reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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cliffs and pine needles. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i was ten with a camera in my hand. we were in the woods at sleepaway camp and there was a teepee. particular about photographs even back then, i wanted to take a full-length photograph of the teepee and the best way was to step behind a big pine tree and part the branches to take the photo. i brushed aside the branches and aimed my pocket instamatic camera only to realize that i needed to step back just a bit more to get the picture i wanted. i stepped back the teeniest bit to get my shot. and suddenly there was no ground.

i fell backwards about thirty feet off the cliff.

in my zeal for the photo i hadn’t noticed the cliff edge hiding behind the pine tree, which was precariously perched just off its side. after moments during which i’m guessing i was knocked out, i could hear the camp counselor and my best friend freaking out up on the trail and i tentatively moved things around – arms, legs and such. everything seemed to work. and in the odd swimming motions i was making down below teepee-land, i realized i had fallen into a gigantic pile of pine branches, all piled up, generously softening my fall. a few feet to either side and the dry ground was as hard as the large rock outcroppings scattered in the woods of camp koinonia in upstate ny. it seemed completely shocking to fall three stories and be absolutely fine and, when they made it down to where i was in the middle of branches and just a bit scratched up, the counselor, susan and i started laughing uncontrollably. how it went right is beyond me, but, somehow, luck prevailed.

we finished reading the salt path, a profoundly moving account of a newly-homeless couple hiking the entirety of the south west coast path in the UK. as one of the reviews reads, “inspiring…a true story of love, hope, and survival against impossible odds.” (j. santlofer)

five pages before the end, raynor winn wrote, “the shock of something going right is almost as powerful as when it goes wrong.” i was reading aloud. i read that line and stopped. i told d i had to re-read it. i read that line again and stopped. and i cried. not giant loud sobs like any of us in these fraught times deserve, but tears sliding down my face, uncontrollably, salty like the mist on the coast path. i was brought to a standstill by one sentence.

these times have proffered many surprises. we have felt challenged by challenges, betrayed by betrayals, silenced and minimized, left in the lurch. we have been cautious, we have bootstrapped. we have been canny by need, scrappy by necessity. we have found surprises at every turn. and, just at the time difficulty has made you get used to things going wrong, suddenly, you are shocked by something going right. someone has reached out. someone has cared. something – even one tiny thing – changed in the frequency pitches around you. something – even one tiny thing – is on the horizon. something – even one tiny thing – lifted the mist, that fog of uncertainty with side orders of confusion, grief.

and when you stepped off the cliff, you landed in a soft pile of pine needles.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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levels of color. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we were the only ones. the only customers in the grocery store with masks on. there was one employee we saw wearing one, but we didn’t see any other shoppers with one on. the other day, at a different grocery store, we were the recipients of a few dirty looks. but heck, we have tougher skin than that. mostly.

we sat outside while the light waned, before the mosquitoes had rsvp’d they’d be there. torches on, flame dancing from the fire column, we had a few hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine and talked about these times. there is a wistful dividing line between before and now. the pandemic has shot a chalkline in our calendars and even now, not quite after, we can see the difference.

the books arrived in the mail. it was one of those rare days when you open up the front door and see a surprise gift parcel on the doorstep. the books, memoirs of raynor and moth. the salt path, the first, a viewmaster of days during which, through the necessity of impossible challenges, raynor and moth were hiking the south west coast path in the united kingdom. “i think they are your people,” she wrote about this couple.

we opened the first paperback. i am reading it aloud and we have a voracious appetite to keep going in between all else. i read and we digest, this tale of backpacking without the reassuring fallback of retreat or going home in the end. it’s breathtaking and stunningly candid.

monday night i read aloud the sentence, “being separate from people for large chunks of time had reduced our tolerance levels.” it was not a statement of pandemic; it was a statement of wilderness camping. yet, it hit us – it was a statement of pandemic. so relevant.

if we are all honest with ourselves, we find now that the pandemic has most definitely divided our circles into before and now . . . and hopefully, one day, after. people who are absolute, people we have stayed in touch with or who have stayed in touch with us, even spottily, people who have fallen away. people who have shown true colors, people who have been generous and compassionate. people who have jumped at the chance to help others, to abide by recommendations to ease this pandemic, people who have chosen to be cavalier, go-their-own-way, to scoff and ignore, to not be any other’s keeper.

the season/reason mantra applies, we pondered aloud at the table, talking about past friendships and working relationships. some people, there with us at some point, are just not to be dragged into now. we appreciate their presence at the time they were present and we learn we must let go. they have become woven into who we have become and those threads remain somewhere in the interior of the quilt. but, in the way that time moves on, so do attachments. and even beyond the natural attrition of relationships – just like raynor and moth, though not on a wild trail – the simplicity of who we have become, what we have seen or done, where we have gone or not gone, how we have lived through these times, of pandemic, of loss, of challenge, of grief – this simplicity has changed us and, it seems, has changed our tolerance levels. as if they were on a cmyk or rgb profile – empathy, compassion, masks, vaccines, distancing, research, critical thinking, kindness, questioning, learning, truth, transparency, loyalty, generosity, inclusivity, gentleness, agenda-ridden-less, fairness, decency, basic dedication to not being mean…a wide spectrum of color levels in humans that surround us.

we were quiet as we sat and thought about people in our lives, what has changed, what has remained the same, people we yearn to see, people we, frankly, perhaps sadly or resignedly, don’t care to see again.

we gratefully looked around at flames in torches, food on our table, the dog on the deck, the old screen door to a comfortable beloved house merely steps away. the simplest pleasures have been, are, the pleasures. we cannot think of a reason that this is not a good thing. though we shed a few tears, we held hands as we spoke, together not separate.

the mosquitoes found their way to the deck. we blew out the torches, snuffed the fire column and carried our plates inside.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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joey’s parmesan. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

one of the funniest things to come out of joey coconato’s backpack out in the middle of nowhere was a can of kraft grated parmesan cheese. there were definitely other funny things too, though: a bottle of sriracha, a dozen eggs, avocados, brats, bota box wine. he is not your regular backpacker. joey is not afraid to carry stuff. he’s not afraid to go back-country. and he’s not afraid to bust the norms. passing this display in the grocery store made me laugh aloud and think of joey.

one night recently, in the wee hours, i was awake and, thus, so was david. we chose a PCT trail video to watch and got through the whole video with nary a yawn. they had mentioned mountain house meals, so we were curious. we visited – at 3am – the mountain house website and were astounded to find many meals that sounded so delicious they instantly made us hungry. we were also astonished to find that each one was just shy of $10. that would mean that if we chose to hike the pacific crest trail – for about five months – and each of us had a mountain house meal for breakfast and for dinner – it would cost us (do the math: $10each x2of us x2mealsaday x30daysamonth x5months) about $6000 just for those meals, not to mention lunch or snacks or gear or permits or or or…. so, no wonder joey carries baggies of pasta and flour tortillas and avocados and parmesan. we literally clinked with him (virtually) when he whipped out the bota box of wine to celebrate with his hiking mates.

we haven’t long-distance hiked. yet. i suspect at some point we will try this (or some part thereof). we love hiking and we are addicted to these backpacking trips, these long-distance trails. we have watched joey all through the pandemic. his hikes have kept us sane in days of seesawing sanity. and apparently, though we are just simply joey-fans, we have talked about him enough that we have received email messages asking us for his contact information.

we have viewed john muir hikers in high elevation and appalachian trail hikers in distinctly humid-humidity. continental divide and the colorado trail thru-hikers. norwegian xplorer wherever he hikes. pacific crest trail hikers ‘heading somewhere‘ and ‘walking with purpose‘ have captured our attention as they hike out west right now, live and posting. we felt sad as ‘miles to go‘ gave up her brave and gigantic quest to finish the pct this season. these people are out there – doing life the best they can in the best way they can. present in each moment. we root for each of them. just like we root for joey.

we’re not sure where joey coconato is right now. he hasn’t posted a new video in quite some time. he is one of the best examples of being one with the outdoors we have seen. he has been making his way in the wilderness for years now, respectfully and with all good intention and gratitude, and we guess that the wilderness loves him as much as his viewers do.

we suspect – and hope – that he is safely out there somewhere, pitching his hand-me-down/loaned tent on some ridge or under some trees or in some gorgeous meadow or next to some lake, gazing around his campsite, drinking it all in, taking his clanging aluminum pot off of the outside of his backpack where he has it tied as an alert to bears in the area and is boiling some pasta up and adding in some parmesan – right from the 8 oz can he carries with him. what a good life he lives.

cheers, joey. and all the rest of you hikers out there, carrying the very least and experiencing the very most. don’t forget the parmesan.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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farm to table. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

10. there are now ten teeny tomatoes tethered to the tendrils of our tomato plants in our tiny tabletop garden. it’s amazing! i am ridiculously dedicated to them and watch each day as they grow.

on sunday i went outside to this old barnwood and pipe planting stand and, for the second time now, snipped off fresh valentino. it’s heavenly, the scent of fresh basil. with a little olive oil and some boughten* grape tomatoes tossed with leaves of basil, we had a meal from our little farm. (try to contain your amazement, millennial farmer.)

i still marvel at this minor little miracle, simple and so utterly complex, this growing edible food. we clinked our glasses of old vine zin in celebration and reveled in the good fortune we felt having successfully – at least for the last three weeks – raised a few plants, who seem to be happy and flourishing in the hot, humid, rainy days we have been having.

around the corner is an empty and beautiful grass lot on lake michigan, owned by the people who live across the street from it. they have planted a vegetable garden and we watched as they tenderly watered it the other day while we walked past. i wonder if they started with a container garden on their potting bench.

i don’t know how long it will be before these teeniest babies will grow and ripen into cherry tomatoes that will grace our salad bowls or join with basil in pasta-union. it will be a journey of enlightenment for us. what i do know is that we are seriously loving every bit of it. and the tomato and basil plants seem to know it.

*****

*boughten: though i don’t normally use it, this is indeed a word and, for this writing, seemed like the right one to use.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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these flipflops. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we still wear masks. at festival, at target, at lowes, at costco, at woodmans. these flipflops are one of the reasons. though we have been totally vaccinated and, according to the cdc guidelines, could discard the masks – like most people in these parts – we are still vigilant. this is not because we don’t want the pandemic to go away. oh no. we would love to think that it’s over. but we know it isn’t. because, well, science. and these flipflops stop us from any cavalier disposal of all the masks on the hook on our refrigerator.

we have only eaten in one restaurant now since march of 2020. it was about six weeks ago and, admittedly, wonderful. phat thai in carbondale, colorado and our girl and her boyfriend. priceless. we were nervous – being newbies back at a restaurant – but the benefit/risk factor was obvious, the reservation was later in the evening when there were not as many diners there. we pass many restaurants in our own downtown area and they are often mob scenes of patrons. we couldn’t do that yet; it would make us uncomfortable. phat thai was relaxing and truly a lovely evening. we remain cautious though. because of these flipflops.

i just checked the cdc website. since covid statistics are no longer posted as chyrons we have limited exposure to the toll of deaths from this pandemic or other such concerning numbers. i scrolled around as there is much information available on this government site. i noted that our county has a 40-49% rate for folks having at least one dose of the vaccine. i’m a bit surprised by this number. this county has made it inordinately easy to be vaccinated. it is hard for me to wrap my head around why so many people have not gotten even one dose of any of the readily accessible shots. 47.9% of the state of wisconsin is vaccinated. 45.7% of the country. the whole united states. a population clearly not united in covid-vaccines. it’s perplexing. once again, i am at a loss as to why a larger percentage of this country is not vaccinated. surely there are flipflops in the lives of the 54.3% ‘out there’.

our social experiences over the last year plus now have been pretty minimal. we’ve seen our girl and our boy and their boyfriends. we’ve seen a bit of colorado family and a bit of missouri family. we’ve seen the up north gang on the deck once and, with great celebration, in the dining room once. we’ve gone back to weekly dinners with 20, post daily-phone-calls through the time we couldn’t gather. and we have been with the owners of the flipflops – our dearest friends who have happy-houred with us into late fall and as early as possible this spring – with a firepit and blankets – in their backyard. we know that it is risky for someone vaccinated but with a suppressed immune system and we join force with them in being careful so that we might be with them.

it isn’t a big sacrifice to wear a mask in the grocery store or in the big box stores. we are definitely in the minority. we definitely get looks sometimes. we are quite sure there’s a bit of scorning going on. but these flipflops are worth it. i mean, what’s a little piece of cloth over your nose and mouth to keep loved ones safe? just a little bit longer, we think. we are hoping that the 54.3% will head to a vaccination site and do their part to save lives – of those who they love and those who they do not know, of the lives of children. perhaps the population of this country will heed the cautionary words of dr. leana wen: “there are more contagious and virulent variants emerging that could lead to a surge in infections, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates. those unvaccinated, including our children, remain at high risk. (washington post, june 14, 2021) dr. wen concludes, “different families have different perceptions of risk as it applies to the virus and the necessity of the vaccine. for our family, it comes down to this: if you have the option to reduce a low risk of something awful happening to your kids to essentially zero, would you take it?” i would add, if you have the option to reduce risk of something awful happening to any one you love to essentially zero, would you take it?

what flipflops influence your decisions in these times?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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boomer farmers. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i cut some valentino basil to toss with tomatoes and olive oil over pasta. in an eat-less-meat effort, d grilled some tilapia. we ate outside at the table under the umbrella where we could catch wafting basil coming from the potting stand and from the little trunk across the deck. we congratulated ourselves on our farming…at least so far, anyway. it remains to be seen how long we might be successful, whether the tomato plants will ever offer actual cherry tomatoes and if the basil will do that leggy thing that basil plants do when you don’t have natural green thumbs.

keith told us to watch the millennial farmer. since we have run out of joey coconato’s youtube backpacking videos and have literally watched each one at least twice, we tried the millennial farmer on for size. keith lives in a farming community and knows about tractors and fields and heavy equipment much much more than we do, but, we have to admit, after having searched for the first of the videos, we have a deeper appreciation for all of that and we know that the millennial farmer might likely tease at our measly stand of hopeful plants. no worries, we boomer farmers are happy and, more importantly, not overwhelmed by our choices. mostly, we love tomato and basil drizzled in olive oil tossed over pasta or in caprese salads. and any planting is still planting.

we had mulled over flowers for the potting stand. it’s in full sun most of the time so that meant we needed to make some careful choices. we are very aware of what we’re spending these days so that factored in as well. when we ultimately decided to just simply plant a few edibles we were excited and went to several nurseries to choose our plants. lowes got our attention for their $6.98 tomato plants – dwarf indeterminates – which we learned means that they will stay smaller and will bear fruit throughout the season instead of just once. milaegers got our vote for their basil. the valentino smelled heavenly and sweet and looked incredibly healthy (to us) at only $3.99. a few big old clay pots out of the garage and sweeping off the barnwood-and-pipe plant stand and we were set. tomatoes and basil – “soulmates on and off the plate.” ready for a summer of lightly tossed pasta and insalata caprese.

now, zach johnson – the millennial farmer in minnesota – might have some advice for us. the diagnostics and computerized tools and mapping and equipment that they use to choose planting distances and tilling and depths and variable rate seed installation and seed choices and seasons are mind-boggling, not to mention the super-sized mechanical equipment like tractors and combines and seeders and cultivators. the science of farming, the art of farming, he makes it all sound both easier and much more complex than we could imagine. his love and nurturing of the land, his life and his fifth-generation farm are obvious.

men’s health magazine calls his youtube channel “peak relaxation” though that is simply because we are armchair-boomer-farmer-watching. zach’s wise intention, according to his channel, is “to build the connection between farmers and consumers.”

we understand. we are now both. ok, ok. light on the farmer, heavy on the consumer. no barn here. just us and our potting stand, two tomato plants and a basil. and an appreciation for real farmers everywhere.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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aging-ageing. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

rejuvenate. anti-aging formula. anti-aging rejuvenating serum. skin repair and firming cream. anti-aging rice phytoceramides plant-derived capsules. advanced natural anti-ageing cream complex. crepey skin repair and firming cream. anti-aging supplement and multi-vitamin for energy, skin, bone and joint support. anti-aging organic flax seed oil and phytonutrient formula. multi-collagen capsules with hyaluronic acid and vitamin c. awakening hydraskin system. ageless cell life extension. anti-aging beauty spray vacuum. age-defying face lifting concentrate. night total facial rejuvenation system.

“achieve visibly younger skin.” “who wants to look their age?” “visible results in minutes of use.” “recommended for discerning patients.” “join me in the battle against ageing.”

i am wayyy wayyy behind the curve. the pink oil of olay hydrating lotion in my small cosmetic drawer in the bathroom has been around for sixty years. hmm, i should have written that sentence in a structurally different way. the little plastic bottle has not physically been in my drawer for sixty years; the product has been produced for sixty years. sheesh. other than a few pass-me-down gifted clinique products from my sister, this has been my moisturizer of choice. simple. done. i have not researched this nor have i had long conversations with girlfriends about moisturizer. joann has absolutely lovely skin. her face glows. one day i asked her what she used and, delightedly, she told me oil of olay. yippee! samesies. so, that means if i keep using oil of olay my face will glow? hardly.

the jowls i woke up with one day that my sweet dad and gravity so generously passed on, the wrinkles around my eyes, the sweet-momma crease in my forehead – these are genetics. webmd.com says that the intrinsic aging of skin cannot be avoided. and the time: time spent outside as a child, spud and kickball in the neighborhood, swimming in our round above-ground pool, teenage time spent on bike hikes and on crab meadow beach laying on a bazooka gum beach towel playing my radio, trips to florida beaches with woven bags holding tanning oil and iced tea and potato chips, motherhood time on backyard swings, at lakefront beaches, on soccer fields, at baseball diamonds, earlier-middle-age un-thinking time on adirondack chairs basking in the sun – though perhaps innocently skin-irresponsible, cannot be erased.

aging. ageing.

my dad received national geographic magazine for as long as i can remember. paging through were articles and photographs through which i was introduced to cultures i was likely to never actually visit but from which i could gain small bits of wisdom.

though i mostly understand the medical importance of taking good care of our skin and using spf products and staying out of torrid sun and hydrating and eating proper nutrients, i could see that the women and men of these other cultures – outside of our society – did not concern themselves with aging-ageing. indeed, they were not in a battle or a race against it. instead, they upheld it, celebrated it, honored it. and while i would probably prefer less jowls and less wrinkles and less crepe and less of the other stuff with horrendous names that advertisers have come up with for natural aging processes -god-forbid- i will choose to stand in it and feel fortunate to be here.

fortunate to be aging-ageing. winning the race either way.

****

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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hold kjeft. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i never asked where the deer head on the den wall came from. we were not a hunting family and we were verymuch a mammal-loving family, but it must have never occurred to me to ask. this old deer head, hung on the paneling of the room with our black and white tv and giant rock fireplace built stone-by-tedious-stone by sven, ruled over the garage wall side of the room and was somewhat opposite the back door.

if snoopy, our modell’s sporting goods $10.20 dog (of which i paid the 20 cents), got to barking incessantly, my sweet dad would point to the deer head and, in his brooklyn-voice, taunt her, “you wanna go on the wall?” somehow she understood this empty threat and would mostly stop barking. but if she didn’t stop, my dad would bark back at her, “hold kjeft!!” my sons-of-norway norwegian lessons were not long-lived, but they were comprehensive enough for me to know that meant “shut up!”. spoken in a different language, it didn’t seem as rude.

when they were growing up, i never allowed the girl or the boy to say “shut up!” to each other or anyone. it just seemed like an unnecessarily aggressive way to ask someone to be quiet or at least quieter. i never thought to use “hold kjeft” as an alternative back then.

but now, as dogga runs the backyard looking for the rest of the cast in 101 dalmations to bark back at him, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. as we pass people in the car and he is suddenly aware of a dog on the sidewalk out the car window, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. as the neighbors get him riled up, with fifteen kids or so in the backyard all screaming at the top of their lungs and their dog barking-barking, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. every time i say it, i see the deer head in the den and i can hear my sweet poppo’s voice.

it doesn’t necessarily do the trick all the time. but it conjures up precious long-ago memories of a different time, when i watched black and white tv with no remote, sat on the hearth with hot chocolate and sit-upons, paid no attention to decor or other adult-riddled-responsibilities and laughed when my dad stared at our underbite-blessed-boxer-mixed-breed-mutt and pointed to the wall.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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the broken salad bowl. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i broke my mom’s salad bowl last night. it wasn’t fancy; it was a simple glass bowl, shaped in the letter v. but i loved using it for salads and quinoa tabouli and all kinds of fruit. it slipped from my grasp in the sink and, despite my best efforts at rescue, broke in two large pieces. i was instantly saddened, not because i get upset when things break, but because it was my sweet momma’s and using it was a silken connected tie.

we were on i-70 driving across denver and stuck in traffic. we played leap-frog with several vehicles as we inched forward. one of them had a sticker that read “extreme rightwing” and another had this sticker “humankind. be both.” i am betting you can guess the one with which i felt in alignment. i wanted to roll down big red’s window further than i already had it and call out the window, “love your sticker!” but i didn’t. instead, i photographed it, trying to look casual, like i wasn’t taking a picture of their vehicle, and thought about how i instantly liked them.

my sweet momma, the former owner of the now-broken salad bowl, was a firm believer in kindness. her favorite saying, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” was a john wesley quote. this is not the first time i have told of her kindness to others…all others.

as my mom prepared to move into assisted living she started giving away things she wouldn’t be bringing with her. she gave away her couch to a neighbor who needed one; she gave her dining table to another neighbor without a place around which to gather her family. she let things go, with love and caring moving them out the door to their new homes. she didn’t hesitate. it wasn’t about the stuff; it was simply about helping those in need of something she had. we just heard that many of the things in david’s parents’ house, that is being emptied now, have been given to neighbors and people who need particular items. a gesture of paying the generosity we are afforded forward, i immediately thought back to my mom’s own altruism in her time of transition.

these last months have been very challenging for us. i was devastated when, in this time of pandemic and after losing our other two positions, and at the start of my ninth year there, i lost my job. confusion and fear and dreadful sadness at losing my living, all the effort and love i had put into growing a music program, the loss of my dear community, all ran rampant in my heart. the stages of grief, including anger, lined up and for the last five months, i have tried to sort through all of what i have felt. the other day i drove past my former place of employment and just was overcome with how intensely weird it felt, how intensely weird the whole travail has been.

but in the middle of all of this weirdness, the lack of communication, the non-effort at mitigating whatever was seemingly accepted as an ousting-reason, there have been people. humans. kind humans. little by little people have reached out – in generosity and kindness. and, for that, the way has been a little less scary, a little less painful. the ties to the place, astoundingly, considering the place, are broken – irretrievably – shattered into a dark hole in a million shards. but the silken connections of people – from a full compass of our lives – extend in warm embrace. humankind. be-ing both.

i guess the next time i make salad or tabouli i’ll use the big stainless steel bowl – the one that also used to be my mom’s. it’s unbreakable. just like my tie to her.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY