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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edges and kaleidoscopes. [two artists tuesday]

the edges come fast. a blink and they’ve arrived.

i did a photo shoot with my cello. it’s a gorgeous instrument, elegant and full of tear-your-heart-out melodic possibility.

i am sitting at the edge.

i clutch onto it tightly, yearning to yo-yo-ma, yet knowing this edge is somewhat irrefutable. in my heart, my wrist, the tendons of my fingers ache to bow, to press string to fingerboard. the edge pushes back. i know that it is time and that no dream in the night – onstage with soaring, weep-worthy lines – will change that.

my edges – like conglomerate rock, a mixture of wishes and knowings and new – reorganize in the kaleidoscope of life. and, because life is like that, surprises will show up, lit by spotlights and sunlight.

and, once this stunning instrument has moved, as it should, from my studio to the embrace of someone else, i understand that, though my hands will not touch its graceful lines and resonant soul, there will be other learnings, other touches. and always, other edges.

“though i play at the edges of knowing, truly i know our part is not knowing, but looking and touching and loving.” (mary oliver)

*****

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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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on-the-bench & off-the-bench. [d.r. thursday]

every sunday morning for years and years we have sent a photograph to each other. every single sunday, mostly without fail. there might be one or two we missed, but no more than that. it is a cherished tradition and i envision us as little old ladies still sending texted photos on sunday mornings.

it started because most people we know are not sitting on a pipe organ bench first thing on a sunday morning. since we both were, we shared “this is where i am in the world right now and i am thinking of you” sentiments, knowing, without saying all those words, the other would completely understand all that meant.

for over a year now i have continued to receive them: benchviews, a slice of her church, a close-up of a pew or ornate woodwork, a candle, linens draped on the chancel, flowers, registration stops of the organ, piano keys, measures of music – all while my photos to her have dramatically changed.

instead, my early sunday morning photographs include various quilts, coffee mugs, shadows playing on the wall or on the fence, views of snow falling between miniblinds, the backyard, airbnb’s where we have awakened, out-of-town-out-the-window, glorious breakfast, and dogdog. the rule is – where you are right now – and since that is no longer at a church my view is sometimes narrower and sometimes broader, both.

not working at church every single sunday has given me much to think about. at first i really missed it. truth, for a long time i really missed it. thirty-something years is a long time. i was devastated by the loss of our community-family and a job i loved. i missed the organ bench and knowing which pipes were ornery and the choir and the ukulele band and those hauntingly beautiful handbells. i missed the curmudgeon of a piano. i missed dueting with the guitarist – boom mics and cables and the occasional feedback. i missed the tiny pew up front and the familiar musty smell of the balcony.

each church i worked at through the years has had its magic. but each church i worked at through the years has also had its toxins. not unlike -really- any other place of employment, being on the “inside” affords a different view – snapshots of the good, the bad and, definitely, the ugly. churches are not immune to that. and that’s the stuff i don’t miss.

because in our hearts, the one place we go that we would expect to be consistent, certainly not divergent, with mission – of kindness and grace in some manner or form – would be the religious institution we have chosen to be part of. we would expect the people there – whether in leadership or in congregation – to go the extra mile, to set an example, to navigate and solve difficulty, to negotiate differences, to reject-forswear-renounce personal agenda, to seek unity and transparency, to sort to love.

seeing – up close and personal – that isn’t the case is a rude awakening. no, we don’t expect perfection anywhere. yes, we do expect trying.

i adore seeing susan’s from-the-bench pictures, all so viscerally intimate and always part of me. and i love sending her my view as well. so, as it has been for over a year now, she’ll continue to get photos off-the-bench now. it’s not what it was.

dogga laid tucked in on the quilt next to me as i sipped coffee and watched the light gather in corners of the room. sunday morning. i took this picture to send her.

and i realized that i – finally – don’t miss that organ bench anymore.

*****

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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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and the circle cried too. [d.r. thursday]

“it’s the circle of life
and it moves us all
through despair and hope
through faith and love
’til we find our place
on the path unwinding
in the circle
the circle of life”

(circle of life, elton john, tim rice)

“it can all unravel so fast,” he said as we watched footage of erin burnett (cnn) in a van in ukraine, trying to find a border that was open, a border that did not have a fifty-six hour wait in line. the absolutely devastating reality of families trying to leave-and-go-where? is sobering.

we have written each day, because that is what we do. most of the time we write ahead so that the blogs publish early in the morning. sometimes that means that we are not writing of the moment in time, not writing of the crisis, not writing of the emotional and physical upheaval of others in the world. sometimes we are simply writing about something simple, something mundane, something inane, something that may not seem plugged in.

we walked out front the day we pushed littlebabyscion down the driveway so that big red could be threaded through the space between the wall and the xb and driven across the yard to the street. as i stood there, ready to inform d about clearance on either side, i looked down at the wall and the copper ring, standing on edge, was there. it took me by surprise; it had surely stood on its edge for months, through rain and snow and wind, not moving. we realized it was a fitting from the water line replacement work we had done, as the line installed in the ground was copper. the ring had withstood some time and definitely some weather. steadfast. and there it was. a circle of copper.

russia’s invasion into ukraine is the mightiest of disasters. a human-driven catastrophe intended to hurt others, intended for cataclysmic fall, turmoil, shakeout that will last decades, utter grief to a country that has rebuilt, that has risen up in strength and great fortitude.

the mortal politics of this ugly invasion aside, it is abhorrent to watch as families pack a suitcase from their house, their home, their life and split apart – men staying behind, conscripted to fight. we cry again and again, watching as they hug, exchange goodbyes – not knowing – and leave to go mostly to places they do not yet know. the point is to leave. the point is not yet to know. the point of these incredibly strong, stalwart and courageous people is to have hope through the despair.

every bit of news we watch and read brings into focus, yet again, the flimsy grip we have on living. what we thought was important can drop away in mere instants. what we thought was necessary becomes superfluous. what we thought was solid becomes nebulous, untenable.

“it can all unravel so fast.”

life. the circle.

*****

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just a meow away. [merely-a-thought monday]

you cannot underestimate the connection. beyond joy, beyond telepathy, beyond sheer love, we are tethered with the silkiest, most incandescent beautiful strings to our pets. words do not explain this.

it is not quite a year ago now when babycat suddenly took ill and died. it was devastating to lose him, this cherished fattest tuxedo cat who had stood with me through some of the most difficult days in my life. he was there for all the tough stuff: divorce, empty-nest-entrance, loneliness, unexplainable challenges, loss of both my poppo and my sweet momma, wrist breakages, job losses, pandemic agoraphobic necessities. he was there for all the joyous stuff too, though his facial expression rarely changed for either end of the spectrum of emotions. most importantly, he was there. his lugging body soft in my arms, his purr softly – and not so softly – easing me to rest. i miss him.

babycat would be 13 today. it’s a made-up birthday he had all his life because he was a rescue kitty, found with no birth certificate or ancestry information. pronounced to be called “wilson” he never really knew his real name – the one on the initial veterinarian paperwork. he knew he was “babycat”, “b-cat”, “baby-the-c”; he had a theme song to prove it.

it is never easy losing a beloved pet. i still remember losing each treasured dog. those are moments you don’t forget. but babycat was my first cat. and i had no idea what to do. so i taught him to be a dog. he came when called. he sat when asked. he meowed when i said “speak”. he sat up for treats. he answered “meh” when i called his name out, looking for him. he refused, for his entire life, to wear a collar. and, for the first year or two or four, he – adoringly – bit my ankles when he wanted food. he propelled himself into the double-hung-window sills of this old house, watching the world go by. he laid by the dog’s dish, full of food, taunting him. they were the best pals, babycat and dogga.

dogga was second and he knew it. babycat was alpha in every way and he knew it. but there were those days you’d walk into the living room and they were laying next to each other in sunshine streaming through the windows. or you’d walk into the kitchen after breakfast and they would both be in there – sleeping. or you’d walk into the bedroom and there they were, together.

the day babycat died, a short time before i rushed him to the vet, he and dogga were laying on the bed with me. they nosed each other gently. it was an ultra-sweet moment. and i wondered after if they were saying goodbye. i fight the lump in my throat thinking about it.

i still wake sometimes thinking i am spooning the cat.

*****

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tangible signs. [merely-a-thought monday]

there is never a time that is not the right time to be reminded and to remind others: “you are worth so much”. in these times – fraught with all sorts of difficulties – any and all positive outreach to each other is of value.

never should we take another for granted. never should we undermine another. never should we dismiss that others are in need. never should we forget that others are hurting. no matter their age, their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, their religion, their socioeconomic ladder rung, their anything.

we spotted the first sign after hiking. on the side of highway 64, we passed a driveway and i exclaimed, “did you see that sign?” i pointed it out the next time past. and then we saw more. transylvania county in north carolina was responding to crisis they had experienced. three teenagers committed suicide since august and the community is reeling. but they are not just jolted into grief; they are jolted into action.

a retired physician with seven children, four of whom are still in the community’s secondary schools said, “the conspiracy of silence has to end, both in our community and elsewhere. the evidence is clear — talking helps and silence hurts. what we’re doing with this sign campaign is a love letter from our community to our kids. this is just a small expression of the depth of our concern…”.

organizations in the community are addressing needs and are trying to sort ways to raise awareness. people are mobilized. much like the way dontgiveupsigns became a thing, transylvania county has started a thing. because every person counts, every person matters. and without aligned action, mission is void of truth.

we didn’t get a photograph of the yard signs. you can see them in an article in the transylvania times. but when we decided to use this as our quote for this first merely-a-thought monday of the new year, it seemed right to pair it with this silhouette of a chandelier, crystals – a symbol of wealth, success, status.

for each of us is worth so much. each of us – rich in possibility, in ways we contribute to the whole, in interaction with the world, in love of each other.

and there is never a time to forget that.

as amy wolff, the co-founder of don’tgiveup said, “life is messy but we’re in this together.”

​*****

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on the front porch. [two artists tuesday]

an older gent, bearded and white-haired, he has lugged a lighweight rocking chair out his front door to sit in the sun and watch the traffic go by. we are across, on the front porch of this sweet house in this hallmark mountain town, doing much the same, chatting with people as they pass by.

each day now we’ve waved at the man-wearing-the-buffalo-plaid-shirt across the street, called over greetings. he holds up his hand in “love ya” sign language; we return the same. sipping coffee in the morning in bag chairs and tipping a glass of wine in the evening at our pop-up-dinner table. the luminaria are lit and i know my mom and dad – in a place where luminaria must always be lit – are close by, watching also.

we walked later at night on christmas, after arriving and unpacking littlebabyscion, after setting up our tiny tree with seed lights and draping a strand of happy lights over a cabinet and lighting the cypress-pine and balsam candles, after snack-time-happy-hour and before making dinner.

the middle of town is close by. in front yards on our walking-way there are posses of snowmen and herds of deer and the trees along the sidewalks of this tiny bustling place are wrapped in lights. we slow and look in every store window. christmas trees and stars and wreaths and snowflakes, santa stuck in a chimney and candy canes and a big town tree in the center at the top of the hill where, if you pause in the middle of the street while crossing, you can see a big range of mountains as you look north.

it was enchanting. no need to walk fast, we strolled the sidewalks and absorbed the spirit. different than any other christmas, it was just us. but this little town and these mountains embraced us and we immersed in it to help holiday wistfulness.

we went back into town in the daytime and wandered the shops. we found texturally-delicious cloth napkins to add to our collection and i imagine next week – or maybe this weekend – we’ll use those and they’ll bring us back here, to this place and to the peace we have felt here.

and the man with big metal sasquatch figures and lots of white christmas lights will likely sit outside in his rocking chair just off his front stoop again today. it will be unseasonable, another beautiful day, the sun over the mountain warm on his face.

we wonder if he’ll miss us.

*****

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like it was. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

i honestly don’t think i can – or need to – add much to this. this is not uncommon.

wistful. melancholy. reminiscent. lonely. overwhelmed by a lack of the busy and social holiday celebrations portrayed nearly everywhere. drowning in comparisons.

life changes and, it appears (yes, yes) we need to change with it. the holidays are a tough reminder.

in the middle of the trail we hiked on thanksgiving we talked about this. we had decided a big pot of pasta sauce would be our thanksgiving meal. comfort food. i, especially, needed that. the day was overcast with snow flurries and a mist gently coming down around a few bends on the path. damp and cold but familiar and reassuring. three deer were startled by our arrival. we watched them as they gracefully bounded away.

we came home and lit all the happy lights in the house. poured a glass of wine and got to the sauce. lit candles, took out thanksgiving napkins, set the table simply. our pumpkin pie was vegan, plant-based, amazing.

yesterday someone ordered 40 “be kind” buttons. it prompted me to suggest that we take a hundred – or a couple hundred – of our buttons and go somewhere and just give them out. sometime in the holiday season. plant a new tradition. start a new ritual. we’ll see.

demographics have spread families out across the globe, work responsibilities make time off a challenge and the pandemic makes travel questionable. we age and lose grandparents and then parents and loved ones. the holidays take on more blue than iridescent tinsel-silver. so many reasons why people find themselves awake in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, wishing it was like it used to be. visions of large meals and preparation and trees and grand shopping and piles of presents and family-all-around and parties and fancy dress-up clothes all dance like sugar plums in our heads. things that used-to-be.

finding things to assuage the used-to-be’s might help, might fill in the gaps. gathering with others in like circumstances, empathizing, might be reassuring. having a little visit with dear next-door neighbors later in the night is a bit of fondant on a layer-cake day. planning an adventure or two for coming days brings sweet anticipation.

holding space for the wistful is truth.

*****

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