reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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and the gasket smiles. [d.r. thursday]

every day i hold my breath and touch it. i slowly open the closet, bend down and approach it. i nudge the tiny trap door over to allow space for my hand. the coupling has no idea it wields such power, such angst. but it does. it is disconcerting what 1/2″ pvc pipe can do to your psyche. and so… i reach out and grasp the connection. i daresay i even close my eyes. and every time it is dry i thank our lucky stars. a search of great proportion, text messages and voicemails from our “village” and treks to every plumbing supply house in the area later, we seem to (knock wood!) have solved the problem with a 99¢ rubber gasket and a little repositioning of the pipe. and so we attempt to move on. the ptsd of waterinthebasement demands i test it often; i am trying to release some of this and move from every day to maybe every other day. suffice it to say, the big black plastic bin remains – and will remain – in its spot directly below the offending coupling for some time to come.

this little adventure has set us on a course in the basement. the havoc created a ripe invitation to sort, to clean, to reminisce, to give away. a task undeniably time-consuming and cumbersome, but gratifying nonetheless. the leak itself was smack in the middle of david’s studio, but fortunately had not affected any canvasses. now, at last, as he puts his studio back into place, he will dance with the black bin and his patina-rich easel.

we love patina. perhaps it is because we have patina ourselves. at 60 (whatever) you have no choice but to own it, this “gloss or sheen on a surface resulting from age or polishing”. i never thought of it as “polishing” before. age, yes. polish, no. it seems the opposite. it seems that one removes patina with the act of polishing, an action misguided and not recommended by antique collectors everywhere. which does make me think about all the work we do in this country, in particular, to avoid ‘looking our age’, to eliminate wrinkles and age spots and the bumps and lumps of time-spent-on-earth. seems contrary to the upholding of patina, the celebration of the worn, the shabby-chic, the tattered, the threadbare, the velveteen-rabbit-ness. let’s just call it all wizened-beauty.

much of the basement is dedicated to glorifying wizened-beauty as this is an old house, 93 years worth. in the section of the basement where it is studio, all the pipes and walls are painted bright white. there are spotlight tracks in each area. it does not feel old-basement-ish. instead, it feels to us simply a cozy space, inviting our presence. the studio that holds david’s standing easel, the space that holds paintings-waiting-for-homes, the storage that holds boxes of my cds, all analog in a digital world. that studio also holds two rocking chairs, both with treasured history. one from spaces-of-painting past and one from the nursery upstairs that only exists in memory now. how often we have each rocked in those respective chairs. how much time has gone by. not fancy and definitely sans polish, they hold steadfast. they are there for the times of muse and the times-in-between the muse. and times like now.

the studio in the basement waits, just as my studio where my piano waits. raw opportunity, beckoning each of us as we rearrange, store away, go through, readjust and re-enter.

the gasket, up above and comfy in the coupling, looks down and smiles at what it started.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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“the pace of nature.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“…adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.” (ralph waldo emerson)

no matter how hard we try, there is not one thing we can do to make the sun appear or the day warmer or the moon to rise or the snow to fall. we accept that time will come, time will pass, time will form and time will destroy. we give over to nature, anticipating that which we know, expecting the unexpected. we baby-step through this very time in the universe, our footprints barely visible on the timeline that is forever. we learn that no matter our stride, we are simply tiny beings. eventually, we learn, after giving over to patience, that that is enough.

the john denver sanctuary in aspen is a treasure trove. we have been there three times now. a garden of trails and large river boulders etched with lyrics and quotes, perennial daisies and aspen trees, it is a gentle sinking into peaceful. the city sounds of aspen fall away and the river and streams are lulling.

we wandered for hours, reading, sitting, pondering, the sun on our faces, the sound of quaking leaves slowing us down. i stood on a giant rock, like a stage under my feet, and bowed deeply to no one and to the brilliance of a man who knew how to tenderly shape melody and weave lyric into a fabric like a soft blanket.

we were immersed in poetry, in words, delicious to read aloud. we were quietly taking it all in, i in all my john-denver-glory, reliving the cassettes i wore out, rewinding, rewinding, listening again and again. this exquisite place, tempting all-day-hooky-playing, wielding a magic defined by thought, encouraging reflection, softly begging you to tumble in your own thoughts. this place slowing you down, reminding you that it is not stuff that defines you, it is not the stuff-of-you that will remain with others.

we wrestle with timing, with suspense, with expectation and disappointment. we measure against ladders of success and hold ourselves to higher higher higher standards of accomplishment.

nature quietly treks on, luminescent and glorious, patiently acknowledging every babystep moment of its impact, surrendering judgement and secretly, from the heart of the universe, signing its autograph on all of us, whispering to us to slow our pace.

*****

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chipping away, i suppose. [merely-a-thought monday]

long island has nicer springs than wisconsin. considerably warmer temperatures, more consistent sunshine, earlier flowers, i remember my birthday in late march as sweater-weather, with many birthday pictures taken in front of the yellow forsythia at the front corner of our yard where the grass met the curb of the street. not so much in wisconsin. it’s still cold, still windy, still cloudy, still rainy, even still snowy. as my birthday rolls around i am always hopeful that it will suddenly change and there will be 60 degree days and we will hike with no coats and no 180 earmuffs. invariably disappointed, we layer up and hike anyway. saturday was no exception. no in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb for this state.

birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection. the generosity of wishes texted, emailed, called, zoomed, facetimed, mailed, shipped and wrapped on the doorstep are a heaping portion of goodness and they enveloped me in warmth all day. the lion of march did not reign the day. instead, the only roar i heard was laughter on the trail, on facetime with my niece, on zoom with best friends, reading the glittery-unicorn-poop card from my other niece, the lingering echoes of my girl and her boyfriend singing to me, my son’s voice on the other end of the phone, a dinner invite from him and his boyfriend, singing memojis, exploding confetti on a text from crunch, music and spattered painting in an ecard from my mother-in-law, words in messages penned or typed, thoughtfully chosen. i lit my new candle, named my adorable new gardenia bonsai, and pulled my concentric circles ever tighter to me, hugging them back. there are days i think that every day should absolutely be lived like a birthday.

there was a common denominator in messages. my husband cleverly made a birthday book about life and love from a pa-pad, pads of scrap paper cut and glued by my sweet poppo in his effort to save trees and the environment. a dear friend from elementary school wrote that she hoped all my wishes come true. my oldest friend ever, a cherished friendship that has sustained through the years, wrote that she hoped i was celebrating. in one card that wished me “all things beautiful” i read, “may you always see the beauty in this world and be encouraged to keep pressing on, regardless of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that stand in the way.” in another was simply the word “forever”. another made me laugh aloud, poking fun at growing older. another wished me a better year. and one reminded me that “we are all works in progress.” in that card, my wise friend added “to ever evolving you” to the message “to another good year of chipping away…”

ever evolving.

the spring rains gather on the deck. they clean off the last of the snow and dirt that have been left there through the winter. like periods on sentences, they mark a new time of growth, an end to fallow, warmth on its way. there have been so many periods on sentences this year. too many. it is a time of wondering. clarity is elusive. it is a time of giving over to not-knowing.

i suppose it is possible that this is the lesson after all. not-knowing. ever. i suppose that spring – even in wisconsin – could surprise me. i suppose no time is really a time of stasis. i suppose that is why riverstones are so smooth. i suppose that, no matter what, the promise is to be ever evolving.

