reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the stars are watching. [k.s. friday]

littlebabyscion is ready. i washed it and vacuumed it and wiped out the inside, reorganizing its small storage spaces, checking to make sure the necessities were there. we travel always with a small tool kit, duct tape (this is from experience), twist ties, rubber bands of all sizes and a big maglite flashlight. light is always good on a dark highway, but the light was barely discernible when i checked it, so i changed the batteries and put extras in a small bag that also has jumper cables and a quart of oil, things we have determined to be practical. in the winter there are a few additions, a few things that my sweet poppo always made sure i carried along. but it’s still late summer, so the extender snow brush/scraper can hang in the garage just a bit longer and the kitty litter doesn’t need to come along. littlebabyscion is ready to go to the shop today and come home later with a muffler that doesn’t make noise. (to muffle: to make quieter and more difficult to hear; muffler: a device fixed to the exhaust of a motor vehicle to reduce engine noise.) it waits patiently in the driveway until The Time.

the people who know – like our mechanic, the exhaust system shop, our plumber, our electrician, the drain experts, tree services, gardening wizards, the company we will choose to be our mason – they are like lights in the darkness. along with their expertise and the wisdom of friends who have beentheredonethat we survive the normal – and not-so-normal – challenges of home and car ownership. it would seem rare – a person without some sort of concentric circle of informants surrounding them in problem-solving and decision-making. asking questions, asking for advice, seeking information are the basis for learning and, it seems, every day is an opportunity for that. (and we haven’t even mentioned the whole changing-bodies piece of this life-thing.)

we stood outside on the deck, the only light from a few torches and the bonfire across the yard; we gazed at the sky. it seemed thousands of stars gazed back at us. the james webb telescope has delivered photographs of space back to us here on this planet, a place that feels big but is merely tiny in the vast. seeing billions and billions of light years away, i read that the webb captures not just the birth of stars but, also, their last dances. it is hard to wrap your head around looking back in time in such a profound way. the light goes on and on. and on.

we each build a framework around ourselves. none of us exists without the other, really. at a time when our purple-mountain-majesty-land continues to be divided and people fight for control and power and are practicing efforts serving to undermine, marginalize, divide further, it would seem prudent to remember the tiny-in-vast. transience.

we can be the light for each other…in so many ways. or we can snuff it out and try to go on without. the stars are watching.

always prepared, always planning ahead for possible big bangs, my poppo would vote for light.

*****

TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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fog. [k.s. friday]

and, if i am honest, i would tell you that i can feel the fog lifting. finally. i don’t think i knew the extent of the fog because fog is kind of like that. dense and clammy, less penetrable by light. once you are in it, you feel somewhat disoriented and everything looks different. you can’t really tell how foggy it is because suddenly you have nothing with which to compare it.

we underestimate the importance of attending to our emotional health. yes, there are all kinds of positive memes out there. yes, there are self-help books galore. yes, there are commercials on tv recommending therapy. yes, yes, yes. but we are stoic, we humans, and we are also stubborn and self-conscious. and many of us underplay how we are feeling, so as not to make others uncomfortable with our grappling. people ask how we are and our answer is “fine”. it’s just too too much to give a real answer. most people prefer answers with a little vague blurriness.

i ran into someone a bit ago at the fedex store. she asked me how i was. i told her. i don’t mean i told her “fine”. i actually told her. i can’t say it was a mistake, but she was writhing and trying to get away, though i was simply telling her how i was. i wasn’t verbose; it didn’t take much to say i had been struggling. but it was a truth and maybe she would have rather heard that everything that had happened in the last couple years took no toll. she wanted everything to be “fine”.

i recently saw a meme on someone’s facebook page. it read: “people don’t want to be talked out of their feelings. people want to be heard, seen, felt and understood.” (rachel samson) i always wonder if the people who post such things really mean them. surely they have also experienced times of soupy, where there was a ceiling of zero and they were feeling all of what life had tossed them.

it is in looking back at the dissipating cloud of fog that you know a little more the extent of your murky. it is in noticing light peeking in that you know a little more the extent of the loss of light. it is in seeing more clearly that you know a little more how much clarity was missing. it is in feeling my shoulders rise that i know that i have been bent under the weight of some sadness, some disappointment, some confusion.

though we all function in the middle of our haze, out of necessity, out of self-preservation, out of obligation, there is a moment when a pinprick of brightness burns through. we realize that the horizon is still there and that now, with the lure of distinct light and the buoys of clarity, we are headed in that direction. we’ve been brave and we’ve pulled energy from every cell to get to to that point and we keep taking steps, taking steps.

it isn’t easy. despite advertising dollars spent, this society is not really about self-help. it does not encourage time to be within oneself, time to rejuvenate, time to be healthy. our ideals push success and prosperity, seemingly at the price of balance. there is a cost for sharing what is real, for standing in fog, a worry of judgement and marks of weakness in our permanent record.

it’s up to each of us to step aside the everchugging uphill-downhill train and catch our breath. it’s up to each of us to breathe slowly and sort to that which makes us sit on the fulcrum of the nonstop seesaw. it’s up to each of us to be gentle on ourselves, to lighten up, to seek soft days that feed us and give us strength for the other days. it’s up to each of us to stand in self-care, to not worry ourselves with wondering about the judgement of others. it’s up to each of us to eliminate the stigma of admitting struggle. it’s up to each of us to support one another in the times of fog, to mean it if we ask “how are you?”. it’s up to each of us to reach and touch the curtain of fog as it lifts, grateful not only for its leaving, but for what we learned about its presence.

“the fog has lifted
the weight is gone
lightness has returned
singing is in me
humor also
light again
and i do not know why- “

(shalom freedman)

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WHEN THE FOG LIFTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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shamash, all. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we lit the first candle with the shamash on sunday about a half hour after sundown. and then we lit the first candle on the left. our tiny menorah has a place of distinction on the table in our sunroom. the festival of lights began surrounded by tealights and happy lights and two people wanting to bring more light into the world’s hearts as well as our own. we honored my uncle tony’s family as we lit the candles, read blessings in mispronounced hebrew and sat and gazed silently at our simple newly-purchased menorah. beautiful. a celebration of the right to exist, i read. a time to remember courage, to bring divine light into inky, murky corners. we seek connection to the spiritual universe all around us in manners familiar and unfamiliar to us. on purpose, respectfully, with intention.

joshua davidson, a rabbi in new york city, spoke about his views of “the deep meaning of this year’s hanukkah”. with so much darkness and brokenness in this country he has chosen to ascribe meaning to each of the eight candles he will illumine – “the smallest bit of light to push back the darkness”. he includes: advocates of justice and fairness, black americans, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants around the world, the aged, planet earth and our children.

the rabbi continued, “each of us will identify our own lights — on our menorahs, in our windows, or on our trees. however we celebrate, the act of kindling light can be, if we wish it, an act of illuminating the sparks burning in every human being and all created things. when we learn to look at the world and at others — no matter their color, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, their ability, their faith, their education, their wealth, or their politics — and recognize those sparks; and when we accept our responsibility to make them glow again; then we will have taken a first step toward kindling the light and restoring the hope that will heal our dark and fractured world.”

joshua wrote, “the shamash, the helper candle, will represent me — my power to become better in the new year; and through my own moral growth, my ability to spread light in the moral darkness that surrounds us.”

no matter our choice of religious or non-religious belief system, the black and white of it is that we all have the potential of the shamash. we are all light in the middle of twilight, luminous branches in the middle of darkness, in the middle of early-morning dawn, miraculous sparks of change and growth. it is a season of light.

*****

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learning. again. [merely-a-thought monday]

we were the only ones in the balcony. it had been a long time since we had sat in a church balcony together – almost a year – but this was an inviting and warm place, filled with good energy. filmy fabric draped over the light fixture in the center, rainbow pieces of gauzy weave, floating high above the pews below us which were full; so many people there to celebrate nancy’s life.

i’ve played for a lot of funerals and been to my own share of sitting-in-the-front-row services. it is sometimes hard to find family or friends to participate in the celebration of life that a service affords. people will attend, but they’d rather sit and watch than speak. this service was different. it appeared that there was not any difficulty wrangling volunteers to read or speak or sing or play. each participant seemed eager to share, grateful to be a part of the celebration.

up there in the balcony we sat, holding hands, tears coming to our eyes time and again. the service was gorgeous, the words eloquent, the music heartfelt, the praises for this amazing woman lofty. stories of her gardens, her flowers, her travels, her cooking, her zeal. and, over and over, the words “joy”, “light” and “love” were used. over and over.

to be at that service was to walk away with learnings and how appropriate that is for nancy, heidi and gretchen’s beautiful momma. we talked about it in littlebabyscion on the way home, driving about an hour and a half, reliving and relishing the time we had just spent. for over and over we learned that in the complexity of life – the very goods and the very bads, the blissful and the devastating, the extraordinary and the ordinary – this woman held space in her heart for both. she wrapped both in her arms, balancing and gracefully retaining her footing in the world, and carried on, always choosing to do more, experience more, feel more, love more. the stories of her vast heart were inspiring. the slide show following the benediction was a gift to watch. two-thirds of the way through i was moved to see a front-of-the-chancel-screen-sized photo of myself, laughing and embracing nancy. a part of the story. yes, no matter the size of star, no matter how satellite, we are all a part of the narrative, a part of love.

after hugs to those dear to us, we walked outside, the word “wow” on our lips. we got in and sat quietly for a few minutes. i looked over at d and said, “makes you wanna go do more stuff, doesn’t it?” he looked back, “yeah, it does.”

mostly, though, it makes me realize that – once again – that it is possible to sit in it all and to steadfastly stay centered, for all things to coexist in our hearts…the things that sadden us or make us giddy, the things we regret and the things we are proud of, the things we hold close and the things we have given wings, the hardest things and the easiest things. for dark and light to coexist. as heidi said, in a powerful tribute to her mom, “both belong.”

and the wisest angels, holding hands with her mom, nodded.

*****

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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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in KC’s family. [two artists tuesday]

just past the eyelash phase, in a tightly woven and protected calyx of green sepals (leaves), the gardenia bonsai flower waits. a little research reveals that it will take about two months of growing to reach the point of a cracked bud, hopefully flowering after. KC is reportedly “one of the most loved and challenging plants in the bonsai world” and i hope that i am up to the task. these beautiful and somewhat-difficult-to-grow plants offer “a unique opportunity for anyone who wishes to take the time to attend to their needs.” they are particular about sunlight, particular about direction of window exposure, particular about temperature, particular about humidity, particular about watering, particular about feeding with fertilizer, particular about shape and pruning, particular about training, particular about insects and mold, particular about repotting, particular about touch. they do well without any negative stressful environmental factors. it occurs to me that perhaps i am in the bonsai gardenia family.

KC sits together with some other lower-maintenance plants (read: succulents you can’t really mess up) and is clearly different than them. its leaves are rich in color, two whorls protecting promising buds, and its presence demands to be noticed. i talk to it every day, encouraging it, paying attention, hoping i am tending to it properly. i truly cherish this little bonsai; my beloved daughter and her boyfriend sent it to me for my birthday and it was a joyous and glittering moment to receive such a beautiful gift. i want to do my best helping this little gardenia along. and, in light of the last year, the last couple years, i can understand and relate to its eccentricities. mmm, can’t we all?

in the evening KC is bathed in the sparkle of the sunroom’s happy lights. proudly in the spot it has claimed on the table, it sits, basking. it is one of the sparkles of the year. there have been many, despite the difficulties, within the difficulties, despite the challenges, within the challenges, despite these times, within these times. if it were possible, i would set each around us in the sunroom, also bathed in happy lights, like laundry clothespinned to a clothesline, reminding us of the best times, the memorable times, the happiest snapshots, the most poignant moments, the yin-yang of relationships, reassuring love in trying-to-stay-centered, the times we balanced stress and the times we succumbed to it, successful and unsuccessful zen, and exhausted times of rest.

i would place the clothesline in the middle of the room so that you could not help but see each item, each old wooden clothespin, memory-laundry crowded onto a timeline, reminding us that the minute does not stay. that whether the minute is feverish or beauty-laden, it moves on.

we are all particular; we are all particularly needy. our lists and our baggage surpass that of the little bonsai gardenia. we are all up to the task. we do our best in each moment, whether it is dark or sparkling. and we remember we can try again. we can help each other; we are “most loved and challenging”. KC already knows that.

i am excited to see KC bloom. i wait patiently for this amazing flower to arrive. in the meantime, i light the white gardenia candle, talk to my plant and drink in the glow of the happy lights, trying. each day. living just past the eyelash phase.

*****

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something’s different. the morning after. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog is right. the sun IS out. and you can feel the difference in the air. it is palpable. it is the morning after.

the morning after – when we woke up, it was the 21st day of the 21st year in the 21st century.

the morning after – when we woke up, we were in a better place. a place of hope, a place where unity is that which we are striving for, a place where the poetry of a young black woman is the ultimate prayer of gratitude, of healing, of work to be done, of aspiration.

the morning after – when we woke up, we did not sink in despair into the news of the day, we did not grimace in disgust nor did we feel sickeningly without prospect.

the morning after – when we woke up, we spoke of yesterday, a day of moments, each one lifting us just a wee bit more, higher, higher. a day of firsts, a day of confidence, a day of celebration, a day of music and prose and prayers and pledges and promises, fireworks that lit the sky and drew tears on our faces, a day without parallel.

the morning after – when we woke up, we spoke of the daydream of more new mornings, more new days – just like today.

the morning after – when we woke up, we had a new president and a new vice-president. we have bright light and responsibility, authority and accountability, brilliant minds and the power of working together, truth and science, deep empathy and a commitment to the most basic of all – decency.

the morning after – when we woke up, we stepped forward. we carry all we have learned – the good and the ugly – and we intentionally forge ahead.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ david robinson, kerri sherwood


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alleluia. [k.s. friday]

the crystallized ice on their windows now is enchanting. snowflakes blown sideways onto a cold kitchen window, sticking there, magic.

we have waited through a cold and dismal late fall, through days of unending grey, outside and in. we have studied the accuweather app, searching for a sign of snowfall. and yet, nary a storm, nary a blizzard, save for a few tiny flakes here or there. but those skeletal flakes on those windows…alleluia.

yesterday, on the way home from joyous and cherished time in chicago with my boy, in the twilight of the day, on backroads taking us past ravines and woods and houses decked out for the holiday, twinkling lights strewn in grandiose fashion, it snowed. real flakes softly blowing over the road. alleluia.

we were mostly alone driving on these roads, for we were not in a hurry. we moseyed back home, slowly relishing the time we had spent, not eager to let go of it. we moseyed back home, slowly appreciating the spirit of small towns along our way. we moseyed back home, elated at the snow falling, our headlights lighting the way through tiny squalls. alleluia.

we arrived home and the snow had stopped. there were no snow-covered trees, no white front lawns, no strewn lights twinkling out from under a blanket of snow. but it had happened, even though we could no longer see evidence of it. the snow had fallen and it was magical.

this year – full of broken lives and shattered hearts, all of us smack-dab in a world of hypocrisy…and we wait. we look for light, for hope, for truth. it matters not our story, our particular religious narrative, the specific names we attach to our holidays or our deity. it matters that there is a return of light, that the universe will ultimately, even if it’s eventual, offer healing. the divine. we can choose to believe in its goodness. even if we can’t see it.

i wrote these lyrics, this song, last year while in the position i used to hold. “we’ve waited for you, waited for you a lifetime. and you were out there waiting, a bright light. …and now, you’re here in a world of hypocrisy and your love can heal us all. our broken lives, our shattered hearts, we’ll give them all to you, beloved one. alleluia. alleluia. alleluia…” in the cantata i directed last december, this song preceded another song i wrote two decades earlier. “holy, holy…,” i had penned.

with carols playing softly in little-baby-scion, snow gently falling from the sky, the warmth of a hug still lingering, twinkling lights cutting the darkening night, on our drive back home, i could feel a little healing. it felt holy. alleluia.

*****

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instead. [k.s. friday]

for more than half my life (read: over three decades) i shaped the experience of the christmas holiday season for others.  each year i tried to find a way to touch the deepest part of people’s hearts in celebration, to help a story-of-the-ages resonate in their up-to-the-minute lives, to help them, their souls, sink into the light.

this is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i am not creating the musical shape of anyone else’s holiday. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that my dining room table and the top of my piano are not laden with music all strewn about. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i will not spend it racing between planning, arranging, practicing, rehearsing, readjusting, rehearsing, rearranging, readjusting, rehearsing and encouraging big community laughter. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades and decades) that i will not go to church.

i did not create. instead, i tried to file it all away in my head, ignore the intuitive music prompts that my heart issues in the weeks prior to and during this season, silence the ideas and gestures that help to make faith – that which you cannot see – touchable. i did not layer my table or piano with music. instead, i put it all away, in boxes and file cabinets and thick binders. i did not race or plan or arrange or practice or rehearse or readjust or rearrange or even encourage laughter. instead, i sit on the steps in the hall, the stuff of decades decimated, and i wonder. i do not plan to go to church nor do i plan to watch church online; i have had enough.

instead, i will quietly walk outside under a starlit sky. i will light candles. i will extinguish the lamps in the living room and i will watch the lights.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY