reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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fog. [k.s. friday]

and, if i am honest, i would tell you that i can feel the fog lifting. finally. i don’t think i knew the extent of the fog because fog is kind of like that. dense and clammy, less penetrable by light. once you are in it, you feel somewhat disoriented and everything looks different. you can’t really tell how foggy it is because suddenly you have nothing with which to compare it.

we underestimate the importance of attending to our emotional health. yes, there are all kinds of positive memes out there. yes, there are self-help books galore. yes, there are commercials on tv recommending therapy. yes, yes, yes. but we are stoic, we humans, and we are also stubborn and self-conscious. and many of us underplay how we are feeling, so as not to make others uncomfortable with our grappling. people ask how we are and our answer is “fine”. it’s just too too much to give a real answer. most people prefer answers with a little vague blurriness.

i ran into someone a bit ago at the fedex store. she asked me how i was. i told her. i don’t mean i told her “fine”. i actually told her. i can’t say it was a mistake, but she was writhing and trying to get away, though i was simply telling her how i was. i wasn’t verbose; it didn’t take much to say i had been struggling. but it was a truth and maybe she would have rather heard that everything that had happened in the last couple years took no toll. she wanted everything to be “fine”.

i recently saw a meme on someone’s facebook page. it read: “people don’t want to be talked out of their feelings. people want to be heard, seen, felt and understood.” (rachel samson) i always wonder if the people who post such things really mean them. surely they have also experienced times of soupy, where there was a ceiling of zero and they were feeling all of what life had tossed them.

it is in looking back at the dissipating cloud of fog that you know a little more the extent of your murky. it is in noticing light peeking in that you know a little more the extent of the loss of light. it is in seeing more clearly that you know a little more how much clarity was missing. it is in feeling my shoulders rise that i know that i have been bent under the weight of some sadness, some disappointment, some confusion.

though we all function in the middle of our haze, out of necessity, out of self-preservation, out of obligation, there is a moment when a pinprick of brightness burns through. we realize that the horizon is still there and that now, with the lure of distinct light and the buoys of clarity, we are headed in that direction. we’ve been brave and we’ve pulled energy from every cell to get to to that point and we keep taking steps, taking steps.

it isn’t easy. despite advertising dollars spent, this society is not really about self-help. it does not encourage time to be within oneself, time to rejuvenate, time to be healthy. our ideals push success and prosperity, seemingly at the price of balance. there is a cost for sharing what is real, for standing in fog, a worry of judgement and marks of weakness in our permanent record.

it’s up to each of us to step aside the everchugging uphill-downhill train and catch our breath. it’s up to each of us to breathe slowly and sort to that which makes us sit on the fulcrum of the nonstop seesaw. it’s up to each of us to be gentle on ourselves, to lighten up, to seek soft days that feed us and give us strength for the other days. it’s up to each of us to stand in self-care, to not worry ourselves with wondering about the judgement of others. it’s up to each of us to eliminate the stigma of admitting struggle. it’s up to each of us to support one another in the times of fog, to mean it if we ask “how are you?”. it’s up to each of us to reach and touch the curtain of fog as it lifts, grateful not only for its leaving, but for what we learned about its presence.

“the fog has lifted
the weight is gone
lightness has returned
singing is in me
humor also
light again
and i do not know why- “

(shalom freedman)

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WHEN THE FOG LIFTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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30,240 minutes. [k.s. friday]

the mimosa tree grew in the middle of the front yard, its fanning leaves dappling the southern sunshine streaming through it. pink and white flowers adorned its graceful branches; it was beautiful color on a wooded lot full of big oaks and maples. the roots of a mimosa are invasive and the pods and brittleness and attraction to disease put it on the do-not-plant list. but it spelled home, and, though i don’t remember the ultimate reason it needed to be taken down, i do remember how its absence felt.

the pink bloom stopped me in the middle of the botanic garden greenhouse. it wasn’t a duplicate of our mimosa; it may not even have been a mimosa. but the pompom shape and the blossom echoed our tree’s blooms and, instantly, i was taken back home.

the mourning doves have started cooing. we’ve seen robins. wild turkeys were out on the bike trail as we walked and talked. a pudgy squirrel lingered on our deck rail in the sun and the birds are lining up on the fence to take turns at the birdfeeder. it is another spring – soon. it rolls on and on. time.

we watched an interview…a man in ukraine who – devastatingly – lost his wife and two children was talking with erin burnett (cnn) who earlier had been reporting from ukraine but is back in ny now. tears streaming down her face, she struggled to hold onto her composure as she prompted this gentleman to speak about his children, his wife. less than a month ago he had a normal life. i’d believe the thought of losing his family to a violent bombing invasion was far from his mind. in what is mere minutes (only 30,240 minutes) all was gone.

there are mimosas in ukraine. called acacia trees they canopy parks and walkways, their pompoms and curtained branches greeting all those who walk underneath. i would imagine that somewhere there was a house with a front yard. and in that front yard sat a mimosa.

now, 30,240 minutes later, there is nothing. not because the tree’s roots were lifting the sidewalk or the spent blooms were littering the grass or the seeds are toxic to animals. no. they are decimated because they – along with their people – were blown to bits in acts of cruelty, in heinous evil. it takes our breath away. no more mimosas. no more homes.

what will we do with the next 30,240 minutes?

