reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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looking glass falls. [k.s. friday]

there is no limit to how long you can stare at rushing water. cool mist enveloped us as we stood there, watching. in the land of 250 waterfalls, we, as even babbling-stream appreciators, stood and took in this gorgeous sight.

it is unusual for us to be in the midst of many people these days, even outside. yet, here we were, transfixed by the looking glass falls, along with at least thirty other carsful. everyone, with different accents and languages, exchanged greetings on the way up or down the rock steps. everyone was smiling. everyone was kind. the waterfall brought us all together before we parted and looked for the unbeaten path, the trail in the woods, the less-trod, less-populated places that would be quiet. in those moments of togetherness, though, the sheer force of the water spilling over granite seemed to be a cleansing balm to anything that would keep us all separate.

we stood still on looking glass rock trail the next day, just listening to the stream below us. a hiker jaunted by us, intent on making tracks. he turned around and asked us if there was something worthwhile to look at. that, in itself, was a funny question, considering the absolute beauty of the place we were standing. i responded that we weren’t looking, “we’re listening.” he nodded and said something about serenity, then pushed on.

if there were a place i could choose to stand as this year turns into next, i think i would pick one of the 250 waterfalls, or, for that matter, the stream. a reminder that all things keep moving. that everything is fluid. that the edges are smoothed by the water that runs over and over and over them. that dropping worries and angsts and all negativity into the moving, rushing fall or even the whitewater river or gurgling brook, will allow that very water to carry it all away.

“it’s time to let it all go,” he said as we were visiting together. he’s right.

as this year turns its head toward the sun of a new year, i drop it all into the water and start again. we are merely riverstones in this fluid looking-glass-filled life.

happy new year.

*****

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RIVERSTONE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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fluid. with wings. [k.s. friday]

“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)

“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)

i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.

there is nothing to do now but wait.

my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.

there is nothing to do but wait.

sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.

there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.

and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.

there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.

i’ve written here about transition before. and again. and again. and i suspect i will yet again.

because life, i am learning over and over, is one transition after another. fluid. with wings.

*****

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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above the clouds. [two artists tuesday]

in the clouds copy

we left florida in the rain.  it was a tad bit bumpy as we climbed and i was grateful to come out above the clouds into a clear sky with soft early morning color.  as we flew at this altitude i could see glimpses of what was below us, spaces quickly filled in by soft puffy clouds blocking the view.  i strained to see what terrain we were flying over, curious if i could pick out landmarks and know a little bit more about where we were, wondering about people living in those tiny dots of towns and cities and farmland below the clouds that we were flying above.  it was easy to forget that it was raining down there.

i feel like life is like that.  it has become more telling to me in these times of divisiveness.  we are each at a different altitude…we have different starting points – our backgrounds, our education, our financial status, our various orientations…the starting point list is lengthy; all things combine to make us who we are and all things weave us a different starting point.  at any given moment we are at yet another one; life is fluid like that.  we live above our own clouds – or, at times, in them – either way our view blocked.

here above my clouds – for my clouds are different than yours – my questions are these:  how curious are we about the people who are not at the same place as us?  how much do we strain to see what might not be where we are?  how much do we want to know, to empathize? how much do we forget what is happening someplace else, for someone else, in the places where it is more difficult to see through the clouds?  how engrossed are we only in our narrow bandwidth of sky?  can we see the experience of others?  can we try?

we can either think it is a soft-morning-sky kind of day for everyone or we can actually realize that it’s raining down there.

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in transition. [k.s. friday]

in transition song box.jpg

in pondering what to write about this piece,  i took out the jacket for the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART.  my first full-length album, released in 1995, an hour of my original solo piano compositions, i dedicated it to my big brother wayne who i had lost a few years prior, but whose presence i could feel as i worked on this project.

in the jacket notes, next to this piece IN TRANSITION, i wrote “many changes for many around me.  changes give us time and impetus to sort through (and feel) the stuff of our lives – the transitional time.”  that would explain the minor, a key that invokes going inside.

i guess i will have to defer back to that.  it’s no different now than it was then.  there are still “many changes for many around me”.  i would have thought that things would feather out on the change seesaw, maybe leveling out a bit.  but now, 23 years later from those moments of recording remotely on stage in an auditorium at northwestern university, i see that life continues to be fluid, change continues to happen, we still have to sort and feel and go with the flow, we are still learning, growing, changing, we are ever on that seesaw.  still in transition.

 

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood