reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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peeled back. [k.s. friday]

time continues to peel back the layers. barney is vulnerable and is, thus, exposed.

artistry is like that. we share our vulnerabilities. we write, we paint, we compose, we lyricize – we peel back the outer shroud of mystery to reveal that which is inside. we take chances at judgement, at others’ opinions, at evaluation. we are exposed. and time goes on. winter turns to spring which turns to summer and then fall. the seasons take their toll; the seasons enrich us. both.

the first album i released felt earth-shaking. the notes – white and black keys tumbling from deep within – flew out into the world on a piece of polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic. what could be a coaster contained fifteen deeply-excavated emotions, musings each released into the light. exposed. the scraps of paper that gave birth to these were soon filed in a binder with invoices and order forms, designs and ups tracking numbers. one season. one album. done.

each original album since is no less an exposé. each still holds pieces of me, permission by me to be peeled back. a little less scary than the first but still risk-taking. vulnerability does not recede from the sandy beach as the big waves come and go. but it stands a little more stoic, with a little more sisu. the albums, like seasons, arrive when it is time. and they, in some way that albums might, tremble with anticipation and that tiny bit of fear that remains, even after many layers have been peeled. soon there will be no more black and white at all.

now i wonder if i will need shrink-wrap again. i wonder about recording. and i don’t know. yet. i do find that i am thinking of wooden stages and boom mics. i also find that i am thinking that all this writing – these written words on the page – have been feeding me and that hunger for polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic.

each day, barney and i age. the veneer blisters and the shell reveals our hearts. we are both emotional, barney and i. we are conscious of our craggier look, the wrinkles and the age spots. though we wonder about how we resonate with the rest of the universe-out-there, we take the dusty road together anyway and we hold hands, vulnerable together. though laminate no longer hides our souls, we are standing in the sun this season, new growth springing up.

*****

that first album – 1995

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someday?


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range of motion. this journey. [k.s. friday]

41 degrees. the torture device doesn’t lie. 41 degrees. that’s my right wrist forward range of motion (also known as ROM). this is likely too much information for you, but it’s a big celebration for me.

after i fell late in september on an unmarked wet linoleum floor, much like the one in my growing-up-basement – the kind where, when waxed, you can’t tell if it is wet or just shiny from wax – my range of motion was measured at 6 degrees. i probably don’t need to point out that isn’t much. after a debacle with a flippant ‘specialist’ in my own town who didn’t acknowledge the torn S/L ligament, i found a completely nerdy-in-all-good-ways hand specialist in milwaukee who told me he concurred with the MRI and that he regrettably had to tell me it was “too bad” it hadn’t been addressed by the first doctor. “que sera sera,” i hear doris day singing in my head.

so now, tiny increment by tiny increment, i am getting it back. the hand center doctor told me that i need to be patient and that he expects, if all goes well, i will regain ROM at a rate of five degrees a month. he pointed out that five degrees in a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but that in three months that is fifteen degrees and that, hopefully, in six months it is thirty degrees. if you add 30 to 41 it is 71, which is probably the best i will be able to do with the injury i had and the time that went by without proper treatment. i am on a journey and i’m grateful to the healing team involved. to be at 41 degrees feels pretty amazing.

this device is called a stat-a-dyne. i’ve named it brutus. the company tag line is “stretching your range of possibilities.” between brutus and my OT they have gotten me way further than when i was on that shiny wet linoleum floor post-fall. i’ve used my hand as much as possible. i’ve worked with a brace on and played both piano and organ (and for those of you in the know about pipe organs, that is a very different hand-extension-process than pianos.) i’ve done normal household chores and climbed a mountain or two and pushed a vacuum and, just days before he died, i picked up my beloved babycat as you would a small baby, with my hands and not my forearms. i’ve cut wet carpet padding and i’ve sauteed shrimp and i’ve pepper-milled-pepper and i’ve washed dishes. i’ve just done it all without a lot of wrist-bending. this part of the journey will someday be amusing, i suppose. we’ll talk about how i compensated in all this and we’ll likely giggle thinking about the way i reached for my wine glass while sitting on the couch or the way i combed out my hair or tried to scratch a hard-to-reach spot on my back, the ways i have been right-hand-challenged.

modern medicine – outside of my town – has offered me a range of possibilities, a range of motion buffet. modern medicine has given me – in this part of my journey – a range of hope.

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY album ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood

*****

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the black bin in the middle. [d.r. thursday]

personally, i like the black bin in the middle of the room. right now, it gives me a sense of peace, or, more accurately, less of a sense of panic. in our seemingly neverending plumbing story, we are still seeking the proper gasket for our dysfunctional coupling. we were behind a local plumbing truck on the way to lowes. this business has operated in our town for four decades servicing all these old houses with their variety-pack of fittings and pipes and unions and o-rings and such. as i told a friend, it was a universe-is-laughing-at-us moment as we drove behind this truck that i just knew had shelving with old disheveled water-stained cardboard boxes full of the exact gasket we needed. i wanted to jump out of littlebabyscion at a stoplight and run up to his driver’s window and knock-knock-knock on it and beg him to check the ratty cardboard boxes for this gasket, which of course, he probably had in his pocket, upon which i would offer him 10 or 20 dollars for this simple vintage rubber 79 cent piece. it didn’t happen, of course. i’m quite sure that he would have done anything to avoid my panicked face in his window. and so, we are still on the quest. and learning a lot about gaskets and o-rings and sheet-and-ring gaskets and fun stuff. someone said to me yesterday, “oh, like that’s something you really want to know about!” but i disagreed. though i wish the tiny leak would stop, i am finding the puzzling-out of it a great learning process. a creative process, let’s just say. so. the black bin in the middle of the room.

soon we will piece back together david’s studio down in that space. he’s bringing paintings back into the light and we gaze at them as he recalls much of this pandemic year, time spent without painting. i know this feeling as i enter my own studio upstairs. a crate of cantatas i composed, some resource books i have used for decades, a few decorations from the choir room i used to occupy – they sit along the side wall of my studio, the remainder of what i need to file away, put away, throw away. i, too, have not spent time in my studio creating. it’s the wrists, it’s the job-loss, it’s the pandemic … it’s a long time of fallow, i suppose. it is the juxtaposition of art that makes a living and art that is living. it’s a sort of betrayal by art. it’s feeling that which you have dedicated yourself to letting you down. it’s change. it’s a time of discernment. it’s a time of confusion. it’s a time of loss. it’s a time of not-found-yet. it’s a time of grief. it’s complex. it’s a mixed bag.

we laid awake in the middle of the night. we had a banana, our traditional middle-of-the-night snack. we talked. we grappled with the year-of-years we have all had. once again, for the millionth time, we tried to sort it out.

we talked about my snowboarding-broken wrists and a community of leadership that never reached out to me. we wondered aloud. we talked about the pandemic breaking out, virtual-work, exponential curves of connecting to others online. people, including us, losing positions we loved to a virus that shut everything down. we talked about financial hardship, too common a denominator. we wondered aloud. we talked about the terrifying covid numbers we watched on the news – climbing, climbing, climbing. we wondered aloud. we talked about political division, a time of chaos and the amping-up of bigotry, complicity and vitriolic rhetoric. we wondered aloud. we talked about isolation, people missing people. we wondered aloud. we talked about the civil unrest in our town, deaths-by-automatic-weapon a few blocks over, curfews, fires, boarded-up businesses. we wondered aloud. we talked about my fall in the fall, a whopping new wrist ligament tear and, again, a community of leadership that did not reach out. we talked about losing my long-term job. we talked about the silence of others. we wondered aloud. we talked about david’s dad and his move to memory care, his mom and her spinning grief and loss-paralysis. we wondered aloud. we talked about our sweet babycat and his sudden dying, the heartwrenching hole. we wondered aloud. we talked about the lack of security, rampant. we talked about extreme gun violence and people’s hatred of anything-they-aren’t. we wondered aloud. we talked about exhaustion, pervasive and overwhelming all of us. and we wondered aloud.

not much sleep.

we’ll find a gasket that works soon. or we’ll call a real plumber in. and maybe, little bit by little bit, our artistry will call to us – to trust it, trust ourselves. it will remind us that it is not responsible for making a living. it will ask us to look around at that which is of solace to others in these times, regardless of lacking financial reward: it is music, it is visual art, it is the written word. it is art and it is living.

and, for some time to come, the black bin will sit in the middle of the studio. to remind us of the process.

*****

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a coupling with no conscience. [two artists tuesday]

gasket (noun): a shaped piece or ring of rubber or other material sealing the junction between two surfaces in an engine or other device.

what the dictionary doesn’t tell you: gasket (noun): havoc-wreaker.

this small piece of black rubber wields some mighty power. its failure has made us dance for the last three days (and i’m not talking about good-dancing.)

we woke to the sound of water. a pleasant sound, we were suddenly aware that we, indeed, were not camping by a lovely mountain stream. instead, we were inside our home where the sound of unsolicited running water is reason enough for stomach flips and jumping out of bed. we are good at running around looking for the problem. we are not so good at what to do next.

we stared at it. the water on the carpet in the basement was an obvious problem. we quickly traced the dripping, er, flowing stream, to the cold water feed to the shower. and, because the very wise craftsmen who built this old house had the foresight to leave a tiny door in the closet on the main floor behind this feed, we found the culprit. the coupling! one coupling, without a conscience, failing us miserably.

we were wise enough to turn the water feed off – don’t overestimate the reaction of two artists in a plumbing emergency – and the water stopped. and then the fun began.

it takes a village to play plumber. we took pictures and sent panicky texts to innumerable friends who instantly wrote back advice and words of encouragement, channeling my sweet momma’s “you can do this.” we got to work, reading and re-reading the wisdom on our phones.

inside the coupling was this tiny gasket. it was no longer completely round and smooth. its edges were a little torn and battered. here was the problem. this havoc-wreaker had done its havoc-wreaking job and we were faced with the fallout.

the shopvacs whirring, we went after the water. over and over again, until it was possible to actually move the carpet. donning masks and rubber gloves after reading up on google what we artists should do in such a plumbing emergency, we released the carpet from its metal stripping and pulled it back (wet carpet is ridiculously heavy). though we were actually helping the carpet, the padding below was sopped.

using boxcutters like pros, we, garbage-bags-later, had the padding out and were accumulating all the plastic things we could find to lay out the carpet and dry it with fans – any and all fans we had.

we read that baking soda would help so we bought boxes and boxes of baking soda and sprinkled it generously like my mom would sprinkle confectionery sugar on her homemade crumbcakes. and then it was time to wait it out.

meanwhile, we went to see tom at the hardware store. he directed us to a gasket for 99 cents that we brought home and placed in-between the pipes. it’s not quite right – the gasket we had (heaven only knows how old it is) had some shape to it – like an o-ring attached to the gasket, filling in a round moat in the pipe (note the professional terms). this gasket was flat, so we are now looking for one that has this so-called built-in o-ring to fill in the moat. without that (or some other fix we are trying to figure out) there will always be a place for a tiny bit of water to go, squeezing microdrop by microdrop under the gasket and then worming its way out the coupling and then, terrifyingly, down the pipe where – if i even see one drop on the carpet i will freak out – it could land downstairs. anyway, after days of intense and concentrated effort, the crisis has been diverted, knock wood. (there’s been a lot of wood-knocking going on…)

now, the quest for the proper gasket. plumbing supply stores watch out!

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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through it. [k.s. friday]

it comes in stages. there is no easy route to the other side. just through.

the unexpected snow – after most had melted – though, indeed, a beautiful blanket of quiet – was also a stark and cold reminder that winter was not done. somehow it was a reminder of people gone, of the lack of interaction with others, a reminder of the invisible fence between us all, somewhat devoid of color and warmth. the pandemic we are living through has provided us with historic missing. so much lostness. someone asked me yesterday if i had had a vaccine. when i replied yes, she asked me why, then, was i wearing a mask. i stared at her above the piece of cloth i, like many of you, have diligently worn everywhere for about a year and replied that having a vaccine doesn’t abdicate me from responsibility. it is my job as a decent human being to continue to do my part – not just until i am vaccinated, but until the country is on track and there is little chance of others becoming ill because i, or anyone, was negligent. not wearing a mask herself though not vaccinated, she replied angrily that it wasn’t fair, that i shouldn’t have to wear a mask. i withheld the retort that quickly sprang to my lips and instead just said that this is hard. we are all lost together and foundness will be somewhere on the other side of all we have missed, somewhere in the spring of healing, in whatever season that falls.

when the tradesmen installed the patio, they carefully and artfully chose pieces to fit together. they slowly and tediously laid out a spot in our backyard where we could sit and sip wine in adirondack chairs, where we could hang our hammock, where we could build a bonfire late at night and dream dreams in the fireflies of sparks it sent out. the snow crystallizing on the rock accentuated the spaces between the pieces. though clearly defined as edges, it reminded me that all these pieces do fit together, perhaps nothing is really missing. every emotion – lostness and foundness and all inbetween, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, the title of which, were there to be a box that would contain all the cardboard pieces, might read ‘life is like this’.

up against a pile of pillows, i sat in bed with coffee a few days after we lost babycat. with sadness and unwilling to greet the new day, i hadn’t yet opened the miniblinds. yet in the window to the east, the sun was insistent. it found its way through the tiny cracks between the blinds, the tiny holes that hold the string, as if urging me to open-open-open up. it didn’t change my missing when i opened them. i still missed babycat. i still missed all sense of normal. i still missed my children-all-grown-up, my parents-in-another-dimension, my family-far-apart, my friends-separated-by-covid-responsibility. i missed security and good work well done. i missed laughing and all things carefree.

but, in opening the blinds, i did not have to miss the sun and i stood in its warmth streaming in, looking at the spot on the bed where babycat would have laid in the soft rays from the window. and i realized that in yearning for all that on the other side i would have no choice but to go through it all, all the stages, snow, crystal flakes, sun and all.

*****

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MISSING from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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babycat. [two artists tuesday]

his long white whisker was on the black rug in the sunroom. i bent down and picked it up, my heart aching for this sweet adored cat no longer here. i taped it to a piece of colored paper, trying to hold on to babycat physically just a little longer.

b-cat was twelve. according to the almanac that’s about 64. it hadn’t occurred to me or us that he was a senior cat; he was simply our babycat and his presence was more than one-fourth of our home. his absence has made a profound impact; it is very very quiet. it’s not that he was that noisy, although he was a vocal cat. it’s just that he was that present. for each of us.

i was alone last week when it happened. in an unusual turn d was away and i was home. monday was a day of sorting and cleaning and rearranging. babycat spent the day in the same room as me and split his time between snoozing and pets. nothing out of the ordinary, just extraordinarily normal. tuesday morning was unexpected and will break my heart for some time to come. suddenly symptomatic and ultimately laying down behind a chair i never remember him exploring, i knew things were dreadfully wrong. racing babycat in his blanketed dog-crate (since he was too big for cat carriers) to an urgent veterinarian appointment, i spoke to him the entire way while he loudly meowed and i could feel hope leaving my body. there are moments that feel surreal and, like other losses in my life, this was one. over a covid-enforced veterinary facetime app, a very kind and compassionate doctor explained the xray she had immediately taken and the dire implications of all that she could see suddenly impacting our beloved cat. babycat gave us no time to make longer term treatment decisions. he died on that tuesday morning in march, almost twelve years since my life had been graced by him as a kitten. and, in the way that death changes everything, i won’t be the same without him.

i’ve seen bumper stickers with pawprints that read “who rescued who?” each time i nod my head, understanding. babycat came to me at a time of great need. my girl and my boy and i drove to florida to pick up this kitten who had come to stay at my niece’s doorstep, with no evidence of a missing owner. a first-time-cat-family, we drove “cat”, who we were having trouble naming, all the way home, trying to figure out how to feed and water and potty-break a cat on the way, when all our experience was dog-based. somewhere along the way babycat was named “wilson” but he chose to never answer to that and picked “babycat” as his given name. we taught him to sit, to beg, to come when called. he meowed when we said “speak” and was a lot more dog than cat in many ways.

babycat – in the wisdom of the animal kingdom – followed me around in moments of loneliness, insisted on regimented times for meals, showed me that the sun on the rug in the living room was something to soak up, sat with me on the floor. baby-the-c’s constant companionship was my solace in empty-nest-initiation and his lack of stealth was a bit of noise i desperately needed around me. so much to say about that little creature. yes, who rescued who?

his absence now is, if possible, even bigger than his presence. babycat love – ours and his – surrounds me.

*****

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old house symphony. [k.s. friday]

thwwwwwwwwwwunk. a distinctive sound. shhhhhhhhhhhhunk. another distinctive sound. the timbre of laundry in the laundry chute.

our old house has a two-story laundry chute: from the bathroom on the second floor through the bathroom on the first floor to the basement wooden trap door. for over three decades i have listened to laundry as it sings its way down the chute. it is likely i can identify – to a pretty close degree – what is traveling down to the land of the washer-dryer. i can tell if it is jeans. i can tell if it is socks. i can tell if it is a wet washcloth or a wet towel. i can tell it in the dark. i can tell it as a lark. oops…got carried away. but that is the truth – i can tell by the sound of the item as it brushes against the metal chute-frame and lands on the little wooden door. having had this highly-technical cutting-edge advantage for the better part of my adult life, i’m not sure what i would do without a laundry chute.

the radiator, in the middle of the night, often makes a thunking sound. it emanates from the sitting room, right off the bedroom and, were you to be easily freaked out by unfamiliar noises, you would sit up in bed, frozen and silent, wondering what critter was in the next room thunking. having heard this sound for thirty-something years, coming from radiators a third again old than i am, i am comforted by it, the single metallic-sounding drum-thump a piece of my audio history.

in the early days of owning this house, the wood-floor-guy asked if i wanted the spaces between the planks filled in or if i wanted him to place screws or shims into the wood from below so as not to hear the floor creaking. i was horrified at both ideas. the patina of the old floor, its stories, its life, and the sound of the old floor are all part of what i love about this house. i can’t imagine not hearing the wood floors creak. i never even wished that even in the middle of the night, what feels like a million years ago, just after my baby girl or my baby boy fell fast asleep, just after i laid her or him back in the crib, as i tiptoed out of the nursery hoping to not wake them, trying to avoid the floorboards that made the most noise. i just memorized the boards that were the greatest offenders and long-jumped them. they are the house speaking, the stories it holds dear.

d says i hear better than he does. the gutter’s funny dripping sound, the click of the ceiling fan, the sound the swinging door in the dining room makes, a little water in the pipes, the back screen door squeak, the vinyl siding expanding in the sunlight, the front door lock latching, the pantry closet closing, the boiler kicking on, the old oven opening, the chain on the basement door, the glass knob from the french door falling off.

i just say that i am listening to the symphony of this old house and i’m just a little more tuned in.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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expert, schmexpert. [d.r. thursday]

expert (noun): a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

other definitions from sources that are not the dictionary:

expert (noun): anyone from out of town.

expert (noun): a person knowledgeable enough about what is going on to be scared.

i have learned, in the six decades i have lived so far, that there are few true experts. there are many, many people who know a lot and many, many people who tout that they know a lot and many, many people who know very little about the thing they say they know a lot about. is there really any such thing as a complete expert, someone who has arrived, who has reached the all-knowing pinnacle, comprehensive and authoritative, who has nowhere at all left to go?

i think the most interesting people i have met are those people who are humbly reaching for more, understatedly claiming knowledge but not possessively holding it close to the vest. instead, these people are open, questioning, seeking and they aren’t afraid to say things like “i don’t know” closely followed by something like “i’m happy to look into that.”

i think the most interesting people i have met are the ones who readily admit weaknesses and fallible tendencies. they don’t claim absolute command nor do they reject criticism or surround themselves with yes-men or yes-women. they know that knowledge must co-exist with boots-on-the-ground expertise. they are open to feedback and choose to engage with others in conversation that encourages growth and maturation, regardless of personal insecurities.

dictionary.com’s definition of an expert is: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field. a blogger states in their blog that would mean, “if you have more knowledge on a subject than the average person, you might qualify as an expert in that field.” that seems a bit of a recipe for lots of overblown, overstuffed knowledge-spouters.

instead, maybe taking the approach of one step at a time, learning like it’s the first-time-each-time, collaboratively open to each other’s questions and queries, to never-ending research and lessons, might be a better path.

that way, we can all be experts at being human. that way, we can all be experts at humanness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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and a little PS xo to my own dentist, dr. dan santarelli, who is awesome and kind and most definitely, an expert.


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the snowman with mom-arms. [two artists tuesday]

in kindergarten, i watercolor-painted an image of my mom. there was no mistaking her, of course. to my eyes, it looked exactly like her and i was proud as could be when she later turned my masterful painting into a tile to hang on the wall of the kitchen next to the tiled artistic expressions of my big sister and my big brother. now i wonder as i look at the photograph of this artist-sans-maestro image. why did i paint my sweet momma with two distinctly different length arms? was i proportion-inept? was i image-to-paper incapable? was i running out of room on the page in-between all the birds? maybe, oh maybe, i was just not a gifted five-year-old-watercolorist. despite all its shortcomings, my sweet momma carried that tile-painting from one house to the next to the next to the next to the next to the last. as i glance at the art of my children around me – the hand-drawn childhood notes framed on my bedside table, the painted fish-rock on the kitchen windowsill, the handmade signs in my studio – i understand her fierce everlasting dedication.

this snowman seems the snow-replication – at least arm-wise – of my ‘beautiful’ mom-painting. i don’t think i ever painted my mom in a solo piece again after kindergarten. i’m sure i painted my family, my house, my pets, flowers and sky and horses. but i didn’t paint any more portraits. no, it didn’t seem like i was gifted in any way in a depiction of a real person on canvas or paper. but i would hasten to add that i easily have portraited my mom in a million other ways.

she is in music i have written, in photographs i have taken. she is in the branches i have dragged out of the woods and the rocks that have been collected in backpacks. she is in the memories that swirl in antique shoppes and in table coffee-sitting. she is in words i speak and expressions on my face. she is in my mind’s eye, my thready heart and in that little voice in my head. she is in the letters i write and the upside-down shampoo bottles and the homemade chicken soup in my stockpot. she is in the way i push back against inequality, the way i rail against wrongdoing. she is in the merry morning sunshine and the stars that glitter at night, begging attention.

and she is in this tiny snowman we built on a bench in southport park on a snowy day in february, proportionately-inappropriate arms and all.

*****

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