*****

THE WAY HOME

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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that crooked smile. [merely-a-thought monday]

his crooked smile stopped me.

we were wandering slowly through the orchid show at chicago botanic gardens, drinking in the colors, the fragile blooms, the deliciousness of being-out-somewhere-doing-something. in the hallway between two larger spaces, there he was. waiting. wearing the imperial margarine crown, large bulbous nose, really long kind-of-jay-leno-chin and a crooked smile, his eyes squeezed a little shut in an engaging invitation, he was waiting.

i stood there staring at him, laughing. he was sitting in front of an old piano painted in bluebird-sky-blue-peely-paint and he winked at me. all the other orchids didn’t have to do anything to get our attention, and, truthfully, neither did he – they were all stunning and refreshing hopeful harbingers of maybe-spring-will-come – but he tried extra hard anyway.

i see him as toothless. but i have no judgements about that at all. i suspect most orchids are toothless, well, except for the one that made me do the “duh-chomp, chomp, chomp—what’s up doc?” bugs bunny imitation in the middle of a room full of people. that one most certainly had teeth. two buck teeth just screaming for us to notice. nevertheless, this guy – the imperial margarine guy – did not have teeth. his jimmy durante schnozzola was all he needed. and those eyes. and that crooked smile. sheesh! what charm!

when we left the botanic garden we felt a rush of fresh air. this wasn’t just the difference between a heightened-warm greenhouse and the cold chicago air. it was a sense of newness. a refreshing, though albeit tiny, touch of “normal”, a reminder of beauty. it was sheer magic. it was diving into a rainbow and immersing, coming out the other side dripping with colors we hadn’t seen in a long time.

it was admiring blossoms of solid colors and stripes and polka-dots and marveling over shapes and sizes and textures. it was reading of orchid seeds sailing over oceans and great expanses of land, steadfastly enduring. it was laughing with orchids which had personality, confidence and humility, joie de vivre.

they reminded us of life, in the middle of a neverending pandemic, in a period of time that would mark the beginning days that ukraine was invaded by russia, the world shocked by the wickedness of it all. the country-of-sunflowers was under siege and the orchids were blooming. all existing at the same time, on the same plane, in the same world. a gentle prod – yet again – to appreciate every last little thing.

maybe that’s what his crooked smile was all about.

*****

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in it together. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

the up-north gang makes plans that feature rest rooms. we travel distances – often caravaning – but we know that we will be stopping. no ifs, ands or buts.

the drive to cedarburg is not long, but the last thing any menopausal woman OR – let’s-face-it – man wants to do upon arrival anywhere is to desperately look for a bathroom. there is no time for that. no one wants to feel imperiled by the call of nature.

it feels somewhat irresponsible to be writing about paper bags and tic-tacs and mini-mart restrooms while russia invades ukraine and people’s lives are in jeopardy. it feels a little like it could be interpreted as not-paying-attention. we sat with our coffee this morning and talked about families packing up a few things and leaving…just leaving…with no place to really go, not knowing what to take, separating from the men in the household who have been ordered to stay, conscripted. it is nothing shy of terrifying and we wonder, yet again, how it is that this world is so conflicted and broken. yet we look around and we see evidence of division and suffering and methods of control everywhere.

and so, last weekend, our little field trip to cedarburg’s winter festival was exactly the right thing to do. we stopped at the gas station we always stop at. they had added two new restrooms, good news for a bunch of 60plussers on the move. less waiting that way. we watched the sled dogs race, we wondered about whether the river had been frozen the day before for the bedraces. we wandered in and out of shops and finished our day all together in the tiny bar of a bed and breakfast there. faces reddened from the wind, laughter up and down the table.

our up-north-gang mini roadtrip was before the invasion. i would choose it again, though. because we need to be reminded – over and over – that those are moments not to be taken for granted. the silly oh-my-gosh-i-need-a-restroom-right-freakin-now shared times of this gang as we age and age. the familiarity and ease of people you have spent time with, people you are in menopause with, people who talk about utterly anything. presence is not to be underestimated.

we are fortunate. and we know it. and as we give thanks for all we do have – including people we love and new mini-mart restrooms and winter festivals and freshly fallen snow – all under a sky of freedom – we also lift up those in a land not really so far away. and we hope for their safety, their very lives and an end to conflict they did not choose.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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what is. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

they came without sirens. 4am and just lights. the neighborhood was dim, darkness perpetuated by an outage that diminished power but didn’t eliminate it.

in over three decades they have never been here before and i hope they never have to come again.

the buzzing in the living room and the hot electrical smell were, frankly, terrifying. with wee-hours-just-awakened brains we gathered the dog, important papers, laptops, phones, wallets and put it all in the car. i threw together a small bag of our clothes and made sure we had a leash. the thought “what should i take?” kept playing through the fear, on repeat and somewhat incessant, yet unanswerable.

the carbon monoxide monitor woke me up. it wasn’t wailing, but it was beeping in the basement. i went down to investigate, but the lights wouldn’t all turn on and those that did were only partial power. i woke david and we walked the house, room to room, checking lights, while i called the power company to report this strange outage.

the living room stopped us cold in our tracks. the buzzing and the smell. loud and strong. neither were explainable. i called 911.

i have since decided that we should, for any unexpected emergency, have a go-bag packed. a few essentials to take us through a few days in case of any reason we need to leave in a hurry. we had one packed – as suggested – during the riots and the curfews of 2020, but we’ve since put it away. it would be wise to just have some necessities you do not have to think about. grab and go.

but the unanswered question, the real question: “what should i take?” what would represent life here – my children, my parents, our families, this creation of home. which trinkets, which photographs, which antiques, which blanket or memento, which album, which painting, which any thing. for a moment, i stood, smelling the smell and hearing the buzzing electricity, and i had no answer. at all. no idea.

for anything to represent life and love and time spent, passions and hard work and celebrations and grieving, it would have to be the stories of it all. one giant kaleidoscope, a myriad of constant change and brightly colored life itself, a timeline of full-spectrum light and deep midnight sky.

i froze in the living room that night. i wracked my brain for what to take. and i was afraid.

yet, the firefighters came and allayed our fear. their thermal imaging showed no hotspots. they checked each room, each floor and the basement. they traced the buzzing and the hot-electrical-smell to the cable box and the tv. i silently gave thanks for the CO monitor and its beeping, for light sleeping, for our good sense to get up and check the house, for the professionals who quickly arrived. i don’t want to think of what might have been. and really, “there’s no way to know what might have been.” (little texas)

instead, i will sit in gratitude for what is.

*****

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our mélange. still a toddler. [two artists tuesday]

every weekday for four years is kind of a long time. we kicked off our mélange on february 12, 2018 with the intention to blog each day using a mutual image. we’d see where those images would take us: down backroads of memory, forays into wondering, dropping into the tiniest cracks of things that happen in our days. they would generate stories and pondering and poetry and a dedication to a practice we both love: writing.

1106 blogs later – in the context of the mélange – and we are just as committed now as we were then. in these tens of hundreds of posts, we have been both succinct and verbose, grateful and snarky, questioning and certain. mostly, we have sat next to each other – every single post – typed on laptops and read aloud to the other what the chosen image evoked. it has been an absolute gift.

from an analytical standpoint, we can see that people all over the world are reading. we marvel at the number of countries where someone has opened up what we have blathered. it is not without wonder that we -every so often- hear from someone from afar. and then, there are those days that the analytics suggest perhaps no one is interested and our writing is for naught. yet, we write anyway. because, we have discovered, this is for us – a gift we have given ourselves.

in the beginning our monday-friday topics included two cartoon days: chicken marsala monday and flawed cartoon wednesday. those days have since morphed and changed into merely-a-thought monday and not-so-flawed (and sometimes flawed) wednesday. in the beginning, too, every day had products i designed for that day. we had (actually, still have) five stores on society6 where people could purchase prints and canvases and tote bags, mugs and phone cases, throw pillows and leggings and shirts with our original work. hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of products. and so much fun to design. we have featured morsels of david’s paintings and youtubes or mp3s of my music, tiny snippets of color and texture and devoted artistry. we dove into the telling-the-tale of these pieces and we have shared the soul of our work.

soon it will be a year since we first added saturday morning smack-dab, our smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-middle-age cartoon. we’ll be setting up an additional separate page for smack-dab, the cartoon. some people want less words and that will be the place to go for the less-is-more approach. this cartoon is one of the delights of my week and the scripting, layout, colorizing, design work give me a distinct honor of co-cartoonist.

we have learned – in this practice – to photograph, to look, to listen – even more carefully and intently than before. so much to notice, to pay attention to. life is about how you take it in and respond to it all.

the learning curve on anything worthwhile can be steep. toughing out the vulnerability factor, finding your voice, using it to write, putting-it-out-there, brings a mélange of emotion. for us, it has been about 1106x joy.

thank you for reading.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

our first mélange post

click here for our mélange

and – if you are in the mood for browsing:

CHICKEN MARSALA SOCIETY6 STORE

TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY SOCIETY6 STORE

FLAWED CARTOON SOCIETY6 STORE

DAVID ROBINSON SOCIETY6 STORE

KERRI SHERWOOD SOCIETY6 STORE

THE MÉLANGE ©️ 2018-2022 kerri sherwood & david robinson


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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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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

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