reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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arrive alive. [flawed wednesday]

once upon a time a little boy sat in the backseat of his family’s car on his way to kindergarten. as we can all imagine, he was excited and maybe chattering about the upcoming day. he was likely looking out the window at all the other cars and trucks and maybe having a little snack as he was driven to school by his mom. he was alive. and then he was not.

i don’t know all the details of this story, but the root cause of the catastrophic death of this little boy on his way to fingerpaint and hear stories and maybe jump rope or play 4square and practice letters with thick pencils on widely-spaced lined paper was road rage. no matter who was at fault, no matter what happened on that highway, no matter really anything, this little person lost his life on a freeway because of anger that had nothing to do with him.

i was stunned the first time i saw the signs on highway 82 in the roaring fork valley of colorado. “road rage – call *277.” but we have all been privy to at least one incident of raging road behavior so that there is a mechanism in place to report it is actually a progressive step forward. i was simultaneously disturbed to think that road rage was so prevalent in this gorgeous place and yet glad to see that the authorities had a mechanism in place to try and help dissuade it.

we recently left the park in illinois where we often hike. it’s a left turn out of the park with no traffic light onto a two-lane road. checking both ways carefully, as there is a bit of an uphill to our right as we exit, i pulled little baby scion out into the eastbound lane to drive home. suddenly, just as a semi approached from the east in the westbound lane, an at-least-80mph audi screamed past on the small shoulder on our right. i was startled, but luckily did not wrench the wheel either direction, for both would likely have had devastating consequences for more than just us. what kind of person passes on the shoulder on a 45mph road for absolutely no reason except that they are raging? what kind of all-consuming lack of regard for others does it take to drive a machine capable of great injury in such a monstrously irresponsible way?

we evaded tragedy that day, but how many examples do we each encounter every day? sometimes it is only with luck and defensive driving we safely arrive at our destinations. safely at our destinations. it doesn’t sound like too much to ask for. we need check our anger as we click open our car doors to get behind the wheel. the tag line of illinois tollway’s speed awareness day has been, “slow down. arrive alive.” yes. we shouldn’t need an awareness day or signs emblazoned with lighted letters to remind us. we shouldn’t need * numbers to call in times of raging road peril.

we pulled up to the red traffic light a couple miles down the road. the audi was stopped right in front of us, a mere one car-length gain. a tiny gain when so much could have been lost. like the life of a little boy on his way to kindergarten.

****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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still here. [merely-a-thought monday]

we woke up in the middle of the night as the alert went off on the phone. “criminal activity” was named but no further details. “criminal activity.”

we woke up in the early morning and sat with coffee and our phone and read that just up the road, merely four miles away, the next mass shooting had taken place. three people were dead, at least two others wounded. the gunman had not yet been apprehended. though there was an active shooter still freely moving about, who clearly had no issue with killing or maiming people, we were advised that there was not a threat to the community as this seemed a targeted shooting. “targeted shooting.” “not a threat to the community.”

there have been 148 mass shootings this year so far, over 45 in the last month. one month. though i was somehow in a semantics match recently over the terminology “weapon of mass destruction”, i would hold to saying that no matter the gun used in any of these events, 45 mass shootings (described as 4 or more victims shot, not including the shooter) constitutes mass destruction in my world. is value placed in the use of words or in actual lives? it was heated. the semantics seem like irrelevant hair-splitting. 148 mass shootings with at least four shot constitutes nearly 600 victims. if the circle of those victims’ lives only reaches out to ten others, that’s 6000 lives affected. if the circle abides by psychologist/anthropologist dunbar’s number (the approximate number of people about whom you are able to “keep track of all the relevant social information”) and is an intimate 150, then that is 22,200 lives affected. others claim the social network circle encompasses 290 – which would be 42,920. and then, there is the acquaintance circle, which holds 500, which would be 74,000. affected lives. since january 1. it’s bracing. it is destroying us. more importantly than any picayune semantics is the question of how to stop this kind of brutal destruction of lives.

and so, sunday morning – again – three mommas, three dads, three sets of family members, loved ones, friends were informed that the person they loved was dead. in a moment. and there is no going back. because in one moment people went from breathing, from living in whatever circumstances they were in, from whatever challenges they faced and whatever adversity had befallen them or whatever joy had emerged for them, to not. this time, in our town. we have joined boulder, atlanta, indianapolis, stockton, chicago, too many towns to list. we are number 47. in the last month.

targeted shooting. not a threat to the community. mass destruction. weapons. lives and lives and lives.

in these times, masked paths crossing at the grocery store count as a visit. especially when you pull your cart over to the side and step out of the line of traffic. we were at one of the local markets a few days ago, efficiently going about our list, when i heard my name – with a question mark at the end. because, as you know, it is a tad bit harder to recognize people when they are wearing masks. maybe fifteen minutes later or so, we felt like we had had a social outing, a surprise visit. we felt fortunate to have been there at that very time.

we talked about the pandemic, recent challenges, difficult times, isolation, family, a little sense-making by the end cap of maybe-it-was-the-coffee-aisle. we posed hard questions and sorted to the support of each other. the statement i remember clearly in this warm-conversation-that-felt-like-a-tiny-visit was sue’s. “to remind us we’re still here,” she wisely commented. “we’re still here.”

in today’s world, even more than before, being “still here” is nothing to take for granted. in today’s world, you don’t know what might happen at the grocery store, the mall, the religious house you attend, the festival, the concert, the bar, the school, the house party, the club, on the street, the spa, the convenience store, the gas station, the park, your workplace. being “still here” is not a given.

i took this photograph of tiny white flowers blooming out of the fallen leaves in the woods off the side of the trail on a partly cloudy day. purity, new growth out of the decay on the forest floor, the phoenix.

it seems that we are tiny flowers, fragile, each and every day rising, each and every day trying, each and every day breathing, reaching for the sun and soaking in the warmth of another day.

we are still here. and we are reminded to make it count.

*****

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


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earth is weeping. [flawed wednesday]

i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. we have just had the seventh mass shooting in seven days in this country. earth’s occupants are in danger and earth is profoundly mournful. i’m with earth.

i don’t want to think that going to the grocery store could end anyone’s life – it’s unfathomable – and yet, as i write this, we have lost another ten people – who simply went to the grocery store. last week we lost eight beautiful lives with a shooter’s ‘bad day’ excuse. time and again, time and again. why is it we cannot stop this? it is no less real if you are not directly in the line of grief in any one of these mass shooting circumstances. the line of grief is all of ours and i wonder if you will think of this the next time you are in the grocery store or the spa or at a vigil or in a club or at a party, not to mention at a mall, in a church, at a concert, in a movie theatre, at school. i read a post with the words “…cheap thoughts and useless prayers now being rushed to the scene. more on this soon-to-be-forgotten-and-then-repeated story as it develops…” earth is reeling, its heart breaking into a trillion pieces in the midst of violence people seem unwilling to cease. i’m with earth.

i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. we have lost 540,000 people in this country to this pandemic, shy of 2.8 million across the globe. in miami’s south beach, there are restrictions that officials are begging thousands of pandemic-weary tourists to abide by. we pass folks in the local costco with masks under their noses; we see crowded bars and restaurants in our town. despite the government’s pleas for compliance and its new-administration’s plans facilitating and expediting vaccinations and aid, the level of apathy is disconcerting. wishing for everyone to believe we are all in this together doesn’t make it happen. earth is wondering what’s so hard about decent-human-behaving to save each other’s lives. i’m with earth.

i’m pretty sure earth is weeping right now. climate change and environmental flippancy is wreaking havoc on this good planet and the almighty dollar seems to be ahead in the race against any chance to reverse the damage. we were behind a pickup truck with the sticker “i’m with earth” as we drove across town. a little googling revealed what i couldn’t see from our vehicle, what i can’t read in the picture i snapped. these stickers are available on the website http://www.ilovegurus.com. each time someone purchases a pair of gurus – sustainably-sourced flip-flops – a tree is planted. every time someone purchases this sticker a tree is planted. their site reads, “continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting change in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. it may sound daunting, but if we work together, we can plant one million trees to improve our planet for generations.” we are all responsible. we all must make decisions, choices to take part in saving the planet. being aware. being answerable. taking action. planting trees. maybe earth is cautiously clapping her hands as people become more knowledgeable, more protective, more potently effectual, watching her advocates gently plant saplings, tenderly seeding for the future. i’m with earth.

a serbian proverb declares, “be humble for you are made of earth. be noble for you are made of stars.” each and every person – yes, a balance. a coalescence of earth’s humility and stars’ nobility, both. weeping earth, lofty stars.

today, i am full of sorrow for those people who have lost others who ran out to buy chips or bananas or a gallon of milk, each of them brilliant stars. i’m with earth. weeping.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY



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enough. [flawed wednesday]

give peace a chance

enough.

on the back of the vehicle’s window we just passed the other day there was this sticker:  “you can give peace a chance.  i’ll cover you if it dosen’t {sic} work out.”

the mantra “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion” screamed its head off at me as i read this with distress.  but there’s this:

mass shootings in public schools, killing people

mass shootings at colleges, killing people

mass shootings at concerts, killing people

mass shootings at nightclubs, killing people

mass shootings at places of worship, killing people

mass shootings at movie theatres, killing people

mass shootings at malls, killing people

mass shootings at stores, killing people

mass shootings at restaurants, killing people

mass shootings at bases, killing people

mass shootings at post offices, killing people

enough.

peace deserves a chance.  the gun-law-less-ness-populace has had its chance.  it has failed miserably.  it is still failing.  it is breaking hearts and lives left and right.  it is placing the value of life below the value of a semiautomatic weapon.  what have we come to?  what horror must happen before legislation is put into place that considers the actual lack of need, the lack of appropriateness, the sheer lack of respect for human life for these weapons of mass destruction to be removed from day-to-day life?

“guns don’t kill people.  people do.”  yes, people pull the trigger.  yet, without guns, what would those trigger-hungry people do?  “pew, pew, pew, pew,” they would yell out while running with their pointer finger aimed at the ‘enemy’.

“you would cry too if it happened to you, ” my wise friend jotted the lyrics of this song to me.  in this country of little-to-no-community-empathy, she was making reference of these lyrics to the pandemic.  yet, they apply to any despicably irresponsible act by leadership – the lack of leadership for the covid-19 pandemic, the lack of leadership for gun control, for banning assault weapons, the lack of leadership for racial equality and addressing unrest, the lack of leadership for social justice and safety of all peoples, the revoltingly vigorous encouragement of a society to pine for more of the second amendment.

it only took new zealand six days in 2019 to announce a new national gun policy.  weapons of mass destruction (all military-style semiautomatic weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and modification parts to morph guns into semiautomatic status) were banned merely six days after a mass shooting.  it is assumed that gun ownership is a privilege there, not a right.  gun homicides there have been in the single digits, with the highest number of 11.

and the united states of america?

enough.

i might add:  anyone  who purchases a sticker announcing their dismissal of peace as an option should spend a little more time reading it.  “dosen’t” is spelled wrong.  perhaps that is one of the problems.  little to no thought, little to no investment in critical thinking.  little to no conversation or use of intellect.  no refrainment of an overabundance of anger and reactionism.  just a blunt declaration of violence, a creed to evil.

enough.

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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against all odds, teachers teach. [two artists tuesday]

des plaines

“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”  (marilyn monroe)

the desk and the chair were connected and under the chair was a metal book rack.  there were 35-40 of them in my tiered room, which oddly doubled as both my choir room and my eighth grade math classroom.  math 8 was the last period of the day and, to give you a sense of the personality of the class, both of the children who were later voted “class clowns” were in my general math class.  a hot day in florida, the air conditioning was competing with the outside heat and trying to keep tired students at-the-end-of-their-school-day awake.

he was sometimes vocal, but mostly quiet.  he didn’t like math; he told me he didn’t really like school.  his eyes were bright even in his sullen face.  every day i greeted him and told him i was glad to see him.

that day, when he came into the room, i sensed he was even more unhappy than usual.  it wasn’t but a few minutes into my math lesson that his desk-chair came hurtling down the tiers at me.  it didn’t hit me, but back-in-the-day hurling desk-chairs was serious stuff and i, a young teacher at the time, was unnerved.

i think back now about that desk-chair being flung, the way it was all dealt with, the intervention and the caring hearts that were involved.  i think about that young man, whose name i still remember.  i knew back then that against all odds and despite the obstacles facing him,  he had a support system and he would make it.

amid a contemporary rise of real scaled-up violence in schools, less and less is about those support systems, for students or teachers.  resources, help – both are short in supply in public schools across this country.  yet, despite all odds, teachers teach.

i shake my head at the any-day-any-school terrifying concern of shootings in the classroom.  with gun-control-be-damned mindsets determining legislation, children must practice active shooter drills.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

i think about the lack of funding, the lack of supplies, the lack of a sustainable student-teacher ratio.  despite all odds, teachers teach.

and then, i think about this pandemic.  a global threat, this country’s leadership has not risen to the challenge and, in mindblowing checkmate moves, it has mandated that children physically return to schools this fall.  in the middle of an urgent and dangerous contagion, caution is being dismissed, putting children and teachers and administration and support staff at absolute risk.  it’s deplorable.

and yet we know, foolishly mandated, that against all odds, and despite all the obstacles, teachers will teach. that’s what teachers do.

“against all odds and despite all the obstacles, we are going to make it.”

against all odds and despite all the obstacles.

but the words “we are going to make it” beg a quagmire of unanswered questions, deeply concerning worries, and matters of life and death.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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sunglasses and gunfire. [two artists tuesday]

Sunglasses

we took a hike on easter sunday afternoon.   it was just warm enough to shed my coat in the woods; spring hiking is better without the shush-shushing sound of a down coat while you walk.

we went to our bristol woods, masks in pockets as we jumped out of big red, eager to get into the trees, onto the paths that have soothed us.  there were a few people there; most of them abided by the six-feet-apart rule, although admittedly, there were a few who caused us to roll our eyes in an astonished unspoken question wondering if they lived in a cave somewhere and had no idea that there was a global pandemic.

the familiar paths did their job. we quietly noticed green sprigs springing up between the leaves, a tonal green as you looked off-path from budding underbrush.  here and there forest daffodils at the brink of opening to the world; here and there small white flowers nestled between fallen logs.

the soundtrack of the woods was awakening to spring – orioles’ songs, chipmunks scampering, birds we couldn’t see high in the trees singing arias to the sky, the sound of our feet on the trail.

the gunfire in the background was unwelcome in this reverie of renewal, of spring-really-on-its-way, of escape-from-thoughts-of-covid-19.  it was an automatic, a gun designed to kill, single shots punctuated by the rapidfire of a clip.  it is always unnerving; yesterday it was particularly so.  it seemed mindless to me, paying no homage to these very times, these very days.

in the middle of thousands of people who are desperately trying to save over half a million others’ lives in this country alone, thousands of people who are extending helping hands to countless others, thousands of people who are dedicating resources to feed, mask, shelter thousands of others, thousands of people who are reeling from a loss of life, of job, of any security, of any sense of normal, thousands of people who are frightened to their core that they might be the next to succumb to this pervasive illness, the next to struggle to breathe, i couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out any good reason to be shooting an automatic weapon.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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i don’t understand. [two artists tuesday]

canoe and dock

ahhh.  early morning.  it is sunday and we are writing a couple days ahead for a busy week.

as i sit here, in this beautiful “idyllic” place, i hear the rapid fire of gunshots.  i google, looking for a shooting range i have heard about, but to no avail.  sunday morning.  a time of reflection and peace.  and, apparently, gunfire.  i don’t understand.

a couple nights ago i woke up and could hear the sound of two men talking.  we rarely hear people talking here, at any time of day or night.  i didn’t know where they were, and i couldn’t understand what they were saying, but the last thing i heard was a gunshot.  nothing else.  why, on earth, would someone be shooting anything in the middle of the night?  i’ve been told that there is poaching and shining and that hunting is a big part of this place.  hunting what?  what season is this?  are people’s kitchen tables truly dependent on this?  there’s a grocery store.  i don’t understand.

this week, just one week, as you know, our country suffered four times at the hands of someone who chose to brutally end the lives of others.  intentionally.  with assault weapons.  my heart breaks.  again.  and i don’t understand.

it appears that we are on a path of self-destruction.  a garlic festival, shopping at walmart, enjoying a saturday evening downtown in a small city…these are normal activities.  these are opportunities for human beings – like you and me – to do the stuff of life or to gather together.  partners, families, children, friends.  people we know, people we do not know, all breathing in and breathing out just like we do.  life-doing and gathering together should not include terror.  it shouldn’t even include fear.  i don’t understand.

where are we headed?  will we continue to perpetuate hatred?  will we continue to feed division?  will we continue to kowtow to big money, to the needs of a few instead of the needs of many?  will we care?  will we continue to taunt and bully and fight?  will we continue to kill each other?  i don’t understand.

as i sit on the dock of the bay, looking at the horizon blending with the sky, one little tiny being in a vast universe, i just don’t understand.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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on the dock of the bay ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson


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rogers park. [flawed wednesday]

Roger's Park Feet

on the platform at rogers park

we didn’t give it a second thought when The Boy told me that he was going to be traveling to the rogers park neighborhood of chicago. of course we were going.  we got out the metra train schedule and looked at the sunday trains from waukegan to rogers park, looking at our google maps to see where the restaurant we were meeting him at was located and how to get there from the train station.  we will literally trek anywhere if My Boy or My Girl are going to be nearby (or even far) and we have a chance to see them.

we jumped off the train at rogers park and made our way through the streets, enjoying a nice walk, through residential and commercial areas.  we turned down clark and then devon and had lunch at uncommon ground, a place known for its rooftop organic farm.   when he had to leave, The Boy suggested that we go tour loyola’s lakefront campus before we headed back to the station.  we were glad we did; the area was beautiful and we liked rogers park.

six sundays later a beautiful young man had flown out to chicago from new york to pursue his doctoral degree at northwestern university.  he moved into a place in rogers park and, four hours after he arrived, took a stroll on clark street to buy hangers at a local store.  this aspiring student – just 25 years old – the same age as MY Boy- got caught in the crossfire of two men.  he was shot and killed.  a mere four hours after his full-of-dreams arrival.  i don’t even know what kind of flawed earth we live on when a mom has to learn that her child, following the direction and hard work of his life, has lost his life.  my heart breaks for her.

indeed, my heart breaks for every mom, every parent, every human, who has been touched by needless, unwarranted, tragic violence in this world.  such despair.  where is it safe?

on google maps, there is a small exclamation mark with this caveat:  “use caution – walking directions may not always reflect real-world conditions.”  i never noticed it before.  it’s quite the understatement.

Sign at Loyola - Thoreau

painted on a wall at loyola university in rogers park, chicago

 

read DAVID’S thoughts on this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

feetonmetraJULY2018

rogers park. ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson