reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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what we seek. [d.r. thursday]

our favorite thing in the woods, when i was about eight or ten or so, were the salamanders. red-backed salamanders had a red stripe down their spine and, back then, were all over the woods outside our rustic cabins in the upstate new york state parks.

we stayed at many of them: selkirk shores, chenango valley, watkins glen, green lakes, letchworth. my sweet momma and poppo were not tent-campers, but they fully embraced the very-bare-minimum cabins in the woods and my mom would pack for a week ahead; we had to bring everything with us, including pots and pans. the bunkbed frames and mattresses were about all you got, with basic kitchen and bathroom necessities. we’d go for a week and for that glorious week, i would roam the forest and swim the lakes and ride bikes all over the park with my best friend. we didn’t do fancy vacations, but, for me, these trips were heaven. i think about my momma now – for her it was a lot of work, but she seemed happy to be “roughing-it” as she said. and she would run around each night, can of raid in her hand, singsong voice, announcing “raid! raid!” while we buried into our sleeping bags on our bunks and tried not to breathe.

before we discovered the lifeguards, we would hike through the forest, looking for anything interesting we could find, devising paths and mysteries to solve. mostly, we looked for the salamanders. one year, we found one that was particularly sociable with us and we were convinced it would stay around and be our friend. for obvious reasons, we named him sal. once you’ve named something, it is much harder to say goodbye.

now, the thing that’s hard to say goodbye to – out in the woods, high in the mountains – is the whole visceral experience. the cool fresh air, the trail under our feet, the sun filtering through the trees, quaking aspen leaves, the absolute drop-dead-amazing smell of a pine forest, the quiet.

we haven’t found salamanders in colorado woods, though we haven’t been seeking them as i did when i was in elementary school. instead, we have sought the feeling you get after you have hiked miles and some decent elevation. that exhausted adrenaline bursted rush of ahhh. the slightly burning lungs-are-in-your-chest feeling. the your-legs-want-to-sit-down-on-a-stump-for-a-moment tiredness. a little bit of wind-sun-scorched face. and the overwhelming desire to keep going.

*****

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autographs. [d.r. thursday]

“this is my autograph, here in the songs that I sing. here in my cry and my laugh, here in the love that i bring. to be always with you and you always with me.” (autograph – john denver)

on my 30th birthday – a sunny and auspicious day more than thirty years ago – at the zoo, in a freshly poured cement sidewalk, i wrote my name with a stick. i was not alone; i had witnesses to this moment in time. my mom and dad and niece and husband cheered me on as i left my tiny mark. years later, upon return to that zoo, it was still there. there was something encouraging and reassuring about that. i had not disappeared.

we were way up on the mountain, at the highest point of the trail we were hiking. the meadow stretched out of the woods and we sat for a time on a log, watching the breeze move the wildflowers as they bent to autumn. with a sharpie we left two tiny dots on that log. we had been there. we would remain there.

right off the side of the meadow as we re-entered the woods, there was this stump. like an opening flower blossom, it begged a look inside. i was surprised to find rocks of all sizes in there. a container of autographs, evidence for those who had passed by. we added ours to the assembly, rocks specifically chosen by hikers who placed their i-was-here into the hollow cavern of the stump. there is something about leaving a token behind, yes, encouraging and reassuring that upon our return someday – should we return to that very spot – it could be there and we would be reminded that we had passed that way.

the music, the art, the words – all linger temporarily. a little noisy. we have passed this way, that way, these very spots. music, the art, the words – they are expressions that give a bit of definition to the amorphous life we live. they say who we are and stamp our love into the world. and then they evaporate into the atmosphere.

and we know that, even if we never pass that way again, even if we never come across the hollow stump again, we have still left a silent autograph.

*****

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at the lake. [d.r. thursday]

we brought the jelly jar and the tealight with us, anticipating a chance to privately and quietly celebrate his life.

the lake was the place. there were clear fishing bobbers on the shoreline, waiting for us to discover them, to wonder if somehow they were his. there were glowing golden aspens and burning orange underbrush bushes, crows crowing and fishermen cussing the ones that got away. and it was perfect.

we lit the candle and found the right flat rock to place it on. we toasted columbus and sat back and watched the candle dance and burn and flicker.

we were there way longer than we thought we’d be. it was serene; it was a direct line to him. and it was exactly where we needed to be.

we had no place to stay that night and i wished we had our tent, sleeping bags and camping stove. the lake asked us to stay. we asked it for a rain check. another day, we promised.

we will come prepared to stay, to watch the sun set and a new day rise. and he’ll be there, cheering us on.

*****

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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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honor difference. when…? [d.r. thursday]

“all you need is love, love. love is all you need.” (all you need is love lyrics – john lennon, paul mccartney. recorded by the beatles. 1967)

“c’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” (get together lyrics – chet powers. recorded by the youngbloods. 1967)

right now? when?

“there comes a time, when we heed a certain call; when the world must come together as one…” (we are the world lyrics – michael jackson, lionel richie. recorded by multiple artists. 1985)

when?

“all my life I’ve been waiting for; i’ve been praying for, for the people to say that we don’t wanna fight no more; they’ll be no more wars. and our children will play.” (one day lyrics – bruno mars, ari levine, matthew miller, philip lawrence . recorded by matisyahu. 2008)

when?
when is that time?

blackpaint is a woman-owned art advocacy agency [in milwaukee, wisconsin] that designs public art and awareness campaigns for organizations and causes [they] believe in” and is responsible for the creation of this mural, painted by two women, celebrating differences.

sometimes lyrics and murals don’t need further talk-talk. it would be easy to list song lyrics about diversity that span time. it would be easy to post photographs of paintings or graphic designs about diversity that span time.

the common element would be their messages of respect, of equality, of love, of unity.

the common elemental question would be “when?”

bravo, blackpaint.

*****

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no way back. [d.r. thursday]

when i was little, going over bridges made me nervous. not because i was afraid of heights or because i was wary of infrastructure and thought it would fall down, but because i was nervous about not being able to get back. something about going over bridges made me feel like there was no way back, especially if we were heading in the wrong direction, taking a wrong turn. i did not like to feel lost.

texas is lost. they have traversed a bridge that appears to be a hellish dead end and, i fear, with no way back. the new abortion law in texas that the governor has touted is a despicable piece of legislation, currying to the favor of men and full-scale demeaning women. that the governor would couch this as concern for the “sanctity of life” elicits a visceral response, a sickened-gut feeling. that the governor would ignorantly speak to the six weeks of freedom-to-decide as plenty, as generous even, is a slap in the face of every woman in his state. that he would put a bounty on the heads of anyone helping in this situation is disgusting wild west gunfire into the crowd.

people have spoken since this decision with more eloquence than i might muster at this moment, but it would seem that every one every where needs to speak up. as more governors make moves to further control the rights of women, we need to – we must – speak up, speak out. the ironies stacking up are deplorable piles of dung as we sit and watch legislation and policy skewed against any kind of gender equality being written, being celebrated, being enacted. sanctity is not in the building.

i read an article about the use of words in statistics. number of girls and women raped. number of girls and women sexually assaulted. number of girls and women harassed. number of pregnant teenage girls. violence against women. the use of the passive construction – noting that these descriptors don’t state the number of boys and men who raped women or assaulted women or harassed women or impregnated women or were responsible for violence against women literally shifts the focus off the guilty parties, pretends that these things have simply happened to women.

it’s hard not to be hugely cynical, disenchanted, about a country that clearly measures women’s rights differently than it measures men’s, that cares about women differently than it cares about men. once again, that yardstick is two-headed and those wielding it speak out of both sides of their mouths.

cynical. disenchanted. yes. these words. from desiderata they seem so hopeful, yet… “neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.”

perennial. usually a positive word. perennial flowers. perennial love. yet, in the docket of these days, what is perennial is the absolute denial of respect and rights for women. it is tiresome to watch the constant lostness. instead of bridges to better times, better health, equality and respect for all, a lifting up of those oppressed, bridges are being built to places of continual control, to power unleashed over others, to inequity and doubletalking agenda – with no way back.

it’s no wonder why i didn’t like bridges when i was little. no-way-back is a terrifying place, for a little girl and for a country.

*****

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vulnerable. [d.r. thursday]

helen’s words have stayed with me for a few years now. we had told her of various frog encounters we were having including the time the frog jumped out of my sweet momma’s toilet (!) when we opened the lid and the first surprise frog at our little pond. “frog,” she quietly pointed out in a slight southern drawl, “is simply an acronym for fully-rely-on-god.” there was something stabilizing in her tone, something full of wisdom and experience and the flow of life. in her words there was reassurance. in her words there was encouragement.

magic appeared earlier this summer. we check for him pretty much every day. at some point one of us meanders out there and walks slowly around the pond, studying the places where a sweet frog can linger, sun, or hide. some days he isn’t there and we worry about him. when you name a frog in your pond, he becomes part of your family and pando and epic and tiny were no exceptions. we celebrated the day magic suddenly poofed into our pond. i’m certain we both heard helen’s words whispered in our ears.

i know that magic is vulnerable and yet, he sits in it. this pond is tiny and he would be hard-pressed to evade the neighborhood hawk should it decide froglegs were on the menu. the sun warms the pond each day and the rocks around it are hot to the touch, but magic has apparently figured all that out, afternooning in the shaded garden bushes, i suppose. he doesn’t seem to be scared of a big black furry dogdog running around the pond incessantly; i imagine he rolls his eyes, giggles at the visual absurdity and somehow knows dogga would never hurt him. he seems pretty secure. maybe he knows the f-r-o-g thing. no matter, taking chances, he sits in his vulnerability.

these two days – thursdays and fridays – are dedicated to our artistries. dr thursday and ks friday offer specific chances for us to dive into our craft, to talk about it, to divulge.

i have found, in these last years now of writing, that we are much like magic. the more we write, the more we divulge of where we are. our vulnerability is not just limited to artistry days. instead, we take chances each day of the week, writing where we are, where we have come from, where we may be going. we click ‘publish’ and sit in it.

at points in time, the neighborhood hawk somehow removed us from facebook for unknown reasons – a hankering for froglegs, i suppose – and trashed our youtube – burning hot reasons we will never know. it is hard to evade the acts of close-mindedness, of conspiracy theory, of damaging rhetoric, of exclusion. but we just keep writing anyway.

it was late evening when i went to look for magic. the air had deliciously cooled and we were outside – just with the pondlight and bulbs strung over the yard. there he was. in the spotlight of the pond, confidently on the edge of the rocks, breathing deeply – or however it is frogs breathe best. he didn’t move as i approached and he stayed right there, inches away, for the photoshoot. unafraid and in his own skin, he didn’t flinch. he just stayed right there. in the middle of his vulnerability.

it made me wonder if he has a blog.

*****

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way past time. [d.r. thursday]

she was sitting at a computer desk, a colleague at her own desk behind her. she asked, “what’s the difference between being assertive and being aggressive?” her colleague turned and replied, “your gender.”

the cartoon on facebook made me stop in my tracks. “this captures it better than any dissertation on gender inequality,” i thought. “sad, but so true,” i commented in the little fb box.

yes. it is way past time that the interpretation of women’s words and actions be viewed through the same lens as men’s. it is way past time that women’s intentions be measured with the same stick. it is way past time that women are respected for their strength, their power, their initiative, their intelligence, their skills, their talents, their creativity, their education, their experience, their motivation, their confidence, their risk-taking, their candor, their emotional intellect, their multi-tasking, their persistence, their sisu. it is way past time that women should be expected to simply be sweet. it is way past time that misogynistic men should be allowed to subjugate women – in any way. it is way past time that women be treated equally. it is way past time that you should have to look at an experience and say, as a woman, “if i were a man, would you have handled me this way? would you have spoken to me like this? would your behavior toward me have been acceptable? would you have pushed me down? would anyone have spoken up?” it is way past time for egalitarianism. way, way, way past.

we walked out in the county, sun setting in the western sky. the sunflowers rose high above us, glorious, though waning. is it the end of summer or is it the beginning of fall?

what do you see?

*****

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sistered. [d.r. thursday]

the quiet is one of my favorite things each early morning. the world has not yet awakened, save for the birds. as the sun rose red into the sky today it was as if a silent movie was playing in the sky, strewn with color.

“stillness is the canvas against which movement can become beautiful. we can only appreciate movement against the background of stillness. were everything kinetic, we could not know what movement is. as sound is sistered to silence, movement is sistered to stillness.” (john o’donohue – beauty)

sistered.

it’s the rests that give meaning to the music – the breathing that makes owning a passage only yours.

it’s the white space that gives design power – balance revealing subject, a viewer’s ability to see.

it’s the negative between the positive – giving definition, directing eyes to move.

it’s the imperfection that accords perfection.

it’s standing still that makes dance dance.

it’s less words that gives impact to more words – wisdom is not measured in the verbose.

it’s dark that gives the stars life – a stage for shimmering pinpricks of light, gigantic close, tiny from afar.

it’s noise that makes the whisper worthy of delicious goosebumps.

it’s the tide going out, coming in that makes the waves, the low-tide sand pushing the wave higher.

it’s absence that reminds us of the potency of presence.

it’s sleep that gives energy to awakeness.

it’s dreams that give shape to reality.

it’s quiet – gentle hushed sunrising birdcall-punctuated quiet – that feeds the wearied cacophony in our minds as we start anew. offered with possibility, with crayons or colored pencils or thick oils to fill in our day, peeking into spaces of nothingness, seeing past what we see, coloring over the lines, entering the negative space, uncluttered and still.

sistered. beautiful.

*****

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sweet laughter. [d.r. thursday]

i can’t imagine what it would feel like to have written enormously happy screenplays like ‘when harry met sally’ or ‘sleepless in seattle’ or ‘you’ve got mail’. my sweet momma loved the play of meg ryan and tom hanks and billy crystal and, even in face of a double mastectomy at 93, she would watch these movies and she would feel good. nora ephron had feeling good dialed in. her recommendation to “laugh in the face of calamity” is not surprising and deborah copaken’s recent article in the atlantic with snippets of deborah-nora 2011 conversation includes two more of nora’s rules for middle-age happiness: gather friends and feed them and cut out all the things (people, jobs, body parts ) that no longer serve you. these seem to be sage tidbits of wisdom.

when i was younger, there was no shortage of reader’s digest issues in our house. i grew up reading these excerpted and short stories. one of the features was called ‘laughter, the best medicine’. people would submit their own stories for a chance to be published and paid $100. some of these paragraph-stories would elicit a snicker or two, others a real chuckle, though i don’t remember ever out-and-out guffawing. i suppose guffawing is not so young-girl-like; perhaps i should substitute another word. regardless, they were clean jokes and real-life experiences of people that were there to make you laugh. i loved watching my mom and dad laugh over them.

when i googled reader’s digest, i stumbled across an article about bob carey, a man whose wife has been battling breast cancer since the early 2000s. he, in his hope to help, pulled on a pink tutu and went all over the country having his picture taken to raise money for breast cancer research. there is nothing like a man-who-doesn’t-have-a-tutu-body in a pink tutu struttin’ his stuff in the middle of new york city or at the grand canyon to make you laugh. his honoring his wife linda through the tutu project he embraces her spirit, her courage and the power of laughter in their lives. it’s good stuff, this laughing.

laughter triggers physical and emotional changes in our bodies. even a smile elicits goodness in our own selves, relaxing stress muscles, encouraging others around us to relax. it’s the reason i will always start a concert with a story that will likely make people laugh, a story of vulnerability, even a self-deprecating story. a relaxed audience is a participatory audience who has been invited in. there’s no second chance to make a first impression.

my sweet momma would have been good friends with nora, had she had the chance. she would have applauded bob carey in his pink tutu, had she seen him. the sound of her laugh and the dancing light in her eyes stay with me.

in the words of pablo neruda, “…deny me bread, air, light, spring, but never your laughter for i would die.”

sweet laughter. like the whisper of words of your beloved or a gentle kiss to the top of your head, the laughter of your beloved.

there is a book i haven’t read yet – by richard cohen, about nora ephron. it is called ‘she made me laugh’. can you imagine a better legacy?

*****

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