reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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pristine. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it all looked pristine for a while, after it snowed. a fresh blanket of white covering our yard and its blemishes. for the time before the wind started blowing and the snow started shifting, you couldn’t tell that the front yard was all torn up, that there is a large grassless mound – like a dune on the long island coastline – that stretches from our house all the way to the street.

the backyard also. pristine. a white canvas, dotted with tall old evergreen trees, ornamental grasses gone to brown, feathery plumes waving, the pond frozen and still.

there are folks whose yards will continue to look that way – pristine. the snow will remain untouched, smooth, perfectly showcasing shadows as the sun peers through tree limbs and plants in fallow.

the moment we open the back door and dogdog runs out, the illusion of perfection ceases. pawprints obscure the shadow art as he tears into the blanket of snow, nose down, gleefully devouring it as he goes. he is a winter dog. there is no doubt about it. he comes in reluctantly – laden with snow – after laying on the deck on top of snow, surrounded by snow, under new snowfall. it is his time.

sometimes i wonder if we can just save the front yard, just not walk in it, just not let it be disturbed. we can look out the window and gaze at that which makes everything profoundly beautiful.

but then there are squirrels dancing about in the snow and the tiny footprints of birds. there are prints of a stray cat and maybe a raccoon or two. the grasses dip under the weight and the gusts, brushing aside snow like small brooms. there are bootprints of the guys who installed our temporary sidewalk and shoeprints of our postal, ups, fedex, amazon delivery people bringing us mail, cards from people we care about, packages of things we need. the wind has blown off the straw-covered mound, exposing the filled-in trench of a new water service line, a tiny winter miracle in itself.

and i realize that as stunning as pristine is, it is perhaps illusory and most definitely ephemeral.

instead, we celebrate the messy, the prints in the snow, the elated dog, the windblown fresh snowfall, creatures seeking food and shelter, the interrupted shadows.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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be a duck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“mama said there’ll be days like this; there’ll be days like this mama said.” (“mama said”, the shirelles, written by luther dixon and willie denson, 1961)

there are days in which i remind myself, time and again, over and over and over, blah-de-blah-de-blah, as i learned years ago from a cheery 95 year-old woman on an interview, to not take anything personally. this requires evolving. big evolving.

it does not come naturally to me to not take things personally. it is waaaay over on the other side of the taking-things spectrum from where i am. but, i am inching my way, crawling, scraping, babystepping my way in that general direction. ever-evolving, i intend to get there. some.day.

i suspect that, on the day that i arrive, i will find a light heart, laughter always at the ready, dancing feet, unconditional forgiveness of self and others, grace for mistakes or choices made, full nights’ sleeps, anticipation of continued bliss in the land of not-taking-it-personally. umbrage will fall like rain on duck’s feathers and the seesaw will stay level, a fulcrum of balance.

for, as any perusal through social media will remind us, we are not walking in shoes other than our own. memes as prodding cover photos or profile pictures or insta’d wisdombits or tweeted tweets, we are reminded “you never know what someone is going through. be kind. always.” yup.yup.

we each have access to the wisdom of the greatest wise ones. and we each forget. every. single. day. we don’t always think about how our words or actions will arrive on the heart of others, particularly in the moments of delivery, particularly the things that are … heartless. conversely, it, then, is likely that others, in the moments of delivery, were not thinking about how their words or actions would arrive on our hearts. we also know that it is not likely that someone else is laying awake in the middle of the dark night thinking about what they said or did, their words or lack of words. some people are better at letting things sliiiide off. me? i’m still evolving.

in a slew of bitterly cold temperatures, we passed a frozen pond the other day. there were many ducks on it and i wondered aloud if their tiny butts were frozen to the lake. in my best duck voice i implored passersby to “help us, help us. our tiny butts are frozen and we can’t get up!”. but, in my moment of intended comedy, i did not know some important things about ducks: “waterfowl possess remarkable adaptations to survive in cold weather, including dense layers of insulating feathers, counter-current blood flow to reduce heat loss through their feet and legs, behavioral modifications to reduce exposure to the elements, the ability to carry large fat reserves, and perhaps the greatest adaptation of all- migration.” (ducks.org)

“be a duck,” i said to him the other day. sometimes it is necessary. let it all roll off your feathers.

a little research had given me a tiny bit more knowledge: wear more layers. don better boots. reduce exposure to potential yucky stuff. eat and drink merrily without minding the mirror too much. and, if all else fails, move on. be a duck.

mama was right. there are days. ouch.

love oneself enough to be ever-evolving. ever and ever and ever.

ducks know this stuff.

*****

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magic fluff. [two artists tuesday]

though we are not ‘good’ at many plants, it seems, we are ‘good’ at ornamental grasses. maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s location, but grasses have given us a sense of garden-accomplishment that nothing else (shy of mayyyybe the cherry tomatoes and basil and lavender this year) has bestowed upon us.

we won’t cut them down. no pruning. they will stay through the winter, magnificent plumes golden against the drear, against the snow, reminding us of good fluff of the day.

i imagine tiny animals sheltering in their masses, dense bush allowing warmth and security and invisibleness. maybe tiny chipmunks, with pantries of birdseed they have stolen from the finches and sparrows, waylaid from intrepid robins and scarlet cardinals. we’ll just keep filling the birdfeeder. judging by the birds partying in our backyard yesterday, i think we may try and find another birdfeeder to hang as well. i have turned into my parents.

dogdog comes inside each day now, laden with seed pods. if wishes were granted on seedheads, we would have so many magical dreams coming true. he seems to not mind these tiny hitchhikers tucked into his very-furry fur. we pick them off, one by one.

and now i think, who’s gonna stop us from wishing on each one? these grasses grace us in more than one way. let the magic commence.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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pointed at wonder. [merely-a-thought monday]

my yashica fx-2 35mm camera went everywhere with me. a prized possession i had gotten for my high school graduation, it opened my vision of the world, the things i looked at. in the days of film and negatives and developing, i was an enthusiastic participant, eating boxes of cornflakes so that i could develop the next roll and the next.

i passed through the minolta auto-exposure-auto-focus phase when my children were young. it was easier to grab the camera and snap a picture of them doing something amazing or indescribably adorable with the auto-camera.

then came the sony tiny-cameras you could slide into your pocket, also easy and accessible. that camera and the minolta and my treasured yashica are still around here somewhere, lenses for the 35mm in a hard-shell briefcase my dad designed with foam fitting around the wide-angle and telephoto choices.

in these days i carry my phone. it is the height of easy and always right there, ready to record a moment. in recent years, i have rediscovered the utter joy of taking photographs, of recording the sun glimmering on dogdog’s fur, of capturing the blossom as it wanes and the curl of the wave and the way the mountains look in a dark sky. a camera pointed at wonder.

“come forth into the light of things. let nature be your teacher.” (william wordsworth – from today’s daily wonder app)

i haven’t opened the “daily wonder” app in a while. i discovered it when we chose and featured the movie “wonder” on island. a single snippet of thought for your day, it is a tiny gift i had forgotten about, often reminding you of the wonder of simply being here.

we carry the not-so-wondrous around in heavy baggage, somewhat unwilling to part with it, feeling as if it somehow defines us. how buoyant we might be without it, how resilient. letting go might yield a smidge of wonder.

one evening, watching “life below zero” one of the intrepid alaskans said, “bring the wonder back in life” and i grabbed my phone to jot it down. as we travel to his memorial service to honor columbus’ life and his earnest grasp on happy-living, intentionally marveling, i know he would immediately agree with the person who said that.

undoubtedly, he would laugh a little and add that the wonder was always there.

*****

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open windows and ragamuffins. [merely-a-thought monday]

brad was off-zoom-camera when he asked, a little incredulously, “you mean you haven’t put in the air conditioners yet?!” i sheepishly replied, “no…not yet.” everyone on the screen laughed and then stared. i mean, it is clearly hot out. hot and humid and sticky – those dog days of august, though even dogdog is not a fan of sultry so-called-dog-days. every thing and every one is sluggish, moving slower.

i remember living in florida and working in a career where suits and business office attire were expected. you’d search for toe-cleavage-touting etienne aigner pumps on sale and score big on scarves to finish it all off. everything was air-conditioned: your home, your car, the office, the lunch deli. everything except the outside. so, after carefully attending to your ensemble and your make-up, you would get into your car in your garage and drive to the office – for me, this was downtown brooksville at the courthouse, as i worked for the state attorney’s office as the victim-witness counselor – and you’d drive around the downtown looking for a spot, hoping for something close to the square. you’d park -finally – a few blocks away, jump out of your car, grab your attache and purse and walk through 1000% humidity to the office while your make-up was sliding off your face and every wrinkle you had ironed out returned through the miracle of sultry-water-saturated air effects on clothing that does not have physical separation from your body. it is hard to look fresh and crisp when you, your clothing and your make-up are melting away. dog-days in florida are not merely a few days here or there in a month or two during summer. they last much longer than that and i always wondered how my elegant boss debbie managed to look pristine. but, i digress.

i felt compelled to answer brad’s question with a little more explanation.

last summer, in the middle of the beginning of the pandemic, in the middle of civil unrest, in the middle of dog-days in more ways than heat-inspired, we put our air conditioner units in the windows – early. the first day we were the slightest bit uncomfortable, late-spring sometime, we – well, david – lugged them upstairs from the basement and installed them in the sitting room and the dining room. we barely went anywhere. with the pandemic raging, we followed safety guidelines to limit our exposure to others, to limit our trips to the grocery stores, to refrain from eating out or gathering. we closed the windows and flipped on the air conditioners. we were isolated, insular.

the summer of 2020 seems like the summer that never was. neither of us can remember much of the summer-part of the summer. the usual backyard gatherings, trips to the mountains, music festivals and park concerts and farmer’s markets on the lake – all were absent for us. and, because the air conditioning was turned on, we basically left it on. it was easy to stay temperature-comfortable and that seemed like the only comfortable we had. as the spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall work and security fell away for so many and we were included in that. insular. temperature-comfortable but not life-comfortable. we knew having the units in was a splurge but it was our only splurge.

this year we are resisting. the windows are wide open. and some days it is hotter than roasting or sizzling or broiling or baking. but, like the environmentally-responsible outdoor company stio taglines, we “let the outside in.” my hair dries curly on its own and sometimes – gasp – i don’t even have any make-up on. our clothing is not smart and tailored and it definitely has a little drooping going on. but we can FEEL the outside. we can hear the birdcalls and sometimes the frog, the gurgle of the pond and chipmunks ranting. lawnmowers and music from the kingfish ballpark. the ice cream truck playing ‘it’s a small world’ and the street sweeper on its way down our street. we feel a part of the world, even in our continued vigilance of covid safety guidelines. we feel summer. and, to be fair, we look at the weather app for breaks in the heat, breaks in the humidity and count the days, knowing it is within our ability to get there without actually melting away. on days when it’s too too much, we sit in littlebabyscion with dogdog and have happy hour in the driveway, going nowhere.

soon fall will arrive – our favorite season. we’ll keep the windows open. we’ll smell the change of seasons and we’ll start sleeping under blankets. it will be easier to think, easier to move about, heck, easier to wear clothes. we are hoping everything will be easier. insular-island-at-home dwelling is not easy. in an opposite-reaction it seems that the more open, safe and healthy the world will become, the more likely we would be now to put in those air conditioners. maybe next summer.

and just a tiny word about linen. though it is supposedly breathable and plant-based and high quality, what’s up with all these wrinkles??? i could hear my sweet momma in my head the other day as i left the air-conditioned car, having driven a distance in a flowy linen handkerchief dress, trying to look fresh and crisp, perhaps a swipe at cooly-elegant, “you look like a ragamuffin!”

might as well have left the windows open.

*****

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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

and – click here – just because everyone should listen to louis armstrong every day

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PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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only so much summer. [d.r. thursday]

feels like 101. feels like 103. feels like 105. at some point, the details are irrelevant. it’s just damn hot.

david and dogdog and i had about had it. the “cooler near the lake” theory was defunct-for-the-moment and it was hot and humid in and out. our old house doesn’t have central air and the window air conditioners were still in the basement, as both of us love open windows and light and less noise than they put out. and the next day it was all supposed to break. so…one more evening. we tried to be patient. it is summer after all.

we asked dogga if he wanted to go on errands, to which he always gleefully responds. he ran out to the car in the driveway and eagerly got in, looking out the back window to follow our backing-up, which never happened. we sat there. stationary. not moving. he kept looking out the back window. with the air conditioner cranked up to high and on max, we sat there, blowers aimed right at us and into the back, where the dog was wondering about how he ended up with people who called sitting still in the driveway “errands”.

i will admit that we carried out – to our driveway – a glass of wine. so this was the location of the beginning of our happy hour, sans snacks. the snacks were waiting in the sunroom for us, but we just needed this burst of cold air first.

so far, about a week later, post-desperation, the air conditioners are still in the basement. there were a few cooler, drier days. and those nights – perfection – windows-wide-open-fans-on-under-a-blanket nights. yesterday and the day before were humid – curly hair kind of humid. and looking ahead, it seems that it will be up and down. we glance at the accuweather app and look for breaks coming up. there’s one tomorrow. the high will be 73. those a/c units may not be going in any time soon.

instead, our old double-hung windows will be getting a workout. the ceiling fans are running and there is the clicking sound of the ceiling chain tapping against the light fixture. we wake in the night when it’s raining to hear the dripping against the bedroom window from the flat roof above, a signal to close the window. we hear the latest dark-night sounds of crickets and the earliest sounds of the birds as they wake at 4am, sounds we will miss in mid-winter, sounds it seems we should store up, memorize, stock away. we can hear the lake in its response to wind and the train lumbering in the distance. and the exquisite stillness. we can hear the neighborhood go to sleep and the neighborhood wake up.

we know the a/c units will block the heat, will block the humidity. we’re grateful to have them at the ready. we also know that they will block the summer – and in wisconsin, there is only so much summer to have.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

dancing in the front yard


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our firework. [k.s. friday]

the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.

the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.

each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.

dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.

i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.

so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…

we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.

and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.

but as an adult – i know.

*****

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I DIDN’T KNOW from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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these birds are home. [two artists tuesday]

the angle of the sun changes them. our two green-eyed birds become four birds, elongated or shortened, light shadows on the fence or intensely dark and clear, a party of four. the shadows of our backyard birds entertain us just as the metal birds beckoned to us the day we found them in a tiny river road town on the mississippi side of wisconsin. though we aren’t big spontaneous purchasers, these birds with their green glass eyes seemed to be waiting for us, waiting to be brought home with us as we drove the budget truck on its last leg from seattle to kenosha.

we’ve moved them around the back yard. they’ve watched over the pond, they’ve hung out by the giant pine next to the garage. now, they share the garden along the fence, watching over the peonies and grasses and daylilies.

their genus and species classification was not identified in the outdoor space at the little shop in stockholm, but they mostly remind me of shorebirds, maybe herons, but with their necks scrunched down, their heads tucked onto their bodies. if you look up heron symbolism, it seems fitting for us to have these silent guardians watching over us as we started sharing life. the heron symbolizes tranquility and stillness. it also “signifies determination because we are bound to wade through marshes and ponds through life’s journey, but we must never give up.” heaven knows, that’s been true. in native tradition, i’ve read that they represent “an ability to progress and evolve”. indeed!

or maybe they are black-tailed godwits. the godwit’s latin name translates to “muddy”, so that would also be fitting, as we added them to our lives in water paths that were not clear to us. how can they ever be clear at the beginning, i wonder. how are they ever clear, period? in old english godwit means “good creature”, quiet goodness standing tall with us.

or maybe they are sandpipers, with sensitive bills. there are a variety of meanings attached to the sandpiper but my favorite to lean on is that they are “a good symbol for problem-solving and going great distances to achieve your goals, either physically, or geographically”.

no matter.

they are sweet metal birds, one of our first home purchases together. they stand outside reminding us of the early days, the new pond, the puppy days with dogdog, the ups and downs of new relationship in the middle of middle age. tranquility, stillness, determination and problem-solving in muddy times, lots and lots of wading, surrounded by good persons and, hopefully, evolving.

yes. i’d say these simple green-eyed birds are definitely in the right place. they are home.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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hosta extraordinaire. [k.s. friday]

ordinary. perennially ordinary. hostas are intrepid, robust, shade-tolerant, adaptable plants. they are patient with human-planting errors and magnanimous with dogs who run amuck through their early sprouting. these plants seemingly have boundless energy to reproduce and spread and fill-in gardens in shadow. with low maintenance personalities, they happily populate yards and our hosta garden out back is an easy joy.

right next to the hosta is a garden of ferns. these are a different story. they are, indeed, more particular than hosta and, in our experience, much higher maintenance. they are beautiful, willowy and tall and a gorgeous green that changes in the light. still pretty ordinary but with a little more sass.

there are a few peonies in our backyard gardens. they are more specific about their needs. they like the sun and well-drained soil. they like a little space. they have a short-lived flowering season, but their wafting scent is remarkable. they are still ordinary plants, but need a smidge more attention than the ferns and quite a bit more attention than the hostas.

they all, however, live in community and, were we better garden-planners and were we not to have an aussie running circles in our backyard grass, would present a lovely picture. despite our lack of garden design and despite dogdog’s propensity for a bit of ruin, we are grateful for each of these living plants out back. the extraordinary of their ordinariness doesn’t escape us. they are there, they are steadfast, even without us worrying about them, fussing over them, micromanaging them. they seem to know what to do.

i recently interviewed for a job. it didn’t require a masters degree in the field, but i have one. it didn’t require experience in the area of expertise, but i have forty years. coming away from the interview, i noted to myself that it also didn’t seem to require a sense of humor or a sense of who people on either side of the call really were. is this ordinary? i’ve read many articles recently about leadership and management. the best of the best leaders and managers are human, appreciative of those they work with, looking for potential and collaboration, leaning on a bit of community warmth and pushing back at haughtiness and agenda in the workplace. the best of the best remember we are all extraordinarily ordinary, together.

i suspect i was too old for this job. that thought takes my breath away, but, these days, it seems to be true. i watch as garden centers work in our neighborhood and others we pass through. they carry in plants of great variety, design architectural gardens of varying heights and species and colors. i wonder if these gardens will require owner-vigilance or if they will propagate and grow toward their potential with the freedom that years of gained wisdom and savoir-faire and insight have granted. or if, perhaps, it will be a respectful collaboration, a chance to, in community, laugh at the breeze, bask in a bit of sun, cool off in late afternoon shade, soak in the rain and grow leaps and bounds. ordinary extraordinaires.

just like our hostas.

“it’s the ordinary people who give extraordinary love. when you sit back and look at it all you know this is what life’s made of. it’s not the stuff you accumulate or the title on your desk. it’s the people around you who make living life the best.” (song – this is life: ©️ kerri sherwood)

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY