reverse threading

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discovery. [d.r. thursday]

back in the day crunch and i went to every lighthouse on long island’s shoreline and its peripheral islands off the coast. i was doing a photographic study for a college class and crunch was a happy participant, lugging me around in his big green truck and taking us out in his boat, a few boats before his current beloved ‘elephant ears’. the day i got to go up into the fire island lighthouse was memorable. it wasn’t open to the public but the lighthouse keeper was there and generously offered us a tour. the textures – going up the 182 steps on that spiral staircase to the light tower – were photographically inviting: the iron stairs, the cement walls, the ribbed glass of the light. every so often there was a peek out one of the windows built into the structure in 1826 and rebuilt, more than twice as high, in 1857, its eventual black and white bands of color distinguishing it along the ocean front. my essay is all on slides and, after borrowing one of those kodak carousel slide projectors (you can hear the ca-chunk of the slides changing even in your memory), we watched it a couple years ago. all those lighthouses – some steadfast, tall and proud, some crumbling, some pristine and unmanned, each a source of a study in woven texture and, when you are lucky enough to hear the mournful sound of the foghorn and breathe in thick salty air, a synthesis of senses. discovery.

when we were walking along the seine river in paris the sun was setting. i had never been to the eiffel tower and, though i had seen pictures, kind of expected to be underwhelmed. i’ve never been a really big tourist-attraction kind of person, preferring places of nature. we kept walking toward it, strolling, and i could see it in the distance starting to loom into the sky. the lights turned on as we got close and i caught my breath. it was stunning. gold against the early evening sky, light of day dropping away, it was one of my favorite moments in paris. discovery.

every time we come over the pass and start to drop down – the vista of high mountains before us – i cry. forests of evergreens to our side, snow-caps ahead, towering mountains that make my toes curl. i literally want to pull over every few feet to capture the sheer stunning beauty of it all, to remember the green and the blue, to breathe in the cooler air and the scent of pine. we keep driving and i memorize it for the days i am at sea level, wondering if, were we to live there, i would ever not see the incredible-ness of it. or would it always and always be a discovery?

as we walk around our ‘hood, as we hike familiar and unfamiliar trails, i feel open. open to seeing the textures of life as it goes on around us, as it goes on through us. back in the day, with crunch and my blue jean cap, i took a lot of photos on my old 35mm camera. nothing has really changed. my camera is an iphone these days, i don’t have my old blue jean cap and, missing him, david and i haven’t seen crunch in a few years.

but on the best days, in the best moments, when everything else drops off and we are nowhere but right where we are, i am aware of texture after texture, grain and weave and nap and frequency and harmonics, a composition of smooth and rough, woven and intermingled, softly and intensely waiting to be discovered.

isn’t it grand?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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arrive alive. [flawed wednesday]

once upon a time a little boy sat in the backseat of his family’s car on his way to kindergarten. as we can all imagine, he was excited and maybe chattering about the upcoming day. he was likely looking out the window at all the other cars and trucks and maybe having a little snack as he was driven to school by his mom. he was alive. and then he was not.

i don’t know all the details of this story, but the root cause of the catastrophic death of this little boy on his way to fingerpaint and hear stories and maybe jump rope or play 4square and practice letters with thick pencils on widely-spaced lined paper was road rage. no matter who was at fault, no matter what happened on that highway, no matter really anything, this little person lost his life on a freeway because of anger that had nothing to do with him.

i was stunned the first time i saw the signs on highway 82 in the roaring fork valley of colorado. “road rage – call *277.” but we have all been privy to at least one incident of raging road behavior so that there is a mechanism in place to report it is actually a progressive step forward. i was simultaneously disturbed to think that road rage was so prevalent in this gorgeous place and yet glad to see that the authorities had a mechanism in place to try and help dissuade it.

we recently left the park in illinois where we often hike. it’s a left turn out of the park with no traffic light onto a two-lane road. checking both ways carefully, as there is a bit of an uphill to our right as we exit, i pulled little baby scion out into the eastbound lane to drive home. suddenly, just as a semi approached from the east in the westbound lane, an at-least-80mph audi screamed past on the small shoulder on our right. i was startled, but luckily did not wrench the wheel either direction, for both would likely have had devastating consequences for more than just us. what kind of person passes on the shoulder on a 45mph road for absolutely no reason except that they are raging? what kind of all-consuming lack of regard for others does it take to drive a machine capable of great injury in such a monstrously irresponsible way?

we evaded tragedy that day, but how many examples do we each encounter every day? sometimes it is only with luck and defensive driving we safely arrive at our destinations. safely at our destinations. it doesn’t sound like too much to ask for. we need check our anger as we click open our car doors to get behind the wheel. the tag line of illinois tollway’s speed awareness day has been, “slow down. arrive alive.” yes. we shouldn’t need an awareness day or signs emblazoned with lighted letters to remind us. we shouldn’t need * numbers to call in times of raging road peril.

we pulled up to the red traffic light a couple miles down the road. the audi was stopped right in front of us, a mere one car-length gain. a tiny gain when so much could have been lost. like the life of a little boy on his way to kindergarten.

****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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sopris gold. [two artists tuesday]

it was a bit cloudy and drizzling when we drove into town and stopped at the market before finding our airbnb. the next day dawned much of the same, but around us the red rock shimmered deep ruby in the rain, the sage glowed and the air was clear and fresh.

we got into big red to lumber into town early that evening, the sun not yet ready to set, clouds breaking up to allow blue skies. down the dirt and gravel road, just around the bend, across a field of wild grasses and beyond the horses, suddenly there it was.

mount sopris, in all its glory, rose above us and above everything else in the valley. it was astoundingly beautiful and made me pull over to laugh aloud at its presence. this giant had been there all along, steady, its very existence a silent companion. just shy of 13,000 feet in elevation, with twin peaks, once i had seen it, i found myself turning to look at it, especially at every bend of the rio grande trail we hiked the next day. it felt grounding and majestic and very, very wise.

mount sopris is named after a gold prospector who led an expedition in the middle 1800s. “there’s gold in them there hills,” led them into the roaring fork valley. i don’t know the whole rest of that story, though they did not find gold.

i do know that the presence of this mountain, for me, definitely has the allure of the precious and captured my desire to stay put in its magnificent power. the surprise of seeing it appear out of the clouds was worth its absolute weight in gold.

it was a reminder of things unseen and yet there. a reminder of strength and steadfastness, quiet and unshakeable. a reminder of beauty where you don’t expect it. a reminder that behind clouds there exists a bigger presence, the universe vast, full of potential.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the beauty of $2.99. [k.s. friday]

my sweet dad would buy my mom grocery store flowers often. she kept a vase on the table in the high ceiling-ed foyer near the front door in their last home together and flowers would welcome you as you entered. momma wasn’t really a red-rose-florist-delivery kind of gal. she was more a bundle-of-flowers, a miscellaneous-bunch, a day-old-flowers-sale woman, always so pleased with the simplicity of her own arrangements. now, don’t get me wrong, she was delighted to receive flowers that arrived on her doorstep, but those were not required of my poppo. instead, she reveled in the extraordinarily ordinary blooms they found at publix.

we went to the citymarket when we got to carbondale. needing to find lunch and some dinner items to bring to our airbnb we walked into a new store, inviting and with lots of light. it was in the produce section that i passed the display, advertising a clearance – merely $2.99 for cellophane-wrapped bundles beyond their recommended dates. the hypericum beckoned to me whispering a suggestion, “table centerpiece”. we travel with a small jelly jar and tea lights and i knew we could find something we could use as a vase in our place. as it turned out, it was a ball jar and, together, ball jar with berries and jelly jar with candlight paired on our table. it was time to embrace a precious stay in the high mountains.

scrolling through my photos, the pictures of the hypericum berries on our table easily bring back the moments we had with my daughter and her boyfriend. so much anticipation when a child lives far away and yet the time uncontrollably flies by and, today, i am reeling with wistful thoughts that just over one short week ago we had already been to and left those giant red rock mountains, the snow-capped mount sopris, a trail along the rio grande, horses down the road, dinners at the gathering table, laughter at the high counter in our sweet unit, a pedicure and a few errands with my girl. it would seem the stuff of songs and somewhere, deep inside, they are writing themselves.

we left the hypericum berries in our airbnb. still beautiful, it was a way to say thank you to our hosts. besides, they belonged there on a little slate plate in the middle of the table in a room filled with sunlight. promise for the next occupants, perhaps. a little gratitude left behind.

we aren’t frivolous. especially not these days. anyone who knows me knows that i am a slow decision-maker when it comes to purchases for myself. most places we go we try to find a couple cloth napkins to bring home with us. as we sit at our own table it is a way to remember other places we have sat, meals we have shared. we didn’t find any on this last trip but at the hardware store we discovered after our river-trail hike, we picked up two tin camp mugs for our coffee. they have mountains on them and will remind us of our time this trip.

i already miss my girl and wish i had run outside for one more hug – an extra – the morning she drove off. but she was in a hurry, i knew, and i know a mom-hug can get in the way. so i held back and just waved, trying to be nonchalant about the tears running down my face.

i returned back into the space we had lived in for those fewest of days and looked around at the now packed-up airbnb. my eye caught the sun-rays through the window lighting up the hypericum berries. and i whispered back to them, “thank you.”

*****

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creeping pigweed. [merely-a-thought monday]

i know little to nothing about farming. driving through eastern colorado, missouri, all of kansas, iowa and across the state of wisconsin, there are patchworks of farmfields that stretch on seemingly forever. gorgeous and rich in the colors of good dirt and rising plants, we admired the quilted beauty of our roadtrip and talked about farming as we passed the lives of people we would never meet.

the billboard read, “don’t let pigweed creep back!” it was an imperative to research. pigweed is, apparently, insidious and something that hardworking people who have chosen crop-growing, stock, and all means of agriculture, have to deal with. pigweed can be toxic to livestock and will aggressively take over grain and soybean fields. it is resistant to mitigation and hard to control. it can be destructive. once eradicated, one must remain vigilant about its presence so as to avoid further damage to crops and animals.

i am struck by how this invasive plant mimics what has happened in the political arena of our living.

we had just, a mere couple hours before, stopped at a gas station to fill up big red and run into the restroom. wearing masks, we entered the convenience store where all conversation stopped as the door swung closed behind us. no one inside had on a mask and the stares at us were pointed and aggressive. it was unnerving. had we entered a miraculous-global-pandemic-free zone? or had we entered inside a building where pigweed had never left, where the insidious, toxic dis-ease of misinformation and selfishness was spreading its roots, reaching out underground and above to damage all within its cloying and suffocating grasp? is there no hope for this place with entrenched pigweed?

it would seem to me, as we read the current news of steps forward, of good intentions, of attempts to advance efforts toward equity and equality, social justice, healthcare, hunger and homelessness, of work to aid in getting past this horrid pandemic and all its fallout, that we should do all we can to not let pigweed creep back.

*****

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#pow. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” (paul theroux)

ten inches already. that’s what the weather app says. another several on the way. it’s stunning out. snow-magic everywhere.

my phone camera log has many, many photographs of snow. a lot of these are from my daughter, a professional snowboard coach and instructor and an avid and passionate snow-girl in the high mountains of colorado. every one of them makes me yearn to be there…in the snow-covered fallow of winter, the time of energy storing up underground ready to burst forth in spring and bring new life, a new day.

yet climate change barrels forward, knocking down the door. “we have arrived at a moment of decision. our home – earth – is in grave danger. what is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, of course, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.” (al gore)

global warming threatens. the last five years were the hottest on record and CO2 levels are historic. the trends are dangerous. the weather is extreme. the long-term effects of decisions we make now will change the trajectory of what is possible and impossible for our children, their children, the children of their children. we, each of us, need be responsible.

“protect our winters POW was started in 2007 by pro snowboarder jeremy jones, who witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change on our mountains. POW’s mission is to engage and mobilize passionate outdoor people to educate others about the growing problem of climate change and its negative effects on the environment, to protect the places and lifestyles they love. POW is a community of athletes, scientists, creatives, and business leaders advancing non-partisan policies that protect our world today and for future generations.” (protectourwinters.org)

2021. i cannot imagine – in recent years – a time when recovery and preparation were more vitally necessary, more heartbreakingly essential and when potential disaster was more imminent. we face down the raging pandemic, politicial chaos, heartless social injustices, vitriol echoing from one coast of star-spangled-banner-land to the other, wild and extreme weather events, bitter fallout from any and all of these.

the fallow of this winter need be rich with nutrients to conquer the acerbic byproducts of this time. the snow will help, i hope. yes, the fallow. this long, long winter. maybe snowmelt in the spring will reveal a wash of positive movement, rejuvenation, renewal.

“i don’t want your hope. i don’t want you to be hopeful. i want you to panic and act as if the house was on fire.” (greta thunberg)

it is our earth – graciously granted to us for a time. it is our absolute obligation – imperative for the future, any future – to act. like it matters.

“perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can’t help but do it.” (auden schendler)

“the eyes of all future generations are on you…” (greta thunberg)

yes, greta. and what will each of us choose to do?

eleven inches now. we celebrate each flake.

*****

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

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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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round and round. [two artists tuesday]

and the seasons they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down
we’re captive on the carousel of time
we can’t return we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game
” (joni mitchell)

from the edge of the trail it seemed we stood in three seasons. with warm sun on our faces and verdant grasses poking through the golds of autumn aspen leaves, the snow sought refuge in the shade. three seasons. concurrent.

as we stood there, in the middle of the mountain trail, it all swirled together – then, now, next. a kaleidoscope of color, of emotions, of moments. the tiniest of tiny in a vast universe, all else suddenly became distant.

we lingered in the whirl of shifting seasons, viscerally aware of our breathing and the gravity that was holding us still. it was an eddy of every-thing: old wrinkled leaves of regret, fading transient dreams, life-giving air carrying us into the next minute, a metamorphosis of time. the ponies on the carousel kept moving round and round and we paused, our feet in the dirt, sensing the circle encapsulating us, giving us pause.

we stayed there a long time, the scent of decaying leaves in the woods, the sound of a rushing mountain stream, the breeze rustling past us, our faces warmed. for these moments, in the middle of the middle, all the worries, all the fears, all the unease, dropped off from our shoulders. the concurrence whispered to us, “and the seasons they go round and round.”

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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be nice, say hi! (duh.) [two artists tuesday]

“duh” went through my mind when we hiked past this sign on a high mountain trail in aspen. every time we hike – absolutely anywhere – we are nice and we say hi. that seems pretty basic. “what’s with the sign reminder?” i wondered.

most trails in high elevation are shared. hikers trek, mountain bikers bike and equestrians ride – all on the same trails. kindness, mostly, prevails. friendliness, mostly, is at the ready. in this covid-19 time, with some exception, masks are pulled up as people pass each other face-to-face; safety is, mostly, first.

but there is always that element. any where. those who do not share well. those who do not trail together. those who are not nice. those who do not say hi. those who don’t even wave. those who need reminding. those who need signs.

today is – finally, at long last, after an interminable political season – election day.

given the run-up to this day of threats of national security, of people in trucks chasing down buses from the other side, of the president threatening to sic the supreme court upon the election, of mistruths of voter fraud, of concerns about gun-toting and armed observers at the polls, of covid-19 superspreader rallies held by the leader of the free world in a country raging with pandemic, of any number of examples of malfeasance by leadership et al, it would seem that signs might actually be necessary. basic signs. signs to remind people how to be. signs posted in most kindergarten classrooms across the land, from sea to shining sea.

signs that say, “be nice, say hi!”

signs, well, freaking everywhere.

because people are exercising their right to vote. people are having a say in this country that we all share, so that people can trek and bike and ride, metaphorically speaking, all somehow together on the same highways, the same backroads, the same trails, in the same states, in the same communities, the same cities, the same schools and businesses and religious institutions, the same neighborhoods, the same workplaces, the same clubs, the same friend-groups, the same families, across this vast country. people are voting so that their voices are considered, so that they are included, so that they can share in this democracy.

on the never-ending, incessant, ceaseless, uninterrupted, tedious, wearisome campaign trail, maybe the signs would help.

“be nice, say hi!”

pretty basic.

duh.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY – you will love his last paragraph!!


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she led us up this mountain. [two artists tuesday]

she led us up this mountain. my beautiful daughter, surefooted and strong, an exceptional guide, stopped in high altitude to allow me to catch my breath, to sip water. i wondered where the lake was…each step i took. but, following her, i stopped wondering if i would make it there. the confidence she exuded was both palpable and contagious. and so it was both thrilling and challenging to be high on independence pass, starting at the trailhead just a bit down the road from the summit.

she led us up this mountain and everything else fell away. far below us was the gravel lot, the highway. far below us was the truck that would soon take us away from these mountains, this heart-place. far below us were thoughts of leaving, thoughts of anything back home, thoughts of the pandemic and the election and real life and the worries embedded in all of that.

she led us up this mountain and we gained more than elevation as we trekked, our footfalls on the trail lost in the sound of the wind. we gazed around us, first below the treeline, then above, with fir and pine our hosts, the quaking golden aspen far below, unseen. the creek punctuated our thoughts and – admittedly, my puffing breath – tufts from mountain goats decorated thick branchy and leafless bushes.

she led us up this mountain and the less air i had left, the more it filled me. i wanted to hold onto every last second. i wanted to stand high on this mountain, next to this stunning pristine lake with my beloved daughter, and just weep. my heart needed this hike. my soul needed this hike. my body needed this hike. every other hike we had taken over our joyous days in these colorado mountains had led us to this hike. i was exhausted and cold and invigorated, hot-flashing and weak-kneed. and so, so grateful.

because mostly? because she led us up this mountain.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY