reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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chi’hood home. [d.r. thursday]

a haiku quad

wand’ring through the house

he took photos of distant

memories he had.

they flooded his heart

his mind full, awash, the past

playing again – now.

and i find myself

wishing i could go back there

to my chi’hood home

to relive it all

to remember, to process

life as it marches.

read DAVID’S D.R. THURSDAY HAIKU


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everywhere we go. [k.s. friday]

we passed all brands of self-movers. in ryders, u-hauls, budget trucks. in vehicles stuffed to the brim with cartop carriers and kayaks and bike racks. couples following each other in cars with license plates from various states. moving west. new dreams leading their way.

in the way that roadtrips and interstates give you time to think, we spent the last couple days with lots of time to think. driving across the country takes you out of the norm, brings you into a somewhat surreal place, gifting you with an empty canvas of thought-bubbles. trying to get somewhere fast precludes us from the back roads we love, but the highways out west are open spaces and having to get through congested cities is rare. we chat, we admire the amazing changing landscape, we ponder about the lives of the people who live near the interstate, whose homes or homesteads we can see as we whiz by. those homes, those lives are mysteries to us, just as we are mysteries to people sitting on sun-drenched porches watching the traffic go by.

we are in colorado now, to help d’s mom make a big move, a big change in her life. we know that this is profound for her and we hope to gently hold her hand as she moves across this liminal time and space. a new home awaits her with new experiences and new opportunities. and that can be downright scary.

and so we’ll help her pack things that bring her a sense of reassurance, a sense of familiarity, a sense of home. perhaps a favorite chair, the plates she loves to use, her every-morning cereal bowls, paintings that will give her visual peace.

we’ve all done it. short or long-distance, we have moved. we have upheaved our lives and followed a dream west or south or north or east. the compass and time and change lured us to a new place, a new space. taking a few specific things – just as we suspect were packed into the subarus and ford focuses and toyota minivans and rented trailers and trucks – help in the transition. the well-loved quilt, the favorite fry-pan, the old braided rug, the rock from the high country. in stoking up, we store all our memories of where-we-were in tiny corners of our heart, accessible for when we need them.

and – everywhere we go – we bring the way home with us.

*****

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood


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a coupling with no conscience. [two artists tuesday]

gasket (noun): a shaped piece or ring of rubber or other material sealing the junction between two surfaces in an engine or other device.

what the dictionary doesn’t tell you: gasket (noun): havoc-wreaker.

this small piece of black rubber wields some mighty power. its failure has made us dance for the last three days (and i’m not talking about good-dancing.)

we woke to the sound of water. a pleasant sound, we were suddenly aware that we, indeed, were not camping by a lovely mountain stream. instead, we were inside our home where the sound of unsolicited running water is reason enough for stomach flips and jumping out of bed. we are good at running around looking for the problem. we are not so good at what to do next.

we stared at it. the water on the carpet in the basement was an obvious problem. we quickly traced the dripping, er, flowing stream, to the cold water feed to the shower. and, because the very wise craftsmen who built this old house had the foresight to leave a tiny door in the closet on the main floor behind this feed, we found the culprit. the coupling! one coupling, without a conscience, failing us miserably.

we were wise enough to turn the water feed off – don’t overestimate the reaction of two artists in a plumbing emergency – and the water stopped. and then the fun began.

it takes a village to play plumber. we took pictures and sent panicky texts to innumerable friends who instantly wrote back advice and words of encouragement, channeling my sweet momma’s “you can do this.” we got to work, reading and re-reading the wisdom on our phones.

inside the coupling was this tiny gasket. it was no longer completely round and smooth. its edges were a little torn and battered. here was the problem. this havoc-wreaker had done its havoc-wreaking job and we were faced with the fallout.

the shopvacs whirring, we went after the water. over and over again, until it was possible to actually move the carpet. donning masks and rubber gloves after reading up on google what we artists should do in such a plumbing emergency, we released the carpet from its metal stripping and pulled it back (wet carpet is ridiculously heavy). though we were actually helping the carpet, the padding below was sopped.

using boxcutters like pros, we, garbage-bags-later, had the padding out and were accumulating all the plastic things we could find to lay out the carpet and dry it with fans – any and all fans we had.

we read that baking soda would help so we bought boxes and boxes of baking soda and sprinkled it generously like my mom would sprinkle confectionery sugar on her homemade crumbcakes. and then it was time to wait it out.

meanwhile, we went to see tom at the hardware store. he directed us to a gasket for 99 cents that we brought home and placed in-between the pipes. it’s not quite right – the gasket we had (heaven only knows how old it is) had some shape to it – like an o-ring attached to the gasket, filling in a round moat in the pipe (note the professional terms). this gasket was flat, so we are now looking for one that has this so-called built-in o-ring to fill in the moat. without that (or some other fix we are trying to figure out) there will always be a place for a tiny bit of water to go, squeezing microdrop by microdrop under the gasket and then worming its way out the coupling and then, terrifyingly, down the pipe where – if i even see one drop on the carpet i will freak out – it could land downstairs. anyway, after days of intense and concentrated effort, the crisis has been diverted, knock wood. (there’s been a lot of wood-knocking going on…)

now, the quest for the proper gasket. plumbing supply stores watch out!

*****

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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

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babycat. [two artists tuesday]

his long white whisker was on the black rug in the sunroom. i bent down and picked it up, my heart aching for this sweet adored cat no longer here. i taped it to a piece of colored paper, trying to hold on to babycat physically just a little longer.

b-cat was twelve. according to the almanac that’s about 64. it hadn’t occurred to me or us that he was a senior cat; he was simply our babycat and his presence was more than one-fourth of our home. his absence has made a profound impact; it is very very quiet. it’s not that he was that noisy, although he was a vocal cat. it’s just that he was that present. for each of us.

i was alone last week when it happened. in an unusual turn d was away and i was home. monday was a day of sorting and cleaning and rearranging. babycat spent the day in the same room as me and split his time between snoozing and pets. nothing out of the ordinary, just extraordinarily normal. tuesday morning was unexpected and will break my heart for some time to come. suddenly symptomatic and ultimately laying down behind a chair i never remember him exploring, i knew things were dreadfully wrong. racing babycat in his blanketed dog-crate (since he was too big for cat carriers) to an urgent veterinarian appointment, i spoke to him the entire way while he loudly meowed and i could feel hope leaving my body. there are moments that feel surreal and, like other losses in my life, this was one. over a covid-enforced veterinary facetime app, a very kind and compassionate doctor explained the xray she had immediately taken and the dire implications of all that she could see suddenly impacting our beloved cat. babycat gave us no time to make longer term treatment decisions. he died on that tuesday morning in march, almost twelve years since my life had been graced by him as a kitten. and, in the way that death changes everything, i won’t be the same without him.

i’ve seen bumper stickers with pawprints that read “who rescued who?” each time i nod my head, understanding. babycat came to me at a time of great need. my girl and my boy and i drove to florida to pick up this kitten who had come to stay at my niece’s doorstep, with no evidence of a missing owner. a first-time-cat-family, we drove “cat”, who we were having trouble naming, all the way home, trying to figure out how to feed and water and potty-break a cat on the way, when all our experience was dog-based. somewhere along the way babycat was named “wilson” but he chose to never answer to that and picked “babycat” as his given name. we taught him to sit, to beg, to come when called. he meowed when we said “speak” and was a lot more dog than cat in many ways.

babycat – in the wisdom of the animal kingdom – followed me around in moments of loneliness, insisted on regimented times for meals, showed me that the sun on the rug in the living room was something to soak up, sat with me on the floor. baby-the-c’s constant companionship was my solace in empty-nest-initiation and his lack of stealth was a bit of noise i desperately needed around me. so much to say about that little creature. yes, who rescued who?

his absence now is, if possible, even bigger than his presence. babycat love – ours and his – surrounds me.

*****

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old house symphony. [k.s. friday]

thwwwwwwwwwwunk. a distinctive sound. shhhhhhhhhhhhunk. another distinctive sound. the timbre of laundry in the laundry chute.

our old house has a two-story laundry chute: from the bathroom on the second floor through the bathroom on the first floor to the basement wooden trap door. for over three decades i have listened to laundry as it sings its way down the chute. it is likely i can identify – to a pretty close degree – what is traveling down to the land of the washer-dryer. i can tell if it is jeans. i can tell if it is socks. i can tell if it is a wet washcloth or a wet towel. i can tell it in the dark. i can tell it as a lark. oops…got carried away. but that is the truth – i can tell by the sound of the item as it brushes against the metal chute-frame and lands on the little wooden door. having had this highly-technical cutting-edge advantage for the better part of my adult life, i’m not sure what i would do without a laundry chute.

the radiator, in the middle of the night, often makes a thunking sound. it emanates from the sitting room, right off the bedroom and, were you to be easily freaked out by unfamiliar noises, you would sit up in bed, frozen and silent, wondering what critter was in the next room thunking. having heard this sound for thirty-something years, coming from radiators a third again old than i am, i am comforted by it, the single metallic-sounding drum-thump a piece of my audio history.

in the early days of owning this house, the wood-floor-guy asked if i wanted the spaces between the planks filled in or if i wanted him to place screws or shims into the wood from below so as not to hear the floor creaking. i was horrified at both ideas. the patina of the old floor, its stories, its life, and the sound of the old floor are all part of what i love about this house. i can’t imagine not hearing the wood floors creak. i never even wished that even in the middle of the night, what feels like a million years ago, just after my baby girl or my baby boy fell fast asleep, just after i laid her or him back in the crib, as i tiptoed out of the nursery hoping to not wake them, trying to avoid the floorboards that made the most noise. i just memorized the boards that were the greatest offenders and long-jumped them. they are the house speaking, the stories it holds dear.

d says i hear better than he does. the gutter’s funny dripping sound, the click of the ceiling fan, the sound the swinging door in the dining room makes, a little water in the pipes, the back screen door squeak, the vinyl siding expanding in the sunlight, the front door lock latching, the pantry closet closing, the boiler kicking on, the old oven opening, the chain on the basement door, the glass knob from the french door falling off.

i just say that i am listening to the symphony of this old house and i’m just a little more tuned in.

*****

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damning ice-damming. [two artists tuesday]

there is a price to pay for having an adored old house. ours is 93 years old. sturdy, charming, with wood floors and crown molding, built-in cabinets and solid doors, details that wouldn’t necessarily be affordable in new construction. but then there’s that thing that many of these sweet old houses don’t have enough of — called insulation.

many’s the time i have been on a ladder in the winter with a hose that is stretched to the basement laundry tub spigot. just me and hot water tending to the ice in the gutters. one year, when it was a particularly big problem, big jim came over and performed magic. i remember driving to illinois to purchase the proper tools: heating cables (they were out in wisconsin stores) and one of those really long telescoping snow rakes. and now d has had the distinct pleasure of dealing with this as well. each fall now we check the gutter cables – i’m always holding my breath to make sure they are still working lest the winter comes and they cease being warm in the middle of ice-damming weather.

and ice-damming weather it is.

it’s not like i’m happy that other people are dealing with it, although there is a little bit of content that we aren’t alone in this. as we walk around the neighborhood or drive around town we point at houses and icicles, inches of solid ice clearly stoked up in the gutter, snow falling off roofs like icing sliding from a cupcake on a hot summer’s day. even newer houses and brand-new construction have ice-laden soffits and fascia. and i listen and just keep hoping i don’t hear the telltale drip-drip-drip sound somewhere inside the house; that is never a good thing.

my first experience was memorable. i was alone when i walked in the front door and could hear water literally pouring somewhere. thinking someone had left a faucet on, i immediately went to check the bathrooms, but the sound lured me directly to the sunroom where i stared at the scene that ice-damming had created. my dad and a friend, neither in town, provided some pretty healthy support over the phone for my first adventure on the perilous ladder perched on the icy deck with an unwieldy and uncooperative long garden hose that i had to first thaw from its frozen coiled state as i tried to win against mother nature and too little insulation. eventually, i did win, but not until i was solidly drenched in 20-degree temperatures and i had earned the nickname ‘hoser’ over my moral-support-suggestion-laden-phone-calls and their quest to keep me laughing.

another time, my son can attest to walking into the sitting room one day to find water coming in from above the windows. we both stared at the phenomenon (staring is a requirement as a first reaction in ice-damming). then we got to work with every spare towel we could find. so, yeah, it’s not like i’m happy other people are dealing with it (isn’t that something like schadenfreude?) but i am happy for company in misery. and i know that in the summer, when we are calmly sitting outside in adirondack chairs in the warm sun having an iced tea, these will be funny stories.

but now? this year? yes, i am still holding my breath. the ice is particularly stubborn and the temperatures are lingering in ice-damming territory. facebook posts are abounding with pictures of dammed ice (or “damned” ice, depending on your level of zen) and people’s comments are empathetic and knowing. i don’t remember this from long island at all. i blame wisconsin. nevertheless, in the words of my momma, “this too shall pass.”

i seem to be thinking about those words a lot these days.

*****

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happy-lights. [two artists tuesday]

over eight months of happy-light

happy-lights. we surround ourselves with these. on the deck, on the headboard, strung on ficus trees, draping the shelf in the kitchen. there are still happy-lights at the littlehouse on island, touches that made it feel like home, tiny torches of happy.

it is astounding to us that through the dead of winter, their glimmer shining through the snows of the season, a rainy spring and a hot, hot summer these little minilights, plugged in and on 24/7, lasted over eight months on our front rail since we put them up in early december for the holiday season.

in true beaky-behavior, i am going to write this happy-light company a letter. because what person, what company, doesn’t need to hear something positive during a time of so much uncertainty.

$2.99 is marked on the box. because i know me, i know that we wouldn’t have purchased them until they were on 50% off sale. even at full price, i have to say, the twinkle of these lights outside as we pulled up in the dark, the twinkle of these lights in our dark sunroom or over the littlehouse sink, is a we-are-home reminder. it gently says to us that we are in a safe place, a place of love, a place we care about, a place of light.

perhaps this country needs to string up some happy lights. 2800 miles across the united states is 14,728,000 feet. our happy lights are 20′ of lighted joy, which means 736,400 strands of this very set. that would end up costing a tad bit over $2.2 million. but….on a 50% off sale we’re only talking $1.1 million. and wouldn’t that be an inexpensive (federal-government-spending-wise) message to all: you are home. you are safe. you are cared for. you are in a place of light. you are loved.

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just know. [two artists tuesday]

loves me loves me not

we passed the daisy on the trail and i went back to take a picture.  it was instant recognition of  “loves me, loves me not” as i saw it.  the questions we threw willy-nilly to the universe, the don’t-step-on-a-crack, knock-wood, bread-and-butter reflexes of our 60s-70s childhoods.

were it all still to be so easy.

i remember sitting in the grass making clover chains.  i remember the transistor radio playing on the bazooka bubble gum beach towel.  i remember playing in the woods out back with the neighbors.  i remember kickball in the street and badminton and croquet in the yard.  i remember hula-hoops and skateboards on my driveway.  i remember the “boing” the pogo stick made.  i remember koolaid and ice pops that seemed to never run out.  i remember bike hikes with sue and carvel ice cream cones with chocolate sprinkles.  i remember frisbee at the beach and making apple pies.  i remember listening to cassettes and practicing piano.  i remember the trunk of the maple tree against my back, the branches holding me as i wrote.  i remember the sound the pressure-filled-from-the-sun-light-purple-hosta-flowers along our sidewalk made when popped.  i remember it was time to go home when it got dark and i remember catching fireflies in jars with holes punched in the lids.  i remember sunday drives and picking apples and kentucky fried chicken on picnic tables further out on the island.  i remember cabins in state parks and wide-eyed flirting with older lake lifeguards upstate.  i remember duck ponds and friendly’s.  i remember my puppy riding in my bike basket and ponytails.  i remember loves-me-loves-me-not.

it seemed an innocent time.  a time of marvel.  a time of safety.  never did i wonder if my parents loved me.  i just knew.

babycat just rolled onto his back, all four paws outstretched, his big black and white belly just begging for a pet.  he doesn’t ask questions.  his world is relatively small – since his kittenhood adoption, the littlehouse was the only other house he has known other than our house.  yesterday we brought him and dogdog into the basement as the tornado siren went off.  dogga was nervous but babycat adapted, finding a place to lay on the carpet.  his only demand is for food, several times a day with clockwork precision.  otherwise, he is unconditional.  his presence in my life has brought me eleven years of a gift i really needed when he arrived.

babycat is laying right next to me now as i type.  tucked close in, his snoring is punctuated only by his purring – it’s a two measure repeat in 4/4, each breath a half note.  it is the 11th anniversary of his “gotcha day” and he’s marking the day with a celebration of naps. no worry of “loves me, loves me not” crosses his mind.  he just knows.

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there is a place, a canopy. [d.r. thursday]

canopy

CANOPY 48″x48″

there is a place on a washington island road where the rest of the world disappears.  you are walking alongside forest and can see the sky as you look up, tall trees framing blue, the sound of sandhill cranes and red-eyed vireos accompanying your steps.  and then you enter this place.  the trees gently arc over the road and you are covered by a canopy; we have sheltered in this spot during more than one sudden rainfall.  even in the bright day, the green above you – which turns to brilliant umber, rich red, flaming orange during summer’s release on the forest – allows for little light.  and at dusk, while the sun sinks into the water hundreds of feet away, walking in the middle of the road, it is dark-dark, the canopy a lure for night creatures, safe in the shadows.

there is a place in a tree in the yard of my growing-up house outside the window of my old room where the branches invited sitting.  for hours i would sit there, write, ponder.  in the summer the maple seemed to grant me privacy from the world, its branches full of leaves and canopying my little spot.  a shelter.

there was a place in the wooden structure in our backyard that had a yellow awning that made a fort.  when My Girl and My Boy were little they would play up there for hours, The Boy lining up matchbox cars, The Girl often reading a book.  a special space, this little fort, it was hard when it was time to dismantle it and pass it on to friends with little ones.

these places of shelter – places of canopy – provide such a sense of protection, a sense of being held from harm – from the elements, away from others, in our own private place.  much like our homes, they can give us pause, a deep breath, safety.

in this time of distancing and stay-safe-stay-at-home, i look around our house and give thanks for its canopy of shelter, for the way it holds us from harm, for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years it keeps us safe.

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CANOPY ©️ 2009 david robinson