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chipping away, i suppose. [merely-a-thought monday]

long island has nicer springs than wisconsin. considerably warmer temperatures, more consistent sunshine, earlier flowers, i remember my birthday in late march as sweater-weather, with many birthday pictures taken in front of the yellow forsythia at the front corner of our yard where the grass met the curb of the street. not so much in wisconsin. it’s still cold, still windy, still cloudy, still rainy, even still snowy. as my birthday rolls around i am always hopeful that it will suddenly change and there will be 60 degree days and we will hike with no coats and no 180 earmuffs. invariably disappointed, we layer up and hike anyway. saturday was no exception. no in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb for this state.

birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection. the generosity of wishes texted, emailed, called, zoomed, facetimed, mailed, shipped and wrapped on the doorstep are a heaping portion of goodness and they enveloped me in warmth all day. the lion of march did not reign the day. instead, the only roar i heard was laughter on the trail, on facetime with my niece, on zoom with best friends, reading the glittery-unicorn-poop card from my other niece, the lingering echoes of my girl and her boyfriend singing to me, my son’s voice on the other end of the phone, a dinner invite from him and his boyfriend, singing memojis, exploding confetti on a text from crunch, music and spattered painting in an ecard from my mother-in-law, words in messages penned or typed, thoughtfully chosen. i lit my new candle, named my adorable new gardenia bonsai, and pulled my concentric circles ever tighter to me, hugging them back. there are days i think that every day should absolutely be lived like a birthday.

there was a common denominator in messages. my husband cleverly made a birthday book about life and love from a pa-pad, pads of scrap paper cut and glued by my sweet poppo in his effort to save trees and the environment. a dear friend from elementary school wrote that she hoped all my wishes come true. my oldest friend ever, a cherished friendship that has sustained through the years, wrote that she hoped i was celebrating. in one card that wished me “all things beautiful” i read, “may you always see the beauty in this world and be encouraged to keep pressing on, regardless of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that stand in the way.” in another was simply the word “forever”. another made me laugh aloud, poking fun at growing older. another wished me a better year. and one reminded me that “we are all works in progress.” in that card, my wise friend added “to ever evolving you” to the message “to another good year of chipping away…”

ever evolving.

the spring rains gather on the deck. they clean off the last of the snow and dirt that have been left there through the winter. like periods on sentences, they mark a new time of growth, an end to fallow, warmth on its way. there have been so many periods on sentences this year. too many. it is a time of wondering. clarity is elusive. it is a time of giving over to not-knowing.

i suppose it is possible that this is the lesson after all. not-knowing. ever. i suppose that spring – even in wisconsin – could surprise me. i suppose no time is really a time of stasis. i suppose that is why riverstones are so smooth. i suppose that, no matter what, the promise is to be ever evolving.

*****

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


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words where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

with a peace sign dangling around her neck and a bandana wrapping her hair, andrea would stress how important it was to choose our words wisely, to weigh those choices carefully, to take time, to be thoughtful. she was the.most.amazing. english teacher. her words still echo in my mind and there are so many moments that i wish i could sit with her, have coffee with her, ponder life with her. that she is on some other plane of existence for a few years now is too much, too soon, and too late for me. john glenn high school was fortunate to have her and those of us who sat in the chairs in her classroom were gifted with a spirit that generously still swirls around me and i’m sure many others. it’s where i’m from.

“watch what you say,” momma would tell me. “you can’t take it back.” yes, once those words are out there, they are out there. no one can erase them and the damage or good they do is a part of the universe-story. my sweet momma adored words. in her later years, sometimes we’d have to have a chuckle as the wrong word would surface and the right word would stay in that moat i always profess is surrounding our synapses. we would search for the right word while swimming in the wrong one, but we’d eventually get there. her words echo in my heart. it’s where i’m from.

now, i have to say that there are many among us – i’m sure myself included – who are not choosing our words wisely, who are not consistently watching what we say. and in these times, in every single arena, that matters.

this morning we read an article about the terrifying january 6 insurrection at the united states capitol: “some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you have turned in your own friends and family members,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s washington dc field office stated. an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

egregious: (adj) outstandingly bad; shocking.

from dictionary.com: egregious: extraordinary in some bad way, glaring, flagrant.

according to legaldictionary.net: “in a legal context, the term egregious refers to actions or behaviors that are staggeringly bad, or obviously wrong, beyond any reasonable degree.”

now there’s a word. “egregious.” one would think that the divvying out of such a word would be with great forethought, with a deference to reality and the measure of truth, with reserve and adherence to its definition, without exuberant overuse. yet in these times it is appearing in more than just cameo roles.

the washington post had an article titled, “the egregious gaslighting around trump’s handling of the pandemic” (philip bump). an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

hillary clinton has been quoted saying that impeachment was placed in the constitution in the event that there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.” yet another appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

i have used the word “egregious” twice in my own blogpost-writing. once was in my post “indecency keeps getting rewarded” and the other time was in my post “what moms (i) want“. both times i weighed this word, tossing it around in my brain, checking its definition, making certain it was the right word. because – that’s where i’m from. i could hear andrea and my sweet momma cautioning me, “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

because these times are really not at all ordinary, we are seeing the use of strong adjectives, heavy-hitting adverbs. we are reading and hearing people-who-are-trying-to-make-a-point wax poetic or spew rhetoric, both. we grant them an audience as we read, as we listen – ourselves. it is up to us to decide if the words that they choose are appropriate, wreaking an equal action or reaction, if they are exaggerated, wreaking panic, if they are scandalous, wreaking havoc, if they are slanderous, wreaking destruction. we are responsible persons – capable of question-asking, fact-checking, stepping back from drama and observing through eyes of truth-telling.

i guess it all depends on where we’re from.

incidentally, the archaic definition of egregious is: remarkably good.

“choose wisely.” (andrea)

*****

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WHERE I’M FROM from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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i agree. we agree. [flawed wednesday]

the train quickly passed by us, first in line at the crossing, as i snapped the pictures. graffiti adorned most of the cars and i randomly pressed the shutter as they blurred past. we’ve seen some insightful messages spray-painted on the side of boxcars and this day was not an exception. “agree” it read. timely.

there are things in the night that are reassuring. for my sweet momma, it was trains. she could sink deeper into sleep when she heard the trains in the distance, the whistles of arrival, departure, crossing. i share that with her. we can hear the trains from our house. and many times, in the middle of the night, as the 2am hour passes by, so does the train, its loud whistle echoing on empty streets. i wonder, in the fog of sleep/no-sleep, why it’s blowing its whistle, where it’s going. the lumbering of freight trains slightly shakes the house, even blocks away from the tracks. it’s lulling. i agree, momma.

“i agree.” “we agree.” powerful words. beyond simply concurring, granting acceptance to another’s idea, another’s conception, another’s opinion. it’s easy to agree that trains in the night are the stuff of of sublime entry into dreams. it doesn’t cost anything to agree to trains-in-the-night. there is no research involved, no fact-checking, no questions, no real critical thinking. you can’t lose anything by agreeing about the melancholy of train whistles.

it’s the other stuff that’s harder. the stuff where you have invested – in a big way – in your idea, your concept, your opinion. where you have not necessarily done the research, checked the facts, asked the questions or critical-thought your way into your opinion, but where you are stubbornly attached to it. it’s mind-boggling how this happens and yet it does. each of us has experienced being leeched onto something come-hell-or-high-water and not really knowing why, not really being able to give voice to concrete reasons. we wonder about others so feverishly vested and we gently and generously excuse ourselves for the same unrooted behavior. none of us are innocent.

this holiday season we received many greeting cards. i love getting mail. we’d save the cards and open them at special times so we could read the enclosed letters, the personal notes to us. this december one of our cards disturbed me. it felt like an attempt at absolution. it came from someone who had been dear, who was surprisingly so ensconced in their opinion – before the big disagree – that they did not even attempt to research, to check the facts, to ask questions, to use critical thinking. the pre-printed card spoke of love, hope and peace and they wrote inside, “you are in our thoughts and prayers.” while these words sound like the meat-and-potatoes of agreement, of accord, my heart begs me to wonder aloud – to them – why on earth they would include us in their thoughts and prayers – after the big disagree – when they didn’t include us in their research, their questions, their fact-checking, their thoughts and prayers – before – at a time when it was vital.

i store away in my mind, now, once again, the ever-important repeating lesson that it is much easier and more bottom-line-decent to do the research, ask the questions, check the facts, think-it-through before taking action than it is to attempt to absolve from it after.

the foghorn, another favorite of my momma’s, is not too far, in the other direction. its melancholy blast is also the stuff of sublime entry into dreams. i hear the foghorn and sink into my pillow, the long-island in me relishing the sound of coastlines, reassured by the cozy of being inside on a foggy night. it’s lulling. i agree, my sweet momma.

“i agree.”

“we agree.”

easy. and so hard.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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apples and numbers. [k.s. friday]

it’s approaching. you can feel it in the morning air. fall. its scent lingers in the fields of wildflowers, succumbing to cooler nights, a lower sun on the horizon. the bees are desperately, frantically, trying to hang on for dear life. the mosquitoes, thankfully, are writing their wills and the cicadas are singing as if the judges of ‘american idol’ or ‘the voice’ were gathered beneath the trees, an audience of appreciators.

it’s different though.

this fall is all about numbers. covid-19 pandemic numbers. lethal-force racial fatality numbers. protest numbers. healthcare numbers. unemployment numbers. eviction numbers. payroll tax numbers. rally numbers. poll numbers. we are surrounded by a plethora of numbers with an increasingly urgent need to be aware of all of them.

there will be no relaxing inside starbucks sipping pumpkin spice lattes. there will be no apple festivals or street fairs celebrating fall. there will be no hayrides, bale-bouncing with friends on a rickety wagon. there will be no chili cook-offs or slow dance parties on the patio. this was the stuff of pre-pandemic. the stuff of the olden days. the stuff of 2019. the stuff of 1996. the stuff of 1973.

there will be thoughtfully attended protests. there will be emotional vigils. there will be testing sites. there will be virtual funerals. there will be video-conferenced schools and meetings and religious gatherings. there will be jobs sought, financial devastation for too many, unreachable healthcare. there will be speeches to listen to, about which to have hope. there will be speeches to fact-check, about which to have righteous anger.

the numbers have risen to the surface and rightfully demand our attention.

but there’s this – written one year ago: every fall, my sweet momma and my poppo would load us up in the dodge with the old wicker picnic basket and a small cooler.  we would drive out east on long island or head north into upstate new york.  the baby of the family with siblings already out of the house, i always had a friend along.  susan went everywhere with us.  we would take mad libs and gum, snacks and cans of soda and we would talk and giggle our way to the apple farm. it wasn’t like we couldn’t find apples near us; the jaunt away to apple-picking was the point.  the walk in the orchard, the drive through leaves of indescribably stunning color.  we’d stop at roadside picnic tables and take back country roads.

and now, a long while later, i think of those places, those times.  the memories are sweet, macintosh-apple-sweet.  but the yearning is real.  every autumn makes me just as wistful.  i think of my children jumping in leaves and pumpkins carved with silly faces.  my parents and the old dodge.  pies with homemade crust, hot soup and cocoa, the smell of cinnamon and caramel candles.  fires in the fireplace or outside around the firepit.  jeans, sweaters, boots.  and apples.

and so now that the time for jeans and sweaters and boots is in the offing, i need remember. there are still quiet fires in the firepit to have. there are pies we can make and cocoa we can brew up. there are big stock pots of soup to steep. there are trails with crunchy leaves. there are pumpkins to carve, sunflowers to vase, and backroads to drive.

there are things that must be done. the numbers insist. it’s a profound time filled with information and a call to speak up, to question, to research, to, yes, wear a mask and yes-yes, to vote.

but my wistful-near-autumn heart also needs apples.

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MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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just know. [two artists tuesday]

loves me loves me not

we passed the daisy on the trail and i went back to take a picture.  it was instant recognition of  “loves me, loves me not” as i saw it.  the questions we threw willy-nilly to the universe, the don’t-step-on-a-crack, knock-wood, bread-and-butter reflexes of our 60s-70s childhoods.

were it all still to be so easy.

i remember sitting in the grass making clover chains.  i remember the transistor radio playing on the bazooka bubble gum beach towel.  i remember playing in the woods out back with the neighbors.  i remember kickball in the street and badminton and croquet in the yard.  i remember hula-hoops and skateboards on my driveway.  i remember the “boing” the pogo stick made.  i remember koolaid and ice pops that seemed to never run out.  i remember bike hikes with sue and carvel ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles.  i remember frisbee at the beach and making apple pies.  i remember listening to cassettes and practicing piano.  i remember the trunk of the maple tree against my back, the branches holding me as i wrote.  i remember the sound the pressure-filled-from-the-sun-light-purple-hosta-flowers along our sidewalk made when popped.  i remember it was time to go home when it got dark and i remember catching fireflies in jars with holes punched in the lids.  i remember sunday drives and picking apples and kentucky fried chicken on picnic tables further out on the island.  i remember cabins in state parks and wide-eyed flirting with older lake lifeguards upstate.  i remember duck ponds and friendly’s.  i remember my puppy riding in my bike basket and ponytails.  i remember loves-me-loves-me-not.

it seemed an innocent time.  a time of marvel.  a time of safety.  never did i wonder if my parents loved me.  i just knew.

babycat just rolled onto his back, all four paws outstretched, his big black and white belly just begging for a pet.  he doesn’t ask questions.  his world is relatively small – since his kittenhood adoption, the littlehouse was the only other house he has known other than our house.  yesterday we brought him and dogdog into the basement as the tornado siren went off.  dogga was nervous but babycat adapted, finding a place to lay on the carpet.  his only demand is for food, several times a day with clockwork precision.  otherwise, he is unconditional.  his presence in my life has brought me eleven years of a gift i really needed when he arrived.

babycat is laying right next to me now as i type.  tucked close in, his snoring is punctuated only by his purring – it’s a two measure repeat in 4/4, each breath a half note.  it is the 11th anniversary of his “gotcha day” and he’s marking the day with a celebration of naps. no worry of “loves me, loves me not” crosses his mind.  he just knows.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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things i learned at the little red schoolhouse. [merely-a-thought monday]

a bar owner

the little red schoolhouse on cuba hill road was the place i went to kindergarten.  built in 1903 it was a place of important early learnings – the stuff you learn at five and six – things this back-in-the-day first teacher, who you fall desperately in love with, would impart to you through kind, objective, steady lessons.  it wasn’t that my sweet momma or poppo weren’t teaching me kindergarten-level-rules, but learning them in a place where i was surrounded by other children and could practice them immediately in-real-life i would guess had more impact.  lasting lessons are often those that come through experience, through feeling and doing rather than simply hearing.

share your toys.  take your turn.  say please and thank you.  wash your hands.  do your own work.  hold the door for others.  keep your hands to yourself.  be kind.  help others.  listen when others speak.   be respectful of your elders.  follow the rules.

i don’t specifically remember days in kindergarten but i know that i have always been a rule-follower in school and would not imperil another’s playground time by not paying attention, by disobeying, by being impervious to an adult’s directions for work that needed to be done or instructions for safe practices.  i would not have ignored the be-absolutely-quiet rule during fire or duck-and-cover drills.  i would not have continued talking or wreaking havoc were my teacher – or any other teacher, for that matter – to have asked for silence.

the rules seemed simple at five.  we were each individually and as a group asked to follow them.  those easy rules were designed to preclude chaos and our freedom to learn and have fun was never sacrificed in the process of following them.  the consequences of disregarding them seemed dire – staying in during playtime.  one child’s misbehavior often led to the whole class missing playground.  to be THAT child was not a sought-after title.  instead, we would work together – in our five-year-old beehive fashion – to clean up the classroom and desks and chairs so that we were all ready – together – to go play.

it’s the way i feel about masks.  it hasn’t been recommended to us by medical and science professionals to wear masks as a lark.  this recommendation comes with passionate imploring.  it is a simple rule.  if this, then that.  conditional.   if we wear masks, we will dramatically lower the transmission of this global pandemic raging through our country.  it is a proven fact and other countries have shown their adherence to mask-wearing has flattened the curve of the disease.  pretty simple, yes.  a mask.

instead, there are those people who flagrantly ignore this simple if-this-then-that.  we see them everywhere.  it’s breathtaking.  and their display of arrogant individualism at a time of an intense need to care-for-community means one thing:  we will not get to go out to play.

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

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the old file cabinets. [k.s. friday]

it's a long story

two old file cabinets.

the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio.  at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing.  there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor.  maybe someday i’ll get to those.

yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had.  i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music.  every title i looked at brought back memories:  “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully.  “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes.  “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.

i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer.  books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day.  i whispered to them i would be back for them.   it has probably been decades since they were opened.

standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing.  it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.

had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade.  in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra.  in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons.  in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.

other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources.  there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work.  and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.

it made me want to just clear a day off.  liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility.  brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.

i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”,  through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise.  through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time.   just take a day – a whole day – and sing.  and remember together.

in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose.  so that might not be such a good idea.  but maybe d and i could just take that day.  think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us.  our long stories.

a few things can instantly place you back in a moment.  songs, scents, pictures.  a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her.  john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island.  wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.

two old file cabinets.  filled to the brim.

so many treasures.

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IT’S A LONG STORY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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the truth, the whole truth and nothing but… [flawed wednesday]

whole truth man

i was 18 and on long island the first time i was called for jury duty.  back then, reporting was for two weeks so i drove out to riverhead each day for ten days.  it was serious stuff and i, in my innocence, listened carefully to every detail during jury selection and, later, during the case to which i was assigned.  i was intimidated by the presence of the judge, law enforcement, court bailiffs, attorneys, these people who had dedicated their lives to justice, to maintain rule of law and abide by due process of such, while providing for equal protection, seeking social order.  “courts:  they exist so the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.” (NACM)  i researched my responsibility.  i was respectful of every instruction i was given, and believed that the process was based on constitutional rights and values and that truth would prevail. “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

less than ten years later i was the victim-witness counselor at the state attorney’s office in one of the judicial circuits in florida.  i worked with local law enforcement, the FBI, attorneys, social workers, court bailiffs, judges, all dedicated to the due process of those who had been accused of crimes and those who were victims of crimes.  my position was working with victims of violent crimes or surviving family members of those victims. heinous acts committed upon others, i was intimidated by the presence of cold, calculating types sitting across the deposition table from me, wishing, at times, that i could put a paper bag over my head to avoid identification at a later date.  it was bracing and disheartening, a dark look into what people are really capable of, twisted, distorted minds culminating, often, in the death of an innocent person.  my first case was one of the saddest, though i shudder thinking of many of them, wondering if they are truly rank-able.  the young woman worked at a quick stop gas station/convenience store, her shift the wee hours of the night.  the two men who kidnapped her had planned for a long time to dig an underworld and keep her and other women there.  their efforts were stymied as they began to dig and discovered that sand kept filling the hole, so they assaulted her and murdered her.  one of my very first days: welcome to the state attorney’s office.  each case that was presented was treated with respect and complete attention to detail; the truth was the ultimate goal, for justice, for the memory of the victim, for the victim’s family, for proper sentencing and/or rehabilitation.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

thirty years later i watch as the wisconsin court system, that which is supposed to be non-partisan, apolitical, a fair arbiter of the law, has deemed the governor’s safer-at-home order during a global pandemic unconstitutional and has thus thwarted the ability of the governor to protect the populace.  “courts:  they exist so the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.” (NACM)  hmmm.  yet, instead, leaning heavily on the right side of the political seesaw of a supposed-apolitical supreme court, the justices declared the state ‘open’ and triumphantly, though virtually, just as during their vote, raised their glasses of celebration in every wisconsin bar about five minutes after their declaration.  the truth?  wisconsin’s coronavirus numbers had not ceased climbing; there was not enough testing nor contact tracing as per the federal government’s previously-stated guidelines, which, at the time, were stated as the truth.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…”

meanwhile, the administration’s truth-seesaw has become the stuff of amusement parks and circuses – long roller coasters of thwacking metal cars on tracks, criss-crossing and reversing direction, houses of mirrors, convoluted stories and warped sideshows.  “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” would present some challenges in this case – were truth to be told.

the truth flies by the hand of the self-served.  the truth is misrepresented in more artistic mediums than the best fine arts university could offer.  falsehoods are reported on, written about, gushed over.  and people i care about and love believe them.  danger lurks in the darkness of this truth-void; the deposition table will later provide bags to cover all the heads.  made-up stories as adults with impact on a country are not merely child’s play.  this seesaw of truth is about life; it’s about living.  it’s to uphold this: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” (the preamble of the u.s. constitution)

we passed a house flying an american flag.  under the american flag was another flag.  it said:  “trump 2020.  stop the bullsh*t.”

wow.  now that’s calling the kettle black!

stop the bullsh*t???  i should SAY so.

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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relics. [two artists tuesday]

stop sign quarter

we stopped there every time we rode our bikes past on the way to the beach or the harbor.  north shore outdoor recreation center & school of skindiving was a shop downtown east northport, a couple blocks from the railroad tracks and across the street from the old auto parts store.  our high school biology teacher jim owned it and we’d stop in and visit, looking around at gear and flirting with the just-slightly-older-than-us-guys who worked there.

when i was 17 i started working there after school and on weekends.  i’d do office work, the newsletter, and sell scuba, archery and other outdoor-related sporting equipment.  the fill tank, a pool of water in which oxygen tanks are immersed in order to fill them for use while diving, was just outside the office and i can’t tell you how many times i ended up sitting in it.  until i got smart and carried extra clothes to work with me in the car,  i had to drive home to change, sopping wet and glorying in it.   i was the only girl there and these boys were brutal teasers.

the basement of the shop was formidable, dungeon-like; at the top of the stairs were a sliding chain lock and the light switch.  the gestetner machine (a copy machine that invariably spewed purple stuff all over you during use) was in that basement which meant i spent some good time down there wrangling this obstinate office contraption.  from way down in the depths of this concrete cavern, i could hear the chain sliding and the click of the light switch, leaving me in the dark to feel my way back up the steps and stand at the door, pounding to be released from yet another prank.  yes, brutal stuff.

crunch was in charge which left jimmy and ollie and i under his thumb.  much more a rule-follower, crunch was a task-master and was the one who turned down the blasting stereo of ‘heart’ singing ‘barracuda’ in the workroom.  he wagged his fingers at us to sweep or organize regulators, but he was right-in-there, shortchanging me with the growing-boy deli orders they sent me on, leaving notes on my little vw about town-noon-whistle-blowing-timeliness, not setting me free from the front sidewalk window when i, during christmas-eve-day last-minute-shopping-hours, dressed as an elf and, coerced to fix something in our christmas display, was locked in, forcing me to grin and bear it and stand with plastic-santa, waving at people walking by and the crowd that gathered at the auto parts store.  but we all did good work together, the dives were organized, people had the right gear and the shop was a place customers loved to come and linger in.

an older italian couple lived above the shop and luigi was not as loud as his wife.  without the benefit of air conditioning, the windows and lack of thick insulation in the walls made it easy for us to hear her rapid-fire italian admonishments of her husband, always punctuated by a shrill “luigi!”  in our first-hand innocence of marriage-challenges we’d voice, “poor luigi.”  i don’t think i ever knew his wife’s name.  i wonder about their lives.  where did they go?  their rows weren’t nearly as loud as ‘barracuda’ or the sounds of boisterous laughter coming from the back storage/workroom of the shop.  they were simply a part of the story, a part of the history of that place, a sound-artifact i can still hear.

during one of his college classes, crunch, who ended up one of my very best friends, for a psych class project, decided to glue a a few coins onto the sidewalk out front and hide in the tent displayed in the front window, capturing passersby reactions to money-for-free.  they always went for the quarter and it was predictable how earnestly they would try to pry this off this sidewalk, invariably stopping to rub at their fingertips, digging in backpacks or purses for pens or keys to pry with.  nevertheless, the superglue held and the coins remained on the sidewalk for a long time to come.  i don’t know when they finally disappeared.

for those of us who actually think coins count as money, it’s natural to stop and pick up coins when you see them, the whole find-a-penny-pick-it-up-thing.  the little jar at home fills up and is, surprisingly, a good sum of money when it’s up to the tippy-top.  so when we passed the two pennies in the UPS parking lot, david bent down to pick them up.  one heads-up, one tails-up.  i immediately yelled, “no!  don’t touch them!”  it was the very beginning of the pandemic and touching ANYthing without sanitizer nearby was a formidable act.  it was too late; david had picked them up.  so he brought them over to the sidewalk by the UPS store and laid them on the window ledge.  i wonder if they are still there.

the quarter was on the trail when we were hiking last week.  it made me stop; it’s a quarter, after all!  i looked at david, pondered, then shrugged, and, against every reflex, left it there and hiked on.  the not-picking-up-free-money-guilt set in but not enough to break the don’t-touch-it-pandemic-rule.  i wonder if it is still there.

in this time of so-much-change and the use of so-much-technology, i find myself thinking of those times, over four decades ago now, when things seemed simpler.  coins counted, ink-laden-copy-machines slowed us down.  i think about the relics that were left behind.

and i wonder, forty years from now, when i am 101, what will those relics from this time, this time of pandemic sweeping our world, look like?  what will they be?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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incessant. my sweet momma. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

good morning sunshine

she was incessant.  every morning she greeted me with the words, “good morning sunshine.”  rain, sleet, snow or ice – none would dampen her good-morning-spirit.  a new day, a new beginning, another chance.

my parents weren’t complicated people.  they grew up with great-depression-survival parents.  they were married and almost immediately separated by the second world war, by my dad’s missing-in-action status, by his time as a prisoner-of-war and, thus, they navigated the loss of their first daughter on two continents, my mom without knowledge of my dad’s whereabouts.  they processed-without-processing the end of the war and my dad’s escape and return home to struggle through post-war times.  they had two more children, another girl and a boy and began to raise a family on long island in a cape cod house with a chainlink fence and a dachshund.  after i was born they moved to the house i grew up in, the only house i remember without looking at old photographs.  we had a single driveway with a grass strip in the middle.  some neighbors had solid concrete or asphalt driveways, no grass strip, and even as a child, i suspected this meant something.  they were thrifty and conserving.

my parents weren’t hip.  through the rebellious 60s and mod 70s they raised me, older than most of my friends’ parents by at least a decade or more.  i listened to jim nabors and doris day and robert goulet in the house, herb alpert and the tijuana brass and frank sinatra on the stereo and the old wgsn on the radio on top of the refrigerator, while friends were hearing their moms sing to carole king and simon and garfunkel crooned in their kitchens, the mamas and the papas and herman’s hermits in the family rooms.  my dad would whistle for hours; hearing anyone whistling now feels like a hug from him.

my parents weren’t frivolous.  my dad would turn boxes inside out to repurpose them.  my mom would assign him tasks first in in his basement workshop and, later, his garage workshop, giving him something to focus on.  he was always rube-goldberg-ing everything; he could make or fix anything.  they didn’t splurge on stuff, well, until they discovered ikea.  after years and years and years of exclusive use, the aluminum colander they gave to me (and after a couple more decades and the loss of a foot, i finally retired) is likely 70 years old.

my parents weren’t problem-obsessive.  my mom would do laundry, especially later in life.  i think it centered her.  the simple task of cleaning a garment or bath towel and putting it away felt grounding; i have learned this from her and you will find me scouring the house for laundry items in times of stress.  they were reasonable and rational; nothing needed be too complex.

but they were loving and encouraging and accepting.  i could tease or cajole my dad into doing almost anything.  and, when my dad’s reaction to a circumstance was more impatient, my mom would listen, listen, listen.  she would admonish him, “Erling!” she’d hammer.

simple.  no fancy titles.  no wildly exotic trips.  no fancy foods.  only one fancy car to try-on-for-size.  no fancy clothes or shoes. simple furnishings, treasured mementos.

simple.  no emmys, oscars, grammys.   no nobel peace prize.  hardworking and uncomplaining.  a lot of volunteering.  a jewelry store failure in early days of big box stores.  early retirement and a move-down-I95 south.  self-admonishments to do-the-photo-albums and clean-out-the-file-cabinets.

simple.  a dedication to handyman magazine, national geographic, jigsaw puzzles, crytoquotes and crosswords.  tomato plants and hosta.  forsythia and four-o-clocks that ran along the whole side of the house.  succulents and bougainvillea.  harlequin romance novels and old doris day/rock hudson movies.  bird-watching and klondike bars.  feeding their family.  entertaining their friends.

simple.  times around the table coffee-sitting.  long conversations on the couch.  egg mc-arnsons or waffles and ice cream on sunday mornings.  time on the stoop and in the lanai, just talking.  time.  spending time.

she was incessant.  her joy at the day, her exuberance, her kindness, her piercing eyes, her absolute, uncompromised, unconditional love.

i woke today thinking about this day five years ago today, when i was not physically there to hold her hand as she passed from this life to another plane.  we were on the way, driving there, on an interstate when we found out.  in el paso, illinois.  we pulled off and found a park not far from the highway.  we walked and walked and walked, trying to process.  i have no doubt that she knew i was right there with her, always, and how much i love her.

life will never be the same without my sweet momma on this earth.  ever.  i can only hope that in some way, as a new day dawns and i think to myself, “good morning sunshine,” that i will be somewhat like her.  somewhat as incessant.

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

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