work, the newsletter, and sell scuba, archery and other outdoor-related sporting equipment.  the fill tank, a pool of water in which oxygen tanks are immersed in order to fill them for use while diving, was just outside the office and i can’t tell you how many times i ended up sitting in it.  until i got smart and carried extra clothes to work with me in the car,  i had to drive home to change, sopping wet and glorying in it.   i was the only girl there and these boys were brutal teasers.

the basement of the shop was formidable, dungeon-like; at the top of the stairs were a sliding chain lock and the light switch.  the gestetner machine (a copy machine that invariably spewed purple stuff all over you during use) was in that basement which meant i spent some good time down there wrangling this obstinate office contraption.  from way down in the depths of this concrete cavern, i could hear the chain sliding and the click of the light switch, leaving me in the dark to feel my way back up the steps and stand at the door, pounding to be released from yet another prank.  yes, brutal stuff.

crunch was in charge which left jimmy and ollie and i under his thumb.  much more a rule-follower, crunch was a task-master and was the one who turned down the blasting stereo of ‘heart’ singing ‘barracuda’ in the workroom.  he wagged his fingers at us to sweep or organize regulators, but he was right-in-there, shortchanging me with the growing-boy deli orders they sent me on, leaving notes on my little vw about town-noon-whistle-blowing-timeliness, not setting me free from the front sidewalk window when i, during christmas-eve-day last-minute-shopping-hours, dressed as an elf and, coerced to fix something in our christmas display, was locked in, forcing me to grin and bear it and stand with plastic-santa, waving at people walking by and the crowd that gathered at the auto parts store.  but we all did good work together, the dives were organized, people had the right gear and the shop was a place customers loved to come and linger in.

an older italian couple lived above the shop and luigi was not as loud as his wife.  without the benefit of air conditioning, the windows and lack of thick insulation in the walls made it easy for us to hear her rapid-fire italian admonishments of her husband, always punctuated by a shrill “luigi!”  in our first-hand innocence of marriage-challenges we’d voice, “poor luigi.”  i don’t think i ever knew his wife’s name.  i wonder about their lives.  where did they go?  their rows weren’t nearly as loud as ‘barracuda’ or the sounds of boisterous laughter coming from the back storage/workroom of the shop.  they were simply a part of the story, a part of the history of that place, a sound-artifact i can still hear.

during one of his college classes, crunch, who ended up one of my very best friends, for a psych class project, decided to glue a a few coins onto the sidewalk out front and hide in the tent displayed in the front window, capturing passersby reactions to money-for-free.  they always went for the quarter and it was predictable how earnestly they would try to pry this off this sidewalk, invariably stopping to rub at their fingertips, digging in backpacks or purses for pens or keys to pry with.  nevertheless, the superglue held and the coins remained on the sidewalk for a long time to come.  i don’t know when they finally disappeared.

for those of us who actually think coins count as money, it’s natural to stop and pick up coins when you see them, the whole find-a-penny-pick-it-up-thing.  the little jar at home fills up and is, surprisingly, a good sum of money when it’s up to the tippy-top.  so when we passed the two pennies in the UPS parking lot, david bent down to pick them up.  one heads-up, one tails-up.  i immediately yelled, “no!  don’t touch them!”  it was the very beginning of the pandemic and touching ANYthing without sanitizer nearby was a formidable act.  it was too late; david had picked them up.  so he brought them over to the sidewalk by the UPS store and laid them on the window ledge.  i wonder if they are still there.

the quarter was on the trail when we were hiking last week.  it made me stop; it’s a quarter, after all!  i looked at david, pondered, then shrugged, and, against every reflex, left it there and hiked on.  the not-picking-up-free-money-guilt set in but not enough to break the don’t-touch-it-pandemic-rule.  i wonder if it is still there.

in this time of so-much-change and the use of so-much-technology, i find myself thinking of those times, over four decades ago now, when things seemed simpler.  coins counted, ink-laden-copy-machines slowed us down.  i think about the relics that were left behind.

and i wonder, forty years from now, when i am 101, what will those relics from this time, this time of pandemic sweeping our world, look like?  what will they be?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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drifting in deep waters. [k.s. friday]

adrift

in the wee hours of the dark night, long island sound is quiet.  crunch and i would sit in his boat, inky skies punctuated by a million stars and the lights of the shore, our fishing together comfortable, a thermos of coffee to share, some conversation.  treasured memories now, i was adrift with one of my best friends and completely at ease.

we were probably 12 or 13 when the sunfish sailboat we were in became becalmed.  sue and i sat out in the middle of the big pennsylvania lake and, with no wind from any direction, started laughing.  we were in no danger; we had already capsized a couple times and had survived that.  but we were a distance from the shore and i don’t remember there being any paddles in that little sailboat.  at some point my uncle must have realized our predicament and came out in his speedboat with a towrope. the sunburn decades-faded, i was adrift in that lake with one of my best friends and completely at ease.

as we sit in the middle of this pandemic, this time of change and this time of no-change, we feel motionless, even stranded.  we are learning patience, we are learning to slow down; we are learning.  we are changing our expectations and our measurements of success.  we are marooned in a vast water, drifting, unsure, way out in the deep.  but all around us are others who are generously sitting with us, sharing, nurturing us, also drifting.  our sails are buoyed with winds of kindness, our anchors a steadfast dedication to the well-being of all.  we are grateful for the goodness of brilliant minds, the commitment and sacrifice of front-liners, the respect and honoring of that which keeps us all safer and healthier.

and one day, as we look back at this time, for surely it will someday be a memory, we will see that we were adrift with our best friends and, though trusting and in the care of each other, it truly was a time of unease, the shoreline was not visible and the fathomless water in which we were stranded was way bigger than us.

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ADRIFT ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

 


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dawn at crab meadow. [k.s. friday]

dawn at crab meadow songbox

it started in complete darkness.  i was on stage at the theatre on uw-parkside’s campus.  keith, an outstanding and brilliant theatre manager, had programmed lighting that simulated the sunrise, the passionate and increasingly vibrant awakening of the day. it was my release concert of this album – BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL.

i sent this photograph to crunch right after i took it in hilton head.  we both have photographs from decades ago that are almost identical to it…a fishing boat as it passes underneath the warming glow of the sun.  back in the day, the 70s, crunch and i went everywhere taking pictures.  we spent lots of time in his boat, lots of time on beaches.  it was a blissful time with our 35mm non-automatic cameras in hand.  never sure of how a photograph would look, well before the digital age, we took lots of extra film with us, anxious to see the results later.  although i can see the benefits of digital work now, the ease, the preview capacity, the chance to take-another-picture-because-this-one-didn’t-come-out-good, i also remember the mystery, the anticipatory waiting for the film to be developed and the fact that although not all photographs were perfect, it was sometimes the misses that were the jewels.

we watched the sun rise in hilton head every day.  the sky would brighten with hope, even on a cloudy morning.  the tide would answer, the shore birds would wake.  i held close knowing my grown children were sleeping under the same roof, right there.  and a new day started.

i spent many an early morning on crab meadow beach, sometimes having climbed the fence to get onto the sand, my treasured yashica in hand.  the dawn there gave me pause, invited reflection and centering, beckoned me with hope and dreams to come.

keith raised the sunrise-lights until the ‘sun’ was high in the sky, escalating as the music did.  and DAWN AT CRAB MEADOW was released.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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DAWN AT CRAB MEADOW from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood