reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the fat seagull. [k.s. friday]

“you must begin by knowing you have already arrived. your true nature lives as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.” (richard bach – jonathan livingston seagull)

i followed the seagulls on my ten-speed. to the beach, always the beach. later, i followed them in my little blue volkswagen, their screeches out my open window, their soaring showing me the way. and i felt kin to richard bach, his writings about freedom and passion and dreaming and the meaning of life. we met at the beach – crab meadow – and talked telepathically. well, i talked. i don’t know if he was listening. he was on the west coast and i was on the east, though i suppose jonathan livingston may have been able to deliver any message of gratitude i had.

and so we arrived at the fat seagull. it is beyond me why we had never discovered this bar and grill tucked into the downtown of manitowoc. it’s a cheers! kind of place, people who know each other gathered at the bar and around tables, eating, drinking pints, playing games, talking. in the way of wisconsin pubs, there is a vast menu and we order a thursday special to split. the bartender tells us that the two wine glasses they had were broken so he gives us diminutive stemware and charges us less. we choose the bottle still corked, wondering who last drank out of the open bottle and how long ago that might have been. we are kind of strangers in a strange land…17 draft beers and traditional old-fashioneds surround us and our tiny wines.

we listen to live music and gaze around – at people, at the bar, the old wood floor, the ceiling. it is a study in perfection. we feel alive – out and about – a two hour drive each way – food we didn’t prepare – wine we didn’t pour. we talk about how it feels. we laugh and dance. we don’t realize it’s raining out; it had been a beautifully sunny day. we are glad to be there.

we end this week in uncertainty. we reach backwards, examining all we have done – so far – in life and work, what we have accomplished, what we have not. sixty-something is not youth, nor is it aged. it is somewhere in-between, located wherever we are. we bring all we know – and all we do not know – with us. we try to trust that we have arrived, that we are on the tarmac – or – in the terminal, that we – too – despite our lack of certainty – have flown, screeching and soaring.

“instead of being enfeebled by age, the elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly any gull in the flock, and he had learned skills that the others were only gradually coming to know.”

*****

TAKE FLIGHT ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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thongophone. in the park. [k.s. friday]

flipflops and pvc. a marriage!

a merger between old navy and, say, dupont could bring play to the whole wide world. stands of thongophones could be simply everywhere. i can see it…people gathering, favorite flipflops in hand, making music.

it was hard to resist the pull of this two-octaved structure. flipflops – the paddles provided – were chained to the wooden stand, laying on the ground, waiting. it was just a delicious invitation – “try me, try me,” it called. and then, channeling the group chicago, “thongophone, in the park…”.

pretty crazy, it had good pitch for polyvinyl chloride, not necessarily known for its musical talent. and the flipflops? well, everyone knows how i feel about flipflops. they are the symphony of summer, so definitely a good choice.

i, generally, don’t walk up to faux musical structures like this. i usually stand back and watch others discover and play, reveling in their adventuring and exploring sound.

but this time was different.

i played first on the lower octave side. for some reason, the first piece i played was the first piece on my first album, galena. the first day i played galena was also in one of those situations i don’t usually take part in…instead, sitting back and watching others and supporting their fun.

that time was different too.

that time – encouraged (read: pushed) by three girlfriends, playing at the piano in the restaurant in galena, illinois – set me on a road i didn’t know was coming. less than a year and a half later, i released my first album. now, fifteen albums and a variety of singles and blahblah later, i look back.

and i look forward. i’m not sure what’s there. but this past week i stood at my piano and played and sang three songs for d and one of his dear friends. it’s been a long time. i apologized for the dust in the studio. i apologized that it was a little messy in there. d said rob cried. despite the dust and remnants of previous work piled around.

by sheer coincidence, today is the anniversary of that first album – 27 years ago. lots of flipflops ago.

today is a good day for a dustcloth, some garbage bags and a storage bin or two.

it’s not a thongophone in the park. it’s my piano.

*****

GALENA ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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stretching, not ripping. [k.s. friday]

the threads are stretching, stretching…but not ripping.

barney stretches and yawns, still a piano, always a piano. his soul – tenacious and flexible and resilient – centering back to itself, despite weather, despite weathering. it’s late day and the shadows are long. there are small mounds of birdseed, assorted fallen leaves, bits of white at the leading edge of the keyboard. no matter. his aging exterior belies the zeal inside of him, the sorting of memories being played, sustain pedal lifting notes into the air and holding them there. barney has come to knowing that all the notes are still there – stretched across the atmosphere, lingering. he is not fearful of this process in the sun and the rain, snow and blustering winds.

“if you let your fears control your actions, then you are not going 100 mph through it, enjoying it.” (sue aikens)

barney does little these days. he is home for wildlife, the birds, the chippies, the squirrels – they know him well. but he is still going 100 mph through it, whirling and dancing in his beautiful body in our backyard. one day he will look even less like an upright.

but the chickadees and house finches, the cardinals and robins will glance over at him and think, “there’s that sweet piano.” for they, too, will still recognize him.

*****

HOLDING ON, LETTING GO ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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vertically. [k.s. friday]

they move them vertically. not horizontally. vertically.

the yamaha CFIIIs is a powerhouse 9-foot grand. a piano, it is a canvas waiting, blank, black and white.

they move it in, attach the legs. the technician shows up, tunes, voices, listens. the artist plays. the technician futzes some more. it’s a dance, making sure it is ready. the piano is patient and steady.

i have had the good fortune of being a recipient of these pianos. they have been delivered to recording studios, to stages, to televised venues, to big outdoor parks. the CFIIIs and the C7 are THE pianos. hands down.

at the elton john concert in charlotte, north carolina with d, my daughter and her boyfriend, he marveled at the load-in-load-out that it must take to move the ej piano, band, set, lighting, media show every night or so on the “farewell yellow brick road tour”. mostly, he talked about the piano, about how amazing it was, and how much it must cost, and how it must be moved, and how not just anyone gets to play that, for sure.

because most people believe it is moved as is – horizontally – i explained that it’s moved vertically, on its side.

but i didn’t explain how i knew. i didn’t talk about how many extraordinary pianos had been brought to me that way, how many on which i had performed or recorded. we were at elton john’s concert and he is – truly – a shining star.

inside, though, i knew. i could feel it, that urge to run up on stage, grab a boom mic, stand at the piano and play and sing. poking at me like a snickers bar. “i’m still standing. yeah, yeah, yeah.

the other day – at the daniel stowe botanic garden – there was a small grand in the atrium. my daughter looked at me when we walked in and said, “it says you can’t play it.” i went over to look at it. “no worries,” i said, laughing.

but at the ej concert….now that’s another story. he played and sang and i was proud to also be a yamaha artist.

“my gift is my song and this one’s for you.” (elton john – your song).

the words rang in my ears and my heart attached the exclamation mark. my gift IS my song…all of them…the ones with words and the ones without. the ones with music and the ones without. the ones written and the ones not written yet.

maybe there are still vertical pianos out there waiting. for me.

*****

WAITING (from JOY) ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

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a watchful eye. [k.s. friday]

should it get to the point that the vine is obscuring the metal sunflower, we will cut it back. right now the vine is in its glory, billowing on top of the wooden fence, weaving in and out of the decorative wrought iron, and tumbling down our side. it has reached out and is starting to creep over this sunflower, ever so slowly and then, suddenly, the sunflower is wrapped in vine.

we keep a watchful eye.

for the vines of the neighbors, though lovely, are somewhat aggressive and we wish to protect the plants we have beneath their spilling. they are quietly growing, growing beneath these explosive vines and it has taken us years to cultivate even this small garden.

it used to be that the snow-on-the-mountain took over…it was everywhere. it choked out the lavendar garden and its long-branching rhizomes were spreading, spreading, giving our newly planted grasses a run for their life. it was overrunning everything else and its root system sent out feelers all over the yard, even under the driveway, looking for vulnerable plants it could overtake.

now the ground elder, on the other side of the potting bench, is rampant. because it is on-the-other-side and we mostly keep it from the stone patio in our potting garden, we are not as worried. but we watch it anyway.

we’ve discovered that vigilance is key. not so shockingly, we see the vines will win.

so we keep a watchful eye. and we protect the more fragile plants. we are sure to water them and check for the invasives trying to squeeze them out.

because they are beautiful, diligent silent growers, not insistently loud snowballing vegetation, and they each deserve their own space in the sun, their own dirt, air to breathe and our appreciation.

*****

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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i am an artist. [two artists tuesday]

i read it on a thread. someone commented to an author i follow. “never be shy about your work,” she encouraged. i took a screenshot.

never be shy about your work.

humility is a virtue, we are taught. desiderata reminds us, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” always.

but somewhere in there – in the spectrum between meekness and arrogance – is the space to be proud of what you do, to stand in it, to share it.

“what do you do?” people ask. many people can answer that in a word. as artists, it often takes a paragraph, all run-on sentences with no breath so as not to get that lost-in-space glazed look on the asker’s face.

when i broke both of my wrists, the medical staff wrapped up both of them, casting and explaining the possible ramifications of the breaks “at my age”. when i fell the second time on a wet floor and re-injured my right wrist to the point of it having a frighteningly small amount of range of motion, the specialists asked questions and each politely said, “i heard you play the piano” as if i sat around noodling, surrounded by porcelain figurines and teacups, playing chopin-light or maybe little easy-piano-pop-hits. i was literally hesitant (!) to speak and qualified my statement-to-come by saying, “i’m not saying this to be self-aggrandizing, but….” and then i continued, “but because it’s a fact that i have 15 albums out in the world and piano is my major instrument and this could change my life work.”

those specialists had no qualms about saying they were specialists. none. i wondered why i hesitated, why i was apologetic.

never be shy about your work.

i have worked hard in my area of specialty. i have struggled like any artist, have written on scraps of paper and flimsy napkins, have squeezed out time in-between everything else that takes time, have stood in the rain playing and singing on flatbeds, have lugged boxes and boxes and boxes of cds. i have also sold thousands and thousands of albums and have millions of streams. it doesn’t equate to any kind of riches except the kind that is the deep satisfaction of doing something you love.

i used to be much more aggressive – and assertive – about “getting the word out” about my music. though i recognize that vocal styles come and go, instrumental piano is not irrelevant…it has no shelf life. it’s just as peaceful and evocative today as the days i composed it, the days i recorded it. so that would mean that 14 of these 15 albums still have some sales merit, not just the $.000079 cent so “generously” royaltied by online streaming.

never be shy about your work.

in the last church position i held, i was in a meeting with two of the leaders. they were streaming the services and i was commenting on the level of professionalism we needed to try to achieve. i wasn’t willing to link my personal and professional social media to this online streaming until the sound quality (in particular) was indeed much better. one of the leaders stared at me, clear disdain on his face, and told me he had no idea why i would say such a thing or hold such a stance. i explained that i am a yamaha artist and that only PART of my work in the world was the job (which he deliberately pointed out was part-time) i had at that place. for the umbrella of my life i was an artist and that i have always strived to bring the best quality to my work. i told him that it was important to me to make sure that nothing i did musically in the public arena was schlocky (including at that place) and that, as a yamaha artist with fifteen albums, i would hold to my position of not-sharing until there was something more professional to share. i would not undermine my own artistry because mediocrity was ok with him.

never be shy about your work.

he – eventually – found a way to fire me. in the deep dark cloak of covid. with no one really knowing why, including me. well, except, maybe, for retaliation. que sera.

never be shy about your work.

i am proud of the albums that will eventually find their way into antique stores around the country. i see them on resale sites now.

but i also know that – from time to time – someone writes to me. and in their writing they tell me that my music has meant something to them. my music has helped them, given them a sense of serenity, made them think, made them dance.

and that is what counts.

so before the vintage-store-influx i guess it’s my job now to not be shy.

i am a composer. i am a pianist. i am a singer-songwriter and recording artist. i am a writer. i love being on stage, telling stories, playing music. i love the feel of wood under my feet, a boom mic in front of me. i have fifteen albums and a few singles. i’m researching how to get more out of pandora and itunes and all the streaming devices out there. i’m 63 but i’m thinking i might still be relevant. i may need your help because no one gets anywhere in a tiny bubble; no one walks this path alone.

i’m pulling up my not-shy-boots.

*****

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late season indeterminate. [k.s. friday]

maybe we are all tomatoes-in-waiting.

it’s easy to recognize that we have germinated, that we have early growth with initial leaves. we send down a taproot, stabilizing just a bit. we are nurtured and we learn self-care, both. changes during the vegetative stage are a little easier to see as we grow upward and outward, green and healthy.

flowering and early fruiting…these are easy to discern in the striding of early decades of life. rushing to accomplish, to get up the mountain and down, to run without ceasing, to move without pause.

the presence of ethylene – a gaseous hormone – triggers the fruit to ripen. i suppose i would like to think this is much like the graying of my hair, the wrinkles on my brow, laughlines evident, jowls mysteriously appearing. coming to maturity. ripening.

early season varieties require 50-60 days to mature. mid-season require 60-80. late season varieties require more than 80 days to reach full maturity. and later, senescence, a natural progression.

i wonder how that all translates to human years.

the fruit of determinate tomatoes ripens all at once. indeterminate tomatoes ripen fruit throughout the growing season, extending the crop harvest…longer and longer.

we can all wager our own guess; i’m thinking late season variety. this still-learning thing makes that abundantly clear.

and i’m hoping for indeterminate. never quite done.

*****

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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kitchenaid, oh, kitchenaid. [k.s. friday]

a good self-actualizing refrigerator and freezer will keep things cold and frozen, respectively, and have no further issues. the job is simple.

now, there are fancy fridges and run-of-the-mill fridges…side-by-sides, french-door-bottom-freezer models, freezer-on-top standards, retro fridges, beverage center fridges, deep built-in fridges…but the one thing they have in common is keeping things cold, keeping things frozen. so, leaking water onto the floor is not in the list-of-things-to-do for a fridge/freezer combo that has any self-respect.

which brings me to the last two years of our kitchenaid.

back in 2013 i spent a literal fortune on a stainless steel french-door-bottom freezer refrigerator because suddenly, after merely 24 years, my fridge had failed. there is limited space in our old kitchen where the fridge goes so i had to choose carefully, measuring tape and measurements in hand.

they installed the new shiny fridge and, i have to tell you, i felt fancy. gleaming stainless steel, sunlight reflecting off its french doors, bottom freezer the coolest-invention-ever, i was pretty darn excited, despite the monthly payment to the temporary credit card issued by the local appliance store. classy fridge and all, i moved on in life.

seven years later, this fridge, that i have babied with stainless steel cleaner and soft cloths, began to weep onto the wood floor.

there was no reason for it to weep. on the contrary, i should have been weeping as i watched rust spots accumulate on its no-longer-gleaming doors. stainless steel that is not stainless. when i asked kitchenaid about the rust spots and streaks, they said, “we’re sorry you’re experiencing rust on your stainless steel fridge. we recommend using stainless steel cleaner.” well, hello. that’s the only thing i have used, frequently enough to have to purchase and re-purchase. somehow i am not feeling their remorse or sympathy.

but, back to the water-on-the-floor. the opening credits of the pandemic on the screen of life, we were not anxious to bring in a service rep, so i googled. there was a gigantic sheet of ice under the drawer of the freezer – and this was leaking onto the floor. apparently, this is a common problem. (which begs the question why this is not addressed.) i defrosted the freezer and fridge, cookie sheet catching the icebergs as i rubber-spatula-ed them off of the freezer floor. cleaned everything, dried it all off, stainless-steel cleaned the doors and body for good measure and turned it back on.

and now? i am doing this every four to six weeks. but i have it down to a science. i use this tiny fan that my sweet poppo made, a rube-goldberg special the rpms i could not guess but the pitch of the whir tells me it’s mighty fast. i only thaw the freezer floor – so i only need one larger cooler for the freezer food and i don’t open the fridge. i wipe it all down (there’s no chance for it to get icky these days) and turn it all back on.

yesterday morning…merely nine days since the last great-thaw…we woke to puddles under the fridge, clearly having a meltdown (no pun intended). we are increasing the defrost-the-freezer-frequency and looking up appliance repairmen.

my conversation with kitchenaid was…interesting and very, very long. they promised to send me a part on the 22nd. a couple days ago i checked on this. they told me the information i provided does not match their records. so i am at ground zero again. no irony there. zero. the degrees the freezer is set at.

i just don’t know. it goes without saying they just don’t make things the way they used to.

kitchenaid is leaving my heart cold.

*****

I DIDN’T KNOW from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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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