reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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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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lost. and found? [k.s. friday]

lost (sketch)

it’s just a thought.  a sketch.  a few moments of piano.  lost.

i recorded eight voice-memo recordings in the studio this morning.  all based on the word “lost”.  they varied in length; the shortest was 9 seconds, the longest 7:22.  i discarded all of them and just kept the first :51 of one version.

lost.

we had just finished reading an op ed that was infinitely disturbing and equally heartwrenching.  an article about the united states, it painted a picture of a country lost in itself, untethered from its values, far from moored to its former strength and viability, unattached to its potential of community, of empathy, of oneness.

lost.

even just yesterday we listened to two accounts of persons who had been tested more than once for covid-19.  with differing results each time, it has us wondering how we might be able to halt the pandemic wave that continues to threaten when we cannot obtain test results that are accurate or consistent.  where are we really in this upsurgence?  this is no little skirmish.

lost.

everything is different right now.  we sat safely in our kitchen yesterday and talked about the 28 million people who would be losing their homes or the place they rent as home.  we talked about the crushing inability to really be with people we love.  we talked about the lack of jobs available.  we talked about unemployment numbers.  we talked about pressure.  we talked about economics and finances.  we talked about almost 160,000 people who had died from coronavirus.  we talked about life insurance.

lost.

sitting at the piano in my studio elicits mixed feelings for me.  i pine for the days that the music i wrote, the music i recorded, actually made me a living, at least the times it even leaned toward making me a living.  i wonder if that will ever be the case again, if it’s even possible in this online-download-time that has usurped the living of so many independent artists.  i experience a sense of betrayal sitting on the bench and work hard, somewhat unsuccessfully, to overcome it.

lost.

my left hand starts.  always a provider of depth and rhythm and always strong, my left hand knows how to dig in.  even now.  i think the word “lost”.  my right hand starts to follow.  and the limitation of a wrist that no longer bends beyond 20° makes me draw in my breath.

lost.

on the top of the file cabinet in the back hallway of TPAC there was a basket.  in that basket was an assortment of stuff:  coffee mugs, a jacket, sunglasses, readers, a set of keys.  it was the “lost and found” basket.

i suppose there is a simple wisdom in “lost and found” stashes.  found, as an antonym of lost, implies not forever lost.  it is hopeful.

maybe, though we cannot see it, we are living in the very middle of lost and found.

 

 

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©️ kerri sherwood


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these old boots. [two artists tuesday]

old boots

these old boots.  save for the laces, which were definitely in-beaky’s-book-worth-saving, these boots are now moving on.  looking at them, side by side on the deck, i could hear my big brother playing the guitar and singing, “these boots were made for walking, and that’s just what i’ll do…”

we’ve run out of everest movies to watch.  we have seen all the hollywood movies, all the national geographic movies, all the north face and eddie bauer movies and the rolex movies.  we have watched youtubes and imax-without-the-max-part.  we have sat through short home videos and a two hour and three minute go-pro video with no narration and hardly any talking.  we’ve watched k2 and annapurna and aconcagua and denali.  we have run out.

we have now moved on to the appalachian and pacific crest trails.  these boots – neither pair – were not made for that walking.  we can both vouch for it.

these boots were different.  they were more life-boots.  mine took me through well over a decade of travel, well over a decade of wholesale and retail shows, well over a decade of schlepping, lugging, driving very long distances, more schlepping and lugging.  well over a decade of practice on wooden stages while lighting and sound engineers ran cues.  well over a decade of flatbed trailers.  well over a decade of dreaming and sweating, well over a decade of highs and lows.

i’ve been attached to them.  the soles have separated from the leather uppers and wearing them would be like wearing closed flip flops, but heavy-heavy and flopping around, looking to catch on something and throw me headfirst into the ground.

i’ve been attached to them.  in some way they became part of my uniform, the same way that the black zip-up sweatshirt that no longer has cuffs or a working zipper was.  i’m attached to that too.  somehow, it felt like those kept me safe, kept me going, and brought me back home.  i suspect it wasn’t the boots or the sweatshirt hoodie.

so i’m saving the laces.  they can be used in a different pair of boots.

and i’m wondering:  maybe we should fill these old boots up with dirt and plant some basil.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the organ bench. [k.s. friday]

organ pipes

no one else.  there was literally no one else i knew who took organ lessons.  eight years old and i was the only one.  everyone else i knew took piano lessons.  they went to the new local music store –munro music on larkfield road in east northport – and had lessons in itty studios downstairs and came back upstairs to pick out sheet music from a big wall featuring the latest hits and books of collected artists, written out for various levels of piano-playing ability.  me?  i went to mr. i-never-knew-if-he-even-had-a-first-name sexton’s house (now, think about the torture my peers had with that name) and took organ lessons in the addition adjacent to the garage.  there was no wall of sheet music, were no cool guitars hanging up begging to be purchased, no amplifiers or drums.  just that one organ.  no windy or ode to billie joe or i’m a believer easy piano for me.  it was beautiful dreamer and long, long ago.  and hymns.  lots of hymns.  but i had been asking for lessons since i was five and the little chord organ that was my grandmother’s was moved aside and a ‘real’ organ with two manuals (keyboards) and real pedals and cha-cha button settings was added to the corner of the dining room that was next to the kitchen and the living room.

when i was ten i tearfully played the pipe organ for my brother’s wedding, the processional as my sweet sister-in-law walked down the aisle to my big brother.  yesterday i was talking to john whelan, a master celtic accordionist the exact same age as me, and we talked about the first real gig we did.  his was at 12 and he actually got paid.  mine was this wedding and, for obvious reasons, payment was out of the question.  i got to wear a really pretty peach-colored party dress and white shoulder stole and wept my way through the difficult piece.

after some time, i somehow convinced my parents that they needed both an organ and a piano and they signed me up for piano lessons.  joan ostrander, the very chic music teacher, was my first piano teacher and i adored her.  she pushed me and i adored that too.  i spent long hours practicing on the piano bench with my dog missi sleeping underneath, my dad whistling in the background.

in years to come i studied with the teacher-of-all-teachers alan walker and was convinced that the piano and i were kindred.  i taught more piano lessons on long island (and later florida and even wisconsin) than i can remember, back then driving from one house to another, delighting in each student’s joy playing the piano and progress no matter the pace, hoping to emulate the teaching style of this amazingly kind man.  after lessons we talked life and ham radio and ate open-faced crunchy peanut butter sandwiches.  music is not just about music, you know.

during my undergrad, i studied piano in college with one of the professors but kept bringing in pieces of original music and kept veering off course from assigned large scale pieces, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

as no real surprise, i majored in music composition, the first (?) step toward living as an artist, the first step in a road that leads to here and now.  so much in-between.  the gigging composer music timeline is filled with albums, concerts, performances, cd sales, radio and tv, qvc appearances, barnes & noble and borders, listening wall placement, phone calls, yamaha, traveling, shipping and more shipping, recording labels, carrying boxes, standing in the rain on flatbed trucks playing and singing, driving, driving, driving, press releases, graphic design, writing, recording, supportive family and friends and coworkers and a person named hope hughes.

but that organ.  it has kept on re-appearing.  somehow it is one of the threads that has woven its way through my life.  there aren’t that many of us out here:  people who play the organ, who can finesse a chosen timbre through the pipes and who can actually play lines of bass notes on the pedals.  those lessons from the very beginning somehow set the stage for me to work for three decades already as a minister of music.  conducting choirs and handbells and ukulele bands and worship bands, choosing music for services and performing groups, leading and shaping worship and, yep, playing the organ…it has been a constant.  there are days that i will pull out all the stops and play as loud as the organ pipes will allow.  its bellowing echoes through the sanctuary and i giggle as i think of my ten year old self, sitting on an organ bench in williston park on long island and crying.

what would i have thought if i had known that fifty years later i would still be sitting on an organ bench?

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we are. under construction. [d.r. thursday]

ddot studio

at this very moment, at this very time, with stacks and stacks of paintings and music, we both succumb to the realization that we are – indeed – under construction.  the rests between the notes are there for a reason.  space to breathe, to comprehend, to make the color and the music a part of your fiber.

the rests change you.  they change how you see, how you hear.  they give you pause.  to re-appreciate what you have done and to wonder what will come.  to be aware of the light.

it is the skill of an artist to learn how to sit in the rests without fidgeting.  to just sit.  it is an even higher level skill to create the rest.  and then sit in it.

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 4.09.09 PM

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the music waits. [k.s. friday]

wait a while songbox

there was not room on island for my piano, sheets of blank score paper, baskets of notebooks of lyrics, melody smidges, chord progression fragments.  they waited at home for my return.

consumed by many tasks and layers of work since we arrived back home, we are surrounded by boxes and bins still unpacked.  there is much to do.  we have many other things tugging at us and these packed boxes, although frustratingly in the way, have sunk to a lower rung on the list of things-to-do.

i have been in and out of my studio, grabbing music as i need it, playing through a piece here and there, reviewing music for work.  i have added a few notes to notebooks, to my calendar, a line of lyric here and there to remember on scraps i hope not to lose.

the other day i pulled out cds, finding a few with pieces that didn’t get tracked.  rough cuts of piano for under lyrics, rough cuts of piano instrumentals.  every artist has them…the cuts that didn’t get finished, the cuts that didn’t make it to the album.  scraps of paper, notebooks of ideas, rough cuts of beginnings.  they all eventually lead somewhere.  no idea, no melodic gesture, no lyric stands alone.

and so, my really beautiful big resounding piano waits for me as i am quiet.  pencils i’ve saved from The Boy’s and The Girl’s pencilboxes sit atop, next to blank score paper, notebooks and pa pads.  they all wait.  the muse waits.  the music waits.

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WAIT A WHILE ROUGH CUT et al ©️ 1995-2019 kerri sherwood


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the thunder of the silence. [merely-a-thought monday]

TPAC empty seats

“…a silence like thunder…”

“no distinction is made between the sacred and the everyday.”

“our attitude toward the world resonates in the objects around us.  they reveal our intention.”

(from plain and simple, sue bender)

the first day i walked into the tiny lobby at TPAC i wondered why the table holding brochures was light blue.  it matched nothing there and was a statement of a kind of thoughtless we-need-a-small-table-does-anyone-have-one thoughtfulness.  all season long i kept thinking that it should be painted black.  the very last day in the theatre, outside in the chill air, surrounded by golden and crimson leaves, i painted it.  it dried fast and we placed it back in the lobby.  still the same little table doing its job, but its new distinction mattered and it fit in the space.  it did my heart good.

with multiple bags of old mayonnaise and mustard, an old container of kale and a moldy loaf of some kind of unidentifiable home-baked bread, i finished cleaning out the fridge, an appliance i had never opened for an entire season.  clearly, others had, and the accumulation of old-ness was ripe.  i scrubbed it out and stood back to look at how neat and tidy it was.  the whole kitchen area looked neat and tidy, a new keurig replacing an old coffeemaker and broken carafe.  shelves cleaned, toothpicks that had poured out swept up, a welcoming backstage entrance for staff and artists.  moving that space up to sacred-everyday from messy-everyday did my heart good.

the last couple weeks have been nesting weeks at TPAC, moments when d and i have had the space to ourselves.   having now passed through the shoulder season, it’s empty and it’s quiet.  the 250 seats wait for the next event, the off-the-shoulders season, the next new high season.  i can feel its curiosity, its expectation.

we sat in various seats around the theatre, talking about the dreams we had when we first saw it.  getting mired in the muck of being the you-aren’t-from-here-newbies had slowed things down.  it had paused our ownership of the actual space.  eh, who am i kidding?  it brought most of that to a screeching halt.  drama, three board presidents and a reticence to consider change from people hired as change agents (us) brought the gate down before we could even start.

we discovered the word ‘glacial’ and applied it generously to the direction we were going.  we didn’t try to change a space that didn’t feel like ours yet.  we didn’t try to change too many processes.  we stopped trying to change mindsets.

instead, we embraced people.  we listened; we learned.  we set out to weave relationships where they had eroded, where tattered feelings were wrung out, where we were told no relationship could work.  we befriended those we were told would never like us.  we struggled to understand allies who weren’t so much allies.  with deep roots of experience, we led with intention, with the questions of what would be best for this space, what would be best for the artistry on this little island, what would be long-lasting and truly make the making of art – whatever the genre – foremost?

and so, it was in the last days, when it was quiet and empty that we were able to take the time to really listen to the thunder of the silence of that really beautiful space.  we strove to honor the sanctity of this art-making place.  and we intended, with every move of cleaning and straightening and re-arranging and planning and yes, dreaming, all the best things we could.  it did my heart good.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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the box. [k.s. friday]

the box songbox

“the box: a place to put all the stuff of our lives.”  (from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL liner notes 1996)

the old black suitcases store stuff.  treasured moments, all in a jumble, some decipherable, others bits and snatches of times we want to remember, so we keep these feathers and ticket stubs, notes and river stones, scraps of wrap, cards, red rock.  they proudly sit in the dining room, in a stack, their vintage scrapes and broken handles call to me each time i pass them by.  they shower me with memories and times i have passed through, moments i have lived.  i can feel what is in them.

in another box, in another place, are old dreams.  torn vestiges of paper with lyrics, a few notes scribbled in the margins of old spirals.  there are visions and imaginings, goals and undetermined outcomes.  like you, these are the things undone.  there are no ticket stubs or photos in this box; these are the things that have not come to fruition.  these are the things that beckon over and over.  these are the things that demand i consider and reconsider what i am doing today, tomorrow.  these are the things that make me question.  each time i pass them by.  i can feel what is in them.

i am reminded:

“a ship in harbor is safe.  but that is not what ships are built for.”  (john a. shedd)

these are the full liner notes:

“the box:  a place to put all the stuff of our lives.  sometimes this place really hurts.” (BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL 1996)

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THE BOX from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood