reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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cabbage fields. [two artists tuesday]

in the age-old tale of things-are-often-not-as-they-appear, this beautiful almost-transparent white moth flits from lavender bloom to lavender bloom. in certain moments it is even hard to see, its translucent wings disappearing and then glinting in the sunlight. against the dark background of the deck, it is easier to see as it feeds on the nectar of these deep purple blossoms. it’s a cabbage white butterfly. and it is likely responsible for the tiny holes in the tomato plant leaves. it’s fortunate we do not have a cabbage patch as these little guys have the capacity to destroy it. such a beautiful little creature and so much potential for destruction of goodness.

i’m writing this (ahead) on a rainy sunday morning and it’s too easy on sundays for my mind (and heart) to jaunt over to the things-are-not-what-they-appear heading.

this translucent butterfly has specific markings (a black spot on the upward front side of its wings), a specific size just over an inch, markings that depict the gender, making it easier to identify and, if necessary, prevent or eradicate the damage it can do to a hard-earned crop. if it were to look like any other butterfly – or say, a beautiful monarch – it would be much more difficult for gardeners to recognize the peril, much more difficult for farmers to stand firm and work at keeping the crops safe that they have nourished so carefully, for so long, with so much dedication.

sitting on the deck watching this butterfly flit about, the sunlight catching its gentle wings here and there, i never suspected it might be at the root of the problem i am experiencing late in the season now with our cherry tomatoes. under a cloak of not-knowing and not-asking-enough-questions or googling enough, i didn’t know to point at this gentle creature. but the act of googling has given me information. i can look for larvae on the tomato leaves and examine the damage with a plan for it.

were it to be a full field of cabbage, like out in the county here, it would seem imperative to act upon this. a whole field of cabbage – a field of potential abundance – can be destroyed by the existence of something that people might never question. research says an infestation of the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar can destroy all cabbage growth, and prevention is said to be imperative to avoid the ruinous nature of such an aggressor. that way “you’ll have less work and damage later on.”

this butterfly has been here since the 1860s so its presence seems pretty solid and unshakable. i guess you have to pay attention to damage being wreaked around you in your tiny tomato garden, delve into it, gather information, ask questions and stop the quiet chaos from happening.

it’s easier when the wings are transparent, when the markings easily identifiable and when the community of gardeners and farmers are seeking the goodness of the cabbage field.

metaphors are everywhere.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the people with pompoms. [d.r. thursday]

and, in the miracle of the universe unfolding as it should, there was first fruit. i have to admit to my heart swelling just a bit. i peeked into the leaves of our two tomato plants and was astounded. many tiny fruit – little green orbs – had appeared, seemingly overnight. once again, we were going to experience the thrill of tiny-farming, a container garden on our old barnwood potting stand. just off the deck, tucked up next to the fence, canopied by the climbing ivy and right in the chipmunk trail to the birdfeeder, we were experiencing success. we are proud parents. and last night, as i snipped off fresh basil for our red pesto, i blew kisses, waving virtual pompoms, to these baby cherry tomatoes and encouraged them to keep on keeping on.

sunday morning we awoke to a flurry of activity on our blogs. with our coffee mugs in hand, we could see that hundreds of people were suddenly visiting certain posts and we ascertained that our favorite wander women had shared the cartoon and corresponding blogposts we had written with great pride about them. and – in a fun moment that was even better than hearing your name on the romper-room-mirror-out-there-i-see moment, they mentioned us on their video. we’ve watched every single one of their backpacking youtubes, their triple crown achievement, their biking, their supply lists, their rv-ing, their musings about aging and planning and adventure. nothing short of inspiring, we’ve talked about them a bit…ok, more than a bit. we shared with them the cartoon we drew, wanting them to know we are among the giant fan group they have, cheering them on as they are getting outside in the world. and then they shared our words. mutual pompoms.

there is power in sharing, power in being proud enough of, inspired enough by something to cheer it on. there is power in rooting for that which someone else is going after. it’s a synergistic power…back and forth and back and forth. kind of like how all cheering-on works. we encourage, we nurture, we are encouraged, we are nurtured. i found a note from my sweet momma recently. just a scrap of paper. on it she had written, “i know you can do it.” pompoms.

every new adventure – every fresh start – every launch – every foray – new fruit. vulnerable to the chipmunks – and much bigger monsters – but stalwart anyway. a few coffee grounds around the tomatoes will help deter those crazy chippies. we have plenty of coffee grounds. easy peasy.

i’m guessing the coffee will help with everything else too.

that and the people with pompoms.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

HELPING HANDS
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we have red! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we have been witnesses to a transformation worthy of notice. in an uncovered ziplock plastic container on our kitchen counter, no less.

we placed the cherry tomatoes in the container on october 30. just the tomatoes. not knowing what to expect, wondering if we needed to aid them along at all. we had read about ethylene and apples and bananas and paper bags. but, we thought, for a few days we would leave them alone and see what happened.

on november 6, only a week later, a few tiny orbs had turned orange and were suddenly red. “we have tomatoes!” i wanted to gloat…the second time in this season of boomer-container-farmer living. it was astounding. we had read that they should not touch each other and yet, these tomatoes were thriving in community with each other.

we watched the progress and photographed every few days.

on december 6, these deliciously sweet red cherry tomatoes, along with zucchini and baby bella mushrooms and onion and garlic and red peppers, were tossed with olive oil over penne and became dinner. and to think what we might have missed had we just left them on the vine when we put the plants in the informal compost pile behind the garage.

at a time when ministers of music all over are stressing about advent, i am reminded of building cantatas…much like van gogh’s words, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” to try and rehearse an entire cantata start-to-finish with a choir is to overwhelm them. to introduce songs, one by one, allowing singers to bond with the music, to sink into it, to want to really sing it, invest in it, is to give music the space it needs to grow. integrating all the pieces together works when each individual piece is honored within the context of the whole. a common goal. the green turns to red. the ethylene of each choir member – so to speak – transforms each other. it’s all about the spirit brought together.

the quiet of the season this year – the second year sans adventpush – is punctuated by small measures of rest, time pondering unanswered questions, moments of noticing tiny miracles. i walked to the piano the other day and played the opening strains of “what child is this” and listened as the sound faded.

i’ve gone from cantatas to cherry tomatoes, it seems. it is not without learning.

at the end of growing season, just before advent, the lessons: one tomato gone bad in the container will have a drastic effect on the others. the farmers’ almanac offers guidance: tomatoes that have spoiled or molded should be removed. the offending tomato will cast a toxic shadow over the rest and one must be cautious to discern where the toxic is actually coming from. keeping ripe tomatoes in a plastic bag will make them go bad quickly, so one must be cautious not to suffocate one’s tomatoes. not all green tomatoes off the plant will ripen well; the tomatoes at a mature green stage will. some tomatoes are just not ready to be red. and…it is much easier to ripen tomatoes together.

as the season passes and we move into the new year, i think about this transformation we have watched. we were perhaps overly giddy, a tad bit too enthusiastic, slightly too fostering of potential, a little too encouraging of our little tomato-team. but – red! we have red!

and no bananas or paper bags were harmed in this transformation.

*****

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


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the banana in cherrytomatoland. [two artists tuesday]

keeping the late late summer cherry tomatoes together will stimulate their ripening, i read. the ethylene emitted by them will urge them from green to pale yellow to orange to red. putting them in a brown paper bag with a banana or an apple would speed things along. right now, they are on the counter in a plastic, hopefully bpa-free, container, lidless, soaking up the sun. somehow, these tiny little tomatoes, regardless of size or shape or green innocence or red wokeness know all about impact on each other and a banana or an apple entering their tomato-only-zone would only help them.

that’s the kind of community we should all live in, work in, play in. because as barry manilow, yes, the guy who writes the songs, said, “everything you say and do is having an impact on others.”

it’s not like we are not aware of that. simple kindnesses as we go about our day make a huge difference – the concentric circles ever-widening, cherry-tomato-land goodness spreading, stimulating ripening, encouraging more goodness. it’s not as pollyannaish as it sounds. in every interaction we have a choice. the expression “there are a hundred ways you could have answered that/handled that” is worthy of our attention.

i’m from new york. growing up on long island is different than growing up in the midwest or the south or even the west coast. there is a rat-a-tat kind of rhythm to conversation there. lots of questions, lots of words. it seems aggressive, but it’s really not. it is, however, easy to interpret it that way. if you want to know about something, you ask. it’s a kind of pummeling with questions; you don’t ask one gentle question and patiently wait.

take the cherry tomatoes, for example. you could ask, what kind of cherry tomatoes are those? (and then wait.) or you could ask: what kind of cherry tomatoes are those?where did you get them?were they from seeds or tiny plants?how did you plant them?did you have to use topsoil?how much water did you give them?how often?do you have to fertilize them?what about sun?do they need to be in the sun?how long did it take before they bore fruit?do they only produce one set of tomatoes or do they keep producing?are they sweet?did you pick them before they were ripened?what about when it got cold?when did you pick the green tomatoes?how did you know what to do with them?can you still eat them?will they ripen?

i’ve had to tone down the newyork in me, slow down the question-pummeling (this is not as easy as it sounds), soften the edges of speech a little. the accent has mostly disappeared, but the rhythm is ever at-the-ready, prepared to garner answers or information or directions, not willing to miss the details. and those details…ever-important. my big brother could tell a story with more words than you can imagine; his details were picture-painting and precise and i loved every minute of his newyork style of storytelling.

we were on long island with my dear friend crunch when he was ordering a pizza. he said: “do you want gahhlic knots with the pizza?whatdyathink, gahhlic knots too?yes or no?are you hungry for gahhlic knots?they make great gahhlic knots at luigis. do you want some?tell me, i gotta awwduh. hello?” and then, in the car on the way to get the pizza and the garlic knots: “ya gotta turn up here.yeah, turn left.yeah after the driveway, turn left.here.left.ok.in about two blahhcks you’ll turn right.right.yeah, about a block now.right.uh-huh.right.yeah.hee-uhh.right.turn.ya gotta turn!”

david was losing it in the backseat. i had jumped right in. suddenly the impressionable pattern returned and i was also speaking, stepping all over crunch narrating where i was to turn. allowing no time for him to keep talking or answer anything i was saying – and vice-versa – we both just kept tawwwking and tawwwking, over each other. david’s laughter was contagious.

there had been (and have been, who am i kidding?) times – admittedly – when, in the middle of a more shall-we-say “heated” discussion d has looked at me and said, “let me finish.” hanging out on long island in the middle of pummeling vocal patterns has helped him realize i mean no harm. and i have adopted his “there are a hundred ways you could have answered that”. because it has an impact – the way we answer, the way we handle stuff.

we both try to be aware, in this still-covid time of much-togetherness and less-time-with-others, of our interactions, knowing that even the slightest acidity can affect things and will ripple outward in our day. instead of leeching negativity into each other, in the most intimate and the most community of interactions, i would rather encourage ripening, blossoming, flourishing.

i want to be like the banana in cherrytomatoland.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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nurturing required. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the tomato plants are coming to an end. the temperatures are dipping at night and, three times now, we have covered them in plastic to keep them warm, encouraging them a few more days, a few more days.

i’ve read up on what to do with all those green cherry tomatoes. i know the time is near. i’ll put them all in a brown bag with a banana, hoping that the ethylene gas released by the banana will aid in the ripening of those tiny green orbs. i’m not anxious to pull the plants out of the pots and clear the potting stand. it all feels like it went by fast. but there is no doubt that fall is here. the sun isn’t bathing the barnwood stand in light anymore and there are not happy red tomatoes beckoning picking each day.

regardless, our tiniest of farms was a grand success and we are looking forward to having a repeat season next summer, maybe with a few additions besides the tomatoes and basil and a little more wisdom.

the thing we guess for sure that helped was the nurturing. every morning we greeted those sweet plants, watering gently and snipping off stems of browned leaves. we watched carefully as they grew, adding support for the branches, checking for disease, trying to provide the most positive environment for their growth. since we are not tomato or basil plants ourselves, clearly, we intrinsically knew that most of the work would be done by these tiny living things, most of the wisdom would come from them and we would follow their lead, researching to aid them and not deter them, to encourage them and not quash them, to provide all the essentials for them and not undermine them with anything toxic, to extol goodness on them and not to be aloof or reckless.

it occurs to me that these are likely ingredients for any successful growth. in a garden, in a family, in a community, in an organization or business. it’s too often nurturing goes by the wayside. i think of all the fine meals nurturing these little tomatoes and basils provided. i think of all the bursting-with-possibility families provide each other. i think of the fantastic synergy of a community based on wholeheartedly and without prejudice nurturing each other. and i think of all the collaborative, congenial camaraderie, the good work done by an organization actually based on truth, transparency, nurture and goodness.

growing cherry tomatoes should be required.

*****

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


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pinch back the suckers. [two artists tuesday]

and so, these two dwarf indeterminate tomato plants make me want more. the every-morning greeting, the dew on their leaves, raindrops on their fruit, the exquisiteness of having tomatoes from our tiny container garden on our table, in our salad, our pasta.

it wasn’t much of an investment. $6.98 times 2. we already had big old clay pots, a couple hand-me-down tomato cages, some potting soil. we just had to pay attention. i read articles about yellowing leaves and how damp the soil should be. i asked 20 questions about snipping off suckers, the shoots that grow where the stem and branch v-intersect. researching, i read, “suckers don’t serve much of a purpose. they can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth.”

our basil story is much the same. basil leaves are delicate, but with gently pinching the plant back, pruning off the buds that appear, the sweet basil has been amazing. many red pesto sauce pastas, bowls of caprese salad, salmon with basil and cherry tomatoes on the grill dinners – a smorgasbord from a few plants on a potting bench.

it just goes to show you what a little bit of nurturing will do. these plants – like people – have responded to the attention, the up-close and personal care, the encouragement and cheering on, the constant delight in their growth. they have risen to gentle handling, careful hydration, a bit of nutrients. they have flourished and, in both cases, removing the suckers has been of great value, has opened a chance for maturation of the plants, has helped.

now that we are the tiniest of farmers, it is hard to evade the tiny-farmer-metaphor in my mind. i think aloud, “this should be a mantra for places of business everywhere: remove the suckers…those who draw energy away, those who decrease growth.”

for what place of business, what organization, what non-profit, what institution wants to decrease growth, to suck the life from its employees and its volunteers, to smother their energy, to manhandle their efforts, to discourage their development, to undermine success?

only one, i guess, that doesn’t want tomatoes and basil.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood