reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the assault on women. [k.s. friday]

rykä: a made for women movement, where our individuality is rightfully celebrated and actions speak louder than words. because women deserve better. better shoes, better rights, a better world.

i am a sexual assault survivor. this is not new news if you have been reading this blog. but it’s pertinent, as always, and, once again.

one in five women in these united states has been sexually assaulted. (cdc.gov)

one in thirty-eight men in these united states has been sexually assaulted. (cdc.gov)

of ten persons sexually assaulted, nine will be women and one will be a man. (rainn.org)

every 68 seconds an american is sexually assaulted. (rainn.org)

rape is not a walk in the park. it does not wash past you. it leaves lingering effects. it is a violation of everything free and sucks from you everything intimacy should represent.

i was fortunate. i have lived with – and dealt with – the ugly emotional reminders of this act of control over me for forty-four years. it has played into my relationships, my confidence, my physical health. but i was not impregnated by my attacker. and for that, i was fortunate.

there is no doubt in my mind – no matter how much i value life – every one’s life – what i would have done had i been left with a pregnancy as a result of this abuse. i would have exercised the choice i had as a free woman in a country that supported my freedom to do so, my responsible freedom-to-choose in any circumstance i may have found myself in, my voice. i know that, beyond anything, that choice would have been profound and would be something i would also live with forever. but i would have ended the pregnancy. period.

in an obviously warped, personally-agendized move of a fraternity of mostly-ridiculously-wealthy-less-statistically-likely-to-have-experienced-anything-remotely-like-this narrow-viewed clearly-politically-driven non-impartial-“impartial court” conservatives failing – failing this country – to apply equal justice equally, our country is poised to eliminate the choice women have over their own bodies. and we retrograde back in time in rapid motion, like someone falling into a mine shaft.

it IS a mine shaft. it is horrifying.

and what will be next?

women deserve better.

period.

*****

SILENT DAYS

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SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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just like toadshade. [k.s. friday]

one of nature’s market umbrellas, this toadshade. research states that its prairie trillium leaves – in a salad – taste a little like sunflower seeds, though the idea of harvesting as we hike is not really appealing to me. in due time we will be on the trail and the sessile blooms will burst open, deep red flowers punctuating the woods. the mayapple will spread and vast areas of decaying leaves will be covered by its natural awning. it is a joy to watch the forest wake.

soon i will move into the studio to pare down and rearrange. it has needed this for some time. like decaying leaves, but without the nutrients those generate, i will put away vestiges of places or times i simply cannot tolerate thinking about any longer. a plastic bin will hold the artifacts and, in that clearing out, i suspect light will stream in. i will not merely glance into the studio. i will walk in, breathe, and step the next step of whatever the journey in that studio is. even if only to watch it wake right now.

with the cantilever umbrella of my piano full-stick, maybe i will sow mustard seeds of possibility. and, maybe, just like toadshade, blooms will burst open.

*****

PULLING WEEDS

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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desi is messy. too. [k.s. friday]

because we see desi every day, it is hard to notice its growth. she is likely changed at every sunrise streaming through the window behind her, yet we can’t see it. we’re too close, sitting at the table with her every day; the changes are imperceptible.

desi is a tiny pine tree, an evergreen whose genus and species are unknown. maybe a white pine, we wonder; she’s a messy little thing. her tiny branches are not orderly; she has a bit of wild-troll or kramer-esque (“seinfeld”) hair-branches going on. but her trunk has gone from a tiny needle stalk to something a bit more solid, a bit more grounded.

we talk to desi, just as we talk to all our plants. they each have a name (plants are people too). and, though i haven’t checked on each plant’s tolerance for this, i touch each one. we talk about the sun and the spring ever-coming and their stoic thriving through the winter. i tell them i can see their growth, for i cannot imagine any one or thing not liking positive reinforcement.

yesterday, in mid-basement-clean, i called up to david in his office. i asked him if he could take just a couple minutes to come downstairs and see my progress. i told him i could use the positive reinforcement. plus, if he didn’t look at the progress along the way, he would likely not realize what it took to get there.

it will take tons more time. i have so much to go through…more than thirty years of accumulation. it’s been an ongoing project. but the space i cleared in the workroom yesterday was significant and, if you looked, you could see the change.

some clearing out will not look like much. there will be boxes or bins that i will go through and things will get messier before they get cleaner. it will be hard to discern what i’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild down there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

not unlike the stuff going on inside. we can’t really see that growth either. we sit at the table with ourselves every single day. one day someone tells us we seem lighter, a good trend. positive – and negative – changes, both worthy of our attention, both glimpses into direction we choose to travel, the way we want to be in the world, how we want to ground, how we want to grow.

clearing out – on the inside – does not look like much. things get messier before they get cleaner and it is hard to discern what we’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild in there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

desi nods her wild-hair-branch head.

*****

taking stock

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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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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fog. [k.s. friday]

and, if i am honest, i would tell you that i can feel the fog lifting. finally. i don’t think i knew the extent of the fog because fog is kind of like that. dense and clammy, less penetrable by light. once you are in it, you feel somewhat disoriented and everything looks different. you can’t really tell how foggy it is because suddenly you have nothing with which to compare it.

we underestimate the importance of attending to our emotional health. yes, there are all kinds of positive memes out there. yes, there are self-help books galore. yes, there are commercials on tv recommending therapy. yes, yes, yes. but we are stoic, we humans, and we are also stubborn and self-conscious. and many of us underplay how we are feeling, so as not to make others uncomfortable with our grappling. people ask how we are and our answer is “fine”. it’s just too too much to give a real answer. most people prefer answers with a little vague blurriness.

i ran into someone a bit ago at the fedex store. she asked me how i was. i told her. i don’t mean i told her “fine”. i actually told her. i can’t say it was a mistake, but she was writhing and trying to get away, though i was simply telling her how i was. i wasn’t verbose; it didn’t take much to say i had been struggling. but it was a truth and maybe she would have rather heard that everything that had happened in the last couple years took no toll. she wanted everything to be “fine”.

i recently saw a meme on someone’s facebook page. it read: “people don’t want to be talked out of their feelings. people want to be heard, seen, felt and understood.” (rachel samson) i always wonder if the people who post such things really mean them. surely they have also experienced times of soupy, where there was a ceiling of zero and they were feeling all of what life had tossed them.

it is in looking back at the dissipating cloud of fog that you know a little more the extent of your murky. it is in noticing light peeking in that you know a little more the extent of the loss of light. it is in seeing more clearly that you know a little more how much clarity was missing. it is in feeling my shoulders rise that i know that i have been bent under the weight of some sadness, some disappointment, some confusion.

though we all function in the middle of our haze, out of necessity, out of self-preservation, out of obligation, there is a moment when a pinprick of brightness burns through. we realize that the horizon is still there and that now, with the lure of distinct light and the buoys of clarity, we are headed in that direction. we’ve been brave and we’ve pulled energy from every cell to get to to that point and we keep taking steps, taking steps.

it isn’t easy. despite advertising dollars spent, this society is not really about self-help. it does not encourage time to be within oneself, time to rejuvenate, time to be healthy. our ideals push success and prosperity, seemingly at the price of balance. there is a cost for sharing what is real, for standing in fog, a worry of judgement and marks of weakness in our permanent record.

it’s up to each of us to step aside the everchugging uphill-downhill train and catch our breath. it’s up to each of us to breathe slowly and sort to that which makes us sit on the fulcrum of the nonstop seesaw. it’s up to each of us to be gentle on ourselves, to lighten up, to seek soft days that feed us and give us strength for the other days. it’s up to each of us to stand in self-care, to not worry ourselves with wondering about the judgement of others. it’s up to each of us to eliminate the stigma of admitting struggle. it’s up to each of us to support one another in the times of fog, to mean it if we ask “how are you?”. it’s up to each of us to reach and touch the curtain of fog as it lifts, grateful not only for its leaving, but for what we learned about its presence.

“the fog has lifted
the weight is gone
lightness has returned
singing is in me
humor also
light again
and i do not know why- “

(shalom freedman)

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WHEN THE FOG LIFTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 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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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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kindred. [k.s. friday]

you and i are kindred, you know. though we have been individually sensitive to temperature and environmental pressure and have fallen to the ground at different speeds, in different ways, in different shapes, our edges dissimilar, we are kindred. for even though “to have two snow crystals or flakes with the same history of development is virtually impossible” (loc.gov), we are related. there has been one instance – one – of identical found. nancy knight, a scientist in boulder, colorado, found two identical snowflakes from a snowstorm in wisconsin in 1988. it took a powerful microscope and earned space in the guiness book of world records, next to the fastest time to drink a capri sun and the fastest genetic diagnoses and decoding for infants through dna sequencing.

the flakes fell on the icy wood deck and it was as if i could momentarily see each of them, separate from each other. it was not the mob scene of a drift nor the muddy puddle of slush. instead, each individual crystal softly landed and placed itself so that i might notice. and, though i cognitively realize that they are all different, i could only marvel at their relatedness in that difference, the sameness.

we are kindred spirits, you and i. we have the six sides of a snowflake, the perfection of crystallized water, the discrete originality. but we are not sole on this earth. we are part of the flakes that fall on the icy deck. we are able to be seen. we are singular. we are particular. we are an entity upon ourselves.

yet our uniqueness does not need separate us. instead, in the way that snowflakes fall and cluster, ice strands tangling, crystal needles wrapping into each other, we are together. we are the flakes of snow, kindred spirits of beautiful, fallen from the sky to glimmer – apart, together – in the sun for moments, days, years.

it does not matter that we are different. what matters is that we are the same. kindred.

*****

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KINDRED SPIRITS…AWAY ©️ 1995 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