reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the réview mirror. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in the cutest of mispronunciations, my son, when he was little, called the mirror in the car the “réview” mirror. to this day, i still hear him saying it and it always makes me smile. it was an existential wisdom and so i credit him with the thoughtfulness it brings. the réview mirror…showing that which is behind us.

in the middle of the night we ate a banana and talked about huckapoo shirts. we described specific clothing pieces…my little-house-on-the-prairie dress, his brown western shirt with quilting on the chest, my skinniest stretchy gold metal belts, his blue denim shirts, my gauchos, his cords, my prom gowns, his purple suspenders, our earth shoes. i was in the mecca of discos; he was in the foothills. but those huckapoo shirts…a both-and…we could vividly remember the prints, the colors, the polyester, the fit, the collars. we laughed and it kept us up for a couple hours, but it was a weekend night and all was well. we could sleep after. we moved on by decades…to dockers and button-downs (but never short-sleeved) and aigner pumps with suits and scarves. i talked about this light blue dress – it was a splurge and i still remember it cost $35. i wore it “for good” and it had puffy juliet sleeves and a tiny belt at the waistline. we kept going, through colors and fabrics, eventually arriving at black and jeans and boots, twinsies. the réview mirror had served our wakefulness well. had we followed my poppo’s advice – “build a barn out back and put it all out there because it will all come back” – we could visit and touch our huckapoos and chukka boots and bell-bottoms and moccasins-with-no-soles and pleated high-waisted jeans-with-suspenders. no doubt my current going-through of all the drawers and closets and bins in the house (ala marie kondo) will produce an item or two with hysterical shock-value.

the réview mirror of life and decisions and paths taken is not as hilarious. it is a roiling sea of emotions, up, down, up down. i imagine marie saying “thank it. appreciate its value. discard or donate it.” it – regardless of what “it” is, is in the rearview mirror, the sideview mirror, miles back on the highway where nothing we can do will change its appearance, its happening, its consequences. it just was. and it informed the next. though it may not be what we would have decided now, were we to be faced with the same set of circumstances, we have no going-back, no takebacks, no do-overs. we can only stand in grace alongside all the others standing in grace and move forward.

really…i’m not sure i would have ever worn the periwinkle-blue-black-polkadots-tiny-capped-ruffle-sleeve-skinny-self-belt-flounce-bottom-dress were i to do it again.

n’importe quoi. whatever.

*****

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spinach leaves and shredded parmesan. [merely-a-thought monday]

a couple suggestions and, now, i owe her. they make all the difference. she, in some amazingly intuitive way, knows how to lift dinners, no matter the plate, to splendid.

leaves of spinach quietly waiting in a bowl for ladles of homemade chicken soup. and then, shredded – not grated – parmesan dresses it off. if soup can be called glorious, this fits the adjective.

in this time of pandemic – this never-ending-we’ve-never-done-this-before-therefore-we-all-need-some-grace-two-years – we are cooking to maintain sanity. and i have to agree with elsa (whose auto-biography “shocking life” i now want to read) that “eating well gives a spectacular joy to life.” though these two years have not been lavish in expensive foods for us, they have been rich in the experience of cooking and dining together on meals we have mutually prepared.

we love to cook together. and, lucky for me, david loves to chop. i can line up a festival of ingredients to be prepped and he, the mighty sous chef, takes them on willingly and, really, with a little bit of glee. that makes my cooking a wee bit like one of those shows where all the ingredients are in tiny and big bowls, measured and ready. we don’t have swanky pots and pans, but we have an abundance of zeal and, let me tell you, when we are hungry we are daaang focused.

if we feel we can do nothing else – no indoor restaurants, no pubs, no gatherings, no potlucks – then we can invest in cooking for each other or for ourselves. we can honor good food, plain or fancy-schmancy, placed in bowls or on plates, plain or fancy-schmancy, and time taken to savor and be grateful for being fortunate enough to sit at a table and eat.

it’s a bounty of goodness.

and spectacular joy.

*****

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light infinity. [k.s. friday]

“light of the world, shine on me. love is the answer. shine on us all, set us free. love is the answer.”

(“love is the answer” by todd rundgren, recorded by england dan & john ford coley, 1979)

“we’re standing at the crossing, where day and night divide. it takes all of your heart to keep the light alive. and the darkness seems so endless until the dawn arrives. we’ll hold the spark between us and keep the light alive.” (“keep the light alive” by lowen & navarro, 1995)

it would seem that we arrive at this place each and every year to see light infinity. there, beckoning, gesturing to us or quietly waiting. the days have run into each other. the successes, the joys, the learnings, the disappointments, the issues, the slights, the worries, anger, hurt, promises kept, promises broken, the new, the old, humanness … all gathered in the place of the light.

the flame reminds us of the spark of love into that which is around us. the flame reminds us of the frailty – just a breeze away from extinguishing. we invest too much in the each-day and not enough in the big-picture. we know that.

the light gives us a little nudge. again. a reminder to allow it. grace, acceptance, forgiveness, hope, love do not cease nor do they choose only one wick, one candle. they continue on. and on. lighting. every one. every where.

we just need intend to allow the light. infinity.

allow the light
is all
the call implores.
allow the light
to flood
the heart,
to flow
the veins,
to fill
the space
that craves.
allow the light
is all.
the light is all.

the light
is

(mary wickham)

*****

YOU’RE HERE (kerri sherwood – rough cut)

HOPE

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HOPE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood YOU’RE HERE ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

THE LIGHTS, JOY, THIS SEASON ©️ 1996, 2004, 2005 kerri sherwood



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learning. again. [merely-a-thought monday]

we were the only ones in the balcony. it had been a long time since we had sat in a church balcony together – almost a year – but this was an inviting and warm place, filled with good energy. filmy fabric draped over the light fixture in the center, rainbow pieces of gauzy weave, floating high above the pews below us which were full; so many people there to celebrate nancy’s life.

i’ve played for a lot of funerals and been to my own share of sitting-in-the-front-row services. it is sometimes hard to find family or friends to participate in the celebration of life that a service affords. people will attend, but they’d rather sit and watch than speak. this service was different. it appeared that there was not any difficulty wrangling volunteers to read or speak or sing or play. each participant seemed eager to share, grateful to be a part of the celebration.

up there in the balcony we sat, holding hands, tears coming to our eyes time and again. the service was gorgeous, the words eloquent, the music heartfelt, the praises for this amazing woman lofty. stories of her gardens, her flowers, her travels, her cooking, her zeal. and, over and over, the words “joy”, “light” and “love” were used. over and over.

to be at that service was to walk away with learnings and how appropriate that is for nancy, heidi and gretchen’s beautiful momma. we talked about it in littlebabyscion on the way home, driving about an hour and a half, reliving and relishing the time we had just spent. for over and over we learned that in the complexity of life – the very goods and the very bads, the blissful and the devastating, the extraordinary and the ordinary – this woman held space in her heart for both. she wrapped both in her arms, balancing and gracefully retaining her footing in the world, and carried on, always choosing to do more, experience more, feel more, love more. the stories of her vast heart were inspiring. the slide show following the benediction was a gift to watch. two-thirds of the way through i was moved to see a front-of-the-chancel-screen-sized photo of myself, laughing and embracing nancy. a part of the story. yes, no matter the size of star, no matter how satellite, we are all a part of the narrative, a part of love.

after hugs to those dear to us, we walked outside, the word “wow” on our lips. we got in and sat quietly for a few minutes. i looked over at d and said, “makes you wanna go do more stuff, doesn’t it?” he looked back, “yeah, it does.”

mostly, though, it makes me realize that – once again – that it is possible to sit in it all and to steadfastly stay centered, for all things to coexist in our hearts…the things that sadden us or make us giddy, the things we regret and the things we are proud of, the things we hold close and the things we have given wings, the hardest things and the easiest things. for dark and light to coexist. as heidi said, in a powerful tribute to her mom, “both belong.”

and the wisest angels, holding hands with her mom, nodded.

*****

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just love. [merely-a-thought monday]

we watched ‘the wedding planner‘ the night before we left for milwaukee to officiate a wedding. sweet and predictable, it was exactly what we needed friday night as we headed into a weekend that would spell bliss for a young couple.

this morning i read that pete and chasten are parents. there is a photo of them with two babies, newborns, a girl and a boy. the article made me cry for them. they are in their bliss.

in just this last week our dear friends welcomed a second grandchild and a daughter-in-law. their family grows, love begets love – love is just that – love – and they are blissful.

we danced last night at the outdoor patio reception and i was reminded of my weddings. both times filled with love and anticipation and the simple-profound complexity of the moment and the moments to come. no guarantees, no instruction books, no wisdom-of-the-universe or sage advice granted with the words “i do”. just love. both times bliss.

love is just love. we muddle through the highs and lows, the mistakes and grace, the celebrations and regrets. and love is still just love. pure and ridiculously complicated, our hearts swell as we love, love more and love again: partners and babies and added family members and dear friends. for seasons, for forevers, we punt our way through life and love, trying as we wake, trying harder the next day. moments rich with hearts flawed by humanness, hearts stirred by emotions too intense and too gossamer to grasp.

i think it all really boils down to this. all of it. no boundaries, no definitions, no exclusions. fragile and yet ever-powerful, ethereal and sustaining, love is really just love. it’s that easy. it’s that intricate. it’s tangly and it’s linear.

massimo actually spoke a few more words in the movie. adoringly and with respect he said, “love can’t always be perfect. love is just love.”

*****

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sanctuary. [two artists tuesday]

i have sat on the edge of this deck and prayed many a prayer. i have wept and i have laughed. i have sat against the wall, warmed by a winter sun, sipping coffee. i have sat under the umbrella in hot summer sipping cold wine. i have read books and letters, texts and emails. i have written manuscripts and lyrics and poetry and correspondence. i have learned and learned again. i have had hard conversations and gleeful announcements. i have sat – all alone – in the wee hours of the night and i have entertained many, many parties, many rehearsals, many gatherings of relatives, of friends. i have played with my beloved children and potty-trained puppies. i’ve shared a fort with my girl and pushed my boy on swings. i’ve checked kids’ hair for lice and i’ve played basketball and i’ve caught fireflies. i’ve grown black-eyed susans and lavender and hosta and ferns and grasses and basil and tomatoes and weeds. i’ve grown grass and dug out grass and grown it again. i’ve caught snowflakes and i’ve had waterfights with hoses. i’ve dug a pond at our big-dig and carried home rocks to lay around it. i’ve bird-watched and star-gazed and fallen in love with pond-frogs and watched for the owl and studied a cicada’s transformation and cheered on chipmunks. i have strummed ukulele and sang with a community of people i have called family. i have lugged keyboards and amps and music stands out and played with a band. i have danced to music from a record player plugged into the outdoor box. i’ve stared at the firepit and roasted marshmallows. on this deck. on this patio. in this backyard. i have full-spectrum-lived out there.

it doesn’t look like what you think of when you hear the word “sanctuary”, particularly if you have been even remotely involved with any sort of religious institution. but it is indeed a sanctuary. it is a place of refuge and safety. it is a holy place. no less than any building i have ever been in, it offers introspection and meditation, time for wonder and gratitude, moments to connect directly with serenity and my faith, chances to ask the wisdom of the universe hard questions and listen for the answers. it has not ever let me down. though my questions have not always been addressed, though i have unanswered prayers, though i ponder layers of existential, this sanctuary has always embraced me.

i walk out and it whispers to me that it is there, simply waiting. to others’ eyes, it may not appear this way – beautiful and inviting – it may not be pristine or perfectly landscaped, it may not be tended with a keen hand, but it is ever-perfect. it is unfailingly omnipresent, undeniably not ulterior. it calls to me without agenda, without intent, without chance of betrayal. it is inclusive of all who have ever walked there, of all who would ever take time to sit. it is consistent. dependable. a constant.

it is a sanctuary beyond reproach. a place of peace. outside, under the dawning morning and the galaxial sky, the heavens holding us.

it is – as i have learned – everywhere we go, under every rising sun and waxing moon. we are held to mother earth by gravity and the grace of spirit difficult to describe. this great big sanctuary.

i have not yet found a building as worthy.

*****

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love. no caveats. [merely-a-thought monday]

in a few weeks i will officiate a wedding. a gigantic honor, it is the wedding of dearest friends’ son. though i have known him over a decade, we sat in their backyard and he and his fiancee told the story of their romance, sweet and full of lovely vulnerable anecdotes. i asked a lot of questions and we all laughed a lot. there were a few tears – joy does that. they left it up to me to write the ceremony. gigantic honor. celebrating love.

in the weeks since our backyard circle together, we have wordsmithed and finessed, added ritual and music and i’ve reminded them to take their time, to not rush through this ceremony – that which is most important – to give themselves the space to be able to memorize each second of it. i want them to be able to see in their mind the look in each other’s eyes as they exchange the vows they have written, the scent of flowers on the breeze in the outdoors, the way her dress moves as she moves, the way he grins at her. slowly, deliciously, celebrating love in front of family and friends.

i have participated in so many weddings through the years. i have played pipe organ or piano or guitar and i have sang. i have run wedding rehearsals and i have offered thoughts on pieces of music that express what a couple might want expressed. celebrating love for each other, love for the unconditional support of those present witnessing their marriage.

i have also participated in many funerals through the years. again, playing or singing. again, offering thoughts on music. always celebrating love for the person no longer on the earth.

i read a disturbing account of a funeral this morning. the comments that followed were even more appalling. completely filled with -isms of all sorts, i was dismayed at pointed comments made toward the mayor of chicago, a woman of color, in a same-sex marriage, a different religion than the place of the funeral, attending to show her condolences. she was given communion and all hell has broken loose. the comments by hundreds of crowing allegedly-well-studied and righteous folks were enlightening. there was no love expressed here. only pious opinions, statements of judgment and wishes for her conversion, declarations of ‘faith’ rules, but no love.

clearly the people responding to this post about this funeral have not read anne lamott, “the movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.” “…try(ing) not to feel and act so entitled” was apparently not in the wheelhouse of those writing. and, taking a breath before spewing, they clearly did not pray the words, “help me not be such an ass,” which, as anne writes, is “actually the fourth great prayer” after ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’. i was utterly disgusted. celebrating love?

i keep learning. the lessons come each day. a little progress. i try to remember the movement of grace, try to express gratitude, try to let go, try not to be an ass. i check in at the end of the day and realize, once again, that sometime in that day i failed.

but the words of raymond carver (in his poem ‘late fragment‘) remind me of something: “and did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? i did. and what did you want? to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” love.

all around us, people are celebrating belovedness – the challenges and the blisses. in new commitments, longheld relationships, new babies, children flying, new adventures together, routine days, mistakes, forgivenesses, long nights, new days.

“grace, progress, blessings continue to be given to you, because god gives. it’s god’s job.” (anne lamott)

no matter who or what deity in the universe you feel connected to, no matter what you call this supreme being, no matter your religion or not, i personally believe this. goodness pretty much is the bottom line.

when it was time to leave a visit together, my sweet momma would say, “be kind to each other.” she had no caveats. neither does love.

*****

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water and grace. [k.s. friday]

it’s a mystery.  grace.  it falls on us like morning dew, each and every day.  we rise, buoyant or troubled, joyous or grieving, in clarity or murky, in the light or in the dark. we step into next, knowing we have yet another chance. (nov. 22, 2019)

we live within the grasp of lake michigan. we can feel its power, its potency, its glassy peace, its lostness when fog envelops the horizon line and any sense of direction is blurred. the water draws us to it. it is a magnet, especially on blurry days.

things feel a little blurry right now. people all across the globe are struggling, with a wide spectrum of sickness, of loss, with devastating blows to their lives, their families, their homes, their towns, their countries, causes too many to list. blurry and disoriented and lost. existential questions beckon. yet answers are elusive.

there is something about staring at water. taking us out of the moment. each iridescent drop of water lapping at the shore, the mountain stream in the woods, the ocean waves breaking, the jets of water in the park, the pond in the backyard, the tiny fountain in the sunroom. even in our own blurry it reaches us. water. granting a little peace, a little grace.

i just got a card in the mail from one of my beloved nieces. she wrote, “one day it will all fall into place.”

i suppose grace really is like that. mysterious and ubiquitous. it falls on us. like a new day. unexpected and welcome. like a card in the mail. like a surprise text or an unexpected call. it rains down on us and gently re-directs us into next.

we are aware of how often water has shown up in our last year. not peaceful water that we passively have looked at, admiringly. instead, water that demands our participation. water pouring into the basement from a suddenly-broken pipe gasket. water dripping under the sink. water leaking out of the freezer-bottom-fridge, ice having formed from some drainline issue. water coming up from the storm drains downstairs after a heavy rain. water squirting all over from a suddenly broken shower head.

each time water has taken us out of the moment and propelled us into a different moment, in reality, a series of different moments…hours, even days. instead of being where we were, we were cast into roles working together sopping up, plugging the hole, rube-goldberging the fix, figuring out how to deal with the issue at hand and still maintain a sense of humor.

were i to think the universe was watching our every move, i might suggest that these occurred during times of blurry bleary-eyed-ness when perhaps a little re-direction was a good thing. water that washed us past that very time into next. it forced the change in our focus. gave a little clarity when unmoored seemed the the theme. helped us remember that all will fall into place. grace.

neil degrasse tyson said, “where there is water on earth, you find life as we know it.”

perhaps we also find grace.

GRACE from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

*****

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GRACE ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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pastrami mountain. [d.r. thursday]

“there are always flowers for those who want to see them.” (henri matisse)

through a rainy windshield we peered out. the windows were fogging up from the vast temperature change that the weather system had brought with it. the lake was grey, light glistening and playing upon it – the sun coming out from behind the clouds. the sky – left to sunset in salmon with lines of dark clouds dissipating – seemed to highlight the snow on the mountaintops in the distance. puddles had formed on the land lakeside, the point that jutted out near us. a photograph after the storm. after our pause, we traveled on.

sometimes things are not what they appear. the same object translates differently to each of us. the same place reads positive/negative; our interpretation determined by the lens through which we view, the way we approach life. we learn to discern what is real, what we imagine. we learn to assess what we see using mature tools of sagacity.

sometimes things are not what they appear. everything is a matter of perspective, where you are seeing from, where you are in life. we arrive at destinations, full of expectations specific to our own hearts. we see what is there through our eyes. it is important work to be sure to be aware of how others perceive the place, the circumstance. we learn differences. we learn compassion. we learn empathy.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some places are not as they seem. we learn to listen to our intuition, to be wary, to ask questions of what we see and of what we are told, to do research, to wonder. we don’t follow as lemmings and we don’t remain silent. we learn to speak up, to give voice to the disparity between what a place says it is and what it shows itself to be. we learn boundaries and we hold our lines in the sand.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some wizards are merely people behind a curtain. their bluster is bluster, their words intended to suggest power, control, whereas their voice becomes synonymous with hurting others and self-aggrandizement. we learn sympathy, even pity. we learn distrust and not to be blind to agenda.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some people are not as they seem. though their roles imply otherwise, we learn to cautiously be with these folks. we realize that others can manipulate our perception of things, others can run over our viewpoint. and we realize those tsunamis are without truth-seeking. there is little communication – it is silent and colorless. there is little transparency – it is opaque. we learn discretion. we learn that there are those who will throw you under the bus, who will subvert you, to raise themselves up or to accomplish their objective. we learn to expose this kind of betrayal for what it is, to push back on this brand of sabotage, weeds attempting to strangle.

but there are always flowers for those who want to see them. we find places and things and people who are indeed flowers in our garden. places and things and people from which and from whom we learn grace and wisdom and adaptability and kindness. blossoms.

and i suppose the converse-henri is also true. if you don’t want to see flowers, you won’t. your perspective will grant you that, an empty garden. if you decide ahead of an experience that you will dislike it, you will likely see only in black and white, your experience void of the colors of sunflowers and peonies, aster and purple mountain sage.

so, yes, henri, there are always flowers. there is always the single ray of sunlight in the clouds. there is always the glass half-full. there is always the beautiful in the ordinary.

and there are always mountains. for those who want to see them, they are even in the trader joe’s shrink-wrapped pack of nitrate-nitrite-free pastrami.

sometimes things are not what they appear.

*****

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she-birds. [merely-a-thought monday]

“old birds have stronger wings.” (aarp magazine)

“but grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” (anne lamott)

resilience. strength. sisu.

we have flown through many storms, we have weathered many droughts and much deluge. we have built nests from scratch and we have re-built them again. we have given birth through birth canals and through love choices. we have sought security and food for our young when security and food were scarce. we have attached wings to ideas and rube-goldberg solutions; we have made do. we have made piss-poor decisions and grandiose ones that have changed everything. we have broken treasures and fixed stuff; we have learned reverse threading. we have been emotional and we have necessarily let go. we have withstood fires of damaging words and we have recuperated from physical blows to our body, our sexuality, our hearts. we have tried to understand, we have been seekers of closure in times of strife. yet, even without understanding or closure, we have kept on keeping on. we are soon old birds and we have stronger wings.

because life, as life, presents gain and loss, winning and losing, achievement and failure, rich and poor, rising and falling, young and old, crepey and supple elasticity, as juxtapositions, as two sides of a pendulum ever-swinging, we have been measured in these competing narratives.

but we are aging birds with wings who have felt the sun of more than twenty-thousand mornings, the moon’s gravitational pull of decades, the grace of time and gardens through fallow and fruit. we are aging birds who have both soared and plummeted. we are aging birds who do not need the measure of others for our definition, for defining ourselves, continuing to learn, takes enough time and is complex enough.

we imagine unicorns in clouds, names in the stars of the galaxy. we catch the scent of sunshine on a wafting breeze and listen to the calls of mourning doves, wondering. we have come a long way. the path we have taken has not been straight. we have been courageous and we have been tenacious. we have flapped our way to here. we proudly wing our way forward, ever-forward. we are ever-stronger.

*****

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