reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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e.e. [k.s. friday]

“…simple…elegant…splendid…” she wrote about the branch from the big old tree in our front yard, the branch we wrapped in lights and on which we hung a tin star. last year’s christmas tree. sometime after the holiday, we changed the tin star to a tin heart and kept it in the living room, in front of the big window.

i suppose it goes without saying – for anyone who knows us – that each of our christmas trees has a story. well, not just a story, but a full-fledged novel full of threads that wrap around them like $2.99 twinkly lights fresh out of the box. we’ve given meaning to the tiniest pine tree from the side of a trail, to the carcass of a tree behind our garage, to the branch that fell into our back yard, to a straight trunk-of-a-tree we lugged out of the woods, to a christmas-tree-on-a-stick.

this year, we were going to get a permit and go to a state forest to cut one down. only we didn’t.

20 was exasperated with the tree he had gotten his momma. the lights were all knotted – a titanic tangle – and the tree was disheveled. he put it in the box and bought her a new one, planning to toss the old one. we wanted a tree out back and figured we could make this messy tree into something worthy of the deck, so he brought it to us.

david spent time – lots of it – patiently untangling and cutting off the attached multi-colored light strands. then he attached the three pieces of tree, stacking them to see how it looked.

the tree – 6′ – stood limply, likely gasping from the trauma.

we decided to let it get some air and put it in the framed doorway between the living room and the dining room, where it could have a little space while we fluffed it a bit and decided about putting it on the deck.

only…

only, it started growing on us, this sweet little tree – just trying to be a loved-christmas-tree – stood there, quietly watching us and waiting for our decision.

we whispered to each other – about her – on the couch, so as not to offend the little tree. and time to time, we’d take turns stepping into the living room to gaze at it. to ponder.

and then he took four hundred lights and gently wrapped them around the little tree.

magic.

we stood back and knew.

i said, “let’s call it e.e.” not for ee cummings, though he would definitely get it – all our christmas trees through these years. but the little tree knows – inside, in its heart of hearts – his poem “little tree” word for word. e.e.

but the e.e. is for 20’s momma, her first and middle name initials. as she – at 99 – struggles a bit with her health these very days, we will honor her, hold space for her, with e.e.

the silver ornaments shine on e.e.’s branches. e.e. holds out her arms graciously. and those lights. and we are entranced.

little tree

little silent Christmas tree…

look          the spangles

that sleep all the year in a dark box

dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,

the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms

and i’ll give them all to you to hold

every finger shall have its ring

and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed

you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see

and how they’ll stare!

oh but you’ll be very proud

(excerpts from “little tree” – ee cummings)

*****

THE LIGHTS ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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unadorned. [d.r. thursday]

unadorned.

a water lily rises to sunlight. it is unaware of its astounding beauty, of the draw it has on us as we pass by. we turn the canoe around and attempt to get close, to take a photograph, without paddling over the pads. it is the arvo pärt in the lake…simple, exposed. were there to be music performed by this lily, i suspect it would be clear and distinct, though soft and warm, bell-like fragments of sound, minimal, arvo’s tintinnabuli.

it is never the fancily decorated that attracts me. it is never the overly done makeup-ed, the bejeweled, the gold-and-diamond-studded, the finery in attire, swanky or haute couture. it is never the ornamented, embellished singer, the bombastically orchestrated. it is never the heavy classical painting or big ornately carved furniture or heavy drapery.

it is the old piece of desk that holds a lamp and a few books. it is the small farm table in our sitting room. it is the driftwood on our mantle. the finches at the feeder. our little aspen in the yard. the chippie on the fence out the window. the look of new motherhood on my niece’s face. the framed notes from my children on the bedside table. the ceiling fan chain bracelet from my dad’s workbench. the jeans with holes. the sweatshirt hoodie sans one cuff. the old hiking boots and flipflops thinned by sidewalks.

it is the simple lone lily.

*****

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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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vine-climbing. [merely-a-thought monday]

the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.

“so, i wanna laugh when the laughing is easy.

i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.

i may never pass this way again,

that’s why i want it with you…”

(jim seals, dash crofts – we may never pass this way again)

just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.

because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.

and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.

our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.

i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.

good choice of song, jhghs.

“all the secrets in the universe

whisper in our ears

and all the years, they come and go

and take us up, always up…”

*****

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on the curb. [d.r. thursday]

you can put most anything at the curb and it will soon disappear. scrappers are on the prowl looking for metal and old appliances, big and small, things that might be repurposed, things that might be tinkered with and sold.

when i put out these three wrought-iron candlesticks i included a sign. i measured the heights and jotted them on the sign that indicated they were candlesticks. i was hoping someone who really wanted some taper holders to jaunt by and find them on our parkway. i didn’t want them to go to scrap.

david said that he saw the person pull up and examine the sign and the bag of candlesticks and that this person gently placed it in the back of his truck, so i’m crossing my fingers he brought them home and showed his partner, suggesting they eat by taper or relax in the evening to the glow of candles. i guess a girl can hope.

because we don’t generally do big giant things, we tend to celebrate the little stuff. this past friday evening was one of those times. right after he finished work, on an absolutely beautiful late afternoon, we got into littlebabyscion and drove south. as is our way, we took the backroads, arriving at the botanic garden, happy to see the parking lot meagerly parked.

we strolled through slowly, arm in arm, talking and quiet. we only had about an hour and a half till its close, but it was an hour and a half of lovely. it shushed our minds and its serenity was contagious.

we drove home the back way, through a few small towns with bistro tables on the sidewalks and people gathered, eating and sipping wine. we pondered stopping and having a bite outside, but continued home to make our own small meal and sip wine under happy lights in our sunroom with our dogga by our side. it was a peaceful way to start the weekend.

you don’t have to lift every little thing, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – a candle burning, a strand of happy lights, a quiet walk, sniffing peonies in a garden, admiring the wild columbine in the woods, stopping to watch a deer glide across someone’s front yard – these things matter.

you don’t have to be there for each other each moment, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – helping the other up off the floor after painting shoe moldings, bringing the other a steaming mug of coffee in a tired-time, clinking the day’s accomplishments, crying with the other’s pain – these things matter.

in one of her books, joyce maynard wrote, “when a person gave less, he required less in return.” i suppose life could be easier that way, more centric, simpler. one would not have to notice stuff or do much of anything for another. the give-and-take of relationship would be low-bar and that might work for some.

but time and life have taught me a few lessons, some much harder than others. one is that apathy and paying attention are absolute opposites, particularly in relationship.

we’re putting apathy on the curb.

*****

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thriving. [k.s. friday]

there was a jaguar suv parked in one of the bays when we went to pick up littlebabyscion at the shop. it was shiny black and had an aura of extravagance. i joked as we walked in that it was “practically identical” to our little xb. our beloved – and stellar – mechanic laughed and said, “nah! it’s just ridiculously expensive! fancy doesn’t make it better.” because this society assigns value to things that cost more, i probed a little further, comparing our very-basic vehicle to this one, and he answered, “the reason people buy these – and many other vehicles like it – is for other people to see them driving it. it says ‘i am successful’ to the world.” i laughed and rolled my eyes, joking about the level of success us driving our scion speaks to and he replied, “nope. doesn’t matter.”

“…only about 0.000002% of musicians become ‘successful’.” (one of many statistics found when googling the rate of success for musicians.)

now that is a bracing statistic. it would suggest that there are a heck of a lot of musicians out there – including me – driving un-fancy vehicles with odometers pushing 300,000 miles. it would suggest, too, that there are a lot of musicians out there whose egos are not benefitting from the sideshow and stroke of other people’s ‘that-person-is-successful’ thinking.

but we still keep on keeping on anyway.

successful (synonyms): prosperous. profitable. booming. fruitful. thriving.

the prosperous is evasive. the profitable is of-the-past now that streaming is the preferred mode of listening over purchasing cds or even paying for downloads. the booming has slumped. the fruitful is fallow, often barren, depending on levels of frustration over thinking you should have been a financial analyst, software engineer or investment broker. and the thriving? well, that’s another story.

thriving is growth and growth rays out from the center in an artist. up against a challenge, we seek a different route, a different way. it is not our nature to give up, though an independent artist’s odds of success are clearly stacked. we simply “cannot imagine leaving”. (todd skinner)

instead, we channel the creative energy that keeps stoking up, that keeps us going. we funnel it out into threads of let’s-try-this or let’s-learn-that. when we can’t perform, we play. when we can’t play, we compose. when we can’t compose, we write. we find rivers we can enter and we wade in. we take risks.

in recent days i have come to realize that i still have much to learn…much growing to embrace. there are always more questions than answers. creativity whispers, “do not limit your future by basing it on the past, projecting what you can do based on what you have done. your goal is to be not just better than you were, but as good as you can ultimately become.” (todd skinner)

true in every arena of life…artistry, physicality, emotional health, motherhood, in community. much to learn. always. thriving.

it’s a mystery how it all will turn out. how, in the end, we will be seen. whether we will be prosperous or have a profitable life. if we will have boomed or been fruitful. whether we will have driven a fancy-car, a workhorse old truck or a steadfast littlebabyscion and what that all means to the world watching.

what will really matter – to us artists, adapting in ever-changing light and in each season – is if we thrived.

*****

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tiny fountain. [two artists tuesday]

in 1969, when i was ten, i stood on the viewing deck and stared at a motionless niagara falls. they had turned the falls off, so to speak, building temporary cofferdams to divert the water from the american falls to the horseshoe falls on the canadian side. my parents had pitched the trip to me as something very few people would see – in comparison to those who have seen the falls with water. but as i stood there, gazing at a waterfall sans water, i had deep disappointment to not see the majesty of that landscape as it usually existed. the next time i went to niagara falls i was sixteen and there was water, glorious water, and the static electricity made my hair literally stand on end. it’s powerful watching waterfalls…powerful and meditative and inspiring. simply water. falling.

for years it sat motionless on a living room window seat. i suppose it, like the american falls, was waiting. “un-dam the coffers” (or just add water and plug it in), this little fountain was thinking. i would dust around it and wonder why i was holding onto it, my tiny 1969-niagara.

and then one day, a few weeks ago, i picked it up and took it outside to the deck to clean it up. i added water and plugged it in and watched it come back to life. instantly, its flow, a gentle trickle, spoke to me, reminiscent of standing in a cool woods next to a stream flowing just a bit downhill. i moved it inside to the sunroom, put it on the old table we have in the eastern window that catches rays of the sunrise, and plugged it in.

this little fountain’s presence, the sweet sound of water moving, is inescapably soothing. a simplicity, the element of emotion and wisdom, moving freely, continuously, a reminder of the fluidity of these days – the coming and going of change, gentle adaptability. all good as we sit near this tiny fountain full of big lessons.

*****

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the beauty of $2.99. [k.s. friday]

my sweet dad would buy my mom grocery store flowers often. she kept a vase on the table in the high ceiling-ed foyer near the front door in their last home together and flowers would welcome you as you entered. momma wasn’t really a red-rose-florist-delivery kind of gal. she was more a bundle-of-flowers, a miscellaneous-bunch, a day-old-flowers-sale woman, always so pleased with the simplicity of her own arrangements. now, don’t get me wrong, she was delighted to receive flowers that arrived on her doorstep, but those were not required of my poppo. instead, she reveled in the extraordinarily ordinary blooms they found at publix.

we went to the citymarket when we got to carbondale. needing to find lunch and some dinner items to bring to our airbnb we walked into a new store, inviting and with lots of light. it was in the produce section that i passed the display, advertising a clearance – merely $2.99 for cellophane-wrapped bundles beyond their recommended dates. the hypericum beckoned to me whispering a suggestion, “table centerpiece”. we travel with a small jelly jar and tea lights and i knew we could find something we could use as a vase in our place. as it turned out, it was a ball jar and, together, ball jar with berries and jelly jar with candlight paired on our table. it was time to embrace a precious stay in the high mountains.

scrolling through my photos, the pictures of the hypericum berries on our table easily bring back the moments we had with my daughter and her boyfriend. so much anticipation when a child lives far away and yet the time uncontrollably flies by and, today, i am reeling with wistful thoughts that just over one short week ago we had already been to and left those giant red rock mountains, the snow-capped mount sopris, a trail along the rio grande, horses down the road, dinners at the gathering table, laughter at the high counter in our sweet unit, a pedicure and a few errands with my girl. it would seem the stuff of songs and somewhere, deep inside, they are writing themselves.

we left the hypericum berries in our airbnb. still beautiful, it was a way to say thank you to our hosts. besides, they belonged there on a little slate plate in the middle of the table in a room filled with sunlight. promise for the next occupants, perhaps. a little gratitude left behind.

we aren’t frivolous. especially not these days. anyone who knows me knows that i am a slow decision-maker when it comes to purchases for myself. most places we go we try to find a couple cloth napkins to bring home with us. as we sit at our own table it is a way to remember other places we have sat, meals we have shared. we didn’t find any on this last trip but at the hardware store we discovered after our river-trail hike, we picked up two tin camp mugs for our coffee. they have mountains on them and will remind us of our time this trip.

i already miss my girl and wish i had run outside for one more hug – an extra – the morning she drove off. but she was in a hurry, i knew, and i know a mom-hug can get in the way. so i held back and just waved, trying to be nonchalant about the tears running down my face.

i returned back into the space we had lived in for those fewest of days and looked around at the now packed-up airbnb. my eye caught the sun-rays through the window lighting up the hypericum berries. and i whispered back to them, “thank you.”

*****

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favoritethings and bliss. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

dogdog never paid attention to the green and yellow toy. until babycat decided – suddenly and temporarily – that it was his favorite thing in the whole wide world. b-cat lay, with his face in the streaming sunlight, and held his new favoritething. he rubbed his face on it and you could see his smile. and his favoritething was happy being loved on having been ignored for long periods of time. since that day, he has gone back to ignoring it. but that day? it was the one simple route to his bliss.

dogdog now carries this toy around from time to time. you can tell he is trying to discern what it is that babycat found magical about it; he furrows his brow and lugs it from room to room, shaking it to and fro from time to time as if to wake it up, make the magic happen. he is wondering, “how do i make the bliss start?”

a million years ago i bought a little black book that was published by eddie bauer called ‘balance – a guide to life’s forgotten pleasures’. inside it stated, “this book won’t change your life. it won’t solve any of your deep-rooted psychological problems. it won’t make you rich. and it definitely won’t make you sexy. it may, however, remind you that we, as humans, are basically okay. and that it isn’t very difficult to get a little balance in our lives. so, have fun. slow down. take a deep breath. things are gonna be fine.”

this tiny brilliant book has 45 ‘how-to’ instructions like: how to turn your hand into a plane. how to unplug the phone. how to make noise with a blade of grass. how to catch a snowflake on your tongue. how to watch clouds. how to sleep in. how to make a shadow puppet. how to hug. how to go barefoot. how to take a nap. how to do a somersault. how to have a picnic. how to follow a bug around.

i called the company and bought all the copies they had left and sent them out with my third album this part of the journey to radio stations, listening walls, retail and wholesale outlets. it seemed the right pairing to me – a peaceful and original instrumental album to listen to while you read a book with 45 sets of instructions on how to find bliss.

maybe it’s not so hard. finding bliss. maybe we all are basically ok. maybe things are gonna be fine. maybe it’s simply lowering the expectation of what ‘bliss’ means.

maybe it’s not a measure of wealth or status. maybe it’s not calculable power or control. maybe it’s not your stock portfolio or your hedge fund. maybe it’s not your house or your car or your wardrobe. maybe it’s not your collection of iconic christian louboutin pumps. maybe it’s not your degree or your certification or your designation. maybe it’s not fancy food or exquisite bubbly from the vineyards of champagne.

maybe it’s your face in the sun, following a bug, catching a snowflake, giving a hug, loving on your favorite toy.

maybe we should just ask the cat.

*****

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#TheMicaList [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are all visitors copy

dear Life,

my sweet momma would often call me just as the time i was born would pass on my birthday. at the end of her life she didn’t do this anymore but i always remembered anyway. mid-morning i would know that this was the moment i arrived at this place, this was the beginning of my passing through, the time of my visiting.

today, this very morning, it was 60 years ago that i joined the rest of this good earth on its journey around the sun. spinning, spinning. every day.

it wasn’t long till i realized – as an adult – that we spin our wheels constantly to get to some unknown place we can’t necessarily define or find. we search and spin faster, out of mission, out of passion, out of frustration, loss, a feeling of no value or a sense of lostness. we spin. we seek. we try to accomplish. we try to make our mark. we try to finish. we try to start. we leave scarred rubber skids of emotions on the road behind us; we burn out with abrupt, unexpected turns, we break, wearing out. spinning. spinning. from one thing to another, our schedules full of busy things to do. often, days a repetition of the previous day. every day full. full of spinning. but we are still seeking. life is sometimes what we expected.  life is sometimes not what we expected. and that makes us spin faster, our core dizzying with exhaustion.

the simplest gifts – the air, clear cool water to drink, the mountaintop exhilaration of parenthood, hand-holding love, the ephemeral seconds of self-actualizing accomplishment, the sun on our faces…we have images stored in our mind’s eye like photographs in an old-fashioned slide show, at any time ready for us to ponder. but often-times we fail to linger in these exquisite simplicities. the next thing calls.

this morning, as i stare at 60 – which, as i have mentioned, is kind of a significant number for me – i realize that everything i write about or compose about or talk about or hold close in my heart is about these simplest things, the pared-down stuff, the old boots on the trail – not fancy but steadfast, not brand new but muddied up with real. in our day-to-day-ness i/we don’t always see IT.  the one thing. there is something -truly- that stands out each day in those sedimentary layers of our lives.   it is the thing that makes the rest of the day pale in comparison. in all its simple glory, the one true moment that makes us realize that we are living, breathing, ever-full in our spinning world. the thing that connects us to the world. the shiny thing. the mica. that tiny irregular piece of glittering mica in the layers and veneers of life. the thing to hold onto with all our might.

that tiny glitter of mica. mica nestles itself within a bigger rock, a somewhat plain rock – igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary ordinariness. not pinnacle, it is found within the bigger context. sometimes harder to find, harder to notice, but there.  and it makes the day our day, different than any other. it is the reason we have learned or grown that day. it is the reason we have laughed that day. it is the reason we have picked ourselves up off the floor that day. it is the reason we have breathed that day.

and now, at 60, i resolve to see, to collect those pieces of glitter. not in an old wooden box or a beat-up vintage suitcase, but, simply, since they are moments in time, in a tiny notebook or on my calendar. join me in #TheMicaList if you wish. as we wander and wonder through it is our job, in our very best interest, to notice the finest shimmering dust, the mica in the rock, the glitter in our world.

with all the reminders around us to remember-remember-remember that every day counts, we get lost in our own spinning stories, narratives of many strata. i know that in the midnight of the days i look back on the hours of light and darkness in which i moved about and remember one moment – one moment – be it a fleetingly brief, elusive, often evanescent moment of purity, the tiniest snippet of conversation, belly-laugh humor, raw learning, naked truth, intense love – those are the days i know – i remember – i am alive.

my visit to this physical place is not limitless. but each glitter of mica is a star in a limitless sky of glitter, a milky way of the times that make me uniquely me and you uniquely you, a stockpile of priceless relics. my time stretches back and stretches ahead, a floating silken thread of shiny. it’s all a mysterious journey.

and i am grateful.

kerri

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