reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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forget-me-nots. [k.s. friday]

A0, B0, C1 are missing. entirely. gone. they have disintegrated and have dissolved into the ashy dirt of the piano. it is likely that if we planted the forget-me-not seeds we received when our beloved babycat died, tiny blue flowers would grow, for this spot – the lowest on the keyboard – seems rich soil. though we do not see A-zero, B-zero, C-one, the tones are still there, the timbre of these lowest notes ever-present, the grounding of all else still grounded.

“wherever you are, that’s where i will be…” is needlepointed in an old black frame on the wall in the bedroom. in the way that notes forever linger in the air, that frequencies dance waiting for us to listen, i know that this is also true: those whom we love surround us any where we go, any where we are, they are a whisper away. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i speak of or ‘to’ my sweet momma, my poppo, my big brother, dear ones who have gone on. i plant virtual forget-me-nots each time i hold close in embrace or in mind those whom i love who are here, whether near or far. the garden is lush with these tiny blooms, the wind a symphony, even maybe a gentle cacophony, of harmonics, seeding my steps each day.

in the midst of it all – changes and challenges, absolute joys and abysmal sadnesses – all that has been whirls around us, all that will be beckons us. we pick and choose the bouquet each day…our words and actions, our intentions. we learn and grow and send roots while at the same time becoming tall and independent and resourceful and capable of blooming.

yet, the wisdom of the ages, the ages themselves, are where we are. the notes play and the harmonics ring. the flowers blossom and spread and the wind takes on seeding, propagating on breezes and stout gales, encircling us. the universe cheers for us. we try to believe it is, ultimately, on our side. as albert einstein encouraged, ‘the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.’ we can bring nutrients or malnutrition to the garden.

the low notes swirl. still there. and all those who have loved us, all those we have loved, all those who love us, all those we love, the greater spiritual power in each of our lives – there. always with us. rich soil for our every single day.

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – from AS IT IS (kerri sherwood)

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ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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fluid. with wings. [k.s. friday]

“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)

“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)

i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.

there is nothing to do now but wait.

my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.

there is nothing to do but wait.

sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.

there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.

and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.

there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.

i’ve written here about transition before. and again. and again. and i suspect i will yet again.

because life, i am learning over and over, is one transition after another. fluid. with wings.

*****

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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22″ of fire-bliss. [k.s. friday]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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our firework. [k.s. friday]

the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.

the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.

each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.

dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.

i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.

so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…

we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.

and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.

but as an adult – i know.

*****

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I DIDN’T KNOW from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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good moments waiting. [k.s. friday]

“we’re out of practice,” writes elizabeth bernstein. her article in the wall street journal is about reconnecting with others as we move slowly and cautiously out of pandemic-mode and back into the world. since this past year-plus has levied many and varied challenges upon all of us, her words seem prudent, reminding us to realize that we are each in different emotional places and honoring those will be absolutely necessary.

as we hike on trails we are alternately silent and chatting-up-a-storm. we find ourselves reminiscing, going over the last year-plus, reviewing. we are both awed and aghast at the things that have happened through this time. simple moments of bliss and moments of raw hurt. surprise at the time flying by and impatience at the time dragging. gratitude for the generosity of others and anger and anxiety at agenda we don’t understand. much time spent as just the two of us…the two of us plus dogga and babycat. we stop – mid-river-trail – and stare at each other, remembering the time, the losses, the learnings. this moment in time – all the circumstances that have brought us to this moment in time – and we look forward, wondering.

“we’ve all been through so much. we’re all so raw. and there is a strong sense of longing,” says sociologist and yale professor marissa king. though we long to be together with family and dear friends, communities of people we have been missing, we have come to realize that we have made it through, continue to make it through, the storm of this time. we have established rituals of our own, personal reassurances, moments of goodness that have arced us into next each and every time. we have failed from time to time and we have succeeded from time to time. mostly, we have made it from Time to Time, each then to each now.

reconnecting, we understand, will be complicated, perhaps intense, perhaps exhausting, perhaps selective. but those moments will, too, be worth it, whatever concentrated effort it takes. we all have a story to tell, narratives to share, things we have gained and lost and learned and forgotten, things we haven’t shared. “reconnection is not a one-and-done undertaking,” writes ms. bernstein. like the time that has gone by and the hard work it has taken to grok the necessity of being apart, it will require some practice to be together. we haven’t walked in the shoes of others and we haven’t experienced what they have experienced. the vice-versa is also true. we all have a story to tell, narratives to share, things we have gained and lost and learned and forgotten, things we haven’t divulged, things we haven’t mutually endured. there is much ahead, likely to be profoundly emotional.

we stand on the river trail and think about belly-laughing in a circle of friends, crying in the arms of family, dancing on the patio, snacktime on the pontoon boat, ukuleles in the park, happy hour in the backyard, floating in florida pools, rooftop and mountaintop times. and we know that, though there have been many good moments and though there are many good moments right here, there are many good moments…waiting.

*****

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GOOD MOMENTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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the sustain pedal. [k.s. friday]

the file drawers are bursting. there are three bank boxes in the closet, next to and on top of the file cabinets. there is still music to be filed away, but it’s almost done. the ukuleles and the strum stick are hung on hooks. the cello sits silently in the corner. the black metal music stands are cleared of sheets and books. everything needs to be dusted or waxed. the wood floor needs to be swept more thoroughly – to chase away the dust bunnies. a few pencils wait. the storm is gathering. the sustain pedal begs for attention.

i’ve played maybe twice since last november. i stacked music and calendars and binders of slated songs and folders of research in there. i dragged in a box or two of supplies and cantatas that i brought home. i laid the ukuleles on the rocking chair, the poster behind the door. but i didn’t play. except for a day or two after our babycat died and maybe one or two other times. the piano is tacet. and the sustain pedal waits.

because i played and sang constantly for work before the end of november, and i was surrounded in my studio by all the tools and resources i used for that work, it has been, in the these last few days, important to me to finally move all that which i had been playing, all that which is no longer relevant to my life. this studio needs to be clean. it needs space. it needs room for new. it needs to no longer represent life doing that work, that dedication, that place. my studio needs a refacing. the sustain pedal holds its breath.

i got an email from a lovely woman somewhere in new mexico. she wants to order a baker’s dozen cds and wrote that she includes owning them up in her wish list of “large sacks of $100 bills and 25 hugs and smiles received daily for life”. i’m grateful to her and her dedication to analog music. it will be fun to pack it all up and ship it to her, though i will have to direct her to amazon for a few titles i no longer have in stock. her order is a reminder. and even in these days when i have been actively submitting titles to pandora for streaming (there are now nine titles available on pandora.com and everything on digital platforms everywhere) it is refreshing to go to the stock of cds and pull out shrink-wrapped copies of music to ship off. the sustain pedal giggles.

i’m getting anxious to finish the studio cleanse. to walk in and see possibility. to sit and listen to the quiet. to see the new project, the new song, the new composition through fog, fallow and passing time. to one day again depress the sustain pedal and place my hands on dusted keys under a full stick. i don’t know when that will be.

the sustain pedal whispers, “whoosh”.

*****

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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through it. [k.s. friday]

it comes in stages. there is no easy route to the other side. just through.

the unexpected snow – after most had melted – though, indeed, a beautiful blanket of quiet – was also a stark and cold reminder that winter was not done. somehow it was a reminder of people gone, of the lack of interaction with others, a reminder of the invisible fence between us all, somewhat devoid of color and warmth. the pandemic we are living through has provided us with historic missing. so much lostness. someone asked me yesterday if i had had a vaccine. when i replied yes, she asked me why, then, was i wearing a mask. i stared at her above the piece of cloth i, like many of you, have diligently worn everywhere for about a year and replied that having a vaccine doesn’t abdicate me from responsibility. it is my job as a decent human being to continue to do my part – not just until i am vaccinated, but until the country is on track and there is little chance of others becoming ill because i, or anyone, was negligent. not wearing a mask herself though not vaccinated, she replied angrily that it wasn’t fair, that i shouldn’t have to wear a mask. i withheld the retort that quickly sprang to my lips and instead just said that this is hard. we are all lost together and foundness will be somewhere on the other side of all we have missed, somewhere in the spring of healing, in whatever season that falls.

when the tradesmen installed the patio, they carefully and artfully chose pieces to fit together. they slowly and tediously laid out a spot in our backyard where we could sit and sip wine in adirondack chairs, where we could hang our hammock, where we could build a bonfire late at night and dream dreams in the fireflies of sparks it sent out. the snow crystallizing on the rock accentuated the spaces between the pieces. though clearly defined as edges, it reminded me that all these pieces do fit together, perhaps nothing is really missing. every emotion – lostness and foundness and all inbetween, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, the title of which, were there to be a box that would contain all the cardboard pieces, might read ‘life is like this’.

up against a pile of pillows, i sat in bed with coffee a few days after we lost babycat. with sadness and unwilling to greet the new day, i hadn’t yet opened the miniblinds. yet in the window to the east, the sun was insistent. it found its way through the tiny cracks between the blinds, the tiny holes that hold the string, as if urging me to open-open-open up. it didn’t change my missing when i opened them. i still missed babycat. i still missed all sense of normal. i still missed my children-all-grown-up, my parents-in-another-dimension, my family-far-apart, my friends-separated-by-covid-responsibility. i missed security and good work well done. i missed laughing and all things carefree.

but, in opening the blinds, i did not have to miss the sun and i stood in its warmth streaming in, looking at the spot on the bed where babycat would have laid in the soft rays from the window. and i realized that in yearning for all that on the other side i would have no choice but to go through it all, all the stages, snow, crystal flakes, sun and all.

*****

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MISSING from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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instead. [k.s. friday]

for more than half my life (read: over three decades) i shaped the experience of the christmas holiday season for others.  each year i tried to find a way to touch the deepest part of people’s hearts in celebration, to help a story-of-the-ages resonate in their up-to-the-minute lives, to help them, their souls, sink into the light.

this is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i am not creating the musical shape of anyone else’s holiday. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that my dining room table and the top of my piano are not laden with music all strewn about. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i will not spend it racing between planning, arranging, practicing, rehearsing, readjusting, rehearsing, rearranging, readjusting, rehearsing and encouraging big community laughter. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades and decades) that i will not go to church.

i did not create. instead, i tried to file it all away in my head, ignore the intuitive music prompts that my heart issues in the weeks prior to and during this season, silence the ideas and gestures that help to make faith – that which you cannot see – touchable. i did not layer my table or piano with music. instead, i put it all away, in boxes and file cabinets and thick binders. i did not race or plan or arrange or practice or rehearse or readjust or rearrange or even encourage laughter. instead, i sit on the steps in the hall, the stuff of decades decimated, and i wonder. i do not plan to go to church nor do i plan to watch church online; i have had enough.

instead, i will quietly walk outside under a starlit sky. i will light candles. i will extinguish the lamps in the living room and i will watch the lights.

*****

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space for peace. [k.s. friday]

slowly-but-surely-time-rapidly-rushing we are approaching the holidays. with all the concurrent spinning plates wishing i could slow it all down, wishing i could feel it happening. i want to feel the peace of the season, the peace of quiet winter coming on.

wisdom comes from unexpected places. softly. an instagram post here, a text there, a conversation on the phone, a note. people, wittingly and unwittingly, giving me words on which to linger, images in which to immerse, snippets of thoughts to ponder.

i woke up this morning feeling hopeful. a bit more sleep was restorative. i read wise soul-provoking words of my girl; i received an email from a generous stranger.

i started to recall the times in my life when an obstacle was actually a gift, when a turn in the road was the thing that protected me. instead of railing against the current, i am slowly slipping onto the raft that is taken by it.

i took a picture of the blue sky yesterday – just blue – because it was the first blue sky in days. i felt deep gratitude for it and for the sun i could feel on my back as we hiked. the two masked women we passed on the trail raised their hands, fingers outstretched in the symbolic v, and called out, “peace.”

early this morning i sipped coffee that david brought me, my legs stretched out on the bed tightly snugged between dogdog and babycat, both laying ever-so-close. and we spoke of waking a little bit lighter today than yesterday. it doesn’t change the circumstances. but how we are in those circumstances changes us.

and in the slow-but-sure-rapid-rushing-time advent of this winter, this season, this time of quietude and rejuvenation, it allows space for peace.

*****

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it’s my *hand*. [k.s. friday]

there is nothing certain. nothing totally black or white. but this morning i am in the middle of the grey; fog has closed in and nothing is certain.

in a few hours i will know more. i will know what has happened to my hand and wrist. having already healed fractures from two broken wrists ala snowboarding this winter, i will know what changed the day that i fell recently – a serious fall, hard and directly on my reflex-outstretched hand – on an unmarked wet floor.

soon i will know why it aches constantly, why i can’t extend near an octave, why i can’t pick up my cat or the bucket to wash the car, why i can’t bend my wrist forward more than 5 degrees.

i’m pretty tough when it comes to pain; my threshold is pretty high. usually for me, it’s just a matter of dealing with it and getting used to it. and then i adjust. and people around me don’t actually know that there is any problem because i am making do.

but *this* is different. this is what i do. this is how i make a living. this is my profession. it has always been my profession. i am an artist – and a human with opposable thumbs – and this is my *hand*.

and so i am anxious to know what this hand specialist says, what he recommends, what he forecasts as the route for rehabilitation from this new injury, the arc for healing, the possibility for playing, the chance to ‘have my hand back’.

because, as i told david when we were walking on the trail the other day, this is not short term. this is long term.

there are wooden stages i want to play on, albums i might consider recording, babies i want to pick up, cars i want to wash. there are potatoes i want to mash, hand-whipped whip cream to whip, songs to write, doorknobs to turn, manual cars i want to shift. there are cellos i want to play, dishes to scrub, leaves i want to rake, jars i want to open, hard-to-reach spots on my back i want to scratch. there are boxes i want to be able to pick up, moves i want to help with, conducting batons to hold, guitars i want to fingerpick, waterski towropes i want to hold. there are bikes i want to ride, yoga positions i’d maybe like to try, reins i want to hold, clay pots i want to throw, my strong dog i want to walk on leash, mountains i want to try scrambling up. there are warm gloves i want to wear, rings i want to put back on, glissandos to execute.

but i can’t.

this is no small list. this is no small thing. this is my hand and my wrist and, like you, i have taken it for granted. until now.

there is nothing truly black or white, but i am anxious to be out of the middle, that liminal space, of not-knowing.

oh, and i want to do cartwheels.

but, then, i’ve never been able to do those.

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IT’S NOT BLACK AND WHITE from RIGHT NOW © 2010 kerri sherwood