reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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my big sister and his big brother. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

and then, there were avocados.

the box arrived on the doorstep and, almost immediately, the text came. “delivered to front porch,” my sister texted, “hooray!!!”.

this was not a small box. this box had 17 avocados in it. and not 17 measly avocados you purchase at the local wisconsin grocery store. 17 that were grown lovingly on a tree in florida, some of which weigh over a pound. a pound!

beautiful golden-green on the inside, they arrived on a difficult day and were a welcome sight from my big sister. yes, ken’s words – “life’s vicissitudes” were wreaking a bit o’ havoc and my big sister’s avocados were a balm, like his big brother’s reassurances and caring and teasing on the phone later that week.

we don’t live close to either of those siblings. one lives in florida, with a beautiful home and pool in front of a lush swamp and lake and one lives in colorado in a lovely neighborhood with stunning peonies and a view of the front range. we don’t get to see them often. but they have a way of showing up. and, for that, we are grateful.

in this world today with broad radiuses of residence instead of the close-by of years past, it’s not easy to stay engaged with those you love. you wish to spend more time with them – the ordinary kind of moments – to see what life is like, to step a tiny bit into their shoes or at least have a window into their day-to-day. it’s hard to hear of other families and easy sunday dinners, errands with elderly parents, adventures with grown children. i’ve pined more than once to go browse at target with my daughter or have a pedicure with my sister or watch my niece hold and play with her toddler-boy or view a hallmark-extravaganza with my other niece or, even harder, coffeesit once again with my sweet momma. i’ve thought about all the time i spent at tennis courts or in baseball fields with my son and wished to again watch from the sidelines as he bats and runs and fields or lobs tennis balls over the net. i’ve thought about preparation for fall and pumpkins and apple pies and corn mazes. i’ve thought about the famous calzones made in my sister-in-law’s colorado kitchen, the sweet niece who would sip red wine with me and taking a walk around the lake with david’s momma. and then, the chance to see all the rest…our families, friends, newly-found cousins, wider concentric circles still connected but a little further out.

these years have taken a toll. though we have traveled a little bit, it’s not like pre-pandemic. and there is so much to miss when wisconsin is not where everyone is, so much yearning. i know Making Time for others is important and, with work and budget and covid restraints, we try the-best-we-can to do whatever-we-can. it doesn’t eliminate the missing.

today is a good day for guac.

*****

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zen-yen. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

in looking for a word to describe him, i stumbled across “erudite”. now, this isn’t in my normal vocabulary…i would have said “cerebral” or “in his head”…but “erudite” (syn: learned, scholarly, well-educated, knowledgeable, well-read, well-versed, well-informed, cultivated, civilized, intellectual) fits. yup. yup.

an early morning this week, as he was drinking his coffee, he was staring into space. i asked him what he was thinking about and he told me that it was “a deep rabbit hole” and went on to recount a bit of a book he had read about how our society had been built on henry ford’s assembly line innovation and how that applied to today and our country and the work he is doing and…

it was not quite 6am. pillow talk.

i knew i was wide-eyed, but it wasn’t – necessarily – with fascination.

he asked what i was thinking about as i sipped my -thankgoodnessforit- bold black coffee. i said, “cleaning the bathroom before the plumber gets here.”

he brought his synopsis of the book-bit to a close, postulating a few questions about society in these times.

i said, “i’m gonna swiffer too.”

6am.

though we get there from slightly different places, we usually arrive together. my ever-threading-heart and list-making-practical-feet-on-the-ground self arrives, swiffer and camera and pad and pencil in hand and his heady-thinker-visionaryish-philosophical self gets there, abstruse questions and positivities in tow.

it shows that yes…there are no simple answers, really. there are complex questions. and many ways to get to the answers. oftentimes, well, people in relationship get there differently.

i always want to bring home the zen from a trip. i want to wrap in it, the images from the adventures, the feelings it all gave me and not let it go. i want to evade the stresses that tend to consume all of us.

do i really think that is entirely possible? no. not entirely. life is life and it’s the whole kit-n-kaboodle. i just wanna know that we’re both holding onto that zen, keeping it close at hand. i don’t reeeeally wanna hear about our toolbox of potentiality.

i need some more coffee.

*****

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this day and age. [merely-a-thought monday]

“will you get to watch any fireworks?” she texted.

our city has spectacular fireworks. for over three decades i have marveled at the extent of the fourth-of-july display over lake michigan, sitting on the rocks along the shore, in the parks along the lakefront, down by where they set them off by the harbor. the fantastic light show goes on for about a half hour, culminating with a finale that bursts open the sky with color.

this city has a festival down by the lake, a carnival in the downtown, food vendors and dock-jumping-dogs and lots of music. there are children with ice cream cones melting on tiny fingers, bubble machines making iridescent bubbles float all around passersby, red, white and blue tchotchkes/chotchkes/chachkis on carts and people, bike parades with flags and streamers. there are hot dogs and brats sizzling, cheese curds and funnel cakes, lemonade and icees and dippin’ dots. there is no shortage of fun celebration and it’s all right there, within walking distance.

but in this day and age…

we won’t be going to watch the fireworks. this will be the fourth year now.

in 2019 we had just moved on island and didn’t leave dogdog and babycat during the display; they were adjusting to a new house as it was and we had no idea how loud the fireworks would be.

the city cancelled the fireworks in 2020; the global pandemic was early-on and there was a healthier respect for distancing.

last year, following the insurrection at the nation’s capitol, along with little to no leadership-held-responsible-for-all-of-that or any accountability, we stayed home.

and in this day and age…

we will stay home again. for the farcical supreme court has begun absolutely dismantling the freedoms that we are supposed to be celebrating. extremism and religious right are suffocating citizens of this country, thwarting the ability to live freely and make one’s own decisions. equality is going the way of centuries ago. discrimination is rising up, like fog on a wind-shifting hot summer’s day over the great lake. gun violence is dramatically increasing and, yet, guns are not limited. the extreme climate crisis is heaved off to the side in favor of big business; the epa is undermined and our children’s futures will feature many more “air quality alerts” than we could ever imagine, not to mention the global warming fallout from fossil fuel emissions. we watch lake mead drop and drop. we read of the po river in italy receding, lives substantially and critically affected. we see that australia is under water and that there are red flag warnings across the southwest – fires will be prevalent as the heat is heating up. the relationships between countries are strained. politics are warped. politicians play on stages of self-agendized blather. there is a lack of responsibility. there is a bigger lack of looking out for the big picture, the long haul, the world that will be inhabited by the children of our children’s children. kindness, consideration, compassion are looked at as weakness. we are flabbergasted at the stupidity. more, we are incredulous at the lack of people to see the stupidity. it seems the more clownish, the more vile, the more popular. it seems that evil lurks. and i wonder about the hypocrisy of watching fireworks while there are people quietly – and not so quietly – undermining democracy. we could ignore it all and go cheer – as loud as my sweet momma used to cheer – at the fireworks. or we could take a pause.

our old backyard neighbor played two things in their backyard. one was the soundtrack for “mamma mia” and the other was an album of john philip sousa marches. never insanely loud back then, both made us smile. a relationship three decades long.

but in this day and age, there are multitudes – truly multitudes – of children in that yard out back, a yard equipped with every single thing any generous public playground might have: full-size batting cage, full-size trampoline, three soccer nets, a basketball court, zipline, fort, swingset, sandbox, large plastic toys, atvs to ride, bikes, balls, bats, rat-a-tatting big toy guns and a new mysterious large wooden structure being built back along our lot line, where they can’t hear it or see it from their house, like most of the other entertainment devices in the large yard. apparently not at all conscious of the it’s-a-neighborhood-you-live-in-a-community philosophy, surrounded by people who have actually resided right here for decades, they play loud music through outdoor speakers so the whole neighborhood can hear – though no one gets a vote on what’s played – and the children have a spicy – and foul – vocabulary and bloodcurdling screams they don’t hesitate to use. demonstrating antagonism seems the way in this land beyond the dead arbor vitae. goodness! when did the rules of neighborhood – the rules of neighboring – change? did they not watch mr. rogers? parents need remember children are always watching their lead. likewise, leaders need remember citizens are always watching their lead. and how precisely did we get here?

this day and age.

we could make a big pitcher of iced water with slices of orange and lemon and grill some (plant-based) burgers, play a little music – at an appropriate volume – and watch our new pampas grass grow. we could admire our newly-cleaned garage or the new green blades growing in the haynet out front. we could paint rocks to hide on our trail or plant a few flowers. we could speed-dial fred rogers. all are quite likely. well, except for fred.

and we could go see the fireworks.

but we won’t.

not in this day and age.

though it will be a statement we make only to ourselves, it will be comforting to dogga for us to stay home.

besides, some things are just too much. in this day and age.

*****

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the village on the back side. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are on the flip side of the tv antenna saga.

we are relieved to have it over with. our 30+ foot tall steel tripod tv tower – which has been standing right snugged up close to our house for the last at-least-three-decades-probably-more-like-five-or-six-or-so – fell over. it was a windy night…the kind of wind that keeps us awake and anxious in this neighborhood of big old trees. we didn’t hear it fall. all we heard was the fierce wind and i pulled the quilt over my head to try and sleep.

i stood in the kitchen in the morning looking out through the sunroom, sipping my coffee and gazing at the eastern sky and saw it – diagonally placed outside across the big windows – where nothing diagonal or steel or large and unwieldy usually sits. the tv tower with the antenna on the top. the wind had broken it off at the base and it fell north – reception from milwaukee would be really ace leaning that way it occurred to me. it was leaning on the fence and dangling over our neighbor’s stamped concrete driveway and spanish tile garage roof. we wanted neither of those disturbed and were immediately concerned about the danger of the antenna falling on someone. i texted them to say we had noticed and then i texted the village.

“what do you do with this?” i asked all our people. i started getting responses immediately, some suggestions or the oft “i-have-no-idea”. the insurance company was worthless – they couldn’t even point to the first thing we should do. antenna installation experts said it was “out of their wheelhouse”. the tow truck guys didn’t have the right equipment. big jim came over to evaluate it with d. they stared and contemplated a few-strong-men but quickly negated that idea.

ultimately – to save you a long drawn-out story, interesting and quirky (of course) but long nonetheless – a tree care company came the next day to assess the situation. naturally, it was snowing that day and that made the removal more treacherous so it had to be pushed back a day and we had to hope the snow would not accumulate in heavy inches on the tower, there would be no more wind and that no one would go near it.

the next morning, the tree guy admitted to being awake in the night thinking about the removal, plotting. that made us feel a little better since we had some higher anxiety with it precariously dangling out there.

with some sort of backhoe jaws holding the base so the entire tower wouldn’t pivot and do damage and a steel-cutter-thingy, they sawed the tower and antenna into pieces, loaded it into a dumpster they had brought with them and drove away. all in like a half hour! it was done. gone.

the house looks different without the dated tower and antenna like so many houses down here by the lake and scattered throughout our town. i missed it for the first day. and when i sip coffee in bed and look out the east windows i can no longer see it next to the steep roofline, with squirrels scampering up so that they can get on the roof and check out any gutter snacks that might be lingering. there’s plenty to look at though. and plenty to ponder.

the front of the orchid bloom is gorgeous on this plant. stunning, really. but the back…graceful and sturdy, supporting the frame of the blossom.

just like our village.

****

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no anonymity. [k.s. friday]

anonymity is not a strong suit of airbnb. and, for us, that’s exactly the point. the relational piece of staying in places other real people own does not usurp privacy. but it offers a glimpse into lives – those which you may never have peeked into otherwise. without reservation, i would say that most all of the airbnbs we have stayed at have been owned by someone with whom we’d love to be friends.

the window that opens when you unlock the front door to the tiny house, the condo, the bungalow, the loft, the cabin, the cottage is an invitation. on the most basic level, it is an opportunity to see how someone else makes a space a home, how it’s designed, how it’s appointed. it is an opportunity to reconstruct – in your mind – something about your own home, an idea to take with you. it’s a chance – for a bit of time – to experience another place as-if-you-live-there: to wander and cook and porch-sit and immerse, even a little. when you stay in the vicinity of the owner’s place it changes things, for then, on a whole ‘nother level, it’s an opportunity to see morsels of how someone else lives, their real-life. and when you have the chance to meet the person or people who host where you are staying? that is a gift.

sitting on the adobe open-air-to-the-mountains-balcony off the bedroom in ridgway, in rocking chairs on the front porch on the farm in kentucky, at the table overlooking snowmass, under the après sign in breckenridge, watching people go by in tiny brevard. it is not without wonder we think about places we will stay someday.

and, i guess, not surprisingly, there’s something about all these places that makes us say, “we could live there.” something different than what any hampton inn, our hotel chain of choice, can offer.

it is not randomly that i pick out places to stay when we travel. i carefully consider location, amenities, the presence of light, whether or not we can cook, if there is outdoor space, a fireplace, a kitchen counter where we can chat. i look at pictures and read reviews and one will always jump out as a place that looks like us. so not so random.

and i guess it is not random either that we meet people – it boils down to the people – who stand out. they are living lives and opening themselves up to others. in providing more personal lodging they are reinforcing the humanness and opportunity of travel. they remind us – again and again – to be just a little more vulnerable, just a little more open. we don’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but to stay in someone else’s home, even for a night, has given us the tiniest chance to know them and to get where they are.

we are not here to live anonymously.

*****

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TIME TOGETHER ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood


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blurring to color. [two artists tuesday]

what they don’t realize is that we are really tempted to do it: get in big red and start driving to south dakota.

their message was gracious and full of light – they wrote to tell me that they loved one of my pieces and that every time it comes on their dish music channel they clap their hands and feel happy. this tiny gesture was a heap of wow for me; i am always astounded when someone takes time out of their busy days to pass on kindnesses like this.

i wrote back.

and then THEY wrote back. it was suddenly communication between real people. two people who live on nine acres in south dakota and us, here in wisconsin.

they extended an invitation for a meal, great humor, a glance into their wild turkeys and red fox and deer and songbirds, a gesture from strangers-no-longer. we felt that we’d-love-to-be-friends feeling. the black-and-white text of their email blurred to color.

we were masked-browsing last spring at one of our favorite boutiques in cedarburg. i picked up a canvas purse i had been studying and studying and studying, strapped it cross-body and walked to where the mirror was (because, if you are unaware, a mirror is necessary when purchasing a purse).

two ladies were shopping in that neck of the shop and seemed amused at all the questions i was pummeling at david. they joined in, nodding at each of my queries and looking at him with great anticipation of the sudden enlightenment he would have re purse-buying. eventually, they joined in the fray and we all started laughing and comparing pocketbook notes and requirements and successful handbag finds and great disappointments. the laughter was just utter joy and the temptation to suggest meeting-them-in-a-couple-hours-for-a-glass-of-wine was powerful. our day’s commitments didn’t allow the extra time or we would have. the black-and-white of strangers in a store shopping had blurred to color.

if we could have a party and invite people right now i am quite certain i know some of the newest envelope-addresses we would send to: kevin and his wife, the water utilities engineer. steve and his wife, mechanic of brilliance. the two shopping-ladies at lillies. and our friends in south dakota.

black and white can always blur to color.

*****

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“wait! what??” [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it’s not a not-listening thing. it’s not even a not-paying-attention thing. it’s just that sometimes we are simply on two different planes thinking about two different things – entirely. we can have whole conversations during which we both think we are communicating and, yet, we are talking about different stuff. i have learned to preamble my questions or statements with a little background, kind of painting the picture, so to speak – no pun intended – so that we might stand a better chance of being on the same page subject-wise.

we rarely disagree. when we do it is with gusto. but there are those really strange moments we gusto ourselves out and suddenly realize that we were talking about the same thing, the same opinion, in agreement. all that bluster for nothing.

and then there’s always the bemused reality check “wait! what are we talking about again?”

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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packing. a solo sport. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it is not unusual for it to be 1am and for me to still be packing the night before a trip. well, specifically, fretting over packing. he – who shall remain nameless – will have packed in less than fifteen minutes. i am struggling and being tortured by the what-ifs of every trip you ever go on. what if you need to dress up? what if you spill on your favorite shirt and there is no laundry available? what if your flip-flop breaks? what if it’s unusually cold? what if it’s unusually hot? what if we have to walk far? what if my shoes give me blisters? what if i feel like wearing a skirt? what if i don’t?

he – that nameless one – patiently sits by (though i’m betting underneath it all is rather smug), offers meaningless male-advice but is, nevertheless, good moral support as i go through my increasingly-anxious shenanigans: things in, things out, repeat. though packing is a solo sport, having someone there sitting with you sort of helps.

shoes are an issue. that and jackets. he has learned to grab one of those gigantic blue ikea bags and hand it to me, “just pack whatever shoes and jackets you want! there’s plenty of room in the car!”. this is a man who, though it all seems so incredibly simple to him, knows better than to question the process.

he runs downstairs and gets me a bigger suitcase. ahhh, good man. good man.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB.

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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levels of color. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we were the only ones. the only customers in the grocery store with masks on. there was one employee we saw wearing one, but we didn’t see any other shoppers with one on. the other day, at a different grocery store, we were the recipients of a few dirty looks. but heck, we have tougher skin than that. mostly.

we sat outside while the light waned, before the mosquitoes had rsvp’d they’d be there. torches on, flame dancing from the fire column, we had a few hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine and talked about these times. there is a wistful dividing line between before and now. the pandemic has shot a chalkline in our calendars and even now, not quite after, we can see the difference.

the books arrived in the mail. it was one of those rare days when you open up the front door and see a surprise gift parcel on the doorstep. the books, memoirs of raynor and moth. the salt path, the first, a viewmaster of days during which, through the necessity of impossible challenges, raynor and moth were hiking the south west coast path in the united kingdom. “i think they are your people,” she wrote about this couple.

we opened the first paperback. i am reading it aloud and we have a voracious appetite to keep going in between all else. i read and we digest, this tale of backpacking without the reassuring fallback of retreat or going home in the end. it’s breathtaking and stunningly candid.

monday night i read aloud the sentence, “being separate from people for large chunks of time had reduced our tolerance levels.” it was not a statement of pandemic; it was a statement of wilderness camping. yet, it hit us – it was a statement of pandemic. so relevant.

if we are all honest with ourselves, we find now that the pandemic has most definitely divided our circles into before and now . . . and hopefully, one day, after. people who are absolute, people we have stayed in touch with or who have stayed in touch with us, even spottily, people who have fallen away. people who have shown true colors, people who have been generous and compassionate. people who have jumped at the chance to help others, to abide by recommendations to ease this pandemic, people who have chosen to be cavalier, go-their-own-way, to scoff and ignore, to not be any other’s keeper.

the season/reason mantra applies, we pondered aloud at the table, talking about past friendships and working relationships. some people, there with us at some point, are just not to be dragged into now. we appreciate their presence at the time they were present and we learn we must let go. they have become woven into who we have become and those threads remain somewhere in the interior of the quilt. but, in the way that time moves on, so do attachments. and even beyond the natural attrition of relationships – just like raynor and moth, though not on a wild trail – the simplicity of who we have become, what we have seen or done, where we have gone or not gone, how we have lived through these times, of pandemic, of loss, of challenge, of grief – this simplicity has changed us and, it seems, has changed our tolerance levels. as if they were on a cmyk or rgb profile – empathy, compassion, masks, vaccines, distancing, research, critical thinking, kindness, questioning, learning, truth, transparency, loyalty, generosity, inclusivity, gentleness, agenda-ridden-less, fairness, decency, basic dedication to not being mean…a wide spectrum of color levels in humans that surround us.

we were quiet as we sat and thought about people in our lives, what has changed, what has remained the same, people we yearn to see, people we, frankly, perhaps sadly or resignedly, don’t care to see again.

we gratefully looked around at flames in torches, food on our table, the dog on the deck, the old screen door to a comfortable beloved house merely steps away. the simplest pleasures have been, are, the pleasures. we cannot think of a reason that this is not a good thing. though we shed a few tears, we held hands as we spoke, together not separate.

the mosquitoes found their way to the deck. we blew out the torches, snuffed the fire column and carried our plates inside.

*****

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good moments waiting. [k.s. friday]

“we’re out of practice,” writes elizabeth bernstein. her article in the wall street journal is about reconnecting with others as we move slowly and cautiously out of pandemic-mode and back into the world. since this past year-plus has levied many and varied challenges upon all of us, her words seem prudent, reminding us to realize that we are each in different emotional places and honoring those will be absolutely necessary.

as we hike on trails we are alternately silent and chatting-up-a-storm. we find ourselves reminiscing, going over the last year-plus, reviewing. we are both awed and aghast at the things that have happened through this time. simple moments of bliss and moments of raw hurt. surprise at the time flying by and impatience at the time dragging. gratitude for the generosity of others and anger and anxiety at agenda we don’t understand. much time spent as just the two of us…the two of us plus dogga and babycat. we stop – mid-river-trail – and stare at each other, remembering the time, the losses, the learnings. this moment in time – all the circumstances that have brought us to this moment in time – and we look forward, wondering.

“we’ve all been through so much. we’re all so raw. and there is a strong sense of longing,” says sociologist and yale professor marissa king. though we long to be together with family and dear friends, communities of people we have been missing, we have come to realize that we have made it through, continue to make it through, the storm of this time. we have established rituals of our own, personal reassurances, moments of goodness that have arced us into next each and every time. we have failed from time to time and we have succeeded from time to time. mostly, we have made it from Time to Time, each then to each now.

reconnecting, we understand, will be complicated, perhaps intense, perhaps exhausting, perhaps selective. but those moments will, too, be worth it, whatever concentrated effort it takes. we all have a story to tell, narratives to share, things we have gained and lost and learned and forgotten, things we haven’t shared. “reconnection is not a one-and-done undertaking,” writes ms. bernstein. like the time that has gone by and the hard work it has taken to grok the necessity of being apart, it will require some practice to be together. we haven’t walked in the shoes of others and we haven’t experienced what they have experienced. the vice-versa is also true. we all have a story to tell, narratives to share, things we have gained and lost and learned and forgotten, things we haven’t divulged, things we haven’t mutually endured. there is much ahead, likely to be profoundly emotional.

we stand on the river trail and think about belly-laughing in a circle of friends, crying in the arms of family, dancing on the patio, snacktime on the pontoon boat, ukuleles in the park, happy hour in the backyard, floating in florida pools, rooftop and mountaintop times. and we know that, though there have been many good moments and though there are many good moments right here, there are many good moments…waiting.

*****

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GOOD MOMENTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood