reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the west wall. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it’s the west wall. and every morning as the sun streams in across the room, we comment. it’s one of those images that you anticipate, that stays with you, that you miss on cloudy days – a new day captured between miniblinds. and, because we were there and so was he, we know the shadow in the bottom left window pane is a shadow of dogdog’s furry ear and the nape of his neck. his ritual – laying on the bed with us in the morning as we sip coffee and the sun works on rising.

it will soon be a year since columbus – david’s sweet dad – died. it is now just days away. i knew him for merely eight years. but he was easy to adore. he still is. i talk to him every time i get into big red, feeling his presence as i crank up country music and roll down the windows. i don’t even know if he cranked up country music and rolled down the windows, but i sense his approval and it makes me smile. he had a gentle way about him and his shadow leaves soft edges in my heart. i told david that it will get a little bit harder each day now. there is no changing that. not feeling his absence is like trying to keep an open candle lit in the wind. impossible.

the anniversary of his leaving-this-earth forces one to recognize mortality. when my big brother died, it foisted upon me an absolute sense of a lack of infinity – time goes by and the world continues on, yet there will come a time that our relationship with the world will no longer feel the same and our shadow will be a little less pronounced, a little less definitive, a little fuzzier, though no less present. when my poppo and then, three years later, my sweet momma died, i was struck by the sheer ludicrousness of how wrapped up we all get in everylittledetailofeverything. it felt like we should spend more time shadow-dancing together in the sun and less time in the actual shadows. there is no time to waste. we learn it – and forget – again and again. and again.

in the way of shadows and energy and love, we know that our dogga can feel us, despite our temporary absence from him as we travel. just like the people we love – here and not here – he is right with us.

the west wall reminds us.

*****

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the stars are watching. [k.s. friday]

littlebabyscion is ready. i washed it and vacuumed it and wiped out the inside, reorganizing its small storage spaces, checking to make sure the necessities were there. we travel always with a small tool kit, duct tape (this is from experience), twist ties, rubber bands of all sizes and a big maglite flashlight. light is always good on a dark highway, but the light was barely discernible when i checked it, so i changed the batteries and put extras in a small bag that also has jumper cables and a quart of oil, things we have determined to be practical. in the winter there are a few additions, a few things that my sweet poppo always made sure i carried along. but it’s still late summer, so the extender snow brush/scraper can hang in the garage just a bit longer and the kitty litter doesn’t need to come along. littlebabyscion is ready to go to the shop today and come home later with a muffler that doesn’t make noise. (to muffle: to make quieter and more difficult to hear; muffler: a device fixed to the exhaust of a motor vehicle to reduce engine noise.) it waits patiently in the driveway until The Time.

the people who know – like our mechanic, the exhaust system shop, our plumber, our electrician, the drain experts, tree services, gardening wizards, the company we will choose to be our mason – they are like lights in the darkness. along with their expertise and the wisdom of friends who have beentheredonethat we survive the normal – and not-so-normal – challenges of home and car ownership. it would seem rare – a person without some sort of concentric circle of informants surrounding them in problem-solving and decision-making. asking questions, asking for advice, seeking information are the basis for learning and, it seems, every day is an opportunity for that. (and we haven’t even mentioned the whole changing-bodies piece of this life-thing.)

we stood outside on the deck, the only light from a few torches and the bonfire across the yard; we gazed at the sky. it seemed thousands of stars gazed back at us. the james webb telescope has delivered photographs of space back to us here on this planet, a place that feels big but is merely tiny in the vast. seeing billions and billions of light years away, i read that the webb captures not just the birth of stars but, also, their last dances. it is hard to wrap your head around looking back in time in such a profound way. the light goes on and on. and on.

we each build a framework around ourselves. none of us exists without the other, really. at a time when our purple-mountain-majesty-land continues to be divided and people fight for control and power and are practicing efforts serving to undermine, marginalize, divide further, it would seem prudent to remember the tiny-in-vast. transience.

we can be the light for each other…in so many ways. or we can snuff it out and try to go on without. the stars are watching.

always prepared, always planning ahead for possible big bangs, my poppo would vote for light.

*****

TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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wishes. [k.s. friday]

right now – in this quiet early morning – i can hear the chippies at one of the birdfeeders. there’s a certain metallic sound as the seed, disbursed by scrambling tiny feet on the edge of the feeder, hits the metal chipmunk-squirrel-prevention plate below. i’m pretty certain the chippies giggle every time they jump from there to the edge of the feeding trough. there is an abundance of seed in this feeder and they know it, returning time and time again to fill their adorable cheeks, run off, run back, jump, giggle, gorge, run off, all on repeat.

that is what i wish for my children, the imperative: an abundance of seed. to know that there is always more out there for them: more possibility, more to learn, more adventure, more challenges, more successes, more love. to always know that they are rooted and capable. to always know acceptance and compassion and support and fairness. to know that they can be confident in the world, always. to know that, whether they need it or not, i will always be their biggest fan and will always hope for their biggest and littlest wishes to come true.

i knew, even as an adult, that my parents were cheering me on. i knew that they did the hard work of letting go as i moved away. i knew that they were ever-present – and still are. i knew they wished all good things for me and held steadfast during all hard things. their love was a perennial birdfeeder, infinity-abundance-filled and there whenever i needed it.

i used to text both of my grown children every night to say goodnight. somewhere along the way it was brought to my attention that this might be a tad bit annoying. though i, personally, would adore hearing from my sweet momma every single night – especially now – i realized that she would also have respected it had my desire been for her to not continue this practice.

i stopped my goodnighttext practice, but i didn’t stop my goodnights. they are now just simply silent kisses blown in their direction, like dandelion fluff on the wind. infinity-floating and always here.

*****

I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER AND EVER) from AND GOODNIGHT ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

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there. [two artists tuesday]

maybe one of the reasons i love brochures so much is the chance they give you of picturing yourself there. a good glossy pages-long-fold-out brochure can transport you, make you dream, put you there.

this morning we were talking about bus tours. not a fan of buses, i am not likely to participate in many long bus tours in upcoming days and years. i know that a bus tour will take a group of people to the highlights, the places-you-don’t-wanna-miss, the photo-ops. but i rail against experiencing those things at the same time as everyone else, in the same way, taking photo turns in front of the cliff edge, the monument, the cathedral. i realized that i would rather miss a few things along the way just so that we could do it ourselves, take our sweet time, breathe it in, immerse in our surroundings, really feel a place before moving on to the next. there may be times that a bus – for a jaunt here or there – might be necessary, but i don’t really want to see everything-on-a-big-trip out the window of a coach line.

my sweet momma and poppo, thinking ahead – and also not bus people (so now you know where i get this) – ordered a vw bug to pick up in germany back in 1971 when they went on an extended roadtrip (clearly genetic) in europe. they tooled around small towns and backroads all over, my mom in her glory with maps, my dad relying on her sense of direction. they sometimes slept at relatives’ homes, sometimes at inns, sometimes at small hostels, and even sometimes in their little bug in a field, once waking up next to a gigantic pile of dung covered with plastic tarps and tires. they adventured and missed stuff, but they immersed themselves and the stories from that time were delicious tales. the missed-stuff didn’t matter. the stuff and people they saw did.

i imagine us – as we watch pct hikers and john muir trail hikers – someday – hopefully – on these trails. i imagine us in all the national parks in utah. i imagine more time hiking our favorite trail in breck. i imagine us chatting with the owners of the general store in putney, vermont. i imagine us walking a bit of the salt path. i imagine us on the cliffs of ireland and the amalfi coast and maybe in the brilliant blue and white of santorini someday. like mr rogers’ “picture picture” i can see the video in my mind’s eye. it satisfies the yearning for now and gives me photos of dreamy quality, viewmaster brochures in my heart.

we spent an evening at the botanic garden, wandering. we didn’t sit down on this particular bench, but i can see us there, feel us there, surrounded by green.

we missed a few of the plant collections that evening, we missed the greenhouse. but we immersed in the paths winding around the garden and breathed differently upon our leave than we had upon our arrival. and that made all the difference.

*****

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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

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up a notch and up a notch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i do not remember my sweet momma ever peeling and mincing a garlic. i suppose it’s possible that she did – and i missed it – but i would venture a guess that she didn’t. garlic powder and garlic salt were in our spice cabinet growing up and i think they were the substitutes for the real thing.

they were depression babies, so my parents were not lavish spenders, fine-dining diners, exquisite kitchen-keepers. we had aluminum pots (it was a very big deal when they one day, at long last, purchased revere ware) and the infamous formerly-featured corningware. the cookware mattered not. family and friends gathered around the table together regardless. which, of course, is the point.

my dad was pretty proud the day he purchased my mom a portable dishwasher. they kept it in the laundry room right off the kitchen behind the accordion door that looked like it was made of woven straw. on special days they would roll it out and attach the hose to the kitchen sink spout, load it up and turn it on. when they moved to florida after they retired, a dishwasher-that-was-already-installed-in-the-kitchen was on my momma’s list. my poppo was in charge of loading and unloading, practically entirely washing the plates beforehand. my mom never tired of this amazing appliance.

i purchased a used dishwasher – not full-size, for our kitchen layout would not accommodate that – about a decade back and had it installed in the spot where the formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher dishwasher sat. sadly, it did not work for long. i should have purchased a new one, but that was not in the budget. the dishwasher-that-took-the-place-of-the-dishwasher is now also formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher. sigh. one of these days…

but friends and family have gathered around the table together – regardless of our dishwasher or cookware status – and we have happily prepared food to take to other gathering tables. which, of course, is the point.

when we lived on island, we had the same size dishwasher and i have to admit to being in love with it. it IS amazing – yes, momma! – you load it up and turn it on and voila! i know you know the rest. any time we are in airbnb’s and vrbo’s we embrace the dishwasher – well, not like hugging it…more like using it. it’s so twenty-first century! but i digress.

yesterday, when i was making rice, we got to talking about rice. (we are exciting people, folks.)

neither of us remember growing up with anything other than minute rice (and, of course, the exotic rice-a-roni array of rices.) with absolutely no judgement, we dove into the finer details of the cooking of minute rice vs raw rice that you boil and steep. it goes along with not peeling and mincing garlic, a collection of ragu and prego in the cabinet, canned and frozen vegetables. people’s habits and budgetary concerns are deeply ingrained and are hard to break.

from time to time we get pictures of what our grown kids are eating. they have prepared some fabulous meal or are dining out at a restaurant with incredible food and exquisite platings and presentation. often they are eating something we have never heard of; often my response is “wow!! that looks fantastic!” they have upped the notch on food from where we are and we glom onto what they send, asking for or looking up recipes, jaunting over to the restaurant website to ponder a meal there.

it’s funny how this happens. though i suppose it is not unexpected.

we have moved from garlic powder to real garlic in a generation. from the portable dishwasher to the installed dishwasher-formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher.

the next generation is taking it to the next level. dinners in instant pots, dinners with smashburger presses, dinners sous vide, dinners in air fryers, dinners with ethnic spices, sauces, harder-to-find ingredients, et al.

and a working dishwasher is non-negotiable.

of course.

*****

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my poppo in my dream. [merely-a-thought monday]

my subconscious was in overdrive. i had heard some news late in the evening and, clearly, it played into all i was thinking about in my overnight sleep. both my sweet momma and my poppo were in my dream, as were people who were stars of the news i had heard, and, unlike many other dreams that vanish with the dawn or fade to irretrievable mishmash, this one stayed with me.

in it, i wanted to tell my dad what had happened, wanted to share the news with him, wanted to give him the back-story of it all, which, of course, he already knew (especially from his vantage point a dimension away). he was setting up microphones for me – something he truly has never done in real life – and he looked over at me. he furrowed his brow. “i’m working for tomorrow,” he said. “work for tomorrow,” he encouraged.

i can still see him, bending over a mic stand, adjusting a boom mic and looking forward. his words have stuck with me. “for tomorrow.”

i knew enough in the dream that he wasn’t pooh-pooh-ing the value of today – neither was he sloughing off the importance of work in this day. today. rather, it was somehow clear to me that he was discarding the what-had-been, the back-story i was going to repeat – again – and he was leaning on the hopeful of tomorrow, the promise of work done today helping tomorrow, and it is likely he would agree with juliette gordon low, the founder of girl scouts of america, one of my mom’s passions, when she said, ““the work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

i woke up the next day still in the dream. my poppo was somehow still present with me. and the news i had heard, though not unexpected and certainly a little bit satisfying in a puzzle-piece-found sort of way, became less worthy of my time. some stuff is just more important left behind. there are plenty of fascinating puzzle pieces ahead.

as i take bags and boxes to donation sites soon, i know that clearing space – out of the basement and out of closets that had been full of unworn clothing – will be invigorating. i have been going through, going through, revisiting memories, feeling the visceral that touching clothes you wore and objects you used brings you. but, hanging on to too much old stuff, too much excess, too much old yuck too tightly squeezes life out of the air. letting it go allows a flow of fresh in. it will open up room for other things to enter or it will just simply open up room. because, as my dad says, it’s working for tomorrow. tomorrow…a time of renewal and hope and change.

there will hopefully be many “days after today”. as i create history on this day, it is my hope that it is always with an eye to tomorrow. i know not every day will earn a spot in the books. there may be many we do not care to revisit in the ‘réview mirror’; there is room for growing. i guess that’s where learning comes in. (“learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences…the result of experience.”) but in looking to tomorrow, instead of yesterday, there is hope. even the tiniest flower wholeheartedly and courageously peeking out of the nearly-still-frozen ground knows that.

that poppo of mine. he’s one smart cookie.

*****

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happy seven year anniversary to the release of my sweet momma’s book SHAYNE! ❤️


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universally understood. [k.s. friday]

my sweet momma and my poppo would hold up their hands in the universally-understood gesture of “i love you” every time we left. walk away, drive away, it mattered not. their hands were always up gesturing, their faces were smiling, but you could see it in their eyes – the leaving. the sign language said words they just couldn’t muster at those moments. i love you. universally understood.

all over the world, in sunshine and in shadow, people use the international hand symbol for “peace”. everyone understands it. it had a different beginning – as the symbol for allied victory in world war II morphing into the symbol for peace. the written peace symbol is just as recognizable. universally understood. dreamed for and ignored, both.

the sun streamed in the morning window and spilled onto the white wall behind me. with early coffee, i was reading news articles, mostly about the invasion in ukraine. heartbreaking and frustrating. i read of people’s lives devastated, of people staunchly fighting for their country, of people on cement basement floors with children and a few possessions, underground and under siege for undetermined periods of time.

i put my coffee mug down and stared at the light streaming in. i raised my hand in the simple peace gesture and held it to the east. i whispered “peace” to our friends far away in distance but close in this galaxy.

universally understood, the shadow whispered as well.

*****

PEACE.

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PEACE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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momma’s crumb cake. [k.s. friday]

10.5 x 15. the size of my sweet momma’s crumb cake.

back in the 90s, her crumb cake preceded her. everyone knew about her crumb cake. and everyone loved it. “beaky’s crumb cake,” they’d anticipate it.

based on the beloved new york entenmann’s crumb cake, she took crumb cake to another level. she’d, very specifically, tell you about how to make crumbs, that you MUST mix with your hands. she’d tell you how to sprinkle the confectionary sugar on top. and she’d proudly march it into the school, the hangar, the state attorney’s office, the church, the party. her recipe is dated 10/87; she didn’t start making her own crumbs until almost a decade into living in florida.

the other day – the day i was writing last monday’s blogpost – i was craving her crumb cake. i just wanted to sit down with a huge slab o’ cake and a piping-hot cup of coffee and chat with her. i wanted to hear her voice, her laugh, see her raised eyebrow and piercing blue-hazel eyes. i wanted to tell her stories. i wanted to ask her questions. i wanted to hug her tightly. i wanted her to hug me.

i wanted crumb cake.

we went to woodman’s and looked for the entenmann’s display. sure enough, it was there, this brooklyn-based bakery from way-back-when.

if entenmann’s crumb cake tastes like anything, it tastes like long island and the table in the kitchen by the window overlooking the patio where you could look out and see the dog run and the woods and clay pitts park in the distance and, at different times, different years, the above-ground pool or the vegetable garden and the grove with the big stump where we’d place the metal picnic sticks in the ground to hold brightly colored aluminum tumblers. it tastes like family gathered around a table with placemats labeled in the corner with initials that spell out shabaeawaka. it tastes like after-school and sunday-brunch. it tastes like saturday morning. it tastes like my dad, whistling, and pouring coffee from the percolator. it tastes like early spring and forsythia, salty breezes and bike hikes.

we bought the crumb cake.

and each day, for a few days, i made us a nespresso and placed each tiny mug on a clear glass plate with a piece of crumb cake. i savored each bite, each sip, getting lost in thought as only taste and scent can evoke.

and each day, my sweet momma and my poppo smiled from just-on-the-other-side. i could hear my dad whistling and my mom ask, “another piece?”

*****

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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what we seek. [d.r. thursday]

our favorite thing in the woods, when i was about eight or ten or so, were the salamanders. red-backed salamanders had a red stripe down their spine and, back then, were all over the woods outside our rustic cabins in the upstate new york state parks.

we stayed at many of them: selkirk shores, chenango valley, watkins glen, green lakes, letchworth. my sweet momma and poppo were not tent-campers, but they fully embraced the very-bare-minimum cabins in the woods and my mom would pack for a week ahead; we had to bring everything with us, including pots and pans. the bunkbed frames and mattresses were about all you got, with basic kitchen and bathroom necessities. we’d go for a week and for that glorious week, i would roam the forest and swim the lakes and ride bikes all over the park with my best friend. we didn’t do fancy vacations, but, for me, these trips were heaven. i think about my momma now – for her it was a lot of work, but she seemed happy to be “roughing-it” as she said. and she would run around each night, can of raid in her hand, singsong voice, announcing “raid! raid!” while we buried into our sleeping bags on our bunks and tried not to breathe.

before we discovered the lifeguards, we would hike through the forest, looking for anything interesting we could find, devising paths and mysteries to solve. mostly, we looked for the salamanders. one year, we found one that was particularly sociable with us and we were convinced it would stay around and be our friend. for obvious reasons, we named him sal. once you’ve named something, it is much harder to say goodbye.

now, the thing that’s hard to say goodbye to – out in the woods, high in the mountains – is the whole visceral experience. the cool fresh air, the trail under our feet, the sun filtering through the trees, quaking aspen leaves, the absolute drop-dead-amazing smell of a pine forest, the quiet.

we haven’t found salamanders in colorado woods, though we haven’t been seeking them as i did when i was in elementary school. instead, we have sought the feeling you get after you have hiked miles and some decent elevation. that exhausted adrenaline bursted rush of ahhh. the slightly burning lungs-are-in-your-chest feeling. the your-legs-want-to-sit-down-on-a-stump-for-a-moment tiredness. a little bit of wind-sun-scorched face. and the overwhelming desire to keep going.

*****

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