reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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all that mylar. [k.s. friday]

they are a mystery. vhs tapes with no labels. now, how on earth can you send them to the vhs recycle place if you don’t know what they are? there could be priceless memories on that magnetic tape, mylar possibilities gone missing.

fortunately for us we still have a vcr machine. i’m not quite sure if it will just simply connect to our tv, but there is a gigantic plastic bag in the basement workroom with all kinds of cords and cables and such, so maybe we will find something in there that will help. or maybe we will have to get some kind of converter. nevertheless, we have hours of viewing fun in front of us for some rainy evenings and we can find out what’s on those unlabeled tapes.

there are plenty labeled as well, which makes it infinitely harder to dispose of them. movies of my girl and my boy as tiny babies, ballet recitals and soccer games, birthday parties and christmas mornings, movies my sweet poppo recorded off the tv, shots of family times, recordings of cantatas i directed, footage of some of my concerts and of me performing on qvc. they all demand a viewing and i’ll set them aside in a bin and someday, well, many somedays, serve them up with popcorn and m&ms.

the pre-recorded vhs tapes are no less sentimental. the million times we watched under the sea singalong songs, the ridiculously infinite numbers of times barney made an appearance at our house, disney movies, the nutcracker. it goes on and on. not just in the basement, these movies are in the chimney cabinets, waiting.

and then there’s the 8mm tapes, which were converted to dvds and carefully labeled a few years back. goodness! memories à gogo.

i guess someday someone will find our fuzzy purple cd case with the zipper and our daughter’s marker drawings all over it, the one we even take on trips. they’ll unzip it to find all our favorite dvds…the ones we default to, over and over and over, for we are those people who love to watch movies we love to watch again and again.

and they’ll wonder how to watch those dvds; they’ll seek out a dvd player, ponder what cords or cables they need, if they need some sort of converter. they’ll pick a movie out of the fuzzy purple case or maybe one home-recorded and labeled. they’ll load it up and push play.

then they’ll settle in with some popcorn and m&ms.

*****

let me take you back

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LET ME TAKE YOU BACK from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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two little piggies. [k.s. friday]

my poppo’s cane stands next to a chimney cupboard in the sitting room, propped with a couple of walking sticks. i’ve never been very good at using a cane – for some reason, i find it confusing. you shake your head and wonder, i’m sure, but there is something about placing the stick and the side you place it on and which leg you are attempting to aid that is a little bit baffling for me.

this past week, though, i had a full day of using my dad’s cane. i had broken two toes and needed a little something to lean on to get around. i tried using the foam roller but that proved awkward. and david, well, his shoulder wasn’t available all day.

my dad was most certainly chuckling watching me. i’m sure he was trying to instruct me from that other plane, in-between sipping coffee and nibbling on crumbcake. i figured it out, even though i couldn’t hear him, but not without laughing at my own awkward brain-cane-leg shenanigans. mostly, my hand holding the curve of my dad’s cane was a little bit of a gift. sitting as a decoration, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might come in handy. “use the stick,” i could hear him say. i keep listening for him, a decade tomorrow since i started missing him. always.

i’m not sure why i break my toes. the report from the dr’s office to the x-ray folks read “kicked a door jamb with her left foot.” i beg to differ. i didn’t KICK the door jamb. i ran into it. there is a difference. one sounds like a hissy fit, whereas the other is clearly an accident that happened as i zoomed around in the house, getting stuff done, barefoot.

it seems that every year or so i hurt a toe. most of the time, barefoot. but sometimes i even have my flipflops on. this time, though, was a doozy. two at once! i mean, seriously?

on the third day post-communing-with-the-door-jamb i put on one of the thick snowboard socks of a pair we had gotten when we went snowboarding and i broke both my wrists (another fun day) and i found a sport slide sandal of my son’s (who has much bigger feet than i do). the combination worked like a charm and i found that i could manage to move around. i’m still wearing this winning combo. i don’t look vogue but i am getting from place a to place b. and gaining momentum.

i suppose i should just wear shoes. like all the time. something to guard my toes, since they seem vulnerable. but i really love the sensation of bare feet on old wood floors. the planks creak and groan a little and you can feel the spaces that time and history have created in between the boards.

as much as i don’t look forward to any more broken piggies, i suspect these are not my last.

*****

IN THESE TIMES…gaining momentum

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IN THESE TIMES from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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the burtons. [k.s. friday]

i wondered if it was too predictable. each spring, now, a dandelion. each spring, now, the song “fistful of dandelions”.

yet the lyrics – “you remind me of the simple things” – they still count. maybe even more than before.

singer-songwriter: a musician who writes, composes, and performs their own musical material, including lyrics and melodies. (wikipedia)

composer: a person who writes music, especially as a professional occupation. (dictionary)

pianist: a person who plays piano, especially professionally. (dictionary)

i have not written, composed or performed my own musical material in quite some time now. does that change who i am?

when i wrote “i haven’t been playing” a dear friend asked me, “what’s that about?” i didn’t answer. i wasn’t trying to be rude. i just didn’t have an answer. i still don’t.

we, d and i, decided – in a pillow moment one night – to call all the stuff that has happened (to me) since i broke both of my wrists “the burtons” (naming every-single-weird-thing after the brand of snowboard i was on when i fell.) it matters not – the broken wrists, the scapholunate ligament tear, the firing, the oddball itinerant tendonitis, two broken toes, other strange and disturbing body stuff – we are choosing to call it all “the burtons”.

so, i guess i blame the burtons. i wrote, “i’m not sure of much that isn’t different these days.”

i am learning – ever so slowly – that different is ok.

and as i clear out, clean out, declutter, put away all that is no longer useful – i am beginning – again – to see the simplest things that are left. gratitude for those things is starting to overtake any yearning for more. “all the riches i will need today.”

each day now i write. not lyrics. not music. but words. it is part of the natural rhythm of my day and not something i could sacrifice without great regret.

writer: you’re a writer because of the things you notice in the world, and the joy you feel stringing the right words together so they sound like music. (writer’s digest)

“…so they sound like music.”

and one day, maybe soon – maybe after my studio has been cleared out, cleaned out, decluttered and all that is no longer useful is put away – i will put down whatever my resistance is and place my hands back on the keys.

“hard to imagine you are not playing,” she wrote.

that kind of knowing – the riches.

*****

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FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS from THE BEST SO FAR ©️ 1999 kerri sherwood


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just like toadshade. [k.s. friday]

one of nature’s market umbrellas, this toadshade. research states that its prairie trillium leaves – in a salad – taste a little like sunflower seeds, though the idea of harvesting as we hike is not really appealing to me. in due time we will be on the trail and the sessile blooms will burst open, deep red flowers punctuating the woods. the mayapple will spread and vast areas of decaying leaves will be covered by its natural awning. it is a joy to watch the forest wake.

soon i will move into the studio to pare down and rearrange. it has needed this for some time. like decaying leaves, but without the nutrients those generate, i will put away vestiges of places or times i simply cannot tolerate thinking about any longer. a plastic bin will hold the artifacts and, in that clearing out, i suspect light will stream in. i will not merely glance into the studio. i will walk in, breathe, and step the next step of whatever the journey in that studio is. even if only to watch it wake right now.

with the cantilever umbrella of my piano full-stick, maybe i will sow mustard seeds of possibility. and, maybe, just like toadshade, blooms will burst open.

*****

PULLING WEEDS

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 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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and the universe says, “shh”. [k.s. friday]

the old radiator in my studio was its home for years. i picked it up at a wholesale show…an old fencepost with equestrian leather…i couldn’t resist. it was perfect next to my piano. shh. quiet. ponder. dream.

it’s outside on the back deck now, really for the same reasons. shh. quiet. ponder. dream. it reminds us to take those moments and just be.

in the middle of the night last night we talked for a few hours. it was a big discussion…about life, about existence. we agreed that life is merely about those rare and outstandingly idyllic moments – a collection you might store in a little special box or place in photographs-in-the-round for a viewmaster – ready, at any time, for you to look at, review, be reminded of, hold close. not usually the gigantic stuff, but the slides of tiny, even silent, markers, instants you recognize as mica.

we had another water episode a few days ago. it seems the theme this summer. once again, drains in the basement yielded water instead of no water. a really lovely young man from the sewer-drain company came; it was their second time in just over a month. the tree roots they had cleared likely had left behind another piece. it doesn’t matter. he cleared it out and we moved on. it wasn’t without a ton of unexpected work…clearing all of david’s paintings out of the space to protect them, moving any and every thing out of the way of the water and allowing room for the technician to work without feeling nervous about anything around him. after he left and we cleaned everything up it was back to quiet.

we exercised down there again yesterday. it’s a peaceful place, even though it is a basement. being surrounded by the muse of david’s time at his easel brings a certain life to it. i imagine he wishes this little sign was in his studio, but there is a hush nonetheless, even without the sign.

our studios – places where time fills in the gaps between noise.

in the middle of existential questions about my wrist and hand, a screeching halt to occupational therapy imposed by the insurance company (don’t get me started), questions and the after-effects of betrayal, a silencing of my professional work, i have not sat there much. i enter to allow in light and fresh air, gaze at my piano and walk out. another silent day.

each morning, for at least a week, as i have sat with pillows propped sipping coffee, the window beside me wide open, i have been visited by a chipmunk. it sits atop the fence post across the driveway right opposite the window and looks in, chirping. i named him ‘sunny’ as it is often that the sun is just reaching that fencepost as he sits and the first time he was bathed in rays of light as he held his spot and said whatever he was saying to me in chipmunk i could not understand.

today, in the quiet of the morning, sun not even yet beginning to stream in the window, sunny was out there, chirping to wake us. i called out the window to him a good morning greeting. we chirped back and forth a bit before he left, satisfied he had awakened me. i watch for him now each day as the sun starts to rise.

three times in a twenty-four hour period over the last weekend i heard or saw the words “everything will be ok”: once written, once spoken and the third time bob marley sang it in the woods as we hiked the river trail.

sunday as we sat at the table on the deck in waning light a not-oft-seen hummingbird came directly over and hovered right in front of me. a couple days later as i stood on the deck, david watching, a monarch butterfly flew over to me and circled less than a foot above my head. and sunny, a chipmunk on a fence post, greeting me each day.

i guess that sometimes the universe is quietly whispering, “it’ll be ok. everything will be ok. shh.”

*****

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SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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undefined texture. rising. [k.s. friday]

and so, september has arrived. and the texture of day for many is changed. fall is around the corner; the cooler mornings whisper that to us, ushering in – with little fanfare – the color transformation of leaves, the waning of the garden, the ultimate fallow of winter.

autumn is my favorite. and as i look to it, i see transition rising out of the horizon. undefined, but transition nonetheless. unfolding.

i got a letter a few days ago from the insurance company handling my wrist injury from falling. they have decided to stop my treatment. as of right now.

back in july they hired a physician to do an IME – which is the acronym for, ironically, “independent medical exam”. don’t be fooled by the word “independent” for when an insurance company chooses and hires and pays a physician time and again to do medical exam reports for the insurance company that wishes to stop paying for treatment, that physician is questionably “independent”. in an unsurprising result, the physician, who has not been the treating physician all along, gave them the verbiage they were looking for and BAM! they instantly wrote-a-lettuh to me discontinuing my medical treatment.

to say that i was disappointed would be to grossly underexaggerate the complex and intense emotions that came with opening that envelope. my own froedtert hand specialist and stellar OT, who both recommend continued treatment, have helped me make much amazing progress – as a professional musician who kind of uses my hands in lifelong work – and i am now able to bend my wrist to 60 degrees from the initial 20 when i started with them. it’s not the 85 – 90 degree forward range of motion of a normal wrist, but i guess the insurance company et al have decided it’s plenty. wow. and wow.

so the texture of my days will change as well. i’ll try to translate exercises and stretching my OT has done to home, without the benefit of specialized therapy center equipment or knowledge or her hands aiding my movements. and undefined transition will rise out of the horizon.

and we’ll see. things will unfold as they unfold. and summer will turn to fall. and fall will become winter. and we’ll see.

*****

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UNFOLDING from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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momma birds. [k.s. friday]

the cicadas are loud outside already. the windows are open and, though it will be ridiculously hot today, tomorrow will be their field day. it’s the end of august and, no matter who i speak to, the common marvel is how quickly summer has passed. a dear friend wrote to me, “it is the clove of seasons.”

i was behind him at office max. waiting in line six feet back, he was checking out. the checkout gal was pleasant but uninterested as the enthusiastic dad chortled about how his wife had forgotten to buy sharpened pencils for their children going back to school. he asked for separate bags so that he might bring them home to his kids in individual packages to add to their school supplies. he was excited, so excited, telling anyone within earshot of his errand to finish up prepping for the beginning of the school year. i couldn’t help but smile back as he walked past me with an elated look on his face.

i checked out and intended for the exit. it was the backpacks that got me first. the big four-sided display drew me over. there was this great floral backpack. . .

i started to wander a bit more, the calendars and notebooks and mechanical pencils making me wistful. stickynotes and highlighters and packs of gel-tip pens and fine-line sharpies beckoning.

these people knew how to place things in the store. i was not quite leaving.

i was catapulted back in time and meandered a little lost in thought about days – years – gone by, an empty nester’s trap of remembering with both joy and sorrow. all those years of school lists and target runs and picking out backpacks and first day of school walgreen’s or back-to-target fill-ins, things we hadn’t anticipated needing or somehow forgot. the piles on the dining room table as my beloved girl and boy selected their supplies and maybe their pencil case. they put looseleaf paper in their trapper-keepers and loaded up spiral notebooks and the required box of tissues, a few dry erase markers, a ruler and maybe a calculator. absolutely heavenly to be surrounded by school materials, stationery supplies, new reusable lunchbags and two mostly-excited children.

this time of year does it every time. even though it is extraordinarily hot i can feel it knocking. and i can feel the sadness of letting go of summer freedoms, of children, late-morning, still in pjs, of no alarm clocks and no dread of early morning crabbies. i can feel the elation of the bus arriving at the end of the day or sitting outside the school watching for a glimpse of my own beautiful children in a throng of beautiful children.

every year i feel it. that feeling watching them walk out the door to go to school, to go to college, to go into the world. even now i am immersed in it. i miss them.

i’m sure the momma bird was elated too when the eggshell cracked open and her tiny baby bird was born. she probably chortled to her bird-friends about her little miracle and its entrance into life. and then, after a time, bird-school over, she realized she was suddenly an empty-nester, her sweetest with wings that would carry it into the world to adventure and explore and conquer abounding opportunities. though the nest would remain, and would always be there, rooting and rooting, both, it was merely a launching pad to everything else.

and one day, as she was waiting in line at office max, as tears threatened to roll down her face, she would be grateful for all those times before and she would wrap herself in the memorized feel of freshly-sharpened pencils, late-summer cicadas and small hands in hers.

*****

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GIVE ME ROOTS, GIVE THEM WINGS from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood