reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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pullchain. [two artists tuesday]

the music and lyrics of jon mohr and john mays come to mind:

oh maybe when we realize
how much there is to share
we’ll find too much in common
to pretend it isn’t there

love in any language
straight from the heart
pulls us all together
never apart
and once we learn to speak it
all the world will hear
love in any language
fluently spoken here

lisa signed the song as the youth choir sang it on the stage in florida. i carried the song from youth choir to youth choir, its lyrics positive and the song always a director’s success.

d’s ceiling-fan-poppo-chain-bracelet broke and we had to replace it. we both wear these bracelets 24/7 so we have stand-by ceiling fan pullchain to wrap around our wrists should we have a break or a loss. we know my dad is heartwarmed – somewhere – as we hold onto him and the simple way he loved his family – via lightweight metal chain.

after i wrapped d’s wrist a couple times and secured it with the ball chain connector clasps, i tossed the remaining piece onto the counter to put into a tiny special box that is heaven for beaded chain.

i walked past and looked down.

there on the counter it had formed a heart.

of course.

my poppo grinned.

love…straight from the heart…pulls us all together…never apart.

*****

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a strawberry by another name. [two artists tuesday]

every summer we would go strawberry-picking. my mom kept the berry baskets from year to year, hanging in our one-car garage. we’d go “out east” on long island, get all sunburned and strawberry-stained. my dad would quip, “one for the basket, one for the breadbasket,” chomping in-between picking.

when my children were littler, we would do the same. thompson strawberry farm in the county was our destination. the kiddos were also big fans of “the breadbasket” and i have pictures to prove it. sweetest moments, in all good ways.

if you were to describe a strawberry, you would try to describe its long-conic shape, the petals at the top where the stem connects. then you would likely go on to describe the color as it matures, the way it crunches, the way it tastes, the way seeds might get stuck in your teeth and, maybe, the way juice would stain your hands and, probably, your clothing. there’s nothing quite like a strawberry fresh-off-the-vine on a hot summery-sun day in the middle of a field with your tummy kind of pokin’ at you. amaaaaazing. my dad would agree.

as we walked on the trail, we encountered this strawberry-shaped pod. it’s a wild teasel. upside-down. but teasel is the perfect name for this flowering plant. for unless you spoke to the prickly nature of this, you could be describing the shape, the sessile leaves, the stem of a strawberry. any touch or, worse yet, a bite, would indeed tell you the difference. naturally, the color – or lack thereof – would also never tease you into picking it for your berry basket.

i guess you really need to examine closely what you believe to be a strawberry or what you think might be a strawberry. you need to question the properties of a real strawberry. you may need to research.

just because it sort of looks like a strawberry does not make it a strawberry. and, for your well-being, you need to be able to tell the difference.

*****

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102. [merely-a-thought monday]

102.

my sweet poppo would be 102 today. were he here, i would treat him to a scotch on the rocks, a good steak on the grill (that he doesn’t have to stress over), chocolate ganache cake, a hot cup of coffee. i would tease him and poke at him, asking him if he remembered to get my momma an anniversary card (for they were married on his birthday and it would be their 79th anniversary and, for some reason, this was always my job through the years – to take on the angst of wondering if my dad remembered…).

i wish he were here.

we were in our airbnb in the little mountain town.

we had just arrived that day. took a walk downtown, had pop-up happy hour on the porch, made a sheet-pan dinner, relished being there.

a warm and welcoming old house, there was a wine bottle stand in the dining room that held books and brochures of the area, menus and hiking trails, places to forge metal and horsebackride, guides to hundreds of waterfalls. good resources to plan our next days.

i randomly pulled out the small book on the end of the shelf and flipped it open. this was the page it flipped to. “how do you like them apples?” because i am redundant (yepyep) and because some things stick in my mind more than others, i have already written about how my dad always said this. kind of a nonsensical phrase, sometimes appropriate in context, sometimes not so much. it is with tremendous fondness i hear or see this phrase. it goes along with “do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?”

i held it open, photographed it, wanted to pack it away in my backpack. i was held – suspended – in a moment with my dad. he smiled from afar and thought he was pretty clever to pull it off.

he wanted to live to 100. if you asked him how he was, he would tell you that he was going to live to 100.

but he didn’t.

i wonder if he’s shaking his head on the other side, incredulous that things just work out how they work out, in spite of our plans, saying, “how do you like them apples?”.

though we loved that they were there – particularly me – we didn’t open the brochures much. we just punted and found ourselves on gravel roads in the woods seeking trailheads and climbing to waterfalls and granite outcroppings in forests of rhododendron, surprised again and again by howdoyoulikethemapples moments.

*****

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alive. [k.s. friday]

marty was the first man i knew who was a breast cancer survivor. we also learned he was deathly allergic to shrimp – while we were all at joe’s crab shack devouring seafood. yiiikes. it feels like a zillion years ago, but it was a great community of folks – all who were dedicated to their craft and showing at large wholesale shows, lining up accounts with small and large shops across the country. it was before streaming was really The Thing and i was moving boxes and boxes and boxes – thousands – of cds with displays, all to be sold by real people in real places. the days were long – yamaha delivered in a piano and it was hours upon hours of playing, talking, writing purchase orders, selling cash and carry. in the evening we would all sometimes gather together somewhere, to share stories, to unwind. that one night, joe’s crab shack made us a little bit nervous. we traded seats around so marty wasn’t near any shrimp and wondered why we didn’t go to a steakhouse.

community makes a difference. in this latest lean time of community that is now particularly pronounced.

i watched as my dear big sister shared her breast cancer story on facebook. she is now, thankfully, on the other side, mostly healed from surgery and radiation, slogging slowly through a period of difficulty adjusting to a long-term hormone blocker. i know, without a doubt, that the people who sent her their love – even online – helped her. a community that rallies around is the village we all need, especially in desperate times.

heidi and i spent so very much time together. our mutual work was in the oncological field – performing at large and small cancer survivor and breast cancer awareness events. there are many posts in this blog about places we have been and i consider them to be moments i was honored to be a part of the supportive oncology community and a part of the story.

my grandmother-who-i-never-knew, my dad’s mom, died of metastatic breast cancer. my sweet momma had a double mastectomy at 93. my dad was a lung cancer survivor and my brother died because of lung cancer. this year my sister’s breast cancer diagnosis scared us.

in the middle of the night, when things are raw, i decided that a “sisu” bracelet was in order so i found an artist who designed and crafted it out of silver so that my sister could wear it and know i was with her, a part of her community, holding her close. i ordered one for me as well. because the middle of the night can be a scary time when you are thinking too much.

marty didn’t mention the whole shrimp-thing until we were already at joe’s. i guess he had decided to just go-with-it, to just live. he had already been through so much.

though i really wouldn’t change it – as i love my “sisu” bracelet – i wonder if it should just say “alive”.

*****

click here for a few other words about “i am alive”

I AM ALIVE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

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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.

*****

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