reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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newton’s cradle pendulum. [d.r. thursday]

it’s some time after sundown – the time we have declared happy hour. we aren’t at a bar or a lounge or a restaurant or a pub. if we are lucky, we are outside somewhere – in the woods, on a trail, even in our backyard sitting by the pond in the last wee bit of waning sunlight.

these days – when cold gets through our fleece quarter-zips and vests – we are likely to be found at the happy-lit table in front of the window in our sunroom, dogga by our feet. we will put a christmas tree out there on the deck and it will add festivity to the string of lights out back.

in these last days we have encountered major stress. i mean, what couple hasn’t? we have returned to a place of unemployment. there is a big sense of loss, there is anger, there is tremendous angst. though no fault of ours – the company closed its doors entirely – there is also some embarrassment…to be back here. all of this – loss, anger, angst, embarrassment – adds up to shorter tempers than usual and some listing on the side of hopeless, incredulous. all of that – i wouldn’t be honest if i didn’t say it – adds up to some ugly moments. we are struggling to stay balanced, to stay even. this is our story. we know everyone has one.

so we instituted a new rule. a survival rule. during happy hour – regardless of beverage – spirits or not – we will list the gratitudes of the day. from the tiniest morsel to bigger wins, we are taking turns remembering the day and all it brought and we are choosing to speak to the kindnesses, the beauty, the accomplishments, the striving, even the bite of flax-4-life brownie. anything. nothing is measured. nothing is off the table. it all counts.

so as the sun goes down on the trail and we haul to the finish as quickly as possible, we express gratitude for the palette in the sky, for the leaves crunching under our feet, for being able to get outside, for each other. we choose to let go the hard-hard moments, knowing that being human is a pendulum. there will be surprises of good and surprises of not-good. and, like newton’s cradle pendulum with its perpetual-motion swinging kinetic balls, it will just keep going. back and forth. back and forth.

sunset, sunrise.

we are lucky to be here.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

PAX (peace) 24″ x 24″


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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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polly and anna. [merely-a-thought monday]

there is a fine line between security and insecurity, a line that runs invisible through days of buoyancy and through days of challenge. we have seen it – that line – when we least expect it, just at the moments you are beginning to breathe, at the instant you are sinking a little into ease.

i suppose that having crossed the line – back and forth, back and forth – gives us the ability to tread water, to sort, to distinguish that which is important and that which is not. but that tiny vibration that sometimes trembles in my chest returns, despite any pollyanna-ing i attempt.

we sat in a starbucks the other day. i mean, literally – physically – went inside, stood at the counter, and used some gift money that had been sitting on our app foreverrr. and then we sat there and sipped coffee and shared one of those lemon cake slices with the schmear of sweet frosting. it felt out-of-body…it had been sooo long since we sat in a starbucks.

over d’s head on the opposite wall the words “you’ll make it” got my attention. i was hoping it wasn’t the universe simply placating me. i was thinking more of digging out the colorful magnetic plastic letters circa 1995 and pulling out d-a-m-m-i-t for the fridge. but i guess i will have to choose to believe otherwise, leaning on both polly and anna.

“you’ll make it” – good words when you can see the line.

i sipped my pike roast and listened to laverne and shirley’s silk-flowerish theme song in my head, “there is nothing we won’t try. never heard the word impossible. this time there’s no stopping us. we’re gonna make it…”.

sometimes, though, you just have to sigh.

*****

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



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on-the-bench & off-the-bench. [d.r. thursday]

every sunday morning for years and years we have sent a photograph to each other. every single sunday, mostly without fail. there might be one or two we missed, but no more than that. it is a cherished tradition and i envision us as little old ladies still sending texted photos on sunday mornings.

it started because most people we know are not sitting on a pipe organ bench first thing on a sunday morning. since we both were, we shared “this is where i am in the world right now and i am thinking of you” sentiments, knowing, without saying all those words, the other would completely understand all that meant.

for over a year now i have continued to receive them: benchviews, a slice of her church, a close-up of a pew or ornate woodwork, a candle, linens draped on the chancel, flowers, registration stops of the organ, piano keys, measures of music – all while my photos to her have dramatically changed.

instead, my early sunday morning photographs include various quilts, coffee mugs, shadows playing on the wall or on the fence, views of snow falling between miniblinds, the backyard, airbnb’s where we have awakened, out-of-town-out-the-window, glorious breakfast, and dogdog. the rule is – where you are right now – and since that is no longer at a church my view is sometimes narrower and sometimes broader, both.

not working at church every single sunday has given me much to think about. at first i really missed it. truth, for a long time i really missed it. thirty-something years is a long time. i was devastated by the loss of our community-family and a job i loved. i missed the organ bench and knowing which pipes were ornery and the choir and the ukulele band and those hauntingly beautiful handbells. i missed the curmudgeon of a piano. i missed dueting with the guitarist – boom mics and cables and the occasional feedback. i missed the tiny pew up front and the familiar musty smell of the balcony.

each church i worked at through the years has had its magic. but each church i worked at through the years has also had its toxins. not unlike -really- any other place of employment, being on the “inside” affords a different view – snapshots of the good, the bad and, definitely, the ugly. churches are not immune to that. and that’s the stuff i don’t miss.

because in our hearts, the one place we go that we would expect to be consistent, certainly not divergent, with mission – of kindness and grace in some manner or form – would be the religious institution we have chosen to be part of. we would expect the people there – whether in leadership or in congregation – to go the extra mile, to set an example, to navigate and solve difficulty, to negotiate differences, to reject-forswear-renounce personal agenda, to seek unity and transparency, to sort to love.

seeing – up close and personal – that isn’t the case is a rude awakening. no, we don’t expect perfection anywhere. yes, we do expect trying.

i adore seeing susan’s from-the-bench pictures, all so viscerally intimate and always part of me. and i love sending her my view as well. so, as it has been for over a year now, she’ll continue to get photos off-the-bench now. it’s not what it was.

dogga laid tucked in on the quilt next to me as i sipped coffee and watched the light gather in corners of the room. sunday morning. i took this picture to send her.

and i realized that i – finally – don’t miss that organ bench anymore.

*****

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cut out. [d.r. thursday]

i hadn’t looked at the original since he extracted what he felt was a better painting. the 9×12 canvas he just mounted is, oh goodness, a close-up of my face, though fortunately painted as more of a profile than a full face straight-on. in its previous iteration it was part of a painting of me directing a ukulele band rehearsal in our home, on a humid summer evening when all gathered here to play and practice and talk and share lives. now it’s a lovely small painting and, though it is of me, i can see what he likes about it.

i hadn’t looked at the original until just now when he came upstairs with this photograph to use in today’s blogpost. with enthusiasm and laughing, he said, “let’s use this today!” i reached over to look at the photograph on the iphone in his hand and my heart dropped.

this is the way i feel about my previous job. cut out. my face was cut out, leaving behind the legacy and fun and music of the ukulele and, for that matter, all the other music that was created and offered with love and celebrated and made a community joyful. simply cut out. boxcutter-straight-edge-cut-out. erased.

as i keep glancing at this photograph to write about the image, it doesn’t change. as a matter of fact, my reaction is becoming more intense instead of lessening. it takes my breath away. it’s bracing.

i have tried to explain to others what this felt like – to articulate this cutting-out. i know that many people experience downsizing and rightsizing and personnel changes in their positions. mostly these are jobs in corporate america with possibly six-figure incomes and benefits, healthcare and 401k’s, though this is not always the case. there is often not a heavy emotional tie, though this is not always the case. there is often not a family community, though this is not always the case. there is often not a deep sense of loyalty and long-term commitment to growth of the organization, though this is not always the case.

but in my case, in this position that had no benefits whatsoever and a salary that wouldn’t touch six figures even if it had whopping ten percent increases for the next decade, in this position heavy on emotional ties and family community and loyalty and commitment and heart, this trimmed painting depicts how it feels. still.

stunningly, without melodrama, just a straight-up two-dimensional portrait of an emotion in a three-dimensional world, i have now found the way to articulate it – in a simple image.

my face, with no explanation, was cut out.

and i don’t know what else to say.

david named this painting ‘beautiful k.dot’

*****

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BEAUTIFUL K.DOT ©️ 2021 david robinson


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the broken salad bowl. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i broke my mom’s salad bowl last night. it wasn’t fancy; it was a simple glass bowl, shaped in the letter v. but i loved using it for salads and quinoa tabouli and all kinds of fruit. it slipped from my grasp in the sink and, despite my best efforts at rescue, broke in two large pieces. i was instantly saddened, not because i get upset when things break, but because it was my sweet momma’s and using it was a silken connected tie.

we were on i-70 driving across denver and stuck in traffic. we played leap-frog with several vehicles as we inched forward. one of them had a sticker that read “extreme rightwing” and another had this sticker “humankind. be both.” i am betting you can guess the one with which i felt in alignment. i wanted to roll down big red’s window further than i already had it and call out the window, “love your sticker!” but i didn’t. instead, i photographed it, trying to look casual, like i wasn’t taking a picture of their vehicle, and thought about how i instantly liked them.

my sweet momma, the former owner of the now-broken salad bowl, was a firm believer in kindness. her favorite saying, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” was a john wesley quote. this is not the first time i have told of her kindness to others…all others.

as my mom prepared to move into assisted living she started giving away things she wouldn’t be bringing with her. she gave away her couch to a neighbor who needed one; she gave her dining table to another neighbor without a place around which to gather her family. she let things go, with love and caring moving them out the door to their new homes. she didn’t hesitate. it wasn’t about the stuff; it was simply about helping those in need of something she had. we just heard that many of the things in david’s parents’ house, that is being emptied now, have been given to neighbors and people who need particular items. a gesture of paying the generosity we are afforded forward, i immediately thought back to my mom’s own altruism in her time of transition.

these last months have been very challenging for us. i was devastated when, in this time of pandemic and after losing our other two positions, and at the start of my ninth year there, i lost my job. confusion and fear and dreadful sadness at losing my living, all the effort and love i had put into growing a music program, the loss of my dear community, all ran rampant in my heart. the stages of grief, including anger, lined up and for the last five months, i have tried to sort through all of what i have felt. the other day i drove past my former place of employment and just was overcome with how intensely weird it felt, how intensely weird the whole travail has been.

but in the middle of all of this weirdness, the lack of communication, the non-effort at mitigating whatever was seemingly accepted as an ousting-reason, there have been people. humans. kind humans. little by little people have reached out – in generosity and kindness. and, for that, the way has been a little less scary, a little less painful. the ties to the place, astoundingly, considering the place, are broken – irretrievably – shattered into a dark hole in a million shards. but the silken connections of people – from a full compass of our lives – extend in warm embrace. humankind. be-ing both.

i guess the next time i make salad or tabouli i’ll use the big stainless steel bowl – the one that also used to be my mom’s. it’s unbreakable. just like my tie to her.

*****

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


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the black bin in the middle. [d.r. thursday]

personally, i like the black bin in the middle of the room. right now, it gives me a sense of peace, or, more accurately, less of a sense of panic. in our seemingly neverending plumbing story, we are still seeking the proper gasket for our dysfunctional coupling. we were behind a local plumbing truck on the way to lowes. this business has operated in our town for four decades servicing all these old houses with their variety-pack of fittings and pipes and unions and o-rings and such. as i told a friend, it was a universe-is-laughing-at-us moment as we drove behind this truck that i just knew had shelving with old disheveled water-stained cardboard boxes full of the exact gasket we needed. i wanted to jump out of littlebabyscion at a stoplight and run up to his driver’s window and knock-knock-knock on it and beg him to check the ratty cardboard boxes for this gasket, which of course, he probably had in his pocket, upon which i would offer him 10 or 20 dollars for this simple vintage rubber 79 cent piece. it didn’t happen, of course. i’m quite sure that he would have done anything to avoid my panicked face in his window. and so, we are still on the quest. and learning a lot about gaskets and o-rings and sheet-and-ring gaskets and fun stuff. someone said to me yesterday, “oh, like that’s something you really want to know about!” but i disagreed. though i wish the tiny leak would stop, i am finding the puzzling-out of it a great learning process. a creative process, let’s just say. so. the black bin in the middle of the room.

soon we will piece back together david’s studio down in that space. he’s bringing paintings back into the light and we gaze at them as he recalls much of this pandemic year, time spent without painting. i know this feeling as i enter my own studio upstairs. a crate of cantatas i composed, some resource books i have used for decades, a few decorations from the choir room i used to occupy – they sit along the side wall of my studio, the remainder of what i need to file away, put away, throw away. i, too, have not spent time in my studio creating. it’s the wrists, it’s the job-loss, it’s the pandemic … it’s a long time of fallow, i suppose. it is the juxtaposition of art that makes a living and art that is living. it’s a sort of betrayal by art. it’s feeling that which you have dedicated yourself to letting you down. it’s change. it’s a time of discernment. it’s a time of confusion. it’s a time of loss. it’s a time of not-found-yet. it’s a time of grief. it’s complex. it’s a mixed bag.

we laid awake in the middle of the night. we had a banana, our traditional middle-of-the-night snack. we talked. we grappled with the year-of-years we have all had. once again, for the millionth time, we tried to sort it out.

we talked about my snowboarding-broken wrists and a community of leadership that never reached out to me. we wondered aloud. we talked about the pandemic breaking out, virtual-work, exponential curves of connecting to others online. people, including us, losing positions we loved to a virus that shut everything down. we talked about financial hardship, too common a denominator. we wondered aloud. we talked about the terrifying covid numbers we watched on the news – climbing, climbing, climbing. we wondered aloud. we talked about political division, a time of chaos and the amping-up of bigotry, complicity and vitriolic rhetoric. we wondered aloud. we talked about isolation, people missing people. we wondered aloud. we talked about the civil unrest in our town, deaths-by-automatic-weapon a few blocks over, curfews, fires, boarded-up businesses. we wondered aloud. we talked about my fall in the fall, a whopping new wrist ligament tear and, again, a community of leadership that did not reach out. we talked about losing my long-term job. we talked about the silence of others. we wondered aloud. we talked about david’s dad and his move to memory care, his mom and her spinning grief and loss-paralysis. we wondered aloud. we talked about our sweet babycat and his sudden dying, the heartwrenching hole. we wondered aloud. we talked about the lack of security, rampant. we talked about extreme gun violence and people’s hatred of anything-they-aren’t. we wondered aloud. we talked about exhaustion, pervasive and overwhelming all of us. and we wondered aloud.

not much sleep.

we’ll find a gasket that works soon. or we’ll call a real plumber in. and maybe, little bit by little bit, our artistry will call to us – to trust it, trust ourselves. it will remind us that it is not responsible for making a living. it will ask us to look around at that which is of solace to others in these times, regardless of lacking financial reward: it is music, it is visual art, it is the written word. it is art and it is living.

and, for some time to come, the black bin will sit in the middle of the studio. to remind us of the process.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the glowing orange ball. [k.s. friday]

the sun was setting over the mown hayfield. i pulled over to capture it, to watch. the heavy cloud cover was passing and the glowing orange ball owned the horizon. day was ending. night would bring rest. and a new day would dawn.

in this world where we rotate ever-in-motion, there is assurance of a new day. there will be another dawn. and then, after a day of time-spent, there will be another dusk. and then, after a night of time-spent, there will be another dawn.

as we wake these mornings now, we look to the horizon for little bits of hope, little bits of new-day reassurance.

we grasp onto the transition to a new administration for our country, compassion and decency and brilliant minds guiding us.

we clench onto the way out of the pandemic raging across our country, across our world. we double-down on our decision to choose safety over the overwhelming desire to be done-with-it.

we try to feel a little less tired, a little less exhausted by it all. we try to refill our meager energy with the adrenaline of new.

we all seize tiny pieces of sun as we struggle with the anxiety of these recent days. we crawl out of the shadows bit by bit. so many of us have much to try and comprehend, much of which to try and make sense.

all of our personal stories include the loss of loved ones, the loss of good health, the loss of stability, the loss of basic needs, the loss of movement, the loss of community. all of our personal stories bring shade into places we yearn for sun.

i grapple with the grief of losing a career, with hypocrisy and isolation, with no real understanding of what-just-happened. i have conversations in my mind with people who turned a blind eye, who collegially turned their backs, who refused to have any conversation, who never asked questions, who alluded, who made assumptions, who never reached out, who seemed to care less, who would not even look at me. i squeeze closed my eyes tightly to try and forget and look to the glowing sky of a new day and take a step.

we grapple with starting the story of a new beginning. in the middle of all this, new beginnings are elusive, like trying to catch a ray of light in your hands.

we all grapple with this time of darkness. we know we are waiting for the sun to touch our faces and bring hope.

we know it will show up each new day – in people who love us, in kindnesses and care we receive and offer to others, in reaching out, in honest eye-to-eye contact, even over our masked faces, in generously listening to each other, in asking questions and learning, in working together, in the glowing orange ball on the horizon. and each new day we take it in, just a little bit more.

*****

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EACH NEW DAY from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood