reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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thriving. [k.s. friday]

there was a jaguar suv parked in one of the bays when we went to pick up littlebabyscion at the shop. it was shiny black and had an aura of extravagance. i joked as we walked in that it was “practically identical” to our little xb. our beloved – and stellar – mechanic laughed and said, “nah! it’s just ridiculously expensive! fancy doesn’t make it better.” because this society assigns value to things that cost more, i probed a little further, comparing our very-basic vehicle to this one, and he answered, “the reason people buy these – and many other vehicles like it – is for other people to see them driving it. it says ‘i am successful’ to the world.” i laughed and rolled my eyes, joking about the level of success us driving our scion speaks to and he replied, “nope. doesn’t matter.”

“…only about 0.000002% of musicians become ‘successful’.” (one of many statistics found when googling the rate of success for musicians.)

now that is a bracing statistic. it would suggest that there are a heck of a lot of musicians out there – including me – driving un-fancy vehicles with odometers pushing 300,000 miles. it would suggest, too, that there are a lot of musicians out there whose egos are not benefitting from the sideshow and stroke of other people’s ‘that-person-is-successful’ thinking.

but we still keep on keeping on anyway.

successful (synonyms): prosperous. profitable. booming. fruitful. thriving.

the prosperous is evasive. the profitable is of-the-past now that streaming is the preferred mode of listening over purchasing cds or even paying for downloads. the booming has slumped. the fruitful is fallow, often barren, depending on levels of frustration over thinking you should have been a financial analyst, software engineer or investment broker. and the thriving? well, that’s another story.

thriving is growth and growth rays out from the center in an artist. up against a challenge, we seek a different route, a different way. it is not our nature to give up, though an independent artist’s odds of success are clearly stacked. we simply “cannot imagine leaving”. (todd skinner)

instead, we channel the creative energy that keeps stoking up, that keeps us going. we funnel it out into threads of let’s-try-this or let’s-learn-that. when we can’t perform, we play. when we can’t play, we compose. when we can’t compose, we write. we find rivers we can enter and we wade in. we take risks.

in recent days i have come to realize that i still have much to learn…much growing to embrace. there are always more questions than answers. creativity whispers, “do not limit your future by basing it on the past, projecting what you can do based on what you have done. your goal is to be not just better than you were, but as good as you can ultimately become.” (todd skinner)

true in every arena of life…artistry, physicality, emotional health, motherhood, in community. much to learn. always. thriving.

it’s a mystery how it all will turn out. how, in the end, we will be seen. whether we will be prosperous or have a profitable life. if we will have boomed or been fruitful. whether we will have driven a fancy-car, a workhorse old truck or a steadfast littlebabyscion and what that all means to the world watching.

what will really matter – to us artists, adapting in ever-changing light and in each season – is if we thrived.

*****

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and the wind brought fall. [k.s. friday]

the wind brought fall.

iowa and kansas were full of summer-on-its-waning-edge, the sun streaming into the truck making merely having windows open not enough. the highway noise was loud and the air conditioning a welcome buffer so we could talk and ponder what the next days would bring.

we saw it from a distance and assumed it was farmers plowing in dry fields of dirt, billowing cloud dust across the horizon from afar. and then we drove into it. in minutes, touching the window glass cleared up the mysterious billowing. the beyond-blustery front was bringing cold air and as we drove from kansas into colorado, the gusts delivered autumn.

we walked into their living room this morning and the fire was lit. there is nothing like a cup of coffee by an early morning fire. the day is cool and the sun is out. those of us who traveled for yesterday’s celebration of columbus’ life and are still here will gather later around a fire out back. in the meanwhile, we’ll walk and talk and have a little quiet time after much visiting and catching up till later last night. the service is over and next follows.

when these flowers were blooming, they were vibrant and gorgeous, spilling over the old fence along the sidewalk. the petals started to drop off as fall started to arrive, dropping in little by little. bright yellow pistils started to turn mustard then cocoa brown. the picture begged to be taken – beautiful and fallow on its eventual way.

as we drive back to wisconsin, we’ll again pass fields of corn waiting to be cut down, plowed over, vast brown rolling land. we’ll miss the green, we know, even at home, even in our little gardens, on our little potting stand.

but we know that time just doesn’t jump from one season to another. it actually shows signs as it comes, gives fair warning, allows us time to process a bit and adjust. it transitions and gently encourages us to move on, into the next season.

summer yields to fall and we will bring home a little wisdom harvested from the side of the highway.

*****

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PART OF THE WIND from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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undefined texture. rising. [k.s. friday]

and so, september has arrived. and the texture of day for many is changed. fall is around the corner; the cooler mornings whisper that to us, ushering in – with little fanfare – the color transformation of leaves, the waning of the garden, the ultimate fallow of winter.

autumn is my favorite. and as i look to it, i see transition rising out of the horizon. undefined, but transition nonetheless. unfolding.

i got a letter a few days ago from the insurance company handling my wrist injury from falling. they have decided to stop my treatment. as of right now.

back in july they hired a physician to do an IME – which is the acronym for, ironically, “independent medical exam”. don’t be fooled by the word “independent” for when an insurance company chooses and hires and pays a physician time and again to do medical exam reports for the insurance company that wishes to stop paying for treatment, that physician is questionably “independent”. in an unsurprising result, the physician, who has not been the treating physician all along, gave them the verbiage they were looking for and BAM! they instantly wrote-a-lettuh to me discontinuing my medical treatment.

to say that i was disappointed would be to grossly underexaggerate the complex and intense emotions that came with opening that envelope. my own froedtert hand specialist and stellar OT, who both recommend continued treatment, have helped me make much amazing progress – as a professional musician who kind of uses my hands in lifelong work – and i am now able to bend my wrist to 60 degrees from the initial 20 when i started with them. it’s not the 85 – 90 degree forward range of motion of a normal wrist, but i guess the insurance company et al have decided it’s plenty. wow. and wow.

so the texture of my days will change as well. i’ll try to translate exercises and stretching my OT has done to home, without the benefit of specialized therapy center equipment or knowledge or her hands aiding my movements. and undefined transition will rise out of the horizon.

and we’ll see. things will unfold as they unfold. and summer will turn to fall. and fall will become winter. and we’ll see.

*****

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UNFOLDING from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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in half and in half again. [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen writes about it in “a short guide to a happy life“. the dividing line between before and after. we all have them. though mathematically incorrect for this lyric, as “sawed in half” only leaves the other half, many of us have more than one dividing line, more than one qualifier of our lives, more than one change agent.

i remember my first apartment. it was on long island in a basement partially paneled and partially wallpapered with red brick wallpaper. my dog missi and i moved in with my old piano, a convertible couch, beanbag chairs, a bookshelf and a bistro set. i had free bank-account-giveaway plates and cheap silverware my grandmother gave me, forks, spoons, knives still in my drawer to this day. i had a tiny kitchen in this studio and, though i cooked often, missi and i both ate plenty of cornflakes for plenty of meals. it was not fancy but it was mine.

after i was sawed in half i had to move and, ultimately, found myself in florida, seeking safety from a man whose aggressive pedophilia was predatory, for whom vengeance was foremost. everything was different. from those moments on. there was no going back, no return to innocence. the dividing line was stark and, in 1979, there was no real resource for processing it.

since then i’ve had a few more dividing lines. but, i have found in many purposeful meanderings through my lifeline in recollections and in much intentional parsing out of cause and effect relationships, that many of them relate back to the first sawing-in-half.

having children did not ‘saw’ me in half, but it indeed sawed time into before and after, for nothing would ever be the same and all my after has been waking and going to sleep thinking about them and wishing for their good health, good relationships, good work, love. there can scarcely be a parent who has not been profoundly changed by having children. before. after.

the loss of my big brother came as a mortality-blow. i had lost grandparents at that point, but their lives had been full and eight and nine decades long. my brother had merely reached his fourth decade – forty – an age twenty years ago now for me – and it was premature and devastating. he had been a stalwart rock for me in my years-post-first-sawing and to lose his wisdom and strength had me questioning how the world could go on without him feeling it. it divided time – from a more casual look at life to a more intensely emotional connection to those around me than i already had. if i am needy, emotionally, it is grasping on to beloveds. though i know i must not hold too tightly, i have likely not always succeeded at that, but i try to be at least close enough to always at least feel the wind from their wings. it’s not always possible and it’s sometimes impossible, and i yearn to have my family right close to me as many friends have, but i try – that word again – to trust life and its gifts.

the day i realized that there was no one left to ask questions of my birth, my childhood, my teenage years, the intrepid and enduring memories moms and dads have, i stared at lake michigan. i won’t forget that moment. i was wondering about my first time on the lake on a sailboat and i suddenly was aware that, without my sweet momma and poppo still here, there would be no answers that i could not remember myself. it came with intensity and orphan-hood surprised me – even then, at 56.

there are other lines in the sand, other befores and afters. relationships, jobs, places, mistakes and learnings, successes and failures. they all count, like every slice of blueberry pie making up the whole, even every rich ingredient making up the slice. the passage of time is a vast bakery of experiences, some more contingent on others, some more independent.

so when the song “life is long” came on at the end of the grace and frankie episode while i was on the treadmill and david was on the bike i was struck by the lyric “sawed in half by the passage of time”. i spoke into my phone recording the words i had just heard, words that made time pause like the button on the netflix video.

and i stared into the timeline in my mind, thinking about life sliced up like pie – a little less vigorously than a saw – but with just as much impact.

*****

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she-birds. [merely-a-thought monday]

“old birds have stronger wings.” (aarp magazine)

“but grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” (anne lamott)

resilience. strength. sisu.

we have flown through many storms, we have weathered many droughts and much deluge. we have built nests from scratch and we have re-built them again. we have given birth through birth canals and through love choices. we have sought security and food for our young when security and food were scarce. we have attached wings to ideas and rube-goldberg solutions; we have made do. we have made piss-poor decisions and grandiose ones that have changed everything. we have broken treasures and fixed stuff; we have learned reverse threading. we have been emotional and we have necessarily let go. we have withstood fires of damaging words and we have recuperated from physical blows to our body, our sexuality, our hearts. we have tried to understand, we have been seekers of closure in times of strife. yet, even without understanding or closure, we have kept on keeping on. we are soon old birds and we have stronger wings.

because life, as life, presents gain and loss, winning and losing, achievement and failure, rich and poor, rising and falling, young and old, crepey and supple elasticity, as juxtapositions, as two sides of a pendulum ever-swinging, we have been measured in these competing narratives.

but we are aging birds with wings who have felt the sun of more than twenty-thousand mornings, the moon’s gravitational pull of decades, the grace of time and gardens through fallow and fruit. we are aging birds who have both soared and plummeted. we are aging birds who do not need the measure of others for our definition, for defining ourselves, continuing to learn, takes enough time and is complex enough.

we imagine unicorns in clouds, names in the stars of the galaxy. we catch the scent of sunshine on a wafting breeze and listen to the calls of mourning doves, wondering. we have come a long way. the path we have taken has not been straight. we have been courageous and we have been tenacious. we have flapped our way to here. we proudly wing our way forward, ever-forward. we are ever-stronger.

*****

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fluid. with wings. [k.s. friday]

“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)

“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)

i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.

there is nothing to do now but wait.

my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.

there is nothing to do but wait.

sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.

there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.

and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.

there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.

i’ve written here about transition before. and again. and again. and i suspect i will yet again.

because life, i am learning over and over, is one transition after another. fluid. with wings.

*****

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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babies. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

the text came yesterday afternoon. it was a girl! born at 4:02pm with the sweetest little pink face. the up-north gang celebrated together virtually as new grandparents were born. and everything changed in the world as a tiny being – full of all the potential of the universe – entered this earth.

it’s happening all around us now – this grandparent thing. babies are being born, tiny boys and girls lighting up lives just as my own beloved children have always lit up mine. the focus changes, from one generation to the next, as it should be.

when you marry in the middle of middle age there are things you wonder. one of them is how you would have parented tiny beings together, had you had the chance to experience that. our girl and our boy were already adults when d showed up. and so, as empty-nesters, we ponder and wonder and guess and make up stories and scenarios and laugh aloud – a lot. we wonder what traits a little boy or girl would have of his, what characteristics of mine. these are questions that will never be answered, so it’s great fodder for us.

in the meanwhile, we adore the pictures of lilah, the videos we see of jaxon, tiny eliza on facebook, watching secondhand as landon and will and gigi and hayes grow and mini grown-up lily recites the pledge of allegiance.

and we wait, with great anticipation as new little people are expected, are pined for, are welcomed into this world. we know that with each new pot roast, each new bun-bun, each new diaper dinosaur the world gains so much more potential, so much more to love.

*****

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SMACK-DAB ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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smack-dab-in-the-middle. [merely-a-thought monday]

the family photo changes through the years. i read the other day that it was a friend’s 39th wedding anniversary and noted that it would have also been mine. but things change and times change and the family photo changes. i am grateful for the years before and i am grateful for the years now. both. either way, both family photos have similarities. one would show a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, looking to get to know each other again. the other shows a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, getting to know each other in the first place. a common thread – that getting-to-know-each-other – it is all fodder for much laughter, many foibles, much self-deprecation, many questions, few answers, and a lot of punting on the journey through aging smack-dab in the middle of life.

it became obvious to us that our roadtrip together, the-second-time-around-roadtrip, was a source of humor and a reason for lightheartedness. there is simply no other way to look at it. this is not the stuff of princess and prince, nor the stuff of harlequin romance novels, where the boy-who-inherited-the-kingdom finds the bereft-girl-quietly-sitting-in-the-shadows. it is not the stuff of ease nor the stuff of perfectly-smooth-trails. but it is the stuff of happily-every-after, just like so many other stories smack-dab in the middle of middle age as couples navigate through change and challenge, glee and sadness. we are just like everyone else. and our story is your story, with a few different details.

and so we thought it might be fun to celebrate being smack-dab in the middle, to raise up the questions of being there and the elation of being there, to poke fun at the confusion of revisiting the beginning of romance – so many years ago – or the actual beginning of romance – just a few years ago or, maybe, right now. to look at each other through fresh eyes, a fresh horizon. to notice, to hear, to see, to intuit each other. to dance in the too-empty and too-neat kitchen. to make noise in the too-quiet house. to make plans and dream dreams, even ones that are different than we imagined.

ours is a story of second chances. but so is the story of my friend and her husband of 39 years. and the story of the dear young man who used to be in my choir class in the 80s, now married to his husband for years. all of us have second chances each day. to sit across the table and gaze back at eyes we have known for ages, eyes we are in the middle of knowing, eyes we are just beginning to know. to laugh together and lift each other from wistful moments. to understand and hold each other with compassion our guide. to listen and discern what we each are saying, what we each need. to step into futures of unknown voyages. we live smack-dab in the middle of the middle, holding hands, loving each other in old and new ways. and cherishing every photograph along the way.

smack-dab. in the middle. a new cartoon.

*****

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SMACK-DAB ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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the broken salad bowl. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i broke my mom’s salad bowl last night. it wasn’t fancy; it was a simple glass bowl, shaped in the letter v. but i loved using it for salads and quinoa tabouli and all kinds of fruit. it slipped from my grasp in the sink and, despite my best efforts at rescue, broke in two large pieces. i was instantly saddened, not because i get upset when things break, but because it was my sweet momma’s and using it was a silken connected tie.

we were on i-70 driving across denver and stuck in traffic. we played leap-frog with several vehicles as we inched forward. one of them had a sticker that read “extreme rightwing” and another had this sticker “humankind. be both.” i am betting you can guess the one with which i felt in alignment. i wanted to roll down big red’s window further than i already had it and call out the window, “love your sticker!” but i didn’t. instead, i photographed it, trying to look casual, like i wasn’t taking a picture of their vehicle, and thought about how i instantly liked them.

my sweet momma, the former owner of the now-broken salad bowl, was a firm believer in kindness. her favorite saying, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” was a john wesley quote. this is not the first time i have told of her kindness to others…all others.

as my mom prepared to move into assisted living she started giving away things she wouldn’t be bringing with her. she gave away her couch to a neighbor who needed one; she gave her dining table to another neighbor without a place around which to gather her family. she let things go, with love and caring moving them out the door to their new homes. she didn’t hesitate. it wasn’t about the stuff; it was simply about helping those in need of something she had. we just heard that many of the things in david’s parents’ house, that is being emptied now, have been given to neighbors and people who need particular items. a gesture of paying the generosity we are afforded forward, i immediately thought back to my mom’s own altruism in her time of transition.

these last months have been very challenging for us. i was devastated when, in this time of pandemic and after losing our other two positions, and at the start of my ninth year there, i lost my job. confusion and fear and dreadful sadness at losing my living, all the effort and love i had put into growing a music program, the loss of my dear community, all ran rampant in my heart. the stages of grief, including anger, lined up and for the last five months, i have tried to sort through all of what i have felt. the other day i drove past my former place of employment and just was overcome with how intensely weird it felt, how intensely weird the whole travail has been.

but in the middle of all of this weirdness, the lack of communication, the non-effort at mitigating whatever was seemingly accepted as an ousting-reason, there have been people. humans. kind humans. little by little people have reached out – in generosity and kindness. and, for that, the way has been a little less scary, a little less painful. the ties to the place, astoundingly, considering the place, are broken – irretrievably – shattered into a dark hole in a million shards. but the silken connections of people – from a full compass of our lives – extend in warm embrace. humankind. be-ing both.

i guess the next time i make salad or tabouli i’ll use the big stainless steel bowl – the one that also used to be my mom’s. it’s unbreakable. just like my tie to her.

*****

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everywhere we go. [k.s. friday]

we passed all brands of self-movers. in ryders, u-hauls, budget trucks. in vehicles stuffed to the brim with cartop carriers and kayaks and bike racks. couples following each other in cars with license plates from various states. moving west. new dreams leading their way.

in the way that roadtrips and interstates give you time to think, we spent the last couple days with lots of time to think. driving across the country takes you out of the norm, brings you into a somewhat surreal place, gifting you with an empty canvas of thought-bubbles. trying to get somewhere fast precludes us from the back roads we love, but the highways out west are open spaces and having to get through congested cities is rare. we chat, we admire the amazing changing landscape, we ponder about the lives of the people who live near the interstate, whose homes or homesteads we can see as we whiz by. those homes, those lives are mysteries to us, just as we are mysteries to people sitting on sun-drenched porches watching the traffic go by.

we are in colorado now, to help d’s mom make a big move, a big change in her life. we know that this is profound for her and we hope to gently hold her hand as she moves across this liminal time and space. a new home awaits her with new experiences and new opportunities. and that can be downright scary.

and so we’ll help her pack things that bring her a sense of reassurance, a sense of familiarity, a sense of home. perhaps a favorite chair, the plates she loves to use, her every-morning cereal bowls, paintings that will give her visual peace.

we’ve all done it. short or long-distance, we have moved. we have upheaved our lives and followed a dream west or south or north or east. the compass and time and change lured us to a new place, a new space. taking a few specific things – just as we suspect were packed into the subarus and ford focuses and toyota minivans and rented trailers and trucks – help in the transition. the well-loved quilt, the favorite fry-pan, the old braided rug, the rock from the high country. in stoking up, we store all our memories of where-we-were in tiny corners of our heart, accessible for when we need them.

and – everywhere we go – we bring the way home with us.

*****

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood