reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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.

*****

READ DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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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.

*****

download a little music from my little corner on iTUNES

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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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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ice ©️ 2020 kerri sherwood & david robinson


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24 hours. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

24 hours

every morning on island i grabbed the phone and, usually still with pjs on, walked outside, to water’s edge, to take a picture.  in this way i have an amazing collection of the moody displays of our little bay-of-lake-michigan during the months we were there.  living right on the water was a gift…it balanced out all the other-ness of our time there…a collection of life and work and its challenges and joys from back at home as well as on our new little island.

we continue to be grateful to deb, who is generously sharing the magic of this sweet littlehouse with us as we live there. many times this summer and early fall we would get a text message from her house around the cove, pointing out the moonrise or the glittering of sun on the lake…gentle reminders of what was really important.

as fall rolls into winter i will miss sharing that bay and hog island with d and with deb-just-around-the-bend.  i will miss the lake as it greets the day and lingers at day’s end.  i will miss the sound of gentle waves and deeply unsettled surf.

i know that each tide brought with it new hurdles, new hiccups, new pitfalls.  provocation is alive and well.  but each tide also brought with it new triumphs, new delights, new joys, new learnings.  inspiration is alive and well.

24 hours of breathing, living, seeing.  looking outward 180 degrees.  perfection.

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

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windsong of the flags. [two artists tuesday]

windblown flags

“So welcome the wind and the wisdom she offers
Follow her summons when she calls again
In your heart and your spirit let the breezes surround you
Lift up your voice then and sing with the wind” (john denver – windsong)

the ferry raised up on the crest of the wave, angry sea all around us, the wind howling.  then, just as smoothly as it rode the way up, it trounced down into the trough between the waves.  the water rose over the ferry, splashing all the cars and running down the deck toward the stern.  the wind kept howling.

it was a day like that.  flags at 90 degrees, parallel to the ground.  our prayer flags have seen many like that; the wind has tattered them.  prayers have been released into the universe with gentle breezes; prayers have been thrust into the universe with forceful winds.

i tend to prefer the days without tempestuous winds.  the lake has an uneven surf on those turbulent days, the rhythm as they hit shore not intuitive or familiar and one that i find unsettling.

yet i am reminded that this same wind i face down at the shoreline is also the wind at my back.  it is the wind of wisdom and movement.  the wind that carries me away, the wind that surrounds me with those who have gone before me, the wind of growth and courage.

and so, i welcome the wind.  i watch as so.many.prayers. are freed to fly.  i give thanks for the gusts, unfettered dreams and wishes, each step aided by the wind.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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best-laid plans. [two artists tuesday]

dock.jpg

what is it they say about the best-laid plans?

we loved the old dock on this property.  the old dock and the canoewith the exception of the spider webs that formed in-between the metal tying posts and the snakes that took to sunning on the warm old boards of the walkway,  it was charming.  the old bench at the end of the dock invited us to sit.  it stood stubbornly during rougher waters, its weathered patina and rusting pipes.

******

they decided it was time to refurbish the dock and two strappy island guys came in to do the job.  they took a few days over the period of a couple weeks to re-construct, to lay new boards over the old, to eliminate the spider-web-gatherers and to build a new bench. then they were done and the new dock was open for business.

less than a week, only one brief sit-on-the-bench moment and probably-before-the-bill-arrived later, the storm blew in.  the waves crashed on our shoreline, eroding away a good two to three feet, throwing debris onto the grass.

the dock tried.  it stood firm against the waves, larger than they said they had ever seen them in twenty years.  but it didn’t last.  the bench blew apart into the water, the new boarded walkway listed, listed.  and finally, gave way.  pieces of the new dock were angrily tossed to shore; even still, wood floats in the bay, riding the waves ever-closer to our little beach.

the best-laid plans, carefully schemed and financed.  much thought and choosing, each angle pondered.  solid weather-proofed wood purchased, big wood screws that could withstand stress chosen.  yet, the storms come.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the old dock and the canoe © 2019 kerri sherwood, david robinson


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it’s all how you look at it. [two artists tuesday]

THIS from the ferry copy

the ice-breaking bow of our ferry made its way across “death’s door”, the strait that connects lake michigan and green bay.  the windchill below zero, you could hear the hardy vessel crunching its way through the ice.  it was other-worldy.  no one else on the ferry appeared to be as enchanted with it as we were; clearly, they were big-I islanders, unmoved by this half-hour jaunt across frigid waters to washington island.  unfamiliar vs familiar equals enthralling vs mundane.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

when i moved to wisconsin 30 years ago (kicking and screaming at the time) i stood in the pasta aisle of the grocery store – a local piggly wiggly.  there was no mueller’s pasta.  none.  the brand i had grown up with on long island, the brand i found in florida publix grocery stores…it was not here in wisconsin.  i felt instantly lost, instantly homesick.  i sensed people moving around my frozen-in-the-spot-trying-not-to-cry body; they were choosing boxes of spaghetti and penne with no problem.  for me, it was a telling moment.  it was an indicator of change, despite its seeming insignificance.  standing in that aisle i can tell you it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.  (*for an update on this incident, please see below.)

the ferry docked on the tiny island, a mere 35 square miles.  we disembarked and met our friends.  they drove us around, on snow-covered roads, through canopies of trees, past glimpses of water between the pines, their limbs bowing to the snow.  at one point they said we could go to the house if we were bored.  “no,” we answered.  how could we be bored, we wondered.  the quiet, the stillness, the solitude was compelling.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

it was quieter on the ferry ride back with fewer people.  we were just as enthralled.  the ice pieces broken by the bow skittered along the ice plate on top of the water.  lines cracked through the sheet, paths drawn by nature’s etch-a-sketch.  some large slabs of ice raised skyward.  we looked at each other and quietly let out a breath.  we couldn’t imagine how this trip across open water could ever become run-of-the-mill.  but around us were people who acted like it was piggly wiggly brand pasta and they were in the aisle racing to get to the next aisle.  it’s all how you look at it.  and where you start from.

lake ice copy

*(the rest of the story) i called my sweet momma when i returned home from ‘the pig’ as they say.  she answered and i instantly recounted my no-mueller’s-pasta story, i’m quite sure teary in the telling, yearning for the home we had left.   four days later the UPS truck pulled up at the end of the driveway and the driver lugged a very large box to the front door.  in it i found every shape and size of pasta available…all made by mueller’s.  moms are wise beyond words sometimes.  by the time i finished using the boxes-in-the-box, the unfamiliar had begun to be familiar.  the crisis (yes, fundamentally not a physical crisis, but definitely an emotional one) was over.

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