reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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silence. below the noise. [k.s. friday]

silent days 6 feet

sometimes we are silent.  sometimes it’s better that way.  a fluid point, a fine line of balance, there’s so much to say; there’s so much we should avoid saying.  silent days.

we walk or hike outside, we take limited trips to the grocery store.  not a lot of interaction, the way it is supposed to be right now.  with varying cautions about distancing and asymptomatic spreading and aerosol molecules, the experts have my rapt attention. although i do not have the ability to make as much of a difference in this as those who are on the front lines, i need do my part.  responsibly and respectfully.

making do with texts, phone calls, work videoconferences, online hangouts with friends, it’s still much more silent than it ever is, normally.

there are reports of residents hearing birds again in wuhan.  the woodpecker is busy in our backyard, the mourning doves call, the frogs quip to each other in the woods.

and so we walk, quietly.  we cross to the other side of the street, we single-file on the other side of the path.  maybe here and there people answer to our soft hello as we pass.  we shop, rarely, pushing a cart, quickly assembling what we need.  we listen to the sounds that often linger unheard below the noise.

and even above the masks, even in the silence, i can see their tentative smiles.

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SILENT DAYS ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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and hope. [k.s. friday]

hope (spring) copy

“hope…it makes you breathe differently.  it makes your heart beat faster.  it makes your knees weak and your ability to wait strong.  it makes you weep with anticipation and holds you close with others who are also hoping.” (reverse threading, dec. 7, 2018)

i have done time on the kitchen floor.  like you, i have been brought to my knees with grief, anxiety, worry, pain, shame, fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, disappointment.  when you are on the floor, any movement seems monumental.  anxiety is crushingly powerful.  it seems unlikely you will rise.  and even as you go about your days, doing the things you do in life, it seems you will remain on the virtual kitchen floor.

but then, there is a moment.  it appears illusory yet it is luminous.  it is a mere butterfly wing, the slightest of silk tendrils, but it is there.  elusive and tiny, it asks for absolute focus.  like viewing through the eyepiece on binoculars, you slowly steady your gaze.  something inside you knows.  something tells you to reach for it and hold it gently in your shaking hands.  it is hope.

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HOPE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“hope.  there aren’t many words like this…describing that which you can actually – viscerally – feel in your body.  it makes you breathe differently.  it makes your heart beat faster.  it makes your knees weak and your ability to wait strong.  it makes you weep with anticipation and holds you close with others who are also hoping.” (reverse threading, dec. 7, 2018)

 


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eighth rest. broken wrists. waiting. [k.s. friday]

waiting eighth rest

“the waiting place….for people just waiting. 

waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a yes or no or waiting for their hair to grow.  everyone is just waiting.  waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their uncle jake or a pot to boil, or a better break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or another chance.  everyone is just waiting.

somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  you’ll find the bright places where boom bands are playing.  with banner flip-flapping once more you’ll ride high!  ready for anything under the sky.  ready because you’re that kind of a guy! 

oh, the places you’ll go!”

(dr. seuss)

an eighth rest.  these two broken wrists are down from a quarter rest to an eighth rest. and waiting.

we are all waiting.  for hours, days, weeks to go by.  for healing.  we are biding time.  on hold.  on eighth-rest-repeat.

eighth rest repeat

and in that vast biding of time we are maybe finding that some of the things we have busied ourselves with don’t count as much.  and some count more.  maybe our time of waiting will reveal to us that which is most important.  maybe it will be a time of needed rest.  a time of slowing down.  a time of subito tacet.  a time of honoring those who truly help us.  a time of quiet conversation, of learning new things, of disassembled notes gathering together from their places in the stars to form a new song.

we wait.  and we don’t know when the waiting will stop.  but oh, during this waiting, and after the stand-still-pause is over, oh, the places we will go.

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WAITING ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 


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always. with us. [k.s. friday]

always with us prayerflags

my emotional well was full when i woke up today.  thinking of us, our children, our families, our dear friends, our community, this world.  i desperately want to gather our beloveds in, hold them close, protect them.

i have no words for all of this; i have too many words for all of this.  i fear that none of them are helpful, none of them are wise.  it’s just me.  and, like you, carrying the weight of the world one step at a time, one quiet minute at a time, staring out the window and wondering.

always with us

we are alone

 

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ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 


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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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what you do. [k.s. friday]

ymad

“what you do will live beyond your lifetime.  it transcends the things of this earth.”

(YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ kerri sherwood)

when i think about my sweet momma and my poppo, my big brother, my godfather uncle allen, my grandmother-mama-dear, more beloved family and dear friends – all who have left this earth – i don’t think about their jobs or upward mobility, their income or the status symbols they owned.  i don’t think of the timeline of their school or work or whether they had finished a degree or if they had even gone to college.  i don’t ponder awards or certificates they received or resorts where they may have vacationed.

i think about what a difference they made in my life. my mom’s devotion to cheery kindness, my dad’s quiet and stubborn thoughtfulness, my big brother’s goofy humor and ability to tell a story in all its details, my uncle’s absolute commitment to his fun-loving smile no-matter-what-was-happening.  i think about the joy my mom experienced when my dad brought her grocery-store-flowers.  i think about big bowls of coffee ice cream with my brother, neil diamond playing in the background.  i think about my uncle generously paying for my very first recordings in ny, diligently holding me up and gently pushing me.  i think about simple moments with them.  in what could be a crowded-with-information-obituary in my head for each person, i hold a piece of their heart instead.  they have made a difference in this world.  they made a difference for me.  i remember.

(from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS)  “you know, this obsession you have, with being remembered?  this is your life!  this is all you get! you get me, and you get your family and you get this world, and that’s it!  ….  and i’m going to remember you.  …. you say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me.  i know about you.”

 

we live on an infinite continuum of opportunity.  chances to bring light and hope to others.  deeds we can do out of kindness, goals reached by collaborating together.  we face choice just as soon as the sun-peeking-over-the-horizon wakes us.  we innately or intentionally decide, we head in a direction, we live a day.

 

“We’re all traveling through time, together, everyday of our lives… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.  I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it… As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” (from ABOUT TIME)

 

this song. i have performed it countless times.  in nyc’s central park for tens of thousands of people, in small medical clinics, in large oncological settings, in chicago’s grant park.  at a pharmaceutical conference in puerto rico, outdoors with the lance armstrong tour of hope.  across the country, in pajamas and jeans and all-dressed-up.  in theatres and at walks/runs, in schools and churches.  for organizations including y-me, the american cancer society, gilda’s club, young survival coalition, susan g. komen foundation, the annual breast cancer symposium.  and each time, heidi and i, working together in performance, fighting back tears.  the list is profound.  not because of the innumerable times i have sang this song, but because of all the people in these places and behind the scenes, joining together, remarkably touching the lives of others:  those they know and those they may never know.

we make a difference.  in every arena of our lives.  every place we go.  every interaction.  every gesture.  every assumption.  every conversation.  every every-thing.  every single thing.

what intention will we have?  will we be positive or negative?

“the truth is, I now don’t travel back at all, not even for a day.  …  live life as if there were no second chances.” (ABOUT TIME)

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YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

 


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quarter rest. and the beat goes on. [k.s. friday]

quarter rest

quarter rest.  one beat of silence.

with these broken wrists i have moved from a whole rest to a quarter rest.  i have made progress playing my piano and my broken-wrists have told me when to be silent.  in the silence the earth keeps spinning, we trek around the sun, everything keeps keeping on.  but for a moment, i rest.

we are each granted rests upon entrance into this orchestra-of-earth.  sometimes they are chosen, sometimes they are not.  always they are necessary.  it is in your quiet that others make noise, that others speak, that other timbres color the muted.  the hush is yours to own; the rest is yours to take.  the silence both sometimes frighteningly deafening and sometimes a grand relief.  the metronome really never stops.

(a reprise of paragraphs from 8.13.2015 post): at 1am, we walked to the lakefront. away from as many lights as we could get away from, we laid on some old steps, bricks and mortar digging into our backs so that we could gaze straight up, watching the night sky for the meteor shower.

the streaks of white light across navyblueblack make us draw in our breath. i’m wondering how far away this meteor is…how it is that we, here on earth, can see this amazing sight. such a big sky. such tiny bodies in contrast lying on the ground, waiting for the symphony to start, waiting for the downbeat, the symphony that has been continuously playing, the downbeat lost in centuries upon centuries of time gone by. like any good piece of music, it’s the rests in-between the notes, the rests in-between the meteorstreaks, that build the anticipation, that create the emotionflow, that bring tears to your eyes. each burst, each streak of whitelight is a miracle, a tiny moment exploding in time, so far away, in vast vastness.

time stretches out in front of us. and behind us. we are tiny and we are big. we gather in the moments, we breathe them, we rejoice, we worry, we ponder, we move. there is no downbeat and the symphony is already playing, has been playing and will continue to play. always. it is magical. and it is vast.

and the beat goes on.

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TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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treading water. watershed. [k.s. friday]

watershed the songbox

i don’t feel as much in-a-boat as i feel that i am relentlessly treading water.  but there was no handy treading-water bitmoji and i remember the exact moment that this bitmoji showed up on my snapchat mapping…in the middle of a lot of treading.

treading, treading.  guessing at why what-is-happening is happening – in wide concentric circles around us, tightly close to us.

i can only guess, as i type this with these two now-familiar broken wrists, that this is a watershed time.

watershed pronunciation

definition 2

and today, both valentine’s day and d’s birthday, i want to express gratitude for this man who is standing in the water with me – waves crashing over us, undertow threatening to pull us down, riptide ever present – and holding my fiberglass-cast-encased hand.  the person who is equally as perplexed at this time, who takes turns with me being alternatively flabbergasted, philosophical and soberingly pragmatic.

he continues to zip my jacket, buckle my seatbelt, paste my toothbrush, carry my music, pepper-mill my breakfast and dinner, put the ernie straw in my coffee.  he has learned the fine points of where-on-the-head to place hair conditioner, how best to tie plastic bags on my arms, what stool will work best at the piano, which wine glass i can pick up at the end of a day.  he has watched me learn how to hold mascara with two hands and pull up girl jeans by the belt loops.  he has been treading water with me as we look to the horizon.

maybe this watershed is the thing that elicits change.  at the end of 2019 i could feel it coming.  and i can now, with all authority and certainty, say that the change is not that i will, smack dab in the middle of middle-age, become a professional snowboarder.  nope.  but there may truly be things out there i just didn’t see or consider.  perhaps the things that are vexing us, stunning us, deeply disappointing us, are just the things that will propel us.  ah, if that just didn’t feel so pollyanna-ish.

this life is bigger than anyone can ever live it.  that includes us.  treading water in the watershed might be a time that forces dynamic change.  like everyone, i wish i had some prescient inkling of what’s-out-there, what-will-happen.

my perceived lack of control is maybe a misperception.  maybe that which has taken away control is conversely granting control, granting the creativity that comes with grabbing onto flotsam and jetsam in a sea that seems to be swirling.  maybe the grasping-at-straws is grasping-at-ernie, a touchstone that seems flimsy and unimportant, but which actually is grounding, rooting, and gives voice to more solid footing, less wave-action, more direction-choosing.

the watershed is here.  moment by moment we stare at it.  we roll our eyes, we yell at the angst-y details, we shake our heads in confusion, we stop and stand still and, yet hyperventilating from treading, we wonder.  we try to breathe, to center, to be in the eye of the storm.

holding hand-cast, we look forward and we guess that this ain’t the last watershed on the horizon.

 

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WATERSHED from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

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whole rest. [k.s. friday]

rest

two broken wrists.  there’s not much that can stop me, but two broken wrists has done it.

it is profound what you do in daily living with at least one hand.  really everything.  this is my fourth day on this hand-less journey and i know there’s a long road ahead.  i am not a good patient and the inability to perform the simplest of tasks has been world-stopping.  i had to teach david how to ‘properly’ wipe my mouth, put on girl jeans, comb out wet hair.  he has to hold my coffee cup (and yes, a wine glass or two) with the infamous sesame street ernie straw, feed me every bite, help me sit up from laying down, open doorknobs, pick up my cellphone so i can voice activate it, wipe my tears as i cry in frustration.  the list goes on and is only limited to your imagination.

i wanted to have a tiny window into my beautiful daughter’s world.  My Girl tells me lots of coaching and instructing stories from her high mountain snowboarding career, but i have never stepped on a snowboard.  i wanted to physically experience the board under my feet, even a tiny grasp of how she feels.  so we have planned for a long time to take a lesson and surprise her with our tale.

this week was wisconsin ski and snowboard week and for a mere $29 you could purchase lift tickets, rental equipment and a group lesson.  it seemed perfect.

and for an hour and twenty minutes it was.  a really difficult sport, we stood on boards and managed to learn the slightest of skills.  until that little girl on skis was in front of me downhill just a bit.  not really well-versed at turning and, clearly, less versed on stopping, i worked to avoid her.  the stop and the fall were simultaneous.  tailbone down i clearly put out my hands to help my fall, the first do-not-do-this rule.  instinct took over; reflexes prevailed.  that was step one in this two-broken-wrists tale, this whole rest.

four days ago i took for granted every little thing my hands (and arms) did for me.  i could play the piano at any given moment, grab a pencil and jot a lyric, readjust the bench, open the blinds and let the sun into the studio.  today the studio is dark, the piano quiet, the pencils waiting.

instead, moment by moment i am aware of every move i make, every single thing i need assistance with.  i work each day to gain one more tiny ability.  we have slowed down to a crawl and are abiding in each minute, one by one.  i appreciate david’s help beyond mere gratitude or words; his commitment to my every-single-movement is humbling.  our friends and family have reached out with offers of meals, company, words of encouragement and vast amounts of humor.  we are right here in this very moment.  presence defined.

i wonder about my piano.  i know that my right hand in a hard fiberglass cast is on hiatus.  i think that maybe my left hand, which is in a hard splint, might have a beensy chance at a few notes, regardless of the ensuing pain.  when i was 19 i broke three fingers on my left hand slammed in a steel church door.  they were splinted but i was fending for myself making a living for college as a musician and so i relentlessly started playing with those fingers anyway.  this too-early-in-the-healing-process-playing prevented full healing, so i am cautious now.  the piano is a part of my soul and so i honor the process of getting-back.

in the meanwhile, in the way that only the universe understands, after these last months, i seem to have needed a reminder of being loved and cared for, a reminder of attending to ‘now’ with no dreaded worry of ‘next’, a reminder of what’s truly important.

last night i held a fork.  it was pretty amazing.

oh, and – the little girl skied on, unaware.

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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