reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

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the notion of attention. [d.r. thursday]

picture-of-the-day is a driving force. every day now – straight – for over two years – i have posted a picture of the day on our thread. when covid was first present in our world, now two years and a couple months ago, my son suggested that each of us, my son and daughter and i, post a photo a day and it would keep me feeling more in the loop; the connection would be reassuring. i oh-so-agreed and have been really deliberate about these images.

no words necessary, though any kind of descriptor is welcome, these photographs are a glimpse into each other’s lives. i take it really seriously and i celebrate any time either one of them posts a photo, loving the window-in. and all day i look for the photo-capture that will be my picture-of-the-day. it’s a practice i love. intentional observing of the world around me. we all see the same things; we all see different things. i love noticing. and i have found – as in anything – the more i notice, the more i notice.

“the notion of attention … to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer…” (“our world” – text by mary oliver, photographs by molly malone cook)

we hiked over the weekend. we hadn’t been on any trail in a couple of weeks as the weather has been uncooperative. our hike was punctuated with my stopping and stopping again. so much to photograph, so many changes in the forest. i want to go slow, slow; this is not a get-your-heartrate-up exercise, but my heart was exercised nonetheless. so much beauty to see, so many tiny miracles within my reach.

david does not rush me. we were there – on that trail – to rejuvenate, to breathe, to take it all in. how do i capture that in a picture-of-the-day, i wondered. i photograph the new dandelion sharing gravel with the path. i photograph shy tiny pink flowers bending down toward the earth. i photograph the mayapple which has suddenly burst into the underbrush world. i photograph the trillium not yet blooming and wonder aloud which warmer day this week they will open to the sun. so many greens. full spectrum, not just the verdant new spring grass. slow, slow.

“i lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…” (walt whitman – “song of myself”)

it rained the day of this post’s photograph. again. it had been raining for days, grey end on end. my picture-of-the-day would depict the rain, a dissatisfaction with the lack of sun. but, even in that frustration-of-waiting for the lamb days, i knew i could find something to notice about the rain, something to give pause.

the trees in the reflection – still leafless – reminded me. the rain falling here – brutally absent in drought-corners of this world – gentle and insistent, driving and adamant in turn, brings new growth, a transition to a new season, washing away the dust and salt of winter and its tears.

“it was my pleasure to notice such things…” (mary oliver – “our world”)

*****

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just like toadshade. [k.s. friday]

one of nature’s market umbrellas, this toadshade. research states that its prairie trillium leaves – in a salad – taste a little like sunflower seeds, though the idea of harvesting as we hike is not really appealing to me. in due time we will be on the trail and the sessile blooms will burst open, deep red flowers punctuating the woods. the mayapple will spread and vast areas of decaying leaves will be covered by its natural awning. it is a joy to watch the forest wake.

soon i will move into the studio to pare down and rearrange. it has needed this for some time. like decaying leaves, but without the nutrients those generate, i will put away vestiges of places or times i simply cannot tolerate thinking about any longer. a plastic bin will hold the artifacts and, in that clearing out, i suspect light will stream in. i will not merely glance into the studio. i will walk in, breathe, and step the next step of whatever the journey in that studio is. even if only to watch it wake right now.

with the cantilever umbrella of my piano full-stick, maybe i will sow mustard seeds of possibility. and, maybe, just like toadshade, blooms will burst open.

*****

PULLING WEEDS

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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good seed. [d.r. thursday]

poised and ready. tiny seedpods waiting. their release will come with the wind and the rain and, surely, this spring is bringing that. and they will float and fall to the ground and be sent swirling and land in the meadow and the pond, on the river and on decaying nurselogs nearby in the forest. some will take root and others will not, for their form has changed too much in the rain and wind for their function to remain the same. but there are many, so the tree’s explosion of blossoms have guaranteed its legacy.

in every moment of communicating with others we are tiny seedpods. poised and ready to release with the wind. what will we scatter?

our words are not without volition; we have the choice of what to say, the choice of how to say it. the moments of measuring a response, of pondering a question…these are moments of great import.

“all summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.” (mary oliver- what i have learned so far)

how many times we wish we could take back a comment, retract a judgement, shrink back from a story told. how many times we wish an other would-not-have-said-that, would apologize, would consider all the implications of something said in spew, or even in -what they feel is- jest. we know a tiny slowing-down, a quick brain-heart-lips check-in, a fact-check, a compassionate re-wording, would all change the minute our words – or theirs – hit the air, with the wind ready to sail them on and on.

tiny seeds sown on the breezes of everyday life. seeds that take root and grow.

“we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land…”(stephen schwartz/john michael tebelak – all good gifts)

good seed.

“i’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (maya angelou)

*****

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prayer of opposites, acrylic 48″x48″

PRAYER OF OPPOSITES ©️ david robinson



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cautious discernment. [d.r. thursday]

and the dried grassy flower stands tall, not yet shrinking back, not yet bowing to the wind. it opens its arms to the sun and, equally, to the rain; it intimately knows how each feels. it waits – for there is nothing else to do. it stokes energy – for it cannot survive unless it conserves. we pass by, admiring the firework of its winter bloom.

soon, soon, it will regenerate. soon, soon, a stem will grow, sturdy, tall. soon, soon, a rosette will green. soon, soon, it will bloom, tiny flowers, clusters on its thick stem.

and one might think how lovely it would look in a simple bud vase, on a side table, in its winter simplicity or soon-soon-spring-blossoming.

quick research reveals it could be golden alexander or perhaps queen anne’s lace, not-toxic and somewhat toxic, respectively. a google-photo-search suggests it is possibly wild parsnip, absolutely toxic, invasive, causing severe burns and years-long discoloration of the skin, like queen anne’s lace with a big bite.

“things are [- sometimes -] not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.” (buddha)

identification – now – in the fallow – is not easy.

when there are tiny flowers, when there is foliage…maybe then it will be easier. it will, clearly, be an important discernment.

often we gaze upon things that seem to be attractive, seem to be beautiful, that tease us to reach for them.

perhaps a reminder to exercise caution.

*****

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see an owl, acrylic, 24″x48″


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bird by bird. [k.s. friday]

the mallards are back. a male and a female. they were hanging out across the street on the corner in the grass next to the sidewalk by the bus stop sign. i couldn’t help but smile; they are a welcome sight.

the robins have been gently waking us before dawn – their birdcalls, wafting through an always-partially-opened-window, a soft entry into a new day. i wake, listening to them and other early birds, then slip back to sleep for a few-more-minutes.

after what feels like a long winter, accentuated by the pandemic’s limitations, the mallards, the robins, the tiny flowers poking out of the grass and alongside the trail, all harbingers that spring is actually coming to wisconsin. really, really.

there is a temptation to clean out the gardens, to neaten and tidy up. but rule of thumb – wait until the daytime is at least 50 degrees for 7-10 days – puts the nix on this. wisconsin is not 50 degrees even two days in a row yet. the robins and the mallards roll their eyes.

so, the spring cleaning juju goes inside and we spend any extra energy readying our home for throwing open the windows, allowing the sun to stream in, cleaning out the cobwebs and the (ahem!) dust of the past seasons.

we changed our sitting room last weekend. we put up fresh paintings, moved things around, pared down. the sitting room is between the hallway and the master bedroom and, though with a comfy couch and chair, has often felt merely like a walk-through. we pause now. it feels peaceful and inviting. a little re-arranging, a little re-decorating and it is a space luring me to curl up, read a book, write poetry, sit and ponder.

we are moving around the house now, doing the same as last weekend. the dining room has bags and bins and boxes filling up – things to donate. the basement, also. it will take some time. this is not the first time i have written about this lengthy process, nor will it, likely, be the last. it is a journey. i’m taking it bird by bird. (anne lamott)

the next room up is my studio. it has too many remnants of past workplaces, too many packages of stuff, too much in it to feel inviting or peaceful. i stand in the doorway and wonder if the mallards would turn away, grimacing, were this to be where their homing instinct returned them.

i know that the sitting room’s new persona, so to speak, has encouraged me to sit, to stay there a while.

i wonder if the studio will do the same. cleaned out, tidied, pared down. bird by bird.

full stick and an empty piano bench are a powerful invitation.

*****

BABY STEPS

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BABY STEPS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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restless and fidgety. [d.r. thursday]

and the saga continues. april. “april showers bring may flowers,” someone quips. everyone turns and snarls. that kind of positivity is just a bit much.

i looked at my weather app – again. we have several important places on there: chicago and charlotte (to see what our kids are experiencing), denver and tampa and columbia (family), breckenridge and dory (mountain towns we check in on), brevard (another mountain town we check in on), washington island (because we lived there), northport (because it was home).

the weather was iffy this past weekend (no surprises there). as we drew closer to it, i started googling real estate companies. zillow and realty.com, redfin, trulia. looking at houses in places with better weather, houses in places with different terrain, looking at house plans for places we dream about being. i’ve lived here a long, long time – longer than i have lived anywhere. it’ll be thirty-four years this year – thirty-three of them in this cherished house – more than half my life.

and like spring poking at us, teasing, causing us to be restless and fidgety, thoughts of living somewhere else do the same thing. poke, poke. prodding me…think about it. “what’s keeping you here?” someone asked me. “you grew into it because you had to,” else someone explained my midwest life.

the sky is glowing orange right now. literally glowing. there is some fog over the lake so the rising sun is diffusing into it. it’s pretty stunning. i suspect it’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize for the rain and snow. uh-huh.

the sun pops out over the cloud of fog and streams into the bedroom. the quilt lights up, david peeks out the window, dogga stirs at our feet, the mourning dove outside coos. and one more morning – yet again – i think about how much i love this home.

*****

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in the green room. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

well, that didn’t last long.

spring has peeked in, shook its head, and retreated.

it snowed saturday. all day. it was a really wet snow, and, though it did stick a bit on yards and roofs, it was not shovel-worthy. but it did bring out the restless.

we took a walk in it. in the olden days (not too long ago) we always took a walk while it was snowing. here it was – april 2nd – and it was snowing. so surely, we should not be freezing and i would not need my miracle mittens to enjoy the soft flakes landing on our faces.

not.

the snow pelted us as we walked along the lakefront. literally pelted us. it stung our faces; we had to keep looking down to the sidewalk. and, not wearing my miracle mittens was really dumb. this is wisconsin, after all. what was i thinking?!?

i tried to take photographs of the snow as it fell. i think i was really trying to take a picture of our restlessness, of the yearning for sun and warmth, of willing spring to stop taking its sweet time, to actually arrive and not linger in the green room off the stage of winter.

in a desperately intentional cup-half-full approach, we noticed grass that had greened, with snow on top. we noticed buds on trees, with snow on top. we noticed tiny sprouts of plants, with snow on top. we noticed that the streets were not really holding the snow, that the sidewalks were not snowy, that water was running next to the gutters to the drains. these were good signs.

the year my daughter was born – 1990 – it snowed the day before the first whisperings of her grand entrance into the world. it was may 13, mother’s day that year, and in one day i would go into labor and in two days i would be a mom.

but – may. snow. yikes.

after everything, simply every thing, i’m not sure hardy wisconsin souls would be able to take that this year. i think that, perhaps, mother nature might cut us some slack. perhaps a little more green and a little less white. perhaps a little more 50s and a little less 30s. perhaps a little more sun and a little less cloudy.

perhaps i need to get a grip and just ride the roller coaster that is spring in a great lakes state.

i’m guessing the tickets are free for residents.

i remind myself that patience is a virtue and other blah-blah positive, lofty adages. sigh.

i’m going to go hide in the green room with spring and discuss that.

*****

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little by little. [k.s. friday]

“bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air. and feathered canyons everywhere, i’ve looked at clouds that way.” (joni mitchell)

it’s march. less bluesky days than gray. more rain than sun. drear > brilliant. march in-the-north is a funny time. it’s neither this nor that. a transition zone. it’s cold. it’s warm. it’s both. it’s never consistent. you just never know.

and so, you realize that you have to grab onto the days that shake you out of cobwebs and from under the quilts of winter. you must go stare at the sky. and those clouds. they hope you.

i walked looking up. watching the play of sunlight. remembering what it feels like to have warm sun on my face and not see puffs of air in front of me as i breathe into it.

in the middle of a time of some worry i drink in the sounds and sights of normal around me. i hold tightly to the returning sound of early sparrows and stalwart chickadees and finches. i stand in blue and fluffy white, grateful for a day that is not a shade of gray.

i sat on the edge of the deck, dogga at my side. we watched two cardinals flurrying about. we listened to the crows and watched for the hawk. there was nothing that had to be done in those moments, no project, no task. it just was. it wasn’t really warm but it wasn’t really cold either.

it’s the grayness that is the challenge. sitting in the question of season. the not-this-not-that. elusive spring. the calendar reads “spring” yet the reality in these parts is not in keeping with the definition of “to leap, burst forth”. an illusion, as there is no leaping, no bursting forth here. it is more of a slow slide into the season. snowpiles struggling to remain in the shadows, shreds of ice on the pond. the good earth will take its sweet time, in bits and spurts, little by little, and, eventually, spring will have arrived and we will glance around and be surprised.

i look at the weekend weather. i’ll turn 63 on sunday. i would like it to be warm, sunny. i would like to gather my children and my family and dear friends and eat birthday cake with lots of candles and singing under a blue-puffy-cloud-sky. wishes.

accuweather tells me it will not be warm. it will be the coldest day of the weeks on either side. and, for many reasons of this time, it will not be gathered with my children or my family or dear friends and i will not be eating cake with candles. i don’t know about the singing. all…little by little.

but it’s supposed to be sunny.

and that counts. every little by little.

“i’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow: it’s cloud illusions i recall; i really don’t know clouds at all.” (and judy collins sings)

*****

little by little (©️ 2022 kerri sherwood feat. dogga)

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the pod of our diapause. [two artists tuesday]

the color of a palomino, the pod of milkweed off the side of the trail captures my attention. though i want to touch it, to feel what looks like a velvety ear, i don’t disturb it. this pod has burst open, its seeds scattered, waiting for verdant spring and the eventual arrival of monarchs. the butterflies left the midwest for the winter, migrating, traveling up to 2500 miles to shelter and hibernate through winter in coolness that is not cold.

their diapause is a period of suspended development. it is common in the insect world, this inactivity: “a state in which their growth, development, and activities are suspended temporarily, with a metabolic rate that is high enough to keep them alive.” it’s a kind of dormancy. it sounds a little like isolating in the middle of a pandemic, a little like a response to a few more-difficult years. a slowing down, an insulating, a turning-in, heartbeats enough to sustain yet not enough for vast inspiration. hmm.

back on our favorite local trail, we are watching it wake. we take note of the changes in color, the changes in the woods, in the meadows. sipping coffee this morning we listen to the new sounds – birdcalls we have missed in the quietude of winter, the middle of our diapause.

we start to feel the pull of the outside more, the draw of places to see, the falling-off of quilts we have wrapped around us. i begin to wonder – with a little more energy – what next and next look like. the sun streams in the window and stays up later, pushing back night like feet on a crab soccer ball.

we begin to break open the pod of our diapause, long after milkweed but before the butterflies come back.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY