reverse threading

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pink. [k.s. friday]

there is a single tiny pink tulip stenciled in one corner of my daughter’s room. when i repainted her room as a surprise for her during her college years, i could not bear to paint over all the tiny tulips i had stenciled along the ceiling for my little girl’s room what seemed like five minutes before, so i left one. there is something about pink.

just looking at this peony – in full blossom – you can catch a whiff of the sweet scent of this flower. my niece sent me a picture the other day of her peonies with a note, “i wish they lasted longer than five minutes.”

our peonies sat tightly in bud for a few weeks until – suddenly – they exploded into glorious bloom. five minutes later – or maybe a split second or so – petals were scattering onto the patio but we could still catch whiffs on the breeze. but those five minutes…wow.

the botanic garden had all varieties of peonies, in all stages of bloom. you could stand in one place and twirl to see peonies in lush green growth, peonies in bud, peonies in bloom, peonies with blossoms wide, petals falling. there was something about these pink peonies.

my dear sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. a devastating blow, she has ridden the coaster of emotions and arrived at warrior. her surgery was a couple of weeks ago and she is waiting now – the interminable wait – for the pathology results. when she found the lump and the dimpling on her breast, she felt pretty sure it was cancer. but it was in the moments of biopsy results that her life changed. the five minutes during which she became a pink ribbon holder.

soon she will know more. she’ll know about the margins and the treatment going forward. she’ll know about how her recuperating pain will change over time. she’ll know about limitations and about percentages. she’ll know about genetics and maybe why she was diagnosed with the same – rarer – cancer our sweet momma had.

right now, she knows about these moments. the moments of abrupt change. the moments of gearing up for a fight. the moments of absolute vulnerability. the moments – from the very first one – of being a survivor. the moments of leaning on others to garner strength and hope. the moments of desperately trying to stay grounded. the moments of grabbing onto now and holding onto the gossamer ties.

there are no right ways. this is cancer and the journey is brutal, unfair, f-ed up. she is one patient in a world of patients. i desperately wish that was different.

my sister. she ordered chocolate ganache cake for lunch. she’s thinking about a pink ribbon tattoo. she is being a beautiful peony.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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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.

*****

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dancing waters. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in stop-motion moments, we stood by the fountains and shot photos. the dancing waters mesmerized us, light waning in the sky under the canopy of big trees. it was peaceful, serene. there was no place we needed to be in those minutes, except right there.

the water danced too quickly for us to discern contours of form. the camera made it possible to see those gorgeous images of momentary pause, water suspended. looking at the photographs – enchanting.

“…as water takes whatever shape it is in,
so free may you be about who you become…”

(john o’donohue)

we, in this ever-flowing river, babbling gently like the backyard pond, the mountain stream, or raging like the yellowstone river hurtling through the national park at this time, a part of the continuous-motion movie. our bliss, our concerns, our grievances, the things that distress us, the things over which we ruminate…though they feel to be screeching-to-a-halt, a visual-stop-place where the horizon ends – they continue on and on and life dances around us and through us. life invites us to waltz with it, to two-step, to sing along.

perspective, looking back, it’s all a tiny bit clearer in retrospect. my sweet momma’s words “this, too, shall pass” visit and revisit me. the dance steps we missed along the way are no longer worthy of our dedicated brooding, no longer stop-motion.

dancing water has brought grace of movement – forward. we keep on keeping on in the hazy-lazy-bubbling-frothy-waltzing river.

“…i’ll be there in singing skies and dancing waters
laughing children, growing old
and in the heart and in the spirit
and in the truth when it is told…”

(john denver)

*****

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


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there. [two artists tuesday]

maybe one of the reasons i love brochures so much is the chance they give you of picturing yourself there. a good glossy pages-long-fold-out brochure can transport you, make you dream, put you there.

this morning we were talking about bus tours. not a fan of buses, i am not likely to participate in many long bus tours in upcoming days and years. i know that a bus tour will take a group of people to the highlights, the places-you-don’t-wanna-miss, the photo-ops. but i rail against experiencing those things at the same time as everyone else, in the same way, taking photo turns in front of the cliff edge, the monument, the cathedral. i realized that i would rather miss a few things along the way just so that we could do it ourselves, take our sweet time, breathe it in, immerse in our surroundings, really feel a place before moving on to the next. there may be times that a bus – for a jaunt here or there – might be necessary, but i don’t really want to see everything-on-a-big-trip out the window of a coach line.

my sweet momma and poppo, thinking ahead – and also not bus people (so now you know where i get this) – ordered a vw bug to pick up in germany back in 1971 when they went on an extended roadtrip (clearly genetic) in europe. they tooled around small towns and backroads all over, my mom in her glory with maps, my dad relying on her sense of direction. they sometimes slept at relatives’ homes, sometimes at inns, sometimes at small hostels, and even sometimes in their little bug in a field, once waking up next to a gigantic pile of dung covered with plastic tarps and tires. they adventured and missed stuff, but they immersed themselves and the stories from that time were delicious tales. the missed-stuff didn’t matter. the stuff and people they saw did.

i imagine us – as we watch pct hikers and john muir trail hikers – someday – hopefully – on these trails. i imagine us in all the national parks in utah. i imagine more time hiking our favorite trail in breck. i imagine us chatting with the owners of the general store in putney, vermont. i imagine us walking a bit of the salt path. i imagine us on the cliffs of ireland and the amalfi coast and maybe in the brilliant blue and white of santorini someday. like mr rogers’ “picture picture” i can see the video in my mind’s eye. it satisfies the yearning for now and gives me photos of dreamy quality, viewmaster brochures in my heart.

we spent an evening at the botanic garden, wandering. we didn’t sit down on this particular bench, but i can see us there, feel us there, surrounded by green.

we missed a few of the plant collections that evening, we missed the greenhouse. but we immersed in the paths winding around the garden and breathed differently upon our leave than we had upon our arrival. and that made all the difference.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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on the curb. [d.r. thursday]

you can put most anything at the curb and it will soon disappear. scrappers are on the prowl looking for metal and old appliances, big and small, things that might be repurposed, things that might be tinkered with and sold.

when i put out these three wrought-iron candlesticks i included a sign. i measured the heights and jotted them on the sign that indicated they were candlesticks. i was hoping someone who really wanted some taper holders to jaunt by and find them on our parkway. i didn’t want them to go to scrap.

david said that he saw the person pull up and examine the sign and the bag of candlesticks and that this person gently placed it in the back of his truck, so i’m crossing my fingers he brought them home and showed his partner, suggesting they eat by taper or relax in the evening to the glow of candles. i guess a girl can hope.

because we don’t generally do big giant things, we tend to celebrate the little stuff. this past friday evening was one of those times. right after he finished work, on an absolutely beautiful late afternoon, we got into littlebabyscion and drove south. as is our way, we took the backroads, arriving at the botanic garden, happy to see the parking lot meagerly parked.

we strolled through slowly, arm in arm, talking and quiet. we only had about an hour and a half till its close, but it was an hour and a half of lovely. it shushed our minds and its serenity was contagious.

we drove home the back way, through a few small towns with bistro tables on the sidewalks and people gathered, eating and sipping wine. we pondered stopping and having a bite outside, but continued home to make our own small meal and sip wine under happy lights in our sunroom with our dogga by our side. it was a peaceful way to start the weekend.

you don’t have to lift every little thing, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – a candle burning, a strand of happy lights, a quiet walk, sniffing peonies in a garden, admiring the wild columbine in the woods, stopping to watch a deer glide across someone’s front yard – these things matter.

you don’t have to be there for each other each moment, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – helping the other up off the floor after painting shoe moldings, bringing the other a steaming mug of coffee in a tired-time, clinking the day’s accomplishments, crying with the other’s pain – these things matter.

in one of her books, joyce maynard wrote, “when a person gave less, he required less in return.” i suppose life could be easier that way, more centric, simpler. one would not have to notice stuff or do much of anything for another. the give-and-take of relationship would be low-bar and that might work for some.

but time and life have taught me a few lessons, some much harder than others. one is that apathy and paying attention are absolute opposites, particularly in relationship.

we’re putting apathy on the curb.

*****

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dancing in the front yard 24″x24″


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the birdies. [merely-a-thought monday]

ehhhhh, i’ve turned into my parents.

that’s not a bad thing. it’s just a fact. well, at least it’s partially a fact.

on long island, in the middle of growing up, riding my bike with susan, writing poetry in my tree, practicing the piano and organ, doing my homework, playing frisbee at the beach all-year-round, toting my camera around, hanging out at the dive center, fishing with crunch, cruising around in my bug, adoring my baby nieces and nephew, i didn’t notice. maybe i just didn’t pay attention.

they talked birds. birds in the yard, birds on roadtrips, birds upstate, birds at the beach. birdcalls from the woods behind our house, birdcalls passing overhead. they tossed birdnames around and, every now and then, i’d catch one and it would stick somewhere in my memory. but for the most part, their lobbing of vital bird information swooped over me and flew by.

and now.

now i want it all back. because we.love.birds.

we watch their antics in our backyard…at the birdfeeder, at the pond, on the fence, tucked under the awning over the back door, in the trees, hopefully building a nest inside the old barnwood birdhouse on the pine. they are sweet, sweet, sweet.

we guess what they are…sparrow, grackle, mourning dove, starling, crow (oh, so obvious), junco, wren, finch, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, bluejay, chickadee, tanager, oriole… i recognize some from home-home, but some have so many similarities that identification is tricky.

surely they are not looking at us thinking human or ….? they just know. so it feels important to know the difference.

on a great adventure at the botanic garden, we picked up the handiest little spiral pocket-sized quick-guide book called “birds of the midwest“. there are color-coded tabs and you open to the color page that correlates with the primary color of the bird you are trying to identify. such a remedial approach is good for us. (it’s kind of like avoiding the issue of looking up a word when you don’t know how to spell it…you don’t have to look up the bird under what kind it is when you don’t know what it is.) we keep it on our table in the sunroom and use it often as we gaze out back. i imagine we will take it with us as we hike.

in other amazing tools, thanks to dear deb-on-island, we have an app on our phone that is a bird identifier. not only can it identify a bird from a photograph or a list of questions you answer, but – and this is soooo cool – it can identify a bird from the birdcall you record. amazing! the cornell lab of ornithology deserves a giant round of applause for this app, which can identify up to 6000 bird species. the power of science. !!

my sweet momma had an iphone. she adored it, sending random photos to people and receiving photos from everyone in the family. it kept her in the loop and, at almost-94, she was a texting maven. we were in easy contact with each other and she with family and friends from all walks. she both embraced it and made silly technological mistakes, just like us, but nothing a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-back-on couldn’t really solve. it assured her that she was involved, particularly after my poppo died. the power of connection cannot be underestimated.

i wish that i had known – back then – about this app. it would have rocked her bird-loving world.

as it is, i know that every time we are sitting and pondering what a bird is or admiring one aloud or peacefully listening intently or just simply watching the bird-play in our yard or in the woods or at the shore or anywhere, she and my dad are giggling, knowing i’d get there someday.

*****

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the village on the back side. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are on the flip side of the tv antenna saga.

we are relieved to have it over with. our 30+ foot tall steel tripod tv tower – which has been standing right snugged up close to our house for the last at-least-three-decades-probably-more-like-five-or-six-or-so – fell over. it was a windy night…the kind of wind that keeps us awake and anxious in this neighborhood of big old trees. we didn’t hear it fall. all we heard was the fierce wind and i pulled the quilt over my head to try and sleep.

i stood in the kitchen in the morning looking out through the sunroom, sipping my coffee and gazing at the eastern sky and saw it – diagonally placed outside across the big windows – where nothing diagonal or steel or large and unwieldy usually sits. the tv tower with the antenna on the top. the wind had broken it off at the base and it fell north – reception from milwaukee would be really ace leaning that way it occurred to me. it was leaning on the fence and dangling over our neighbor’s stamped concrete driveway and spanish tile garage roof. we wanted neither of those disturbed and were immediately concerned about the danger of the antenna falling on someone. i texted them to say we had noticed and then i texted the village.

“what do you do with this?” i asked all our people. i started getting responses immediately, some suggestions or the oft “i-have-no-idea”. the insurance company was worthless – they couldn’t even point to the first thing we should do. antenna installation experts said it was “out of their wheelhouse”. the tow truck guys didn’t have the right equipment. big jim came over to evaluate it with d. they stared and contemplated a few-strong-men but quickly negated that idea.

ultimately – to save you a long drawn-out story, interesting and quirky (of course) but long nonetheless – a tree care company came the next day to assess the situation. naturally, it was snowing that day and that made the removal more treacherous so it had to be pushed back a day and we had to hope the snow would not accumulate in heavy inches on the tower, there would be no more wind and that no one would go near it.

the next morning, the tree guy admitted to being awake in the night thinking about the removal, plotting. that made us feel a little better since we had some higher anxiety with it precariously dangling out there.

with some sort of backhoe jaws holding the base so the entire tower wouldn’t pivot and do damage and a steel-cutter-thingy, they sawed the tower and antenna into pieces, loaded it into a dumpster they had brought with them and drove away. all in like a half hour! it was done. gone.

the house looks different without the dated tower and antenna like so many houses down here by the lake and scattered throughout our town. i missed it for the first day. and when i sip coffee in bed and look out the east windows i can no longer see it next to the steep roofline, with squirrels scampering up so that they can get on the roof and check out any gutter snacks that might be lingering. there’s plenty to look at though. and plenty to ponder.

the front of the orchid bloom is gorgeous on this plant. stunning, really. but the back…graceful and sturdy, supporting the frame of the blossom.

just like our village.

****

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even in waning. a firework. [two artists tuesday]

do you know that there’s still a chance for you
’cause there’s a spark in you?
you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
just own the night like the 4th of july
’cause baby, you’re a firework
come on, show ’em what you’re worth
make ’em go, oh
as you shoot across the sky
baby, you’re a firework
come on, let your colors burst
make ’em go, oh

(“firework” performed by katy perry.*)

even as it wanes, it is clearly beautiful. stunning, really. the 0230-pantone-chart-heading-toward-rhodamine-red bloom is attracting attention, its droop the stuff of grand success. as its petals drop to the ground, one-by-one, it feeds next and next. and the flowers nearby sigh, “ohhhh.” and they know, despite anything – age, health, roadblocks, lack of nutrients, overabundance of tending worry, calendar of blooming-period – that there is still a chance for them.

artistry never stops. no matter. its imperative – to bloom – to shoot across the sky – is ceaseless, a perpetual poking, an unfaltering urge. the chance is never gone, never erased, never doused-left-with-no-embers.

i listened to a guided meditation a few days ago. it was merely four minutes long. “the mountain”, it – in only four minutes – made surprising tears stream down my face. its message…to be grounded and solid – rooted – just as a mountain – in all that is going on around you, regardless. to stand in it all. like a mountain. those four minutes were profound.

there are things i would choose to be different right now. many things. this season has been somewhat fraught. yet, there are reasons to be grounded, rooted, to stand here and just wait, to ride it out, to hold on.

all around us were orchids in shatter-the-silence gorgeous bloom. all around us was greenery, textural and rich. all around us were beginnings, closed buds with pent-up energy waiting to burst onto the stage-of-earth.

but this leaning-to-rhodamine caught my eye, in its waning no less, no more than the others. and it whispered, “baby, you’re a firework too.”

even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
it’s always been inside of you, you, you
and now it’s time to let it through
’cause baby you’re a firework
come on, show ’em what you’re worth
make ’em go, oh
as you shoot across the sky
baby, you’re a firework
come on, let your colors burst
make ’em go, oh

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

*songwriters: katy perry, mikkel s. eriksen, tor erik hermansen, sandy wilhelm, and ester dean


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blame it on target. [two artists tuesday]

despite efforts to stay in the calendar, target has pushed me into the holiday season.

i was there for just a few items, including tissue wrap for a gift basket. thinking the best deal would be in the back left corner of the store – where they were setting up all the holiday displays and multitudes of wrap and bows and fancy-schmancy gifting options – i wandered back that way. as i meandered, stopping at a display of soft pastel body poofs, swinging by the smaller-food-processors-than-my-1982-food-processor-which-has-just-broken aisle, glancing sideways at a big display of dark chocolate truffles, i tried to ignore the tempting tiny trees, happy lights, holiday napkins, plates, cups, mugs, towels, sweaters, hats, a way-cuter-than-it-sounds-tiny stuffed gnome display, and variety packs of trinkets along the way. stay focused, i thought. go directly to the gift tissue, do not pass go, do not collect $200, pick up the gift tissue and deliberately make your way out of the department. resist, resist, resist. save it – that department – for later-later.

i was not successful.

the twinkling rice lights drew me in. tall, skinny trees caught my eye. ornaments in long bins made of boiled wool and snowflakes begged to be touched. i was a goner.

i wandered around december-in-target for probably just shy of an hour. and, though i had been prepared to push back against the urge to decorate early, i was smitten. this from a person who, along with the other half of the decision-team, has left up in our living room – for two whole years now – big branches we painted white planted in galvanized metal containers strewn with white lights. who am i kidding? the instant i headed back into that department, i was committed.

i put tiny white seed lights in my basket.

one of my favorite concerts was lit by the brilliant stage manager keith who, when i released my blueprint-for-my-soul album, set up ladders and lean-tos on stage and spotted soft white light off them. it created indirect-direct shadow, indirect-direct downlight. the perfect combination. it mattered to him.

the strands were zip-tied around the trees at the garden. long, long strands of colors, a rainbow requiring patience and long tedious hours that will ultimately premier as lightscape 2021. designers – brilliant like keith – have put together a show of festive wonder, the perfect combination to embrace all those who walk through. it matters to them.

the real question? it is whether you are a multi-colored-lights person or a white-lights person. what matters is what matters to you. both celebrate. both lift spirits and wrap the season around you. for years and years now i have been a dedicated white-lights person, really loving the dreamy quality of twinkling stars, tethered from the milky way and brought inside. all year round.

this year – in this season we jump into earlier and earlier each year – i just might have a little nod to multi-colored-lights. mm-hmm. just a little one. perhaps i’ll dig out my mom and dad’s vintage outdoor light strings, the ones with big multi-colored bulbs, some with paint flaking off the glass. i may grimace a tiny bit hanging them on our rail out front, but then i’ll think of my sweet poppo, up on the ladder every year, stringing them across the front of our house, winding them around our christmas trees. or maybe i’ll take out the smallest strand of colored lights i have tucked away and gently wrap them around a little tree, a nod to the ever-important-but-not-represented multi-colored lights. i’ll invite a little bit of lightscape to our house. a little bit of multi-colored magic. just because.

i’m guessing it will all happen a little sooner than i originally thought. clearly, it’s target’s fault.

*****

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more ellsworth than i thought. [d.r. thursday]

i like fine-tipped pens, both regular ink and markers, though i do love the wrinkle sound and feel of a notebook page written on all lines on both sides with a medium-tip pen…the physical-fingertip bumpy-words-on-the-page and that crunchy sound it makes when you turn it over or flip to the next. so there is definitely merit in medium-point. but fine-tip? there’s a grace and allowance of white-space that fine-tip encourages.

this tall red pole installation at the chicago botanic garden makes me think of a ball jar i have holding an assortment of wooden paintbrushes. standing and waiting. because i’m not sure if these poles are part of the lightscape show or an art piece, i am drawing my own conclusions about its presence. somehow, this striking stand of red seems to communicate an invitation to the sky and, in its simplicity, was one of my favorite pieces on our walkabout. stark color, plain. i suspect ellsworth kelly would have loved them too, regardless of their context.

there were lots of people there on sunday, a picture-perfect fall day. our drive down and our return were on the back roads, keeping the lake close, past ravines and through beautiful neighborhoods filled with sprawling yards and wise old trees touting autumn. the trip there – for us, we agreed – is just as important as the time spent at the garden. we love the-back-way and never take the interstate down if we can help it. even to visit our son, we build in the time it takes to meander to his home. we’ve encountered magical snowfly on the return home at night, flakes illuminated by our headlights and sunday didn’t disappoint, as golden and crimson leaves fell around us as we drove this windy-back-road-route.

although i prefer to walk in the woods on some trail in the quiet with hardly anyone else around, our time with our dear friends at the crowded garden was the perfect early november gift-of-a-warm-day escape. we picnicked on a blanket, chatting. we wandered, chatting. we took pictures and googled interesting plants, chatting. we admired installations and gardens with themes, chatting. there are ornate sculptures and formal walled gardens. there are fantastically groomed flowers and trees. there are preparations for an intricate holiday light celebration.

we took our time together, the four of us, promising to return again soon, and then d and i drove back on the roads through northern suburbs, wishing we had time to stop and sit at one of the tiny restaurant bistro tables we saw, spaced on sidewalks, against brick walls with the later afternoon sunlight warming the faces of many people who had chosen to dine al fresco.

when we spoke of our time at the garden, it wasn’t the intricacies i remembered, walking in beauty. it was the simplest stuff. the vertical slices of rock in a pondside rock garden. the candlepots on the rails in the lake. the lone rosebuds on a bush inviting fallow. golden grasses waving in the breeze. the evergreens up close. the past-waning bowed blooms on the hosta. the white birch calling out from the green. and the red fine-tipped pens reaching for the sky. there was definitely something about those.

though i – at first introduction – questioned his work, i guess there’s more ellsworth in me than i thought. we really never stop discovering. any.where.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

his gallery website – this link is to the EARTH INTERRUPTED series, but a cup of coffee in-hand and i know you’ll enjoy perusing around