reverse threading

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what we seek. [d.r. thursday]

our favorite thing in the woods, when i was about eight or ten or so, were the salamanders. red-backed salamanders had a red stripe down their spine and, back then, were all over the woods outside our rustic cabins in the upstate new york state parks.

we stayed at many of them: selkirk shores, chenango valley, watkins glen, green lakes, letchworth. my sweet momma and poppo were not tent-campers, but they fully embraced the very-bare-minimum cabins in the woods and my mom would pack for a week ahead; we had to bring everything with us, including pots and pans. the bunkbed frames and mattresses were about all you got, with basic kitchen and bathroom necessities. we’d go for a week and for that glorious week, i would roam the forest and swim the lakes and ride bikes all over the park with my best friend. we didn’t do fancy vacations, but, for me, these trips were heaven. i think about my momma now – for her it was a lot of work, but she seemed happy to be “roughing-it” as she said. and she would run around each night, can of raid in her hand, singsong voice, announcing “raid! raid!” while we buried into our sleeping bags on our bunks and tried not to breathe.

before we discovered the lifeguards, we would hike through the forest, looking for anything interesting we could find, devising paths and mysteries to solve. mostly, we looked for the salamanders. one year, we found one that was particularly sociable with us and we were convinced it would stay around and be our friend. for obvious reasons, we named him sal. once you’ve named something, it is much harder to say goodbye.

now, the thing that’s hard to say goodbye to – out in the woods, high in the mountains – is the whole visceral experience. the cool fresh air, the trail under our feet, the sun filtering through the trees, quaking aspen leaves, the absolute drop-dead-amazing smell of a pine forest, the quiet.

we haven’t found salamanders in colorado woods, though we haven’t been seeking them as i did when i was in elementary school. instead, we have sought the feeling you get after you have hiked miles and some decent elevation. that exhausted adrenaline bursted rush of ahhh. the slightly burning lungs-are-in-your-chest feeling. the your-legs-want-to-sit-down-on-a-stump-for-a-moment tiredness. a little bit of wind-sun-scorched face. and the overwhelming desire to keep going.

*****

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never-leaving. [two artists tuesday]

it was mesmerizing. we sat on rocks on the edge of the high mountain stream, sinking into the sound of babbling water, sun filtering through the trees and cool air wafting around us. i didn’t want to leave.

i remember a day, long ago, when i stood alone in the middle of a river. pants rolled up high, toes curled into the pebbles under my feet, sunlight on my face. whispering a prayer to the universe, gratitude, honoring time spent, i waded back to the shore, sitting on river’s edge to dry off, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, a few years ago, when we stood on the edge of a lake. we whispered love to my sweet momma and tossed kindness into the air. it floated for moments on the breeze and settled into the tiny lake she loved with her big heart. and we stood quietly, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, a couple years ago, when we stood at the edge of this same stream. i stretched out my arms, embracing it. i laughed, sheer joy in jeans and boots, staunchly refusing to move, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, merely a couple weeks ago now, when we stood at the edge of a mountain lake, watching a candle glow in celebration of a life well-lived. the sun began to wane and the aspen glowed as it began its dip. and we sat on the beach, not wanting to leave.

and a couple days ago, we stood on the dock, the sun beginning its dance with the trees across the lake and we lingered, procrastinating, postponing, not wanting to leave.

and back to this stream. in the moments on the rocks, perfect paintings right in front of us, time lifted from sadness and worry, i wanted to build tiny boats from leaves and send all that angst downstream. i wanted to sit in the peace and the canvas nature created with light, shadow, water, reflection. i wanted to bring that purity with us, carry it out and back to the truck, across the pass, through the tunnel, down the mountain, across the great plains and home.

the tiny rock looks like a coin. a granite reminder, a token, of something always there.

to touch it is to touch never-leaving.

*****

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and then, another star. [two artists tuesday]

and just like that, in a sliver of a moment, columbus became a star in a constellation of galactic proportion. he joins with all who have gone before, souls of people-loving-people and surrounds us in the wind as we move about our days.

i won’t forget the day my dad died. though i saw him hours before, i didn’t know it would be that very night. the axis tilted and the news came.

same with david. i know he won’t forget. his last visit with his dad was months earlier and, in his latest days, columbus had taken a path where memories escape into the atmosphere and he was simply in the moment or in a moment of his imagination. we held vigil, as we all do in those last somewhat-expected days. and then, we woke on friday and just knew. the axis titled and the news came.

there have been three fathers in my life – generationally-speaking. my sweet dad, erling, ever-present-poppo-chain on our wrists, was a quiet steady force in my life, always encouraging, undaunted by the hardships of his life and a loving champion for his family. and marvin. the father of our children’s father, marvin was delightfully positive and simple, hardworking and a mush for those he loved. and columbus, whose perspective is easily that which louis armstrong sang about in “what a wonderful world”. each, men who would tear up when beloveds were leaving. strength in honest hearts.

all – stars in the constellation. all – love in the wind.

and now, now that the earth has regained just a little center, though never to be absolutely balanced again, i imagine columbus sitting with my sweet poppo and marvin too. talking shop, telling stories, assigning the breeze on which those they love will find them, shining in a night sky.

*****

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pointed at wonder. [merely-a-thought monday]

my yashica fx-2 35mm camera went everywhere with me. a prized possession i had gotten for my high school graduation, it opened my vision of the world, the things i looked at. in the days of film and negatives and developing, i was an enthusiastic participant, eating boxes of cornflakes so that i could develop the next roll and the next.

i passed through the minolta auto-exposure-auto-focus phase when my children were young. it was easier to grab the camera and snap a picture of them doing something amazing or indescribably adorable with the auto-camera.

then came the sony tiny-cameras you could slide into your pocket, also easy and accessible. that camera and the minolta and my treasured yashica are still around here somewhere, lenses for the 35mm in a hard-shell briefcase my dad designed with foam fitting around the wide-angle and telephoto choices.

in these days i carry my phone. it is the height of easy and always right there, ready to record a moment. in recent years, i have rediscovered the utter joy of taking photographs, of recording the sun glimmering on dogdog’s fur, of capturing the blossom as it wanes and the curl of the wave and the way the mountains look in a dark sky. a camera pointed at wonder.

“come forth into the light of things. let nature be your teacher.” (william wordsworth – from today’s daily wonder app)

i haven’t opened the “daily wonder” app in a while. i discovered it when we chose and featured the movie “wonder” on island. a single snippet of thought for your day, it is a tiny gift i had forgotten about, often reminding you of the wonder of simply being here.

we carry the not-so-wondrous around in heavy baggage, somewhat unwilling to part with it, feeling as if it somehow defines us. how buoyant we might be without it, how resilient. letting go might yield a smidge of wonder.

one evening, watching “life below zero” one of the intrepid alaskans said, “bring the wonder back in life” and i grabbed my phone to jot it down. as we travel to his memorial service to honor columbus’ life and his earnest grasp on happy-living, intentionally marveling, i know he would immediately agree with the person who said that.

undoubtedly, he would laugh a little and add that the wonder was always there.

*****

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snakeinthegrass. [two artists tuesday]

sansevieria (snake plants) make me think of my sweet momma. after buying one for our son, i announced that we needed to get one as well. this past spring we added snakeinthegrass to our growing army of plants and it has not let us down, growing no matter what, the best part of sansevieria – its fortitude.

“snakeinthegrass” does not seem to be a loving name, for we all have encountered people we would describe as such. you know, the ones talking out of both sides of their mouths. the mean ones with agenda. the ones who, despite any variety-pack of livelihoods or assumed compassionate demeanor, go for the jugular or throw you under the bus. mm-hmm. not necessarily a nice name. perhaps we named snakeinthegrass “snakeinthegrass” to ward off the snakesinthegrass we had encountered. we hisssss when we call it by name. “sssssssnakeinthegrass,” we say. it makes us laugh. and our snake plant giggles with us and filters the air and grows taller day by day.

maybe that is how we should deal with all negativity. get a plant, name it something that is irking you, laugh every time you call it by name, let it cleanse the air and shed the bad juju. “li’l bitch” is the name of another succulent we have in the sunroom. it stabs you, without warning, if you get too close to its long branches, hidden spiny needles at the end. quite beautiful in shape and rich green, it also reminded us of people we have encountered, hidden motives just waiting to stab you. yuck! and phew! now we laugh as we talk to our plant.

kc and boston remind us of our beloved children, spikey gets his name for obvious reasons, leticia and stumpy as well. we’re not sure about ralph and, perhaps not coincidentally, ralph-without-a-real-reason-for-his-name is not doing well. perhaps he needed a different name, a name with the job of sage. several options come to mind.

time marches on and hearts heal. eventually tales of goodness mesh together with stories filled with pain. and the air gets clearer and cleaner. and the plants grow.

*****

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mini-marshmallows and gogo boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

if you are wondering where mini marshmallows come from, wonder no more. clearly they grow on white baneberry bushes in dr. seuss-land. passing it on the trail i could not get over how oh-the-places-you’ll-go this bush was. a standout in a green forest floor, confidently colorful and nicknamed “doll’s eyes” for obvious vintage-china-doll reasons, it got my attention and it piqued my curiosity.

we watched a silly movie a couple nights ago. my sweet momma loved sandra bullock so every time i watch a sandra bullock movie i feel like my mom is right there with us, giggling or cheering her on. the movie was “all above steve” co-starring bradley cooper. its silliness is comedic fun, particularly on an evening we were not looking to be intellectually challenged. but there was an unexpectedly sweet message in this movie. mary (sandra bullock), a brilliant young woman who is a crossword puzzle constructor and has a brain full of random knowledge and would kick anyone’s patootie playing trivial pursuit, is trying to be “normal” to fit into the world. in the end she discovers the power of standing in her own shoes, which were, in her case, red gogo boots.

artists are often looked at as misfits, a little outside the box, not quite fitting in. perhaps more colorful, perhaps louder, perhaps more questioning, the job of an artist is to elicit movement in thought, in action, in emotion, in sensitivity. we are hot-pink-stemmed mini-marshmallow plants in a world of green underbrush, ever being told that exposure will grant us the ability to live in this world, to pay our bills, to get ahead. artists everywhere under the sun shudder upon hearing those words, “think about the exposure.” we don our courageous metaphoric gogo boots, go to town trying to be ‘normal’ and realize that we were really ok all along, in our own skin.

often i have heard others comment on the re-purposed stuff in our house. empty window frames, screen doors, travel-worn suitcases, branches wrapped in lights, old coffeepots doubling as canisters. we’ve been asked, “how did you think of that?” i don’t know how to answer that other than “how couldn’t i?”

i’m guess i’m not ‘normal’. in the world of christian louboutin and jimmy choo footwear desires, i’m wearing old navy flipflops and hundreds-of-miles hiking boots. in a world of oscar de la renta and ralph lauren aficionados, i’m wearing my dad’s old flannel shirt and jeans. in a world of cle de peau beaute and guerlain and creme de la mer, my face is lucky to see an oil of olay original and coppertone 30spf combo.

and i, just like artists everywhere, love to be reminded, time to time, that we were all born to stand out. each and every one of us. artist or not. no matter the road we walk. no matter the red gogo boots or hot-pink stems. stand out. in our own skin.

mini-marshmallow, anyone?

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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i carry your heart. [k.s. friday]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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vulnerable. [d.r. thursday]

helen’s words have stayed with me for a few years now. we had told her of various frog encounters we were having including the time the frog jumped out of my sweet momma’s toilet (!) when we opened the lid and the first surprise frog at our little pond. “frog,” she quietly pointed out in a slight southern drawl, “is simply an acronym for fully-rely-on-god.” there was something stabilizing in her tone, something full of wisdom and experience and the flow of life. in her words there was reassurance. in her words there was encouragement.

magic appeared earlier this summer. we check for him pretty much every day. at some point one of us meanders out there and walks slowly around the pond, studying the places where a sweet frog can linger, sun, or hide. some days he isn’t there and we worry about him. when you name a frog in your pond, he becomes part of your family and pando and epic and tiny were no exceptions. we celebrated the day magic suddenly poofed into our pond. i’m certain we both heard helen’s words whispered in our ears.

i know that magic is vulnerable and yet, he sits in it. this pond is tiny and he would be hard-pressed to evade the neighborhood hawk should it decide froglegs were on the menu. the sun warms the pond each day and the rocks around it are hot to the touch, but magic has apparently figured all that out, afternooning in the shaded garden bushes, i suppose. he doesn’t seem to be scared of a big black furry dogdog running around the pond incessantly; i imagine he rolls his eyes, giggles at the visual absurdity and somehow knows dogga would never hurt him. he seems pretty secure. maybe he knows the f-r-o-g thing. no matter, taking chances, he sits in his vulnerability.

these two days – thursdays and fridays – are dedicated to our artistries. dr thursday and ks friday offer specific chances for us to dive into our craft, to talk about it, to divulge.

i have found, in these last years now of writing, that we are much like magic. the more we write, the more we divulge of where we are. our vulnerability is not just limited to artistry days. instead, we take chances each day of the week, writing where we are, where we have come from, where we may be going. we click ‘publish’ and sit in it.

at points in time, the neighborhood hawk somehow removed us from facebook for unknown reasons – a hankering for froglegs, i suppose – and trashed our youtube – burning hot reasons we will never know. it is hard to evade the acts of close-mindedness, of conspiracy theory, of damaging rhetoric, of exclusion. but we just keep writing anyway.

it was late evening when i went to look for magic. the air had deliciously cooled and we were outside – just with the pondlight and bulbs strung over the yard. there he was. in the spotlight of the pond, confidently on the edge of the rocks, breathing deeply – or however it is frogs breathe best. he didn’t move as i approached and he stayed right there, inches away, for the photoshoot. unafraid and in his own skin, he didn’t flinch. he just stayed right there. in the middle of his vulnerability.

it made me wonder if he has a blog.

*****

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