i haven’t stopped. since march 2020 when my son – at the beginning of the pandemic – in an effort to help me feel connected to him and my daughter – suggested we have a shared text with photos taken in our day. a picture-of-the-day. and every day, not-failing, i have sent one since. i am in absolute delight when they now share a photograph on this thread; i know busy-ness and work and life have picked back up some time ago and picture-of-the-day is no longer on their radar. but, because i am a mom – and i know moms everywhere can relate – it’s still on mine. i look for something that somehow represents my day, every single day.
i have to say – this has been a good thing, this intention to seek and snap the picture-of-the-day. i take lots of photos, so some days this is easy. but there are others when my photo is of mashed potatoes or chicken soup or the accuweather tornado watch or glasses of wine at the end of the day. some days are just life. normal, regular, not supersized, life.
the trillium placed itself in front of the fallen log, clearly, on purpose. ready for its photo shoot, its bud profile at this stage resembling a mighty tulip, the toadshade waited for someone to come along and take its picture. and there i was.
that very day i ended up using a graceful fern in our backyard as my picture-of-the-day. the composition was just a little better, the curve of the fern beautiful. but the trillium knew it would end up featured. i had whispered thank you to it after my baker’s dozen shoot. it stood proudly as we hiked away, knowing.
paying attention – to the littlest details of a day – requires intention. i know i could get lost in the other details of our life, the more pressing, the more complex, the minutiae and nuances of moment-to-moment adulting.
but one text from my son changed that and offered me a continuing reminder to find something – any thing – big or little, positive or disconcerting, dreamy or a little bit scary – that was a real piece of my day. it also offered me a chance to physically let them know i was – at that very moment of sending – thinking of them.
i know there are days – i don’t want to think about how many – that my grown children look at their phones and – in unison from 1400 miles apart – roll their eyes as my picture-of-the-day drops in.
there was this knot-hole in this tree on this trail. i used to stop there each time we hiked – to gaze through it…stand and take in what i could see through the tiny porthole in the woods. always, it was a reminder of the fluidity of time, of ever-present change, of nothing standing still.
the porthole i found in the milwaukee art museum – through one of barbara hepworth’s sculptural pieces – had the same impact on me. bending down, i focused only on what i could see through that porthole. on a different day, at a different time of day, in a different month or season, never static. even minutes from my peeking-through, the wind picked up and the lake’s surface roiled a bit and all from before was erased.
late-late on sunday nights – into the wee hours – we stay awake to listen and watch our son livestream mixes from a club in chicago. he was away for a couple weeks and we missed these late dj nights. they are our porthole – our tree-knot-hole – into what he is creating, producing, learning, feeling. every midnight-hour-sunday we see the changes in the new seasons of his work, his growth, his zeal, his poise at tech controls that evoke curves of mood, layers of sound, textures of music we may not have accessed otherwise. we see his joy.
it’s the same reason i took my first snowboard lesson. at that time, it was a porthole view into our daughter’s life – a peeking window that allowed us to feel the smallest smidge of her professional work. watching her fly down mountains, picking up speed and agility and ever-more skill through our tree-knot-hole on the sidelines and touching her joy-magic with our own feet on a snowboard on a hill.
we can assume things about others. humans do it all the time. broad sweeping generalizations about people and peoples – different because of race or color or gender identity or ethnicity or country of origin or age or disability or socioeconomic status or politics or religion or whatever the prejudice-de-jour might be. we glance over at “them” and form opinions; we claim to be “open and affirming” yet we slam closed the porthole that might give us a true look into their life. we scrub away the transparency of truth and apply the balm of our agenda – totally missing perspective, the possibility of commonality, the gift of community, the connectedness of us all as a species attempting to just keep on keeping on.
were we – perhaps – to notice, to step forward and take a closer look, to shield ourselves from inevitable human failings of assumption and instead to breathe deeply and gaze – we might have a view into the sameness of us all, the things that unite us, the things we need honor and hold in high regard….that we are all one under the sun. that while we cannot walk in another’s shoes, we might learn by looking through any and every tree-knot-hole we can find. that new eyes, new focus may also mean new learnings and new appreciation and new grace. that we should stop and peer through portholes whenever we can. there’s no time to waste.
inane information moment: i am drinking coffee out of this mug right now.
in a small shop on the main street of frisco, colorado (elev. 9075′) these mugs sat on a shelf and waited. since we are bring-back-a-mug (or cloth napkins or a rock or a big branch) people, it seemed destined to go home with us – a black mug with trees and the word “colorado”. how much more perfect can a memorymug get?
it’s visceral drinking coffee out of this mug. it makes me want to walk down main street, jaunt into the bookstore, find the trailhead at the end of the road. i merely have to hold it in my hands and i am in the high mountains, squishing the goodness out of every single minute we get to breathe in that air.
there are quite a few mugs in our mug cabinet. and this is after we pared them down, bringing cups to the church we used to go to for their coffee hour, which had a huge collection of people’s memorymugs. you’d wrap your hand around a floral mug and wonder who gave it to whom. you’d cup hot coffee and laugh at how many i-love-my-teacher mugs had been options on the rolling cart with the coffee urn.
there are some mugs that i simply could not have let go. a peanuts mug from the 70s, a mug from the cape, a handle-less clay mug from a potter in the north carolina mountains, two round glass mugs from which my sweet momma and dad sipped coffeetime, a charlie brown mug from h, the shayne mugs from my sister, our breckenridge cabin coffee mugs, the remaining unbroken snowmass mug, a couple mugs our girl left behind a few summers ago.
i guess that the point is what each of these conjure up nestled in my hands, steaming-coffee-ready. they are like a timeline of life, the viewmaster of the coffee world. click – another slide. click – another slide. choose your mug, choose your reel.
coffee is never just about the coffee. at least that is what i have learned in my life. it is always about the moments and, at risk of hyper-redundant-emotion-waxing, presence is what counts. for there is simply nothing better than sitting here – this very minute i am writing this – early morning, with coffee, under the quilt, dogga at my feet and d next to me, my mom’s old glass nighttable lamp on by our side, snow falling falling falling outside the window, holding every frisco memory in my hands. even if i have forgotten the tiny details of the trip, i can feel the majesty of the mountains and the way it feels to look across lake dillon and catch my breath.
the gift of this mug in my hands is that it delivers me there – just by opening up the triangle cabinet in the kitchen, selecting this mug and pouring coffee. though we are right here – at home – we are also right there. in summit county.
when we talked to 20 on the phone last night he told us he had only one thing of note he had saved recently that he felt worthy. expecting it to be a helpful hint of some sort, we waited. he paused and then quoted, “by replacing your morning coffee with green tea you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life.” (shah of blah tweet)
i suppose you could drink green tea out of this mug too. but why would you do that?
i suppose this is one of THOSE things – when you look back and see, with more clarity than you could ever have had in the moment, that you were nudged, pushed, prodded, indeed, shoved along. as you stood resolutely in the spot to which you were dedicated, something prompted change and things were no longer the same nor would they ever be. one of THOSE things.
i remember the early days of hearing garth brooks singing the country song “unanswered prayers”, decades ago now. he released the song and it exploded on radio not too long after i moved to wisconsin, away from family, away from two jobs i loved. i stood outside my then-husband’s workplace and gazed out at soybean fields wondering where i had landed, what on earth i would do. i went to the grocery store and wept in the pasta aisle; no mueller’s pasta to be found. i read the local paper and was disconcerted. i found solace in long-distance letters from my mom and brought lunch to the office at the local airport every day, the place my husband worked. i was lonely and lost.
but the universe had a way of catching up to me and consoling my soybean-cornfield-factory-town angst. that next year, my beautiful daughter was born – my first baby, i found new friendships, and a job i loved in a community of people who grew to be important to me. my amazing son was born in years to follow and then, in serendipitous ways, i started recording albums and i looked back and knew that, though my discomfort in – literally – moving was justified, life would not have been the same had i not moved. the complacency i had earlier adopted was not going to be enough and life had some gaps to fill in. nevertheless, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-along-to-wisconsin. for that matter, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-away-from-new-york. things to ponder and never know.
i will never know – really know – how it came to be that i am sitting next to this lovely man right now, writing separately together. how we each have grown and how we each have struggled and sorted through our figurative attics and basements, stuffed with things that have happened, things we have saved, things we have discarded, things we’d rather not remember, things we celebrate. how, from two entirely different places in this vast country, we found each other. i suppose love has a way.
time and again the understanding of events, situations, disappointments, things-that-are-really-hard is delayed. in-the-moment it – the why – is not clear. sometimes it is never clear or perhaps it’s just that by the time clarity arrives, it is far, far after the fact. so far that we have forgotten our dismay or our agnostic questioning or, in those that seem synchronistic miracles, our awe. it is in the looking-back, the time-line reflections that we might parse and question and realize that there was a reason, a cause and effect, maybe a prayer or two gone unanswered. though i could still list those and wonder why – through actions of others, good and bad, or decisions i’ve made, good and bad, or stuff that just happens, good and bad – i would guess that somehow the puzzle fits together in the end. no doubt the discomfort brings learnings we may not have signed up for, given the choice. the story is a mystery.
as i find myself in yet another nudged-pushed-prodded-shoved place, i’m trying to remember to stand still for a moment. to take it in – the discomfort – and to be open to what might be. and, in watching what shows up, in really looking and studying and listening, to take baby steps and move. maybe later on it will all make sense.
there is before and there is after. it is with anticipation, maybe thrilled butterflies, maybe jitters, maybe weak knees, maybe even dread we live in before. it is sometimes with relief, sometimes with regret, sometimes with suffering, sometimes with satisfaction, sometimes with contentment we live in after. there is a journey between them – before and after.
there was nothing i could really say to prepare david for the loss of his father. and having lost both my sweet momma and poppo, i had a lot of words to describe it. but there is really nothing you can do when someone is living in before, except be there.
and now that it is after, there is still nothing i can really say to prepare david for the unexpected moments of sadness, grief raining down in a misty fog or pummeling hailstorm, or the unexpected moments of recognition, a glimpse of someone from the other side. even after these years of being-without and all the words in my heart, i can only just simply be there.
the neon sign was hanging in the airbnb we took back along the way. we needed the space, not a hotel, to cook our own meals and simply be quiet. and i cannot think of a more timely message.
we are living in après. we are living in avant. both are true. both are real.
they are there too.
we are reminded, once again, for the millionth time – but not the last, to be present in right-now.
i was grateful when they attached a name to it – shabby chic. my inclination to love things with the texture of peeling paint and a bit rough-hewn was vindicated…wait!…not only vindicated, but reinforced by the decorating fashion industry. phew! that meant that the old screen doors on the wall, the glass-less window frames tucked here and there, the chopped-off-side-of-the-vintage-desk end table, the vintage black suitcases, the metal radiator grate catty-corner in the foyer, the old door laid horizontal on horses, the tin ceiling panels…these were all fashion statements and not statements of making-do-decor. such a relief.
i must say, however, that i wouldn’t have changed anything anyway. these all make me happy. they are cozy and warm and, mostly, they have history. and it’s the history-that-remains-a-mystery and the history-that-i-know-a-smidge-about that i love. i had no idea whose screen door screens these were when i got them at a wholesale trade show years ago but i could imagine the sound they made when they slammed shut. nor did i know where the old black window with one colored glass square in my studio was from. the old four-foot tall window frames were being thrown out of the historic lakefront building where i had my offices, making room for new windows. i couldn’t bear to see them in the trashpile and the way i adored those offices made it easy to take them home. someone literally chopped off the side of the old desk leaving three drawers and a rough edge and selling it in the estate sale for $5. you can’t see the rough edge unless you really look and this piece has been in the living room for years and years now, serving a purpose and feeling loved. the tin, well, who knows? what i do know is that they make marvelous places to magnet photographs and cards and tiny little signs with sayings that help each day. so, yeah, i guess my point is that whether i know the back-story or not, i really appreciate the warmth of long living they bring. they sit alongside many rocks and sticks that have made short and long journeys home with me, in the back of little baby scion or in backpacks with corks that come home from times spent with my children and moments i want to remember.
i haven’t purchased a lot of brand new furniture. there was the first herculon-fabric overstuffed couch with two matching overstuffed chairs, a tweed in lovely shades of very-early 1980s brown.
well over a decade later that was donated to a youth group and a new couch in mid 1990s floral barn red and forest green with a reclining wingchair of red and white checks made its way into the living room. both of those pieces still have a place in the house – though no longer in the living room. the couch, still very comfortable, is covered with a black slipcover and has a place in the sitting room with a hand-me-down lazyboy, an old farm table and an antique copper boiler tub that stores our roadtrip writings.
there’s a black leather couch in the living room now that has been there over a decade. it shares the space with the old secretary that was my brother’s, the bistro table that was in the second story porch of my old offices, a vintage typewriter 20 bought me for my birthday a couple years ago, a few paintings i spattered, the desk-turned-end-table you now know too much about and the driftwood we brought back from a trip to long island. the two big branches we painted white and potted to hold happy lights still stand steadfastly happying up the room and each day i pass them i wonder if they are too holiday-ish. i quickly reject this as too big a decision and plug them in.
it is in recent days i have had the good fortune of hearing from a dear old friend i taught with in my first two years of teaching way-back-when. we soon will have a phone chat and catch up on everything from a-z. what lois doesn’t realize is that i have thought of her simply every day…as it is her dresser that stands in our bedroom of vintage size that couldn’t really accommodate one of those bedroom suites you see in magazines. instead, this old sturdy five-drawer sits opposite the windows of the sunrise and hold my dad’s peanut can, one of the precious items i have of my sweet poppo’s, the planters peanut blue metal can he tucked in his drawer that always held a few dollars and was the place he sent you if you were going to go pick up the pizza.
as i look at the top of that dresser right this second, pictures of d and me and of my beloved children are on top. there is a small piece of the carpet padding from the irresponsible-gasket-flood waiting to go in the special box next to the yago-sangria-wine-bottle-turned-lamp i made when i was 19 and there is a card in a glass frame that reads: “someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin and they will say, what have you done with your life? and though there are many moments i think i will remember, in the end, i will be proud to say, i was one of us.”
all of this – the stuff with history i know, the stuff with history i don’t know, the peeling paint, the rough-hewn, the used and the it-took-me-a-long-time-to-decide new…all of it – around me reminds me of that and is the connecting thread. of the concentric circles of me, of us. probably that’s why “shabby chic” speaks to me. it is most definitely why it works for me.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, stood on independence pass, surrounded by the collegiate peaks and together with my husband and daughter and, at the trail high-lake destination, my panting breath, swept out of my lungs, slowed to tears.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, sat on a log that crossed a cold mountain stream, under the shadow of a bigger mountain above us and in the grace of the sun streaming through the trees and my breath slowed, cleansing my heart.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, gazed at verdant evergreens and golden willowy tall aspens, my mind aware of the expanse of time they had lived in such places, my breath a mere few seconds in comparison, for they have lived – and will live – well beyond any years i am granted on this earth.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, hiked miles in elevation, my breath both aiding me and slowing me down, forcing me to stop, to look around, to be encircled by the air of the rockies, the snow of early freshness, the closer exquisitely warm sun, the scent of both a pine forest and autumn leaves moldering on the ground.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, my feet grounded on the edge of the royal gorge canyon wall, my heart teetering on thoughts of the insignificance of my being and the very significance of my being, my breath – in and out.
i, a tiny person in this vast universe, in this time in the high mountains, felt both held and freed. love for my beloveds, belief in the moment-right-now, an overwhelming sense of a bigger picture clear, in which my role is like that of a leaf falling to the forest floor, contributing a tiny bit to the ecosystem that will endure, prevailing past my own time, making a tiny difference.
20 years ago. apparently the last time gas was 99 cents a gallon in wisconsin was 20 years ago. i don’t remember that in particular; my children were young and things were busy. how strange to now be able to purchase gas for 99 cents a gallon, filling up little-baby-scion for about $10, and not be able to go anywhere.
20 years before 20 years ago i remember gas being 79 cents a gallon or so. on long island, i would go to the citgo station on the corner of larkfield and clay pitts road in my vw bug, filling up for well under $10. they pumped your gas for you back then. i had one of my first credit cards, a citgo card, in those days. on one occasion, a couple days after i got gas, i received a phone call. it was from the guy who had pumped my gas. he had saved my information post-pumping and looked my last name up in the phone book. he called to ask me to go on a date. he was always nice to me every single time i got gas, so i thought it perfectly innocent to accept. i don’t remember where we went, but i do remember thinking that i would absolutely not repeat the date – the somewhat unusual way he got my number (i’m thinking that would be against credit card protection acts these days) was befitting of his um, unusual-ness. “she’s not home,” my mom would tell him time and again when he called. after a plethora of calls over a series of days, i told him i wasn’t interested. i started going to mobil.
citgo, dairy barn, king kullen, genovese drugs, the card store – these were all around the corner, up the hill and turn right. to get there you’d go right by tommy’s house on the hill. and just today i found out that tommy, one of the absolute cutest-boys-in-high-school, has died. a man taken by coronavirus, i read the posts on facebook remembering him. it seems, as we lose track of people in our orbit, that they freeze in time – i never knew tommy as an adult so he remains age 18 in my mind’s eye. we lose track of them and we don’t know their successes or their challenges, things they struggled with or how their lives were shaped as they ‘grew up’. we make assumptions and find out later that their lives were impacted in ways we never could have guessed, in ways we would have never wished for anyone. it saddens me deeply to think of tommy, the cool-boy-in-school, struggling in his life, trying to get a firm hold on steady. the things we don’t know, riding our bikes up that hill just to get a glimpse and maybe wave to him.
20 years go by. and another 20.
and we sit at the pump where it’s 99 cents a gallon. there is a global pandemic. we have a blank triptik. as we drove away from the pump, we looked at each other and pondered without answering, ‘where would we go if we could go?’
but right now, there is no where to go. were i to be on long island, i would go back to my growing-up house and sit on the curb for a bit. then i’d go around the corner and up the hill. and i’d wave as i’d pass tommy’s old house.
so, i love the smell of horses. i love the proud way they hold their heads and the sometimes-wild forelock that dances between their ears. i love watching them cavort in fields together, free to gallop and play. i love the warmth on my hand as i stroke under its mane. i love the sound of leather creaking underneath me when riding. i love the clip-clop of hooves. i love the feeling i get up-close-and-personal talking softly to a horse, looking deeply into its eyes, pools of wisdom taking it all in. it is no surprise to most of my people that i love really everything about them.
with the snowy quiet punctuated by the clip-clop of horses’ hooves and laughter, we rode the sleigh through the woods. the sun was out and, with snowpants on and under a blanket, it was toasty. perfect. ace and bill carried us through the trails to a spot for a bonfire and cocoa and then back. i didn’t want it to end.
there are people in your life who just know what you need. we are lucky enough to have a bunch of these people close by and paying attention. our little trip up north was perfectly timed. a chance to just enjoy each other and the frozen-but-not-really-freezing outdoors. the sleigh ride was wondrous. the time together restorative.
the peaceful time in the woods and on the snow-covered frozen lake brought me out of storms i was withstanding. the laughter, good food, conversation, pjs and coffee and games with glasses of wine helped transport my spirit and rejuvenated me. i am grateful. for a few days it didn’t matter that my wrists were broken. my ernie straw was with me and i was surrounded by people who loved me.
and the horses. ahh. icing on the cake.
so now, i will wait till the next time…the next time i am near horses. as someone who has had a lifelong wish for a horse of my own, those times feed me. i imagine that maybe somehow one day sometime i might have a horse-of-my-own. i imagine i won’t show this horse or ride around in a paddock practicing dressage. i will ride my friend in the woods and in the fields, manes flying, both of us gleefully breathing the air and listening to each other. i imagine silent conversations about love and respect and sweet moments of just being close by each other. i imagine walking away, blowing a kiss backwards to this horse – my horse – the wind catching the scent on my hands and my clothes, and smiling.
several people lately have asked us what we meant by “products”…the “products” we were designing to go along with our blog post images. many of you may have noticed these product bars on our blogs each day. we understand that not everyone has seen these or understood our intent. we have been seeking the easiest way to present these products as options and so we listen to each suggestion we get.
there is sure a lot of fodder in our studios: paintings, music, cartoons, graphic images, photographs, writings…a melange of our work. it’s fun (and necessary) for us to turn all of this into a line of things that are purchase-able: wall art, tote bags, mugs, leggings, throw pillows, home accessories. i love the design work and have learned so much in the process!
we thank each of you who have taken a look at the sites where these are available (we have five storefronts on society6.com.) we have been told and have seen firsthand that our designed products that society6.com ship are of good quality and they stand behind them if you are not pleased. if you have any questions, please let us know. we appreciate you so much.
this week’s product line links are right below. the link brings you to one of the products in that line on society6.com. if you scroll down the page a little, it will say “also available as” so you can see the image in its varying iterations.