reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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starry tufts. [k.s. friday]

part of the wind dandelion fluff

magical.  the starry tufts of white floating on the breeze.  seeds from wild flowers, they are on a course not of their own volition.  white filaments of dandelions, designed to fly and leave a wake behind their path, fluff past, on their way to parts unknown.  part of the wind.  dandelions’ wispy seeds can be aloft over a half mile before parachuting their way to the ground.  no gps, no triptik, no maps or intended destination.

much like how it feels right now.  a part of the wind.

in this time of global pandemic, of racial protest, of economic strife, of political chaos, it feels as though the wind has taken me.  battered to and fro, it feels as it there is no determined destination, no way to avoid the headwinds, no escaping the jet stream.  the wind just picks me up and takes me, each day, to a different place.  never physically far from the place of origin, it makes me feel just enough of a lack of control that i am ill at ease, never quite settled, never quite sure, always a bit tentative, always wary.

and instead of letting the breeze blow and riding it like a standup board in a serene lake, i resist.  i find the need to know – where am i going? – too pressing, too unnerving.  i paddle against the current, seeking ways to see, to move in a direction that makes sense.  but it’s ineffective.  i tire and give it up to the myriad of air currents swirling around me.

it is what it is.  we are, indeed, a part of the wind.  just starry tufts.

 

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PART OF THE WIND ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 


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with abandon. [k.s. friday]

sing with frame

i warm up first.  the sound system is on and i wail through the building like a country artist on a flatbed.  the sound takes on air with the natural reverb of the room; it encourages me to sing more, sing louder, sing with abandon.

i’m recording nine pieces of music a week right now.  five of these are vocal songs.  i stand in the venue in front of the piano, boom mic in place and turn on the voice memo on our island-iphone-which-is-newer-than-our-other-iphones.  i play and sing from the beginning to the end, without stopping.  there is no tracking; there are no editing features, no going-back-and-fixing-this-or-that, no auto-tune, no equalizing, no other instrumentation, no balancing wavelengths, no mastering, no amazing engineer, no producer.  any ambient sound becomes a part of the recording. we listen afterwards and decide if i need to re-record, which simply means starting over from the beginning.  it’s more recording than i have done in-studio in a long time.  and it’s vastly different, this straight-up tape-it-with-the-phone recording.  in the last bit of time i have recorded over 90 pieces of music. that’s a serious amount of recording.  in album terms, it’s at least seven CDs worth.

it makes me want to stand -again- on a wooden stage in front of a piano and a boom and sing my heart out.  it makes me want to maybe get some of my own stuff – the stuff lingering in notebooks and folders of scrap paper – on tape.  it makes me think about rv’s and touring and the little voice in my brain reminds me that i’m 61.  “ONLY 61,” i retort.  it makes me wonder.

it’s a common story.  ask carole king or phil vassar.  they wrote songs.  lots of them.  and other people sang them.  until one day…and then they forever owned that boom mic over their pianos.

decades ago, i thought i’d just write songs.  i’d play all my instrumental pieces in concert – like george winston and david lanz – and i’d grant permission to ‘real’ singers to sing the songs i had written.  but then one day…and now you would have to wrestle that boom mic from me.  different stories, same principle.

we are singer-songwriters.  we are people who sing.

all warmed up, it’s easier to get from the beginning to the end without too much pitchy-ness.  it’s easier, warmed-up, to know what to expect from my still-healing-broken-wrists.  it’s easier to know what to expect from my voice.

and so i keep singing.  i wail through the building.  and the sound takes on air with the natural reverb of the room.  i sing more, i sing louder, i sing with abandon.

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with to without. [k.s. friday]

in a split second

it was but a mere second – nigh unto 4:30 in the morning – when my sweet poppo was on this planet and then wasn’t.

i said a wee-hours-goodnight to him, propped in a hospital bed at home in their house.  he whispered back to me.  i tried desperately to memorize his face, the love in his eyes.

and before the birds woke up in the morning, that morning eight years ago yesterday, i went from with to without.

three years later, we left my sweet momma sitting on the edge of her assisted-living-bed, grasping onto the blue-notebook-that-documented-their-moments-in-europe, her expression dancing with excitement, waving to us.  i tried desperately to memorize her face, the love in her eyes.

it wasn’t but a couple weeks later, on the road back again to florida, around the time the sun is highest in the sky, i went from with to without.

suddenly, i was orphaned.  suddenly i was without the two people who gave me life.  suddenly i was without the two people who could answer any question i had about my growing up.  suddenly – in a split second – nothing was the same.

100,000 families.  in the past few months, due to the global pandemic decimating our country, 100,000 families have desperately tried to memorize a loved one’s face.  they have held tightly to the memory of love shining in their beloved’s eyes.  they have moved from one split second into the next.  with to without.

and last night, on the solemn occasion of this number passing from 99,999 to over 100,000 – that one second – one person- one life – one with to without – i expected, foolishly, that something would change.  that there would be gut-wrenching acknowledgement.  that there would be communal nation-wide mourning led by the person in the highest seat in the land.  that there would be kind, generous, thoughtful words spoken, grief-filled heart-soaked empathy for all that the withs-to-withouts have gone through.

and nothing.

we need remember.  all of it.  these are our split seconds.

”…in a split second, our lives can turn around…”

they have.  they continue to.

this is real.

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IN A SPLIT SECOND from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood


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we long. [k.s. friday]

longing

and in the mist of the new grey day, uncolored by the pattern of another’s fabric in our close grasp, we rise.

we sip from coffee mugs, just the two of us, conversation spilling, yet stale in two-dimensionality.

we plan the day, but stop short of planning, for the days now have measured repeat signs.

sudden unexpected changes in rhythm punctuate the andante pace in isolation,

projects to learn and complete, new rules to follow.

we long for lingering conversations with dear ones, in person, touching distance.

for wine glasses clinking together,

for groceries we do not wash,

for sidewalks we willingly share,

for overdue embraces.

we long for that which was, that which we see we took for granted.  we mourn.  we grieve.

anger hangs as low clouds; aerosols so fine as to break down walls of solidarity.

laughter is key; we find it hiding around corners, peeking out, entering the fray and retreating. we chase it, grasping its laughter-tail and pulling it back into our life-day like warm taffy.

we watch news of this place, this state, this country, this world and find joy in small stories of goodness, in videos of lions napping on roads.

we long to feel less like we are in a science fiction movie and more like we are in a flattening curve.

we wish we hadn’t watched the movie contagion.

we end the day on top of mount everest, breathing air so thin that every breath is deliberate. we linger on the top-of-the-world, just as other-worldly as our own hometown right now.

we long.

we sleep, forgetting for a few hours, waking and, for moments, not remembering.

we step outside, coffee in hand

and the sun warms our faces and we wish to share the patio with voices and slow-dancers.

 

 

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LONGING from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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meander-er. [k.s. friday]

meander

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  (Robert Frost)

a product of sunday-drive-parents, i am a meanderer.  i’ll choose a backroad.  i’ll choose the woods.  i’ll avoid the six-lane interstate.  i’ll avoid the leader-led-coach-bus-travel tour group. i blame my sweet momma and poppo.

in an obvious life metaphor, choosing to be an artist of any medium -for the long haul- is choosing to be a meanderer.  it’s choosing to live life looking for and celebrating layer cakes – a layer cake of work.  it’s a continual wracking-of-the-brain for the next idea, the next project, next pitch, the next initiative, the next validation of your artistry.  it’s continual exploration and continual growth, surprises and intrinsic rewards of the heart.  and it’s continual worry: how will what you earn equal or be greater than that which you owe.

my parents encouraged my every musical moment.  neither of them was a musician, but their steadfast support reinforced the decisions i made that were more out-of-the-box.  their prideful applause inspired and fed me, lighting a fire even when the embers were falling to ash.  times i would rise and fall and rise again, i blame my sweet momma and poppo.

in somewhat recent days, when i was bemoaning the exponential cost of healthcare, someone asked me if i needed to see a financial counselor, someone who could ‘teach me’ how to budget.  i was stunned at the lack of sensitivity and actual empathy.  “no, thank you.” i responded, while trying to maintain the sound of calm in my voice, “i am actually quite good at budgeting and truly love math.  this is not rocket science.  it is simply a case of not having enough income, even from several jobs, coming in.”  a meanderer.  those sunday drives.

i’ve read plenty of ‘being the youngest child’ articles.  it seems that my profession, lean toward autonomy, artistry, careful rebellion are all because of my place in the sibling line-up.  so, once again, i blame my sweet momma and poppo.

the urge to be off-the-beaten-path, literally and figuratively, to quietly sit in the middle of the woods or i-wish-more-often the top of a mountain, to stand on a wooden stage with a piano, a boom mic, a few songs and a story to tell:  things that are part of my very soul.  the core.  i blame my sweet momma and poppo.

and i thank them from the bottom of my heart.

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MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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two broken wrists. two and a half months. i kept playing. [two artists tuesday]

tendonitis

out of necessity it was only a few days after i broke both of my wrists that i played.  it seemed that i had nine fingers that were attending this event, and i, relieved to have these nine, worked with what i had.

in the last couple months, my left hand progressed faster than my right.  i had two breaks in my right wrist and, yes, i am older now than i used to be, so the doctor warned me that i needed to be patient.  make that NEED to be patient; healing will take six to eight months, she said.  but all five LH fingers participated in this early-on merrymaking and only my immobilized thumb was excluded on my RH.  and both wrists. they were excluded too.

they changed the cast on my RH from over-the-elbow to one a tad bit shorter; this was happy for me as it gave me more mobility. i kept playing, despite the wad of cast that ended in the palm of my hand.  i am a mom.  i am used to working around things.

later, they changed it yet again to an exos cast, which is removable but much less designed specifically for your hand; it was actually quite uncomfortable and made my hand hurt in places it hadn’t hurt with the ‘regular’ cast on.  i kept playing.

at the point when the coronavirus ceased all my regular doctor appointments, and after only one occupational therapy appointment, i kept playing.

finally, with the phoned-in blessing of my OT, i ordered a splint for my RH – the same one i wear on my LH, releasing my thumb from its cast-prison.  i kept playing.

and then i noticed that my pinky wasn’t responding properly.  nor was my ring finger.  nerve pain was shooting from my fingers up my arm.  and nodules in the palm of my RH were burning, stinging.  no professional pianist i know wants his or her hands to hurt.  i could draw hundreds of analogies here with other body parts and ways-of-living, but i will refrain from doing so and just say that this was disheartening and incredibly worrisome for me.  and i kept playing.

i emailed the doctor and then sent pictures i labeled in photoshop so that my worry would be clear, since i was unable to be there in person; social distancing had put aurora on the don’t-call-us-if-this-isn’t-essential status.  when she called me she said i really needed to come in.  she said that they would take some x-rays and the hand specialist would look at my right hand, in particular.  frankly, i was beyond nervous to walk into a medical center.  they have their hands full (absolutely no pun intended) and i was reticent to be privy to whatever germs were hanging around or to take any focus from the more essential.  but, because i am playing and because playing is what i do, i went.

although there is a slight chance that there is something else going on here, it looks like the palm tendons of my RH fingers are inflamed.  this is likely because i have been playing with casts on.  what’s the expression? damned if i do, damned if i don’t.

when i asked the specialist for a range of time this might last, his answer was ‘probably up to a few months’.  he didn’t ask me a lot of questions to discern what was happening and i tried like heck to fill him in on every-single-last-thing about my hands, but, in as-quick-as-a-flash fashion, he was gone before i knew it.  a-few-more-exercises-and-some-regularly-scheduled-advil advice later, i left the hospital, took off my mask and climbed, sighing, into big red in the parking lot.

and now, out of necessity, i will keep playing.

and worrying.

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this morning. [k.s. friday]

that morning someday 1

i unfriended someone today.  i was so shocked at his response to the vital importance of continuing to social distance in this global pandemic i found it reprehensible.  his crass “everyone will die eventually” was deeply disturbing.  he actually used the term ‘survival of the fittest’.  i, in browsing for how my family and friends are doing, found no peace in his words, only a shortfall of empathy.  i shudder to think of anyone who read or who will read these callous words who has been ill, has had a loved one ill, who has lost a life in their circle of life, who has been deemed unemployed, who has missed paying their rent and who stands in line for food, who is frightened.  anyone with a heart.

i’ve unfriended a few people along the way these last few years.  this hasn’t been because i merely disagree with them.  i am open to disagreeing with you if you are open to discussion.  but these have been folks who have been closed.  closed to facts, to truth, to research, to conversation.  closed.  to me, it feels as if their hearts are closed.

for what is the importance of the next morning if what you care most about in the world is copious amounts of money or holdings?  my sweet poppo used to say, “you can’t take it with you.”  what is the importance of the next morning if you will throw others under the bus to elevate yourself?  my sweet momma used to say, “be kind.  be kind.  be kind.”  what is the importance of the next morning if everything is measured by black and white, an excel sheet of differences, all listed and highlighted.  my big brother used to play his guitar and sing, “there’s a new world coming…”  what is the importance of the next morning if you only measure yourself against others, their net worth, their houses, their jobs, their wardrobe, their vehicles, their exotic trips, their success?  in high school i recited these words from desiderata, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

instead, what about that morning someday?  the one that presents you with the challenge of a lifetime, the one you have worked on honing your whole life.  the challenge to accept who you are.  the challenge to stand up straight in your integrity, to freely and generously love, to do your work, to look out into the world with open eyes.  the challenge to not compare yourself, to believe in the betterment of humanity, to be kind, and to know that you can’t take any of it with you.  the challenge to surround yourself with goodness and live now.  this morning.  tomorrow morning.  the next morning.  heart open.

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

 

 


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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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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