reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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


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here. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

joey coconato has an undying love and appreciation of this place – earth – in all its constant beauty, in all its ever-fluid beauty. we have hiked with him many, many late nights of this pandemic, breathing easier because he is trekking, climbing, scrambling. we are ready to rest at the end of his journeys, the end of videos that have fed our souls. his spirit is inimitable and he is a completely understated positive force in the world. he is a leader led, himself, by a willingness to not-know, to focus on what’s up-close and to focus on the big picture, to see more, to adventure into knowledge. he looks for the good. despite some extreme circumstances, we have not heard him, out on the trail, speak negatively nor have we heard him crabby. not one iota. his life-view seems to simplify it all into gratitude for every step. his point-of-view seems to simplify it all into a peaceful co-existence with all that is natural, all that is living. he does not participate with the same measuring stick that others wield. and for that, he is in calm harmony with the world.

he stood in the vastness one day, mountains and canyons all around him, surrounded by trees he loves and lakes the colors of which cannot be found even in crayola 64 boxes, and with awe in his voice uttered, “it has been here every single day of my life.” he looked around; we looked around with him.

every single day of my life. it has been here.

the days he backpacked the maroon bells were particularly close to us. my daughter, with her adventurer heart, took us on a hike up into the maroon bells area. to see joey hike there was to relive the moments we, with her, stood at lake’s edge or caught glimpses of the towering red rock through the trees of the trail. precious time. treasured. his days in canyonland national park brought me right back to moments with her, just us on the edge of the precipice, laughter echoing across the canyon walls. unbelievably vivid in my mind’s eye, i am beyond grateful.

it has been a source of amusement for david and kirsten to speak of the moments i well up and cry – those first moments of seeing the mountains in the distance, the approach into the canyon, the arches of sweeping rock. i am overcome in these times as i stand on dirt that has been there forever and, with our dedicated efforts to mitigate climate change, will be there forever. it’s overwhelming. the sense of timelessness, of vastness, of my tiny-ness. i realize i cannot presume anything but the moment at hand, but i am reminded we are each part of the big picture, no matter how many moments or how few we are a part of them. we are each part of the change that takes place because we breathe. this earth would not be the same without us…we are dust of its dust.

so when joey stands still and is awestruck remembering, i draw in my breath with him.

every single day of my life. it has been here.

*****

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


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chipping away, i suppose. [merely-a-thought monday]

long island has nicer springs than wisconsin. considerably warmer temperatures, more consistent sunshine, earlier flowers, i remember my birthday in late march as sweater-weather, with many birthday pictures taken in front of the yellow forsythia at the front corner of our yard where the grass met the curb of the street. not so much in wisconsin. it’s still cold, still windy, still cloudy, still rainy, even still snowy. as my birthday rolls around i am always hopeful that it will suddenly change and there will be 60 degree days and we will hike with no coats and no 180 earmuffs. invariably disappointed, we layer up and hike anyway. saturday was no exception. no in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb for this state.

birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection. the generosity of wishes texted, emailed, called, zoomed, facetimed, mailed, shipped and wrapped on the doorstep are a heaping portion of goodness and they enveloped me in warmth all day. the lion of march did not reign the day. instead, the only roar i heard was laughter on the trail, on facetime with my niece, on zoom with best friends, reading the glittery-unicorn-poop card from my other niece, the lingering echoes of my girl and her boyfriend singing to me, my son’s voice on the other end of the phone, a dinner invite from him and his boyfriend, singing memojis, exploding confetti on a text from crunch, music and spattered painting in an ecard from my mother-in-law, words in messages penned or typed, thoughtfully chosen. i lit my new candle, named my adorable new gardenia bonsai, and pulled my concentric circles ever tighter to me, hugging them back. there are days i think that every day should absolutely be lived like a birthday.

there was a common denominator in messages. my husband cleverly made a birthday book about life and love from a pa-pad, pads of scrap paper cut and glued by my sweet poppo in his effort to save trees and the environment. a dear friend from elementary school wrote that she hoped all my wishes come true. my oldest friend ever, a cherished friendship that has sustained through the years, wrote that she hoped i was celebrating. in one card that wished me “all things beautiful” i read, “may you always see the beauty in this world and be encouraged to keep pressing on, regardless of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that stand in the way.” in another was simply the word “forever”. another made me laugh aloud, poking fun at growing older. another wished me a better year. and one reminded me that “we are all works in progress.” in that card, my wise friend added “to ever evolving you” to the message “to another good year of chipping away…”

ever evolving.

the spring rains gather on the deck. they clean off the last of the snow and dirt that have been left there through the winter. like periods on sentences, they mark a new time of growth, an end to fallow, warmth on its way. there have been so many periods on sentences this year. too many. it is a time of wondering. clarity is elusive. it is a time of giving over to not-knowing.

i suppose it is possible that this is the lesson after all. not-knowing. ever. i suppose that spring – even in wisconsin – could surprise me. i suppose no time is really a time of stasis. i suppose that is why riverstones are so smooth. i suppose that, no matter what, the promise is to be ever evolving.

*****

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


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miracle mittens and the best i can. [k.s. friday]

these ‘miracle mittens’ have changed everything. for the first time, i am hiking with warm hands, i am walking the ‘hood with warm hands, i am outdoors – in the freezing cold – with warm hands. this is the first time i have found mittens that literally make my hands happy. they are down-filled and water-and-wind-resistant; they are an amazing entry in a wrist-saga-journey year. they are the best mittens i have ever found.

the best.

and the wrist-saga-journey continues.

the hand specialist looked at me and said, “you have a complete tear in the SL ligament.” he explained that it followed that my range of motion was pretty much nil and he added, “it would have been in your best interest had this been addressed within four weeks of your fall and resulting injury, but, now that it’s months later, we’ll address it here the best we can.”

the best we can.

the specialist in my own town looked at the mri report and, despite the words “compatible with a high-grade partial or complete (ligament) tear”, told me he saw no evidence of an injury other than something similar to a contusion, that i was fine and, with some occupational therapy, i would have ‘some’ range of motion in a year or two years.

i left that office – in my own town these months ago – and sat in the car and sobbed. the last thing i needed right then was yet another flippant bullying type. i decided then and there not to go back and started a search for a new specialist out-of-town. froedtert and the medical college of wisconsin delivered and i am now in the care of a hand specialist there and an OT i actually look forward to working with each session. there’s a long way to go and the possibility of other interventions, but i know that they will do the best they can.

the best they can.

it has been a journey, i have to say. as a human with opposable thumbs, these hands have been necessary, just in normal life-stuff. but the professional musician in me needs range-of-motion, needs extension, needs rapid movement, needs painless playing. so it has felt really important to me to look at the whole picture, to have a long-term solution, to not underestimate the impact of injuries that are part of who i am. now, with the help of empathetic experts, i can reach for the best i can.

the best i can.

the wrist-saga-journey has been – interesting – to deal with, on every level. two distinct injuries. one snowboard that wiped out both wrists and one unmarked wet floor, months later, that wiped out one of the wrists whose fractures had healed. i had two weeks off, after originally breaking both wrists, from the job-i-had-at-the-time-of-both-injuries. for the better part of the year, i just continued to keep on keeping on, playing, directing, doing the absolute best i could, despite pain, despite awkward adapting with and without casts, with and without braces, despite whatever physical repercussions might arise from using two broken and healing wrists. months later, it was merely weeks after i fell there, right at the beginning of my ninth year of tenure and – suddenly – my hands didn’t have a job. suddenly, the wrists i had forced to keep working all year were without music, were tacet. suddenly, the organ pipes and the piano boom mics and the ukulele chords and the music all over my studio were irrelevant. suddenly.

i told the specialist that wasn’t the end of the story. it’s not a short story. it’s my *hands* and they have been – and will be – part of a much longer story, part of the arc of me, part of different songs to sing, different music to play, different stages to stand on. maybe the-best-i-can is yet to come.

the best.

in the words of jewel, “my hands are small, i know/but they’re not yours they are my own/but they’re not yours they are my own/and i am never broken.”

i can.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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joey’s 20/20. [two artists tuesday]

we hang out with joey coconato every night. we hike out west with him on back-country trails, on high mountain ridges, in glacier national park and yellowstone, in the tetons and canyonlands. we camp in tiny tents and eat meals out of bags, filter our water and hang our food way up in trees. joey is easy in this world and he has inspired us day after day, taking us one more day through this pandemic, breathing fresh air into another evening when we turn off the news, the dessert for the odd buffet that is life these days. joey’s camera captures the tiny and the vast, things that become indelible in your mind’s eye – the beauty is astounding. we see glimpses of him hiking when his selfie stick leads the way or when he painstakingly plants his tripod and creates the chance to watch. otherwise, we see these trails through joey and we are grateful for his keen eyesight and his love of the outdoors. for him, the mountains and the trail seem to make all things 20/20; he is clear and committed and profoundly capable. joey sees the up-close and he sees that which is far away, both are part of his focus, the details and the big picture.

although he does not consider himself a guide, sometimes joey will have others join him on the trail. i’m guessing it is important to him that their goal for the potential of the hike would be similar, that their respect of mother earth and the basics of backpacking etiquette would be allying, that the bottom line of the trail would be the stunning goodness of being a part of the outdoor miracles of nature. it is clear by his grand hiking successes, alone and in tandem with others, that he values those around him, that he embraces sameness and differences. his generous spirit in his gorgeous workplace is not commanding nor controlling with his hiking partners. he has an overall intention, he has made all the proper regulatory reservations and permits, and he looks to his partners-on-the-trail, people he obviously trusts won’t put him in harm’s way, for input. he listens and he considers what they say, whether it is complimentary of his efforts or is critical or probing of plans he has made; he respects the dignity of each person he is with. if they push back or question him, he, without ego or agenda, looks for clarity and truth. he regularly features these trekkers and always speaks to their strengths. he films them as they hike, as they choose their own boulders on their way down the scramble-field. he encourages them. he empowers them. he takes a back seat and quietly goes about being the expert that he is and together they all get there – to the next campsite, down the next canyon, to the next summit. he is a natural leader.

my gaze alternatively shifts from the icicles in this photograph to the trees, back and forth, icicles, trees, icicles, trees. i can feel the cold air on my face staring at the sculptural ice and the changing color of the sky behind the trees gives me pause, makes me remember the day will soon end and a new day will again be upon us. it’s 20/20 this vision – clear that both exist, co-exist even.

20/20 vision is a funny thing. according to the aao, the american academy of ophthalmology, only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without corrective lenses. with correction, 75% of adults have this vision while 25% just don’t see very well at all. so, at best, what we see is somewhat subjective, centered on our own focus, our own viewing lens. i’m pretty certain that in life this pertains to all manners of vision. so many lenses.

these days our lenses have a pandemic-limitation as we respect the boundaries of what we should or shouldn’t do, where we should or shouldn’t go. we know that we don’t necessarily align with everyone else in our choices, but we are painstakingly figuring out how to go about life in this very difficult time, constricted and staying on the trail for the time being. now – with over 500,000 good people in our country who have died from this insidious virus – is not the time to split hairs over alliances. instead, it is the time to recognize the big picture co-existing with the tiniest details and to stay as laser-focused as possible on working together, in unity, in community, with love. now – in this time of the kind of extreme angst not seen in a century – is not the time to cease conversation, to cease looking to each other for input, to cease collaborating. it is not the time for commanding or controlling or invoking fear. perched on a cliffwall, trail transparency and accountability as guideposts, reality as his north star, joey knows all that. he is a natural leader.

so right now, if someone – in any arena, on any mountain – says, “your vision doesn’t align with ours,” i can’t help but wonder about their version of leadership. what does that really mean? whose 20/20 counts? is it the icicles or the trees? or is it both?

maybe i’ll ask joey.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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and we become shadows. [d.r. thursday]

“the shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby…”(john denver)

in the shadows you can’t tell. nothing is precise. the edges are softer. you can’t tell age or race or gender. you can’t tell shoes or clothing style; you can’t tell anything really specific. it is all gentler, fuzzy, and, depending on the angle of the sun and the texture of the ground, a little bit blurry. seems like it might be a good way to live – softer than a lullaby.

the sun is often closer to setting when we get around to the part of the day when we release all else and go for a walk or go hiking. as we hike through the woods or trek around our neighborhood, the worries of the day, the week, the times, begin to float above us as we attempt to let them go. sometimes, in lieu of laptop-focus-sitting, we will go for a long hike to sort…to discuss…to brainstorm. those are the times it is daytime, when hours are plenty, long shadows are scarce and the sun is high in the sky. but at the end of the day, when it is time to quell the angst a bit, to ease our minds, the shadows prevail and we linger in them, often making play of their gift, snapping pictures of silly poses or just a capture of the very moment on the trail. to look at them later is to hear the lullaby of soft shadows’ reassurance.

in these last days i have begun to realize that which had been close is becoming shadow. i have begun to see, once again, that, in nebulous whirlwind life, time moves on and so do people. i have begun to acknowledge that it is time to let go. we have become shadows in the story of a community. we will fade as the sun drops lower below the horizon, as the moon rises. and with each day passing, we will be forgotten a little bit more. what i believed so deeply mattered has turned out to be evanescent, fleeting and ephemeral, vanishing like a shadow as clouds move in to replace the sun. and for that, there is no lullaby playing, no soft starlight. and there is no way to see our sadness in the shadows on the street.

but there is the promise of another rising sun, another chance for shadow-play, for tender sunlit silhouettes, for the reassurance of the blur of life and stars to come. of new photographs and lullabies.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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wishbones in the woods. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we received a letter from the energy company that tree pruning may be required on our property. there is one tree that is closer to power lines than any others. this tree is out front and has been there the entire three decades plus that i have been here.

this old tree invited my children to climb it, was the source of limbs we used for christmas trees, shaded the front yard and gardens through the years. i watched this tree change through the seasons out the window as i rocked my children in the nursery; i’ve taken pictures of it with snow stacked up against its trunk. i’ve pondered what to do in the area around its roots, which rise above the surface of the ground; i’ve given up planting around it and allowed it to just co-exist with the dirt and scant grass. this tree has lost limbs in recent years and has some interior rotting causing some breakage to bear no leaves. but this is the source of long-time wisdom which has welcomed me home each time i’ve pulled into the driveway. each time i silently thank this tree and breathe a little bit easier to be at this place so familiar to me. i am wondering now if this is the tree. it pains me to think of this old tree pruned beyond recognition or, worse yet, taken down entirely. if indeed this is the case, i would hope to have pieces of this tree to save – slices as chargers for under dinner plates or even just simply a limb to wrap with happy lights and place in a spot of honor inside. yes. i am wondering if this is the tree.

the tree in the woods off the trail we follow was one that collected snow, its face to the wind. we hadn’t noticed it before; it blended into the rest of the woods and fallen trees. but, with snow on its bows it was clearly a wishbone, and, obviously, making a wish, i hiked into the underbrush to get a closer photo.

i wonder how often we pass by trees – and perhaps every living thing and perhaps people – without noticing them for what they are or who they are. how often do we turn a blind eye to that which is familiar or that which blends without any outstanding characteristic? it is possible that we participate in life more peripherally than we ought, more aloofly than the stuff of life deserves. the merit of each bow, each limb, each living thing, each person, is lost in our pursuit of next.

in the still threadiness of our hearts, perhaps slowing down and looking more closely might yield stronger connection to that which we understand, that which is familiar, that which we know well. more importantly, perhaps it might yield stronger connection to that which we don’t understand, that which is not familiar and that which we don’t know well. an opportunity to discard apathy and discuriousness and embrace old trees by the driveway and wishbones in the woods.

*****

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


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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

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“christmas tree drop-off”🎶🎶 [merely-a-thought monday]

it was instant. “christmas tree drop-off” to the tune of “beauty school drop-out” started singing inside my brain. it would not stop. i still cannot look at this sign without the 6/8 song incessantly nagging me and nagging me.

it was the day after christmas – just one mere day – and we went hiking out in one of the nearby state parks. we came upon the drop-off near the parking lot. already – not even 36 hours since santa’s arrival – there was a tree, lonely and discarded. a few days later, after the snow had fallen and sleet had crunched over the trail, there were several more trees. we are pretty certain that these will be chopped up into mulch, which is a good thing – back to the earth – but it was sad to see a pile of no-longer-wanted christmas trees, their value diminished by the passing of the day.

hiking the snowy trails, my memory bank filled with sweet stories i read aloud to my girl and my boy. “why christmas trees aren’t perfect” is a story about an imperfect tree named small pine and my ridiculously emotional heart remembers this sweet tree and its generosity, its commitment to the wildlife in the forest, its community. in this classic book, also a video, small pine was chosen for its connection to sweet animals and its warm and giving spirit. each time i read that little book, my heart celebrated the spirit of that tree. in that same thready heart, i wonder about what it feels like to be one of these trees, out in a cold pile, chosen, used and then quickly and unceremoniously discarded out in the snow. do they know why, i wonder, as i gaze at the pile, animating the inanimate.

ditch sits on our table in the sunroom. it is surrounded by twinkling white lights and we sit with it at that table every day. we will not dispose of him. his purpose is not just for christmas. instead, his role continues on – to remind us of time spent in the mountains, to remind us to see the little things, to appreciate the imperfect, to remind us of caring for something that may not otherwise have made it. it reminds us that being chosen and employed in good use deserves explanation in discard.

and so, i want to go sit in the snow and talk to these trees.

*****

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and the snow whispers. [k.s. friday]

and the new year enters from stage right/house left and whispers to the middle of the old wooden stage. a slight and humbled bow to its foregoer, it beckons silence and quiet resolve.

we stand in ovation as we pine for its downbeat and new music, this new year’s promise. then we take our seats in the snow and turn our faces to it gently falling, flakes in slow motion, moments of fresh powder.

stillness commences and the hushed voice of what is to come lingers in the cold dark air around us. it is voiceless and indistinct; we lean in and listen for the timbre of the spirit of what will be.

and the snow whispers back to us, ever-fragile flakes, reminding us of its evanescence, of our impermanence, of the mystery of it all.

we rise and we walk into the woods, our feet crunching on the trail.

happy new year.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

listen to music as you start this new year

©️ 2020 kerri sherwood