reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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apples and numbers. [k.s. friday]

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.

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MILLNECK FALL from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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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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worried. [k.s. friday]

bridge box

i am worried.

in a tenuous time of fraying loyalties and the aggressive recruiting of followers, people are being indoctrinated into what they believe are the-cool-groups, welcomed with open arms, social-media “love-bombed” and, it would seem, encouraged to believe that which has not been proven to be true.

indoctrination (noun):  the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

uncritically.  terrifying.  without critical thought.  without mining for facts.  acolytes of persons who gaslight, persons who claim absolute knowledge and power, persons who, like the scum on a glass of sour milk, rise from the acidification of true idealism, true tenets, the true basis of a society as a community.

i am worried.

the bridge between us as a country seems as crumbling as the infrastructure of old roads and bridges across this nation.  the fragile bridge sways now in the gentlest of breezes.  the bricks, mortar, concrete, steel are wearing thin, their veneers weathering storms of severed ties, storms of conspiracy over fact, storms of cronyism over love.  the bridge-slayers taunt, tempt with poison fruit, the oldest story of stories.  the ideologue-apostles forego conversation for testaments of belonging, baseless creeds.  the indoctrination devours relationships, forming unions useful only to itself, without heed to emotional ties or history.  crazed, yet measured, words of untruth and hatred blur clear vision to the other side.

the bridge ceases to exist.  it becomes but a shadow.

and i am worried.

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BRIDGE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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artists. funambulists. [two artists tuesday]

available

between us we have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees, four businesses, a coaching and consulting practice, various certifications, multiple states of teaching credentials, fifteen albums, four singles, hundreds of paintings, multiple play-scripts, countless productions and concerts and performances and gallery showings, a radio show, four cartoons, books, blogs that contain a few thousand posts, numerous and diverse leadership positions in theatres and churches and educational institutions, too many non-profits to count, long resumes and a combined total of over eighty years of work experience.

we are artists.  and, as you know, that is not the easy path.  it’s gig economy in a corporate environment.  it means piecing things together, working a plethora of jobs at once, purchasing your own healthcare, investing in your own so-called retirement, advocating for your own value, balancing, balancing, balancing.  the tightrope is thin, but anyone doing the tightrope dance (funambulism) is well-acquainted with the balancing pole and standing tall in the center of mass on the rope, necessities in an artist’s life.

in a workplace conversation once, i was asked how i would even speculate about having a second job.  an incredulous moment, as a person who has always had simultaneous multiple jobs, it was ludicrous to me that the person asking this, who apparently has always lived in absolute bullet-pointed stability, could not fathom having more than one job at a time.  were artists to be so lucky.  were any gig workers, in their area of professionalism, to be so lucky.  that is another world entirely.

so we are always on the lookout for additional gigs, so to speak.  education, experience and skills from the wide spectrum of the first paragraph speak well to helping with growth and change processes and insight and honoring students and employees, not to mention the separate and interwoven threads of music, painting, theatre.  these experiences that span decades speak to the arts, that which the world turns to in times of chaos, unrest, dis-ease, periods marked by adjectives like distraught, devastated, frenzied, unprecedented, uncertain, arduous, splintered, divided, distrustful, untrue, exhausted.  the arts – that which feeds society.  yet, “creativity takes courage,” understated henri matisse (painter, 1869-1954).

as many of you, we receive solicited and unsolicited lists of jobs in our email.  we peruse through the obvious ill-fitting options like neurosurgeon or stem cell biological researcher; we look for opportunities to plug our work as artists into the world.  we are also emailed positions that line up with our professional abilities and tenure in the arts.

and this is what we’ve been sent:  sandwich ARTIST and GALLERY advisor.  it’s hard to know whether to laugh or be insulted.  sandwich artist?  if this is really what subway calls their employees, i would say most of us have related experience since the first time, at like age 3, we spread peanut butter and jelly on our wonder bread.  and gallery advisor?  tesla, really?  car dealer concierge maybe?

it’s a dim future if you cannot see relevance for the arts in a society, if they are secondary to anything and everything else, if they present in sandwiches and on dealership floors.  where are the organizations, the institutions, the employers who recognize the multi-faceted diamonds in an artist’s perspective, an artist’s drive, an artist’s commitment, an artist’s vision, an artist’s project-driven dedication and multi-layered stamina, an artist’s sensitivity, an artist’s heart?

as two artist-funambulists, we’d like something better for the gifted artists giving breath to joy and hope and tomorrow.  from the tightrope of this gig economy, it makes our toes curl to think any differently.

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a shred of hope. [k.s. friday]

a shred of hope box

to write on-the-fly requires a certain letting-go.  one cannot be too exacting.  there is always another note, another rest, another phrase, another measure.  always a chance to iron out the details, clean up the rough, rake the sandy grit.  composing improvisationally is stepping into not-knowing and following threads that show up.  because, instrumentally, i am typically an it’s-a-song-without-words writer, i listen and hang on to where the thread brought me, seizing it to wrap back to themes stated, to gestures implied.  the starting gate is full of imagery or word-phrases, emotions to elicit.  a shred of hope rose up in front of me today and this time, in an effort to not push back against hope, i answered.  the call and response to a scintilla of hope spoke in glimmers of 1 minute 42 seconds.

yesterday was an historic day.  after days, months, years, decades of not really speaking up, i found myself speaking.  processing the balance of liability-seesaws, i wondered why i hadn’t spoken aloud about things that were not ok, things that were clearly unfair, inequitable, people who were aggressive, people who were passive-aggressive, those who were destructive, those who undermined, those who did not help.  i felt the confines of the wrapping-which-kept-me-quiet and pulled tightly across my heart drop ever so slightly away, fibers draping and drifting. voice, a deep breath, a little lighter.  a beginning.  a shred of hope.

wednesday was an historic day.  we gathered together online again, ukuleles and singers. and yesterday i read a post from one of the young women there, “when you play music in a group where the ages range from 31 to 94 you always feel blessed.”  community.  shared.  a place of i-love-you-love-me.  a shred of hope.

tuesday was an historic day.  a brilliant woman of afro-indian descent was chosen as the vice-presidential running mate of the democratic party’s candidate.  oh, where we have finally come, where we will finally go.  a shred of hope.

monday was an historic day.  the derecho roared by.  our tall old trees were spared.  this time the rain did not pour in by the air conditioner.  the dog and the cat shared the basement with us until the tornado warning expired.  we sipped wine and rocked in rocking chairs, listening to the sound of the wind and rain above us.  our little space in the world was safe.  a shred of hope.

the prayer flags shred in the wind, sending prayers off into the universe.  bits and pieces fall to the ground or fly off in the breeze.  a perfect heart landed on our deck.  a shred of hope.

it all doesn’t change the lost-ness of last friday’s on-the-fly.   we have much to weave back together and so much to let go in this broken narrative, a tapestry of individuals, families, cities, states, a country, a world in pain.

but there is a shred of hope.

if you would like to listen to more of my music, i would ask you to please download it here on iTunes instead of streaming it. it’s how i make a living. every download counts.

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kindly consider following this blog while facebook navigates its way to restoring my blog to its platform.  thank you so much.

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©️ 2020 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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a dance in the night. [k.s. friday]

slow dance

to sit in the dark.  to watch the flicker of flame on the yard torches.  to stare into the bonfire.  to listen to the crickets.  to feel cool air brush your face.  to walk barefoot in dewy-damp grass.  to slowly swirl, in time to music, in time to your heartbeat, in time to deep breaths.

we all need a break.

instead of a mind racing-against-itself in the middle of the night, we need a dance with slow.  we need a dance of hope.  we need a dance of release.

do you remember how to slow dance…in the middle of the night?

even in the bleakest of times, even in the dark.  the tiniest pinprick of light through an inky sky will remind us of the trillions of stars that are always there.

 

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SLOW DANCE ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood