reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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marcel. in the woods. [two artists tuesday]

in these times, we often hike the same trail. there is not enough time for long-distance travel right now. but we are comforted, nevertheless, by this same place, again and again. it has become an old friend and there is nothing better than someone or something you know really well and love in all its moods and through all its seasons.

it was easter sunday and, for only the second time in decades, i had no obligations. it was cold – almost miracle-mitten cold – and we were trying to choose between meandering through the early spring flowers at the botanic garden or hiking “our” trail. we suspected that the botanic garden would be crowded; we believed the trail would be almost empty. we chose the trail.

you might think we would tire of this trail. you might think we would choose something else, somewhere else. you might think there would be nothing new to see. on the contrary.

i am reminded, as ever – again – now that i am, finally, just the tiniest bit wiser – of marcel proust’s words, “the real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

there was lots of trailside vegetation coming alive, tiny buds, green sprouts. the familiar turns in the path led us past busy squirrels, chipmunks we could hear but not see scurrying in the underbrush, birds and geese and ducks.

after a couple hours, we set up our pop-up bistro table and chairs in the middle of the woods. surrounded by tall pines in a spot that would be underbrush-inaccessible in the summer, we sat, in the cold, snacking on cheese and crackers, quinoa tabouli and a few sips of wine in small yeti tumblers with lids, springtime napkins reminding us of the season. we took our gloves off, had a few schnibbles, put our gloves on, chatted and repeated. we pulled up our hoods and turned our backs to the wind picking up. mostly, we sat in the quiet.

and we looked up.

and there, that which we could have easily missed, was this magnificent view of the blue sky and the towering tops of pine trees that had endured the same forest for a very long time.

there is nothing ordinary about a view like that.

an idiosyncrasy, a quirk, a hallmark, a side you hadn’t yet noticed. such is the complexity of an old friend. such is the charm of discovery.

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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dining. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are not fancy-schmancy froo-froo types. we don’t have chandeliers or swagging silk curtains. we don’t have china or sterling silver utensils. we don’t have a matchy-matchy dining room set or linen tablecloths graced with taper candlesticks. but we do have rich dining experiences, nevertheless.

whether at our cozy table in our old kitchen – the square one that my sweet poppo refinished in our basement – the one with a couple white painted legs dogga chewed on as a puppy – the one that i had to wipe clean every week as babycat would rub up against it leaving a dander mark – the one that my babies sat by in their high chairs and that many a cuppajava was sipped….or at the covid table in the sunroom – the one with snakeinthegrass and leticia and nonámē and stubby and boston and, now, charlie – the one with happy lights and tealights – the one looking out back….or at the big table in the dining room – the one with the memories of big gatherings and games played and pass-the-mashed-potatoes and pasta dinners…any table, it doesn’t matter. we sit together and, in our together, are grateful for the chance to prepare our meal and share it.

we choose our plates carefully. it might be a white crock night or a black plate night or maybe kenandloida colorfully-painted ceramic bowls or small plates. the vessel matters. and so do the cloth napkins. no matter what we are having for dinner – vegetable soup or a tagine or plant-based meatloaf – we try to pay attention to dining and not just eating.

we can count the number of times we have been dining inside a restaurant since before the pandemic – on one hand. it has been for very specific reasons – mostly our children, but once, the up-north gang, freezing from winterfest, gathered indoors at a pub to sip drinks and gorge on kettle corn. these times have been rejuvenating and joyfilled, though i have to say, blame-it-on-covid, i usually count the days hence. sigh.

regardless, our two-years-heading-into-the-third have not been without a richness that comes with choosing to make a big deal out of meals. nothing lavish, but still meaning-affluent. nothing opulent, but still flush with deliciousness. nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing froo-froo, but dining. definitely dining.

not just sitting and eating.

*****

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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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coffee mug viewmaster reel. [d.r. thursday]

inane information moment: i am drinking coffee out of this mug right now.

in a small shop on the main street of frisco, colorado (elev. 9075′) these mugs sat on a shelf and waited. since we are bring-back-a-mug (or cloth napkins or a rock or a big branch) people, it seemed destined to go home with us – a black mug with trees and the word “colorado”. how much more perfect can a memorymug get?

it’s visceral drinking coffee out of this mug. it makes me want to walk down main street, jaunt into the bookstore, find the trailhead at the end of the road. i merely have to hold it in my hands and i am in the high mountains, squishing the goodness out of every single minute we get to breathe in that air.

there are quite a few mugs in our mug cabinet. and this is after we pared them down, bringing cups to the church we used to go to for their coffee hour, which had a huge collection of people’s memorymugs. you’d wrap your hand around a floral mug and wonder who gave it to whom. you’d cup hot coffee and laugh at how many i-love-my-teacher mugs had been options on the rolling cart with the coffee urn.

there are some mugs that i simply could not have let go. a peanuts mug from the 70s, a mug from the cape, a handle-less clay mug from a potter in the north carolina mountains, two round glass mugs from which my sweet momma and dad sipped coffeetime, a charlie brown mug from h, the shayne mugs from my sister, our breckenridge cabin coffee mugs, the remaining unbroken snowmass mug, a couple mugs our girl left behind a few summers ago.

i guess that the point is what each of these conjure up nestled in my hands, steaming-coffee-ready. they are like a timeline of life, the viewmaster of the coffee world. click – another slide. click – another slide. choose your mug, choose your reel.

coffee is never just about the coffee. at least that is what i have learned in my life. it is always about the moments and, at risk of hyper-redundant-emotion-waxing, presence is what counts. for there is simply nothing better than sitting here – this very minute i am writing this – early morning, with coffee, under the quilt, dogga at my feet and d next to me, my mom’s old glass nighttable lamp on by our side, snow falling falling falling outside the window, holding every frisco memory in my hands. even if i have forgotten the tiny details of the trip, i can feel the majesty of the mountains and the way it feels to look across lake dillon and catch my breath.

the gift of this mug in my hands is that it delivers me there – just by opening up the triangle cabinet in the kitchen, selecting this mug and pouring coffee. though we are right here – at home – we are also right there. in summit county.

when we talked to 20 on the phone last night he told us he had only one thing of note he had saved recently that he felt worthy. expecting it to be a helpful hint of some sort, we waited. he paused and then quoted, “by replacing your morning coffee with green tea you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life.” (shah of blah tweet)

i suppose you could drink green tea out of this mug too. but why would you do that?

*****

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a candle, lotion and a pair of mittens. [merely-a-thought monday]

one whiff of the good earth non-gmo soy wax cypress-pine candle and i was sold. the holidays in a mason jar with the added bonus of having spent hours of my life in many years past at shows near the founder of this absolutely-good-earth company, a place where brilliant science and creativity and big heart merge. it made me happy to see her products at the boutique shop and, in the way that this season does, makes me want to reach out to her with greetings.

we were in cedarburg on saturday, wanting to participate in the anticipation of christmas. the streets were cold, but the lights were beautiful and the holiday spirit warm and contagious. the wind was brisk so it was a constant cycle of earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk-gloves off-earmuffs off-mask on-go into a shop-wander and browse and admire-exit shop-mask off-earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk and repeat.

it was a perfect day. we stopped to have a bite to eat – a rarity in these past couple years. there was a giant outdoor tent with tall bistro tables spaced more than socially-distanced apart, fresh air coming in and tall propane heaters scattered about. with our coats on, though unzipped, we sipped an oustanding merlot and shared a burger laden with bacon and mushrooms and grilled onions and some kind of special sauce with a gigantic side of french fries. did i mention perfect?

our day-adventure took us through our favorite shops, the familiar a reassuring hug. in another rarity, we bought a few items – our new candle that tracy made, almond coconut hand lotion from a long island company that smells like an almond joy bar, a pair of fair trade mittens that fit over my finger splint from the everest corner of the world. treasures. we brought home ideas for decorating and fresh energy for the upcoming week.

sitting at the tall bistro table in the tent i glanced around. four girlfriends enjoying a chardonnay, a family surrounded by shopping bags and ribbons, two friends having a shopping extravaganza, an older couple perched on stools finishing lunch and sipping tall glasses of water, our server, delightful despite the busy. i appreciated the mix of the multi-colored and white lights strewn through the tent. the chatter, the joy, delicious anticipation that the rest of the day still stretched in front of us. there would be tiny expressions of graciousness and courtesies and we would see grandiose expressions of the season.

i looked at david and held my hand to my heart, saying nothing. he nodded.

“christmas is here, bringing good cheer. to young and old, meek and the bold. ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song. with joyful ring, all caroling.” (carol of the bells)

*****

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enchanted. [two artists tuesday]

and golden was the glow from the forest as we walked

into the sun low on the horizon,

our feet swishing through leaves on the trail,

our gaze above us, to the canopy.

the quaking aspen invited us, “stay,”

rustling in percussive background

to our hearts beating and wishing.

the respite in the woods,

the time on mountains,

the black and white of this stand,

we immersed in immense beauty.

stopping in the middle, the path forward and back,

we stood tall,

breathing deeply,

and shimmered with them,

enchanted.

*****

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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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la vida. [two artists tuesday]

i don’t remember what grade i was in when it was assigned: a project detailing what your ideal life would look like. it was either later junior high or early high school years. if i could find it in one of the bins in the basement i’m sure it would be predictably naive. i remember designing a house, writing about family, but not too many other details come up for me. designing an ideal life is never really inclusive of actual reality, difficulties, disappointments, hardships. i think it would be interesting to find this report anyway. the 1970s were a different time and this project would reflect that. were i to write a report now to reflect my ideal life, it would be a much simpler picture than i would guess that old paper would paint.

i remember columbus saying that he worked his whole life to have weekends with his family. to enjoy his backyard, his garden, a little fishing, time with the masons. he was living his ideal life each day, though the look in his eyes when we took him back to iowa and he stood in the fields gazing out at maize corn and blue sky would belie that. his dream was to raise his family in his hometown and, though he ended up in colorado, his other life was, i’m sure, somewhere in the farmland daydreams that swirled in his heart. he was wise, though, and didn’t wait to live until he was back in the midwest. instead, he set his sights on now. he didn’t wait. and each time his children or grandchildren visited he would cry upon their leaving, giant tears falling on this rugged man’s face. dolce.

some people are fortunate enough to have both: real life and the other life, la otra vida. crunch always felt that way about his boat too, so he’d understand the boat owner who named his boat ‘the other life’. moments of escape away, drifting, piloting to block island and fishing in long island sound, these are crunch’s ideal moments. though many of the boats and yachts in our harbor never leave their slips, perhaps just sitting on them in fresh lake air yields much peace for these boaters.

a house with lots of windows and open space, lots of repurposed old stuff, a kitchen in which we love to cook. nothing fancy. wood floors and a lot of white paint. a fireplace, my piano, david’s easels, places to sit and write and room for our beloved children, family, friends to come with significant others and visit. mountains and a lake out the window, a couple horses grazing.

last night as we sat on the deck in waning light turning to dark, tiki torches and our tiny firepit burning, dogdog sprawled out at our feet, we listened to the soundtrack of richard curtis’ movie about time. arvo pärt’s piece ‘spiegel im spiegel’ came on, a long piano-cello interplay of simplicity. we both had tears. if contentment was a piece of music, it would look like this.

though there are not mountains, a lake and horses out the window, perhaps someday there will be. it’s my maize-corn-blue-sky vision. but columbus was right. there’s the rest of it. the other life is always right there.

andrea wrote to me in 2009, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”

la otra vida = la vida. ideal living.

*****

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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

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PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood