reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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pink. [k.s. friday]

there is a single tiny pink tulip stenciled in one corner of my daughter’s room. when i repainted her room as a surprise for her during her college years, i could not bear to paint over all the tiny tulips i had stenciled along the ceiling for my little girl’s room what seemed like five minutes before, so i left one. there is something about pink.

just looking at this peony – in full blossom – you can catch a whiff of the sweet scent of this flower. my niece sent me a picture the other day of her peonies with a note, “i wish they lasted longer than five minutes.”

our peonies sat tightly in bud for a few weeks until – suddenly – they exploded into glorious bloom. five minutes later – or maybe a split second or so – petals were scattering onto the patio but we could still catch whiffs on the breeze. but those five minutes…wow.

the botanic garden had all varieties of peonies, in all stages of bloom. you could stand in one place and twirl to see peonies in lush green growth, peonies in bud, peonies in bloom, peonies with blossoms wide, petals falling. there was something about these pink peonies.

my dear sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. a devastating blow, she has ridden the coaster of emotions and arrived at warrior. her surgery was a couple of weeks ago and she is waiting now – the interminable wait – for the pathology results. when she found the lump and the dimpling on her breast, she felt pretty sure it was cancer. but it was in the moments of biopsy results that her life changed. the five minutes during which she became a pink ribbon holder.

soon she will know more. she’ll know about the margins and the treatment going forward. she’ll know about how her recuperating pain will change over time. she’ll know about limitations and about percentages. she’ll know about genetics and maybe why she was diagnosed with the same – rarer – cancer our sweet momma had.

right now, she knows about these moments. the moments of abrupt change. the moments of gearing up for a fight. the moments of absolute vulnerability. the moments – from the very first one – of being a survivor. the moments of leaning on others to garner strength and hope. the moments of desperately trying to stay grounded. the moments of grabbing onto now and holding onto the gossamer ties.

there are no right ways. this is cancer and the journey is brutal, unfair, f-ed up. she is one patient in a world of patients. i desperately wish that was different.

my sister. she ordered chocolate ganache cake for lunch. she’s thinking about a pink ribbon tattoo. she is being a beautiful peony.

*****

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IN A SPLIT SECOND from AS SURE AS THE SUN (©️2002 kerri sherwood)

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layer upon layer. [two artists tuesday]

peeled back from the tree trunk, the bark first reminded me of the colosseum in rome…that one tall section rising above the rest. it is also sadly reminiscent of one of the devastating iconic images of 9/11, a piece of building at ground zero, standing through absolute destruction.

at a different time, in different circumstances, in a small forest in northern illinois, this gorgeous bark in the woods has remained steadfastly in place for several weeks, holding on to the tree at its base and, yet, yielding to nature bending back, back.

i wondered about the peeling. if this is a sycamore tree, this exfoliating is natural, even a charming characteristic. if this is an oak, it can be a sign of an unhealthy tree, unless there is new bark underneath, waiting.

i don’t suppose that is much unlike all of us. peeling back the layers…as we lose each layer, we are vulnerable to the elements, unprepared peeling exposing us to harm. we can more easily share – layer by layer – if we know we are out of harm’s way to do so. we can more readily divulge – layer by layer – if we know that we will not be pummeled. we can more assertively process – layer by layer – if we know we are not at risk of stress, infection, infestation. we can, if we trust we are safe.

decades of life have a way of peeling the outer bark. time may soften the edges; time may bring cycles of raw learning…those moments we speak truth, we take chances, we jump…moments of transition.

the colosseum is over 1900 years old. sycamores live somewhere between 200 and 300 years. oak trees can live from 80 to 500 years, though there are varieties with a much longer life span.

we humans have less time on this good earth, less time to grow to maturity, less time for our structure to weather the storms, less time to lose our bark, less time to peel back to our essence. it would seem prudent to offer each other the room, the space, the shelter to exfoliate.

oak trees develop from the inside out, as do pine and maple. the older bark chips away on the outside making room for new bark. it take some trees till the time of their full maturity to exfoliate their outer skin.

obviously, trees are people too.

*****

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two little piggies. [k.s. friday]

my poppo’s cane stands next to a chimney cupboard in the sitting room, propped with a couple of walking sticks. i’ve never been very good at using a cane – for some reason, i find it confusing. you shake your head and wonder, i’m sure, but there is something about placing the stick and the side you place it on and which leg you are attempting to aid that is a little bit baffling for me.

this past week, though, i had a full day of using my dad’s cane. i had broken two toes and needed a little something to lean on to get around. i tried using the foam roller but that proved awkward. and david, well, his shoulder wasn’t available all day.

my dad was most certainly chuckling watching me. i’m sure he was trying to instruct me from that other plane, in-between sipping coffee and nibbling on crumbcake. i figured it out, even though i couldn’t hear him, but not without laughing at my own awkward brain-cane-leg shenanigans. mostly, my hand holding the curve of my dad’s cane was a little bit of a gift. sitting as a decoration, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might come in handy. “use the stick,” i could hear him say. i keep listening for him, a decade tomorrow since i started missing him. always.

i’m not sure why i break my toes. the report from the dr’s office to the x-ray folks read “kicked a door jamb with her left foot.” i beg to differ. i didn’t KICK the door jamb. i ran into it. there is a difference. one sounds like a hissy fit, whereas the other is clearly an accident that happened as i zoomed around in the house, getting stuff done, barefoot.

it seems that every year or so i hurt a toe. most of the time, barefoot. but sometimes i even have my flipflops on. this time, though, was a doozy. two at once! i mean, seriously?

on the third day post-communing-with-the-door-jamb i put on one of the thick snowboard socks of a pair we had gotten when we went snowboarding and i broke both my wrists (another fun day) and i found a sport slide sandal of my son’s (who has much bigger feet than i do). the combination worked like a charm and i found that i could manage to move around. i’m still wearing this winning combo. i don’t look vogue but i am getting from place a to place b. and gaining momentum.

i suppose i should just wear shoes. like all the time. something to guard my toes, since they seem vulnerable. but i really love the sensation of bare feet on old wood floors. the planks creak and groan a little and you can feel the spaces that time and history have created in between the boards.

as much as i don’t look forward to any more broken piggies, i suspect these are not my last.

*****

IN THESE TIMES…gaining momentum

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IN THESE TIMES from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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vulnerable. [d.r. thursday]

helen’s words have stayed with me for a few years now. we had told her of various frog encounters we were having including the time the frog jumped out of my sweet momma’s toilet (!) when we opened the lid and the first surprise frog at our little pond. “frog,” she quietly pointed out in a slight southern drawl, “is simply an acronym for fully-rely-on-god.” there was something stabilizing in her tone, something full of wisdom and experience and the flow of life. in her words there was reassurance. in her words there was encouragement.

magic appeared earlier this summer. we check for him pretty much every day. at some point one of us meanders out there and walks slowly around the pond, studying the places where a sweet frog can linger, sun, or hide. some days he isn’t there and we worry about him. when you name a frog in your pond, he becomes part of your family and pando and epic and tiny were no exceptions. we celebrated the day magic suddenly poofed into our pond. i’m certain we both heard helen’s words whispered in our ears.

i know that magic is vulnerable and yet, he sits in it. this pond is tiny and he would be hard-pressed to evade the neighborhood hawk should it decide froglegs were on the menu. the sun warms the pond each day and the rocks around it are hot to the touch, but magic has apparently figured all that out, afternooning in the shaded garden bushes, i suppose. he doesn’t seem to be scared of a big black furry dogdog running around the pond incessantly; i imagine he rolls his eyes, giggles at the visual absurdity and somehow knows dogga would never hurt him. he seems pretty secure. maybe he knows the f-r-o-g thing. no matter, taking chances, he sits in his vulnerability.

these two days – thursdays and fridays – are dedicated to our artistries. dr thursday and ks friday offer specific chances for us to dive into our craft, to talk about it, to divulge.

i have found, in these last years now of writing, that we are much like magic. the more we write, the more we divulge of where we are. our vulnerability is not just limited to artistry days. instead, we take chances each day of the week, writing where we are, where we have come from, where we may be going. we click ‘publish’ and sit in it.

at points in time, the neighborhood hawk somehow removed us from facebook for unknown reasons – a hankering for froglegs, i suppose – and trashed our youtube – burning hot reasons we will never know. it is hard to evade the acts of close-mindedness, of conspiracy theory, of damaging rhetoric, of exclusion. but we just keep writing anyway.

it was late evening when i went to look for magic. the air had deliciously cooled and we were outside – just with the pondlight and bulbs strung over the yard. there he was. in the spotlight of the pond, confidently on the edge of the rocks, breathing deeply – or however it is frogs breathe best. he didn’t move as i approached and he stayed right there, inches away, for the photoshoot. unafraid and in his own skin, he didn’t flinch. he just stayed right there. in the middle of his vulnerability.

it made me wonder if he has a blog.

*****

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eleanor’s tea bags. [k.s. friday]

she was a rebel. radical and progressive, eleanor pushed with all her might, a rogue in a traditional world. eleanor roosevelt is held in high esteem, a social justice mover-and-shaker, deliberate and smart and very, very strong. she wasn’t afraid of hot water. she often dove right in.

we women all know eleanor. oftentimes, intimately. for she resides in each of us – that spirit of strength and fortitude, bravery and courage, mighty in beautiful bodies.

forest trillium, in all its slender elegance, takes quite some time to mature. after years of growth, it will eventually bloom, its three leaves gently cupping the blossom. an early spring flower, white ages to pink, a color often associated with softness, perhaps even meekness. but in its ever-present flower-wisdom, trillium is anything but meek. it is particular and ephemeral, stunning as a star of the woodlands. its bloom scents as fruit or decaying meat to attract pollinating insects, its attempt to ensure its propagation. heralding spring, trillium is fragile and endangered. in new york it is labeled “exploitably vulnerable.”

the path we each choose differs. our goals, our intentions, our dedications, our wishes and dreams run a vast spectrum. we have different journeys; we have different origins. we are quiet; we are noisy. we go with the flow; we make waves. we may not agree, but we are zealous.

we are the guardians of our ambitions, the preservers of our pilgrimages, the shielder of our adventures, the great protectors of our beliefs, the fuel of our passions, the champions of our beloveds, mama bears with or without cubs. we are fragile; we are damn strong. and we are most definitely exploitably vulnerable. yet, in that vulnerability, in those moments of hot water, each and every woman i know is eleanor.

i say we tea bags stick together and celebrate each other.

*****

from my seat in 2021 sharing with you the stay strong/strong-woman song i wrote in 2002 for the album AS SURE AS THE SUN: COUNT ON YOU:

COUNT ON YOU (kerri sherwood – from the album AS SURE AS THE SUN)

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COUNT ON YOU ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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from a distance and up close. [two artists tuesday]

from a distance they stand tall, leaf-arms open to the sky, drinking in tree-dappled sun. they are stalky and strong and seem confident and independent, yet living in community with other woodland plants. at this moment in early spring they are positioned in mostly-monochromatic villages, begging my camera. it isn’t until i get closer that i see all the pointy hairs on the leaves, on the stalk, all over. from afar these were not obvious, but, apparently, this plant was not exactly what it seemed. the fuzzy hairs – trichomes – protect the plant from dehydration, from insects, to keep warm and keep cool, and upon close inspection, are everywhere, too numerous to count. they are an integral part of the plant and its ability to thrive in the woods.

the obvious comparison – the good outer protection our own epidermis provides us – is too blatant. instead, as i got closer to this plant and focused in on its outer shell, i couldn’t help but realize the running parallel, the only-seen-up-close-and-personal mechanisms of protection.

from afar we stand tall and strong and confident and independent, though living in and, indeed, dependent upon, community with others. but upon close inspection, upon threat, we are always protecting our own vulnerability. if needed, we rely on our spiky and resistant shell, closing off to invasion of hurtful infestation or blight, guarding against negativity. we survey change and transition, ready to rely on our armor. we puff out our thorns and avoid humility. we stand firm, stalky and unwavering in our opinions. we resist forceful wind, preferring to root in the known. we sway in shifting breezes, ever-hopeful for good. and the tiny hairs of our exterior stand on edge, spiky and ready, the mama-bears of our integrity, our fragile good natures, our open hearts.

there is no real difference. these lush green plants and us. we stand with our arms open to the sky, drinking in the sun, independent and dependent, living together. from a distance and up close.

*****

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peeled back. [k.s. friday]

time continues to peel back the layers. barney is vulnerable and is, thus, exposed.

artistry is like that. we share our vulnerabilities. we write, we paint, we compose, we lyricize – we peel back the outer shroud of mystery to reveal that which is inside. we take chances at judgement, at others’ opinions, at evaluation. we are exposed. and time goes on. winter turns to spring which turns to summer and then fall. the seasons take their toll; the seasons enrich us. both.

the first album i released felt earth-shaking. the notes – white and black keys tumbling from deep within – flew out into the world on a piece of polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic. what could be a coaster contained fifteen deeply-excavated emotions, musings each released into the light. exposed. the scraps of paper that gave birth to these were soon filed in a binder with invoices and order forms, designs and ups tracking numbers. one season. one album. done.

each original album since is no less an exposé. each still holds pieces of me, permission by me to be peeled back. a little less scary than the first but still risk-taking. vulnerability does not recede from the sandy beach as the big waves come and go. but it stands a little more stoic, with a little more sisu. the albums, like seasons, arrive when it is time. and they, in some way that albums might, tremble with anticipation and that tiny bit of fear that remains, even after many layers have been peeled. soon there will be no more black and white at all.

now i wonder if i will need shrink-wrap again. i wonder about recording. and i don’t know. yet. i do find that i am thinking of wooden stages and boom mics. i also find that i am thinking that all this writing – these written words on the page – have been feeding me and that hunger for polycarbonate, aluminum and acrylic plastic.

each day, barney and i age. the veneer blisters and the shell reveals our hearts. we are both emotional, barney and i. we are conscious of our craggier look, the wrinkles and the age spots. though we wonder about how we resonate with the rest of the universe-out-there, we take the dusty road together anyway and we hold hands, vulnerable together. though laminate no longer hides our souls, we are standing in the sun this season, new growth springing up.

*****

that first album – 1995

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butterfly, butterfly. [two artists tuesday]

butterfly butterfly

this butterfly must have known.  my heart was aching and the steps i was taking down the trail were heavy.  and then it appeared.

the glimmer of its wings caught my eye, this iridescent blackish-blue, a red-spotted purple butterfly, inviting me to stop, watch.   it flew around me and i twirled in place watching as it circled.  it landed on the trail time and again, close enough for me to video it opening and closing its wings, a greeting of sorts.  my breathing slowed down.  beauty exists.

even in the midst of everything negative, even in the midst of worry, angst, missing, deconstruction, transformation, reinvention, heartwrenching choices, beauty exists. even in the midst of a pandemic and unrest and a country in chaos, beauty exists.

a little research:  apparently, my little friend, the red-spotted purple butterfly, looks much like a pipevine swallowtail.  the swallowtail butterfly deters predators by being mightily distasteful.  the red-spotted purple butterfly has piggybacked onto the swallowtail’s predatory resistance by its similar markings, albeit without a tail.  predators sometimes shy away from this butterfly based on the vulgar taste of its close-but-not-related twin.  a good scheme.  and yet this butterfly – beautifully exquisite, and, although somewhat protected, is still vulnerable.

this red-spotted purple butterfly visit was serendipitous.  i needed to slow down.  i needed to watch this creature as it invited the sunlight to warm its wings and aid in its nectar-picnic.  i needed to be reminded of the butterfly in all its transitions – its metamorphosis through life, its graceful acceptance of its own life-arc, its changes, its patience, its endurance.

the next times i walk on this trail i will likely think of these two butterflies:  both beautiful and both trying to sustain, to gather nectar, to complete their own circles of life.  but one with such a vulgarity to it, such an acidity that predators stay away.  very few are lost in the lesson that predators are quickly taught about its toxicity; animals learn to avoid them.   i wonder about these swallowtails in community with other butterflies.  and i think about the red-spotted purple, sans toxicity, trying courageously to protect itself in its habitat.  it looks a little like a swallowtail, but it’s not.  it doesn’t poison the animal who consumes it.

much like people.  we look much the same.  each of us, beautifully exquisite.  and yet.  some pipevine swallowtails, toxic and cunning.  some red-spotted purples, pure and vulnerable.

beauty exists.

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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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in the gray. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

stripes of grey

grey/gray rarely has such a line of demarcation, rarely has distinctive texture such as in this picture beyond our littlehouse yard.  grey is simply gray.  it is the zone of not right/not wrong.  it is the living in-between-ness of doing life this way/that way.  it is the space of not-knowing, asking questions, learning, being vulnerable.  it can be uncomfortable.  but it is necessary.

the most growing i have done has been in the grey zones.  the times when i did not know, the times i made mistakes, the times choices were confusing, the times devastated by life events, the times moving forward meant tiny baby step by baby step, the times i was vulnerable.

last night there was an artist, an author, at TPAC who spoke of vulnerability.  he said that vulnerability leads to gratitude.  it is the path to grace and mercy.  i agree.

i would add we can never know, or even approximate, what someone else is feeling without being unguarded ourselves.  we can never know the unanswered questions, the struggles, the amorphous-ness of life without the grey.  we can never create without the grey – for an artist languishes in grey, if for no other reason than to seek the color within himself.

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

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