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the path back is the path forward


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which is why we walk in the woods. [d.r. thursday]

when i am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. i would almost say that they save me, and daily.(mary oliver *when i am among the trees)

which is why we walk in the woods.

“i am so distant from the hope of myself, in which i have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.” (mary oliver *)

which is why we walk in the woods.

around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out,“stay awhile.” the light flows from their branches. and they call again,“it’s simple,”they say,“and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”(mary oliver *)

which is why we walk in the woods.

and this day – the day of this trail – we hiked the familiar, listening to the greetings of trees who knew us, remembered us. it was comforting and, though they were silent but for the rustling high above us, they rained down the last of their leaves on us, like a ticket-tape parade.

which is why we walk in the woods.

“trees go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!” (john muir)

we leave a bit of worry behind in each step. we will retrieve them later, all the bits. we dream and wonder and walk under the canopy of these giants that stay with us, tuck us in, give us pause. we shuffle our feet through fallen fall and draw in long breaths of musky leaves piling around the underbrush.

which is why we walk in the woods.

“between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” (john muir)

and between every two oaks and every two maples and every two hickories and every two ash and every two cottonwoods and every two elms and every two willows…doorways. “it’s simple,” they say.

which is why we walk in the woods.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

HELPING HANDS


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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.

*****

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


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the quiet. [k.s. friday]

the woods behind my growing-up house were an invitation. i spent hours in that little forest, planning routes and solving mysteries. at the other end of the woods, near clay pitts road, was a small goat farm, so if you traipsed through all the way – which, in retrospect, wasn’t really far – you would get to the fence where you could watch the goats. my next-door neighbors – there were eight kids in the family – and my across-the-street neighbors and i would devise all manner of woods-play. mostly, i loved the quiet.

the maple tree – my poetry tree – was right outside my bedroom window and provided safe limbs for writing in notebooks, reading, reflecting. long hours, my back against the strong trunk, sun filtered through thick leaves or branches ready to withstand winter. so many lessons with so little. mostly, i loved the quiet.

our river trail is not out in the wilderness. it takes us through woods and past meadows along the river, but is just a hop, skip and a jump from our home. it is restorative. last saturday, a white-tailed deer jumped across our path, bounded through the waning underbrush. hawks flew over us, chipmunks scampered, squirrels chattered from trees, admonishing us not to interrupt their work. there’s that the smell of pine and decaying leaves that even the best scented candles cannot capture. mostly, i love the quiet.

and those trails up in the mountains. for days i am breathless, adjusting to altitude, me: sea-level-raised with a mostly almost-sea-level-adulthood. i hike anyway, stopping often, sipping water. though i am a big lover of deserted beach walking and have logged plenty of time especially on long island and beaches of the east coast, the dirt under my feet through forested mountain is a salve. i agree with john muir: “and into the forest i go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

as i write, the neighbors behind us are installing conduit all along the chain link fence, preparing to provide electricity to yet more spotlights high in the trees, a big yard full of stuff-to-do like a full-size batting cage, swingset and fort, soccer nets, battery-driven atvs, bikes, large plastic-ware toys, trampoline, zipline, loud outdoor speakers, and – i suspect – a revisit of the ice rink. the tallest trees have been wired with the brightest lights and i know that will mean later evenings where quiet at the end of the day is not valued. no longer the “sanctuary” others used to call the yard beyond ours, it makes me kind of sad thinking that so very much is required for this young family to be happily entertained. it makes me sad thinking that it is possible – these days – for people to forget that they live in community with others. we are not islands upon ourselves. what we do impacts those around us…even in our very own backyards.

fred rogers said, “i wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence. some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be. that kind of solitude goes by many names. it may be called “meditation” or “deep relaxation,” “quiet time” or “downtime.” in some circles, it may even be criticized as “daydreaming.” whatever it’s called, it’s a time away from outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become more familiar with ourselves.”

so much to learn in the quiet. so much imagination, exploration. so much searching and so much finding. so much growth, no matter the age.

i’m grateful for the tree that was outside my window. i’m grateful for the tiny woods behind my house. i’m grateful for the beaches of my years. i’m grateful for the river trail and the hush it grants me. i’m grateful for the mountains and the pine forests and stands of quaking aspen, moments by running streams and tiny lakes tucked into the corners of beauty. i’m grateful for the symphony of quiet.

“peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.
peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.”

(excerpt from mr. rogers’ “peace and quiet”, 1968)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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wishbones in the woods. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we received a letter from the energy company that tree pruning may be required on our property. there is one tree that is closer to power lines than any others. this tree is out front and has been there the entire three decades plus that i have been here.

this old tree invited my children to climb it, was the source of limbs we used for christmas trees, shaded the front yard and gardens through the years. i watched this tree change through the seasons out the window as i rocked my children in the nursery; i’ve taken pictures of it with snow stacked up against its trunk. i’ve pondered what to do in the area around its roots, which rise above the surface of the ground; i’ve given up planting around it and allowed it to just co-exist with the dirt and scant grass. this tree has lost limbs in recent years and has some interior rotting causing some breakage to bear no leaves. but this is the source of long-time wisdom which has welcomed me home each time i’ve pulled into the driveway. each time i silently thank this tree and breathe a little bit easier to be at this place so familiar to me. i am wondering now if this is the tree. it pains me to think of this old tree pruned beyond recognition or, worse yet, taken down entirely. if indeed this is the case, i would hope to have pieces of this tree to save – slices as chargers for under dinner plates or even just simply a limb to wrap with happy lights and place in a spot of honor inside. yes. i am wondering if this is the tree.

the tree in the woods off the trail we follow was one that collected snow, its face to the wind. we hadn’t noticed it before; it blended into the rest of the woods and fallen trees. but, with snow on its bows it was clearly a wishbone, and, obviously, making a wish, i hiked into the underbrush to get a closer photo.

i wonder how often we pass by trees – and perhaps every living thing and perhaps people – without noticing them for what they are or who they are. how often do we turn a blind eye to that which is familiar or that which blends without any outstanding characteristic? it is possible that we participate in life more peripherally than we ought, more aloofly than the stuff of life deserves. the merit of each bow, each limb, each living thing, each person, is lost in our pursuit of next.

in the still threadiness of our hearts, perhaps slowing down and looking more closely might yield stronger connection to that which we understand, that which is familiar, that which we know well. more importantly, perhaps it might yield stronger connection to that which we don’t understand, that which is not familiar and that which we don’t know well. an opportunity to discard apathy and discuriousness and embrace old trees by the driveway and wishbones in the woods.

*****

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


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and the snow whispers. [k.s. friday]

and the new year enters from stage right/house left and whispers to the middle of the old wooden stage. a slight and humbled bow to its foregoer, it beckons silence and quiet resolve.

we stand in ovation as we pine for its downbeat and new music, this new year’s promise. then we take our seats in the snow and turn our faces to it gently falling, flakes in slow motion, moments of fresh powder.

stillness commences and the hushed voice of what is to come lingers in the cold dark air around us. it is voiceless and indistinct; we lean in and listen for the timbre of the spirit of what will be.

and the snow whispers back to us, ever-fragile flakes, reminding us of its evanescence, of our impermanence, of the mystery of it all.

we rise and we walk into the woods, our feet crunching on the trail.

happy new year.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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©️ 2020 kerri sherwood


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these old woods. [two artists tuesday]

stump copy

this is an old woods.  while we still can hike in it, we are driving -without stopping- to the woods and, generally without seeing anyone else, taking a hike.  it is grounding to be in a woods that is old, a woods that is natural.

around us many trees have fallen.  they lay quietly on the ground, nurselogs to others, the white rot fungi that is sharing their space an invitation to symbiosis.

we spend time looking up at the very-mature-trees standing, reaching to the sky, parallel to each other, taking in the sun.  they too share their space.  they have endured storm and wind, snow and torrential rain; they have endured times of thirst and times of excessive heat.  they are still enduring.

i suspect most of these trees are much older than us.  their rings of life could tell stories of lack, stories of abundance, stories of challenge and stories of ease.  yet, they quietly stand, swaying in the wind like cattails along the curves of a slow river.  not one boasts of its steadfastness; not one complains of its fall.  the wisdom of the ages seemingly is in the long story.  not in the angrily staccato-ed punctuation of a self-indulgent-short-story.

we step into the forest and the community of trees seems to sigh, pleased to see us again.  it is not the prettiest of woods.  but it is deeply, silently reassuring.  life goes on.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the biding of time. [two artists tuesday]

birch in winter

i’m writing this as i listen to the loud interruption of wind machines and a large lawnmower/mulcher behind our yard.  a family with many children (6 or maybe 7) is having their yard spring-cleaned up and it makes me nostalgic for the days we, as kids, as families, cleaned our own yards.

the feel of the rakes in our hands, the smell of leaves, the chill in the air and the anticipation of spring-on-its-way, the promise of hot chocolate.  the quiet.  i can hear the sound of the metal tines of the rake, many bent out of shape, as i attempted to make piles of leaves.  my dad would later clean up my messy attempts but in the meanwhile i knew i was helping.  i was outside and the sounds of birds-early-on-the-wing and rustling squirrels, the wind whispering high in the oaks of our yard, these were the sounds of march.

ahhh, the blowers and the large-engine machine just stopped for a moment and i took a deep breath before they started back up again.

in these days of unsettling and increasing isolation we are challenged to find ways to calm our souls.  recently we took a long walk on the frozen lake up north.  all around us nature was quietly waiting.  gracefully bending in the cold wind, birch trees wait.  grasses, browned from fall and a long winter, sway in pause.  all around us you could feel it; anticipation of what is to come and the quiet biding of time.

in between all the remotely-done work-of-the-day tasks, maybe later today we will take a walk.  we’ll put on our boots and drive to the woods.  we’ll feel our breathing even out as we step from little-baby-scion into a hushed space, a place of waiting.  we’ll likely walk in silence.

there’s so much noise around us these days.  angst and anger, concern and contention, rhetoric and reason, pomposity and push-back.

we have no choice but to wait.  to be respectful of each other, of the time it will take.  to do what we need to do in order to survive as best we can with as few dire repercussions as possible.  to be responsible and proactive.  to do the right thing and honor health and life in the none-too-steady heartbeat of the world.  to wait.  like the birch trees and the grasses on the edge of the lake, bowing to the wind and rising to the sun.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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zag. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in the woods

we bought snowpants.  on sale for only $7 they are a wise investment for two people who hike year-round out in the woods or wherever we are.  it’s a big deal for us to buy anything new so, this time, instead of looking at them every day and saving them for good (ala beaky)  we celebrated our good deal by putting them on, going out in the snowy woods and hiking.

we were pretty much silent.  you could hear snow falling from the trees and the crunching of our boots on the trail.  but we didn’t talk much.  with so many things to talk to about and the woods being our best meeting room it was unusual.  but sometimes, it is silence that is most needed.

our path, like this stream, has zigged and zagged.  it has brought us past jagged rocky times and through sweet gentle lapping pools.  it has been lit by warm sun and darkened by the deep worry of late night.

but one thing is always consistent in the inconsistency of life.  no matter how we arrive in the woods, no matter the angst we bring.  arm in arm, because it is our habit, we walk through the woods.  arm in arm on the trail we silently hike toward quieting our hearts and minds.  under trees older than our troubles, arm in arm walking reaches past even anger-inspired words, things spoken in frustration.  arm in arm we remember all that is good, all that is certain.  the day’s hurdles and fears and unease fade as the sun sets.  and we zag.

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

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trees and angels. [merely a thought monday]

merely words framed copy

“how was your week?” jonathan asked.  we rolled our eyes.  he was unpacking his bass while i uncovered the piano and d adjusted the mic stands.  he said, “tell me about it.  you guys always have great stories!”  eh.  great stories.  more like mini soap operas, you might think schadenfreude applies here (where he might derive some pleasure from our angst) but on the total other side of the spectrum, we have agreed that jonathan is an angel.  i wonder if, as he drives away in his subaru outback, he turns the corner and POOF! he disappears.

“it’s ok,” he says.  “trees must split their bark to grow.  there is pain.”

i can’t remember ever truly thinking about this.  but…i immediately pictured a beautiful sapling, our own “breck”.  a baby aspen we brought back from colorado, we have been nurturing it for over a year now, watching it carefully -and proudly, like parents- through the seasons.  the smooth bark on its adolescent trunk glows in the sunlight and we worry as we see this summer take its toll on the young tree’s leaves.  we notice little scions near its base, our aspen sending out roots to perpetuate itself.

i think of all the walks in the woods, the trails in the forest, the old trees in our yard and neighborhood and i can picture the rough bark, the puzzle pieces up and down the trunk of each tree.  somewhere along time, these trees, too, had smooth skins.  and then, in growing, the cambium layer’s cells, just under the bark, divided and grew, adding girth to the tree’s diameter in the process.  the outer bark continued to protect this inner layer of growth.  the job of that outer bark is forefront, keeping the inner tree healthy, as it experiences pain from the environment.  and the tree grows.

the bark.  the cambium.  the heart of growth.  and angels.

thank you for the perspective-arranging, jonathan.  again.

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

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put on your rubber boots [chicken marsala monday]

puddles CHICKEN MUG copy

chicken marsala mugs, cards, tote bags, cases

right now my favorite boots are my timberland brown and black boots.  they are hiking boots and they are always sitting at the back door….poised and ready.  in between work(s), we will throw them on and drive off somewhere for a hike; our go-to adventures usually include a hike somewhere.  at the moment, these boots are full of mud because the woods around these parts are completely muddy and squishy and on the verge of gleefully welcoming spring.  but we don’t let that stop us.

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beach towels, throw pillows, bath accessories

now it’s not too out-of-the-ordinary for us as we often have gotten caught in weather, but we chose to be in the woods in the rain last week and ohhh what a gift – the smell of rain dampening the earth was exquisite.  looking back, it is one of my favorite moments in the woods and i’m glad to have not missed it.

today we are sitting in lake geneva drinking starbucks coffee and writing, a fire going just beyond our feet perched on the hearth.  i think of the day we were out here having a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe.  it began to drizzle and we got ready to go, but not sooner than the skies let loose.  it poured down buckets of rain and we laughed and splashed through the puddles, playing in the water, nonplussed* by the torrents around us.

puddles LEGGINGS copy

leggings

spring is around the corner.  grab your rubber boots or your hiking boots or just be barefoot and go splash in those puddles.  don’t let a chance to play pass you by.

PUT ON YOUR RUBBER BOOTS – FUN STUFF TO REMIND YOU TO PLAY like mugs, beach towels, throw pillows, cards, leggings

CHICKEN MARSALA MONDAY – ON OUR SITE

 

 

 

 

puddles CHICKEN FRAMED PRINT copy

puddles RECT PILLOW copy

puddles CHICKEN TOTE BAG copy

read DAVID’S thoughts on RUBBER BOOTS AND PUDDLES

*(so i just looked up ‘nonplussed’ to make sure i was using it correctly and was surprised to see two opposite definitions of it.  the one i meant was ‘unperturbed’ but that was the second definition; the first definition was surprised and confused.  words are funny, aren’t they?)

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PUT ON YOUR RUBBER BOOTS ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood