reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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looking glass falls. [k.s. friday]

there is no limit to how long you can stare at rushing water. cool mist enveloped us as we stood there, watching. in the land of 250 waterfalls, we, as even babbling-stream appreciators, stood and took in this gorgeous sight.

it is unusual for us to be in the midst of many people these days, even outside. yet, here we were, transfixed by the looking glass falls, along with at least thirty other carsful. everyone, with different accents and languages, exchanged greetings on the way up or down the rock steps. everyone was smiling. everyone was kind. the waterfall brought us all together before we parted and looked for the unbeaten path, the trail in the woods, the less-trod, less-populated places that would be quiet. in those moments of togetherness, though, the sheer force of the water spilling over granite seemed to be a cleansing balm to anything that would keep us all separate.

we stood still on looking glass rock trail the next day, just listening to the stream below us. a hiker jaunted by us, intent on making tracks. he turned around and asked us if there was something worthwhile to look at. that, in itself, was a funny question, considering the absolute beauty of the place we were standing. i responded that we weren’t looking, “we’re listening.” he nodded and said something about serenity, then pushed on.

if there were a place i could choose to stand as this year turns into next, i think i would pick one of the 250 waterfalls, or, for that matter, the stream. a reminder that all things keep moving. that everything is fluid. that the edges are smoothed by the water that runs over and over and over them. that dropping worries and angsts and all negativity into the moving, rushing fall or even the whitewater river or gurgling brook, will allow that very water to carry it all away.

“it’s time to let it all go,” he said as we were visiting together. he’s right.

as this year turns its head toward the sun of a new year, i drop it all into the water and start again. we are merely riverstones in this fluid looking-glass-filled life.

happy new year.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

RIVERSTONE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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matte, glitter, shiny. [d.r. thursday]

we are a silver ball family. the tiny tree on our sunroom table flaunts silver balls. the branches we dragged out of the woods and spray painted white a couple years ago are adorned with silver balls. the straight tall tree trunk in the bedroom that is wrapped in lights also is dressed in silver balls. the restoration hardware tree on the dining room table has one silver ball and the one on the open shelving in the kitchen has many. all. year. round. i guess, when it comes down to it, we have a silver-ball-thing.

silver balls – when you purchase sets – usually come in three varieties. there are shiny silver balls, matte finish silver balls and glitter silver balls. my favorite are the shiny silver balls (in case you wanted to know this inane bit of information). matte is dully understated. glittery is very holiday. shiny happily catches the light of day and of candles nearby, but doesn’t seem overly invested in any other kind of screaming-ornament statement. a clear winner. but they all have their place.

in a holiday season that celebrates glitter and shine, this year i made sure not to buy glitter ribbon. though i love to wrap in brown paper and glittery ribbons, our children do not like glitter. they open presents and glitter gets everywhere – even on zoom you can see the annoyance caused by the glitterstorm. so, far be it from me to be annoying – we moms do the best we can – i bought ribbon sans glitter. admittedly, i did not have to clean up the entire dining room after wrapping, so this could be a new trend.

i am guessing that the young woman working at a shop i visited yesterday does not feel as my children feel. she had very long eyelashes – butterflyesque – and glitter deliberately placed all over her lovely face. she is clearly a glitter-person.

everyone has their thing.

ours is silver balls.

*****

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the marvel. [k.s. friday]

there’s so much you can miss.

the sun passes its solar noon and starts inching down toward the horizon, the light spilling from it rapturous. golden rays bathe everything in their path and we marvel as we drive past the fields, talking about the trees catching the light.

toward the end of daylight, as the sun is almost down, the grasses, feathery plumes waiting to soak it in, stand in the spotlight and we marvel looking out the front window, walking out into the back yard.

we walked through the gallery, admiring the work on fresh white walls, framed by white woodwork, windows looking out onto the lake, old wood floors warm and well-trod. the spiral staircase, the built-in cabinetry, the spotlights and architectural elements caught our eyes. we marveled at the play of light through the chandeliers.

the tree we have deemed THE tree this year looks nothing like a typical christmas tree. it is one of the limbs from the big old maple tree out front, a beloved sentry whose large, low-hanging branches were chopped to allow room for the supersized utility equipment a couple weeks ago. i had saved this branch from the pile that was set for the dump truck, pulled it aside up close to the house. the guys looked at me funny when i asked them not to take this branch, to leave it there. sunday we brought it in – which is much harder than it sounds as its branches stretch out far, embracing air and light and our doorway is not oversized. we felt somewhat like stars in the movie “christmas vacation” as we attempted to stand the tree up in our living room. though the ceiling is quite high (–) it was higher. a saw here and a saw there and we placed it in a big clay flower pot with rocks we brought home from dory lake and aspen and a brick from the old patio. we stood back after futzing with the angle of the pot and drew in our breath.

sculpturally stunning, it is bark against white, stark and proud. i wound lights around its trunk and i could feel this big old tree branch smile. i wrapped a piece of black glittery mesh-fabric around its base and thought about how much our babycat loved chasing the sparkles each year around the base of our trees. i hung one tin star off a branch. i futzed a little more and stood back, again.

the sun streamed in the windows the next morning and the tree stretched in its light, yawning from the night. i believe its branches have opened even more than they were – embracing its new place, no longer sadly tossed aside. a new purpose.

we might have missed it. the opportunity to have this year’s tree be an actual piece of what-was-happening-in-our-lives, to honor a well-loved and well-known companion. to have a gorgeously simple harbinger of the festivities of the season. we might have gone to a tree lot. or costco. or target.

we might have missed it. the marvel. but we didn’t.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

THE LIGHTS, JOY, THIS SEASON ©️ 1996, 2004, 2005 kerri sherwood


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and then…wisps. [k.s. friday]

we settled into the ritual with ease. sundown came and we gently removed the tiny wax bits that were left in the menorah. we drew new candles out of the box, placed them in their spots, sparked the shamash, lit each day’s wick, reciting either the words we had researched or blessings we spoke into the universe. when the last night came, as we watched the flames dance in glassware on the table and in the window, we sang. we made up the song and intended it as words of gratitude and a wish for light in all. it has become a new tradition we will continue…there cannot be any reason to not add rituals into the darkness.

we found it to be a time of quiet, these moments as we sat and watched the flickering. we sat, silently, for the menorah was small and the candles only lasted the requisite half hour or so. but a half hour, taken as sweet lull in the day is a good reminder to be still. our days, this season, all will us to go faster, faster. yet, it seems, the best way to move into the rest is to pause.

we made dinner after we celebrated our little festival of lights. sometimes with a favorite cd, sometimes with the local chicago holiday station, music floated around us. though i love singing along to carols, and so many of our old albums conjure up piles of memories, i’ve noticed that the instrumental versions of these gently wrap around us, slow us down a little.

when 20 was over for dinner i mentioned that. “instrumentals would be nice,” i observed as yet another pop singer acrobated her way through a simple carol, over-cadenza-ing into the stratosphere. both 20 and david stared at me like i had lost my mind. they hesitated and then one of them said, “duhhhh.” i stared back, “it’s-not-like-i’m-going-to-put-on-my-own-albums-geeez.” they rolled their eyes.

in a more-is-more faster-and-faster society, there is something to be said for decelerating. there is something about simplifying. there is something about lighting candles and reciting ancient peaceful blessings. there is something about taking the time for quiet and taking the time for celebration. there is something about staring into the reflection of years past, of the week, of today.

we watched the wispy trails of smoke as they faded into the rest of the evening.

*****

still, still, still

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

THE LIGHTS, JOY!, THIS SEASON ©️ 1996, 2003, 2004 kerri sherwood


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the common denominators. [d.r. thursday]

some things are clearly for display purposes only. turns out that, after decades of bin-living following decades of good service on our growing-up house on long island preceded by years of i-have-no-idea, these lights are not meant for real use anymore. they lit the wrought iron porch rail for four nights…happily multi-coloring the front of our house in this early part of the season.

when i stepped outside to plug them in on monday…i found that, in its last unplugging, the plug had disassembled itself and, shy of replacing the plug and then wondering what other electrical hazard might be lurking, it would be best to gently unwind and retire the lights. it is not likely, however, that i will throw them away. instead, they will go in the bottom bin with the other strands and the mercury glass ornaments.

one of these years all those baubles will come out and we will have a retro tree, full of shiny brites and vintage balls and bells and glittery ornaments from the mid-1900s, which sounds like forever ago. perhaps another tree will stand proudly with homemade ornaments and wooden stars and collectible hallmarks – late 1900s/early 2000s. strings of popcorn and cranberries and lights. our own christmas house. this year, though, we’ll keep it simple.

we haven’t decided on THE tree yet. though we have white branches wound with (white) lights and many small green and silver trees about our home, the one deemed worthy of presents beneath it has not yet been chosen. we hesitate to go to the tree lot, though i’m not exactly sure why. buying a tree at costco or menards doesn’t really have any kind of charm. we could go to a tree farm; we have done this before and sought out the strangest looking tree, trying to take home the small pine that isn’t likely to be loved. we could go to a state forest and cut one down for a mere $5, which sounds like an adventure and could be a consideration if indeed they are trying to pare down the forest for good and earth-friendly reasons. there is a large limb trimmed by the utilities guys from our big old tree out front; we saved it. if it isn’t too big we could wrap that in lights and honor its former place in our front yard. or we could purchase a live tree…i’ve done a little research on this. buying a sweet norway spruce is a grand idea when it’s a cute five feet tall. but they grow 2-4 feet a year on average and extend to 40 to 60 feet tall, a challenge for a city lot that already has trees. even writing this i am drumming my fingers, pondering. usually the answer makes itself known to us, somehow. i guess we’ll see.

in the meanwhile we’ll keep adding little by little … a few pinecones here, a few silver balls there. our display is simple, full of stories and heart, balsam and cypress-pine candles. as i look at social media and the posting of decorations and trees and lights, i can see that those – stories and heart – are the common denominators.

*****

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a candle, lotion and a pair of mittens. [merely-a-thought monday]

one whiff of the good earth non-gmo soy wax cypress-pine candle and i was sold. the holidays in a mason jar with the added bonus of having spent hours of my life in many years past at shows near the founder of this absolutely-good-earth company, a place where brilliant science and creativity and big heart merge. it made me happy to see her products at the boutique shop and, in the way that this season does, makes me want to reach out to her with greetings.

we were in cedarburg on saturday, wanting to participate in the anticipation of christmas. the streets were cold, but the lights were beautiful and the holiday spirit warm and contagious. the wind was brisk so it was a constant cycle of earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk-gloves off-earmuffs off-mask on-go into a shop-wander and browse and admire-exit shop-mask off-earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk and repeat.

it was a perfect day. we stopped to have a bite to eat – a rarity in these past couple years. there was a giant outdoor tent with tall bistro tables spaced more than socially-distanced apart, fresh air coming in and tall propane heaters scattered about. with our coats on, though unzipped, we sipped an oustanding merlot and shared a burger laden with bacon and mushrooms and grilled onions and some kind of special sauce with a gigantic side of french fries. did i mention perfect?

our day-adventure took us through our favorite shops, the familiar a reassuring hug. in another rarity, we bought a few items – our new candle that tracy made, almond coconut hand lotion from a long island company that smells like an almond joy bar, a pair of fair trade mittens that fit over my finger splint from the everest corner of the world. treasures. we brought home ideas for decorating and fresh energy for the upcoming week.

sitting at the tall bistro table in the tent i glanced around. four girlfriends enjoying a chardonnay, a family surrounded by shopping bags and ribbons, two friends having a shopping extravaganza, an older couple perched on stools finishing lunch and sipping tall glasses of water, our server, delightful despite the busy. i appreciated the mix of the multi-colored and white lights strewn through the tent. the chatter, the joy, delicious anticipation that the rest of the day still stretched in front of us. there would be tiny expressions of graciousness and courtesies and we would see grandiose expressions of the season.

i looked at david and held my hand to my heart, saying nothing. he nodded.

“christmas is here, bringing good cheer. to young and old, meek and the bold. ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song. with joyful ring, all caroling.” (carol of the bells)

*****

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blame it on target. [two artists tuesday]

despite efforts to stay in the calendar, target has pushed me into the holiday season.

i was there for just a few items, including tissue wrap for a gift basket. thinking the best deal would be in the back left corner of the store – where they were setting up all the holiday displays and multitudes of wrap and bows and fancy-schmancy gifting options – i wandered back that way. as i meandered, stopping at a display of soft pastel body poofs, swinging by the smaller-food-processors-than-my-1982-food-processor-which-has-just-broken aisle, glancing sideways at a big display of dark chocolate truffles, i tried to ignore the tempting tiny trees, happy lights, holiday napkins, plates, cups, mugs, towels, sweaters, hats, a way-cuter-than-it-sounds-tiny stuffed gnome display, and variety packs of trinkets along the way. stay focused, i thought. go directly to the gift tissue, do not pass go, do not collect $200, pick up the gift tissue and deliberately make your way out of the department. resist, resist, resist. save it – that department – for later-later.

i was not successful.

the twinkling rice lights drew me in. tall, skinny trees caught my eye. ornaments in long bins made of boiled wool and snowflakes begged to be touched. i was a goner.

i wandered around december-in-target for probably just shy of an hour. and, though i had been prepared to push back against the urge to decorate early, i was smitten. this from a person who, along with the other half of the decision-team, has left up in our living room – for two whole years now – big branches we painted white planted in galvanized metal containers strewn with white lights. who am i kidding? the instant i headed back into that department, i was committed.

i put tiny white seed lights in my basket.

one of my favorite concerts was lit by the brilliant stage manager keith who, when i released my blueprint-for-my-soul album, set up ladders and lean-tos on stage and spotted soft white light off them. it created indirect-direct shadow, indirect-direct downlight. the perfect combination. it mattered to him.

the strands were zip-tied around the trees at the garden. long, long strands of colors, a rainbow requiring patience and long tedious hours that will ultimately premier as lightscape 2021. designers – brilliant like keith – have put together a show of festive wonder, the perfect combination to embrace all those who walk through. it matters to them.

the real question? it is whether you are a multi-colored-lights person or a white-lights person. what matters is what matters to you. both celebrate. both lift spirits and wrap the season around you. for years and years now i have been a dedicated white-lights person, really loving the dreamy quality of twinkling stars, tethered from the milky way and brought inside. all year round.

this year – in this season we jump into earlier and earlier each year – i just might have a little nod to multi-colored-lights. mm-hmm. just a little one. perhaps i’ll dig out my mom and dad’s vintage outdoor light strings, the ones with big multi-colored bulbs, some with paint flaking off the glass. i may grimace a tiny bit hanging them on our rail out front, but then i’ll think of my sweet poppo, up on the ladder every year, stringing them across the front of our house, winding them around our christmas trees. or maybe i’ll take out the smallest strand of colored lights i have tucked away and gently wrap them around a little tree, a nod to the ever-important-but-not-represented multi-colored lights. i’ll invite a little bit of lightscape to our house. a little bit of multi-colored magic. just because.

i’m guessing it will all happen a little sooner than i originally thought. clearly, it’s target’s fault.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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.

*****

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