reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the splurge. [two artists tuesday]

it would appear that a giant angel was hula-hooping in the clouds and dropped their hula hoop, which landed in the upper branches of a tree at the botanic garden. or, perhaps, that a spaceship -with no defined interior- had dropped down for a visit. or, maybe, there was a filming of sesame street’s “the letter ‘o'” about to do another take. brightly lit hula hoops of neon light suspended in trees, they cast an eerie glow onto the frozen ground, onto the path. michael bublé sang “walking in a winter wonderland” and we found ourselves inside the magic.

there is definitely something to wandering paths amongst many other people all oohing and ahhing. i had vowed to myself to leave my camera in my purse, but it wasn’t minutes before i failed at this. there were just so many colors and textures to remember, so dreamy. vast installations of creative lighting.

we had hoped to go. the ticket cost was a little prohibitive but we decided – when we woke and new year’s day was to be a little more mild than it had been – to splurge.

we were stunned even at the entrance to the garden, the trees wrapped in lights, every single branch and twig gleaming. we moseyed along the path, pulling over to let groups of people by so that we could be somewhat alone as we strolled.

but this wasn’t a silent and solitary hike in the woods. it was a performance piece we all took in together. each person’s glee added to ours and, dropping all expectations and all analysis of how-do-they-do-that, we were caught up in the captivating displays.

we already have a plan for next year. there are snacks and beverages and fire pits, places to linger, places to immerse. i could stand and watch the water and light “all i want for christmas” over and over and over. i allowed myself to wonder what a garden would look like lit to a piece of my own music.

we talked about our favorite displays driving the backroads. though spaceship fantasies are not my thing, hula hoops definitely are in my wheelhouse and the hulahooplights made my list. by the time we got home we realized that we had listed all of the displays we had seen, each design extraordinary, a celebration of the marriage of color and light and and sound and garden.

our late-night snack had a different air. the gift of being outside in the cold. the gift of beauty. the gift we had given ourselves – permission to splurge a little. a new year and its new intentions.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the spaces in-between. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we’re guided by the spaces in-between the facts,” she stated. and then continued, “instinct, faith…”

standing outside, inside the beauty of creative lighting, feeling as if we were somewhere between graphic and real, it was easy to wrap around these words. the spaces in-between, the rests between the notes, the white space, even the kerning. all the space in-between counts.

the moments of instinct – action based on sheer gut. the moments of faith – action based on exposed heart.

joey is back. every now and again he is posting a wild country backpacking trip. we are somewhat relieved to see him again; he hadn’t been around in a long time and we weren’t the only ones who seemed worried. we watched him pull out maps and trail books and choose the space in-between all of it, the wilderness through which he could instinctively find his way. joey coconato’s guiding star is not conventional. maybe that’s why we love to watch him.

the fulcrum of balance in daily life is a challenge. balancing the very real needs of living – paying bills, staying healthy, doing good work – with the very real needs of living – the moments, the recognition of time flying by, the autograph we leave behind. in-between the stuff of accumulated years we seek the space of minimal. in-between the daily barrage of tasks we seek the space of quiet. in-between the challenges and troubles we seek the space of grace, of peace.

there is the day we stand in the kitchen – each arguing for our “side” of the story, full-steam ahead fueled by accumulated stress and anxiety – when we look out the window and it has begun to snow. suddenly, there is air, a little space. suddenly the facts-of-the-matter seem less important. suddenly we realize that this moment of discontent counts too – and, just as suddenly, we realize we are tossing the heart out with the angst.

we read an article written by a philosopher/psychologist in finland. he referenced that “for five years in a row, finland has ranked no. 1 as the happiest country in the world”. since david and 20 are constantly trying to convince me to move to finland, i thought it in my best interest to read this article. surely it would shed light on why those sisu folks are so darn happy.

there were three basic tenets. the first – “we don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.” the second – “we don’t overlook the benefits of nature.” the third – “we don’t break the community circle of trust.”

just reading those made me think – for pretty obvious reasons – that the united states of america is doomed to unhappiness. i sighed. it would seem that finns walk in the spaces in-between more than we all do. I am hoping my quarter-finnish ancestry will help me list that way.

so how do we find the balance point, i wonder, that space between.

walking at the chicago botanic garden – in the middle of graphics and lights and magic and real-live-nature called “lightscape” – helped. the way home was a smorgasbord of holiday lights and displays. we passed lake bluff’s stunning square, all green and blue and twinkling white lights.

we arrived home, grateful to have taken the space in-between everything else – the worries, the busy, the not-enoughs – to appreciate awe without measure, to be outside on a cold winter’s night, to delight in what we saw surrounded by strangers who delighted with us.

*****

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


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the grass. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

we are making headway.

at long last, there is not an unsightly mound in our front yard and our grass is actually growing. it is astounding what a little attention will yield.

we will never quality for the lawn olympics, but neither will we get the worst-on-the-block award. we bought a used edger and are defining the daylily garden with vintage bricks that match the old brick wall behind it. we used to have a beautiful old brick patio up by the front door – back in the day – but had to remove it in order to have the (non-disclosed-at-the-time-of-sale) underground oil tank removed. i’ll not forget the day we found a 7′ stick in the garage with carved inch and foot marks. we wandered the yard and discovered the cap, hidden in plain view, that spelled out the epa no-no. our poor yard has been through upheaval more than once.

and so, here we go. the backyard and the frontyard have consumed us this summer. but we are making headway. yup. no medals but it makes us just a little bit happy watching both flourish. just a little attention.

it’s always that way, isn’t it?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING


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company. [k.s. friday]

we were supposed to have company. it has been a rarity these last couple years to share our space with anyone, so we were really, really looking forward to it. visits with people we haven’t seen in a year, two years. coffee-sitting or wine-chatting out on the deck, slow walks along the lakefront, catching up. long-awaited.

it wasn’t to be.

just before, we had attended a small gathering – outside. we were alerted a couple days later that we were exposed to covid. guidelines are such that it was then our responsibility – which we don’t take lightly – to isolate from others so as to avoid being contagious, whether or not we were also ill. we have respected this pandemic and its resulting health guidelines from the start, so we did the only responsible thing. we cancelled our guests, two sets of them.

to say we were disappointed is to underplay the isolation of these times. we were stunned. the ever-present facebook shows people off gallivanting on vacations and cruises, at disneyworldland, at parties. and we, abiding by what had been outlined as ways to protect others, were alone. in truth, we were a little ticked.

and so, we dedicated ourselves to crossing every appendage we’d stay healthy and working on the backyard. the new fence has created a blank canvas and we wanted to re-plant and re-organize our tiny sanctuary. i began studying plants and sun and shadow and height and breadth and movement and placement.

we moved the old hostas. they were along that back fence line. it hasn’t been a good year for hostas, dan told us, and we’d have to agree. these intrepid plants, we knew, would bounceback, so we transplanted them next to barney and under the white fir pine. i wanted a few hosta for under the blue spruce, but i wanted elegans hosta, rich green not variegated, huge heart-shaped leaves, gorgeous texture that will share that space with tufting blue sedge grasses.

we went to the nursery. it’s all outside so we felt confident we were not exposing anyone and we spent a few glorious hours wandering in and out among the plants, dreaming. that’s where we fell in love with that little stand of quaking aspen. (pause for a moment…)

i took a zillion photographs, not only of grasses and plants, but of the accompanying tags of information, so that we could go home and i could research and develop a plan for the new landscaping we would be planting. i had my work cut out.

i made several trips to the nursery, asking questions and moving slowly through, glancing at my camera at the pictures i had of our backyard space, pondering. after a week – sans people – we went and picked up the first of the grasses, three switchgrasses, tall with plumes just peeking out. they would join the hardy pampas we had already purchased, hoping they would grow tall against the fence.

busying ourselves with greenery helped the sting of losing the opportunity to see loved ones, but not entirely. though grateful each day to not take ill, we felt gypped.

a few days ago we added a couple dwarf fountain grasses. their flouncy-ness is charming. we brought home a little zebra dwarf silvergrass and a purple fountain grass for contrast. after a few days of studying placement, we’ll actually dig holes, take them out of their pots and plant them. and there’s space for a small rock garden too, perfect for this thready heart.

it’s the end of the week and now more days have passed since our exposure. though we went through ten home tests – to make sure we were moving through a ridiculously long incubation period – we have mixed feelings.

we know that in cancelling our company we did the right thing, for we would not want to inadvertently infect them or anyone they would, in turn, see.

but we remain just as hungry – we are just as longing – for a bit more normal as we had been. we’ve all sacrificed much in these two plus years to protect each other. we – the two of us – have limited our restaurant-visits to less than two hands, have stayed back from concerts or festivals we wanted to attend, have masked in shops and stores, risking the dirty-look ire of others who have simply moved on. and we have not had the chance to really see many others – to laugh in our pjs together, to get in each other’s way in the kitchen, to spill out stories, interrupting and laughing.

doing the right thing is sometimes painful. especially when opportunity is few and far-between.

this weekend we’ll sit out on the deck and gaze out toward our new fence. in the early morning of the days i’ll water all the new plants, greeting them each time. and maybe, later in the day, the new grasses will catch an early evening breeze and tilt toward us, billowing. i imagine they will be thanking us for bringing them home. birds and more birds will attend to the feeders. squirrels and chipmunks will scamper, chasing each other looking for fallen seed, high-tight-roping across the yard. dogdog, a little older and more tolerant of little friends in his yard, will lay on the deck watching with us.

plants. critters. dogdog.

i guess we have company after all.

*****

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LONGING from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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corn! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

surely this will attract the attention of agriculture lovers near and far. we – the tiniest farmers of them all – are growing corn.

i would like to say that we have deliberately planted corn, in an effort to have a cob or two, but this isn’t the case. the chippies are likely the generation alpha planters; they are messy at the birdfeeder and, while they are stuffing their little cheeks of birdseed, their tiny paws are flailing and birdseed is flying. they planted the corn and we were, frankly, astonished to identify it. in good-corn-fashion, i’m guessing it was knee-high-by-the-fourth-of-july, only we didn’t notice, as it blended into the ornamental grasses under the feeder. it’s nice to know our soil is good enough for corn.

i looked up if we could actually eat it, and stumbled into the georgia gardener walter reeves who said that “the seed used in bird food is delectable to birds, squirrels and chipmunks.” but “if the seeds sprout, you’ll get more of the same.” to his knowledge, “all of these plants would be edible by humans. but you might not want to eat them, because the varieties used in birdseed might not be digestible by humans. leave them for the birds,” he recommends.

nevertheless, we consider it a win. whether we were passively or actively farming, it grew and we are proud.

it is all beginning to make sense to me. all that time my sweet momma and poppo spent in arboretums and planting fields. all the time they spent watching the birds out their back windows. all the time they simply spent with each other, appreciating the idyllic opportunities that nature and outdoors and together bring.

i am guessing that somewhere – on another plane not too far away – my dad is watching. maybe he’s hanging out with columbus, who was pretty expert at the iowa-corn-in-which-he-was-raised. my mom is rolling her eyes at them, while they’re chuckling at the corn in our garden and maybe scoffing a tiny bit at walter. they’re paying no attention to her eyerolls.

they’re getting their yellow-plastic-tipped-corn-cob-skewers ready.

*****

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


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quaking aspen dreams. [two artists tuesday]

we have our own personally-funded go-fund-me for this dream. it buys time for the bigger dream.

the tiny stand of quaking aspen trees beckoned to us. it was instant love. at first sight, no less. tall, willowy, silvery-white bark, the stand transported us to high mountain forests, to trails in breckenridge, to the first ahhh moments coming over the pass.

we took a breath and asked the price.

the nursery is an oasis. in the middle of our town, we sank into it for a few hours, just strolling about and imagining. these trees brought us to center.

our real landscaping need, right now, is for tall grasses along our new fence. we studied each variety and its characteristics – upright and erect or billowing and rounded, low to the ground or reaching to the sky with plumes, feathery in the light. i visited again during the week, asking questions and spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the aspen trees, photographing from different angles and surprised, soaking, by a full-on sprinkler. we’ll go back and purchase a few grasses.

we’ve run the numbers and the stand of aspen must wait. our tiny aspen tree, delicately brought home from the high mountains, aptly named “breck”, is in our backyard and would love the mentoring of a taller, more established stand. with us five years now, we don’t want breck to feel lonely. but, numbers don’t lie and a stand of aspen, along with planting it, is a little bit expensive. the immediate-gratification toddlers in us want it now, but the adults know it needs to wait. there are other priorities. sigh.

we’ll visit the aspen again. and i’ll visit it while david is working, again. and we’ll save up and keep on designing what we want the next phase of our backyard, our sanctuary, to look like.

in future days, our – still-imagined – tiniest “pando” (latin: i spread) of aspen in our yard will grow and remind us of the interconnectivity of all. the canopy-to-come will bring us to places we cherish, dreams beyond the dreams. we will keep saving, a deliberate stand-fund.

we are aspen-dreaming.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the people with pompoms. [d.r. thursday]

and, in the miracle of the universe unfolding as it should, there was first fruit. i have to admit to my heart swelling just a bit. i peeked into the leaves of our two tomato plants and was astounded. many tiny fruit – little green orbs – had appeared, seemingly overnight. once again, we were going to experience the thrill of tiny-farming, a container garden on our old barnwood potting stand. just off the deck, tucked up next to the fence, canopied by the climbing ivy and right in the chipmunk trail to the birdfeeder, we were experiencing success. we are proud parents. and last night, as i snipped off fresh basil for our red pesto, i blew kisses, waving virtual pompoms, to these baby cherry tomatoes and encouraged them to keep on keeping on.

sunday morning we awoke to a flurry of activity on our blogs. with our coffee mugs in hand, we could see that hundreds of people were suddenly visiting certain posts and we ascertained that our favorite wander women had shared the cartoon and corresponding blogposts we had written with great pride about them. and – in a fun moment that was even better than hearing your name on the romper-room-mirror-out-there-i-see moment, they mentioned us on their video. we’ve watched every single one of their backpacking youtubes, their triple crown achievement, their biking, their supply lists, their rv-ing, their musings about aging and planning and adventure. nothing short of inspiring, we’ve talked about them a bit…ok, more than a bit. we shared with them the cartoon we drew, wanting them to know we are among the giant fan group they have, cheering them on as they are getting outside in the world. and then they shared our words. mutual pompoms.

there is power in sharing, power in being proud enough of, inspired enough by something to cheer it on. there is power in rooting for that which someone else is going after. it’s a synergistic power…back and forth and back and forth. kind of like how all cheering-on works. we encourage, we nurture, we are encouraged, we are nurtured. i found a note from my sweet momma recently. just a scrap of paper. on it she had written, “i know you can do it.” pompoms.

every new adventure – every fresh start – every launch – every foray – new fruit. vulnerable to the chipmunks – and much bigger monsters – but stalwart anyway. a few coffee grounds around the tomatoes will help deter those crazy chippies. we have plenty of coffee grounds. easy peasy.

i’m guessing the coffee will help with everything else too.

that and the people with pompoms.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

HELPING HANDS
53.5″ x 15.25″


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not as they appear. [k.s. friday]

described as “too vigorous”, creeping bellflower, gorgeous purple flowers and all, is considered noxious and invasive. i know people like that.

as a matter of fact, the other day while we were strolling along the lakefront, we passed someone i know who is quite bellflowerish. without hesitation, i immediately began an animated conversation with david, complete with hand gestures and enthusiastic arm movements, my face intent on his as i told him the non-story and he stared at me, knowingly.

there are just some people who are best avoided.

had we stopped, even to exchange pleasantries, the conversation would have shifted to mining. this person mines for details, details, details, for gossip, for information. too vigorous, noxious and invasive, masked by curiosity and feigned intense interest, this person has always been a miner. avoidance is best, just like creeping bellflower. it looks lovely and inviting, beautiful purple flowers standing tall, but it will reseed – your newsy news – and spread it all out in gardens near and far, your personal story strewn all over, regardless of soil, aggressively spread like a weed.

the most robust plant can produce up to 15,000 seeds annually and self-sow in the wind. bellflower can overwhelm other, less aggressive, plants as they strive to co-exist. they are tough to eradicate in a gentle garden.

beware. creeping bellflowers will run over you and your garden.

sometimes, flowers are not as they appear.

*****

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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hairnets. [two artists tuesday]

though a red and white striped jumper, accompanied by white tights and saddle shoes, was not my favorite outfit, i really loved being a candystriper when i was in high school. the local hospital – huntington hospital – had a training program and then you could choose as many days as you wished to volunteer. there were many options – to help in the coffeeshop, to deliver meals, to offer magazines or books on a cart, to visit with patients. my favorites were the coffeeshop and visiting with patients, but i loved all of the work i was assigned. i learned about origami from one of the patients and spent hours with him making cranes and lightening his spirit. i don’t know what his diagnosis was, but i do know it was very serious and he was only a little older than we were. he needed light and we all tried hard to bring it to him whenever we could.

the coffeeshop was a blast, always filled with patrons. i have this unusually tactile memory of making toasted onion bagels with butter – giant new york bagels – i can even still catch a whiff, mixed with coffee wafting from large pots we continually refilled.

the worst part of the job – as a candystriper – was wearing a hairnet. clearly it was for sanitary reasons, but no sixteen-year-old-girl really wants to scoop all her hair into a net and plaster it against her head. especially not if she has a nordic high forehead – which i did – well, and still do. yup. at the end of our shifts, we would go out into the sunlight and yank off our hairnets, leaving our long hair to blow wild and free.

our front lawn is wearing a hairnet. it kind of made me giggle a little as they laid down the haynet and rolled it out. the dirt and seed under it likely groaned – confined! – but the hay will keep the birds from snacking on the new seed and dan said that the hay will dry and then you can rake up the netting. easy-peasy.

mostly, it is astonishing to look out the front window or drive up to the house and see a flat yard. for the last seven months or so we have had a giant lump in the front yard, a debris pile with cement and rocks and asphalt and chunks of hard rubber and copper fittings and some cast iron – and, i’m guessing, lead – since that is what they were removing – bolts. when grass-trying-to-be-a-yard-again grew on the lump (which was all the way from the house to the street and at least twenty feet across) there was no way to cut it. we quickly became “those people” on the block, with the messiest (and ugliest) yard. david went out with the mower, but that was impossible, so he took trimmers and diligently trimmed the top of the mess. a lower mess is better than a higher mess. but – a mess nonetheless. i’m quite sure that people drove by and pointed. i can’t say i blame them.

they came and excavated the debris lump. it was a big job and they had big scraping machinery and a big dumptruck. it was quite the process. the guy in charge was particular and, thus, particularly annoying to the other workers. but they were a hardworking crew and, a few hours later, drove off with our water line replacement leftovers.

and so now we are primed for new grass. we are watering appropriately and we are conferring with dan, who has the best grass ever. he will guide us into better grasshood. we will tend our new yard carefully as it comes back from its turmoil and wreckage.

and one of these days we will be able to remove its hairnet and verdant grass will blow wild and free.

*****

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