reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the splurge. [two artists tuesday]

it would appear that a giant angel was hula-hooping in the clouds and dropped their hula hoop, which landed in the upper branches of a tree at the botanic garden. or, perhaps, that a spaceship -with no defined interior- had dropped down for a visit. or, maybe, there was a filming of sesame street’s “the letter ‘o'” about to do another take. brightly lit hula hoops of neon light suspended in trees, they cast an eerie glow onto the frozen ground, onto the path. michael bublé sang “walking in a winter wonderland” and we found ourselves inside the magic.

there is definitely something to wandering paths amongst many other people all oohing and ahhing. i had vowed to myself to leave my camera in my purse, but it wasn’t minutes before i failed at this. there were just so many colors and textures to remember, so dreamy. vast installations of creative lighting.

we had hoped to go. the ticket cost was a little prohibitive but we decided – when we woke and new year’s day was to be a little more mild than it had been – to splurge.

we were stunned even at the entrance to the garden, the trees wrapped in lights, every single branch and twig gleaming. we moseyed along the path, pulling over to let groups of people by so that we could be somewhat alone as we strolled.

but this wasn’t a silent and solitary hike in the woods. it was a performance piece we all took in together. each person’s glee added to ours and, dropping all expectations and all analysis of how-do-they-do-that, we were caught up in the captivating displays.

we already have a plan for next year. there are snacks and beverages and fire pits, places to linger, places to immerse. i could stand and watch the water and light “all i want for christmas” over and over and over. i allowed myself to wonder what a garden would look like lit to a piece of my own music.

we talked about our favorite displays driving the backroads. though spaceship fantasies are not my thing, hula hoops definitely are in my wheelhouse and the hulahooplights made my list. by the time we got home we realized that we had listed all of the displays we had seen, each design extraordinary, a celebration of the marriage of color and light and and sound and garden.

our late-night snack had a different air. the gift of being outside in the cold. the gift of beauty. the gift we had given ourselves – permission to splurge a little. a new year and its new intentions.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the spaces in-between. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we’re guided by the spaces in-between the facts,” she stated. and then continued, “instinct, faith…”

standing outside, inside the beauty of creative lighting, feeling as if we were somewhere between graphic and real, it was easy to wrap around these words. the spaces in-between, the rests between the notes, the white space, even the kerning. all the space in-between counts.

the moments of instinct – action based on sheer gut. the moments of faith – action based on exposed heart.

joey is back. every now and again he is posting a wild country backpacking trip. we are somewhat relieved to see him again; he hadn’t been around in a long time and we weren’t the only ones who seemed worried. we watched him pull out maps and trail books and choose the space in-between all of it, the wilderness through which he could instinctively find his way. joey coconato’s guiding star is not conventional. maybe that’s why we love to watch him.

the fulcrum of balance in daily life is a challenge. balancing the very real needs of living – paying bills, staying healthy, doing good work – with the very real needs of living – the moments, the recognition of time flying by, the autograph we leave behind. in-between the stuff of accumulated years we seek the space of minimal. in-between the daily barrage of tasks we seek the space of quiet. in-between the challenges and troubles we seek the space of grace, of peace.

there is the day we stand in the kitchen – each arguing for our “side” of the story, full-steam ahead fueled by accumulated stress and anxiety – when we look out the window and it has begun to snow. suddenly, there is air, a little space. suddenly the facts-of-the-matter seem less important. suddenly we realize that this moment of discontent counts too – and, just as suddenly, we realize we are tossing the heart out with the angst.

we read an article written by a philosopher/psychologist in finland. he referenced that “for five years in a row, finland has ranked no. 1 as the happiest country in the world”. since david and 20 are constantly trying to convince me to move to finland, i thought it in my best interest to read this article. surely it would shed light on why those sisu folks are so darn happy.

there were three basic tenets. the first – “we don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.” the second – “we don’t overlook the benefits of nature.” the third – “we don’t break the community circle of trust.”

just reading those made me think – for pretty obvious reasons – that the united states of america is doomed to unhappiness. i sighed. it would seem that finns walk in the spaces in-between more than we all do. I am hoping my quarter-finnish ancestry will help me list that way.

so how do we find the balance point, i wonder, that space between.

walking at the chicago botanic garden – in the middle of graphics and lights and magic and real-live-nature called “lightscape” – helped. the way home was a smorgasbord of holiday lights and displays. we passed lake bluff’s stunning square, all green and blue and twinkling white lights.

we arrived home, grateful to have taken the space in-between everything else – the worries, the busy, the not-enoughs – to appreciate awe without measure, to be outside on a cold winter’s night, to delight in what we saw surrounded by strangers who delighted with us.

*****

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


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the window of magic. [two artists tuesday]

the stairs in our home go straight up a few steps, turn 90 degrees to the left and then another 90 degrees to the left before the last few to the landing. if you turn left again you will see straight into the treetops through the office window, will pass the bathroom, and will head down a short hall to our daughter’s room. if you turn right at the landing you walk into our son’s room.

there’s a big window in his room ahead of you and it faces north. it is the window of magic. for if the circumstances are just right and the frost gathers and holds hands with the sun, this is where the crystals are found. and they are divine.

that day, in every corner, from every angle, the ice shimmered, an evanescent presence that would disappear as the window warmed. the ephemeral tiny expressions of frozen wouldn’t last. not yet. it is still fall and there will be warmer days still.

but for right then, to stand and gaze at the strands and shards and bubbly droplets is to take part in the very moment, that very moment of cold. it was to acknowledge it. and to recognize its transient beauty.

a long while ago i was gifted a necklace with a silver snowflake charm. in the tiny box was printed a brief message, “every snowflake is unique; it’s true. each one’s special, just like you.” not the thought-provoking words of mary oliver or john o’donohue, but a simple reminder of unrepeatable gorgeousness, in words anyone can grok.

these last days have been harder, a holiday with empty chairs. we are adults now and we know that this is the way of life. john pavlovitz writes, “in this season each of us learns to have fellowship with sadness, to celebrate accompanied by sorrow. this is the paradox of loving and being wounded simultaneously.”

we walked on the trail and spoke of each member of our family. we each spoke a gratitude for each person, each step on the trail punctuated by a story or some enlightenment. we laughed and i wondered what gratitude would be uttered for us, hoping that words would not be difficult for the utterer to find. our thanksgiving was bookended with early morning pumpkin pie and full bellies of mashed potatoes at day’s end. in the middle was appreciation for the people we love.

it is easy to see the cold, the long winter ahead, the empty chairs. they are apparent and they can be brutal.

it is harder to walk, peer through the window, and see the crystals and their exquisite – even if brief – magical uniqueness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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fluff and pine and raynor winn. [d.r. thursday]

and we will give thanks over costco rotisserie chicken and homemade mashed potatoes.

and we will play favorite cds in the happy-lit sunroom as we set a table, thoughtfully choosing cloth napkins, deciding which place, which memories we want to evoke.

and we will speak of others gathered around tables and tv trays, spilling into family rooms from dining rooms and kitchens filled with light and food and conversation.

and we will call and have chit-chat, maybe even a facetime visit.

and, if the rain holds off, we will take a hike in the woods. it will be slightly warmer and there are few dishes to wash.

and, maybe, we will read poetry or the new raynor winn book, if our copy arrives soon enough.

and it’s possible we will watch a movie or two, with a duraflame log burning but not stressing the fireplace and chimney.

and we will dessert on brownie bites, perhaps a dollop of whipped cream, perhaps a few raspberries. or ice cream from our yonana, still a dollop, still a few berries.

and we will miss those not here…those gathered with others, those too far away, those on other planes. we will speak of them in our gratitudes and hold them all close.

and we will sit – and stand – and maybe even dance – in the day, even in its liminal space.

and we will begin to decorate with fluff and pine to welcome the season, earlier than usual.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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dandying me with courage. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it plummeted. this stunningly beautiful day – high 60s and touching the bright happy face of the low 70s – and then…

the highest high this week is 42, with a feels-like of 38. the lowest high this week is 26, with a feels-like of 13, which, incidentally they label “very cold” in parentheses next to the number 13. no duh. the lowest low will be 15 and the app leaves us guessing – right now – on the feels-like of that. so…yes…it plummeted.

but for a few days november teased us and dandy lions rose from the dirt, roaring, “spring! it must be spring!”. i’m betting if we hiked out there – say today – snow showers in the forecast – all the dandies would be gone, all shriveled and sad, tucking their heads down against the wind and elements. but those few days…

they are reminders of things we don’t appreciate while we have them. reminders to stand in gratitude – to look around all bright-eyed and see the amazing things in our own sphere as we encounter them. we linger often on the negatives, the anxieties and angsty worries, the what-we-don’t-haves. but on the day you can feel the sun on your face and are surrounded by the colors of autumn and the dandies are in bloom and the owl hoots in the night, i feel like it would sustain me longer were i to linger just another minute to recognize it all.

this past week. a hotbed mixture of happenings and emotions. loss and sundrenched days, both. the dashing of dreams and dreaming, both. end-of-life and birth, both. i look back and try to stand in each of those places, try to soak it up – like a dandelion in last-licks-sunshine – and i try to appreciate it all. not just appreciate it…reeeeally appreciate it. it all matters. fear is in there too…we are human and we get scared. but gratitude is like a warm blanket and it helps, even a little.

we were lucky to hike, lucky to drive north a few hours to see a friend perform, lucky to have had a time of security, lucky to stand together in an rv dealership and dream “someday”, lucky to prepare soup for dinner with 20, lucky to sit by our pond sipping wine, lucky to light happy lights around our house. we were lucky to see the sun come up through the windows east of our pillows, lucky to see the sun go down through the trees on the trail. i was lucky to hear even a tiny text from both beloved kiddos, lucky to 3-way-hug with d and dogdog, lucky to stand at the kitchen table and miss my sweet momma.

to spend a few more minutes relishing might carry me a little further down the road, a little further away from big worries. each thing a bit of ballast, stabilizing, centering, grounding me, dandying me with courage.

*****

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


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witnesses. [two artists tuesday]

out of the corner of my eye i caught a glimpse of him leading her over to the edge of the garden. something about his tenderness made me stop and linger. he had his hands on her shoulders and was looking right into her face. and suddenly, he got down on one knee.

they were strangers – and remain strangers – but i had goosebumps of excitement as i watched him on his knee. we couldn’t hear anything, really, but when she threw her arms around him and he was beaming, it was pretty obvious. family and friends spilled out of the places they had hidden in the botanic garden and surrounded them, celebrating.

it was a moment in time. and we were witnesses to it.

we walk along the shoreline and marvel at the expanse of lake michigan. often – after the work day is over – the sun is lower in the sky to our west, so the sky over the lake is starting to turn all crayola-like as we walk. our shadows get longer, longer. it would seem we are on stilts. we stop for a minute to appreciate it all, take a picture, hug. witnesses to the end of day, one that we cannot recreate no matter how hard we try.

we walk on, sometimes entirely quiet, sometimes reviewing our day. we marvel that it is mid-october. already. witnesses to time flying, warp-speed, flimsy tendrils floating you cannot harness.

our trail was mostly empty on saturday. hiking there – in the woods – is like wrapping in a comforter. the turns and twists, the meadows, the fallen logs…they are known to us, familiar. it had been a couple weeks. many leaves had fallen. the ones that remained were yellow, some red, some orange. some of the trees were hanging on – their leaves were still green, but i imagine the color changing tiny bit by tiny bit even as we passed by. witnesses to autumn.

we often photograph our shadows. there is no worry about smiling in a photograph of your shadow. funny thing, though…we almost always smile anyway. the capture in time we got to be in a place, together, passing through, witnesses to a moment.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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cheese curds and awe. [d.r. thursday]

the table is staged, ready for diners. linen napkins rolled, silverware inside. water glasses turned over and candles unlit. waiting.

block 37 on state street in chicago has at least a dozen eateries, a highrise group built post-2005 of dining restaurants with napkin rolls, bakeries with cupcakes and sticky donuts, coffeehouses and grilled cheese spots. all waiting for eaters. there are shops and there is a residential development, multi-use skyscrapers.

eighteen years ago today. block 37. the yamaha concert grand was on an outdoor stage in the sun in a tree-canopied park when we arrived. boom mics. monitors. staged. ready. waiting.

it was the tour of hope, a giant oncology event sponsored by bristol-meyers squibb. lance armstrong, a cancer survivor and chosen sports hero for those moments, was biking – with an entourage – across the country to raise awareness about cancer and survivorship and hope. and we were there to be part of the rally. the piano and boom were waiting for me.

in the way of not-knowing-when-important-stuff-is-happening, we meandered through the people getting ready for the arrival of the posse of bikers. we sound-checked, we did early photo shoots, we sipped water on a perfectly-perfect early fall day.

it was the day i met him. a dear friend who i’ve only seen in person once in my lifetime. scordskiii became the rock in my world as the years went by and, were we to sit and visit over coffee or sushi or a glass of wine, i suspect the conversation would be easy and constant, filled with reminiscing and laughter, not just a little wonder, and hushed moments in awe of it all. this would be a good thing. eighteen years is a long time.

we are slowly coming out of the cave. slowly. ever-so-slowly. we have actually been to a couple restaurants now. and this day – last week – was one of those times.

the tables at the restaurant were ready and we walked in to find david’s dear friend waiting. they have known each other for decades, though – since they live far apart – they haven’t had opportunity to see each other much. no matter. it is the gift of true friendship. the moments when all time sloughs off and, in awe of this magic, you return to the organic core of your relationship.

we had fried wisconsin cheese curds. it was a farm-to-table restaurant. we were surrounded by relics from farms and warehouses, all dating back, maybe even a century. we sat and sat, talking, sharing. people came and went around us, though no one was seated close.

i glanced at the other tables when we stood to leave. the napkins were rolled and the water glasses were turned upside down. and the dining tables were waiting for the next time people would sit and ponder life, its questions, its challenges and joys, the next time people would share a little space together. the next time people would look at the face of a dear friend before it was time to go.

the years…they fly by.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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LBS. [two artists tuesday]

another post paying homage to littlebabyscion.

we were driving south and the real only-way-south when you are trying to get to distant points, is to go through chicagoland, along the garyindiana mess and down i65 through the midwest’s collection of orange barrels. the speed limit varies – anything from 55mph to 70mph, though there are measures of highway in work zones that are 45. you wouldn’t know it. it is a speedway and not for the faint of heart.

littlebabyscion reared its little head and took off. “i got this,” i could hear its heart call to me as i drove. i looked down and, though i was being aggressively passed left and right, LBS was steady at 80mph. a proud momma moment. i said something to david who concurred that this little vehicle was – indeed – amazing. i said – and i have no idea where this came from – “littlebabyscion is hard-tootin’ down the highway!!”

“hard-tootin’.”

where does this stuff come from?

truth be told, however, littlebabyscion WAS hard-tootin’. it easily crested big hills and drove on forest service gravel roads. it hugged the curves in the mountains and glided down the interstates. and, in a moment we both watched, it crossed over to 260,000 miles. a proud parent moment – yup.

we were in kentucky on our way back home when it rolled over to 260. we had laughed – well, sort of laughed – on our way down south, talking about how most people we know don’t have to wonder about their vehicle on a roadtrip. they simply get in and go. we – well – we wonder a little. both littlebabyscion and big red have given us more than a few reasons to wonder. but i quietly talked to LBS before we left and cheerleaded it on, telling it i believe in it and finishing with, “you GO, little baby scion!”

we have animated our vehicle, humanized it. yes, i know. it means that we now have to find someone to address a littlebitta rust under this intrepid little car, the peril of northern living. a welder or a magician. either would work for us. it’s not part-of-the-plan to purchase a new vehicle right now or anytime soon, so if you know a welder or a magician, please let us know. i got wind that littlebabyscion was seeking a patreon account; i reassured our tiny xb that we are working on its concerns.

260,000 miles is a lot. LBS had only 250 miles or so on the odometer when i purchased it. 260k is equal to 87 times across the united states. we are – not surprisingly – bonded. we truly love LBS.

with a definite nod of gratitude to steve, our fantastic mechanic, to jeff’s exhaust system shop, to kenosha tire, we will keep going.

300k is merely 40,000 miles away. i hope to post that picture one of these days.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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two or more. [merely-a-thought monday]

it doesn’t matter to us that it is a vintage windsor wheelback country kitchen chair. it’s just a sweet chair in the dining room of a little house in the north carolina mountain town we are fond of. our favorite part is the stenciled “EAT”.

my next tiny project will be to stencil this onto the old metal framed chair in our dining room. it’s the chair we grab when 20 comes over and we eat inside. we always pull it into the kitchen and sit around the small square table my dad refinished 34 years ago. we could sit in the dining room – there’s plenty of space and more than enough chairs – but it’s cozy in the kitchen and we choose cozy for sitting, sipping wine, eating together, catching up, laughing. the textures in our kitchen are the same as in this mountaintown dining room – old wood floors, thick white trim, light grey walls, black chairs. i tend to select the airbnbs that look like our own sensibility – a home away.

back in the day i had stenciled along the entire kitchen upper wall, just like in our foyer. simple checkerboxes, but that has gone the way of simplicity. one of these days i will need to repaint the foyer – the plaster in there is forcing my hand. and the last of the checkerboxes will disappear. an era. bygone.

i laid awake last night for a long time. my dear friend linda told me that when she is awake for long periods at night she will walk through their bygone houses in her mind. it calms her thoughts and brings her closer to sweet sleep. last night i walked through my growing-up house, in the front door, into the living room and the kitchen, the dining room, the paneled den with the gigantic rock fireplace, down the hall into my bedroom. i took a tour of the basement and the backyard, the woods behind our house. i moved on…to florida and the homes i lived in there. the sheep farm in new hampshire, the littlehouse on washington island. here.

although i could picture the homes and the furnishings – for the most part – the pictures – snapshots from a viewmaster – i could mostly see were the gatherings. people gathered around tables in the kitchen, people gathered for holiday meals in the dining room, people gathered en masse outside or inside, just munching on snacks or burgers or making apple pies or having shrimp boils or big parties or little parties with tables lined with foods everyone brought to contribute to the feast.

it’s been a while since we have hosted any big parties. a couple years now. when i worked at the church we hosted all the time – any excuse for a choir party, all the summertime ukulele rehearsals. we added our big dig, the slow dance party, christmas eve outdoor luminaria bonfire fests. community was built around these gatherings – people coming together to visit and share and eat, to slow down and talk and share where they are at. a community that gathers grows. a community that shares meals grows. a community that authentically cares grows. connection. comfort. contentment.

we miss those times. it came naturally to us to be the spot. job loss and covid, financial strain, caution-in-gathering – they all put constraints on the big – and small – gatherings. little by little we return around the table. literally and figuratively.

in the meanwhile, we gratefully sit in the sunroom surrounded by happy lights or in the kitchen at the table, the legs of which dogdog gnawed on as a puppy or outside on the patio by the fire.

the thing we always knew: “alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” (helen keller)

where two or more may gather.

and EAT.

*****

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


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my big sister and his big brother. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

and then, there were avocados.

the box arrived on the doorstep and, almost immediately, the text came. “delivered to front porch,” my sister texted, “hooray!!!”.

this was not a small box. this box had 17 avocados in it. and not 17 measly avocados you purchase at the local wisconsin grocery store. 17 that were grown lovingly on a tree in florida, some of which weigh over a pound. a pound!

beautiful golden-green on the inside, they arrived on a difficult day and were a welcome sight from my big sister. yes, ken’s words – “life’s vicissitudes” were wreaking a bit o’ havoc and my big sister’s avocados were a balm, like his big brother’s reassurances and caring and teasing on the phone later that week.

we don’t live close to either of those siblings. one lives in florida, with a beautiful home and pool in front of a lush swamp and lake and one lives in colorado in a lovely neighborhood with stunning peonies and a view of the front range. we don’t get to see them often. but they have a way of showing up. and, for that, we are grateful.

in this world today with broad radiuses of residence instead of the close-by of years past, it’s not easy to stay engaged with those you love. you wish to spend more time with them – the ordinary kind of moments – to see what life is like, to step a tiny bit into their shoes or at least have a window into their day-to-day. it’s hard to hear of other families and easy sunday dinners, errands with elderly parents, adventures with grown children. i’ve pined more than once to go browse at target with my daughter or have a pedicure with my sister or watch my niece hold and play with her toddler-boy or view a hallmark-extravaganza with my other niece or, even harder, coffeesit once again with my sweet momma. i’ve thought about all the time i spent at tennis courts or in baseball fields with my son and wished to again watch from the sidelines as he bats and runs and fields or lobs tennis balls over the net. i’ve thought about preparation for fall and pumpkins and apple pies and corn mazes. i’ve thought about the famous calzones made in my sister-in-law’s colorado kitchen, the sweet niece who would sip red wine with me and taking a walk around the lake with david’s momma. and then, the chance to see all the rest…our families, friends, newly-found cousins, wider concentric circles still connected but a little further out.

these years have taken a toll. though we have traveled a little bit, it’s not like pre-pandemic. and there is so much to miss when wisconsin is not where everyone is, so much yearning. i know Making Time for others is important and, with work and budget and covid restraints, we try the-best-we-can to do whatever-we-can. it doesn’t eliminate the missing.

today is a good day for guac.

*****

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

whole30 fajita bowl