reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the gift of a gift. [merely-a-thought monday]

and, of course, i wonder who found them.

the hike to looking glass rock is uphill. not a little uphill. reeeally uphill. the view through the trees, sans leaves, reveals mountains close-up, mountains out in the distance. it’s a gorgeous trail.

we started later than we had planned. and so, we had to turn around before we made it to the top. because once the sun goes down – and it goes down fast – it is next to impossible to safely navigate the trail back down. roots and rocks and twists and turns could turn it into a crisis. and we have watched everest enough times to remember professional guide rob hall’s words: it’s not my job to get you up the mountain…it’s my job to get you safely back down. pisgah national forest is – clearly – not the intensity of everest, but the same rule applies anyway.

and so – this time – we missed looking glass rock, an amazing formation, its sheer stone face rising above the trees. there will be a next time; we’ll start earlier, carry some lunch and more water and we’ll get there and back before darkness falls.

i had tucked a package of our “be kind” pins into my bag. i thought that there might be a place i could leave them. each time we have passed a little trail magic – a painted rock, tiny gift – it has lifted our spirits. i couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to leave these pins than this forest. the knot in the tree seemed perfect – at the right eye level for those hiking up. my only regret is not being able to go back and see that they are gone.

for each time i have left a rock – with a heart or a peace sign or a tiny message – on our local trail tucked into the notch of a tree, on an obvious branch or perched on a burl – i have had the opportunity to go back a next time and see that it has disappeared. it’s the gift of a gift.

i can only assume that the little cellophane bag tied with green curling ribbon in brevard is gone. i can only assume that someone has given out all the “be kind” buttons. i can only assume that as the recipients wear them or put them on their backpacks or their purse or hang them on the visor in their car they smile and pay it forward just a little.

the gift of a gift isn’t always known.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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odd-one-out. [k.s. friday]

he was this guy who would pick me up in his blue convertible camaro and have flowers tucked into the visor. or a stuffed animal peeking out from the glove compartment. when it was my 18th birthday, he drove 45 minutes late at night to decorate my vw bug with roses and install a big sign on the oak tree outside our front door. he bought cards and concert tickets, taught me how to play tennis and took me to restaurants all over the island. in the spirit of the 1970s susan polis schutz calendar he gifted me, he also gave me a small poster, which i still have.

“i am not in this world to live up to your expectations. you are not in this world to live up to mine. i am i and you are you. and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.” (fritz perls)

the small evergreen was particularly beautiful, standing out in a part of the woods that surrounded it with tall hardwoods. its singularity made me stop and photograph it. i felt connected to it, the odd-one-out in a large grouping of the more-similar. i told it that it was beautiful and blew it a kiss.

this sweet pine tree in the national forest was tiny in comparison to nearby 80 foot giants. it must love winter, when the leaves of its neighbors no longer form a canopy blocking it from the sun. as you hike, your eyes adjusting to the brownness of the trail, it becomes a source of color, and you hungrily take in the green of its needles, its softness in a world of bare trunks. you begin to notice other tiny bits of green here and there, a little surviving underbrush here, a little sapling there. color returns.

when i was still 18, and he was a few years older, he asked me to marry him. he was a kind man, and probably still is. i was not – at 18 – ready. i still had more love stories to relish and love stories to regret. i had good sun and hard darkness ahead. i had moments of the-only-one-in-jeans to experience and times of growth when the canopy opened to the sky. i had hardwood forests to stand alone in.

and life moved on.

“but i look up high to see only the light and never look down to see my shadow. this is wisdom which man must learn.” (kahlil gibran)

i know the little pine tree blew a kiss back to me.

and then we hiked on.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood




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in service. [d.r. thursday]

in much the same way i draw sunrises over mountains, the boardwalk turned ninety degrees on a dime, with meticulously pieced craftwork, through the swampy area and across, back to the dirt trail.

we pondered how long it took volunteers to build this boardwalk…likely out in hot summer sun, working to span the distance between solid earth trails and protect the vegetation and water below. when you are out hiking in the middle of nowhere and come upon a boardwalk or a little bridge or, remotely, a bench, it is a reminder that you are not stepping there first and you are not stepping there alone.

time and again we watch backpackers like joey coconato or the wanderwomen forge streams and rivers. we marvel as they step carefully across, deliberately placing their feet with caution. occasionally, there is an unexpected suspension bridge or a big placed-log that helps. trail magic is not just water bottles and snickers bars. it’s the work that someone has done before you. someone who really cares. in this case, early-on-in-the-hike of pink-bed-trail, those someones built this boardwalk. in service.

extreme wind had blown down many trees on our trail along the des plaines. some of them stretched across our pathway and we climbed our way over them. we know the next time out they will be moved, for this trail is well taken care of. the work of those tending it is to make hiking possible for the rest of us. in service.

the winter show will be pulled down on january 9. artists of various medium brought their work to be juried into the gallery space on the lake. they chose pieces they felt were relatable, pieces that would hang well, would absorb and reflect light as it streamed through big windows. a lot of people went to the opening, including us, with masks. and then the crowds left and the art center had regular hours through the holiday, inviting patrons in to view art and trees lit with the season. we’ll pick up the painting next week, unless there is an offer on it. the curator will breathe and design the next show. and people will have been moved by acrylic and clay, watercolor and fibre. sun will light the wood floors and curl around dark corners and artists will create at home for the next time, the next chance to elicit the silent conversation between viewer and artwork. in service.

we watched carole king and james taylor in concert sunday night. it was two hours of bliss. easily two of the most talented songwriters of all time, their camaraderie is exquisite and the music carried us both back. at one point in the airing, there was a moment that carole shared thoughts about performing. she spoke about bringing music to others as her job, and she continued that it wasn’t for herself that she writes, plays, performs. songwriters, composers, performing artists. connecting to hearts of people, challenging them, reassuring them, moving them. in service.

a bridge spanning a raging whitewater river in the middle of nowhere…is it appreciated? a boardwalk built on a trail in the middle of somewhere…does it make a difference? a cleared path…is there gratitude? a painting that hangs with no viewers…is it seen? a piece of music with no audience…does it reveal its magic?

all ready and waiting.

never really first. never really alone.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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looking glass falls. [k.s. friday]

there is no limit to how long you can stare at rushing water. cool mist enveloped us as we stood there, watching. in the land of 250 waterfalls, we, as even babbling-stream appreciators, stood and took in this gorgeous sight.

it is unusual for us to be in the midst of many people these days, even outside. yet, here we were, transfixed by the looking glass falls, along with at least thirty other carsful. everyone, with different accents and languages, exchanged greetings on the way up or down the rock steps. everyone was smiling. everyone was kind. the waterfall brought us all together before we parted and looked for the unbeaten path, the trail in the woods, the less-trod, less-populated places that would be quiet. in those moments of togetherness, though, the sheer force of the water spilling over granite seemed to be a cleansing balm to anything that would keep us all separate.

we stood still on looking glass rock trail the next day, just listening to the stream below us. a hiker jaunted by us, intent on making tracks. he turned around and asked us if there was something worthwhile to look at. that, in itself, was a funny question, considering the absolute beauty of the place we were standing. i responded that we weren’t looking, “we’re listening.” he nodded and said something about serenity, then pushed on.

if there were a place i could choose to stand as this year turns into next, i think i would pick one of the 250 waterfalls, or, for that matter, the stream. a reminder that all things keep moving. that everything is fluid. that the edges are smoothed by the water that runs over and over and over them. that dropping worries and angsts and all negativity into the moving, rushing fall or even the whitewater river or gurgling brook, will allow that very water to carry it all away.

“it’s time to let it all go,” he said as we were visiting together. he’s right.

as this year turns its head toward the sun of a new year, i drop it all into the water and start again. we are merely riverstones in this fluid looking-glass-filled life.

happy new year.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

RIVERSTONE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood