reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the notion of attention. [d.r. thursday]

picture-of-the-day is a driving force. every day now – straight – for over two years – i have posted a picture of the day on our thread. when covid was first present in our world, now two years and a couple months ago, my son suggested that each of us, my son and daughter and i, post a photo a day and it would keep me feeling more in the loop; the connection would be reassuring. i oh-so-agreed and have been really deliberate about these images.

no words necessary, though any kind of descriptor is welcome, these photographs are a glimpse into each other’s lives. i take it really seriously and i celebrate any time either one of them posts a photo, loving the window-in. and all day i look for the photo-capture that will be my picture-of-the-day. it’s a practice i love. intentional observing of the world around me. we all see the same things; we all see different things. i love noticing. and i have found – as in anything – the more i notice, the more i notice.

“the notion of attention … to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer…” (“our world” – text by mary oliver, photographs by molly malone cook)

we hiked over the weekend. we hadn’t been on any trail in a couple of weeks as the weather has been uncooperative. our hike was punctuated with my stopping and stopping again. so much to photograph, so many changes in the forest. i want to go slow, slow; this is not a get-your-heartrate-up exercise, but my heart was exercised nonetheless. so much beauty to see, so many tiny miracles within my reach.

david does not rush me. we were there – on that trail – to rejuvenate, to breathe, to take it all in. how do i capture that in a picture-of-the-day, i wondered. i photograph the new dandelion sharing gravel with the path. i photograph shy tiny pink flowers bending down toward the earth. i photograph the mayapple which has suddenly burst into the underbrush world. i photograph the trillium not yet blooming and wonder aloud which warmer day this week they will open to the sun. so many greens. full spectrum, not just the verdant new spring grass. slow, slow.

“i lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…” (walt whitman – “song of myself”)

it rained the day of this post’s photograph. again. it had been raining for days, grey end on end. my picture-of-the-day would depict the rain, a dissatisfaction with the lack of sun. but, even in that frustration-of-waiting for the lamb days, i knew i could find something to notice about the rain, something to give pause.

the trees in the reflection – still leafless – reminded me. the rain falling here – brutally absent in drought-corners of this world – gentle and insistent, driving and adamant in turn, brings new growth, a transition to a new season, washing away the dust and salt of winter and its tears.

“it was my pleasure to notice such things…” (mary oliver – “our world”)

*****

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visit DAVID’S gallery – take your time. go slow, slow.


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good seed. [d.r. thursday]

poised and ready. tiny seedpods waiting. their release will come with the wind and the rain and, surely, this spring is bringing that. and they will float and fall to the ground and be sent swirling and land in the meadow and the pond, on the river and on decaying nurselogs nearby in the forest. some will take root and others will not, for their form has changed too much in the rain and wind for their function to remain the same. but there are many, so the tree’s explosion of blossoms have guaranteed its legacy.

in every moment of communicating with others we are tiny seedpods. poised and ready to release with the wind. what will we scatter?

our words are not without volition; we have the choice of what to say, the choice of how to say it. the moments of measuring a response, of pondering a question…these are moments of great import.

“all summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.” (mary oliver- what i have learned so far)

how many times we wish we could take back a comment, retract a judgement, shrink back from a story told. how many times we wish an other would-not-have-said-that, would apologize, would consider all the implications of something said in spew, or even in -what they feel is- jest. we know a tiny slowing-down, a quick brain-heart-lips check-in, a fact-check, a compassionate re-wording, would all change the minute our words – or theirs – hit the air, with the wind ready to sail them on and on.

tiny seeds sown on the breezes of everyday life. seeds that take root and grow.

“we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land…”(stephen schwartz/john michael tebelak – all good gifts)

good seed.

“i’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (maya angelou)

*****

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prayer of opposites, acrylic 48″x48″

PRAYER OF OPPOSITES ©️ david robinson



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cautious discernment. [d.r. thursday]

and the dried grassy flower stands tall, not yet shrinking back, not yet bowing to the wind. it opens its arms to the sun and, equally, to the rain; it intimately knows how each feels. it waits – for there is nothing else to do. it stokes energy – for it cannot survive unless it conserves. we pass by, admiring the firework of its winter bloom.

soon, soon, it will regenerate. soon, soon, a stem will grow, sturdy, tall. soon, soon, a rosette will green. soon, soon, it will bloom, tiny flowers, clusters on its thick stem.

and one might think how lovely it would look in a simple bud vase, on a side table, in its winter simplicity or soon-soon-spring-blossoming.

quick research reveals it could be golden alexander or perhaps queen anne’s lace, not-toxic and somewhat toxic, respectively. a google-photo-search suggests it is possibly wild parsnip, absolutely toxic, invasive, causing severe burns and years-long discoloration of the skin, like queen anne’s lace with a big bite.

“things are [- sometimes -] not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.” (buddha)

identification – now – in the fallow – is not easy.

when there are tiny flowers, when there is foliage…maybe then it will be easier. it will, clearly, be an important discernment.

often we gaze upon things that seem to be attractive, seem to be beautiful, that tease us to reach for them.

perhaps a reminder to exercise caution.

*****

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see an owl, acrylic, 24″x48″


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breck. [d.r. thursday]

breck rode home in the back. just shy of five years ago. it came potted in black plastic and we happily bought it a giant clay pot so that it could live on the deck with us, next to the old glider, tucked in by the house and shielded from too much wind. we watched its tiny leaves quake in the breezes and marveled at this piece of one of our absolute favorite places, breckenridge, colorado.

during the winter we wrapped the bottom in plastic to protect the pot and keep its roots a little warmer; plus we weren’t really sure where to plant our tiny aspen. our yard isn’t that big and there are big trees that could block the sun from breck, not to mention that we wondered about the possibility of breck’s potential height. twenty to eighty feet is a significant range and, even with a norm of fifty feet, planning might be necessary.

we doted on breck and talked to it every time we passed by. when our daughter house-sat for a summer, we asked her to talk to breck as well. we did not want this displaced tree to feel akilter, out of place, lonely.

a couple summers ago we planted breck in the ground. we placed it back in the corner of the yard, right in the center of ferns and hosta, under a bit of shadowy guidance of some big oaks and maples and next to the big pine tree. we could still see it from the deck and the patio and we hoped it would flourish in its new spot, for, surely, it had outgrown its pot.

breck did well in the summer until things grew up around it. the thing about aspens is that they need sunlight. its branches began to suffer; there wasn’t enough sun getting through. we needed to transplant this baby tree.

in the middle of dogga’s running circle there are some ornamental grasses. they live next to his roundabout sign (the european variety – clockwise). very carefully, in the fall, we moved our sapling aspen into this wide open spot, full-sunlight-possible. we have watched it as it adjusts.

aspens have a cloning nature and, though we cannot see this, breck is hopefully sending out other stems underground. one day in the far future when breck is no longer, there will be new growth and, thus, its clone can live thousands of years. as long as there is sun and rain and things aren’t covered in concrete, our backyard will always have the potential of being an aspen stand.

now that it is spring – well, sort of – we are waiting. there is new rich copper-brown growth and there are buds, leaves patiently timing their grand opening. we will watch carefully and research what breck might need to sustain. we want to give breck every chance to thrive.

we can’t wait to sit on the patio in adirondack chairs in warm sun watching the new leaves of our cherished little aspen quake in the breeze.

*****

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the forest AND the trees. [d.r. thursday]

it was 1999 and bugdom reigned supreme, rollie pollies and ladybugs and fire ants all in the computer game kingdom, with plenty of other-bugs helping and undermining rollie mcfly. it was the early days of games with such vibrant graphics and i distinctly remember being wowed by such a ground-level view of the world.

the chipmunks are in their glory these days. our birdfeeder is always a draw; they have it all figured out. sometimes i wonder about their perspective on the world, these tiny adorable creatures, so low to the ground, scampering here and there. what it must be like when you are in the grass and you can only really see a little bit ahead and, if you turn your head to the sky, up. they don’t seem to mind that they have no real big picture. perhaps that is why they seem so happy-go-lucky and intent on the tasks at hand. over and over they will stock up their tiny cheeks, puffing out and puffing out, and then run across the patio and dart under the deck. again and again. they are not thwarted by the repetition of it all. they just keep on keeping on.

we had a really fun visit with our son the other day. in chicago, on a cubs’ game day, we wove our way through wrigleyville and lakeview neighborhoods to see the new place he would be moving. a cool two-story lofted apartment, it was a bright and happy place. he measured the space for furniture, calculating what he already had that would fit and what new items he would need. he’s done this a few times before, so he is very adept at the whole figuring-out stuff thing. both my children have already moved more times in their lives than i have in my entire life. they are much better at paring down and settling in to a new place than i am.

he mentioned that he would need an ant trap, which, for some reason, surprised me. “yeah,” he said, laughing, “there are ants in the city.” and, apparently, you need to be aware on the ground floor. then, in a told-you-so moment, he pointed to the tiniest ant on the sliding glass door wall. waaaaay high up on the wall this ant crawled. perspective-wise, were we to be crawling and were you to do the math equation proportionately, we would be on everest. nevertheless, the ant kept going. i wanted to bring it outside, but he assured me it would find its way. poor thing. it was a vast sea of white paint and all straight up and down. even bugdom wouldn’t have prepared the ant for this; bugdom was all outside – a lawn, a pond, a forest, a garden and an anthill.

the other day i saw a brown marmorated stink bug (known colloquially as simply “stink bug” and with the acronym “bmsb”). it was on an outside screen window crawling up. now, these poor bugs are not people-biters, but they are surely named properly and no one wants them around. i don’t know where it was going either. i can’t imagine why it would want to be up on the roof, so i’m guessing it was somewhat lost. when you can’t see beyond the screen, it’s hard to find your way.

we are fortunate, we humans. we have amazing prowess to be able to see the horizon. if it isn’t visible, if the horizon isn’t clear, we have the ability to climb higher to seek a better view, an overlook. though i suspect that some opinions are formed at dirt level, most of us seek the air and space to sort through what’s in front of our noses and see the bigger picture. our kingdom isn’t limited to the next grass blade.

rather, we have every advantage for gaining knowledge, learning alternate viewpoints, overcoming a narrow frame of reference, understanding the synergy of working together. we can form educated points of view, evaluate the difference between truth and falsehood, choose compassion and kindness as our stance toward others.

we can see blades of grass AND the landscape of the lawn.

more importantly, we can see the forest AND the trees.

*****

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restless and fidgety. [d.r. thursday]

and the saga continues. april. “april showers bring may flowers,” someone quips. everyone turns and snarls. that kind of positivity is just a bit much.

i looked at my weather app – again. we have several important places on there: chicago and charlotte (to see what our kids are experiencing), denver and tampa and columbia (family), breckenridge and dory (mountain towns we check in on), brevard (another mountain town we check in on), washington island (because we lived there), northport (because it was home).

the weather was iffy this past weekend (no surprises there). as we drew closer to it, i started googling real estate companies. zillow and realty.com, redfin, trulia. looking at houses in places with better weather, houses in places with different terrain, looking at house plans for places we dream about being. i’ve lived here a long, long time – longer than i have lived anywhere. it’ll be thirty-four years this year – thirty-three of them in this cherished house – more than half my life.

and like spring poking at us, teasing, causing us to be restless and fidgety, thoughts of living somewhere else do the same thing. poke, poke. prodding me…think about it. “what’s keeping you here?” someone asked me. “you grew into it because you had to,” else someone explained my midwest life.

the sky is glowing orange right now. literally glowing. there is some fog over the lake so the rising sun is diffusing into it. it’s pretty stunning. i suspect it’s supposed to be some sort of consolation prize for the rain and snow. uh-huh.

the sun pops out over the cloud of fog and streams into the bedroom. the quilt lights up, david peeks out the window, dogga stirs at our feet, the mourning dove outside coos. and one more morning – yet again – i think about how much i love this home.

*****

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beachgrass and self-care. the same. [d.r. thursday]

and i can imagine that i have carefully laid down a blanket on the dunes of fire island or smith point park further east. i can hear the surf rolling and i can feel the sun on my face, warm sand heating the blanket under me. the grasses sway in the breeze and i can hear the tiniest gasps of music from a radio playing a long distance away. it is a piece of heaven.

and so much a piece of my memory that i could feel it when i looked at this through-the-grasses photo taken in my midwest front yard. things that are visceral.

i imagine that the next time i see the atlantic ocean or even long island sound, i will feel the same way as when i first see the mountains or pass into the canyons. it takes me by surprise every time, though i don’t know why i’m surprised. yet it’s overwhelming. the mountains. the ocean. for different reasons and for the same reason. it suddenly occurs to me – all at once and little by little – that i am but a tiny piece of this vastness. were i to not feel it, it would still exist. i am lucky enough to feel it.

i am writing this – a few days ahead – on my birthday. i just had a glorious breakfast in bed, a phone call with my beloved daughter. i’ve opened cards and read text messages and facebook posts. it is sunny and very cold and we will wrap up in warm clothes and go take a hike somewhere.

i was awake in the middle of the night. my beloved son texted me just after midnight. and then i laid awake.

the quilt and i talked about life until david woke up hearing our murmurings. we watched a trail or two and then, the wisdom of the wander women, amazing thru-hiking backpackers of a certain age. they talked about their feet, which got my attention. issues with their feet. bunions. arthritis. toes turning. they recommended tiny gel-rubber wedges and orthotics, ways to honor their own self-care.

suddenly i found tears streaming down my face. as a person who, for instance, wears a wrist brace and a finger splint to sleep, i have – for some reason – labeled this, in a kind of deprecating why-do-you-need-this way, as high-maintenance, a weakness. hearing them – “solution-oriented” – dedicated to gently and intentionally caring for their “gracefully aging bodies” so that they could go and DO – was visceral. i could feel their self-love, and the support they had for each other in that self-love, in thriving, just like i could feel the sun on my face and warm sand under me. not a weakness. no…instead, indeed, a strength. it was a moment for me.

i don’t imagine that i will weep when i try the gel wedges in my hiking boots. i don’t imagine that i will cry if i place an insole under my foot. though maybe i will. it’s not exactly the same as revisiting the mountains or catching the first glimpse of the ocean. but i might be underestimating it.

the beachgrass protects the dunes, trapping windblown sand. it preserves the beach, the barrier islands against severe wave or wind or storm. we work to secure ecosystems in the mountains, protecting vegetation and animals from destruction the best we can, preservation for water and energy.

last night, in the middle of the night as i moved from 62 to 63, i was reminded again: that though i am tiny-in-vast, just like each of us, we are – yes – here to feel it. with all the trappings and obstacles and challenges and gloriouses – we are responsible to care for our bodies – the best we can. to love each inch, despite anything. to support each other in that care.

to realize – suddenly – that finger splints and tiny gel wedges are the same as beachgrasses, really. all part of the same world. it really all counts the same.

*****

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a day at the beach: mixed media 38×52
spoons and sandcastles: mixed media 28×57.5

A DAY AT THE BEACH, SPOONS AND SANDCASTLES ©️ 2017, 2018 david robinson


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on-the-bench & off-the-bench. [d.r. thursday]

every sunday morning for years and years we have sent a photograph to each other. every single sunday, mostly without fail. there might be one or two we missed, but no more than that. it is a cherished tradition and i envision us as little old ladies still sending texted photos on sunday mornings.

it started because most people we know are not sitting on a pipe organ bench first thing on a sunday morning. since we both were, we shared “this is where i am in the world right now and i am thinking of you” sentiments, knowing, without saying all those words, the other would completely understand all that meant.

for over a year now i have continued to receive them: benchviews, a slice of her church, a close-up of a pew or ornate woodwork, a candle, linens draped on the chancel, flowers, registration stops of the organ, piano keys, measures of music – all while my photos to her have dramatically changed.

instead, my early sunday morning photographs include various quilts, coffee mugs, shadows playing on the wall or on the fence, views of snow falling between miniblinds, the backyard, airbnb’s where we have awakened, out-of-town-out-the-window, glorious breakfast, and dogdog. the rule is – where you are right now – and since that is no longer at a church my view is sometimes narrower and sometimes broader, both.

not working at church every single sunday has given me much to think about. at first i really missed it. truth, for a long time i really missed it. thirty-something years is a long time. i was devastated by the loss of our community-family and a job i loved. i missed the organ bench and knowing which pipes were ornery and the choir and the ukulele band and those hauntingly beautiful handbells. i missed the curmudgeon of a piano. i missed dueting with the guitarist – boom mics and cables and the occasional feedback. i missed the tiny pew up front and the familiar musty smell of the balcony.

each church i worked at through the years has had its magic. but each church i worked at through the years has also had its toxins. not unlike -really- any other place of employment, being on the “inside” affords a different view – snapshots of the good, the bad and, definitely, the ugly. churches are not immune to that. and that’s the stuff i don’t miss.

because in our hearts, the one place we go that we would expect to be consistent, certainly not divergent, with mission – of kindness and grace in some manner or form – would be the religious institution we have chosen to be part of. we would expect the people there – whether in leadership or in congregation – to go the extra mile, to set an example, to navigate and solve difficulty, to negotiate differences, to reject-forswear-renounce personal agenda, to seek unity and transparency, to sort to love.

seeing – up close and personal – that isn’t the case is a rude awakening. no, we don’t expect perfection anywhere. yes, we do expect trying.

i adore seeing susan’s from-the-bench pictures, all so viscerally intimate and always part of me. and i love sending her my view as well. so, as it has been for over a year now, she’ll continue to get photos off-the-bench now. it’s not what it was.

dogga laid tucked in on the quilt next to me as i sipped coffee and watched the light gather in corners of the room. sunday morning. i took this picture to send her.

and i realized that i – finally – don’t miss that organ bench anymore.

*****

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browse david’s HELD IN GRACE painting series

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a different planet. [d.r. thursday]

we were on another planet. we had clearly stepped off the one that was home and we were catapulted into another. we were at the mall.

now, we never go to the mall. so there is that. but we had something to return – which we could have shipped – but the mall in milwaukee was a destination for a cold saturday afternoon and we decided to drive up.

we took all backroads, naturally. went through neighborhoods and farmland. stayed out west going north until it was time to turn east. then hit all the congestion.

the parking lot was full; it was astonishing. we drove around a bit and found a space. littlebabyscion makes that easier. we pulled in, put our coats and gloves back on, grabbed our packages and got out. there was a car in the lane waiting for another spot. the windows were down and we heard, “they have MASKS on!” as we got out. the derisive voice said nothing else. we looked at each other and rolled our eyes, continuing what would be our launch into a different solar system.

we walked into the mall.

there were a zillion people there. and you could pretty much count the ones with masks on with your two hands. we were the anomaly. clearly, a different galaxy. one where there was no pandemic, there were no people still at risk, no variants of the disease, no questions about how to be safe.

we hadn’t looked for the outside entrance to the store we needed – that might have saved us some staring – but we thought it might be fun to walk through the mall to the department store. we truly haven’t been in a mall in years. there are a couple outdoor malls we have enjoyed, but nothing really in the hey-let’s-go-to-the-mall of days gone by.

we were the bright-green-with-dark-green-ovals-purple-underside-wavy-leaves of the rattlesnake plant. perfectly harmless, a graceful air purifier, but with a name attached that makes others wary. we were mask-wearers and, let-me-tell-you, people did not refrain from reacting.

we walked directly to the returns desk – where, incidentally, they had masks on – and took care of business. we meandered just a little. i mean, it’s nordstrom’s and i don’t know anyone who doesn’t like, say, that shoe department. then we left and took quick scoots into pottery barn and williams sonoma. there were far fewer people in those shops and we stood at the cutlery, studying it and simultaneously pointing to the one we would pick, if we were picking silverware at this very moment. we laughed to discover it was the same pattern and perused the olive oils and flake salt as we walked out.

it wasn’t far from there to the exterior door. there were many stores we hadn’t even seen, a whole second floor of potential shopping. our hour or so seemed enough. we felt like fish out of water. uncomfortable. like a beautiful plant with great benefits assigned a bad name – “rattlesnake”.

“liberals!” floated from hanging over our heads back into the milky way as we walked outside to the car.

*****

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EARTH INTERRUPTED painting series


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that voice. [d.r. thursday]

if only it were all that simple. seeing into the future, that is. we might be able to avoid the potholes, the pitfalls, the problems that are in our merry way. but, alas, that is not so. and, unlike oatly and its humorous point-on prediction on the lid of its coffee “ice cream”, we struggle between punting and pure intuition, hopping and skipping and maybe crawling our way into the future.

punting is a given. everyone punts. the older i get, the more i realize people are making it up on the fly. lots of experience, education, research, failures and giant successes help, but it is all kind of punting, after all.

but intuition is a funny thing. we can hear it in our inner ear; we can feel it pokin’ at us, like a snickers bar supposedly pokes at our tummies. sometimes we listen and other times we poo-poo it, dismissing it as frivolous or overly obsessive thinking. there are times, however, when we listen and it is spot-on.

in 1993, in august, i took both my small children to the mall. my daughter was three and my son just seven months old. we went to walk around, watch people, maybe purchase a few things. we were going to stop at mcdonald’s on the way home, as we always did, to have a happy meal. driving back from the mall i made up silly songs about going to mcdonald’s and my little girl was excited. this was our mcdonald’s, the one where she knew how to carry her little meal from the counter, around the corner into the back dining room, to the very back table opposite the rear door, the farthest away from people smoking, because, back then, people still smoked in restaurants.

as we drove down the main road of our town toward the mcdonald’s, in the middle of silly songs and a gleeful child’s anticipation, i heard it.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” the voice said.

it was clear. i looked around, surprised to even hear another voice. but there was no other adult in the minivan.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” it repeated.

i shushed what i now believed was the voice in my head and continued singing our mcdonald’s happy song.

it got more demanding, “don’t go to mcdonald’s today. don’t.”

that feeling you get in your belly started. the voice nagged me. i started to backpeddle, “well, maybe we will go home instead,” which made my little girl cry out, “no!” from the back seat.

“go home and make a ham sandwich,” was the weirdest. but it was clear. the voice was a ham-sandwich-pusher.

i started to listen. i had lost my big brother just a year prior and he had shown up from time to time, a wave from the next dimension it seemed. and he loved ham sandwiches.

i had to decide fast because we were rapidly approaching the mcdonald’s. i excitedly told my little girl, who – in three-year-old fashion – did not pivot immediately, that we were going to have a picnic at home instead. that we would have ham sandwiches and potato chips and we’d play we’re-on-a-picnic.

we passed the mcdonald’s and kept heading home, a few miles away.

by the time we were unloading into our house i heard the sirens in the distance. the house phone was ringing when we walked in.

“did you hear what just happened at mcdonald’s?” my girlfriend asked.

my stomach lurched.

a man with a gun had gone in the back door of the restaurant and started shooting people. tragically, two people at the table opposite the back door were killed.

i don’t know if they had happy meals; i know we would have.

i know if i could have seen into the future i would have planned on – and sang songs in the minivan about – ham sandwiches and a picnic on the living room floor. i know that tiny bit of adamant intuition-voice saved our lives. i don’t know how that works. i will not question it.

it was a gift.

*****

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