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discovery. [d.r. thursday]

back in the day crunch and i went to every lighthouse on long island’s shoreline and its peripheral islands off the coast. i was doing a photographic study for a college class and crunch was a happy participant, lugging me around in his big green truck and taking us out in his boat, a few boats before his current beloved ‘elephant ears’. the day i got to go up into the fire island lighthouse was memorable. it wasn’t open to the public but the lighthouse keeper was there and generously offered us a tour. the textures – going up the 182 steps on that spiral staircase to the light tower – were photographically inviting: the iron stairs, the cement walls, the ribbed glass of the light. every so often there was a peek out one of the windows built into the structure in 1826 and rebuilt, more than twice as high, in 1857, its eventual black and white bands of color distinguishing it along the ocean front. my essay is all on slides and, after borrowing one of those kodak carousel slide projectors (you can hear the ca-chunk of the slides changing even in your memory), we watched it a couple years ago. all those lighthouses – some steadfast, tall and proud, some crumbling, some pristine and unmanned, each a source of a study in woven texture and, when you are lucky enough to hear the mournful sound of the foghorn and breathe in thick salty air, a synthesis of senses. discovery.

when we were walking along the seine river in paris the sun was setting. i had never been to the eiffel tower and, though i had seen pictures, kind of expected to be underwhelmed. i’ve never been a really big tourist-attraction kind of person, preferring places of nature. we kept walking toward it, strolling, and i could see it in the distance starting to loom into the sky. the lights turned on as we got close and i caught my breath. it was stunning. gold against the early evening sky, light of day dropping away, it was one of my favorite moments in paris. discovery.

every time we come over the pass and start to drop down – the vista of high mountains before us – i cry. forests of evergreens to our side, snow-caps ahead, towering mountains that make my toes curl. i literally want to pull over every few feet to capture the sheer stunning beauty of it all, to remember the green and the blue, to breathe in the cooler air and the scent of pine. we keep driving and i memorize it for the days i am at sea level, wondering if, were we to live there, i would ever not see the incredible-ness of it. or would it always and always be a discovery?

as we walk around our ‘hood, as we hike familiar and unfamiliar trails, i feel open. open to seeing the textures of life as it goes on around us, as it goes on through us. back in the day, with crunch and my blue jean cap, i took a lot of photos on my old 35mm camera. nothing has really changed. my camera is an iphone these days, i don’t have my old blue jean cap and, missing him, david and i haven’t seen crunch in a few years.

but on the best days, in the best moments, when everything else drops off and we are nowhere but right where we are, i am aware of texture after texture, grain and weave and nap and frequency and harmonics, a composition of smooth and rough, woven and intermingled, softly and intensely waiting to be discovered.

isn’t it grand?

*****

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existing in a whisper. [two artists tuesday]

“perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window . . . to say them more intensely than the Things themselves ever dreamed of existing.” (ninth duino elegy: rainer maria rilke)

every day i take a photograph. at least one. the photo-of-the-day was started by my all-grown-up children at the height of the pandemic and, for it, i am forever grateful. as a group text we’re not as singularly dedicated as when it started, but it still exists and i seriously cherish each and every picture and text on it.

but i know it must come as no surprise to you that i take a lot of pictures anyway. both my phone and what we call the island-phone have gigantic photo streams, backed up by the cloud’s extra coverage. it’s obvious that i stop often while hiking, but what might not be as obvious is that i stop often, period. there is always something interesting, something fleeting, something to record and there are times that i must steer myself away from the very thing begging my capture just to keep on keeping on.

today i write the 1013th post on my blog. we looked back at the mélange weekly screenshots, five days a week each week. i wanted to spend a few moments looking at the things i stopped at, the things i wanted to hold, the notes or quotes i jotted down, the things designed, our thoughts through the years.

i would like to think that each of these photographs have brought a bit more intensity to the ‘thing’ photographed, that which is featured. it makes me wonder. does the ladybug on this coneflower marvel about its photo being taken, does it hear me draw in my breath when i expand the photo on my iphone, not knowing it was there when i composed the picture. does it realize, when i quietly gasp, “look! there’s a ladybug!” that i am honoring its existence, tiny-in-a-vast-world?

and that makes me wonder. is the universe – whatever the divine you believe in – doing the same? are our names whispered intensely into the galaxy, weaving around stars and lit by the sun and the moon, honoring our existence, tiny-in-a-vast-world? i think it must be so.

*****

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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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in KC’s family. [two artists tuesday]

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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woven wicker paper plate holders and love. [two artists tuesday]

“mom’s beloved paper plates,” my son called them. the boy was referring to plain and simple paper plates, the least expensive kind, not the dixie plates or chinet plates or the styrofoam plates that make you cringe when they squeak. just the kind of paper plate that is uncoated and recyclable.

i’m not sure that is a good thing to be remembered for. but in busy times with busy schedules and no dishwasher, paper plates were often a choice. “double them,” my momma would say. or she would hand you one of these woven wicker paper-plate-holders, of which she was a big fan.

and so, walking in the aisle of the grocery store and passing a gigantic display of these was like a gentle ‘hello’ from my sweet momma. since we already own some of these, from our beaky, we didn’t need to stop and buy any. plus, we rarely use paper plates these days. in these times there is more time for dishwashing. and real plates and cloth napkins. but oh, that ‘hello’.

cardinals in the backyard, notecards in the bottom of old purses, paint-by-number paintings in antique shoppes, peeps in easter candy displays, woven paper-plate-holders…they all keep alive memories of my sweet momma. in short order, this month, we will mark six years since she left this plane of living, nine for my poppo. it doesn’t seem possible. the blue metal planters peanuts can that my dad kept in his drawer for a zillion years sits on top of my dresser, the small wooden boxes from his workshop hold our nespresso pods, the ceiling fan chain wraps around our wrists, braceleting a reminder of him.

like you, i notice things, whether antiquing or sitting or cleaning out or grocery shopping. thready and emotional, beyond repair, i will always stop in my tracks. i choose not to see these things as passively there. instead, i choose that somehow, crossing the invisible ‘over’, this tiny gesture is a greeting, a reminder, a reassurance, love itself.

*****

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the chair. [two artists tuesday]

the snow around it was untouched, pure, driven by wind. the grey of the day was serene, quiet. the chair waited.

we had passed by the chair a few times before. it sat, unsat-in, looking lonely and wistful, as only empty chairs can look. the chair waited.

after the fresh snow had fallen, we pulled on snowpants and magical down mittens. with roads barely plowed, we trekked around the neighborhood, coming upon the chair, waiting.

it was as if i could hear its sorrow as we approached, this chair left outside with no takers. without hesitancy i walked to it, to sit in its snow-filled seat, to ponder life for just a bit of time. i could feel the chair smile.

we giggled at the absurdity of the easy chair in the snow, but the chair just sat, gleeful with the company and the sound of laughter.

the technicolor snowglobe moment looked black and white, stark contrasts against powder. the chair felt hopeful, color returning to its chair-life.

as i stood to go, i silently thanked the chair and wished for its adoption by someone who needed an easy sit, a place to wonder.

we walked away and i turned back just once. the chair was sitting up straight and tall, stalwart, steadfast, heartened.

a day or two later we went by the place where the chair had sat. recent snow had filled in where it had been, filled in my bootprints around it.

and we were happy for the chair.

*****

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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

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unpredictable beauty. [two artists tuesday]

“sometimes beauty is that unpredictable; a threshold we had never noticed opens, mystery comes alive around us and we realize how the earth is full of concealed beauty.” (john o’donohue)

a simple errand. we needed to pick up some furniture to transport in big red for a friend. destination: ikea.

there is something magical about ikea. we hadn’t been there in ages and were relieved to find few people there and everyone masked properly. vowing to hopefully come back soon and browse a bit, we pulled the boxes off the shelves on our pick list. pushing our cart to the front checkout lines, david, more than once, had to re-focus me away from the enormous displays of product. iphone in hand, we wove our way through the covid-floor-circles-disney-style line, waiting our turn at the cash register.

every where i looked, we were surrounded by interesting color, repeated pattern, textures that begged to be touched. david, more than once, softly called my name from the other side of the pushcart, gently spurring me out of the threshold-of-alive-mystery-of-concealed-beauty, snapping pictures with inordinate joy. “k-dot,” he would quietly prod.

the spatulas called my name too, repeating patterns of red-mama-dear-lips making me smile. spatulas are usually not mysterious creatures, but their color, design, stacking lures you out of ordinariness, opening that threshold, the place for glitter to be seen.

it wasn’t just the spatulas, though. i was victim to the lint rollers, the stainless steel utensil holders, the cork trivets. hidden beauty everywhere. i could feel my sweet momma and poppo cheering me on; they were likewise entranced by ikea.

if safety allows, we will return. there are a few small things on my own pick list i’d like to consider purchasing. but mostly, i just want to wander the aisles with my camera, noticing the unpredictable beauty.

yes, not a bad way to spend any day. noticing the unpredictable beauty.

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pando & the nickel. [two artists tuesday]

pando

i followed the croaking.  it led me to our pond and across the vast expanse of water i could see him – perched on a rock – a beautiful frog.  i started taking pictures right away thinking he would quickly evade me and jump into the water, but i kept taking pictures and i kept getting closer.  i talked to him the whole time i was approaching and he seemed to listen.  by the time i got to the rocks where he was, he was just sitting calmly.  i reached down and petted his head.  he stayed put.  we talked a bit, that frog and me.  i named him ‘pando’ for he arrived during the pandemic.  he was earnest; i was elated.  frogs-in-our-pond in the past have been good omens, gentle reminders to rest in trust.

pando hung around for three days, eating bugs and sunbathing on rocks.  but he chose to move on.  his leaving is as curious as his arrival.  we hope he returns but we have our doubts; it’s a big world out there for a frog.

the day he was gone i found a nickel on the stepping stones to the pond.  since we are the only ones in our backyard and rarely carry any change – or real money for that matter – it was a wonder to see this nickel sitting on the flat rock, waiting to be discovered.  it’s not a regular nickel.  it seems to be made of copper and is not exactly the same size as a nickel.  naturally, thinking it would, of course, have the same value as a gold doubloon, i googled it and spent some time learning about planchets and copper and the metal composition percentages of coins, things i didn’t know.

i giggled while googling as i thought of my dad, who would have done the same diligent research, always curious.  and then i realized that the nickel appeared the day that marked his leaving this earth eight years ago.  i talked to him a bit, questioning him:  if he was going to leave a coin out for me to find, or convince a frog to leave a coin, why wouldn’t it be one of those gold doubloons i always tease about finding in the walls of our old house or maybe a 1913 liberty head nickel, which i have learned is worth in the neighborhood of several million dollars.  but no –  instead it’s just a curious nickel; i could hear him chuckling.

pando.  the nickel.  both curiosities.  both a little bit of wondrous.  maybe that’s the whole point.  to notice the little bits of wondrous.

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you come to realize. [k.s. friday]

you come to realize songbox copy

“sometimes it takes longer to understand and appreciate what is around you.” (liner notes)

it’s the ah-ha! you feel when you realize that it’s ALL about perspective and even this moment will soon disappear into vapid space.  yet this very moment is the one that counts.  we simply can’t waste it.  there’s no time to not appreciate it, no time to throw it away while yearning for the next.

i have come to realize this over and over and over, through loss, through mistakes, through absolute joy, through reminders spoken, seen, felt on an excruciating gut level.  we are all repeated students of this lesson, for we are all human.  we are all human, for we are all students of this lesson.

on an everest documentary we watched the other day there was this quote:  “it’s not that life is so short.  it’s that death is so long.”  if that doesn’t make you spring into action – noticing life – i’m not sure what will.

 

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YOU COME TO REALIZE from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood