reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the notion of attention. [d.r. thursday]

picture-of-the-day is a driving force. every day now – straight – for over two years – i have posted a picture of the day on our thread. when covid was first present in our world, now two years and a couple months ago, my son suggested that each of us, my son and daughter and i, post a photo a day and it would keep me feeling more in the loop; the connection would be reassuring. i oh-so-agreed and have been really deliberate about these images.

no words necessary, though any kind of descriptor is welcome, these photographs are a glimpse into each other’s lives. i take it really seriously and i celebrate any time either one of them posts a photo, loving the window-in. and all day i look for the photo-capture that will be my picture-of-the-day. it’s a practice i love. intentional observing of the world around me. we all see the same things; we all see different things. i love noticing. and i have found – as in anything – the more i notice, the more i notice.

“the notion of attention … to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer…” (“our world” – text by mary oliver, photographs by molly malone cook)

we hiked over the weekend. we hadn’t been on any trail in a couple of weeks as the weather has been uncooperative. our hike was punctuated with my stopping and stopping again. so much to photograph, so many changes in the forest. i want to go slow, slow; this is not a get-your-heartrate-up exercise, but my heart was exercised nonetheless. so much beauty to see, so many tiny miracles within my reach.

david does not rush me. we were there – on that trail – to rejuvenate, to breathe, to take it all in. how do i capture that in a picture-of-the-day, i wondered. i photograph the new dandelion sharing gravel with the path. i photograph shy tiny pink flowers bending down toward the earth. i photograph the mayapple which has suddenly burst into the underbrush world. i photograph the trillium not yet blooming and wonder aloud which warmer day this week they will open to the sun. so many greens. full spectrum, not just the verdant new spring grass. slow, slow.

“i lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…” (walt whitman – “song of myself”)

it rained the day of this post’s photograph. again. it had been raining for days, grey end on end. my picture-of-the-day would depict the rain, a dissatisfaction with the lack of sun. but, even in that frustration-of-waiting for the lamb days, i knew i could find something to notice about the rain, something to give pause.

the trees in the reflection – still leafless – reminded me. the rain falling here – brutally absent in drought-corners of this world – gentle and insistent, driving and adamant in turn, brings new growth, a transition to a new season, washing away the dust and salt of winter and its tears.

“it was my pleasure to notice such things…” (mary oliver – “our world”)

*****

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good seed. [d.r. thursday]

poised and ready. tiny seedpods waiting. their release will come with the wind and the rain and, surely, this spring is bringing that. and they will float and fall to the ground and be sent swirling and land in the meadow and the pond, on the river and on decaying nurselogs nearby in the forest. some will take root and others will not, for their form has changed too much in the rain and wind for their function to remain the same. but there are many, so the tree’s explosion of blossoms have guaranteed its legacy.

in every moment of communicating with others we are tiny seedpods. poised and ready to release with the wind. what will we scatter?

our words are not without volition; we have the choice of what to say, the choice of how to say it. the moments of measuring a response, of pondering a question…these are moments of great import.

“all summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.” (mary oliver- what i have learned so far)

how many times we wish we could take back a comment, retract a judgement, shrink back from a story told. how many times we wish an other would-not-have-said-that, would apologize, would consider all the implications of something said in spew, or even in -what they feel is- jest. we know a tiny slowing-down, a quick brain-heart-lips check-in, a fact-check, a compassionate re-wording, would all change the minute our words – or theirs – hit the air, with the wind ready to sail them on and on.

tiny seeds sown on the breezes of everyday life. seeds that take root and grow.

“we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land…”(stephen schwartz/john michael tebelak – all good gifts)

good seed.

“i’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (maya angelou)

*****

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prayer of opposites, acrylic 48″x48″

PRAYER OF OPPOSITES ©️ david robinson



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cautious discernment. [d.r. thursday]

and the dried grassy flower stands tall, not yet shrinking back, not yet bowing to the wind. it opens its arms to the sun and, equally, to the rain; it intimately knows how each feels. it waits – for there is nothing else to do. it stokes energy – for it cannot survive unless it conserves. we pass by, admiring the firework of its winter bloom.

soon, soon, it will regenerate. soon, soon, a stem will grow, sturdy, tall. soon, soon, a rosette will green. soon, soon, it will bloom, tiny flowers, clusters on its thick stem.

and one might think how lovely it would look in a simple bud vase, on a side table, in its winter simplicity or soon-soon-spring-blossoming.

quick research reveals it could be golden alexander or perhaps queen anne’s lace, not-toxic and somewhat toxic, respectively. a google-photo-search suggests it is possibly wild parsnip, absolutely toxic, invasive, causing severe burns and years-long discoloration of the skin, like queen anne’s lace with a big bite.

“things are [- sometimes -] not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.” (buddha)

identification – now – in the fallow – is not easy.

when there are tiny flowers, when there is foliage…maybe then it will be easier. it will, clearly, be an important discernment.

often we gaze upon things that seem to be attractive, seem to be beautiful, that tease us to reach for them.

perhaps a reminder to exercise caution.

*****

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see an owl, acrylic, 24″x48″


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the forest AND the trees. [d.r. thursday]

it was 1999 and bugdom reigned supreme, rollie pollies and ladybugs and fire ants all in the computer game kingdom, with plenty of other-bugs helping and undermining rollie mcfly. it was the early days of games with such vibrant graphics and i distinctly remember being wowed by such a ground-level view of the world.

the chipmunks are in their glory these days. our birdfeeder is always a draw; they have it all figured out. sometimes i wonder about their perspective on the world, these tiny adorable creatures, so low to the ground, scampering here and there. what it must be like when you are in the grass and you can only really see a little bit ahead and, if you turn your head to the sky, up. they don’t seem to mind that they have no real big picture. perhaps that is why they seem so happy-go-lucky and intent on the tasks at hand. over and over they will stock up their tiny cheeks, puffing out and puffing out, and then run across the patio and dart under the deck. again and again. they are not thwarted by the repetition of it all. they just keep on keeping on.

we had a really fun visit with our son the other day. in chicago, on a cubs’ game day, we wove our way through wrigleyville and lakeview neighborhoods to see the new place he would be moving. a cool two-story lofted apartment, it was a bright and happy place. he measured the space for furniture, calculating what he already had that would fit and what new items he would need. he’s done this a few times before, so he is very adept at the whole figuring-out stuff thing. both my children have already moved more times in their lives than i have in my entire life. they are much better at paring down and settling in to a new place than i am.

he mentioned that he would need an ant trap, which, for some reason, surprised me. “yeah,” he said, laughing, “there are ants in the city.” and, apparently, you need to be aware on the ground floor. then, in a told-you-so moment, he pointed to the tiniest ant on the sliding glass door wall. waaaaay high up on the wall this ant crawled. perspective-wise, were we to be crawling and were you to do the math equation proportionately, we would be on everest. nevertheless, the ant kept going. i wanted to bring it outside, but he assured me it would find its way. poor thing. it was a vast sea of white paint and all straight up and down. even bugdom wouldn’t have prepared the ant for this; bugdom was all outside – a lawn, a pond, a forest, a garden and an anthill.

the other day i saw a brown marmorated stink bug (known colloquially as simply “stink bug” and with the acronym “bmsb”). it was on an outside screen window crawling up. now, these poor bugs are not people-biters, but they are surely named properly and no one wants them around. i don’t know where it was going either. i can’t imagine why it would want to be up on the roof, so i’m guessing it was somewhat lost. when you can’t see beyond the screen, it’s hard to find your way.

we are fortunate, we humans. we have amazing prowess to be able to see the horizon. if it isn’t visible, if the horizon isn’t clear, we have the ability to climb higher to seek a better view, an overlook. though i suspect that some opinions are formed at dirt level, most of us seek the air and space to sort through what’s in front of our noses and see the bigger picture. our kingdom isn’t limited to the next grass blade.

rather, we have every advantage for gaining knowledge, learning alternate viewpoints, overcoming a narrow frame of reference, understanding the synergy of working together. we can form educated points of view, evaluate the difference between truth and falsehood, choose compassion and kindness as our stance toward others.

we can see blades of grass AND the landscape of the lawn.

more importantly, we can see the forest AND the trees.

*****

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on-the-bench & off-the-bench. [d.r. thursday]

every sunday morning for years and years we have sent a photograph to each other. every single sunday, mostly without fail. there might be one or two we missed, but no more than that. it is a cherished tradition and i envision us as little old ladies still sending texted photos on sunday mornings.

it started because most people we know are not sitting on a pipe organ bench first thing on a sunday morning. since we both were, we shared “this is where i am in the world right now and i am thinking of you” sentiments, knowing, without saying all those words, the other would completely understand all that meant.

for over a year now i have continued to receive them: benchviews, a slice of her church, a close-up of a pew or ornate woodwork, a candle, linens draped on the chancel, flowers, registration stops of the organ, piano keys, measures of music – all while my photos to her have dramatically changed.

instead, my early sunday morning photographs include various quilts, coffee mugs, shadows playing on the wall or on the fence, views of snow falling between miniblinds, the backyard, airbnb’s where we have awakened, out-of-town-out-the-window, glorious breakfast, and dogdog. the rule is – where you are right now – and since that is no longer at a church my view is sometimes narrower and sometimes broader, both.

not working at church every single sunday has given me much to think about. at first i really missed it. truth, for a long time i really missed it. thirty-something years is a long time. i was devastated by the loss of our community-family and a job i loved. i missed the organ bench and knowing which pipes were ornery and the choir and the ukulele band and those hauntingly beautiful handbells. i missed the curmudgeon of a piano. i missed dueting with the guitarist – boom mics and cables and the occasional feedback. i missed the tiny pew up front and the familiar musty smell of the balcony.

each church i worked at through the years has had its magic. but each church i worked at through the years has also had its toxins. not unlike -really- any other place of employment, being on the “inside” affords a different view – snapshots of the good, the bad and, definitely, the ugly. churches are not immune to that. and that’s the stuff i don’t miss.

because in our hearts, the one place we go that we would expect to be consistent, certainly not divergent, with mission – of kindness and grace in some manner or form – would be the religious institution we have chosen to be part of. we would expect the people there – whether in leadership or in congregation – to go the extra mile, to set an example, to navigate and solve difficulty, to negotiate differences, to reject-forswear-renounce personal agenda, to seek unity and transparency, to sort to love.

seeing – up close and personal – that isn’t the case is a rude awakening. no, we don’t expect perfection anywhere. yes, we do expect trying.

i adore seeing susan’s from-the-bench pictures, all so viscerally intimate and always part of me. and i love sending her my view as well. so, as it has been for over a year now, she’ll continue to get photos off-the-bench now. it’s not what it was.

dogga laid tucked in on the quilt next to me as i sipped coffee and watched the light gather in corners of the room. sunday morning. i took this picture to send her.

and i realized that i – finally – don’t miss that organ bench anymore.

*****

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a different planet. [d.r. thursday]

we were on another planet. we had clearly stepped off the one that was home and we were catapulted into another. we were at the mall.

now, we never go to the mall. so there is that. but we had something to return – which we could have shipped – but the mall in milwaukee was a destination for a cold saturday afternoon and we decided to drive up.

we took all backroads, naturally. went through neighborhoods and farmland. stayed out west going north until it was time to turn east. then hit all the congestion.

the parking lot was full; it was astonishing. we drove around a bit and found a space. littlebabyscion makes that easier. we pulled in, put our coats and gloves back on, grabbed our packages and got out. there was a car in the lane waiting for another spot. the windows were down and we heard, “they have MASKS on!” as we got out. the derisive voice said nothing else. we looked at each other and rolled our eyes, continuing what would be our launch into a different solar system.

we walked into the mall.

there were a zillion people there. and you could pretty much count the ones with masks on with your two hands. we were the anomaly. clearly, a different galaxy. one where there was no pandemic, there were no people still at risk, no variants of the disease, no questions about how to be safe.

we hadn’t looked for the outside entrance to the store we needed – that might have saved us some staring – but we thought it might be fun to walk through the mall to the department store. we truly haven’t been in a mall in years. there are a couple outdoor malls we have enjoyed, but nothing really in the hey-let’s-go-to-the-mall of days gone by.

we were the bright-green-with-dark-green-ovals-purple-underside-wavy-leaves of the rattlesnake plant. perfectly harmless, a graceful air purifier, but with a name attached that makes others wary. we were mask-wearers and, let-me-tell-you, people did not refrain from reacting.

we walked directly to the returns desk – where, incidentally, they had masks on – and took care of business. we meandered just a little. i mean, it’s nordstrom’s and i don’t know anyone who doesn’t like, say, that shoe department. then we left and took quick scoots into pottery barn and williams sonoma. there were far fewer people in those shops and we stood at the cutlery, studying it and simultaneously pointing to the one we would pick, if we were picking silverware at this very moment. we laughed to discover it was the same pattern and perused the olive oils and flake salt as we walked out.

it wasn’t far from there to the exterior door. there were many stores we hadn’t even seen, a whole second floor of potential shopping. our hour or so seemed enough. we felt like fish out of water. uncomfortable. like a beautiful plant with great benefits assigned a bad name – “rattlesnake”.

“liberals!” floated from hanging over our heads back into the milky way as we walked outside to the car.

*****

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EARTH INTERRUPTED painting series


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that voice. [d.r. thursday]

if only it were all that simple. seeing into the future, that is. we might be able to avoid the potholes, the pitfalls, the problems that are in our merry way. but, alas, that is not so. and, unlike oatly and its humorous point-on prediction on the lid of its coffee “ice cream”, we struggle between punting and pure intuition, hopping and skipping and maybe crawling our way into the future.

punting is a given. everyone punts. the older i get, the more i realize people are making it up on the fly. lots of experience, education, research, failures and giant successes help, but it is all kind of punting, after all.

but intuition is a funny thing. we can hear it in our inner ear; we can feel it pokin’ at us, like a snickers bar supposedly pokes at our tummies. sometimes we listen and other times we poo-poo it, dismissing it as frivolous or overly obsessive thinking. there are times, however, when we listen and it is spot-on.

in 1993, in august, i took both my small children to the mall. my daughter was three and my son just seven months old. we went to walk around, watch people, maybe purchase a few things. we were going to stop at mcdonald’s on the way home, as we always did, to have a happy meal. driving back from the mall i made up silly songs about going to mcdonald’s and my little girl was excited. this was our mcdonald’s, the one where she knew how to carry her little meal from the counter, around the corner into the back dining room, to the very back table opposite the rear door, the farthest away from people smoking, because, back then, people still smoked in restaurants.

as we drove down the main road of our town toward the mcdonald’s, in the middle of silly songs and a gleeful child’s anticipation, i heard it.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” the voice said.

it was clear. i looked around, surprised to even hear another voice. but there was no other adult in the minivan.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” it repeated.

i shushed what i now believed was the voice in my head and continued singing our mcdonald’s happy song.

it got more demanding, “don’t go to mcdonald’s today. don’t.”

that feeling you get in your belly started. the voice nagged me. i started to backpeddle, “well, maybe we will go home instead,” which made my little girl cry out, “no!” from the back seat.

“go home and make a ham sandwich,” was the weirdest. but it was clear. the voice was a ham-sandwich-pusher.

i started to listen. i had lost my big brother just a year prior and he had shown up from time to time, a wave from the next dimension it seemed. and he loved ham sandwiches.

i had to decide fast because we were rapidly approaching the mcdonald’s. i excitedly told my little girl, who – in three-year-old fashion – did not pivot immediately, that we were going to have a picnic at home instead. that we would have ham sandwiches and potato chips and we’d play we’re-on-a-picnic.

we passed the mcdonald’s and kept heading home, a few miles away.

by the time we were unloading into our house i heard the sirens in the distance. the house phone was ringing when we walked in.

“did you hear what just happened at mcdonald’s?” my girlfriend asked.

my stomach lurched.

a man with a gun had gone in the back door of the restaurant and started shooting people. tragically, two people at the table opposite the back door were killed.

i don’t know if they had happy meals; i know we would have.

i know if i could have seen into the future i would have planned on – and sang songs in the minivan about – ham sandwiches and a picnic on the living room floor. i know that tiny bit of adamant intuition-voice saved our lives. i don’t know how that works. i will not question it.

it was a gift.

*****

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and the circle cried too. [d.r. thursday]

“it’s the circle of life
and it moves us all
through despair and hope
through faith and love
’til we find our place
on the path unwinding
in the circle
the circle of life”

(circle of life, elton john, tim rice)

“it can all unravel so fast,” he said as we watched footage of erin burnett (cnn) in a van in ukraine, trying to find a border that was open, a border that did not have a fifty-six hour wait in line. the absolutely devastating reality of families trying to leave-and-go-where? is sobering.

we have written each day, because that is what we do. most of the time we write ahead so that the blogs publish early in the morning. sometimes that means that we are not writing of the moment in time, not writing of the crisis, not writing of the emotional and physical upheaval of others in the world. sometimes we are simply writing about something simple, something mundane, something inane, something that may not seem plugged in.

we walked out front the day we pushed littlebabyscion down the driveway so that big red could be threaded through the space between the wall and the xb and driven across the yard to the street. as i stood there, ready to inform d about clearance on either side, i looked down at the wall and the copper ring, standing on edge, was there. it took me by surprise; it had surely stood on its edge for months, through rain and snow and wind, not moving. we realized it was a fitting from the water line replacement work we had done, as the line installed in the ground was copper. the ring had withstood some time and definitely some weather. steadfast. and there it was. a circle of copper.

russia’s invasion into ukraine is the mightiest of disasters. a human-driven catastrophe intended to hurt others, intended for cataclysmic fall, turmoil, shakeout that will last decades, utter grief to a country that has rebuilt, that has risen up in strength and great fortitude.

the mortal politics of this ugly invasion aside, it is abhorrent to watch as families pack a suitcase from their house, their home, their life and split apart – men staying behind, conscripted to fight. we cry again and again, watching as they hug, exchange goodbyes – not knowing – and leave to go mostly to places they do not yet know. the point is to leave. the point is not yet to know. the point of these incredibly strong, stalwart and courageous people is to have hope through the despair.

every bit of news we watch and read brings into focus, yet again, the flimsy grip we have on living. what we thought was important can drop away in mere instants. what we thought was necessary becomes superfluous. what we thought was solid becomes nebulous, untenable.

“it can all unravel so fast.”

life. the circle.

*****

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brown bags, baby. [d.r. thursday]

i have fond memories of brown paper bags. the beginning of the school year – backpacks laden with new textbooks and letters home to us parents, new spirals and pencils and pens and dry erase markers, a box of tissues for the class, rulers and glue sticks.

the textbooks coming home required covers and i’d save up grocery bags for the job. i don’t know if i personally ever had a bookcover that was anything BUT brown paper in my growing-up years, so it seemed natural to cover my children’s books in the same. it’s free, it’s sturdy, you can decorate it any way you want.

for some reason, i really liked making bookcovers out of brown paper bags. i can still easily see clearing the dining room table off, grabbing the scissors and the shipping tape. loved it. even in the time-sensitive early morning with a teenager by my side and a sudden “oh-you-have-to-cover-this-now” announcement, i really loved it.

maybe it was this bookcovering fondness that generalized to wrapping gifts with brown paper. (think: “brown paper packages tied up with string”.) the organic look (and earth-friendly environmental responsibility of brown bags) tied with jute or burlap ribbon has a certain jours de vie flair. i have eliminated all glitter from my ribbon choices; there are only so many eyerolls from the children i can handle.

at one point in my wholesale show days i used old boxes and grocery bags as display materials. i spray-painted the old boxes and cut semicircles out of the front to exhibit cds and tore pieces of grocery bags to use as labels and signage. there were no display materials more lightweight and with raw-edged organic fabrics wrapping the booth and tiny spotlights it was pretty magical. i couldn’t believe that i had carried bricks – literally bricks – for a couple years of shows. sometimes it takes a while for good ideas to catch up.

so the paper bags on the counter after grocery shopping are full of potential. they beckon to me to save them for a bit before recycling, to give a little more thought before placing them in the bin. they suggest themselves as containers for clothing meant to give away. they raise their hands as dropcloths for art projects or handyman challenges, ready to be part of a new earth interrupted painting. they remind me that, if i ever run out of pa pads, they could serve as scrap paper, ready to remind me of tasks to be done, ready to be grocery lists. full circle.

the bag o’ bags in the stairwell is ready at any time for any job.

*****

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EARTH INTERRUPTED ©️ 2012 david robinson


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a little more promise. [d.r. thursday]

outside the window – just this very second – we can hear the sound of a sweet bird singing its little heart out. mostly quiet out there all winter, except for the sound of the crows chasing the neighborhood hawk, the chirping gives me hope. sans-chirping seemed like a long time, extended – stretch—-ed out like 1960s turkish taffy or 1970s laffy taffy – by this never-ending pandemic and its concerns and restrictions. but today chirped and my heart lifts.

when we first moved to wisconsin we rented a little house. the kitchen was yellow-yellow, which was probably a good thing, as we moved from florida to wisconsin in the dead of winter and i struggled with some giant homesickness (and probably not-just-a-little seasonal affective disorder, unnamed at the time). the bathroom had no shower, just a tub, so we installed a rubber hose on the tub spout and rigged up a shower with zipties. the living room was tiny, especially with a big black lab ranging over the hundred pound mark. the basement was suuuch a basement. and, though it was in a sweet neighborhood, i felt lost.

but each morning, as that first wisconsin spring approached – in its crawling-not-even-baby-steps-kind-of-way – i could hear the birds in the bushes just out the bedroom window, in the very corner of the yard, right by the chain link fence. and those birds brought me back to the birdsounds of my growing-up. and that all reassured me. because sometimes change is hard.

we only spent one winter, one spring and a bit of summer in that house before we moved here – to this house – and i learned the birds of this lakefront neighborhood.

and then today.

this bird, singing outside on a grey morning, may be singing itself to clarity. the lake is changing. the skies at dawn and at dusk are changing, stripes of color. the moon sweeps across the sky. there is a little more sun a little earlier in the day and a little later in the evening. a day here or there that is a tiny bit warmer.

maybe this bird is feeling a little less lost and a little more promise.

*****

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