reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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church. [k.s. friday]

he wrote, “that building is not God.”* (john pavlovitz)

the light lit up the sky, a golden glow in a fog toward the heavens. it is one of the chicago botanic garden’s iconic displays, this tunnel of light, begging you to look up, be wrapped in its light, acknowledge the goose bumps. the luminous winter cathedral drawing people toward it. they stood, marveling, they strolled slowly, they posed for photographs, the millions of starry twinkling lights enveloping all.

i’m not much for cathedrals, really. i never have been; it’s nothing new. while i can appreciate their stunning beauty and the incredible feat it often took to build or install, they have never brought me closer to faith than any other place…outside, in the presence of others, at the piano, alone in wonder.

in my life – and in three and a half decades of my work life – i have found churches to not only house beauty. i have found churches to also house ugly. and so, i was relieved to read the words of john pavlovitz. it is important to distinguish the difference – the building is not God. and, sometimes, the best place to find the supreme deity you are seeking – no matter the name, no matter the denomination or affiliation, no matter the book of written word – is not in a place, not in a building.

the people – so many gathered there – under the arch of the winter cathedral seemed softer. the glow of light on their faces, they moved slower, offered to photograph others, gazed up. just as a community of people in a church often do, they seemed to come together, one of the benefits of “the building”. but, as i have found time and again – and, if we are to speak truth – those benefits sometimes run out. and people within become consumed by that which would never be considered a basic tenet of faith – the hypocrisies of power and control and discrimination and subjugation and competition, toxic things that “[don’t] feel like Love anymore”*.

as i walked under the night sky i knew that the cathedral would be close to the last installation on the guided path. i steeled myself for its overtones, even with its undeniable beauty.

we stood back and watched people enter it. in awe. it is truly glorious.

we approached and there was this tiny voice inside my head naysaying “church” to the other tiny voice exclaiming “wow”. both.

yet ethereal was there and it shone down on us as we walked through to the other side. and then we were once again under a night sky, full of stars we could see and stars we couldn’t see. just like faith.

“you are fully freed to run into the wide open spaces of this world, and to experience life and faith and beauty in ways you never thought possible…”*

*****

ALWAYS WITH US – solo piano ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

ALWAYS WITH US – piano with orchestration ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

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in wonder. [k.s. friday]

right now it is a mystery.

accuweather predicts a blizzard. and we wonder if it is truly imminent. on days of heavy holiday travel, there may be fierce winds, whirling snow, no visibility, bitterly cold temperatures well below zero. such extremes, circumstances that might dictate the comings and goings of loved ones trying to be together to celebrate.

we’ll keep watching the weather and the warnings. we’re hoping it’s wrong, that it’s exaggerated, that it’s cautionary but not totally necessary. that we will get to this day without the extremes.

it is days before the day before the eve of the day. and though i respect that app on my phone i continue to plan as if it will be days of celebration and joy and not snowplows and shovels and heet and de-icer.

there is still much to do. there are packages to ship, a few to wrap, a couple to deliver. there are trips to the grocery store and maybe a tiny bit of shopping. there is de-dogga-furring by vacuum and a little dusting and much tidying up.

and all the while sitting in the wonder of the season. people celebrating love and generosity, time spent gathered, kindnesses and the reminder of ancient stories carried into this time, open hearts, hope and light.

*****

I WONDER AS I WANDER

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stuff happens. [k.s. friday]

“step confidently,” the stio catalog reads. there is an ad for boots – winter boots – and gorgeous pictures of snowfall and mountains and terrain where confidence could be challenged. we were just talking with 20 about those yaktrax you strap on your shoes to instill a bit of chutzpah as you walk on icy trails. anything to keep us outside. cause stuff happens.

yes. stuff happens.

and it happens fast. without warning.

a couple days ago i was walking from the kitchen to the sunroom – sans yaktrax – to let the dog inside. holiday music was playing and i was busy thinking about my next task as i approached the step down to the tile floor by the back door. i did a little math. i’ve successfully navigated this step – only one – at the very least – one-hundred-twenty-two-thousand times. but, somehow, and i have no idea how, i missed the step and fell flat – kerplunk-kind-of-flat-like-in-cartoons – on my knee. the one time i didn’t reach out my hands to stop myself – i guess those two other falls taught me something – but my knee took the entire brunt of the trip-fall.

i’m not sure the first thing out of my mouth was pretty or anything i’d be proud to mention here. my reaction – as i laid on the cold floor – was incredulous, thinking i was running out of appendages, wondering what vortex in the universe we had fallen into or if mercury was in retrograde or just what was happening here.

the xray technician told me that’s why it’s called an accident – because there is no real reason, but i was about as amused by that as other people to whom i have said those words. no real reason. she said, “stuff just happens!” uh-huh.

the nurse practitioner at the urgent care told me she concurred with the radiologist and – thank goodness – there was no fracture. geesh. she said a few days and we’ll see how it goes.

patience is now in order. time to spend with my knee horizontal doesn’t fall under “my favorite things” column. i’ll be hobbling around and sitting and trying to get things done, in a slew of time i can only label as “fraught”.

and i’ll be trying to figure it all out.

*****

FIGURE IT OUT ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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off the trail we know. [k.s. friday]

each time the trail curves, i can imagine it. next.

but as weeks go, this one has been harder. we tried our best to be positive, to believe that the new bend in our road is not so fraught. but, the fact of the matter is that it is. fraught.

we are pretty tough. kind of scrappy. definitely frugal. well, most of the time. we have both been presented with lean times in our lives. even our life together has had its lean times. we always eat leftovers. we always repurpose things. we always turn the shampoo bottle upside down. we always keep the heat low. we haven’t bought a vehicle in sixteen years. in some unknown intuitive move for which we are now grateful, we put off the big chimney-fireplace project, necessary but ridiculously expensive. we haven’t flown in three years. we find sanctuary in a forest we know well. we know where the trail curves.

and each time the trail curves, i can imagine it.

as the sun glimmers on what-looks-like the other end, i think – this is just one day, one week, one time in our lives. tomorrow will dawn and it might be a completely different day, starting a completely different week, a completely different time in our lives. and we just don’t know. again.

we are now in a woods we do not recognize, on a path we can not anticipate. off the trail we know. anxiety hikes with us, as do worry, sadness and disappointment. we worked hard on our plan, but the best laid plans are laid down. and this week, as weeks go, this one has been harder.

the sun quivers through the trees in front of us, setting. we keep walking.

day is done, 
gone the sun, 
from the lake, 
from the hills, 
from the sky; 
all is well, 
safely rest, 
god is nigh.  

fading light 
dims the sight, 
and a star 
gems the sky, 
gleaming bright. 
from afar, 
drawing nigh, 
falls the night.

(taps - d. butterfield/unknown)

*****

IN TRANSITION ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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it’s in our vote. [k.s. friday]

the midterms are rapidly approaching. the rhetoric is amping up. the tv ads, the phone calls, the billboards, the texts, the email messages, the political mail in the mailbox – all dedicated to sway our vote.

i realize that this is the way to raise money, that this is the way to get one party ahead of the other. many voters will elect to vote a straight party ballot. some will vote without asking any questions. some will vote without any information at all. some will vote for vapid minds, choosing the rough edges of spewed anger, covert scheming. they are voting on a bandwagon – with truth obscured – and haven’t looked past the exterior of the candidates.

i was chatting quite some time ago with a college professor. he was teaching a class three days a week and was talking about his experiences. “anybody can be brilliant for an hour and a half,” he quipped. i laughed, thinking how true that is.

but it’s the long haul that counts. it’s what’s at the crux that counts. i wonder what is in the center of what motivates the candidates we are considering. what is past the exterior, what are the things they affirm, believe in, wish to move forward?

anyone can look pious, even righteous, in brevity, for short spurts of time. but these same pedestalized people can bring to the table masked and unmasked agenda that is riddled with inequality, marginalization, discrimination, divisiveness, violence, a thwarting of social, racial, gender, financial equity all under the auspices of brilliance. it is our responsibility to peel back the layers, to poke through the season-of-midterm blahblah, to examine the intentions, the integrity, of the people we choose – truly, in every arena – to represent us.

how these people manifest in their communication, their compassion, their fairness, their steadfast evenhandedness, their actual brilliance – not the hourandahalf variety – should tell us something important. if a person does not represent the values we uphold ourselves, the ones we would lay out to each and every one of those we love, why would we elect that person to represent us, to reflect us? if our vote was revealed to our loved ones, our children, our family, friends, community, colleagues, would we take comfort, would we have pride, in what was revealed?

for it is in our vote that we truly show what is beyond the exterior. it is in our vote that we truly show what is in our heart.

*****

FIGURE IT OUT ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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the trail in. [merely-a-thought monday]

when i was choosing seats for the elton john concert in north carolina, the – predictably – least expensive seats were the ones with an obscured view. a pillar, a speaker, a wall…something was in front of the seats, not allowing you to see. or maybe the seats were behind the horizon line of the stage, the apron, making elton basically invisible.

clearly these seats – still dang expensive – weren’t right. i mean, if you can’t see him perform and you can’t really see the jumbotron why not just sit and listen to ej cd’s instead? clearly, that’s not the point.

so i stayed away from the obscured-view-seats and chose seats from which we could see all the action. high up, yes. but we could see it all.

we passed a sign in the chicago botanic garden, posted by a tiny trail. “by screening out views and creating hidden areas, this garden entices you to explore just beyond what you can see.” we couldn’t see into the garden…so we took the little trail in. it was beautiful and a little magical. a little secret garden. not obvious. beyond sight.

the work of an artist – of any medium – is like that. find the places just beyond. find the line of melody that tugs, that urges, that compels. bring those places to others so that they might explore them as well. past the horizon. past the stage. you can still hear elton from the obscured-view seats and you can still feel the energy.

in a thirty-plus year career as a minister of music i always felt that it was my job to introduce the obscured secret garden to others. for faith – regardless of denomination – is that which we cannot see, that which we cannot touch. my mission was simply to open hearts through music to see beyond what you can see, to explore beyond sight. grounding in the most basic of tenets – love, kindness, generosity, peace, embrace of all others, support, truth, fairness, equality, grace – i felt it imperative to offer music that might viscerally touch a person who might not otherwise be touched, to hold it all out there gently so that a soul could easily grasp it, hold it, be wrapped in it, be comforted by it. faith in something bigger in this universe is found in a river of changing times and circumstances and staying steadfast is like the path a leaf takes on that river, both raging whitewater and lazy currents. we open our hearts to explore, even though we cannot see.

it might be time to play my piano again. maybe. it’s been a long time – a couple years now, save for a few moments a few times. i haven’t been able to play it – the magic has been obscured from view – since, well, since i felt blindsided. but now…maybe now…finally…i can see the trail into the studio. maybe now the black and white notes lifting into the air – will heal hurting even just a little, will allow exploration and sight beyond the obvious tangible horizon, will open a heart again.

mine.

*****

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drive it or pull it? [saturday morning smack-dab]

we can’t decide between the kind you drive and the kind you pull.

i mean, if you drive it, then you have to drive it everywhere, unless we tow littlebabyscion behind it, in which case it would be a really-really-big rv and neither of us can picture driving that kind of lumbering size down the highway. but if it’s the kind you pull, you have a vehicle. but then you have to pull it. and back it up. and fit it into parking lots. and juggle it around to get it into camping spots. that brings me back to the kind you drive. the small kind you drive.

the imperative?

a bathroom. and, preferably, a shower.

with a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, a shower and wifi we can go anywhere; we can rule the world. every other day i talk about this. because who doesn’t think about this, i wonder…

the wander women have figured it out. of course, they planned with great intention and are retired, so access to wifi on all workdays is not a sink-or-swim. for us, right now, we need to just-keep-swimming and wifi is the life preserver as we continue to work on our own plan.

i keep transferring visiting the rv place from one weekend to the next. probably because my rent-it-now signature pen is itching, the brochures are stacking up. ahhh. plan….

but really. it’s just delicious to think about all those backroads, all those mountains and canyonlands and seashore beaches at our disposal, dogdog hanging out with us, a tiny fridge filled with good food to make on our tiny stove, grilled on our tiny grill. music and art and wordswordswords created on an adventure Out There on-the-road-again.

i’m totally game.

d and me and dogga and willie nelson.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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stretching, not ripping. [k.s. friday]

the threads are stretching, stretching…but not ripping.

barney stretches and yawns, still a piano, always a piano. his soul – tenacious and flexible and resilient – centering back to itself, despite weather, despite weathering. it’s late day and the shadows are long. there are small mounds of birdseed, assorted fallen leaves, bits of white at the leading edge of the keyboard. no matter. his aging exterior belies the zeal inside of him, the sorting of memories being played, sustain pedal lifting notes into the air and holding them there. barney has come to knowing that all the notes are still there – stretched across the atmosphere, lingering. he is not fearful of this process in the sun and the rain, snow and blustering winds.

“if you let your fears control your actions, then you are not going 100 mph through it, enjoying it.” (sue aikens)

barney does little these days. he is home for wildlife, the birds, the chippies, the squirrels – they know him well. but he is still going 100 mph through it, whirling and dancing in his beautiful body in our backyard. one day he will look even less like an upright.

but the chickadees and house finches, the cardinals and robins will glance over at him and think, “there’s that sweet piano.” for they, too, will still recognize him.

*****

HOLDING ON, LETTING GO ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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a chicken and a cow in autumn. [two artists tuesday]

my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.

whimsical.

i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.

from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.

“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”

we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.

i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.

right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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just three. [k.s. friday]

we stood in the grocery store in brevard, right by the display. the food lion price for the charming smushy-flat white pumpkin was $8.99. it called to me, “you need me! bring me home!” but i got hung up on the price tag and we didn’t buy it.

we’ve had a pumpkin or two most years, often a pie pumpkin that we place on this funny wrought iron stand with arms, making it look like a pumpkinperson. we’ve gotten gourds – interesting shapes that tickle us. but not yet a white pumpkin, even though i really love how they look.

budgets are sometimes fun-oppressors. but any artist can tell you they are necessary. and any artist can tell you that there’s been at least one time that an $8.99 pumpkin – even one that might do the dishes and sorts socks – has not made the cut.

there is a sweet apple orchard out in the county. there is wine-tasting and a distillery at aeppeltreow, so there are spirits and spirited fun. there are a zillion apples and there are pumpkins and gourds and apple cider donuts. two years ago we picked out our tiny patch o’ pumpkins from their flatbeds and gardens of choices. coming home with a pear-shaped gourd and a couple smaller that were wart-laden we felt rich.

we bought pumpkins in aspen that same year and carved jack-o-lanterns at our airbnb with our daughter, leaving our artwork and extra candles behind for the next guests.

last year we featured our aging pear-shaped gourd in our sunroom, put out some orange happy lights and indulged in apple cider donuts at the orchard. despite the gluten they were worth it.

i think this year we will get a white pumpkin. and maybe two orange ones. three in all. just three.

but it will truly be magical.

*****

MILLNECK FALL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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