reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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barney and the sunflower. [k.s. friday]

we moved the sunflower. it was on the deck for a few years now, rusting behind the aging wooden glider, tucked between the kitchen window and the bedroom window. it greeted us each day we left and came home. it watched over my girl as she house-sat during the summer, a couple ago now, when we were on island. she didn’t know it, but i had asked it to keep her comings and goings safe and each time she left and came back to smile good days upon her. it came home from a cedarburg festival with us, having called us over to ponder its purchase. we walked the length of the festival and talked about the sunflower. then we went back, after more debate than most probably make about purchases, and bought it. about two weeks ago we moved it. now its place is next to barney, surrounded by peonies and wild geranium and daylilies and snow on the mountain. it is happy there.

when you’ve lived somewhere for quite some time there are naturally places that you go that feel better than others. for me, there are places in this town that have immediate warm responses for me, places that have held me, places that are part of my cairns, places where i have dreamed and imagined, places where a community has meant the world to me. there are other places that conjure up memories i would rather forget with visceral responses i can actually feel; i generally stay away from those spots not wanting to relive moments of grief or poor judgement or anger or betrayal or grand disappointment. i have learned, though, that sometimes the best way to process those is to drive past, to acknowledge, to breathe deeply, to maybe weep. in the same way that actual places remind us, mementos from places we hold dear make it into our special boxes or find their way into our home like sticks accumulating in the walking stick vessel in our sitting room or rocks added to the stones around the pond. some mementos are bigger than others, like the sunflower from a gloriously sunny festival-going day in a town we adore browsing or the 5′ long driftwood from a long island beach that graces the mantel or the high mountain aspen branch wrapped in lights in the dining room. and then there’s barney. there’s no escaping this beautiful piano in our backyard, aging with us.

i’ve shared barney’s story before…how he escaped the junk man’s junkyard destination and, for a small price, came here to share life with us. from a basement boiler room to a place of honor near the pond in our tiny yard he sits and invites the company of beautiful plants, munching squirrels and cutie-pie chipmunks. yet he is a memento. and the place he came from is no longer a favorite place. instead, it is a place i now avoid, with emotions that elicit a physical response and a little vibration i can feel in my chest when i think about it. and so how do i avoid attaching these feelings to barney, i have wondered.

my growing-up piano is in our basement. movers moved it there many years ago, before there were walls in the stairwell. i wonder what will become of it if we ever move. it proudly holds art books and a small stereo and sits in david’s painting studio with a couple rocking chairs and his gorgeous old easel. i have thought about ways to repurpose it. and yet, it is so dear that it will, for right now, stay there just as it is, with music in its bench and the little index card on which is carefully printed in eight-year-old font “practice makes perfect”.

there is a piano of size in my studio. it sits at full stick, waiting patiently. i was in there yesterday and it whispered to me, but, for right then, i was consumed with the finishing of putting things away. there is still music to file, organ music still to go back into cabinets. i must decide what to do with the poster that hung on the choir room wall that reads, “if you ask me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud” or the metal cut-out words “it’s all about music” or the white strands of happy lights that were woven around the blackboard that listed rehearsals and demonstrated strum patterns and had dates of parties for that well-loved community held at our house.

maybe once i decide what to do with all of it – including the emotional wreckage part – i will again sit at my piano. drive past, acknowledge, breathe deeply, weep. my piano is full of empathy i can feel and some day, soon i hope, i will be able to sit and play – in a studio cleaned and inviting with mementos of goodness and intentions of evolution. then i will walk out of the studio and down the hall, through the kitchen and the sunroom and outside onto the deck. and i will sit on the old settee and listen to the pond and the birds and watch the chipmunks scurry across the top of the old piano that shares space with the sunflower and a couple green-eyed metal birds.

in answers that have come with a few months of time, i have found that the piano-ness of barney has overcome the where-it’s-from-ness. the peeling back, the wrinkles, the embrace of its tiny community in our yard…these things have usurped the rest.

instead, barney and the sunflower together greet us upon leaving and greet us upon returning home. together, they both bring joy and reassurance to our backyard and they both smile good days upon us.

*****

tune in to my little corner of iTUNES

or tune in to my ever-growing PANDORA spot in the world

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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our echeveria. [two artists tuesday]

on a beautiful summer day, wearing flipflops and with a broken toe, we followed my son, rapidly walking miles through the streets of boston. it was wonderful, in and out of historical places, walking in gardens, taking in the library, strolling in restoration hardware, eating cannolis and people-watching from bistro tables on the sidewalk.

i did not pick up any rocks or sticks that day, now a few years ago, which is rather unusual considering my propensity for them and for saving some thing from perfect (and even imperfect) moments. but we did carry home this sweet and tiny succulent in the smallest of pottery pots, carefully wrapped and boxed by the attentive people at RH in packaging that reminded me deliciously of the packaging-guru-guy on the movie ‘love actually’ (but i digress.) $25 seemed like a lot to pay for this tiny gift we were giving ourselves.

it was 2017 and we devoted our energy to rules about overwatering, underwatering, not-touching-the-petals, enough sunlight, not-too-much sunlight. our little succulent, supposedly low maintenance (what exactly IS low maintenance, anyway?) devoured our plant-attention, but, in the coming years, suffered nevertheless. we transplanted it to a bigger old clay pot, careful to use nutritional potting soil. we read up. water, touch, sun – we experimented with combinations. it seemed to no avail.

the light streams into our sunroom. early in the morning, the sun rays across the room and into the kitchen. later in the day, the room of old windows and new windows invites the outdoors in. there’s an old door that sits on two wrought iron horses on the eastern window. art supplies and nespresso sit nearby. in spring last year, we moved a table into the sunroom, in front of the windows that look out back. we call it our covid table. we hung happy lights and strew them on the table.

we placed this little succulent next to the tiniest pine tree and a ponytail palm that makes me happily think of my beautiful daughter’s ponytails. we decided to forego the instructions we had read and gently watered the little echeveria, letting the water and our hands touch the leaves, talking to it, reaching in and extracting leaves that had dried, rotating the pot to capture light, the tiny rosette in the middle looking healthier by the day. i look at this plant now and think that it needs another transplant, a bit bigger clay pot. and each time i remember the day we got it.

a little attention, a little hydration, a little good soil, a simple old clay home, a little deviance from the plant-rules, a little conversation, a little inclusion in our every day, and this tiny succulent is flourishing.

what better metaphor for nurturing the people around us. give them at least what we give low (read: high) maintenance plants.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the ernie straw. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

ernie straw

the ernie straw.  this straw has lived in the kitchen drawer for decades.  it served the sesame-street-zeal of My Girl and My Boy when they were little-little and has made various appearances back in the sunlit-world from time to time since then.

this summer when The Girl was here house-sitting i came home and into the kitchen to find her using it to sip her pre-workout drink.  she laughingly told me, “it’s a good straw!”  i can’t tell you how happy i was that ernie was still in the drawer when she went searching for the perfect sipping-utensil.

in the last week, ernie has become my constant companion.  positioned carefully in my coffee hydroflask or perched in my water glass or teetering out of a wine glass, ernie and i have done beverage-life together.

they say necessity is the mother of invention and, particularly, this past week with two broken wrists, i would have to agree.  stuck closer to the right side of my brain as a creative thinker (although admittedly there is quite a bit of ny-style-left-side there as well) i have had to sort out how to do things, let’s say, in-a-different-way.

i can proudly say that i can put on my socks, eat my own meal with a fork or a spoon, cut a steak (with the steak knife lodged into my RH cast), put on a little eyeliner and mascara with my LH steadying my right hand (not easy, but some things are just necessary), and type.  last night i squeezed (!) the toothpaste out of the tube and surprised d with his toothbrush pre-pasted.  in bigger news, i have played my piano four days in a row.  i have 9 fingers to use right now; my right thumb is immobilized.  but there are a lot of notes you can play with nine fingers, especially at the right angle and taking your time.

ernie and i are trying to keep a good attitude.  his curlycue-ness is pretty cute and his smile engaging.  he keeps me from feeling too sad, too limited.  he reminds me that the constraints i feel right now are exercising my creative juju (he’s a ridiculous optimist).  and he, most importantly, ties me to all the years backward, where he, yes, an inanimate object, has been a part of my life and the life of my children.

i couldn’t be more grateful to have found this life-gossamer-thread in our kitchen drawer last monday, the day i was injured.  once again, something profound and something simple –  and both remind me of what’s important.

i sent My Girl a photo of ernie in my coffee vessel.  she quickly replied, “it’s a good straw!”   yes.

thank you, our ernie straw.

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

old suitcases website box

 

 


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the old green chest. [two artists tuesday]

toolchest

the old planters peanuts can sits on top of our dresser.  it is a decor mismatch, so it is not there for its color or what it offers as an artistic statement.  it is there because it was my sweet poppo’s.  he kept it in the third drawer down of his dresser.  in it he would place cash, his money clip, odds and ends from his pockets.  “look in the peanut can,” he’d say, if you needed a couple dollars.  it was one of the treasures i kept from their house, the peanut can that had made its way from long island to various houses in florida.  it brings my dad close and every time i look at it sitting atop our dresser, i feel like we had a little conversation, my daddy and i.

you already know we have a penchant for boxes.  not the cardboard kind,  but most definitely the wooden kind and the metal kind.  old wooden boxes, seemingly value-less, of greater value to me than anyone, things my dad used in the garage, things in which my sweet momma kept her paper clips. each a bitty visit from them.  we have old apple crates, old brewery lidded boxes, boxes with slide lids, boxes with hinged covers and hooks to secure them, tiny boxes and big boxes.  and old vintage suitcases.  all special boxes – places to keep the most precious and the most visually-mundane-but-emotion-permeated items.  a place for rocks or stones we couldn’t place-label anymore, a place for my mom’s wooden clothespins, a place for ticket stubs or notes or feathers or cards, a place for colored pencils, ink pens and nibs, rubber bands, a place for our nespresso pods.  it’s not likely we need any more boxes, wooden or metal.

but there it was.  the somewhat battered green metal carpenter’s chest.  its personality taunted us from the floor of the antique shoppe we were trolling with jen and brad.  i went back twice to look at it, to touch it.  we noted that jen and i touch things when we see them; brad and david stand back and admire them.  different processes.  venus.  mars.  “don’t you have to touchhhh it,” we ask?  but i digress.  anyway, we, david and i, are not big helpers-of-the-retail-world, rarely shopping for new ‘stuff’.  but this chest?  it was different.  it was old.  and it was green.

we walked away without purchasing it.

but i still think about it.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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their slippers. [two artists tuesday]

slippersbw

linda and jim were doing the swedish death cleanse.  linda was determined to de-clutter their home of anything that could potentially burden their children one day.  once on a mission there is no stopping her, so they were diligent about going through every corner, nook and cranny of their home, eliminating anything that was not needed, anything that hadn’t been used in ages or was just simply extraneous.

now, we all talked about that around the table.  with the sun setting on lake michigan and wine in our glasses, our little neighborhood group discussed how hard it is to let go of things,  especially things that have some meaning or are mementos of some sort.  add to that the fact that many of us were raised by parents who had experienced the great depression and you have people who are pre-destined to keep stuff, repurpose it, re-use it, save it for sometime you might need it, save it for when it comes back into fashion so you don’t have to buy it again, etc etc etc.  (that’s definitely my experience and my excuse.)

many times i have entered the basement storage room and gazed at the bins.  in years past, we have eliminated most of the boxes and traded them for these bins, throwing out some things, giving away some things, donating items that are useful, so we have made some progress.  now there are bins with christmas ornaments, bins with artwork and stories and projects created by The Girl or The Boy, bins of things my sweet momma felt too guilty to give away, bins of sewing paraphernalia, bins of art supplies, bins of old music (for everyone gives the musician they know all the old sheet music they come across in their own basement and then that musician, who feels like it’s a mortal sin to throw music out, is compelled to keep it all in file cabinets or, yes, bins.)

from time to time i get a wild hair and go through a bin or random remaining box or pile in the basement workroom.  sometimes i am pretty successful at eliminating clutter.  trust me – i have been in peoples’ homes who have been hoarders and just seeing that makes me want to get rid of everything and live in a tiny house (well, one that would fit my piano.)

this winter perhaps we will tackle this once again.  one more layer of cleaning out.  it is possible.  it’s just tough for me to be ruthless.  i am too thready to be ruthless.  touching memories or seeing them around me is reassuring and fills my heart.

one day in more recent days i went upstairs to look for something in the closet in the hallway.  on the top shelf sat these slippers.  stored here, they are my sweet momma’s and my poppo’s.  they kept them here for when they would visit.

i know that they won’t visit our home again.  noticing the slippers stopped me in my pursuit of whatever-it-was-i-was-looking-for.  all the moments of having my parents present in my home swirled around me, the finality once again a reality.  i struggled with what to do.  i took them out of the closet and brought them downstairs to show d.

laying them carefully on the floor, i took this picture so that i could look at it and remember.  and then, i placed them in a bag so that someone else – a woman with smaller feet than mine and a man with bigger feet than d’s –  could have slippers.  slippers with a bank of memories.  slippers worn hugging my children as they grew.  slippers worn around the christmas tree.  slippers worn in the cold winter sitting by the fire or in the summer drinking morning coffee on the deck.  slippers that lived here, just waiting for their owners, my beloved parents, to put them on.  slippers with big heart.  slippers with profoundly good juju.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the field in early october. [d.r. thursday]

Morsel

the field in early october

in the bins in the basement (and scattered in places around the house) are child-drawings and paintings, ornaments made of paper and glue and sparkly glitter, painted rocks of various sizes,  necklaces of beads and shells, framed little scraps of paper with things like “goodnight mom” written in pencil and surrounded by hearts.  The Girl and The Boy have marked time through their artwork (and also through their writings) and i cherish each saved piece.  this morsel – the field in early october – makes me think of such pieces.

in the corner of a new piece on david’s easel i found this morsel.  extracted from the painting it is so childlike in feel.  such simplicity and innocence.  it immediately brought me to open fields we have walked…where sunflowers gaze for just a bit longer and grass is still verdant and lush and there are wild red berries on the bushes along the trail.  the sun is in our eyes and everything takes on a muted hue.  i can smell the leaves burning from the farmer’s field far off to our west.

what is more heavenly than remembering an early october day from a reality-fantasy visual perspective?  what is more treasured than the artwork of a child?  what a delicious combination.  just ask picasso.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this D.R. THURSDAY

drc website header

pumpkinfarm website box.jpg

the field in early october ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 


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#MeToo

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 5.10.57 PM i believe in inherent goodness.  the inherent goodness of each and every person.  born in beauty, walking in beauty.  i blame my sweet momma.  she looked this way at every single person who crossed her path.
          but then, there’s the rest.  predisposed psychological genetics.  environment.  social prejudices.  bigotry.  elitism.  lack of empathy.  the inability to walk in another’s shoes.  the lack of wanting to try to walk in another’s shoes.  some kind of warped misinformed yet embraced caste system.  jealousy.  bitterness.  the web of ‘ugly’ has many faces.  and people twist.  and that inherent goodness seems to go underground.  we wonder if there is, indeed, any goodness left.  we are confronted with this question over and over again it seems, especially these days.
          we had a discussion about goodness recently.  it became heated.  the dog left the room and retreated to the bathroom.  we were intense.  too intense.  arguing for the same point, we came from two different directions, two different backgrounds.  but we were heading, actually, in the same direction.
          each of us carries our gift of inherent goodness.  we choose each and every day whether we access it or not. my momma’s adherence to the adage, “i shall pass through this world but once.  any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.  let me not defer or neglect it for i shall not pass this way again.” often rings in my ears.  we all make decisions each day; some steeped in good, some not so much.
          as we approached the holidays and the end of the year, we were deeply diving into cleaning out.  seems right at the end of the year.  old boxes of random items that had accumulated in the years lived in this home, vestiges of life before, of life growing up, of goodnesses shown and received.  we had so much fun as we cleaned; i’d show d pictures or mementos from places or people or the children, every one of them an opportunity for a story.  some carried aha moments, some elicited sighs of where-does-the-time-go, some made me laugh or teary, some stopped me in my tracks.
          i came across things from way-earlier-life, the time i had spent growing up on long island.  my seagull collection, plastic seagulls suspended on wires attached to rocks or shells or pieces of cork, a 70s thing for sure.  my horse collection, which was, in my mind, massive, but when i unpacked it was more like 15 horse statues and ribbons from showing in horse shows, drawings i had painstakingly drawn, books i pored over and over and studied at a much younger age.  a doll collection with hand sewn or hand crocheted outfits made lovingly by my grandmother ‘mama dear’s’ hands.  books and notebooks and old calendars.  trinkets and rocks and feathers.  cards and letters i saved for decades.  artwork by the girl and the boy.  little notes they wrote to me.  an old electric typewriter and a case of 45rpm records we played the night we found them.
          and then there are the reminders from a time i don’t talk about so much.  a time when i became a #MeToo.  it takes my breath away to think of that 19 year old girl.  me – an idealistic, innocent, youngest-by-far child who looked at the world through poetic eyes and trusting-colored glasses.  my heart breaks now for this young woman who found her way through a terrifying -and life-changing- time pretty much alone, seeking little help for an act that drove to her core and was more than difficult to voice in a late 1970s judicial system.  because, you know, not everyone is good.  not everyone holds their inherent goodness ahead of their selfish, controlling, violent behaviors.  back then, counseling, and even prosecuting, was rare.  i didn’t experience either one.  the help of counseling nor the satisfaction of prosecuting this person who took away my belief and trust in goodness.  for a time, fear coursed through me.  my view of others became jaded and distrusting.  i sought refuge in varying ways, but never really explained why to myself or others.  i didn’t understand what caused this man to behave as he had, nor did i understand that it wasn’t mine to understand.  what i do know, is that i grew.
          and now, as our world opens their listening hearts to women and girls everywhere, i am grateful.  grateful for their collective voices and the deserved help extended to them. grateful that even in giving individual voice, they are moving through the processing of it, the reason for being a #MeToo becoming smaller than #MeToo survival.
          i was once told wise words from a friend when i was grieving my momma’s death.  joan said, “the only way to get to the other side is through it.”
          as i sort through all the pieces of life i have carried in boxes, in bins, in photographs, in my heart and soul, through all these years, i realize again that these words are so true.  in so many situations, so many life arenas. the only way to get to the other side is through it.  and then, you can find inherent goodness again.

 


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i blame my sweet momma.

IMG_1799three weeks ago we loaded a 5 1/2 foot long piece of driftwood and more rocks and shells than we could count into the xb to drive home. with sand everywhere, we carried back to wisconsin with us morsels of my life on long island…pieces of the north shore and my beloved crab meadow beach, pieces of the south shore and the fierce atlantic ocean.

i have always always collected rocks and pieces of wood. i’d like to be able to say that i could identify each one and its origin, but i really don’t know.  the easier ones to identify are the ones my children painted for me, all of which i saved.  but now all the pieces of my life that i have carried have blended into each other, blended into who i am.

for me, the piece of quartz or granite, the sedimentary rock with mica flecks, the conglomerate somehow arriving in northport, the clamshell that had been home to some northeast clam, the sand in a bag, pebbles, flowers from the field, grasses that dried in the woods…all important souvenirs – unlike a perfunctory t-shirt – things that ground me, help me remember, things i can touch.

my sweet momma loved rocks too. growing up we had a rock garden out back and their tv stand was a huge slab of rock that they moved on a moving van down to florida with them when they left long island. i always knew that i could give her something made of rock, made of wood, something natural, something organic, and she would celebrate it….with all her heart. she got it. that feeling of staying connected with the land she loved, the earth, the very soil, the very spot that gave her a memory. i get that. the rocks around our pond and scattered inside our house, the pebbles in my purse, the 6 foot long aspen branch in our dining room are evidence. the driftwood – and the sand – on our table make it clear.

i am thready, just like my sweet momma. i blame her.

thank you, momma.IMG_1853

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood