reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a watchful eye. [k.s. friday]

should it get to the point that the vine is obscuring the metal sunflower, we will cut it back. right now the vine is in its glory, billowing on top of the wooden fence, weaving in and out of the decorative wrought iron, and tumbling down our side. it has reached out and is starting to creep over this sunflower, ever so slowly and then, suddenly, the sunflower is wrapped in vine.

we keep a watchful eye.

for the vines of the neighbors, though lovely, are somewhat aggressive and we wish to protect the plants we have beneath their spilling. they are quietly growing, growing beneath these explosive vines and it has taken us years to cultivate even this small garden.

it used to be that the snow-on-the-mountain took over…it was everywhere. it choked out the lavendar garden and its long-branching rhizomes were spreading, spreading, giving our newly planted grasses a run for their life. it was overrunning everything else and its root system sent out feelers all over the yard, even under the driveway, looking for vulnerable plants it could overtake.

now the ground elder, on the other side of the potting bench, is rampant. because it is on-the-other-side and we mostly keep it from the stone patio in our potting garden, we are not as worried. but we watch it anyway.

we’ve discovered that vigilance is key. not so shockingly, we see the vines will win.

so we keep a watchful eye. and we protect the more fragile plants. we are sure to water them and check for the invasives trying to squeeze them out.

because they are beautiful, diligent silent growers, not insistently loud snowballing vegetation, and they each deserve their own space in the sun, their own dirt, air to breathe and our appreciation.

*****

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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full of beautiful. [d.r. thursday]

i worry about the ferns. fragile, willowy, tender shoots determinedly growing up from under the pile of leaves waiting, decaying, protecting the garden through fall’s end and winter’s scourge until, finally, spring. and then, there they are. despite it all. back in the northwest corner of the yard, tucked in along the fence line and next to the old garage.

they start slowly, peeking out, and then – voila – they are taller, taller, and unraveling their curly tops, like a modern dancer, curling up one vertebrae at a time, opening and embracing dappled sunlight. without concern for any part of history or future, they just grow. they are perennials, so keeping them healthy – a bit of simple nurture – ensures this fern garden in the back of our yard.

i’ve grown other plants in this yard through the years. ornamental grasses, day lilies, ferns, hosta, a couple peonies, these are the thrivers. purple iris, black-eyed susans, a planted lavender garden all fell to the wayside.

the neighbor’s snow-on-the-mountain, creeping under the fence, devoured the iris. wild mustard gave the black-eyed susans a run. the lavender was taken over by boxwood elder on a rampage.

but the delicate ferns…through dogdog’s puppyhood and now his adulthood…through the drought and maybe too much sun and maybe too much rain…through the late-late springs and the early winters…have survived.

in each of them i see the fortitude of the dancer, practicing unfurling vertebrae by vertebrae, forgetting all else – all negativity, all lack, all the torrential storms – in the tender, rich, vibrant forward-movement of now. full of beautiful.

“there is an entire forest
full of the most incredible flowers,
plants and trees inside you,
and you are ignoring all of it to nurture a single tree
that they planted inside your heart and abandoned.

the people who left you this way
don’t deserve to become your favourite stories to tell.
you are a massive forest full of beautiful and vibrant stories
and every single one of them deserves you more
than those that abandoned you to hell.”

(nakita gill – a forest story)

*****

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the orange blazes. [d.r. thursday]

there is this thing about being on a mountain in the woods. you don’t realize you are there – on the mountain. oh, you know you are going uphill and downhill and some of it is extreme, but being ON it is different than looking AT it. you are immersed in the scents and sounds and each step you take on the trail, over tree roots and slippery fallen leaves, is a really glorious celebration of being outside.

and then, in-between the branches devoid of leaves and over the tops of pine, you catch a glimpse. it takes your breath away, as do things that you love, things that are beautiful, things that remind you to “be here, now”.

the days were warm and the sun was amazing. it burned off a bit of fog early as it rose over the mountains and drew us outside. to drive down the road a bit meant getting to the national forest in a matter of minutes. hundreds of waterfalls and innumerable trails awaited. with only a couple days, we wondered where to start.

the orange trail blazes were on the trees as we hiked. it was supposed to be a relatively short trail, so we decided to turn off and take the faintly-traveled blue up the side of a steep ridge a good ways as well. we need new hiking boots it seems; the hundreds and hundreds of miles we have hiked in these over the last years have worn down their tread and traction on the leaves was a challenge. i found a stick on the side of the trail and that helped. trekking poles are also on the list. we saw no one on the blue. it was quiet and immense and the babbling stream below us was serene. the mountains around us peeked through branches on our way, more so the higher we got. we watched the sun as it got a little lower in the sky and turned around.

joining back up with the orange we started to hike back toward the lot. or so we thought. it seemed far, much farther than we had thought. the trail app wasn’t cooperating and we began to wonder if we were heading the wrong way. that made us the tiniest bit cranky, though we tried to laugh it off, even as the sun was slipping.

we passed a few people, also confused by a couple signs propped up by rocks that didn’t seem to correlate with the blazes. i took stock of our rations: a mini kind bar, a bottle of water, two halos, one sweater poncho and a thermal shirt tied around d’s waist. though i didn’t actually doubt that we would find our way out, i could imagine what it would be like to truly get lost and be unsure of the way out of the forest. “before we do the pct some day in the futuring-future, get a trail gps,” i made a mental note.

since orange was a large looped trail – and a smaller interior loop choice too – we knew we’d eventually get somewhere, though it did extend to two different parking lots, separated by a whole lot of what-would-end-up road walk. we kept hiking. at one point david thought we should turn around and go the opposite direction. happily we didn’t follow that naggy doubt he had in moments of what-the-heck. littlebabyscion was patiently waiting in the lot at the end and we loaded my stick in the back, checked our mileage – about 8 – and drove down the national park road in the last of waning light.

we hiked up another ridge the next day. we got a later start after a wonderful morning wandering in town. we didn’t make it to the peak. we were told the view was spectacular. but the hike was quiet and the brook babbling, birdcalls plenty and that smell of deep-in-the-woods like the best candle you’ve found.

before the sun set we turned around.

but it’s ok. we’ll be back.

*****

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i left it there. [two artists tuesday]

i left it there.

we had a few hours and needed a fix in the mountains. just a short distance away from congested civilization was a trail that lead into higher elevation and quiet. everything else slipped away as we climbed and followed the columbine.

i was moved by this fragile blossom on the side of the trail. delicate and perfect in every way that flowers are perfect, i picked it up, turned it over, felt its short life. like the sun, its tiny petals radiating from the center. its flawlessness is simple; its budding-lifeline complete. it was laying in the mountain meadow, waiting to be noticed. not much different than any of us.

and then, i laid it back down where i found it. and it will be there for the next person who hikes by, glances over and sees it. one sun-low-on-the-horizon-fall-dried-flower-blossom, past its season but not past its beauty.

that’s why i left it there.

*****

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frankie’s wisdom. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

there was an emphasis on beauty long before mass media made natural aging formidable. women and men, but especially women, went to lengths to be beautiful, taking great pains to conform to whatever was the current measure of beauty.

but in the past century – later 1900s through now – there has been a shift to devaluing the aging process, to undercutting the beauty of what aged looks like. the look of youth is prized disproportionately and has made middle age look inadequate. we are under siege and it is increasingly impossible to measure up to those decades younger.

there is no good reason any woman of any age should be feeling that beautiful is not unconditionally hers, is not inherently attainable. there is no good reason any young woman, glowing with new maturity, should be feeling beauty-challenged. there is no good reason any woman on the menopause roller coaster should be feeling that beautiful is bygone. there was no good reason my sweet momma, at 93, should look in the mirror and sorrowfully cry, “i look like an old woman!”. on the contrary.

the confidence, just like the wrinkles, has been earned over a lifetime of living, over struggling to be healthy, to be engaged, to learn, to be active. there is no measure for the wisdom gleaned and the story each of those wrinkles might tell, the love and struggle and perseverance each grey hair might represent, the days in the sun playing with children and grandchildren reflected in crepey skin and the lines next to her eyes from laughter with her friends.

just like hallmark aggressively pushing made-up holidays or the internet naming days as “national – whatever – day” compelling us to be involved, mass media on all levels, in all arenas, has foisted “youthful appearance” upon us as the measure of value, of validation, of relevance.

the cultural preoccupation fighting the intrinsic processes of aging is surely a mark of ignorance, of superficiality, of contrived campaigns for products and images from which we should gracefully walk away. transformative surgeries and injectibles and laser work are on a stunning rise. for what?

surely in this society we are not as inept as it seems at helping others, particularly women, to develop self-esteem, positive body image, confidence.

surely our preoccupation should be on frank lloyd wright’s words, “the older i get, the more beautiful life becomes.”

my daughter – naturally amazing and naturally beautiful and naturally talented was not even twenty when she chose those words – in french – as her first tattoo. ink as a reminder. words of wisdom.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB.

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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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we are women. hear us roar. [d.r. thursday]

Modesty detail

a little modesty: mixed media 28″x22″

ohmygosh, women are beautiful.  women are strong.  women are underestimated.  women are courageous.  women are tender.  women are emotional.  women are smart.  women are bold.  women are modest.  women are utterly and undeniably amazing…

sharing two previous posts that i could not pen better than i did when i wrote them.  thank you for indulging me this repetition.  with love to the great big tribe called ‘womankind’. xoxo

WOMEN. WE’VE GOT BACKBONE. (dec. 1, 2016)

wordswomenwevegotbackbone-jpegliving with an artist means you get to poke around inside their passion. you get to see the things that paved the way, that set the stage, that were behind the scenes. you get to hear the stories of mountains climbed and deep valleys (read: chasms) scaled. an artist’s story is not a straight line and an artist’s art is fluid.

it also means you get to go through the piles, so to speak. i’ll play songs for him that never made it anywhere, onto any album, nor any stage. he’ll show me paintings or sketches that didn’t get framed or hung or shown or even looked at. sometimes i will just go downstairs into the studio and page through the painting stacks, traveling in time through my husband’s work. color and space and frenetic movement and paintings that breathe air; all tell a story about the place he was in when he painted them.

in a recent stroll through paintings, i stumbled upon this one. i pulled it out and sat down – right there on the floor – to gaze at it. there is just something about it.

grace.  strength.  i was struck by the beauty of its simplicity.

it made me think of so many women i know. my beautiful girl kirsten, who made her first turkey after spending a day on a snowboard on mountains she had never even seen a short three years ago. linda, tossing hay to a horse with a pitchfork and hugging alpaca, never before retirement dreaming of such a thing. marykay who wisely makes brownies (gf!) for every occasion, creating inroads for people to talk and share and become a part of a whole. jay, who is zealous about the children she works with at schools, a social worker beyond compare.   jen, who stretches herself to learn new things at all times, while standing strong for her husband, stunned by changes in their lives over the last year. which brings me to randi, with a similar story and the same dedication and generous spirit. daena, who grades papers and reads elementary school novels in-between playing her handbell parts, because she is more than prepared every school day. susan, who, singlehandedly, day after day raises three young men and teaches them to see this very strength and grace in women. sandy, who quietly and fervently and proudly stands strong for the LGBTQ community. heidi, a writer who bravely serves up pizzas with a frantic pace, because it helps her family. dianne, who tirelessly works side by side with her pastor husband, keeping a full-time job and volunteering for, well, everything. beth, who posts a picture of her stunning chemo-bald self every time another friend is diagnosed with breast cancer. my sweet momma, who was kind every single time and didn’t see differences or lines, even in pain, even in dying.

the list is unending. and it made me think this: WOMEN. WE’VE GOT BACKBONE.

because it’s true. in this time in our world, who of you cannot think of a woman or women you know who are the picture of strength, the picture of grace. i want to celebrate these women. i want to encourage these women. i want to honor these women. i want to celebrate, encourage, honor each of Us.

please forward this to women you know. not because there is a link to purchase Stuff – but because it is a Truth and as many women (and men) as possible need to see it…just to be reminded. add names to the list. in our herculean (and extraordinary) lives, let’s make this a herculean (and extraordinary) celebration.

i can’t think of a better time to further the celebrating, encouraging and honoring than right now. at a time when each of us WOMEN needs to be seen as strength and as grace.

we ARE women. and we DO have backbone.

WOMEN. YOU MADE IT THROUGH. (dec. 6, 2019)

made it through songbox

“i want women to see that you do not get pushed around.” (* attributed below)

this piece today is dedicated to all the women who have made it through, all the women who are making it through, all the women who will make it through.

your fire has brought you to the edge of the battlefield many times and you have still made lemonade; you have still prevailed.

you have made it through intensely emotionally abusive relationships.  you have picked up the pieces and you have moved on.

you have made it through physical or sexual abuse.  you have risen from the ashes.

you have made it through terrifying health scares.  you have pulled up your boot straps and determinedly plodded through with massive courage.

you have made it through society’s prioritizing of body image and appearance.  you have been measured by your cleavage or lack thereof, by the indent of your waist, by the clothing you choose, by your hair.  you struggle to remember you are beautiful.  you stand tall.

you have made it through vacuumous times, the middle of chaos, the middle of multi-tasking.  you have created.

you have made it through physical summit experiences.  you have scaled mountains.  you have boarded down untracked chutes.  you have trained your body with weights and exercise.  you have run.  you have skated.  you have pedaled.  you have breathed in and sighed an exhale.  you’ve run thousands of lengths of playing fields.  you took the next painful recuperating step.  you dove to the depths.  you have been on world stages.  you have risen with hungry or fevered children night after night.  you have competed.  you have given birth.

you have made it through falling.  you have made mistakes.  you have been human.  you have forgiven and you have been forgiven.

you have made it through an education steeped in gender-inequality and bias.   you have chosen to learn more, to actively seek the resources, rights and opportunities due you, to resist against the discrimination.

you have made it through a system that undermines your success and devalues your value.  you have fought for your place.

you have made it through financial challenges of single womanhood, of single motherhood.  you have been scrappy and, without complaint, you have layered onto yourself however much it took to get it done.

you have made it through work situations where you’ve questioned how you would be treated were you to be a man.  would you be yelled at?  would your professionalism be questioned?  you have asked these questions.  you have stayed, holding steadfast, or you have moved on; you have decided what is best for you and moved in that direction.

you have made it through the skewed-world fray into leadership roles where your every decision is challenged or thwarted.  you have overcome; you have triumphed.

you have made it through being-too-young and through aging.  and you are not irrelevant.

you have made it through.  you have spoken up, spoken back, spoken for.  you have written letters.  you have marched.

you have been pushed around.  but you have pushed back.  and, just like the tortoise, you have made it through.

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(*this quote is attributed to nancy pelosi)


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you are beautiful. [merely-a-thought monday]

you are beautiful (chicago)

i remember heidi telling me about a conversation she was having on a mother-daughter weekend with her sweet mom, among other mothers and daughters.  they were sipping glasses of wine and started listing some of the things that were disconcerting to them about themselves.

we women (and men) have all done it.  we are sitting smack in the middle of a society that puts great value on appearance and youth, rather than the wrinkles of wisdom, the not-perfect-shape of having children and nurturing families, the heart-showing-on-our-face that has learned great empathy through the years, the grey hair of hard work and compassion.  and so we complain about the obvious changes we are going through.

i have looked in the mirror numerous times and thought,  “wait!  hold on!  that is NOT how i look!”  followed closely by, thinking, “it must be the lighting!  good grief, why do they use these dreadful florescent lights?  where are the soft white light bulbs?  what about indirect lighting?!  haven’t they invented soft focus mirrors yet??  umm,  i prefer my photos over-exposed, thankyouverymuch.”  we are hard on ourselves.  understatement.

instead of recognizing the beauty, the light in our eyes, the smile lines on our faces, the brow of concern, we list to the negative.  we do not look like the photoshopped version in the magazine; we cannot measure up to the three-or-four-decades-younger version of even ourselves.  life changes us.  why is it so easy to minimize ourselves and so difficult not to maximize what those changes have brought?

heidi’s mom interrupted the conversation.  she gently stopped the flowing list of self-deprecating complaints.  and she said, “you will never be more beautiful than you are right now.”

we passed this spray-painted graffiti in chicago.  i grabbed the phone out of my purse and tried to quickly capture it.  my finger blurred part of the image and i ruminated after on how i had ruined the photo.  and then i realized that no, indeed i had not ruined it.  for that blurry flaw in the photo would remind me (much better than were it not to be there) that we were walking fast down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, trying to capture the photo inbetween lots of traffic, laughing and excitedly on our way to see The Boy.  that blurred sixth of the photo – a photo that was not perfect –  would remind me of that day, imprinting in my life right then, the reminder timely and empowering.

you are beautiful.  right now.

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

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you can’t judge a book… [not-so-flawed wednesday]

HalloweenTree

this tree.  gnarly and twisted and wrinkly. it looks a little halloween-esque at dusk and could be downright scary in the dark of night.  it’s seen so much life, so many decades and its lifeblood travels throughout the healthy tree, bringing and sharing nutrients.  home to insects and small creatures, it provides shade for the vegetation beneath it.  it’s not just an old tree and it’s not the picture of what we think of when we think of a beautiful tree.  but it is.  beautiful.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.  my sweet momma always said that.

momma would look in the mirror and talk about the wrinkles on her face and how “old” she looked.  in her wheelchair she could appear to be meek, wrestling with difficulties and just an old woman.  but that was so not so.  she had seen much life.  she was home to my dad, me and my sister and brother, our families, extended members as it fanned out the branches of our family tree, her friends.  she provided warm words and kindnesses to all around her, strangers among them.  she was beautiful.  every last gorgeous wrinkle.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

we had a black lab years ago, one of a few in our family history, when The Girl and The Boy were little. his name was hughie and he had at least 47 allergies.  he was treated for many of these and we tried to address the auto-immune disease he had as well, but he lost most of the hair on his body.  he looked gnarly and rough and wrinkled.  as a lab with little hair, he looked scary to those who did not know him.  he struggled and, even in his discomfort, was gentle and sweet, a learning for The Girl and The Boy, who were his and, despite his outward appearance, knew what was inside.  he was not the picture of what we think of when we think of a beautiful dog.  but he was.  beautiful.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

inside.  beautiful.  how hard is it to always remember that?  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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a beautiful world. [merely a thought monday]

desiderataquote

my dearest daughter and son,

it is monday morning and i suddenly realized that this blogpost posted without my finishing it.  there is so much i wanted to say, too much.  my heart breaks, thinking of this world you are inheriting.  and my heart soars with wishes for you.  both of these.

and so, rather than speaking of vast and chaotic brokenness as well as hopeful and inspired possibility, i’ll take it as a serendipitous sign to let desiderata say it for me.  this really sums it up, better than i could.  it IS still a beautiful world.  in the middle of glowing aspens or the front row of the ballgame.  in the high mountains or on the shore of boston harbor.  anywhere you are.  anywhere you go.  you bring it – beauty – and you are standing in it.  remember that.

i love you,

mom.

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read DAVID’S thoughts about this MERELY A THOUGHT MONDAY

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

(Max Ehrmann, ©️ 1927)