reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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that lake. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

whether we acknowledge it or not, it sits next to us, powerful. some days it forces us to pay attention. the waves roar, the wind blows, it is colder near the lake. other days, it is silent, just a presence, like something you feel but can’t see.

i remember when we first arrived here – 34 years ago. the lakefront was different. there was a big engine plant in prime real estate on the lake. it all looked drab and run-down and giant smokestacks lined the sky.

when they didn’t call my husband back for weeks about the position he had interviewed for, i felt lucky, like i had escaped. wisconsin wasn’t on my radar much back then and i wasn’t so sure i wanted it to be.

but, in the way of irony, after six or seven weeks, they did contact him and offered him the job. and the rubber hit the road. i left florida – where we were living at the time – pretty much kicking and screaming, though silently, inside.

eight to nine months later we moved into this house. and, as a dear friend wrote to me, [my] “dna is probably embedded in almost every inch of it.” wisconsin, indeed. 34 years.

as life goes and time moves on, it’s a little uncertain where we will be in years to come. as an ever-increasingly ominous climate change rears its ugly head, we see the potential wisdom in remaining where we are – close to a huge fresh water source in a place where most weather is not too extreme. we have only a short list of places we’d move, a couple of them in a heartbeat.

and then we take a walk. it’s very early morning and we are returning from dropping off littlebabyscion at our mechanic’s shop, choosing to walk home. he’s an early bird so we are walking before a lot of the town is awake for this summer dawn.

the lake is mostly still. it blends into a cloudy sky and takes our breath away. we’ll turn right – west – and walk a block to home. the lake will stay where it is.

and a little while later, over a fresh pot of coffee, we will look at the photographs. to our side, the lake will be quiet as we comment on its stunning personality.

i’m still not sure if i’m crazy about wisconsin. i’m not from here. and that changes things in this town.

but lake michigan – just steps away – knows that. and every now and again that lake, while we are walking in our old neighborhood along its shore, nudges me and makes me pay attention. it pokes at the heartstrings that are tied to this place – through the good, the bad, the ugly, the marvelous – and reminds me of its presence.

*****

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


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not unimportant. [k.s. friday]

just like when i take a photograph of a person i try to avoid having extraneous people in the picture, when i take photographs outside i try to avoid any messy unnecessities.

this time i did it on purpose.

on july 29th i will have lived in this house for 33 years. i have sat out back watching the sky turn orange over the garage for 33 years. i have watched the trees grow up over the rooftops in my view. i have watched squirrels on their highways-of-highwire for 33 years.

it suddenly occurred to me that there might come a day when i can’t simply walk out the old screen door onto the deck, stepping onto the patio to watch the sky in the west. there might come a day when i live somewhere else and i won’t have access to this view.

and so the messiness of wires sectioning off the sky became important. important enough to photograph. important enough to remember.

we’re surrounded by things – and views – we have taken for granted. we see them every day – though we don’t really see them.

they seem unimportant.

yet, these familiar sights are the very things that help ground us. in a world that is politically volatile, climate that is destroying mother earth, bombastic leaders itching to reduce freedoms, disrespect and aggression out of control, it would seem that we need grab onto that which grounds us, centers us, slows down our breathing.

because i’m thready, i notice – and try to memorize – things like how the old wood floor creaks in the hallway, what it sounds like when the glass doorknob falls off, the feel of the small chain on the basement door and the decades-rubbed indent it has made, the sound of a double-hung window with ropes and weights opening, the deck cracking in cold weather, the cool painted-cement floor under bare feet in the basement, the places where the plaster has cracked. they all spell home.

and, with a world in turmoil, everything in flux, so much anxiety and grief and worry, things that are solidly familiar help.

*****

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

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water and the soul of our house. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

deferred maintenance is never really a good thing. but i’m pretty sure that we’ve all had good reasons to defer that-which-ought-be-done, not the least of which is affordability.

over the last few years, we accumulated a list…somewhat prioritized…water always comes to the top, soaking up our attention…but we knew, well, we hoped, we would eventually be able to address the things that homeowners pay for but which have little to no public viewing. even though you want to, it’s not like you are going to drag someone into your basement to see your new copper water pipes from one of the mains to your laundry tub and washer. or the new water main turn-off handle. or the piping under the sink. or the gasket on the pvc that you can see opening the little access door inside the sitting room closet.

mike came to solve the faucet puzzle…we had the faucet and i had repeatedly gone to the ace to purchase supplies for under the sink, new pvc, new fittings. i was in the process of getting a graduated rubber coupler – to go from the pvc under-the-sink to the cast iron pipe coming out of the wall. dan had told us – oh, so long ago – to get that coupler, but the day that i went to the ace, they were out of the proper size. when we couldn’t get the valve handle to budge, we suspected it was time to call someone else in. we do know our limitations…and with plumbing and, especially, electricity, the bar comes fast.

and so, mike entered the picture. even he didn’t have an easy time as he retrofitted all the new plumbing for under-the-sink, but the faucet was gleaming (ok, matte black doesn’t really gleam) when he was done and we couldn’t really believe we could actually remove the bucket from under the sink. remember, it has been a time of water for us. he came back to redo the lines to the laundry and those (copper) pipes did gleam. we can now turn off the water there, should another water emergency arise (knock wood).

according to feng shui, water means emotional turmoil and overflowing water symbolizes being overwhelmed (probably by the water, i’d guess). there is also a warning that leaky faucets “symbolize prosperity, wealth, and abundance dripping down the drain.” (feng shui quick guide for home and office – carol olmstead) yes, dan was right. we should have gotten a new rubber coupler a ways back.

but it’s a ways later and the cold water line gasket, the storm drains, the fireplace wall, the storm drains on repeat, the bathroom sink, the water main – well, they should have cleansed us for sure – leaving only rainbows and unicorns and bubbles, opportunities for replenishing prosperity, wealth and abundance behind.

it is also said that a leak in a home releases any negative energy. in this house we really love, i cannot think of anything better than this exchange – a release and a gathering of “healthy vital life force energy” (laura cerrano).

good for the soul of our house.

*****

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dish rack with orange cup. [two artists tuesday]

whoa. if the simplest sh*t does not interest you, you will not likely want to read this.

we bought a new dish rack.

we also bought a new dish drain.

we are ridiculously happy with our new dish rack and our new dish drain. we dance the dance of thing1 and thing2 in the kitchen and are most pleased with ourselves and our two new purchases (total at target: $21.10).

at a time – still – when pandemic limits in part – at least our – movements and choices, we are choosing to celebrate the littlest things. granted, there are no monumental purchases or excursions TO celebrate, but we are not terribly high-barred in our experience of happy-happy-joy-joy. for two people who have no working dishwasher, a new dish rack and dish drain – sans the yuckiness and the forming-rust of the old ones – make all the difference.

in like story, we painted the main floor bathroom. as you know, we purchased a big jug of vinegar, a big can of zinsser, an expensive can of benjamin moore aura bath and spa, and a can of ben’s slightly-less-expensive eggshell paint. chantilly lace white – “a classic go-to white that elicits images of fresh cotton and pure silk.” and we purchased a new faucet. it’s matte black. now, that – the faucet – i must say – was a big deal. and frankly, that – as is often the story – was what started the whole rigamarole. we re-decorated the bathroom, simply moving things from other parts of the house into the bath and giving ourselves permission to actually use the guest towels we had in the guest bath upstairs, bath towels reserved only for guests. a big deal, we both find ourselves standing and gleefully staring at “the new bathroom”.

and we’re dancing in the kitchen.

yup. it doesn’t take much.

our still life – dish rack with orange cup – signed – is available for purchase, should you want to be reminded of the simple stuff in life. we are choosing to go with christopher wool print and poster pricing – it’s only $40,000 for the original print and we will generously throw in the new dish rack, the new dish drain and, even more generously since it is part of a pair, the vintage metal orange cup we use for espresso. just use our contact form and we’ll call. trust us. we will.

the simple stuff. every day is a day to celebrate it.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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paintclothes. [two artists tuesday]

we are painting the bathroom. this is no small task. first of all, the trim – including both sides of the closet door – is barn red. barn red. that is not an easy color to cover. i loved it back in the day. now…somewhere i guess 20 years later…it is time to paint it. (the painting aces among you are shaking your heads, horrified at the time-inbetween paint jobs, but time has a way of flying by and old houses demand your attention in ways other than paint.)

we went to ace hardware, the neighborhood store, happily singing, “ace is the place of the helpful hardware folks” as we drove. we had picked up samples and had spoken to a helpful paint guy last weekend and so all the decisions were made and it was merely time to go have the paint mixed and buy all the necessary supplies. i have to say – we really loved our neighborhood experience. we know we might have spent a tad bit more on our benjamin moore paint and the new brushes, but we had real help and lovely conversations with real people, like the gal mixing our paint, who were interested in what we were doing and the questions we had. kind of old-timey.

the problem came yesterday morning.

during the work week, while david was toiling upstairs in his office, i was in the bathroom washing down all the walls and trim and then vinegaring the walls. now, this is not-quite-as-advertised. i had read numerous articles about this – including one by the ever-trusted bob vila of “this old house” fame. the first thing they don’t mention is that when you “saturate the wall” it immediately starts dripping long long driplines…there is no recommendation on how to handle this without wiping, which is un-saturating the wall, if you ask me. just sayin. then they tell you to wait an hour while the vinegar dries and then you can go back and “brush off the mold” (in our case, less of a mold, more of a mildew.) this.is.not.true. you cannot simply “brush” it off. goodness, no. instead, you get one of those rough green sponge thingies and grab your spray bottle of vinegar and you spray and scrub, spray and scrub. hopefully you are wearing glasses or goggles and a mask and rubber gloves because the vinegar (and the mold spores apparently) get everywhere. it’s all part of the fun. 😉

but i digress.

once all that was done, it was time to start painting. two coats of zinsser and two coats of bath and spa awaited us.

we got back from “the ace” and headed to change into painting clothes. herein lies the problem…i had just taken the first giant load of clothing and such from the going-through-every-single-thing-in-the-house-effort to goodwill. i had given away clothing that didn’t quiiiiite fit or that i wasn’t as fond of anymore or that i would never wear again. as a really messy painter, what on earth was i going to wear to paint? drama ensued.

i finally found a pair of the local high school sweatpants and an old long-sleeve t-shirt (i’m sure you are relieved to read that) so that i could mosey into the bathroom slightly later than d, who, unsurprisingly, had no problem picking out paintclothes, and start cutting in.

yikes. what else have i given away, i wonder. it’s too late. the second set of goodwill boxes are piling up. i refuse to go look at them once again. it has taken days to try everything on or look at everything and decide what to do with it.

i will load them up and move them out.

and return to start a few more.

*****

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out that window. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

first glance would suggest this is a black and white photograph. an image taken through the window over our kitchen sink, a view i have seen first thing in the morning about 12,000 times and the last minutes at night just before turning out the kitchen light and moving into a time for sleep, about 12,000 times. and any time inbetween, in the day as morning marched into noon and noon glimmered into midday and midday waned into evening. each time, gazing out, about 12,000 times.

that is likely paralleling how well ansel adams knew the american west, images of wild and rugged yosemite etched into his heart. how many times this maestro of his art must have studied those vistas, photographing morsels and overviews, contrast and shading in all seasons. striking focus, his work inspires adventure-out-there-juju and, more importantly, an environmental awareness in these times of climate crisis. without color, the attention of the aperture pivots to grandeur, is not distracted, but is challenged by shape and line and form and composition.

taking a photograph through a window is different than taking it without some kind of membrane between photographer and subject. it gives space for other kinds of interaction. the play of reflection, the underside of raindrops, never-minding the swipe of window-cleaner-rags. opportunity to see, a unique peek into the familiar, wherever you might be.

this is not a black and white photograph. it is the stuff of october days heading full-steam toward november. it is the drear of rainy and damp and cold. it’s wishing 65 degrees was not vanishing into the calendar.

and yet, having looked out of that window maybe over 100,000 times all told, i know that the view, framed by a painted cornice, kitchen cabinets and our old porcelain sink, is different each day, that the days are not identical and never really the same, that change is always a constant. and that some days, when i point the camera out the window it will capture intense color, vibrant sun, blue sky, leaves the colors of fire and rust and squirrels running on the wire.

*****

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creaks and clunks. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

one of the things i love about our old house are the sounds it makes. it’s like the house is talking to us, saying hi, greeting us, reassuring us. i know that i, more than most, animate inanimate things, including our house. yesterday, i got a little weepy just talking about the possibility of a different vehicle beyond littlebabyscion – ahhh…connection is both joyful and painful in all things. our house is among those, sweet connection to its every square inch.

between our old wood floors creaking, the radiators clunking, the vinyl lap siding expanding in the sun, the rain dripping off the roof onto the window, the gutters’ last licks after a storm, and just general sounds of 1928 settling into 2021, we have a symphony in this home. when you aren’t familiar with a place, these are all passive sounds that could keep you up at night, and i remember when david was first here, questioning the sounds i no longer really heard, the ones that simply faded into the blanket of “home”.

it’s one thing to hear the click of the deadbolt on the front door or the screen door slam or the wooden step-step-step thunks or the whoosh of clothing streaking down the laundry chute – these are all active sounds caused by another person…explainable. it’s the other ones – especially in the wee hours – especially with an empty nest – the ones that take you by surprise, make your adrenaline race, make you wonder and imagine and maybe get a littlebitscared. those are the ones that made him sit up and take notice.

the funniest moment was when our beloved babycat – quite the large cat – was upstairs and decided to come down in the middle of the night. his descending the steps – thud-thud-thud-thud – made david sit straight up in bed, whispering, “there’s someone in the house!”. as he looked around, unsuccessfully, for a weapon (perhaps a bedside book or an iphone plugged in?), i couldn’t stop laughing.

it doesn’t take decades of living somewhere to intimately know a place, to intimately love a place. but, decades of living somewhere makes that place love you back.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SMACK-DAB SATURDAY MORNING

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old house symphony. [k.s. friday]

thwwwwwwwwwwunk. a distinctive sound. shhhhhhhhhhhhunk. another distinctive sound. the timbre of laundry in the laundry chute.

our old house has a two-story laundry chute: from the bathroom on the second floor through the bathroom on the first floor to the basement wooden trap door. for over three decades i have listened to laundry as it sings its way down the chute. it is likely i can identify – to a pretty close degree – what is traveling down to the land of the washer-dryer. i can tell if it is jeans. i can tell if it is socks. i can tell if it is a wet washcloth or a wet towel. i can tell it in the dark. i can tell it as a lark. oops…got carried away. but that is the truth – i can tell by the sound of the item as it brushes against the metal chute-frame and lands on the little wooden door. having had this highly-technical cutting-edge advantage for the better part of my adult life, i’m not sure what i would do without a laundry chute.

the radiator, in the middle of the night, often makes a thunking sound. it emanates from the sitting room, right off the bedroom and, were you to be easily freaked out by unfamiliar noises, you would sit up in bed, frozen and silent, wondering what critter was in the next room thunking. having heard this sound for thirty-something years, coming from radiators a third again old than i am, i am comforted by it, the single metallic-sounding drum-thump a piece of my audio history.

in the early days of owning this house, the wood-floor-guy asked if i wanted the spaces between the planks filled in or if i wanted him to place screws or shims into the wood from below so as not to hear the floor creaking. i was horrified at both ideas. the patina of the old floor, its stories, its life, and the sound of the old floor are all part of what i love about this house. i can’t imagine not hearing the wood floors creak. i never even wished that even in the middle of the night, what feels like a million years ago, just after my baby girl or my baby boy fell fast asleep, just after i laid her or him back in the crib, as i tiptoed out of the nursery hoping to not wake them, trying to avoid the floorboards that made the most noise. i just memorized the boards that were the greatest offenders and long-jumped them. they are the house speaking, the stories it holds dear.

d says i hear better than he does. the gutter’s funny dripping sound, the click of the ceiling fan, the sound the swinging door in the dining room makes, a little water in the pipes, the back screen door squeak, the vinyl siding expanding in the sunlight, the front door lock latching, the pantry closet closing, the boiler kicking on, the old oven opening, the chain on the basement door, the glass knob from the french door falling off.

i just say that i am listening to the symphony of this old house and i’m just a little more tuned in.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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everyone else. [two artists tuesday]

rustic bread

everyone else baked artisan breads in march or april.  we baked it in june.  well, specifically, david baked bread in june.  i merely had to watch the process, savor the wafting of baking-bread through the house, tear off a chunk and devour it.

he’d been talking about it for a while, that he wanted to bake bread.  this loaf is gluten free – he adapted it from a rustic bread recipe of bill’s.  bill baked bread in april and then moved on to homemade gnocchi.  a bit trend-resistant, we picked up the dangling carrot at the tail end of bread baking so posting this picture feels somewhat passe.

we aren’t so much everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-we-have-to-do-it people.  we are artists so that’s our first excuse.  our second excuse is that we are often not pop-culture-informed.  that was much easier for me when my children were right here, keeping me in the loop.  if cnn or aarp aren’t talking about it, if it’s not in our itunes or the stacks of cds and records we own, we are swimming upstream.  third, we tend to make do.  as a child of the infamous soap-sock beaky-beaky, who had a mantra of saving new things “for good” and turned bottles of shampoo upside down for weeks draining the last vestiges out, making do is an inbred way of life.

baking bread was no exception.  until june.  when we wholeheartedly jumped on the well-vetted train, rice-flour-research in hand.  voila.  heaven-in-a-loaf-of-bread, we wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner.

everyone else had an iphone.  i was one of the last dedicated razor-phone fans.  i could text with my eyes closed, even using the phone keypad without an a-z keyboard.  and then my children bought me an iphone.  a convert, i wondered why i didn’t get one sooner.

everyone else has granite countertops.  ok, or marble.  our kitchen is old but i’ve made over 11,300 breakfasts and 11,300 dinners in it and this sweet old kitchen has had over 33,000 days nurturing its families.  we chop and saute and mix and fry and bake and roast and pour – all successfully – in this old kitchen every day.  maybe someday we’ll have different counters.  and we’ll wonder why we didn’t change them sooner.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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a house remembers. [two artists tuesday]

a house

there is a screen door that i am lusting over.  it sits outside an antique shoppe, subject to the rain and snow, sun and wind.  one of these days we will take big red over there and purchase it; the test is that i am still thinking about it.  we have no idea where we will put it.  but there is something about it; it has a story and that story will always be a mystery to us.  giving that door a home again will add to its journey, its history.

last night i had a dream.  it was, as dreams are, fraught with inconsistencies and unlikelinesses, but i remember one thing about it in particular.  in my dream, david handed me a check he had received from someone.  someone, presumably the person who wrote the check, had scratched out the address and, all along the top of the check, had written in a different address:  my growing-up-on-long-island address.  i was delightedly startled and pressed david to tell me about the person who clearly now lived in this cherished house, but, in the way that dreams make both little sense and all the sense in the world, he was unable to give me any more information.  what i know is that it left me with a reassurance of the feeling from that house.  it was a reminder of a time gone by, a time woven deeply into who i am and, for that house, the fabric of about two decades of our family.

houses remember.  and you can feel it.  the moment i walked into our house i knew.  this was the place i wanted to live; this was the place i wanted to have the next part of my life.  this house had all good things to offer; i wanted to sustain its story.   i suspect it would have been easier to have purchased a brand new home way back then, something pristine and customized to our needs.  something that had a sparkling new kitchen or an attached garage, central air conditioning or an open floor plan.

but this house said, “wait.  don’t go.  give me a chance.  i can offer you a lifetime of sturdy foundation.  i can tell you i have been there in the light and in the dark times.  i can be a safe place for you.  i can hold you and celebrate you and listen to the laughter of your children.  you can walk on my old wood floors and keep food in my old pantry.  you can have dogs and cats and they can run circles through my rooms and children can push or ride plastic wheeled toys round and round hall-kitchen-dining room-living room.  you can use my rooms as you need.  a nursery with a singing-to-sleep-rocking-chair can later be a studio with a big piano; i can rejoice in listening.  you can sit in my south-facing living room and delight in the sun streaming in the windows.  i know it will need a little tuck-pointing down the road, but you can burn all the torn-off-the-packages-christmas-wrappings in the old fireplace. you can paint and redecorate and remodel as you wish for it won’t change how i feel.  i can be your house.  and i, even someday when you have moved on to somewhere else, will always remember you.”

we really need to go get that old screen door and add it to the story of our house.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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