reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


Leave a comment

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!”

IMG_0028

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


Leave a comment

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.

IMG_0026

my treasured pink hand-me-downs from the girl

 


Leave a comment

the view-master

a couple sundays ago i had the honor of speaking for a few moments to our church congregation.  normally, the hat i wear at trinity is a minister of music hat, but i was happy to speak a few words (ok, maybe more than a few…i am not the most succinct person on this planet) during that service.  the service was called “a joyful noise” sunday and it was day dedicated to a hymn sing.

taking into account the lessons to be read during the service and expanding on a recent writing, i prepared a few words on Joy.  a couple of  people have since asked me to publish this here and so, this is what i said:

IMG_0021This is a view-master. It’s pretty old-school.  Each time I push the lever a new snapshot is available to look at, to ponder. I recently realized that this is the way I write. And so, with respect, I’d like to offer a few viewmaster moments that make me think about joy.

It’s that time of year. There are pictures in the Kenosha News of students moving into campus at Carthage. Any day now there will be pictures of the first days of school at Unified. Nine years ago, right around now, i stood on the University of Minnesota campus. We had packed up the little Scion till you couldn’t even fit a Snickers bar into any of the spaces left. The entire car was glowing pink. The girl – that’s my daughter Kirsten – and her roommate were decorating in pink. Pink everything. Pink comforters, pink bins, pink rugs, pink shower pails. We unloaded into the dorm….traipsing with everyone through the halls, lugging huge futon boxes and armloads of clothes. Organizing the dormroom through the day I struggled to keep finding tasks, maybe to delay my leaving for just a little longer. We walked outside and started to stroll on campus when she turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to go.” “Where are we going?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I am going to go – to the union.” I realized it was time. Every word of wisdom I had wanted to relay to her dropped out of the synapses in my brain and I stood staring at her. I told her to go be her, to be amazing and I loved her. She walked away, with great anticipation, grace, excitement. With great joy. I stood and watched, tears in my eyes. My cellphone buzzed. There was a text from her. It read – “Don’t be sad, mom. Be ecstatic. I love you.” I drove home – alone. When I got there I put on laundry, cause that’s what my mom did when she was upset. In the putting on of laundry, I had to move one load into the dryer. I took out a dryer sheet and out of the dryer sheet box flew an index card. It read, “Thinking of you. With love from Minnesota.” The girl had hidden 31 of these around the house. Bringing joy.

Be ecstatic. Joy. Joy is our right. Joy is our responsibility.

My momma was rushed to the emergency room. Because we were there in Florida visiting her, we were able to meet her there at the ER. She had fallen and was in tremendous pain. At 93 a fall was dangerous and there was worry about her hip. For hours we were in the little examining room, waiting, watching, reassuring. It was the middle of the night and the attending nurse was obviously exhausted. She was a capable young woman, but had little patience and wasn’t friendly or smiling much. My sweet momma, in her pain, gazed up at her, smiled gently and said, “I wish I had your beautiful smile.” That moment. The moment that she brought joy to someone else, changed everything. The nurse was deeply affected by her words, which changed everything in the room, and, I suspect, in all the concentric circles that reached outward, including ours.

Joy. Our right. Our responsibility. Doesn’t one lead to the other?

When I interviewed for the job of minister of music here at Trinity they asked me several questions. Then they asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. (As you would suspect) I said that I did. I wanted to add that my mission as minister of music had formed through about 25 years of work in churches and with people volunteering to be a part of the music programs in those churches. The most important thing to me to tell them was that I feel deeply that the music and the music program in a church is about JOY. It is not about perfection. Like any musician (or anyone for that matter) I love when things go perfectly. But if perfection is the mission that they wanted at Trinity, I was not the right person. I have found if you expect perfection, you lose joy. If you expect joy, you find perfection.

We worship together and sing in community. Each of the songs we sing is a moment in time that we bring to worship, whether it is in a traditional hymn or a contemporary song. We offer songs of praise and songs of love and songs of yearning and songs of hope. We don’t come here expecting to get joy. We bring joy. And that? That begets joy. Our right. Our responsibility.

We were walking through Menards (like Home Depot, for those of you not in Menards-land)  and passed a sign that read “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” This immediately made me think of my best friend since the time I was three. This saying was what she had chosen to put in her yearbook under her picture. Somehow, forty years later, because I am ridiculously thready, I still remembered this. What was really funny was that when she and her husband visited this summer, she didn’t remember this at all. (I believe she just set about to live it.) These days we are surrounded by sayings and words of inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Menards. Sometimes they feel trite. But that’s only because they are so prevalent. They are no less real. No less worthy. They just flatten out because we see so much of them. We tend to not notice as deeply anymore. Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.

Sally’s momma’s farmhouse is for sale. Although, with a deep root there, she is able to find her way around the rooms, she doesn’t recognize it as hers anymore because she is in the throes of dementia. So when they were there, Sally said her momma saw the for sale sign and told Sally she’d like to buy it. Sally explained that then her momma would be far away – hours -from her grown children and they wouldn’t be able to be with her. She asked her momma what she would do all day. “Play the piano,” she said. “I’d play the piano.” Joy is not really complicated.

I read a striking CNN article about Hurricane Harvey and a man named Mr. Harding. I want to share part of it with you:
One of his sons is an avid piano player and was concerned the family’s piano would be destroyed by flood water. When Mr. Harding found the water hadn’t covered the piano, he sat down and began to play. “I decided to take a moment and play and take it all in,” he told CNN on Thursday. He posted the video of the moment on Instagram with the caption, “I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.” Joy.

Early yesterday morning we sat in bed, sipping coffee, early morning sunshine streaming in the windows, a cool breeze crossing the room. We could hear the birds, the squirrels, the sounds of our sweet neighbors John and Michele clinking silverware and plates, making breakfast. Babycat and Dogdog laid on the bed snoring. IMG_0024No matter the worries or sadnesses, challenges or problems that would befall us in the day or days to come, that moment was a picture of JOY.  A view-master snapshot of what is in our very fibre if we notice. Our God-given right. Our God-given responsibility.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

the back seat on the porch.

IMG_0014
monticello is a small town. there is a main road and a few arteries – small businesses dot these arteries a block or two off the main street. we’ve driven through there a time or two before, to see the place columbus talked about, but mostly to try and buy him a t-shirt. somehow, we managed to always get there after the shops closed, which is a little earlier than we were used to. so, no t-shirts.

this time, though, we were there to stay a few days. we picked up columbus and jeanne from the airport and brought them to an airbnb farmhouse we had pre-arranged. i knew that was the place to stay when i saw the porch.IMG_0020 i could picture columbus sitting on that porch, with the surrounding land to which his soul was ever-connected. i booked it, despite my mother-in-law’s wishes to stay at a motel in the area. now, it is dangerous to not listen and, even with my certainty about that being the right place for this pilgrimage, i was a little nervous about how they (read: she) would feel about it. they are dear to me and i don’t want to – well, let’s just say – tick them off.

IMG_0013the first time we sat on the porch columbus had a lite beer and stared out at the corn and soybeans (at least we think they were soybeans.). he talked about his days working in fields, traveling the roads he wondered if he could now remember, his friends, his growing-up house.

i sat in the back row on the porch and listened and watched. although we all asked questions, no other voices were really necessary…just his. the back row is a good place to listen from and to watch from. IMG_0019 i could watch my husband listening to his dad, absorbing the details, sometimes patiently listening to repeated stories. i could watch my mother-in-law help with some of the details, talking about the history columbus had and their shared decades of life, some of it spent in this panther-highschool-football-team-land. i spent a good bit of time staring at the corn and soybeans too. and a good bit of time silently taking pictures of a sojourn that my father-in-law had talked about for years.

he had wanted to “go back home” for quite some time. he wanted to visit the cemetery where he “knew a lot of people”.  IMG_0009he wanted to go see and touch the home that his grandpa built, proud to have been raised in a house where he saw the toil that made it possible. he wanted to visit with his aunt joanne, a feisty woman just a couple years older than him. his list wasn’t long. not much else. he just wanted to BE there. and so we were. we followed his heart around his home town.

we sat on the porch the second day to greet the morning and later in the day to process the day. we seemed to have assigned seats, mine, once again, in the back row, a place i lingered in, petting the farm cat i had fallen in love with, listening, sipping coffee or wine. i watched the satisfied look on columbus’ face take hold, the longing of wanting-to-go-back sated by the being-there. he was surrounded by memories-he-remembered and by memories-that-were-slipping-away. he navigated trying moments of confusion in his talk-talk. he spoke of glorious times. he spoke of hard times. he talked -like we all talk about the place that was home- with deep love and a root that is unbreakable.

the next day we visited with his aunt, a couple other relatives, a few old friends.  we went and found a pork tenderloin sandwich for him. we drove away from town for the last time and back to the farmhouse.IMG_0010 it was a little chilly that evening. early the next morning we would be taking them back to the airport. we didn’t sit on the porch.

i went out to see sweetie (the name i gave the cat) and to look at the sky, to remember. i, momentarily, took my back seat on the porch and quietly gave thanks for this time. i know why columbus didn’t want to porch-sit that night. sometimes, it’s a little too much. sometimes, a porch can make you feel more emotion than you can handle. i think, for columbus, that last night on the porch was one of those times.IMG_0017

so this time we were there -in that little town- when it was open. and this time we got him a t-shirt.  he was planning to wear it the day he got back home.  and who doesn’t get that?


Leave a comment

something to pay attention to.

like so many others today, i paid attention to the solar eclipse. where we live in wisconsin, the sun was going to be 84% draped by the moon and, as it turned out, the clouds made that difficult – at best – to see. but there was nevertheless a couple of hours when i was aware that there were many others, all across the country, who were paying attention to the same exact thing i was.

now i am sure that there are many who could write eloquently about this day…a day when the celestial heavens all lined up, where the power of one celestial could, literally, overshadow another. so i won’t even try to put words into the science of it, the emotion of it, the mystic of it. what i was really aware of is that never once during this period of time did i look at the news app on my phone. i didn’t tune in to all the mayhem that is now our country, our world. i simply watched the sky (well, to be accurate, i watched the cardstock on the deck while david held a second piece that was pinholed. we didn’t have eclipse glasses. we don’t have stunning photographs to mark this time. i took a picture over the house of the sun-glow in a cloudy sky, just to remember.)IMG_2827

i wondered about my children, my family and my friends all across this beautiful country…whether or not they were watching the sky too. i held them each in my thoughts and pictured their homes or where they lived, where they might be.  i wondered if everything aligned so that they could see totality or maybe become swathed in darkness for a couple minutes, nothing shy of remarkable.

we watched a bit of the nasa channel and some reporting from a couple major networks – but only about the eclipse. we marveled at the footage and drew in our breath at the diamond ring that appears after the moon shadows the sun.  gorgeous.  it was amazing.

here in wisconsin the sky and the air around us got darker, like when dusk is setting in or maybe a storm is arriving. cooler breezes blew around us, a nice relief to the midwest afternoon humidity that had set in. we toasted iced coffees at the moment of peaking coverage and sat on the deck, trying not to look at the sun, even in its hide-and-seek mode. we took a walk and exchanged “happy eclipse day” greetings with neighbors and others we passed who we didn’t know.

for just a little while, the sun and the moon were the focus in our day. the yin and the yang…existing as inseparable and as contradictory opposites. not seeking to be dominant but living in relationship. interconnected. balanced.

FullSizeRendermaybe this event in our day, this yin-and-yang-sun-and-moon-experience, was a reminder of two distinctly different halves that form wholeness. maybe that is why it was so striking – the day-sky and the night-sky together at the same time, impacting us. maybe it is a starting point for us. a starting point for change. the realization that if these magnificently opposite celestial energies can co-exist, we earthly beings can do the same. not seeking to be dominant but living in relationship. interconnected. balanced.

maybe it’s the something to pay attention to.

IMG_2341

moon and water horizontal


2 Comments

lemon meringue pie

a few days ago it was official lemon meringue pie day. now i don’t know who decides these things, but a day (especially right now in our world) dedicated to confection doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  and, seeing that in the paper made me think of my momma.

photomy sweet momma loved lemon meringue pie. no, that’s too mild….she adored lemon meringue pie. in the days prior to chocolate ganache cake (thank you, publix!) she would, sometimes, allow herself to have a piece of this bright yellow unicorn/rainbow/bubble sort of dessert. now, to be fair to other fruits, she also loved all other fruit pies. a piece of blueberry pie and a cuppacoffee made her smile; a piece of lemon meringue could elicit giggles. i mean, really, when is the last time you had that whipped confectionery sugar stuff stuck to your chin and the sides of your lips? you can’t help but giggle. such joy.

the book next to our bed is titled ‘the book of joy’ and it is next up on our read-it-aloud-together list. maybe we’ll start it sitting in adirondack chairs out back. maybe we’ll start it on a blanket on the beach. maybe we’ll start it sitting in the breezes that cross our bedroom, filled with soft light and treasured mementos, our favorite quilt, dogdog and babycat snoozing sounds. just the thought of reading this aloud together brings me joy. joy.

where do we learn joy from? is it something that we are taught? is it something that is inherent in each person on this good earth? is it reachable even by those who are in distraught times, in times of darkness?   is it a right? is it a responsibility?FullSizeRender(1)

my sweet momma was one of those people who was filled with joy. she woke me up every morning with the bright words “good morning, merry sunshine!” or “good morning, my sweet potato!” even in my grouchiest mornings i found it hard to resist smiling to that. i have no idea what she might have been dealing with at those times – her own life stuff with her parents, financial woes, words with my dad, a leak in the basement, personal disappointments or victories, worries about something in our family, what to cook for dinner, menopause or physical challenges, or a plethora of big or little things that were happening. regardless of whatever was in the docket in her mind, she made an effort (without making it look like she was making an effort) to bring joy.

momma’s level of excitement was contagious. she definitely leaned toward full spectrum on the positive side of the emotion band. her reaction to plans you talked about with her always met with enthusiasm…and often glee. the way she met life has set the bar high for me, making me cringe when there are others around me who don’t enthuse or act excited. i remember how she could make a bike hike even just to the dairy barn to buy milk sound like an adventure. joy.IMG_2785

today i am grateful to my sweet momma for teaching me how to lean into joy. this doesn’t mean i am always joy-filled. like everyone, i have my moments when i can be a raving …ummm… or i can feel sadness or grief with every fiber or i can be worried or disgruntled or fed up or overwhelmed by the details of life. but i truly think it was my momma who showed me, by her lifelong demonstration, how to pluck a joyous moment from a day and memorize it. IMG_2784how to write it down or pick up a rock (or a feather or a stick or a leaf) to remember it. how to notice joy and how to save joy. how to be thready about joy. how to lead with joy…in anything. how to own joy. how to be. joy.

there are too few days, i now know, over and over again, for each day not to be find-the-joy-in-today day.  it may be the smallest of things in a ridiculously complex, sometimes-driving-you-to-your-knees challenging world, but it’s there somewhere. i know it’s so. my momma taught me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

andrea’s song

IMG_2711the sound of the cicadas outside brought me back to my childhood home on long island.  we had woods behind our yard and the summer days and nights were a symphony of crickets and cicadas. i would sometimes sit in my poetry tree (a maple outside my bedroom window with perfect limbs for climbing and sitting) late into the day, writing or reading and, although i probably never appreciated the crickets and cicadas as i do now, i would listen as the day would softly pass by. my sweet momma would know where to find me; if i wasn’t riding bikes with sue, at the dive center, fishing with crunch or at the beach, i was likely in that tree.

i wrote a lot of poems in that tree, a lot of reflections, a lot of stories and maybe even a little music…the kind without the music. as i think about the people who encouraged me in writing, one of the first people i think of is andrea. andrea was my high school english teacher. she, along with kevin, were the coolest in the english department. andrea, with kerchiefs in her hair and peace sign necklaces, long skirts and funky glasses, was the epitome of hip. we, painlessly, learned from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom, her laugh, her smile.

andrea was the teacher coordinating the art and literary magazine ‘gemini’ at our high school. i was involved with this annual publication each year, but was the editor-in-chief during my senior year of high school, a job i adored. not only did i get to immerse myself in a lot of poetry and art, but i got to lay out the publication and handle many of the details, all the while hanging out with andrea and having conversations about life and writing and balance.

in the (aaack! many) years since high school i have thought about her often and finally, over the last eight years or so, was able to get back into contact with her.   not only did i want to know how she was, where she was, what she was doing, but i wanted to share with her where i was and what i was doing. mostly, it mattered to me what her thoughts were. during that time we shared snippets of life. i found i could still learn from her teaching style, her quiet wisdom and her smile, even without physically seeing her. at one point she wrote to me, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”   yet another invaluable reminder. how often must we learn these things, i wonder.

when we were planning our trip to boston for this summer, i found myself hoping that we would have the chance to see andrea…meet for coffee, have a glass of wine together. i worried when i didn’t hear back from her; she usually answered email. i was anxious to visit with her, thank her in person for the influence she had had on me, hear what she thought about a project i had sent her. it was about a week before we left, when i was online pondering whether to send her another note, that i saw the very sad news that she had died. i was stunned and (what would maybe seem) inordinately devastated. the connection backwards in time was broken; the opportunity to sit with andrea now vapor.

i thought about extending my sympathies on social media but for some reason that seemed too shallow. there is a loss i feel when i no longer hear the cicadas in the fall…something visceral that i feel inside. the loss of andrea was intensely visceral.

IMG_2708all throughout our home you will find peace signs; each of these signs make me think of this beloved lady in my life, this positive force who, without knowing, kept me writing, thinking, writing.

in my mind’s eye, i can feel sitting in my poetry tree. the cicadas’ song was all around me. as i write now, i cannot help but think about andrea and the things i learned from her, most of which had nothing to do with grammar and punctuation, but instead, with honoring the words within, the emotions, things palpable and things we can’t see or touch.  and so, savoring that learning, in fact, leaning into it, her song is all around me. it’s idyllic.

…peace out…