reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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“christmas tree drop-off”🎶🎶 [merely-a-thought monday]

it was instant. “christmas tree drop-off” to the tune of “beauty school drop-out” started singing inside my brain. it would not stop. i still cannot look at this sign without the 6/8 song incessantly nagging me and nagging me.

it was the day after christmas – just one mere day – and we went hiking out in one of the nearby state parks. we came upon the drop-off near the parking lot. already – not even 36 hours since santa’s arrival – there was a tree, lonely and discarded. a few days later, after the snow had fallen and sleet had crunched over the trail, there were several more trees. we are pretty certain that these will be chopped up into mulch, which is a good thing – back to the earth – but it was sad to see a pile of no-longer-wanted christmas trees, their value diminished by the passing of the day.

hiking the snowy trails, my memory bank filled with sweet stories i read aloud to my girl and my boy. “why christmas trees aren’t perfect” is a story about an imperfect tree named small pine and my ridiculously emotional heart remembers this sweet tree and its generosity, its commitment to the wildlife in the forest, its community. in this classic book, also a video, small pine was chosen for its connection to sweet animals and its warm and giving spirit. each time i read that little book, my heart celebrated the spirit of that tree. in that same thready heart, i wonder about what it feels like to be one of these trees, out in a cold pile, chosen, used and then quickly and unceremoniously discarded out in the snow. do they know why, i wonder, as i gaze at the pile, animating the inanimate.

ditch sits on our table in the sunroom. it is surrounded by twinkling white lights and we sit with it at that table every day. we will not dispose of him. his purpose is not just for christmas. instead, his role continues on – to remind us of time spent in the mountains, to remind us to see the little things, to appreciate the imperfect, to remind us of caring for something that may not otherwise have made it. it reminds us that being chosen and employed in good use deserves explanation in discard.

and so, i want to go sit in the snow and talk to these trees.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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rooted. [d.r. thursday]

i had only turned on the white branches and the little trees last night when i stood for a moment in the darkened room and looked around. this place, this same place of so many christmases past, so many trees, so many twinkling lights, so many wrapped presents and stuffed stockings. the memories kaleidoscoped in my mind’s eye, made me a bit light-headed. in a time of upheaval, a time of nothing-is-the-same, love held me rooted to the wood floor beneath my feet and grounded me before i would fly off into the outer atmosphere where sadness breathes in and out, in and out.

tomorrow, somewhere in montana, there is a church that will be using my song the lights as a part of their christmas service. in spirit, i will be there with them, strangers in the mountains. it seems odd right now to think of this – a place across the country that wrote and asked for permission to play my music – while here, in this place i have called home for decades and in a community i have served for the last eight years, my music is now silenced. the root of love is not necessarily always right there; sometimes it is far away.

in this season of difficulty, we struggle alongside you. we fail to fully understand the enormity of this year – the changes, the challenges, the chaos, the devastation.

but in this season of hope and light, we have been reminded – by family and friends near and far – to root in love. anything is possible. everything is possible. i remember a sign i saw that said: every flower must grow through dirt.

we come in from a hike outside in the cold. we light the branches and trees in the living room. we light a few candles. we check the dirt at the tiny trunk of “ditch”, gently add a little water, and flick on the twinkling lights at the base of the old clay pot. we look out the window at the inky darkness and know that somewhere out there you must be looking into the night-of-nights too. and so, we are rooted together.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

root in love – a link to chicken marsala


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instead. [k.s. friday]

for more than half my life (read: over three decades) i shaped the experience of the christmas holiday season for others.  each year i tried to find a way to touch the deepest part of people’s hearts in celebration, to help a story-of-the-ages resonate in their up-to-the-minute lives, to help them, their souls, sink into the light.

this is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i am not creating the musical shape of anyone else’s holiday. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that my dining room table and the top of my piano are not laden with music all strewn about. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i will not spend it racing between planning, arranging, practicing, rehearsing, readjusting, rehearsing, rearranging, readjusting, rehearsing and encouraging big community laughter. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades and decades) that i will not go to church.

i did not create. instead, i tried to file it all away in my head, ignore the intuitive music prompts that my heart issues in the weeks prior to and during this season, silence the ideas and gestures that help to make faith – that which you cannot see – touchable. i did not layer my table or piano with music. instead, i put it all away, in boxes and file cabinets and thick binders. i did not race or plan or arrange or practice or rehearse or readjust or rearrange or even encourage laughter. instead, i sit on the steps in the hall, the stuff of decades decimated, and i wonder. i do not plan to go to church nor do i plan to watch church online; i have had enough.

instead, i will quietly walk outside under a starlit sky. i will light candles. i will extinguish the lamps in the living room and i will watch the lights.

*****

purchase music to download on iTUNES – there are three christmas albums to choose from

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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but it’s not. [d.r. thursday]

the cold air was stinging my face. i pulled my scarf up further, to block the wind a bit more. as we rounded a curve in the trail, the breeze was biting. it seems early for this kind of cold. but it’s not.

it’s december and the official start of winter is right up around that bend in the trail. the cold is predictable. this is wisconsin.

i walked away from the stockpot of chicken soup i was stirring, waiting for a warming dinner. i sat on the steps in the hall, overwhelmed. i keep hearing and picturing the words of my firing, the non-explanation-explanation given to others. it may seem like it’s time to be over it. but it’s not.

it’s only been three weeks and even sitting on the steps doesn’t yield an explanation or comfort. it just creates more questions, more astonishment, more hurt. the distress is predictable. this is shock.

i look, again, at the christmas list in my hand, trying to summon up the energy to shop and wrap and ship. it seems like the time is going slowly. but it’s not.

the holiday is rapidly approaching and, like many of you, we face it alone, wondering how to celebrate without our loved ones. we grieve traditions set aside, normal ways we honor these holidays. we ponder what we might do anew. the sadness is predictable. this is loneliness.

the night sky is filled with stars, the cold air beckoning them. the moon out the window is steadfast. the vast universe is vast. our tiny world inside, away from the biting wind, down the hall from the steps, at a table with a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a tiny christmas tree, is tiny. it seems that real peace is somewhat elusive. but it’s not.

it’s ever there.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

and, if you like, browse PEACE ON EARTH products here – be sure to scroll down the page


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greenery and pine cones. [k.s. friday]

i started noticing while hiking on one of our favorite local trails. greenery and pine cones sharing space. a visual backdrop for hallmark holiday movie escapism, the repetition of these simple symbols of the holiday season over and again on trail brought my camera to hand time after time. capturing these photos has been decorating my mind with fancies of christmases-past and brightly wrapped packages and trees of all shapes and happy lights galore and times spent with my children, my family, my friends. the trail’s gift has inadvertently set me on the path toward light, my spirit breathing with each snap of the iphone.

a week before thanksgiving my son sent me a photograph of the christmas tree in their apartment. with garland strung and lights and soft holiday-themed pillows, it was straight out of a magazine. “a classic look,” he told me. yes. beautiful and classic, welcoming winter. my daughter’s photographs are snowy and crisp, crystalline and inspiring. winter is coming on in the high mountains. it dresses them with idyllic wonder.

we haven’t started listening to holiday music. it’s too raw at this point. but we will. i will climb out of this cavern, aided by every gift of nature as it heads into this magical season, and i’ll soon turn it – music – on. in the meanwhile, slowly, we have strung some new white twinkling happy lights, we have brought up a couple trees from the corner of the basement storage room. maybe we’ll bring up the big bins and we can step-by-step-forward turn our home into a celebration of what-is and not a daily reminder of what-was. walking toward light. each silver ornament a coaxing, each strand of lights an urging, each tuft of greenery an encouragement. all seasonal prompts, that out of the dark there is light. indeed, in the dark there is light. “nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” (john muir)

john muir also wrote this: “between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” maybe that’s somehow why i am noticing. the greenery. the pine cones. laying on the trail, juxtaposed yet clearly related. dark and light, juxtaposed, yet clearly related. a new world, a doorway.

no wonder i keep seeing these sweet moments in nature. no wonder i keep searching. no wonder i have my camera out on the trail.

*****

if you are ready for holiday music, i have three christmas albums to help you celebrate and welcome the return of light – click on this link

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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rough cuts. [k.s. friday]

you're here songbox 2

rough cuts.  there are lots of them.  recorded on an iRiver or an iPhone so i don’t forget.  scraps of paper with lyrics and chord indications, rhythms jotted above the words, a few melodic notes scribbled in the margins or throughout the page.  songs that haven’t yet been recorded.  songs that may some day be recorded.  songs that will never be recorded.  rough cuts.

before the cantata i prepared for this holiday season i had carefully selected music – all contemporary pieces, all meaningful lyrics that i felt would resonate with those watching, making the experience touch their hearts.  but, as i mentioned in a past post, i’m pretty picky and there was this one song.  after playing around with it with the band, i deleted it from the line-up.  with a spot still to fill in-between narrative, i decided to write a new song to fill the slot.  this is the song i wrote –  YOU’RE HERE – and you can listen to a very rough cut of it recorded on my iPhone played on an out-of-tune church piano if you click here.

it’s been a long while since i recorded an album.  more time has passed than i ever thought possible.  i wonder which songs in my rough cut collection will make it onto the next album.  i wonder if there will be a next album.

in the meanwhile, i’ll keep paper by the piano and have my cellphone ready.  the iRiver is in the drawer, along with the microcassette recorder and a pile of cdr’s.  maybe the presence of at-the-ready songs will eventually tilt the earth and i’ll be back in the studio.  maybe people buying cds will come back into vogue.  maybe i will record on vinyl (again).  maybe it will all be virtual.  more to stream.  (note my tone of voice.)  maybe.

or maybe i’ll just put the piano at full stick, pull up a boom stand, throw on a mic and sing.

listen to the rough cut of YOU’RE HERE by clicking here or on the image just below:

you're here songbox cropped

view most of my albums on iTUNES

view most of my albums on CDBaby.com

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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YOU’RE HERE ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood


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heart. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

heartlights

“and now.  you’re here. in a world of hypocrisy.  and your love can heal us all.”  (you’re here ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood – see this friday’s post)

day’s end is close.  today was christmas.  between last night’s eve and today we sang songs.  we played carols.  we lit luminaria in the backyard under an oddly warm midnight sky.  we hiked in twilight woods.  we gazed in the dark at trees we decorated and lit with strands of lights and glinting silver ornaments.  we cooked meals and sipped wine.  we watched as The Boy and The Girl opened gifts.  we unwrapped presents and cards sent to us, set aside, waiting for today.

and in all of that?  the common denominator?

love.

surely the spirit of the holiday season can help to mend all rifts, help to inspire goodness, help to heal us.  in this world of hypocrisy, we can be united.  it matters not which holiday we celebrate.  what matters is heart and the rich universal tenets that march hand in hand with love.

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

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merry! [two artists tuesday]

jingle johns

the upnorthgang gathered around the table.  the glasses were lined up.  multiples of alike wine glasses, aldi winking owl wine at the ready.  we had a keyboard for tuning, sharpies in hand and were seriously dedicated to playing christmas songs on wine-filled glassware.  jay had seen tuned wine glasses in a catalog, but at $245 a set, we thrifty upnorthgangers knew we could do better. plus, we all could play instruments – guitar, piano, clarinet, trumpet, cello, pipe organ, handbells, ukulele, violin…  i mean, we are a talented group of people! hours later, we had composed a new christmas song, which shall remain un-named in this post, and had realized that our songlist would definitely remain short, for indeed we needed at least another octave of wine glasses and, having sipped the excess out of the glasses while tuning, we were out of wine.  next up on the musical challenge list?  charlie’s pickle jars!

so passing the jingle johns at lincoln park zoo it doesn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary to hear music emanating from the, er, portapotties.  The Boy groaned and begged me to not take a picture, but the wineglassperformingartist in me couldn’t resist.

why not take every opportunity to play some music, i say.

christmas eve.  a good reason to sing your heart out.  merry!

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

donnieandmarie uke website box


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“it’s hard to keep things simple.” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep things simple

less is more.  enough is enough.  say no.  simplify.

we are all bombarded.  two days before christmas and we wonder if we did enough, bought enough, wrapped enough, entertained enough, baked enough, decorated enough.  we are surrounded by images – piles of presents under ornate christmas trees, horse-drawn sleighs on currier and ives backroads, families gathered at tables merrily chatting, churches full with congregations happily singing and the bells in the belfry ringing.  the kind of images that nag you into thinking, “more.  i must do more.”

the other evening, gathered around bowls of homemade hot thai soup, 20 said, “it’s hard to keep things simple.”  the three of us share some profound times of conversation, of life’s changes and choices, of simple togetherness.  he talked about soup and wine and chocolate and conversation, of appreciating each other’s company.

the catalogs arriving in the mail and the ads in the paper and the online streaming advertising all pander to the indulgence of our insecurity.  of not enough.  how do we respond and say no?

it’s hard to avoid.  it feels like we have to say yes to everything.  or we don’t quite measure up.  we search for meaning.  in things.  we are searching outside of ourselves.  holding ourselves to some sort of external standard of holiday-completeness.

how do we seek more centeredness?  more connectedness?  more moments held in the stillness of awe?

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY 

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