reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the ice cream truck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“stop!!!!” we’d yell at the top of our lungs.

it didn’t happen often, but every now and then, we got to stop the ice cream man as he jingled his way around the neighborhood. then began The Choice. toasted almond bars or chocolate eclairs or or creamsicles or nutty buddy cones or italian ices (although we most often got those on the way out of modells sporting goods store, which, for some reason, had a stand by the doors). my momma would buy fudgsicles and ice cream sandwiches for in the freezer, so those weren’t viable options. and we would never-ever just buy a cup of ice cream with those wooden spoon things you got in elementary school or with your modells italian ice. that would be lame. it seemed important to get something more novel than what was inside your own house. particularly if it was ice cream on a stick. we knew, at the time, that it was a splurge and we loved every single second of it. we’d sit on the curb or on the grass or on the stoop and relish whatever treat we picked. summer in east northport. summer on long island.

you can hear it coming – “pop goes the weasel” playing incessantly around the ‘hood. it used to drive both my girl and my boy crazy as it approached and passed by – the pitch of the ‘song’ changing keys as it approached, drove by eventually and was in the distance. we laugh now as it passes us these days, for the same reason and because it would likely take a small mortgage to feed ice cream treats to a family from the ice cream man these days. we have marveled at watching families with small children gather together in the park eating dairy queen. a medium blizzard is $4 so a family of five would be $20 just for an afternoon carry-out treat. i don’t know but, to us, that seems like a lot.

harry burt, the founder of good humor, apparently stumbled into ice cream kingdom rule when he froze chocolate topping to use with ice cream. it turned out to be a messy affair so his son suggested using the sticks from his previous invention (jolly boy suckers) and – voila! – the ice cream bar was a hit. his decision to start the ice cream truck/wagon/push-cart was on the heels of his treat-success and, believing that good “humor” had everything to do with the humor of the palate, he had his company name picked out. good humor is synonymous with yummy ice cream and childhood. what a legacy!

a few days ago, 20 went to his freezer after we finished a scrumptious dinner with him. he gestured to 14 to be quiet and reached his hand in, pulling out a container but shielding it from my view. it turned out to be a half gallon of coffee ice cream, which is my favorite tied with mint chocolate chip. it was not cashew or almond; this was straight-up ice cream, which he guiltily knew i couldn’t have. he and 14 enjoyed bowls of this dessert. i had two tiny bites, which were amazing. coffee ice cream always makes me think of my big brother who, night after night, would load his bowl up and eat to his heart’s content. after my minuscule taste-test, i googled cashew/almond coffee ice cream and have a photo of a couple options saved on my phone so that i might seek them out.

someday when i pass a freezer with talenti dairy-free-sorbetto cold-brew-coffee displayed, i will literally yell, “stop!”

it won’t be the ice cream truck ringing bells or playing “it’s a small world” or “pop goes the weasel”. it won’t be standing at the side of the road in the hot sun with a dollar held tightly in my hand in line behind other sweaty, excited kids. it won’t be staring at the poster on the side of the truck with too many choices, the scent of coppertone wafting through the air. but, like all the children gathered around the proverbial ice cream truck in full glorious summer, i will be filled with good humor.

*****

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

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34 = 20 + 14. [d.r. thursday]

34 – the combination of 14 & 20 – love to cook together. they chop and laugh and saute and bake and grill, punting their way through recipes. with glasses of wine in hand (and lately, maybe old-fashioned wisconsin old-fashioneds) these two brothers-of-different-mothers gleefully prepare dinner.

twice a week we three (61 when you add us all up) used to dine together. and then covid. for well over a year, dinners stopped and phone calls commenced. but even zoom doesn’t come close to the ritual of preparing good food and sitting down all together around a table. finally, fully-vaccinated and still wearing masks out in public spaces, we are back. and so there is a piece of our world that has righted; the axis is just a little less tilted. we are grateful.

20 goes way back for me. shortly after my beloved big brother died, i believe he looked down from heaven and hand-picked out 20 to stand in for him. he didn’t expect 20 to be exactly who he was, he just expected him to be there for me. and vice-versa.

my little girl and 20’s little girl took ballet lessons together as tiny ballerinas and 20 and i sat on the wood floor with other parents just off the studio, morning light spilling in through the windows. my little boy drove his matchbox cars up and down the hall, including on and off 20’s legs, clearly seeing in him a man who adored the magic of small children and their imaginations. it was like group therapy, this cadre of parents on the wooden floor, and we still think of those times fondly. we followed ballet class with an ice-cream-sundae trip across the street to andrea’s and sitting on high stools at jack’s cafe in front of the soda fountain. cups of hot coffee and watching our tiny girls make straw dolls with paper napkins and my little toddler boy having soup-that-race-cars-eat with a side of saltines and pickles were glittery times…priceless. in the way that life and mystery goes, 20 happened to be a graphic designer at a time in my life when i needed a graphic designer. we celebrated my first album together and he designed many of the next ones. there for meetings or reviews, i watched him and justine and duke at work. i had the good fortune of secondhand learning; i still credit 20 with the way i design things now. it was inevitable that we would still be almost-brother-sister 27 years later. i imagine this will go on forever and ever, in the way that my own big brother devised it. only now, we are a trio of compadres. we’d have it no other way.

in this time of so much loss for so many, we have not gone unscathed. jobs and security, finances and healthcare, communities-within-communities, relationships – all have an iota of decimation. the rituals of our life together are the things we hold onto, the firm footing that delivers us from one day to the next. for us, resuming the twice-a-week dinners with 20, friday night potlucks with our dear-dear friends which have temporarily become happy-hours in their backyard, our familiar-trail hikes watching the seasons change in the woods…these are real, three-dimensional and steady and are evidence of life beyond these times. they are evidence of a return to some semblance of normal, though we suspect things may never actually be normal again.

we are still careful out in public. we still wear masks and use sanitizer. at OT appointments they still take my temperature, have a pile of masks at the door and ask a slew of covid questions. we are wary of too much exposure – our innermost circle demands it, for this pandemic is still alive and well and we do not wish to place our dearest close ones at any potentially devastating risk.

yesterday we passed a teen girl walking down the sidewalk, mask at her chin, with a sad, sad face. it made me think about all the people who have lost loved ones during this year-plus of covid. i wonder how they feel as they watch others, in seeming cavalier fashion, gather in crowds, throw out their masks and throw any remaining caution to the wind. i’m guessing maybe they are heartbroken. because there is no going back. it can’t be undone. and the loss of their beloveds has not changed others who do not walk in their shoes.

i guess it’s the lack of empathy, the lack of looking-out-for-each-other, the lack of small efforts of willingness to aid the big community that i find most disturbing. because, really, in the ritual-festooned-relationship-rich-shimmering-end we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

just ask 34.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the wisdom of the white trout lily. [merely-a-thought monday]

when my big brother died, i was lost in a maelstrom of emotion. it was hard for me to wrap my head around how the world would go on at a point he could no longer feel it. it wasn’t like i hadn’t experienced loss before. at that point in my life, i no longer had any of my grandparents present on this earth with me. that just felt like a more natural thing – to lose those we love who are elderly, who have lived long and full lives. my beloved brother, on the other hand, was merely 41 and there were so many hopes and dreams he still had for himself and his family. i am still struck by the fact that the world does, indeed, go on. the sun rises and sets; the moon lingers in the night sky. and my question, both existential and somewhat obvious, remains unanswered: how it can go on if he can’t feel it anymore. how it will go on – someday – if i can’t feel it anymore.

at some point a few years ago, i played for a memorial service at a synagogue. one of the meditations before kaddish made me weep. penned by merrit malloy, it reads: “when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

the white trout lily humbly bows on the forest floor. much like people, though on a different scale, their presence is ephemeral, fleeting. on sunny days, their petals will curl back, up, towards the sun; on shady days these small flowers may not even open. their simple beauty a mystery to the passerby, their faces shyly downward, they fill the underbrush on the side of the trail, dotting the landscape with fragile white blooms. i trust they are not concerned with the impact they make on the world nor do they wonder about their footprints once they are gone. they are simply there – love – dressed in white floral.

as we have moved through the pandemic and the devastating myriad of even just this past year, it is inevitable to think of all the loss, the loved ones who have died, the families and concentric circles left behind in grief, questioning. it is also – yes – a reminder that we are still here.

my dear friend sent me a link to a new york times op ed by charles blow. she drew my attention to the last line, words of perfection: “when i am gone, and people remember my name, i want some of them to smile.”

yes.

that.

smile. and give me away.

*****

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



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masks and pedestals. [two artists tuesday]

i have never been a fan of pedestals. pedestals encourage blind faith in someone human, not really useful in a world of imperfection. pedestals encourage a spirit of elitism, that kind of ladder-rung-sorting not really useful in a world striving for equality, for unity. pedestals encourage silence, not really useful in a world where chinwags and truth should go hand in hand.

when i was not yet a teenager, in 1969, my big brother got married. he and my sister-in-law, even at their own young ages, became really involved in marriage encounter – a weekend retreat celebrating marriage and delving into “vivencia”, the life experiences that brought them each to where they were together. because i adored my brother and his wife, and because i spent an inordinate amount of time with them, they included me in on their learnings and encouraged me to reflect on my own shaping and dreams. i will not forget the conversations we had about masks.

we talked about mask-wearing for long hours over mounds of ice cream and big glasses of iced coffee. my brother was adamant about dropping the elastic bands holding the mask over one’s face, in opening eyes that had been tightly shut, locking out verity. his words about being who you are – who you really are – not who the mask you are wearing says you are or how it hides who you are – echo in my mind and have partnered with my own feelings about pedestals.

i have had to revisit his words likely a zillion times through my life and wish he were sitting here now to continue the conversation with him.

filling in the blank with a person-put-on-a-pedestal or one-wearing-a-false-mask, i have been reminded time and again that just because _____ said something (whatever that something is) doesn’t mean it’s right.

i have silently thanked my big brother again and again for reminding me, with that nagging voice in my head that eschews ladder-runging, of the value of each one of us, sans pedestals, sans masks.

i have sought, both with success and with failure, to stay true to his important words, to identify any masks-in-the-moment, mine or those of others, to stand on the ground next to each other, in the middle of generous strengths and vulnerable weaknesses, struggling on the human seesaw of magnanimity and selfish motives, giving up any expectation of perfection in exchange for the acknowledgement of limitations and the offer of hope, trying to just be.

pedestals and masks, both wearying, both a waste of good living, both not really useful on this good earth in trying to just be. thank you, my big bro, for the reminder in the ice on the deck.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a long while. [k.s. friday]

last i saw you

a long while.

since last i saw you. and you. and you. it is dizzying. the yous and the longwhiles.

it makes me want an RV, updated map apps and a little bit of time.

i’m finding myself talking to people these days – people who have gone on to different planes of existence like my sweet momma or my poppo.  i ask them advice.  i tell them tales of the day.  i bemoan the challenges of our world with them; i wonder with them.

twenty-eight years ago today my big brother crossed over.  the transition of here to there is something of great ponderance for human beings.  we don’t know.  we profess to knowing, but we hardly know.  we only know what it feels like to be left behind, missing and yearning.  i will forever-and-ever yearn to be within embracing distance of my parents, my brother, and loved ones who have no tangible form but whose silken threads-of-being are eternally wrapped around me, always reminding me.

it’s like that for people still here on this very planet, people who we have not seen, people who we pine about when last we saw them.

truth be told, i spent the last couple of days in tears.  not slow-motion-tears that quietly weep down my face.  but the kind of tears where your ribs and your back hurt the next day; the kind of tears that swell your eyelids and make mascara application undoable.  the kind of tears that remind you how much you love someone and how much you miss them.  for me, this time, this was about my children.  it’s impossible to really explain what this missing feels like.  i can say it is wrapped up in the act of breathing, in every aspect of living a day, in the darkening of light.

the pandemic has brought exponential pain to people in our world.  suffering its disease, we worry about those who have been diagnosed, we grieve those who have succumbed to its ugliness, we wrangle with the illogical, implausible, grossly inadequate response of our land.  we are floored at those who are picking fights over this monster that is on a path of destruction which has unfathomable fallout.  we cannot understand the division and the planting of flags-of-the-ridiculous when peoples’ very health and lives are at stake; what truly matters more than that? it’s insanity: how can so many people be so lost? we try to sustain good attitudes and do the right thing.  we try to protect each other.  we try to avoid being a reason that this pandemic is spreading.  and we miss everyone we love in the process.

we wonder:  when?  when will “last” be now?  when will we see you?

and we hope, with great desperation, that it is not a long while.

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LAST I SAW YOU ©️ 1997, 1999 & 2000 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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putter-putz-tinker. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

happy

20 calls it “putzing”.  “what did you do today,” we ask.  he says, “nothing.  i just putzed.” putzing has a way of taking up the day.

my sweet poppo was a world-class putterer.  he was happy doing something and happy doing nothing.  he’d spend hours at his workbench in the garage in florida, cool damp towel wrapped around his neck.  he could fix or make just about anything.  hours just puttering.  the whole day could go by.

my big brother could tinker in competition with the best of the tinkerers.  he would tinker on building projects, home improvements, engines, motors, and all good assorted tinker-able sources.  his adoring little sister, i was happiest when i got to sit and watch him tinker.

we road-trip-traveled down south, two friends and i.  it was -wow- many years ago now.  fans of the paint-a-picture-of-sweet-idle-and-wild-adventure-living j. peterman catalog, we went to the j.peterman (of seinfeld fame) retail store in kentucky.  walking in, time slowed down.  quiet piano music played overhead and the cool air conditioning of the store was a welcome change from the humid heat outside.

there was an associate acting as hostess who approached us drawling, “good afternooooon. welcome to j. peterman.  would you lahhk an ahhsti?”  “an asti,” we thought, “would be remarkable!”  who wouldn’t like cool bubbly asti spumante on a hot steamy day? we graciously accepted and browsed around the space waiting for our wine glasses to appear, admiring the there-was-a-gentle-breeze-off-the-starboard-side-catching-the-silken-folds-of-her-aqua-dress-as-she-stood-watching-the-sail-raise sundress for $279.  time slowed down.

the hostess-associate returned, three tumblers filled with – iced tea- and topped with a lemon wedge.  ahhh.  ICED TEA.  not ASTI.  our lounge-y afternoon puttering about the shop with asti in our hands vision disappeared in the breeze off the starboard side (or was that the ceiling fan overhead?)  we left, post-beverage, and drove to the j. peterman headquarters where i managed to talk our way in to meet with THE j. peterman in a messy office filled with thoughts and dreams of his company.  we entered and he apologized for the mess, telling us he was “puttering” and hadn’t had a chance to pick up.  putterers shouldn’t apologize.

i’ve come by trifling with my day honestly.  a list-maker, my brain tends to be consumed with lists-of-things-to-do, neatly under different headings, highlighted in order of import.  they wake me up at night; they are consuming some days.

but there are some days that lists are not relevant.  life days.  putzing-puttering-tinkering days.  days when frittering time away is the right thing to do, really the only thing to do.  you loiter in your happy-doing-something-happy-doing-nothing.  and you sit and have an iced tea.

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

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quote from AUGIE THE DOG’s 20th BIRTHDAY

 

 

 


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this morning. [k.s. friday]

that morning someday 1

i unfriended someone today.  i was so shocked at his response to the vital importance of continuing to social distance in this global pandemic i found it reprehensible.  his crass “everyone will die eventually” was deeply disturbing.  he actually used the term ‘survival of the fittest’.  i, in browsing for how my family and friends are doing, found no peace in his words, only a shortfall of empathy.  i shudder to think of anyone who read or who will read these callous words who has been ill, has had a loved one ill, who has lost a life in their circle of life, who has been deemed unemployed, who has missed paying their rent and who stands in line for food, who is frightened.  anyone with a heart.

i’ve unfriended a few people along the way these last few years.  this hasn’t been because i merely disagree with them.  i am open to disagreeing with you if you are open to discussion.  but these have been folks who have been closed.  closed to facts, to truth, to research, to conversation.  closed.  to me, it feels as if their hearts are closed.

for what is the importance of the next morning if what you care most about in the world is copious amounts of money or holdings?  my sweet poppo used to say, “you can’t take it with you.”  what is the importance of the next morning if you will throw others under the bus to elevate yourself?  my sweet momma used to say, “be kind.  be kind.  be kind.”  what is the importance of the next morning if everything is measured by black and white, an excel sheet of differences, all listed and highlighted.  my big brother used to play his guitar and sing, “there’s a new world coming…”  what is the importance of the next morning if you only measure yourself against others, their net worth, their houses, their jobs, their wardrobe, their vehicles, their exotic trips, their success?  in high school i recited these words from desiderata, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

instead, what about that morning someday?  the one that presents you with the challenge of a lifetime, the one you have worked on honing your whole life.  the challenge to accept who you are.  the challenge to stand up straight in your integrity, to freely and generously love, to do your work, to look out into the world with open eyes.  the challenge to not compare yourself, to believe in the betterment of humanity, to be kind, and to know that you can’t take any of it with you.  the challenge to surround yourself with goodness and live now.  this morning.  tomorrow morning.  the next morning.  heart open.

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by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

THAT MORNING SOMEDAY ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

 


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sweet ballet. [k.s. friday]

sweet ballet songbox.jpg

photo credit: kirsten

in sweet pink ballet shoes, they flitted across the stage, little girls in plié and arabesque, little frowns of concentration mixing with smiles as they moved into practiced positions.  sparkles of light played across the theatre, the spotlights catching the rhinestones and sequins on tutus, the treasured stuff of these little ballerinas.  in my mind’s eye i remember my own little girl, hair piled high on her head in a bun, grown-up makeup on her be-still-my-heart beautiful face, as she carefully performed her memorized dance to this piece of music.  a moment in time.  sweet ballet.

each saturday morning we would sit on the wooden floor of the ballet studio.  royanne, the world’s best ballet teacher, would transform these little girls from sneaker-wearing to ballerina in moments, patiently, with great care and a profound love of ballet, teaching and children.  the parents would gather in the back, a seeming group meeting with conversation that flowed easily, yet softly.  friendships began on that wooden floor in the back of the studio; friendships that have prevailed through all of life’s changes.  one of my very best friends, the person my big brother seemed to handpick for me as a brother to stand-in after he could no longer be on this earth, 20, sat on that wood floor those mornings.  you just never know where or when you are going to meet someone who will be in your life forever and ever.  sweet ballet.

after class ended we would go across the street to jack andrea’s.  the girls would order ice cream sundaes and make paper dolls out of straws and napkins.  my boy would order chicken or potato soup (the kind of soup race cars eat – another story) or english muffins with saltines and pickles on the side.  20 and i would order coffee and watch this amazing time of life dance, moment by moment.  sweet ballet.

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SWEET BALLET from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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may you. [d.r. thursday]

MayYou copy.jpg

 

may you prayer.jpgi remember my big brother skipping stones.  always my hero, he was inordinately good at it.  even over waves as they came into the shore.  it wasn’t just the flattest stones, either.  he could skip most anything.  there’s a certain stance, a certain fingerhold of the stone, a certain turn of the wrist, and the stone would defy physics, drawing an invisible ellipsis across the water, touching ever further out.

the concentric circles.  we sit in the middle of our own hearts, our own joy, our own pain, our own little worlds.

this mantra starts closest, a fingerhold on our own-ness.  each repetition is a prayer for one who is a step away, two steps, three steps, a community, a country.  the ellipsis goes on.  the prayer is never-ending.

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riverdotcombox.jpg

MAY YOU ©️ 2015 david robinson