reverse threading

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“i know you can do it.” [merely-a-thought monday]

inside a what-is-now-considered-vintage liz claiborne barrel purse was a treasure. not unzipped in years, i unpacked it the other day. i found a rattle, two small children’s board books, photographs in one of those plastic wallet picture thingies, a couple expired credit cards, a slew of emery boards, faded receipts i could no longer read, old chapstick, a collection of assorted pens and pencils, a few lists, some coins and two tiny mystery keys, a few notes from my girl, cars on scraps of paper drawn by my boy, and a card in the envelope it was mailed in. every now and then you stumble upon a treasure you forgot you had.

my sweet momma was famous for her handwritten letters; most of our family would easily recognize her handwriting, even in a crowded handwriting sampling, even years after last seeing it. this little card in my old purse was clearly something i carried around for some time. it was a note of reassurance, a note with great empathy, a note of encouragement. she mailed it early in january 1989, just a few months after i moved to wisconsin. still in the middle of homesickness and adjustment, though – as i realize now – she must have been feeling loneliness as well, she wrote to me. and she penned six words that i remember her repeating throughout my life:

“i know you can do it.”

those words – just six – can make all the difference.

momma was a glass-half-full type. her fervent cheering-on was a solid part of her nurturing. she fostered support with easy acceptance of failure, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” she didn’t list to the negative, nor did she wallow in it. in all her life, from early in marriage my dad MIA and then a POW in world war II, to losing her first baby within a day of her birth while my dad was imprisoned and she knew nothing of his whereabouts, to losing her grown son to lung cancer, to standing by my dad in his own lung cancer, a myriad of rough patches, to being left alone with my dad gone to face a double mastectomy at 93. no matter the challenge, she faced it down. she knew she could do it. and, despite any enormity, she left you with no doubt. even though her heart was thready and vulnerable, her positive spirit was contagious, her strength a force in the world.

these times – the pandemic and all it has wreaked, personal physical injuries or illnesses, job trials, isolation and loss of too much and too many to list – have cued up a range of mountains for each of us to scale. my mom’s “good morning merry sunshine” couples with her “live life, my sweet potato.” lines of counterpoint for melodies in life that are askew, her words brace against the storm. my sweet momma did not give up and she did not expect you to either. “you got this,” would be her brene brown shortcut message. she stuck with it all and rode each complicated wave, each complexity, each twist. she lives on in my daughter tearing down a run on a snowboard. she lives on in my son setting up a beautiful new place with his boyfriend. she lives on in the love her granddaughters and grandson bestow upon their children. she lives on in me.

in these times, with all its obstacles daring us to succumb, i can hear her. “i know you can do it,” her voice whispers to my heart.

*****

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

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our H. [merely-a-thought monday]

the last time i had an in-depth conversation with him, H said, “i have my hope on the generation coming up…that they will be a force for the good.” i cannot imagine a bigger force for good than sweet H.

the candle is burning now. we have had it lit many times in recent days as H has struggled with the fine line between living and dying. the image of his dear face in our mind’s eye reminds us of how to grow old gracefully, how to live into aging, how to participate, how to be in the river not on the river’s edge.

we just heard that H died last night and, as i write this on saturday morning, the sun bursting outside and the birds in full song, my heart is breaking. i have adored H – now ninety-something-something – since the first day he walked into the choir room in which i used to direct choirs, ukulele bands, handbells and be a part of all the joy and community mutually created in that room. his spirit entered before he did, flowing positive energy and a will to try anything, laughter his guide. his bass voice in our choir, in our ukulele band, in our lives was grounding and the gift of angels who had gone before him. H was intrepid. rain, sleet, snow or ice did not deter him or any adventure he took on. he worked harder than most in his earlier years and he played with childlike glee in his later years. mostly, he was not afraid. he wasn’t afraid to learn new things or take on technology. he wasn’t afraid to sing solo or rap in front of others. he wasn’t afraid to travel or to just simply be who he was. he was fiercely devoted to his family, each of them. he wasn’t afraid to love or to state how he felt or what he thought. he was more genuine than many who claim authenticity as their core. a faithful human being, he was.

the refrigerator magnets cluster together from places he went; he always proudly brought me back a magnet from his travels. at the end of the year he’d give me a multitude of those calendars you get in the mail – from all different organizations he had contributed to or of which he was a part – and i’d pick one to hang in the choir room, one to hang at home and one to use for notes. the charlie brown coffee mug in our mug cabinet, that he had carefully wrapped in its suitcase-journey from the peanuts museum in california, is a favorite treasure. he loved butterfingers. he was H.

our last conversation, just a few days ago, was a little disjointed. H couldn’t hear what i was saying on the phone but was trying hard to speak. unlike all our other calls, we didn’t really talk about anything that time. but one thing was clear – shared love and respect for each other and the absolute happiness we each felt having this special friendship. he was H and, oh, his heart.

in an earlier longer call he had talked about the dynamics of our country. he was worried and said that his concern was that current circumstances were like a snowball going downhill…getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. while i would agree that our country, in big places and small, is in desperate need of a thawing-out of mean-spirited snowballs going rapidly downhill, i would offer that there are other domino effects as well, the kind that take frosty snowflakes and build magical snowmen and the snowforts of children’s imaginings. H is such snow magic, if you will – a trillion unique flakes joined together by infinite molecules of kindness. a snowball that gains in momentum and size – in every good way – each time he was around people. brilliant snowflakes attracted to a genuine and gentle man who would dedicatedly stick with you through thick and thin, persons drawn to each other like perfect individual crystals, stars together.

H lived his hope for the future – he was a force for good. there is no reckoning about this. he will shine in the stars and in all the bass solos. he will gather angels around him, singing, and create fairy-dust-snowflakes. he will be missed and he will be remembered. he was H and his heart was gigantic.

*****

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thanksgiving. in the light. [d.r. thursday]

Angels_at_the_well_jpg copy

“this is not goodbye.  it’s just farewell to the you i recognize.  i’ve got a long, long time to learn how to feel you in a new way.” (lowen & navarro:  crossing over from pendulum)

thanksgiving dawns.  2019.

thanksgiving dawns.  rewind.  1960s.  1970s.  i remember waking with great anticipation to watch the macy’s thanksgiving day parade on our black and white tv.  my sweet momma, having risen early-early to put the turkey on at some ridiculous hour and my poppo, trying to appear helpful, both dedicated parade watchers, sipping coffee and snacking on entenmanns crumb cake.  made sweeter for us new yorkers by seeing it in person on the streets of nyc, my mom would recollect parades-gone-by with horse drawn floats and she would cheer aloud for the tv version, even in the den.  dad would be quiet, but he would be grinning, waiting for bullwinkle or popeye or underdog.  these were moments i didn’t memorize.  i was too young to know that i should.  i was steady in the world, surrounded by family who i loved and who loved me and not necessarily given to thinking in the terms “many years later”.

thanksgiving dawns.  rewind.  1990s.  My Girl and My Boy were little, in pjs, fully engaged in the turkey dance their dad performed with the turkey on the counter, happily catching bits and snatches of a colorful parade i was still enthralled with, waiting to lick the dessert beaters, while i was making a feast of turkey and casseroles and setting a table with candles and cloth.  we let the wishbone dry on the shelf for days and sometimes longer, forgetting about it, but eventually, they would snap it, wishes in their hands.  i’m sure they didn’t memorize those moments.  they were steady in the world, surrounded by family they loved and who loved them and definitely not given to thinking in the terms “many years later”.

thanksgiving dawns.  2019.  it is quiet.  My Girl in the high mountains, My Boy in the southern hemisphere.  we will prepare for a simple meal.  we will hike.  we will be grateful for all the thanksgivings of the past, for all the thanksgivings of the future.  for the thanks-giving of every day.  i know that, indeed, despite all our failings, our challenges, our sorrows and disappointments as well as our absolute joys and successes, we are steady in the world, surrounded by family who we love and who love us.  they are all here.  i memorize moments all the time these days.  for later.  and many years later.

i have said farewell to too many.  but i have learned to recognize them in the kindnesses of strangers, in the serendipities and synchronicities of wondrous things that happen.  i recognize them in the gentle breezes that sweep across my face.  i am learning how to feel them in a new way.  and i know they – my angels – are there.

“crossing over.  the light that runs forever…”

stand in the light.  happy thanksgiving.

 

view DAVID’S painting ANGELS AT THE WELL on his gallery site

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ANGELS AT THE WELL ©️ 2004 david robinson


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our good angels. [d.r. thursday]

Watercolor - Jacob and Angel copy

we sat, broken down, during commuter hour, just north of milwaukee, in the fast lane of I-94.  big red had stalled and would not start.

d called to me on the walkie-talkies i always insist we have with us when we are driving separate vehicles.  i was car lengths ahead and had moved from the fast lane back into the right lane in sudden stopped traffic when he said, “k.dot!  i’m broken down!”  i took the next exit, drove back north on the highway, took the exit after i saw him sitting in the fast lane, cars backing up in stopped traffic.  i eventually made my way to be right behind him.  sitting in the fast lane of the interstate with angry commuters approaching and trying to resume their 75mph to no avail is not my idea of a fun time.  the police officer soon got there, and it was a great relief when he pulled behind us with his lights on, effectually calming things down and blocking us from oncoming traffic.

and there we sat, broken down in spirit as well as mechanically.  we looked like the beverly hillbillies and i would have drawn the comparison aloud, but i fear that the police officer was too young to understand the reference.  big red and little baby scion were both full of stuff, for we were moving off-island and back home.  dogdog and babycat were in the scion with me, none too pleased with the sounds of traffic.

while waiting for the tow truck, d, with no success, occasionally tried to start big red.  and i, of course, while relaxing, stationary, in the fast lane of the thruway, texted jen, mistakenly panic-dialed my girl and wendy when i was trying to reach roadside assistance and googled reasons why an F150 would turn over but wouldn’t start after a sudden stop.  i, channeling my sweet poppo, decided it was the fuel filter or something to do with that, not that i could do anything about it.  i just liked trying to figure it out.  and i had nothing but time on my hands.  big red hadn’t had a lot of gas in it on island and we had just filled the tank a couple hours before this happened.  my guess (truly just a guess!) was that when big red stopped suddenly, sediment that had collected in the gas tank temporarily blocked the fuel filter. sounded plausible to me, dogdog and babycat, both of whom had great investment in my figuring it out.

about 45 minutes into the wait for the tow truck, big red decided to give up the game and started.

the very-nice police officer got us off the highway and we all stopped in a parking lot to chat about our fun time together.

we googled back roads home and while we were slowly driving these back roads, d crackled over the walkie-talkie to me, “well, i wish that our good angels would make something good happen.”  i answered, “maybe they just did.”

angels are indeed all around us.  it is possible, of course, that there was a reason not to be on the highway at that particular time.  maybe there was a reason we needed to pause in our trip.  perhaps there was a reason we should drive the back roads home.  surely, there was something.

we pulled into our driveway safely about two hours later.

i don’t purport to understand this watercolor WRESTLING WITH AN ANGEL.  i, instead of wrestling with angels, will express a gratitude for all the ways we remained safe in an event that could have had many difficult turns.

thank you, our good angels.

softly she prays.jpg

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©️ 2019 david robinson


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snow angels. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

snow angels copy

it wasn’t exactly a blizzard, but it was a great snowstorm.  it makes me wonder what would have happened if i had wished for something else….

every weekend My Girl drives back and forth across the high mountains.  she is a head coach for a snowboard team in aspen and instructs in telluride, so this four-and-a-half-hour-each-way-she’s-driving-where-there-are-no-guardrails-worry-zone for me is a necessity in her life.  i check the weather and implore her to stay in touch as she goes.  this last week, both of these towns and pretty much every town in-between had “winter storm warning” and THIS posted: avalanche warning copy

not exactly words that warm a momma’s heart.  but kirsten knows i am worried and, probably rolling her eyes, generously lets me know how things are as she goes.  she has good snow angels and i count on them.

i always say things like, “someday you’ll understand” to kirsten and craig, but i know that right now my mom-worrying might just be a burden to them.  i’m grateful they humor me, and i do know that someday they’ll understand.

when we were driving across the country in really bad weather, wendy had the ability to locate us and we were both really relieved for this.  checking in every so often, had something happened, at least she knew where-in-the-world we last were.  a good snow angel.  both The Girl and The Boy can locate me at any time too.  this is not an uncommon device used by families and i know that every mom has eternal gratitude for such a thing.

we took a walk in the freshly fallen snow.  It was very cold out and the wind was blowing, causing drifts across sidewalks and the waves to slam against the rocks on the lakefront.  i was glad not to be driving and my mind wandered back in time to other snowstorms….ones where my children bundled up and ran out to build snowforts and snowmen, ones where i was the one on the road and my sweet momma was the one worrying.  snowstorms when i went outside and played in the snow laughing with beloved old friends.

it had been kind of a long while since i’ve made a snow angel.  we got back from our walk downtown and were in front of our house.  i took david’s hand and we fell backwards into the snow.  i drew in my breath at the cold and laughed, my arms the wings of a snow angel.

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bong trail, wisconsin website box copy

 

 


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trees and angels. [merely a thought monday]

merely words framed copy

“how was your week?” jonathan asked.  we rolled our eyes.  he was unpacking his bass while i uncovered the piano and d adjusted the mic stands.  he said, “tell me about it.  you guys always have great stories!”  eh.  great stories.  more like mini soap operas, you might think schadenfreude applies here (where he might derive some pleasure from our angst) but on the total other side of the spectrum, we have agreed that jonathan is an angel.  i wonder if, as he drives away in his subaru outback, he turns the corner and POOF! he disappears.

“it’s ok,” he says.  “trees must split their bark to grow.  there is pain.”

i can’t remember ever truly thinking about this.  but…i immediately pictured a beautiful sapling, our own “breck”.  a baby aspen we brought back from colorado, we have been nurturing it for over a year now, watching it carefully -and proudly, like parents- through the seasons.  the smooth bark on its adolescent trunk glows in the sunlight and we worry as we see this summer take its toll on the young tree’s leaves.  we notice little scions near its base, our aspen sending out roots to perpetuate itself.

i think of all the walks in the woods, the trails in the forest, the old trees in our yard and neighborhood and i can picture the rough bark, the puzzle pieces up and down the trunk of each tree.  somewhere along time, these trees, too, had smooth skins.  and then, in growing, the cambium layer’s cells, just under the bark, divided and grew, adding girth to the tree’s diameter in the process.  the outer bark continued to protect this inner layer of growth.  the job of that outer bark is forefront, keeping the inner tree healthy, as it experiences pain from the environment.  and the tree grows.

the bark.  the cambium.  the heart of growth.  and angels.

thank you for the perspective-arranging, jonathan.  again.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 12.27.50 PM

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there are angels all around you.

angelsallaroundyoujpeg“there are angels all around you,” pete said. he said this a few years ago now and it has stuck with me like glue. it was snowing – fiercely – and i had chosen to go drive in it with my inordinately-low-to-the-ground little xb. maybe not a terribly smart decision, but i needed to purchase a special gift and overnight it, so i left home determined to get to the little shop called ‘peacetree’ and find the perfect present. i took wrapping paper, a card, tape, scissors and a fedex envelope with me, in an effort to be organized and confuse the universe with my illogical logic.

having found and wrapped the perfect gift at the shop, i looked outside the big front window and saw that, not only had inches of snow piled up in my short time there, but the plows had gone by, encircling my little scion with drifts. i looked at pete, wrinkled my face in worry and said, “uh-oh…this should be an interesting drive home.” he looked back at me, his eyes kind and clear, and said, “there are angels all around you.” there were several moments of silence between us and then he said, “really.”

my husband just wrote a beautiful post about the angels all around us…the ones who help us, cajole us, take care of us, leave us favorite groceries on our front steps for when we return home from a difficult trip, make us soup, drop off a bottle of wine, bring us brownies….people in our everyday lives who make things easier. we all have them. sometimes we appreciate them a lot, sometimes we have no idea how life would be without them. they are indeed angels and life is better simply by their being in our lives. angels all around us. i was moved when the girl told me about someone she bought a sandwich and water for outside a convenience store…he was a veteran and she felt like she was drawn to helping him by her pa, my dad and a WWII ex-pow. with not much at all to spare, she was an angel for this man, who needed help. yes, angels all around us. ones we know, ones we don’t know.

and then there are the angels that i believe pete was talking about. the ones we can’t see. the ones who are present with us, but just on the other side. how many times have you felt the presence of someone you love who is no longer on this plane of existence? truth be told, i rely on that. i talk to my sweet momma, i tell my daddy stories. i ask my big brother to help me out, to give me clear, precise thinking, as he had. i’ve seen evidence of them, trying to get my attention…my “coincidental” noticing of the big semi on the highway going the opposite direction with the words “WAYNE WAYNE WAYNE” written across it…the two cardinals repeatedly swooping in the backyard over the deck, in moments i am missing my parents desperately…the intervention i can’t explain in an accident that could have proven to be tragic…the slight smell of cologne or perfume in the air…the can falling off the shelf in the green room beside the stage on the last take of the last song (called “divine intervention”) of my very first album (the-best-producer-on-the-planet-ken and i left this sound in the recording, feeling it an important message)…

i’m not sure we can seek these angels out.   as much as i’d like, i can’t just call them up. but i do know that they are there. and that blizzarding day i was out in the snow and got stuck by the fedex box, there is no explanation as to why i was able to just – all-of-a-sudden – drive out of the enormous drift into which i had slid. pete was right. pete is right.

occasionally, i see pete out and about in town. one of these times i will stop and tell him how much it meant to me that he said that. undoubtedly he won’t remember. but me? i will never forget. there are angels all around me. and yes, there are angels all around you.

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there if you look

photoi walked into the bathroom this morning and it greeted me. the scent of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume – estee lauder’s pleasures. it took me by surprise, making me stop suddenly. i stood still. i looked around, thinking maybe there was some other reason for this beautiful wafting ghost of perfume lingering in the air. i could see no other reason, no cause of any scent into which i might have meandered. so i stood there.

a few long seconds went by until i could speak and i stepped out of the bathroom to tell him that my momma’s perfume was in the air. he smiled and i could see he was moved. i went back into the bathroom slowly, wondering if i had imagined it. but as i entered the space again, it was there. most definitely – pleasures. the tears in my eyes weren’t tears of sadness. i spoke to her, telling her how much i missed her, how glad i was she had ‘stopped by’. i have been hoping that somehow she would show up, somehow she would make herself known to me, somehow she would let me know she was around.

so now i wonder – if this was her first wave from heaven. i imagine she’s been busy, her energy running high as she catches up with everyone she loves who got there before her. i imagine that she’s been talking up a storm, so to speak, and embracing all the opportunities she has to be with those she loves. so i am grateful for this moment today. this moment that – in an instant – made me feel like my momma is right here, just on the other side.

i talked to my sister during her lunch. i was sitting on the edge of the deck in unseasonable 65 degree sun and she was in her jeep at a favorite lunch spot. i told her about momma’s perfume. she said she had goosebumps. i told her, too, that the other day i found myself saying the words “betwixt and between”. now, who says that these days? we laughed when i said i was channeling mom. my sister said she had said something mom-esque a few days ago and i asked her if it was the word “irked”. again, we both laughed and we could both hear our sweet momma….

last night i woke in the middle of the night. i have no idea why or what woke me, but there was this one thought i was aware of as i made my way into awake-ness. the words – something like this – the more you have gratitude for every little thing, the more the universe gives you to have gratitude for. i woke him up. to talk about it. i’m not sure where the words came from but they were present in the air around me and my pillow. gratitude for every little thing – not just the good things. but also the challenging things. the things that make us weep. the feeling of being tired. the feeling of being exhilarated. with gratitude, the glass never has to be half-empty. it’s always half-full, waiting for the moment it spills over. our universe isn’t full of bubbles and rainbows, but they are there if you look.

my sweet momma’s perfume brought me a moment with my sweet momma. i look for the next time with great anticipation, wondering what this amazing woman will do to let me know she’s there. in the meanwhile, i am grateful for estee lauder’s pleasures in the air. a little thing? i don’t think so.

after working on projects, we played frisbee in the street. we never took a shower but wore sweats and sneakers. (we did brush our teeth.) we ate fresh strawberries and drank strong coffee.

we agreed it was a magic day.

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