reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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.

*****

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it’s my *hand*. [k.s. friday]

there is nothing certain. nothing totally black or white. but this morning i am in the middle of the grey; fog has closed in and nothing is certain.

in a few hours i will know more. i will know what has happened to my hand and wrist. having already healed fractures from two broken wrists ala snowboarding this winter, i will know what changed the day that i fell recently – a serious fall, hard and directly on my reflex-outstretched hand – on an unmarked wet floor.

soon i will know why it aches constantly, why i can’t extend near an octave, why i can’t pick up my cat or the bucket to wash the car, why i can’t bend my wrist forward more than 5 degrees.

i’m pretty tough when it comes to pain; my threshold is pretty high. usually for me, it’s just a matter of dealing with it and getting used to it. and then i adjust. and people around me don’t actually know that there is any problem because i am making do.

but *this* is different. this is what i do. this is how i make a living. this is my profession. it has always been my profession. i am an artist – and a human with opposable thumbs – and this is my *hand*.

and so i am anxious to know what this hand specialist says, what he recommends, what he forecasts as the route for rehabilitation from this new injury, the arc for healing, the possibility for playing, the chance to ‘have my hand back’.

because, as i told david when we were walking on the trail the other day, this is not short term. this is long term.

there are wooden stages i want to play on, albums i might consider recording, babies i want to pick up, cars i want to wash. there are potatoes i want to mash, hand-whipped whip cream to whip, songs to write, doorknobs to turn, manual cars i want to shift. there are cellos i want to play, dishes to scrub, leaves i want to rake, jars i want to open, hard-to-reach spots on my back i want to scratch. there are boxes i want to be able to pick up, moves i want to help with, conducting batons to hold, guitars i want to fingerpick, waterski towropes i want to hold. there are bikes i want to ride, yoga positions i’d maybe like to try, reins i want to hold, clay pots i want to throw, my strong dog i want to walk on leash, mountains i want to try scrambling up. there are warm gloves i want to wear, rings i want to put back on, glissandos to execute.

but i can’t.

this is no small list. this is no small thing. this is my hand and my wrist and, like you, i have taken it for granted. until now.

there is nothing truly black or white, but i am anxious to be out of the middle, that liminal space, of not-knowing.

oh, and i want to do cartwheels.

but, then, i’ve never been able to do those.

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IT’S NOT BLACK AND WHITE from RIGHT NOW © 2010 kerri sherwood


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when…take stock. [k.s. friday]

when all is swirling

and control seems elusive

it’s time to take stock

when the vortex sucks

the energy from your soul

it’s time to take stock

when control mongers

won’t divest of agenda

it’s time to take stock

when everything seems

on a vector of changing

it’s time to take stock

when the complex reigns,

simple seems utterly far

it’s time to take stock

when confusion wraps

its tentacles in your mind

it’s time to take stock

when answers are not

forthcoming, seeking them fraught

it’s time to take stock

when letting go is

the way to really hold on

it’s time to take stock

when growth seems still, in

the chrysalis transition

it’s time to take stock

when the seedling sprouts

the air, water, fire, earth

feed it. so take stock.

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TAKING STOCK © 2004 kerri sherwood


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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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waiting in the box. [k.s. friday]

the lines are chalked slowly in many dysfunctional relationships. unaware, you carry on, not realizing that it is closing in around you. until one day, you wake with a sense of claustrophobia and it occurs to you that you are boxed in. your actions seem to matter not; instead you are subjected to being a react-er. it’s more about treading water than it is about independent movement. it’s more about illogical punting than it is about making sense. it’s more about fear than it is about breathing.

our country is in a box. we react on a daily basis to the newest atrocities of leadership, the newest lies, the newest accusations. yet, no check or balance seems to matter and there are no consequences for this unacceptable behavior.

we tread water waiting.

we are waiting for wisdom to show up. we believe in truth-tellers. we do not believe in those whose jelly-bean-jars of untruths are brimming over.

we are waiting for real answers about the pandemic. we refuse to inject disinfectant and we absolutely choose to wear masks. we believe in science and medicine and we reject hiding the facts from a suffering nation.

we are waiting for help for those who need it: those who have lost jobs, home, security, the ability to pay bills or purchase food. we believe in a government that cares about people on all steps of the ladder and does not honor the stock market over the food lines.

we are waiting for conversation to start – a meaningful first step toward eradicating the social injustice of this country. we believe in peaceful protest and listening, not turning a deaf and bigoted ear.

we are waiting for the science of climatology to hold this good earth in its gentle hands of proactive care. we believe now is the time to show that the future matters and that disregard for this place will destroy that very future for all our children and our children’s children.

we are waiting for the ability to move about in the whole wide world again. we believe that is the only way we can learn about ourselves – to learn firsthand from others who are different than us. we believe in embracing others not repelling them.

we are waiting to not be afraid. we believe in compassion and empathy, not fear-mongering and words inciting division and hatred.

we are downright waiting for the mean-spirited, arrogant, self-agendized abusive behavior to stop.

we are waiting for the dysfunction to release its hold on the lines of the box around each of us, the populace.

we are waiting to vote.

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THE BOX from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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they laughed. [k.s. friday]

they laughed.

two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:

“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”

and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?

yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.

this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?

“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?

realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:

“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”

and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.

and they laughed? how dare they.

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CONNECTED ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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lost. and found? [k.s. friday]

lost (sketch)

it’s just a thought.  a sketch.  a few moments of piano.  lost.

i recorded eight voice-memo recordings in the studio this morning.  all based on the word “lost”.  they varied in length; the shortest was 9 seconds, the longest 7:22.  i discarded all of them and just kept the first :51 of one version.

lost.

we had just finished reading an op ed that was infinitely disturbing and equally heartwrenching.  an article about the united states, it painted a picture of a country lost in itself, untethered from its values, far from moored to its former strength and viability, unattached to its potential of community, of empathy, of oneness.

lost.

even just yesterday we listened to two accounts of persons who had been tested more than once for covid-19.  with differing results each time, it has us wondering how we might be able to halt the pandemic wave that continues to threaten when we cannot obtain test results that are accurate or consistent.  where are we really in this upsurgence?  this is no little skirmish.

lost.

everything is different right now.  we sat safely in our kitchen yesterday and talked about the 28 million people who would be losing their homes or the place they rent as home.  we talked about the crushing inability to really be with people we love.  we talked about the lack of jobs available.  we talked about unemployment numbers.  we talked about pressure.  we talked about economics and finances.  we talked about almost 160,000 people who had died from coronavirus.  we talked about life insurance.

lost.

sitting at the piano in my studio elicits mixed feelings for me.  i pine for the days that the music i wrote, the music i recorded, actually made me a living, at least the times it even leaned toward making me a living.  i wonder if that will ever be the case again, if it’s even possible in this online-download-time that has usurped the living of so many independent artists.  i experience a sense of betrayal sitting on the bench and work hard, somewhat unsuccessfully, to overcome it.

lost.

my left hand starts.  always a provider of depth and rhythm and always strong, my left hand knows how to dig in.  even now.  i think the word “lost”.  my right hand starts to follow.  and the limitation of a wrist that no longer bends beyond 20° makes me draw in my breath.

lost.

on the top of the file cabinet in the back hallway of TPAC there was a basket.  in that basket was an assortment of stuff:  coffee mugs, a jacket, sunglasses, readers, a set of keys.  it was the “lost and found” basket.

i suppose there is a simple wisdom in “lost and found” stashes.  found, as an antonym of lost, implies not forever lost.  it is hopeful.

maybe, though we cannot see it, we are living in the very middle of lost and found.

 

 

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©️ kerri sherwood


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day lilies in the interlude. [k.s. friday]

untitled interlude

in the in-between times.  we are there.  not at the beginning, not at the end.  we hardly know what to call this interlude of time – so many differing points of view, so many differing approaches to life and the living of it.  untitled.

this pandemic entered our lives a few months ago.  we know little about when it will end.  in this nebulous state, we try to cope.  not-knowing, we wake each morning to a new day, unsure of which day it is, the fog of repeated sameness fading as the sun’s light opens our eyes.

surely in the middle of all of this there are the day lilies of the garden – the hardy survivors of too much rain, too little rain, too much attention, too little attention, too many weeds, too few nutrients, invasive plants trying to subvert this robust champion.  the tall perseverants of the green, they rise up, ever joyful.

surely in the middle of all of this there are the moments that are the day lilies.

for me, there was a video-chat with my grown children, separated by distance and by a healthy respect for safety.  these moments were the breath i so needed, a chance to see their faces, hear their voices.  for me, there was the hike along the river trail, a cooler-than-normal breeze on my face, the sounds of birds and swaying cattails.  for me, there was the social-distanced outdoor visit with treasured ones, laughter and stories punctuating our time together.  for me, there was a quick phone call with a forever pal, a series of blurry oh-my-look-at-this-bear-off-my-mountain-top-porch-ten-feet-from-me-right-now texts with a dear friend.  for me, there was talk of which thru-hike to take, which rv we would purchase, for, in any circumstance we find ourselves, dreaming is good.

in the middle of all of this, the interlude between before and after, it is incumbent upon us – for our peace of mind, in the fuzzy liminal space of enduring and persisting – to find the positive orange day lilies.

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UNTITLED INTERLUDE from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 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