reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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.

*****

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through it. [k.s. friday]

it comes in stages. there is no easy route to the other side. just through.

the unexpected snow – after most had melted – though, indeed, a beautiful blanket of quiet – was also a stark and cold reminder that winter was not done. somehow it was a reminder of people gone, of the lack of interaction with others, a reminder of the invisible fence between us all, somewhat devoid of color and warmth. the pandemic we are living through has provided us with historic missing. so much lostness. someone asked me yesterday if i had had a vaccine. when i replied yes, she asked me why, then, was i wearing a mask. i stared at her above the piece of cloth i, like many of you, have diligently worn everywhere for about a year and replied that having a vaccine doesn’t abdicate me from responsibility. it is my job as a decent human being to continue to do my part – not just until i am vaccinated, but until the country is on track and there is little chance of others becoming ill because i, or anyone, was negligent. not wearing a mask herself though not vaccinated, she replied angrily that it wasn’t fair, that i shouldn’t have to wear a mask. i withheld the retort that quickly sprang to my lips and instead just said that this is hard. we are all lost together and foundness will be somewhere on the other side of all we have missed, somewhere in the spring of healing, in whatever season that falls.

when the tradesmen installed the patio, they carefully and artfully chose pieces to fit together. they slowly and tediously laid out a spot in our backyard where we could sit and sip wine in adirondack chairs, where we could hang our hammock, where we could build a bonfire late at night and dream dreams in the fireflies of sparks it sent out. the snow crystallizing on the rock accentuated the spaces between the pieces. though clearly defined as edges, it reminded me that all these pieces do fit together, perhaps nothing is really missing. every emotion – lostness and foundness and all inbetween, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, the title of which, were there to be a box that would contain all the cardboard pieces, might read ‘life is like this’.

up against a pile of pillows, i sat in bed with coffee a few days after we lost babycat. with sadness and unwilling to greet the new day, i hadn’t yet opened the miniblinds. yet in the window to the east, the sun was insistent. it found its way through the tiny cracks between the blinds, the tiny holes that hold the string, as if urging me to open-open-open up. it didn’t change my missing when i opened them. i still missed babycat. i still missed all sense of normal. i still missed my children-all-grown-up, my parents-in-another-dimension, my family-far-apart, my friends-separated-by-covid-responsibility. i missed security and good work well done. i missed laughing and all things carefree.

but, in opening the blinds, i did not have to miss the sun and i stood in its warmth streaming in, looking at the spot on the bed where babycat would have laid in the soft rays from the window. and i realized that in yearning for all that on the other side i would have no choice but to go through it all, all the stages, snow, crystal flakes, sun and all.

*****

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MISSING from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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dog and cat. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

his best friend. he waits at the door for his best friend to return. his sorrow is quiet, subdued. his grief is confusion, dedication to a belief that babycat will come home. he has never been in this house without him – not even a day – and this last week has been heartwrenching to watch his reaction. his sadness is palpable, his loss profound.

the first few days after his babycat disappeared he was almost silent. dogdog is never a silent dog, so this was noticeable. without a sound, he looked everywhere for his cat. with lydia’s wise recommendation i tried to visualize for him all that had happened once his babycat had left the house, to give him some context, to let him know he did not have to wait, to tell him that his babycat was now in our hearts. he looked deeply into my eyes and then looked away, as if to dismiss my explanation, to hold close his own perspective, his own interpretation.

‘the boys’ spent the days together – every day since we brought dogdog home as a puppy. they’ve navigated through changes and ups and downs with us. they’ve kept us amused and entertained. they’ve nuzzled us in our times of angst. the rare times they were apart were very few times that we were on a trip. they moved to the littlehouse on island with us and adapted, finding mutual spots at the place where the kitchen met the living room and the sun streamed in. the noise of the ferry on the crossing scaring babycat, dogdog stayed close to him, signaling all was well. they channeled reassurance to each other, touchstones of steady, ever-present. they shared their water bowl and cheered each other on when it was time for treats. where one would go, ultimately the other would follow. and at the end of the day, butt-to-butt, they lay on the raft, waiting for us to sleep. babycat ruled. they were best friends.

last tuesday morning as i sipped coffee on the bed and babycat lay curled up down by my feet, dogga jumped up and laid down. gently, with all absence of play and what seemed in all seriousness, he moved his face over to babycat’s face. they laid nose to nose, heads on the soft old quilt, their hushed stillness, in retrospect, a clear display of their great love for each other. after a bit of time, babycat’s symptoms surfaced suddenly. and everything in the world changed for our sweet dedicated-to-his-cat aussie.

i understand dogdog’s quiet. though our presence and snugs and words to him might help, solace will only come in time. “woundedness is one of the places where normal words and descriptions break down.” grief is not limited to human hearts.

*****

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babycat. [two artists tuesday]

his long white whisker was on the black rug in the sunroom. i bent down and picked it up, my heart aching for this sweet adored cat no longer here. i taped it to a piece of colored paper, trying to hold on to babycat physically just a little longer.

b-cat was twelve. according to the almanac that’s about 64. it hadn’t occurred to me or us that he was a senior cat; he was simply our babycat and his presence was more than one-fourth of our home. his absence has made a profound impact; it is very very quiet. it’s not that he was that noisy, although he was a vocal cat. it’s just that he was that present. for each of us.

i was alone last week when it happened. in an unusual turn d was away and i was home. monday was a day of sorting and cleaning and rearranging. babycat spent the day in the same room as me and split his time between snoozing and pets. nothing out of the ordinary, just extraordinarily normal. tuesday morning was unexpected and will break my heart for some time to come. suddenly symptomatic and ultimately laying down behind a chair i never remember him exploring, i knew things were dreadfully wrong. racing babycat in his blanketed dog-crate (since he was too big for cat carriers) to an urgent veterinarian appointment, i spoke to him the entire way while he loudly meowed and i could feel hope leaving my body. there are moments that feel surreal and, like other losses in my life, this was one. over a covid-enforced veterinary facetime app, a very kind and compassionate doctor explained the xray she had immediately taken and the dire implications of all that she could see suddenly impacting our beloved cat. babycat gave us no time to make longer term treatment decisions. he died on that tuesday morning in march, almost twelve years since my life had been graced by him as a kitten. and, in the way that death changes everything, i won’t be the same without him.

i’ve seen bumper stickers with pawprints that read “who rescued who?” each time i nod my head, understanding. babycat came to me at a time of great need. my girl and my boy and i drove to florida to pick up this kitten who had come to stay at my niece’s doorstep, with no evidence of a missing owner. a first-time-cat-family, we drove “cat”, who we were having trouble naming, all the way home, trying to figure out how to feed and water and potty-break a cat on the way, when all our experience was dog-based. somewhere along the way babycat was named “wilson” but he chose to never answer to that and picked “babycat” as his given name. we taught him to sit, to beg, to come when called. he meowed when we said “speak” and was a lot more dog than cat in many ways.

babycat – in the wisdom of the animal kingdom – followed me around in moments of loneliness, insisted on regimented times for meals, showed me that the sun on the rug in the living room was something to soak up, sat with me on the floor. baby-the-c’s constant companionship was my solace in empty-nest-initiation and his lack of stealth was a bit of noise i desperately needed around me. so much to say about that little creature. yes, who rescued who?

his absence now is, if possible, even bigger than his presence. babycat love – ours and his – surrounds me.

*****

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“orbisculate.” [merely-a-thought monday]

i read her text more than once, “imagine, over 500,000 americans who will no longer contribute to the whole.” it is unfathomable to wrap your mind around this and, yet, the devastation continues. some of this country’s governors, whipping off their masks, merrily open their state-doors to this insidious disease and more americans will lose their lives, their parents, their spouses, their sons, their daughters. for what end? so that people might visit disney on spring vacation? so that people might step out of their covid-isolated lives and ignore all that has been scientifically proven as critical aids to move the country forward? so that people might selfishly tote variants back in their carry-ons from warm hot-spots, from tourist attractions, from margaritaville, from breaks that could break us all?

i wear a small chain on my left wrist. it is literally ceiling fan chain. we found the pack of chain on my dad’s workbench in florida years ago, sometime during the period of years that both of my parents were moving to a different plane of existence. both d and i chose to wrap this chain around our wrists to mark my poppo and each time i see it, i think of him. we speak of him. we speak of my sweet momma. i keep them around – purposefully, intentionally. i want their mark on the world to be present.

a family in boston lost their father, neil, only 78 years old, to covid last april. a man who embraced life with wide open arms, his family wants to memorialize him and find a way to keep his engaged and engaging spirit in the world. their plan? to get a word he made up for a college assignment years ago – orbisculate – into the dictionary. ‘when citrus fruit squirts on you’ is the ready definition. the complete and official definition is: 1) to accidentally squirt juice and/or pulp into one’s eye, as from a grapefruit when using a spoon to scoop out a section for eating. 2) to accidentally squirt the inner content from fruits, vegetables and other foods onto one’s face, body or clothing, or onto that of a person nearby. the website has a variety of links for blogposts and goals and faq’s, ways to contribute to the important charity this lovely family has chosen to support and a petition you can sign to help move this effort forward, keep their dad around.

after her text, i spent some time thinking about the 500,000 plus beautiful souls no longer on this earth – simply because of covid, a pandemic with some preventable losses. how might we memorialize each of these people? how might we keep them present – in their own concentric circles, in their community, in the whole wide world? how might we intentionally remember?

to what end are we willing to go to not lose any more people to this virus? to what end are we each willing to sacrifice the smaller picture for the bigger picture? to what end are we willing to agree to unite in a continued compassionate endeavor to mitigate this?

and, with a nod to the brilliant idea category of this bostonian family, how will the dictionary accommodate over 500,000 new words – all of which would be worthy were each of these mortals to have their own special thingamajig-word and definition. and i hope they do.

poppochain: (noun): 1) bracelet made of inexpensive ceiling fan chain, typically worn wrapped around wrist 2) a physical reminder of enormous love 3) memorial of my sweet poppo, 1920-2012.

i touch the poppochain on my left wrist and, suddenly, i want to go peel a grapefruit.

*****

we orbisculate over to you for your haiku-turn. let them know!

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our H. [merely-a-thought monday]

the last time i had an in-depth conversation with him, H said, “i have my hope on the generation coming up…that they will be a force for the good.” i cannot imagine a bigger force for good than sweet H.

the candle is burning now. we have had it lit many times in recent days as H has struggled with the fine line between living and dying. the image of his dear face in our mind’s eye reminds us of how to grow old gracefully, how to live into aging, how to participate, how to be in the river not on the river’s edge.

we just heard that H died last night and, as i write this on saturday morning, the sun bursting outside and the birds in full song, my heart is breaking. i have adored H – now ninety-something-something – since the first day he walked into the choir room in which i used to direct choirs, ukulele bands, handbells and be a part of all the joy and community mutually created in that room. his spirit entered before he did, flowing positive energy and a will to try anything, laughter his guide. his bass voice in our choir, in our ukulele band, in our lives was grounding and the gift of angels who had gone before him. H was intrepid. rain, sleet, snow or ice did not deter him or any adventure he took on. he worked harder than most in his earlier years and he played with childlike glee in his later years. mostly, he was not afraid. he wasn’t afraid to learn new things or take on technology. he wasn’t afraid to sing solo or rap in front of others. he wasn’t afraid to travel or to just simply be who he was. he was fiercely devoted to his family, each of them. he wasn’t afraid to love or to state how he felt or what he thought. he was more genuine than many who claim authenticity as their core. a faithful human being, he was.

the refrigerator magnets cluster together from places he went; he always proudly brought me back a magnet from his travels. at the end of the year he’d give me a multitude of those calendars you get in the mail – from all different organizations he had contributed to or of which he was a part – and i’d pick one to hang in the choir room, one to hang at home and one to use for notes. the charlie brown coffee mug in our mug cabinet, that he had carefully wrapped in its suitcase-journey from the peanuts museum in california, is a favorite treasure. he loved butterfingers. he was H.

our last conversation, just a few days ago, was a little disjointed. H couldn’t hear what i was saying on the phone but was trying hard to speak. unlike all our other calls, we didn’t really talk about anything that time. but one thing was clear – shared love and respect for each other and the absolute happiness we each felt having this special friendship. he was H and, oh, his heart.

in an earlier longer call he had talked about the dynamics of our country. he was worried and said that his concern was that current circumstances were like a snowball going downhill…getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. while i would agree that our country, in big places and small, is in desperate need of a thawing-out of mean-spirited snowballs going rapidly downhill, i would offer that there are other domino effects as well, the kind that take frosty snowflakes and build magical snowmen and the snowforts of children’s imaginings. H is such snow magic, if you will – a trillion unique flakes joined together by infinite molecules of kindness. a snowball that gains in momentum and size – in every good way – each time he was around people. brilliant snowflakes attracted to a genuine and gentle man who would dedicatedly stick with you through thick and thin, persons drawn to each other like perfect individual crystals, stars together.

H lived his hope for the future – he was a force for good. there is no reckoning about this. he will shine in the stars and in all the bass solos. he will gather angels around him, singing, and create fairy-dust-snowflakes. he will be missed and he will be remembered. he was H and his heart was gigantic.

*****

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#ewbok. [d.r. thursday]

sarcasm is babycat’s modus operandi. his viewpoint is much more cynical than dogdog’s, who is a tumbling optimist. dogdog listens to the rise and fall of our voices and reacts accordingly. babycat merely takes a look at things and lists his sweet hulking body to the sardonic.

we read it on a wall in chicago: “everything will be ok.” i really want to believe that. there’s so much.

we are not 65. nor are we essential. workers, that is. so it will take some time before we are eligible for vaccines. the mutation of the virus sounds like it will give the vaccine a run for its money and, still, we drive past full restaurant parking lots, bustling bars.

yesterday was the year mark on my broken wrists. my right wrist refuses to cooperate, having been stunned into re-injury in september. i wonder how it will be in the future. there’s a lot i want to do with that wrist.

we are sharing the crossroads of before and after with the millions of unemployed people in this country. we search for ways to use all we have learned, all we have done, all we have experienced, to make a difference in the world today.

we wonder about people who used to be an integral part of our lives. we try to understand things that have no real explanation. i try to shove the grief into a corner and the anger into another corner and take off the boxing gloves. we hike on the snowy trail and those gloves are nowhere to be seen. but reality returns back in the car somewhere on the way home and then we try to move beyond the big disagree, this thing that lurks, the poison that was pointed my way.

we watch from afar, our hearts hurting, as d’s sweet dad is moved into care, out of his home, away from his wife and all that he used to recognize. we tether ourselves to our phones to field any calls from his momma as she tries desperately to deal with all the details, the loneliness and worry and fear that brings her. she made sure he has his record player and records to listen to and she yearns to be around people at a time that is most dangerous.

and we scroll through the news. our sigh of relief with this new administration is consumed by lies perpetuated by complicit voices of violence, of extremism, of overthrow. it takes our breath away to read of legislative branches, in states and in the federal government, making excuses for the dreadful and inexcusable mayhem, the inciting of riot, in our nation’s capitol. racism, gender-discrimination, ignorant social injustices are rampant. the chasm is ever-widening and the bridge is ever-crumbling.

the wall in chicago reassures, “everything will be ok.” #ewbok

and i remember hearing the saying, “it will all be ok in the end. if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”

yep.

it musn’t be the end.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson, kerri sherwood


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the glowing orange ball. [k.s. friday]

the sun was setting over the mown hayfield. i pulled over to capture it, to watch. the heavy cloud cover was passing and the glowing orange ball owned the horizon. day was ending. night would bring rest. and a new day would dawn.

in this world where we rotate ever-in-motion, there is assurance of a new day. there will be another dawn. and then, after a day of time-spent, there will be another dusk. and then, after a night of time-spent, there will be another dawn.

as we wake these mornings now, we look to the horizon for little bits of hope, little bits of new-day reassurance.

we grasp onto the transition to a new administration for our country, compassion and decency and brilliant minds guiding us.

we clench onto the way out of the pandemic raging across our country, across our world. we double-down on our decision to choose safety over the overwhelming desire to be done-with-it.

we try to feel a little less tired, a little less exhausted by it all. we try to refill our meager energy with the adrenaline of new.

we all seize tiny pieces of sun as we struggle with the anxiety of these recent days. we crawl out of the shadows bit by bit. so many of us have much to try and comprehend, much of which to try and make sense.

all of our personal stories include the loss of loved ones, the loss of good health, the loss of stability, the loss of basic needs, the loss of movement, the loss of community. all of our personal stories bring shade into places we yearn for sun.

i grapple with the grief of losing a career, with hypocrisy and isolation, with no real understanding of what-just-happened. i have conversations in my mind with people who turned a blind eye, who collegially turned their backs, who refused to have any conversation, who never asked questions, who alluded, who made assumptions, who never reached out, who seemed to care less, who would not even look at me. i squeeze closed my eyes tightly to try and forget and look to the glowing sky of a new day and take a step.

we grapple with starting the story of a new beginning. in the middle of all this, new beginnings are elusive, like trying to catch a ray of light in your hands.

we all grapple with this time of darkness. we know we are waiting for the sun to touch our faces and bring hope.

we know it will show up each new day – in people who love us, in kindnesses and care we receive and offer to others, in reaching out, in honest eye-to-eye contact, even over our masked faces, in generously listening to each other, in asking questions and learning, in working together, in the glowing orange ball on the horizon. and each new day we take it in, just a little bit more.

*****

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EACH NEW DAY from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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like 3 seconds. [k.s. friday]

(links to these cool bookmarks and tags below)

3 seconds.

david knows that i would get in little-baby-scion or big red without hesitation and drive across the country – despite any circumstance, in rain, sleet, snow or ice, night or day, day or night, without delay – if i were to see either of my children for even three seconds when we arrived. just 3 seconds. because – yes – any time i can say “i saw you for like 3 seconds” about my daughter or my son, i can also say “and it made my day”.

3 seconds.

it can make all the difference.

my niece put my sweet momma on facetime over the phone. momma was in the hospital and things were serious. we were leaving and going to be there in just a couple days. but we didn’t make it in time. yet, i had those moments – more than three seconds but less than the years of lifetime i wanted. i saw her face for like more-than 3 seconds and it made my day.

3 seconds.

the last 3 seconds i saw my dad, i took his pale and fragile hand in mine and told him he was the best. period. and my sweet poppo, mere hours away from leaving this earth, whispered back to me, “i love you, kook.” i memorized his voice as i left his bedside. oh, those 3 seconds.

3 seconds.

it’s unusually quiet here on wednesday nights. we had ukulele band rehearsals those evenings and, since this time of virtual life, zoom rehearsals were a good bit of loving community in our week. i miss these people and i miss making music with them. i miss their conversation and the lifebits they shared each time we gathered. it’s funk-worthy, these silent wednesdays. and then…”i think of you every wednesday night,” he texted. like 3 seconds of text and it made my day.

3 seconds.

the sun came out on the trail the other day. we hadn’t seen it for days. grey upon grey, the dismal became lodged in us. it’s hard – it’s just us and dogdog and babycat. we do know even in that we are fortunate. we all desire more. to be surrounded by people we love – light itself. when the rays streamed through the trees over the trail, i felt it on my face first. we looked at each other, smiles coming to our faces, cold from the bitter dampness. “the sun!” we exclaimed at once. it stayed out for a mere 3 seconds before it slid behind the next bank of clouds. but it was like 3 seconds and it made our day.

3 seconds.

don’t underestimate the power of 3 seconds.

spend that time – together.

*****

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for information on these cool bookmarks/tags, visit the links below:

in the land of elsewhere – on etsy

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TIME TOGETHER from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood