reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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slow, slow. turtling. [d.r. thursday]

though unable to sprint away, the turtle knows when to withdraw. the beautiful wizened face peeks out from under the shell and i don’t want to scare it, though it is likely i already have. the black iris stripe, always parallel to the horizon, the water’s surface, highlights its beautiful eyes, yellow-green peering at me. the marks on its shell tell tales we won’t know. we don’t pick it up or move it; there is no road danger for this turtle as we are in the woods and, by the trail it has left in the grasses, it seems to have a deliberate destination.

these years seem turtling years. pulling in, sheltering from the outside, moving slowly, slowly. in light of all that has transpired through the last couple years, i have not minded turtling. it is renewing strength, re-prioritizing, revitalizing humor, stoking up energy. the pandemic has forced this inwardness; this place has been our shell, reassuring, comforting. even with all the zeal i have for adventure, i love being home. there will be a different time. time will pass and seasons will change and the river keeps flowing. nothing is static. my eyes focus on the horizon.

the turtle paused in its trekking as i took its picture. it looked out from under its own fortress-home and whispered smart-turtle-wisdoms, grinning at me, “just keep going. wherever you go, there you are. you carry home with you. keep your eyes on the horizon. slow, slow.”

*****

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two little piggies. [k.s. friday]

my poppo’s cane stands next to a chimney cupboard in the sitting room, propped with a couple of walking sticks. i’ve never been very good at using a cane – for some reason, i find it confusing. you shake your head and wonder, i’m sure, but there is something about placing the stick and the side you place it on and which leg you are attempting to aid that is a little bit baffling for me.

this past week, though, i had a full day of using my dad’s cane. i had broken two toes and needed a little something to lean on to get around. i tried using the foam roller but that proved awkward. and david, well, his shoulder wasn’t available all day.

my dad was most certainly chuckling watching me. i’m sure he was trying to instruct me from that other plane, in-between sipping coffee and nibbling on crumbcake. i figured it out, even though i couldn’t hear him, but not without laughing at my own awkward brain-cane-leg shenanigans. mostly, my hand holding the curve of my dad’s cane was a little bit of a gift. sitting as a decoration, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might come in handy. “use the stick,” i could hear him say. i keep listening for him, a decade tomorrow since i started missing him. always.

i’m not sure why i break my toes. the report from the dr’s office to the x-ray folks read “kicked a door jamb with her left foot.” i beg to differ. i didn’t KICK the door jamb. i ran into it. there is a difference. one sounds like a hissy fit, whereas the other is clearly an accident that happened as i zoomed around in the house, getting stuff done, barefoot.

it seems that every year or so i hurt a toe. most of the time, barefoot. but sometimes i even have my flipflops on. this time, though, was a doozy. two at once! i mean, seriously?

on the third day post-communing-with-the-door-jamb i put on one of the thick snowboard socks of a pair we had gotten when we went snowboarding and i broke both my wrists (another fun day) and i found a sport slide sandal of my son’s (who has much bigger feet than i do). the combination worked like a charm and i found that i could manage to move around. i’m still wearing this winning combo. i don’t look vogue but i am getting from place a to place b. and gaining momentum.

i suppose i should just wear shoes. like all the time. something to guard my toes, since they seem vulnerable. but i really love the sensation of bare feet on old wood floors. the planks creak and groan a little and you can feel the spaces that time and history have created in between the boards.

as much as i don’t look forward to any more broken piggies, i suspect these are not my last.

*****

IN THESE TIMES…gaining momentum

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IN THESE TIMES from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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not-still-life. [d.r. thursday]

there is a gold frame around the old black and white photograph. a still life of a family. it was taken in the 1920s and it captures the still-life of my sweet poppo’s family…at that very moment: his dad, his mom, his brothers and sisters as young children and babies.

i don’t have another like it; there is not another portrait – at least not in my collection of photos – that has both his biological parents and all his brothers and sisters. my dad lost his mom to metastasized breast cancer when he was merely eight years old. my grandpa married a woman – the only paternal grandmother i knew – who was willing to take on six growing children. life was not still.

in the way that families sometimes splinter, my dad’s family lost touch after the death of my grandparents. there was some rift and there were plenty of hurt feelings and, then, there was silence. i grew up the rest of my life without my cousins, without sharing in their stories, without the chance to know them or love them. it was like the still-life-portrait was carefully cut up and only my dad was left.

one of my uncles had drowned in the swimming hole in upstate new york during their teenage years. another uncle was lost at sea during the war. i think my third uncle passed somewhere along the way maybe in brooklyn, where they all grew up, as did one of my aunts, a fun-loving californian who always went by her nickname. and the aunt who had children – who would be my first cousins, wished for but lacking in my own circles – was in new england.

a couple years ago – after i broke my wrists – when i was sitting with casts and a laptop and the pandemic had just begun, i decided to google them. i wrote a bit about finding them – a golden moment of connection. suddenly, through research and social media and, unfortunately, posted obituaries, i discovered two of my four cousins.

i reached out, one on either coast. they reached back. and the ripped pieces of portraits that could have been taken through the years began to assemble. tiny bits of photo paper, a little glue, stories to be told.

my dad – on the other side but not too far away – smiled when i had my first conversation with his sister, my aunt. he no longer remembered the details of whatever the rift was and, besides, it was a ridiculous fifty years prior. how long does one hold onto these kinds of things?

my aunt, with a touch of brooklyn and a touch of boston, told me stories and i really pined to meet her, to hug my dad’s sister, to hear of my dad as a youngster, to sit with her. but covid and fragile health sadly combined to prevent this.

my cousin called while we were driving to the grocery store. he told me that earlier in the morning his momma, my 99-year-old-would-have-been-100-in-three-months-aunt helen, had died. once again, the still-life photo shattered. i would not capture a picture of us together, our jowls matching, perhaps our eyes, perhaps the curve of our faces. i watched her service online yesterday, trying to memorize the smiles and tears of my lost-now-found relatives.

i’m grateful for the brief conversations and the fact that she knows i looked for her, for her children. i’m grateful to have contact with two of my cousins and to someday meet their families and the families of my other two cousins who were holding a spot for their momma in that other plane. with great joy i listen to stories they tell me and i know that we’ll share time and snapshots, close-ups, wide angles, portraits, candids – reaching back and reaching forward – of our lives together.

i learn every day to let go, to hold on, to appreciate it.

the still-life is never really still.

*****

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TIL “TL;DR.” WBU? [merely-a-thought monday]

btw, iykyk. omg.

tl;dr is kind of an eli5 problem. idek how this is all started. ftr, i had never used it. ftr, i hadn’t used many cliff-note expressions. i have tried to communicate in a language most people would understand without having to tread water a bit while they wrack their brains trying to sort it out. lol. but atp i had something new to learn. tl;dr…one of the perils of shortened attention spans, little mbs of information, fast-moving media. so. ama. i have google. btaim, i am lagging, tfw others are zooming away on another plane. dae feel that way? or are you all just rofl at me (instead of with me)?

we are all dtm. idk. i’m smh.

my parents must have felt this way, too. a tiny bit left behind. struggling to understand the new lingo, iso translation. afaik, they figured out what they needed, trying to stay relevant, the fomo prompting – wth, driving – them to engage.

irl, imho, idc about all this that much. it’s kinda nbd. but that may be tmi. mtw.

oh well. just another one of those middle age challenges. gtr.

bfn.

remember, yolo.

*****

[translated]

TODAY I LEARNED “TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ.” WHAT ABOUT YOU?

by the way, if you know you know. ohmygod.

too long; didn’t read is kind of an explain like i’m 5 problem. i don’t even know how this all started. for the record i had never used it. for the record, i hadn’t used many cliff-note expressions. i have tried to communicate in a language most people would understand without having to tread water a bit while they wrack their brains trying to sort it out. laughing out loud. but at this point i had something new to learn. too long; didn’t read….one of the perils of shortened attention spans, little megabytes of information, fast-moving media. so. ask me anything. i have google. be that as it may, i am lagging. that feeling when others are zooming away on another plane. does anyone else feel that way? or are you all just rolling on the floor laughing at me (instead of with me)?

we are all doing too much. i don’t know. i’m shaking my head.

my parents must have felt this way, too. a tiny bit left behind. struggling to understand the new lingo, in search of translation. as far as i know, they figured out what they needed, trying to stay relevant, the failure of missing out prompting – whattheheck, driving – them to engage.

in real life, in my humble opinion, i don’t care about this that much. it’s kinda no big deal. but that may be too much information. mum’s the word.

oh well. just another one of those middle age challenges. got to run.

bye for now.

remember, you only live once.

*****

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the notion of attention. [d.r. thursday]

picture-of-the-day is a driving force. every day now – straight – for over two years – i have posted a picture of the day on our thread. when covid was first present in our world, now two years and a couple months ago, my son suggested that each of us, my son and daughter and i, post a photo a day and it would keep me feeling more in the loop; the connection would be reassuring. i oh-so-agreed and have been really deliberate about these images.

no words necessary, though any kind of descriptor is welcome, these photographs are a glimpse into each other’s lives. i take it really seriously and i celebrate any time either one of them posts a photo, loving the window-in. and all day i look for the photo-capture that will be my picture-of-the-day. it’s a practice i love. intentional observing of the world around me. we all see the same things; we all see different things. i love noticing. and i have found – as in anything – the more i notice, the more i notice.

“the notion of attention … to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer…” (“our world” – text by mary oliver, photographs by molly malone cook)

we hiked over the weekend. we hadn’t been on any trail in a couple of weeks as the weather has been uncooperative. our hike was punctuated with my stopping and stopping again. so much to photograph, so many changes in the forest. i want to go slow, slow; this is not a get-your-heartrate-up exercise, but my heart was exercised nonetheless. so much beauty to see, so many tiny miracles within my reach.

david does not rush me. we were there – on that trail – to rejuvenate, to breathe, to take it all in. how do i capture that in a picture-of-the-day, i wondered. i photograph the new dandelion sharing gravel with the path. i photograph shy tiny pink flowers bending down toward the earth. i photograph the mayapple which has suddenly burst into the underbrush world. i photograph the trillium not yet blooming and wonder aloud which warmer day this week they will open to the sun. so many greens. full spectrum, not just the verdant new spring grass. slow, slow.

“i lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…” (walt whitman – “song of myself”)

it rained the day of this post’s photograph. again. it had been raining for days, grey end on end. my picture-of-the-day would depict the rain, a dissatisfaction with the lack of sun. but, even in that frustration-of-waiting for the lamb days, i knew i could find something to notice about the rain, something to give pause.

the trees in the reflection – still leafless – reminded me. the rain falling here – brutally absent in drought-corners of this world – gentle and insistent, driving and adamant in turn, brings new growth, a transition to a new season, washing away the dust and salt of winter and its tears.

“it was my pleasure to notice such things…” (mary oliver – “our world”)

*****

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a spot of tea. [merely-a-thought monday]

care packages would arrive often from my sweet momma. a big box that, inevitably, my poppo had turned inside out so my momma could pack it up with anything and everything she could think of. macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, m&m’s, twizzlers, stickers, pa pads, andes candies, newspaper and magazine articles she read and wanted to share, coupons. the list was long and always included a new tea or two.

she was clever about packing these packages, taking the tea bags out of the boxes – to take up less room – and putting them in glad bags. but she would enclose the label from the box and sometimes, she’d enclose some other smidgen or two.

the other day, in a tea mood, while searching for the perfect tea, i came across one of these smidgens. a side of a celestial seasonings box, a harriet beecher stowe quote, perfect timing. my momma’s care package did it again. a source of comfort, of reassurance, of love, unexpectedly, in the course of a day i needed it. “…never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

our lives – in actual comparison to what else is happening in the world – seem ridiculously easy. we have had our challenges and setbacks, but i wince when i think about complaining in the middle of watching news coverage of the atrocities of ukraine or climate crisis real-time in lands of glaciers or the amazon rainforest or the overall covid pandemic decimation or the fight to maintain absolute LGBTQ+ freedoms or womens’ ability to choose what is right for them and their bodies or the continued discrimination of black lives or the economic hardship that is befalling vast numbers of people in our own country. i trust that harriet beecher stowe, a woman before her time, would shudder at ALL of this.

it would seem – even upon simply reading headlines – that this country is in retrograde. we are slipping backwards and it horrifies me. each day i read of people-with-agenda designing ways, strategizing, lobbying, legislating, to usurp the freedom of others just trying to live their lives. i wonder how these people – some with screaming loud and obnoxious voices, some with haughty, righteous, quiet intentions, some with silently evil thoughts – sleep at night. how they live with their own warped view of equality, their own bizarre view of peace, their clear disdain for the basic tenets of life, of loving one another. they become more and more powerful as we watch and i think of the work of harriet beecher stowe and i think of my sweet momma’s approach to life. retrograde, indeed.

referencing harriet’s arguably most powerful book, “uncle tom’s cabin”, it was written “the goal of the book was to educate northerners on the realistic horrors of the things that were happening in the south. the other purpose was to try to make people in the south feel more empathetic towards the people they were forcing into slavery.”

to educate. to make people feel more empathetic. the value of truth-telling, stifling deadly misinformation. the necessity of looking – really looking – at oneself. the compassion that empathy brings to the soul. these make all the difference. to bring kindness – always and under every circumstance. to not stick your head in the ground and avoid the tough stuff. to speak up, to speak out. to hold on, even in the hardest moments. to never give up. to hope. to believe. the tide will turn.

i looked up and whispered “thank you, momma” when i found the tea-box-cardboard quote. i didn’t hear anything back at that very moment, but i knew she was listening, perhaps, though, with half an ear. i suspect she was busy. there’s much to be done. my sweet momma and harriet were likely having a spot of tea.

*****

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universally understood. [k.s. friday]

my sweet momma and my poppo would hold up their hands in the universally-understood gesture of “i love you” every time we left. walk away, drive away, it mattered not. their hands were always up gesturing, their faces were smiling, but you could see it in their eyes – the leaving. the sign language said words they just couldn’t muster at those moments. i love you. universally understood.

all over the world, in sunshine and in shadow, people use the international hand symbol for “peace”. everyone understands it. it had a different beginning – as the symbol for allied victory in world war II morphing into the symbol for peace. the written peace symbol is just as recognizable. universally understood. dreamed for and ignored, both.

the sun streamed in the morning window and spilled onto the white wall behind me. with early coffee, i was reading news articles, mostly about the invasion in ukraine. heartbreaking and frustrating. i read of people’s lives devastated, of people staunchly fighting for their country, of people on cement basement floors with children and a few possessions, underground and under siege for undetermined periods of time.

i put my coffee mug down and stared at the light streaming in. i raised my hand in the simple peace gesture and held it to the east. i whispered “peace” to our friends far away in distance but close in this galaxy.

universally understood, the shadow whispered as well.

*****

PEACE.

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PEACE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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steady and predictable. [k.s. friday]

each time we stood in line at the little grocery in paris, we had a kinder bueno bar in our hands. we also had a baguette and camembert and a container of caprese salad and a bottle of wine. sometimes we had a fruit tart. just one.

i didn’t know it then, but the bueno bar is related to ferrero rocher which is related to tic-tacs. and so, in a roundabout way, we were honoring my sweet momma’s passion for tic-tacs. the ferrero group, clearly brilliant sweet-tooth satisfiers.

momma always had tic-tacs in her purse, in the car, in the cabinet in her kitchen. she never bought just one container, like when you are standing in line at target and see them and suddenly think of purchasing a tiny plastic box with the hinged flip-top. she bought multiples, all shrink-wrapped together, and shared them with everyone.

in recent days i decided to go through and reorganize the pantry in our kitchen. our kitchen, like our house, is old, so the pantry is not a walk-in, plastic-wrapped-wire-shelved cavern of space. there is a limit to this miniature cave of goodness, so one must plan and shop accordingly. we set up some metal shelves in the laundry room downstairs to hold rarely-used appliances, which gave us the illusion of more space in the kitchen. anyway….i was pulling everything out of the cabinet to restructure things.

diving into the recesses of the pantry, there it was, kind of hidden. a tiny plastic box of unopened tic-tacs. my momma was instantly there with me.

it is likely that this box came to wisconsin in a care package, for i cannot remember ever buying tic-tacs myself. we all had a never-ending supplier in my sweet momma, who eagerly gave them out “for your purse”, “for your pocket”, “for your backpack”, “for in the car”. and along with kraft macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, andes candies, poptarts, bags of peanut m&m’s, twizzlers, interesting news articles she cut out, coupons she painstakingly clipped just-for-you, she would tuck tic-tacs, her favorite freshmints. when the boxes would arrive, you knew what was in them. some things are just steady and predictable. some things you just know.

it was a good time for my momma to be standing with me in the kitchen. it’s been a helluva couple years for us, for so many of us. last night, in the middle of the night, sharing a banana, we talked again about these last two years. in some strange way things feel both foggily distant and freshly raw. but they are no less astonishing, no less confusing, no less painful. it is a grand mix – a caldron of emotions.

i spoke aloud to my mom in the kitchen. i told her in bits and spurts – though i’m certain she already knew – about all that had happened in the last years. i told her about how i had just alphabetized the spice cabinet, which made her slightly gleeful. i told her thank-you for all the care packages, all the letters, all the ramen and the mac-and-cheese and the clippings and coupons and m&ms and twizzlers and the unwavering belief, the unconditional love. i told her i was sorry for the times, like everyone, i got too busy. i asked her to hug my dad. i told her i missed her.

and i saved the tiny box of tic-tacs. not to eat them. they are on the shelf in the pantry. steady and predictable.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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spinach leaves and shredded parmesan. [merely-a-thought monday]

a couple suggestions and, now, i owe her. they make all the difference. she, in some amazingly intuitive way, knows how to lift dinners, no matter the plate, to splendid.

leaves of spinach quietly waiting in a bowl for ladles of homemade chicken soup. and then, shredded – not grated – parmesan dresses it off. if soup can be called glorious, this fits the adjective.

in this time of pandemic – this never-ending-we’ve-never-done-this-before-therefore-we-all-need-some-grace-two-years – we are cooking to maintain sanity. and i have to agree with elsa (whose auto-biography “shocking life” i now want to read) that “eating well gives a spectacular joy to life.” though these two years have not been lavish in expensive foods for us, they have been rich in the experience of cooking and dining together on meals we have mutually prepared.

we love to cook together. and, lucky for me, david loves to chop. i can line up a festival of ingredients to be prepped and he, the mighty sous chef, takes them on willingly and, really, with a little bit of glee. that makes my cooking a wee bit like one of those shows where all the ingredients are in tiny and big bowls, measured and ready. we don’t have swanky pots and pans, but we have an abundance of zeal and, let me tell you, when we are hungry we are daaang focused.

if we feel we can do nothing else – no indoor restaurants, no pubs, no gatherings, no potlucks – then we can invest in cooking for each other or for ourselves. we can honor good food, plain or fancy-schmancy, placed in bowls or on plates, plain or fancy-schmancy, and time taken to savor and be grateful for being fortunate enough to sit at a table and eat.

it’s a bounty of goodness.

and spectacular joy.

*****

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the deal. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

to the casual observer, i’m sure it looked clandestine: gas station parking lot. man pulls up in newer vehicle. woman pulls up in older-model vehicle to newer vehicle’s driver’s side. woman stays in vehicle and opens passenger window. man gets out and goes to passenger window with envelope. man extends envelope into vehicle. woman extends package toward man. yikes!

the woman in the very-nice-car next to me was watching. i could feel her eyes on the back of my head. i turned toward her and she raised her eyebrows and frowned at me. i made sure to hold the binax-now-covid-self-rapid-test box up high so that she could see it. from the look on her face, i’m guessing she thought that i had disguised the real stuff with this box. 20 and i exchanged envelope and box and, although the envelope had nothing to do with the box at all, and this was just me bringing 20 a rapid test since he couldn’t find any, it appeared – to this woman drawing conclusions – that we had done a deal. ewww.

the last time i felt that way i was in the kansas city airport. i flew in and, with a sizeable bank check in hand, met a complete stranger in the baggage claim area. i was purchasing littlebabyscion and driving it home that same day, but it sure looked kind of suspect.

back-in-the-day, decades ago now, when i worked for the state attorney’s office in florida, my husband was a detective with the sheriff’s department. there are many stories of stings and deals and situations to which i have been privy. some stories are funnier than others. like the time he landed the department helicopter in the field having watched a guy pull marijuana out of a neighboring field and run into the nearby house. from my recollection, when he went to the door a small child answered. he asked if he could speak to his daddy and the innocent little boy said, “right now he’s in the bathroom flushing plants down the toilet.” yes. a different situation.

these are indeed strange times. and we are all trying to do the best we can. we keep track of where we’ve been, who we’ve seen. we are cautious to be vaccinated and boosted and wear masks and sanitize and avoid crowds and obvious circumstances that might be more dangerous from a contagion point of view. we sacrifice some now in order to have a better (and sooner) future without covid. we make soup for others, call on people to check in, deliver groceries, share masks and rapid tests and information.

saturday night we watched a documentary: the first wave. our daughter sent us the link; one of her friends with nat-geo was involved in its production.

if you have forgotten why you are being vigilant, why you are vaccinated, why you are boosted, wearing a mask, isolating, keeping distance, not gathering, not eating in crowded restaurants or going to crowded indoor events, you should watch this movie.

if you have been wondering why you are emotionally and physically exhausted, why you are sometimes edgy, why you have been pining for normal, you should watch this movie.

if you have somehow lost the vision in your mind’s eye of the absolute terror and fear in people’s eyes who have been stricken with covid, you should watch this movie.

if you have forgotten about courage and science and the miracle of others sustaining each other, you should watch this movie.

if you have lost perspective and are just d-o-n-e with it all, you should watch this movie.

our daughter wrote that she had never seen anything like people on respirators, ventilators or in the devastating state this pandemic slammed upon them. i wrote back, still crying from watching, even a half hour after this movie, that neither had i. and the thing i had to keep reminding myself during the movie? that it was real. that it was true. that it still is.

we all know we’d do just about anything for the people we love. it is important – in these times – for us all to be honest and forthcoming. to let each other know if we are at risk, if we might be putting the other at risk, if we are ailing, if we think we are ‘positive’, if we need help or, simply, if we need the emotional support of the people who love us back – standing with us in the middle of it all, even if that is virtual.

our hearts are all connected together. and i would, once again, risk the unfair judgement of a bystander to stay that way.

*****

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