reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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how unprecedented you are. [two artists tuesday]

we don’t really know. we rise each day, bold coffee at our lips, with curiosity. truly, what the day will bring is a mystery. the best-laid plans, well, they are only that – plans. things change and the kaleidoscope swirls around us in mere moments.

“this being human is a guest house. each morning a new arrival…” (rumi – the guest house)

and we rise again the next day…

…the day lilies and the grass blades are rising as well. through the upheaval of their dirt, the excavation of their home, the burying of their fallowed stems, the netting and straw post-waterline-replacement, they are rising anyway.

my thoughts of pulling everything up and starting fresh in the front yard came to a screeching halt when i saw them. if they are resilient enough to bright-green their way into this upheaved spring, i think i would be somewhat dishonoring to remove them. in doing so, i would miss their profound message of fortitude, of courageous no-matter-what-ishness, of their coy laughter reaching for the sun.

“you are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” (john green – the fault in our stars)

we miss it. in the middle of our don’t-really-know days, we miss seeing the absolute stalwart root in clay we each bring. we miss the credit of finagling another chaotic day. we miss our embrace of the new arrival of mystery. we miss our own unprecedentedness.

yet there it is. rising through the netting and the straw and the mud and the excavated rocks and cement.

“on the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you…”

(john o’donohue – beaanacht)

*****

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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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one way. not really. [flawed wednesday]

not really.

there is not really one way.

well, maybe i can make one exception: when driving and faced with a dead-end corner and a one-way street. one way.

otherwise? not so much.

the headline read, “florida isn’t the only state pushing legislation that could be harmful to LGBTQ students.” there’s also idaho, georgia, iowa, tennessee and oklahoma. not to forget texas and whatever other states have jumped on the bigotwagon since this headline. what?! apparently, these are states in which leadership has decided there’s just one way. and it’s theirs.

as the proud mother of a gay man, i have to wholeheartedly disagree with these folks. any idea of “normal” that they have conjured up is a warped righteous positioning of power and control, some sort of strange arc into absolutism. it does make one wonder about the possibility of people who need to compensate for something in their own lives. it is astonishingly arrogant, haughtily heartless, cruelly uncaring, blindingly bigoted, disgustingly discriminatory, and sickeningly small-minded in the most prejudiced of ways.

i’m guessing, then, that these same huffy lawmakin’ folks are sittin’ around makin’ it their business to raise questions about people, ponder others’ sexuality or gender, disparage people who identify differently than they do. they are wringing their hands and plotting how to silence them, to marginalize them. because their one-way is the only way and lives that may be richly influential, steeped in open-mindedness and the embrace and love of all humankind should be silenced and marginalized.

this is not the way.

there is not one way.

for that, indeed, would signal a dead end.

*****

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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

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little by little. [k.s. friday]

“bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air. and feathered canyons everywhere, i’ve looked at clouds that way.” (joni mitchell)

it’s march. less bluesky days than gray. more rain than sun. drear > brilliant. march in-the-north is a funny time. it’s neither this nor that. a transition zone. it’s cold. it’s warm. it’s both. it’s never consistent. you just never know.

and so, you realize that you have to grab onto the days that shake you out of cobwebs and from under the quilts of winter. you must go stare at the sky. and those clouds. they hope you.

i walked looking up. watching the play of sunlight. remembering what it feels like to have warm sun on my face and not see puffs of air in front of me as i breathe into it.

in the middle of a time of some worry i drink in the sounds and sights of normal around me. i hold tightly to the returning sound of early sparrows and stalwart chickadees and finches. i stand in blue and fluffy white, grateful for a day that is not a shade of gray.

i sat on the edge of the deck, dogga at my side. we watched two cardinals flurrying about. we listened to the crows and watched for the hawk. there was nothing that had to be done in those moments, no project, no task. it just was. it wasn’t really warm but it wasn’t really cold either.

it’s the grayness that is the challenge. sitting in the question of season. the not-this-not-that. elusive spring. the calendar reads “spring” yet the reality in these parts is not in keeping with the definition of “to leap, burst forth”. an illusion, as there is no leaping, no bursting forth here. it is more of a slow slide into the season. snowpiles struggling to remain in the shadows, shreds of ice on the pond. the good earth will take its sweet time, in bits and spurts, little by little, and, eventually, spring will have arrived and we will glance around and be surprised.

i look at the weekend weather. i’ll turn 63 on sunday. i would like it to be warm, sunny. i would like to gather my children and my family and dear friends and eat birthday cake with lots of candles and singing under a blue-puffy-cloud-sky. wishes.

accuweather tells me it will not be warm. it will be the coldest day of the weeks on either side. and, for many reasons of this time, it will not be gathered with my children or my family or dear friends and i will not be eating cake with candles. i don’t know about the singing. all…little by little.

but it’s supposed to be sunny.

and that counts. every little by little.

“i’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow: it’s cloud illusions i recall; i really don’t know clouds at all.” (and judy collins sings)

*****

little by little (©️ 2022 kerri sherwood feat. dogga)

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universally understood. [k.s. friday]

my sweet momma and my poppo would hold up their hands in the universally-understood gesture of “i love you” every time we left. walk away, drive away, it mattered not. their hands were always up gesturing, their faces were smiling, but you could see it in their eyes – the leaving. the sign language said words they just couldn’t muster at those moments. i love you. universally understood.

all over the world, in sunshine and in shadow, people use the international hand symbol for “peace”. everyone understands it. it had a different beginning – as the symbol for allied victory in world war II morphing into the symbol for peace. the written peace symbol is just as recognizable. universally understood. dreamed for and ignored, both.

the sun streamed in the morning window and spilled onto the white wall behind me. with early coffee, i was reading news articles, mostly about the invasion in ukraine. heartbreaking and frustrating. i read of people’s lives devastated, of people staunchly fighting for their country, of people on cement basement floors with children and a few possessions, underground and under siege for undetermined periods of time.

i put my coffee mug down and stared at the light streaming in. i raised my hand in the simple peace gesture and held it to the east. i whispered “peace” to our friends far away in distance but close in this galaxy.

universally understood, the shadow whispered as well.

*****

PEACE.

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PEACE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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i’m with vince. [k.s. friday]

it pains me to even write this, but there’s actually more than one. fart-noise-apps, that is. “tap and fart” and “fartworld” are two examples. i could be considered mirthless – and i don’t care if i am – for not wanting to jump on these and install them on my iphone. what kind of person wants a fart app, anyway?

“the devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. my single costs 99 cents. that’s what a single cost in 1960. on my phone, i can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing i create and speak to the world with. some would say that the fart app is more important. it’s an awkward time. creative brains are being sorely mistreated.” (vince gill)

i am on the devaluation-pushback-wagon with vince. we’ve never met, and we are in different stratospheres from a making-bank-standpoint, but there are some basic tenets on which we clearly agree.

i have beat this drum again and again. as an independent musician, composer and recording artist, it is likely i will continue to beat it and beat it and beat it, and each thump of the djembe will float into the atmosphere, unresolved. because times have changed. and apple music and spotify and pandora and tidal and amazon music have it down to a science. point-zero-zero-zero-something of a penny for a stream. i wrote about it seven years ago and it hasn’t changed. 99 cents seems like a gold mine!

yet, doesn’t the thought of feeling like it is striking gold – at 99 cents – take your breath away?

and how would YOUR life be without music?

the imperative for an artist to create – a composer to compose, a musician to play, a painter to paint, a writer to write, a dancer to dance, a potter to throw – is undeniable. it is how we speak to the world. it is a creation, an invention of the heart and soul.

vince gill has had multiple number one hits. he is extraordinarily successful. yet, he is apparently just as disgruntled with the industry’s standard of payment to artists as little-ole-me. though i doubt it’s quite the same for him, it raises questions for me of the great whether-or-not.

whether-or-not to ever record new material, an expensive venture always.

whether-or-not i can ever squeeze more royalties out of my fifteen albums in the world streaming freely in rivers of computers and iphones and tablets and androids.

whether-or-not to pursue stage-performing ever again.

whether-or-not to keep writing.

whether-or-not there is relevancy.

or, since the world seems to value other noises above music – and i am incredulous and saddened about this – whether-or-not to point my imperative to creating some obnoxious noise app.

because farts make up to $10,000 a day.

sigh.

*****

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WATERSHED from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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the bass-who-used-to-be-a-soprano. [k.s. friday]

in her gravelly voice, from the back row of the choir room, i heard one of the bass singers say, “i used to be a soprano!” everyone laughed and laughed. and then we sang.

laughter was a dominant force in that room. there is nothing quite as motivating as laughter-punctuating-work, nothing quite as unifying as laughter, nothing quite as joyful as the laughter of others. we had no shortage of laughter.

for in the choir room, the ukulele band gathering, the handbell practice, the worship band rehearsal, with soloists and in ensemble, laughter and joy were how i led.

linda was the council president when she hired me as the minister of music almost a decade ago. they never saw another president who led with her understated panache and wisdom and authenticity. “a pillar of the church,” someone said. yes. a powerful woman – who was who she was.

the first time i met her – at my interview way back when – she arrived late, disheveled and with a dirty t-shirt on. i wondered who that woman was. i wondered why she arrived looking like that. as it turned out, she had been cooking for the masses – it could have been ten thousand for the enormous heapings of food she would prepare – and she had been in the basement kitchen. she pitched in, in every way. her presence – in all ways – was a given.

there is much i never knew about her, but i knew this. she was honest and blunt and generous. she was kind to everyone, adored her family, and she stood tall as she faced down loss and serious health issues. she was straight-up, as they say.

years ago she asked me to sing, on some eventual day, at her memorial service. i first waved off her thoughts of mortality – for a woman like this is needed in this world – and then i agreed. “of course i will,” i said to her, “it would be my honor.”

her service was last friday – a week ago now – and i was not there. the church to which she had dedicated her energy and love had fired me – over a year ago now. (i mean, who gets fired from a church??)

i don’t know if she knew much about that, for her world had become smaller in her struggle for health. i do know that, had she still been in the position she was when i first arrived, i would still be there. for linda had a way of making sure others had perspective, that balance was achieved, that agenda was dispelled, that conflict was resolved, that transparency was paramount and that the best interest of the whole was held in open hearts.

alas, that wasn’t the case.

i was unable to sing for her service and, much like the service for H, i was unable to be there.

we lit a candle for linda on friday. we talked about her. we told our favorite stories. we laughed. i posted a thought on facebook. it was important for me to acknowledge this amazing woman, the bass-who-used-to-be-a-soprano.

and now, the whole wide world is without her. and as the whole wide world looks on, filmy incandescent threads of her, her spirit, her dedication, her fortitude, her voice weave around us.

and the world asks: who was that woman?

*****

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HATE TO SAY GOODBYE from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 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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temporary. [two artists tuesday]

we have a ridiculously high level of dedication to this. despite the fact that no one is requiring it, no one is requesting it, no one is paying for it. every weekday, for one week shy of four years, we have written a post. i guess it’s part of the autograph we leave on the world, whether or not anyone reads it.

they poured the last bit of temporary sidewalk this week. it’s there till spring when it will be replaced by something permanent. i stood at the front door and chatted with the guys, who told me we should sign our names in it…after all, it is temporary cement. i did have this fleeting thought that, even if it were permanent cement, it is still temporary, but i didn’t think they wanted to have an existential conversation so i said nothing.

i went upstairs to get d from work. “we have to sign our names in the sidewalk. the guys told me to,” i pulled him away from his desk. he grabbed a yellow craftsman screwdriver from the kitchen drawer – where we keep one to tighten the door handle and that thingy on the door jamb that the lock slides into…what is that thingy called…oh yeah, strike plate….that.

it wasn’t too cold out – which is why they poured – so we went outside, stared at the open, undisturbed, perfectly raked canvas of wet cement and … drew a blank. the possibilities were endless. a peace sign? a heart? flowers? a mountain sunrise? paralyzed with uncertainty and too many choices, we decided on our names, which presented its own set of problems.

for we never really call each other our names. of course we will reFER to each other as kerri and david to others, but saying the name david TO david feels funny coming out of my mouth. and hearing david say kerri to me is just weird.

because a long time ago now we found out that we had the same middle name. in the very early stages of our relationship – when all we did was write emails and then texts – before we had met in person and before we had much voice-to-voice conversation, we discovered that, in the oddest of odds, our middle names are – for all intents and purposes – the same.

erle.

and

earl.

mine is the feminine version (that’s what my sweet momma would try to have you believe. having been named after my dad erling, she tried to convince me that e-r-l-e was soft and girlie. mm-hmm.) david’s was “the sound that bears make” – according to him; he was named after his grandpa.

regardless of the obvious chatter this will create as you try to discern if it is indeed soft and girlie or more of a gutteral utterance of a grizzly bear, it was decidedly a unique moment to find out we had somewhat rare names as our middle name.

and so, i started to call him david earl. (and similarly kerri erle.) soon, the formality dropped to d.earl – which is pronounced d-dot-earl. and this was shortened to d.dot – which is pronounced d-dot and does not include the obvious redundancy (d-dot-dot), because, heaven knows, we would not want to be redundant.

most of the time now, i just call him “d”.

so…standing there…in front of cement just pining to be written in…we had a decision to make. what.to.write.

and there you have it. the absolutely unnecessary story that you can’t believe you just read to the end. k.dot and d.dot in the cement sidewalk. temporarily.

the next morning – the morning after the installation – i stepped out to look at our handiwork. the sidewalk had cracked in the bitter overnight cold.

but they’ll be back, like they said. in the warmer spring or early summer days. and they’ll pour the next.

there’s a good chance we will write in that permanent sidewalk as well. our autographs.

those, too, will be temporary.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY