reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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green eyes and creativity. [merely-a-thought monday]

“workers might want to consider these top 10 skills, which employers say are rising in importance over the next five years: 1. creative thinking.” (jane thier – fortune magazine)

mm-hmm. yup. #2 is analytical thinking. i’m pretty certain that without creative thinking, analytical thinking would hit dead-ends every time. and self-destruct.

the other night, in the middle of the night, the wee hours of the night when one is supposed to be sleeping, i was – shockingly – wide awake. we had a long conversation, chatting about places we had lived way-earlier-on, jobs we had way-earlier-on. i talked about eating lots of kellogg’s cornflakes and he talked about mountains of pbj sandwiches. we have both had histories of piecemeal, making-it-work, scrappy artists weaving a tapestry of living with rough-hewn shreds of granola-cotton, jute, hemp, fabrics not fine or finished but with torn edges and maybe a little holey.

larkfield road in east northport made it possible. many of my jobs – early-on – were on this road. i worked at the music store, the camera store, the dive shop, one of the churches – all on this road – before i left long island. i bought my cornflakes at the king kullen and my gas at the corner citgo, splurgy pizzas down the road and sub sandwiches next to the post office. i drove all over teaching piano lessons and saved whatever i could at the bank that gave away plates for deposits on the corner of larkfield and clay pitts. none of it was fancypants. but it gave me a different expectation bar and it was all setting the stage for a creative life.

it’s funny to me that it takes a fortune magazine article to espouse the merits of creative thinking. the number 1 top skill rising in importance – as if it’s something new. ahhh. but, perhaps it is.

for we know, better i’d say than many, the difference in actually choosing a creative path. creativity, artistry – these lead you in a direction that is unrevealed, a direction that is vulnerable, a direction that has no guarantees.

an accountant, say, knows that any amount of time spent on a project will be remunerated. time spent = time paid for. it’s really a lovely equation. and both of us have had positions in our lives when this equation was in place.

but the instant we list back to the artist side, all equations dissipate into a fog and people – the same ones who turn to the arts in watershed moments of their lives – suggest we might consider exposure of our work our form of payment. i imagine writing to the wisconsin energies company – “i’ll give you ten exposures for this $326 bill.” more so, i imagine their response. yikes!

and so, here we are. the workworld – so to speak – is catching up a tiny bit. employers are beginning to recognize the value of creative thinking…maaaybe. the COO of fortune, dan shapero, is quoted, “the long-term trend is pretty undeniable that the demand for skills outpaces the supply of skills.”

perhaps he – representing employers everywhere – is not looking in the right places.

creative thinking is found in creative people, the ones exposing their work to the world, the ones who scrimp and bring to fruition projects that started in a thought bubble, the ones who don’t have the same organizational principle applied to their vitae and whose vitae, perhaps, would go the way of bot-trash, but who have a thru-hiked life (sometimes many, many years of life – decades even – making age yet another employment challenge) – with creativity their north star.

as people-with-active-resumes we note that our schooling is bachelors and masters degrees – framed and unframed- in bins in the basement somewhere. our work experience is a little bit of that tapestry i was talking about. it’s been garnered in educational settings, in corporate settings, in public service, in non-profits like theatres and churches, in software startups, on stages and on radio, in studios with canvas and studios with microphones. our creative output is found in albums, in paintings, in books, in blogs, in cartoons, in plays, in workshop projects.

we get creative thinking.

i passed green eyes down to her. he got his eye color from his dad. both of them are wildly creative. their lives have already been a tapestry of edges. i couldn’t be more proud.

“the most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” (mary oliver)

*****

happy birthday to my beloved girl.

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and the beach. [k.s. friday]

i lived in florida. merely 14 miles from the gulf of mexico. for eight plus years. yet, i can count the number of times i went to the beach while i lived there. likely on two hands. i spent more time on the gulf before living there and after living there. just not during.

as a teenager and young adult i was at the north shore all the time. biking there, vw-ing there, boating, diving, fishing, walking, climbing the fence to take sunrise pictures – winter, spring, summer, fall. all the time.

in recent years i’ve yearned for the days on those long island beaches. and, though they are remarkably beautiful and warm and sunny and tan-producing (definitely not important anymore), i can’t really say the same for the florida beaches. i don’t find myself pining for them.

maybe it’s just my history with them. or, perhaps, the lack thereof.

the other day we went to the beach. on lake michigan. we walked and walked for a couple of hours, searching for hagstones and paintable flat rocks. then we settled down on a big log of driftwood in soft sand and sat and watched the waves. we wished we had a picnic lunch with us and a good book. it was that kind of day. the only thing that drove us out was hunger.

but we’ll go back, because the beauty of that beach was powerful.

when you live with someone who also likes to walk, you will walk anywhere. strolling in the ‘hood, hiking on the trail, trolling for stones on the beach. it’s the thing we do when all else stops – all work, all tasks. it’s the thing we do when we want all else to stop – all wistfulness, all thought, all worry, all out-and-out angst.

it’s funny to me that there was this big chunk of my life when i wasn’t walking, wasn’t hiking. just like this big chunk of my life when i wasn’t going to the beach – to stare at the waves, to watch gulls swoop and dive in the wind, to find the gifts of the air and the water – tuning into soul and energy, soothing and healing.

i’ve pondered, before, what would have happened had i walked. now i ponder what would have happened had i gone to the beach.

*****

DAWN AT CRAB MEADOW ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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forsythia. home. [k.s. friday]

forsythia.

it’s coming-home for me.

at the front corner of my growing-up yard on long island was a forsythia bush. and many years, at the march of my birthday, i remember having my picture taken there. home. spring. there are few things that make me think of Home like forsythia does.

except for maybe the voice of my beloved daughter on the phone. she is forsythia for me. for just moments or for an extended conversation or – if i am fortunate – in person together, the sound of her voice, her zeal, is Home.

and except for watching the way my beloved son immerses himself in his music. his hands – now all-grown-up man-hands – moving dials and sliders, his voice and body dancing, his explanations – it’s forsythia for me. Home.

and except for the look across the room from david – the moment he touches his hand to his chest while in his gaze – forsythia. Home.

and dogga – at the door with his angel-babycat greeting me – thrilled, once again, to see us. forsythia. Home.

and the love and care and concern that are abundant in our lives – our family, our friends. forsythia. Home.

and the work we have chosen to do – create – music, paintings, many-many words, cartoons. forsythia. Home.

it’s not a yellow brick road. it’s forsythia.

*****

THE WAY HOME ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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stripahs! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

striped squill. “stripahs,” crunch might call them.

it sounds like you should grill it and have it with rice pilaf, some sort of midwestern whitefish.

it’s not.

crunch’s stripahs, back then, in the day, were striped bass, so these tiny blooms would not truly bear his nickname.

it’s these “invasive” flowers that are decorating our yard these days, paving the way for the dandy dandelions. they are actually quite beautiful. “puschkinia” in plural, which sounds like an americanized-botched-spelling plural of a mini version of those ridiculously yummy sweet-filled polish paczki donuts. everything sounds like something.

for me, peering for spring in the front yard, they are a sure sign of hope. early arrivers these early stardrift, they signal that maybe-just-maybe the snow is over and maybe-just-maybe warm sun will take over where cold march days left off. they are harbingers of open windows and adirondack chair time and basil sharing space with cherry tomato plants and flipflops. so much anticipation in tiny flowers.

these days are unseasonably warm. we are not sure why the jet stream seems to be blessing us with this gift but we are elated to walk in degrees that are in the sixties and even seventies. spring in wisconsin has never – in my experience – been a season of warmth. i remember too many soccer and baseball seasons huddled under blankets tucked into my bagchair. but this one is different.

next week is supposed to be back in the fifties. but even those temperatures are happy for us. maybe-just-maybe i’ll get a glimpse of forsythia one of these days, a sure sign of spring on growing-up long island.

in the meanwhile: bravo little stripahs! bravo!

*****

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in every walk of nature. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

one mention of jack-in-the-pulpit and i was back at blydenburgh park in smithtown. it didn’t take much to find myself in the woods, hiking along the nissequogue river, by the pond. camera in hand, early spring, looking for the earlybirds of the season. jack-in-the-pulpit didn’t disappoint, flowering shortly after my birthday, spotted on muddy hikes on brisk days.

i remember bike-hiking there, with susan. i just googled it and the county park was only 6.6 miles from my growing-up house. we would ride bikes everywhere. our destination of choice – most of the time – was crab meadow beach, but you know that. even in the winter, when handlebar-turned-down-10-speeds were impossible, my trusty little bug would get me there, to that beach. i would walk and walk and walk. the shoreline is a good place to think, to grow, sandy step by sandy step.

last friday – as it approached the end of the workday – we looked at each other. “fridaynightdatenight,” we tossed into the kitchen. as the hour wore on, we pondered what to do – on this datenight. an iffy-weather day, we didn’t bundle up late afternoon for a hike or even a walk. we were looking forward to making a big stockpot of soup, glass of wine in hand. we have three books we are mutually reading. we are binge-watching new amsterdam. dogga was at our feet in the kitchen. it was a cozy fridaynight.

the next day we hiked. because we really do love to be outside on a trail.

and the more i hike, the more i remember hiking.

but somewhere along the way, i stopped.

i didn’t hike. i didn’t take long walks.

and i am somewhat astounded to think about that now.

but not everyone likes to be on a trail or even a sidewalk, for that matter. not everyone likes to merely take-a-walk in the company of someone they love.

i didn’t realize how much i missed blydenburgh park and crab meadow beach and millneck manor and planting fields arboretum and smith’s point park and hoyt farm nature preserve – places so very familiar to me because i walked them – again and again – until i started memorizing the des plaines river trail and the van patten woods and bristol woods and allendale sidewalks along the lakefront.

that’s when i realized how much i had missed, how much each step on trails feeds me – nearby, or in the high mountains of colorado or the smoky mountains of north carolina, along the easternmost long island beaches or in the woods of upstate ny state parks or in the red rock of utah.

the trees were submerged in the river; there had been some mild flooding. i know these trees. we’ve watched them through seasons on saturdaydatehikes or latemondaytuesdaywednesdaythursdayafternoondatenights. we’ve attached to this trail and it feels as if it remembers us as we pass along it. soon, i think i’ll look for jack-in-the-pulpit, just in case. it would likely bloom later here than in blydenburgh park. spring is later here.

as i bent way down, camera in hand, to shoot through the mulch at the river, i was transported back to that suffolk county park, camera always in hand. and it made me think about all the years i had not stepped foot on a trail, had not walked-until-blisters, had not watched the water rise and fall on rivertrees or glimpsed jack-in-the-pulpit in the underbrush.

i wonder about what those decades of trails would have looked like, what mountains i may or may not have climbed, what roiling rivers i might have entered or not entered, what out-of-breath conversations would have taken place, what problems sorted, what challenges summited, what decisions made, what disasters averted, what center might have been out there, what wisdom trails may have gifted me, what might be different.

“in every walk of nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (john muir)

i’m glad to have found my way back.

walks of nature.

blydenburgh park is 898 miles from here. crab meadow beach is 908. smith’s point park is 924. upstate new york around 1000. the smoky mountains are 739. the high mountains of colorado are 1237. moab et al is 1511. all on the list of places to return to. places to hike, to walk.

but bristol woods is 13 miles and the des plaines river trail is 12. and either of those is a worthy handinhand fridaynightdatenight.

*****

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interruption. [flawed wednesday]

i had had a life interruption.

i hadn’t thought of it in those terms before. but – suddenly – it was just as obvious an interruption to me as night is to day.

resilience is a support organization in chicago – “empowering survivors ending sexual violence” is their byline. their presence is powerful, necessary, moving survivors forward in healing and advocacy, providing education and empathy. there was nothing like that on long island in 1978.

my life was forever interrupted. and i just realized that. because – back in 1978 – i filed it all away – all the trauma, all the grief, all the stripping of innocence, all the betrayal – i placed it on a shelf in my heart i didn’t want to access, a place i didn’t want to go. no one really talked about it. i moved on.

only i didn’t.

the night-that-turned-my-day-dark wrapped itself around me and, in all likelihood, affected every single decision – good and bad – that i made from that day forward. it acted like a filter – like the kind you screw onto the front of a 35mm camera lens, coloring every scene in the aperture, every experience in life. just as in so many of these stories, no one was made to take responsibility for this act of life-interruption, for the thing that would skew everything in my heart. i was nineteen and he was free. he still is.

there are defining moments in our lives that lay down a blanket of circumstance, that wound in all directions. sexual violence is one of those.

even now – 45 years later – though i cannot dredge up all the minute details as they seem locked up on that shelf – i can feel the interruption of my life – the unmooring – the visceral line of before and after.

the sun is setting through the trees and i suddenly see clearly through the woods, without underbrush. i can feel the night fall.

the thing that has helped is that 45 years has granted me people who have been there, who have held me in grace despite it all, who have loved me even as i – at times – flailed.

i wouldn’t hope for anyone to experience the pain of sexual violence of any sort. but, because women are insanely statistically likely to be victimized and betrayed in this way, i would hope for their resilient spirits and bodies to see the enormous life interruption for what it is and to rise in the sun the next day – surviving – accessing hope, surrounded by loving support, empowered.

*****

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skater dreams. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t remember exactly where it was, but i remember driving my little blue vw to a hidden pond along the north shore. next to me, on the front seat, were my ice skates. i’d get there and bundle up, lace up my ice skates and spend a few hours gliding across the pond. it was silent, save for the swoosh of the skateblades on ice.

a couple decades later – when we moved to wisconsin from florida – i decided that the proximity of the ice arena left me no choice but to – finally – latch onto my dreams of becoming an olympic figure skater…clearly a dream based on reality. so i signed up for lessons.

my first lesson – with all the other eight-year-olds – was a bit of an adjustment. i wondered if i should try to find a time with just-adult-learners. i can’t remember now if i switched classes.

the instructor reviewed the skills we brought with us. i was able to crossover-crossover, go backwards (and forwards) and stop correctly (an important skill as painfully revealed to me on my first snowboarding lesson).

my next skill – along with practicing the finesse of each of the others i had mostly-mastered – was an upright spin. there are one-foot spins and two-foot spins and axels and salchows and camels and the lutz and other beautiful spinny moves. i was ready to learn. i had much to accomplish to become the world’s oldest newest-olympic-figure-skating-champion.

the day for the first spin came.

my instructor demonstrated what i was to do. it didn’t look entirely impossible so i set about practicing it on my little corner of the ice.

good lord.

somewhere – in all the dreamy fantasyland of wishing to be a figure skater – i had missed the part about motion sickness. no one had mentioned how incredibly dizzying this tiny spin would be. i mean, i was going around like twice! and the nystagmus (automatic repetitive eye movement) was killing me. i kept practicing, watching my dream dissipate into the cold-breath-vapor cloud in front of me, my brain unable to quash the dizzies. whoa.

i went back for a couple more lessons, but skipped the froo-froo tulle-skirted-skate-dressed skating recital, not wanting to outshine any hardworking eight year old. it was quickly becoming apparent to me. this was not my future. no medal platforms, no medals, no certificates of participation.

but when we left the trail and stood at the edge of the river – mostly still frozen – the snowbanks an invitation for strapping on skates – i was back on long island, jumping out of my bug, lacing those skates up and spending a few hours gliding in silence.

dreamy.

*****

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astonished. [d.r. thursday]

nostalgia hits fast.

how many times i have stood in front of the gazebo in northport harbor…how many times i have sat on the steps, lost in thought or listening to the clinking of metal sails in the docks next to the park…how many times i’ve wandered in the harbor surrounded by the dreamy lights of the gazebo and old-fashioned sidewalk lampposts on the paths.

lake bluff brought it all back.

an absolutely beautiful display in the square drew us to it and we parked, even in freezing cold, to walk around a bit, take pictures and soak it all in. it wasn’t northport, but it was stunning and magical.

the wordpress prompt today reads: is your life today what you pictured a year ago?

are any of our lives today what we pictured a year ago?

the element of surprise … both ways.

at a time of year that always-always makes me miss my childhood home, both of my parents, our big stone fireplace, the luminaria lighting our neighborhood streets and groups of friends caroling around the blocks, hot cocoa and marshmallows, tinsel and krumkake, rum cake and eggnog, the delicious anticipation of opening gifts and the northport harbor gazebo radiant, its lights shimmering in the harbor, we find the little square in the middle of lake bluff. astonishing.

instructions for living a life: pay attention. be astonished. tell about it.(mary oliver)

*****

UNFETTERED 48″ X 48″

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section-hike to chicago. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

over here, by one of the great great lakes, it is mostly flat. when you drive a bit south – toward chicago – particularly on the back roads – you will find ravines punctuating the landscape, gorgeous woods with deep cuts, gullies likely carved by streams into glacial moraines with bluffs high above the lake. i can’t imagine choosing the interstate over these roads and, if time allows, we are avid believers in the back ways.

most of the places we hike in our area do not present elevation gain as a challenge. instead, we have to do distance to make up the exercise gap. i’ve been a sea-level-girl pretty much my whole life – from a where-i’ve-lived standpoint – so when we are faced with elevation gain i have to do a bit of acclimatizing to get any kind of mountain legs or lungs. long island, florida, wisconsin – clearly, none of these are known for their mountain peaks.

we hadn’t ever walked the bike trail on the south side of the illinois border. we parked littlebabyscion near the entrance of the bike trail in some neighborhood – much to the chagrin of a woman walking her dog who – clearly – immediately had her suspicions about these two people exiting their vehicle – having parked their good-grief-it’s-a-2006-vehicle-ewww on the end of the road in this upscale ‘hood – for the trail. i started to walk to the trail and went back, wrote a cheery note “hi. we are just walking on the bike path,” finished it with a happy face and placed it in full view in the windshield. for the first hour or so of hiking i worried if we would get back to an empty space where our sweet littlebabyscion had been and a note to call the tow company. (it was with relief we later returned to find our little vehicle and another parked there as well.)

we crossed the wisconsin-illinois border and found the straight and narrow. illinois does a remarkable job of trail upkeep, no matter where we have found one, no matter the terrain. we kept walking. and walking. and walking. it was a beautiful day and easy to lose sight of the time or distance. we had water and halos and lemon lärabars. we were set.

we looked at the bike trail maps. though there are sections that are harder to define – one must find one’s way from one defined trail to another – you can pretty much walk or bike all the way to chicago.

we giggled and decided we would section-hike to chicago. it will be practice for the possibility of section-hiking or thru-hiking the john muir trail or the PCT. uh-huh. because walking on a bike trail – near civilization, without elevation gain, without 30 pounds on our backs, with littlebabyscion patiently waiting for us and our kitchen and comfy bed at the end of the day – is definitely good practice for say 211 miles or 2650. oh ye of little faith. whatever.

we turned around after checking time and the mileage and the forecasted hour of sunset. the way back – like the previous day on the des plaines river trail – i thought about how many miles we would complete that day, in a few hours. i doubled it and tripled the time and pondered doing that day after day for weeks or – in the case of the PCT – months.

it has a magical dreamy lure. there is no straight and narrow out there. there is hard work and perseverance. and we – watchers of more youtube video accounts than most – ponder if we could do it. we are fueled by people like the remarkable (!) wander women and, really, anyone, say, over 60 we watch successfully navigate the challenges. we think aloud – “maybe someday.”

in the meanwhile there is work to do, a plan to piece back together again post-implosion, and section-hikes to chicago.

*****

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the fat seagull. [k.s. friday]

“you must begin by knowing you have already arrived. your true nature lives as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.” (richard bach – jonathan livingston seagull)

i followed the seagulls on my ten-speed. to the beach, always the beach. later, i followed them in my little blue volkswagen, their screeches out my open window, their soaring showing me the way. and i felt kin to richard bach, his writings about freedom and passion and dreaming and the meaning of life. we met at the beach – crab meadow – and talked telepathically. well, i talked. i don’t know if he was listening. he was on the west coast and i was on the east, though i suppose jonathan livingston may have been able to deliver any message of gratitude i had.

and so we arrived at the fat seagull. it is beyond me why we had never discovered this bar and grill tucked into the downtown of manitowoc. it’s a cheers! kind of place, people who know each other gathered at the bar and around tables, eating, drinking pints, playing games, talking. in the way of wisconsin pubs, there is a vast menu and we order a thursday special to split. the bartender tells us that the two wine glasses they had were broken so he gives us diminutive stemware and charges us less. we choose the bottle still corked, wondering who last drank out of the open bottle and how long ago that might have been. we are kind of strangers in a strange land…17 draft beers and traditional old-fashioneds surround us and our tiny wines.

we listen to live music and gaze around – at people, at the bar, the old wood floor, the ceiling. it is a study in perfection. we feel alive – out and about – a two hour drive each way – food we didn’t prepare – wine we didn’t pour. we talk about how it feels. we laugh and dance. we don’t realize it’s raining out; it had been a beautifully sunny day. we are glad to be there.

we end this week in uncertainty. we reach backwards, examining all we have done – so far – in life and work, what we have accomplished, what we have not. sixty-something is not youth, nor is it aged. it is somewhere in-between, located wherever we are. we bring all we know – and all we do not know – with us. we try to trust that we have arrived, that we are on the tarmac – or – in the terminal, that we – too – despite our lack of certainty – have flown, screeching and soaring.

“instead of being enfeebled by age, the elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly any gull in the flock, and he had learned skills that the others were only gradually coming to know.”

*****

TAKE FLIGHT ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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