reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the rockwalk. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t know how much i noticed the rock garden next to the chalet shed in the backyard of my growing-up house. i know it was there. there were plants peeking out from in-between the rocks and the garden-pile grew through the years as my momma – with a love of rocks and stone – added to it.

the cairns and vessel-collections in our house echo that garden and its solid base for my own love of rocks and stone and pebbles. though i believe i will remember where each individual rock originates, where i picked it up, what it means to me or what moment it represents, reality is that i forget. with a few exceptions, i simply know that they are important. they were part of something i wanted to hold onto. and they became part of the rock garden of my life. they all count.

the rockway of the shoin house of the chicago botanic garden is deliberate. carefully placed stones, “bones of the earth” form a pathway through the fragile mosses of deep green. we stood, gazing down, both of us – i’m pretty sure – lost in thought about how we could incorporate such a walkway in our own backyard. orderly and stunning and functional, protecting all around it.

we spent a couple hours in the basement last night. i heard them from a distance first; the tornado sirens were going off. then, closer. i am storm-nervous. the derecho back a decade has gifted me with long-term storm ptsd and i’m not sure if there is much i can do to alleviate it. so when the weather forecast offers “tornado watch” i get ready.

we created a go-bag during the riots in our city a couple years back. it was recommended. i also keep an empty backpack nearby for computers and cords. there’s a leash in the go-bag and we have a duffel with a few clothes. i didn’t unpack all this after those devastating riots. instead, we realized the wisdom of having important stuff nearby, things you can grab in an emergency. and so, i had this all lined up – like a good rockwalk – on the couch in the sitting room off our bedroom, waiting. d picked up the dog (who doesn’t do steps for some strange aussie reason) and i grabbed the bags and water and some dog treats.

when you think about tornadoes as you sit in the basement listening, you realize that you can only create so much order…you can only try to design a walkway…you can only make plans. sitting in two rocking chairs in d’s studio, surrounded by the bins i am emptying and clearing down there, a couple dehumidifiers turned off so we could hear, with our backpacks and duffel bag, it all comes down to, well, not much. chaos happens and we find ourselves in it, stepping, trying to find our way on the rockwalk, to the other side, the next sunrise.

we waited for the sirens to stop and for the weather app to show that the worst of it had passed over us. david carried dogga back up and he got another sleepynightnight cookie. the bags went back on the couch, lined up, things to put away in the morning.

i wanted pancakes but it was too late and we were too tired.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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touchstones. [d.r. thursday]

yoga series: iconic (54 x 54, mixed media)

in the beginning i knew very little. we wrote every day but only talked twice. i read his newsletters and appreciated his perspective on things. i had seen only one tiny photo of him online but we shared pictures of our coffee mugs perched in different places in our homes or on our travels. and i had studied his paintings.

you can learn a lot about a person immersing in their art. whether it’s prose or song, paint or instrumental musings, the clues are there.

i am not a fan of thomas kinkade. his paintings are tight and controlled and, for me (but not for the one in twenty homes in the US that hangs one his prints), somewhat trite and contrived. i know that “tommy k” (as scordskiii and i nicknamed him) was (and his paintings still are) inordinately successful, serene, idyllic images of cottages and streams, gardens and gates. his galleries are all over the world. the “painter of light” (as he trademarked himself in a smart marketing ploy) was not necessarily the same as his paintings. i met him one evening at QVC when i was on air during a year-long or so promotion of my music. waiting to go on-stage and on-camera, yamaha CFIIIS at the ready, i met him in the hallways between dressing rooms. he was not a light and airy friendly guy that evening. i don’t know if he was having a bad day, but really everyone at these studios was normally refreshingly jovial. except for him. this did not really bother me, however, as, though i could see “success” written all over him, having tommy k greet me and have conversation was not important. dick clark, of american bandstand fame, on the other hand, was a gem. he and his wife were lovely and generous folks and it was delightful to meet them and chat in the hallways. but i digress.

when david mentioned he was a painter i did not know what to think, what kind of paintings to imagine that he painted. our developing friendship was candid and didn’t include fluffing up the other so my curiosity about the form of his art needed sating. i visited the website he had at the time. and i was stunned. one of his newest works back then – thereafter named iconic – was graceful and beautiful and full of respect for the body woman. i dove deeper into the site. each painting i studied engaged me – the color, the white space (so to speak), the balance, the composition, the texture. i was joyous. there was no need for fluff. i loved his work.

downstairs where, prior to a real painting studio’s emergence, i had thrown paint on a few large canvasses to hang about the house, sits his easel. there are paintings stacked and rolled in various places, in and amongst the boxes and boxes of cds that find themselves housed down there.

some of these – paintings and cds – are truly relics, artifacts of our art, dating back decades, skipping stones through periods of our lives.

some of these are touchstones, moments of new form, of changing form, of solidity in an uncertain world.

some of these, the relics, the artifacts, the touchstones are cairns, pointing the way to the future, suggesting we follow both paths we know and paths we do not know. art is like that.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit DAVID’S online gallery

visit this painting ICONIC

ICONIC ©️ 2010 david robinson


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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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PLAY TO PLAY ©️ 2005 david robinson


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southport cairns. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

southport cairn

wearing flipflops, our feet weren’t prepared for schoolhouse beach.  one of only five sandless limestone beaches in the world, we were picking our way across glacier-polished rocks on washington island, vowing to wear our hiking sandals the next time.  it was stunning, these smooth white rocks representing thousands of years of geology.  it is illegal to take even the tiniest of stones from this beach, but it is obvious that people need to hold these silken rocks in their hands, cairns built along the water’s edge.  it’s a place you will forever recognize once having visited there, a place that touches a sense of peace within you.

the cairns up on the high ridges of red rock were equally as moving.  stunning in the sunsetting high desert sky, the uneven sandstone edges of stones were piled in formations and i relished every second sharing this with my cherished daughter.  it is a sacred place, these canyonlands full of red rock millions of years old.

as we walked in the drizzle in our neighborhood, the sky over the lake began to take on a pinkish hue.  we approached the lakefront down by the old beachhouse and saw them, something in thirty years of walking this lakefront i have never seen: dozens of cairns stacked on the rocky beach, mazes, tiny labyrinths.

inspiring and inviting, the cairns beckoned us and we spent time in raindrops wandering and photographing.  we were quiet; you could hear the lake gently lapping at the shoreline.  mostly, it took us out of our thoughts and worries of the time.  someone had made lemonade and we had the good fortune to sip of it.

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

cairns website box