reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

BE KIND BUTTONS


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momma, poppo and dolly parton. [merely-a-thought monday]

i wish – every day – that my sweet momma and poppo were still here. that we could coffeesit with them, make them great soups for lunch, spoil them for dinner. that we could take them apple-picking and introduce my dad to a new scotch or two he hadn’t tried yet. that we could maybe adventure a little or just be quiet and listen to their old stories. i wish.

the thing i know, though, is that they would be beside themselves in this circus of a country we now have. it would make both of them irate to watch the vitriol being tossed about, the divisiveness that is being fed by rabid spewers, the lack of transparency, the lies. my daddy-o would have a few choice words to describe these folks and they wouldn’t be pretty.

and my mom? well, she would have no time for anyone who is less than kind to another. she would want nothing to do with any politician or religious leader or pundit who skips kindness in their approach to life, who excuses their own behavior, stance, agenda, platform, control tactic, extremism based on warped interpretation of law or scripture. she would point out the colossal hypocrisy. she might reiterate the story about when, in the dark night, they parked their little vw bug next to a small hill off the road. tired while traveling europe by car, they needed to rest and could find no guesthouse nearby. the little hill would serve them well, they thought. they woke up next to a gigantic dung pile, covered with black tarp held down by old tires. she would trust that we could connect the metaphoric dots. sometimes a hill is not a hill.

i think that both of them – were they here – would be ashamed of what it’s all become. my dad would wonder how his service – missing-in-action in world war II and then as a POW in a bulgarian camp – mattered now to these people who are making a mockery of democracy. my mom would be aghast at how people are being treated, marginalized, discriminated against, excluded. she, who worked hard to be kind to everyone, would worry about the popularity of this ugly trend. yes, they would both – were they here – be astonished at how, in so many arenas and in so many circumstances, people are just downright not good to each other.

i guess that – were they here – they would love a sit-down with dolly parton. they’d probably all talk at once, new yawk and a southern drawl all intermingling in conversation. and they’d all agree that they didn’t understand why anyone at all would “let religion and politics and things like that stand in the way of just being good human beings.”

and then – were they here, the three of them together – they would remind us all to stay away from dung piles posing as hills.

*****

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the answer on the underpass. [two artists tuesday]

england dan and john ford coley played over and over on my bedside cassette player. even now i’d happily pay dearly for tickets to a concert. it’s not possible anymore. but they rank up there as one of my favorite duos in the 70s and certainly must have been rumi fans. radio listeners in my graduating class would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t know every word of the songs “i’d really love to see you tonight” and “nights are forever without you”, both top-tens.

before i moved from long island, there was this boy who made dinner for me at his tiny apartment above his mom and dad’s house. at the end of dinner he tried to lure me into staying on the island, playing dan and john’s song “we’ll never have to say goodbye again”, which also peaked on the ac chart at number one. or wait…was it christopher cross’ “never be the same”??? either way, i barely knew him. before dessert, i waved from the window of my car as i pulled away.

the wall leading to the underpass was painted and we passed it each time we drove over to our girl’s place. finally, we caught the stoplight and i could take a picture. rumi’s words in a mural, simplifying it all, “love is the bridge between you and everything else.”

it makes me think of england dan and john ford coley.

“light of the world, shine on me, love is the answer
shine on us all, set us free, love is the answer

and when you feel afraid, love one another
when you’ve lost your way, love one another
when you’re all alone, love one another
when you’re far from home, love one another
when you’re down and out, love one another

when all your hope’s run out, love one another
when you need a friend, love one another
when you’re near the end, love
we got to love, we got to love one another…”

(john wilcox / kasim sulton / roger powell / todd rundgren)

i daresay that leading with love – demonstrably powerful, full of kindness and fairness and grace, sans fear and agenda and grudge – might really be the answer. to most questions.

and the bridge. to most anywhere.

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

three fat and furry squirrels working together.

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

it was mesmerizing.

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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


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blather. [merely-a-thought monday]

though the alpaca is considered to be a docile creature, it can get spitting mad. i suspect that if one were to flip “look, i get it” over to an alpaca, it could get a rise out of the lanky, fuzzy one. intelligent and observant, alpacas are known for their quiet. their nonverbal behaviors and the sounds they make belie what could be thought of as non-emotive. on the contrary, they communicate their concern and stress, affection and indignation. linda’s alpaca are a tiny herd among themselves and are magical to watch. i did not toss “look, i get it” over to any of them, knowing it would insult their intelligence and likely make them a bit snarly, as really anyone to whom that is tossed – in any way other than joshing around – should likely feel.

“look, i get it” is just like the expression “i’m sorry you feel that way”. neither is true empathy. both are dismissive. the quickest way to damage a relationship is to wing “look, i get it” over just as someone is telling you something deeply important. or, in a leadership position – let’s just saaaaaay – to flippantly respond “i’m sorry you feel that way” to an employee who has clearly been wronged by some circumstance(s) or policy-thwart. in their succinctly powerful way, inc. magazine has come through again in an article written by jason aten. he states when you say “i’m sorry you feel that way” (or “we apologize for any insensitivity” or any other variation on the theme) you are “trying to absolve yourself of any kind of responsibility or fault for whatever went wrong.” he adds that the (respectful, compassionate, mission-driven) company instead say, “i am really sorry that we didn’t live up to our promise. i know that is so frustrating. here’s what i’m going to do to try and make it right.” mmhmm. my personal experience would suggest that doesn’t always happen.

and “look, i get it”??? bill murphy, jr. in another inc. magazine column calls it a sign of “low emotional intelligence”. i would have to concur. just because they are words – individually and as a sentence: look, i, get and it – doesn’t mean they should come out of one’s mouth at a moment of import. there are a hundred ways to say everything we are trying to say. and sometimes – and we are all guilty of this, including me – we need to take a moment or two before the sentence hits the talk bubble outside our lips.

perhaps this is why alpaca are considered so intelligent. they are quiet, discerning critters who are affectionate and gentle but don’t spew emotionally-disconnected blather.

*****

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free-hearted. [two artists tuesday]

with a cowboy hat perched on his head, he rode toward us on the trail through the woods, his gorgeous horse nickering as they approached. as he passed by he looked down at us, smiled and said, “you look like you like each other.” we squeezed arms, already linked and thanked him, telling him that we do like each other, most of the time.

as we left the trailhead parking lot that day, an athletic-shirted mohawk-haired motorcycle guy looked over at us crossing the lot to littlebabyscion and gravelled, “you two look good!” we are not even close to cool and gravelly in appearance, but this guy’s comment warmed our hearts and put a little jaunt into those last steps after a few miles of hot and humid hiking.

we have been the recipients of many sweet comments along the way. i don’t know if it’s simply because we usually walk – and hike – arm in arm or if we are just somehow comment-magnets. it is usually something like what these gentlemen said to us and it’s always unexpected. the guy trimming his trees, the woman stepping out of her car in her driveway, the guy passing us in gunnison on the sidewalk, the gal in the grocery store…all positive words which have upped the ante of our days, the free-hearted surprise-gifting us.

my momma was like this. she would speak simple kindnesses to people she passed by, gentle words of compliment to people she knew, generous encouragement and – even unruly – cheering on for those she loved. it makes a difference. in each case. just a little positivity wave starts concentric circles outward. every time.

i don’t know if that cowboy speaks to everyone, but i know he impacted our day. he could have just ridden past, me gazing back at his horse, pining, as he rode on. but instead, he spoke and, in seven words, he reminded us of goodness. i wonder how many people he touched that day on the trail.

any time i have reached out to another, recognizing to them something beautiful, something helpful, something of gratitude, something in their demeanor or their appearance, something touching, it has been restorative for me and, though i will never know, i hope it circled out from them. on or off the hiking trail. on or off the sidewalk. in or out of the store.

i know – that on any given day – i have seven extra words to give away. even ten. or more.

i’ll just grab my virtual cowboy hat on the way out to the world.

*****

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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

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


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in the middle and in the end. [k.s. friday]

were there nothing else to do, no other responsibilities, no outstanding work or chores, no cleaning or laundry or errands, no bills to pay, calls to make, jobs to seek, piles to clear, messes to sort, i could sit and stare at a fire for hours.

it’s easier to evade the thoughts that permeate your worried mind with the heat of fire on your face. it’s easier to stop strategizing around, through, beyond while watching the dance of contained flames. it’s easier to be lulled into all-is-well thinking, sinking into the adirondack chair, moonlight on your brow.

ephemeral moments – the good ones and the bad ones – slip by, each temporary, each a transitory arc, evaporating, evaporating.

yet, our eagle-focus on certain moments, certain actions, certain words, certain emotions, batters us with living, re-living, re-living, re-living.

we obsess. and in a time when there is so much to obsess about, it is none too easy to avoid.

the fire burns through the wood, despite its flammability. it does not choose only wood that is most flammable. with all the different wood in the firepit, it ignites, turning all into ash, intangible and evanescent.

we might do well to toss moments these days into a great cauldron, touch a match to it and light it. perhaps out of that might arise a bit of wisdom, a bit of certainty in the uncertainty, a bit of comfort. maybe living in the recognition it will vaporize would remind us of transience, the impermanence of it all, the pro tempore of any given heated moment, ultimately, the importance of lingering in any goodness we experience, of actually being goodness.

perhaps we should prioritize staring at the firepit. it may serve as a gentle reminder.

in the middle the fire is hot. in the end ash will be ash.

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TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood