reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a candle, lotion and a pair of mittens. [merely-a-thought monday]

one whiff of the good earth non-gmo soy wax cypress-pine candle and i was sold. the holidays in a mason jar with the added bonus of having spent hours of my life in many years past at shows near the founder of this absolutely-good-earth company, a place where brilliant science and creativity and big heart merge. it made me happy to see her products at the boutique shop and, in the way that this season does, makes me want to reach out to her with greetings.

we were in cedarburg on saturday, wanting to participate in the anticipation of christmas. the streets were cold, but the lights were beautiful and the holiday spirit warm and contagious. the wind was brisk so it was a constant cycle of earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk-gloves off-earmuffs off-mask on-go into a shop-wander and browse and admire-exit shop-mask off-earmuffs on-gloves on-walk-walk-walk and repeat.

it was a perfect day. we stopped to have a bite to eat – a rarity in these past couple years. there was a giant outdoor tent with tall bistro tables spaced more than socially-distanced apart, fresh air coming in and tall propane heaters scattered about. with our coats on, though unzipped, we sipped an oustanding merlot and shared a burger laden with bacon and mushrooms and grilled onions and some kind of special sauce with a gigantic side of french fries. did i mention perfect?

our day-adventure took us through our favorite shops, the familiar a reassuring hug. in another rarity, we bought a few items – our new candle that tracy made, almond coconut hand lotion from a long island company that smells like an almond joy bar, a pair of fair trade mittens that fit over my finger splint from the everest corner of the world. treasures. we brought home ideas for decorating and fresh energy for the upcoming week.

sitting at the tall bistro table in the tent i glanced around. four girlfriends enjoying a chardonnay, a family surrounded by shopping bags and ribbons, two friends having a shopping extravaganza, an older couple perched on stools finishing lunch and sipping tall glasses of water, our server, delightful despite the busy. i appreciated the mix of the multi-colored and white lights strewn through the tent. the chatter, the joy, delicious anticipation that the rest of the day still stretched in front of us. there would be tiny expressions of graciousness and courtesies and we would see grandiose expressions of the season.

i looked at david and held my hand to my heart, saying nothing. he nodded.

“christmas is here, bringing good cheer. to young and old, meek and the bold. ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song. with joyful ring, all caroling.” (carol of the bells)

*****

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


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“christmas tree drop-off”🎶🎶 [merely-a-thought monday]

it was instant. “christmas tree drop-off” to the tune of “beauty school drop-out” started singing inside my brain. it would not stop. i still cannot look at this sign without the 6/8 song incessantly nagging me and nagging me.

it was the day after christmas – just one mere day – and we went hiking out in one of the nearby state parks. we came upon the drop-off near the parking lot. already – not even 36 hours since santa’s arrival – there was a tree, lonely and discarded. a few days later, after the snow had fallen and sleet had crunched over the trail, there were several more trees. we are pretty certain that these will be chopped up into mulch, which is a good thing – back to the earth – but it was sad to see a pile of no-longer-wanted christmas trees, their value diminished by the passing of the day.

hiking the snowy trails, my memory bank filled with sweet stories i read aloud to my girl and my boy. “why christmas trees aren’t perfect” is a story about an imperfect tree named small pine and my ridiculously emotional heart remembers this sweet tree and its generosity, its commitment to the wildlife in the forest, its community. in this classic book, also a video, small pine was chosen for its connection to sweet animals and its warm and giving spirit. each time i read that little book, my heart celebrated the spirit of that tree. in that same thready heart, i wonder about what it feels like to be one of these trees, out in a cold pile, chosen, used and then quickly and unceremoniously discarded out in the snow. do they know why, i wonder, as i gaze at the pile, animating the inanimate.

ditch sits on our table in the sunroom. it is surrounded by twinkling white lights and we sit with it at that table every day. we will not dispose of him. his purpose is not just for christmas. instead, his role continues on – to remind us of time spent in the mountains, to remind us to see the little things, to appreciate the imperfect, to remind us of caring for something that may not otherwise have made it. it reminds us that being chosen and employed in good use deserves explanation in discard.

and so, i want to go sit in the snow and talk to these trees.

*****

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


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rooted. [d.r. thursday]

i had only turned on the white branches and the little trees last night when i stood for a moment in the darkened room and looked around. this place, this same place of so many christmases past, so many trees, so many twinkling lights, so many wrapped presents and stuffed stockings. the memories kaleidoscoped in my mind’s eye, made me a bit light-headed. in a time of upheaval, a time of nothing-is-the-same, love held me rooted to the wood floor beneath my feet and grounded me before i would fly off into the outer atmosphere where sadness breathes in and out, in and out.

tomorrow, somewhere in montana, there is a church that will be using my song the lights as a part of their christmas service. in spirit, i will be there with them, strangers in the mountains. it seems odd right now to think of this – a place across the country that wrote and asked for permission to play my music – while here, in this place i have called home for decades and in a community i have served for the last eight years, my music is now silenced. the root of love is not necessarily always right there; sometimes it is far away.

in this season of difficulty, we struggle alongside you. we fail to fully understand the enormity of this year – the changes, the challenges, the chaos, the devastation.

but in this season of hope and light, we have been reminded – by family and friends near and far – to root in love. anything is possible. everything is possible. i remember a sign i saw that said: every flower must grow through dirt.

we come in from a hike outside in the cold. we light the branches and trees in the living room. we light a few candles. we check the dirt at the tiny trunk of “ditch”, gently add a little water, and flick on the twinkling lights at the base of the old clay pot. we look out the window at the inky darkness and know that somewhere out there you must be looking into the night-of-nights too. and so, we are rooted together.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

root in love – a link to chicken marsala


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little did we know. [two artists tuesday]

on november 19 i wrote about the lights and decorations in our neighborhood. filled with the possibility of this light, these traditions, i pondered that we might get a “regular” tree this year, that we might splurge on a tree of traditional shape, traditional size.

but we didn’t.

the next morning i lost my job. little did i know, as we wandered through our neighborhood, twilight falling fast in our eyes, full of the hope of the season, that all would change the very next day, a “regular” tree rapidly slashed out of the budget.

the white branches have lingered in our living room all year long. lit with twinkling lights and adorned with silver balls, it seemed, by mid february or so, that it was time to put them away, to perhaps burn them in the fire pit.

but we didn’t.

the spring slid slowly into summer which slid into fall and the pandemic scorching our nation relentlessly continued. the white branches, the lights, the twinkling reflection off the silver balls suddenly seemed necessary, a beacon in a dark world of change. little did we know we would be relieved to have kept those branches up, to brighten our living room.

we hiked in the high mountains of colorado. the ditch trail in aspen became our favorite go-to, in-between the times of seeing my girl. a little over 4 miles, this trail was perfect for altitude acclimatizing and the vistas were amazing. there was a tiny pine tree on that quiet trail, an orphan that wasn’t going to make it. we thought about the struggles of this little tree and could have just kept trekking.

but we didn’t.

“ditch” rode home in a water bottle full of dirt and we planted it in an old clay pot with some good soil and a few red rocks. little did we know how we would cheer on this little tree. little did we know how tenderly we would feel about this tiny pine, a piece of our time in the mountains that we adore, the mountains that make me cry. a strand of white lights wrap around the old pot, a small silver ball and the tiniest pine cone now sit next to the base of “ditch”.

little do we know what is to come.

the white branches grace our living room in this season of everything unexpected, everything changed, everything different. the collection of small trees i’ve gathered through the years decorate our home; the silver balls from the bins in the basement are scattered to catch the light.

and a tiny pine tree named “ditch” is our christmas tree.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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instead. [k.s. friday]

for more than half my life (read: over three decades) i shaped the experience of the christmas holiday season for others.  each year i tried to find a way to touch the deepest part of people’s hearts in celebration, to help a story-of-the-ages resonate in their up-to-the-minute lives, to help them, their souls, sink into the light.

this is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i am not creating the musical shape of anyone else’s holiday. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that my dining room table and the top of my piano are not laden with music all strewn about. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades) that i will not spend it racing between planning, arranging, practicing, rehearsing, readjusting, rehearsing, rearranging, readjusting, rehearsing and encouraging big community laughter. it is the first year in recent history (read: decades and decades) that i will not go to church.

i did not create. instead, i tried to file it all away in my head, ignore the intuitive music prompts that my heart issues in the weeks prior to and during this season, silence the ideas and gestures that help to make faith – that which you cannot see – touchable. i did not layer my table or piano with music. instead, i put it all away, in boxes and file cabinets and thick binders. i did not race or plan or arrange or practice or rehearse or readjust or rearrange or even encourage laughter. instead, i sit on the steps in the hall, the stuff of decades decimated, and i wonder. i do not plan to go to church nor do i plan to watch church online; i have had enough.

instead, i will quietly walk outside under a starlit sky. i will light candles. i will extinguish the lamps in the living room and i will watch the lights.

*****

purchase music to download on iTUNES – there are three christmas albums to choose from

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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but it’s not. [d.r. thursday]

the cold air was stinging my face. i pulled my scarf up further, to block the wind a bit more. as we rounded a curve in the trail, the breeze was biting. it seems early for this kind of cold. but it’s not.

it’s december and the official start of winter is right up around that bend in the trail. the cold is predictable. this is wisconsin.

i walked away from the stockpot of chicken soup i was stirring, waiting for a warming dinner. i sat on the steps in the hall, overwhelmed. i keep hearing and picturing the words of my firing, the non-explanation-explanation given to others. it may seem like it’s time to be over it. but it’s not.

it’s only been three weeks and even sitting on the steps doesn’t yield an explanation or comfort. it just creates more questions, more astonishment, more hurt. the distress is predictable. this is shock.

i look, again, at the christmas list in my hand, trying to summon up the energy to shop and wrap and ship. it seems like the time is going slowly. but it’s not.

the holiday is rapidly approaching and, like many of you, we face it alone, wondering how to celebrate without our loved ones. we grieve traditions set aside, normal ways we honor these holidays. we ponder what we might do anew. the sadness is predictable. this is loneliness.

the night sky is filled with stars, the cold air beckoning them. the moon out the window is steadfast. the vast universe is vast. our tiny world inside, away from the biting wind, down the hall from the steps, at a table with a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a tiny christmas tree, is tiny. it seems that real peace is somewhat elusive. but it’s not.

it’s ever there.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

and, if you like, browse PEACE ON EARTH products here – be sure to scroll down the page


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art is like that. [d.r. thursday]

i don’t understand this painting. nor do i feel connected to it. art is like that. sometimes it resonates, sometimes it does not. and in just the way that it does not vibrate within you, it still stirs something else.

for me, this has stirred up images of one of my beloved nieces. her wedding, now years ago, was a blur of blue sky, warm sand, rich brown gowns, the setting sun and her, in stunning white. her home combined these tones; it echoes the sentiment of that landscape and never will i see blue and brown together without thinking of her. art is like that.

we each carry a palette of color at our hips. we carry tunes of music in our hearts. snippets of image, of music that evoke memories of other times.

right now, in the middle of this raging pandemic perhaps this is most important. we have nary a chance to have new treasured times with our loved ones. we face quiet thanksgivings, quiet holiday seasons. we wonder what it will be like, we wonder how we will get through it.

walking through the neighborhood yesterday, we took note of how many people had already decorated for the holidays. lights and giant hard plastic snowmen, candy canes adorning sidewalks, stars lighting up gardens. there were yards that looked like a cacophony of giggling sound, competing with other yards for attention. while this seems early for all that, it made us smile.

for, in all that wiring and plasticware, was a trove of memories. each homeowner must have yearned for the resonance of that magic. each homeowner must have had stories of years-past echo through their heart and mind. each homeowner created art – their own art – chronicling their life and experience through time, re-telling a story, expressing what they feel and creating a rich offering for others.

grateful for their gift as we wandered home through the darkened streets, i thought about holidays past, traditions on hold, gatherings at bay, much longing. it stirred a deep store of memories, made me hope yet even more for the pandemic healing of the world.

and it made me wonder if this is the year to consider having a “regular” christmas tree, bright with lights. if this is the year to respectfully light a menorah, tend a kinara, break open a star pinata…

i wonder if this is the year to celebrate the story of life with the whole world, full of color and sound, vibrating loudly and ever so quietly. art is like that.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit DAVID’s online gallery

visit the completed painting


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heart. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

heartlights

“and now.  you’re here. in a world of hypocrisy.  and your love can heal us all.”  (you’re here ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood – see this friday’s post)

day’s end is close.  today was christmas.  between last night’s eve and today we sang songs.  we played carols.  we lit luminaria in the backyard under an oddly warm midnight sky.  we hiked in twilight woods.  we gazed in the dark at trees we decorated and lit with strands of lights and glinting silver ornaments.  we cooked meals and sipped wine.  we watched as The Boy and The Girl opened gifts.  we unwrapped presents and cards sent to us, set aside, waiting for today.

and in all of that?  the common denominator?

love.

surely the spirit of the holiday season can help to mend all rifts, help to inspire goodness, help to heal us.  in this world of hypocrisy, we can be united.  it matters not which holiday we celebrate.  what matters is heart and the rich universal tenets that march hand in hand with love.

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

milleniumparktree website box

 


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merry! [two artists tuesday]

jingle johns

the upnorthgang gathered around the table.  the glasses were lined up.  multiples of alike wine glasses, aldi winking owl wine at the ready.  we had a keyboard for tuning, sharpies in hand and were seriously dedicated to playing christmas songs on wine-filled glassware.  jay had seen tuned wine glasses in a catalog, but at $245 a set, we thrifty upnorthgangers knew we could do better. plus, we all could play instruments – guitar, piano, clarinet, trumpet, cello, pipe organ, handbells, ukulele, violin…  i mean, we are a talented group of people! hours later, we had composed a new christmas song, which shall remain un-named in this post, and had realized that our songlist would definitely remain short, for indeed we needed at least another octave of wine glasses and, having sipped the excess out of the glasses while tuning, we were out of wine.  next up on the musical challenge list?  charlie’s pickle jars!

so passing the jingle johns at lincoln park zoo it doesn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary to hear music emanating from the, er, portapotties.  The Boy groaned and begged me to not take a picture, but the wineglassperformingartist in me couldn’t resist.

why not take every opportunity to play some music, i say.

christmas eve.  a good reason to sing your heart out.  merry!

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

donnieandmarie uke website box


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“it’s hard to keep things simple.” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep things simple

less is more.  enough is enough.  say no.  simplify.

we are all bombarded.  two days before christmas and we wonder if we did enough, bought enough, wrapped enough, entertained enough, baked enough, decorated enough.  we are surrounded by images – piles of presents under ornate christmas trees, horse-drawn sleighs on currier and ives backroads, families gathered at tables merrily chatting, churches full with congregations happily singing and the bells in the belfry ringing.  the kind of images that nag you into thinking, “more.  i must do more.”

the other evening, gathered around bowls of homemade hot thai soup, 20 said, “it’s hard to keep things simple.”  the three of us share some profound times of conversation, of life’s changes and choices, of simple togetherness.  he talked about soup and wine and chocolate and conversation, of appreciating each other’s company.

the catalogs arriving in the mail and the ads in the paper and the online streaming advertising all pander to the indulgence of our insecurity.  of not enough.  how do we respond and say no?

it’s hard to avoid.  it feels like we have to say yes to everything.  or we don’t quite measure up.  we search for meaning.  in things.  we are searching outside of ourselves.  holding ourselves to some sort of external standard of holiday-completeness.

how do we seek more centeredness?  more connectedness?  more moments held in the stillness of awe?

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

whitetree website box