reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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layer upon layer. [two artists tuesday]

peeled back from the tree trunk, the bark first reminded me of the colosseum in rome…that one tall section rising above the rest. it is also sadly reminiscent of one of the devastating iconic images of 9/11, a piece of building at ground zero, standing through absolute destruction.

at a different time, in different circumstances, in a small forest in northern illinois, this gorgeous bark in the woods has remained steadfastly in place for several weeks, holding on to the tree at its base and, yet, yielding to nature bending back, back.

i wondered about the peeling. if this is a sycamore tree, this exfoliating is natural, even a charming characteristic. if this is an oak, it can be a sign of an unhealthy tree, unless there is new bark underneath, waiting.

i don’t suppose that is much unlike all of us. peeling back the layers…as we lose each layer, we are vulnerable to the elements, unprepared peeling exposing us to harm. we can more easily share – layer by layer – if we know we are out of harm’s way to do so. we can more readily divulge – layer by layer – if we know that we will not be pummeled. we can more assertively process – layer by layer – if we know we are not at risk of stress, infection, infestation. we can, if we trust we are safe.

decades of life have a way of peeling the outer bark. time may soften the edges; time may bring cycles of raw learning…those moments we speak truth, we take chances, we jump…moments of transition.

the colosseum is over 1900 years old. sycamores live somewhere between 200 and 300 years. oak trees can live from 80 to 500 years, though there are varieties with a much longer life span.

we humans have less time on this good earth, less time to grow to maturity, less time for our structure to weather the storms, less time to lose our bark, less time to peel back to our essence. it would seem prudent to offer each other the room, the space, the shelter to exfoliate.

oak trees develop from the inside out, as do pine and maple. the older bark chips away on the outside making room for new bark. it take some trees till the time of their full maturity to exfoliate their outer skin.

obviously, trees are people too.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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home sweet home. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“get outside.” “expand the confines of your life.” “surround yourself with beauty.” the youtube backpackers wander women kristy, annette and lynn have mantras displayed at the end of their videos. we somehow stumbled upon them; likely it was because they are currently hiking the pacific crest trail and they looked to be somewhere around our age. we have watched joey coconato backpack an inordinate number of times, and we know that we cannot be joey. we can’t even be joey-like. twenty years younger than us, he is stronger and bolder and with a vast amount of experience. the wander women, though also with decades of trail-savvy, made the trail look more accessible to us.

i have been moved by them. a few years ago they talked about what they wanted in life, made a plan and deliberately went about executing their plan. they sold houses, bought a diesel pickup and an rv and started living an itinerant lifestyle that suits their mantras. they are intrepid. one foot in front of another they have ticked off many of the big thru-hikes that linger on the edges of other people’s bucket lists. and, though we have watched them in question and answer videos and in gear videos and on various trails, right now we are following their progress on the pct. amazing. “home is where you are,” annette says, in answer to a question about how they feel about living in an rv and hiking. “you bring home with you,” she explains, totally secure and happy. they are a joy to watch.

most times we pull into the driveway – arriving from anywhere whatsoever – i say, “hello, sweet house.” it matters not how long or how briefly we have been gone; i am happy to be back and i guess i want our house to know it. animating a house is not likely on the restrained-unemotional-dispassionate-disconnected-unsentimental-apathetic spectrum but then i am pretty much an antonym-icon for all that. and i love our home.

that doesn’t mean i couldn’t love another home. i fall in love every time we are in the colorado mountains. i wish i owned most of the airbnb’s we have rented, so incredibly at home we have felt in them. i fell in love with the littlehouse on washington island; it was magical and we instantly bonded. we visited a tiny town in north carolina’s smoky mountains and thought, “we could live here.” we pined over a general store for sale in a tiny town in vermont, a place we could see ourselves hang our hats. my sister’s house, my nieces’ houses, all bring a sense of security and love. each one conjures up comfort. the up-north cabin for the up-north gang is a place of tranquility and laughter. 20’s condo is a place of serenity. friends have homes that are tranquilizing, soft places for our visits.

kristy and annette and lynn carry backpacks with less than 25 pounds of weight: their tents, clothing, food, water, supplies. that makes long-distance hiking sound more doable. “be bold” “challenge yourself” “create your life” they state at the end of another video. these are not empty words, not do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do words. they are living life in just this way. home sweet home for them is most undeniably inside them wherever they go.

the woodpecker who pecked out its house in this tree was just as fearless. undaunted by the size of the fallen log, it did what it knew – it created home. just watching a woodpecker create his own digs makes rv-living or driving up our driveway look like a breeze. i imagine that as the seasons change and life and time move on, there will be other trees in other forests, other home-holes, other places to nest, other welcome mats for this indomitable bird.

at a time when redefining is imminent, i look in the mirror and start to sketch out a plan, start to dream, to re-create life. it’s all amorphous right now, but our happy house – home, sweet home – cheers me on.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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whittled. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we all travel the milky way together, trees and men.” (john muir)

the pandemic rages on, wreaking destruction; after 800 years, jupiter and saturn line up in the sky. and i cannot wrap my head around the absolute-insignificant-significance of each of us. in this moment, on this piece of earth, under this sky, we whirl through space and time, reaching out to grasp onto bits of life – merely air – and make a dent in the atmosphere where we stand.

2020 has been a year of whittling. it has whittled away at our safety. it has whittled away at our health. it has whittled away the physical companionship of our loved ones. it has whittled away relationships, through political divide, social justice mores, the pursuit of personal freedoms over community. it has whittled away trust, heaving it to the side as we watch, astonished, as untruths, gaslighting, even propaganda surround us both under the cloak of country and up close and personal. it has whittled away the security of our finances, our work suspended. it has whittled away at our shock gauge; each time thinking there has been enough and being surprised by yet more, the baseline of dismay ever-changing. it has whittled away the convergence of reality and logic and it has left confusion in its place; it has paralyzed us and it has frightened us. it has whittled away what we understand.

and yet, the trees stand steadfast. they continue to reach for the sun, arms held out to the light. they neither seek to understand as they grow nor question the storms that have battered them. they just are. their place in the milky way dents the atmosphere a tiny bit, just as ours does. we travel, in various rotational directions, hundreds of thousands miles per hour along with the trees. all of us, together.

“you are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann, “desiderata”)

*****

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


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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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their palettes website box

 


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beyond the jetty. [two artists tuesday]

ferry

i wasn’t sure how it would feel to stay in the car on the ferry.  i was leery of the windy, rainy day and how that would play into how rough the crossing could be.  i’m not fond of motion-sickness taking over my day, so i was prepared…bonine: check, motion bands: check, ginger chews: check, water: check, salty chips: check, window open: check.   i was ready.  but still leery.

in the small harbor it was calm, despite the wind.  but out there, beyond the jetty…

when people want to impart words of wisdom about motion sickness, they tell you to keep your eyes on the horizon.   these words are partially true; keeping your eyes inside the vehicle or plane or boat doesn’t do you any favors.  but there’s more to it.  and i was worried about out there, beyond the jetty.

we so often stay protected, inside the harbor.  predictability and security are seeming keys to our happiness.  they are the indicators of serenity.  we venture on small protected side trips, curious to see what we might find.

i am guilty of this as well.  a homebody in many ways, i love the safety of the familiar harbor, the one near and dear to me.  beyond the jetty is unknown, maybe rough waters, maybe difficult to traverse.

but it occurs to me that beyond the jetty it might be calm as well or perhaps more navigable than i thought.  serenity doesn’t stay put in the harbor.  it comes with us.  out there, beyond the jetty.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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things of comfort. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

duke's painting copy

painting by DUKE

“the finnish wood carvings, ” my sweet momma would answer when asked what she wanted in her little assisted living apartment, a place she would occupy without my dad, some time after he died.  those finely carved statues accompanied her from new york to florida, house to house, and, finally to her small apartment.  she cherished them and spent long hours deciding to whom she would give each one.  the list in many notebooks and on many scraps of paper showed that she pondered each recipient’s personality and interests before deciding on a gift choice; these wood carvings were important and each was later given with decades of love.  placed on an equally significant-to-her live-edge wooden shelf in her tiny living room, they seemed to represent comfort to her, something that spanned the years, something that, in their familiarity, gave her a sense of security.  a piece of what-had-been-home in this new home.

when you walked down the hall in eileen and duke’s home, just in front of you before you turned in to their master bedroom was this painting.  duke was an amazing artist, a painter and sculptor with an enormous collection of work.  when we were helping 20 move his momma eileen into her assisted living apartment a few weeks ago, this painting beckoned me as something that might be a familiar sight in her new unfamiliar home.  as we placed other artwork on the wall, i kept thinking about this painting that we had left in their home and i nagged 20 about it.  i felt it could be placed so that the moment that eileen stepped into her new bedroom it would be ahead of her, before she turned to head to her bed.  jogging her memory of the home she and duke had made together, a touch of comfort for her.  20 picked it up later that night and the day his momma moved in we hung the painting.  this sunny, but somewhat austere space, suddenly was lifted to a different level.  the photographs of duke and eileen in the kitchen, the familiar prints in the living room, this painting in the bedroom.  all touchstones from home in this new home.

there are certain things i like to have around me.  things that even in times of uncertainty give me a sense of footing.  were i to pare down there are items that would definitely make the cut, unlikely choices maybe, but things that bring me solace, things that alleviate angst, things that gladden my heart.  what are yours?

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

hands website box copy

 


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in the storm.

sometimes – in this world – there are really no words.  this is one of those times.

instead, there are images, sounds, visceral emotional responses, reassurances and reminders…

i walked down the stairs into the studio.  david had just finished this painting.

it is called “i will hold you in the storm” and it is the image, the sound, the visceral emotional response, reassurance, and reminder in my day of this time.

thank you, d, for making me weep.I will hold you

 


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there are angels all around you.

angelsallaroundyoujpeg“there are angels all around you,” pete said. he said this a few years ago now and it has stuck with me like glue. it was snowing – fiercely – and i had chosen to go drive in it with my inordinately-low-to-the-ground little xb. maybe not a terribly smart decision, but i needed to purchase a special gift and overnight it, so i left home determined to get to the little shop called ‘peacetree’ and find the perfect present. i took wrapping paper, a card, tape, scissors and a fedex envelope with me, in an effort to be organized and confuse the universe with my illogical logic.

having found and wrapped the perfect gift at the shop, i looked outside the big front window and saw that, not only had inches of snow piled up in my short time there, but the plows had gone by, encircling my little scion with drifts. i looked at pete, wrinkled my face in worry and said, “uh-oh…this should be an interesting drive home.” he looked back at me, his eyes kind and clear, and said, “there are angels all around you.” there were several moments of silence between us and then he said, “really.”

my husband just wrote a beautiful post about the angels all around us…the ones who help us, cajole us, take care of us, leave us favorite groceries on our front steps for when we return home from a difficult trip, make us soup, drop off a bottle of wine, bring us brownies….people in our everyday lives who make things easier. we all have them. sometimes we appreciate them a lot, sometimes we have no idea how life would be without them. they are indeed angels and life is better simply by their being in our lives. angels all around us. i was moved when the girl told me about someone she bought a sandwich and water for outside a convenience store…he was a veteran and she felt like she was drawn to helping him by her pa, my dad and a WWII ex-pow. with not much at all to spare, she was an angel for this man, who needed help. yes, angels all around us. ones we know, ones we don’t know.

and then there are the angels that i believe pete was talking about. the ones we can’t see. the ones who are present with us, but just on the other side. how many times have you felt the presence of someone you love who is no longer on this plane of existence? truth be told, i rely on that. i talk to my sweet momma, i tell my daddy stories. i ask my big brother to help me out, to give me clear, precise thinking, as he had. i’ve seen evidence of them, trying to get my attention…my “coincidental” noticing of the big semi on the highway going the opposite direction with the words “WAYNE WAYNE WAYNE” written across it…the two cardinals repeatedly swooping in the backyard over the deck, in moments i am missing my parents desperately…the intervention i can’t explain in an accident that could have proven to be tragic…the slight smell of cologne or perfume in the air…the can falling off the shelf in the green room beside the stage on the last take of the last song (called “divine intervention”) of my very first album (the-best-producer-on-the-planet-ken and i left this sound in the recording, feeling it an important message)…

i’m not sure we can seek these angels out.   as much as i’d like, i can’t just call them up. but i do know that they are there. and that blizzarding day i was out in the snow and got stuck by the fedex box, there is no explanation as to why i was able to just – all-of-a-sudden – drive out of the enormous drift into which i had slid. pete was right. pete is right.

occasionally, i see pete out and about in town. one of these times i will stop and tell him how much it meant to me that he said that. undoubtedly he won’t remember. but me? i will never forget. there are angels all around me. and yes, there are angels all around you.

kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood

angel you are: track 10 on AS SURE AS THE SUN

there are angels all around you – prints/mugs/pillows/cards