reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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every waterfall counts. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we stood in a quiet forest, the only sounds – birds and running water.

we had taken a sketchy gravel forest service road – a single-car-width-wide – to get to the trailhead up the mountain, encouraging littlebabyscion the whole way and grateful we had gotten new tires before our trip. the brochure directions were not as straight-forward as we would have liked, and we lost signal for most of the time, but eventually the alltrails app helped us find our way.

250 waterfalls. there are more than 250 waterfalls to discover in brevard, north carolina. choosing where to go is overwhelming. but once you start laying feet on the dirt, hiking, it really doesn’t matter. we were surrounded by intensity every which way we looked. we stood by the side of the waterfall, silent.

it wasn’t one of the grand falls; it wasn’t listed on the “top 10”. but it was serene and light dazzled through the trees. millions of droplets captured the sun. a tiny miracle of beauty in the woods. haloed waterfall. stunning. perfect.

“and the moon said to me, my darling daughter, you do not have to be whole in order to shine.” (nichole mcelhaney)

we hiked on up further, a steep climb to a destination unknown.

*****

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


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stumbles and falls. [two artists tuesday]

and in the same way that my palm is a picture of life, so was this trail.

roots everywhere. trippables. this north carolina forest, a temperate rainforest, was a palmistry dream. rhododendron bushes and tree roots criss-crossing, superficially close to the surface, looking unlike the high colorado mountain woods, full of pine and aspen, spruce and juniper.

i must not lift my feet up all the way when i walk. because – every so often – i stumbled and caught myself with my walking stick. shuffling along is not in order. in metaphor-land, that’s much the same as life too. no shuffling. pick your feet up and step…even baby steps.

years and years ago, decades really, i remember being in the car with my former husband. he was driving and there was someone crawling along…shuffling, if you can imagine that in a car with tires. “do something!” he muttered. “even if it’s wrong!” he added. it was the first time i can remember hearing that expression. it made me laugh aloud. the “even if it’s wrong” part. i still think about that when i drive. it’s the you-can-always-turn-around and find the right route. you are not stuck on the road you are on for always. i refuse to cut across lanes of traffic just to make a turn i didn’t realize was coming up quickly. there are other ways of getting there.

we took it slow…my lesson from vacation, the essay i would write were i tasked the proverbial what-did-you-do-on-vacation assignment. we talked about it in littlebabyscion as it crossed to 260,000 miles on the odometer. “slow and steady and we’ll get there,” i said. “there?” d asked. “anywhere we need to be, any decision we need to make, any challenge we need to forge through,” i replied.

somehow, despite the roots and the shadows and the stumbles and falls, we manage to rise up again. the trails all have them. so do the roads and the choices and decisions and relationships. smooth sailing is a myth. it’s all a little bumpy.

we go a little slower.

and there is grace in the air. we need extend it to each other and to ourselves.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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blue, red, yellow, blue. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

we were on the mountain past the junction where the blue trail met red, in the middle of the red trail, heading to yellow. it was considered “moderate” but i wondered what temperature it was outside when someone deemed it “moderate”. because at 90 degrees and humid, it wasn’t feelin’ too moderate.

the day before we had climbed to see a waterfall and then took the trail up from there. up, up and away it went and with north-carolina-mountain-summerish temperatures, we were lucky to find a cool stream at some elevation. david climbed down and dipped the bandana, which i wrapped around my neck. that helped. we got to a spot where it was purely a scramble up boulders and decided to turn around. frozen shoulder and high heat aside, it wasn’t as inviting as advertised. we hiked back down.

back on red, with a branch-ala-trekking-stick in hand, i tried to decide which way to go. back would mean a trail i already had climbed – and i knew there was a lot of up on the way back as well. forward would be a lot longer, but would also mean completing the trail.

to be clear, we were not flip-flopping it here. we had full-on hiking boots on our feet and carried small backpacks with water and snacks and our alltrails app, a wonder of science and technology. thankfully, we had the bandana and there was a stream punctuating our hike.

i’m pretty stubborn most days. if we are walking around town – our own or this mountain town we are currently in – we love to wear flip-flops. we actually haaave hiked in flip-flops, though i wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. standing on the red, even with my boots, i wasn’t sure which way to go. i was overheated and my knee was screeching a little at me. i drank some water and grabbed my stick.

we kept going.

the hike was about six and a half miles, which doesn’t sound too bad, except for the stats said we had also climbed 47 floors. mind you, those are not like the twelve levels of steps in the parking garage after the ej concert. these floors are indicative of elevation and don’t mention roots and rocks and clay and loose pebbles. and humidity. did i mention it was hot?

it’s usually roots that get me. i mustn’t pick up my feet. i don’t know. what i do know is that david – always the genteel and solicitous husband – reaches out his hand or places his shoulder at arm’s reach. he steadies me so i don’t bounce off the side of the mountain or land – never-too-gracefully – in the middle of the dirt trail. he offered to turn around, reassuring me it didn’t matter which way we finished.

sometimes he talks about my shoe choices. but on the side of the mountain, sopping cool bandana around my neck, more than halfway there, he was only encouraging. our conversation about shoes was only about finding new hikers that will take us to yet more adventures. maybe something even more sensible, even more sensitive to our foot-knee-back-hip-shoulder – full-body – needs.

the red trail met up with yellow. i was grateful. mostly, though, i was really happy when yellow met back up with blue. yeeeeeha!

we made it. the whole hike.

and then we sat on the front porch in bare feet sipping a good red watching the traffic go by.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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snide little biters. [d.r. thursday]

the height of mosquitoes. the height. and the height. both definitions.

ankles, necks…it matters not. right now our favorite river trail hike is swarming with them. if i thought that mosquitoes had any good will toward others, if i thought that mosquitoes served a truly individualized and specialized useful purpose, if i thought that this being – a tiny species that causes infection to millions of humans – was not evil itself, well, i would be deluding myself.

they are dreadful.

this trail now – dressed in all shades of lush green – is only accessible to the deet-doused, unless you are one of those people who are immune to their snide little biting proboscis. and, in other news, there is no limit to how many times one mosquito can bite you – it bites until it is full. just yuck.

we missed our trail so we went earlier in the day. it was to no avail. there they were, laying in wait. long trails of mosquitoes following us and our carbon dioxide trails as we sprinted through the woods, thinking, foolishly, that we were evading them.

they do not amuse me. they ruin everything. i do not like mosquitoes. at all. not that you haven’t noticed.

i read, “mosquitoes hate the smell of lavender, citronella, clove, peppermint, basil, cedarwood, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemongrass and rosemary.” (homesandgardens.com)

i am looking for a new perfume or, perhaps, moving to iceland, which is reportedly mosquito-free.

or, i will practice not exhaling.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

peruse david’s gallery – while lingering inside, away from mosquitoes


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kitsch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i suppose if i opened my 1977 john h. glenn high school yearbook i would find these words. in fact, i am almost positive i would find them. scrawled in pen by more than one friend, on the big white space of the inside hard-cover or the inside back-cover, maybe across the page for the art and literary magazine. there would be other sage phrases too…like “life is a journey, not a destination”…as if there was a what-to-write-in-a-yearbook handbook or maybe taken directly from the blue mountain arts meaningful-phrases calendars of the time. my personal favorites were the susan polis schutz/stephen schutz calendars, books, bookmarks…the colors and shapes of the seventies. pause for a sigh…

hiking on our trail, i am whipping my camera left to right, capturing the gorgeousness of the underbrush, trees in their green glory, a very-blue sky.

the litter almost under my footfall gets my attention. it’s not just paper.

this time, it’s a succinct message – kitschy as heck – but, alas, to the point. “cherish yesterday. live for today. dream of tomorrow.”

i don’t know what to do.

i photograph the torn positivity mantra. richard bach’s words in “jonathan livingston seagull“, rearranged.

i try to decide. do i pick it up, as litter? do i leave it for someone else to read?

because i have been privy to the wisdom of the 1970s – in print form, not just IGs or memes or jpgs, i left it. i thought that someone might need to pick it up, tuck it into their pocket, keep it on their bedside table or tape it to their mirror.

who doesn’t need a reminder to truly cherish yesterday? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly live for today? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly dream of tomorrow?

kitsch has its place, after all.

*****

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


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it matters not. [two artists tuesday]

it matters not that our feet have walked this path before

it matters not that we have lingered under this canopy

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we have kicked the same pebbles in play

it matters not that the dirt sneaking into our socks is the same

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we recognize each bend, each curve

it matters not that we have watched the mayapple come and go

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we hear the same birdcalls, the same ribbiting frogs

it matters not that the train-through-the-trees is an amtrack we have seen

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the underbrush growth is measured by our return trips

it matters not that the wild daisies wave to us, friends

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the riverbed rises and falls as regularly as our breath

it matters not that the turtles show up where we expect them to be

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the sun dapples and hides where we know it will

it matters not that we can anticipate the sky – unrestricted

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that playful chirping chipmunks are not exotic

it matters not that squirrels chastening us are not rarities

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that this trail is not unusual, is not unknown

it matters not that we could likely close our eyes to hike it

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

because

life, we have learned, is

wondrous in its simplicities, in its familiarity, in its details.

life, we have learned, is

something to pay attention to – close attention – so as not to miss it.

life, we have learned, is

the more you notice, the more you notice.

life, we have learned, is

a walk, again and again.

*****

happy 101 birthday to my sweet momma. i will forever miss you.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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marcel. in the woods. [two artists tuesday]

in these times, we often hike the same trail. there is not enough time for long-distance travel right now. but we are comforted, nevertheless, by this same place, again and again. it has become an old friend and there is nothing better than someone or something you know really well and love in all its moods and through all its seasons.

it was easter sunday and, for only the second time in decades, i had no obligations. it was cold – almost miracle-mitten cold – and we were trying to choose between meandering through the early spring flowers at the botanic garden or hiking “our” trail. we suspected that the botanic garden would be crowded; we believed the trail would be almost empty. we chose the trail.

you might think we would tire of this trail. you might think we would choose something else, somewhere else. you might think there would be nothing new to see. on the contrary.

i am reminded, as ever – again – now that i am, finally, just the tiniest bit wiser – of marcel proust’s words, “the real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

there was lots of trailside vegetation coming alive, tiny buds, green sprouts. the familiar turns in the path led us past busy squirrels, chipmunks we could hear but not see scurrying in the underbrush, birds and geese and ducks.

after a couple hours, we set up our pop-up bistro table and chairs in the middle of the woods. surrounded by tall pines in a spot that would be underbrush-inaccessible in the summer, we sat, in the cold, snacking on cheese and crackers, quinoa tabouli and a few sips of wine in small yeti tumblers with lids, springtime napkins reminding us of the season. we took our gloves off, had a few schnibbles, put our gloves on, chatted and repeated. we pulled up our hoods and turned our backs to the wind picking up. mostly, we sat in the quiet.

and we looked up.

and there, that which we could have easily missed, was this magnificent view of the blue sky and the towering tops of pine trees that had endured the same forest for a very long time.

there is nothing ordinary about a view like that.

an idiosyncrasy, a quirk, a hallmark, a side you hadn’t yet noticed. such is the complexity of an old friend. such is the charm of discovery.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the other 89%. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

david said, “really, it’s probably the 5% rule. there are about 5% of people who are not good people.” i answered, “eh. i think it’s more like 10%.”

glancing to the side of the road leading out of the trail i watched a guy in the parking lot duck into his shiny pick-up truck. he pulled out a floor mat as i stared and dumped its accumulated dirt and wrappers and garbage on the ground. “make that 11%,” i grumbled.

though i no longer would do this – i have, in the past, pulled up next to someone or walked up to someone, depending on whether on a road or on a walk – to tell them – in an innocent and informative voice – that they “dropped something.” i usually add i’m not sure if they need it but it’s just “back a ways” if they do. sadly, this did not usually culminate in their retrieval of their garbage, but there was something about letting them know it did not go unnoticed that was helpful. probably more helpful would be if i just followed and picked up the garbage that others are dropping.

“earth is neat,” says the wrapper of the justin’s dark chocolate cashew butter cups. to jaunt through the justins.com website is to read the story of a guy with a passion for peanut butter take it all to the next level. his company is self-built and completely and utterly responsible to people, food and the planet we live on. it makes me want to eat more nut butters, make his 4-ingredient-peanut-butter-banana-oatmeal-cookie recipe, support his obviously-boulder-colorado-beginning efforts. bravo, justin.

the trail on saturday was warm. the first day in months. even the vests we wore were too much, so we peeled them off and relished hiking jacketless, even for a day. i suppose that we will take a couple pairs of gloves and a few garbage bags and go back one day without hiking in mind. it might do our hearts good to pick up the stuff that the 11% has left behind.

because earth IS neat. and it takes all of us to keep it that way.

*****

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


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the gift of a gift. [merely-a-thought monday]

and, of course, i wonder who found them.

the hike to looking glass rock is uphill. not a little uphill. reeeally uphill. the view through the trees, sans leaves, reveals mountains close-up, mountains out in the distance. it’s a gorgeous trail.

we started later than we had planned. and so, we had to turn around before we made it to the top. because once the sun goes down – and it goes down fast – it is next to impossible to safely navigate the trail back down. roots and rocks and twists and turns could turn it into a crisis. and we have watched everest enough times to remember professional guide rob hall’s words: it’s not my job to get you up the mountain…it’s my job to get you safely back down. pisgah national forest is – clearly – not the intensity of everest, but the same rule applies anyway.

and so – this time – we missed looking glass rock, an amazing formation, its sheer stone face rising above the trees. there will be a next time; we’ll start earlier, carry some lunch and more water and we’ll get there and back before darkness falls.

i had tucked a package of our “be kind” pins into my bag. i thought that there might be a place i could leave them. each time we have passed a little trail magic – a painted rock, tiny gift – it has lifted our spirits. i couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to leave these pins than this forest. the knot in the tree seemed perfect – at the right eye level for those hiking up. my only regret is not being able to go back and see that they are gone.

for each time i have left a rock – with a heart or a peace sign or a tiny message – on our local trail tucked into the notch of a tree, on an obvious branch or perched on a burl – i have had the opportunity to go back a next time and see that it has disappeared. it’s the gift of a gift.

i can only assume that the little cellophane bag tied with green curling ribbon in brevard is gone. i can only assume that someone has given out all the “be kind” buttons. i can only assume that as the recipients wear them or put them on their backpacks or their purse or hang them on the visor in their car they smile and pay it forward just a little.

the gift of a gift isn’t always known.

*****

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


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backwards. [merely-a-thought monday]

maybe it was the glass of wine in my hand, but i doubt it.

we sat at the table in our sunroom, happy lights on, gazing into the inky blackness of the backyard. it was still rather early in the evening but, these days, dark happens early. it suddenly caught my eye and it made me laugh. the backwards “let the adventure begin” seemed just about right, right about now.

we bought ourselves this little wooden sign a few years ago now, for the littlehouse on washington island. it graced the table that looked out on the lake and was the opening line of our time with TPAC, a magical performing arts center on that tiny island. a treasured adventure. and then covid. we packed our sign into a bin and brought it back home.

it sat in the bin in the basement, quiet, for months or so, i guess. then we redid the sunroom…more plants, our table, a new rug, an old door on horses, happy lights, an old suitcase. a few more adventures later – and i went downstairs, seeking the sign.

it sits on the old door in front of the old suitcase that holds the old cd player and lost-man, who is a stuffed mountain goat that reminds us of an amazing hike our intrepid girl took us on – to lost man lake on independence pass, with exquisite high elevation views and tufts of mountain-goat-fur snagged on the branches of bushes along the trail.

“let the adventure begin” makes me smile every time i see it. for it has already begun. we are in the middle of it. covid and wrists and job loss and angst and incredible-joy-times and glasses of wine and dogdog moments and new work and questions and hikes and dancing and music and plans and tiny trips and big trips and grief and laughter and babies and water and cartoons and writing. the middle of it. no re-sets necessary. like the tide, it ebbs and flows, but it’s ever-present, this adventure. like john lennon said, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” while you are waiting. it’s right there.

when i was in junior high or maybe early high school i had to do a project for science class. i had this clock that, for some reason, ran backwards. a big round face, the second hand ran backwards, which pushed the minute hand backwards, which pushed the hour hand backwards. with a master bulova watchmaker as my dad, we collaborated on this mysterious phenomenon: time running backwards. we researched and experimented, asked lots of questions, tried to get the clock to go forwards. it never did. instead, we devised a new face for the clock. and we learned how to read the time as it ran backwards. it made us think and laugh and think more and, also, gave us an interesting perspective on time. it’s happening. whether it’s forwards or backwards, it’s marching on. we simply need to adjust and adapt. at dawn, in midday, at dusk, in the darkness.

it was particularly funny to me when this sign – “let the adventure begin” – was backwards in the window reflection. well, maybe not really funny. maybe just really, really wise.

it feels like it might have been an even-greater little sign painted that way.

*****

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