reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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cliffs and pine needles. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i was ten with a camera in my hand. we were in the woods at sleepaway camp and there was a teepee. particular about photographs even back then, i wanted to take a full-length photograph of the teepee and the best way was to step behind a big pine tree and part the branches to take the photo. i brushed aside the branches and aimed my pocket instamatic camera only to realize that i needed to step back just a bit more to get the picture i wanted. i stepped back the teeniest bit to get my shot. and suddenly there was no ground.

i fell backwards about thirty feet off the cliff.

in my zeal for the photo i hadn’t noticed the cliff edge hiding behind the pine tree, which was precariously perched just off its side. after moments during which i’m guessing i was knocked out, i could hear the camp counselor and my best friend freaking out up on the trail and i tentatively moved things around – arms, legs and such. everything seemed to work. and in the odd swimming motions i was making down below teepee-land, i realized i had fallen into a gigantic pile of pine branches, all piled up, generously softening my fall. a few feet to either side and the dry ground was as hard as the large rock outcroppings scattered in the woods of camp koinonia in upstate ny. it seemed completely shocking to fall three stories and be absolutely fine and, when they made it down to where i was in the middle of branches and just a bit scratched up, the counselor, susan and i started laughing uncontrollably. how it went right is beyond me, but, somehow, luck prevailed.

we finished reading the salt path, a profoundly moving account of a newly-homeless couple hiking the entirety of the south west coast path in the UK. as one of the reviews reads, “inspiring…a true story of love, hope, and survival against impossible odds.” (j. santlofer)

five pages before the end, raynor winn wrote, “the shock of something going right is almost as powerful as when it goes wrong.” i was reading aloud. i read that line and stopped. i told d i had to re-read it. i read that line again and stopped. and i cried. not giant loud sobs like any of us in these fraught times deserve, but tears sliding down my face, uncontrollably, salty like the mist on the coast path. i was brought to a standstill by one sentence.

these times have proffered many surprises. we have felt challenged by challenges, betrayed by betrayals, silenced and minimized, left in the lurch. we have been cautious, we have bootstrapped. we have been canny by need, scrappy by necessity. we have found surprises at every turn. and, just at the time difficulty has made you get used to things going wrong, suddenly, you are shocked by something going right. someone has reached out. someone has cared. something – even one tiny thing – changed in the frequency pitches around you. something – even one tiny thing – is on the horizon. something – even one tiny thing – lifted the mist, that fog of uncertainty with side orders of confusion, grief.

and when you stepped off the cliff, you landed in a soft pile of pine needles.

*****

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


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she-birds. [merely-a-thought monday]

“old birds have stronger wings.” (aarp magazine)

“but grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” (anne lamott)

resilience. strength. sisu.

we have flown through many storms, we have weathered many droughts and much deluge. we have built nests from scratch and we have re-built them again. we have given birth through birth canals and through love choices. we have sought security and food for our young when security and food were scarce. we have attached wings to ideas and rube-goldberg solutions; we have made do. we have made piss-poor decisions and grandiose ones that have changed everything. we have broken treasures and fixed stuff; we have learned reverse threading. we have been emotional and we have necessarily let go. we have withstood fires of damaging words and we have recuperated from physical blows to our body, our sexuality, our hearts. we have tried to understand, we have been seekers of closure in times of strife. yet, even without understanding or closure, we have kept on keeping on. we are soon old birds and we have stronger wings.

because life, as life, presents gain and loss, winning and losing, achievement and failure, rich and poor, rising and falling, young and old, crepey and supple elasticity, as juxtapositions, as two sides of a pendulum ever-swinging, we have been measured in these competing narratives.

but we are aging birds with wings who have felt the sun of more than twenty-thousand mornings, the moon’s gravitational pull of decades, the grace of time and gardens through fallow and fruit. we are aging birds who have both soared and plummeted. we are aging birds who do not need the measure of others for our definition, for defining ourselves, continuing to learn, takes enough time and is complex enough.

we imagine unicorns in clouds, names in the stars of the galaxy. we catch the scent of sunshine on a wafting breeze and listen to the calls of mourning doves, wondering. we have come a long way. the path we have taken has not been straight. we have been courageous and we have been tenacious. we have flapped our way to here. we proudly wing our way forward, ever-forward. we are ever-stronger.

*****

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


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“difficult” women. [merely-a-thought monday]

“it actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. that’s why there are so many of us.” (jane goodall)

and because of just exactly this, i will tread lightly as i write.

for the rules are still different in this world – the rules for men, the rules for women. the word “difficult” – and arriving at the word “difficult” – should present its own debate. how does one get this label, one would ask. does difficult mean speaking up, speaking out? does difficult mean raising the bar on expectations? does difficult equate with uncompromising? is agile adaptability difficult? does talent or education or expertise or experience make one difficult? is difficult attached to success? does difficult mean not accepting discriminatory treatment? is difficult shunning a lack of respect or other indignities? does difficult mean pointing out the lack of transparency in an organization, an institution, a company? does difficult mean urging truth? does difficult mean following process? does difficult mean requesting financial equity between genders, between races? does difficult mean asking to be rewarded on one’s merits? does difficult mean asking hard questions? does difficult mean – heavens forbid – talking back? does difficult mean suggesting change? does difficult describe “good trouble“?

do those things applied to a woman make her difficult? do those things applied to a man make him difficult? is the measuring stick different? might there be a double standard? just where is the dividing line and why is there one?

if indeed those define “difficult”, i’d further suggest that a difficult man is considered a powerhouse, a strong leader, a go-getter whereas a difficult woman is considered, well, difficult, out-of-line, disrespectful, even egregious.

jane goodall is right. it doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. not back in the day. not now.

and for that, i would hope that all women would get mighty difficult.

*****

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


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go back and buy the towel. [two artists tuesday]

i should have bought the pencils.

i love #2 pencils – though, in an inane detail you are probably unconcerned about, i love mechanical pencils more – and it was a whole pack of ’em. plus each and every one was printed with the word “dissent”.

that’s why i should have bought them. i could have stashed reminders of RBG’s venerable spirit and dedication to equality and goodness and principle and ethics and probity in my purse, on the kitchen counter, at my piano, in our mélange-planning notebook, in my calendar.

they would have reminded me to stand courageously in dissent, to back it up with facts, to hold to integrity, to not waver in the face of any question or any fear or any threat. the thing about supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg, though, is that she was intrepid – even without the pencils.

and so, with the sisu of ruth, the belief in “an opinion, philosophy or sentiment of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or policy enforced by a government, political party or other entity or individual in a capacity of contextual authority” (wikipedia), the steadfast commitment to the truth and transparency, we all batten down the hatches and ready ourselves for whatever things we care about for which we must fight.

at the very least, i should have bought the towel.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

PS. “despite the fact that the justices routinely disagree with each other, they never let it get personal, and have good working relationships with one another.” (dhruti bhagat, librarian, boston public library blog – ruth bader ginsburg and dissents: what’s a dissent?)


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momma’s 100th birthday. [merely-a-thought monday]

i hope there is chocolate ganache cake and asti spumante. today is my sweet momma’s 100th birthday and, wherever she is roaming in that other plane of existence, i want there to be an enormous celebration of this day she was born back in 1921. there is not a moment i don’t miss her. there is not a moment that i am unaware of her presence.

the dining room table is piled with all kinds of finnish glassware and etched crystal and scandinavian birchwood as i empty bins that have been packed for years. i carefully unwrap the end-of-roll-clean-newsprint that layers between these and i’m immediately reminiscent. every here and there there is a tiny note, written by my mom, to explain the origins of this vase or that kissing-couple-wine-stopper. i have many questions and know that they will now go unanswered. i find myself researching and researching, a google-fest of information about these items, some of which have no story i can access.

i am drawn to pieces and carefully clean them. we poured chilled white wine into a pair of chunky goblets, ittala ultima thule glass designed by tapio wirkkala, inspired by melting ice in lapland. yesterday i made strawberry rose sangria and poured it into glasses from a heavy crystal etched pitcher, which i remember was a gift to my parents early in their marriage. the other day we had happy hour snacks out on the deck, olives and crackers and goat cheese on hand-painted japanese china, a post-world-war-two-origin lost to me, served on a glass mid-century hazel atlas boopie berwick party platter (which is actually called a ‘smoke and snack tray’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that.)

the history gathers in our dining room and i can almost feel the cheers of my momma and my dad, my grandmother mama dear and grandfather gramps. they encourage my googling and they also encourage me to sort through and find the things that really resonate with me. i can hear my momma telling me, “pass it on to someone” or “sell it!” as i unpack more bins of things, things, things that would otherwise remain packed. although i still abide by the unspoken ‘beaky rule’ to saaave new things for a bit before using them, keeping all these things packed in bins for years, no, decades – unused – is silliness and it is rewarding time spent opening it all up, seeing what’s there, going through, incorporating these jewels into our daily life. i know that is making my momma smile.

today we will lift our glasses to my momma, our beaky, and celebrate her. her spirit and spunk live on. her stink eye penetrating look, her raised eyebrow “oh?”, her ‘write-a-lettuh’, her sisu, her new-yorkishness. her kindness, her storytelling, her love.

today i will light a candle and gently ring the delicate glass bell she and my dad received as a wedding gift and i will be grateful that this day – 100 years ago – my momma was born on this earth. for that, this world is better.

*****

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


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eleanor’s tea bags. [k.s. friday]

she was a rebel. radical and progressive, eleanor pushed with all her might, a rogue in a traditional world. eleanor roosevelt is held in high esteem, a social justice mover-and-shaker, deliberate and smart and very, very strong. she wasn’t afraid of hot water. she often dove right in.

we women all know eleanor. oftentimes, intimately. for she resides in each of us – that spirit of strength and fortitude, bravery and courage, mighty in beautiful bodies.

forest trillium, in all its slender elegance, takes quite some time to mature. after years of growth, it will eventually bloom, its three leaves gently cupping the blossom. an early spring flower, white ages to pink, a color often associated with softness, perhaps even meekness. but in its ever-present flower-wisdom, trillium is anything but meek. it is particular and ephemeral, stunning as a star of the woodlands. its bloom scents as fruit or decaying meat to attract pollinating insects, its attempt to ensure its propagation. heralding spring, trillium is fragile and endangered. in new york it is labeled “exploitably vulnerable.”

the path we each choose differs. our goals, our intentions, our dedications, our wishes and dreams run a vast spectrum. we have different journeys; we have different origins. we are quiet; we are noisy. we go with the flow; we make waves. we may not agree, but we are zealous.

we are the guardians of our ambitions, the preservers of our pilgrimages, the shielder of our adventures, the great protectors of our beliefs, the fuel of our passions, the champions of our beloveds, mama bears with or without cubs. we are fragile; we are damn strong. and we are most definitely exploitably vulnerable. yet, in that vulnerability, in those moments of hot water, each and every woman i know is eleanor.

i say we tea bags stick together and celebrate each other.

*****

from my seat in 2021 sharing with you the stay strong/strong-woman song i wrote in 2002 for the album AS SURE AS THE SUN: COUNT ON YOU:

COUNT ON YOU (kerri sherwood – from the album AS SURE AS THE SUN)

listen to my music on my little corner of iTUNES

tune to my growing library on PANDORA

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

COUNT ON YOU ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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the moose and the pig and me. [k.s. friday]

it is said – and clearly there are many people in the news now’days who subscribe to this – that any press…good or bad…is better than no press. you have to wonder.

way back in 2002 i released this album. ‘as sure as the sun’ was the culmination of much writing, practicing, arranging, driving, singing, hydrating, listening, reviewing, re-writing, more singing, more practicing, more driving, recording, listening, sitting and watching my producer, more sitting and watching my producer, re-recording tracks, more practicing, more driving, more hydrating, more singing, more writing, more listening, more reviewing, re-writing, practicing, singing, hydrating, more driving and a lot of worrying. i recorded the album in nashville and drove back and forth for sessions, in between which i spent my time finessing each piece of music, each song i had composed for the project.

as an independent solo artist and not a complete band with others to lean on or a label financially chugging it forward, it was a big project, a big investment in heart, time and money. my producer and i had to believe in it to keep it going. bottom line, i had to believe in it to keep it going. when it was done and i drove home with a mastered CD, it was with a mix of feeling proud, wiped out, anxious and full of dreams. ‘as sure as the sun’ was my sixth album and the first that was a full-length vocal. it was stepping out of my comfort zone. it was the edge.

i hired an agency to help with its release and a radio promoter to aid in its adds to radio airplay. i don’t recommend either. to the tune of almost $40,000 they took me for a ride and i wonder now how this was possible. but when your professed dreams come knocking it is hard to turn away and do it yourself. in retrospect, i should have just continued doing it all on my own as i had done with all the instrumental albums that preceded it. but ah, that whole retrospect thing is such a fine perspective arranger.

amazon, and various other entities, added the album to my lineup online and radio stations added songs to their airplay. ‘slow dance’ charted at number 13 on the secondary adult contemporary radio chart. i’m not really sure how important that was now – at the time, however, it kept me paying for the promoter. i suspect that was the goal.

i played concerts and interviewed on radio and drove around to wholesale and retail shows with product, selling to large box brick and mortar chains and small privately owned shops that played music and displayed cds for customers to purchase. at the label in our offices on lake michigan we put together more cardboard display boxes than i can count, shipping out displays and cds regularly. it was busy and fun and a time when people still purchased actual cds.

in the zeal of the after-release glow, i looked everywhere for reviews of this new album. i wanted to know how it resonated with people, how it measured up, what i could learn by reading others’ commentary.

and then there was this.

the title was just the start. dang. sounding like a “hoofed mammal in heat” or a “squealing pig” was a tad bit much, i thought. the first-grader-lyric-writing comment was, well, kind of first-grader-like. i noted the misspelling of norah’s name. and, much as i appreciate his style, i really wouldn’t use “soulful” to describe jim brickman’s vocal music. but i digress.

i was stunned to have such a review and didn’t know what to think. i spent lots and lots of time, an inordinate amount of time, pondering who might have written such a statement. for some reason, i did not give as much time to the emails i received, the notes, the non-promoter-sought airplay, the adds in box stores and shops around the country, and the thousands of cds that were shipped out. this review nagged me.

it’s funny to me now how i let this one commentary puncture a pinhole in my confidence. but that’s the way of negativity. to stand firmly rooted, to take on the edge, to step new steps, to grow, to believe in your ability to shift gears, sway in the wind – the inner job of every artist. one moose and one pig should not be enough to undermine you and yet, there it was.

somewhere along the line i mostly forgot about this review and got on with the business of the music business: making more music. nine albums and several singles followed this album’s release. but i never really looked for reviews. i listened to what was inside and kept stepping. one of these days, maybe when i decide that i am still relevant, i will step again.

artists of every medium adjust and re-adjust too often to the whim of the viewers’/listeners’ fancy. they lose something every time in their pursuit of wanting their work to be liked by others. yet, the artist is most certainly riding the value-train with every project released. for that project, the last project, the next new project – all represent making a living. they represent a vulnerability not broached in other life-work paths. they represent a piece of someone’s heart and soul, hoping against hope not to be pounced on. all together – the projects of all artists of all mediums – they represent the woven fabric of our narrative, diverse and rich.

as my sweet momma used to say, “if [someone] has nothing nice to say, [someone] should say nothing at all.”

though i generally like moose and pigs and am in good company either way, i trust the moose and the pig agree with her.

*****

listen to music in my little corner on iTUNES

listen to music in my little growing corner on PANDORA

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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peeled back. [k.s. friday]

time continues to peel back the layers. barney is vulnerable and is, thus, exposed.

artistry is like that. we share our vulnerabilities. we write, we paint, we compose, we lyricize – we peel back the outer shroud of mystery to reveal that which is inside. we take chances at judgement, at others’ opinions, at evaluation. we are exposed. and time goes on. winter turns to spring which turns to summer and then fall. the seasons take their toll; the seasons enrich us. both.

the first album i released felt earth-shaking. the notes – white and black keys tumbling from deep within – flew out into the world on a piece of polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic. what could be a coaster contained fifteen deeply-excavated emotions, musings each released into the light. exposed. the scraps of paper that gave birth to these were soon filed in a binder with invoices and order forms, designs and ups tracking numbers. one season. one album. done.

each original album since is no less an exposé. each still holds pieces of me, permission by me to be peeled back. a little less scary than the first but still risk-taking. vulnerability does not recede from the sandy beach as the big waves come and go. but it stands a little more stoic, with a little more sisu. the albums, like seasons, arrive when it is time. and they, in some way that albums might, tremble with anticipation and that tiny bit of fear that remains, even after many layers have been peeled. soon there will be no more black and white at all.

now i wonder if i will need shrink-wrap again. i wonder about recording. and i don’t know. yet. i do find that i am thinking of wooden stages and boom mics. i also find that i am thinking that all this writing – these written words on the page – have been feeding me and that hunger for polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic.

each day, barney and i age. the veneer blisters and the shell reveals our hearts. we are both emotional, barney and i. we are conscious of our craggier look, the wrinkles and the age spots. though we wonder about how we resonate with the rest of the universe-out-there, we take the dusty road together anyway and we hold hands, vulnerable together. though laminate no longer hides our souls, we are standing in the sun this season, new growth springing up.

*****

that first album – 1995

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

someday?


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“i know you can do it.” [merely-a-thought monday]

inside a what-is-now-considered-vintage liz claiborne barrel purse was a treasure. not unzipped in years, i unpacked it the other day. i found a rattle, two small children’s board books, photographs in one of those plastic wallet picture thingies, a couple expired credit cards, a slew of emery boards, faded receipts i could no longer read, old chapstick, a collection of assorted pens and pencils, a few lists, some coins and two tiny mystery keys, a few notes from my girl, cars on scraps of paper drawn by my boy, and a card in the envelope it was mailed in. every now and then you stumble upon a treasure you forgot you had.

my sweet momma was famous for her handwritten letters; most of our family would easily recognize her handwriting, even in a crowded handwriting sampling, even years after last seeing it. this little card in my old purse was clearly something i carried around for some time. it was a note of reassurance, a note with great empathy, a note of encouragement. she mailed it early in january 1989, just a few months after i moved to wisconsin. still in the middle of homesickness and adjustment, though – as i realize now – she must have been feeling loneliness as well, she wrote to me. and she penned six words that i remember her repeating throughout my life:

“i know you can do it.”

those words – just six – can make all the difference.

momma was a glass-half-full type. her fervent cheering-on was a solid part of her nurturing. she fostered support with easy acceptance of failure, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” she didn’t list to the negative, nor did she wallow in it. in all her life, from early in marriage my dad MIA and then a POW in world war II, to losing her first baby within a day of her birth while my dad was imprisoned and she knew nothing of his whereabouts, to losing her grown son to lung cancer, to standing by my dad in his own lung cancer, a myriad of rough patches, to being left alone with my dad gone to face a double mastectomy at 93. no matter the challenge, she faced it down. she knew she could do it. and, despite any enormity, she left you with no doubt. even though her heart was thready and vulnerable, her positive spirit was contagious, her strength a force in the world.

these times – the pandemic and all it has wreaked, personal physical injuries or illnesses, job trials, isolation and loss of too much and too many to list – have cued up a range of mountains for each of us to scale. my mom’s “good morning merry sunshine” couples with her “live life, my sweet potato.” lines of counterpoint for melodies in life that are askew, her words brace against the storm. my sweet momma did not give up and she did not expect you to either. “you got this,” would be her brene brown shortcut message. she stuck with it all and rode each complicated wave, each complexity, each twist. she lives on in my daughter tearing down a run on a snowboard. she lives on in my son setting up a beautiful new place with his boyfriend. she lives on in the love her granddaughters and grandson bestow upon their children. she lives on in me.

in these times, with all its obstacles daring us to succumb, i can hear her. “i know you can do it,” her voice whispers to my heart.

*****

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

live life my sweet potato stuff


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bullied. as a woman. [flawed wednesday]

“never be bullied into silence. never allow yourself to be made a victim. accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” (harvey fierstein)

“to thine own self be true,” my sweet momma would say. she and harvey fierstein would have been pals. heck, i should be pals with harvey.

there is a cost. we all know that. coloring outside the lines requires sisu, gumption, chutzpah. speaking up, speaking out, speaking for, speaking against. a cost.

like you, i have been bullied into silence in my life. i have been harassed and i have been victimized. i have been liquified and poured into molds that don’t fit. i have been vaporized. i have allowed it. i have not allowed it.

i am a woman. and with that comes bullying, harassment, victimization. with that come molds, generalizations, inequalities, assumptions.

i am not naive enough to believe that were i to be a man i would never face any of these crushing blows. but i do believe that i would have faced seriously fewer.

it is not as likely, were i to be a man, that i would have been sexually assaulted at an innocent 19. it is not as likely, were i to be a man, that, in reporting the abuse of many underage young women, i would have my life threatened at 21. it is not as likely, were i to be a man, that i would have been scarily pursued by a man-with-a-foot-fetish at 35. it is not as likely, were i to be a man, that i would have been terrifyingly stalked at 50. it is not as likely, were i to be a man, that i would have been verbally and professionally assailed at 60.

were i to be a man, the men who wielded the power in each of these might have tucked his superman cape away, might have had a second thought, might have played out his control-game-fantasy somewhere else.

but i am a woman. and, for some reason deeply embedded in society, that changes the rules and empowers the mongers.

i have been silent.

for too long.

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY