reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the pink backpack. [k.s. friday]

“it’s projection,” he wrote. yes. bill penzey is right. it is projection. we project love onto objects and we “really see these objects as love.” he continues, talking about his desire – were there to be a fire in his house – to grab the six-quart stainless kettle he has popped corn in for every movie night he has had with his wife, and his love of the heavy-duty spatula his father gave him, adding, “and in a world where nobody gets too much love anymore, i want to do all i can to hold onto that love.” he is clearly thready. i’ve never met him, but he is on my list – people with whom i’d love to have dinner.

we have a pink backpack. it’s packed from back in the days our town was on fire, days i can feel and hear and smell and taste – viscerally – but would rather not. we’ve kept it packed, realizing that it’s wise to have one thing to grab and one place to go to find that one thing. it has important stuff in it…papers and such. it doesn’t have the tiny cheese knife we use every day, the one that was my sweet momma’s. it doesn’t have the wedding ring my dad wore or the matching flannel shirt of a pair. it doesn’t have the toddler drawings of my children or the small bowl turned trinket-holder that babycat ate from. it doesn’t have zillions of photographs. it doesn’t have masters of all my albums or a collection of jpgs or pngs or printed photos of all of david’s paintings. it doesn’t have the rock i picked up hiking with my daughter or the cork i saved from the first fancy dinner my son made for me. it can’t hold my piano or the vintage typewriter 20 gave me or the bowls we love from ken and loida or the snuggly scarf jen gave me or the old torchiere lamp from my growing-up. it doesn’t have room for the old quilt or our favorite mountain mugs or our ukuleles or my guitars or our dvd favorite-movies-collection or the cardinal towels from my sister or the ‘i-found-you-you-found-me” painting of early k.dot-d.dot days.

the one thing about antique stores is that they give you perspective. lots of it. so many items in the world. so much stuff. you ponder why someone might have held onto a plastic flower arrangement in a plastic flower pot long enough that it became part of an estate that passed into an antique shoppe or how it is possible that there are so so so many 45 rpm records out there, collections of so many long-playing albums, and, someday, so many cds. even mine.

and then you know. it hits you like a spatula upside the head.

though none of that will fit in the pink backpack, were there to be any sort of emergency – and all we could grab is the backpack – we would not lose it all.

it’s love. all love.

*****

IT’S A LONG STORY ©️1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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the turtles. [k.s. friday]

i think about the turtles. they are there in the warmer months, sunning on logs and rocks that jut out of the river. but, when it dips below fifty degrees or so – and stays there – they disappear. apparently, they dive down to the muddy bottom, their metabolism slows down, they require less oxygen. their mucky homes keep them safe as they bide time, these wise, long-lived creatures of the water and the land.

from time to time on the trail we look for them. we know where they hang out and have watched for telltale signs of small snouts poking out of the water. but then it got cold and we just missed them.

the river is alive with other wildlife. geese and a few hardy ducks, squirrels, deer – we see them as we hike.

but we always talk about the turtles anyway. just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean we forget about them. we know they are there – somewhere – in hidden spots, places they feel sheltered and secure. i think about what they might be doing. they are silent and the fallow is long. i trust they are sorting what is next, kind of like us.

he can tell you i worry about them, despite the fact that i know they are completely capable, totally self-sufficient, quite brilliant actually. nevertheless, i am more comforted by seeing the turtles every now and then – at least – than by wondering how they are faring. time keeps moving, though, and i keep hope that when it warms up and the turtles have a more secure sense of themselves in the world they will reappear, out of the suspension of presence. i’m hoping for an early spring.

i know that the turtles are aware i am watching for them and waiting. and the river freezes. and then it thaws.

*****

LAST I SAW YOU ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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the fat seagull. [k.s. friday]

“you must begin by knowing you have already arrived. your true nature lives as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.” (richard bach – jonathan livingston seagull)

i followed the seagulls on my ten-speed. to the beach, always the beach. later, i followed them in my little blue volkswagen, their screeches out my open window, their soaring showing me the way. and i felt kin to richard bach, his writings about freedom and passion and dreaming and the meaning of life. we met at the beach – crab meadow – and talked telepathically. well, i talked. i don’t know if he was listening. he was on the west coast and i was on the east, though i suppose jonathan livingston may have been able to deliver any message of gratitude i had.

and so we arrived at the fat seagull. it is beyond me why we had never discovered this bar and grill tucked into the downtown of manitowoc. it’s a cheers! kind of place, people who know each other gathered at the bar and around tables, eating, drinking pints, playing games, talking. in the way of wisconsin pubs, there is a vast menu and we order a thursday special to split. the bartender tells us that the two wine glasses they had were broken so he gives us diminutive stemware and charges us less. we choose the bottle still corked, wondering who last drank out of the open bottle and how long ago that might have been. we are kind of strangers in a strange land…17 draft beers and traditional old-fashioneds surround us and our tiny wines.

we listen to live music and gaze around – at people, at the bar, the old wood floor, the ceiling. it is a study in perfection. we feel alive – out and about – a two hour drive each way – food we didn’t prepare – wine we didn’t pour. we talk about how it feels. we laugh and dance. we don’t realize it’s raining out; it had been a beautifully sunny day. we are glad to be there.

we end this week in uncertainty. we reach backwards, examining all we have done – so far – in life and work, what we have accomplished, what we have not. sixty-something is not youth, nor is it aged. it is somewhere in-between, located wherever we are. we bring all we know – and all we do not know – with us. we try to trust that we have arrived, that we are on the tarmac – or – in the terminal, that we – too – despite our lack of certainty – have flown, screeching and soaring.

“instead of being enfeebled by age, the elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly any gull in the flock, and he had learned skills that the others were only gradually coming to know.”

*****

TAKE FLIGHT ©️ 1997, 2000 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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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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late season indeterminate. [k.s. friday]

maybe we are all tomatoes-in-waiting.

it’s easy to recognize that we have germinated, that we have early growth with initial leaves. we send down a taproot, stabilizing just a bit. we are nurtured and we learn self-care, both. changes during the vegetative stage are a little easier to see as we grow upward and outward, green and healthy.

flowering and early fruiting…these are easy to discern in the striding of early decades of life. rushing to accomplish, to get up the mountain and down, to run without ceasing, to move without pause.

the presence of ethylene – a gaseous hormone – triggers the fruit to ripen. i suppose i would like to think this is much like the graying of my hair, the wrinkles on my brow, laughlines evident, jowls mysteriously appearing. coming to maturity. ripening.

early season varieties require 50-60 days to mature. mid-season require 60-80. late season varieties require more than 80 days to reach full maturity. and later, senescence, a natural progression.

i wonder how that all translates to human years.

the fruit of determinate tomatoes ripens all at once. indeterminate tomatoes ripen fruit throughout the growing season, extending the crop harvest…longer and longer.

we can all wager our own guess; i’m thinking late season variety. this still-learning thing makes that abundantly clear.

and i’m hoping for indeterminate. never quite done.

*****

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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kitchenaid, oh, kitchenaid. [k.s. friday]

a good self-actualizing refrigerator and freezer will keep things cold and frozen, respectively, and have no further issues. the job is simple.

now, there are fancy fridges and run-of-the-mill fridges…side-by-sides, french-door-bottom-freezer models, freezer-on-top standards, retro fridges, beverage center fridges, deep built-in fridges…but the one thing they have in common is keeping things cold, keeping things frozen. so, leaking water onto the floor is not in the list-of-things-to-do for a fridge/freezer combo that has any self-respect.

which brings me to the last two years of our kitchenaid.

back in 2013 i spent a literal fortune on a stainless steel french-door-bottom freezer refrigerator because suddenly, after merely 24 years, my fridge had failed. there is limited space in our old kitchen where the fridge goes so i had to choose carefully, measuring tape and measurements in hand.

they installed the new shiny fridge and, i have to tell you, i felt fancy. gleaming stainless steel, sunlight reflecting off its french doors, bottom freezer the coolest-invention-ever, i was pretty darn excited, despite the monthly payment to the temporary credit card issued by the local appliance store. classy fridge and all, i moved on in life.

seven years later, this fridge, that i have babied with stainless steel cleaner and soft cloths, began to weep onto the wood floor.

there was no reason for it to weep. on the contrary, i should have been weeping as i watched rust spots accumulate on its no-longer-gleaming doors. stainless steel that is not stainless. when i asked kitchenaid about the rust spots and streaks, they said, “we’re sorry you’re experiencing rust on your stainless steel fridge. we recommend using stainless steel cleaner.” well, hello. that’s the only thing i have used, frequently enough to have to purchase and re-purchase. somehow i am not feeling their remorse or sympathy.

but, back to the water-on-the-floor. the opening credits of the pandemic on the screen of life, we were not anxious to bring in a service rep, so i googled. there was a gigantic sheet of ice under the drawer of the freezer – and this was leaking onto the floor. apparently, this is a common problem. (which begs the question why this is not addressed.) i defrosted the freezer and fridge, cookie sheet catching the icebergs as i rubber-spatula-ed them off of the freezer floor. cleaned everything, dried it all off, stainless-steel cleaned the doors and body for good measure and turned it back on.

and now? i am doing this every four to six weeks. but i have it down to a science. i use this tiny fan that my sweet poppo made, a rube-goldberg special the rpms i could not guess but the pitch of the whir tells me it’s mighty fast. i only thaw the freezer floor – so i only need one larger cooler for the freezer food and i don’t open the fridge. i wipe it all down (there’s no chance for it to get icky these days) and turn it all back on.

yesterday morning…merely nine days since the last great-thaw…we woke to puddles under the fridge, clearly having a meltdown (no pun intended). we are increasing the defrost-the-freezer-frequency and looking up appliance repairmen.

my conversation with kitchenaid was…interesting and very, very long. they promised to send me a part on the 22nd. a couple days ago i checked on this. they told me the information i provided does not match their records. so i am at ground zero again. no irony there. zero. the degrees the freezer is set at.

i just don’t know. it goes without saying they just don’t make things the way they used to.

kitchenaid is leaving my heart cold.

*****

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

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fog. [k.s. friday]

and, if i am honest, i would tell you that i can feel the fog lifting. finally. i don’t think i knew the extent of the fog because fog is kind of like that. dense and clammy, less penetrable by light. once you are in it, you feel somewhat disoriented and everything looks different. you can’t really tell how foggy it is because suddenly you have nothing with which to compare it.

we underestimate the importance of attending to our emotional health. yes, there are all kinds of positive memes out there. yes, there are self-help books galore. yes, there are commercials on tv recommending therapy. yes, yes, yes. but we are stoic, we humans, and we are also stubborn and self-conscious. and many of us underplay how we are feeling, so as not to make others uncomfortable with our grappling. people ask how we are and our answer is “fine”. it’s just too too much to give a real answer. most people prefer answers with a little vague blurriness.

i ran into someone a bit ago at the fedex store. she asked me how i was. i told her. i don’t mean i told her “fine”. i actually told her. i can’t say it was a mistake, but she was writhing and trying to get away, though i was simply telling her how i was. i wasn’t verbose; it didn’t take much to say i had been struggling. but it was a truth and maybe she would have rather heard that everything that had happened in the last couple years took no toll. she wanted everything to be “fine”.

i recently saw a meme on someone’s facebook page. it read: “people don’t want to be talked out of their feelings. people want to be heard, seen, felt and understood.” (rachel samson) i always wonder if the people who post such things really mean them. surely they have also experienced times of soupy, where there was a ceiling of zero and they were feeling all of what life had tossed them.

it is in looking back at the dissipating cloud of fog that you know a little more the extent of your murky. it is in noticing light peeking in that you know a little more the extent of the loss of light. it is in seeing more clearly that you know a little more how much clarity was missing. it is in feeling my shoulders rise that i know that i have been bent under the weight of some sadness, some disappointment, some confusion.

though we all function in the middle of our haze, out of necessity, out of self-preservation, out of obligation, there is a moment when a pinprick of brightness burns through. we realize that the horizon is still there and that now, with the lure of distinct light and the buoys of clarity, we are headed in that direction. we’ve been brave and we’ve pulled energy from every cell to get to to that point and we keep taking steps, taking steps.

it isn’t easy. despite advertising dollars spent, this society is not really about self-help. it does not encourage time to be within oneself, time to rejuvenate, time to be healthy. our ideals push success and prosperity, seemingly at the price of balance. there is a cost for sharing what is real, for standing in fog, a worry of judgement and marks of weakness in our permanent record.

it’s up to each of us to step aside the everchugging uphill-downhill train and catch our breath. it’s up to each of us to breathe slowly and sort to that which makes us sit on the fulcrum of the nonstop seesaw. it’s up to each of us to be gentle on ourselves, to lighten up, to seek soft days that feed us and give us strength for the other days. it’s up to each of us to stand in self-care, to not worry ourselves with wondering about the judgement of others. it’s up to each of us to eliminate the stigma of admitting struggle. it’s up to each of us to support one another in the times of fog, to mean it if we ask “how are you?”. it’s up to each of us to reach and touch the curtain of fog as it lifts, grateful not only for its leaving, but for what we learned about its presence.

“the fog has lifted
the weight is gone
lightness has returned
singing is in me
humor also
light again
and i do not know why- “

(shalom freedman)

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WHEN THE FOG LIFTS from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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30,240 minutes. [k.s. friday]

the mimosa tree grew in the middle of the front yard, its fanning leaves dappling the southern sunshine streaming through it. pink and white flowers adorned its graceful branches; it was beautiful color on a wooded lot full of big oaks and maples. the roots of a mimosa are invasive and the pods and brittleness and attraction to disease put it on the do-not-plant list. but it spelled home, and, though i don’t remember the ultimate reason it needed to be taken down, i do remember how its absence felt.

the pink bloom stopped me in the middle of the botanic garden greenhouse. it wasn’t a duplicate of our mimosa; it may not even have been a mimosa. but the pompom shape and the blossom echoed our tree’s blooms and, instantly, i was taken back home.

the mourning doves have started cooing. we’ve seen robins. wild turkeys were out on the bike trail as we walked and talked. a pudgy squirrel lingered on our deck rail in the sun and the birds are lining up on the fence to take turns at the birdfeeder. it is another spring – soon. it rolls on and on. time.

we watched an interview…a man in ukraine who – devastatingly – lost his wife and two children was talking with erin burnett (cnn) who earlier had been reporting from ukraine but is back in ny now. tears streaming down her face, she struggled to hold onto her composure as she prompted this gentleman to speak about his children, his wife. less than a month ago he had a normal life. i’d believe the thought of losing his family to a violent bombing invasion was far from his mind. in what is mere minutes (only 30,240 minutes) all was gone.

there are mimosas in ukraine. called acacia trees they canopy parks and walkways, their pompoms and curtained branches greeting all those who walk underneath. i would imagine that somewhere there was a house with a front yard. and in that front yard sat a mimosa.

now, 30,240 minutes later, there is nothing. not because the tree’s roots were lifting the sidewalk or the spent blooms were littering the grass or the seeds are toxic to animals. no. they are decimated because they – along with their people – were blown to bits in acts of cruelty, in heinous evil. it takes our breath away. no more mimosas. no more homes.

what will we do with the next 30,240 minutes?

*****

THE WAY HOME

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momma’s crumb cake. [k.s. friday]

10.5 x 15. the size of my sweet momma’s crumb cake.

back in the 90s, her crumb cake preceded her. everyone knew about her crumb cake. and everyone loved it. “beaky’s crumb cake,” they’d anticipate it.

based on the beloved new york entenmann’s crumb cake, she took crumb cake to another level. she’d, very specifically, tell you about how to make crumbs, that you MUST mix with your hands. she’d tell you how to sprinkle the confectionary sugar on top. and she’d proudly march it into the school, the hangar, the state attorney’s office, the church, the party. her recipe is dated 10/87; she didn’t start making her own crumbs until almost a decade into living in florida.

the other day – the day i was writing last monday’s blogpost – i was craving her crumb cake. i just wanted to sit down with a huge slab o’ cake and a piping-hot cup of coffee and chat with her. i wanted to hear her voice, her laugh, see her raised eyebrow and piercing blue-hazel eyes. i wanted to tell her stories. i wanted to ask her questions. i wanted to hug her tightly. i wanted her to hug me.

i wanted crumb cake.

we went to woodman’s and looked for the entenmann’s display. sure enough, it was there, this brooklyn-based bakery from way-back-when.

if entenmann’s crumb cake tastes like anything, it tastes like long island and the table in the kitchen by the window overlooking the patio where you could look out and see the dog run and the woods and clay pitts park in the distance and, at different times, different years, the above-ground pool or the vegetable garden and the grove with the big stump where we’d place the metal picnic sticks in the ground to hold brightly colored aluminum tumblers. it tastes like family gathered around a table with placemats labeled in the corner with initials that spell out shabaeawaka. it tastes like after-school and sunday-brunch. it tastes like saturday morning. it tastes like my dad, whistling, and pouring coffee from the percolator. it tastes like early spring and forsythia, salty breezes and bike hikes.

we bought the crumb cake.

and each day, for a few days, i made us a nespresso and placed each tiny mug on a clear glass plate with a piece of crumb cake. i savored each bite, each sip, getting lost in thought as only taste and scent can evoke.

and each day, my sweet momma and my poppo smiled from just-on-the-other-side. i could hear my dad whistling and my mom ask, “another piece?”

*****

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