reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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this. a happy swiss cheese plant. [d.r. thursday]

there is a magazine i look at most every day. it is a simple-magazine publication and features container gardens of all sorts. each time i page through it i see something new, get ideas, wonder about unique re-purposing, changing old typewriters or baskets into succulent planters or large-animal feed scoops or galvanized tubs into fence pots. the photography shows beautiful plants in all seasons of growth and it makes creative juju pick up pace.

we walked slowly through the daniel stowe botanical garden with our daughter and her boyfriend, enjoying every second. the greenhouse was steamy and we got misted as we walked. gorgeous orchids punctuated the tropical plants. we stopped to read information, take pictures, admire textures and the colors that looked like dr seuss had taken crayons to everything.

the monstera deliciosa (or aptly-named swiss cheese plant) captured our attention. nature has a way of making sure that rainwater and dew are properly retained yet the leaves are not perpetuating algae or molds, fungus or disease. amazing. instead, waxy fronds or holey swiss-cheesed leaves let the droplets roll off, keeping them open to sunlight. each plant has its own system for balance, all depending on its ever-changing circumstances.

the day at the garden was over too soon; visiting is like that. there were only a few days and it’s hard to fit months and months of not-seeing into bits and pieces of 72 hours.

i now know why my sweet momma always had lists when i called or visited with her. there were things she wanted to know, needed to know, that she didn’t want to forget to ask. there were tiny and big questions about my daily life she wondered about – the extraordinary and the mundane, my feelings about things happening in the world, curiosities she had about my comings and goings and adventures and challenges and transitions. she just simply wished to hear my stories, have a window into my life. without being too invasive, without crossing the ever-changing-invisible-tightrope-line, she wanted to share in it, be a part of it. i get it.

kc, my bonsai gardenia plant, is difficult, “one of the most loved and challenging plants”. i never know if i am watering her enough or too much, if her brown-edged leaves are due to too much attention or too little attention. she has not had a bloom, though she did have two hopeful buds. she is not easy, but she is beautiful and particular and i am determined. charlie, my heart-leaf philodendron, the other plant that was also a lovely gift from my beloved daughter, is easy. she grows no matter what. she is healthy and thriving. she is green and lush and i can practically see her smiling. charlie is the opposite of kc. treasured plants on our garden table in ever-changing light and seasons as they grow, so much like the diversity of real living, i talk to them every day; i appreciate and adore them. they are lessons.

and it occurs to me that these two beautiful plants, both on the table in our sunroom, are – indeed – the spectrum definition of motherhood, the nature of every single cherished relationship, the easy-hard, the fragile-resilient, the holding-on-letting-go, bursting blooms and foliage or the missing of blooms, the learnings, the balance of unconditional love. perhaps a good addition would be this happy swiss cheese plant, a reminder to let it all roll off and keep on keeping on.

no wonder my momma had so many plants.

*****

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paddles in the water. [d.r. thursday]

vincent was there. right off the side of our canoe he swirled his paintbrush and the water canvas became starry-night dreamy. charles schulz was there too and i could see snoopy dancing atop the surface. it kept evolving, even without the help of our paddles. ever-changing.

jaxon was two yesterday. his curiosity, his energy are unmatched. he is fearless. everything is possible and the whole world stretches in front of him. his boundless zeal, like a fast paddle in the water, arranges and rearranges utterly everything-in-life continually. he is not considering how to approach life. he is simply living it. no expectations. just embracing it all – the whole kaleidoscope.

being on the road takes you away from the norm. it takes you out of the bills, the projects, day to day worries or concerns, dealing with health issues. you are suddenly on the surface of the lake – so to speak – skimming along in littlebabyscion, watching the world go by. we get to the city-we’ve-never-visited-before, a city trying to keep up with immense growth. the districts are working on revitalization. we take walks in historic neighborhoods and fall in love with bungalows and big porches. and we wonder.

we sit in a stadium – the first time in many years – surrounded by 60,000 people – the first time in many years – to see a concert – the first time in many years. we marvel at the changes we have felt in those years.

we hug her goodbye. parenthood is dynamic, never static, and motherhood is no easy trail. missing is just plain hard. i try to adjust, to readjust and readjust again, to hold it all lightly. the paddle on the surface of my heart teaches me lesson after lesson.

we wonder about all of them as we drive on – the people out there also driving, the people whose homes we are passing by, the people in the rest area, the people in the local grocery store. what is their life? who are they? what are their worries? what are their joys? sometimes you can feel it, even from the road. we both nearly wept as we passed by a very-rusty-beige-identical-trailers trailer park with maybe fifty bereft homes in an arid dirt expanse of land; treeless, shadeless, plantless, playgroundless, it felt hopeless. every shade on every trailer we could see was pulled shut. we saw no people, though each trailer had a vehicle parked nearby. it was south carolina, not at its best. no pastel-colored historic homes, wrap-around porches or coastal beaches, no palmettos, no golf courses or rolling grassy knolls. just nothing. dirt. except these trailer homes – and we had to try to wrap our heads around the fact that at least there were homes with roofs, perhaps air conditioning to ease the hot muggy heat. the empath cloud followed us for miles until we could shake it loose, putting our paddles into the water and stirring things up as we drove.

we arrive in the mountains, zigging, zagging, climbing. tall trees block the sun and suddenly we are cooler and everything takes on the color green. it keeps changing, this expanse, these days of life.

we’ll hike. every turn in the trail will be different, every view different. the elevation will give us a view of the mountains – out there – and we’ll photograph them to remember. we’ll dip bandanas in streams to cool off and stand by waterfalls taking pictures to remember.

and when we get home, it will all swirl around us – the moments. vincent and snoopy will laugh a little at our attempts to hold onto it. and jaxon will remind us of how gently to hold the kaleidoscope.

*****

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myths. [d.r. thursday]

he reassured me that – were we to be lost in the woods, deep in the forest, without our alltrails app, without google maps, without a gps of any sort – we could determine north by the side of the trees on which the lichen was growing. “that will be the north side,” he told me, adding, “and with that important information, we would be able to find our way.”

uh. nope.

i just looked that up and it is a myth. whattheheck?

just exactly how are we to know which things we have learned are myths and which things we have learned are not? this is a confusing and complex problem. particularly at moments – like in the woods, lost – when one would think, “wait! i can help! the lichen! look at the lichen! it grows most profusely on the north side. we can find our way out!”. which old wives’ tales are true and which aren’t?

we have found, lately, that the real truth of the matter is that everyone is pretty much making up everything. it’s all on-the-fly. wives’ tales and all.

the monsoon rains came on sunday after a perfectly-perfect day on saturday. “seven inches of rain possible,” the accuweather app read, “areal flooding. flash flooding. turn around. don’t drown.”

we hoped it would go around our town, just a bit to the west (or the east over the lake) and just skirt around us. but no such luck. it downpoured. at exactly the wrong angle and velocity for our house. in the middle of gathering chimney-work estimates, the rain battered the compromised chimney. in the basement, i made it up and laid towels to direct the rivulets of water (complete understatement) that were coming in, hoping i was making a difference. we crossed our fingers and wished for the storm drains to keep up. we turned to the north, looking for the way out of the forest.

because it was truly torrential, everyone around us was having issues. the huge tree in our neighbor’s yard fell and we kept looking up, standing out in the rain, waiting for the city to come and help them. the trees to our north are the ones that worry us the most in our own yard. there is no lichen on them. we laid down tarps on the deck along the house trying to keep the water from pooling along the siding and foundation. we got sopped in all our making-it-up. i wondered what else we could do, besides wait. but there wasn’t much. we kept vigil on the basement and on the trees to the north.

and we didn’t get a cold from standing out in the rain. another myth.

*****

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never forgotten. [d.r. thursday]

there were big trees where i grew up. solid oaks and maples, a woods behind our house. as dusk would fall earlier in late summer we’d play hide and seek, so many places to tuck behind. i remember the ease of finding a tree or bushes that would shelter your whole body from view. you’d wonder if you would be found and then you might wonder if they didn’t find you whether they would just leave you there wondering. you’d peek around the trunk, just to make sure the game was still going, not to be left behind. because being left behind – forgotten – is exactly what you didn’t want to happen. but sometimes kids can be not-so-nice, just like adults, and you would find yourself standing behind the tree or crouched behind the bush, and the game would move down the street and you’d hear spud starting up.

this morning someone posted the meditations before kaddish online, reminding me i had saved these words since the day we attended a touching memorial service on zoom. extraordinary.

“when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands, and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

we walked up the hill away from the lake, knowing it was time to leave. beautiful places are always hard to leave and it feels that each time i do, i leave a piece of me behind in that space that gave me a chance to sink into its beauty. i peek through the trees on the way up and wonder if the lake will remember us or if it will forget.

i am reassured, though, now as an adult, believing – that in the way we eternally touch another in this universe – one tiny star to another – these birch and the lake and the path to water’s edge will remember our footfalls and our breath.

never forgotten.

*****

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unadorned. [d.r. thursday]

unadorned.

a water lily rises to sunlight. it is unaware of its astounding beauty, of the draw it has on us as we pass by. we turn the canoe around and attempt to get close, to take a photograph, without paddling over the pads. it is the arvo pärt in the lake…simple, exposed. were there to be music performed by this lily, i suspect it would be clear and distinct, though soft and warm, bell-like fragments of sound, minimal, arvo’s tintinnabuli.

it is never the fancily decorated that attracts me. it is never the overly done makeup-ed, the bejeweled, the gold-and-diamond-studded, the finery in attire, swanky or haute couture. it is never the ornamented, embellished singer, the bombastically orchestrated. it is never the heavy classical painting or big ornately carved furniture or heavy drapery.

it is the old piece of desk that holds a lamp and a few books. it is the small farm table in our sitting room. it is the driftwood on our mantle. the finches at the feeder. our little aspen in the yard. the chippie on the fence out the window. the look of new motherhood on my niece’s face. the framed notes from my children on the bedside table. the ceiling fan chain bracelet from my dad’s workbench. the jeans with holes. the sweatshirt hoodie sans one cuff. the old hiking boots and flipflops thinned by sidewalks.

it is the simple lone lily.

*****

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snide little biters. [d.r. thursday]

the height of mosquitoes. the height. and the height. both definitions.

ankles, necks…it matters not. right now our favorite river trail hike is swarming with them. if i thought that mosquitoes had any good will toward others, if i thought that mosquitoes served a truly individualized and specialized useful purpose, if i thought that this being – a tiny species that causes infection to millions of humans – was not evil itself, well, i would be deluding myself.

they are dreadful.

this trail now – dressed in all shades of lush green – is only accessible to the deet-doused, unless you are one of those people who are immune to their snide little biting proboscis. and, in other news, there is no limit to how many times one mosquito can bite you – it bites until it is full. just yuck.

we missed our trail so we went earlier in the day. it was to no avail. there they were, laying in wait. long trails of mosquitoes following us and our carbon dioxide trails as we sprinted through the woods, thinking, foolishly, that we were evading them.

they do not amuse me. they ruin everything. i do not like mosquitoes. at all. not that you haven’t noticed.

i read, “mosquitoes hate the smell of lavender, citronella, clove, peppermint, basil, cedarwood, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemongrass and rosemary.” (homesandgardens.com)

i am looking for a new perfume or, perhaps, moving to iceland, which is reportedly mosquito-free.

or, i will practice not exhaling.

*****

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the big old trees. [d.r. thursday]

we had one too. last year the big old tree at the end of our driveway had one. a big-ole-mushroom-fungus. inordinately weird and begging you to touch-it-ewww-don’t-touch-it.

this one – on a big tree by the park a few blocks away – looked like shelf fungi. shelf fungi is a wood rotter, damaging to trees. we think ours was a northern tooth fungus (who knew there were so many tree-shrooms!); the tooth fungus can impair the structural stability of our tree. and, i read, fungi breaks down dead wood, thus a part of the forest ecosystem. trying to remove it will release billions of spores that can infect other trees and plants. just makes you wanna shudder.

it seems somewhat unfair that as these giants age they become more and more susceptible to these fungus matters. it would seem like the gentle giants had earned a peaceful coast into the sunset, surviving youth of sapling, the perils and storms of young adulthood, the strength and steadfastness of middle age, the passing-of-the-baton to the golden years. it would seem that these mighty towers of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of days of stories should be granted ease, sunlight, water, serenity.

so why is it that they are not impervious to challenging diseases, exhaustion, lack of nutrients, even rot?

is their medicare and social security also at risk?

*****

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blueberries. [d.r. thursday]

back in the day, chopper, our black lab, was crazy about grapes. he would do most anything for a grape and was not discerning about whether it was red or green, though i believe he mostly ate green grapes. one of his favorite i-may-be-rewarded-with-a-grape tasks was to run out the front door and down the driveway to retrieve the newspaper, usually wrapped with a rubber band or, on rainy florida days back then, in a plastic bag. the most hilarious youtube-worthy moments were the sunday papers – the st. pete times complete with a galore of ads – unraveling itself from the rubber band, his snout unable to contain it, papers strewn about the driveway and chopper-whopper-dinkus-baby running after all of them, shredding, shredding, totally frustrated. mostly, i think, he was worried about his grape.

since those days, i have learned that grapes-are-not-good-for-dogs. fortunately, we never had any issues with chopper over them, but dogdog has had nary a grape in his life. never. he is, however, a blueberry boy.

i told him about chopper and the newspaper, but dogga pointed out that 1. we don’t take the paper and 2. they toss it up to the front door here anyway. he scoffed a little at chopper’s obedient paper-fetching and suggested other tasks he could perform to get a treat such as: eat neatly out of his bowl, bark at people passing by, dig holes in the backyard, poop. he is totally adorable, but he has a tiny cynical-smarty-pants-aussie side.

it’s funny how things change through the years. my sweet momma used to tell me about how, when she was little-little in the 1920s, she had a tendency to chew on windowsills. lead paint and all. of course – now – we do all we can to get-the-lead-out – of paint and water and anything lead-contained-worthy-ish. she lived to be an amazingly sharp 93-almost-94 year old, so i guess that lead didn’t do much harm. not that i am suggesting i would recommend chewing on windowsills. i wouldn’t. just like i wouldn’t suggest feeding grapes to dogs.

but as the rules change – should babies sleep on their tummies or backs? are eggs good for you or not good for you? does wine help or further inflammation? is black coffee a life-changer? – there are at least some small things that stay the same.

there is nothing like a bowl of cold fresh blueberries. a superfood.

dogdog agrees.

*****

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NAP WITH DOGDOG & BABYCAT 36″ x 48″


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indelible. [d.r. thursday]

indelible. the way of impressionable cement, not-yet-set or after much falling rain. the new sidewalk around the corner and down the street will forever look like autumn to me. until the impression of fallen leaves fades, i will always think of fall and raking leaves and stoked bonfires in the cool night air.

indelible. the way of scent. the whiff of a beloved’s cologne or perfume and you are catapulted in time to shared space with that person. the aroma of a certain cake in the oven or simmering sauce on the stove or how rye toast makes me think both of my sweet momma and my grandmother mama dear. the way walking through even a tiny pine forest both brings back the tall pines of florida and the sparkling air of colorado high mountain forest.

indelible. the way of taste. how you know exactly what a hot chocolate chip cookie tastes just out of the oven, without having one. how you anticipate that first cup of coffee in the morning. how you roll around the werther’s caramel and other times and places flit through your mind.

indelible. the way of color. how army green makes me think of the vietnam jacket my brother-in-law gave me. or how there’s a certain red that makes me think of moab and the high desert. how rich black makes me think of my piano. how blue makes me think of one of my sweet nieces and purple makes me think of the other. how pink is now a color my sister is rocking. how black and white together make me think of our babycat.

indelible. the way of sound. the seagulls in the air make me think of home – long island beaches – the surf pulls at me. bluejays bring me immediately back to my growing-up back yard. loons and i am up-north, hanging out with the gang. the sound of john denver music and the list of images in my mind’s eye grows; his music has accompanied me near and far. the echo of a sustain pedal takes me to quiet stages and dark theatres, practicing, a concert in the offing. the train at night, likely to always make me think of laying in bed, here, at home. the foghorn, the same.

indelible. the way of touch. the sensation of petting our dogdog. of holding hands. of scuffing feet in fallen leaves. of the cold water of a stream running over my feet – instantly transported to an aspen brook, hidden way back on trail. the certain way someone hugs, the one-in-a-million dna of that hug.

indelible. the way of first impressions. we have this chance many times a day. the first impression we have on the cashier or associate at the store, the first impression we have on the person walking the other way on the sidewalk, the first impression we have with the person on the other end of the phonecall, the first impression we have with strangers and, i suppose, those close to us each new day. and more, intimately, close-in, how we start our days. the indelible way we come home. how we greet each other. with joy or abstracted, aloof.

i saw a video of a young woman, a social worker steeped in education and research, speaking about how she learned a simple lesson about relationship from her dog. each day, each and every time, she would return home and her dog would be filled with zealous and passionate happiness at seeing her. she had no doubt about its love of her and how it felt when it saw her. dogdog jumps higher than the back doorknob every time we come home, with ardent wagawag. yes. important to remember as we see our beloveds, our family, our friends. the impressions we give them.

they are indelible.

this branch of leaves will eventually fade from this sidewalk square. but i know i’ll keep remembering these leaves as we pass this spot, enduring till they are the lightest light and blend, disappearing, into the cement.

i hope that i will remember that my impression is also indelible. first impression, every impression. even as i blend into the cement.

good lessons from rye toast. good lessons from our dogs. good lessons from the leaves.

*****

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EARTH INTERRUPTED V: 53″ X 29″

EARTH INTERRUPTED V ©️ 2018 david robinson


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the people with pompoms. [d.r. thursday]

and, in the miracle of the universe unfolding as it should, there was first fruit. i have to admit to my heart swelling just a bit. i peeked into the leaves of our two tomato plants and was astounded. many tiny fruit – little green orbs – had appeared, seemingly overnight. once again, we were going to experience the thrill of tiny-farming, a container garden on our old barnwood potting stand. just off the deck, tucked up next to the fence, canopied by the climbing ivy and right in the chipmunk trail to the birdfeeder, we were experiencing success. we are proud parents. and last night, as i snipped off fresh basil for our red pesto, i blew kisses, waving virtual pompoms, to these baby cherry tomatoes and encouraged them to keep on keeping on.

sunday morning we awoke to a flurry of activity on our blogs. with our coffee mugs in hand, we could see that hundreds of people were suddenly visiting certain posts and we ascertained that our favorite wander women had shared the cartoon and corresponding blogposts we had written with great pride about them. and – in a fun moment that was even better than hearing your name on the romper-room-mirror-out-there-i-see moment, they mentioned us on their video. we’ve watched every single one of their backpacking youtubes, their triple crown achievement, their biking, their supply lists, their rv-ing, their musings about aging and planning and adventure. nothing short of inspiring, we’ve talked about them a bit…ok, more than a bit. we shared with them the cartoon we drew, wanting them to know we are among the giant fan group they have, cheering them on as they are getting outside in the world. and then they shared our words. mutual pompoms.

there is power in sharing, power in being proud enough of, inspired enough by something to cheer it on. there is power in rooting for that which someone else is going after. it’s a synergistic power…back and forth and back and forth. kind of like how all cheering-on works. we encourage, we nurture, we are encouraged, we are nurtured. i found a note from my sweet momma recently. just a scrap of paper. on it she had written, “i know you can do it.” pompoms.

every new adventure – every fresh start – every launch – every foray – new fruit. vulnerable to the chipmunks – and much bigger monsters – but stalwart anyway. a few coffee grounds around the tomatoes will help deter those crazy chippies. we have plenty of coffee grounds. easy peasy.

i’m guessing the coffee will help with everything else too.

that and the people with pompoms.

*****

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HELPING HANDS
53.5″ x 15.25″