reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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frankie’s wisdom. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

there was an emphasis on beauty long before mass media made natural aging formidable. women and men, but especially women, went to lengths to be beautiful, taking great pains to conform to whatever was the current measure of beauty.

but in the past century – later 1900s through now – there has been a shift to devaluing the aging process, to undercutting the beauty of what aged looks like. the look of youth is prized disproportionately and has made middle age look inadequate. we are under siege and it is increasingly impossible to measure up to those decades younger.

there is no good reason any woman of any age should be feeling that beautiful is not unconditionally hers, is not inherently attainable. there is no good reason any young woman, glowing with new maturity, should be feeling beauty-challenged. there is no good reason any woman on the menopause roller coaster should be feeling that beautiful is bygone. there was no good reason my sweet momma, at 93, should look in the mirror and sorrowfully cry, “i look like an old woman!”. on the contrary.

the confidence, just like the wrinkles, has been earned over a lifetime of living, over struggling to be healthy, to be engaged, to learn, to be active. there is no measure for the wisdom gleaned and the story each of those wrinkles might tell, the love and struggle and perseverance each grey hair might represent, the days in the sun playing with children and grandchildren reflected in crepey skin and the lines next to her eyes from laughter with her friends.

just like hallmark aggressively pushing made-up holidays or the internet naming days as “national – whatever – day” compelling us to be involved, mass media on all levels, in all arenas, has foisted “youthful appearance” upon us as the measure of value, of validation, of relevance.

the cultural preoccupation fighting the intrinsic processes of aging is surely a mark of ignorance, of superficiality, of contrived campaigns for products and images from which we should gracefully walk away. transformative surgeries and injectibles and laser work are on a stunning rise. for what?

surely in this society we are not as inept as it seems at helping others, particularly women, to develop self-esteem, positive body image, confidence.

surely our preoccupation should be on frank lloyd wright’s words, “the older i get, the more beautiful life becomes.”

my daughter – naturally amazing and naturally beautiful and naturally talented was not even twenty when she chose those words – in french – as her first tattoo. ink as a reminder. words of wisdom.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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momma birds. [k.s. friday]

the cicadas are loud outside already. the windows are open and, though it will be ridiculously hot today, tomorrow will be their field day. it’s the end of august and, no matter who i speak to, the common marvel is how quickly summer has passed. a dear friend wrote to me, “it is the clove of seasons.”

i was behind him at office max. waiting in line six feet back, he was checking out. the checkout gal was pleasant but uninterested as the enthusiastic dad chortled about how his wife had forgotten to buy sharpened pencils for their children going back to school. he asked for separate bags so that he might bring them home to his kids in individual packages to add to their school supplies. he was excited, so excited, telling anyone within earshot of his errand to finish up prepping for the beginning of the school year. i couldn’t help but smile back as he walked past me with an elated look on his face.

i checked out and intended for the exit. it was the backpacks that got me first. the big four-sided display drew me over. there was this great floral backpack. . .

i started to wander a bit more, the calendars and notebooks and mechanical pencils making me wistful. stickynotes and highlighters and packs of gel-tip pens and fine-line sharpies beckoning.

these people knew how to place things in the store. i was not quite leaving.

i was catapulted back in time and meandered a little lost in thought about days – years – gone by, an empty nester’s trap of remembering with both joy and sorrow. all those years of school lists and target runs and picking out backpacks and first day of school walgreen’s or back-to-target fill-ins, things we hadn’t anticipated needing or somehow forgot. the piles on the dining room table as my beloved girl and boy selected their supplies and maybe their pencil case. they put looseleaf paper in their trapper-keepers and loaded up spiral notebooks and the required box of tissues, a few dry erase markers, a ruler and maybe a calculator. absolutely heavenly to be surrounded by school materials, stationery supplies, new reusable lunchbags and two mostly-excited children.

this time of year does it every time. even though it is extraordinarily hot i can feel it knocking. and i can feel the sadness of letting go of summer freedoms, of children, late-morning, still in pjs, of no alarm clocks and no dread of early morning crabbies. i can feel the elation of the bus arriving at the end of the day or sitting outside the school watching for a glimpse of my own beautiful children in a throng of beautiful children.

every year i feel it. that feeling watching them walk out the door to go to school, to go to college, to go into the world. even now i am immersed in it. i miss them.

i’m sure the momma bird was elated too when the eggshell cracked open and her tiny baby bird was born. she probably chortled to her bird-friends about her little miracle and its entrance into life. and then, after a time, bird-school over, she realized she was suddenly an empty-nester, her sweetest with wings that would carry it into the world to adventure and explore and conquer abounding opportunities. though the nest would remain, and would always be there, rooting and rooting, both, it was merely a launching pad to everything else.

and one day, as she was waiting in line at office max, as tears threatened to roll down her face, she would be grateful for all those times before and she would wrap herself in the memorized feel of freshly-sharpened pencils, late-summer cicadas and small hands in hers.

*****

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GIVE ME ROOTS, GIVE THEM WINGS from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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just as particular. [two artists tuesday]

“not like my mom at all,” she said, talking about decorating in an exquisitely joyful conversation. she described her template, “the colors of a desert sunset.” i was instantly in a different place, watching the sun go down over canyonlands and high desert. i can sooo understand surrounding yourself with the divine colors of these moments; i can sooo relate to taking them with you.

as a person who has surrounded herself with rocks and sandstone and sticks and branches and feathers and pinecones of the high mountains, i get the connection to these places and the desire to live within them, even if you are not there. she went on to describe the colors, a template that made me want to immerse in them, like a favorite quilt. i lingered in every word she spoke, this beautiful, creative daughter of mine, trying to remember each one just as she described it, store them away in the kaleidoscope of treasured bits of knowledge.

i walked around our house after that. black and white. a little bit of flour-tortilla. green plants. old clay pots. old wood floors. there’s a certain ochre in our sitting room and in the stairwell going upstairs. and there’s some barn red in the bathroom. it’s kind of a cross between the extremes of ansel adams’ color palette or sheet music tablature, golden sunrise moments, a new england farm, deep woods in the mountains, canyonland red rock.

the photographs i take everyday and everywhere vary. but lately, i have found myself drawn to these small canvasses of almost monochromatic still-life outdoor paintings, just waiting on the side of the trail, waiting in flower gardens, waiting in the woods. nuances of shade, a tiny pop of color … nature’s natural inclination to visual cohesion. i’ve been especially seeing the greens in the greens, really delicious shadings, no competition for spotlighting, just color intertwined and inclusive. i’ve noticed even more distinctly the genius of a single bloom, petite berries, nestled in all the verdant green.

i came home from such a hike one day recently and took out the 1940s opalescent aqua blue hobnail glass vase that was my sweet momma’s. it reminds me of sky and water; it reminds me of grocery store flowers my dad always bought my momma. it doesn’t go with our house, i had thought, going through bins and boxes. and then, i placed it in the window seat of our black and white and flour-tortilla living room, a gentle nod to days spent in the grass drawing with clouds and on long island beaches with coppertone floating in the air. a “yes” to my daughter.

she is right. the colors in our home aren’t the incredible desert pastel spectrum, the intensity of sage peacefulness our girl described – the sunsets she holds close to her soul. but it is as particular to the desire to surround oneself with that which is meaningful, to what resonates inside, to what gives you serenity, keeps you still in all the whirling world, brings you contentment, is part of the nirvana of tranquility, is your sanctuary. it’s decorating with true heart.

not so different after all. ❤️

*****

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the beauty of $2.99. [k.s. friday]

my sweet dad would buy my mom grocery store flowers often. she kept a vase on the table in the high ceiling-ed foyer near the front door in their last home together and flowers would welcome you as you entered. momma wasn’t really a red-rose-florist-delivery kind of gal. she was more a bundle-of-flowers, a miscellaneous-bunch, a day-old-flowers-sale woman, always so pleased with the simplicity of her own arrangements. now, don’t get me wrong, she was delighted to receive flowers that arrived on her doorstep, but those were not required of my poppo. instead, she reveled in the extraordinarily ordinary blooms they found at publix.

we went to the citymarket when we got to carbondale. needing to find lunch and some dinner items to bring to our airbnb we walked into a new store, inviting and with lots of light. it was in the produce section that i passed the display, advertising a clearance – merely $2.99 for cellophane-wrapped bundles beyond their recommended dates. the hypericum beckoned to me whispering a suggestion, “table centerpiece”. we travel with a small jelly jar and tea lights and i knew we could find something we could use as a vase in our place. as it turned out, it was a ball jar and, together, ball jar with berries and jelly jar with candlight paired on our table. it was time to embrace a precious stay in the high mountains.

scrolling through my photos, the pictures of the hypericum berries on our table easily bring back the moments we had with my daughter and her boyfriend. so much anticipation when a child lives far away and yet the time uncontrollably flies by and, today, i am reeling with wistful thoughts that just over one short week ago we had already been to and left those giant red rock mountains, the snow-capped mount sopris, a trail along the rio grande, horses down the road, dinners at the gathering table, laughter at the high counter in our sweet unit, a pedicure and a few errands with my girl. it would seem the stuff of songs and somewhere, deep inside, they are writing themselves.

we left the hypericum berries in our airbnb. still beautiful, it was a way to say thank you to our hosts. besides, they belonged there on a little slate plate in the middle of the table in a room filled with sunlight. promise for the next occupants, perhaps. a little gratitude left behind.

we aren’t frivolous. especially not these days. anyone who knows me knows that i am a slow decision-maker when it comes to purchases for myself. most places we go we try to find a couple cloth napkins to bring home with us. as we sit at our own table it is a way to remember other places we have sat, meals we have shared. we didn’t find any on this last trip but at the hardware store we discovered after our river-trail hike, we picked up two tin camp mugs for our coffee. they have mountains on them and will remind us of our time this trip.

i already miss my girl and wish i had run outside for one more hug – an extra – the morning she drove off. but she was in a hurry, i knew, and i know a mom-hug can get in the way. so i held back and just waved, trying to be nonchalant about the tears running down my face.

i returned back into the space we had lived in for those fewest of days and looked around at the now packed-up airbnb. my eye caught the sun-rays through the window lighting up the hypericum berries. and i whispered back to them, “thank you.”

*****

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dryer sheets and mountains. [k.s. friday]

a haiku septet

we went to whole foods

on our way, leaving mountains,

they were calling me.

dryer sheets that will

bring me back to such cherished

time, high altitude.

sensor-sensitive

to scents, heart-bound memories

i can see sopris.

reigning blue blue sky

its presence ever pow’rful

time in its shadow.

hold close this visit

until the next time, i wait

to see her and it.

i bring it all back

lavender elicits it.

i revel in it.

time with the mountains.

time with my belov’d daughter.

time time time. precious.

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the glimmer and the glint. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the glint in his eyes was there. columbus told us about the business he was running from his memory care apartment, as steadfast as i suspect he has always been about hard work and dedication. though he was imagining that the bathroom was a library and that the lack of customers was due to the inclement weather, he remained dutifully on duty, waiting for the end of his work day with good humor. talking about his “shop” and his customers and challenges he, always humble, admitted, “i can make as good a mistake as anybody.” i took photographs of his sweet face as he talked and gestured, hands lined with age and the evidence of toil. i caught my breath more than once as he spoke and as i looked around, taking in this phase of columbus’ life. though he seemed content, dementia is a cruel robber.

my sweet poppo’s favorite saying was the quote, “be not concerned, be not surprised, if what you do is criticized. mistakes are made, we don’t deny, but they’re only made by those who try.” (unknown) with a glimmer in his eye, he was also famous for repeating (and repeating) “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” a believer in the re-do, the fix, the oh-well, the humanness, my dad never lingered in the mistake. he was also aware that he could make as good a mistake as anybody and i would bet that, given the chance, he and columbus would have been pals. these two gentlemen were raised in a certain era and times of challenge; even fifteen years or so difference would not have mattered. their humility and simple straightforward approaches run parallel, both smart and extraordinarily capable in unique ways. their commitment to family and a strong work ethic would have united them.

up in the mountains we sat at dinner and listened to my amazing daughter talk about physical therapy for a concussion she got while coaching snowboarding. she spoke of climbing and ropes and uncomfortable shoes you stuff your feet into to elicit a better grip. she and her sweet boyfriend talked about the challenges of living spaces in high elevation and adventure and camping. the one thing missing from the conversation was anything about fear. there is no fear of making a mistake, of a choice-gone-wrong. there is only fluid adjusting, correction, a different direction, a new tack. it is acknowledging, without words, that we all can make as good mistakes as the next. it is living without concern of criticism for those mistakes. it is being those who try.

were they to have been at the table with us all, in our first restaurant experience in well over a year, i imagine that columbus and my poppo would nod their heads in proud appreciation. “yes,” they would say in chorus, “that’s the way to live.”

and the glimmer and the glint would smile.

*****

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all the riches. [k.s. friday]

i don’t suppose it matters how old we get. we are ok if they are ok. conversely, we are not ok if they are not ok.

our children. that moment that your entire life changes – the earth tilts on its axis – and things are never the same again. it’s a conversation i have had again and again.

written when my son was a little boy with a dirty little fist of yellow flowers and my daughter was just a smidge older and taller than he, i am no less gobsmacked by the passage of time now than i was then. days become weeks and months and suddenly many more candles on the birthday cake. and time does what time does. these tiny people become grown human beings in the world and no longer need you to help tie their shoes or put bandaids on owies. no yearning will slow it all down, yet we tend to want to linger in feeling a sense of being needed. the earth keeps spinning; the laugh lines and worry wrinkles appear suddenly in the mirror as we glance on the way past. and the riches are a deep and vast trunk we keep close, always mindful of every tiny or big opportunity to add to it.

it really is the simple stuff. hearing your grown child laugh, watching them adventure, applauding their successes, reassuring them in times of trial. blissful moments you can spend with them, texted pictures of their lives, unexpectedly hearing their voice on the other end of the phone, hugging them. always walking the fine line. so much pressure to hold that line. always learning. knowing their star is still in your galaxy, but is independently forming its own constellation. the emotional perils of motherhood, of parenthood.

“it overwhelms me what i feel…this heart outside of mine….is walking in another person, in another life.”

and always, the bottom line, it seems in each conversation i have had, is the ok-ness. for truly, if they are not ok, there is no way to rest easy. if they are not ok, it changes how we are in the world, how we engage. if they are not ok, it is the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing in our prayers at night.

little or big, they – indeed – are the riches. they are every single dandelion.

in the whole wide world.

*****

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FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS ©️ 1999 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.

*****

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in KC’s family. [two artists tuesday]

just past the eyelash phase, in a tightly woven and protected calyx of green sepals (leaves), the gardenia bonsai flower waits. a little research reveals that it will take about two months of growing to reach the point of a cracked bud, hopefully flowering after. KC is reportedly “one of the most loved and challenging plants in the bonsai world” and i hope that i am up to the task. these beautiful and somewhat-difficult-to-grow plants offer “a unique opportunity for anyone who wishes to take the time to attend to their needs.” they are particular about sunlight, particular about direction of window exposure, particular about temperature, particular about humidity, particular about watering, particular about feeding with fertilizer, particular about shape and pruning, particular about training, particular about insects and mold, particular about repotting, particular about touch. they do well without any negative stressful environmental factors. it occurs to me that perhaps i am in the bonsai gardenia family.

KC sits together with some other lower-maintenance plants (read: succulents you can’t really mess up) and is clearly different than them. its leaves are rich in color, two whorls protecting promising buds, and its presence demands to be noticed. i talk to it every day, encouraging it, paying attention, hoping i am tending to it properly. i truly cherish this little bonsai; my beloved daughter and her boyfriend sent it to me for my birthday and it was a joyous and glittering moment to receive such a beautiful gift. i want to do my best helping this little gardenia along. and, in light of the last year, the last couple years, i can understand and relate to its eccentricities. mmm, can’t we all?

in the evening KC is bathed in the sparkle of the sunroom’s happy lights. proudly in the spot it has claimed on the table, it sits, basking. it is one of the sparkles of the year. there have been many, despite the difficulties, within the difficulties, despite the challenges, within the challenges, despite these times, within these times. if it were possible, i would set each around us in the sunroom, also bathed in happy lights, like laundry clothespinned to a clothesline, reminding us of the best times, the memorable times, the happiest snapshots, the most poignant moments, the yin-yang of relationships, reassuring love in trying-to-stay-centered, the times we balanced stress and the times we succumbed to it, successful and unsuccessful zen, and exhausted times of rest.

i would place the clothesline in the middle of the room so that you could not help but see each item, each old wooden clothespin, memory-laundry crowded onto a timeline, reminding us that the minute does not stay. that whether the minute is feverish or beauty-laden, it moves on.

we are all particular; we are all particularly needy. our lists and our baggage surpass that of the little bonsai gardenia. we are all up to the task. we do our best in each moment, whether it is dark or sparkling. and we remember we can try again. we can help each other; we are “most loved and challenging”. KC already knows that.

i am excited to see KC bloom. i wait patiently for this amazing flower to arrive. in the meantime, i light the white gardenia candle, talk to my plant and drink in the glow of the happy lights, trying. each day. living just past the eyelash phase.

*****

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