reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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“the pace of nature.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“…adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.” (ralph waldo emerson)

no matter how hard we try, there is not one thing we can do to make the sun appear or the day warmer or the moon to rise or the snow to fall. we accept that time will come, time will pass, time will form and time will destroy. we give over to nature, anticipating that which we know, expecting the unexpected. we baby-step through this very time in the universe, our footprints barely visible on the timeline that is forever. we learn that no matter our stride, we are simply tiny beings. eventually, we learn, after giving over to patience, that that is enough.

the john denver sanctuary in aspen is a treasure trove. we have been there three times now. a garden of trails and large river boulders etched with lyrics and quotes, perennial daisies and aspen trees, it is a gentle sinking into peaceful. the city sounds of aspen fall away and the river and streams are lulling.

we wandered for hours, reading, sitting, pondering, the sun on our faces, the sound of quaking leaves slowing us down. i stood on a giant rock, like a stage under my feet, and bowed deeply to no one and to the brilliance of a man who knew how to tenderly shape melody and weave lyric into a fabric like a soft blanket.

we were immersed in poetry, in words, delicious to read aloud. we were quietly taking it all in, i in all my john-denver-glory, reliving the cassettes i wore out, rewinding, rewinding, listening again and again. this exquisite place, tempting all-day-hooky-playing, wielding a magic defined by thought, encouraging reflection, softly begging you to tumble in your own thoughts. this place slowing you down, reminding you that it is not stuff that defines you, it is not the stuff-of-you that will remain with others.

we wrestle with timing, with suspense, with expectation and disappointment. we measure against ladders of success and hold ourselves to higher higher higher standards of accomplishment.

nature quietly treks on, luminescent and glorious, patiently acknowledging every babystep moment of its impact, surrendering judgement and secretly, from the heart of the universe, signing its autograph on all of us, whispering to us to slow our pace.

*****

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


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the soul of the earth. [two artists tuesday]

“it never occurs to us to wonder how the earth sees us. is it not possible that a place could have huge affection for those who dwell there? … could it be possible that a landscape might have a deep friendship with you? that it could sense your presence and feel the care you extend towards it? … perhaps each day our lives undertake unknown tasks on behalf of the silent mind and vast soul of nature. during its millions of years of presence perhaps it was also waiting for us, for our eyes and our words.” john o’donohue’s continued writing in this passage from beauty so reinforces personal responsibility for our good earth.

have you stood in a place, grounded into the dirt, unable to step away? have you hiked in, willing the trail to never-end, to not enter back into the sphere of bustling humanity? have you laid in the grass, your eyes on the clouds, pushing sleep just a bit to the side, creating words and shapes and animals in the sky, laden with sun-color, untouched by crayons or paint? have you touched the bark of a tree that whispered to you wise words with deep roots? have you cradled the petals of a flower gently in the palm of your hand, silenced by its fragility, its complexity?

and what has the good earth felt about us? have we offered the same solace to its soul? has it been moved by our tenderness? is it listening to our carefully-chosen words to each other or is it reeling, dumbstruck, at words thrown willy-nilly, demeaning phrases, curses and mean-spiritedness uttered in its place? does the earth trust we will do the right thing, that we will preserve its goodness for centuries to come? can it feel the love we have for it or is it begging us to notice the litter strewn on the ground or yet another person who throws trash out the car window? do places we go miss us when we leave or is there a sigh of relief as we pass through to the next place? does this soul wait for our soul to return?

the feeling you get when you arrive somewhere you have never been and yet you know you have been there before. the exhilaration of feeling the invisible source of serenity, the tethers of strength. the freedom you feel at the edge of the canyon, your heart beating wildly, a connection to all that has gone before you and all that comes after you.

how can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth?

how can we not know?

responsibility.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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golden. not golden. [k.s. friday]

silence is golden.

there is nothing quite like the last strains of gabriel’s oboe (ennio morricone) falling into your heart. there is nothing quite like a break in lyrics, or like the moments after the words “and the world will be as one(john lennon). in music the rests grant time for digesting, for processing, for evoking, for wrapping around you. it is golden time, those rests, and it makes everything else – all other notes, all harmony, all orchestration, all lyrics – make sense.

the music tells the story. it is honest and forthright; it is transparent. it does not suggest innuendo, nor does it allude or insinuate or imply. it does not squelch the truth or warp the narrative. one note follows another until it rests and gives the listener time to breathe, to catch up, to absorb it. its words – the notes that are played – are golden. its silence is golden. it is truth.

and – silence is not golden.

“listen to silence. it has much to say.” rumi may have been speaking of the silence of the snowfall, the silence of the sunrise. like the golden silence of music, these silences fall with grace. they are not silences with implication nor are they incendiary.

equally as powerful as graceful silences of rest is the silence of the person-who-does-not-speak who brings inference, who hints, who implies, who, because of a deliberate lack of words, causes others to jump to conclusions, to opine, to form judgements without the basis of knowledge. powerful seems the person who does not speak up, speak for, speak against, who remains silent, crediting correctness but acting out of intentional design. but this is not the power of rightness, despite any display of righteousness. it is not the power of the powerful; instead it is weakness.

to not speak up, to be silent. to not speak for, to be silent. to not speak against, to be silent. to not speak questions, to not speak objections. to not communicate in honest words, to sit in quiet insinuation, to encourage blind compliance, passive and complicit acceptance, blind trust, to encourage conjecture. weakness.

it is it is on our shoulders to choose our words carefully. it is also on our shoulders to choose our silences in that same way. should our public statements be rigorously measured by integrity and responsibility and truth? should they be steeped in justice and fairness and respect?

yes. they hear your words. and yes. they hear your silence.

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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and the snow whispers. [k.s. friday]

and the new year enters from stage right/house left and whispers to the middle of the old wooden stage. a slight and humbled bow to its foregoer, it beckons silence and quiet resolve.

we stand in ovation as we pine for its downbeat and new music, this new year’s promise. then we take our seats in the snow and turn our faces to it gently falling, flakes in slow motion, moments of fresh powder.

stillness commences and the hushed voice of what is to come lingers in the cold dark air around us. it is voiceless and indistinct; we lean in and listen for the timbre of the spirit of what will be.

and the snow whispers back to us, ever-fragile flakes, reminding us of its evanescence, of our impermanence, of the mystery of it all.

we rise and we walk into the woods, our feet crunching on the trail.

happy new year.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

listen to music as you start this new year

©️ 2020 kerri sherwood


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instead. [k.s. friday]

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

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

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

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

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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tacet root vegetables. [k.s. friday]

ritenuto: an abrupt slowing down of tempo

tacet: silence of instrument

fermata: pause of unspecified time

and, suddenly, a prolonged tacet. no notes. no instrumentation. no expression markings. no crescendos or decrescendos. just silence. the baton is laid down. there is no beat pick-up. there is no rest. it is silence. issued. written in the music. a ritenuto – screeching to slow, a subito tacet. suddenly still.

the reassurances are generous, heartfelt. they are reflexes, like putting out your hand when you fall. they are meant to help in the silence, in the sudden slowdown, the sudden stop, the fermata holding the tacet. they make my heart quiver, these well wishes. but they don’t change the composer’s notes in the music: the ritenuto. the tacet. the fermata. those are printed in the music; those are decreed. they are unquestionable, immovable, indisputable, final.

i was voted off the island, in “survivor” talk. it was not an island, but, nevertheless, i am not a survivor. not there, anyway. i am forever tacet-ed there. the fermata above my tacet-ed head reminds me.

it, too, reminds me to be still. to step lightly. to be gentle with myself. i run the scores in my head – scores of scores in that place. i emoted each expression marking, each twist of the music, each gradual shaping, each change of tempo, of timbre, of voice.

and now.

i opened this book randomly, hoping to arrive on a page that might offer me wisdom. i read: “upheavals in life are often times when the soul has become too smothered; it needs to push through the layers of surface under which it is buried….it reminds us that we are children of the eternal and our time on earth is meant to be a pilgrimage of growth and creativity.” (john o’donohue)

it doesn’t feel like a platitude. i’ve read it over and over and over again now since the morning i was fired. i wonder, each day, when the baton will be lifted, when the pick-up beat will come. i remember the all-engulfing power of change works both ways – to decimate and to breathe new life. i – try – to trust the dusty trail i am reluctantly set upon.

upheaval. sudden arrival at prolonged silence. not much more upheaval for an artist than silence. yet, as i sit in this silence, deemed as fitting by the composer, i feel the root-vegetable-of-my-soul gathering energy. with no idea and no preconception, i await as it will push through the earth one day, steeped in nutrients, rooted in rich soil.

my sweet momma said, “live life, my sweet potato.” oh wise woman, you must have known.

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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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it’s where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

i come from make-it-work stock. my sweet momma and poppo were children of the great depression and were not wasteful sorts. soap socks, squeezing every last vestige of shampoo from the bottle, re-using boxes, rube-goldberg fixes, not a lot of retail therapy. they made do with what they had and never complained. latest trends were mostly lost on them and competing for the best lawn/decor/car/wardrobe/jewels/stuff was not a thing. as the youngest child, with siblings much older than me who both married by the time i was eleven, i had much time to glean and learn to mimic their ways. making-it-work. it’s where i’m from.

and so now, empowered by these two forces of nature – my mom and my dad – with a new brace on my wrist, i am making do. after breaking both wrists the end of january in a snowboarding accident, i finally had healed fractures. the pandemic had interrupted all my occupational therapy and, thus, i’ve been frustrated by a lack of range of motion in my right wrist, so my old brace was often my companion. but i made it work. it’s where i’m from.

and then i fell.

the floor was wet and, unfortunately, unmarked as such. my feet flew out from underneath me and, in natural reflex action, i fell…on my right wrist. i felt right away something was wrong but waited to contact my dr for 48 hours, hoping for quick residing of the new pain. i’m pretty tough and it takes a lot for pain to get to me. d says i have a high tolerance for pain. i blame my mom and dad. they were tough and endured much in their lives. but this isn’t a post about my wrist – soon an MRI and a hand specialist will tell me what is now going on, post-fall. in the meanwhile, i keep on keeping on, just the same as after i simultaneously broke both wrists. making do. it’s where i’m from.

as we hiked along trails in aspen’s woods of color, we mused on how easily we were, well, amused. simply hiking, sitting alongside a creek, smelling the scent of autumn forest – these things were sheer entertainment for us. no restaurants, no bars, no shops, no shows required. (and, in the middle of a pandemic, not even considered.) i thought of all the times i had spent simply being outside, picking apples with my momma and poppo, taking drives, having picnics in parks at wooden tables carved with initials of people we would never know. as we sat around the table out on the balcony or socially-distanced in the condo, i thought of all the times i just spent simply coffee-sitting with my mom and dad, talking long over dinner, late-night conversations on the phone. as my daughter and i talked about my parents, her beaky and pa, i thought of their sacrifices, of their belief in all peoples regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, religion. i thought of their altruism, their open-mindedness, their embracing of new ideas and their love of learning new things and going new places, and i see their eyes reflected in both my daughter’s and son’s eyes. it’s where i’m from. and it’s where they’re from.

as we approach this very important time of voting, i worry about the narrative others are hearing, but not researching. i worry about the rhetoric coming from this white house, the absolute lies, the warping of truths, the sickening twist of stories, the re-defining of the definition of words, the lack of understanding, the self-serving agenda, the out and out falling prey to gross exaggerations of misinformation. i worry about those people listening to this, believing it, voting with this toxic barrage of falsehoods in their hearts.

and i think about my mom, who always, always, always said, “look it up.” yes. look further. research. find objective, factual resources and immerse in those. look. it. up.

yes. make do. look it up. it’s where i’m from.

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please figure it out. [k.s. friday]

figure it out

i, like so many others, want to scream “FIGURE IT OUT!”

in a nation crumbling under leadership pushing division and counting on a so-called “patriotic” movement of the populace to want to climb aboard its sick agenda-ridden wagon, i want to look people in the eye and ask them to please figure it out.

figure out that you are being accosted with aggressive propaganda, with misinformation, with bigotry and false pretenses of protectionism.  in our country, this means you are being intravenously fed with distorted falsehoods, warped promises, extreme nationalism in a round-globe-world where this country is simply one of almost 200.

figure out that this disinformation is feeding into the frenzy.  in our town, this means that a 17 year old boy from just over the state line strapped on his AR-whatever, got in the car, reportedly had his mother drive him (holding his automatic-people-killer) to our town where he played cowboy vigilante and took the lives of two people during protests for social injustice.  this frenzy is dishing out the sickening sweet saccharin of cultish followers in a time of fragile unrest.

figure out that the hate-speech of people is wooing joiners, that words like “be sure to arm yourself and your family and know how to use them” cannot lead to any good thing.  in my life, this means people i love disenfranchising themselves from me, detaching and choosing the popular-group lure of strangers, rabidly spewing the hostile talk of animosity.

figure out that you live in a country that is supposed to be dedicated to unity and democracy and that you are being courted to blindly align yourself with a singular individual who has demonstrated all that is opposite to the very ideals, the core of goodness, this country touts.  in our world today, figure out what lies are and who is being upheld in the telling of them.

figure out that there is much to fix.  this system – our country –  is working as systems work – i have learned that they protect to the death the way they are set up and the profoundly, inexcusably unjust way that this country has been set up is glaringly obvious.  figure out that fixing it starts in your heart.

figure out that your children and your children’s children will be growing up in this place and choose what you want to leave behind for them.  is it a place of peace, of equality, of truth, of health, of gently holding this fragile earth, of clean air and clean water and fertile land, of hope and justice and liberty for all?

figure out that life is sacred and that it is lost in a moment.  figure out what truly means anything to you.  figure out the bottom line.  figure out that love is truly the answer, the place to begin.  figure out that those you love count and, for heaven’s sake, let them know.  and then look out, to others standing beyond those you already love, and love them too.

please figure it out.  we are in a death spiral.

 

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FIGURE IT OUT from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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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