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autographs. [d.r. thursday]

“this is my autograph, here in the songs that I sing. here in my cry and my laugh, here in the love that i bring. to be always with you and you always with me.” (autograph – john denver)

on my 30th birthday – a sunny and auspicious day more than thirty years ago – at the zoo, in a freshly poured cement sidewalk, i wrote my name with a stick. i was not alone; i had witnesses to this moment in time. my mom and dad and niece and husband cheered me on as i left my tiny mark. years later, upon return to that zoo, it was still there. there was something encouraging and reassuring about that. i had not disappeared.

we were way up on the mountain, at the highest point of the trail we were hiking. the meadow stretched out of the woods and we sat for a time on a log, watching the breeze move the wildflowers as they bent to autumn. with a sharpie we left two tiny dots on that log. we had been there. we would remain there.

right off the side of the meadow as we re-entered the woods, there was this stump. like an opening flower blossom, it begged a look inside. i was surprised to find rocks of all sizes in there. a container of autographs, evidence for those who had passed by. we added ours to the assembly, rocks specifically chosen by hikers who placed their i-was-here into the hollow cavern of the stump. there is something about leaving a token behind, yes, encouraging and reassuring that upon our return someday – should we return to that very spot – it could be there and we would be reminded that we had passed that way.

the music, the art, the words – all linger temporarily. a little noisy. we have passed this way, that way, these very spots. music, the art, the words – they are expressions that give a bit of definition to the amorphous life we live. they say who we are and stamp our love into the world. and then they evaporate into the atmosphere.

and we know that, even if we never pass that way again, even if we never come across the hollow stump again, we have still left a silent autograph.

*****

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“the pace of nature.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“…adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.” (ralph waldo emerson)

no matter how hard we try, there is not one thing we can do to make the sun appear or the day warmer or the moon to rise or the snow to fall. we accept that time will come, time will pass, time will form and time will destroy. we give over to nature, anticipating that which we know, expecting the unexpected. we baby-step through this very time in the universe, our footprints barely visible on the timeline that is forever. we learn that no matter our stride, we are simply tiny beings. eventually, we learn, after giving over to patience, that that is enough.

the john denver sanctuary in aspen is a treasure trove. we have been there three times now. a garden of trails and large river boulders etched with lyrics and quotes, perennial daisies and aspen trees, it is a gentle sinking into peaceful. the city sounds of aspen fall away and the river and streams are lulling.

we wandered for hours, reading, sitting, pondering, the sun on our faces, the sound of quaking leaves slowing us down. i stood on a giant rock, like a stage under my feet, and bowed deeply to no one and to the brilliance of a man who knew how to tenderly shape melody and weave lyric into a fabric like a soft blanket.

we were immersed in poetry, in words, delicious to read aloud. we were quietly taking it all in, i in all my john-denver-glory, reliving the cassettes i wore out, rewinding, rewinding, listening again and again. this exquisite place, tempting all-day-hooky-playing, wielding a magic defined by thought, encouraging reflection, softly begging you to tumble in your own thoughts. this place slowing you down, reminding you that it is not stuff that defines you, it is not the stuff-of-you that will remain with others.

we wrestle with timing, with suspense, with expectation and disappointment. we measure against ladders of success and hold ourselves to higher higher higher standards of accomplishment.

nature quietly treks on, luminescent and glorious, patiently acknowledging every babystep moment of its impact, surrendering judgement and secretly, from the heart of the universe, signing its autograph on all of us, whispering to us to slow our pace.

*****

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“orbisculate.” [merely-a-thought monday]

i read her text more than once, “imagine, over 500,000 americans who will no longer contribute to the whole.” it is unfathomable to wrap your mind around this and, yet, the devastation continues. some of this country’s governors, whipping off their masks, merrily open their state-doors to this insidious disease and more americans will lose their lives, their parents, their spouses, their sons, their daughters. for what end? so that people might visit disney on spring vacation? so that people might step out of their covid-isolated lives and ignore all that has been scientifically proven as critical aids to move the country forward? so that people might selfishly tote variants back in their carry-ons from warm hot-spots, from tourist attractions, from margaritaville, from breaks that could break us all?

i wear a small chain on my left wrist. it is literally ceiling fan chain. we found the pack of chain on my dad’s workbench in florida years ago, sometime during the period of years that both of my parents were moving to a different plane of existence. both d and i chose to wrap this chain around our wrists to mark my poppo and each time i see it, i think of him. we speak of him. we speak of my sweet momma. i keep them around – purposefully, intentionally. i want their mark on the world to be present.

a family in boston lost their father, neil, only 78 years old, to covid last april. a man who embraced life with wide open arms, his family wants to memorialize him and find a way to keep his engaged and engaging spirit in the world. their plan? to get a word he made up for a college assignment years ago – orbisculate – into the dictionary. ‘when citrus fruit squirts on you’ is the ready definition. the complete and official definition is: 1) to accidentally squirt juice and/or pulp into one’s eye, as from a grapefruit when using a spoon to scoop out a section for eating. 2) to accidentally squirt the inner content from fruits, vegetables and other foods onto one’s face, body or clothing, or onto that of a person nearby. the website has a variety of links for blogposts and goals and faq’s, ways to contribute to the important charity this lovely family has chosen to support and a petition you can sign to help move this effort forward, keep their dad around.

after her text, i spent some time thinking about the 500,000 plus beautiful souls no longer on this earth – simply because of covid, a pandemic with some preventable losses. how might we memorialize each of these people? how might we keep them present – in their own concentric circles, in their community, in the whole wide world? how might we intentionally remember?

to what end are we willing to go to not lose any more people to this virus? to what end are we each willing to sacrifice the smaller picture for the bigger picture? to what end are we willing to agree to unite in a continued compassionate endeavor to mitigate this?

and, with a nod to the brilliant idea category of this bostonian family, how will the dictionary accommodate over 500,000 new words – all of which would be worthy were each of these mortals to have their own special thingamajig-word and definition. and i hope they do.

poppochain: (noun): 1) bracelet made of inexpensive ceiling fan chain, typically worn wrapped around wrist 2) a physical reminder of enormous love 3) memorial of my sweet poppo, 1920-2012.

i touch the poppochain on my left wrist and, suddenly, i want to go peel a grapefruit.

*****

we orbisculate over to you for your haiku-turn. let them know!

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words where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

with a peace sign dangling around her neck and a bandana wrapping her hair, andrea would stress how important it was to choose our words wisely, to weigh those choices carefully, to take time, to be thoughtful. she was the.most.amazing. english teacher. her words still echo in my mind and there are so many moments that i wish i could sit with her, have coffee with her, ponder life with her. that she is on some other plane of existence for a few years now is too much, too soon, and too late for me. john glenn high school was fortunate to have her and those of us who sat in the chairs in her classroom were gifted with a spirit that generously still swirls around me and i’m sure many others. it’s where i’m from.

“watch what you say,” momma would tell me. “you can’t take it back.” yes, once those words are out there, they are out there. no one can erase them and the damage or good they do is a part of the universe-story. my sweet momma adored words. in her later years, sometimes we’d have to have a chuckle as the wrong word would surface and the right word would stay in that moat i always profess is surrounding our synapses. we would search for the right word while swimming in the wrong one, but we’d eventually get there. her words echo in my heart. it’s where i’m from.

now, i have to say that there are many among us – i’m sure myself included – who are not choosing our words wisely, who are not consistently watching what we say. and in these times, in every single arena, that matters.

this morning we read an article about the terrifying january 6 insurrection at the united states capitol: “some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you have turned in your own friends and family members,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s washington dc field office stated. an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

egregious: (adj) outstandingly bad; shocking.

from dictionary.com: egregious: extraordinary in some bad way, glaring, flagrant.

according to legaldictionary.net: “in a legal context, the term egregious refers to actions or behaviors that are staggeringly bad, or obviously wrong, beyond any reasonable degree.”

now there’s a word. “egregious.” one would think that the divvying out of such a word would be with great forethought, with a deference to reality and the measure of truth, with reserve and adherence to its definition, without exuberant overuse. yet in these times it is appearing in more than just cameo roles.

the washington post had an article titled, “the egregious gaslighting around trump’s handling of the pandemic” (philip bump). an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

hillary clinton has been quoted saying that impeachment was placed in the constitution in the event that there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.” yet another appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

i have used the word “egregious” twice in my own blogpost-writing. once was in my post “indecency keeps getting rewarded” and the other time was in my post “what moms (i) want“. both times i weighed this word, tossing it around in my brain, checking its definition, making certain it was the right word. because – that’s where i’m from. i could hear andrea and my sweet momma cautioning me, “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

because these times are really not at all ordinary, we are seeing the use of strong adjectives, heavy-hitting adverbs. we are reading and hearing people-who-are-trying-to-make-a-point wax poetic or spew rhetoric, both. we grant them an audience as we read, as we listen – ourselves. it is up to us to decide if the words that they choose are appropriate, wreaking an equal action or reaction, if they are exaggerated, wreaking panic, if they are scandalous, wreaking havoc, if they are slanderous, wreaking destruction. we are responsible persons – capable of question-asking, fact-checking, stepping back from drama and observing through eyes of truth-telling.

i guess it all depends on where we’re from.

incidentally, the archaic definition of egregious is: remarkably good.

“choose wisely.” (andrea)

*****

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cicadas and people. [k.s. friday]

the cicada was silent, attached to the deck. it was late spring/early summer of 2015 and this insect had chosen our deck as its place of transition. we watched the shell, cautious to not disturb it, waiting for something to happen. until one day it began to emerge, looking much like an extra-terrestrial, wings of flight opening and drying in the sun of the warm day. it was a stunning process from nymph to adult, all silent, with no fanfare for this remarkable transformation. suddenly, this little being was present on the earth, ready to make some noise.

silence to noise – a transition from nymph to mature adult. a lesson, perhaps, for humanity.

our progression from without-words nymph-baby to with-a-voice mature adult, a transformation of growth, of learning, of critical thinking, of fortitude. as cicadas raise their voices to the sky, buzzing and clicking, choosing their song, their chorus wisely, they answer an intuitive call, they align in truth to their purpose, their place on earth. much the same perhaps should be mature adults – answering an intuitive call, choosing their song or chorus wisely, aligning in truth.

there are times we find ourselves in hush. stunned into silence by the words or actions of others, we sit, ensconced in the shell of our exoskeleton. we wait and we watch. and then, as we rise as winged and responsible people, we have the opportunity, the obligation, to speak – to speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, speak to truth.

perhaps there are adults who have skipped their instar stages, those phases of development that insects pass through on their way to maturity. perhaps they should have lived underground like cicadas, feeding on roots, a bit longer before they emerged, before they walked on an earth where they felt they could use their words to hurt or harm others. perhaps then, after a slow transition into maturation and with no fanfare, they would choose their buzzing and ticking with more forethought, with more compassion, with more honesty, with more wisdom.

*****

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golden. not golden. [k.s. friday]

silence is golden.

there is nothing quite like the last strains of gabriel’s oboe (ennio morricone) falling into your heart. there is nothing quite like a break in lyrics, or like the moments after the words “and the world will be as one(john lennon). in music the rests grant time for digesting, for processing, for evoking, for wrapping around you. it is golden time, those rests, and it makes everything else – all other notes, all harmony, all orchestration, all lyrics – make sense.

the music tells the story. it is honest and forthright; it is transparent. it does not suggest innuendo, nor does it allude or insinuate or imply. it does not squelch the truth or warp the narrative. one note follows another until it rests and gives the listener time to breathe, to catch up, to absorb it. its words – the notes that are played – are golden. its silence is golden. it is truth.

and – silence is not golden.

“listen to silence. it has much to say.” rumi may have been speaking of the silence of the snowfall, the silence of the sunrise. like the golden silence of music, these silences fall with grace. they are not silences with implication nor are they incendiary.

equally as powerful as graceful silences of rest is the silence of the person-who-does-not-speak who brings inference, who hints, who implies, who, because of a deliberate lack of words, causes others to jump to conclusions, to opine, to form judgements without the basis of knowledge. powerful seems the person who does not speak up, speak for, speak against, who remains silent, crediting correctness but acting out of intentional design. but this is not the power of rightness, despite any display of righteousness. it is not the power of the powerful; instead it is weakness.

to not speak up, to be silent. to not speak for, to be silent. to not speak against, to be silent. to not speak questions, to not speak objections. to not communicate in honest words, to sit in quiet insinuation, to encourage blind compliance, passive and complicit acceptance, blind trust, to encourage conjecture. weakness.

it is it is on our shoulders to choose our words carefully. it is also on our shoulders to choose our silences in that same way. should our public statements be rigorously measured by integrity and responsibility and truth? should they be steeped in justice and fairness and respect?

yes. they hear your words. and yes. they hear your silence.

*****

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words. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

kawaii raccoons

“look it up,” my sweet momma would say.  i blame her.  for my word-curiosity.  for my policing of spelling, punctuation, grammar.  for my love of dictionaries and my commitment to learning.  at 93 she was still asking questions, being curious, looking it up.

black and white composition books, of both thick and thin variety, populated my growing up, my teenage years, my college years, and ever since.  though i do have a thready fondness of using My Girl’s and My Boy’s old unfinished spiral notebooks these days, we have piles of waiting-to-be-used composition books and they beckon when i open the supply cabinet in the sunlit office upstairs.  places to jot poetry, thoughts, reflections, stories, lyrics, these composition books always make me think of my mom.  they are places to process, to remember, to dream, to sort.  they are the beginnings of stories, lyrics to ponder, the coda to the song.  to someone else they are simply words on the page.  to me, it is my breath that gives them life.  we each have stories to tell, songs to write.

in the last few days i have had the frustration of feeling silenced.  as i wrote in yesterday’s post, someone marked all five of my blogposts of last week on facebook as “spam” and that somehow triggered facebook to pull every last one of my blogposts – and any mention of my blogsite – down.  every word – the simple ones, the ones that require looking-it-up – pulled down.  with 650 posts, even averaging 500 words, that is 325,000 words.  MY 325,000 words.  gone.

in these times of chaos and unrest and pandemic, there are plenty of words out there.  foul words, words of peaceful mantras, words of untruth, twisted words of conspiracy theories, imploring words, scientific words, words of wisdom from giants of wisdom, accessible words, words we have to look up, words we can hardly believe we’ve heard from various people-in-the-spotlight, words at which we roll our eyes, words we find reassuring.

in a daily email he receives, david shares a new word with me.  “kawaii,” he reports, “means cute.”

the baby raccoons, most definitely kawaii, peeked out from behind the tree trunk.  upon seeing us on the trail, they had scrambled from the little pond up the tree.  they stared at us; we stared at them.  they didn’t move, quizzically grasping onto bark and watching quietly.  we didn’t move either.  we just stood quietly on the trail and watched.  the story they would tell about our encounter wouldn’t have many words.  all was silent.  all was motionless.  they were safe; we were safe.  for a few minutes, we shared the serene woods together, a little eye contact in hushed regard of each other.  maybe, in their re-telling, in their speckled composition book, they would just tell the coda – “and then they left.”

every now and again i take out an old composition book.  it’s astounding.  i was so…..wordy.

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we deserve better. [merely-a-thought monday]

we deserve better

“words matter,” my sweet momma would tell me, “things people say matter!” she was right, of course.  even back then.

so i did an experiment.  i deliberately straddled the ideological fence and listened.  and this is what i heard and saw:

“masks. eh, they’re a symbol of fear!” he spouted.(*1)  what?!

on reporting on his own viewing of a reporter at a protest on long island getting verbally attacked, he mouthed off, “it was pretty entertaining!” (*2) what?!

on the president haughtily announcing ‘we’re back!  with or without vaccines!’ she cheered,  “i was doing the fist pump there!” (*3) what?!

and then she needled, “democrats are favoring lockdowns over liberty!” (*4)  what?!

“libtards,” she wrote. (*5)  what?!

wow.

we were hiking and passed by a couple people on the other side of the trail.  moving into single file and off the path in an effort to avoid their non-single-file-ness, we heard, “i want to  keep people safe and this is a big deal, but….” she resisted.  (*6) but what?!

the wisconsin supreme court overturned the safer-at-home order and five minutes later the bars were crowded.  “i miss going out,” she whined to the news, maskless and inches away from the next person at the crowded not-a-mask-in-sight bar. (*7)  what?!

on america, he ruminated, “we don’t do critical thinking in this country.” (*8)

now there’s an understatement.

spouted.  mouthed off.  haughtily announced.  cheered.  needled.  ruminated.  whined. resisted.

he’s right.  we don’t do critical thinking in this country.  otherwise we would expect better.

we would expect a leader who is respectful and thoughtful, steeped in truth, who has an ounce of empathy and who recognizes that the divides in this country – economic, political, moral, prejudicial – are perilously close to chasm-esque, never to return to center.  a leader who sets an example.  a leader who wears a mask, just like the rest of us.  the centrifugal force is spinning out of control; the lack of careful, prudent and meticulous planning, the words from his mouth making us all teeter into the danger zones of no return, of never-be-the-same, of absolute division, of a dismal road ahead.  especially in matters of health.  in all matters of disease.

we would expect a country with a primary intention to attend to the most basic of needs for its populace (think maslow’s hierarchy):  physiological needs.  health.

we would expect the encouragement of the coming-together of people instead of the touting of ripping-apart division.  extremism, headstrong nationalism –  in the name of patriotism (def:  devotion to and rigorous support of one’s country) doesn’t consider the equality of all people and their fundamental rights and needs.  ie:  health.

we would expect that people will – in their willingness to acknowledge that their every behavior will impact literally everyone around them, everyone they come into contact with –  sacrifice and rally around that which protects all, that which will help eradicate the invader, this pandemic.  efforts to protect the health and well-being of all.

we would expect to take advantage of the brilliant minds of scientists, doctors, researchers in order to responsibly get the country back on track.  for our health.

we would expect consistency in message, consistency in plan, consistency in dedication and commitment to the well-being of the people of this country, the people of the world.

we would expect that the weight of a person’s life is far more important than the weight of that person’s (or any person’s) bank account.  for as my poppo would say,  “you can’t take it with you!” and any money or stock or holding or real estate or hedge fund pales in comparison with, say, your own actual life.

we would expect more.

yes.

because we deserve more.

————

* and if you are curious about the quotes:  *1: rush limbaugh, *2: sean hannity, *3: laura ingraham, *4: laura ingraham, *5: someone i went to high school with, *6: a young woman on the des plaines river trail, an Illinois park with signs posted requesting single file trail-walking, *7: a woman interviewed at a wisconsin bar, *8: chris cuomo

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because they are them. [merely-a-thought monday]

not salmon quote

this doesn’t really need any more words.  these words are succinct and clear.  and i appreciated them more than jay could know when she sent this message to me.

d always repeats to me  ‘don’t take anything personally’  but, at the times he says this, i am ready to jab back with examples of when he has ‘taken it personally’.  we are human, after all, and things people and say do affect us.  were we to be teflon, we could avoid most hurt, but people are made of cutaneous cells that absorb, not the stuff of good frying pans or the feathers of cold-water ducks.

once i heard an interview with a woman who was 95 or 96 years old.  she was in excellent fitness, no plaguing physical difficulties, with a robust view of life and living and a quick laugh.  she was asked to what she owed this phenomenal overall good health.  she replied, “i don’t take anything personally.”  after a moment she added, “or seriously”.

it’s a part of me to wonder why people have said barbed or snarky, malicious or unkind things to me, why they have been ugly or hateful.  if i sit back and look from afar, i realize that they are, at the very least, consistent.  their behavior has been the same, their bite has become predictable.  regardless of my action or inaction, they are hurtful.  remembering it is ‘because they are them’ is helpful, especially in the path of not-taking-it-personally.

but it’s not so easy.  i guess i still have to work on this.

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look in the mirror. stand up straight. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

 

red cup mirror

successories built a business on reminders. powerful, thoughtful, inspiring words that encourage us, motivate us, reassure us, remind us. we hang them in our offices, in our homes; we have daily mini posters on our calendars or our apps; we have mugs with words. we need reminders. in this world of challenges, worries, failures among the triumphs, our tender hearts need to see snippets that keep us going, keep us moving forward, keep us in grace.

i walked into the restroom at the red cup, a sweet coffeehouse on washington island. on the mirror were these words: “you are so cool and intelligent and strong and fierce.” my face stared back at me, right next to these words. a reminder. stand up straight.

to be honest, i suppose the first thing i thought was, “i’m not really cool,” a leftover from high school a million years ago, where i was definitely not in the cool crowd. (i never cut a class. i always did my homework. i practiced the piano. i rode my bike or drove my little vw bug to the beach all year round. i wore lots of hand-me-downs. i never smoked or attended a high school drinking party. i didn’t run with the cool group.) interesting how i still react to that ‘label’ and how it still plays inside me. this stuff hangs on; images we have of ourselves long-haul stick with us.

my next thought – in the restroom – was that we need these reminders. you and i. we ARE cool – in our own distinct ways. we are intelligent. we are strong – stronger than we know. and we are fierce…ready to stand firm for our children, our families, our friends, our beliefs, our selves.

it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. every day accosts us with new problems, complex seemingly unsolvable gordian knots, new reasons for our self image to take a blow, to feel less-than, to fail in this competitive world.   every day presents with a new chance to remember all we have done, all we have risen above, all we have helped accomplish. a chance to see how cool we are, how intelligent. a chance to, yet again, be strong and fierce.  look in the mirror.  stand up straight.

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

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