reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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thriving. [k.s. friday]

there was a jaguar suv parked in one of the bays when we went to pick up littlebabyscion at the shop. it was shiny black and had an aura of extravagance. i joked as we walked in that it was “practically identical” to our little xb. our beloved – and stellar – mechanic laughed and said, “nah! it’s just ridiculously expensive! fancy doesn’t make it better.” because this society assigns value to things that cost more, i probed a little further, comparing our very-basic vehicle to this one, and he answered, “the reason people buy these – and many other vehicles like it – is for other people to see them driving it. it says ‘i am successful’ to the world.” i laughed and rolled my eyes, joking about the level of success us driving our scion speaks to and he replied, “nope. doesn’t matter.”

“…only about 0.000002% of musicians become ‘successful’.” (one of many statistics found when googling the rate of success for musicians.)

now that is a bracing statistic. it would suggest that there are a heck of a lot of musicians out there – including me – driving un-fancy vehicles with odometers pushing 300,000 miles. it would suggest, too, that there are a lot of musicians out there whose egos are not benefitting from the sideshow and stroke of other people’s ‘that-person-is-successful’ thinking.

but we still keep on keeping on anyway.

successful (synonyms): prosperous. profitable. booming. fruitful. thriving.

the prosperous is evasive. the profitable is of-the-past now that streaming is the preferred mode of listening over purchasing cds or even paying for downloads. the booming has slumped. the fruitful is fallow, often barren, depending on levels of frustration over thinking you should have been a financial analyst, software engineer or investment broker. and the thriving? well, that’s another story.

thriving is growth and growth rays out from the center in an artist. up against a challenge, we seek a different route, a different way. it is not our nature to give up, though an independent artist’s odds of success are clearly stacked. we simply “cannot imagine leaving”. (todd skinner)

instead, we channel the creative energy that keeps stoking up, that keeps us going. we funnel it out into threads of let’s-try-this or let’s-learn-that. when we can’t perform, we play. when we can’t play, we compose. when we can’t compose, we write. we find rivers we can enter and we wade in. we take risks.

in recent days i have come to realize that i still have much to learn…much growing to embrace. there are always more questions than answers. creativity whispers, “do not limit your future by basing it on the past, projecting what you can do based on what you have done. your goal is to be not just better than you were, but as good as you can ultimately become.” (todd skinner)

true in every arena of life…artistry, physicality, emotional health, motherhood, in community. much to learn. always. thriving.

it’s a mystery how it all will turn out. how, in the end, we will be seen. whether we will be prosperous or have a profitable life. if we will have boomed or been fruitful. whether we will have driven a fancy-car, a workhorse old truck or a steadfast littlebabyscion and what that all means to the world watching.

what will really matter – to us artists, adapting in ever-changing light and in each season – is if we thrived.

*****

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hearts in kansas. [d.r. thursday]

we broke down just past hays, kansas. big red just didn’t want to go uphill or accelerate without some violent shuddering and, as i drove, i worried it – in the middle of nothing-around-this-part-of-kansas or nothing-around-this-part-of-colorado – would refuse to go on. we turned around and slowly went back to hays.

the ford dealer service department was swamped. the manager talked to us for a few minutes and then he pointed us onward – to a privately owned service center on the other end of town, the one to which he assured me he would send his mother (who he likes) or his sister.

we limped over there, middle-afternoon turning to later-afternoon, crossing fingers, and dallas and casey listened to us describe, naturally in purely automotively-correct-terms or maybe some jibberish with automotive sound effects, what was happening with our old truck. we told them our plight so they knew time was of the essence and we needed to be across their fine state and to denver by early thursday, the very next day.

a short diagnostic and dallas told us that a couple of the cylinders weren’t firing and that they were both on the same coil; he suspected that coil was the culprit. because hays, one of the few towns in that neck of the woods, is big enough to have a few auto part stores, they were able to get our new coil and install it right away. dallas said we should give it a go on the highway, though he wished he were able to do a more overall diagnostic to determine if there were other problems.

a few hours after it all started, we were back on the road, with every appendage crossed. we held hands on the first hill we encountered, climbing elevation not far from the hays exit. i literally held my breath. big red was a champ on that hill. we cheered – aloud – and waited for the next one and the next.

the first couple hours post-coil-replacement went like that. waiting and then climbing and then breathing. and repeat. big red accelerated with no problems across the rest of kansas, through a weather front with 50mph winds into colorado and in front of a threatening thunderstorm from the south. a few challenges today in roadtripland.

and so, though i would have suspected that this post would have been about something different because of the prompting photograph we had chosen, i have found that it actually prompted me to write that the people we encountered today in kansas had heart. i – no, we – really appreciated it. ever so much.

and so did big red.

***

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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.

*****

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


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next. in the sun. [k.s. friday]

an ice field, this river. devoid of color, devoid of life. but below, it is teeming with fish, perhaps turtles, swimming, swimming, waiting for a thaw.

it is much like my studio. it, right now, is devoid of color, devoid of life. i suppose, like the river, it is teeming underneath. but, for the moment, it is an ice field.

i pass by my studio every day. some days i walk in to open the blinds, to allow the southern sun to fill the corners. i walk in later to close them, to keep out the cold and the dark. especially the dark.

my piano waits, swimming silently like the fish and the turtles; it is waiting for a thaw. mine.

i don’t know what’s next. the notes – scraps and notebooks – for the decades of composing and recording and songwriting i’ve done that used to pile all over the top of the keyboard, spilling into the body, slipping onto the strings under the full-stick lid-up, stacked on the bench – have been put away.

i don’t know what’s next. the music – for the decades of work i’ve done that used to pile all over the top of the keyboard, spilling into the body, slipping onto the strings under the full-stick lid-up, stacked on the bench – has been put away.

i don’t know what’s next. there’s a blank journal. a notebook. paper and a clipboard. pencils. an aspen leaf, a few high mountain rocks. there’s a peg from one of elton john’s pianos and a tiny sign that says “i came to live out loud”. waiting. the sun is gathering in the nooks and crannies and diligently pushes the dark cold away, waiting.

my footprints will fill in like these tracks on the river. the work i’ve done, the work i used to do, will fill in, will look less and less like footprints. little by little the wind will blow snow into the tracks and they will eventually dissolve into the rest.

and next will keep waiting. up the river. in the sun.

*****

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“christmas tree drop-off”🎶🎶 [merely-a-thought monday]

it was instant. “christmas tree drop-off” to the tune of “beauty school drop-out” started singing inside my brain. it would not stop. i still cannot look at this sign without the 6/8 song incessantly nagging me and nagging me.

it was the day after christmas – just one mere day – and we went hiking out in one of the nearby state parks. we came upon the drop-off near the parking lot. already – not even 36 hours since santa’s arrival – there was a tree, lonely and discarded. a few days later, after the snow had fallen and sleet had crunched over the trail, there were several more trees. we are pretty certain that these will be chopped up into mulch, which is a good thing – back to the earth – but it was sad to see a pile of no-longer-wanted christmas trees, their value diminished by the passing of the day.

hiking the snowy trails, my memory bank filled with sweet stories i read aloud to my girl and my boy. “why christmas trees aren’t perfect” is a story about an imperfect tree named small pine and my ridiculously emotional heart remembers this sweet tree and its generosity, its commitment to the wildlife in the forest, its community. in this classic book, also a video, small pine was chosen for its connection to sweet animals and its warm and giving spirit. each time i read that little book, my heart celebrated the spirit of that tree. in that same thready heart, i wonder about what it feels like to be one of these trees, out in a cold pile, chosen, used and then quickly and unceremoniously discarded out in the snow. do they know why, i wonder, as i gaze at the pile, animating the inanimate.

ditch sits on our table in the sunroom. it is surrounded by twinkling white lights and we sit with it at that table every day. we will not dispose of him. his purpose is not just for christmas. instead, his role continues on – to remind us of time spent in the mountains, to remind us to see the little things, to appreciate the imperfect, to remind us of caring for something that may not otherwise have made it. it reminds us that being chosen and employed in good use deserves explanation in discard.

and so, i want to go sit in the snow and talk to these trees.

*****

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greenery and pine cones. [k.s. friday]

i started noticing while hiking on one of our favorite local trails. greenery and pine cones sharing space. a visual backdrop for hallmark holiday movie escapism, the repetition of these simple symbols of the holiday season over and again on trail brought my camera to hand time after time. capturing these photos has been decorating my mind with fancies of christmases-past and brightly wrapped packages and trees of all shapes and happy lights galore and times spent with my children, my family, my friends. the trail’s gift has inadvertently set me on the path toward light, my spirit breathing with each snap of the iphone.

a week before thanksgiving my son sent me a photograph of the christmas tree in their apartment. with garland strung and lights and soft holiday-themed pillows, it was straight out of a magazine. “a classic look,” he told me. yes. beautiful and classic, welcoming winter. my daughter’s photographs are snowy and crisp, crystalline and inspiring. winter is coming on in the high mountains. it dresses them with idyllic wonder.

we haven’t started listening to holiday music. it’s too raw at this point. but we will. i will climb out of this cavern, aided by every gift of nature as it heads into this magical season, and i’ll soon turn it – music – on. in the meanwhile, slowly, we have strung some new white twinkling happy lights, we have brought up a couple trees from the corner of the basement storage room. maybe we’ll bring up the big bins and we can step-by-step-forward turn our home into a celebration of what-is and not a daily reminder of what-was. walking toward light. each silver ornament a coaxing, each strand of lights an urging, each tuft of greenery an encouragement. all seasonal prompts, that out of the dark there is light. indeed, in the dark there is light. “nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” (john muir)

john muir also wrote this: “between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” maybe that’s somehow why i am noticing. the greenery. the pine cones. laying on the trail, juxtaposed yet clearly related. dark and light, juxtaposed, yet clearly related. a new world, a doorway.

no wonder i keep seeing these sweet moments in nature. no wonder i keep searching. no wonder i have my camera out on the trail.

*****

if you are ready for holiday music, i have three christmas albums to help you celebrate and welcome the return of light – click on this link

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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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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“the most grown-up thing you can do is fail at things you care about.” [merely-a-thought monday]

unicorn store 4

i still have it.  the index card is taped to the inside bottom of my old piano bench down in the basement.  these  words, “perfection is an eight letter word.  p r a c t i c e ” written in eight-year-old pencil-printing.  it’s been there – in that old spinet piano bench – since 1967, when i started taking lessons and needed a reminder how to keep the ups and downs in perspective.

i spent long hours on that bench and on the organ bench also in my growing-up living room.  what i could hear in my imagination wasn’t necessarily what was showing up on the keys.  my sweet poppo would encourage me, “remember, practice makes perfect,” he’d say.  i’d add, well, at least practice moves you in that direction.

there’s no guarantee for perfect.  there’s no route to it and any expectation that you will achieve it really is for naught.  the best you can do is the best you can do – moment by moment.   with practice, each best-you-can-do is better than the last.  and so on and so on.

it’s the caring that matters.

i have two amazing children who have shown me examples of the pursuit of how to do something, to a point of excellence, that you’ve never done before.  the keeping-at-it, toughlove-letting-go-of-judgment, the training, the practice, the trying-failing-rinse-repeat-ness of learning.  they approach new things like stoic explorers, adventurers prepared and open to experience.

it’s the very thing that inspired our snowboarding lesson earlier this year – the one where i broke both of my wrists.  every time i hear someone say, “eh, i’m too old; i can’t learn that,” i store my emotional response to that statement away in my memory bank, waiting for the day i’m about to say just that so i might pummel the words before they escape my lips.

even though my wrists broke and might never be the same and even though i cannot point to any great accomplishment or success on the slope, i would not take back the experience or the exhilaration and anticipation of learning something new, particularly, in this case, that very thing that would give me the slightest first-hand touch, not merely a window, into my daughter’s professional world.

in post-cast moments many people, aghast, said to me, “what were you thinking?  don’t you think there’s a point you are too old for that?  remember your age!”  i am more aghast at these words than all the months dealing with uncooperative wrists in a livelihood where they really matter.

knowing first-hand how difficult and humbling pure novice-ness is, i hope i can always release the suffocating self-evaluating that goes hand-in-hand with being new at something; i hope that i always care about learning.

at eight i had no idea what piano lessons would mean to my life.  i simply wanted – really, really wanted –  to learn.  i, at 8, didn’t beat myself up over getting it wrong or failing nor did i get self-conscious about my journey of mastery.  i just stepped into it.  and i cared with all of my eight-year-old heart.

we walk and talk about the day The Girl or The Boy suggest to getting-older-every-day-us that we purchase new technology or download a new app or try a new recipe or consider a new lifestyle or or or …. the day we will want to say, “eh, we’re too old; we can’t learn that.” i look down at my right wrist, which may never bend at a 90 degree angle ever again, and i remember to care.

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

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day lilies in the interlude. [k.s. friday]

untitled interlude

in the in-between times.  we are there.  not at the beginning, not at the end.  we hardly know what to call this interlude of time – so many differing points of view, so many differing approaches to life and the living of it.  untitled.

this pandemic entered our lives a few months ago.  we know little about when it will end.  in this nebulous state, we try to cope.  not-knowing, we wake each morning to a new day, unsure of which day it is, the fog of repeated sameness fading as the sun’s light opens our eyes.

surely in the middle of all of this there are the day lilies of the garden – the hardy survivors of too much rain, too little rain, too much attention, too little attention, too many weeds, too few nutrients, invasive plants trying to subvert this robust champion.  the tall perseverants of the green, they rise up, ever joyful.

surely in the middle of all of this there are the moments that are the day lilies.

for me, there was a video-chat with my grown children, separated by distance and by a healthy respect for safety.  these moments were the breath i so needed, a chance to see their faces, hear their voices.  for me, there was the hike along the river trail, a cooler-than-normal breeze on my face, the sounds of birds and swaying cattails.  for me, there was the social-distanced outdoor visit with treasured ones, laughter and stories punctuating our time together.  for me, there was a quick phone call with a forever pal, a series of blurry oh-my-look-at-this-bear-off-my-mountain-top-porch-ten-feet-from-me-right-now texts with a dear friend.  for me, there was talk of which thru-hike to take, which rv we would purchase, for, in any circumstance we find ourselves, dreaming is good.

in the middle of all of this, the interlude between before and after, it is incumbent upon us – for our peace of mind, in the fuzzy liminal space of enduring and persisting – to find the positive orange day lilies.

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UNTITLED INTERLUDE from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

 


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these old boots. [two artists tuesday]

old boots

these old boots.  save for the laces, which were definitely in-beaky’s-book-worth-saving, these boots are now moving on.  looking at them, side by side on the deck, i could hear my big brother playing the guitar and singing, “these boots were made for walking, and that’s just what i’ll do…”

we’ve run out of everest movies to watch.  we have seen all the hollywood movies, all the national geographic movies, all the north face and eddie bauer movies and the rolex movies.  we have watched youtubes and imax-without-the-max-part.  we have sat through short home videos and a two hour and three minute go-pro video with no narration and hardly any talking.  we’ve watched k2 and annapurna and aconcagua and denali.  we have run out.

we have now moved on to the appalachian and pacific crest trails.  these boots – neither pair – were not made for that walking.  we can both vouch for it.

these boots were different.  they were more life-boots.  mine took me through well over a decade of travel, well over a decade of wholesale and retail shows, well over a decade of schlepping, lugging, driving very long distances, more schlepping and lugging.  well over a decade of practice on wooden stages while lighting and sound engineers ran cues.  well over a decade of flatbed trailers.  well over a decade of dreaming and sweating, well over a decade of highs and lows.

i’ve been attached to them.  the soles have separated from the leather uppers and wearing them would be like wearing closed flip flops, but heavy-heavy and flopping around, looking to catch on something and throw me headfirst into the ground.

i’ve been attached to them.  in some way they became part of my uniform, the same way that the black zip-up sweatshirt that no longer has cuffs or a working zipper was.  i’m attached to that too.  somehow, it felt like those kept me safe, kept me going, and brought me back home.  i suspect it wasn’t the boots or the sweatshirt hoodie.

so i’m saving the laces.  they can be used in a different pair of boots.

and i’m wondering:  maybe we should fill these old boots up with dirt and plant some basil.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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