*****

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the black bin in the middle. [d.r. thursday]

personally, i like the black bin in the middle of the room. right now, it gives me a sense of peace, or, more accurately, less of a sense of panic. in our seemingly neverending plumbing story, we are still seeking the proper gasket for our dysfunctional coupling. we were behind a local plumbing truck on the way to lowes. this business has operated in our town for four decades servicing all these old houses with their variety-pack of fittings and pipes and unions and o-rings and such. as i told a friend, it was a universe-is-laughing-at-us moment as we drove behind this truck that i just knew had shelving with old disheveled water-stained cardboard boxes full of the exact gasket we needed. i wanted to jump out of littlebabyscion at a stoplight and run up to his driver’s window and knock-knock-knock on it and beg him to check the ratty cardboard boxes for this gasket, which of course, he probably had in his pocket, upon which i would offer him 10 or 20 dollars for this simple vintage rubber 79 cent piece. it didn’t happen, of course. i’m quite sure that he would have done anything to avoid my panicked face in his window. and so, we are still on the quest. and learning a lot about gaskets and o-rings and sheet-and-ring gaskets and fun stuff. someone said to me yesterday, “oh, like that’s something you really want to know about!” but i disagreed. though i wish the tiny leak would stop, i am finding the puzzling-out of it a great learning process. a creative process, let’s just say. so. the black bin in the middle of the room.

soon we will piece back together david’s studio down in that space. he’s bringing paintings back into the light and we gaze at them as he recalls much of this pandemic year, time spent without painting. i know this feeling as i enter my own studio upstairs. a crate of cantatas i composed, some resource books i have used for decades, a few decorations from the choir room i used to occupy – they sit along the side wall of my studio, the remainder of what i need to file away, put away, throw away. i, too, have not spent time in my studio creating. it’s the wrists, it’s the job-loss, it’s the pandemic … it’s a long time of fallow, i suppose. it is the juxtaposition of art that makes a living and art that is living. it’s a sort of betrayal by art. it’s feeling that which you have dedicated yourself to letting you down. it’s change. it’s a time of discernment. it’s a time of confusion. it’s a time of loss. it’s a time of not-found-yet. it’s a time of grief. it’s complex. it’s a mixed bag.

we laid awake in the middle of the night. we had a banana, our traditional middle-of-the-night snack. we talked. we grappled with the year-of-years we have all had. once again, for the millionth time, we tried to sort it out.

we talked about my snowboarding-broken wrists and a community of leadership that never reached out to me. we wondered aloud. we talked about the pandemic breaking out, virtual-work, exponential curves of connecting to others online. people, including us, losing positions we loved to a virus that shut everything down. we talked about financial hardship, too common a denominator. we wondered aloud. we talked about the terrifying covid numbers we watched on the news – climbing, climbing, climbing. we wondered aloud. we talked about political division, a time of chaos and the amping-up of bigotry, complicity and vitriolic rhetoric. we wondered aloud. we talked about isolation, people missing people. we wondered aloud. we talked about the civil unrest in our town, deaths-by-automatic-weapon a few blocks over, curfews, fires, boarded-up businesses. we wondered aloud. we talked about my fall in the fall, a whopping new wrist ligament tear and, again, a community of leadership that did not reach out. we talked about losing my long-term job. we talked about the silence of others. we wondered aloud. we talked about david’s dad and his move to memory care, his mom and her spinning grief and loss-paralysis. we wondered aloud. we talked about our sweet babycat and his sudden dying, the heartwrenching hole. we wondered aloud. we talked about the lack of security, rampant. we talked about extreme gun violence and people’s hatred of anything-they-aren’t. we wondered aloud. we talked about exhaustion, pervasive and overwhelming all of us. and we wondered aloud.

not much sleep.

we’ll find a gasket that works soon. or we’ll call a real plumber in. and maybe, little bit by little bit, our artistry will call to us – to trust it, trust ourselves. it will remind us that it is not responsible for making a living. it will ask us to look around at that which is of solace to others in these times, regardless of lacking financial reward: it is music, it is visual art, it is the written word. it is art and it is living.

and, for some time to come, the black bin will sit in the middle of the studio. to remind us of the process.

*****

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the soul of the earth. [two artists tuesday]

“it never occurs to us to wonder how the earth sees us. is it not possible that a place could have huge affection for those who dwell there? … could it be possible that a landscape might have a deep friendship with you? that it could sense your presence and feel the care you extend towards it? … perhaps each day our lives undertake unknown tasks on behalf of the silent mind and vast soul of nature. during its millions of years of presence perhaps it was also waiting for us, for our eyes and our words.” john o’donohue’s continued writing in this passage from beauty so reinforces personal responsibility for our good earth.

have you stood in a place, grounded into the dirt, unable to step away? have you hiked in, willing the trail to never-end, to not enter back into the sphere of bustling humanity? have you laid in the grass, your eyes on the clouds, pushing sleep just a bit to the side, creating words and shapes and animals in the sky, laden with sun-color, untouched by crayons or paint? have you touched the bark of a tree that whispered to you wise words with deep roots? have you cradled the petals of a flower gently in the palm of your hand, silenced by its fragility, its complexity?

and what has the good earth felt about us? have we offered the same solace to its soul? has it been moved by our tenderness? is it listening to our carefully-chosen words to each other or is it reeling, dumbstruck, at words thrown willy-nilly, demeaning phrases, curses and mean-spiritedness uttered in its place? does the earth trust we will do the right thing, that we will preserve its goodness for centuries to come? can it feel the love we have for it or is it begging us to notice the litter strewn on the ground or yet another person who throws trash out the car window? do places we go miss us when we leave or is there a sigh of relief as we pass through to the next place? does this soul wait for our soul to return?

the feeling you get when you arrive somewhere you have never been and yet you know you have been there before. the exhilaration of feeling the invisible source of serenity, the tethers of strength. the freedom you feel at the edge of the canyon, your heart beating wildly, a connection to all that has gone before you and all that comes after you.

how can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth?

how can we not know?

responsibility.

*****

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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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art is like that. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t understand this painting. nor do i feel connected to it. art is like that. sometimes it resonates, sometimes it does not. and in just the way that it does not vibrate within you, it still stirs something else.

for me, this has stirred up images of one of my beloved nieces. her wedding, now years ago, was a blur of blue sky, warm sand, rich brown gowns, the setting sun and her, in stunning white. her home combined these tones; it echoes the sentiment of that landscape and never will i see blue and brown together without thinking of her. art is like that.

we each carry a palette of color at our hips. we carry tunes of music in our hearts. snippets of image, of music that evoke memories of other times.

right now, in the middle of this raging pandemic perhaps this is most important. we have nary a chance to have new treasured times with our loved ones. we face quiet thanksgivings, quiet holiday seasons. we wonder what it will be like, we wonder how we will get through it.

walking through the neighborhood yesterday, we took note of how many people had already decorated for the holidays. lights and giant hard plastic snowmen, candy canes adorning sidewalks, stars lighting up gardens. there were yards that looked like a cacophony of giggling sound, competing with other yards for attention. while this seems early for all that, it made us smile.

for, in all that wiring and plasticware, was a trove of memories. each homeowner must have yearned for the resonance of that magic. each homeowner must have had stories of years-past echo through their heart and mind. each homeowner created art – their own art – chronicling their life and experience through time, re-telling a story, expressing what they feel and creating a rich offering for others.

grateful for their gift as we wandered home through the darkened streets, i thought about holidays past, traditions on hold, gatherings at bay, much longing. it stirred a deep store of memories, made me hope yet even more for the pandemic healing of the world.

and it made me wonder if this is the year to consider having a “regular” christmas tree, bright with lights. if this is the year to respectfully light a menorah, tend a kinara, break open a star pinata…

i wonder if this is the year to celebrate the story of life with the whole world, full of color and sound, vibrating loudly and ever so quietly. art is like that.

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so as not to forget. [d.r. thursday]

KDOT sketch

a few years ago i went through all the thousands of photographs taken for the previous three to four decades.  they were not neatly in photo albums, which would have made it much simpler.  instead, with a mere few albums capturing the earliest of years, they were in envelopes in boxes, envelopes in drawers, envelopes in bins, envelopes, envelopes, envelopes.  it was a gigantic task with the dining room dedicated to boxes marked with years and headings like “christmas”, “birthdays”, “summer fun”, “trips”, “visitors”, “losing teeth”… an opportunity to re-live all of it, the heart of life lived.

one thing i noticed in my goingthroughgoingthroughgoingthrough and sortingsortingsorting was that it was really obvious that i had most often been the one taking the pictures.  through my lens, my focus, my read of the moment, the wisp, the instant the aperture closed, my blink.

there is always the picture-taker, a designated recorder, the secretary of the emotions, the faces, the light and shadow, the view, the action, the moment-in-time.  i grab my camera all the time.  it’s second nature for me.  and now that it’s the same device as my phone, it is incredibly easy to always have it at-the-ready.  i just told a friend that i am difficult on a hike – always stopping to take pictures on the trail.  it’s not because i’m so much a collector of things-to-have.  it’s because i am a collector of things not-to-forget.  each photograph, each image reminds me not-to-forget a certain time, a certain place, a certain interaction, a certain story, a certain feeling.

so when i walked into the basement in july and i saw the wisp of me on the easel, it moved me.  that wisp is now gone and in its place, paint-over-paint, is this whispered iteration, on its way as d says.  a moment snapped of my time, a moment of his.  but this one, this wisp, this color-put-to-canvas photograph, is one i didn’t take and, my heart gently points out, one he clearly didn’t want to forget.

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messier. more color. [d.r. thursday]

sketch image

heart and strawberry

peter max, a pop-art-expressionist, popped into my mind when david showed me this sketch.  add bursts of color to this and it’s the happy full-spectrum pieces of the 60s and 70s, full of rainbow and light.

one of the presents i received for my birthday this year was a coloring book and colored pencils.  at the time i was unable to use it, but i put it aside for when my broken right wrist might cooperate and i might be able to lose myself in good-old-fashioned coloring.

i dropped david’s sketch into photoshop and started to peter-max it.

the more i worked on it, the happier i became.  it was so messy.  but it was just so – fun.

color – this infinitely wide range of possibility – fills the lines, goes out of the lines, overlaps and bleeds into the next, reminds me that life, even in these very times, times of chaos and unrest and pandemic and exponential worry, is not just black and white.  and, surprisingly, not just the blurry grey in-between.

life is much more peter max than that.  messier.  more color.

which brings me to this:  while it is easy, particularly right now, to sort to grey, perhaps an answer to the myriad of questions is to open the delicious tin of 50 premium artist pencils.  and just color.

yes. as dear jeff used to say, “that’s the ticket!”

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colorized

early on…just a little bit of color…and infinite peter-max possibilities

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co-exist. [d.r. thursday]

marc chagall quote

at a time when i couldn’t afford paint and knew nothing about painting, i painted.  i was drawn to big canvasses and the household cans of black and white paint in the basement workroom.  there were housepaint brushes on the workbench, many with twisted brushhairs and dried wall paint from previous projects on the handles.  they felt good in my hand.  i didn’t know what i was doing, but i was compelled to do it.

and so, my paintings are black and white.  layers of white on black and black on white and white on black on white and black on white on black.  i brushed on paint; i stood back and spattered paint.  i kept going until i felt “stop”.  when i ran out of canvas i taped off a rectangle, ventured out with the leftover from a can of khaki interior paint, and painted on the wall, later framing the box with a clearance frame, broken but not obviously so.

in that time of a compelling need to paint, to preserve emotion-in-black-and-white-on-a-canvas, i wonder what my paintings would have looked like had i access to all the colors in between?  where would i have gone with mountain meadow green or razzle dazzle rose or canary or cornflower or atomic tangerine or fuzzy wuzzy brown?

anyone who has merely stood outside and looked up at the sky knows that the colors of life are as transient as breath.  they morph and change in the moments that go by.  capturing color is like capturing the wind.  one cannot see color without light reflections, refractions, wavelengths, shadow, absorption.  they work together so we might see the twilight sky, rainbows and unicorn horns.

is black black without white?  is white white without black?  is cerulean blue without scarlet?  is any spectrum complete without all others in the band of light, without all the wavelengths?  any spectrum at all?

do we actually realize that none can exist without the other?

“all colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” (marc chagall)

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