reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


Leave a comment

temporary. [two artists tuesday]

we have a ridiculously high level of dedication to this. despite the fact that no one is requiring it, no one is requesting it, no one is paying for it. every weekday, for one week shy of four years, we have written a post. i guess it’s part of the autograph we leave on the world, whether or not anyone reads it.

they poured the last bit of temporary sidewalk this week. it’s there till spring when it will be replaced by something permanent. i stood at the front door and chatted with the guys, who told me we should sign our names in it…after all, it is temporary cement. i did have this fleeting thought that, even if it were permanent cement, it is still temporary, but i didn’t think they wanted to have an existential conversation so i said nothing.

i went upstairs to get d from work. “we have to sign our names in the sidewalk. the guys told me to,” i pulled him away from his desk. he grabbed a yellow craftsman screwdriver from the kitchen drawer – where we keep one to tighten the door handle and that thingy on the door jamb that the lock slides into…what is that thingy called…oh yeah, strike plate….that.

it wasn’t too cold out – which is why they poured – so we went outside, stared at the open, undisturbed, perfectly raked canvas of wet cement and … drew a blank. the possibilities were endless. a peace sign? a heart? flowers? a mountain sunrise? paralyzed with uncertainty and too many choices, we decided on our names, which presented its own set of problems.

for we never really call each other our names. of course we will reFER to each other as kerri and david to others, but saying the name david TO david feels funny coming out of my mouth. and hearing david say kerri to me is just weird.

because a long time ago now we found out that we had the same middle name. in the very early stages of our relationship – when all we did was write emails and then texts – before we had met in person and before we had much voice-to-voice conversation, we discovered that, in the oddest of odds, our middle names are – for all intents and purposes – the same.

erle.

and

earl.

mine is the feminine version (that’s what my sweet momma would try to have you believe. having been named after my dad erling, she tried to convince me that e-r-l-e was soft and girlie. mm-hmm.) david’s was “the sound that bears make” – according to him; he was named after his grandpa.

regardless of the obvious chatter this will create as you try to discern if it is indeed soft and girlie or more of a gutteral utterance of a grizzly bear, it was decidedly a unique moment to find out we had somewhat rare names as our middle name.

and so, i started to call him david earl. (and similarly kerri erle.) soon, the formality dropped to d.earl – which is pronounced d-dot-earl. and this was shortened to d.dot – which is pronounced d-dot and does not include the obvious redundancy (d-dot-dot), because, heaven knows, we would not want to be redundant.

most of the time now, i just call him “d”.

so…standing there…in front of cement just pining to be written in…we had a decision to make. what.to.write.

and there you have it. the absolutely unnecessary story that you can’t believe you just read to the end. k.dot and d.dot in the cement sidewalk. temporarily.

the next morning – the morning after the installation – i stepped out to look at our handiwork. the sidewalk had cracked in the bitter overnight cold.

but they’ll be back, like they said. in the warmer spring or early summer days. and they’ll pour the next.

there’s a good chance we will write in that permanent sidewalk as well. our autographs.

those, too, will be temporary.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

better. [two artists tuesday]

if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.

the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.

we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maĆ®tre d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.

these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.

and yet.

as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.

in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.

i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

donkey love. [two artists tuesday]

elfie and adaline grinned at us over the fence. clearly they thought we were kindred spirits. or maybe they just wanted one of the treats we held in our hands. either way, they were cute as all get-out and my heart was happy-happy to be heehaw-hanging out with them.

i do have a thing about donkeys. horses, too, as you know. but donkeys, like giant dogs, seem really doable. sweet expressive eyes and much shorter and more containable than horses, donkeys tug at me. i guess we’ll see. maybe one of these days. obviously, this town we live in won’t be the place. i can’t imagine our perfectly-yarded neighbors-to-the-east thinking that donkeys-next-door would be ok, though our neighbors-to-the-north are overrunning their place with all kinds of non-organic-non-living-plastic-rubber-battery-run-powered-by-electricity-noisy stuff so what’s a coupla donkeys in the ‘hood-mix?

a long time ago – over twenty years now – when i was directing a christmas cantata at a church i decided to go out on a limb and use a live donkey in the production. i made arrangements with a local stable and they were bringing out the donkey the morning of the cantata. we, necessarily, rolled out a plastic runner and i started the overture. ‘mary’ had to duck under the door frame as the donkey was led in by ‘joseph’ and started toward the chancel. the biggest-donkey-on-the-planet, it seems, carried in the star of our cantata. it took very few lanky strides to reach the front of the church. the donkey took its place next to the choir, shoving a few people over as it positioned itself before ‘mary’ was helped down and it was led out. giggling is good during cantatas, i reminded myself, as the giggle spread through the pews. apparently, there are donkeys and then there are donkeys. and this one – was actually a mule – much larger than its donkey-parent. a little bit of false advertising on the part of the farm, but what-the-heck. maybe i should have been a little more specific: no hybrids.

so elfie and addie, regular-sized donkeys, were pretty cute. watching them renewed my i-want-a-donkey and i looked at websites that even advertised miniature donkeys, so as to avoid cantata ptsd.

donkeys are smart creatures. it is said that you have to be smarter than a donkey in order to train it. it’s also assumed that they are dumb-as-rocks because they are rather stubborn. in researching i read, “things need to make sense to a donkey, they aren’t just willing to obey blindly.” ahhh. i can relate.

and they really were big grinners, those cutie-pies. though they don’t look like they have a sarcastic bone in their bodies, i did wonder if they were smirks and not grins. because they looked at us over the fence as if they recognized us. like they were saying, “yeah. we get it. you guys are artists. we’re donkeys. uh-huh. kinda outliers. samesies.”

heeeehaw.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

on the front porch. [two artists tuesday]

an older gent, bearded and white-haired, he has lugged a lighweight rocking chair out his front door to sit in the sun and watch the traffic go by. we are across, on the front porch of this sweet house in this hallmark mountain town, doing much the same, chatting with people as they pass by.

each day now we’ve waved at the man-wearing-the-buffalo-plaid-shirt across the street, called over greetings. he holds up his hand in “love ya” sign language; we return the same. sipping coffee in the morning in bag chairs and tipping a glass of wine in the evening at our pop-up-dinner table. the luminaria are lit and i know my mom and dad – in a place where luminaria must always be lit – are close by, watching also.

we walked later at night on christmas, after arriving and unpacking littlebabyscion, after setting up our tiny tree with seed lights and draping a strand of happy lights over a cabinet and lighting the cypress-pine and balsam candles, after snack-time-happy-hour and before making dinner.

the middle of town is close by. in front yards on our walking-way there are posses of snowmen and herds of deer and the trees along the sidewalks of this tiny bustling place are wrapped in lights. we slow and look in every store window. christmas trees and stars and wreaths and snowflakes, santa stuck in a chimney and candy canes and a big town tree in the center at the top of the hill where, if you pause in the middle of the street while crossing, you can see a big range of mountains as you look north.

it was enchanting. no need to walk fast, we strolled the sidewalks and absorbed the spirit. different than any other christmas, it was just us. but this little town and these mountains embraced us and we immersed in it to help holiday wistfulness.

we went back into town in the daytime and wandered the shops. we found texturally-delicious cloth napkins to add to our collection and i imagine next week – or maybe this weekend – we’ll use those and they’ll bring us back here, to this place and to the peace we have felt here.

and the man with big metal sasquatch figures and lots of white christmas lights will likely sit outside in his rocking chair just off his front stoop again today. it will be unseasonable, another beautiful day, the sun over the mountain warm on his face.

we wonder if he’ll miss us.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

our maple-tree-christmas. [two artists tuesday]

and the marvel continues. this very-large-branch-turned-christmas-tree, really like anything that is nurtured, has opened in the world. it is as if it has actually-self-actualized. though it would seem that remaining a limb on the maple out front might have been its endgoal, in its experience of being cut down it suddenly has new life, new possibility, new importance. the oh-the-places-you’ll-go story of its existence has undergone transformation. the you’re-supposed-to-be-a-branch-on-a-tree has been shattered and the old story of small-pine is re-created in an unassuming maple limb. because we paid attention.

in this time of hyped seasonal holiday glee, it would seem that honoring the tiniest of tiny might yield the glee-est glee. it would seem that the slightest bit of paying attention to others might pay forward the goodness and generosity that have been showered upon us. it would seem that looking beyond the obvious – to something unexpected, something out of the ordinary – might bring unexpected, extraordinary joy.

our small-pine-maple-branch is most definitely smiling, its branches reaching out and up and, each day, feeling more a presence. a reminder that life is not normal. instead, it is a chance to pay attention, really-really pay attention. it is a chance to nurture each other. it is exceptional. i can hear our christmas tree 2021 breathing in and out, “don’t forget that.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

blurring to color. [two artists tuesday]

what they don’t realize is that we are really tempted to do it: get in big red and start driving to south dakota.

their message was gracious and full of light – they wrote to tell me that they loved one of my pieces and that every time it comes on their dish music channel they clap their hands and feel happy. this tiny gesture was a heap of wow for me; i am always astounded when someone takes time out of their busy days to pass on kindnesses like this.

i wrote back.

and then THEY wrote back. it was suddenly communication between real people. two people who live on nine acres in south dakota and us, here in wisconsin.

they extended an invitation for a meal, great humor, a glance into their wild turkeys and red fox and deer and songbirds, a gesture from strangers-no-longer. we felt that we’d-love-to-be-friends feeling. the black-and-white text of their email blurred to color.

we were masked-browsing last spring at one of our favorite boutiques in cedarburg. i picked up a canvas purse i had been studying and studying and studying, strapped it cross-body and walked to where the mirror was (because, if you are unaware, a mirror is necessary when purchasing a purse).

two ladies were shopping in that neck of the shop and seemed amused at all the questions i was pummeling at david. they joined in, nodding at each of my queries and looking at him with great anticipation of the sudden enlightenment he would have re purse-buying. eventually, they joined in the fray and we all started laughing and comparing pocketbook notes and requirements and successful handbag finds and great disappointments. the laughter was just utter joy and the temptation to suggest meeting-them-in-a-couple-hours-for-a-glass-of-wine was powerful. our day’s commitments didn’t allow the extra time or we would have. the black-and-white of strangers in a store shopping had blurred to color.

if we could have a party and invite people right now i am quite certain i know some of the newest envelope-addresses we would send to: kevin and his wife, the water utilities engineer. steve and his wife, mechanic of brilliance. the two shopping-ladies at lillies. and our friends in south dakota.

black and white can always blur to color.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

not so ruthless. [two artists tuesday]

i dare not hang them inside (or even on the actual front of the house, for that matter). but they will find their place. my mom and dad’s old christmas lights were in the bottom christmas bin in the storage room in the front of the basement. all bins had to be moved for the water utility folks to replace our water line so it seemed a decided task to go through the bins and, maybe – if i could find any ruthlessness – pare it all down a bit.

this is not a task for the nostalgic.

my digging and sorting and organizing and paring-notparing-paring-notparing down was like listening to all the old christmas record albums at once. it was frank sinatra and the carpenters and jim nabors and the firestone orchestra and chorus and herb alpert and the tijuana brass and dean martin and john denver and bing crosby and julie andrews and burl ives and doris day. it was old glass ornaments sprinkled liberally with glitter and felt cut into homemade trees with elmer’s-glue-laden-decorations. it was golden angels and hardened flour-water wreaths and crocheted bells and plastic poinsettia corsages and thick red yarn for stringing. it was cloves and pomegranate seeds and macaroni and tinsel and sugar-coating and silver sleighbells and styrofoam snowmen. it was crayon-printed “kirsten” and “craig” signatures, old red stockings-to-hang and fuzzy santa hats. tree skirts and tablecloths. rogers’ christmas house treasures and andrea’s christmas candle bubble nightlights. gift tags with long stories in a simple “from”.

as i was standing over those bins on thursday and friday, half my body buried deep into the bottom of the piles, i came upon a snowman ornament. “to kerie, from patrick” read the gift tag i had saved in the box from circa 1982, a gift from a piano student to me, his teacher. i took a picture and sent it to patrick, now my friend across the country on instagram. instantly, i had one of those heart rushes you get when you stumble across something tiny yet just simply precious. reaching out and letting him know seemed obvious. (not to mention a distraction when i needed one.)

i pulled my sweet parent’s vintage lights out and, because of that way that wires entangle even in the best of circumstances, i took my time detangling. i plugged each strand in, tightening the bulbs and removing the ones that had burned out. on the dining room table, i put together one long strand with working bulbs and made a decision. this year – as opposed to most all other years – i would wrap our front porch rail with memories. i would carefully place each old bulb so everyone passing could revisit a time long ago, decades in fact, a simpler time. i would succumb to the multi-colored-lights this year. on purpose. and after the new year, i will gently place them back in one of the bins, next to the painted-glass ornaments and the trees made of construction paper and paste.

and though next year we’ll likely go back to white twinkling happy lights out front, i will always remember the multi-colored lights and the enormity of love-filled stories and i will – just-as-always – know they will be a treasured part of my heart.

there were three overstuffed bins when i started. with a few things to donate and much in bags to dispose of, there are neater, tidier, more organized bins now. but there are still three.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

magic fluff. [two artists tuesday]

though we are not ‘good’ at many plants, it seems, we are ‘good’ at ornamental grasses. maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s location, but grasses have given us a sense of garden-accomplishment that nothing else (shy of mayyyybe the cherry tomatoes and basil and lavender this year) has bestowed upon us.

we won’t cut them down. no pruning. they will stay through the winter, magnificent plumes golden against the drear, against the snow, reminding us of good fluff of the day.

i imagine tiny animals sheltering in their masses, dense bush allowing warmth and security and invisibleness. maybe tiny chipmunks, with pantries of birdseed they have stolen from the finches and sparrows, waylaid from intrepid robins and scarlet cardinals. we’ll just keep filling the birdfeeder. judging by the birds partying in our backyard yesterday, i think we may try and find another birdfeeder to hang as well. i have turned into my parents.

dogdog comes inside each day now, laden with seed pods. if wishes were granted on seedheads, we would have so many magical dreams coming true. he seems to not mind these tiny hitchhikers tucked into his very-furry fur. we pick them off, one by one.

and now i think, who’s gonna stop us from wishing on each one? these grasses grace us in more than one way. let the magic commence.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

blame it on target. [two artists tuesday]

despite efforts to stay in the calendar, target has pushed me into the holiday season.

i was there for just a few items, including tissue wrap for a gift basket. thinking the best deal would be in the back left corner of the store – where they were setting up all the holiday displays and multitudes of wrap and bows and fancy-schmancy gifting options – i wandered back that way. as i meandered, stopping at a display of soft pastel body poofs, swinging by the smaller-food-processors-than-my-1982-food-processor-which-has-just-broken aisle, glancing sideways at a big display of dark chocolate truffles, i tried to ignore the tempting tiny trees, happy lights, holiday napkins, plates, cups, mugs, towels, sweaters, hats, a way-cuter-than-it-sounds-tiny stuffed gnome display, and variety packs of trinkets along the way. stay focused, i thought. go directly to the gift tissue, do not pass go, do not collect $200, pick up the gift tissue and deliberately make your way out of the department. resist, resist, resist. save it – that department – for later-later.

i was not successful.

the twinkling rice lights drew me in. tall, skinny trees caught my eye. ornaments in long bins made of boiled wool and snowflakes begged to be touched. i was a goner.

i wandered around december-in-target for probably just shy of an hour. and, though i had been prepared to push back against the urge to decorate early, i was smitten. this from a person who, along with the other half of the decision-team, has left up in our living room – for two whole years now – big branches we painted white planted in galvanized metal containers strewn with white lights. who am i kidding? the instant i headed back into that department, i was committed.

i put tiny white seed lights in my basket.

one of my favorite concerts was lit by the brilliant stage manager keith who, when i released my blueprint-for-my-soul album, set up ladders and lean-tos on stage and spotted soft white light off them. it created indirect-direct shadow, indirect-direct downlight. the perfect combination. it mattered to him.

the strands were zip-tied around the trees at the garden. long, long strands of colors, a rainbow requiring patience and long tedious hours that will ultimately premier as lightscape 2021. designers – brilliant like keith – have put together a show of festive wonder, the perfect combination to embrace all those who walk through. it matters to them.

the real question? it is whether you are a multi-colored-lights person or a white-lights person. what matters is what matters to you. both celebrate. both lift spirits and wrap the season around you. for years and years now i have been a dedicated white-lights person, really loving the dreamy quality of twinkling stars, tethered from the milky way and brought inside. all year round.

this year – in this season we jump into earlier and earlier each year – i just might have a little nod to multi-colored-lights. mm-hmm. just a little one. perhaps i’ll dig out my mom and dad’s vintage outdoor light strings, the ones with big multi-colored bulbs, some with paint flaking off the glass. i may grimace a tiny bit hanging them on our rail out front, but then i’ll think of my sweet poppo, up on the ladder every year, stringing them across the front of our house, winding them around our christmas trees. or maybe i’ll take out the smallest strand of colored lights i have tucked away and gently wrap them around a little tree, a nod to the ever-important-but-not-represented multi-colored lights. i’ll invite a little bit of lightscape to our house. a little bit of multi-colored magic. just because.

i’m guessing it will all happen a little sooner than i originally thought. clearly, it’s target’s fault.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY