reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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at the lake. [d.r. thursday]

we brought the jelly jar and the tealight with us, anticipating a chance to privately and quietly celebrate his life.

the lake was the place. there were clear fishing bobbers on the shoreline, waiting for us to discover them, to wonder if somehow they were his. there were glowing golden aspens and burning orange underbrush bushes, crows crowing and fishermen cussing the ones that got away. and it was perfect.

we lit the candle and found the right flat rock to place it on. we toasted columbus and sat back and watched the candle dance and burn and flicker.

we were there way longer than we thought we’d be. it was serene; it was a direct line to him. and it was exactly where we needed to be.

we had no place to stay that night and i wished we had our tent, sleeping bags and camping stove. the lake asked us to stay. we asked it for a rain check. another day, we promised.

we will come prepared to stay, to watch the sun set and a new day rise. and he’ll be there, cheering us on.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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in avant. in après. [merely-a-thought monday]

avant: before.

there is before and there is after. it is with anticipation, maybe thrilled butterflies, maybe jitters, maybe weak knees, maybe even dread we live in before. it is sometimes with relief, sometimes with regret, sometimes with suffering, sometimes with satisfaction, sometimes with contentment we live in after. there is a journey between them – before and after.

there was nothing i could really say to prepare david for the loss of his father. and having lost both my sweet momma and poppo, i had a lot of words to describe it. but there is really nothing you can do when someone is living in before, except be there.

and now that it is after, there is still nothing i can really say to prepare david for the unexpected moments of sadness, grief raining down in a misty fog or pummeling hailstorm, or the unexpected moments of recognition, a glimpse of someone from the other side. even after these years of being-without and all the words in my heart, i can only just simply be there.

après: after.

the neon sign was hanging in the airbnb we took back along the way. we needed the space, not a hotel, to cook our own meals and simply be quiet. and i cannot think of a more timely message.

we are living in après. we are living in avant. both are true. both are real.

they are there too.

we are reminded, once again, for the millionth time – but not the last, to be present in right-now.

*****

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


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and the wind brought fall. [k.s. friday]

the wind brought fall.

iowa and kansas were full of summer-on-its-waning-edge, the sun streaming into the truck making merely having windows open not enough. the highway noise was loud and the air conditioning a welcome buffer so we could talk and ponder what the next days would bring.

we saw it from a distance and assumed it was farmers plowing in dry fields of dirt, billowing cloud dust across the horizon from afar. and then we drove into it. in minutes, touching the window glass cleared up the mysterious billowing. the beyond-blustery front was bringing cold air and as we drove from kansas into colorado, the gusts delivered autumn.

we walked into their living room this morning and the fire was lit. there is nothing like a cup of coffee by an early morning fire. the day is cool and the sun is out. those of us who traveled for yesterday’s celebration of columbus’ life and are still here will gather later around a fire out back. in the meanwhile, we’ll walk and talk and have a little quiet time after much visiting and catching up till later last night. the service is over and next follows.

when these flowers were blooming, they were vibrant and gorgeous, spilling over the old fence along the sidewalk. the petals started to drop off as fall started to arrive, dropping in little by little. bright yellow pistils started to turn mustard then cocoa brown. the picture begged to be taken – beautiful and fallow on its eventual way.

as we drive back to wisconsin, we’ll again pass fields of corn waiting to be cut down, plowed over, vast brown rolling land. we’ll miss the green, we know, even at home, even in our little gardens, on our little potting stand.

but we know that time just doesn’t jump from one season to another. it actually shows signs as it comes, gives fair warning, allows us time to process a bit and adjust. it transitions and gently encourages us to move on, into the next season.

summer yields to fall and we will bring home a little wisdom harvested from the side of the highway.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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PART OF THE WIND from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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past the curve in the tracks. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

somewhere along the way someone impressed upon me not to ever walk on railroad tracks. and so i never have. until the day i stood in the middle of these tracks and took a few pictures.

railroad tracks intrigue me, whether teetering on the edge of a mountainous precipice or crossing the great plains. i was astounded the day i drove along the arkansas river in red rock canyons, tracks by my side. i could not imagine the arduous, back-breaking, dangerous work it took to install those tracks. at home, the sound of the train whistle at night is reassuring. the whiz of the train passing by the trail is a blur of amtrack cars, headed for mysterious destinations; i reluctantly hold back waving to the engineer as the train passes the crossing.

we’ve missed taking the train to chicago to see our son or for adventures in this last year-plus-of-covid. for that matter, we’ve missed airplanes as well. we’ve driven anywhere we have gone. and today is no exception.

today we are driving. yesterday as well. long days in big red across acres of corn-states, browned, tinges of color in the trees. the sun rises out the hotel window as we prepare to leave and we ponder what we will see today, what markers of this new season will be side-of-road. in the wide open spaces trains will appear, seemingly unending freight trains, the stuff of yesteryear ‘boxcar children‘ and reading books with my kids. time and years and planting and harvest and fallow and regrowth. corn and soybeans, bending sunflowers, leaves beginning to acknowledge golds and reds – all remind us.

we’ll arrive in colorado, attend a come-and-go dinner (i believe this is the same as an open house, though i haven’t heard that terminology before). tomorrow’s schedule is all set; all the while we will be processing the reason we are there – the loss of david’s dad. somewhere in the middle of the scheduled events and the eating, we will walk in quiet under the colorful-colorado sky and grasp that which seems surreal right now. we’ll talk a little about time passing and stories of days gone by. we’ll gaze out at the mountains and see the past, the future. we’ll say goodbye to columbus, all the while knowing, in the way of the death of a parent, he’ll stay right here with us.

and we’ll wonder what’s around the curve in the tracks.

*****

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


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and then, another star. [two artists tuesday]

and just like that, in a sliver of a moment, columbus became a star in a constellation of galactic proportion. he joins with all who have gone before, souls of people-loving-people and surrounds us in the wind as we move about our days.

i won’t forget the day my dad died. though i saw him hours before, i didn’t know it would be that very night. the axis tilted and the news came.

same with david. i know he won’t forget. his last visit with his dad was months earlier and, in his latest days, columbus had taken a path where memories escape into the atmosphere and he was simply in the moment or in a moment of his imagination. we held vigil, as we all do in those last somewhat-expected days. and then, we woke on friday and just knew. the axis titled and the news came.

there have been three fathers in my life – generationally-speaking. my sweet dad, erling, ever-present-poppo-chain on our wrists, was a quiet steady force in my life, always encouraging, undaunted by the hardships of his life and a loving champion for his family. and marvin. the father of our children’s father, marvin was delightfully positive and simple, hardworking and a mush for those he loved. and columbus, whose perspective is easily that which louis armstrong sang about in “what a wonderful world”. each, men who would tear up when beloveds were leaving. strength in honest hearts.

all – stars in the constellation. all – love in the wind.

and now, now that the earth has regained just a little center, though never to be absolutely balanced again, i imagine columbus sitting with my sweet poppo and marvin too. talking shop, telling stories, assigning the breeze on which those they love will find them, shining in a night sky.

*****

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barney and the sunflower. [k.s. friday]

we moved the sunflower. it was on the deck for a few years now, rusting behind the aging wooden glider, tucked between the kitchen window and the bedroom window. it greeted us each day we left and came home. it watched over my girl as she house-sat during the summer, a couple ago now, when we were on island. she didn’t know it, but i had asked it to keep her comings and goings safe and each time she left and came back to smile good days upon her. it came home from a cedarburg festival with us, having called us over to ponder its purchase. we walked the length of the festival and talked about the sunflower. then we went back, after more debate than most probably make about purchases, and bought it. about two weeks ago we moved it. now its place is next to barney, surrounded by peonies and wild geranium and daylilies and snow on the mountain. it is happy there.

when you’ve lived somewhere for quite some time there are naturally places that you go that feel better than others. for me, there are places in this town that have immediate warm responses for me, places that have held me, places that are part of my cairns, places where i have dreamed and imagined, places where a community has meant the world to me. there are other places that conjure up memories i would rather forget with visceral responses i can actually feel; i generally stay away from those spots not wanting to relive moments of grief or poor judgement or anger or betrayal or grand disappointment. i have learned, though, that sometimes the best way to process those is to drive past, to acknowledge, to breathe deeply, to maybe weep. in the same way that actual places remind us, mementos from places we hold dear make it into our special boxes or find their way into our home like sticks accumulating in the walking stick vessel in our sitting room or rocks added to the stones around the pond. some mementos are bigger than others, like the sunflower from a gloriously sunny festival-going day in a town we adore browsing or the 5′ long driftwood from a long island beach that graces the mantel or the high mountain aspen branch wrapped in lights in the dining room. and then there’s barney. there’s no escaping this beautiful piano in our backyard, aging with us.

i’ve shared barney’s story before…how he escaped the junk man’s junkyard destination and, for a small price, came here to share life with us. from a basement boiler room to a place of honor near the pond in our tiny yard he sits and invites the company of beautiful plants, munching squirrels and cutie-pie chipmunks. yet he is a memento. and the place he came from is no longer a favorite place. instead, it is a place i now avoid, with emotions that elicit a physical response and a little vibration i can feel in my chest when i think about it. and so how do i avoid attaching these feelings to barney, i have wondered.

my growing-up piano is in our basement. movers moved it there many years ago, before there were walls in the stairwell. i wonder what will become of it if we ever move. it proudly holds art books and a small stereo and sits in david’s painting studio with a couple rocking chairs and his gorgeous old easel. i have thought about ways to repurpose it. and yet, it is so dear that it will, for right now, stay there just as it is, with music in its bench and the little index card on which is carefully printed in eight-year-old font “practice makes perfect”.

there is a piano of size in my studio. it sits at full stick, waiting patiently. i was in there yesterday and it whispered to me, but, for right then, i was consumed with the finishing of putting things away. there is still music to file, organ music still to go back into cabinets. i must decide what to do with the poster that hung on the choir room wall that reads, “if you ask me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud” or the metal cut-out words “it’s all about music” or the white strands of happy lights that were woven around the blackboard that listed rehearsals and demonstrated strum patterns and had dates of parties for that well-loved community held at our house.

maybe once i decide what to do with all of it – including the emotional wreckage part – i will again sit at my piano. drive past, acknowledge, breathe deeply, weep. my piano is full of empathy i can feel and some day, soon i hope, i will be able to sit and play – in a studio cleaned and inviting with mementos of goodness and intentions of evolution. then i will walk out of the studio and down the hall, through the kitchen and the sunroom and outside onto the deck. and i will sit on the old settee and listen to the pond and the birds and watch the chipmunks scurry across the top of the old piano that shares space with the sunflower and a couple green-eyed metal birds.

in answers that have come with a few months of time, i have found that the piano-ness of barney has overcome the where-it’s-from-ness. the peeling back, the wrinkles, the embrace of its tiny community in our yard…these things have usurped the rest.

instead, barney and the sunflower together greet us upon leaving and greet us upon returning home. together, they both bring joy and reassurance to our backyard and they both smile good days upon us.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

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PLAY TO PLAY ©️ 2005 david robinson


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cut out. [d.r. thursday]

i hadn’t looked at the original since he extracted what he felt was a better painting. the 9×12 canvas he just mounted is, oh goodness, a close-up of my face, though fortunately painted as more of a profile than a full face straight-on. in its previous iteration it was part of a painting of me directing a ukulele band rehearsal in our home, on a humid summer evening when all gathered here to play and practice and talk and share lives. now it’s a lovely small painting and, though it is of me, i can see what he likes about it.

i hadn’t looked at the original until just now when he came upstairs with this photograph to use in today’s blogpost. with enthusiasm and laughing, he said, “let’s use this today!” i reached over to look at the photograph on the iphone in his hand and my heart dropped.

this is the way i feel about my previous job. cut out. my face was cut out, leaving behind the legacy and fun and music of the ukulele and, for that matter, all the other music that was created and offered with love and celebrated and made a community joyful. simply cut out. boxcutter-straight-edge-cut-out. erased.

as i keep glancing at this photograph to write about the image, it doesn’t change. as a matter of fact, my reaction is becoming more intense instead of lessening. it takes my breath away. it’s bracing.

i have tried to explain to others what this felt like – to articulate this cutting-out. i know that many people experience downsizing and rightsizing and personnel changes in their positions. mostly these are jobs in corporate america with possibly six-figure incomes and benefits, healthcare and 401k’s, though this is not always the case. there is often not a heavy emotional tie, though this is not always the case. there is often not a family community, though this is not always the case. there is often not a deep sense of loyalty and long-term commitment to growth of the organization, though this is not always the case.

but in my case, in this position that had no benefits whatsoever and a salary that wouldn’t touch six figures even if it had whopping ten percent increases for the next decade, in this position heavy on emotional ties and family community and loyalty and commitment and heart, this trimmed painting depicts how it feels. still.

stunningly, without melodrama, just a straight-up two-dimensional portrait of an emotion in a three-dimensional world, i have now found the way to articulate it – in a simple image.

my face, with no explanation, was cut out.

and i don’t know what else to say.

david named this painting ‘beautiful k.dot’

*****

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BEAUTIFUL K.DOT ©️ 2021 david robinson


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the broken salad bowl. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i broke my mom’s salad bowl last night. it wasn’t fancy; it was a simple glass bowl, shaped in the letter v. but i loved using it for salads and quinoa tabouli and all kinds of fruit. it slipped from my grasp in the sink and, despite my best efforts at rescue, broke in two large pieces. i was instantly saddened, not because i get upset when things break, but because it was my sweet momma’s and using it was a silken connected tie.

we were on i-70 driving across denver and stuck in traffic. we played leap-frog with several vehicles as we inched forward. one of them had a sticker that read “extreme rightwing” and another had this sticker “humankind. be both.” i am betting you can guess the one with which i felt in alignment. i wanted to roll down big red’s window further than i already had it and call out the window, “love your sticker!” but i didn’t. instead, i photographed it, trying to look casual, like i wasn’t taking a picture of their vehicle, and thought about how i instantly liked them.

my sweet momma, the former owner of the now-broken salad bowl, was a firm believer in kindness. her favorite saying, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” was a john wesley quote. this is not the first time i have told of her kindness to others…all others.

as my mom prepared to move into assisted living she started giving away things she wouldn’t be bringing with her. she gave away her couch to a neighbor who needed one; she gave her dining table to another neighbor without a place around which to gather her family. she let things go, with love and caring moving them out the door to their new homes. she didn’t hesitate. it wasn’t about the stuff; it was simply about helping those in need of something she had. we just heard that many of the things in david’s parents’ house, that is being emptied now, have been given to neighbors and people who need particular items. a gesture of paying the generosity we are afforded forward, i immediately thought back to my mom’s own altruism in her time of transition.

these last months have been very challenging for us. i was devastated when, in this time of pandemic and after losing our other two positions, and at the start of my ninth year there, i lost my job. confusion and fear and dreadful sadness at losing my living, all the effort and love i had put into growing a music program, the loss of my dear community, all ran rampant in my heart. the stages of grief, including anger, lined up and for the last five months, i have tried to sort through all of what i have felt. the other day i drove past my former place of employment and just was overcome with how intensely weird it felt, how intensely weird the whole travail has been.

but in the middle of all of this weirdness, the lack of communication, the non-effort at mitigating whatever was seemingly accepted as an ousting-reason, there have been people. humans. kind humans. little by little people have reached out – in generosity and kindness. and, for that, the way has been a little less scary, a little less painful. the ties to the place, astoundingly, considering the place, are broken – irretrievably – shattered into a dark hole in a million shards. but the silken connections of people – from a full compass of our lives – extend in warm embrace. humankind. be-ing both.

i guess the next time i make salad or tabouli i’ll use the big stainless steel bowl – the one that also used to be my mom’s. it’s unbreakable. just like my tie to her.

*****

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the wisdom of the white trout lily. [merely-a-thought monday]

when my big brother died, i was lost in a maelstrom of emotion. it was hard for me to wrap my head around how the world would go on at a point he could no longer feel it. it wasn’t like i hadn’t experienced loss before. at that point in my life, i no longer had any of my grandparents present on this earth with me. that just felt like a more natural thing – to lose those we love who are elderly, who have lived long and full lives. my beloved brother, on the other hand, was merely 41 and there were so many hopes and dreams he still had for himself and his family. i am still struck by the fact that the world does, indeed, go on. the sun rises and sets; the moon lingers in the night sky. and my question, both existential and somewhat obvious, remains unanswered: how it can go on if he can’t feel it anymore. how it will go on – someday – if i can’t feel it anymore.

at some point a few years ago, i played for a memorial service at a synagogue. one of the meditations before kaddish made me weep. penned by merrit malloy, it reads: “when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

the white trout lily humbly bows on the forest floor. much like people, though on a different scale, their presence is ephemeral, fleeting. on sunny days, their petals will curl back, up, towards the sun; on shady days these small flowers may not even open. their simple beauty a mystery to the passerby, their faces shyly downward, they fill the underbrush on the side of the trail, dotting the landscape with fragile white blooms. i trust they are not concerned with the impact they make on the world nor do they wonder about their footprints once they are gone. they are simply there – love – dressed in white floral.

as we have moved through the pandemic and the devastating myriad of even just this past year, it is inevitable to think of all the loss, the loved ones who have died, the families and concentric circles left behind in grief, questioning. it is also – yes – a reminder that we are still here.

my dear friend sent me a link to a new york times op ed by charles blow. she drew my attention to the last line, words of perfection: “when i am gone, and people remember my name, i want some of them to smile.”

yes.

that.

smile. and give me away.

*****

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