reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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vertically. [k.s. friday]

they move them vertically. not horizontally. vertically.

the yamaha CFIIIs is a powerhouse 9-foot grand. a piano, it is a canvas waiting, blank, black and white.

they move it in, attach the legs. the technician shows up, tunes, voices, listens. the artist plays. the technician futzes some more. it’s a dance, making sure it is ready. the piano is patient and steady.

i have had the good fortune of being a recipient of these pianos. they have been delivered to recording studios, to stages, to televised venues, to big outdoor parks. the CFIIIs and the C7 are THE pianos. hands down.

at the elton john concert in charlotte, north carolina with d, my daughter and her boyfriend, he marveled at the load-in-load-out that it must take to move the ej piano, band, set, lighting, media show every night or so on the “farewell yellow brick road tour”. mostly, he talked about the piano, about how amazing it was, and how much it must cost, and how it must be moved, and how not just anyone gets to play that, for sure.

because most people believe it is moved as is – horizontally – i explained that it’s moved vertically, on its side.

but i didn’t explain how i knew. i didn’t talk about how many extraordinary pianos had been brought to me that way, how many on which i had performed or recorded. we were at elton john’s concert and he is – truly – a shining star.

inside, though, i knew. i could feel it, that urge to run up on stage, grab a boom mic, stand at the piano and play and sing. poking at me like a snickers bar. “i’m still standing. yeah, yeah, yeah.

the other day – at the daniel stowe botanic garden – there was a small grand in the atrium. my daughter looked at me when we walked in and said, “it says you can’t play it.” i went over to look at it. “no worries,” i said, laughing.

but at the ej concert….now that’s another story. he played and sang and i was proud to also be a yamaha artist.

“my gift is my song and this one’s for you.” (elton john – your song).

the words rang in my ears and my heart attached the exclamation mark. my gift IS my song…all of them…the ones with words and the ones without. the ones with music and the ones without. the ones written and the ones not written yet.

maybe there are still vertical pianos out there waiting. for me.

*****

WAITING (from JOY) ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

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the stars are watching. [k.s. friday]

littlebabyscion is ready. i washed it and vacuumed it and wiped out the inside, reorganizing its small storage spaces, checking to make sure the necessities were there. we travel always with a small tool kit, duct tape (this is from experience), twist ties, rubber bands of all sizes and a big maglite flashlight. light is always good on a dark highway, but the light was barely discernible when i checked it, so i changed the batteries and put extras in a small bag that also has jumper cables and a quart of oil, things we have determined to be practical. in the winter there are a few additions, a few things that my sweet poppo always made sure i carried along. but it’s still late summer, so the extender snow brush/scraper can hang in the garage just a bit longer and the kitty litter doesn’t need to come along. littlebabyscion is ready to go to the shop today and come home later with a muffler that doesn’t make noise. (to muffle: to make quieter and more difficult to hear; muffler: a device fixed to the exhaust of a motor vehicle to reduce engine noise.) it waits patiently in the driveway until The Time.

the people who know – like our mechanic, the exhaust system shop, our plumber, our electrician, the drain experts, tree services, gardening wizards, the company we will choose to be our mason – they are like lights in the darkness. along with their expertise and the wisdom of friends who have beentheredonethat we survive the normal – and not-so-normal – challenges of home and car ownership. it would seem rare – a person without some sort of concentric circle of informants surrounding them in problem-solving and decision-making. asking questions, asking for advice, seeking information are the basis for learning and, it seems, every day is an opportunity for that. (and we haven’t even mentioned the whole changing-bodies piece of this life-thing.)

we stood outside on the deck, the only light from a few torches and the bonfire across the yard; we gazed at the sky. it seemed thousands of stars gazed back at us. the james webb telescope has delivered photographs of space back to us here on this planet, a place that feels big but is merely tiny in the vast. seeing billions and billions of light years away, i read that the webb captures not just the birth of stars but, also, their last dances. it is hard to wrap your head around looking back in time in such a profound way. the light goes on and on. and on.

we each build a framework around ourselves. none of us exists without the other, really. at a time when our purple-mountain-majesty-land continues to be divided and people fight for control and power and are practicing efforts serving to undermine, marginalize, divide further, it would seem prudent to remember the tiny-in-vast. transience.

we can be the light for each other…in so many ways. or we can snuff it out and try to go on without. the stars are watching.

always prepared, always planning ahead for possible big bangs, my poppo would vote for light.

*****

TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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on the trail of uuno. [merely-a-thought monday]

i was stunned to see my eyes on his face. maybe even my nose. ok, maybe – for obvious reasons – more my dad’s, my mom’s. but, sheesh, this ancestral dna, undeniable, is a funny thing.

finnish. i am finnish. and proud of it. though there are millions of us, my most-italian-city-in-the-state-of-wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of finns. we are pretty few and far between. the most finnish we get in these parts is people talk about (while mispronouncing) “saunas” and wonder about the use of the word “sisu” (one of my personal favorites.)

recently, in facebookland, my cousin posted this finnish proverb, “the forest will answer you in the way you call to it.” another cousin wrote that she remembered the story about our relative uuno klami, a famous finnish composer, “one of the most significant composers in the era following jean sibelius”, who brought people out into the forest and encouraged them to “sit quietly” and “listen to the woods”.

my sweet momma used to tell me about him, too. she connected the dots back to uuno as where i drew my composing juju. no one else in our family wrote music and, actually, not many even played instruments. my dad used to brag about how he could “turn on the stereo” as his musical talent. yes, he was a cutie-pie with a dad-sense-of-humor. my mom was insistent. in the ever-so-typical “yeah-yeah-yeah” internal response to which we children seem to default, i didn’t go much further than these conversations, a discuriousness i now regret.

so a couple weeks ago i googled him. it was startling to see his picture. because i felt like i recognized the heavy eyebrow lids – frontal bossing or some such term – slightly drooping eyes, the 11’s furrowed over his nose, his actual nose. geesh. he was not blessed with as high a forehead. now, a few generations later…

but – his woods connection. yes. psithurism: the sound of rustling leaves and wind in the trees. gorgeous. inspiring. evocative. i so agree with him.

his music – as i now begin to listen to it, on his trail – many pieces with only one recording, one interpretation. and – in the way of composers and real life – much of his oeuvre is unpublished.

yet i suspect that the forest knows it all. what he brought to it – his muse – returns to the leaves and the wind and is always there.

*****

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the hawk. [k.s. friday]

we had eye contact.

in the middle of planting grasses he flew in. i turned and he was perched on the fence, studying us. we looked at each other – eye to eye. and this hawk sat still, just watching. before i could get d’s attention and have him turn to see him, the hawk flew off, eventually landing in the higher branches of the east neighbor’s tree, where he stayed for quite some time. we could see him there and he could see us.

from his vantage point i ponder what else he could see. the horizon stretched out before him, his high flight giving him an edge for observation, clarity. his eagle eye taking in the flow around him, the circle of life ever-present.

now it makes me wonder if he knew what was coming, how grounded we would soon need to be. things change in a moment and moving forward requires determination and some acuity. perhaps it was there to let us borrow some of its vast abilities, its confidence, the sense of being in control.

i stared at the hawk. the hawk stared back at me. peacefully, focused. i was just a little astounded at how close it was. maybe it was a little astounded at how close i was. no matter, we both stayed put and the moments slowed down until he took flight.

*****

TAKE FLIGHT from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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wishes. [k.s. friday]

right now – in this quiet early morning – i can hear the chippies at one of the birdfeeders. there’s a certain metallic sound as the seed, disbursed by scrambling tiny feet on the edge of the feeder, hits the metal chipmunk-squirrel-prevention plate below. i’m pretty certain the chippies giggle every time they jump from there to the edge of the feeding trough. there is an abundance of seed in this feeder and they know it, returning time and time again to fill their adorable cheeks, run off, run back, jump, giggle, gorge, run off, all on repeat.

that is what i wish for my children, the imperative: an abundance of seed. to know that there is always more out there for them: more possibility, more to learn, more adventure, more challenges, more successes, more love. to always know that they are rooted and capable. to always know acceptance and compassion and support and fairness. to know that they can be confident in the world, always. to know that, whether they need it or not, i will always be their biggest fan and will always hope for their biggest and littlest wishes to come true.

i knew, even as an adult, that my parents were cheering me on. i knew that they did the hard work of letting go as i moved away. i knew that they were ever-present – and still are. i knew they wished all good things for me and held steadfast during all hard things. their love was a perennial birdfeeder, infinity-abundance-filled and there whenever i needed it.

i used to text both of my grown children every night to say goodnight. somewhere along the way it was brought to my attention that this might be a tad bit annoying. though i, personally, would adore hearing from my sweet momma every single night – especially now – i realized that she would also have respected it had my desire been for her to not continue this practice.

i stopped my goodnighttext practice, but i didn’t stop my goodnights. they are now just simply silent kisses blown in their direction, like dandelion fluff on the wind. infinity-floating and always here.

*****

I WILL HOLD YOU (FOREVER AND EVER) from AND GOODNIGHT ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

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no time to waste. [k.s. friday]

“…in singing skies and dancing waters…” (john denver)

we sometimes forget.

we forget to look up. to see the blue – singing – sky. we forget, in all the drudgery that can be the world around us, to study the night sky, trillions of stars, our tiny selves. we forget to watch the sun rise over the horizon and the sun set behind us. we forget vast as we are immersed in the up-close-and-personal telephoto lens of our lives.

we forget to see the – dancing – waters. we forget to allow it to wash over us, soothing, soothing. we forget to notice tiny droplets of dew on leaves and the surf’s leaving and returning. we forget to break into song in the shower and float in rivers under canopies of trees. we forget to listen to the stream and we forget to catch the rain on our tongues and we forget to allow ourselves to stand in it. we forget to revel in fountains and even celebrate impermanence, as it is not just all good things that come to an end…

and so the sky sings and the waters dance. they remind us, whether in the cool forest of high elevation mountains or the rockfront edges of a great lake or the sandy beaches of the shore.

for a moment we look up and the purity of water dancing in a singing sky fills us…suspended stunning beauty…humbling…and every good moment we have ever had comes rushing forward.

there’s really no time to waste.

*****

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

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a watchful eye. [k.s. friday]

should it get to the point that the vine is obscuring the metal sunflower, we will cut it back. right now the vine is in its glory, billowing on top of the wooden fence, weaving in and out of the decorative wrought iron, and tumbling down our side. it has reached out and is starting to creep over this sunflower, ever so slowly and then, suddenly, the sunflower is wrapped in vine.

we keep a watchful eye.

for the vines of the neighbors, though lovely, are somewhat aggressive and we wish to protect the plants we have beneath their spilling. they are quietly growing, growing beneath these explosive vines and it has taken us years to cultivate even this small garden.

it used to be that the snow-on-the-mountain took over…it was everywhere. it choked out the lavendar garden and its long-branching rhizomes were spreading, spreading, giving our newly planted grasses a run for their life. it was overrunning everything else and its root system sent out feelers all over the yard, even under the driveway, looking for vulnerable plants it could overtake.

now the ground elder, on the other side of the potting bench, is rampant. because it is on-the-other-side and we mostly keep it from the stone patio in our potting garden, we are not as worried. but we watch it anyway.

we’ve discovered that vigilance is key. not so shockingly, we see the vines will win.

so we keep a watchful eye. and we protect the more fragile plants. we are sure to water them and check for the invasives trying to squeeze them out.

because they are beautiful, diligent silent growers, not insistently loud snowballing vegetation, and they each deserve their own space in the sun, their own dirt, air to breathe and our appreciation.

*****

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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our chippies. [k.s. friday]

and even as we sat on the deck, the chippie ran to dogdog’s bowl. tiny paws on the top edge, he pulled himself up and ducked his head down into the metal dogbowl, getting a quick drink of water. moments later he scampered away, back toward the potting bench and access to the birdfeeder. it was a really sweet moment and pivoted our conversation to wondering and worrying about the wildlife in the searing temperatures.

i went inside and pulled out two shallow vessels, filling them both with cool water. placing one on the ground and the other on the potting stand, i announced to chipmunks et al that i would keep them filled and they didn’t have to risk life or limb drinking out of dogga’s bowl. we often see squirrels and birds taking tiny sips of the pond, but i’m all for offering them a cleaner water option.

in another pure bambi-movie moment, driving down a local more-forested road, a doe stood on the right-of-way. proudly she nursed a beautiful spotted fawn. i can hear the fawn, “but i’m hungry nowwwww” as she encouraged it to go just a few steps further so as to be out of sight, in the wood. but a mom does what a mom’s gotta do and she unabashedly stood fast, allowing us a gorgeous, heart-stirring view of nature doing nature. we were both moved. a profound moment in time, reminding us it’s not just us.

i reached out to touch the grasses by the old brick front wall and he was suddenly there. holding on to the brick, his tiny face looking at me, direct eye-to-eye contact. i whispered i would do nothing to hurt him, tiny chipmunk, and he zipped off, satisfied he was in no danger.

a few years ago, when we were way up north in ely on the boundary waters, there was this chipmunk we named “humpy” who, well, kind of obviously, had a hump on his back. each day he came right up to me, climbed in my lap and waited for peanuts. he’d stuff his little cheeks and run off to hide his stash and then he’d return to sit and climb on me until i relented and gave him more. each year since i’ve asked 20 if humpy was there again, but he hasn’t seen him. years have passed. these tiny creatures typically only live a couple years, which is probably why they live so zealously.

i suppose we would do well to mimic the sweetly-dedicated-nurturing-zealous-living of critters. never a moment to take for granted. always present in this ballet of life, doing the best they can with what they have. recognizing that simple interconnectivity matters, trusting that others will be compassionate and will have their best interests at heart.

yes. sounds good.

*****

SWEET BALLET from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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not unimportant. [k.s. friday]

just like when i take a photograph of a person i try to avoid having extraneous people in the picture, when i take photographs outside i try to avoid any messy unnecessities.

this time i did it on purpose.

on july 29th i will have lived in this house for 33 years. i have sat out back watching the sky turn orange over the garage for 33 years. i have watched the trees grow up over the rooftops in my view. i have watched squirrels on their highways-of-highwire for 33 years.

it suddenly occurred to me that there might come a day when i can’t simply walk out the old screen door onto the deck, stepping onto the patio to watch the sky in the west. there might come a day when i live somewhere else and i won’t have access to this view.

and so the messiness of wires sectioning off the sky became important. important enough to photograph. important enough to remember.

we’re surrounded by things – and views – we have taken for granted. we see them every day – though we don’t really see them.

they seem unimportant.

yet, these familiar sights are the very things that help ground us. in a world that is politically volatile, climate that is destroying mother earth, bombastic leaders itching to reduce freedoms, disrespect and aggression out of control, it would seem that we need grab onto that which grounds us, centers us, slows down our breathing.

because i’m thready, i notice – and try to memorize – things like how the old wood floor creaks in the hallway, what it sounds like when the glass doorknob falls off, the feel of the small chain on the basement door and the decades-rubbed indent it has made, the sound of a double-hung window with ropes and weights opening, the deck cracking in cold weather, the cool painted-cement floor under bare feet in the basement, the places where the plaster has cracked. they all spell home.

and, with a world in turmoil, everything in flux, so much anxiety and grief and worry, things that are solidly familiar help.

*****

THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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i am an artist. [two artists tuesday]

i read it on a thread. someone commented to an author i follow. “never be shy about your work,” she encouraged. i took a screenshot.

never be shy about your work.

humility is a virtue, we are taught. desiderata reminds us, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” always.

but somewhere in there – in the spectrum between meekness and arrogance – is the space to be proud of what you do, to stand in it, to share it.

“what do you do?” people ask. many people can answer that in a word. as artists, it often takes a paragraph, all run-on sentences with no breath so as not to get that lost-in-space glazed look on the asker’s face.

when i broke both of my wrists, the medical staff wrapped up both of them, casting and explaining the possible ramifications of the breaks “at my age”. when i fell the second time on a wet floor and re-injured my right wrist to the point of it having a frighteningly small amount of range of motion, the specialists asked questions and each politely said, “i heard you play the piano” as if i sat around noodling, surrounded by porcelain figurines and teacups, playing chopin-light or maybe little easy-piano-pop-hits. i was literally hesitant (!) to speak and qualified my statement-to-come by saying, “i’m not saying this to be self-aggrandizing, but….” and then i continued, “but because it’s a fact that i have 15 albums out in the world and piano is my major instrument and this could change my life work.”

those specialists had no qualms about saying they were specialists. none. i wondered why i hesitated, why i was apologetic.

never be shy about your work.

i have worked hard in my area of specialty. i have struggled like any artist, have written on scraps of paper and flimsy napkins, have squeezed out time in-between everything else that takes time, have stood in the rain playing and singing on flatbeds, have lugged boxes and boxes and boxes of cds. i have also sold thousands and thousands of albums and have millions of streams. it doesn’t equate to any kind of riches except the kind that is the deep satisfaction of doing something you love.

i used to be much more aggressive – and assertive – about “getting the word out” about my music. though i recognize that vocal styles come and go, instrumental piano is not irrelevant…it has no shelf life. it’s just as peaceful and evocative today as the days i composed it, the days i recorded it. so that would mean that 14 of these 15 albums still have some sales merit, not just the $.000079 cent so “generously” royaltied by online streaming.

never be shy about your work.

in the last church position i held, i was in a meeting with two of the leaders. they were streaming the services and i was commenting on the level of professionalism we needed to try to achieve. i wasn’t willing to link my personal and professional social media to this online streaming until the sound quality (in particular) was indeed much better. one of the leaders stared at me, clear disdain on his face, and told me he had no idea why i would say such a thing or hold such a stance. i explained that i am a yamaha artist and that only PART of my work in the world was the job (which he deliberately pointed out was part-time) i had at that place. for the umbrella of my life i was an artist and that i have always strived to bring the best quality to my work. i told him that it was important to me to make sure that nothing i did musically in the public arena was schlocky (including at that place) and that, as a yamaha artist with fifteen albums, i would hold to my position of not-sharing until there was something more professional to share. i would not undermine my own artistry because mediocrity was ok with him.

never be shy about your work.

he – eventually – found a way to fire me. in the deep dark cloak of covid. with no one really knowing why, including me. well, except, maybe, for retaliation. que sera.

never be shy about your work.

i am proud of the albums that will eventually find their way into antique stores around the country. i see them on resale sites now.

but i also know that – from time to time – someone writes to me. and in their writing they tell me that my music has meant something to them. my music has helped them, given them a sense of serenity, made them think, made them dance.

and that is what counts.

so before the vintage-store-influx i guess it’s my job now to not be shy.

i am a composer. i am a pianist. i am a singer-songwriter and recording artist. i am a writer. i love being on stage, telling stories, playing music. i love the feel of wood under my feet, a boom mic in front of me. i have fifteen albums and a few singles. i’m researching how to get more out of pandora and itunes and all the streaming devices out there. i’m 63 but i’m thinking i might still be relevant. i may need your help because no one gets anywhere in a tiny bubble; no one walks this path alone.

i’m pulling up my not-shy-boots.

*****

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