reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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stuff happens. [k.s. friday]

“step confidently,” the stio catalog reads. there is an ad for boots – winter boots – and gorgeous pictures of snowfall and mountains and terrain where confidence could be challenged. we were just talking with 20 about those yaktrax you strap on your shoes to instill a bit of chutzpah as you walk on icy trails. anything to keep us outside. cause stuff happens.

yes. stuff happens.

and it happens fast. without warning.

a couple days ago i was walking from the kitchen to the sunroom – sans yaktrax – to let the dog inside. holiday music was playing and i was busy thinking about my next task as i approached the step down to the tile floor by the back door. i did a little math. i’ve successfully navigated this step – only one – at the very least – one-hundred-twenty-two-thousand times. but, somehow, and i have no idea how, i missed the step and fell flat – kerplunk-kind-of-flat-like-in-cartoons – on my knee. the one time i didn’t reach out my hands to stop myself – i guess those two other falls taught me something – but my knee took the entire brunt of the trip-fall.

i’m not sure the first thing out of my mouth was pretty or anything i’d be proud to mention here. my reaction – as i laid on the cold floor – was incredulous, thinking i was running out of appendages, wondering what vortex in the universe we had fallen into or if mercury was in retrograde or just what was happening here.

the xray technician told me that’s why it’s called an accident – because there is no real reason, but i was about as amused by that as other people to whom i have said those words. no real reason. she said, “stuff just happens!” uh-huh.

the nurse practitioner at the urgent care told me she concurred with the radiologist and – thank goodness – there was no fracture. geesh. she said a few days and we’ll see how it goes.

patience is now in order. time to spend with my knee horizontal doesn’t fall under “my favorite things” column. i’ll be hobbling around and sitting and trying to get things done, in a slew of time i can only label as “fraught”.

and i’ll be trying to figure it all out.

*****

FIGURE IT OUT ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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it’s in our vote. [k.s. friday]

the midterms are rapidly approaching. the rhetoric is amping up. the tv ads, the phone calls, the billboards, the texts, the email messages, the political mail in the mailbox – all dedicated to sway our vote.

i realize that this is the way to raise money, that this is the way to get one party ahead of the other. many voters will elect to vote a straight party ballot. some will vote without asking any questions. some will vote without any information at all. some will vote for vapid minds, choosing the rough edges of spewed anger, covert scheming. they are voting on a bandwagon – with truth obscured – and haven’t looked past the exterior of the candidates.

i was chatting quite some time ago with a college professor. he was teaching a class three days a week and was talking about his experiences. “anybody can be brilliant for an hour and a half,” he quipped. i laughed, thinking how true that is.

but it’s the long haul that counts. it’s what’s at the crux that counts. i wonder what is in the center of what motivates the candidates we are considering. what is past the exterior, what are the things they affirm, believe in, wish to move forward?

anyone can look pious, even righteous, in brevity, for short spurts of time. but these same pedestalized people can bring to the table masked and unmasked agenda that is riddled with inequality, marginalization, discrimination, divisiveness, violence, a thwarting of social, racial, gender, financial equity all under the auspices of brilliance. it is our responsibility to peel back the layers, to poke through the season-of-midterm blahblah, to examine the intentions, the integrity, of the people we choose – truly, in every arena – to represent us.

how these people manifest in their communication, their compassion, their fairness, their steadfast evenhandedness, their actual brilliance – not the hourandahalf variety – should tell us something important. if a person does not represent the values we uphold ourselves, the ones we would lay out to each and every one of those we love, why would we elect that person to represent us, to reflect us? if our vote was revealed to our loved ones, our children, our family, friends, community, colleagues, would we take comfort, would we have pride, in what was revealed?

for it is in our vote that we truly show what is beyond the exterior. it is in our vote that we truly show what is in our heart.

*****

FIGURE IT OUT ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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stretching, not ripping. [k.s. friday]

the threads are stretching, stretching…but not ripping.

barney stretches and yawns, still a piano, always a piano. his soul – tenacious and flexible and resilient – centering back to itself, despite weather, despite weathering. it’s late day and the shadows are long. there are small mounds of birdseed, assorted fallen leaves, bits of white at the leading edge of the keyboard. no matter. his aging exterior belies the zeal inside of him, the sorting of memories being played, sustain pedal lifting notes into the air and holding them there. barney has come to knowing that all the notes are still there – stretched across the atmosphere, lingering. he is not fearful of this process in the sun and the rain, snow and blustering winds.

“if you let your fears control your actions, then you are not going 100 mph through it, enjoying it.” (sue aikens)

barney does little these days. he is home for wildlife, the birds, the chippies, the squirrels – they know him well. but he is still going 100 mph through it, whirling and dancing in his beautiful body in our backyard. one day he will look even less like an upright.

but the chickadees and house finches, the cardinals and robins will glance over at him and think, “there’s that sweet piano.” for they, too, will still recognize him.

*****

HOLDING ON, LETTING GO ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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not as they appear. [k.s. friday]

described as “too vigorous”, creeping bellflower, gorgeous purple flowers and all, is considered noxious and invasive. i know people like that.

as a matter of fact, the other day while we were strolling along the lakefront, we passed someone i know who is quite bellflowerish. without hesitation, i immediately began an animated conversation with david, complete with hand gestures and enthusiastic arm movements, my face intent on his as i told him the non-story and he stared at me, knowingly.

there are just some people who are best avoided.

had we stopped, even to exchange pleasantries, the conversation would have shifted to mining. this person mines for details, details, details, for gossip, for information. too vigorous, noxious and invasive, masked by curiosity and feigned intense interest, this person has always been a miner. avoidance is best, just like creeping bellflower. it looks lovely and inviting, beautiful purple flowers standing tall, but it will reseed – your newsy news – and spread it all out in gardens near and far, your personal story strewn all over, regardless of soil, aggressively spread like a weed.

the most robust plant can produce up to 15,000 seeds annually and self-sow in the wind. bellflower can overwhelm other, less aggressive, plants as they strive to co-exist. they are tough to eradicate in a gentle garden.

beware. creeping bellflowers will run over you and your garden.

sometimes, flowers are not as they appear.

*****

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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just like toadshade. [k.s. friday]

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

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

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

*****

PULLING WEEDS

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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desi is messy. too. [k.s. friday]

because we see desi every day, it is hard to notice its growth. she is likely changed at every sunrise streaming through the window behind her, yet we can’t see it. we’re too close, sitting at the table with her every day; the changes are imperceptible.

desi is a tiny pine tree, an evergreen whose genus and species are unknown. maybe a white pine, we wonder; she’s a messy little thing. her tiny branches are not orderly; she has a bit of wild-troll or kramer-esque (“seinfeld”) hair-branches going on. but her trunk has gone from a tiny needle stalk to something a bit more solid, a bit more grounded.

we talk to desi, just as we talk to all our plants. they each have a name (plants are people too). and, though i haven’t checked on each plant’s tolerance for this, i touch each one. we talk about the sun and the spring ever-coming and their stoic thriving through the winter. i tell them i can see their growth, for i cannot imagine any one or thing not liking positive reinforcement.

yesterday, in mid-basement-clean, i called up to david in his office. i asked him if he could take just a couple minutes to come downstairs and see my progress. i told him i could use the positive reinforcement. plus, if he didn’t look at the progress along the way, he would likely not realize what it took to get there.

it will take tons more time. i have so much to go through…more than thirty years of accumulation. it’s been an ongoing project. but the space i cleared in the workroom yesterday was significant and, if you looked, you could see the change.

some clearing out will not look like much. there will be boxes or bins that i will go through and things will get messier before they get cleaner. it will be hard to discern what i’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild down there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

not unlike the stuff going on inside. we can’t really see that growth either. we sit at the table with ourselves every single day. one day someone tells us we seem lighter, a good trend. positive – and negative – changes, both worthy of our attention, both glimpses into direction we choose to travel, the way we want to be in the world, how we want to ground, how we want to grow.

clearing out – on the inside – does not look like much. things get messier before they get cleaner and it is hard to discern what we’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild in there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

desi nods her wild-hair-branch head.

*****

taking stock

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the stock pot. [two artists tuesday]

i have kind of a wild-harebrained-dream.

in my wild-harebrained-dream we own a food truck called “and sauce.” and we drive around the country in big red pulling our food truck and selling sauce on pretty-much-anything.

i blame the whole30. or credit the whole30. i suppose there’s a difference between blaming and crediting.

the whole30 is a diet for 30 days (clever, eh?) during which you only eat whole foods and do not eat any: grains, legumes, dairy, added sugars, alcohol. you pare down your menus to fresh vegetables and meats and seafood and, after 30 days, deliberately add things back in to see how your body and digestive system react to various ingredients. it was back in early 2018 and it truly helped me get a tummy that was having a rebellion under control.

in many ways, it kind of stuck.

one of our staples was my homemade tomato meat sauce. but, at the time, we could not have it over pasta – regular or gluten-free. so we had it over spaghetti squash, which was, surprisingly, amazing. then we had it over oven-roasted chopped sweet potatoes. then we had it over roasted brussels sprouts. and over a hamburger. and over a baked potato. when we could add gluten-free products back in, we had sauce over penne, over rotini, wrapped in corn tortillas. sauce, we had discovered, is good on pretty much anything.

and the ideas were born. “and sauce”, the cafe, the food truck, the home delivery service. with the entrance of the pandemic, the food truck seemed like an apt adventure. i mean, who needs to even think about pianos and stages when you can travel around with stock pots and a food truck?

perhaps i am romanticizing this a tad bit, but, since this is my dream and not my reality, i am giving myself grace to daydream.

in those moments where comfort is sought and food that soothes the soul is paramount, we turn to the stock pot, to sauce or soup. the biggest pot comes out, the apron goes on (i adore over-the-head aprons), the cutting boards sit on the counter and life instantly slows down.

chopping and measuring (sort of) and sauteing and stirring with the giant wooden spoon from finland and sampling…it’s all heaven. there is not much that smells better than onions and garlic being sauted in olive oil. (though i recently read how you could re-create the williams sonoma store scent, which is very popular, by simply simmering vanilla extract, rosemary, lemon and peppercorns.)

just walking into the kitchen and seeing the stock pot on the stove is a reassurance. whether there is sauce in that stock pot or veggie soup or – drumroll – my sweet momma’s chicken soup (with the addition of spinach leaves and shredded parmesan, of course), it brings everything back into focus.

and as we ladle out sauce or soup into bowls or onto baked potatoes or penne, we, in turn, put worries and concerns and out-of-sorts-ness into the big pot. cause that’s actually the job of big stock pots. balancing out life.

*****

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to find TRUCKMEISTER – a really fabulous milwaukee-based food truck we had at our wedding, please click here. i might have used a photo of their truck for my rough-hewn AND SAUCE food truck pic. lol.

TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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water and grace. [k.s. friday]

it’s a mystery.  grace.  it falls on us like morning dew, each and every day.  we rise, buoyant or troubled, joyous or grieving, in clarity or murky, in the light or in the dark. we step into next, knowing we have yet another chance. (nov. 22, 2019)

we live within the grasp of lake michigan. we can feel its power, its potency, its glassy peace, its lostness when fog envelops the horizon line and any sense of direction is blurred. the water draws us to it. it is a magnet, especially on blurry days.

things feel a little blurry right now. people all across the globe are struggling, with a wide spectrum of sickness, of loss, with devastating blows to their lives, their families, their homes, their towns, their countries, causes too many to list. blurry and disoriented and lost. existential questions beckon. yet answers are elusive.

there is something about staring at water. taking us out of the moment. each iridescent drop of water lapping at the shore, the mountain stream in the woods, the ocean waves breaking, the jets of water in the park, the pond in the backyard, the tiny fountain in the sunroom. even in our own blurry it reaches us. water. granting a little peace, a little grace.

i just got a card in the mail from one of my beloved nieces. she wrote, “one day it will all fall into place.”

i suppose grace really is like that. mysterious and ubiquitous. it falls on us. like a new day. unexpected and welcome. like a card in the mail. like a surprise text or an unexpected call. it rains down on us and gently re-directs us into next.

we are aware of how often water has shown up in our last year. not peaceful water that we passively have looked at, admiringly. instead, water that demands our participation. water pouring into the basement from a suddenly-broken pipe gasket. water dripping under the sink. water leaking out of the freezer-bottom-fridge, ice having formed from some drainline issue. water coming up from the storm drains downstairs after a heavy rain. water squirting all over from a suddenly broken shower head.

each time water has taken us out of the moment and propelled us into a different moment, in reality, a series of different moments…hours, even days. instead of being where we were, we were cast into roles working together sopping up, plugging the hole, rube-goldberging the fix, figuring out how to deal with the issue at hand and still maintain a sense of humor.

were i to think the universe was watching our every move, i might suggest that these occurred during times of blurry bleary-eyed-ness when perhaps a little re-direction was a good thing. water that washed us past that very time into next. it forced the change in our focus. gave a little clarity when unmoored seemed the the theme. helped us remember that all will fall into place. grace.

neil degrasse tyson said, “where there is water on earth, you find life as we know it.”

perhaps we also find grace.

GRACE from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

*****

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GRACE ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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22″ of fire-bliss. [k.s. friday]

i imagined just that. staring at the flames flickering in the wind, taking in the perfect and imperfect of our lives. with the sun setting and the firepit column dancing, a rare quiet night in the neighborhood, it’s easy to lose yourself into the flicker.

the column just made its way into our backyard. it is not large. at merely 22″ it is portable and does not take up much room. there are not a lot of things i see while browsing that i lust over. this small tower-of-fire, however, was one of those things. it was not at a pricepoint i could justify, so i watched it.

sometimes when i watch items – or look at them time and again in a catalog – the yearning for that item goes away. as an artist, this is necessary, as buying whatever-suits-my-fancy is not reality. so it is convenient that my appetite for whatever-it-is is sated simply by looking at it over and over again. but the fire column didn’t fit under that category.

we don’t buy things willy-nilly these days. everything takes deliberation and an intention for the item’s use. and in my mind’s eye, i could see this firepit giving us countless hours of ambience on our deck – our sanctuary – the place we will spend most of our free time this summer. i started to give it some serious thought.

and then . . . there was a flash sale. thirty percent off. i stopped pondering, ordered it and picked it up at the store.

we really love it. funny how this tiny firepit elevated our space. we have surrounded ourselves with simple things out on the deck this year. inexpensive pillows – for the first time – on furniture that dates back and back, furniture that was handed-down, re-purposed, a wrought iron table and chair set i have painted time and again. an old door we pulled out of the basement storage room leans against the house next to a ficus we re-positioned from the sunroom. a couple old stepladders act as end tables. old barnwood and pipe hold our precious tomato and basil plants. there are a couple adirondack chairs on the patio and our wood-burning firepit; a chiminea is tucked over by the garage.

we read an article about a man who designed his outdoor space. it was pretty gorgeous. somewhere in the article the author shared the cost of this patio-deck-extravaganza: $550,000. five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars. seems slightly high to us; ours was just shy of that.

i seriously don’t know what we’d do if we had five-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollars to spend, but i’m guessing it wouldn’t be spending it on our outdoor space. though our grass isn’t perfect and the textures of our patio and pond and cement and stone pad don’t necessarily coordinate and dogdog has holes he loves to dig, we find this space brings us peace.

we gaze into the small flames of this tiny fire column and feel the darkness drop out of the sky around us. we are grateful for these moments of reflection, the moments when we see how perfect it all is, even in the midst of imperfection. we sit back, awash in the ahhh of having pillows behind our backs, watch the fireflies and a couple swooping bats, look at dogga laying quietly on the deck near us and take stock of our good fortune.

*****

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barney and the sunflower. [k.s. friday]

we moved the sunflower. it was on the deck for a few years now, rusting behind the aging wooden glider, tucked between the kitchen window and the bedroom window. it greeted us each day we left and came home. it watched over my girl as she house-sat during the summer, a couple ago now, when we were on island. she didn’t know it, but i had asked it to keep her comings and goings safe and each time she left and came back to smile good days upon her. it came home from a cedarburg festival with us, having called us over to ponder its purchase. we walked the length of the festival and talked about the sunflower. then we went back, after more debate than most probably make about purchases, and bought it. about two weeks ago we moved it. now its place is next to barney, surrounded by peonies and wild geranium and daylilies and snow on the mountain. it is happy there.

when you’ve lived somewhere for quite some time there are naturally places that you go that feel better than others. for me, there are places in this town that have immediate warm responses for me, places that have held me, places that are part of my cairns, places where i have dreamed and imagined, places where a community has meant the world to me. there are other places that conjure up memories i would rather forget with visceral responses i can actually feel; i generally stay away from those spots not wanting to relive moments of grief or poor judgement or anger or betrayal or grand disappointment. i have learned, though, that sometimes the best way to process those is to drive past, to acknowledge, to breathe deeply, to maybe weep. in the same way that actual places remind us, mementos from places we hold dear make it into our special boxes or find their way into our home like sticks accumulating in the walking stick vessel in our sitting room or rocks added to the stones around the pond. some mementos are bigger than others, like the sunflower from a gloriously sunny festival-going day in a town we adore browsing or the 5′ long driftwood from a long island beach that graces the mantel or the high mountain aspen branch wrapped in lights in the dining room. and then there’s barney. there’s no escaping this beautiful piano in our backyard, aging with us.

i’ve shared barney’s story before…how he escaped the junk man’s junkyard destination and, for a small price, came here to share life with us. from a basement boiler room to a place of honor near the pond in our tiny yard he sits and invites the company of beautiful plants, munching squirrels and cutie-pie chipmunks. yet he is a memento. and the place he came from is no longer a favorite place. instead, it is a place i now avoid, with emotions that elicit a physical response and a little vibration i can feel in my chest when i think about it. and so how do i avoid attaching these feelings to barney, i have wondered.

my growing-up piano is in our basement. movers moved it there many years ago, before there were walls in the stairwell. i wonder what will become of it if we ever move. it proudly holds art books and a small stereo and sits in david’s painting studio with a couple rocking chairs and his gorgeous old easel. i have thought about ways to repurpose it. and yet, it is so dear that it will, for right now, stay there just as it is, with music in its bench and the little index card on which is carefully printed in eight-year-old font “practice makes perfect”.

there is a piano of size in my studio. it sits at full stick, waiting patiently. i was in there yesterday and it whispered to me, but, for right then, i was consumed with the finishing of putting things away. there is still music to file, organ music still to go back into cabinets. i must decide what to do with the poster that hung on the choir room wall that reads, “if you ask me what i came into this world to do, i will tell you i came to live out loud” or the metal cut-out words “it’s all about music” or the white strands of happy lights that were woven around the blackboard that listed rehearsals and demonstrated strum patterns and had dates of parties for that well-loved community held at our house.

maybe once i decide what to do with all of it – including the emotional wreckage part – i will again sit at my piano. drive past, acknowledge, breathe deeply, weep. my piano is full of empathy i can feel and some day, soon i hope, i will be able to sit and play – in a studio cleaned and inviting with mementos of goodness and intentions of evolution. then i will walk out of the studio and down the hall, through the kitchen and the sunroom and outside onto the deck. and i will sit on the old settee and listen to the pond and the birds and watch the chipmunks scurry across the top of the old piano that shares space with the sunflower and a couple green-eyed metal birds.

in answers that have come with a few months of time, i have found that the piano-ness of barney has overcome the where-it’s-from-ness. the peeling back, the wrinkles, the embrace of its tiny community in our yard…these things have usurped the rest.

instead, barney and the sunflower together greet us upon leaving and greet us upon returning home. together, they both bring joy and reassurance to our backyard and they both smile good days upon us.

*****

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood