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the path back is the path forward


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butterfly, butterfly. [two artists tuesday]

butterfly butterfly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beauty exists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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quiet. new chalk. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

life is grace sleep

quiet.  we walk in quiet most of the time.  even our longer hikes are quiet.  it is a time of rest for us, rest from the noise of the rest of life, the noise of worry and angst, the noise of dispute, the noise of too much bad news, the noise of chaos.  we listen to the birds and our footfalls on the trail.  we listen to the wind and the sound of creatures rustling in the underbrush.  the quiet calms us; the quiet lifts the cellophane from the magic slate cardboard, it shakes the etch-a-sketch and takes it all back to zero, back to start, back to a rainwashed driveway waiting to be chalked all over again.

having run out of everest, k2 and annapurna footage we are watching appalachian trail and pacific crest trail and john muir trail videos these days.  on our own treks locally we decide which one of these to take, listing the specific merits of each.  make no mistake, these are serious treks.  the AT is 2190 miles from georgia to maine.  the PCT is 2653 miles from the border of mexico to the border of canada.  the JMT, joining with the PCT some of the way,  is 211 miles through the sierras, high elevation pass after pass.  clearly, the training needed would be intense.  but, as we envision this extended trekking, we are drawn to the quiet.  the noise of this world has become raucous and the woods and the mountains seem to beckon with absolution, with grace, with rejuvenation.

there used to be a button on the cassette player that you could push that would quicken the pace of the tape to the end: fast forward.  it would seem these trails, this quiet, like sleep, would fast forward through the dark and bring you to the light once again.  these trails – this quiet – remind you that next comes.

and so, the noise of the day will cease.  and you can listen to the sound of your footfall on a new day, ready to be chalked.

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

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sunglasses and gunfire. [two artists tuesday]

Sunglasses

we took a hike on easter sunday afternoon.   it was just warm enough to shed my coat in the woods; spring hiking is better without the shush-shushing sound of a down coat while you walk.

we went to our bristol woods, masks in pockets as we jumped out of big red, eager to get into the trees, onto the paths that have soothed us.  there were a few people there; most of them abided by the six-feet-apart rule, although admittedly, there were a few who caused us to roll our eyes in an astonished unspoken question wondering if they lived in a cave somewhere and had no idea that there was a global pandemic.

the familiar paths did their job. we quietly noticed green sprigs springing up between the leaves, a tonal green as you looked off-path from budding underbrush.  here and there forest daffodils at the brink of opening to the world; here and there small white flowers nestled between fallen logs.

the soundtrack of the woods was awakening to spring – orioles’ songs, chipmunks scampering, birds we couldn’t see high in the trees singing arias to the sky, the sound of our feet on the trail.

the gunfire in the background was unwelcome in this reverie of renewal, of spring-really-on-its-way, of escape-from-thoughts-of-covid-19.  it was an automatic, a gun designed to kill, single shots punctuated by the rapidfire of a clip.  it is always unnerving; yesterday it was particularly so.  it seemed mindless to me, paying no homage to these very times, these very days.

in the middle of thousands of people who are desperately trying to save over half a million others’ lives in this country alone, thousands of people who are extending helping hands to countless others, thousands of people who are dedicating resources to feed, mask, shelter thousands of others, thousands of people who are reeling from a loss of life, of job, of any security, of any sense of normal, thousands of people who are frightened to their core that they might be the next to succumb to this pervasive illness, the next to struggle to breathe, i couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out any good reason to be shooting an automatic weapon.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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zag. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in the woods

we bought snowpants.  on sale for only $7 they are a wise investment for two people who hike year-round out in the woods or wherever we are.  it’s a big deal for us to buy anything new so, this time, instead of looking at them every day and saving them for good (ala beaky)  we celebrated our good deal by putting them on, going out in the snowy woods and hiking.

we were pretty much silent.  you could hear snow falling from the trees and the crunching of our boots on the trail.  but we didn’t talk much.  with so many things to talk to about and the woods being our best meeting room it was unusual.  but sometimes, it is silence that is most needed.

our path, like this stream, has zigged and zagged.  it has brought us past jagged rocky times and through sweet gentle lapping pools.  it has been lit by warm sun and darkened by the deep worry of late night.

but one thing is always consistent in the inconsistency of life.  no matter how we arrive in the woods, no matter the angst we bring.  arm in arm, because it is our habit, we walk through the woods.  arm in arm on the trail we silently hike toward quieting our hearts and minds.  under trees older than our troubles, arm in arm walking reaches past even anger-inspired words, things spoken in frustration.  arm in arm we remember all that is good, all that is certain.  the day’s hurdles and fears and unease fade as the sun sets.  and we zag.

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

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winding trail. [two artists tuesday]

winding trail

the road from here to there is oft not straight.  the way the crow flies is irrelevant.  “the only way there is through,” joan told me quite some time ago.  we were talking about grief.  i had lost my sweet momma and it felt brutal; at any age the loss of a parent is profound.  i was talking to joan about it – about getting to the other side of the grief.  and she told me that the only way there was through it.  a winding trail it was, with switchbacks and no guardrails.

that has happened for me with each encounter with grief.  there is nothing easy about it, nothing straight.  the grief of loss, the grief of instability, the grief of anxiety, the grief of fear, the grief of insecurity, the grief of aging, the grief of failure, the grief of change, in all its rampant forms.

and yet, out hiking, winding trails are my preference.  a hike that takes me past hidden-treasure-vistas, a hike where i cannot see the end from the beginning, a hike that surprises at each turn.  these winding trails are gifts in the woods, in the mountains, in between red rock formations high in elevation.  there is much to see, much to learn about.  they are journeys of not-knowing.  they are journeys of wonder, of revelation.

we are not crows; no flightpath in our lives will be straight, no endpoint clear in our sight, no one thing all the way from here to there, no vector traveled without veering a bit off-course.  even reverse-threading our lives will not reveal a straight path; instead it will reveal a vast horizon of ping-ponging and circuitous route-making.  we will most definitely wind around, through decisions and opportunities, missed marks and challenges at the goal line, defining and re-defining.  living.

which winds me back to joan’s wise words of years ago, which i can still hear her saying.  the only way from here to there is through.  winding trail and all.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the people who love you into being. [k.s. friday]

grateful songbox 1

“all of us have special ones who have loved us into being. would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are….ten seconds of silence.”  (mr. fred rogers)

he brought it up on the trail.  the movie we had recently seen.  not an action thriller or a mystery.  just a movie about a man who changed the world.  mr. fred rogers.

quietly hiking on the trail, he broke the walking-arm-in-arm silence, “i’ve been thinking about all those people.  those people who loved me into existence.”

what could you possibly be more grateful for?  that trail of thought found us yesterday morning and wove its way into all day, skirting along the edges as we cooked, back into the center on facetime, at the table with wine glasses, in a late night text out of the blue.

the people who love you into being.

mr. rogers got more specific, ” from the time you were very little, you’ve had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving.” what kind of legacy do you have to be known for this kind of wisdom?  it changes everything.

the people who love you into being.

we spoke of these people on and off all day and late into the night.  there was a moment i could feel shadows that were cast by any of those we talked about falling off, light covering the shadow.  reasons.  seasons.

the people who love you into being.

too many to list.  too many to remember.  we backtracked and stood still in our memories, telling stories and finding wonder as names – and the dear picture of that person in our mind’s eye – spilled out of us.  a wealth of being-makers.  every one of them a builder in the construction of some piece of us, like a giant box of tinkertoys or lincoln logs or even crayons.  so much  potential.  a wildly wide spectrum of color and characteristic, texture and depth. profoundly moving.  a tiny bit of shake-up.  both.

the people who love you into being.

ten seconds.  nowhere near long enough.

download GRATEFUL on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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GRATEFUL from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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the picnic. [flawed wednesday]

picnic anyone

picnic

picnic2

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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the picnic ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood

 


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spring stripes. [two artists tuesday]

nature's stripes copy

stripes copy

you have to admit – the first set of stripes is way more interesting than the second.  the first set. in the woods.  the color combinations.  all alive with hue and subtlety.  the second set.  static.  no air.  no depth.  no variance.

this weekend, on a warm-day hike along the expanding des plaines river, the colors were spectacular.  the blue-purple of the water late in the afternoon.  the fresh-baby-grass-green of the small island across the river.  sky blue, white clouds, golden sunlight.  it wasn’t capture-able on film.  you just had to stand there and breathe it in.  stripes, patterns, shadows, delicate light, elusive dark.

by hiking often on the same trails, we can see the minor changes along the way.  we take note of them, commenting on a felled tree or more water in a pond or a new nest high in some branches.  there’s more mud, there are goslings, the daffodils are in full bloom, the groundcover is rich.  the earth coming back out of fallow.  winter’s rest is over; spring’s explosion has arrived.

for us, these winter-spring-summer-fall hikes are necessary.  they allow us to see, outside of ourselves; they allow us to process good earth growth and change and color.  for us, these hikes are like a security blanket.  they soothe worries, sort problems, wrap gently around us.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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toward it. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

snowshoes with frame copy

“the weakest link,” i said, referring to myself as we spoke about the possibility of going snowshoeing.  i had never snowshoed before, but i was excited to try it.  we were planning on renting some snowshoes at a nature center and then snowshoeing through the woods.  but, in the typical manner of someone who has never tried something before, i was a little nervous about keeping up.  i’ve skied before – both downhill and cross-country – and i know it takes some concentrated ability to do it even partially well.  hence, the nerves about snowshoeing.  (do i need to take lessons?  is there a trick to this?  are there things i need to know about balance and leaning in and switching leads and and and?)

our best friends and david told me it was “like walking”.  i seriously doubted that.  i just knew that i would somehow be trailing behind, poles and snowshoes stuck in drifts, head over heels in the snow (literally).

but it didn’t turn out that way.  i worked at having a you-don’t-have-to-be-instantly-good-at-this-relax-kerri attitude all the way there.  i worried all the way there.  did i have the right boots on?  should i have worn a different jacket?  what kind of gloves would be best?  i complicated something that is actually not complicated.  but, even in the middle of my snowshoe-agonizing, i kept walking toward it.

and, ohmygosh, it was fabulous.  when i wrote to The Girl afterward, she referred to it as “your new fave winter activity”.   it is totally ranking up there, high on the list.  what better way to hike a few miles through snowy woods?  the trails were quiet, save for the punctuation of our laughter and the stops where we had lengthy conversations and brad built a snowman.  it was a brilliant day.

so many times we hesitate…we worry…we think we should already know how to do something or be instantly good at it…we resist trying something new….

i just want to say this:  walk toward it.  it could be an experience filled with quiet and laughter,  stretching of muscles intellectual or physical, simple beauty and fresh air in your lungs literal or figurative, and an i-can-do-this illumination.

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

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snowshoes ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson


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spider sisu. [two artists tuesday]

whoa….we saw one on the des plaines river trail and stopped short.  it looked like candy on the path, but on closer examination, we discovered it was a spider!  an orange spider.  it’s called a marbled orb-weaver.  and it’s pretty intense.  and, i suppose if you are not spider-phobic like me, it’s beautiful.

later that month, we were hiking at bristol woods, one of our favorite go-to places to hold staff meetings as we walk together.  out of the corner of my eye i caught the glimpse of bright movement in the air…sure enough, it was one of those marbled orb-weavers (doesn’t that just slip off your tongue? lol!)  it was dangling on a web-strand that was at least 5 stories high!  whattheheck!  this roly-poly little spider was bravely trying to reach a white mass that was a bit flattened (an egg cocoon with several hundred eggs, we read later) while being tossed about in the wind, up and down, sideways.

i could practically hear this spider whisper to itself, “gotta have sisu, gotta have sisu” as it climbed, bobbing, bobbing, up its long, high-above-the-ground web, finally reaching its cocoon and wrapping it close into its body.

wow.  what we do for our babies, eh?  amazing stuff.  the stuff of sisu.

marbled orb-weaver

read DAVID’S thoughts on SPIDER SISU

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SPIDER SISU ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson