reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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teeters and totters. [merely-a-thought monday]

there are days that i find it stunning – the number of wisdoms quoted on memes on social media. goodness-gurus like maya angelou, dalai lama, buddha, mr. rogers, gandhi…as facebook profile pictures, cover photos, posts, instas, sage snaps. so many of these are about kindness – basic, the foundation for living in and amongst others.

the center of gravity on a seesaw is in the center of mass. two people on a beam, fulcrum pivot point in the middle, there is a place negotiated where the seesaw will balance. maybe this is the secret of interactions with others.

in too many instances it would seem that our interactions with others are out-of-balance, that they are a study in power struggle, in a quest for control. the seesaw slams into the ground as the heavyweight force succeeds in out-maneuvering the lightweight with no attempt at level. you cannot hide the heavyweight forces and think they don’t exist. the choice to let someone’s else’s side of the seesaw slam into the ground or to let them fly off the high side is conscious and real. and the goodness-gurus frown.

yet the teeters totter on and quote and proclaim and tout and proselytize and do not choose to lead by guruwisdom, ever righteous. it’s astonishing hypocrisy.

sue aikens lives alone in the most northern regions of alaska. she spends most of the year in frigid darkness, with an airstrip and a camp for those willing to brave the remote arctic. her wisdom is seemingly honed by years of introspection and sorting. she has no seesaw at her camp, but she lives everyday on the slim board that is life in those parts, always balancing with nature, with wildlife, with her own abilities and limitations. i imagine there are days that she spends on the low side of the metaphoric seesaw, trying to control her surroundings, the rises and falls, as much as possible. but i would also imagine that most of her days are spent trying to find the pivot point, equilibrium – the place where she interacts with the good earth and its inhabitants with grace and generosity and keeps the seesaw in balance. she has teetertottered in kavik over twenty years. she is clearly doing something right.

as she says, “your interactions are always your choice.”

*****

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

BE KIND BUTTONS


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no pizza, but thank you. [merely-a-thought monday]

if my sweet momma had hung tiny signs in trees, she would have hung this one, “be the reason someone smiles today.”

the historic district of plaza midwood in charlotte is a paradise of bungalows and porches. we walked to the harris teeter slowly, admiring each one, imagining the inside. later, we searched on zillow to see interiors and prices of these gems.

the house with the huge peace sign, the word love by the front door, prayer flags hanging on the side…we knew these people could easily be our friends. an inviting neighborhood. and then, this tree, filled with wisdoms and encouragements.

we porch-sat each night in our tiny mountain town, sitting on the steps or in sling camp chairs or at our pop-up table that travels with us. our airbnb is on one of the main arteries of the little city so there is traffic to watch and there are people walking by.

sometimes the conversations would be short and sweet and we would just greet people and cheer them on their way. other times, we’d start chatting. mike and michaela walked by and ended up at the porch several nights. and the feral cat – so sweet and so very shy – stopped by for a quiet visit each night. it easily started to feel really comfortable; we settled in quickly.

there are definitely times we walk or hike and attempt a littlebittaconversation with others when we are dissed. they will say nothing. truly nothing. no reaction, no smile, nothing. but we – nevertheless – try to subscribe to my momma’s unspoken mantra. we keep on trying to make others smile. it doesn’t take a lot of energy to try and momentarily engage with another, to act goofy or silly or self-deprecating, to do something kind, say something positive or enthusiastic or complimentary.

sitting on the steps of the porch one night, we said hi to a guy walking past. he was carrying his hot-out-of-the-pizza-oven pizza from the gas-station-triangle-stop-shop that oddly “offers growler taps and on-premise beer and wine”. he seemed surprised and then called over, “you wanna piece? i can share.” we laughed, tempted, and told him thank you.

we declined a slice of pizza, but my sweet momma’s eyes were sparkling.

*****

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


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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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


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wait! what?!? [merely-a-thought monday]

elephant or bear. i’m trying to decide which i’d rather be called. both momma elephants and momma bears defend their young, protect their clans. i’ve decided to go with elephant (obviously, sans political statement), for it is said, “female elephants continuously protect each other from predators in the wild, providing one another a sense of security.” and i’m less grizzly-bear-growly than wrap-my-tail-around-them-draw-them-close. hmm. well, maybe i’m a little of both. either way, i’m not going to forget if you are mean to my children. i’m not going to forget if you are mean to my family. and, in this case, i’m not going to forget if you are mean to my spouse.

people can pretty much think anything they want. we artists are pretty much used to that. questions like “what do you reeeeeally do for a living?” have peppered us our whole lives. people stare and furrow their brows when we answer. and i’m guessing that it’s not just what we say. we must … look … and act … a little artsy… or something.

sidewalks are generally pretty black and white. concrete. stamped or not stamped. seamed between squares. jointer-tool-etched or not. dyed or not. though my sweet father-in-law would have happily described all the varieties of concrete possibilities to me, i am having trouble getting through on the heaven-line so i will have to linger in my narrower spectrum of understanding.

we have concrete. in our front walk by the street, in our driveway and in our walk to the front door. all of that concrete is permanent now – post-lead-water-line-replacement-the-story-that-would-never-end – except for one square (which i hasten to point out is actually a rectangle, though far be it from me to get stuck on a detail.)

this one square, er, rectangle, is up by our front door. temporary concrete lays cracked in the spot waiting for the real concrete, contraction line between it and the old sidewalk that has welcomed visitors for about, well, 94 years, i guess.

and it continues to wait.

because it’s a “weird little job” – not worthy of attention – uh, hello? every size audience counts. just sayin’. – and because the sub-sub-contractor is “afraid the guy won’t be happy because the color and curve won’t match the sidewalk that’s already there.” uh, hello? we are intelligent beings who can grok that different ages look different. letmetellyou, we can grok that. even in sidewalks. – and because he also said, “and he seems a little different.”

wait! what?!?

“he seems a little different.”???

i’m a-wonderin’ “whatintheheck?!” while i am reading this email that was forwarded to me from the sub-contractor-to-the-city, one step above the sub-sub in the project ladder.

“he seems a little different.”

funny. david had walked in from visiting with the sub-sub when he came to take-a-gander at our “small, weird project” and had said – about the sub-sub, “wow. he seems like a really nice guy. really knowledgeable and pleasant.”

i guess the sub-sub was a good actor.

because really nice guys don’t report – even sub-sub to sub – that the client, the customer, the resident – seems “different”. that’s just kind of mean.

i don’t know what i am supposed to glean from the forwarded-email-with-no-additional-message, but the elephant in me (or was it the grizzly bear?) did write back that, though tempted to ask for clarification on what precisely was meant by “he seems a little different”, i was not going to belabor the rudeness of such a statement. what does that have to do with anything here?

it begs the question: does this mean that the sidewalk won’t be done because “he seems a little different”??

the point is the sidewalk. finishing the job. the one that started last november. really nothing else. not david’s artistic look or his intelligent conversation. not how he seems. the point is the sidewalk. not his “seeming different”.

besides, dude. newsflash: now, so do you.

*****

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


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good seed. [d.r. thursday]

poised and ready. tiny seedpods waiting. their release will come with the wind and the rain and, surely, this spring is bringing that. and they will float and fall to the ground and be sent swirling and land in the meadow and the pond, on the river and on decaying nurselogs nearby in the forest. some will take root and others will not, for their form has changed too much in the rain and wind for their function to remain the same. but there are many, so the tree’s explosion of blossoms have guaranteed its legacy.

in every moment of communicating with others we are tiny seedpods. poised and ready to release with the wind. what will we scatter?

our words are not without volition; we have the choice of what to say, the choice of how to say it. the moments of measuring a response, of pondering a question…these are moments of great import.

“all summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.” (mary oliver- what i have learned so far)

how many times we wish we could take back a comment, retract a judgement, shrink back from a story told. how many times we wish an other would-not-have-said-that, would apologize, would consider all the implications of something said in spew, or even in -what they feel is- jest. we know a tiny slowing-down, a quick brain-heart-lips check-in, a fact-check, a compassionate re-wording, would all change the minute our words – or theirs – hit the air, with the wind ready to sail them on and on.

tiny seeds sown on the breezes of everyday life. seeds that take root and grow.

“we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land…”(stephen schwartz/john michael tebelak – all good gifts)

good seed.

“i’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (maya angelou)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

prayer of opposites, acrylic 48″x48″

PRAYER OF OPPOSITES ©️ david robinson



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three fat and furry squirrels. [merely-a-thought monday]

there were three of them. up and down. up and down. up and down. it went on and on and on. over and over and over. and i watched.

three fat and furry squirrels working together.

one squirrel ran down the hulking street in the backyard, tail flying behind it. it scampered into the bushes, out of view for a couple moments. then it emerged back on the tree, on its way up. first-squirrel encountered a second squirrel on its way down. they met on the tree, sniffed noses, twitched tails and parted. first-squirrel ran up, its mouth full of leaves. second-squirrel ran down to the ground, while at the notch in the tree, way above, third-squirrel began its run down. each one ran up to the big-branches-notch with decaying leaves and underbrush and then ran back down again. up and down. up and down. on and on. over and over.

it was mesmerizing.

i stood at the sink and marveled at their work ethic. after a bit, i moved away from the window. but from time to time i would go back to check and, sure enough, they were still at it. a long day of tree-climbing and nest-stoking. from what i could tell, there was nary a grumpy moment, nary a nasty action, nary an agenda but for nest-stoking…together.

the squirrels worked hard – all day and in community with each other and i can only assume they wore little buttons that read “be kind”. one could get kind of crabby running up and down a tree all day. and squirrels are known for being somewhat territorial. i’m guessing that they were working to shelter from the extreme cold, doing what they had to do to get through it – together – to stay well, safe, alive.

we drove past the neighborhood elementary school and the sign out front read “choose kindness”. i looked at david and said, “let’s use that! you can’t beat THAT drum too often.” we went back to take a photograph.

national random-acts-of-kindness-day is february 17. a specific day marked and set aside to perform – yes – random acts of kindness.

hmmm. in a world fighting a pandemic, a country politically divided, communities marked by despair and illness and economic instability, families facing loss and grieving time spent together, i’m thinking that this scurry of squirrels would encourage us to celebrate this every day.

*****

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

click here to purchase smart-squirrel “be kind” buttons

and in other news, i am craving entenmann’s crumb cake. i haven’t had this in yearsss, but right now this ny staple has risen to the top of my consciousness and won’t let go. it must be random-bits-of-inessential-information day.


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the gift of a gift. [merely-a-thought monday]

and, of course, i wonder who found them.

the hike to looking glass rock is uphill. not a little uphill. reeeally uphill. the view through the trees, sans leaves, reveals mountains close-up, mountains out in the distance. it’s a gorgeous trail.

we started later than we had planned. and so, we had to turn around before we made it to the top. because once the sun goes down – and it goes down fast – it is next to impossible to safely navigate the trail back down. roots and rocks and twists and turns could turn it into a crisis. and we have watched everest enough times to remember professional guide rob hall’s words: it’s not my job to get you up the mountain…it’s my job to get you safely back down. pisgah national forest is – clearly – not the intensity of everest, but the same rule applies anyway.

and so – this time – we missed looking glass rock, an amazing formation, its sheer stone face rising above the trees. there will be a next time; we’ll start earlier, carry some lunch and more water and we’ll get there and back before darkness falls.

i had tucked a package of our “be kind” pins into my bag. i thought that there might be a place i could leave them. each time we have passed a little trail magic – a painted rock, tiny gift – it has lifted our spirits. i couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to leave these pins than this forest. the knot in the tree seemed perfect – at the right eye level for those hiking up. my only regret is not being able to go back and see that they are gone.

for each time i have left a rock – with a heart or a peace sign or a tiny message – on our local trail tucked into the notch of a tree, on an obvious branch or perched on a burl – i have had the opportunity to go back a next time and see that it has disappeared. it’s the gift of a gift.

i can only assume that the little cellophane bag tied with green curling ribbon in brevard is gone. i can only assume that someone has given out all the “be kind” buttons. i can only assume that as the recipients wear them or put them on their backpacks or their purse or hang them on the visor in their car they smile and pay it forward just a little.

the gift of a gift isn’t always known.

*****

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


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be a duck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“mama said there’ll be days like this; there’ll be days like this mama said.” (“mama said”, the shirelles, written by luther dixon and willie denson, 1961)

there are days in which i remind myself, time and again, over and over and over, blah-de-blah-de-blah, as i learned years ago from a cheery 95 year-old woman on an interview, to not take anything personally. this requires evolving. big evolving.

it does not come naturally to me to not take things personally. it is waaaay over on the other side of the taking-things spectrum from where i am. but, i am inching my way, crawling, scraping, babystepping my way in that general direction. ever-evolving, i intend to get there. some.day.

i suspect that, on the day that i arrive, i will find a light heart, laughter always at the ready, dancing feet, unconditional forgiveness of self and others, grace for mistakes or choices made, full nights’ sleeps, anticipation of continued bliss in the land of not-taking-it-personally. umbrage will fall like rain on duck’s feathers and the seesaw will stay level, a fulcrum of balance.

for, as any perusal through social media will remind us, we are not walking in shoes other than our own. memes as prodding cover photos or profile pictures or insta’d wisdombits or tweeted tweets, we are reminded “you never know what someone is going through. be kind. always.” yup.yup.

we each have access to the wisdom of the greatest wise ones. and we each forget. every. single. day. we don’t always think about how our words or actions will arrive on the heart of others, particularly in the moments of delivery, particularly the things that are … heartless. conversely, it, then, is likely that others, in the moments of delivery, were not thinking about how their words or actions would arrive on our hearts. we also know that it is not likely that someone else is laying awake in the middle of the dark night thinking about what they said or did, their words or lack of words. some people are better at letting things sliiiide off. me? i’m still evolving.

in a slew of bitterly cold temperatures, we passed a frozen pond the other day. there were many ducks on it and i wondered aloud if their tiny butts were frozen to the lake. in my best duck voice i implored passersby to “help us, help us. our tiny butts are frozen and we can’t get up!”. but, in my moment of intended comedy, i did not know some important things about ducks: “waterfowl possess remarkable adaptations to survive in cold weather, including dense layers of insulating feathers, counter-current blood flow to reduce heat loss through their feet and legs, behavioral modifications to reduce exposure to the elements, the ability to carry large fat reserves, and perhaps the greatest adaptation of all- migration.” (ducks.org)

“be a duck,” i said to him the other day. sometimes it is necessary. let it all roll off your feathers.

a little research had given me a tiny bit more knowledge: wear more layers. don better boots. reduce exposure to potential yucky stuff. eat and drink merrily without minding the mirror too much. and, if all else fails, move on. be a duck.

mama was right. there are days. ouch.

love oneself enough to be ever-evolving. ever and ever and ever.

ducks know this stuff.

*****

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



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a run on “be kind” buttons. [merely-a-thought monday]

inc. magazine has surprised me time and again. in this period of marveling over the inclination of people in leadership positions around me making what-would-seem really questionable decisions, i have found inc. to be wise and thought-provoking and practical.

i have read articles about management, about good leaders, about equipping employees with confidence, about building people up and not tearing people down. i have read about innovation and support and equality. i have read about not taking things personally, about not ruling your workforce with fear as your greatest tool, about not undermining or being deprecating toward your workers. i have read about organizations working in collaboration, with communication, with transparency. i have read about creating places of compassion and constructive feedback and shared vision. i have read stellar writings about limiting leadership-driven agenda, about truth, about acknowledging discriminatory practices and addressing them. i have read about conflict in the workplace, about identifying it, qualifying it, mitigating it. i have read articles asking challenging questions, sparking maturation of companies and businesses and organizations.

inc. magazine has rocked in its simple approach. it makes me wonder why more manager and leader-types clearly don’t subscribe – in either print, digital or philosophical ways. it’s too bad. any measure of brutally mean dominion over employees does not seem to be a mission of goodness or of growth. organizations that participate in the mission of goodness do not fall into chaos or an abyss of hypocrisy. instead, they grow and change and fluidly adapt. they share ownership with the community they serve and they gratefully appreciate each spoke in the wheel, knowing they didn’t get there without each other.

so when inc. magazine had an article about thanksgiving, we clicked on it. again, a simple approach. instead of going around the table with the question “what are you thankful for?”, the writer suggested you ask the question “what will you do to make others thankful?”. an active verb. what WILL you do?

there’s been a bit of a run on our “be kind” buttons. maybe others are gifting them for the holidays. maybe they are challenging students or service groups to disperse them. maybe they are standing on corners and just giving them out. or, i hope, maybe them are giving them to managers who need be reminded. i don’t know. i do know, however, that we will likely be at the public market or ogilvie handing them out one of these days. or maybe we’ll leave wrapped bundles on the trail or at the check-out line or in the public restroom. free buttons. who can resist? it’s my hope it will make others smile, to concentric those circles out, to generously spread gratitude and kindness.

because inc.’s question is a good one. just like so many of their others. bravo, inc.

*****

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


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already. [k.s. friday]

“her mother told her she could grow up to be anything she wanted to be, so she grew up to become the strongest of the strong, the strangest of the strange, the wildest of the wild, the wolf leading wolves.” (nikita gill)

inscribed in the sidewalk in frisco, colorado right outside the door to next page books and nosh, this quote begged me to take its picture. even under the bluest sky, embraced in high elevation rocky mountains, in and amongst the most golden aspen, it stood out. my sweet momma giggled from the other dimension as i took out my camera, and momentarily blocked the entrance to this independent book store.

we wandered for a long time in the shop. like deb’s fair isle books on washington island, it was exquisite and welcoming and easy to sink into. we touched the spines of books, chose another set of prayer flags, read greeting cards, bought our girl a magnet. i wanted to sign up for many of the upcoming masks-on gatherings there, sip coffee, browse the ‘be kind’ stickers and study the hiking trail books and maps on a center display. i would have liked to have been at “not your mother’s book club” on the 25th. my momma thought that was funny and assured me she would have attended as well. yes, it would be easy to spend magical days there; i suspect chatting and being quiet would pass the time and suddenly the sun would dip behind the mountains and we would be gently nudged out the door, past the nikita-inscription and onto the sidewalk.

i learned on their website that october is conflict resolution month. back in wisconsin, unfortunately, we were unable to be present on the 19th for the event at the shop called “conflict resolution for holy beings” (joy harjo) but i know plenty of people who should have attended.

nikita gill, a poet and writer with huge instagram following, also penned: “you have been praying so long for the strength to outlive the pain they inflicted on you, that you have forgotten – you are already strong.”

my sweet momma nods in agreement and whispers “oh yes!” to nikita and me.

glancing over at me, she adds, “hang the flags in the wind.”

*****

SISU: a finnish concept described as stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY