reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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never forgotten. [d.r. thursday]

there were big trees where i grew up. solid oaks and maples, a woods behind our house. as dusk would fall earlier in late summer we’d play hide and seek, so many places to tuck behind. i remember the ease of finding a tree or bushes that would shelter your whole body from view. you’d wonder if you would be found and then you might wonder if they didn’t find you whether they would just leave you there wondering. you’d peek around the trunk, just to make sure the game was still going, not to be left behind. because being left behind – forgotten – is exactly what you didn’t want to happen. but sometimes kids can be not-so-nice, just like adults, and you would find yourself standing behind the tree or crouched behind the bush, and the game would move down the street and you’d hear spud starting up.

this morning someone posted the meditations before kaddish online, reminding me i had saved these words since the day we attended a touching memorial service on zoom. extraordinary.

“when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands, and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

we walked up the hill away from the lake, knowing it was time to leave. beautiful places are always hard to leave and it feels that each time i do, i leave a piece of me behind in that space that gave me a chance to sink into its beauty. i peek through the trees on the way up and wonder if the lake will remember us or if it will forget.

i am reassured, though, now as an adult, believing – that in the way we eternally touch another in this universe – one tiny star to another – these birch and the lake and the path to water’s edge will remember our footfalls and our breath.

never forgotten.

*****

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windows-open. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we never put the air conditioners in. all summer. it’s been windows-open. summer two.

granted, there were a few days that were a little brutal, the humidity high, the breeze slight. we all melted a little.

but we survived. and, as i sit here, knowing that there are whirring central systems all around us, i can feel the breeze coming in from the east, the sun is gracing the comforter, the chippies are out back trying to dissuade the squirrels from eating at the birdfeeder and it is mostly quiet. our old house breathes and the outdoors comes in.

i guess i know people who spend scarcely any time outside. i personally can’t imagine it. we spend as much time outside as possible. even deck time counts. moments that we get to be up-north are exceptional and this time was no different. it doesn’t matter the weather, though sparklingly sunny days are truly impossible miracles of beauty. but even the rain, falling on the woods and lulling us all, doesn’t deter us and we sneak out in-between to take a walk and find wildflowers on the side of the road.

there is a chipmunk – and i am assuming, with no real basis for it, that it is always the same one – that comes to the fence across the driveway outside my window almost every day. it sits atop the fencepost and chirps loudly, stopping only when i call out the window to him, “hi little guy! hi chippie!” and make conversational chippie noises back at him. satisfied he said good morning (again, an assumption) he scampers off the fence and on to his next task-at-hand. were the window to be closed, i would miss it.

there are trips we want to take – to gorgeous high mountains and red rock canyons, to the atlantic coast, to smoky mountains, to cool canadian provinces, to faraway places overseas. we’ll spend as much time outside in those places as we can, drinking it in.

that window is big and wide open. and there is wild and sensational beauty out there.

but it’s even in our own backyard. and i don’t want to miss it.

*****

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on the trail of uuno. [merely-a-thought monday]

i was stunned to see my eyes on his face. maybe even my nose. ok, maybe – for obvious reasons – more my dad’s, my mom’s. but, sheesh, this ancestral dna, undeniable, is a funny thing.

finnish. i am finnish. and proud of it. though there are millions of us, my most-italian-city-in-the-state-of-wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of finns. we are pretty few and far between. the most finnish we get in these parts is people talk about (while mispronouncing) “saunas” and wonder about the use of the word “sisu” (one of my personal favorites.)

recently, in facebookland, my cousin posted this finnish proverb, “the forest will answer you in the way you call to it.” another cousin wrote that she remembered the story about our relative uuno klami, a famous finnish composer, “one of the most significant composers in the era following jean sibelius”, who brought people out into the forest and encouraged them to “sit quietly” and “listen to the woods”.

my sweet momma used to tell me about him, too. she connected the dots back to uuno as where i drew my composing juju. no one else in our family wrote music and, actually, not many even played instruments. my dad used to brag about how he could “turn on the stereo” as his musical talent. yes, he was a cutie-pie with a dad-sense-of-humor. my mom was insistent. in the ever-so-typical “yeah-yeah-yeah” internal response to which we children seem to default, i didn’t go much further than these conversations, a discuriousness i now regret.

so a couple weeks ago i googled him. it was startling to see his picture. because i felt like i recognized the heavy eyebrow lids – frontal bossing or some such term – slightly drooping eyes, the 11’s furrowed over his nose, his actual nose. geesh. he was not blessed with as high a forehead. now, a few generations later…

but – his woods connection. yes. psithurism: the sound of rustling leaves and wind in the trees. gorgeous. inspiring. evocative. i so agree with him.

his music – as i now begin to listen to it, on his trail – many pieces with only one recording, one interpretation. and – in the way of composers and real life – much of his oeuvre is unpublished.

yet i suspect that the forest knows it all. what he brought to it – his muse – returns to the leaves and the wind and is always there.

*****

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y. [merely-a-thought monday]

in what seems like decades ago, way back in 2020, on may 19, i wrote a blog with a similar photograph prompt. it was a stick – out in the woods – and i stated that even nature was asking “why?”.

at that time the pandemic was in its very early days, i was recuperating from a couple broken wrists and there was much in front of us we hardly knew – or imagined – would happen. it felt like we were already living in an alternate reality. i left off with a thought – that the decisions we made about the pandemic right then were going to impact us forever. we would look back and, with an eye to conscience, ask why we made them or why we didn’t.

it’s still relevant. y.

it’s the thing that nags me through the days….the whys.

i suppose it is the very thing that can stop-motion all forward movement. sometimes, there just isn’t time for a why. like when your toddler is about to touch the hot stove or run into the street after a ball, there are no moments to spare to answer “why??”. it just is. it does bring to mind all the people who whined “why?” about mask-wearing in a global pandemic. there wasn’t time for that. it just was. over a million people – in this country alone – likely wish those folks hadn’t stopped to ask why.

i’ve come to realize that sometimes, also, there just isn’t an answer. there is no good explanation for why people would be ruthlessly unkind to other people, why so many of our leaders deny that our good earth is in crisis, why – closer to home – people have used their own agenda to thwart the livelihood of people working hard for a community, why people don’t speak up for others being wronged or why people don’t ask more questions before jumping on bandwagons of mistruths, whatever they may be. the irony of it all. on may 19, 2020, i pondered whether decisions would stand the test of time.

so, coming upon the Y on the trail, i had to laugh.

because it is probably the one thing that i belabor, the one thing i try to figure out – day after day – the thing that keeps me from entirely moving on. y.

ok, ok, nature. i got it.

*****

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our chippies. [k.s. friday]

and even as we sat on the deck, the chippie ran to dogdog’s bowl. tiny paws on the top edge, he pulled himself up and ducked his head down into the metal dogbowl, getting a quick drink of water. moments later he scampered away, back toward the potting bench and access to the birdfeeder. it was a really sweet moment and pivoted our conversation to wondering and worrying about the wildlife in the searing temperatures.

i went inside and pulled out two shallow vessels, filling them both with cool water. placing one on the ground and the other on the potting stand, i announced to chipmunks et al that i would keep them filled and they didn’t have to risk life or limb drinking out of dogga’s bowl. we often see squirrels and birds taking tiny sips of the pond, but i’m all for offering them a cleaner water option.

in another pure bambi-movie moment, driving down a local more-forested road, a doe stood on the right-of-way. proudly she nursed a beautiful spotted fawn. i can hear the fawn, “but i’m hungry nowwwww” as she encouraged it to go just a few steps further so as to be out of sight, in the wood. but a mom does what a mom’s gotta do and she unabashedly stood fast, allowing us a gorgeous, heart-stirring view of nature doing nature. we were both moved. a profound moment in time, reminding us it’s not just us.

i reached out to touch the grasses by the old brick front wall and he was suddenly there. holding on to the brick, his tiny face looking at me, direct eye-to-eye contact. i whispered i would do nothing to hurt him, tiny chipmunk, and he zipped off, satisfied he was in no danger.

a few years ago, when we were way up north in ely on the boundary waters, there was this chipmunk we named “humpy” who, well, kind of obviously, had a hump on his back. each day he came right up to me, climbed in my lap and waited for peanuts. he’d stuff his little cheeks and run off to hide his stash and then he’d return to sit and climb on me until i relented and gave him more. each year since i’ve asked 20 if humpy was there again, but he hasn’t seen him. years have passed. these tiny creatures typically only live a couple years, which is probably why they live so zealously.

i suppose we would do well to mimic the sweetly-dedicated-nurturing-zealous-living of critters. never a moment to take for granted. always present in this ballet of life, doing the best they can with what they have. recognizing that simple interconnectivity matters, trusting that others will be compassionate and will have their best interests at heart.

yes. sounds good.

*****

SWEET BALLET from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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cowboys and mayapples. [k.s. friday]

he sat easy in the saddle, cowboy hat planted on his head, his horse striding down the trail. “have you seen the mayapples?” he turned his head toward us. “yes, you were the one who told us about them,” i replied. satisfied, he rode on.

it’s hard to miss the canopy. they stand tall and the leaves intersect like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, gone a little wild. it is as if the mayapple all joined hands, agreeing that their mutual umbrella is the point, their canopy of protection a priority. the green is beautiful, lighting the floor of the forest. i bend down to photograph them, again.

and there it was. a stunning white flower. hidden under the umbrella of a wide expanse of leaves above. only stems with more than one leaf will flower; the delicate white bloom grows out of the axil of two leaves.

we had never noticed the flowers before. i don’t know why. but the canopy stretches on and on and you must bend and peek to see the flowers. they exist in this other-world, beautiful, showy, fragrant. it came as a shock to us – how many times we had passed by the mayapple – to not know the existence of these pinwheel flowers, each one ever-important to the thriving of the colony. the canopy provided shelter, guarding the precious flowers that will need be cross-pollinated and will then produce a berry ripe with seeds, ensuring mayapple’s continued spread. so much going on in this tiny underworld of the forest. nature continues on her merry way.

the cowboy seems to really love the mayapple. though he doesn’t remember, each year he quietly tells us about them as he and his horse walk by. it never appears that he is in a rush. instead, he is slow and deliberate. and those mayapples.

what beauty we all might find…were we to bend down and peek into the world. what shelter we might provide were we to join hands, spreading out like the canopy of mayapples. how we might protect what is precious to us, the delicate, the fragile, the children among us. how we might lift each bloom and help it thrive.

we walk under a canopy of blue sky and inky stars. we can do this.

*****

nurture me

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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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.

*****

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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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‘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.

*****

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