reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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pointed at wonder. [merely-a-thought monday]

my yashica fx-2 35mm camera went everywhere with me. a prized possession i had gotten for my high school graduation, it opened my vision of the world, the things i looked at. in the days of film and negatives and developing, i was an enthusiastic participant, eating boxes of cornflakes so that i could develop the next roll and the next.

i passed through the minolta auto-exposure-auto-focus phase when my children were young. it was easier to grab the camera and snap a picture of them doing something amazing or indescribably adorable with the auto-camera.

then came the sony tiny-cameras you could slide into your pocket, also easy and accessible. that camera and the minolta and my treasured yashica are still around here somewhere, lenses for the 35mm in a hard-shell briefcase my dad designed with foam fitting around the wide-angle and telephoto choices.

in these days i carry my phone. it is the height of easy and always right there, ready to record a moment. in recent years, i have rediscovered the utter joy of taking photographs, of recording the sun glimmering on dogdog’s fur, of capturing the blossom as it wanes and the curl of the wave and the way the mountains look in a dark sky. a camera pointed at wonder.

“come forth into the light of things. let nature be your teacher.” (william wordsworth – from today’s daily wonder app)

i haven’t opened the “daily wonder” app in a while. i discovered it when we chose and featured the movie “wonder” on island. a single snippet of thought for your day, it is a tiny gift i had forgotten about, often reminding you of the wonder of simply being here.

we carry the not-so-wondrous around in heavy baggage, somewhat unwilling to part with it, feeling as if it somehow defines us. how buoyant we might be without it, how resilient. letting go might yield a smidge of wonder.

one evening, watching “life below zero” one of the intrepid alaskans said, “bring the wonder back in life” and i grabbed my phone to jot it down. as we travel to his memorial service to honor columbus’ life and his earnest grasp on happy-living, intentionally marveling, i know he would immediately agree with the person who said that.

undoubtedly, he would laugh a little and add that the wonder was always there.

*****

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columbus. a jewel. glistening. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.

living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.

monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.

we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.

just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.

*****

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la vida. [two artists tuesday]

i don’t remember what grade i was in when it was assigned: a project detailing what your ideal life would look like. it was either later junior high or early high school years. if i could find it in one of the bins in the basement i’m sure it would be predictably naive. i remember designing a house, writing about family, but not too many other details come up for me. designing an ideal life is never really inclusive of actual reality, difficulties, disappointments, hardships. i think it would be interesting to find this report anyway. the 1970s were a different time and this project would reflect that. were i to write a report now to reflect my ideal life, it would be a much simpler picture than i would guess that old paper would paint.

i remember columbus saying that he worked his whole life to have weekends with his family. to enjoy his backyard, his garden, a little fishing, time with the masons. he was living his ideal life each day, though the look in his eyes when we took him back to iowa and he stood in the fields gazing out at maize corn and blue sky would belie that. his dream was to raise his family in his hometown and, though he ended up in colorado, his other life was, i’m sure, somewhere in the farmland daydreams that swirled in his heart. he was wise, though, and didn’t wait to live until he was back in the midwest. instead, he set his sights on now. he didn’t wait. and each time his children or grandchildren visited he would cry upon their leaving, giant tears falling on this rugged man’s face. dolce.

some people are fortunate enough to have both: real life and the other life, la otra vida. crunch always felt that way about his boat too, so he’d understand the boat owner who named his boat ‘the other life’. moments of escape away, drifting, piloting to block island and fishing in long island sound, these are crunch’s ideal moments. though many of the boats and yachts in our harbor never leave their slips, perhaps just sitting on them in fresh lake air yields much peace for these boaters.

a house with lots of windows and open space, lots of repurposed old stuff, a kitchen in which we love to cook. nothing fancy. wood floors and a lot of white paint. a fireplace, my piano, david’s easels, places to sit and write and room for our beloved children, family, friends to come with significant others and visit. mountains and a lake out the window, a couple horses grazing.

last night as we sat on the deck in waning light turning to dark, tiki torches and our tiny firepit burning, dogdog sprawled out at our feet, we listened to the soundtrack of richard curtis’ movie about time. arvo pärt’s piece ‘spiegel im spiegel’ came on, a long piano-cello interplay of simplicity. we both had tears. if contentment was a piece of music, it would look like this.

though there are not mountains, a lake and horses out the window, perhaps someday there will be. it’s my maize-corn-blue-sky vision. but columbus was right. there’s the rest of it. the other life is always right there.

andrea wrote to me in 2009, “nothing is idyllic. i think we have idyllic moments. we have to take time to savor what is around us.”

la otra vida = la vida. ideal living.

*****

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blooming. [merely-a-thought monday]

as i stand with david, together with his mom and siblings, watching his dad walk down the path of dementia, i am deep in thought of my own parents, missing them. elusive complexities become simple and unimportant as i think about my sweet momma and poppo and their stamp on the world. though certainly worthy, they will not be detailed in history books or in record-holding guiness lists, nor will they be featured in paintings in state buildings or referenced in periodicals, footnotes of prestige. but, just as the life that columbus is forgetting, a life rich in experience and love, so were the lives of my parents. their lives had purpose, their stories were and are important. their dreams counted and their voices mattered. and, though it need not be said, they made an impact.

there are moments when i gaze around and marvel at the rapid movement around us. i feel as if i step back away from the edge of the chaos that is everyday life in a society that values ‘more’ and i just wonder. i wonder about how we all fit in, how, from beginning to end, our lives – in the swirl of everyone’s lives – play a part in this world. i wonder how our very molecules affect other molecules, how permanent or impermanent this effect we have.

pat said, “it’s why you’re here.” she seemed much more certain of that than i. middle age, or maybe it is later middle age, as ross pointed out the other day, is complicated. there is a bit of that elusive complexity whirling around, waiting for us to reach up and cup it in our hands, like catching fireflies on a muggy summer night. holding memories close, we glance back at our lives, pondering the rights and the wrongs and the joys and blisses and the mistakes and the regrets and the happies and the sadnesses, and we watch the glimmering light, surprised at the time that has gone by, stunned by the arc of life that even the tiniest path-choices brought us. in the looking-back we notice the insignificant. in the looking-back, we notice the significant. and sometimes, when we are lucky, we realize how absolutely preposterous it is that we are here at all, how miraculous that we can feel, that we are breathing in this very time.

and i think about my mom and dad. though perhaps generations from now – even possibly just a few – there may be no more out-loud mention of their names or their stories, but they will have been here and, for that, the world is different. i think about columbus, who, though forgetting, is still here, is still holding to life and the filmy stories he can access, his innate and unspoken courage on that path – so painful – moves us, brings us to tears, yet, inspires us. his forgetting reminds us to remember – to live.

we are all on our way to changing the world. each and every one of us, despite our differences, despite anything. it’s why we’re here. it’s ridiculously simple and ridiculously complex.

*****

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the glimmer and the glint. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the glint in his eyes was there. columbus told us about the business he was running from his memory care apartment, as steadfast as i suspect he has always been about hard work and dedication. though he was imagining that the bathroom was a library and that the lack of customers was due to the inclement weather, he remained dutifully on duty, waiting for the end of his work day with good humor. talking about his “shop” and his customers and challenges he, always humble, admitted, “i can make as good a mistake as anybody.” i took photographs of his sweet face as he talked and gestured, hands lined with age and the evidence of toil. i caught my breath more than once as he spoke and as i looked around, taking in this phase of columbus’ life. though he seemed content, dementia is a cruel robber.

my sweet poppo’s favorite saying was the quote, “be not concerned, be not surprised, if what you do is criticized. mistakes are made, we don’t deny, but they’re only made by those who try.” (unknown) with a glimmer in his eye, he was also famous for repeating (and repeating) “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” a believer in the re-do, the fix, the oh-well, the humanness, my dad never lingered in the mistake. he was also aware that he could make as good a mistake as anybody and i would bet that, given the chance, he and columbus would have been pals. these two gentlemen were raised in a certain era and times of challenge; even fifteen years or so difference would not have mattered. their humility and simple straightforward approaches run parallel, both smart and extraordinarily capable in unique ways. their commitment to family and a strong work ethic would have united them.

up in the mountains we sat at dinner and listened to my amazing daughter talk about physical therapy for a concussion she got while coaching snowboarding. she spoke of climbing and ropes and uncomfortable shoes you stuff your feet into to elicit a better grip. she and her sweet boyfriend talked about the challenges of living spaces in high elevation and adventure and camping. the one thing missing from the conversation was anything about fear. there is no fear of making a mistake, of a choice-gone-wrong. there is only fluid adjusting, correction, a different direction, a new tack. it is acknowledging, without words, that we all can make as good mistakes as the next. it is living without concern of criticism for those mistakes. it is being those who try.

were they to have been at the table with us all, in our first restaurant experience in well over a year, i imagine that columbus and my poppo would nod their heads in proud appreciation. “yes,” they would say in chorus, “that’s the way to live.”

and the glimmer and the glint would smile.

*****

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humanity revealed. [merely-thought monday]

in a twist of irony, the measured-computerized female voice on our voicemail the other day admonished us, “sorry. you did not reveal yourself to be human. goodbye.” 

what??! 

the audacity!

we are sitting in the emptied living room of my in-laws as we write.  long grooves in the carpet reveal where the couch was and a few browned leaves lay in a trail of the shedding ivy that was moved yesterday.  pictures are off the wall and the mirrors have been taken down.  we sit at the counter on folding chairs from the shed out back. 

all along the top of the mantel are shot glasses, part of columbus’ collection, the rest of which are on shelving downstairs or on top of the player piano in the family room.  they read things like “green bay” or “maker’s mark” or “south dakota” or “heidelberg” or “cedar rapids, iowa” or “yosemite national park” or “krakow” or “utah shakespeare festival” or “ithaca college” or “chicago” or “estes park” or “florida” or “skagway”.  over a hundred, there are too many to list.  but they are a glimpse into a life – a human life – a timeline shared by others. 

columbus went to some of these places, not all.  but his beloved family and dear friends would bring him tiny glassware from wherever they roamed.  their story became his story in the way that sharing stories works. 

it would be a 100-act play to sit and listen to the narrative behind each of these memory shots; it would reveal times of travel and joy and yearning and the seeking of adventure.  it would traverse across miles of decades; it would travel around the globe.  it would be punctuated with laughter and sighs and maybe a few tears. 

the thing i know – it would be rich with human-ness, rich with revelation, rich with love.

*****

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hand-holders. [d.r. thursday]

in my memory bank, i can remember my sweet momma and poppo holding hands. they would grasp each other firmly. they would hold pinkies. they would hold hands often. and, for me, it was one of those telltale signs that they loved each other, despite the day, despite the challenges, despite everything. my dad would not let my momma cross a parking lot without holding her hand. my dad would not let my momma walk on a sidewalk without holding her hand. for that matter, my dad would not let my momma walk on the road side of the sidewalk – ever. he placed himself between momma and the cars zipping past. he opened doors wherever they went and waited to close the car door after she got in. a gentleman always, his stock of niceties was plentiful and momma never had to remind him.

i am a hand-holder. and i, obviously, come by it honestly. but i haven’t always been around hand-holding types. some folks just prefer not to hold hands. for me, it is an intimate sharing of moments, a warm reassurance, a statement of adoration. to adjust one’s stride to match another’s, to hold their hand, is gentle reinforcement – of pooh-piglet “making sure of you” right-here variety.

i don’t know if david’s mom and dad held hands through the years; i haven’t known them that long. but columbus is a sweet man who tears up when it’s time for anyone to leave, who loves to hug, who has a glint in his eye that says, “i like you! you’re in!” and so, i would imagine that he has been a handholding proponent, an advocate of a firm and tender grasp. and david’s mom stands with this man who, if he still understood and remembered all that had gone before these sadly-ever-increasing dementia-ed days, would still grab her hand, declaring his undying love and devotion.

i cannot think of a time that we do not hold hands. we hike holding hands. walk the ‘hood holding hands. watch movies holding hands. sit together to talk holding hands. it is a gift i relish – a many-many-years-yearning during which i spent years watching others. and pining.

in this painting columbus stands in the cornfields of iowa, the place he grew up, the place he packs to go regularly in his memory care apartment. jeanne finds him with bundles of clothing secured by belts or wrapped up between the sleeves tied in button-down shirts. he’s excited to see her when she comes to visit, a new limit that must be incredibly difficult for her to fathom after decades of marriage. most of the time he still knows that she is ‘the one’ – the one he would choose most in the world to hold hands with. but he is confused and sometimes he does not readily recognize her for who she is. he is still settling into his facility. it’s not likely he will go to iowa again now.

it matters not. together they stroll the halls and step into the colorado sunshine. jeanne, steadfast and brave, chats about the family and reminisces and columbus tells tales of the things he believes he has seen that day, visions of beloveds who have gone before, of places he cherishes and stories of the way-past. they walk slower than they used to; columbus breathes with a little bit of oxygen helping him along. jeanne checks in to see how far he wishes to walk, how tired he has become.

i imagine jeanne takes his hand and squeezes it. and i imagine columbus smiles. he knows she likes him. and, just like piglet, he knows she’s right there.

*****

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sweet surrender.

#8 Held In Grace -Surrender Now  copy.jpg

“sweet, sweet surrender. live, live without care. like a fish in the water. like a bird in the air.” (john denver)

it’s the second time this week i have quoted john denver.  surrender.  sweet surrender.

this painting in david’s HELD IN GRACE series is called SURRENDER NOW.

giving it over, surrendering, relenting, succumbing, relinquishing.  all synonyms with slightly different connotations, slightly different surrenders.  within yesterday’s grey-ness and vulnerability, surrendering seems most obvious, most necessary.  the letting-go-of-control-and-trusting is difficult.  the barricades between you and surrendering a fortress of spider-webbed resistance.  we tend to fight surrendering.  we tend to forget that we will be held within that yielding.

columbus turns 86 today.  somehow, in his ever-joyous soul, he is surrendering to a changing journey.  somehow, he is gracefully surrendering to the anguishes of dementia that slowly, but surely, take over.  he laughs.  he is quiet.  he tells stories.  he has forgotten stories.  he doesn’t remember things.  he remembers things.  he knows how to do tasks he has done for years.  he has no recollection of how to perform tasks nor does he recognize the familiar around him.  he doesn’t remember us.  he remembers us.  we hug him and he surrenders to the tears he feels when we leave.  he is held.  by his wife jeanne, by his children and his family, by his friends, by those who love him.  he is held.  his surrender, whether intentional and thought-out or simply reactional grace, is like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.

“There’s nothin’ behind me and nothin’ that ties me to
Something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today, and I don’t know

What the future is holdin’ in store
I don’t know where I’m goin’ I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the livin’, I don’t need to see the end…”   

(john denver)

happy birthday sweet columbus. we love you. xoxo

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andcolumbus website box.jpg

SURRENDER NOW ©️ 2016 david robinson

 


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time together. [k.s. friday]

time together song box

the air coming through the windows this morning felt cool.  almost chilly.  it has been a long while since the last time i could say that of a morning here.  we have had a very hot, very humid summer…not my favorite combination.  but today.  it was different.  and it made me feel immediately homesick.  that happens every fall for me.  maybe it’s a melancholy recognition of the passing of time, years zooming by.  maybe it’s the season-change-thing…we know grey days are lurking right around the corner.  either way, i feel homesick.

it’s a time when i miss long island the most, recall my growing-up years, pine for the autumn at millneck manor and long deserted-beach walks at crab meadow.  a time when my sweet momma and poppo are really present for me in their absence, if that makes sense.  i yearn to talk to them.  a time when The Girl and The Boy seem oh-so-grown-up now, steeped in their own adult-lives, having adventures and being a dynamic part of this world, far away, without the benefit of hearing ‘good night moon’ every night.  i know that every evening they roll their eyes at my goodnight texts to them, but i figure that someday they will understand.  homesick.

yesterday was my father-in-law’s 85th birthday.  we called columbus and sang ‘happy birthday’ to him.  my momma and daddy did that every year for me and i try to carry on the tradition with the people i love.  he laughed and told us he had gotten back from dinner at texas roadhouse and was listening to an old record.  he listens to old records a lot.  i suspect, because he is the man he is, that he gets homesick.  i can tell by his eyes that he would totally understand me if i told him how i felt.

so today, if you are spending time together with someone, memorize it.  if you are lucky enough to spend time with your momma or your daddy, please hug them.  if you are one of the fortunate parents who have their children nearby, hold on just a little tighter and look into their faces when you say goodnight.  relish it.

there is nothing like it.

time together.

 

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TIME TOGETHER from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood