reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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walking sunsets. [two artists tuesday]

there are days that go by that we don’t notice. we hear the waves crashing or the wail of the foghorn, we feel the wind shift over the cool water surface, we listen to seagulls over our house or boats racing the shore. and, though those are all familiar to us, we don’t notice.

we walk the sunset along the lake, night dropping in around us. it’s quiet but we hear faint strains of music from the harbor and the festival on the channel. the lights to our left balance out the ever-diminishing clarity of view to our right. it is pretty exquisite. we are lucky, we repeat.

we live in an old house with an old garage and an old yard in an old neighborhood. we are steps from lake michigan and its glorious power, its ferocity, its smooth-as-glass silk, its wide spectrum of personality. and, sometimes, we don’t notice.

because sometimes, like you, we get caught up in the stuff of life, the challenges of life, the confusing relationships of life, the weariness.

those are the days we should walk the sunset.

for there is not much that reminds you of time passing like watching the giant eastern sky answer the western setting sun. there is not much that reminds you of your absolute tiny-ness in the overall scheme of things. just shy of eight billion people on this good earth and everyone shares this one sun, able to watch colors over lakes, deserts, meadows, cityscapes, neighborhoods, ballfields, cornfields, highways, bayous, mountains.

to sometimes notice, sometimes pay attention, gives us petite pause, like the air you feel staring at a richard diebenkorn ocean park painting, the all-over softened loll of arvo pärt’s music unwinding you, slower-than-slow-dancing on the patio, the hush of a hammock.

“we think we have about twenty good summers now,” the wander women talk about choosing their adventures. we are the same age, so it’s a little bit bracing.

but a good reminder. even from the very start. if we only have about 70 or 80 good summers in all, if we are fortunate, it would seem each one really, truly counts. and, if the height of summer is – in most parts – about three months long, then that’s about ninety days. that means somewhere between 6300 and 7200 good summer sunsets in all, possibly more, possibly less.

it makes me wonder how much i noticed in the first 5670 summer nights to date.

i’ve got some work to do.

i’ve got some walking sunsets to pay attention to.

*****

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a little more promise. [d.r. thursday]

outside the window – just this very second – we can hear the sound of a sweet bird singing its little heart out. mostly quiet out there all winter, except for the sound of the crows chasing the neighborhood hawk, the chirping gives me hope. sans-chirping seemed like a long time, extended – stretch—-ed out like 1960s turkish taffy or 1970s laffy taffy – by this never-ending pandemic and its concerns and restrictions. but today chirped and my heart lifts.

when we first moved to wisconsin we rented a little house. the kitchen was yellow-yellow, which was probably a good thing, as we moved from florida to wisconsin in the dead of winter and i struggled with some giant homesickness (and probably not-just-a-little seasonal affective disorder, unnamed at the time). the bathroom had no shower, just a tub, so we installed a rubber hose on the tub spout and rigged up a shower with zipties. the living room was tiny, especially with a big black lab ranging over the hundred pound mark. the basement was suuuch a basement. and, though it was in a sweet neighborhood, i felt lost.

but each morning, as that first wisconsin spring approached – in its crawling-not-even-baby-steps-kind-of-way – i could hear the birds in the bushes just out the bedroom window, in the very corner of the yard, right by the chain link fence. and those birds brought me back to the birdsounds of my growing-up. and that all reassured me. because sometimes change is hard.

we only spent one winter, one spring and a bit of summer in that house before we moved here – to this house – and i learned the birds of this lakefront neighborhood.

and then today.

this bird, singing outside on a grey morning, may be singing itself to clarity. the lake is changing. the skies at dawn and at dusk are changing, stripes of color. the moon sweeps across the sky. there is a little more sun a little earlier in the day and a little later in the evening. a day here or there that is a tiny bit warmer.

maybe this bird is feeling a little less lost and a little more promise.

*****

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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

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columbus. a jewel. glistening. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.

living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.

monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.

we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.

just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.

*****

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a smidge away. [two artists tuesday]

it felt like we were away. we had never explored this area of milwaukee and, with time on our hands on a stunningly beautiful day, we walked. we decided it didn’t matter if we knew our way around or not, our phones and gps would get us back. so we left the airbnb in walker point and started north. knowing the lake was east of us, it was a natural turn to the right, the water drawing us.

the architecture of cream city brick and old warehouses is charming and i kept thinking how we needed to return to take photographs when we had more time to linger. we turned east at a warehouse that had been converted to condo living, industrial balconies lining the river with colorful bistro tables and teak adirondack chairs and strands and strands of strung lights. the evenings must be beautiful walking along the river toward lake michigan.

we could see the hoan bridge arching into the sky and headed toward it. we passed a guy on the sidewalk with a shirt that said “light the hoan” and i looked it up. “light is swiftly becoming one of the most powerful tools to breathe new life into cities,” the website promotes. i remember a beautiful suspension bridge lit across the river in east boston when our son lived there. the light changed everything and was stunning. you can purchase a bulb on the hoan, be a beacon in the night and know that people are sitting on balconies gazing and dreaming, much like staring into a bonfire. the bridge and its design drew my iphone camera toward it.

we wound our way through outdoor dining seating and along the docks, multiple times mentioning to each other that we would “come back” and explore more. it amazed me that, such a short distance away from home, we felt like we were away and adventure was simply waiting. an early evening wedding stopped us short of much exploration, but there’s always the next time.

we walked out to the lighthouse where the milwaukee river met lake michigan and stood for a few minutes before turning around. the art museum beckoned from up the lakefront; beyond that we know there are beaches and a favorite coffee house in an historic water treatment plant.

we walked back some of the way we came, sticking to the river as much as possible. flowers and shadows and railings and vintage glass finials, textures and surprises, restoration and beautiful intention our companions.

passing the docked boats, though no salt in this air, i got a whiff of the past. i could imagine i was at northport harbor, watching the comings and goings of boaters and fishermen. it made me have a taste for baked clams and buffalo calamari from skippers pub, a hop, skip and a jump away in my mind as the scent of waterfront and moored boats surrounded me.

though the pandemic and travel warnings might preclude a trip to long island, we, aloud, promised each other we would return to this walkway, to stroll along the river chatting and snapping pictures, to immerse in a sculpture walk, to find the perfect bistro table on the dock sidewalks, to dine al fresco in the swirl of memories and new adventures.

getting away just a smidge away.

*****

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our firework. [k.s. friday]

the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.

the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.

each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.

dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.

i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.

so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…

we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.

and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.

but as an adult – i know.

*****

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


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farm to table. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

10. there are now ten teeny tomatoes tethered to the tendrils of our tomato plants in our tiny tabletop garden. it’s amazing! i am ridiculously dedicated to them and watch each day as they grow.

on sunday i went outside to this old barnwood and pipe planting stand and, for the second time now, snipped off fresh valentino. it’s heavenly, the scent of fresh basil. with a little olive oil and some boughten* grape tomatoes tossed with leaves of basil, we had a meal from our little farm. (try to contain your amazement, millennial farmer.)

i still marvel at this minor little miracle, simple and so utterly complex, this growing edible food. we clinked our glasses of old vine zin in celebration and reveled in the good fortune we felt having successfully – at least for the last three weeks – raised a few plants, who seem to be happy and flourishing in the hot, humid, rainy days we have been having.

around the corner is an empty and beautiful grass lot on lake michigan, owned by the people who live across the street from it. they have planted a vegetable garden and we watched as they tenderly watered it the other day while we walked past. i wonder if they started with a container garden on their potting bench.

i don’t know how long it will be before these teeniest babies will grow and ripen into cherry tomatoes that will grace our salad bowls or join with basil in pasta-union. it will be a journey of enlightenment for us. what i do know is that we are seriously loving every bit of it. and the tomato and basil plants seem to know it.

*****

*boughten: though i don’t normally use it, this is indeed a word and, for this writing, seemed like the right one to use.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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NNE/ENE/NE, please. [merely-a-thought monday]

NNE. or ENE. or just plain NE. that’s what i look for. the weather app accuweather has a lot of information but, during long hot and humid stretches along southeastern wisconsin’s shoreline, it’s the wind that matters.

we live a couple blocks off the lake. on days before the trees are in full leaf, if you look out the foyer window or the bedroom sunrise window you can see it. if you sit on the flat roof outside the window of the boy’s old room you can see it. we can hear it at night with our windows open and can feel its fury in the winter. in the fall the lake keeps the coast a little warmer. and in the spring it is touted to be cooler near the lake.

20 says this all the time, i’m sure deliberately and to drive me crazy. it is not – most certainly not – always cooler by the lake. there are blistering hot, humid days here, trust me. the kind of days when we wish this old house had central air conditioning like all the new developments, when we wish our heat was forced air and not workhorse radiators so installation of a/c would be easier. the countdown is already on this season to carry up the window units and install them. though they are not our favorites visually or from a constant-noise point of view, they help us, tripper and this old house keep our wits about us in the dog days. i always hold out as long as possible. and right now, june seems too early.

so, i look at the weather app. a lot. it’s not just me. it’s a thing in wisconsin. kind of a mania. blame it on storm teams and weather alerts and interactive radar. so much information at our fingertips. why do we study-study-study the weather, you ask? because – on these hot summer days when there aren’t enough ice pops to quell the crabbiness and when everything feels just a bit sticky – if the wind is blowing from just the right direction with any velocity across the top of the lake, the air temperature will shift intensely and everything and everyone will be heard sighing an audible ahhh. it’s lake effect. and, if you are lucky enough to be within about a mile of the lake – 20 blocks or so – you will feel it.

the other day we took a walk after dinner. it was late and still hot out as we strolled. we walked the ‘hood and talked, noticing flowers blooming and admiring people’s fences, our new obsession. as we walked toward the lake, the wind suddenly shifted and, instantly, the fog began to roll in, blurring the shoreline, hiding the lake and intensifying the soft focus sunset to our west. i was immediately in heaven, the cool air swirling around us. that NNE/ENE/NE thing is amazing.

later that evening we talked to 20. he talked about the heat, about how early it is in the summer to be this hot, how the dew point and the humidity were astoundingly high. had he been able to see us, he would have seen us shrug in overly-feigned flippancy before we said, “oh, really??? it’s muuuch cooler by the lake!”

duh, 20, it’s that lake effect you’re always going on about. 😉

ok, so, i give. it may not alwaysss be cooler here, but when it is, it’s magical.

*****

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thirteen seconds. [k.s. friday]

even the lake moaned in answer to the cold. waves pummel the ice from below, desperate for release, anxious to swirl and crash, and we can hear the sound of cracking, of squeaking, of water begging to be free. we stand and listen, transfixed by it all, this symphony in a frozen-solid world, a bit of music in the stillness of sub-zero.

for thirteen seconds we record the song of the lake, feeling a little like mother-nature-copyright-infringers. we marvel and watch, up over our knees in snow on the edge of the giant rocks that line the lake shoreline. ice, for as far as we can see, is shifting and the groans signal to us that, soon, water will win over ice, flow over stasis. soon, a lake that appears unmoving will reappear in all its moody glory and the suspended moment-in-time will pass. in the meanwhile, the lake will appear as a tundra, vast and flat, the horizon meeting the clouds, a straight white line of demarcation. the fury, the passion, the tides are hidden below the surface, furrowing their brows and incessantly working to break down the ice.

we stand there inside the song of the lake and take note of this measure of transformation.

we know in a day or two the ice will be broken up, the waves will return and the lake’s song will resume a cacophony of crashing, a minuet of quiet lapping, wild some days and gently calm others. just as we ourselves seem in suspended moments, we, too, trust the return of movement, of purpose, of the tides.

the sub-zero song of lake michigan.

*****

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hold on for dear life. [two artists tuesday]

ice

i’m sure the tree held on for dear life.  perched among the big boulders on the shore of lake michigan, these trees have held on through many a storm, waves crashing past them, wind howling.  only this time it was too much.  it didn’t have a chance.

we could hear the lake from our house.  the winter storm was raging and the intermittent crashes and booms were clearly devastation-in-the-making.  when we drove big red over to see, it was astounding.  the wind, the waves, ice had torn up and thrown entire chunks of sidewalk.  boulders were thrown twenty feet.  waves pelted the gazebo that sat back from the lake’s edge.  trees were uprooted, glazed in thick shrouds of ice.  the storm came and the storm left and the lakefront was forever changed.

in the littlehouse on island we watched the shoreline fade – many feet – over the course of a few months.  waves from the south pounded the shore, eating away at earth and trees, demolishing the new dock.  what it looked like when we first lived there is not what it looks like now, merely six months later.  it is forever changed.

we aren’t big sitcom-watchers.  but we are earth-show-watchers.  it’s astounding to see how our good earth is mutating – through no fault of its own.  profound.  fires destroying ecosystems, displacing and killing wildlife, changing the horizon forever.  glacial ice melting, challenging the arctic.  earthquakes and tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis.  toxic air forcing the use of face masks, and even of oxygen, the prevention of carbon dioxide in an environment less protected by photosynthesis and more consumed by greenhouse gas emission.

i have lived a couple blocks from the shore of lake michigan now for thirty years.  the storms in the last ten years have been fierce.  each one erodes the coastline a little more.  walking along the water’s edge the-day-after made it all feel apocalyptic, these changes.  ‘less is more’ the saying goes.  then it alludes that more is even more, perhaps too much.

the tree held on for dear life.  and lost.  are we holding on for dear life?  how are we long-term helping our good earth?  how are we long-term hindering it?  do we have a chance?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

 

aftermath

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