reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

much like the teacher in the peanuts cartoon (do not pass go until you watch this!), sometimes when people around us speak – even people we love dearly and eternally, even people who are wise and whose opinions and advice matter, even people who are thinking of our and their best interest, even people who are well-intentioned, even people who want to have thoughtful shared-planning-the-future discussions – we hear “wah-wah-woh-wah-wah-wah”.

we are the victims. we are the perpetrators.

the blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. the eye-rolling moments. the oh-geez-good-grief-criminy. the if-i-sigh-will-they-hear-me-and-stop. the maybe-yawning-would-work. the what-can-i-say-to-bring-this-overkill-conversation-to-a-screeching-halt. the distract-distract-distract. the load-up-the-cleverly-snide-remark-and-shoot.

ahhh yes. and then there’s the faux-innocent-smug-comeback.

and no thanks to cervantes here. clearly, he was full of double-talk.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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back window. front window. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t think that i will ever be able to have a kitchen sink placed without a window above it. in all the homes i have lived as an adult – every single one – both houses in florida, in wisconsin, even on island – there has been a window over the sink. working at the sink, gazing out – a time for pondering, reviewing, sorting. it is the place to watch the world go by, the seasons, time.

the big plate glass window over the sink in our home has given me a view into the flow – filmy strands of babies growing, toddlers on swings, snowmen on the deck, cherished dogs romping, snacks in the fort, oversized plastic t-ball stands, basketball hoops, a bright yellow slide that attracted a bazillion tiny gnats at a certain time in the spring. i’ve watched trees grow and shed and bud and shed, plants planted, transplanted, re-planted, snow fall and cherry tomatoes flourish. there’s been grass and no grass and dirt and grass again. i imagined the patio – where people would gather, play ukulele, dance, laugh – before it was there. and the little pond has been a treasure, inviting birds and squirrels and chipmunks and frogs to its little rock bank. i’ve stared out that window with great appreciation. i’ve stared out that window, wondering.

in this time of covid, lots of our time in the winter is spent looking out. we are not really participating in gathering, trying to minimize risk to ourselves and others. even vaccinated and boosted, we know that so many around us have taken ill, have fallen to the highly contagious pandemic. so it has been rare to see even our neighbors. sightings of them, as we stroll the ‘hood or they walk by, past our front windows, have been about it.

but monday afternoon they all gathered in our driveway. just before 4:30 there were two loud bangs outside. directly across the street, in the driveway, tucked up by the garage and right next to the house, the neighbor’s jeep exploded. the firetrucks were here seemingly instantly and the road was closed off by police cars that came from all directions. and all the neighbors stood together on the apron of our driveway. for the while that it took to extinguish the flames, we had time together. we could see each other’s faces, exchange a few words, exclaim about how scary it was and express relief that our neighbors-across-the-street were safe and unharmed.

a police car or two began to leave. one of the fire trucks left. the neighbors began to disperse. after some time the tow truck came. the tiny bit of time that we were all out there, mostly coatless in the cold, was over. but i could feel something else…the reminder that we are all here.

someone spoke the words: “i hardly ever see or talk to anyone in the neighborhood, but do you remember after the derecho that came through? everyone was out, walking around. eight hundred or so trees down, sidewalks heaved, power out…all in the matter of less than five minutes. and we were all walking around. together. and now…here we are.”

out the big kitchen picture window looking over the backyard are reminiscings, fallowed and growing plants, a bubbling pond fountain, massive trees, tiny creatures, dreamy summer nights, barney, bonfires, grilled eggplant, snowfall.

out the front window is community.

*****

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pristine. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it all looked pristine for a while, after it snowed. a fresh blanket of white covering our yard and its blemishes. for the time before the wind started blowing and the snow started shifting, you couldn’t tell that the front yard was all torn up, that there is a large grassless mound – like a dune on the long island coastline – that stretches from our house all the way to the street.

the backyard also. pristine. a white canvas, dotted with tall old evergreen trees, ornamental grasses gone to brown, feathery plumes waving, the pond frozen and still.

there are folks whose yards will continue to look that way – pristine. the snow will remain untouched, smooth, perfectly showcasing shadows as the sun peers through tree limbs and plants in fallow.

the moment we open the back door and dogdog runs out, the illusion of perfection ceases. pawprints obscure the shadow art as he tears into the blanket of snow, nose down, gleefully devouring it as he goes. he is a winter dog. there is no doubt about it. he comes in reluctantly – laden with snow – after laying on the deck on top of snow, surrounded by snow, under new snowfall. it is his time.

sometimes i wonder if we can just save the front yard, just not walk in it, just not let it be disturbed. we can look out the window and gaze at that which makes everything profoundly beautiful.

but then there are squirrels dancing about in the snow and the tiny footprints of birds. there are prints of a stray cat and maybe a raccoon or two. the grasses dip under the weight and the gusts, brushing aside snow like small brooms. there are bootprints of the guys who installed our temporary sidewalk and shoeprints of our postal, ups, fedex, amazon delivery people bringing us mail, cards from people we care about, packages of things we need. the wind has blown off the straw-covered mound, exposing the filled-in trench of a new water service line, a tiny winter miracle in itself.

and i realize that as stunning as pristine is, it is perhaps illusory and most definitely ephemeral.

instead, we celebrate the messy, the prints in the snow, the elated dog, the windblown fresh snowfall, creatures seeking food and shelter, the interrupted shadows.

*****

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backwards. [merely-a-thought monday]

maybe it was the glass of wine in my hand, but i doubt it.

we sat at the table in our sunroom, happy lights on, gazing into the inky blackness of the backyard. it was still rather early in the evening but, these days, dark happens early. it suddenly caught my eye and it made me laugh. the backwards “let the adventure begin” seemed just about right, right about now.

we bought ourselves this little wooden sign a few years ago now, for the littlehouse on washington island. it graced the table that looked out on the lake and was the opening line of our time with TPAC, a magical performing arts center on that tiny island. a treasured adventure. and then covid. we packed our sign into a bin and brought it back home.

it sat in the bin in the basement, quiet, for months or so, i guess. then we redid the sunroom…more plants, our table, a new rug, an old door on horses, happy lights, an old suitcase. a few more adventures later – and i went downstairs, seeking the sign.

it sits on the old door in front of the old suitcase that holds the old cd player and lost-man, who is a stuffed mountain goat that reminds us of an amazing hike our intrepid girl took us on – to lost man lake on independence pass, with exquisite high elevation views and tufts of mountain-goat-fur snagged on the branches of bushes along the trail.

“let the adventure begin” makes me smile every time i see it. for it has already begun. we are in the middle of it. covid and wrists and job loss and angst and incredible-joy-times and glasses of wine and dogdog moments and new work and questions and hikes and dancing and music and plans and tiny trips and big trips and grief and laughter and babies and water and cartoons and writing. the middle of it. no re-sets necessary. like the tide, it ebbs and flows, but it’s ever-present, this adventure. like john lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” while you are waiting. it’s right there.

when i was in junior high or maybe early high school i had to do a project for science class. i had this clock that, for some reason, ran backwards. a big round face, the second hand ran backwards, which pushed the minute hand backwards, which pushed the hour hand backwards. with a master bulova watchmaker as my dad, we collaborated on this mysterious phenomenon: time running backwards. we researched and experimented, asked lots of questions, tried to get the clock to go forwards. it never did. instead, we devised a new face for the clock. and we learned how to read the time as it ran backwards. it made us think and laugh and think more and, also, gave us an interesting perspective on time. it’s happening. whether it’s forwards or backwards, it’s marching on. we simply need to adjust and adapt. at dawn, in midday, at dusk, in the darkness.

it was particularly funny to me when this sign – “let the adventure begin” – was backwards in the window reflection. well, maybe not really funny. maybe just really, really wise.

it feels like it might have been an even-greater little sign painted that way.

*****

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my nutella chip. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

you know you have a nutella-reputation when more than one person sends you nutella in the mail, via ups, on the fedex truck, in packages at your front door. i went a little crazy when i discovered it. it had been around; i was not an early adopter, but when i fell, i fell fast.

johnathon and i walked around amsterdam, eating, sipping espresso, laughing. when we came upon him, i could not help myself. i don’t usually do this with strangers, but i kissed him – the nutella man. he was coy, slightly unnerved, but mostly unmoved by my ardent display. it was sheer bliss for me. and he had the biggest jar of nutella i had seen to date. so, yes, in this case, size matters.

all over paris you can get waffles with nutella and nutella on crepes or croissants or toast, nutella on fruit, nutella in coffee. it’s omnipresent. the nutella carts are everywhere. there could possibly be nothing more enticing than a bench in jardin des tuileries with espresso and nutella and your beloved.

we recently introduced david’s momma to it. she has found it to be a staple – apples with nutella are pretty amazing. for us, it used to be animal crackers and nutella. ohmy! if you haven’t tried that, you must. it is a worthy dessert!

we haven’t eaten a whole lot of nutella in recent times. the whole30 diet knocked it out of the rotation. costco wrote us a letter asking if we were ok; their sales of hazelnut cocoa spread were plummeting.

in truth, i miss it. the nutella chip in my brain is quivering.

it’s time.

i’m thinking a small jar and a spoon will help.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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odd-one-out. [k.s. friday]

he was this guy who would pick me up in his blue convertible camaro and have flowers tucked into the visor. or a stuffed animal peeking out from the glove compartment. when it was my 18th birthday, he drove 45 minutes late at night to decorate my vw bug with roses and install a big sign on the oak tree outside our front door. he bought cards and concert tickets, taught me how to play tennis and took me to restaurants all over the island. in the spirit of the 1970s susan polis schutz calendar he gifted me, he also gave me a small poster, which i still have.

“i am not in this world to live up to your expectations. you are not in this world to live up to mine. i am i and you are you. and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.” (fritz perls)

the small evergreen was particularly beautiful, standing out in a part of the woods that surrounded it with tall hardwoods. its singularity made me stop and photograph it. i felt connected to it, the odd-one-out in a large grouping of the more-similar. i told it that it was beautiful and blew it a kiss.

this sweet pine tree in the national forest was tiny in comparison to nearby 80 foot giants. it must love winter, when the leaves of its neighbors no longer form a canopy blocking it from the sun. as you hike, your eyes adjusting to the brownness of the trail, it becomes a source of color, and you hungrily take in the green of its needles, its softness in a world of bare trunks. you begin to notice other tiny bits of green here and there, a little surviving underbrush here, a little sapling there. color returns.

when i was still 18, and he was a few years older, he asked me to marry him. he was a kind man, and probably still is. i was not – at 18 – ready. i still had more love stories to relish and love stories to regret. i had good sun and hard darkness ahead. i had moments of the-only-one-in-jeans to experience and times of growth when the canopy opened to the sky. i had hardwood forests to stand alone in.

and life moved on.

“but i look up high to see only the light and never look down to see my shadow. this is wisdom which man must learn.” (kahlil gibran)

i know the little pine tree blew a kiss back to me.

and then we hiked on.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood




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the glow. [d.r. thursday]

even on a foggy, overcast day, looking down from the ridge the glow was unmistakable. the everciduous beech trees stubbornly held their leaves, dying the brown woods a shade of cantaloupe or hard-to-identify pantone.

the forest floor below our feet was shuffling-full of leaves, oaks and maples and a variety of brown county timber. vines curled their way around trees in attempts to find the canopy. on this winter day, were it not for the marcescent beech, we could see further than any other season in the woods.

marcescence, i’ve learned – for this is not a word that sprang to the forefront of my mind – is the retention of leaves through winter. it isn’t until the leaves are completely brittle and wind takes them that they drop. and in the meanwhile, new growth – new leaf buds – have been protected and had access to nutrients and moisture, a sort of still-on-the-tree mulch.

it occurs to me that marcescence is like changing jobs. one generally holds onto a job until retaining the next, the security of employ feeding confidence and necessities while new awaits. it’s always a little disconcerting to leave before next is there, a leap of faith, sometimes, a premature leap, with regret.

yet sometimes, it is absolute. we drop our leaves. we stand naked in the forest, tall and exposed, willowy trees waiting for spring. sometimes we shed all that protects us and take risks and go fallow in liminal and shiver in cold winds. we gaze around and see everciduous folks nearby, confident, predictable, stalwart. we dig in, deep roots of belief in ourselves despite weather that tests us. we draw from the ground, are fed by what we know, what we have learned, what we have created. we hold onto tiny bits of light. we protect the glow. we push on.

and new buds show up. spring always follows winter.

*****

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unfinished. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

while she explained to me the presence of the cross on the back of the donkey, he explained to david how he installed the sun-seeking solar panel in the barnyard. both exist here. the old world donkey and the twenty-first century solar panel. together.

he told us that they were about our age when they started to make plans for next steps. they sorted and listed and researched and made decisions for their next phase, moving to acreage further south – in a bit more temperate clime – closer to some family, out in the woods with ridges and ravines, living their dreams for the next of life. “you should start thinking about that now,” he encouraged us. he’s right. we think about it all the time.

“the world never comes at you all at once,” john o’donohue wrote. “you are not simply here. neither are you definitively and forever ‘you’.” … “no person is a finished thing.”

things you can count on. change and change and change.

we know change is imminent. and change has already arrived. and we have exited change, taken the doorway that reads “next”. and we can see more doors and more doors. they are a little further away, like trail markers, choices to be mapped, routes to follow, narratives with gaps to fill in.

maybe a coupla donkeys, a coupla horses, dogdog, mountains, cherry tomato plants, and trees. our lives will evolve.

in our mind’s eye, we paint ourselves older – hopefully wiser, but i know there’s no guarantee of that. we paint the hue of early morning sunrises over peaks near and far. we paint old porches and adirondack chairs. less stuff and more time. old world and new world. much like now, we paint in mugs of coffee and glasses of wine bookending the day. we paint in people we love. we paint in hiking and writing and new recipes and doing the art we do. it’s unfinished, this canvas.

life is not a paint-by-number. and solar panels and donkeys co-exist in barnyards. and we are not definitively any particular colors in any particular place doing any particular thing. we are made of dreams and change.

*****

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blather. [merely-a-thought monday]

though the alpaca is considered to be a docile creature, it can get spitting mad. i suspect that if one were to flip “look, i get it” over to an alpaca, it could get a rise out of the lanky, fuzzy one. intelligent and observant, alpacas are known for their quiet. their nonverbal behaviors and the sounds they make belie what could be thought of as non-emotive. on the contrary, they communicate their concern and stress, affection and indignation. linda’s alpaca are a tiny herd among themselves and are magical to watch. i did not toss “look, i get it” over to any of them, knowing it would insult their intelligence and likely make them a bit snarly, as really anyone to whom that is tossed – in any way other than joshing around – should likely feel.

“look, i get it” is just like the expression “i’m sorry you feel that way”. neither is true empathy. both are dismissive. the quickest way to damage a relationship is to wing “look, i get it” over just as someone is telling you something deeply important. or, in a leadership position – let’s just saaaaaay – to flippantly respond “i’m sorry you feel that way” to an employee who has clearly been wronged by some circumstance(s) or policy-thwart. in their succinctly powerful way, inc. magazine has come through again in an article written by jason aten. he states when you say “i’m sorry you feel that way” (or “we apologize for any insensitivity” or any other variation on the theme) you are “trying to absolve yourself of any kind of responsibility or fault for whatever went wrong.” he adds that the (respectful, compassionate, mission-driven) company instead say, “i am really sorry that we didn’t live up to our promise. i know that is so frustrating. here’s what i’m going to do to try and make it right.” mmhmm. my personal experience would suggest that doesn’t always happen.

and “look, i get it”??? bill murphy, jr. in another inc. magazine column calls it a sign of “low emotional intelligence”. i would have to concur. just because they are words – individually and as a sentence: look, i, get and it – doesn’t mean they should come out of one’s mouth at a moment of import. there are a hundred ways to say everything we are trying to say. and sometimes – and we are all guilty of this, including me – we need to take a moment or two before the sentence hits the talk bubble outside our lips.

perhaps this is why alpaca are considered so intelligent. they are quiet, discerning critters who are affectionate and gentle but don’t spew emotionally-disconnected blather.

*****

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