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the path back is the path forward


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levels of color. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we were the only ones. the only customers in the grocery store with masks on. there was one employee we saw wearing one, but we didn’t see any other shoppers with one on. the other day, at a different grocery store, we were the recipients of a few dirty looks. but heck, we have tougher skin than that. mostly.

we sat outside while the light waned, before the mosquitoes had rsvp’d they’d be there. torches on, flame dancing from the fire column, we had a few hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine and talked about these times. there is a wistful dividing line between before and now. the pandemic has shot a chalkline in our calendars and even now, not quite after, we can see the difference.

the books arrived in the mail. it was one of those rare days when you open up the front door and see a surprise gift parcel on the doorstep. the books, memoirs of raynor and moth. the salt path, the first, a viewmaster of days during which, through the necessity of impossible challenges, raynor and moth were hiking the south west coast path in the united kingdom. “i think they are your people,” she wrote about this couple.

we opened the first paperback. i am reading it aloud and we have a voracious appetite to keep going in between all else. i read and we digest, this tale of backpacking without the reassuring fallback of retreat or going home in the end. it’s breathtaking and stunningly candid.

monday night i read aloud the sentence, “being separate from people for large chunks of time had reduced our tolerance levels.” it was not a statement of pandemic; it was a statement of wilderness camping. yet, it hit us – it was a statement of pandemic. so relevant.

if we are all honest with ourselves, we find now that the pandemic has most definitely divided our circles into before and now . . . and hopefully, one day, after. people who are absolute, people we have stayed in touch with or who have stayed in touch with us, even spottily, people who have fallen away. people who have shown true colors, people who have been generous and compassionate. people who have jumped at the chance to help others, to abide by recommendations to ease this pandemic, people who have chosen to be cavalier, go-their-own-way, to scoff and ignore, to not be any other’s keeper.

the season/reason mantra applies, we pondered aloud at the table, talking about past friendships and working relationships. some people, there with us at some point, are just not to be dragged into now. we appreciate their presence at the time they were present and we learn we must let go. they have become woven into who we have become and those threads remain somewhere in the interior of the quilt. but, in the way that time moves on, so do attachments. and even beyond the natural attrition of relationships – just like raynor and moth, though not on a wild trail – the simplicity of who we have become, what we have seen or done, where we have gone or not gone, how we have lived through these times, of pandemic, of loss, of challenge, of grief – this simplicity has changed us and, it seems, has changed our tolerance levels. as if they were on a cmyk or rgb profile – empathy, compassion, masks, vaccines, distancing, research, critical thinking, kindness, questioning, learning, truth, transparency, loyalty, generosity, inclusivity, gentleness, agenda-ridden-less, fairness, decency, basic dedication to not being mean…a wide spectrum of color levels in humans that surround us.

we were quiet as we sat and thought about people in our lives, what has changed, what has remained the same, people we yearn to see, people we, frankly, perhaps sadly or resignedly, don’t care to see again.

we gratefully looked around at flames in torches, food on our table, the dog on the deck, the old screen door to a comfortable beloved house merely steps away. the simplest pleasures have been, are, the pleasures. we cannot think of a reason that this is not a good thing. though we shed a few tears, we held hands as we spoke, together not separate.

the mosquitoes found their way to the deck. we blew out the torches, snuffed the fire column and carried our plates inside.

*****

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


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these flipflops. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we still wear masks. at festival, at target, at lowes, at costco, at woodmans. these flipflops are one of the reasons. though we have been totally vaccinated and, according to the cdc guidelines, could discard the masks – like most people in these parts – we are still vigilant. this is not because we don’t want the pandemic to go away. oh no. we would love to think that it’s over. but we know it isn’t. because, well, science. and these flipflops stop us from any cavalier disposal of all the masks on the hook on our refrigerator.

we have only eaten in one restaurant now since march of 2020. it was about six weeks ago and, admittedly, wonderful. phat thai in carbondale, colorado and our girl and her boyfriend. priceless. we were nervous – being newbies back at a restaurant – but the benefit/risk factor was obvious, the reservation was later in the evening when there were not as many diners there. we pass many restaurants in our own downtown area and they are often mob scenes of patrons. we couldn’t do that yet; it would make us uncomfortable. phat thai was relaxing and truly a lovely evening. we remain cautious though. because of these flipflops.

i just checked the cdc website. since covid statistics are no longer posted as chyrons we have limited exposure to the toll of deaths from this pandemic or other such concerning numbers. i scrolled around as there is much information available on this government site. i noted that our county has a 40-49% rate for folks having at least one dose of the vaccine. i’m a bit surprised by this number. this county has made it inordinately easy to be vaccinated. it is hard for me to wrap my head around why so many people have not gotten even one dose of any of the readily accessible shots. 47.9% of the state of wisconsin is vaccinated. 45.7% of the country. the whole united states. a population clearly not united in covid-vaccines. it’s perplexing. once again, i am at a loss as to why a larger percentage of this country is not vaccinated. surely there are flipflops in the lives of the 54.3% ‘out there’.

our social experiences over the last year plus now have been pretty minimal. we’ve seen our girl and our boy and their boyfriends. we’ve seen a bit of colorado family and a bit of missouri family. we’ve seen the up north gang on the deck once and, with great celebration, in the dining room once. we’ve gone back to weekly dinners with 20, post daily-phone-calls through the time we couldn’t gather. and we have been with the owners of the flipflops – our dearest friends who have happy-houred with us into late fall and as early as possible this spring – with a firepit and blankets – in their backyard. we know that it is risky for someone vaccinated but with a suppressed immune system and we join force with them in being careful so that we might be with them.

it isn’t a big sacrifice to wear a mask in the grocery store or in the big box stores. we are definitely in the minority. we definitely get looks sometimes. we are quite sure there’s a bit of scorning going on. but these flipflops are worth it. i mean, what’s a little piece of cloth over your nose and mouth to keep loved ones safe? just a little bit longer, we think. we are hoping that the 54.3% will head to a vaccination site and do their part to save lives – of those who they love and those who they do not know, of the lives of children. perhaps the population of this country will heed the cautionary words of dr. leana wen: “there are more contagious and virulent variants emerging that could lead to a surge in infections, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates. those unvaccinated, including our children, remain at high risk. (washington post, june 14, 2021) dr. wen concludes, “different families have different perceptions of risk as it applies to the virus and the necessity of the vaccine. for our family, it comes down to this: if you have the option to reduce a low risk of something awful happening to your kids to essentially zero, would you take it?” i would add, if you have the option to reduce risk of something awful happening to any one you love to essentially zero, would you take it?

what flipflops influence your decisions in these times?

*****

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


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those ferns. [two artists tuesday]

ferns

the ferns make me think of sally; the day we pushed the wheelbarrow up and down third avenue back and forth to her house – over and over – loaded with hosta, ferns, daylilies.  the sweet-smelling peonies make me think of linda, digging in the dirt of our gardens, planting, weeding, helping to shape the space.  the grass makes me think of russ and marykay, again, a day of wheelbarrowing, again third avenue, but due north instead of south, over and over.  we dug the pond with big help from ted and monica and a bevy of friends at our ‘big dig’ party.  we sustain the pond with words of wisdom from jay and charlie.  we build bonfires in a firepit from jen and brad and we watch lettuce grow in wooden planters from 20.  we just added hosta from daena’s mother-in-law-to-be; dan and gay delivered them.  it has taken a small village to plant our garden.

it is not without luck that these have grown well.  dogdog has done his best to try and decimate the yard and My Girl worked long hot hours last summer pulling weeds any rainforest would be proud of; our stay on island and not in our backyard encouraged strong holding-on-not-letting-go weeds of great substance, but the girl prevailed over them.

we didn’t hire a garden center to ‘do’ our yard.  it’s not too planned; it’s definitely not too fancy.  it is a place of sanctuary, though.  a place, created with so many people we love.  a place where – in the middle of this pandemic, in the middle of the heart-wrenching chaos in this country, in the middle of economic worry for so many, in the middle of fear of more divisiveness and even less thoughtful leadership – we can sit in broken adirondack chairs on the patio or on the edge of the deck, arms wrapped around our knees, listening to the fountain, the birds, the wind in the trees.

the sun warms.  and we wait to hear the croaking of the pond-frog who magically appeared just a few days ago.

read DAVID’s post this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“we believe in tomorrow.” [merely-a-thought monday]

plant lettuce

as a person who is at severe risk, our dear 20 is isolating alone.  it is unusual for us not to see him a couple or three times a week.  our visits are now just audio by telephone or perhaps a facetime here or there.  he has much to look forward to and, in preparing for all that, he is taking all precautions, sacrificing now for later.  he texted us this message the other day.  it was after a call the night before – a call during which we all shared the middle-of-the-night-wakefulness that is scary-as-all-get-out.

it was a text of wisdom.  a text that conveyed a message that there is always a measure of blind belief necessary.  a text i read more than once.

i know that my beloved big sister and i don’t agree on everything.  but this morning she texted me that she had gone to the post office in the wee hours last night to send a small package to us.  inside are four masks, to protect us, to protect others, to walk into tomorrow prepared.  and i am grateful.  we will wear these masks because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we stay home because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we social distance; we cross to the other side of the road on a getting-fresh-air-walk because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we wash our hands.  we wash our groceries.  we disinfect.  we let mail, packages, newspapers sit untouched for days.  we wipe everything down.  we are conscious.  we try to protect.

lettuce will grow if you plant it.  if you prepare the soil.  if you water it, if you protect it from deluge or too much arid sun.

so, like 20 suggested, we’ll bring out the wood boxes, prepare the soil and plant lettuce.  and we’ll protect it.  because we believe in tomorrow.

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

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frosting and connection.

network connections

cupcakes.

and frosting.

i would talk to my piano students about practicing.  i drew a comparison of the time they spent, the way they allocated their time to cupcakes and frosting.   i would start by saying let’s talk about practicing, whereupon most of my sweet students would roll their eyes, a common reaction to the word ‘practice’.  i would suddenly switch topics to cupcakes and they would happily skip down that path, thinking they were avoiding the ‘practice’ chat.  we would talk about our favorite cupcakes and the very best frosting that could possibly earn the top spot on those treats.  and once we discerned that very-important-information, i would pose a question:

let’s say you have a small cup of frosting.   delicious, fluffy, sweet-as-can-be frosting.  it’s just a small cup – like the tiny sippy cups you drank from as a baby.  and you have a choice.  you can either frost one cupcake with that sippy-cup-full or you can frost all 24 of the cupcakes that are waiting on the counter from the oven.  which will you do?

my students, all brilliant cupcake-lovers and bright lights in the world, would sit and ponder for a second and then reply that they would frost the one cupcake.  otherwise, they would explain, the frosting would be so thin that you would barely know it is there, you would barely taste it, and it would be like there was no frosting at all.   and besides, if they got to eat the one cupcake, they wanted the one rich with frosting.  who can argue with that?

contrary to their belief that the ‘practice’ talk was over, i would clutch and shift gears back to the piano.  “if you have a little bit of time to practice and pieces of music that might be difficult to play, would it be better to hurry through every piece spending a few moments on each OR would it be better to spend that little bit of time on one or two?” i would ask (in student-age-appropriate language).   invariably they would frost one cupcake.

i believe the same applies to connection.  with the advent of the vast array of social media choices, we have applied an ultra-thin layer of frosting to our connections.  we have thinned out the time we truly spend on relationship – pure individual relationships.  we have, oddly, chosen to spend easily-addicted quantities of time and emotional energy on social media “relationships” with people we do not know rather than being in real touch with the people closest to us.  we expect those people to learn of things on outlets and from posts instead of simply telling them, picking up a phone and calling or texting them.

we are not connected to a network.  we are connected to a network.  both of these are true.

the question for me, one that i must look at as well,  is – how much time are we spending on that network, on individual people we love and care about?  is there any frosting at all?

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

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our posse. [merely-a-thought monday]

i didn't even notice .jpg

we are five hours and a ferry ride from our basement.  but we have an amazing posse of friends back there on the mainland.  my girl has taken up residency keeping an eye on our house and our posse is keeping an eye out for her.  we know that, no matter what, someone is but a phone call and minutes away from any kind of help she – or our house, basement included – might need.  and in that, we rest easy.  such generosity.

the humidity and heat has been high in southeastern wisconsin this summer and our basement?  in a line from my big fat greek wedding, it suffers.  one dehumidifier is not enough.  worried, we texted our up-north-gang up north to ask advice:  “in a non-centrally-air-conditioned house, how many dehumidifiers would you put in the basement?”  immediately we got back answers from jay and gay, opinions from charlie and dan, and within days dan brought over a dehumidifier, installed it and checked on the one already there.  thinking about the cluttered basement, we texted to him that while paying attention to the basement to please ignore the basement.  he texted back, “i didn’t even notice the basement.”  generosity.

we ran home for a night a couple weeks ago.  we ran errands, we installed the a/c units in the windows, we grocery shopped, we weeded and vacuumed, we prepped the house for our girl’s arrival.  we picked up mail and packages from john, shared drinks and not-enough-stories with jen and brad, ate a late dinner with 20, had quick before-she-went-to-work coffee with michele.  in their busy schedules, our beloved posse dropped everything and made time to see us, time to spend together.  generosity.

we couldn’t be here without our posse there.  fact of the matter is, we couldn’t be THERE without our posse there.

because it takes a village to take care of a basement.  and each other.

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

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a beautiful day in the neighborhood. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the moon and first ave copy

when fred rogers aka mr. rogers used to sing, “it’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day in this neighborhood.  …  would you be mine?  …  won’t you be my neighbor?” i remember singing along.  it seemed he was from a different time.  a time when neighborhoods were truly communities.

we are lucky to live in a neighborhood that includes neighbors who are friends.  dear friends.  we gather on back patios and back decks, inside around dining room tables, huddled next to firepits and in each other’s kitchens.  we talk, we laugh, we try to solve the world’s problems.  our neighbors aren’t all the same ages, so we are at different times in our lives, which adds wisdom and perspective and good learnings to these times we spend together.  i have no idea what we would do without these wonderful people.

last weekend after linda and jim’s impromptu gathering, we walked down their driveway.  lighting our way was this moon, shining across the water, over the rocks, directly to us.

yes.  it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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

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pay attention to nature… [flawed cartoon wednesday]

BirdsSouth BIGcopy copy

ohmygosh.  this was my swan song every time we left the house when The Girl and The Boy were little.  this is our swan song before we leave the house now.  every time.  some things don’t change.  i know this has nothing to do with this flawed cartoon and the instincts of birds flying south (or the technology they pay attention to), but middle age and its challenges -and joys- dictate what i pay attention to.   and the common theme songs are hot flashes and restroom locations.  sheesh!

we have a group of friends that all go together to a winter festival up north a bit.  we literally PLAN where we are stopping for the “rest” stop and snacks.  and it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes away!  we don’t have devices to alert us.  they are not necessary.  besides, charlie refuses to have any of that confounded stuff.

yup. sometimes nature and people and even geese don’t really need technology.

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