reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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off the trail we know. [k.s. friday]

each time the trail curves, i can imagine it. next.

but as weeks go, this one has been harder. we tried our best to be positive, to believe that the new bend in our road is not so fraught. but, the fact of the matter is that it is. fraught.

we are pretty tough. kind of scrappy. definitely frugal. well, most of the time. we have both been presented with lean times in our lives. even our life together has had its lean times. we always eat leftovers. we always repurpose things. we always turn the shampoo bottle upside down. we always keep the heat low. we haven’t bought a vehicle in sixteen years. in some unknown intuitive move for which we are now grateful, we put off the big chimney-fireplace project, necessary but ridiculously expensive. we haven’t flown in three years. we find sanctuary in a forest we know well. we know where the trail curves.

and each time the trail curves, i can imagine it.

as the sun glimmers on what-looks-like the other end, i think – this is just one day, one week, one time in our lives. tomorrow will dawn and it might be a completely different day, starting a completely different week, a completely different time in our lives. and we just don’t know. again.

we are now in a woods we do not recognize, on a path we can not anticipate. off the trail we know. anxiety hikes with us, as do worry, sadness and disappointment. we worked hard on our plan, but the best laid plans are laid down. and this week, as weeks go, this one has been harder.

the sun quivers through the trees in front of us, setting. we keep walking.

day is done, 
gone the sun, 
from the lake, 
from the hills, 
from the sky; 
all is well, 
safely rest, 
god is nigh.  

fading light 
dims the sight, 
and a star 
gems the sky, 
gleaming bright. 
from afar, 
drawing nigh, 
falls the night.

(taps - d. butterfield/unknown)

*****

IN TRANSITION ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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thongophone. in the park. [k.s. friday]

flipflops and pvc. a marriage!

a merger between old navy and, say, dupont could bring play to the whole wide world. stands of thongophones could be simply everywhere. i can see it…people gathering, favorite flipflops in hand, making music.

it was hard to resist the pull of this two-octaved structure. flipflops – the paddles provided – were chained to the wooden stand, laying on the ground, waiting. it was just a delicious invitation – “try me, try me,” it called. and then, channeling the group chicago, “thongophone, in the park…”.

pretty crazy, it had good pitch for polyvinyl chloride, not necessarily known for its musical talent. and the flipflops? well, everyone knows how i feel about flipflops. they are the symphony of summer, so definitely a good choice.

i, generally, don’t walk up to faux musical structures like this. i usually stand back and watch others discover and play, reveling in their adventuring and exploring sound.

but this time was different.

i played first on the lower octave side. for some reason, the first piece i played was the first piece on my first album, galena. the first day i played galena was also in one of those situations i don’t usually take part in…instead, sitting back and watching others and supporting their fun.

that time was different too.

that time – encouraged (read: pushed) by three girlfriends, playing at the piano in the restaurant in galena, illinois – set me on a road i didn’t know was coming. less than a year and a half later, i released my first album. now, fifteen albums and a variety of singles and blahblah later, i look back.

and i look forward. i’m not sure what’s there. but this past week i stood at my piano and played and sang three songs for d and one of his dear friends. it’s been a long time. i apologized for the dust in the studio. i apologized that it was a little messy in there. d said rob cried. despite the dust and remnants of previous work piled around.

by sheer coincidence, today is the anniversary of that first album – 27 years ago. lots of flipflops ago.

today is a good day for a dustcloth, some garbage bags and a storage bin or two.

it’s not a thongophone in the park. it’s my piano.

*****

GALENA ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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our chippies. [k.s. friday]

and even as we sat on the deck, the chippie ran to dogdog’s bowl. tiny paws on the top edge, he pulled himself up and ducked his head down into the metal dogbowl, getting a quick drink of water. moments later he scampered away, back toward the potting bench and access to the birdfeeder. it was a really sweet moment and pivoted our conversation to wondering and worrying about the wildlife in the searing temperatures.

i went inside and pulled out two shallow vessels, filling them both with cool water. placing one on the ground and the other on the potting stand, i announced to chipmunks et al that i would keep them filled and they didn’t have to risk life or limb drinking out of dogga’s bowl. we often see squirrels and birds taking tiny sips of the pond, but i’m all for offering them a cleaner water option.

in another pure bambi-movie moment, driving down a local more-forested road, a doe stood on the right-of-way. proudly she nursed a beautiful spotted fawn. i can hear the fawn, “but i’m hungry nowwwww” as she encouraged it to go just a few steps further so as to be out of sight, in the wood. but a mom does what a mom’s gotta do and she unabashedly stood fast, allowing us a gorgeous, heart-stirring view of nature doing nature. we were both moved. a profound moment in time, reminding us it’s not just us.

i reached out to touch the grasses by the old brick front wall and he was suddenly there. holding on to the brick, his tiny face looking at me, direct eye-to-eye contact. i whispered i would do nothing to hurt him, tiny chipmunk, and he zipped off, satisfied he was in no danger.

a few years ago, when we were way up north in ely on the boundary waters, there was this chipmunk we named “humpy” who, well, kind of obviously, had a hump on his back. each day he came right up to me, climbed in my lap and waited for peanuts. he’d stuff his little cheeks and run off to hide his stash and then he’d return to sit and climb on me until i relented and gave him more. each year since i’ve asked 20 if humpy was there again, but he hasn’t seen him. years have passed. these tiny creatures typically only live a couple years, which is probably why they live so zealously.

i suppose we would do well to mimic the sweetly-dedicated-nurturing-zealous-living of critters. never a moment to take for granted. always present in this ballet of life, doing the best they can with what they have. recognizing that simple interconnectivity matters, trusting that others will be compassionate and will have their best interests at heart.

yes. sounds good.

*****

SWEET BALLET from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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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