reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

listen to music on my little corner of iTUNES

stream on PANDORA

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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tennis with diebenkorn and pärt. [two artists tuesday]

“now, the idea is to get everything right – it’s not just color or form or space or line – it’s everything all at once.” (richard diebenkorn)

each time i have stood in front of one of the ocean park series paintings, i have been totally engaged. the light, the color, the form, the line, the space – richard got it all right in these. they are fantastic abstracts, luring you in. we left the san francisco museum of modern art with a richard diebenkorn book, one of those coffeetable type books – large with gorgeous illustrations and text. i keep it in my studio, to gaze at and sink into.

i do not know much about painting. at all. i have learned, though, that composition is, across the medium-board, still composition. a painting, a song, a dance, a poem needs someone to receive it, someone to interact, to respond, someone upon which it may fall. and for the artist, though imperative to do the work regardless, it creates the space for the flow to go back and forth, like a tennis ball across a court. each bounce and bounceback adds a little wisdom, a little emotion, breath. as i stand in front of richard’s ocean park paintings, it is as if i can hear his even breathing in my ear.

i stood on the dock up-north, gazing down at the water, light and sun playing on its surface. were i to have chosen colors to paint this, and not the black and white of the paintings i have spattered – the only paintings i have done as an adult, i might have chosen these tones. they are the colors i love to be surrounded by. this would be an abstract painting of getting outside without getting outside, to be there without being there.

but i did not paint this. nature took care of the color and form and space and line and i merely captured what nature made easy. there are many of these now – photographs of the abstract – all with strings tied to my heart and memories in my mind’s eye of outside. i keep thinking they would make a good coffeetable book…”getting outside inside”….a title, an invitation…for those sulky days when one needs the bounceback of the breath of the woods or the water, the space of the mountain trail or the rocky beach.

the gift of glassy lake reminds me that there are other mediums to explore, textures i might consider. i imagine richard diebenkorn and arvo pärt, on two sides of the court, two dimensions, lobbing the ball back and forth. abstractionist and minimalist – both extending an invitation. i start to answer.

*****

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images of water ©️ 2021 kerri sherwood


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‘shrooms and fairies. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the amazon truck pulled up and the driver got out, ran a package to our door and ran back to the truck. but he didn’t pull away. he pulled up a bit and stepped out again with his phone, aiming it up at the big old tree at the end of our driveway. in the notch of branches was a giant mushroom, super-sized by humidity. he poked at it and a chunk fell off for him to investigate. from inside i couldn’t tell what he was doing, but once i walked down the driveway i could see the giant ‘shroom. perhaps a northern tooth fungus, it was beautiful and mysterious. it’s no wonder the amazon guy stopped to stare and photograph it.

there are years that we have had mushroom rings in our yard. you’re thinking, wow, they mustn’t have great grass. no, we don’t have great grass. but a fairy ring of mushrooms is common and apparently take about a year to form, all underground. superstition says that if you enter a fairy ring, you will dance with nature’s creatures and you will be unable to stop. since we like snacks and sleep, we have chosen not to enter the ring, avoiding the off-chance that this inexorable dancing take over. but the presence of fairies and elves seems magical and since these rings are associated with luck, i choose good luck over bad and we haven’t done anything to prevent them from being there.

one evening as we sat having a late dinner at our covid table in the sunroom, happy lights on and a couple candles flickering, i looked more closely at snakeinthegrass. i was surprised to find the presence of tiny mushrooms, sprouting up and living in community with this sansevieria plant. perfect little fungi, they stood tall and steadfast for a few days and i imagined tiny invisible-to-the-human-eye fairies waltzing under their domes. we laughed at the ballroom on our table.

as fascinating as mushrooms are, i would never be one to go out into the woods to arbitrarily pick them; there are too many doppelgangers out there and we are not informed. but in the way of learning new factoids, it’s amazing to note that mushrooms actually breathe oxygen – just like humans – and emit carbon dioxide, the opposite of plants. and the genetic makeup, the actual dna, of mushrooms is more similar to humans than plants.

as i look at the coming and going of these tiny mushrooms in our potted plants and high in our maple tree and ringing in the yard, i think about the necessity of their existence in our ecosystem. fungus, they give back and make it possible for plants to survive. they are synergetic without exception. perhaps their dna is even more advanced than humans.

*****

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never-leaving. [two artists tuesday]

it was mesmerizing. we sat on rocks on the edge of the high mountain stream, sinking into the sound of babbling water, sun filtering through the trees and cool air wafting around us. i didn’t want to leave.

i remember a day, long ago, when i stood alone in the middle of a river. pants rolled up high, toes curled into the pebbles under my feet, sunlight on my face. whispering a prayer to the universe, gratitude, honoring time spent, i waded back to the shore, sitting on river’s edge to dry off, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, a few years ago, when we stood on the edge of a lake. we whispered love to my sweet momma and tossed kindness into the air. it floated for moments on the breeze and settled into the tiny lake she loved with her big heart. and we stood quietly, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, a couple years ago, when we stood at the edge of this same stream. i stretched out my arms, embracing it. i laughed, sheer joy in jeans and boots, staunchly refusing to move, not wanting to leave.

i remember a day, merely a couple weeks ago now, when we stood at the edge of a mountain lake, watching a candle glow in celebration of a life well-lived. the sun began to wane and the aspen glowed as it began its dip. and we sat on the beach, not wanting to leave.

and a couple days ago, we stood on the dock, the sun beginning its dance with the trees across the lake and we lingered, procrastinating, postponing, not wanting to leave.

and back to this stream. in the moments on the rocks, perfect paintings right in front of us, time lifted from sadness and worry, i wanted to build tiny boats from leaves and send all that angst downstream. i wanted to sit in the peace and the canvas nature created with light, shadow, water, reflection. i wanted to bring that purity with us, carry it out and back to the truck, across the pass, through the tunnel, down the mountain, across the great plains and home.

the tiny rock looks like a coin. a granite reminder, a token, of something always there.

to touch it is to touch never-leaving.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

images of water ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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fragile and crucial. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“and someday the light will shine like a sun through my skin and they will say, what have you done with your life?  and though there are many moments i think i will remember, in the end, i will be proud to say, i was one of us.” (story people)

nature has no pretenses. it isn’t trying to be all-that. no keeping-up-with-the-joneses. it just is. it’s truth at its core. it is color in all spectrums, bold and diffused, opaque and transparent.

this aspen leaf lay at the edge of the lake. no longer vibrant green or golden yellow or even toasted brown, it lay, waiting to be seen. light shining through it; it was exposed. and ever so brilliant. i knelt down and studied the veining, intricate and delicate, fragile and crucial.

my sweet poppo, in his latest years around 90, had delicate skin, seemingly transparent. this man, strong and never afraid of hard work, became more fragile and his arms – that had cut down trees and repaired volkswagens and tiny bulova watch fixings and rube-goldberged nearly anything and made coffee every morning for my momma and drove mopeds in early retirement and whirled me around the ice rink and gently held his grandchildren – turned translucent, telling stories of his life. his eyes, unclouded, spoke those memories – the beloved tales of family, the challenges of being a prisoner of war in world war two, the upstate water hole, the waterfowl games out their back lanai. no pretenses.

i suppose we will all lose our color at some point. we will become more gauzy and our veneer will start to fade. maybe it’s in those moments that we realize that none of it – the veneer and the joneses – really mattered. that all that was important was being. through all the phases – all the color – all that was important was life, clear and true. and that it was fragile and crucial all along.

*****

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enchanted. [two artists tuesday]

and golden was the glow from the forest as we walked

into the sun low on the horizon,

our feet swishing through leaves on the trail,

our gaze above us, to the canopy.

the quaking aspen invited us, “stay,”

rustling in percussive background

to our hearts beating and wishing.

the respite in the woods,

the time on mountains,

the black and white of this stand,

we immersed in immense beauty.

stopping in the middle, the path forward and back,

we stood tall,

breathing deeply,

and shimmered with them,

enchanted.

*****

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i left it there. [two artists tuesday]

i left it there.

we had a few hours and needed a fix in the mountains. just a short distance away from congested civilization was a trail that lead into higher elevation and quiet. everything else slipped away as we climbed and followed the columbine.

i was moved by this fragile blossom on the side of the trail. delicate and perfect in every way that flowers are perfect, i picked it up, turned it over, felt its short life. like the sun, its tiny petals radiating from the center. its flawlessness is simple; its budding-lifeline complete. it was laying in the mountain meadow, waiting to be noticed. not much different than any of us.

and then, i laid it back down where i found it. and it will be there for the next person who hikes by, glances over and sees it. one sun-low-on-the-horizon-fall-dried-flower-blossom, past its season but not past its beauty.

that’s why i left it there.

*****

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joey’s parmesan. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

one of the funniest things to come out of joey coconato’s backpack out in the middle of nowhere was a can of kraft grated parmesan cheese. there were definitely other funny things too, though: a bottle of sriracha, a dozen eggs, avocados, brats, bota box wine. he is not your regular backpacker. joey is not afraid to carry stuff. he’s not afraid to go back-country. and he’s not afraid to bust the norms. passing this display in the grocery store made me laugh aloud and think of joey.

one night recently, in the wee hours, i was awake and, thus, so was david. we chose a PCT trail video to watch and got through the whole video with nary a yawn. they had mentioned mountain house meals, so we were curious. we visited – at 3am – the mountain house website and were astounded to find many meals that sounded so delicious they instantly made us hungry. we were also astonished to find that each one was just shy of $10. that would mean that if we chose to hike the pacific crest trail – for about five months – and each of us had a mountain house meal for breakfast and for dinner – it would cost us (do the math: $10each x2of us x2mealsaday x30daysamonth x5months) about $6000 just for those meals, not to mention lunch or snacks or gear or permits or or or…. so, no wonder joey carries baggies of pasta and flour tortillas and avocados and parmesan. we literally clinked with him (virtually) when he whipped out the bota box of wine to celebrate with his hiking mates.

we haven’t long-distance hiked. yet. i suspect at some point we will try this (or some part thereof). we love hiking and we are addicted to these backpacking trips, these long-distance trails. we have watched joey all through the pandemic. his hikes have kept us sane in days of seesawing sanity. and apparently, though we are just simply joey-fans, we have talked about him enough that we have received email messages asking us for his contact information.

we have viewed john muir hikers in high elevation and appalachian trail hikers in distinctly humid-humidity. continental divide and the colorado trail thru-hikers. norwegian xplorer wherever he hikes. pacific crest trail hikers ‘heading somewhere‘ and ‘walking with purpose‘ have captured our attention as they hike out west right now, live and posting. we felt sad as ‘miles to go‘ gave up her brave and gigantic quest to finish the pct this season. these people are out there – doing life the best they can in the best way they can. present in each moment. we root for each of them. just like we root for joey.

we’re not sure where joey coconato is right now. he hasn’t posted a new video in quite some time. he is one of the best examples of being one with the outdoors we have seen. he has been making his way in the wilderness for years now, respectfully and with all good intention and gratitude, and we guess that the wilderness loves him as much as his viewers do.

we suspect – and hope – that he is safely out there somewhere, pitching his hand-me-down/loaned tent on some ridge or under some trees or in some gorgeous meadow or next to some lake, gazing around his campsite, drinking it all in, taking his clanging aluminum pot off of the outside of his backpack where he has it tied as an alert to bears in the area and is boiling some pasta up and adding in some parmesan – right from the 8 oz can he carries with him. what a good life he lives.

cheers, joey. and all the rest of you hikers out there, carrying the very least and experiencing the very most. don’t forget the parmesan.

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“the pace of nature.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“…adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.” (ralph waldo emerson)

no matter how hard we try, there is not one thing we can do to make the sun appear or the day warmer or the moon to rise or the snow to fall. we accept that time will come, time will pass, time will form and time will destroy. we give over to nature, anticipating that which we know, expecting the unexpected. we baby-step through this very time in the universe, our footprints barely visible on the timeline that is forever. we learn that no matter our stride, we are simply tiny beings. eventually, we learn, after giving over to patience, that that is enough.

the john denver sanctuary in aspen is a treasure trove. we have been there three times now. a garden of trails and large river boulders etched with lyrics and quotes, perennial daisies and aspen trees, it is a gentle sinking into peaceful. the city sounds of aspen fall away and the river and streams are lulling.

we wandered for hours, reading, sitting, pondering, the sun on our faces, the sound of quaking leaves slowing us down. i stood on a giant rock, like a stage under my feet, and bowed deeply to no one and to the brilliance of a man who knew how to tenderly shape melody and weave lyric into a fabric like a soft blanket.

we were immersed in poetry, in words, delicious to read aloud. we were quietly taking it all in, i in all my john-denver-glory, reliving the cassettes i wore out, rewinding, rewinding, listening again and again. this exquisite place, tempting all-day-hooky-playing, wielding a magic defined by thought, encouraging reflection, softly begging you to tumble in your own thoughts. this place slowing you down, reminding you that it is not stuff that defines you, it is not the stuff-of-you that will remain with others.

we wrestle with timing, with suspense, with expectation and disappointment. we measure against ladders of success and hold ourselves to higher higher higher standards of accomplishment.

nature quietly treks on, luminescent and glorious, patiently acknowledging every babystep moment of its impact, surrendering judgement and secretly, from the heart of the universe, signing its autograph on all of us, whispering to us to slow our pace.

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY