reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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black ‘dack stack. [two artists tuesday]

i was a doubter. i doubted the plastic lumbar support. but i had done my research and, with the budget we were allowing for new chairs – which didn’t include traditional wood, composite or cool new resin – and the fact that we wanted black chairs – these were what i had come up with.

so we went to the ace hardware store not holding out a lot of hope, thinking that we would have to nix this plan and move on to target or menards and get some other color.

the adirondack stacks were outside on the sidewalk. every color you could think of, stacked high against the front windows. a rainbow of adirondacks. we pulled one of the black ones down and drew in our breath to try it out.

in a surprise moment of don’t-expect-too-much-this-is-plastic-after-all it was actually quite comfortable. we bought two, loaded them into littlebabyscion, drove them home and placed them on the back patio to see if we would like them or if they would need to be returned. not shockingly, we quickly decided that we wanted a few more and, as luck would have it in our plastic-chair-budget-world, the ace was having their grand opening the next day and had given us coupons for $20 off purchases.

we went there in the rain. early. we didn’t want the black stack to be gone. you know…a lack of black in the ‘dack stack.

the dj was pumping out music, there were hamburgers and facepainters; it was quite the festival of celebration for a hardware store.

we grabbed four black adirondacks, whipped out our coupons and moseyed off into the wild grey yonder, happy as clams to have six new adirondack chairs in which to sip wine, gather ’round the bonfire, soak up the sun, ponder life and all its mysteries and support our lumbars.

*****

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more barn-red and grey after the black and white. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are beginning to see more of this: the basement floor. more clear space.

as you know, it is a slow process, tedious, actually. and it is not something he can do with me. this is mine to do. for most of what is down there – in the recesses and the corners, tucked into old built-in cupboards and in, yes, bins and boxes and even bags, precedes him. he is happy to help, but it is somewhat a moot point, as the decisions are mine and he respects that.

it’s not just a little bit of pressure, not just a little bit of work. black and white decisions that aren’t really black and white.

you are weary of reading about this, i suspect. skip today, i would suggest. the basement clean-out is not a short story – it’s an epic tale, really – and, if you find any form of redundancy abhorrent, you will be tallymarking-in-your-mind the number of times i am talking about this. this will be a tallymark mess, cross-hash upon cross-hash, the slashes accumulate.

a few days ago i turned the inner cardboard tube of a roll of wrapping paper upside down. more birdseed than i am comfortable with fell out. i suppose you are wondering how much birdseed-saved-in-the-wrapping-paper-roll i find acceptable. well…really…none…as we are not the ones saving birdseed in that manner and it brings to mind the question of a city of dwellers below us about whom we know nothing. they live in the barn-red-grey zone in silence and anonymity, leaving tiny clues behind in their stash. i wonder what they think of the rest of the stash down there, most of which they are not likely to be able to get to – the bins of barbies and matchbox cars, the mementos and art projects my children created in elementary school, every story they ever wrote or note they penned me or the overalls that were ever-so-adorable on my son, the pink dress so sweet on my daughter. maybe they are intrigued with the antiques, the tools, the not-oft-used kitchen appliances. they are hoping to be invited to the next cornhole bags game, the next bocci ball tournament, the next badminton skirmish, the next time the pingpong table is set up and ready-to-go. they are gazing at the collection of pingpong balls, golf balls, tennis balls, baseballs, soccer balls, thinking the upstairs-dwellers have a pension for round things. surely they are impressed with the stacks of boxes of shrink-wrapped cds, though they are more likely mp3 critters and, being 2022-born, roll their beady little eyes at the mere mention of cds and cassettes. i’m guessing our tiny visitors actually have no opinions about all this and clearly no interest whatsoever in the 8-track player or the record albums. they are not thready nor are they sentimental. they were simply seeking places to stash their seed-findings.

yes, i will need a new broom…one of those angle ones that gets into the corners. there is much to be swept.

in time, there will be more floor. barn-red and grey. i have to get past the black-and-white of it all first.

*****

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lions and more lions. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

the summer of 2011 in our ‘hood was dramatic. straight line winds came through, toppling close to a thousand trees in our neighborhood alone. all in about five minutes. i haven’t felt the same since.

when it’s windy out – really windy – or when strong or severe wind is predicted, i get nervous. we – both – lay awake at night, wondering about the tall trees behind our bedroom, hoping that they will prevail and stay standing.

a couple years ago a really gigantic branch fell into our backyard from our neighbor’s tree. it did not land on the house, but it was a fortune to have removed and, in these weird liability times, was ours to deal with. in an even weirder event, the neighbor came by to ask if we wanted to “go in on” the removal of three of the towering trees in his backyard. for obvious reasons, we declined, as did our other neighbors, and this couple, who had been dear to us – after four decades of living there – sold their enormous house and moved to texas without saying goodbye.

anyway, the windstorm-derecho of 2011 has made me tremble.

david’s ptsd came from childhood and being hit by lightning. i’m thinking i would have post traumatic stress, too, had i been hit by lightning. he was in his house, by a window, and zap! yikes!!

so when the rumbling starts and we are out walking or hiking, he is a wee bit trepidatious. the moment the lightning starts, trepidation turns to panic.

we were walking along the lakefront when we could see the storm clouds quickly approaching. boom! the thunder rolled. and then…the lightning. time and again. david was full-scale under-the-desk sheltering (though there was no desk). in no time he had taken cover-without-cover. i convinced him to get home. we are not those people who revel in thunderstorms or chase tornadoes or delight in derechos or any ridiculously windy events. we seek peaceful days and sun, maybe gentle rains and light quaking-aspen-leaf-worthy breezes. idyllic. nirvana.

we are entering the season of wild storms. they are all across the country. we watch the weather and eliminate places as potential places to ever live. “nope,” we say. “not a chance!” we have a short list of places we’d live, which is good, since it will lower the level of decision-fatigue and lessen the analysis-paralysis of too many choices.

in the meanwhile, on the shores of lake michigan with the lion full-on and the lamb – goodgrief – somewhere following at turtle-pace, maybe lost, one cannot underestimate the power of ptsd.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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uff da! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

bumper sticker on the car in front of us

every week we would drive to st. james so that i could take norwegian lessons. my sweet momma and poppo took them too. i had no idea why i was taking these lessons, but far be it from me to question the stubborn pull of the sons of norway lodge for my parents, who loved their membership there, a little inland from the north shore of long island. i belonged to the sons of norway youth group as well. one of my really close high school friends belonged to the greek youth group, so my membership at the loyal lodge didn’t seem quite so weird, but the greek youth group was way more lively than the norwegian’s, with many festivals and dances. i mean, just think of the food alone: norwegian fish pudding vs. greek moussaka, lapskaus vs. souvlaki, krumkake vs. baklava, akvavit vs. ouzo…there is a different level of excitement and celebration. anyway, i felt less like an anomaly going to norwegian lessons because angela went to greek school.

not much of the norwegian tradition has carried on. there have been times when we have made krumkake, filling the plain waffle cookies off the iron with fruit or whipped cream. there have – never – been times that we have sought out norwegian fish pudding nor lutefisk. never ever. i have never – ever – used my norwegian lessons. sadly, even if i went to norway, which is most definitely on a bucket list, i would not understand any of the language now’days.

but “uff da” has endured.

my dad used the expression often. it was a substitution for “oof!” or “oh geez!” to express surprise or dismay or just to buy a moment of thinking-time. “uff da!” is synonymous with him in our family. so it is likely if any of us sees a bumper sticker or what-have-you that says “uff da!” we will send it on and around. it’s like we have had a tiny visit from my dad; erling has spoken.

we have a couple “uff da” magnets on our fridge that came from their fridge. and my nephew named his children beautiful and unique heritage-rich norwegian names, carrying on legacy my dad passed down. i get to carry my dad’s name with me (as well as his jowls). and you can sometimes – though not too often – hear me say “uff da” out loud.

my sons of norway days are no longer, but i remember fondly the cute boy “j-r” in my class, the norwegian dancing instruction, the man from the lodge who built our stone fireplace rock-by-rock, the miss norway pageant in the city and the marzipan.

always the marzipan.

uff da!!

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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bird by bird. [k.s. friday]

the mallards are back. a male and a female. they were hanging out across the street on the corner in the grass next to the sidewalk by the bus stop sign. i couldn’t help but smile; they are a welcome sight.

the robins have been gently waking us before dawn – their birdcalls, wafting through an always-partially-opened-window, a soft entry into a new day. i wake, listening to them and other early birds, then slip back to sleep for a few-more-minutes.

after what feels like a long winter, accentuated by the pandemic’s limitations, the mallards, the robins, the tiny flowers poking out of the grass and alongside the trail, all harbingers that spring is actually coming to wisconsin. really, really.

there is a temptation to clean out the gardens, to neaten and tidy up. but rule of thumb – wait until the daytime is at least 50 degrees for 7-10 days – puts the nix on this. wisconsin is not 50 degrees even two days in a row yet. the robins and the mallards roll their eyes.

so, the spring cleaning juju goes inside and we spend any extra energy readying our home for throwing open the windows, allowing the sun to stream in, cleaning out the cobwebs and the (ahem!) dust of the past seasons.

we changed our sitting room last weekend. we put up fresh paintings, moved things around, pared down. the sitting room is between the hallway and the master bedroom and, though with a comfy couch and chair, has often felt merely like a walk-through. we pause now. it feels peaceful and inviting. a little re-arranging, a little re-decorating and it is a space luring me to curl up, read a book, write poetry, sit and ponder.

we are moving around the house now, doing the same as last weekend. the dining room has bags and bins and boxes filling up – things to donate. the basement, also. it will take some time. this is not the first time i have written about this lengthy process, nor will it, likely, be the last. it is a journey. i’m taking it bird by bird. (anne lamott)

the next room up is my studio. it has too many remnants of past workplaces, too many packages of stuff, too much in it to feel inviting or peaceful. i stand in the doorway and wonder if the mallards would turn away, grimacing, were this to be where their homing instinct returned them.

i know that the sitting room’s new persona, so to speak, has encouraged me to sit, to stay there a while.

i wonder if the studio will do the same. cleaned out, tidied, pared down. bird by bird.

full stick and an empty piano bench are a powerful invitation.

*****

BABY STEPS

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BABY STEPS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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restless and fidgety. [d.r. thursday]

and the saga continues. april. “april showers bring may flowers,” someone quips. everyone turns and snarls. that kind of positivity is just a bit much.

i looked at my weather app – again. we have several important places on there: chicago and charlotte (to see what our kids are experiencing), denver and tampa and columbia (family), breckenridge and dory (mountain towns we check in on), brevard (another mountain town we check in on), washington island (because we lived there), northport (because it was home).

the weather was iffy this past weekend (no surprises there). as we drew closer to it, i started googling real estate companies. zillow and realty.com, redfin, trulia. looking at houses in places with better weather, houses in places with different terrain, looking at house plans for places we dream about being. i’ve lived here a long, long time – longer than i have lived anywhere. it’ll be thirty-four years this year – thirty-three of them in this cherished house – more than half my life.

and like spring poking at us, teasing, causing us to be restless and fidgety, thoughts of living somewhere else do the same thing. poke, poke. prodding me…think about it. “what’s keeping you here?” someone asked me. “you grew into it because you had to,” else someone explained my midwest life.

the sky is glowing orange right now. literally glowing. there is some fog over the lake so the rising sun is diffusing into it. it’s pretty stunning. i suspect it’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize for the rain and snow. uh-huh.

the sun pops out over the cloud of fog and streams into the bedroom. the quilt lights up, david peeks out the window, dogga stirs at our feet, the mourning dove outside coos. and one more morning – yet again – i think about how much i love this home.

*****

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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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30,240 minutes. [k.s. friday]

the mimosa tree grew in the middle of the front yard, its fanning leaves dappling the southern sunshine streaming through it. pink and white flowers adorned its graceful branches; it was beautiful color on a wooded lot full of big oaks and maples. the roots of a mimosa are invasive and the pods and brittleness and attraction to disease put it on the do-not-plant list. but it spelled home, and, though i don’t remember the ultimate reason it needed to be taken down, i do remember how its absence felt.

the pink bloom stopped me in the middle of the botanic garden greenhouse. it wasn’t a duplicate of our mimosa; it may not even have been a mimosa. but the pompom shape and the blossom echoed our tree’s blooms and, instantly, i was taken back home.

the mourning doves have started cooing. we’ve seen robins. wild turkeys were out on the bike trail as we walked and talked. a pudgy squirrel lingered on our deck rail in the sun and the birds are lining up on the fence to take turns at the birdfeeder. it is another spring – soon. it rolls on and on. time.

we watched an interview…a man in ukraine who – devastatingly – lost his wife and two children was talking with erin burnett (cnn) who earlier had been reporting from ukraine but is back in ny now. tears streaming down her face, she struggled to hold onto her composure as she prompted this gentleman to speak about his children, his wife. less than a month ago he had a normal life. i’d believe the thought of losing his family to a violent bombing invasion was far from his mind. in what is mere minutes (only 30,240 minutes) all was gone.

there are mimosas in ukraine. called acacia trees they canopy parks and walkways, their pompoms and curtained branches greeting all those who walk underneath. i would imagine that somewhere there was a house with a front yard. and in that front yard sat a mimosa.

now, 30,240 minutes later, there is nothing. not because the tree’s roots were lifting the sidewalk or the spent blooms were littering the grass or the seeds are toxic to animals. no. they are decimated because they – along with their people – were blown to bits in acts of cruelty, in heinous evil. it takes our breath away. no more mimosas. no more homes.

what will we do with the next 30,240 minutes?

*****

THE WAY HOME

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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evanescent. [two artists tuesday]

the eiffel tower stands in our front yard, along with niagara falls and hunter mountain and the atlantic surf and canyonlands national park and the rocky mountains and northport harbor. they are there, even without clear shape. each are shadowy remembrances of time spent, each are mementos of life and time, tiny moments passing, never to be identically repeated, always to be celebrated.

we watch the play of sun on the snow, the shadows of the trees, the clouds drifting across the sky, the night shroud filled with stars. never static. we bring gratitude for every second we have had, though sometimes we forget to appreciate them, sometimes we forget to acknowledge the fleetingness. in those times, we hold, with foolish tenacity, to thoughts of what’s-next instead of lingering in the delicious stew of right now, regardless of essences and elements that may not be to our liking. we wonder if it’s all maybe not enough, if we are maybe not enough.

we don’t realize that our shadow in the snow is perfect. it is also light and dark, interrupted by the brick wall and tree limbs. it stands tall as we learn about standing tall. it moves in grace as we step and change, all part of the never-ending flow, the coming and going of it all, the roll. it bows its head as we bow ours, thanking the universe for this evanescent time in the sun.

our shadow is right next to all we have seen, looking to all we will see. edges, a little less precise, a little less defined, softer, glorious, present. our shadow is right next to the eiffel tower, niagara falls, hunter mountain, the atlantic surf, canyonlands, the rockies and northport harbor.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY