reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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after the first half of the concert.

bcatForgetTheFirstHalfwe went to a concert a week ago or so. it was a group of us and we were all excited about going. the band we were going to see is creative, talented, sincere and full of energy. what’s not to like about that?!

we caravanned in three cars. well, we dan-a-vanned, actually, with dan leading the way. he is a GPS guru and, if you can keep up with him on the highway, a great person to follow going somewhere.

we got there, full of anticipation and excitement. sat in seats one row from the very top, able to look out at the whole audience. many of us have gone to concerts together before; we try to do fun stuff especially as the winter sets in.  we laugh a lot and that is a very good thing.

the concert started with an infomercial….on video and a live push as well. i thought perhaps that was it….one infomercial is plenty when you have purchased tickets to an event that is not a fundraiser. but that wasn’t the case. with the exception of two warm-up artists who played maybe 3 songs each, the whole first half of the concert was full of infomercial preaching and over-done talk-talk.

by the time we got to intermission, it was easy to be annoyed. the first half of the concert was over. we hadn’t seen the band we had come to see yet and now we had sat through what seemed to be agenda….i have yet to figure out why this was so. what symbiotic relationship is there between these infomercials and the band we were there to see? do these organizations host the whole concert tour? do they underwrite the concerts in venues of their choosing?  do they play the band’s music? no matter how dedicated the band is to these efforts, was it appropriate to take up most of the first half of this concert with this rhetoric? i was sitting in my concert-seat trying to figure out this stuff. is that where the band would want me to start?

so now, here we are, at the second half. and i have to say, i am not “feelin’ the love.” it took me a good portion of the second half to get back to open-hearted listening of this concert, to actually hear the music and embrace it.

because: the band concert i had come to see was colored by the first half of the concert.

and then – there’s life.

wow. i can’t think of a better metaphor than this concert.

WE are colored by the first half, the first part, the beginning and middle of life as we step into the Next of life. “of course we are,” you say aloud to me. cognitively we totally get it. we shouldn’t bring into Next what colored us from Before. we have to draw the line in the sand. lessons – yes. anger, frustrations, disappointments, prejudices – no. each Next is a fresh start.  for that matter, yes, each new day is a fresh start.

d and i have been doing a meditation that was offered free with oprah and deepak. it has been about awareness and making every moment matter. now, i am all about moments (that whole thready thing and all.)  but awareness is a much bigger responsibility than we realize.  it’s so much easier to react than to stop for a few seconds (or however long it takes) and be aware. sometimes i find i should Stop longer than i stop.  awareness can be slowww in arriving, particularly if i stubbornly hold onto all the negative stuff.  we sometimes cling to that stuff as if it were a lifevest.

now…i am thinking:  in those moments, when i can feel myself reacting (strongly or negatively or angrily or with preformed disposition) to something, i realize (metaphorically) that i am at the (in-real-life) concert and i am looking at the second half through first-half-eyes. it is becoming an amazing tool for me to stop and think – what about the first half of the concert is getting under my skin for this Next?  am i aware that the second half can be even just moments after the first half?  it’s not always years or decades that separates Before from Next.  it can be minutes.   it’s shocking how blind we can be to what we carry forward, one minute to the Next.

the Next is full of good and hope and moments and not-what’s-lost-but-what-is-still-there-ness (thank you, ptom). stepping over the limen, the threshold, is necessary.  leaving behind the first half of the concert, the part that colors us and clouds our clear-eyed-hopeful-stepping-into the second half, is absolute.

holding on, letting go

itunes: kerri sherwood

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always an honor.

img_3625.jpgi played for a funeral today. the family celebrated the life of a beautiful young woman who i didn’t know, but who, through the stories told, sounded lovely. the sanctuary was full and boxes of tissues were numerous throughout the pews. my heart hurt for them; i was upstairs in the balcony, separated from this family, but joined in the feeling of what grief can do.

someone asked me if it was hard to play for funerals, if i would prefer not to. completely opposite of that, i am honored to play for a funeral. it is the last public celebration of someone’s life; it is sobering to think that you can play a part in maybe, just maybe, providing something that might be comforting to people in pain. as a minister of music i often play for funerals and for weddings as well; both are gifts, reminders of holding on to the people we love, letting these people know we love them. trite, maybe. but sitting in a balcony gazing down at those who have gathered to celebrate the coming-together of two lives or the time a person has spent in their midst cuts to the core of my soul and i always find myself weeping. i am fortunate to work with an amazing pastor whose extra-tall physical presence belies his soft heart. his voice cracks in emotional response in these difficult times. i feel lucky to be around someone who has so much empathy and compassion; our world truly needs more pToms.

years ago i played for my brother’s funeral. in recent years, my dad’s and my sweet momma’s. they were devastatingly hard to play for, but i wouldn’t have had it any other way. i chose music i knew my dad and my mom would want, hymns that were their personal favorites, melody and lyrics that have meant something to them. i played a song i wrote for each of them. it was an unbelievable honor to have this important role in the celebration of their lives.

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my big bro and me. way too long ago.

today is my big brother’s birthday. wayne would have been 67 today.  i have often spoken of him in my writings. i don’t think there is a day that goes by without my thinking of him. i miss him. i say that each year. it never changes. grief is like that. it’s just there. the desperate moments, well, they ease up. but the i-wish-he-was-here moments – they keep coming.

today i sat on the organ bench and, in a moment of overwhelm, dug my phone out of my bag. i texted d…that this young woman was so…young. and that it took my breath away. it made me want to hug both of my children that very moment. impossible, with the girl in the middle of a move from one mountain range to another, and the boy in the middle of a beautiful boston day. so i texted d, who i knew understood all the layers of heart that playing for this service today touched. hard. not my favorite thing to do. but always, always an honor.


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this is us.

and now painting i don’t think i’ve ever binge-watched anything before. not even repeated viewings of my favorite movie my big fat greek wedding or even when harry met sally. ever. (oh wait. one time in minneapolis while waiting for the girl at her apartment, her roommates convinced me to watch a few hours of big bang theory, which i loved. but that was merely a few hours, so i’m not sure it counts as total binge-watching.)

but yesterday? yesterday was different. d and i celebrated our second wedding anniversary, sitting on the raft binging on a show we hadn’t even been aware of till recently. despite its emmy award-winning status, we were mostly unaware of this is us. But then everyone at ukulele band rehearsal was talking about it and we thought, “ok, ok…i guess we should watch an episode and see what they are talking about.” daena offered us her netflix account (or was it her hulu account?) but we ended up just streaming it on nbc.com, which meant we watched commercials over and over and over. these not only gave us time to talk about the show, but also to breathe in-between the segments of show. the punctuation gave us a moment to rest. just like in music. yeah, just like in life.

we started the day on the rocks watching the sun rise over the lake. it was cloudy and windy and the waves were just about splashing us as we sat on a flat rock clutching our thready-breckenridge-plastic-travel-mugs filled with coffee. (coffee tastes better in real mugs, we discussed on the rock. coffee aficionados that we are, we are experts on mugs and double-experts on thready mugs…ones that make us remember moments, places, people, events, simply breathing.)

a fresh pot of coffee later, with rain in the offing, we all four (dogdog and babycat too) got on the raft and started what ended up to be an out-and-out-major-binge of this show. i was reticent ahead of time to think i would get tied into it…a disbeliever of sorts. i knew that the girl and the boy have binge-watched shows of choice and, yet, didn’t think i could sit and watch for that long.

but as the day wore on and the snacks on the raft changed, my husband’s hand firmly in mine – all day – i began to see that this was indeed a show that drew me in. excellent writing, good acting, lighting that spoke to me, a music score that resonated….it all drew me in. well done. very well done.

we talked about the show as we watched, particularly after episodes as we pondered the next snack on this celebratory day, a day we had put aside to do whatever-we-wanted. the real-life-ness of it was painful sometimes. we could relate. we couldn’t relate. mostly, we could feel it. the sign of a good show.

somewhere in there i looked at d and said, “life is just messy all over, isn’t it?” nothing is neat or tidy or figured-out. nothing is really as it looks. nothing is easy. it’s all complex and layered and muddy and…stunningly beautiful.

a few nights before this anniversary we gathered at dear friends’ house with other friends. we drank wine, toasting our anniversary and john and michele’s as well. we had appetizers, looked at flowers in the garden, took pictures in golden sunsetting light on the lake rocks. we filled ourselves with dinner and conversation and laughter and, yes, dark chocolate. d and i spent a lot of yesterday reliving the days before our wedding, when our children and our families and friends came together to help us marry…in a church community we treasure, in an old beach house where we all danced and gathered for the food truck and wore glow necklaces around a bonfire. we marveled at the relationships with all of these amazing people. we marvel today at the same.

late last night we read our service together. we listened to the music we chose for the service…and we remembered. we honored that day. the song d walked down the aisle to – and now – made us have tears and gabriel’s oboe – what i walked down the aisle to – made us weep openly. 11:11 – the time of our wedding – is a sacred time for us. we notice it as often as possible. yesterday was one of those days.

david painted me a painting as a wedding gift. it hangs in my studio. it is called and now, same as the song i wrote him.  we are joined by hands in this stunning-heart-painting, our bodies touching, reaching forward toward the future. and now close-upeach moment in that time stretching forward will not be without stress, without things that are difficult or painful. but each moment THIS will be us. getting there – together.

this is us appeals to us. not just because it is truly a riveting show. but because this is us reminds us that THIS is us. THIS is life. THIS messy, complicated, incredibly blissful, excruciatingly painful life….IS us.

and now – on itunes

 


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in the storm.

sometimes – in this world – there are really no words.  this is one of those times.

instead, there are images, sounds, visceral emotional responses, reassurances and reminders…

i walked down the stairs into the studio.  david had just finished this painting.

it is called “i will hold you in the storm” and it is the image, the sound, the visceral emotional response, reassurance, and reminder in my day of this time.

thank you, d, for making me weep.I will hold you

 


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color.

flowers and trees have dominated the photo stream on my phone this summer. soaring pines against snow-topped mountains and streamside wildflowers, a street called “daisy dr”, aspen trees reflecting on a building in a light show, roots of fallen trees in sculpture untouched by hands, gorgeous flowers in a downtown boston median, window boxes filled with red geraniums on a beacon hill walk, IMG_0031the nurse-log’s new life in the lake up north this year, the strawberry patch, the new herb garden we built out of re-purposed schtuff (as wendy calls it), and, speaking of wendy, the tulips on her wall (sometimes the flowers aren’t real-live-in-the-dirt-flowers). there are photos from ocean-side marshland, the sweet gift of farmer’s market sunflowers, saved pictures of susan’s porch with hanging flowerpots…just to look at…as if i were there. flowers in linda’s abundant garden, IMG_0035huge basil at jen’s, gorgeous orange impatiens that stubbornly live in our backyard, even when we don’t notice them. black-eyed susans from our walks, white-flowering hostas on an iowa farm. soybeans in the field and bamboo alongside the lake, unidentified purple flowers IMG_0033and pink and yellow flowers along a neighbor’s front walk, purple sedum buzzing with bees a few houses away. the first tree to turn in the woods we were hiking in, a lone red leaf on a maple in the ‘hood. my photo shoot of the painting david painted me before we married, the daisy we used on our invitations, the daisy we are using in website and marketing materials for our upcoming, soon-to-be-released two-person play, “the roadtrip”. so many flowers. so much color.

perusing through right now, i see that isn’t the only source of color…the IMG_0040old painted chairs hanging in the shop in the mountains, the homebuilt faux-adirondacks in front of the liquor store in breck, the photographs of texture in vibrant colors, the gay pride flag flying outside a church in the city, the peeling-paint side of the old barn, the sunsets, piles of rocks, the solid blue sky, the sand, aqua water, white snow on the mountain in june, rainbows, the red moon. color.

now, truth be told, there are a TON of pictures on my photo stream. i take a ton of pictures and save everything that the boy or the girl send me, so at any given moment, i can re-visit the whole summer IMG_0034and breathe it back in. sometime, in the middle of winter, when the days are not as fluffy or romantically snowy, i will want to look at these pictures. to remember. you know, the whole thready thing. it’s a curse.

last weekend we went to a wine and harvest festival in a little town up north a bit. expecting it to be like the winter festival we attend there with friends, a kind of joyous and outstandingly fun mecca every february, we were surprised when we got there and it was a mob scene. the streets were full of vendors, food and art and creations of all sorts. overgrown humonga-pumpkins were being weighed in a contest and we hear we missed the carved-out-pumpkin races on the river. we walked around, squished between people, laughing about how hot it was, how crowded and how we had underestimated the festival. it was absolutely a blast.

there was this bag there…just a simple backpack. from the side of the vendor’s 10×10 IMG_0029tent, which i am well-acquainted with, it called my name. “look at that happy bag,” i said to david. usually i don’t purchase much at these shows. i am often feeling that i-don’t-need-more-stuff feeling. but, as david told someone recently, pieces of art (really, despite what medium they are) reach out and find their true owner. and, i have to tell you, this happy bag found me. and you’ll never guess what the fabric was. for this dedicated wear-blue-jeans-and-black-tops girl (ok, that term “girl” may be outdated for me, but humor me, ok?”), this flowery backpack found its way into my hands. now i am using it each day. i know i will return to other purses i own (aka pocketbooks, aka handbags), but this happy bag will bring back -with just one glance- the hot day at the festival, the flowers in my summer, the color in my life. and we all need that, don’t we?

itunes: kerri sherwood

www.kerrisherwood.com

 


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all that shimmers.

i walk downstairs to his studio often while he paints. i sit in one of the rocking chairs and watch or talk or sip coffee with him. and i fall in love. this happens again and again. it’s on “repeat” – this falling-in-love-with-a-work-on-the-wall. something jumps out at me or gently reaches out and shimmers its way to my heart and i am forever connected. and i say, “you can’t sell this one!”

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he can’t sell this one.  my heart is ever-connected to it.

now, of course, for someone who makes a living as an artist, eliminating pieces from the mix of those available for sale can be somewhat exasperatingly limiting. but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. and sometimes, when he paints, i want to keep it. (actually, that happens often, so i should get credit for not always acting on my heart-impulse.)

we were at ukulele band rehearsal a few nights ago. i had my phone out because i had forgotten to bring a AA battery for the clock on the wall and so i needed my phone handy for timing. my uke band does not want to go overtime, unless the patio and wine are involved. suddenly it dinged and there was a text message. and i needed to share with them…..at that moment david’s sister had texted that his great-niece, who was in labor, had begun “pushing”. in a short time there would be a new baby girl in the world. shimmering, indeed.

so many shimmering moments. sitting with dear friends around a potluck meal and laughing uncontrollably. the moment the boy calls to show you via facetime their new apartment. noticing the moon at night. a glass of wine by the chiminea. the first glimpse of color in the woods. IMG_0027seeing the girl in the flannel shirt you passed to her from your dad, her pa. a combed beach. IMG_3137tears of joy. holding hands in prayer. waking up pretzeled together. rich bass notes on my piano. a bite of a really good pear or a honey crisp apple. the dog and cat laying together. holding your child, tiny or grown. telling old stories. turning your head while driving the car to see your husband gazing at you. a first cup of morning coffee in bed. seeing the birds lined up at the bird feeder. listening to gabriel’s oboe.

it is sobering to think about all that is happening at any given moment, all over the world. our connection to all -through all the layers- makes it all ours. the good and the bad, the exquisite and the devastating. which should probably make us realize that any moments we are having that are particularly difficult are also shared by others. never alone. we are all in this together. this life thing.

david reminded me that at the book reading the other night author joyce maynard said, “it is my obligation to live!” it is. to find those shimmering moments. to let them shimmer. to not blunt them or try to put out the flash of fire they give us. the fire to keep stepping. through it all. all that shimmers and all that doesn’t.

itunes: kerri sherwood

www.kerrisherwood.com


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army green converse sneakers.

we took the train there. it was a glorious day and we had left extra time to walk around the little town, explore a bit, sit, have a glass of wine. the sun was warm and we were looking forward to hearing an author speak, one i have respected for many years. joyce maynard was at the book stall in winnetka, sharing wisdoms and her newest book, a memoir titled the best of us. IMG_0025

the sun warmed us on this early fall day as we sat and sipped, waiting for the time of the reading to begin. i told david stories about reading joyce’s work, way back even before the time when I lived in little bitty hillsboro, new hampshire and, from a short distance away, she wrote a column called domestic affairs. she has had impact on me for many a year and i was happy to be able to tell her that in person.

we haven’t started reading her new book yet. she inscribed it to us, “with the hope that our story inspires your own.” the best of us is a profound story of love and loss and growth and embracing Living.  joyce was honest and candid. she read sections of the book aloud. she shared real moments that were both excruciatingly painful and infinitely life-full. and she wore awesome army green converse sneakers.

seeing joyce was multi-layered for me, as it is whenever we attend openings or readings or concerts…as an artist it always makes me think about where i have been, where i am, where i am going. it was lovely to meet such a prolific author, inspiring to hear her words about her book. but mostly? mostly it made me want to write more, share more. words. lyrics. music. paintings. our new two-person play. medium doesn’t matter. it’s a spur that i could feel – deep inside.

as an artist couple, our spectrum of emotions is pretty wide. sometimes maybe too wide (yes, it’s ok to laugh here.) but as an artist couple we both feel the spur and we join hands and jump into the next thing.

…but not until after i order a pair of army green converse sneakers.

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my treasured pink hand-me-downs from the girl