reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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maraschino dreams. [two artists tuesday]

and they dreamed dreams and waited in the woods…winterberries with visions of becoming maraschino cherries in their mind’s eye…actualizing with starring roles in traditional wisconsin brandy old-fashioneds…

no, no. do not put winterberries in your old-fashioned. they are completely toxic. but they are striking and unexpected. and the color in the woods is intoxicating. gorgeous red punctuating a dim brown-grey, save for a few evergreen, they are clustered beautiful.

it had been a while, what with the freezing temperatures and snow. we finally made it out to our favorite trail and it was – truly – a breath of fresh air. there is nothing quite as restorative as hiking, surrounded by stillness and the sound of wind rustling through the tops of trees. we needed to get outside. we slogged through the trails, getting a better workout than usual. the mud splashed up onto the back of our jeans, like when you ride your bike in the rain. we reveled in it.

the deer tracks went across the path. they hadn’t been there the first time we passed through. it was early in the day, early for the deer to be moving around, but we started looking through the brush.

her sweet face was staring right at us, her body blending into the scrub and trees around her. we stood, gazing at each other, none of us moving. i slowly took my phone out to capture what i knew would be hard to discern in a photograph – this deer in the woods, this shared moment of time. she didn’t move, but her tail wagged and her ears pitched forward and back, listening. i was hoping she could hear the words i whispered to her – telepathically, a little dr. doolittle-ish. her continued gaze at us, grace for our presence, her head held high, no obvious fear. unexpected.

she never left the spot while we were standing there. she took a few steps but didn’t flee, as so often happens when you start to move in the forest. we blew her a kiss and continued on, feeling lucky to have seen her and to have spent a few minutes with her.

we passed more winterberry holly as we hiked, laughing about old-fashioneds and marveling at our new deer friend in the woods.

we exited the trail, none too anxious to leave, wanting to just linger.

“sometimes,’ said pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” (a.a. milne)

****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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section-hike to chicago. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

over here, by one of the great great lakes, it is mostly flat. when you drive a bit south – toward chicago – particularly on the back roads – you will find ravines punctuating the landscape, gorgeous woods with deep cuts, gullies likely carved by streams into glacial moraines with bluffs high above the lake. i can’t imagine choosing the interstate over these roads and, if time allows, we are avid believers in the back ways.

most of the places we hike in our area do not present elevation gain as a challenge. instead, we have to do distance to make up the exercise gap. i’ve been a sea-level-girl pretty much my whole life – from a where-i’ve-lived standpoint – so when we are faced with elevation gain i have to do a bit of acclimatizing to get any kind of mountain legs or lungs. long island, florida, wisconsin – clearly, none of these are known for their mountain peaks.

we hadn’t ever walked the bike trail on the south side of the illinois border. we parked littlebabyscion near the entrance of the bike trail in some neighborhood – much to the chagrin of a woman walking her dog who – clearly – immediately had her suspicions about these two people exiting their vehicle – having parked their good-grief-it’s-a-2006-vehicle-ewww on the end of the road in this upscale ‘hood – for the trail. i started to walk to the trail and went back, wrote a cheery note “hi. we are just walking on the bike path,” finished it with a happy face and placed it in full view in the windshield. for the first hour or so of hiking i worried if we would get back to an empty space where our sweet littlebabyscion had been and a note to call the tow company. (it was with relief we later returned to find our little vehicle and another parked there as well.)

we crossed the wisconsin-illinois border and found the straight and narrow. illinois does a remarkable job of trail upkeep, no matter where we have found one, no matter the terrain. we kept walking. and walking. and walking. it was a beautiful day and easy to lose sight of the time or distance. we had water and halos and lemon lärabars. we were set.

we looked at the bike trail maps. though there are sections that are harder to define – one must find one’s way from one defined trail to another – you can pretty much walk or bike all the way to chicago.

we giggled and decided we would section-hike to chicago. it will be practice for the possibility of section-hiking or thru-hiking the john muir trail or the PCT. uh-huh. because walking on a bike trail – near civilization, without elevation gain, without 30 pounds on our backs, with littlebabyscion patiently waiting for us and our kitchen and comfy bed at the end of the day – is definitely good practice for say 211 miles or 2650. oh ye of little faith. whatever.

we turned around after checking time and the mileage and the forecasted hour of sunset. the way back – like the previous day on the des plaines river trail – i thought about how many miles we would complete that day, in a few hours. i doubled it and tripled the time and pondered doing that day after day for weeks or – in the case of the PCT – months.

it has a magical dreamy lure. there is no straight and narrow out there. there is hard work and perseverance. and we – watchers of more youtube video accounts than most – ponder if we could do it. we are fueled by people like the remarkable (!) wander women and, really, anyone, say, over 60 we watch successfully navigate the challenges. we think aloud – “maybe someday.”

in the meanwhile there is work to do, a plan to piece back together again post-implosion, and section-hikes to chicago.

*****

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


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warmth wins. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fallen branch must be radiating enough absorbed heat to melt the icy snow-pack just around it. the perfectly custom-shaped frame of snow reveals gorgeous long-needled pine laying on the ground atop a small clump of clover. the green in a field of frozen crunchy white was a beautiful glimpse underneath, a reveal.

things aren’t necessarily what they seem. and – though we sometimes remember we also sometimes forget – we find that there is more going on – beneath the visible surface – than we can imagine. i suppose it’s mr. rogers’ endings-beginnings, it’s george eliot’s “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s the cinderella song “it’s what’s inside that counts”… i suppose you just never know.

it served as a reminder on the trail. though fallow seemed to be starting and early winter was beginning to take its toll, a little bit of green busted through the ice, peeking out, asking us to notice. it seemed it was stored-up warmth that mattered.

reading and research bring up many physics and scientific theories postulated about this phenomenon, about the albedo effect, about dunes and wind, about snow and pine needles. they are all fascinating, but for me – it was mostly all about the disparity between what it looked like on the outside and what was on the inside. because we don’t always know what’s just below the surface – in circumstance, in the environment, in people.

but a little warmth (or albedo or a breeze) reveals a smidge. just a little grace, a little forgiveness, a little compassion, a little generosity, a little love.

it doesn’t take much – this tiny pine bough is proof, indeed.

warmth wins, every time.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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which is why we walk in the woods. [d.r. thursday]

when i am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. i would almost say that they save me, and daily.(mary oliver *when i am among the trees)

which is why we walk in the woods.

“i am so distant from the hope of myself, in which i have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.” (mary oliver *)

which is why we walk in the woods.

around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out,“stay awhile.” the light flows from their branches. and they call again,“it’s simple,”they say,“and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”(mary oliver *)

which is why we walk in the woods.

and this day – the day of this trail – we hiked the familiar, listening to the greetings of trees who knew us, remembered us. it was comforting and, though they were silent but for the rustling high above us, they rained down the last of their leaves on us, like a ticket-tape parade.

which is why we walk in the woods.

“trees go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!” (john muir)

we leave a bit of worry behind in each step. we will retrieve them later, all the bits. we dream and wonder and walk under the canopy of these giants that stay with us, tuck us in, give us pause. we shuffle our feet through fallen fall and draw in long breaths of musky leaves piling around the underbrush.

which is why we walk in the woods.

“between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” (john muir)

and between every two oaks and every two maples and every two hickories and every two ash and every two cottonwoods and every two elms and every two willows…doorways. “it’s simple,” they say.

which is why we walk in the woods.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

HELPING HANDS


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off the trail we know. [k.s. friday]

each time the trail curves, i can imagine it. next.

but as weeks go, this one has been harder. we tried our best to be positive, to believe that the new bend in our road is not so fraught. but, the fact of the matter is that it is. fraught.

we are pretty tough. kind of scrappy. definitely frugal. well, most of the time. we have both been presented with lean times in our lives. even our life together has had its lean times. we always eat leftovers. we always repurpose things. we always turn the shampoo bottle upside down. we always keep the heat low. we haven’t bought a vehicle in sixteen years. in some unknown intuitive move for which we are now grateful, we put off the big chimney-fireplace project, necessary but ridiculously expensive. we haven’t flown in three years. we find sanctuary in a forest we know well. we know where the trail curves.

and each time the trail curves, i can imagine it.

as the sun glimmers on what-looks-like the other end, i think – this is just one day, one week, one time in our lives. tomorrow will dawn and it might be a completely different day, starting a completely different week, a completely different time in our lives. and we just don’t know. again.

we are now in a woods we do not recognize, on a path we can not anticipate. off the trail we know. anxiety hikes with us, as do worry, sadness and disappointment. we worked hard on our plan, but the best laid plans are laid down. and this week, as weeks go, this one has been harder.

the sun quivers through the trees in front of us, setting. we keep walking.

day is done, 
gone the sun, 
from the lake, 
from the hills, 
from the sky; 
all is well, 
safely rest, 
god is nigh.  

fading light 
dims the sight, 
and a star 
gems the sky, 
gleaming bright. 
from afar, 
drawing nigh, 
falls the night.

(taps - d. butterfield/unknown)

*****

IN TRANSITION ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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an old quilt. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in some ways, it felt like coming home. this trail – its bends and hills and forks – was a mainstay for us for a long time. it was the old quilt before we added another to our collection. we used to wrap this trail around us often in the week, most especially on sunday afternoons, replacing the sunday-drives of my growing-up.

the nature megaphone always called to us. we’d crawl in and sit with our backs against the curved wall, our boots propped up on the other side. we’d take out whatever snack we brought along and munch and talk. and, if we were lucky, the sun was coming in on the greater-than side and it would bathe our faces and we’d close our eyes and just listen to the forest.

but we hadn’t been there in a few years. the county, in a money-over-preserve-conscious moment, approved the building of an aerial adventure course – with high ropes and ziplines and such. and then the woods were screaming-noisy, the parking lot fuller than we had ever seen it. we wondered why all those people in all those cars didn’t see the value of the woods before the treetop park.

one day last week we went back. there were few cars in the lot so we pulled on our boots and set out.

it was instantly like coming home. leaves gently raining down on us, we could feel the trail saying, “hey. where’ve ya been?” and we decided right away to do all the loops, see it all, visit the megaphone.

sitting inside, our backs to the curved wall and our dusty boots propped up on the other side we wished we had brought a snack. the sun was streaming in, warming our faces. we closed our eyes and listened.

all the old quilts in your life count. even the ones you don’t wrap in very often.

“to outer senses there is peace,

a dreamy peace on either hand,

deep silence in the shadowy land,

deep silence where the shadows cease.”

(oscar wilde – impressions II)

*****

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


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a bounty of astounding. [two artists tuesday]

it is most astounding to me. each and every time. it doesn’t matter the shining of the sun or the drizzle or the misty humid air or dusk falling around us. and though it is familiar – oh, so familiar – it is new when we visit, our footfalls on the path erased and lasting as we walk. i’m comforted by this trail. and it teases me – into truly wondering about thru-hikes and exquisitely ordinary days that explode into extraordinary just by entering them.

this is an easy trail. we have hiked many others. easy trails, moderate trails, difficult trails. elevation gains, a little scrambling here and there. but when – and it is often – we need an old quilt of a trail and time to be quiet, to think, to talk, to sort, to sink into astounding beauty, stillness and ever-percolating life, we hike here, close by.

my camera is ready. i try to capture it all to remember. the trail is full of linear lines now as the underbrush succumbs to the season. a bounty of astounding. even in transition.

i believe – as we enter the woods – that it greets us back.

and as we leave – filled up – it waves and whispers, “see ya.”

“have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?” (mary oliver)

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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out till sundown. [d.r. thursday]

the birthday of my big brother passed quietly. he would have been 72. as always, it was a day fraught with a mix of sadness and memory, a recipe for some light-stepping, a sobering reminder that the things i was angsting about that day – and there were many – were truly of little consequence.

the river trail greeted us at the end of day. we needed a walk in the woods.

“i only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, i found, was really going in.” (john muir)

our breathing slowed down, despite our best efforts to bring the layers of anxiety with us. it would be better to just be silent, i thought to myself.

nature hung up prayer flags on our route and i’m now sure that i should have hung prayers on each one. i think that is why they are there…to mark each and every soul on this good planet, alive or floating…to give us a place to put our worries, like a clothesline of hopeful…to take our breath away with color and life.

the officer was in the parking lot as we approached littlebabyscion. somehow the sun had fallen all the way past the horizon while we were on the outskirts of the trail and darkness filled in the gaps. we know the trail well and kept hiking, followed the baby fox for a bit and, then, the sounds of wildlife in the forest accompanied us the rest of the way. he told us that others might have cited us for being there past sundown. but he didn’t. we thanked him and apologized, saying it was a surprise how quickly light became dark, how we had become lost in time.

i’m sure that the prayer flag leaves clapped, fuchsia burst into laughter, green grinned. the woods – the sundown – had done their jobs well.

*****

PRAYER 24″x9″

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

a few other thoughts on nature’s prayer flags


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slowly. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we almost did it. almost. almost ordered thai food for pick-up.

but we didn’t.

we’d been hiking and were cold and tired. and we didn’t reeeeally want to make dinner.

but we did.

eventually.

we got around to it.

slowly.

we pulled our adirondack chairs into the last vestiges of sun in the yard, sipped wine, had a happy snack. when the sun disappeared, we brought our glasses inside and painted rocks – from the sand near the beachhouse – at the kitchen table, for we had hidden all the ones we previously painted. time stretched out in front of us, slow, a glorious saturday night.

instead of pad thai, we made tacos with homemade seasoning, had one of the last two avocados from my sister, watched a hallmark – yes, hallmark – movie under a big sherpa blanket, had two squares of chocolate.

hiking – tough elevation climbs – on this last trip to north carolina reminded me to go slow. it was the lesson i brought home from vacation. set a slower pace, don’t set too high a bar, mosey a bit, let living happen.

so i planted the painted rock on our sunroom table on top of sandstone from those smoky mountain trails. the other side of the rock reads, “no. slower.” you know…take a backroad, linger in the setting sun, sink under a blanket, climb a little slower.

my snapchat alerted me to a flashback. two years ago. on a balcony in aspen. the caption: “i don’t want to leave.” i remember slowly packing up, slowly loading the truck, slowly driving away. it was hard to go – as always – but slower made it a little easier.

i leave summer slowly and i step into autumn – my favorite – slowly. i wasn’t really ready for flannel. i pulled off the summer sheets for the last time in the season, thinking about how it feels on a hot night to place your face on a cool spot of the pillow. flannel isn’t like that.

but at the end of the night, after hiking and tacos and wine, chocolate and blanketed-movie-watching, in a house chilled by blustery northwest winds, the flannel was warm and i found myself snugged in soft stripes, slowly drifting off.

*****

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