reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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never forgotten. [d.r. thursday]

there were big trees where i grew up. solid oaks and maples, a woods behind our house. as dusk would fall earlier in late summer we’d play hide and seek, so many places to tuck behind. i remember the ease of finding a tree or bushes that would shelter your whole body from view. you’d wonder if you would be found and then you might wonder if they didn’t find you whether they would just leave you there wondering. you’d peek around the trunk, just to make sure the game was still going, not to be left behind. because being left behind – forgotten – is exactly what you didn’t want to happen. but sometimes kids can be not-so-nice, just like adults, and you would find yourself standing behind the tree or crouched behind the bush, and the game would move down the street and you’d hear spud starting up.

this morning someone posted the meditations before kaddish online, reminding me i had saved these words since the day we attended a touching memorial service on zoom. extraordinary.

“when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands, and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

we walked up the hill away from the lake, knowing it was time to leave. beautiful places are always hard to leave and it feels that each time i do, i leave a piece of me behind in that space that gave me a chance to sink into its beauty. i peek through the trees on the way up and wonder if the lake will remember us or if it will forget.

i am reassured, though, now as an adult, believing – that in the way we eternally touch another in this universe – one tiny star to another – these birch and the lake and the path to water’s edge will remember our footfalls and our breath.

never forgotten.

*****

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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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uff da! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

bumper sticker on the car in front of us

every week we would drive to st. james so that i could take norwegian lessons. my sweet momma and poppo took them too. i had no idea why i was taking these lessons, but far be it from me to question the stubborn pull of the sons of norway lodge for my parents, who loved their membership there, a little inland from the north shore of long island. i belonged to the sons of norway youth group as well. one of my really close high school friends belonged to the greek youth group, so my membership at the loyal lodge didn’t seem quite so weird, but the greek youth group was way more lively than the norwegian’s, with many festivals and dances. i mean, just think of the food alone: norwegian fish pudding vs. greek moussaka, lapskaus vs. souvlaki, krumkake vs. baklava, akvavit vs. ouzo…there is a different level of excitement and celebration. anyway, i felt less like an anomaly going to norwegian lessons because angela went to greek school.

not much of the norwegian tradition has carried on. there have been times when we have made krumkake, filling the plain waffle cookies off the iron with fruit or whipped cream. there have – never – been times that we have sought out norwegian fish pudding nor lutefisk. never ever. i have never – ever – used my norwegian lessons. sadly, even if i went to norway, which is most definitely on a bucket list, i would not understand any of the language now’days.

but “uff da” has endured.

my dad used the expression often. it was a substitution for “oof!” or “oh geez!” to express surprise or dismay or just to buy a moment of thinking-time. “uff da!” is synonymous with him in our family. so it is likely if any of us sees a bumper sticker or what-have-you that says “uff da!” we will send it on and around. it’s like we have had a tiny visit from my dad; erling has spoken.

we have a couple “uff da” magnets on our fridge that came from their fridge. and my nephew named his children beautiful and unique heritage-rich norwegian names, carrying on legacy my dad passed down. i get to carry my dad’s name with me (as well as his jowls). and you can sometimes – though not too often – hear me say “uff da” out loud.

my sons of norway days are no longer, but i remember fondly the cute boy “j-r” in my class, the norwegian dancing instruction, the man from the lodge who built our stone fireplace rock-by-rock, the miss norway pageant in the city and the marzipan.

always the marzipan.

uff da!!

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

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unfinished. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

while she explained to me the presence of the cross on the back of the donkey, he explained to david how he installed the sun-seeking solar panel in the barnyard. both exist here. the old world donkey and the twenty-first century solar panel. together.

he told us that they were about our age when they started to make plans for next steps. they sorted and listed and researched and made decisions for their next phase, moving to acreage further south – in a bit more temperate clime – closer to some family, out in the woods with ridges and ravines, living their dreams for the next of life. “you should start thinking about that now,” he encouraged us. he’s right. we think about it all the time.

“the world never comes at you all at once,” john o’donohue wrote. “you are not simply here. neither are you definitively and forever ‘you’.” … “no person is a finished thing.”

things you can count on. change and change and change.

we know change is imminent. and change has already arrived. and we have exited change, taken the doorway that reads “next”. and we can see more doors and more doors. they are a little further away, like trail markers, choices to be mapped, routes to follow, narratives with gaps to fill in.

maybe a coupla donkeys, a coupla horses, dogdog, mountains, cherry tomato plants, and trees. our lives will evolve.

in our mind’s eye, we paint ourselves older – hopefully wiser, but i know there’s no guarantee of that. we paint the hue of early morning sunrises over peaks near and far. we paint old porches and adirondack chairs. less stuff and more time. old world and new world. much like now, we paint in mugs of coffee and glasses of wine bookending the day. we paint in people we love. we paint in hiking and writing and new recipes and doing the art we do. it’s unfinished, this canvas.

life is not a paint-by-number. and solar panels and donkeys co-exist in barnyards. and we are not definitively any particular colors in any particular place doing any particular thing. we are made of dreams and change.

*****

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every.single.time. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it doesn’t matter. how many times you have seen them. when the last time was. where. when. how. why. nothing. every single time there is a leaving – they walk out the door or you walk out the door – you pull away in the car or they pull away – or they get on the plane or you get on the plane – or, even, you hang up the zoom or they hang up the zoom, the facetime, the phone – you wonder. when is the next time?

so. much. love.

always.

it doesn’t matter.

*****

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the quiet. [k.s. friday]

the woods behind my growing-up house were an invitation. i spent hours in that little forest, planning routes and solving mysteries. at the other end of the woods, near clay pitts road, was a small goat farm, so if you traipsed through all the way – which, in retrospect, wasn’t really far – you would get to the fence where you could watch the goats. my next-door neighbors – there were eight kids in the family – and my across-the-street neighbors and i would devise all manner of woods-play. mostly, i loved the quiet.

the maple tree – my poetry tree – was right outside my bedroom window and provided safe limbs for writing in notebooks, reading, reflecting. long hours, my back against the strong trunk, sun filtered through thick leaves or branches ready to withstand winter. so many lessons with so little. mostly, i loved the quiet.

our river trail is not out in the wilderness. it takes us through woods and past meadows along the river, but is just a hop, skip and a jump from our home. it is restorative. last saturday, a white-tailed deer jumped across our path, bounded through the waning underbrush. hawks flew over us, chipmunks scampered, squirrels chattered from trees, admonishing us not to interrupt their work. there’s that the smell of pine and decaying leaves that even the best scented candles cannot capture. mostly, i love the quiet.

and those trails up in the mountains. for days i am breathless, adjusting to altitude, me: sea-level-raised with a mostly almost-sea-level-adulthood. i hike anyway, stopping often, sipping water. though i am a big lover of deserted beach walking and have logged plenty of time especially on long island and beaches of the east coast, the dirt under my feet through forested mountain is a salve. i agree with john muir: “and into the forest i go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

as i write, the neighbors behind us are installing conduit all along the chain link fence, preparing to provide electricity to yet more spotlights high in the trees, a big yard full of stuff-to-do like a full-size batting cage, swingset and fort, soccer nets, battery-driven atvs, bikes, large plastic-ware toys, trampoline, zipline, loud outdoor speakers, and – i suspect – a revisit of the ice rink. the tallest trees have been wired with the brightest lights and i know that will mean later evenings where quiet at the end of the day is not valued. no longer the “sanctuary” others used to call the yard beyond ours, it makes me kind of sad thinking that so very much is required for this young family to be happily entertained. it makes me sad thinking that it is possible – these days – for people to forget that they live in community with others. we are not islands upon ourselves. what we do impacts those around us…even in our very own backyards.

fred rogers said, “i wonder what some people are afraid might happen in the silence. some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be. that kind of solitude goes by many names. it may be called “meditation” or “deep relaxation,” “quiet time” or “downtime.” in some circles, it may even be criticized as “daydreaming.” whatever it’s called, it’s a time away from outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become more familiar with ourselves.”

so much to learn in the quiet. so much imagination, exploration. so much searching and so much finding. so much growth, no matter the age.

i’m grateful for the tree that was outside my window. i’m grateful for the tiny woods behind my house. i’m grateful for the beaches of my years. i’m grateful for the river trail and the hush it grants me. i’m grateful for the mountains and the pine forests and stands of quaking aspen, moments by running streams and tiny lakes tucked into the corners of beauty. i’m grateful for the symphony of quiet.

“peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.
peace and quiet.
peace, peace, peace.”

(excerpt from mr. rogers’ “peace and quiet”, 1968)

*****

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the piñata. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

middle age is called that because it is the middle of aging. with that comes a bundle of surprises that seem to arrive overnight. suddenly, new wrinkles. suddenly, crepey skin. suddenly, age spots and creeping-on lovehandles. suddenly, menopausal insomnia, achier joints, keeping track of rest areas on the way to everywhere. suddenly, jowls. it’s like a piñata that is slowly letting out candy, treats to relish with this person you are aging with.

we have decided that we simply cannot pine for what our bodies were like or could do back before we knew each other. now is now and we are lucky to have that. and so, we will celebrate the laughlines and the readers and changing bodies and funny long errant eyebrows. we’ll roll with the surprises as they arrive, with gratitude, laughing as much as we can, and we’ll stay right here in the middle of this aging thing – together.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB.

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never enough coffee. [saturday morning smack-dab]

coffee was a recurring theme in our early days. it does not have as big a spotlight role these days, sharing the limelight with wine and lets-try-to-drink-more-water. but back in the day of our writing-back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth it was a super star and you could see how often our bucks were spent on it in photographs taken of coffee cups around the country to send each other. (which literally gives me pause for thought, wondering if that is how starbucks got its name….)

these days? it is more of a guiding light, illuminating the mornings-after-little-to-no-sleep, the balm to heal insomnia, the salve of achier joints, the massage of slower starts. though it is not the only star smack-dab in our beverage list, it is a lifesaver. and there are some days when there simply is not enough of it.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING SMACK-DAB

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