reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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golden. not golden. [k.s. friday]

silence is golden.

there is nothing quite like the last strains of gabriel’s oboe (ennio morricone) falling into your heart. there is nothing quite like a break in lyrics, or like the moments after the words “and the world will be as one(john lennon). in music the rests grant time for digesting, for processing, for evoking, for wrapping around you. it is golden time, those rests, and it makes everything else – all other notes, all harmony, all orchestration, all lyrics – make sense.

the music tells the story. it is honest and forthright; it is transparent. it does not suggest innuendo, nor does it allude or insinuate or imply. it does not squelch the truth or warp the narrative. one note follows another until it rests and gives the listener time to breathe, to catch up, to absorb it. its words – the notes that are played – are golden. its silence is golden. it is truth.

and – silence is not golden.

“listen to silence. it has much to say.” rumi may have been speaking of the silence of the snowfall, the silence of the sunrise. like the golden silence of music, these silences fall with grace. they are not silences with implication nor are they incendiary.

equally as powerful as graceful silences of rest is the silence of the person-who-does-not-speak who brings inference, who hints, who implies, who, because of a deliberate lack of words, causes others to jump to conclusions, to opine, to form judgements without the basis of knowledge. powerful seems the person who does not speak up, speak for, speak against, who remains silent, crediting correctness but acting out of intentional design. but this is not the power of rightness, despite any display of righteousness. it is not the power of the powerful; instead it is weakness.

to not speak up, to be silent. to not speak for, to be silent. to not speak against, to be silent. to not speak questions, to not speak objections. to not communicate in honest words, to sit in quiet insinuation, to encourage blind compliance, passive and complicit acceptance, blind trust, to encourage conjecture. weakness.

it is it is on our shoulders to choose our words carefully. it is also on our shoulders to choose our silences in that same way. should our public statements be rigorously measured by integrity and responsibility and truth? should they be steeped in justice and fairness and respect?

yes. they hear your words. and yes. they hear your silence.

*****

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and the snow whispers. [k.s. friday]

and the new year enters from stage right/house left and whispers to the middle of the old wooden stage. a slight and humbled bow to its foregoer, it beckons silence and quiet resolve.

we stand in ovation as we pine for its downbeat and new music, this new year’s promise. then we take our seats in the snow and turn our faces to it gently falling, flakes in slow motion, moments of fresh powder.

stillness commences and the hushed voice of what is to come lingers in the cold dark air around us. it is voiceless and indistinct; we lean in and listen for the timbre of the spirit of what will be.

and the snow whispers back to us, ever-fragile flakes, reminding us of its evanescence, of our impermanence, of the mystery of it all.

we rise and we walk into the woods, our feet crunching on the trail.

happy new year.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

listen to music as you start this new year

©️ 2020 kerri sherwood


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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.

*****

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tacet root vegetables. [k.s. friday]

ritenuto: an abrupt slowing down of tempo

tacet: silence of instrument

fermata: pause of unspecified time

and, suddenly, a prolonged tacet. no notes. no instrumentation. no expression markings. no crescendos or decrescendos. just silence. the baton is laid down. there is no beat pick-up. there is no rest. it is silence. issued. written in the music. a ritenuto – screeching to slow, a subito tacet. suddenly still.

the reassurances are generous, heartfelt. they are reflexes, like putting out your hand when you fall. they are meant to help in the silence, in the sudden slowdown, the sudden stop, the fermata holding the tacet. they make my heart quiver, these well wishes. but they don’t change the composer’s notes in the music: the ritenuto. the tacet. the fermata. those are printed in the music; those are decreed. they are unquestionable, immovable, indisputable, final.

i was voted off the island, in “survivor” talk. it was not an island, but, nevertheless, i am not a survivor. not there, anyway. i am forever tacet-ed there. the fermata above my tacet-ed head reminds me.

it, too, reminds me to be still. to step lightly. to be gentle with myself. i run the scores in my head – scores of scores in that place. i emoted each expression marking, each twist of the music, each gradual shaping, each change of tempo, of timbre, of voice.

and now.

i opened this book randomly, hoping to arrive on a page that might offer me wisdom. i read: “upheavals in life are often times when the soul has become too smothered; it needs to push through the layers of surface under which it is buried….it reminds us that we are children of the eternal and our time on earth is meant to be a pilgrimage of growth and creativity.” (john o’donohue)

it doesn’t feel like a platitude. i’ve read it over and over and over again now since the morning i was fired. i wonder, each day, when the baton will be lifted, when the pick-up beat will come. i remember the all-engulfing power of change works both ways – to decimate and to breathe new life. i – try – to trust the dusty trail i am reluctantly set upon.

upheaval. sudden arrival at prolonged silence. not much more upheaval for an artist than silence. yet, as i sit in this silence, deemed as fitting by the composer, i feel the root-vegetable-of-my-soul gathering energy. with no idea and no preconception, i await as it will push through the earth one day, steeped in nutrients, rooted in rich soil.

my sweet momma said, “live life, my sweet potato.” oh wise woman, you must have known.

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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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it’s where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

i come from make-it-work stock. my sweet momma and poppo were children of the great depression and were not wasteful sorts. soap socks, squeezing every last vestige of shampoo from the bottle, re-using boxes, rube-goldberg fixes, not a lot of retail therapy. they made do with what they had and never complained. latest trends were mostly lost on them and competing for the best lawn/decor/car/wardrobe/jewels/stuff was not a thing. as the youngest child, with siblings much older than me who both married by the time i was eleven, i had much time to glean and learn to mimic their ways. making-it-work. it’s where i’m from.

and so now, empowered by these two forces of nature – my mom and my dad – with a new brace on my wrist, i am making do. after breaking both wrists the end of january in a snowboarding accident, i finally had healed fractures. the pandemic had interrupted all my occupational therapy and, thus, i’ve been frustrated by a lack of range of motion in my right wrist, so my old brace was often my companion. but i made it work. it’s where i’m from.

and then i fell.

the floor was wet and, unfortunately, unmarked as such. my feet flew out from underneath me and, in natural reflex action, i fell…on my right wrist. i felt right away something was wrong but waited to contact my dr for 48 hours, hoping for quick residing of the new pain. i’m pretty tough and it takes a lot for pain to get to me. d says i have a high tolerance for pain. i blame my mom and dad. they were tough and endured much in their lives. but this isn’t a post about my wrist – soon an MRI and a hand specialist will tell me what is now going on, post-fall. in the meanwhile, i keep on keeping on, just the same as after i simultaneously broke both wrists. making do. it’s where i’m from.

as we hiked along trails in aspen’s woods of color, we mused on how easily we were, well, amused. simply hiking, sitting alongside a creek, smelling the scent of autumn forest – these things were sheer entertainment for us. no restaurants, no bars, no shops, no shows required. (and, in the middle of a pandemic, not even considered.) i thought of all the times i had spent simply being outside, picking apples with my momma and poppo, taking drives, having picnics in parks at wooden tables carved with initials of people we would never know. as we sat around the table out on the balcony or socially-distanced in the condo, i thought of all the times i just spent simply coffee-sitting with my mom and dad, talking long over dinner, late-night conversations on the phone. as my daughter and i talked about my parents, her beaky and pa, i thought of their sacrifices, of their belief in all peoples regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, religion. i thought of their altruism, their open-mindedness, their embracing of new ideas and their love of learning new things and going new places, and i see their eyes reflected in both my daughter’s and son’s eyes. it’s where i’m from. and it’s where they’re from.

as we approach this very important time of voting, i worry about the narrative others are hearing, but not researching. i worry about the rhetoric coming from this white house, the absolute lies, the warping of truths, the sickening twist of stories, the re-defining of the definition of words, the lack of understanding, the self-serving agenda, the out and out falling prey to gross exaggerations of misinformation. i worry about those people listening to this, believing it, voting with this toxic barrage of falsehoods in their hearts.

and i think about my mom, who always, always, always said, “look it up.” yes. look further. research. find objective, factual resources and immerse in those. look. it. up.

yes. make do. look it up. it’s where i’m from.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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please figure it out. [k.s. friday]

figure it out

i, like so many others, want to scream “FIGURE IT OUT!”

in a nation crumbling under leadership pushing division and counting on a so-called “patriotic” movement of the populace to want to climb aboard its sick agenda-ridden wagon, i want to look people in the eye and ask them to please figure it out.

figure out that you are being accosted with aggressive propaganda, with misinformation, with bigotry and false pretenses of protectionism.  in our country, this means you are being intravenously fed with distorted falsehoods, warped promises, extreme nationalism in a round-globe-world where this country is simply one of almost 200.

figure out that this disinformation is feeding into the frenzy.  in our town, this means that a 17 year old boy from just over the state line strapped on his AR-whatever, got in the car, reportedly had his mother drive him (holding his automatic-people-killer) to our town where he played cowboy vigilante and took the lives of two people during protests for social injustice.  this frenzy is dishing out the sickening sweet saccharin of cultish followers in a time of fragile unrest.

figure out that the hate-speech of people is wooing joiners, that words like “be sure to arm yourself and your family and know how to use them” cannot lead to any good thing.  in my life, this means people i love disenfranchising themselves from me, detaching and choosing the popular-group lure of strangers, rabidly spewing the hostile talk of animosity.

figure out that you live in a country that is supposed to be dedicated to unity and democracy and that you are being courted to blindly align yourself with a singular individual who has demonstrated all that is opposite to the very ideals, the core of goodness, this country touts.  in our world today, figure out what lies are and who is being upheld in the telling of them.

figure out that there is much to fix.  this system – our country –  is working as systems work – i have learned that they protect to the death the way they are set up and the profoundly, inexcusably unjust way that this country has been set up is glaringly obvious.  figure out that fixing it starts in your heart.

figure out that your children and your children’s children will be growing up in this place and choose what you want to leave behind for them.  is it a place of peace, of equality, of truth, of health, of gently holding this fragile earth, of clean air and clean water and fertile land, of hope and justice and liberty for all?

figure out that life is sacred and that it is lost in a moment.  figure out what truly means anything to you.  figure out the bottom line.  figure out that love is truly the answer, the place to begin.  figure out that those you love count and, for heaven’s sake, let them know.  and then look out, to others standing beyond those you already love, and love them too.

please figure it out.  we are in a death spiral.

 

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FIGURE IT OUT from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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the old file cabinets. [k.s. friday]

it's a long story

two old file cabinets.

the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio.  at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing.  there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor.  maybe someday i’ll get to those.

yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had.  i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music.  every title i looked at brought back memories:  “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully.  “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes.  “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.

i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer.  books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day.  i whispered to them i would be back for them.   it has probably been decades since they were opened.

standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing.  it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.

had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade.  in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra.  in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons.  in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.

other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources.  there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work.  and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.

it made me want to just clear a day off.  liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility.  brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.

i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”,  through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise.  through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time.   just take a day – a whole day – and sing.  and remember together.

in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose.  so that might not be such a good idea.  but maybe d and i could just take that day.  think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us.  our long stories.

a few things can instantly place you back in a moment.  songs, scents, pictures.  a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her.  john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island.  wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.

two old file cabinets.  filled to the brim.

so many treasures.

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IT’S A LONG STORY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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irato.caesura.fermata.lento. [k.s. friday]

in transition

irato.caesura.fermata.lento

the chaos of irato.  a passage of angry, passionate.  a symphony of irate engaging us, challenging us, buckling us under in its fervor.

“take a break,” earth-the-breathless-conductor would admonish.  “hold and rest,” earth-the-counselor would encourage.  “slow down.  be deliberate,” earth-the-sage would advise.  caesura.  fermata.  lento.

acknowledging the rage.  listening.  resting in the questions.  conscious mindful steps.  measured decisive action.  slowly leading the way with goodness.

i suspect mother earth, in its mother-earth-wisdom, would hear the symphony as transition.  the space between before and after.  a time of growth and change and every possible note, every possible emotion.

we listen, as earthlings, imperfect-in-every-way, and we get lost.  to live in irato is uncomfortable.  a cliffhanger.

but mother earth smiles.  after all, she knows all about suspense and the big bang and butterflies.

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IN TRANSITION ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

 


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give a flying flip. [k.s. friday]

every breath

i am imploring you to help keep my beloved daughter safe.

please.

enlightenment comes through unexpected channels sometimes.  this morning i read a post by a brilliant woman who was my piano student 40 years ago. she forwarded a writing by a young woman who is a server in a restaurant who detailed her experiences in just one of her shifts.

it’s bracing.

my friend-who-was-my-former-piano-student prefaced it with this:  “I know it will feel so good to feel normal again and go out to dinner. But please, read this WHOLE DAMN THING before you do. You BETTER tip your server like they are risking their life to bring you a drink, because they f*ing are.”

the server wears a mask and gloves, carries sanitizer with her to work, stands back 6 feet from her guests at the tables in the restaurant.  the guests?  they remove their masks, which were required to enter, as soon as they sit down and never put them back on, even while ordering, even while their server is present.  it is cavalier at its best.  her safety is compromised over and over, at every breath, and she is painfully aware, as you read in her candid outpouring.

is the safety of this server any less important than your own?  is she dispensable?  is your dining-out experience so important you cannot sacrifice a bit of comfort?  where has this message of it-doesn’t-matter-if-we-protect-each-other come from?  hmmm.  let me think.  might it be that the “leadership” of this country has made it a fashion faux pas to wear a mask?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country has made it seem unnecessary to protect each other?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country thinks everyone’s breath doesn’t matter?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country doesn’t really give a flying flip about the populace of this country?  if i sound pissed, it’s because i am.  enough already.

where do you stand?

i, for one, was breathless when i read the detailed narrative of this young woman’s shift.  with angry and worried tears in my eyes, i read it aloud to david.  i would love to read it aloud to you.

an expert at piecing-it-together during off-peak, My Girl, among other things, bartends and serves.  she busts her butt working hard in high mountain towns, waiting on tourists and locals alike.  she is a hard worker at everything she does and i have sat on her barstools watching her move in blurrying pace getting it done.  the last thing i want to have to worry about in the middle of this pandemic as it actually continues, despite the “leadership” and a percentage of the country’s population ignoring its steady presence, is whether or not the people who are sitting on those barstools or at the tables in her restaurant are (with sarcastic voice) oh-so-tediously pulling up a mask when they are breathing at my daughter.  i want to assume that they are.  i want to assume that the meager income she is hour-after-hour-after-hour trying to earn will not be dangerous for her.  i want to assume that the people who have chosen to go out, have a few drinks, eat a nice meal prepared by a chef, will generously, even at least appropriately, tip her.  i want to assume good although i fear selfish, unconcerned indifference.

the server ends her writing with a plea: “For the love of god..if you go out to eat please please please pull up your mask for the few minutes that your server is at your table. Why are you not already doing this?? And oh my god..tip your server like that burrito you are eating may cost them their life…”

have you gone out to dinner?  have you gone out for drinks?  did you ecstatically plan your outfit and put on your favorite shoes?  did you make reservations at your favorite restaurant?  did you pile into your favorite downtown bar?  did you wear a mask?  did you even bring a mask? or did you leave your mask at home because it’s not mandated by the local, state or federal government?  does respect have to be mandated?  does protecting each other have to be mandated?  can we choose respect and protection regardless?  there is still a global pandemic.  can we connect the dots?  can we think???

WILL you be going out to dinner?  out for drinks?  will you wear a mask?  will you carefully protect every breath of your server – someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, best friend, caregiver?  will you recognize their safety?  will you tip them for risking their life to bring you your margarita?  will you protect the others inside the restaurant or bar?  will you give a flying flip?

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EVERY BREATH from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood