a double-haiku for today:
out big red’s window
places we pass. to loved ones’.
earth’s gifts on the way.
rumble strips stir us,
“look closer.” setting light: light.
our hearts begin to rise.
MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood
a double-haiku for today:
out big red’s window
places we pass. to loved ones’.
earth’s gifts on the way.
rumble strips stir us,
“look closer.” setting light: light.
our hearts begin to rise.
MEANDER from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood
i have a collection of photographs of discarded masks.
i’m hoping that it’s not because they weren’t valued, but instead, because they had run their course, or maybe, because they were in someone’s hand, along with keys and wallets and water bottles and kind bars and albanese gummi bears, and somehow, got dropped.
at this moment, when wisconsin is at one of the highest in covid-19 numbers, and the country is flailing around trying to tread water and not really holding its own against a global pandemic virus, i just want to plea with you one more time.
please wear a mask. please wear this cloth covering over your nose and mouth. please. wear it.
about 40% of the people at woodman’s grocery store the other day did not do this. ohhhhh, they wore a mask, for sure. but it was under their nose or cupping their chin; they were dedicated to the vernacular, not the actual fact that it is a protective measure. i am deeply saddened by these people. i don’t know what would prevent you from wanting safety for yourself and others, but i know that kind of ignorant move can only be attributed to the direct infusion of falsehoods, lies, misinformation, warping of the truth. and i ask the question a friend of mine posed weeks ago, leaning on the words of the song, “would you cry too if it happened to you?”
please. wear. a. mask.
until it is time to no longer do so.
“now i can be really vicious,” the loving and enthused words of the [impeached] president of the united states at a rally saturday evening.
“vicious” is not a word you would associate with the behavior of the leader of the free world. “vicious” is not a word used by empathetic, compassionate, caring presidents about how they plan to treat their populace. “vicious” is not a word used in fair, properly and factually prepared, carefully articulated, mature campaigns. “vicious” is not an adjective used by politicians who are trying to unite, to heal, to raise awareness of inequalities, to thoughtfully bring health back to a nation, suffering from layers of dis-ease.
no. let’s face it: “vicious” is not even a descriptor used about dogs you want to be around.
and yet, there are people screaming for more at these rallies. there are people screaming on facebook, on twitter, on message boards, on signs, from stages and pulpits and country club dining rooms and the house-of-white. “vicious.”
where do we go from here? this president has given gross permission for people to be as base as possible, as vulgar as possible, as nasty as possible, as deceitful as possible, as mercilessly unremorseful as possible. he has conquered the heightened epitome of divisiveness, the “no” in no-moral-compass and has created seemingly insurmountable animosity in a country now brewing unrest between its citizens, its families, its friends, its colleagues, its communities, its states, its every-category.
“american decline” was graffitied across the bottom of a freight train. we sat and watched the cars go by, the xb in park just in front of the tracks. it was a long train, car after car, coal hopper after coal hopper, tank car after tank car, stunning graffiti on pretty much each one. it went by too fast to grab a phone to take a picture, but there it was – american decline – spray-painted across the bottom of the car. we read it aloud and then sat quietly.
what is there to say?
“at no time before has there been a clearer choice between two parties or two visions, two philosophies, two agendas for the future. there’s never been anything like this,” read this president at his narcissistic-ego-stroking-power-quenching-non-masked-socially-close-up-and-personal-maga-hat-wearing-rabid-fist-pumping-non-fact-checking-fear-mongering-descent-into-delusion-via-hook-line-and-sinker rally, a rally with an appalling lack of regard for the 194,000 people who have died of the pandemic that still rages across this country…the same pandemic he knew about in february and brutally lied to the public about. the same pandemic that has ravaged the lives of over 6.5 million families: their health, their work, their homes, their security, their futures.
there has never been anything like this. how true is that. it’s vicious.
i have hugged exactly two people since the pandemic started.
two people. one is my husband, who i’ve been hugging daily. and, this past wednesday, finally, at long last, after seven months of not seeing him, and with great forethought, i hugged my son. that’s it. no best friends. no dear friends. no sweet neighbors. no co-workers. no one else. just two. matter of fact, i had an extended conversation a while back with my daughter and, in the middle of a discussion about possibly having a long-long-long overdue visit out in the high mountains and the absolute need to hug, even mask-on-face-turned, her admonishment to stave me away from the rampant numbers there at that time, “how will you not hug me, mom?”
so walking in front of the neighborhood store, about to put my mask on, imagine my astonishment when someone i haven’t seen in almost a decade called out my name, ran up and hugged me. HUGGED me.
this was an adult! an adult exhaling cigarette smoke. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement that i was in the process of putting my mask on but hadn’t completed the motion. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement of my incomplete-mask-putting-on-action who completely ignored my stepping-back-hand-out-clear-non-verbal-please-back-the-****-up behavior.
daaaaaaamn. i was shocked. it’s a freaking pandemic. my hug-quota is sorely lacking and yet, it is i who should choose who i would like to sacrifice my safety for in order to hug. did i mention? it’s a pandemic!
when i regained my composure on the sidewalk a few blocks away, i reviewed my actions. david, who was clear i did not want to hug this person, said i sent all the right signals. i reviewed it all again. i mean, i am a huggy person and this person would likely remember me as such. this wasn’t a cold reaction to the person; it was a reaction to the social distancing guidelines that we have been encouraged to follow in order to not spread or contract covid-19. i mean, it’s a pandemic!
what would YOU do?
i suppose next time – if this happens again – i could, as fast as my mouth could manage, say, “it-would-be-nice-to-be-able-to-hug-you-but-right-now-in-the-pandemic-i-am-not-hugging-people-sorry-don’t-take-it-personally.” only this wouldn’t have worked. she came at me in a warped speed tunnel…she went directly from the curb to hugging in seconds flat without stopping, without exhaling the cigarette smoke, without donning a mask, without passing go, without collecting $200, without stopping to think, “oh yeah, it’s a pandemic! i shouldn’t be hugging her.”
or, since that likely wouldn’t work in the warp-speed version, i could say in a loud assertive outdoor voice, “back up!” or i could use 20’s spicier version of that (only i won’t print that here.)
either way, it’s alarming to be put in a position like that.
david’s momma told us about a woman who spontaneously hugged her when jeanne gave the woman tomatoes. it horrified my mother-in-law, who then went home and showered and washed all her clothes. at the time i wondered how that could ever happen. well. silly me. s**t happens.
this is such an odd time. it’s scary all the way around. we have been inordinately careful, like many of our dearest friends. we are making choices based on what are the safest behaviors. the fact that someone can just arbitrarily take away your choice – during a pandemic (don’t know if i mentioned that yet) – is bracing.
i will have to have a plan of action for the next time. practice it. evaluate it. practice it again. make it a reflex. and make it flipping obvious.
in the meanwhile, i want my hug back. i need it for people i have actually been dying to hug.
BACK UP! from PIETA ©️ 2010 david robinson
“while some will see the pied piper and his power as the devil, an evil entity that lures innocents away to their death, other interpretations see something entirely different: a christ-like savior.” (aimee h)
and there we have it.
this country has its very own pied piper. and in no way can this be a good thing.
“the term “pied piper”: … someone who, by means of personal charm, entices people to follow him or her, usually to disappointment or misfortune.” (maeve maddox)
without evidence nor using factual information, as is his unfortunate and biased practice, back in the early stages of this pandemic, the president of this country belittled others for wearing masks, and did not publicly himself wear a mask until mid-july, despite his presence in public places amongst citizens of this country deserving of respect and safety. his failure to make mask-wearing a national mandate in those earliest days of disease undermined the efforts of pandemic-fighters-treaters-sufferers across the country.
thus set the stage.
he pied-pipered his way all over fox news and media-biased outlets; he tooted his pipe into conspiracy theories, never taking responsibility for the safety of his populace. instead he led millions of people over the cliff and almost 190,000 people into death, simply by denying the very thing that could have minimized loss: a mask.
wearing a simple piece of cloth across your nose and mouth seems a small price to pay for a significant amount of safer passage through this time of pandemic. so it seems ludicrous and disgusting to go to the local grocery store and watch people arrogantly walk about with their masks firmly planted around their chins, just begging for someone to ask them to wear it properly. yes. the declining vigilance of the public.
the pied piper’s acolytes are everywhere and his followers are marching, goose-stepping toward what? the story of the pied piper relates that the followers – in the piper’s return to the village – were children and that those “children died of some natural causes such as disease or starvation and that the piper was a symbolic figure of death.” in easy metaphor, our very own piper, without evidence, has distilled the importance of masks to the point of dangerous disregard, pitting side against side, blather against facts, non-actions against actions, subjugating the very economy to disaster, costing jobs, homes, safety, the feeding of families, and has led this country to the brink of death.
is it his personal charm? i think not. the anger he has unleashed, the lack of moral compass, the lies, the rhetoric, the violence…his pipe-tooting seems limitless. instead of unity he chooses division. instead of health he chooses disease. instead of love he chooses hatred.
the pied piper, a self-described rat-catcher, piped to eradicate a poor town from an infestation of rats. ahhh. the metaphor continues. for, tucked into his own house-of-white, while tooting the ever-increasingly-ironic “draining of the swamp,” he and his minions have the best of the best pandemic tools and aids at their bidding. the 2000 people at the lawn rally bestowing accolades upon his every word and gesture have, likely, slightly fewer tools and aids. the millions of those watching fox news, tucked into living rooms across this country, have, likely, far fewer opportunities and far less resources to avoid or combat this coronavirus, this disease, this death.
but the one thing they could have? the one thing that is accessible to most anyone? the one thing that thousands of people sat in front of sewing machines making in the early part of this year, that are available most anywhere, from organizations or religious institutions or individual donors? the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives to date? the one thing that purportedly could still potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives?
please – vigilantly – wear a mask.
because the pied piper truly does not care if you live or die.
pied piper (noun): the hero of a german folk legend, popularized in the pied piper of hamelin (1842) by robert browning. a person who induces others to follow or imitate him or her, especially by means of false or extravagant promises.
it’s the stuff of hamburgers and hotdogs, cold pepsi-colas, potato salad. it’s the stuff of pick-up wiffleball games and music from a boombox and friends gathered in the backyard. it means going to the beach a few last days, going up north for a long weekend, going to the big box store for picked-over school supplies. it’s the three-day weekend coda of summer, the last-licks of time spent more freely, the season marker of the starting of routines.
in this pandemic time, it is a ticking time bomb.
how difficult it must be for healthcare workers to stand by and watch as americans all over this country make poor choices. these workers have laboriously teetered on sheer exhaustion these past months as they have treated covid-19 patients – over 6 million of them. these workers have grieved with over 185,000 families as coronavirus patients died, often being the only ones to witness this passing with the patients, to ease their burden and pain, to hold their hands. how it must feel to be a doctor or nurse or assistant who has tediously tended to a patient (or several hundred or several thousand patients) to see the cavalier and apathetic way people are moving about, gathering, non-masking wearing, non-social-distancing. for how blatantly have these months of labor, these months of learning bit by bit, been devalued. it’s bracing. and, for those working side by side to eradicate this pandemic, despairingly ungrateful, i would suspect. an utter disregard for the appreciation of the mountains of hardship this pandemic has created.
labor day, a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” would be the perfect time to recognize the endless and diligent work of the experts in medicine, research and science.
this labor day would seem the perfect time to, once again, examine your commitment and dedication to the health of this nation, to eliminating the pandemic that sustains itself off the aggressive ignorance of those who refuse to acknowledge its severity or, in some cases, its very existence.
this labor day would seem the time, a dire time, to acknowledge the way you may have become aloof to mourning the sheer numbers of people who have been affected by this contagion. it would seem the time to cease warped game-playing with the reporting of the dramatic effect this has had on this country. it would seem the time to fact-check everything you eagerly ingest about this global pandemic, a planet-changer in its own regard.
this labor day would seem the time to put aside big-picnic-wishes, kickballs and croquet sets and, instead, work toward regaining strength, prosperity and well-being.
this labor day: the time to wear masks, to social distance, to not gather in large groups, and generally, to just not ignore that which could kill you or someone you love.
it’s approaching. you can feel it in the morning air. fall. its scent lingers in the fields of wildflowers, succumbing to cooler nights, a lower sun on the horizon. the bees are desperately, frantically, trying to hang on for dear life. the mosquitoes, thankfully, are writing their wills and the cicadas are singing as if the judges of ‘american idol’ or ‘the voice’ were gathered beneath the trees, an audience of appreciators.
it’s different though.
this fall is all about numbers. covid-19 pandemic numbers. lethal-force racial fatality numbers. protest numbers. healthcare numbers. unemployment numbers. eviction numbers. payroll tax numbers. rally numbers. poll numbers. we are surrounded by a plethora of numbers with an increasingly urgent need to be aware of all of them.
there will be no relaxing inside starbucks sipping pumpkin spice lattes. there will be no apple festivals or street fairs celebrating fall. there will be no hayrides, bale-bouncing with friends on a rickety wagon. there will be no chili cook-offs or slow dance parties on the patio. this was the stuff of pre-pandemic. the stuff of the olden days. the stuff of 2019. the stuff of 1996. the stuff of 1973.
there will be thoughtfully attended protests. there will be emotional vigils. there will be testing sites. there will be virtual funerals. there will be video-conferenced schools and meetings and religious gatherings. there will be jobs sought, financial devastation for too many, unreachable healthcare. there will be speeches to listen to, about which to have hope. there will be speeches to fact-check, about which to have righteous anger.
the numbers have risen to the surface and rightfully demand our attention.
but there’s this – written one year ago: every fall, my sweet momma and my poppo would load us up in the dodge with the old wicker picnic basket and a small cooler. we would drive out east on long island or head north into upstate new york. the baby of the family with siblings already out of the house, i always had a friend along. susan went everywhere with us. we would take mad libs and gum, snacks and cans of soda and we would talk and giggle our way to the apple farm. it wasn’t like we couldn’t find apples near us; the jaunt away to apple-picking was the point. the walk in the orchard, the drive through leaves of indescribably stunning color. we’d stop at roadside picnic tables and take back country roads.
and now, a long while later, i think of those places, those times. the memories are sweet, macintosh-apple-sweet. but the yearning is real. every autumn makes me just as wistful. i think of my children jumping in leaves and pumpkins carved with silly faces. my parents and the old dodge. pies with homemade crust, hot soup and cocoa, the smell of cinnamon and caramel candles. fires in the fireplace or outside around the firepit. jeans, sweaters, boots. and apples.
and so now that the time for jeans and sweaters and boots is in the offing, i need remember. there are still quiet fires in the firepit to have. there are pies we can make and cocoa we can brew up. there are big stock pots of soup to steep. there are trails with crunchy leaves. there are pumpkins to carve, sunflowers to vase, and backroads to drive.
there are things that must be done. the numbers insist. it’s a profound time filled with information and a call to speak up, to question, to research, to, yes, wear a mask and yes-yes, to vote.
but my wistful-near-autumn heart also needs apples.
MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood
i was trying to catch up my calendar – the dollar version – where i write things we’ve done, thoughts, ideas, hikes. on new year’s day i usually take out the calendar and read the whole thing, a review of the year, so to speak. post-broken-wrists, not being able to write with my right hand, i kept my calendar on the computer. somewhere along the way i stopped jotting things down.
now, with pencil in hand, i am trying to catch up. not only is that impossible, but it’s shocking to see the story-arc of the year. time flies. it occurred to me this morning that on new year’s day 2021 i will likely look back and see a year with a vast there-wasn’t-much-we-could-do theme. it’s consistent. the pandemic has altered the freedom of moving-at-will, the freedom of easily-gathering-together, the freedom of travel, of ranging around, and any real normal-summer adventures. a time that, painfully, just isn’t the same as all other summers. it doesn’t feel the same; it doesn’t look the same. it doesn’t live the same way. the impotent months, a time of self-sacrifice-for-the-whole, would seem like a common story for all.
only it’s not.
“i like your mask,” commented the cashier at the home improvement store. things you never thought you would hear. our masks are all handsewn; a variety of fabrics, after washing they hang on a hook on the refrigerator, ready. her mask was solid black and so i, in we-wear-black-all-the-time predictability, actually liked hers. “what am i doing?” i wondered. we are comparing masks. MASKS. surely this will go down as a 2020 commonality for people.
only it won’t.
with windows open allowing in the moist rain-cooled air of the night, over coffee this morning we talked about common narratives. it would seem that, of all years, of all times past and, hopefully, times to come, this year would have the most common narrative for all people. parallel experiences, somewhat indistinguishable in the limitations of a global pandemic, a time of everyone-coming-together, a time of doing-the-right-thing, a time of protecting-each-other, a time of relinquishing selfishness and adopting consideration, even altruism, a time of caring. to everything there is a season. a season of commonality.
only that’s not the case.
instead, any perusal through social media will show you that summer is summer and americans are out and about. according to AAA, nearly 700 million people will take roadtrips this summer. they are vacationing. photographs of smiling faces in parks, at beaches, on docks, in boats, by pools, at picnic tables, at parties, in backyards, in restaurants, around campfires – maskless. the weighing of calculated risk, the weighing of safety. hopefully, this will not yield drastic results as we each live our lives – the lack of forfeit a contributing factor to more sickness, more proliferation of virus, more death.
we can only hope.
so is it different? is this summer any different for you than last? or is it pretty much the same? what mask are you wearing when you are out and about? is it all black? (if so, would you recommend it? what company did you order it from?) is it fabric? is it an n95?
or is it invisible? instead, a mask of indifference, a mask of push-back, a mask of conspiracy theory, a mask of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do, a mask of entitlement, a mask of deservedness, a mask of personal-freedom-infringement, a mask of determined independence in a world where actually-everyone-depends-on-the-symbiotic-sharing-and-movement-of-resources, where actually-everyone-desperately-relies-on-healthcare-workers-who-are-watching-people-scorn-that-which-might-help, where actually-everyone-depends-on-each-other-to-get-this-pandemic-under-control-so-that-some-stability-of-life-and-work-and-school-and-economic-security-and-good-health-might-resume. is it a mask of apathy?
masks. we all wear them. not just this summer. people-masks are situational, circumstantial. masks often depend on who we are with; the narratives we state often depend on who is near. it’s human. consistent inconsistency.
it makes me wonder. in this very human-ness, in this time and any other, if, standing at the checkout at the store, all masks of truth were visible, all narratives open for critique, would the cashier say, “i like your mask”?
a long while.
since last i saw you. and you. and you. it is dizzying. the yous and the longwhiles.
it makes me want an RV, updated map apps and a little bit of time.
i’m finding myself talking to people these days – people who have gone on to different planes of existence like my sweet momma or my poppo. i ask them advice. i tell them tales of the day. i bemoan the challenges of our world with them; i wonder with them.
twenty-eight years ago today my big brother crossed over. the transition of here to there is something of great ponderance for human beings. we don’t know. we profess to knowing, but we hardly know. we only know what it feels like to be left behind, missing and yearning. i will forever-and-ever yearn to be within embracing distance of my parents, my brother, and loved ones who have no tangible form but whose silken threads-of-being are eternally wrapped around me, always reminding me.
it’s like that for people still here on this very planet, people who we have not seen, people who we pine about when last we saw them.
truth be told, i spent the last couple of days in tears. not slow-motion-tears that quietly weep down my face. but the kind of tears where your ribs and your back hurt the next day; the kind of tears that swell your eyelids and make mascara application undoable. the kind of tears that remind you how much you love someone and how much you miss them. for me, this time, this was about my children. it’s impossible to really explain what this missing feels like. i can say it is wrapped up in the act of breathing, in every aspect of living a day, in the darkening of light.
the pandemic has brought exponential pain to people in our world. suffering its disease, we worry about those who have been diagnosed, we grieve those who have succumbed to its ugliness, we wrangle with the illogical, implausible, grossly inadequate response of our land. we are floored at those who are picking fights over this monster that is on a path of destruction which has unfathomable fallout. we cannot understand the division and the planting of flags-of-the-ridiculous when peoples’ very health and lives are at stake; what truly matters more than that? it’s insanity: how can so many people be so lost? we try to sustain good attitudes and do the right thing. we try to protect each other. we try to avoid being a reason that this pandemic is spreading. and we miss everyone we love in the process.
we wonder: when? when will “last” be now? when will we see you?
and we hope, with great desperation, that it is not a long while.
LAST I SAW YOU ©️ 1997, 1999 & 2000 kerri sherwood
we went somewhere.
for the first time in months – we went somewhere other than the grocery store, costco, two trips to the hardware store, a very few outdoor-socially-distanced-six-or-less-conversations or all-things-work-related. we still haven’t been to a restaurant, a bar, a hair salon, a department store. we still haven’t picked up curbside or gone to a barbecue. we still haven’t seen family. we have seen an insanely limited number of friends-who-are-family-to-us. no one has come over. we still haven’t had any outings with others. we still haven’t gone to the beach or the pool. we still haven’t rented a boat or a canoe, had a pedicure or even proper follow-up on my broken wrists.
but on friday, with more stress in my heart than i could manage at the time, we left our house and took a drive out in the county and stopped at an antique shoppe. donning masks with paper towels in hand to grab the door handle and a plastic bag full of wipes, we entered the shoppe which had a sign that asked patrons to use “common sense” while there. although the proprietor did not wear a mask, several of the customers had them on. there were those slightly leering looks we have grown familiar with, but we continued on our merry way regardless. this is wisconsin and, according to the nary-a-conscience-among-them-wisconsin supreme court justices, no one has to do anything they don’t wanna do here. nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah.
it was nerve-wracking. but antique shoppes are places where we are in our element so we persevered. we didn’t linger as we usually do. we touched very few things and were careful to social distance around others we passed in the aisles.
heartened by our little jaunt, we left and went to another shoppe just over the illinois border. here, everyone had a mask on and every person you passed made room and verbally said, “excuse me” or “thank you” as you made eye and trying-to-be-expressive-eyebrow-contact with them. we felt more comfortable there – cognizance of the need for caution during a global pandemic is a sign of an intelligent being, in our meager opinions. and the people at this shoppe seemed cognizant.
it’s exhausting, but we’ll keep being vigilant. in thinking about what we can or might do in days-to-come, we’ll still keep away from places and people and activities that are clearly not safe. we’ll still wash our hands and socially distance. and we will keep beating the wear-a-mask drum.