reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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all that mylar. [k.s. friday]

they are a mystery. vhs tapes with no labels. now, how on earth can you send them to the vhs recycle place if you don’t know what they are? there could be priceless memories on that magnetic tape, mylar possibilities gone missing.

fortunately for us we still have a vcr machine. i’m not quite sure if it will just simply connect to our tv, but there is a gigantic plastic bag in the basement workroom with all kinds of cords and cables and such, so maybe we will find something in there that will help. or maybe we will have to get some kind of converter. nevertheless, we have hours of viewing fun in front of us for some rainy evenings and we can find out what’s on those unlabeled tapes.

there are plenty labeled as well, which makes it infinitely harder to dispose of them. movies of my girl and my boy as tiny babies, ballet recitals and soccer games, birthday parties and christmas mornings, movies my sweet poppo recorded off the tv, shots of family times, recordings of cantatas i directed, footage of some of my concerts and of me performing on qvc. they all demand a viewing and i’ll set them aside in a bin and someday, well, many somedays, serve them up with popcorn and m&ms.

the pre-recorded vhs tapes are no less sentimental. the million times we watched under the sea singalong songs, the ridiculously infinite numbers of times barney made an appearance at our house, disney movies, the nutcracker. it goes on and on. not just in the basement, these movies are in the chimney cabinets, waiting.

and then there’s the 8mm tapes, which were converted to dvds and carefully labeled a few years back. goodness! memories à gogo.

i guess someday someone will find our fuzzy purple cd case with the zipper and our daughter’s marker drawings all over it, the one we even take on trips. they’ll unzip it to find all our favorite dvds…the ones we default to, over and over and over, for we are those people who love to watch movies we love to watch again and again.

and they’ll wonder how to watch those dvds; they’ll seek out a dvd player, ponder what cords or cables they need, if they need some sort of converter. they’ll pick a movie out of the fuzzy purple case or maybe one home-recorded and labeled. they’ll load it up and push play.

then they’ll settle in with some popcorn and m&ms.

*****

let me take you back

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LET ME TAKE YOU BACK from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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cowboys and mayapples. [k.s. friday]

he sat easy in the saddle, cowboy hat planted on his head, his horse striding down the trail. “have you seen the mayapples?” he turned his head toward us. “yes, you were the one who told us about them,” i replied. satisfied, he rode on.

it’s hard to miss the canopy. they stand tall and the leaves intersect like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, gone a little wild. it is as if the mayapple all joined hands, agreeing that their mutual umbrella is the point, their canopy of protection a priority. the green is beautiful, lighting the floor of the forest. i bend down to photograph them, again.

and there it was. a stunning white flower. hidden under the umbrella of a wide expanse of leaves above. only stems with more than one leaf will flower; the delicate white bloom grows out of the axil of two leaves.

we had never noticed the flowers before. i don’t know why. but the canopy stretches on and on and you must bend and peek to see the flowers. they exist in this other-world, beautiful, showy, fragrant. it came as a shock to us – how many times we had passed by the mayapple – to not know the existence of these pinwheel flowers, each one ever-important to the thriving of the colony. the canopy provided shelter, guarding the precious flowers that will need be cross-pollinated and will then produce a berry ripe with seeds, ensuring mayapple’s continued spread. so much going on in this tiny underworld of the forest. nature continues on her merry way.

the cowboy seems to really love the mayapple. though he doesn’t remember, each year he quietly tells us about them as he and his horse walk by. it never appears that he is in a rush. instead, he is slow and deliberate. and those mayapples.

what beauty we all might find…were we to bend down and peek into the world. what shelter we might provide were we to join hands, spreading out like the canopy of mayapples. how we might protect what is precious to us, the delicate, the fragile, the children among us. how we might lift each bloom and help it thrive.

we walk under a canopy of blue sky and inky stars. we can do this.

*****

nurture me

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 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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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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i’m with vince. [k.s. friday]

it pains me to even write this, but there’s actually more than one. fart-noise-apps, that is. “tap and fart” and “fartworld” are two examples. i could be considered mirthless – and i don’t care if i am – for not wanting to jump on these and install them on my iphone. what kind of person wants a fart app, anyway?

“the devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. my single costs 99 cents. that’s what a single cost in 1960. on my phone, i can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing i create and speak to the world with. some would say that the fart app is more important. it’s an awkward time. creative brains are being sorely mistreated.” (vince gill)

i am on the devaluation-pushback-wagon with vince. we’ve never met, and we are in different stratospheres from a making-bank-standpoint, but there are some basic tenets on which we clearly agree.

i have beat this drum again and again. as an independent musician, composer and recording artist, it is likely i will continue to beat it and beat it and beat it, and each thump of the djembe will float into the atmosphere, unresolved. because times have changed. and apple music and spotify and pandora and tidal and amazon music have it down to a science. point-zero-zero-zero-something of a penny for a stream. i wrote about it seven years ago and it hasn’t changed. 99 cents seems like a gold mine!

yet, doesn’t the thought of feeling like it is striking gold – at 99 cents – take your breath away?

and how would YOUR life be without music?

the imperative for an artist to create – a composer to compose, a musician to play, a painter to paint, a writer to write, a dancer to dance, a potter to throw – is undeniable. it is how we speak to the world. it is a creation, an invention of the heart and soul.

vince gill has had multiple number one hits. he is extraordinarily successful. yet, he is apparently just as disgruntled with the industry’s standard of payment to artists as little-ole-me. though i doubt it’s quite the same for him, it raises questions for me of the great whether-or-not.

whether-or-not to ever record new material, an expensive venture always.

whether-or-not i can ever squeeze more royalties out of my fifteen albums in the world streaming freely in rivers of computers and iphones and tablets and androids.

whether-or-not to pursue stage-performing ever again.

whether-or-not to keep writing.

whether-or-not there is relevancy.

or, since the world seems to value other noises above music – and i am incredulous and saddened about this – whether-or-not to point my imperative to creating some obnoxious noise app.

because farts make up to $10,000 a day.

sigh.

*****

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WATERSHED from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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the bass-who-used-to-be-a-soprano. [k.s. friday]

in her gravelly voice, from the back row of the choir room, i heard one of the bass singers say, “i used to be a soprano!” everyone laughed and laughed. and then we sang.

laughter was a dominant force in that room. there is nothing quite as motivating as laughter-punctuating-work, nothing quite as unifying as laughter, nothing quite as joyful as the laughter of others. we had no shortage of laughter.

for in the choir room, the ukulele band gathering, the handbell practice, the worship band rehearsal, with soloists and in ensemble, laughter and joy were how i led.

linda was the council president when she hired me as the minister of music almost a decade ago. they never saw another president who led with her understated panache and wisdom and authenticity. “a pillar of the church,” someone said. yes. a powerful woman – who was who she was.

the first time i met her – at my interview way back when – she arrived late, disheveled and with a dirty t-shirt on. i wondered who that woman was. i wondered why she arrived looking like that. as it turned out, she had been cooking for the masses – it could have been ten thousand for the enormous heapings of food she would prepare – and she had been in the basement kitchen. she pitched in, in every way. her presence – in all ways – was a given.

there is much i never knew about her, but i knew this. she was honest and blunt and generous. she was kind to everyone, adored her family, and she stood tall as she faced down loss and serious health issues. she was straight-up, as they say.

years ago she asked me to sing, on some eventual day, at her memorial service. i first waved off her thoughts of mortality – for a woman like this is needed in this world – and then i agreed. “of course i will,” i said to her, “it would be my honor.”

her service was last friday – a week ago now – and i was not there. the church to which she had dedicated her energy and love had fired me – over a year ago now. (i mean, who gets fired from a church??)

i don’t know if she knew much about that, for her world had become smaller in her struggle for health. i do know that, had she still been in the position she was when i first arrived, i would still be there. for linda had a way of making sure others had perspective, that balance was achieved, that agenda was dispelled, that conflict was resolved, that transparency was paramount and that the best interest of the whole was held in open hearts.

alas, that wasn’t the case.

i was unable to sing for her service and, much like the service for H, i was unable to be there.

we lit a candle for linda on friday. we talked about her. we told our favorite stories. we laughed. i posted a thought on facebook. it was important for me to acknowledge this amazing woman, the bass-who-used-to-be-a-soprano.

and now, the whole wide world is without her. and as the whole wide world looks on, filmy incandescent threads of her, her spirit, her dedication, her fortitude, her voice weave around us.

and the world asks: who was that woman?

*****

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HATE TO SAY GOODBYE from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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odd-one-out. [k.s. friday]

he was this guy who would pick me up in his blue convertible camaro and have flowers tucked into the visor. or a stuffed animal peeking out from the glove compartment. when it was my 18th birthday, he drove 45 minutes late at night to decorate my vw bug with roses and install a big sign on the oak tree outside our front door. he bought cards and concert tickets, taught me how to play tennis and took me to restaurants all over the island. in the spirit of the 1970s susan polis schutz calendar he gifted me, he also gave me a small poster, which i still have.

“i am not in this world to live up to your expectations. you are not in this world to live up to mine. i am i and you are you. and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.” (fritz perls)

the small evergreen was particularly beautiful, standing out in a part of the woods that surrounded it with tall hardwoods. its singularity made me stop and photograph it. i felt connected to it, the odd-one-out in a large grouping of the more-similar. i told it that it was beautiful and blew it a kiss.

this sweet pine tree in the national forest was tiny in comparison to nearby 80 foot giants. it must love winter, when the leaves of its neighbors no longer form a canopy blocking it from the sun. as you hike, your eyes adjusting to the brownness of the trail, it becomes a source of color, and you hungrily take in the green of its needles, its softness in a world of bare trunks. you begin to notice other tiny bits of green here and there, a little surviving underbrush here, a little sapling there. color returns.

when i was still 18, and he was a few years older, he asked me to marry him. he was a kind man, and probably still is. i was not – at 18 – ready. i still had more love stories to relish and love stories to regret. i had good sun and hard darkness ahead. i had moments of the-only-one-in-jeans to experience and times of growth when the canopy opened to the sky. i had hardwood forests to stand alone in.

and life moved on.

“but i look up high to see only the light and never look down to see my shadow. this is wisdom which man must learn.” (kahlil gibran)

i know the little pine tree blew a kiss back to me.

and then we hiked on.

*****

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MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood




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no anonymity. [k.s. friday]

anonymity is not a strong suit of airbnb. and, for us, that’s exactly the point. the relational piece of staying in places other real people own does not usurp privacy. but it offers a glimpse into lives – those which you may never have peeked into otherwise. without reservation, i would say that most all of the airbnbs we have stayed at have been owned by someone with whom we’d love to be friends.

the window that opens when you unlock the front door to the tiny house, the condo, the bungalow, the loft, the cabin, the cottage is an invitation. on the most basic level, it is an opportunity to see how someone else makes a space a home, how it’s designed, how it’s appointed. it is an opportunity to reconstruct – in your mind – something about your own home, an idea to take with you. it’s a chance – for a bit of time – to experience another place as-if-you-live-there: to wander and cook and porch-sit and immerse, even a little. when you stay in the vicinity of the owner’s place it changes things, for then, on a whole ‘nother level, it’s an opportunity to see morsels of how someone else lives, their real-life. and when you have the chance to meet the person or people who host where you are staying? that is a gift.

sitting on the adobe open-air-to-the-mountains-balcony off the bedroom in ridgway, in rocking chairs on the front porch on the farm in kentucky, at the table overlooking snowmass, under the après sign in breckenridge, watching people go by in tiny brevard. it is not without wonder we think about places we will stay someday.

and, i guess, not surprisingly, there’s something about all these places that makes us say, “we could live there.” something different than what any hampton inn, our hotel chain of choice, can offer.

it is not randomly that i pick out places to stay when we travel. i carefully consider location, amenities, the presence of light, whether or not we can cook, if there is outdoor space, a fireplace, a kitchen counter where we can chat. i look at pictures and read reviews and one will always jump out as a place that looks like us. so not so random.

and i guess it is not random either that we meet people – it boils down to the people – who stand out. they are living lives and opening themselves up to others. in providing more personal lodging they are reinforcing the humanness and opportunity of travel. they remind us – again and again – to be just a little more vulnerable, just a little more open. we don’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but to stay in someone else’s home, even for a night, has given us the tiniest chance to know them and to get where they are.

we are not here to live anonymously.

*****

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TIME TOGETHER ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood


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looking glass falls. [k.s. friday]

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy new year.

*****

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RIVERSTONE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood