reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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cowboys and mayapples. [k.s. friday]

he sat easy in the saddle, cowboy hat planted on his head, his horse striding down the trail. “have you seen the mayapples?” he turned his head toward us. “yes, you were the one who told us about them,” i replied. satisfied, he rode on.

it’s hard to miss the canopy. they stand tall and the leaves intersect like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, gone a little wild. it is as if the mayapple all joined hands, agreeing that their mutual umbrella is the point, their canopy of protection a priority. the green is beautiful, lighting the floor of the forest. i bend down to photograph them, again.

and there it was. a stunning white flower. hidden under the umbrella of a wide expanse of leaves above. only stems with more than one leaf will flower; the delicate white bloom grows out of the axil of two leaves.

we had never noticed the flowers before. i don’t know why. but the canopy stretches on and on and you must bend and peek to see the flowers. they exist in this other-world, beautiful, showy, fragrant. it came as a shock to us – how many times we had passed by the mayapple – to not know the existence of these pinwheel flowers, each one ever-important to the thriving of the colony. the canopy provided shelter, guarding the precious flowers that will need be cross-pollinated and will then produce a berry ripe with seeds, ensuring mayapple’s continued spread. so much going on in this tiny underworld of the forest. nature continues on her merry way.

the cowboy seems to really love the mayapple. though he doesn’t remember, each year he quietly tells us about them as he and his horse walk by. it never appears that he is in a rush. instead, he is slow and deliberate. and those mayapples.

what beauty we all might find…were we to bend down and peek into the world. what shelter we might provide were we to join hands, spreading out like the canopy of mayapples. how we might protect what is precious to us, the delicate, the fragile, the children among us. how we might lift each bloom and help it thrive.

we walk under a canopy of blue sky and inky stars. we can do this.

*****

nurture me

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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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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kindred. [k.s. friday]

you and i are kindred, you know. though we have been individually sensitive to temperature and environmental pressure and have fallen to the ground at different speeds, in different ways, in different shapes, our edges dissimilar, we are kindred. for even though “to have two snow crystals or flakes with the same history of development is virtually impossible” (loc.gov), we are related. there has been one instance – one – of identical found. nancy knight, a scientist in boulder, colorado, found two identical snowflakes from a snowstorm in wisconsin in 1988. it took a powerful microscope and earned space in the guiness book of world records, next to the fastest time to drink a capri sun and the fastest genetic diagnoses and decoding for infants through dna sequencing.

the flakes fell on the icy wood deck and it was as if i could momentarily see each of them, separate from each other. it was not the mob scene of a drift nor the muddy puddle of slush. instead, each individual crystal softly landed and placed itself so that i might notice. and, though i cognitively realize that they are all different, i could only marvel at their relatedness in that difference, the sameness.

we are kindred spirits, you and i. we have the six sides of a snowflake, the perfection of crystallized water, the discrete originality. but we are not sole on this earth. we are part of the flakes that fall on the icy deck. we are able to be seen. we are singular. we are particular. we are an entity upon ourselves.

yet our uniqueness does not need separate us. instead, in the way that snowflakes fall and cluster, ice strands tangling, crystal needles wrapping into each other, we are together. we are the flakes of snow, kindred spirits of beautiful, fallen from the sky to glimmer – apart, together – in the sun for moments, days, years.

it does not matter that we are different. what matters is that we are the same. kindred.

*****

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KINDRED SPIRITS…AWAY ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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steady and predictable. [k.s. friday]

each time we stood in line at the little grocery in paris, we had a kinder bueno bar in our hands. we also had a baguette and camembert and a container of caprese salad and a bottle of wine. sometimes we had a fruit tart. just one.

i didn’t know it then, but the bueno bar is related to ferrero rocher which is related to tic-tacs. and so, in a roundabout way, we were honoring my sweet momma’s passion for tic-tacs. the ferrero group, clearly brilliant sweet-tooth satisfiers.

momma always had tic-tacs in her purse, in the car, in the cabinet in her kitchen. she never bought just one container, like when you are standing in line at target and see them and suddenly think of purchasing a tiny plastic box with the hinged flip-top. she bought multiples, all shrink-wrapped together, and shared them with everyone.

in recent days i decided to go through and reorganize the pantry in our kitchen. our kitchen, like our house, is old, so the pantry is not a walk-in, plastic-wrapped-wire-shelved cavern of space. there is a limit to this miniature cave of goodness, so one must plan and shop accordingly. we set up some metal shelves in the laundry room downstairs to hold rarely-used appliances, which gave us the illusion of more space in the kitchen. anyway….i was pulling everything out of the cabinet to restructure things.

diving into the recesses of the pantry, there it was, kind of hidden. a tiny plastic box of unopened tic-tacs. my momma was instantly there with me.

it is likely that this box came to wisconsin in a care package, for i cannot remember ever buying tic-tacs myself. we all had a never-ending supplier in my sweet momma, who eagerly gave them out “for your purse”, “for your pocket”, “for your backpack”, “for in the car”. and along with kraft macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, andes candies, poptarts, bags of peanut m&m’s, twizzlers, interesting news articles she cut out, coupons she painstakingly clipped just-for-you, she would tuck tic-tacs, her favorite freshmints. when the boxes would arrive, you knew what was in them. some things are just steady and predictable. some things you just know.

it was a good time for my momma to be standing with me in the kitchen. it’s been a helluva couple years for us, for so many of us. last night, in the middle of the night, sharing a banana, we talked again about these last two years. in some strange way things feel both foggily distant and freshly raw. but they are no less astonishing, no less confusing, no less painful. it is a grand mix – a caldron of emotions.

i spoke aloud to my mom in the kitchen. i told her in bits and spurts – though i’m certain she already knew – about all that had happened in the last years. i told her about how i had just alphabetized the spice cabinet, which made her slightly gleeful. i told her thank-you for all the care packages, all the letters, all the ramen and the mac-and-cheese and the clippings and coupons and m&ms and twizzlers and the unwavering belief, the unconditional love. i told her i was sorry for the times, like everyone, i got too busy. i asked her to hug my dad. i told her i missed her.

and i saved the tiny box of tic-tacs. not to eat them. they are on the shelf in the pantry. steady and predictable.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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peter and company. [k.s. friday]

peter is a welcome visitor.

he just sat there watching us watch him. no fear or aggression, he was peaceful and calm, even appearing gentle. we’ve seen him a time or two before – or perhaps a possum that looks like him – since they are individually hard to discern between. we’ve seen him waddle down our driveway and cross the street. we’ve seen him down by the corner, where the neighbor puts out seed and corn.

but the allure in our yard was the golden-corral-like smorgasbord we were providing in the small compost pile we have out back. i sent a picture of peter and a description of what he was likely eating to a friend who wrote back that it wasn’t golden corral. “that’s the four seasons back there!” a little research showed that opossums love fruit and vegetables, among other things, so we were right on target with our spread. it’s sweet to know that the compost is aiding this beautiful creature in its survival during this cold winter.

we try to keep our birdfeeder full and we generally set out the crusty ends of bread or the last bits of tortillas on the potting bench. the squirrels have discovered it and leave menus with items checked off they’d like to see more often. we haven’t seen our chipmunks, so they must be hibernating under the deck or living in the volkswagen in the garage – who knows – waiting for spring. they won’t be fooled by false starts; i’m certain they’ve enough birdseed from our feeder to last until the temperatures don’t hover near freezing anymore. i know that fox and raccoons, rabbits and skunks are out there, foraging and waiting.

it’s darn cold. and as february drones on and on we seek comfort from warm soups and stews and nourishing foods. i’m grateful that the wild critters in our neighborhood have a fighting chance.

and i swear that peter, gazing at us from the fencepost, seemingly waiting for buffet hours to open below him, telepathically said thank you.

*****

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NURTURE ME from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 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


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fluid. with wings. [k.s. friday]

“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)

“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)

i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.

there is nothing to do now but wait.

my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.

there is nothing to do but wait.

sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.

there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.

and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.

there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.

i’ve written here about transition before. and again. and again. and i suspect i will yet again.

because life, i am learning over and over, is one transition after another. fluid. with wings.

*****

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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i struck gold. [k.s. friday]

once upon a time, a long long time ago in a faraway place, something happened. and then, there was A Rift, chasm-like and mysterious to those who followed. members of a family – my family – got hurt and angry and argued and dissed each other and cut off communication. no one really remembers the details but it must have been of gigantic proportion because decades have passed and relationships never regained their footing.

and then.

in the aftermath of breaking both my wrists last year, in the beginning of this global pandemic, in a time of upending change, i decided that life was too short for something i really could not remember, for something that had nothing to do with me, for something that represents tear-down instead of build-up. i started to research.

now, with google and all manners of social media, it doesn’t take a private investigator type to find people these days. it was not very hard.

and suddenly, my long-lost first cousins were there. in a tiny family tree, it is hugely significant to find first cousins, part of the constellation. sadly, two of them had passed, though there is open opportunity to be in touch with their families. and, miracle of miracles, the one remaining elder in the family from either side – my mom’s or my dad’s – in that age bracket and generation – my aunt – at almost-99-now – was alive and well. this woman who grew up with my father, who could tell me stories of my daddy when he was little-little, was still on this planet and i had had no idea.

i reached out.

just because i don’t remember, nor care, about The Great Rift didn’t mean that others felt the same way. so i was concerned and had some trepidation. but i was determined to try. for five decades i had lost the opportunity to know these people, my relatives. i had lost the chance to spend time with them, get to know them, laugh and cry with them, love them. i had lost over fifty years of relationship, over fifty years of connection. and that loss, something i’ve thought about on and off for these decades, was worth the risk. there’s way too much of that. loss.

they reached back.

and they didn’t just reach back. they reached back with joy. it was amazing to message and talk with cousin tony and cousin linda. it was thrilling to re-connect, my cousin tony laughing when i asked him to tell me everything, from every day, starting from 1970 or so.

in the middle of a pandemic, it is impossible to have the chance to go and (re)meet them yet, but we have our sights set on it for whenever it is safe. a chance to hug my aunt helen will be a chance to hug my dad once again. a chance to laugh heartily with my cousins and their children will be a chance to touch the heart of budding relationships, to touch dna.

though we have been connected despite our disconnectedness, it is a celebration for me to re-connect the dots. at a time when really nothing is more important than relationships, it is not time to be circumspect about connection. we are related! my cousin linda wrote words of promise i hold dear, “i can’t wait for the day when we just pick up the phone and just call each other without having to think about it.” yes. and cousin tony’s words ring true for me, “let’s not lose this connection again.”

Great Rifts seem to be prevalent. especially in these times of divisiveness. as i think about all the tragedies of even just the last months, i wonder what could be so important, so utterly pivotal, that could destroy connection. there is no doubt. we could exist somewhat without others, without ties. but connectedness feeds us and our souls in ways that nothing else can.

my sweet momma used to remind me of the girl scout song, “make new friends but keep the old. one is silver and the other’s gold.”

connected.

grateful.

i struck gold.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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peeled back. [k.s. friday]

time continues to peel back the layers. barney is vulnerable and is, thus, exposed.

artistry is like that. we share our vulnerabilities. we write, we paint, we compose, we lyricize – we peel back the outer shroud of mystery to reveal that which is inside. we take chances at judgement, at others’ opinions, at evaluation. we are exposed. and time goes on. winter turns to spring which turns to summer and then fall. the seasons take their toll; the seasons enrich us. both.

the first album i released felt earth-shaking. the notes – white and black keys tumbling from deep within – flew out into the world on a piece of polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic. what could be a coaster contained fifteen deeply-excavated emotions, musings each released into the light. exposed. the scraps of paper that gave birth to these were soon filed in a binder with invoices and order forms, designs and ups tracking numbers. one season. one album. done.

each original album since is no less an exposé. each still holds pieces of me, permission by me to be peeled back. a little less scary than the first but still risk-taking. vulnerability does not recede from the sandy beach as the big waves come and go. but it stands a little more stoic, with a little more sisu. the albums, like seasons, arrive when it is time. and they, in some way that albums might, tremble with anticipation and that tiny bit of fear that remains, even after many layers have been peeled. soon there will be no more black and white at all.

now i wonder if i will need shrink-wrap again. i wonder about recording. and i don’t know. yet. i do find that i am thinking of wooden stages and boom mics. i also find that i am thinking that all this writing – these written words on the page – have been feeding me and that hunger for polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic.

each day, barney and i age. the veneer blisters and the shell reveals our hearts. we are both emotional, barney and i. we are conscious of our craggier look, the wrinkles and the age spots. though we wonder about how we resonate with the rest of the universe-out-there, we take the dusty road together anyway and we hold hands, vulnerable together. though laminate no longer hides our souls, we are standing in the sun this season, new growth springing up.

*****

that first album – 1995

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someday?


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through it. [k.s. friday]

it comes in stages. there is no easy route to the other side. just through.

the unexpected snow – after most had melted – though, indeed, a beautiful blanket of quiet – was also a stark and cold reminder that winter was not done. somehow it was a reminder of people gone, of the lack of interaction with others, a reminder of the invisible fence between us all, somewhat devoid of color and warmth. the pandemic we are living through has provided us with historic missing. so much lostness. someone asked me yesterday if i had had a vaccine. when i replied yes, she asked me why, then, was i wearing a mask. i stared at her above the piece of cloth i, like many of you, have diligently worn everywhere for about a year and replied that having a vaccine doesn’t abdicate me from responsibility. it is my job as a decent human being to continue to do my part – not just until i am vaccinated, but until the country is on track and there is little chance of others becoming ill because i, or anyone, was negligent. not wearing a mask herself though not vaccinated, she replied angrily that it wasn’t fair, that i shouldn’t have to wear a mask. i withheld the retort that quickly sprang to my lips and instead just said that this is hard. we are all lost together and foundness will be somewhere on the other side of all we have missed, somewhere in the spring of healing, in whatever season that falls.

when the tradesmen installed the patio, they carefully and artfully chose pieces to fit together. they slowly and tediously laid out a spot in our backyard where we could sit and sip wine in adirondack chairs, where we could hang our hammock, where we could build a bonfire late at night and dream dreams in the fireflies of sparks it sent out. the snow crystallizing on the rock accentuated the spaces between the pieces. though clearly defined as edges, it reminded me that all these pieces do fit together, perhaps nothing is really missing. every emotion – lostness and foundness and all inbetween, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, the title of which, were there to be a box that would contain all the cardboard pieces, might read ‘life is like this’.

up against a pile of pillows, i sat in bed with coffee a few days after we lost babycat. with sadness and unwilling to greet the new day, i hadn’t yet opened the miniblinds. yet in the window to the east, the sun was insistent. it found its way through the tiny cracks between the blinds, the tiny holes that hold the string, as if urging me to open-open-open up. it didn’t change my missing when i opened them. i still missed babycat. i still missed all sense of normal. i still missed my children-all-grown-up, my parents-in-another-dimension, my family-far-apart, my friends-separated-by-covid-responsibility. i missed security and good work well done. i missed laughing and all things carefree.

but, in opening the blinds, i did not have to miss the sun and i stood in its warmth streaming in, looking at the spot on the bed where babycat would have laid in the soft rays from the window. and i realized that in yearning for all that on the other side i would have no choice but to go through it all, all the stages, snow, crystal flakes, sun and all.

*****

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MISSING from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood