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the path back is the path forward


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the rockwalk. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t know how much i noticed the rock garden next to the chalet shed in the backyard of my growing-up house. i know it was there. there were plants peeking out from in-between the rocks and the garden-pile grew through the years as my momma – with a love of rocks and stone – added to it.

the cairns and vessel-collections in our house echo that garden and its solid base for my own love of rocks and stone and pebbles. though i believe i will remember where each individual rock originates, where i picked it up, what it means to me or what moment it represents, reality is that i forget. with a few exceptions, i simply know that they are important. they were part of something i wanted to hold onto. and they became part of the rock garden of my life. they all count.

the rockway of the shoin house of the chicago botanic garden is deliberate. carefully placed stones, “bones of the earth” form a pathway through the fragile mosses of deep green. we stood, gazing down, both of us – i’m pretty sure – lost in thought about how we could incorporate such a walkway in our own backyard. orderly and stunning and functional, protecting all around it.

we spent a couple hours in the basement last night. i heard them from a distance first; the tornado sirens were going off. then, closer. i am storm-nervous. the derecho back a decade has gifted me with long-term storm ptsd and i’m not sure if there is much i can do to alleviate it. so when the weather forecast offers “tornado watch” i get ready.

we created a go-bag during the riots in our city a couple years back. it was recommended. i also keep an empty backpack nearby for computers and cords. there’s a leash in the go-bag and we have a duffel with a few clothes. i didn’t unpack all this after those devastating riots. instead, we realized the wisdom of having important stuff nearby, things you can grab in an emergency. and so, i had this all lined up – like a good rockwalk – on the couch in the sitting room off our bedroom, waiting. d picked up the dog (who doesn’t do steps for some strange aussie reason) and i grabbed the bags and water and some dog treats.

when you think about tornadoes as you sit in the basement listening, you realize that you can only create so much order…you can only try to design a walkway…you can only make plans. sitting in two rocking chairs in d’s studio, surrounded by the bins i am emptying and clearing down there, a couple dehumidifiers turned off so we could hear, with our backpacks and duffel bag, it all comes down to, well, not much. chaos happens and we find ourselves in it, stepping, trying to find our way on the rockwalk, to the other side, the next sunrise.

we waited for the sirens to stop and for the weather app to show that the worst of it had passed over us. david carried dogga back up and he got another sleepynightnight cookie. the bags went back on the couch, lined up, things to put away in the morning.

i wanted pancakes but it was too late and we were too tired.

*****

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through it. [k.s. friday]

it comes in stages. there is no easy route to the other side. just through.

the unexpected snow – after most had melted – though, indeed, a beautiful blanket of quiet – was also a stark and cold reminder that winter was not done. somehow it was a reminder of people gone, of the lack of interaction with others, a reminder of the invisible fence between us all, somewhat devoid of color and warmth. the pandemic we are living through has provided us with historic missing. so much lostness. someone asked me yesterday if i had had a vaccine. when i replied yes, she asked me why, then, was i wearing a mask. i stared at her above the piece of cloth i, like many of you, have diligently worn everywhere for about a year and replied that having a vaccine doesn’t abdicate me from responsibility. it is my job as a decent human being to continue to do my part – not just until i am vaccinated, but until the country is on track and there is little chance of others becoming ill because i, or anyone, was negligent. not wearing a mask herself though not vaccinated, she replied angrily that it wasn’t fair, that i shouldn’t have to wear a mask. i withheld the retort that quickly sprang to my lips and instead just said that this is hard. we are all lost together and foundness will be somewhere on the other side of all we have missed, somewhere in the spring of healing, in whatever season that falls.

when the tradesmen installed the patio, they carefully and artfully chose pieces to fit together. they slowly and tediously laid out a spot in our backyard where we could sit and sip wine in adirondack chairs, where we could hang our hammock, where we could build a bonfire late at night and dream dreams in the fireflies of sparks it sent out. the snow crystallizing on the rock accentuated the spaces between the pieces. though clearly defined as edges, it reminded me that all these pieces do fit together, perhaps nothing is really missing. every emotion – lostness and foundness and all inbetween, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, the title of which, were there to be a box that would contain all the cardboard pieces, might read ‘life is like this’.

up against a pile of pillows, i sat in bed with coffee a few days after we lost babycat. with sadness and unwilling to greet the new day, i hadn’t yet opened the miniblinds. yet in the window to the east, the sun was insistent. it found its way through the tiny cracks between the blinds, the tiny holes that hold the string, as if urging me to open-open-open up. it didn’t change my missing when i opened them. i still missed babycat. i still missed all sense of normal. i still missed my children-all-grown-up, my parents-in-another-dimension, my family-far-apart, my friends-separated-by-covid-responsibility. i missed security and good work well done. i missed laughing and all things carefree.

but, in opening the blinds, i did not have to miss the sun and i stood in its warmth streaming in, looking at the spot on the bed where babycat would have laid in the soft rays from the window. and i realized that in yearning for all that on the other side i would have no choice but to go through it all, all the stages, snow, crystal flakes, sun and all.

*****

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#MeToo

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 5.10.57 PM i believe in inherent goodness.  the inherent goodness of each and every person.  born in beauty, walking in beauty.  i blame my sweet momma.  she looked this way at every single person who crossed her path.
          but then, there’s the rest.  predisposed psychological genetics.  environment.  social prejudices.  bigotry.  elitism.  lack of empathy.  the inability to walk in another’s shoes.  the lack of wanting to try to walk in another’s shoes.  some kind of warped misinformed yet embraced caste system.  jealousy.  bitterness.  the web of ‘ugly’ has many faces.  and people twist.  and that inherent goodness seems to go underground.  we wonder if there is, indeed, any goodness left.  we are confronted with this question over and over again it seems, especially these days.
          we had a discussion about goodness recently.  it became heated.  the dog left the room and retreated to the bathroom.  we were intense.  too intense.  arguing for the same point, we came from two different directions, two different backgrounds.  but we were heading, actually, in the same direction.
          each of us carries our gift of inherent goodness.  we choose each and every day whether we access it or not. my momma’s adherence to the adage, “i shall pass through this world but once.  any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.  let me not defer or neglect it for i shall not pass this way again.” often rings in my ears.  we all make decisions each day; some steeped in good, some not so much.
          as we approached the holidays and the end of the year, we were deeply diving into cleaning out.  seems right at the end of the year.  old boxes of random items that had accumulated in the years lived in this home, vestiges of life before, of life growing up, of goodnesses shown and received.  we had so much fun as we cleaned; i’d show d pictures or mementos from places or people or the children, every one of them an opportunity for a story.  some carried aha moments, some elicited sighs of where-does-the-time-go, some made me laugh or teary, some stopped me in my tracks.
          i came across things from way-earlier-life, the time i had spent growing up on long island.  my seagull collection, plastic seagulls suspended on wires attached to rocks or shells or pieces of cork, a 70s thing for sure.  my horse collection, which was, in my mind, massive, but when i unpacked it was more like 15 horse statues and ribbons from showing in horse shows, drawings i had painstakingly drawn, books i pored over and over and studied at a much younger age.  a doll collection with hand sewn or hand crocheted outfits made lovingly by my grandmother ‘mama dear’s’ hands.  books and notebooks and old calendars.  trinkets and rocks and feathers.  cards and letters i saved for decades.  artwork by the girl and the boy.  little notes they wrote to me.  an old electric typewriter and a case of 45rpm records we played the night we found them.
          and then there are the reminders from a time i don’t talk about so much.  a time when i became a #MeToo.  it takes my breath away to think of that 19 year old girl.  me – an idealistic, innocent, youngest-by-far child who looked at the world through poetic eyes and trusting-colored glasses.  my heart breaks now for this young woman who found her way through a terrifying -and life-changing- time pretty much alone, seeking little help for an act that drove to her core and was more than difficult to voice in a late 1970s judicial system.  because, you know, not everyone is good.  not everyone holds their inherent goodness ahead of their selfish, controlling, violent behaviors.  back then, counseling, and even prosecuting, was rare.  i didn’t experience either one.  the help of counseling nor the satisfaction of prosecuting this person who took away my belief and trust in goodness.  for a time, fear coursed through me.  my view of others became jaded and distrusting.  i sought refuge in varying ways, but never really explained why to myself or others.  i didn’t understand what caused this man to behave as he had, nor did i understand that it wasn’t mine to understand.  what i do know, is that i grew.
          and now, as our world opens their listening hearts to women and girls everywhere, i am grateful.  grateful for their collective voices and the deserved help extended to them. grateful that even in giving individual voice, they are moving through the processing of it, the reason for being a #MeToo becoming smaller than #MeToo survival.
          i was once told wise words from a friend when i was grieving my momma’s death.  joan said, “the only way to get to the other side is through it.”
          as i sort through all the pieces of life i have carried in boxes, in bins, in photographs, in my heart and soul, through all these years, i realize again that these words are so true.  in so many situations, so many life arenas. the only way to get to the other side is through it.  and then, you can find inherent goodness again.