reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the window of magic. [two artists tuesday]

the stairs in our home go straight up a few steps, turn 90 degrees to the left and then another 90 degrees to the left before the last few to the landing. if you turn left again you will see straight into the treetops through the office window, will pass the bathroom, and will head down a short hall to our daughter’s room. if you turn right at the landing you walk into our son’s room.

there’s a big window in his room ahead of you and it faces north. it is the window of magic. for if the circumstances are just right and the frost gathers and holds hands with the sun, this is where the crystals are found. and they are divine.

that day, in every corner, from every angle, the ice shimmered, an evanescent presence that would disappear as the window warmed. the ephemeral tiny expressions of frozen wouldn’t last. not yet. it is still fall and there will be warmer days still.

but for right then, to stand and gaze at the strands and shards and bubbly droplets is to take part in the very moment, that very moment of cold. it was to acknowledge it. and to recognize its transient beauty.

a long while ago i was gifted a necklace with a silver snowflake charm. in the tiny box was printed a brief message, “every snowflake is unique; it’s true. each one’s special, just like you.” not the thought-provoking words of mary oliver or john o’donohue, but a simple reminder of unrepeatable gorgeousness, in words anyone can grok.

these last days have been harder, a holiday with empty chairs. we are adults now and we know that this is the way of life. john pavlovitz writes, “in this season each of us learns to have fellowship with sadness, to celebrate accompanied by sorrow. this is the paradox of loving and being wounded simultaneously.”

we walked on the trail and spoke of each member of our family. we each spoke a gratitude for each person, each step on the trail punctuated by a story or some enlightenment. we laughed and i wondered what gratitude would be uttered for us, hoping that words would not be difficult for the utterer to find. our thanksgiving was bookended with early morning pumpkin pie and full bellies of mashed potatoes at day’s end. in the middle was appreciation for the people we love.

it is easy to see the cold, the long winter ahead, the empty chairs. they are apparent and they can be brutal.

it is harder to walk, peer through the window, and see the crystals and their exquisite – even if brief – magical uniqueness.

*****

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crinkles and shoestrings. [two artists tuesday]

they aren’t even my favorite. shoestrings are my favorite. but it didn’t matter. we pulled into the culvers drive-thru, rolled down the window and ordered “the biggest french fry order you have”. sometimes you feel like a nut. so…crinkles.

in really-more-news-than-you-need-to-know, we ate them all. the entire contents of the family-size-fries-in-the-heavy-plastic-hinged-take-out-container. all of it. well, except for like ten fries. we left those to be all virtuous.

i could instantly feel a zit forming on my chin, somehow lurking there since early teenagehood, waiting for me to indulge in toomanyfries. i vowed not to go out anywhere until it was gone. all-the-way-gone. errgggh. you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. we neeeeeded those fries. but they were not without peril.

you might think that was a bit of an extravagance for two artists onastricterbudgetagain. but receipt 186 for “kari” reveals it was merely $5.55 and we ultimately figured that “1 fry fam” was a lower level vice than other things might be. we think about these things way more than you might think.

the fries helped, actually. well, like vices, at least for the moment. we devoured them, along with dogdog, who was in littlebabyscion with us.

and then we went to the rv dealer for continued escapism. astounded by the interior of both you-drive-them-rvs and you-pull-them-campers, we moseyed for a few hours, in the gigantic domed building, out onto the multiple parking lots full of options and back inside.

the fact that one of the lowest-priced campers had a kitchen nicer than our own was disconcerting. i mean, it had an island and a dreamy butler pantry with a wine fridge. and an oven. it had an oven.

good thing. something in which to make those ore-ida shoestrings.

i’m guessing we’ll need them. and you can’t find a culvers everywhere.

*****

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the view from my pillows. [two artists tuesday]

every morning.

every morning this is the view from my pillows.

after coffee, after breakfast, after hugging on dogga snuffling in our faces, after the weather app, after a littabittanews…my sturdy old laptop and our quilt.

i know that not everyone wants to read all these words. i know that many will do much to avoid it. i know that – in the grand scheme of things – my blahblah doesn’t really matter much. sometimes there are responses, comments from people, questions, validations, pushbacks. sometimes people ask if we have a patreon account or a way to donate a cup of coffee. that there is someone out there who takes time to write a few words back at all is pretty gigantic. because in today’s world, there are an inordinate number of things – out there – one could choose to read, to watch, to listen to.

but i guess it all doesn’t matter.

because i have found – now – that i write for me.

writing each morning – this practice – makes me think and ponder and rehash and sort. it is a caffeinated burst in the day, a jump-start to everything that will follow.

sometimes it is a walk into a bank of memories, complete with tears or laughter.

sometimes it is a wondering for the future, attempting to connect the dots of constellations i have yet to see.

sometimes it is a rant about the world, the country, the community, things i perceive as wrongdoings.

sometimes it lifts others up, those who levitate our spirits and souls with generosity.

sometimes it is with amazement for what we see and hear and taste and smell – out there – in nature and on this good earth.

always it is with a sense of impermanence.

these words will stay on the page, so to speak, for as long as wordpress allows them to. they will eventually fade as more words will enter the big melting pot of written thoughts.

our writings will lift off someday into the atmosphere. they will float around, bouncing off stars and planets – like the silver balls in a pinball machine. maybe they will leave a little something behind, a touch of evanescent dust that someone will see and remember.

the other night – around 2:30am – we heard the owl. outside our window, the great horned owl spoke into the night. it didn’t know if anyone was listening. but we did. we listened. we heard it call. and for its unspoken spoken words, we were grateful. we will remember.

*****

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a strawberry by another name. [two artists tuesday]

every summer we would go strawberry-picking. my mom kept the berry baskets from year to year, hanging in our one-car garage. we’d go “out east” on long island, get all sunburned and strawberry-stained. my dad would quip, “one for the basket, one for the breadbasket,” chomping in-between picking.

when my children were littler, we would do the same. thompson strawberry farm in the county was our destination. the kiddos were also big fans of “the breadbasket” and i have pictures to prove it. sweetest moments, in all good ways.

if you were to describe a strawberry, you would try to describe its long-conic shape, the petals at the top where the stem connects. then you would likely go on to describe the color as it matures, the way it crunches, the way it tastes, the way seeds might get stuck in your teeth and, maybe, the way juice would stain your hands and, probably, your clothing. there’s nothing quite like a strawberry fresh-off-the-vine on a hot summery-sun day in the middle of a field with your tummy kind of pokin’ at you. amaaaaazing. my dad would agree.

as we walked on the trail, we encountered this strawberry-shaped pod. it’s a wild teasel. upside-down. but teasel is the perfect name for this flowering plant. for unless you spoke to the prickly nature of this, you could be describing the shape, the sessile leaves, the stem of a strawberry. any touch or, worse yet, a bite, would indeed tell you the difference. naturally, the color – or lack thereof – would also never tease you into picking it for your berry basket.

i guess you really need to examine closely what you believe to be a strawberry or what you think might be a strawberry. you need to question the properties of a real strawberry. you may need to research.

just because it sort of looks like a strawberry does not make it a strawberry. and, for your well-being, you need to be able to tell the difference.

*****

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a bounty of astounding. [two artists tuesday]

it is most astounding to me. each and every time. it doesn’t matter the shining of the sun or the drizzle or the misty humid air or dusk falling around us. and though it is familiar – oh, so familiar – it is new when we visit, our footfalls on the path erased and lasting as we walk. i’m comforted by this trail. and it teases me – into truly wondering about thru-hikes and exquisitely ordinary days that explode into extraordinary just by entering them.

this is an easy trail. we have hiked many others. easy trails, moderate trails, difficult trails. elevation gains, a little scrambling here and there. but when – and it is often – we need an old quilt of a trail and time to be quiet, to think, to talk, to sort, to sink into astounding beauty, stillness and ever-percolating life, we hike here, close by.

my camera is ready. i try to capture it all to remember. the trail is full of linear lines now as the underbrush succumbs to the season. a bounty of astounding. even in transition.

i believe – as we enter the woods – that it greets us back.

and as we leave – filled up – it waves and whispers, “see ya.”

“have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?” (mary oliver)

*****

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a chicken and a cow in autumn. [two artists tuesday]

my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.

whimsical.

i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.

from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.

“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”

we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.

i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.

right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.

*****

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witnesses. [two artists tuesday]

out of the corner of my eye i caught a glimpse of him leading her over to the edge of the garden. something about his tenderness made me stop and linger. he had his hands on her shoulders and was looking right into her face. and suddenly, he got down on one knee.

they were strangers – and remain strangers – but i had goosebumps of excitement as i watched him on his knee. we couldn’t hear anything, really, but when she threw her arms around him and he was beaming, it was pretty obvious. family and friends spilled out of the places they had hidden in the botanic garden and surrounded them, celebrating.

it was a moment in time. and we were witnesses to it.

we walk along the shoreline and marvel at the expanse of lake michigan. often – after the work day is over – the sun is lower in the sky to our west, so the sky over the lake is starting to turn all crayola-like as we walk. our shadows get longer, longer. it would seem we are on stilts. we stop for a minute to appreciate it all, take a picture, hug. witnesses to the end of day, one that we cannot recreate no matter how hard we try.

we walk on, sometimes entirely quiet, sometimes reviewing our day. we marvel that it is mid-october. already. witnesses to time flying, warp-speed, flimsy tendrils floating you cannot harness.

our trail was mostly empty on saturday. hiking there – in the woods – is like wrapping in a comforter. the turns and twists, the meadows, the fallen logs…they are known to us, familiar. it had been a couple weeks. many leaves had fallen. the ones that remained were yellow, some red, some orange. some of the trees were hanging on – their leaves were still green, but i imagine the color changing tiny bit by tiny bit even as we passed by. witnesses to autumn.

we often photograph our shadows. there is no worry about smiling in a photograph of your shadow. funny thing, though…we almost always smile anyway. the capture in time we got to be in a place, together, passing through, witnesses to a moment.

*****

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the answer on the underpass. [two artists tuesday]

england dan and john ford coley played over and over on my bedside cassette player. even now i’d happily pay dearly for tickets to a concert. it’s not possible anymore. but they rank up there as one of my favorite duos in the 70s and certainly must have been rumi fans. radio listeners in my graduating class would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t know every word of the songs “i’d really love to see you tonight” and “nights are forever without you”, both top-tens.

before i moved from long island, there was this boy who made dinner for me at his tiny apartment above his mom and dad’s house. at the end of dinner he tried to lure me into staying on the island, playing dan and john’s song “we’ll never have to say goodbye again”, which also peaked on the ac chart at number one. or wait…was it christopher cross’ “never be the same”??? either way, i barely knew him. before dessert, i waved from the window of my car as i pulled away.

the wall leading to the underpass was painted and we passed it each time we drove over to our girl’s place. finally, we caught the stoplight and i could take a picture. rumi’s words in a mural, simplifying it all, “love is the bridge between you and everything else.”

it makes me think of england dan and john ford coley.

“light of the world, shine on me, love is the answer
shine on us all, set us free, love is the answer

and when you feel afraid, love one another
when you’ve lost your way, love one another
when you’re all alone, love one another
when you’re far from home, love one another
when you’re down and out, love one another

when all your hope’s run out, love one another
when you need a friend, love one another
when you’re near the end, love
we got to love, we got to love one another…”

(john wilcox / kasim sulton / roger powell / todd rundgren)

i daresay that leading with love – demonstrably powerful, full of kindness and fairness and grace, sans fear and agenda and grudge – might really be the answer. to most questions.

and the bridge. to most anywhere.

*****

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LBS. [two artists tuesday]

another post paying homage to littlebabyscion.

we were driving south and the real only-way-south when you are trying to get to distant points, is to go through chicagoland, along the garyindiana mess and down i65 through the midwest’s collection of orange barrels. the speed limit varies – anything from 55mph to 70mph, though there are measures of highway in work zones that are 45. you wouldn’t know it. it is a speedway and not for the faint of heart.

littlebabyscion reared its little head and took off. “i got this,” i could hear its heart call to me as i drove. i looked down and, though i was being aggressively passed left and right, LBS was steady at 80mph. a proud momma moment. i said something to david who concurred that this little vehicle was – indeed – amazing. i said – and i have no idea where this came from – “littlebabyscion is hard-tootin’ down the highway!!”

“hard-tootin’.”

where does this stuff come from?

truth be told, however, littlebabyscion WAS hard-tootin’. it easily crested big hills and drove on forest service gravel roads. it hugged the curves in the mountains and glided down the interstates. and, in a moment we both watched, it crossed over to 260,000 miles. a proud parent moment – yup.

we were in kentucky on our way back home when it rolled over to 260. we had laughed – well, sort of laughed – on our way down south, talking about how most people we know don’t have to wonder about their vehicle on a roadtrip. they simply get in and go. we – well – we wonder a little. both littlebabyscion and big red have given us more than a few reasons to wonder. but i quietly talked to LBS before we left and cheerleaded it on, telling it i believe in it and finishing with, “you GO, little baby scion!”

we have animated our vehicle, humanized it. yes, i know. it means that we now have to find someone to address a littlebitta rust under this intrepid little car, the peril of northern living. a welder or a magician. either would work for us. it’s not part-of-the-plan to purchase a new vehicle right now or anytime soon, so if you know a welder or a magician, please let us know. i got wind that littlebabyscion was seeking a patreon account; i reassured our tiny xb that we are working on its concerns.

260,000 miles is a lot. LBS had only 250 miles or so on the odometer when i purchased it. 260k is equal to 87 times across the united states. we are – not surprisingly – bonded. we truly love LBS.

with a definite nod of gratitude to steve, our fantastic mechanic, to jeff’s exhaust system shop, to kenosha tire, we will keep going.

300k is merely 40,000 miles away. i hope to post that picture one of these days.

*****

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stumbles and falls. [two artists tuesday]

and in the same way that my palm is a picture of life, so was this trail.

roots everywhere. trippables. this north carolina forest, a temperate rainforest, was a palmistry dream. rhododendron bushes and tree roots criss-crossing, superficially close to the surface, looking unlike the high colorado mountain woods, full of pine and aspen, spruce and juniper.

i must not lift my feet up all the way when i walk. because – every so often – i stumbled and caught myself with my walking stick. shuffling along is not in order. in metaphor-land, that’s much the same as life too. no shuffling. pick your feet up and step…even baby steps.

years and years ago, decades really, i remember being in the car with my former husband. he was driving and there was someone crawling along…shuffling, if you can imagine that in a car with tires. “do something!” he muttered. “even if it’s wrong!” he added. it was the first time i can remember hearing that expression. it made me laugh aloud. the “even if it’s wrong” part. i still think about that when i drive. it’s the you-can-always-turn-around and find the right route. you are not stuck on the road you are on for always. i refuse to cut across lanes of traffic just to make a turn i didn’t realize was coming up quickly. there are other ways of getting there.

we took it slow…my lesson from vacation, the essay i would write were i tasked the proverbial what-did-you-do-on-vacation assignment. we talked about it in littlebabyscion as it crossed to 260,000 miles on the odometer. “slow and steady and we’ll get there,” i said. “there?” d asked. “anywhere we need to be, any decision we need to make, any challenge we need to forge through,” i replied.

somehow, despite the roots and the shadows and the stumbles and falls, we manage to rise up again. the trails all have them. so do the roads and the choices and decisions and relationships. smooth sailing is a myth. it’s all a little bumpy.

we go a little slower.

and there is grace in the air. we need extend it to each other and to ourselves.

*****

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