reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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better. [two artists tuesday]

if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.

the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.

we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.

these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.

and yet.

as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.

in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.

i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.

*****

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way, way past time. [d.r. thursday]

“whenever you see a successful woman, look out for three men who are going out of their way to try to block her.” (yulia tymoshenko)

i read this quote on instagram. i hesitated to use it and then wondered why. it stated truth. it is a fact of life. i have lived it – exactly it – just as many other women have. so why hesitate?

the answer seems obvious. because that kind of blocking still exists, that kind of dominance is still valued, that kind of discrimination still squelches lives and careers, that kind of smothering effort – particularly with leading roles by older white men – is still not – really – questioned, nonetheless challenged in a big, broad way. it’s asphyxiating and it’s way past its time. way, way past time.

“it’s 2021 and we are talking about THIS!” they rolled their eyes and so did i. it is beyond the scope of reasonableness that we are – still – dealing with the devastating blows that those who lean into … or out-and-out embrace … the prejudice of white supremacy, suffocating gender bias, ruinous economic inequity, insufficient healthcare, deficient educational options, the loss of multitudes of innocent lives at the barrel of unnecessary weapons, exclusive immigration…

but here we are. 2021.

we came upon the hot-pink lighted ball of yarn in the garden and laughed. then we followed the string, the yarn that was unrolled over the tree branches, under the bushes, along the sidewalk edge, up the fence, down off the fence, and ultimately, to the end of it, the frayed edges.

it occurs to me we can trace the strings back and back. we can see the frayed edges of injustices, the repeating pattern of silencing, of stifling, of deliberate lack, of unacceptable levels of violence, of obstructive intention.

what now?

we need be stewards of worth, of mending, of healing, of forward-movement, of equal opportunity. we need to find ways – now – to weave an inclusive, equitable, generous, safe, egalitarian story for all. ungrudgingly and with abundant kindness and good will. it is indeed way, way past time.

2021. what are we doing?

*****

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columbus. a jewel. glistening. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.

living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.

monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.

we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.

just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.

*****

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light or apathy. [merely-a-thought monday]

normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.

like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.

so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.

cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”

goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.

i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.

we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.

yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?

we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.

do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?

“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)

“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)

hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”

apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)

and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?

how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?

might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?

what a blessing that would be.

*****

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i carry your heart. [k.s. friday]

i officiated a wedding last sunday. the bride and groom, their parents, twenty-one attendants and family and friends gathered on a venue patio under the sun on a stunning september afternoon in milwaukee.

reminding them to go slow and drink it all in, they celebrated in a ceremony i wrote for them, personal and intimate, with pieces of their romance and tidbits of what was mutually important to them. we had gathered together to talk, for them to answer questions and tell stories, and i searched for the right poetry, the right music, the right sentiment, the right words, and it was an honor and a privilege to stand in front of them and everyone there on this most important day for this most important ritual. i reminded those attending this wedding that their presence was not passive. they were witnessing this event and, in doing so, were promising to be there for this newly wedded couple, through thick and thin. to stand by them in all times, to help carry them through joys and sorrows, successes and challenges.

“i carry your heart. (i carry it in my heart.)”. i read the words of e.e. cummings as they stood, with tears in their eyes. it was hard not to weep with them. they danced down the aisle after the words, “the light will shine through your skin and they will ask, ‘what have you done with your life?’  and though there are many moments you will remember, in the end, you will be proud to say i was one of us.” life stretches out in front of them. they will be amazed at how their hearts will grow and hold the treasure trove of memories that will come. and, all the while, they will tenderly carry each other’s hearts.

i was supposed to fly that day. i had already purchased a kringle to bring to my sweet momma and poppo at the other end of my flight. but, just before i left for the airport, 20 called and told me to turn on the news. it was surreal and i dropped to the floor of the sitting room in front of the tv. i called my husband, called my beloved children’s schools to have someone tell each of them that i had not gotten on an airplane that morning and i watched the horror unfold that sunny september 11th in new york city.

a friend from yamaha in nyc sent me a picture of the world trade center location where i had just recently performed. it was destroyed. i stayed glued, watching, carrying the hearts of all those worried about someone in those towers, someone in the pentagon, someone on flight 93. it was terrifying to know this was real.

tomorrow is twenty years from the day of this tragedy. though i’m sure not a day goes by that survivors and surviving family members and friends do not think about this, it seems, in the middle of this pandemic and political chaos and climate-changed extreme-weather episodes on a grand scale and divisiveness in the nation, that the marking of this anniversary should remind us, should unite us instead of prompting the sneering that i am viewing on social media.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to defeat this global pandemic and cease the loss of loved ones.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to cross the aisle and embrace inclusivity and fairness and equality for all.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to confront global warming and climate change and save this planet for the children of our children’s children.

it would seem important to come together under the sun to do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever is needed, to turn toward each other, ask questions, have conversation, seek collaboration, surrender agenda, recognize truth, work together.

it would seem important – at the very least – to remember to carry each other’s hearts in our hearts. on wedding days and days of destruction of great proportion. it should all be the same.

*****

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no way back. [d.r. thursday]

when i was little, going over bridges made me nervous. not because i was afraid of heights or because i was wary of infrastructure and thought it would fall down, but because i was nervous about not being able to get back. something about going over bridges made me feel like there was no way back, especially if we were heading in the wrong direction, taking a wrong turn. i did not like to feel lost.

texas is lost. they have traversed a bridge that appears to be a hellish dead end and, i fear, with no way back. the new abortion law in texas that the governor has touted is a despicable piece of legislation, currying to the favor of men and full-scale demeaning women. that the governor would couch this as concern for the “sanctity of life” elicits a visceral response, a sickened-gut feeling. that the governor would ignorantly speak to the six weeks of freedom-to-decide as plenty, as generous even, is a slap in the face of every woman in his state. that he would put a bounty on the heads of anyone helping in this situation is disgusting wild west gunfire into the crowd.

people have spoken since this decision with more eloquence than i might muster at this moment, but it would seem that every one every where needs to speak up. as more governors make moves to further control the rights of women, we need to – we must – speak up, speak out. the ironies stacking up are deplorable piles of dung as we sit and watch legislation and policy skewed against any kind of gender equality being written, being celebrated, being enacted. sanctity is not in the building.

i read an article about the use of words in statistics. number of girls and women raped. number of girls and women sexually assaulted. number of girls and women harassed. number of pregnant teenage girls. violence against women. the use of the passive construction – noting that these descriptors don’t state the number of boys and men who raped women or assaulted women or harassed women or impregnated women or were responsible for violence against women literally shifts the focus off the guilty parties, pretends that these things have simply happened to women.

it’s hard not to be hugely cynical, disenchanted, about a country that clearly measures women’s rights differently than it measures men’s, that cares about women differently than it cares about men. once again, that yardstick is two-headed and those wielding it speak out of both sides of their mouths.

cynical. disenchanted. yes. these words. from desiderata they seem so hopeful, yet… “neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.”

perennial. usually a positive word. perennial flowers. perennial love. yet, in the docket of these days, what is perennial is the absolute denial of respect and rights for women. it is tiresome to watch the constant lostness. instead of bridges to better times, better health, equality and respect for all, a lifting up of those oppressed, bridges are being built to places of continual control, to power unleashed over others, to inequity and doubletalking agenda – with no way back.

it’s no wonder why i didn’t like bridges when i was little. no-way-back is a terrifying place, for a little girl and for a country.

*****

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initiative. [flawed wednesday]

(sign on the door of the milwaukee institute of art & design)

a year and a half.

jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.

two and a half years.

i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.

artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.

though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.

though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.

when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.

“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)

initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

the milwaukee institute of art and design has posted signs on all their doors. they have taken a stance.

wearing a mask in public spaces – and vaccination – have been scientifically proven to lower the rate of transmission, sickness and death of a deadly global pandemic. already a year and a half.

exactly what additional kind of initiative do you need?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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way past time. [d.r. thursday]

she was sitting at a computer desk, a colleague at her own desk behind her. she asked, “what’s the difference between being assertive and being aggressive?” her colleague turned and replied, “your gender.”

the cartoon on facebook made me stop in my tracks. “this captures it better than any dissertation on gender inequality,” i thought. “sad, but so true,” i commented in the little fb box.

yes. it is way past time that the interpretation of women’s words and actions be viewed through the same lens as men’s. it is way past time that women’s intentions be measured with the same stick. it is way past time that women are respected for their strength, their power, their initiative, their intelligence, their skills, their talents, their creativity, their education, their experience, their motivation, their confidence, their risk-taking, their candor, their emotional intellect, their multi-tasking, their persistence, their sisu. it is way past time that women should be expected to simply be sweet. it is way past time that misogynistic men should be allowed to subjugate women – in any way. it is way past time that women be treated equally. it is way past time that you should have to look at an experience and say, as a woman, “if i were a man, would you have handled me this way? would you have spoken to me like this? would your behavior toward me have been acceptable? would you have pushed me down? would anyone have spoken up?” it is way past time for egalitarianism. way, way, way past.

we walked out in the county, sun setting in the western sky. the sunflowers rose high above us, glorious, though waning. is it the end of summer or is it the beginning of fall?

what do you see?

*****

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water and grace. [k.s. friday]

it’s a mystery.  grace.  it falls on us like morning dew, each and every day.  we rise, buoyant or troubled, joyous or grieving, in clarity or murky, in the light or in the dark. we step into next, knowing we have yet another chance. (nov. 22, 2019)

we live within the grasp of lake michigan. we can feel its power, its potency, its glassy peace, its lostness when fog envelops the horizon line and any sense of direction is blurred. the water draws us to it. it is a magnet, especially on blurry days.

things feel a little blurry right now. people all across the globe are struggling, with a wide spectrum of sickness, of loss, with devastating blows to their lives, their families, their homes, their towns, their countries, causes too many to list. blurry and disoriented and lost. existential questions beckon. yet answers are elusive.

there is something about staring at water. taking us out of the moment. each iridescent drop of water lapping at the shore, the mountain stream in the woods, the ocean waves breaking, the jets of water in the park, the pond in the backyard, the tiny fountain in the sunroom. even in our own blurry it reaches us. water. granting a little peace, a little grace.

i just got a card in the mail from one of my beloved nieces. she wrote, “one day it will all fall into place.”

i suppose grace really is like that. mysterious and ubiquitous. it falls on us. like a new day. unexpected and welcome. like a card in the mail. like a surprise text or an unexpected call. it rains down on us and gently re-directs us into next.

we are aware of how often water has shown up in our last year. not peaceful water that we passively have looked at, admiringly. instead, water that demands our participation. water pouring into the basement from a suddenly-broken pipe gasket. water dripping under the sink. water leaking out of the freezer-bottom-fridge, ice having formed from some drainline issue. water coming up from the storm drains downstairs after a heavy rain. water squirting all over from a suddenly broken shower head.

each time water has taken us out of the moment and propelled us into a different moment, in reality, a series of different moments…hours, even days. instead of being where we were, we were cast into roles working together sopping up, plugging the hole, rube-goldberging the fix, figuring out how to deal with the issue at hand and still maintain a sense of humor.

were i to think the universe was watching our every move, i might suggest that these occurred during times of blurry bleary-eyed-ness when perhaps a little re-direction was a good thing. water that washed us past that very time into next. it forced the change in our focus. gave a little clarity when unmoored seemed the the theme. helped us remember that all will fall into place. grace.

neil degrasse tyson said, “where there is water on earth, you find life as we know it.”

perhaps we also find grace.

GRACE from RIGHT NOW (kerri sherwood)

*****

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GRACE ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood