reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the talmud, the meditation room, the woods. [merely-a-thought monday]

we had never parked in that section of the daily parking garage, so we never saw it. creatures of habit, we didn’t park there this time either, but we walked across the driveway to use the elevator and the interior moving walkway on that side. for how many times i have flown out of the milwaukee airport, i was surprised to find we could walk inside instead of through the cold terminal parking garage. the walkway was much warmer than the damp parking structure and, since we were going to florida coatless, it was a much better choice.

we rounded the last corner – the one that takes you to the third-level-skywalk to the terminal – to find ancient words of wisdom marking an entrance to the airport’s meditation room. simple, beautiful, quiet – we never knew it was there, though it was completed in late 2017. “airports can be busy, hectic, and stressful places. the MKE meditation room provides a quiet, tranquil location for thought, reflection, prayer, and meditation.” (www.mitchellairport.com) we stopped into the meditation room on our way home. we sat for a few minutes, reading the inspirational words on the wall, closing our eyes in contemplation. it was surprisingly silent. it was right as the liminal space between the flight and home.

a few days ago – in the later afternoon – we hiked one of our favorite trails. we were stressed and needed the space and quiet of this familiar woods. we had been there days before, boots and snowpants through deep snow, trees stunning against the whiteness. it was beautiful. we find the ancient words of the talmud on this trail…we are sustained by its peace, we feel more hope for truth and justice as we walk in nature.

but this day was not quiet. and, though researching the mayhem revealed that it was a “woody invasive species clearing project,” we found the noise, the machinery, the devastated forest disturbing. nothing looked the same and, as much as we know this trail, it was hard to locate within it; without familiar trees and underbrush each bend in the trail looked different.

“removing invasive shrubs and trees in oak communities allows for enough sunlight to reach the ground level to encourage the growth of young native tree seedlings and other native vegetation.” (www.lcfpd.org) we felt somewhat relieved reading these words after our hike, understanding that these big changes were intentional and that the purpose was growth and sustenance of the savanna, prairie, and marsh wetland.

the talmud, the milwaukee meditation room, the preserved woods in northeastern illinois…all the same, i suppose.

it is the removal of the invasive, the obnoxious, the noise, falsity, injustice, all that is conflict-riddled, that allows the sun, that encourages, that sustains the world.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the asteroid. [merely-a-thought monday]

a large-moving-truck-sized asteroid missed the earth. apparently, not by much. npr called it a “very close encounter” and nasa said it was a “near miss”. it kind of puts things in perspective. i mean, what does anything angsty mean when all could be destroyed in a moment by a united-van-lines-projectile?

i suppose the wise among us would nod slowly at that question. they’d take a deep breath and exhale audibly before speaking. and then they’d point out that there are no guarantees – for any of it – and perhaps lighter hearts would be a better way to fly through this universe, skimming along, soaring, aerial acrobatics from moment to moment.

it’s been seven years. my sweet momma glimmered her way to heaven seven years ago and now, seven years later, we are interring her ashes. the wooden box that my brother-in-law holds gently in his hands is added to my dad’s niche in the columbarium. his ashes are in a hard cardboard heart-shaped box and my dad grins as her wooden box is added next to his, relieved that it wasn’t the other way around or my momma would have had something to say about his box being wood and hers being cardboard. nevertheless, our son said it best, “happy they are resting together.”

i brought my ukulele and a songsheet and we all gathered around and sang “always” before the niche was closed. it was simple. and short. and the service a row behind us had a twenty-one gun salute followed by taps – just in time as the caretaker replaced the granite door.

it’s sobering to be in the veteran’s cemetery. pristine and beautiful, but sobering. so many headstones. so many little granite doors.

i looked up – i wanted to remember the sky – perhaps the heavens – the moments we stood there, after. the sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze.

my sweet parents whispered “thank you” to us and my momma got that stink-eye look she gets. “now go live life,” she added. and my dad reached out his hand and diverted the asteroid’s path, just a little. but enough to make a difference.

always.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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our mirepoix. [merely-a-thought monday]

“…all mixed together for a mirepoix of a day,” jonathan-the-wise-one wrote.

what a delicious word. meer-pwah.

i did exactly this a few days ago. made a mirepoix – a sautéed combination of carrots and celery and herbs – in preparation for our homemade chicken soup. chicken soup is “good for what ails you,” according to my sweet momma. really, good for anything that ails you. we had spent time writing ahead – like this post – for there will be a few days we are away. and we had had a glorious fresh air walk – our faces were still flush from the cold wind.

i thought about a dear friend as i added fresh baby spinach leaves and ladled hot soup over them, wilting them. i thought about loida as we ate out of beautiful williams and sonoma bowls. we sipped red wine and talked about our families. we watched videos of jaxon. i thought about jen – who always has fun napkins – as i pulled out our 2023 napkins, willing 2023 to be a good year. we talked to 20 on the phone and sat up late-late-late to watch our son mix music on a livestream youtube. 2am is later than it used to be.

a mirepoix – the base – for flavorful soups and stews, that which is nourishing, life-giving, warming.

i can think of no better way to describe those around us – those people who have loved us into existence and those who hold on – than “our mirepoix”.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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this, too. [merely-a-thought monday]

in the middle of tempestuous times, you stand firm, dedicated and focused. you fight for what you believe in, you hold fast to what seems important. you are a warrior and you have a mission and you are unparalleled strength.

and the times pass and the seas level out and you slowly allow the storm to dissipate and the roiling foam on the waves to evaporate. you are a survivor and you have grace – for yourself, for others – and you are immeasurable learning.

“the way you look at things is the most powerful force in shaping your life.” (john o’donohue – anam cara)

it is in the tight holding-on, the clenching, the grudge, that the embers burn hot, easily sparked. it is in the loose acceptance, the fluid release, the forgiveness, that the embers are merely for warmth.

i could hear the firetruck getting closer and closer, until suddenly red lights were spinning around our living room. our neighbors had a chimney fire. they were fortunate and the fire department responded quickly and doused the inside of the chimney with chemical to extinguish the fire. we’ve gotten several chimney estimates in recent months, now put aside for a bit of time in order to budget in the pricey work. our neighbors have the stainless steel flues we want to install and so we wondered about how those could allow a fire to start; we thought the reason to install those was to avoid such a danger.

but it seems that even with stainless steel flues, one must chimney sweep them every few years. because the residue builds up. and then it waits. for the perfect moment, so to speak. a spark – uncontrolled – to ignite.

life lessons from a chimney. we hold dear to things we never want to forget. these memories are close to our hearts and cherished. i guess we need be mindful of those other things…the residue…the things best lived through and then forgotten, washed out to sea, chimney-swept from the places in our hearts residue might hide.

“this, too, shall pass.” (my sweet momma)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the spaces in-between. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we’re guided by the spaces in-between the facts,” she stated. and then continued, “instinct, faith…”

standing outside, inside the beauty of creative lighting, feeling as if we were somewhere between graphic and real, it was easy to wrap around these words. the spaces in-between, the rests between the notes, the white space, even the kerning. all the space in-between counts.

the moments of instinct – action based on sheer gut. the moments of faith – action based on exposed heart.

joey is back. every now and again he is posting a wild country backpacking trip. we are somewhat relieved to see him again; he hadn’t been around in a long time and we weren’t the only ones who seemed worried. we watched him pull out maps and trail books and choose the space in-between all of it, the wilderness through which he could instinctively find his way. joey coconato’s guiding star is not conventional. maybe that’s why we love to watch him.

the fulcrum of balance in daily life is a challenge. balancing the very real needs of living – paying bills, staying healthy, doing good work – with the very real needs of living – the moments, the recognition of time flying by, the autograph we leave behind. in-between the stuff of accumulated years we seek the space of minimal. in-between the daily barrage of tasks we seek the space of quiet. in-between the challenges and troubles we seek the space of grace, of peace.

there is the day we stand in the kitchen – each arguing for our “side” of the story, full-steam ahead fueled by accumulated stress and anxiety – when we look out the window and it has begun to snow. suddenly, there is air, a little space. suddenly the facts-of-the-matter seem less important. suddenly we realize that this moment of discontent counts too – and, just as suddenly, we realize we are tossing the heart out with the angst.

we read an article written by a philosopher/psychologist in finland. he referenced that “for five years in a row, finland has ranked no. 1 as the happiest country in the world”. since david and 20 are constantly trying to convince me to move to finland, i thought it in my best interest to read this article. surely it would shed light on why those sisu folks are so darn happy.

there were three basic tenets. the first – “we don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.” the second – “we don’t overlook the benefits of nature.” the third – “we don’t break the community circle of trust.”

just reading those made me think – for pretty obvious reasons – that the united states of america is doomed to unhappiness. i sighed. it would seem that finns walk in the spaces in-between more than we all do. I am hoping my quarter-finnish ancestry will help me list that way.

so how do we find the balance point, i wonder, that space between.

walking at the chicago botanic garden – in the middle of graphics and lights and magic and real-live-nature called “lightscape” – helped. the way home was a smorgasbord of holiday lights and displays. we passed lake bluff’s stunning square, all green and blue and twinkling white lights.

we arrived home, grateful to have taken the space in-between everything else – the worries, the busy, the not-enoughs – to appreciate awe without measure, to be outside on a cold winter’s night, to delight in what we saw surrounded by strangers who delighted with us.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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both-and. [merely-a-thought monday]

ricko and nick could be friends. they are on the same page…that trite-but-true one of potentiality.

in “my big fat greek wedding” nick portokalos quotes dear abby, “don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.” out in the middle of the arctic tundra, ricko dewilde firmly states, “the best way to lose an opportunity is to believe it’s not there.”

john denver in “looking for space” lyrics writes,

“on the road of experience
join in the living day
if there’s an answer
it’s just that it’s just that way

when you’re looking for space
and to find out who you are
when you’re looking to try and reach the stars
it’s a sweet, sweet, sweet dream
sometimes i’m almost there
sometimes i fly like an eagle
and sometimes i’m deep in despair…”

we are all out there – looking for space. no matter the ladder rung, no matter the age, no matter the skill level, no matter the lifeline of work and education and privilege and lack thereof, no matter the past, no matter what we believe, no matter the matter we are looking for space. the place to stand and breathe and be exactly who we are.

this week i flew like an eagle. this week i was deep in despair. i would guess – were we all to be candid – there were many with me up in that eagle-sky and many with me scrambling in muddy-despair. it’s both-and. life is a correlative conjunction.

and – in that infinitely latent and screaming way of possibility – the space we inhabit on this good earth is full of it.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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mangia! [merely-a-thought monday]

my sweet momma was not italian – no, not at all – but you wouldn’t have known it. “mangia!” she’d insist, “eat up!”.

a product of the great depression, my momma was not privy to fancy and did not prepare schmancy foods. she chose ragu as her pasta sauce of choice. prego made an appearance here and there, but she listed to the ragu side of the shelf. she made many a lasagna, pots and pans of meat sauce and spaghetti, a mountain of meatballs. we didn’t have designated pasta bowls – we used the same corelle plates we dined on everyday. it didn’t matter. everyone gathered felt nourished, by the food, by the conversation, by the love.

i would imagine that – just as we have here – there are refrigerators loaded with leftovers today. all kinds of appetizers – cheeses, hors d’oeuvre meats, olives, grapes … anything you can purchase at tenuta’s – a local italian grocery and specialty delicatessen – in all sorts of containers. leftover pies and chocolates and cookies stacked in containers. leftover homemade pasta sauce and plastic ziplocks with penne in containers. because it worked with the train schedule of our son and his boyfriend, our christmas day early afternoon meal was a big pot of chuck roast chili and cornbread followed by a trip to the station and big hugs and a wistful mom – me – waving goodbye as the they disappeared into the metra. in the fridge, the big stock-pot, chili not having made its way yet into a – yes – container.

i guess that it is the thrill of most moms to have as many as possible gathered around the table. it is a thrill to watch your family enjoy a good meal together, to have conversation, to laugh, to table-sit afterwards. the first thing i remember my momma asking anytime we’d all arrive was, “are you hungry? what can i get you?” and the last thing she’d do is hand us a doggie-bag of leftovers or a snack bag for our travels.

as the boys prepared to leave, i asked, “what can i send with you? what snacks do you need for on the train? what about these cookies?”, though in my mind i was envisioning sending them with a full charcuterie so they could munch on their brief train to chicago. one does not want one’s children to go hungry on the train.

we got home from the drive to the station a little noshy. we poured glasses of wine and peered into the container-crowded fridge. pulling out the leftover pasta, we heated it up in the microwave in its leftover container. the arugula salad was within grasp without having to move too many things around the fridge shelves, so we pulled that out as well. with merry christmas napkins and a couple forks, we sat at the kitchen table eating leftovers out of their respective storage vessels – unfancyschmancy containers. the dining room table – in the space between living room twinkling-light-lit-trees and sunroom happy lights – still had candles and cloth napkins, a tiny tree festive for each of our meals all together, but the kitchen called our names after the holiday rush and we gazed at the piles of bowls and plates, silverware and glassware on the counter, waiting to be tended.

and just before we left the kitchen to go put on our match-the-fam buffalo plaid pjs and thick socks to early-snuggle under a fuzzy blanket on the couch and watch “love actually” i could hear my momma. “are you sure you had enough? can i get you anything else? a little dessert?”

clearly, somewhere in her dna – even maybe way-way-way back – she was a little italian.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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revolutionary kindness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i had a crush on glen campbell. 1970s. i was 11. i was 13. i was 16. i was eking into 20. he was the rhinestone cowboy, a clean-cut country singer with penetrating eyes, a guitar and a smooth voice.

the moment i saw this bumper sticker on an suv in a parking lot i could hear the song he rocketed into the charts “try a little kindness”

“you’ve got to try a little kindness
yes, show a little kindness
just shine your light for everyone to see
and if you try a little kindness
then you’ll overlook the blindness
of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

(Bobby Austin / Curt Sapaugh)

the lyrics seemed obvious, even back then. but now, more so.

we avoided four events of road aggression yesterday. and we barely were out and about. it’s disconcerting, particularly in this season of light. but these last years – in particular – have made aggression socially acceptable. they have made anger rise up and people pummel others with words and actions. pushing back – equally as aggressively – is dangerous…in any arena.

january 2, 2021 the sheridan press: “with all that happened in 2020, it’d be easy to kick off 2021 with a literal kick — a kick in the teeth, a kick in the rear or perhaps by kicking in the door. none of those kicks, though, would solve the woes of 2020, even if they made you feel better in the short term. so rather than start the new year with a kick, consider starting 2021 with a different act of defiance. start it off with grace, peace and civility.”

a different act of defiance. though strikingly resonant for us related to 2020 moving into that next new year, the words in the sheridan press in the beginning of 2021 are no less relevant now as we approach 2023. ever more important to try a little kindness.

i picked up two packs of tissue paper in target. neither brand was priced, but they were those packs of 100 pieces of tissue – perfect for the season of wrapping and perfect for david’s studio. we have found this is a good time to buy tissue paper. because the display shelf also had no price tag, i figured i would check out each and then choose the least expensive, asking the self-checkout-helper-person to delete the pack we didn’t want. so we did just that. and we thanked the nice helper-person who helped – the people who miraculously show up when you touch “need assistance” on the touch screen.

we passed her on the way out and stopped and thanked her again before we left, adding a wish for happy holidays.

she was astonished. she stood there – glowing – and wished us a lovely holiday. we all smiled and exchanged parting pleasantries.

we talked about it all the way home. it was not a reach to say “thank you”, to express gratitude to someone doing their job, to be kind. kindness begets kindness. it’s not complicated. at all.

“…a simple act of kindness can feel revolutionary.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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our dinner with richard curtis. [merely-a-thought monday]

i suspect that richard curtis does not want to have dinner with us as much as we’d love to have dinner with him.

this brilliant filmwriter, director, producer extraordinaire – charming as all get-out – has it all figured out, really. he is right. it is all about love. it is all about the potential all around us, the gorgeousness. we all watch all his fabulously feel-good films – reminders to stay in the moment and in gratitude and to live today the way we would were we to have a chance to come back and do it again – and we all get lost anyway.

before dessert i would just sit and stare and listen intently, hoping to absorb some of his wit, his wisdom, his simplicities. the ability to portray life and love – as laura linney told diane sawyer about the movie love actually, “it’s also the repercussions of love and the responsibility of love and the heartbreak of love…it’s not just positive love.”

after dessert maybe we’d tell stories of real life and sip on port. he’d point to the walls in the dining room – if dinner was here, at our house – and ask how we achieved the paint texture. i’d tell him it’s called ‘hot-gun-wallpaper-removal-tracks’. he’d nod and say he likes it, that it feels somewhat tuscan, that he feels at home in our old house. he’d then ask about the sticks and stones and branches and rocks – lit and unlit – cairned and not-cairned – and i’d explain where they are from, what they represent, the moments we knew they’d come home with us. he’d nod again and say he’s glad we didn’t miss those – the mementos.

before he left maybe he would stop at the front door – at the old door handle – and remark about how unique it is. i’d tell the story about how it didn’t work for a little over a decade – i couldn’t unlock it from outside. i’d explain how i didn’t want to change it and suspected that i couldn’t afford to replace it or fix it – it has a complex lock system – and so i waited. until early last month. the locksmith was able to find a replacement barrel, tinkered with it a whole bunch, and it all stayed intact. we can now enter the house through the front door. with a key. sort of amazing stuff. again he’d nod. he hold the flat cold metal in his hand and feel how it feels to turn it to enter our home and look at us, saying, “yes. it’s gorgeous.”

we’d hug and he’d leave. we would stand in the doorway and wave at him, better for the last couple hours sitting with him, reminded. it is that every-day thing.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the same old tool with a whole buncha history. [merely-a-thought monday]

it charmed me to think that the tool that was used on our sidewalk when the latest iteration of it was poured – decades ago – probably in the 1960s – was the same tool that they used last week.

he said, “i think i still have the tool my dad used. i was a little kid, but i remember this house. i remember the sidewalk and how he scribed in the concrete. i think i know exactly where it is!” a full circle story.

there was one sidewalk square left after the world’s longest water line get-the-lead-out replacement project, which literally started in november 2021. nevertheless, it is now completed, merely a year later. these things take time, i have learned. and nothing moves fast when the city is involved. and no one wanted to pour this last square. until them.

we loved the sidewalk-square-concrete-contractors. full of stories and some parallel experiences, david shared how his dad was also a concrete guy – in colorado – and g, one of the two gentlemen pouring and shaping and scribing and finessing our front walk, knew his company. d and fb, the owner of the company and just the nicest guy dedicated to good work, chatted together about – well – cement and stuff and fb clearly was eager to scribe the lines his dad had scribed way back when. the torch had passed and it was easy to see that his dad would be proud.

now, these guys clearly live by my own sweet poppo’s rule: don’t get rid of anything; you might need it later. my poppo always wanted a big ole barn to be out back so that he could put everything in it till it came ’round again.

maybe the concrete guys have one. a big ole barn or workshop. someplace where this tool sat on a shelf or in a toolbox – unused for decades – until one day when it made all the difference on our front walk. a piece of history coming back to be used for our home – again. something about that is truly heartwarming.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY