reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the bow. [k.s. friday]

the bow: sculpture – duke kruse **

at the very end of a concert, out on the apron of the wooden stage, as close up and personal as can be from a proscenium, head tucked down and adrenaline coursing through your body, the final bow is sheer gratitude. it is a humble thank-you. it is an exhilarating release. it is a moment when time dissipates into slow-motion and suddenly you realize that it is over. it is full of you-are-exactly-where-you-are-supposed-to-be. it never ceases to amaze me. and then, it is the moment to tuck back behind the curtain, head to the green room, breathe a prayer of thanks, and start the running review in your mind’s eye.

it matters not the size of the audience. a few people in folding chairs, a park filled with thirty-thousand, a few hundred seated in upholstered comfort. you bring the same program, the same dedication, the same commitment to your art, no matter how many people are there. the give and take of audience energy makes a difference, yes, but any performing artist can tell you that delivering the work is the same, regardless. one must actually work harder with a smaller audience.

you can feel it. the minutes your delivery resonates. you can feel it. the minutes you know you need to rapidly move on, change the course. you can feel it. in the perfect pause between lines of a story you tell, laughter waiting in the wings. you can feel it. the heart of a story falling into the hearts of those gathered to watch. it is a dialogue without dialogue and your bow at the end of the concert acknowledges their participation in it.

i would say that the things i miss most about the-job-i-no-longer-have are those moments of resonance, the moments that don’t find a place in a job description, the moments that cannot be measured. they are the moments birthed through expansive experience, through study, through empathy, through intuition, through gifts given to you that have no names, no deservedness; instead, just the compelling imperative to be used.

the times in the choir room when, in the middle of starting to rehearse a piece of music, a story surfaces and i must tell it. that laughter opens everyone; the piece of music has four-part heart. the times when i direct others performing together, joy on their faces, their breathing different because of that which they have created together, that which we have rehearsed together, the spirit which we have sown in the music. the times in the chancel, in the middle of a particularly poignant song, standing at the piano and singing into the boom mic, glancing at jim playing guitar and singing harmony and telling him with my eyes to make another go-round, looking out into the gathering, eye contact, and seeing the song fall upon them, touch them, engage them, speak to them, tug at them. those are moments when music connects faith-dots, moments of doing the work, moments of shaping a journey, moments in which i bow internally to that which guides me.

there have been many: many prosceniums, many aprons, many black boxes, many chancels, many flatbeds, the floors of wholesale, retail, television studios, the creaking floor under my piano, the patio out back. they each bid to the imperative. they each elicit my gratitude.

the stage echoes under my boots. as i walk to the center, take the bench at the piano, place my hands on the keys and my face up close to the mic, it is always with great anticipation. it is the culmination of planning, designing, writing, practicing, rehearsing. it is lighting and sound and balance. it is storytelling through song with lyrics, through song without lyrics, through song without music or lyrics, through narrative and through rests. it is the forerunner of a deep bow i will hold onto until the next time.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

listen to music – bow included – in my little corner of iTUNES

** this stunning sculpture’s home is next to my piano in my studio


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woven wicker paper plate holders and love. [two artists tuesday]

“mom’s beloved paper plates,” my son called them. the boy was referring to plain and simple paper plates, the least expensive kind, not the dixie plates or chinet plates or the styrofoam plates that make you cringe when they squeak. just the kind of paper plate that is uncoated and recyclable.

i’m not sure that is a good thing to be remembered for. but in busy times with busy schedules and no dishwasher, paper plates were often a choice. “double them,” my momma would say. or she would hand you one of these woven wicker paper-plate-holders, of which she was a big fan.

and so, walking in the aisle of the grocery store and passing a gigantic display of these was like a gentle ‘hello’ from my sweet momma. since we already own some of these, from our beaky, we didn’t need to stop and buy any. plus, we rarely use paper plates these days. in these times there is more time for dishwashing. and real plates and cloth napkins. but oh, that ‘hello’.

cardinals in the backyard, notecards in the bottom of old purses, paint-by-number paintings in antique shoppes, peeps in easter candy displays, woven paper-plate-holders…they all keep alive memories of my sweet momma. in short order, this month, we will mark six years since she left this plane of living, nine for my poppo. it doesn’t seem possible. the blue metal planters peanuts can that my dad kept in his drawer for a zillion years sits on top of my dresser, the small wooden boxes from his workshop hold our nespresso pods, the ceiling fan chain wraps around our wrists, braceleting a reminder of him.

like you, i notice things, whether antiquing or sitting or cleaning out or grocery shopping. thready and emotional, beyond repair, i will always stop in my tracks. i choose not to see these things as passively there. instead, i choose that somehow, crossing the invisible ‘over’, this tiny gesture is a greeting, a reminder, a reassurance, love itself.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a clinker. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i am a clinker. i simply cannot take a sip of wine without clinking.

last week we rediscovered that three wine glasses clinking sound infinitely different than two. for the better part of a year we have only clinked two, never a third, never a fourth. like many of you, the pandemic has prevented us from sharing a few moments with others, having a toast, sipping and talking together in the same space.

last spring, summer and fall, out in their backyard distanced by about ten feet, we had happy hour with our best friends. we sat in adirondack chairs on the patio or in the grass, under the setting sun or the giant-sized umbrella, hoping for a cool breeze or warming by the bonfire. we talked, we laughed, we visited in our little pod from far away. but we never clinked.

i clinked in october. we were in the high mountains at long last and my girl was holding a wine glass in the same space and we clinked. tiny cherished moments and glittering in their rarity. and then, just as there were months before, there were months after. the clinks-of-aspen have been ringing in my heart since those crisp fall days.

so the fact that this past week we clinked is a big deal. we have had both our vaccines and so has 20. we are all meticulously careful. and so, after much research, for the first time, he came over for dinner. inside. in our kitchen. it felt surreal and took a little getting used to. oddly for us, it’s been a long time since anyone was in our house besides us. it was a special clink and we laughed at how normal and abnormal it was. and then, the same story only different, after way too much time, we clinked with my boy. at his spectator counter in their beautiful kitchen, steps away from a table set for a dinner we would share. clink.

three more-than-two-glasses-clinks in about a year.

although there are several outdated and somewhat dark ancient and medieval reasons for clinking, the farmers’ almanac states that, “it is believed that clinking glasses was done during toasts, because sound helped to please all five senses, completing the drinking experience. drinking is also a coming together of friends, so by physically touching glasses, drinkers become part of a communal celebration.”

a communal celebration. the sound of community. things that have been missing this last year. it is clear we are all starved for time together. it is also clear that some people are just throwing in the towel. fatigued with isolation, tuckered out by a piece of cloth across their faces, they go and do whatever they please, scorning the wise advice of medical experts who warn of the possibility of “impending doom” and beg this country to abide by covid-19 safety parameters just a little longer. it’s hard to understand – the lack of concern for the collective. we do not exist in a vacuum, though it would seem that there are those out there who believe we do.

as we – d and i – gently and very slowly add to our experiences with others, i want to celebrate each and every one, never taking for granted being seated around a counter, never taking for granted what it feels like dining around our tiny kitchen table or with a fancy setting in the dining room, never taking for granted a houseful of people milling around eating and drinking, never taking for granted what it feels like for those dear to you to walk into your house and enjoy the presence of others, never taking for granted basking in community.

“i have big ears,” one of my long-lost-but-now-found-cousins said on the phone when we were talking, trying to catch up on everything since around 1970. i tried to reassure him i would not talk his ear off each time we spoke; it takes so many words to try and catch up, to reconnect, as i am discovering in conversation with him, another of my cousins – his sister – and my almost-99-year-old aunt. he laughed and reassured me, “no, no. it’s all good. i have big ears.”

were he here, my cousin tony standing in the kitchen with a glass of wine, i would clink with him and celebrate mightily that my community is growing in ways i would not have expected.

*****

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


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the color of new growth. [two artists tuesday]

desi is growing up. suddenly, seemingly overnight, there is lime-green new growth rising toward the sky in the way pine trees reach up, up, up. this seedling we adopted has beaten some odds and its tiny shoots show promise.

we’re not sure what kind of evergreen it is. maybe a white pine? though we are curious and want to be sure to tend to desi properly, it doesn’t really matter. we share our table at the window with her every day, watching for changes, carefully rotating her pot. she is present with us in all our lunches and dinners, with glasses of wine and snacks, surrounded by happy lights and joined in potted life next to various succulents, a fluffy ponytail palm and KC, my new adorable birthday gardenia bonsai from my girl and her sweetie.

a little research on firs reveals a plethora of trees i did not realize even existed. fantastic specimens of hardiness, each kind of tree reveals new growth in a different color, in a slightly different way. desi’s lime-green is a stunning color and we wonder what these new shoots will look like as time goes on.

before we rescued her from being mowed over, desi lived in a place of much diversity. pines and oaks and maples and hickories, all living in harmony, co-existing. tall trees reaching for the sun, hardy and stoic through thick and thin, symbiosis at its best. downed trees, decaying leaves, rich soil ingredients for strength, a diet for underbrush and trees alike, no boundaries drawn.

sunday we drove big red to chicago. we like to take the back way, through smaller towns and past homes built on the edges of ravines and lake michigan. it slows us down and keeps us off the anxious interstate. we were on our way to my boy’s new place where he and his boyfriend waited to serve us an amazing four-course dinner for my birthday. my girl and her boyfriend had sent lovely bottles of wine for the occasion, to be there though they could not be there.

on the way down, as we got into the city, a few police cars with lit light strips caught our attention. and then, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people marching, “stop asian hate” signs leading the way. horns blowing and demonstrations of support rang out as they marched in protest and we were proud of their efforts to raise awareness, to alleviate – stop – this prevailing and abhorrent hostility, violence and discrimination committed against AAPI people. the quiet suffering is no longer quiet. what will it take for us, for this community, this country, this world, to achieve healthy symbiosis?

i wonder what color my new growth is. i wonder if it’s visible. i wonder what the shoots will reveal. like desi, i hope, in my tiny spot in this universe, i will turn toward the sun, ever-stoic, ever-inclusive, ever-present, surrounded by happy lights and full of promise.

*****

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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.

*****

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“i know you can do it.” [merely-a-thought monday]

inside a what-is-now-considered-vintage liz claiborne barrel purse was a treasure. not unzipped in years, i unpacked it the other day. i found a rattle, two small children’s board books, photographs in one of those plastic wallet picture thingies, a couple expired credit cards, a slew of emery boards, faded receipts i could no longer read, old chapstick, a collection of assorted pens and pencils, a few lists, some coins and two tiny mystery keys, a few notes from my girl, cars on scraps of paper drawn by my boy, and a card in the envelope it was mailed in. every now and then you stumble upon a treasure you forgot you had.

my sweet momma was famous for her handwritten letters; most of our family would easily recognize her handwriting, even in a crowded handwriting sampling, even years after last seeing it. this little card in my old purse was clearly something i carried around for some time. it was a note of reassurance, a note with great empathy, a note of encouragement. she mailed it early in january 1989, just a few months after i moved to wisconsin. still in the middle of homesickness and adjustment, though – as i realize now – she must have been feeling loneliness as well, she wrote to me. and she penned six words that i remember her repeating throughout my life:

“i know you can do it.”

those words – just six – can make all the difference.

momma was a glass-half-full type. her fervent cheering-on was a solid part of her nurturing. she fostered support with easy acceptance of failure, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” she didn’t list to the negative, nor did she wallow in it. in all her life, from early in marriage my dad MIA and then a POW in world war II, to losing her first baby within a day of her birth while my dad was imprisoned and she knew nothing of his whereabouts, to losing her grown son to lung cancer, to standing by my dad in his own lung cancer, a myriad of rough patches, to being left alone with my dad gone to face a double mastectomy at 93. no matter the challenge, she faced it down. she knew she could do it. and, despite any enormity, she left you with no doubt. even though her heart was thready and vulnerable, her positive spirit was contagious, her strength a force in the world.

these times – the pandemic and all it has wreaked, personal physical injuries or illnesses, job trials, isolation and loss of too much and too many to list – have cued up a range of mountains for each of us to scale. my mom’s “good morning merry sunshine” couples with her “live life, my sweet potato.” lines of counterpoint for melodies in life that are askew, her words brace against the storm. my sweet momma did not give up and she did not expect you to either. “you got this,” would be her brene brown shortcut message. she stuck with it all and rode each complicated wave, each complexity, each twist. she lives on in my daughter tearing down a run on a snowboard. she lives on in my son setting up a beautiful new place with his boyfriend. she lives on in the love her granddaughters and grandson bestow upon their children. she lives on in me.

in these times, with all its obstacles daring us to succumb, i can hear her. “i know you can do it,” her voice whispers to my heart.

*****

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live life my sweet potato stuff


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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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dog and cat. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

his best friend. he waits at the door for his best friend to return. his sorrow is quiet, subdued. his grief is confusion, dedication to a belief that babycat will come home. he has never been in this house without him – not even a day – and this last week has been heartwrenching to watch his reaction. his sadness is palpable, his loss profound.

the first few days after his babycat disappeared he was almost silent. dogdog is never a silent dog, so this was noticeable. without a sound, he looked everywhere for his cat. with lydia’s wise recommendation i tried to visualize for him all that had happened once his babycat had left the house, to give him some context, to let him know he did not have to wait, to tell him that his babycat was now in our hearts. he looked deeply into my eyes and then looked away, as if to dismiss my explanation, to hold close his own perspective, his own interpretation.

‘the boys’ spent the days together – every day since we brought dogdog home as a puppy. they’ve navigated through changes and ups and downs with us. they’ve kept us amused and entertained. they’ve nuzzled us in our times of angst. the rare times they were apart were very few times that we were on a trip. they moved to the littlehouse on island with us and adapted, finding mutual spots at the place where the kitchen met the living room and the sun streamed in. the noise of the ferry on the crossing scaring babycat, dogdog stayed close to him, signaling all was well. they channeled reassurance to each other, touchstones of steady, ever-present. they shared their water bowl and cheered each other on when it was time for treats. where one would go, ultimately the other would follow. and at the end of the day, butt-to-butt, they lay on the raft, waiting for us to sleep. babycat ruled. they were best friends.

last tuesday morning as i sipped coffee on the bed and babycat lay curled up down by my feet, dogga jumped up and laid down. gently, with all absence of play and what seemed in all seriousness, he moved his face over to babycat’s face. they laid nose to nose, heads on the soft old quilt, their hushed stillness, in retrospect, a clear display of their great love for each other. after a bit of time, babycat’s symptoms surfaced suddenly. and everything in the world changed for our sweet dedicated-to-his-cat aussie.

i understand dogdog’s quiet. though our presence and snugs and words to him might help, solace will only come in time. “woundedness is one of the places where normal words and descriptions break down.” grief is not limited to human hearts.

*****

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babycat. [two artists tuesday]

his long white whisker was on the black rug in the sunroom. i bent down and picked it up, my heart aching for this sweet adored cat no longer here. i taped it to a piece of colored paper, trying to hold on to babycat physically just a little longer.

b-cat was twelve. according to the almanac that’s about 64. it hadn’t occurred to me or us that he was a senior cat; he was simply our babycat and his presence was more than one-fourth of our home. his absence has made a profound impact; it is very very quiet. it’s not that he was that noisy, although he was a vocal cat. it’s just that he was that present. for each of us.

i was alone last week when it happened. in an unusual turn d was away and i was home. monday was a day of sorting and cleaning and rearranging. babycat spent the day in the same room as me and split his time between snoozing and pets. nothing out of the ordinary, just extraordinarily normal. tuesday morning was unexpected and will break my heart for some time to come. suddenly symptomatic and ultimately laying down behind a chair i never remember him exploring, i knew things were dreadfully wrong. racing babycat in his blanketed dog-crate (since he was too big for cat carriers) to an urgent veterinarian appointment, i spoke to him the entire way while he loudly meowed and i could feel hope leaving my body. there are moments that feel surreal and, like other losses in my life, this was one. over a covid-enforced veterinary facetime app, a very kind and compassionate doctor explained the xray she had immediately taken and the dire implications of all that she could see suddenly impacting our beloved cat. babycat gave us no time to make longer term treatment decisions. he died on that tuesday morning in march, almost twelve years since my life had been graced by him as a kitten. and, in the way that death changes everything, i won’t be the same without him.

i’ve seen bumper stickers with pawprints that read “who rescued who?” each time i nod my head, understanding. babycat came to me at a time of great need. my girl and my boy and i drove to florida to pick up this kitten who had come to stay at my niece’s doorstep, with no evidence of a missing owner. a first-time-cat-family, we drove “cat”, who we were having trouble naming, all the way home, trying to figure out how to feed and water and potty-break a cat on the way, when all our experience was dog-based. somewhere along the way babycat was named “wilson” but he chose to never answer to that and picked “babycat” as his given name. we taught him to sit, to beg, to come when called. he meowed when we said “speak” and was a lot more dog than cat in many ways.

babycat – in the wisdom of the animal kingdom – followed me around in moments of loneliness, insisted on regimented times for meals, showed me that the sun on the rug in the living room was something to soak up, sat with me on the floor. baby-the-c’s constant companionship was my solace in empty-nest-initiation and his lack of stealth was a bit of noise i desperately needed around me. so much to say about that little creature. yes, who rescued who?

his absence now is, if possible, even bigger than his presence. babycat love – ours and his – surrounds me.

*****

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old house symphony. [k.s. friday]

thwwwwwwwwwwunk. a distinctive sound. shhhhhhhhhhhhunk. another distinctive sound. the timbre of laundry in the laundry chute.

our old house has a two-story laundry chute: from the bathroom on the second floor through the bathroom on the first floor to the basement wooden trap door. for over three decades i have listened to laundry as it sings its way down the chute. it is likely i can identify – to a pretty close degree – what is traveling down to the land of the washer-dryer. i can tell if it is jeans. i can tell if it is socks. i can tell if it is a wet washcloth or a wet towel. i can tell it in the dark. i can tell it as a lark. oops…got carried away. but that is the truth – i can tell by the sound of the item as it brushes against the metal chute-frame and lands on the little wooden door. having had this highly-technical cutting-edge advantage for the better part of my adult life, i’m not sure what i would do without a laundry chute.

the radiator, in the middle of the night, often makes a thunking sound. it emanates from the sitting room, right off the bedroom and, were you to be easily freaked out by unfamiliar noises, you would sit up in bed, frozen and silent, wondering what critter was in the next room thunking. having heard this sound for thirty-something years, coming from radiators a third again old than i am, i am comforted by it, the single metallic-sounding drum-thump a piece of my audio history.

in the early days of owning this house, the wood-floor-guy asked if i wanted the spaces between the planks filled in or if i wanted him to place screws or shims into the wood from below so as not to hear the floor creaking. i was horrified at both ideas. the patina of the old floor, its stories, its life, and the sound of the old floor are all part of what i love about this house. i can’t imagine not hearing the wood floors creak. i never even wished that even in the middle of the night, what feels like a million years ago, just after my baby girl or my baby boy fell fast asleep, just after i laid her or him back in the crib, as i tiptoed out of the nursery hoping to not wake them, trying to avoid the floorboards that made the most noise. i just memorized the boards that were the greatest offenders and long-jumped them. they are the house speaking, the stories it holds dear.

d says i hear better than he does. the gutter’s funny dripping sound, the click of the ceiling fan, the sound the swinging door in the dining room makes, a little water in the pipes, the back screen door squeak, the vinyl siding expanding in the sunlight, the front door lock latching, the pantry closet closing, the boiler kicking on, the old oven opening, the chain on the basement door, the glass knob from the french door falling off.

i just say that i am listening to the symphony of this old house and i’m just a little more tuned in.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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