reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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open windows and ragamuffins. [merely-a-thought monday]

brad was off-zoom-camera when he asked, a little incredulously, “you mean you haven’t put in the air conditioners yet?!” i sheepishly replied, “no…not yet.” everyone on the screen laughed and then stared. i mean, it is clearly hot out. hot and humid and sticky – those dog days of august, though even dogdog is not a fan of sultry so-called-dog-days. every thing and every one is sluggish, moving slower.

i remember living in florida and working in a career where suits and business office attire were expected. you’d search for toe-cleavage-touting etienne aigner pumps on sale and score big on scarves to finish it all off. everything was air-conditioned: your home, your car, the office, the lunch deli. everything except the outside. so, after carefully attending to your ensemble and your make-up, you would get into your car in your garage and drive to the office – for me, this was downtown brooksville at the courthouse, as i worked for the state attorney’s office as the victim-witness counselor – and you’d drive around the downtown looking for a spot, hoping for something close to the square. you’d park -finally – a few blocks away, jump out of your car, grab your attache and purse and walk through 1000% humidity to the office while your make-up was sliding off your face and every wrinkle you had ironed out returned through the miracle of sultry-water-saturated air effects on clothing that does not have physical separation from your body. it is hard to look fresh and crisp when you, your clothing and your make-up are melting away. dog-days in florida are not merely a few days here or there in a month or two during summer. they last much longer than that and i always wondered how my elegant boss debbie managed to look pristine. but, i digress.

i felt compelled to answer brad’s question with a little more explanation.

last summer, in the middle of the beginning of the pandemic, in the middle of civil unrest, in the middle of dog-days in more ways than heat-inspired, we put our air conditioner units in the windows – early. the first day we were the slightest bit uncomfortable, late-spring sometime, we – well, david – lugged them upstairs from the basement and installed them in the sitting room and the dining room. we barely went anywhere. with the pandemic raging, we followed safety guidelines to limit our exposure to others, to limit our trips to the grocery stores, to refrain from eating out or gathering. we closed the windows and flipped on the air conditioners. we were isolated, insular.

the summer of 2020 seems like the summer that never was. neither of us can remember much of the summer-part of the summer. the usual backyard gatherings, trips to the mountains, music festivals and park concerts and farmer’s markets on the lake – all were absent for us. and, because the air conditioning was turned on, we basically left it on. it was easy to stay temperature-comfortable and that seemed like the only comfortable we had. as the spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall work and security fell away for so many and we were included in that. insular. temperature-comfortable but not life-comfortable. we knew having the units in was a splurge but it was our only splurge.

this year we are resisting. the windows are wide open. and some days it is hotter than roasting or sizzling or broiling or baking. but, like the environmentally-responsible outdoor company stio taglines, we “let the outside in.” my hair dries curly on its own and sometimes – gasp – i don’t even have any make-up on. our clothing is not smart and tailored and it definitely has a little drooping going on. but we can FEEL the outside. we can hear the birdcalls and sometimes the frog, the gurgle of the pond and chipmunks ranting. lawnmowers and music from the kingfish ballpark. the ice cream truck playing ‘it’s a small world’ and the street sweeper on its way down our street. we feel a part of the world, even in our continued vigilance of covid safety guidelines. we feel summer. and, to be fair, we look at the weather app for breaks in the heat, breaks in the humidity and count the days, knowing it is within our ability to get there without actually melting away. on days when it’s too too much, we sit in littlebabyscion with dogdog and have happy hour in the driveway, going nowhere.

soon fall will arrive – our favorite season. we’ll keep the windows open. we’ll smell the change of seasons and we’ll start sleeping under blankets. it will be easier to think, easier to move about, heck, easier to wear clothes. we are hoping everything will be easier. insular-island-at-home dwelling is not easy. in an opposite-reaction it seems that the more open, safe and healthy the world will become, the more likely we would be now to put in those air conditioners. maybe next summer.

and just a tiny word about linen. though it is supposedly breathable and plant-based and high quality, what’s up with all these wrinkles??? i could hear my sweet momma in my head the other day as i left the air-conditioned car, having driven a distance in a flowy linen handkerchief dress, trying to look fresh and crisp, perhaps a swipe at cooly-elegant, “you look like a ragamuffin!”

might as well have left the windows open.

*****

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


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wonderful world. [k.s. friday]

“easy living” it advertises on the cover of the wayfair summer catalog. inside, you can purchase everything you need for easy living. for a price, you can create easy living spaces on your deck, your front porch, in your kitchen, in your bath, by your pool, in your backyard. most items are really beautiful, beckoning you to believe in the power they have to help you live easy. this summer, we actually added a few small things to our own deck, though our deck is a mostly-target-added-to-repurposed-stuff deck. i have to say, a few cushions and outdoor pillows make an inviting difference.

we have changed our schedule a bit these days. we used to stay up really late and watch late night news and comedy talk shows, but through the pandemic and the political-rah-rah times it has tended to get us riled up. so instead, after the sun has fallen from the sky and mosquitoes having joined us on the deck, we watch minimal tv and go to bed early to read aloud or watch trails on a laptop. we wake up early, with rising sun and birdcalls streaming in through the wide-open windows in our bedroom.

this morning, just as the sun rose, i plugged in the coffee, fed dogdog, opened the windows in the sunroom and went outside. i greeted the tiniest farm on our potting stand, tested the soil for dampness, looked for ripe cherry tomatoes, pinched back the sweet basil. i checked on the lavender. i added bird seed to the feeder. i looked for magic in the pond and pulled a couple weeds. i watched dogga sniff around his yard and drank in the salmon sky lightening in the east. i came back inside and wandered from plant to plant, saying good morning to succulents and KC and snakeinthegrass. the coffee pot beeping drew me out of where i was standing by the window, looking out, and i pulled out cabin coffee company mugs. every day is different and every mug brings with it a different set of visceral memories. it was a breckenridge mug kind of day.

it was quiet; all was still. i thought: this. this is easy living. a little bit of ritual, a little peace at the beginning of the day, a little peace at the end of the day – these are ingredients you cannot purchase from a catalog. these simple gestures we make to being present-here-now are contagious. they spread the intention of simplicity to the rest of our day. and though we don’t always stay there, in peace, we know we can find our way back there.

because at the beginning of the next day we can try again. we can find the wonderful in this wonderful world.

PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

and – click here – just because everyone should listen to louis armstrong every day

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

PULLING WEEDS ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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only so much summer. [d.r. thursday]

feels like 101. feels like 103. feels like 105. at some point, the details are irrelevant. it’s just damn hot.

david and dogdog and i had about had it. the “cooler near the lake” theory was defunct-for-the-moment and it was hot and humid in and out. our old house doesn’t have central air and the window air conditioners were still in the basement, as both of us love open windows and light and less noise than they put out. and the next day it was all supposed to break. so…one more evening. we tried to be patient. it is summer after all.

we asked dogga if he wanted to go on errands, to which he always gleefully responds. he ran out to the car in the driveway and eagerly got in, looking out the back window to follow our backing-up, which never happened. we sat there. stationary. not moving. he kept looking out the back window. with the air conditioner cranked up to high and on max, we sat there, blowers aimed right at us and into the back, where the dog was wondering about how he ended up with people who called sitting still in the driveway “errands”.

i will admit that we carried out – to our driveway – a glass of wine. so this was the location of the beginning of our happy hour, sans snacks. the snacks were waiting in the sunroom for us, but we just needed this burst of cold air first.

so far, about a week later, post-desperation, the air conditioners are still in the basement. there were a few cooler, drier days. and those nights – perfection – windows-wide-open-fans-on-under-a-blanket nights. yesterday and the day before were humid – curly hair kind of humid. and looking ahead, it seems that it will be up and down. we glance at the accuweather app and look for breaks coming up. there’s one tomorrow. the high will be 73. those a/c units may not be going in any time soon.

instead, our old double-hung windows will be getting a workout. the ceiling fans are running and there is the clicking sound of the ceiling chain tapping against the light fixture. we wake in the night when it’s raining to hear the dripping against the bedroom window from the flat roof above, a signal to close the window. we hear the latest dark-night sounds of crickets and the earliest sounds of the birds as they wake at 4am, sounds we will miss in mid-winter, sounds it seems we should store up, memorize, stock away. we can hear the lake in its response to wind and the train lumbering in the distance. and the exquisite stillness. we can hear the neighborhood go to sleep and the neighborhood wake up.

we know the a/c units will block the heat, will block the humidity. we’re grateful to have them at the ready. we also know that they will block the summer – and in wisconsin, there is only so much summer to have.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

dancing in the front yard


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our firework. [k.s. friday]

the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.

the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.

each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.

dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.

i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.

so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…

we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.

and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.

but as an adult – i know.

*****

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I DIDN’T KNOW from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood


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these birds are home. [two artists tuesday]

the angle of the sun changes them. our two green-eyed birds become four birds, elongated or shortened, light shadows on the fence or intensely dark and clear, a party of four. the shadows of our backyard birds entertain us just as the metal birds beckoned to us the day we found them in a tiny river road town on the mississippi side of wisconsin. though we aren’t big spontaneous purchasers, these birds with their green glass eyes seemed to be waiting for us, waiting to be brought home with us as we drove the budget truck on its last leg from seattle to kenosha.

we’ve moved them around the back yard. they’ve watched over the pond, they’ve hung out by the giant pine next to the garage. now, they share the garden along the fence, watching over the peonies and grasses and daylilies.

their genus and species classification was not identified in the outdoor space at the little shop in stockholm, but they mostly remind me of shorebirds, maybe herons, but with their necks scrunched down, their heads tucked onto their bodies. if you look up heron symbolism, it seems fitting for us to have these silent guardians watching over us as we started sharing life. the heron symbolizes tranquility and stillness. it also “signifies determination because we are bound to wade through marshes and ponds through life’s journey, but we must never give up.” heaven knows, that’s been true. in native tradition, i’ve read that they represent “an ability to progress and evolve”. indeed!

or maybe they are black-tailed godwits. the godwit’s latin name translates to “muddy”, so that would also be fitting, as we added them to our lives in water paths that were not clear to us. how can they ever be clear at the beginning, i wonder. how are they ever clear, period? in old english godwit means “good creature”, quiet goodness standing tall with us.

or maybe they are sandpipers, with sensitive bills. there are a variety of meanings attached to the sandpiper but my favorite to lean on is that they are “a good symbol for problem-solving and going great distances to achieve your goals, either physically, or geographically”.

no matter.

they are sweet metal birds, one of our first home purchases together. they stand outside reminding us of the early days, the new pond, the puppy days with dogdog, the ups and downs of new relationship in the middle of middle age. tranquility, stillness, determination and problem-solving in muddy times, lots and lots of wading, surrounded by good persons and, hopefully, evolving.

yes. i’d say these simple green-eyed birds are definitely in the right place. they are home.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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hosta extraordinaire. [k.s. friday]

ordinary. perennially ordinary. hostas are intrepid, robust, shade-tolerant, adaptable plants. they are patient with human-planting errors and magnanimous with dogs who run amuck through their early sprouting. these plants seemingly have boundless energy to reproduce and spread and fill-in gardens in shadow. with low maintenance personalities, they happily populate yards and our hosta garden out back is an easy joy.

right next to the hosta is a garden of ferns. these are a different story. they are, indeed, more particular than hosta and, in our experience, much higher maintenance. they are beautiful, willowy and tall and a gorgeous green that changes in the light. still pretty ordinary but with a little more sass.

there are a few peonies in our backyard gardens. they are more specific about their needs. they like the sun and well-drained soil. they like a little space. they have a short-lived flowering season, but their wafting scent is remarkable. they are still ordinary plants, but need a smidge more attention than the ferns and quite a bit more attention than the hostas.

they all, however, live in community and, were we better garden-planners and were we not to have an aussie running circles in our backyard grass, would present a lovely picture. despite our lack of garden design and despite dogdog’s propensity for a bit of ruin, we are grateful for each of these living plants out back. the extraordinary of their ordinariness doesn’t escape us. they are there, they are steadfast, even without us worrying about them, fussing over them, micromanaging them. they seem to know what to do.

i recently interviewed for a job. it didn’t require a masters degree in the field, but i have one. it didn’t require experience in the area of expertise, but i have forty years. coming away from the interview, i noted to myself that it also didn’t seem to require a sense of humor or a sense of who people on either side of the call really were. is this ordinary? i’ve read many articles recently about leadership and management. the best of the best leaders and managers are human, appreciative of those they work with, looking for potential and collaboration, leaning on a bit of community warmth and pushing back at haughtiness and agenda in the workplace. the best of the best remember we are all extraordinarily ordinary, together.

i suspect i was too old for this job. that thought takes my breath away, but, these days, it seems to be true. i watch as garden centers work in our neighborhood and others we pass through. they carry in plants of great variety, design architectural gardens of varying heights and species and colors. i wonder if these gardens will require owner-vigilance or if they will propagate and grow toward their potential with the freedom that years of gained wisdom and savoir-faire and insight have granted. or if, perhaps, it will be a respectful collaboration, a chance to, in community, laugh at the breeze, bask in a bit of sun, cool off in late afternoon shade, soak in the rain and grow leaps and bounds. ordinary extraordinaires.

just like our hostas.

“it’s the ordinary people who give extraordinary love. when you sit back and look at it all you know this is what life’s made of. it’s not the stuff you accumulate or the title on your desk. it’s the people around you who make living life the best.” (song – this is life: ©️ kerri sherwood)

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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hold kjeft. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i never asked where the deer head on the den wall came from. we were not a hunting family and we were verymuch a mammal-loving family, but it must have never occurred to me to ask. this old deer head, hung on the paneling of the room with our black and white tv and giant rock fireplace built stone-by-tedious-stone by sven, ruled over the garage wall side of the room and was somewhat opposite the back door.

if snoopy, our modell’s sporting goods $10.20 dog (of which i paid the 20 cents), got to barking incessantly, my sweet dad would point to the deer head and, in his brooklyn-voice, taunt her, “you wanna go on the wall?” somehow she understood this empty threat and would mostly stop barking. but if she didn’t stop, my dad would bark back at her, “hold kjeft!!” my sons-of-norway norwegian lessons were not long-lived, but they were comprehensive enough for me to know that meant “shut up!”. spoken in a different language, it didn’t seem as rude.

when they were growing up, i never allowed the girl or the boy to say “shut up!” to each other or anyone. it just seemed like an unnecessarily aggressive way to ask someone to be quiet or at least quieter. i never thought to use “hold kjeft” as an alternative back then.

but now, as dogga runs the backyard looking for the rest of the cast in 101 dalmations to bark back at him, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. as we pass people in the car and he is suddenly aware of a dog on the sidewalk out the car window, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. as the neighbors get him riled up, with fifteen kids or so in the backyard all screaming at the top of their lungs and their dog barking-barking, “hold kjeft” is my command of choice. every time i say it, i see the deer head in the den and i can hear my sweet poppo’s voice.

it doesn’t necessarily do the trick all the time. but it conjures up precious long-ago memories of a different time, when i watched black and white tv with no remote, sat on the hearth with hot chocolate and sit-upons, paid no attention to decor or other adult-riddled-responsibilities and laughed when my dad stared at our underbite-blessed-boxer-mixed-breed-mutt and pointed to the wall.

*****

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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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dog and cat. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

his best friend. he waits at the door for his best friend to return. his sorrow is quiet, subdued. his grief is confusion, dedication to a belief that babycat will come home. he has never been in this house without him – not even a day – and this last week has been heartwrenching to watch his reaction. his sadness is palpable, his loss profound.

the first few days after his babycat disappeared he was almost silent. dogdog is never a silent dog, so this was noticeable. without a sound, he looked everywhere for his cat. with lydia’s wise recommendation i tried to visualize for him all that had happened once his babycat had left the house, to give him some context, to let him know he did not have to wait, to tell him that his babycat was now in our hearts. he looked deeply into my eyes and then looked away, as if to dismiss my explanation, to hold close his own perspective, his own interpretation.

‘the boys’ spent the days together – every day since we brought dogdog home as a puppy. they’ve navigated through changes and ups and downs with us. they’ve kept us amused and entertained. they’ve nuzzled us in our times of angst. the rare times they were apart were very few times that we were on a trip. they moved to the littlehouse on island with us and adapted, finding mutual spots at the place where the kitchen met the living room and the sun streamed in. the noise of the ferry on the crossing scaring babycat, dogdog stayed close to him, signaling all was well. they channeled reassurance to each other, touchstones of steady, ever-present. they shared their water bowl and cheered each other on when it was time for treats. where one would go, ultimately the other would follow. and at the end of the day, butt-to-butt, they lay on the raft, waiting for us to sleep. babycat ruled. they were best friends.

last tuesday morning as i sipped coffee on the bed and babycat lay curled up down by my feet, dogga jumped up and laid down. gently, with all absence of play and what seemed in all seriousness, he moved his face over to babycat’s face. they laid nose to nose, heads on the soft old quilt, their hushed stillness, in retrospect, a clear display of their great love for each other. after a bit of time, babycat’s symptoms surfaced suddenly. and everything in the world changed for our sweet dedicated-to-his-cat aussie.

i understand dogdog’s quiet. though our presence and snugs and words to him might help, solace will only come in time. “woundedness is one of the places where normal words and descriptions break down.” grief is not limited to human hearts.

*****

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


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the good old days. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

carly simon is – obviously – singing in my brain as i design this. “…anticipation, anticipay-ay-tion, is making me late….keeping me way-ay-ay-i-ting… …cause these are the good old days…”

for dogdog and babycat, these are the good old days. there is nothing more pressing than the treat in our hands, the invitation to go “on errands”, the lure of catnip, the tiny bite of potato from our breakfast plates. they are filled with anticipation.

this morning i heard of the passing of a young woman who was in a youth group i directed decades ago now. i easily remember her. back then we called her missi and she was full of smiles and adventure. though i haven’t seen her in the decades that have passed, it is stunning and sad, as it always is in loss, to think of her not on this earth. those days of youth group were most definitely good old days, surrounded by eager teenagers of promise.

“we can never know about the days to come/but we think about them anyway/and i wonder if i’m really with you now/or just chasing after some finer day…”

i wonder, as we look back, what we will also see as the good old days. are they the days of great accomplishment, of awards or the moments precious few like lottery hits? or are they the days of car rides on back roads with no important destination? are they the hikes in the woods with no concern about speed or distance? are they the days of anticipatory youth or the days of contented age? are they days with the lack of pretense, the lack of measure, the lack of self-criticism?

the dog and the cat do not partake in de-constructive evaluation. if dogdog utters a quiet grumble at babycat for getting too close to his bone, he watches us remove his bone from the spot and clearly is – momentarily – remorseful as we issue a stern “no!” he does not linger there, however. he simply moves on to the next moment, the look on his face is gleeful expectation of whatever is next. he nudges his babycat adoringly, respectfully. he is living each good old day as they come, seemingly regretting none. there is no checklist for him; it just is.

“so i’ll try to see into your eyes right now/and stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.”

i will try to remember this: despite any angst that lingers in the air or in our hearts, it would serve me well to anticipate the sun of a new day, each new day, ready to slurp it up like dogdog and babycat, because it is – undoubtedly – one of the good old days.

*****

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