reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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and the universe says, “shh”. [k.s. friday]

the old radiator in my studio was its home for years. i picked it up at a wholesale show…an old fencepost with equestrian leather…i couldn’t resist. it was perfect next to my piano. shh. quiet. ponder. dream.

it’s outside on the back deck now, really for the same reasons. shh. quiet. ponder. dream. it reminds us to take those moments and just be.

in the middle of the night last night we talked for a few hours. it was a big discussion…about life, about existence. we agreed that life is merely about those rare and outstandingly idyllic moments – a collection you might store in a little special box or place in photographs-in-the-round for a viewmaster – ready, at any time, for you to look at, review, be reminded of, hold close. not usually the gigantic stuff, but the slides of tiny, even silent, markers, instants you recognize as mica.

we had another water episode a few days ago. it seems the theme this summer. once again, drains in the basement yielded water instead of no water. a really lovely young man from the sewer-drain company came; it was their second time in just over a month. the tree roots they had cleared likely had left behind another piece. it doesn’t matter. he cleared it out and we moved on. it wasn’t without a ton of unexpected work…clearing all of david’s paintings out of the space to protect them, moving any and every thing out of the way of the water and allowing room for the technician to work without feeling nervous about anything around him. after he left and we cleaned everything up it was back to quiet.

we exercised down there again yesterday. it’s a peaceful place, even though it is a basement. being surrounded by the muse of david’s time at his easel brings a certain life to it. i imagine he wishes this little sign was in his studio, but there is a hush nonetheless, even without the sign.

our studios – places where time fills in the gaps between noise.

in the middle of existential questions about my wrist and hand, a screeching halt to occupational therapy imposed by the insurance company (don’t get me started), questions and the after-effects of betrayal, a silencing of my professional work, i have not sat there much. i enter to allow in light and fresh air, gaze at my piano and walk out. another silent day.

each morning, for at least a week, as i have sat with pillows propped sipping coffee, the window beside me wide open, i have been visited by a chipmunk. it sits atop the fence post across the driveway right opposite the window and looks in, chirping. i named him ‘sunny’ as it is often that the sun is just reaching that fencepost as he sits and the first time he was bathed in rays of light as he held his spot and said whatever he was saying to me in chipmunk i could not understand.

today, in the quiet of the morning, sun not even yet beginning to stream in the window, sunny was out there, chirping to wake us. i called out the window to him a good morning greeting. we chirped back and forth a bit before he left, satisfied he had awakened me. i watch for him now each day as the sun starts to rise.

three times in a twenty-four hour period over the last weekend i heard or saw the words “everything will be ok”: once written, once spoken and the third time bob marley sang it in the woods as we hiked the river trail.

sunday as we sat at the table on the deck in waning light a not-oft-seen hummingbird came directly over and hovered right in front of me. a couple days later as i stood on the deck, david watching, a monarch butterfly flew over to me and circled less than a foot above my head. and sunny, a chipmunk on a fence post, greeting me each day.

i guess that sometimes the universe is quietly whispering, “it’ll be ok. everything will be ok. shh.”

*****

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SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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i carry your heart. [k.s. friday]

i officiated a wedding last sunday. the bride and groom, their parents, twenty-one attendants and family and friends gathered on a venue patio under the sun on a stunning september afternoon in milwaukee.

reminding them to go slow and drink it all in, they celebrated in a ceremony i wrote for them, personal and intimate, with pieces of their romance and tidbits of what was mutually important to them. we had gathered together to talk, for them to answer questions and tell stories, and i searched for the right poetry, the right music, the right sentiment, the right words, and it was an honor and a privilege to stand in front of them and everyone there on this most important day for this most important ritual. i reminded those attending this wedding that their presence was not passive. they were witnessing this event and, in doing so, were promising to be there for this newly wedded couple, through thick and thin. to stand by them in all times, to help carry them through joys and sorrows, successes and challenges.

“i carry your heart. (i carry it in my heart.)”. i read the words of e.e. cummings as they stood, with tears in their eyes. it was hard not to weep with them. they danced down the aisle after the words, “the light will shine through your skin and they will ask, ‘what have you done with your life?’  and though there are many moments you will remember, in the end, you will be proud to say i was one of us.” life stretches out in front of them. they will be amazed at how their hearts will grow and hold the treasure trove of memories that will come. and, all the while, they will tenderly carry each other’s hearts.

i was supposed to fly that day. i had already purchased a kringle to bring to my sweet momma and poppo at the other end of my flight. but, just before i left for the airport, 20 called and told me to turn on the news. it was surreal and i dropped to the floor of the sitting room in front of the tv. i called my husband, called my beloved children’s schools to have someone tell each of them that i had not gotten on an airplane that morning and i watched the horror unfold that sunny september 11th in new york city.

a friend from yamaha in nyc sent me a picture of the world trade center location where i had just recently performed. it was destroyed. i stayed glued, watching, carrying the hearts of all those worried about someone in those towers, someone in the pentagon, someone on flight 93. it was terrifying to know this was real.

tomorrow is twenty years from the day of this tragedy. though i’m sure not a day goes by that survivors and surviving family members and friends do not think about this, it seems, in the middle of this pandemic and political chaos and climate-changed extreme-weather episodes on a grand scale and divisiveness in the nation, that the marking of this anniversary should remind us, should unite us instead of prompting the sneering that i am viewing on social media.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to defeat this global pandemic and cease the loss of loved ones.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to cross the aisle and embrace inclusivity and fairness and equality for all.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to confront global warming and climate change and save this planet for the children of our children’s children.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to turn toward each other, ask questions, have conversation, seek collaboration, surrender agenda, recognize truth, work together.

it would seem important – at the very least – to remember to carry each other’s hearts in our hearts. on wedding days and days of destruction of great proportion. it should all be the same.

*****

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undefined texture. rising. [k.s. friday]

and so, september has arrived. and the texture of day for many is changed. fall is around the corner; the cooler mornings whisper that to us, ushering in – with little fanfare – the color transformation of leaves, the waning of the garden, the ultimate fallow of winter.

autumn is my favorite. and as i look to it, i see transition rising out of the horizon. undefined, but transition nonetheless. unfolding.

i got a letter a few days ago from the insurance company handling my wrist injury from falling. they have decided to stop my treatment. as of right now.

back in july they hired a physician to do an IME – which is the acronym for, ironically, “independent medical exam”. don’t be fooled by the word “independent” for when an insurance company chooses and hires and pays a physician time and again to do medical exam reports for the insurance company that wishes to stop paying for treatment, that physician is questionably “independent”. in an unsurprising result, the physician, who has not been the treating physician all along, gave them the verbiage they were looking for and BAM! they instantly wrote-a-lettuh to me discontinuing my medical treatment.

to say that i was disappointed would be to grossly underexaggerate the complex and intense emotions that came with opening that envelope. my own froedtert hand specialist and stellar OT, who both recommend continued treatment, have helped me make much amazing progress – as a professional musician who kind of uses my hands in lifelong work – and i am now able to bend my wrist to 60 degrees from the initial 20 when i started with them. it’s not the 85 – 90 degree forward range of motion of a normal wrist, but i guess the insurance company et al have decided it’s plenty. wow. and wow.

so the texture of my days will change as well. i’ll try to translate exercises and stretching my OT has done to home, without the benefit of specialized therapy center equipment or knowledge or her hands aiding my movements. and undefined transition will rise out of the horizon.

and we’ll see. things will unfold as they unfold. and summer will turn to fall. and fall will become winter. and we’ll see.

*****

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UNFOLDING from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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sanctuary. [two artists tuesday]

i have sat on the edge of this deck and prayed many a prayer. i have wept and i have laughed. i have sat against the wall, warmed by a winter sun, sipping coffee. i have sat under the umbrella in hot summer sipping cold wine. i have read books and letters, texts and emails. i have written manuscripts and lyrics and poetry and correspondence. i have learned and learned again. i have had hard conversations and gleeful announcements. i have sat – all alone – in the wee hours of the night and i have entertained many, many parties, many rehearsals, many gatherings of relatives, of friends. i have played with my beloved children and potty-trained puppies. i’ve shared a fort with my girl and pushed my boy on swings. i’ve checked kids’ hair for lice and i’ve played basketball and i’ve caught fireflies. i’ve grown black-eyed susans and lavender and hosta and ferns and grasses and basil and tomatoes and weeds. i’ve grown grass and dug out grass and grown it again. i’ve caught snowflakes and i’ve had waterfights with hoses. i’ve dug a pond at our big-dig and carried home rocks to lay around it. i’ve bird-watched and star-gazed and fallen in love with pond-frogs and watched for the owl and studied a cicada’s transformation and cheered on chipmunks. i have strummed ukulele and sang with a community of people i have called family. i have lugged keyboards and amps and music stands out and played with a band. i have danced to music from a record player plugged into the outdoor box. i’ve stared at the firepit and roasted marshmallows. on this deck. on this patio. in this backyard. i have full-spectrum-lived out there.

it doesn’t look like what you think of when you hear the word “sanctuary”, particularly if you have been even remotely involved with any sort of religious institution. but it is indeed a sanctuary. it is a place of refuge and safety. it is a holy place. no less than any building i have ever been in, it offers introspection and meditation, time for wonder and gratitude, moments to connect directly with serenity and my faith, chances to ask the wisdom of the universe hard questions and listen for the answers. it has not ever let me down. though my questions have not always been addressed, though i have unanswered prayers, though i ponder layers of existential, this sanctuary has always embraced me.

i walk out and it whispers to me that it is there, simply waiting. to others’ eyes, it may not appear this way – beautiful and inviting – it may not be pristine or perfectly landscaped, it may not be tended with a keen hand, but it is ever-perfect. it is unfailingly omnipresent, undeniably not ulterior. it calls to me without agenda, without intent, without chance of betrayal. it is inclusive of all who have ever walked there, of all who would ever take time to sit. it is consistent. dependable. a constant.

it is a sanctuary beyond reproach. a place of peace. outside, under the dawning morning and the galaxial sky, the heavens holding us.

it is – as i have learned – everywhere we go, under every rising sun and waxing moon. we are held to mother earth by gravity and the grace of spirit difficult to describe. this great big sanctuary.

i have not yet found a building as worthy.

*****

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momma birds. [k.s. friday]

the cicadas are loud outside already. the windows are open and, though it will be ridiculously hot today, tomorrow will be their field day. it’s the end of august and, no matter who i speak to, the common marvel is how quickly summer has passed. a dear friend wrote to me, “it is the clove of seasons.”

i was behind him at office max. waiting in line six feet back, he was checking out. the checkout gal was pleasant but uninterested as the enthusiastic dad chortled about how his wife had forgotten to buy sharpened pencils for their children going back to school. he asked for separate bags so that he might bring them home to his kids in individual packages to add to their school supplies. he was excited, so excited, telling anyone within earshot of his errand to finish up prepping for the beginning of the school year. i couldn’t help but smile back as he walked past me with an elated look on his face.

i checked out and intended for the exit. it was the backpacks that got me first. the big four-sided display drew me over. there was this great floral backpack. . .

i started to wander a bit more, the calendars and notebooks and mechanical pencils making me wistful. stickynotes and highlighters and packs of gel-tip pens and fine-line sharpies beckoning.

these people knew how to place things in the store. i was not quite leaving.

i was catapulted back in time and meandered a little lost in thought about days – years – gone by, an empty nester’s trap of remembering with both joy and sorrow. all those years of school lists and target runs and picking out backpacks and first day of school walgreen’s or back-to-target fill-ins, things we hadn’t anticipated needing or somehow forgot. the piles on the dining room table as my beloved girl and boy selected their supplies and maybe their pencil case. they put looseleaf paper in their trapper-keepers and loaded up spiral notebooks and the required box of tissues, a few dry erase markers, a ruler and maybe a calculator. absolutely heavenly to be surrounded by school materials, stationery supplies, new reusable lunchbags and two mostly-excited children.

this time of year does it every time. even though it is extraordinarily hot i can feel it knocking. and i can feel the sadness of letting go of summer freedoms, of children, late-morning, still in pjs, of no alarm clocks and no dread of early morning crabbies. i can feel the elation of the bus arriving at the end of the day or sitting outside the school watching for a glimpse of my own beautiful children in a throng of beautiful children.

every year i feel it. that feeling watching them walk out the door to go to school, to go to college, to go into the world. even now i am immersed in it. i miss them.

i’m sure the momma bird was elated too when the eggshell cracked open and her tiny baby bird was born. she probably chortled to her bird-friends about her little miracle and its entrance into life. and then, after a time, bird-school over, she realized she was suddenly an empty-nester, her sweetest with wings that would carry it into the world to adventure and explore and conquer abounding opportunities. though the nest would remain, and would always be there, rooting and rooting, both, it was merely a launching pad to everything else.

and one day, as she was waiting in line at office max, as tears threatened to roll down her face, she would be grateful for all those times before and she would wrap herself in the memorized feel of freshly-sharpened pencils, late-summer cicadas and small hands in hers.

*****

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GIVE ME ROOTS, GIVE THEM WINGS from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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grasses and gratitude. [k.s. friday]

this morning i read a lovely piece about an elderly woman who made it a point to dress each morning by 8 and was ready for her day, looking fresh, put together and smartly attired. i instantly felt guilty. it gets better, though. the piece then went on to say she had just made the decision to move into a retirement facility and was waiting in the hall for her room (note: room, not whole apartment) to be readied for her entrance. an aide was describing the room to her and this generous woman’s reply was, “i love it!” the aide commented to her that she hadn’t yet seen it and the woman nodded. she said that she had decided to love it, regardless of how it was arranged or how it looked. she added that her happiness was a choice she made each day and, no matter her aches or pains or worries, she was going to choose to be happy in the moment she was in, in the circumstance she was in. so now i felt even more guilty.

how many mornings have i risen with worry in my heart, trepidation for the day, feeling dissonance or hurt or angst-ridden?

i read aloud the piece about this sweet woman to david over coffee. he said we should print it out and hang it somewhere. i suppose that i could do that. but instead, i’d rather just try to remember it. to do the best i can each day to rise and be smartly dressed by 8 with an ‘i love it’ ready at my lips. to not worry about the guilt of seeing that printed and any shortcomings i might have, any times i don’t measure up, i fall shy of the happy-choice.

as the cooler air filled our room early-early this morning, we pulled up the blanket. it made me sigh with relief to feel the gentle breeze blowing through the window and as i look out now, there are a couple monarchs flying over our deck. a few cherry tomatoes are ready and the basil and lavender are smiling. beautiful. a fresh day. everything is green, vibrant, healthy.

there is something about green grasses i love. even out on trails i photograph grasses, on my knees at the level of chipmunks and daddy long legs. it feels somewhat dr. seuss-esque to say i love them on the trail, i love them in our yard, i love them in the mountains, i love them in our gard-en.

probably because of our proximity to the lake, our soil seems to speak to ornamental grasses. they grow really well in the gardens around our house. other people have many beautiful flowers and there have been times that i have wondered why i do not seem to be very good at growing various flowers. we have had a spot in the front that was blank. the plant we had planted years ago, despite any effort we made, was just not thriving. last sunday, in a moment of brilliance – preceded by much research that ended where we started – we bought an ornamental grass to go there. i took a peek at it out the front window while the sun was still low in the sky and it is happier than happy. and so, with my newfound wisdom this morning, i will choose to celebrate how well we grow grasses. not yard-grass, per se, for that is another one of those not-quite-there’s, but graceful ornamental grasses that send up beautiful plumes, that help with erosion control, that spread naturally and that make us look like successful gardeners…of a sort, anyway. celebrate what we do well. dressed smartly and looking fresh.

and i will remind myself, especially in these times, to rise gently. to hold this morning, tomorrow morning, that morning someday – any day – close to my heart. with gratitude. bowing to the sun and gracefully moving in the wind.

*****

THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL (kerri sherwood)

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

and – click here – just because everyone should listen to louis armstrong every day

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PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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ten thousand wishes. [two artists tuesday]

“it is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” (mary oliver)

really, truly exquisite. the last few mornings have been exquisite. we woke up early-early on saturday and sunday morning, nowhere to be, sat and sipped coffee and listened to the quiet world outside. our impulse was to be home, to read together, to write, to go slow, to exercise in the basement, to sit on the deck and watch the birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks, to cook good meals. we felt no need to go anywhere. instead, feeling the sun and breathing in a cool breeze, we reveled in the staying-here.

as headlines point out, the pandemic is heating up. again. the prediction that there will be 300,000 diagnosed daily in mid-august is stunning. so much sickness, so much loss. we feel fortunate to be vaccinated and we are dedicated to continued safe practices. we want at least ten thousand more exquisite mornings, at least ten thousand more days, ten thousand more sleeps. to sacrifice now, we feel, is to bestow upon ourselves a chance at those ten thousand wishes. it IS a serious thing just to be alive. and, even in moments of taking it for granted, we don’t take it for granted.

if i could find a four-leaf clover or blow the puffball off a dandelion or spot a shooting star or spy a haywagon from the back, i would issue a hope for each of us to recognize the gloriousness of this very day, each very-day. to stand in responsibility for each other and to seriously choose to mend the tiniest piece of this broken world for the rest. to stitch together the biggest quilt honoring the inhabitants of this good earth, each thread an acknowledgement of gratitude, each piece of fabric a choice to take care of each other, to live in community the best we can, to do everything possible to keep each other healthy.

just to be alive in this broken world takes some chutzpah. sacrificing for the whole takes some humility. bowing to safety guidelines in a pandemic takes some love.

*****

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tiny fountain. [two artists tuesday]

in 1969, when i was ten, i stood on the viewing deck and stared at a motionless niagara falls. they had turned the falls off, so to speak, building temporary cofferdams to divert the water from the american falls to the horseshoe falls on the canadian side. my parents had pitched the trip to me as something very few people would see – in comparison to those who have seen the falls with water. but as i stood there, gazing at a waterfall sans water, i had deep disappointment to not see the majesty of that landscape as it usually existed. the next time i went to niagara falls i was sixteen and there was water, glorious water, and the static electricity made my hair literally stand on end. it’s powerful watching waterfalls…powerful and meditative and inspiring. simply water. falling.

for years it sat motionless on a living room window seat. i suppose it, like the american falls, was waiting. “un-dam the coffers” (or just add water and plug it in), this little fountain was thinking. i would dust around it and wonder why i was holding onto it, my tiny 1969-niagara.

and then one day, a few weeks ago, i picked it up and took it outside to the deck to clean it up. i added water and plugged it in and watched it come back to life. instantly, its flow, a gentle trickle, spoke to me, reminiscent of standing in a cool woods next to a stream flowing just a bit downhill. i moved it inside to the sunroom, put it on the old table we have in the eastern window that catches rays of the sunrise, and plugged it in.

this little fountain’s presence, the sweet sound of water moving, is inescapably soothing. a simplicity, the element of emotion and wisdom, moving freely, continuously, a reminder of the fluidity of these days – the coming and going of change, gentle adaptability. all good as we sit near this tiny fountain full of big lessons.

*****

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22″ of fire-bliss. [k.s. friday]

i imagined just that. staring at the flames flickering in the wind, taking in the perfect and imperfect of our lives. with the sun setting and the firepit column dancing, a rare quiet night in the neighborhood, it’s easy to lose yourself into the flicker.

the column just made its way into our backyard. it is not large. at merely 22″ it is portable and does not take up much room. there are not a lot of things i see while browsing that i lust over. this small tower-of-fire, however, was one of those things. it was not at a pricepoint i could justify, so i watched it.

sometimes when i watch items – or look at them time and again in a catalog – the yearning for that item goes away. as an artist, this is necessary, as buying whatever-suits-my-fancy is not reality. so it is convenient that my appetite for whatever-it-is is sated simply by looking at it over and over again. but the fire column didn’t fit under that category.

we don’t buy things willy-nilly these days. everything takes deliberation and an intention for the item’s use. and in my mind’s eye, i could see this firepit giving us countless hours of ambience on our deck – our sanctuary – the place we will spend most of our free time this summer. i started to give it some serious thought.

and then . . . there was a flash sale. thirty percent off. i stopped pondering, ordered it and picked it up at the store.

we really love it. funny how this tiny firepit elevated our space. we have surrounded ourselves with simple things out on the deck this year. inexpensive pillows – for the first time – on furniture that dates back and back, furniture that was handed-down, re-purposed, a wrought iron table and chair set i have painted time and again. an old door we pulled out of the basement storage room leans against the house next to a ficus we re-positioned from the sunroom. a couple old stepladders act as end tables. old barnwood and pipe hold our precious tomato and basil plants. there are a couple adirondack chairs on the patio and our wood-burning firepit; a chiminea is tucked over by the garage.

we read an article about a man who designed his outdoor space. it was pretty gorgeous. somewhere in the article the author shared the cost of this patio-deck-extravaganza: $550,000. five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars. seems slightly high to us; ours was just shy of that.

i seriously don’t know what we’d do if we had five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars to spend, but i’m guessing it wouldn’t be spending it on our outdoor space. though our grass isn’t perfect and the textures of our patio and pond and cement and stone pad don’t necessarily coordinate and dogdog has holes he loves to dig, we find this space brings us peace.

we gaze into the small flames of this tiny fire column and feel the darkness drop out of the sky around us. we are grateful for these moments of reflection, the moments when we see how perfect it all is, even in the midst of imperfection. we sit back, awash in the ahhh of having pillows behind our backs, watch the fireflies and a couple swooping bats, look at dogga laying quietly on the deck near us and take stock of our good fortune.

*****

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood