reverse threading

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the blank slate. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are incessant trail-watchers. even after a fascinating show seeking life-in-some-form in some other part of the universe, we took to the trail. with our mind’s eyes full of scientific wonder, we hiked along the pct with the wanderwomen and headingsomewhere and followed redbeard and checked to see if joey coconato posted anything new. on our hike yesterday, somewhere in the middle of our six miles, we talked – again – about hiking the pct. we figure in a few years it might be something we would truly consider.

the pct has plenty of obstacles; many people start this hike but fail to finish it. we read a blogpost (by mac) about some of the challenges. but, the bottom line, as he pointed out, was that “the unknown should instill you with excitement, not fear.”

this week is a time to acknowledge gratitude. with thanksgiving merely a few days away, preparations are a gathering storm. and, though there is a specific day that has been deemed ‘the day’, yesterday as we walked together we talked about our gratitude. we are reminded that there is nary a day that goes by that one shouldn’t be grateful.

yesterday i suddenly realized that i was also actually grateful for the unknown.

the blank slate that is in front of me stares at me. it makes me ponder. it makes me squirm a bit. blank is uncomfortable.

the blank slate that is in front of me beckons me. it makes me step. it makes me put a toe in the water. blank is tentative.

the blank slate that is in front of me challenges me. it makes me yearn. it makes me stretch. blank is exercise.

the blank slate that is in front of me encourages me. it makes me think outside the box. it makes me dream. blank is generous.

the blank slate that is in front of me urges me. it makes me yield to the new. it makes me let go. blank is learning.

the one thing – now – at last – that the blank slate that is in front of me doesn’t do…is scare me.

and for that, i am grateful.

*****

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


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home sweet home. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“get outside.” “expand the confines of your life.” “surround yourself with beauty.” the youtube backpackers wander women kristy, annette and lynn have mantras displayed at the end of their videos. we somehow stumbled upon them; likely it was because they are currently hiking the pacific crest trail and they looked to be somewhere around our age. we have watched joey coconato backpack an inordinate number of times, and we know that we cannot be joey. we can’t even be joey-like. twenty years younger than us, he is stronger and bolder and with a vast amount of experience. the wander women, though also with decades of trail-savvy, made the trail look more accessible to us.

i have been moved by them. a few years ago they talked about what they wanted in life, made a plan and deliberately went about executing their plan. they sold houses, bought a diesel pickup and an rv and started living an itinerant lifestyle that suits their mantras. they are intrepid. one foot in front of another they have ticked off many of the big thru-hikes that linger on the edges of other people’s bucket lists. and, though we have watched them in question and answer videos and in gear videos and on various trails, right now we are following their progress on the pct. amazing. “home is where you are,” annette says, in answer to a question about how they feel about living in an rv and hiking. “you bring home with you,” she explains, totally secure and happy. they are a joy to watch.

most times we pull into the driveway – arriving from anywhere whatsoever – i say, “hello, sweet house.” it matters not how long or how briefly we have been gone; i am happy to be back and i guess i want our house to know it. animating a house is not likely on the restrained-unemotional-dispassionate-disconnected-unsentimental-apathetic spectrum but then i am pretty much an antonym-icon for all that. and i love our home.

that doesn’t mean i couldn’t love another home. i fall in love every time we are in the colorado mountains. i wish i owned most of the airbnb’s we have rented, so incredibly at home we have felt in them. i fell in love with the littlehouse on washington island; it was magical and we instantly bonded. we visited a tiny town in north carolina’s smoky mountains and thought, “we could live here.” we pined over a general store for sale in a tiny town in vermont, a place we could see ourselves hang our hats. my sister’s house, my nieces’ houses, all bring a sense of security and love. each one conjures up comfort. the up-north cabin for the up-north gang is a place of tranquility and laughter. 20’s condo is a place of serenity. friends have homes that are tranquilizing, soft places for our visits.

kristy and annette and lynn carry backpacks with less than 25 pounds of weight: their tents, clothing, food, water, supplies. that makes long-distance hiking sound more doable. “be bold” “challenge yourself” “create your life” they state at the end of another video. these are not empty words, not do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do words. they are living life in just this way. home sweet home for them is most undeniably inside them wherever they go.

the woodpecker who pecked out its house in this tree was just as fearless. undaunted by the size of the fallen log, it did what it knew – it created home. just watching a woodpecker create his own digs makes rv-living or driving up our driveway look like a breeze. i imagine that as the seasons change and life and time move on, there will be other trees in other forests, other home-holes, other places to nest, other welcome mats for this indomitable bird.

at a time when redefining is imminent, i look in the mirror and start to sketch out a plan, start to dream, to re-create life. it’s all amorphous right now, but our happy house – home, sweet home – cheers me on.

*****

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


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joey’s parmesan. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

one of the funniest things to come out of joey coconato’s backpack out in the middle of nowhere was a can of kraft grated parmesan cheese. there were definitely other funny things too, though: a bottle of sriracha, a dozen eggs, avocados, brats, bota box wine. he is not your regular backpacker. joey is not afraid to carry stuff. he’s not afraid to go back-country. and he’s not afraid to bust the norms. passing this display in the grocery store made me laugh aloud and think of joey.

one night recently, in the wee hours, i was awake and, thus, so was david. we chose a PCT trail video to watch and got through the whole video with nary a yawn. they had mentioned mountain house meals, so we were curious. we visited – at 3am – the mountain house website and were astounded to find many meals that sounded so delicious they instantly made us hungry. we were also astonished to find that each one was just shy of $10. that would mean that if we chose to hike the pacific crest trail – for about five months – and each of us had a mountain house meal for breakfast and for dinner – it would cost us (do the math: $10each x2of us x2mealsaday x30daysamonth x5months) about $6000 just for those meals, not to mention lunch or snacks or gear or permits or or or…. so, no wonder joey carries baggies of pasta and flour tortillas and avocados and parmesan. we literally clinked with him (virtually) when he whipped out the bota box of wine to celebrate with his hiking mates.

we haven’t long-distance hiked. yet. i suspect at some point we will try this (or some part thereof). we love hiking and we are addicted to these backpacking trips, these long-distance trails. we have watched joey all through the pandemic. his hikes have kept us sane in days of seesawing sanity. and apparently, though we are just simply joey-fans, we have talked about him enough that we have received email messages asking us for his contact information.

we have viewed john muir hikers in high elevation and appalachian trail hikers in distinctly humid-humidity. continental divide and the colorado trail thru-hikers. norwegian xplorer wherever he hikes. pacific crest trail hikers ‘heading somewhere‘ and ‘walking with purpose‘ have captured our attention as they hike out west right now, live and posting. we felt sad as ‘miles to go‘ gave up her brave and gigantic quest to finish the pct this season. these people are out there – doing life the best they can in the best way they can. present in each moment. we root for each of them. just like we root for joey.

we’re not sure where joey coconato is right now. he hasn’t posted a new video in quite some time. he is one of the best examples of being one with the outdoors we have seen. he has been making his way in the wilderness for years now, respectfully and with all good intention and gratitude, and we guess that the wilderness loves him as much as his viewers do.

we suspect – and hope – that he is safely out there somewhere, pitching his hand-me-down/loaned tent on some ridge or under some trees or in some gorgeous meadow or next to some lake, gazing around his campsite, drinking it all in, taking his clanging aluminum pot off of the outside of his backpack where he has it tied as an alert to bears in the area and is boiling some pasta up and adding in some parmesan – right from the 8 oz can he carries with him. what a good life he lives.

cheers, joey. and all the rest of you hikers out there, carrying the very least and experiencing the very most. don’t forget the parmesan.

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


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no timely manner. [d.r. thursday]

now i understand. at least, i am beginning to understand.

my sweet momma and poppo would linger…watching birds, gazing at flowers, studying the horizon – be it shorefront or mountainside, cityscape or tiny town or rural farmland, slowly taking it in. in the hurry-hurry of my younger years, i would scurry past, noticing but maybe not really.

i am moving slower now. not because i can’t scurry, but because i am choosing to list to the linger side. though we still watch re-runs after re-runs of joey hiking and climbing and backpacking and pitching tents any and everywhere, imagining ourselves in those canyonlands keeping up, imagining ourselves on the pct or the john muir or the colorado trail, i know that our pace would not match the pace of joey or the exuberant younguns on heading somewhere or walking with purpose or the meticulous norwegian xplorer. we would be slower, lingering, lingering. i’m not sure that would get us from point a to point b successfully or in a timely manner, but i’m thinking that our definition of ‘timely manner’ may have to just be different. because now – in the middle of this grand middle age – is different.

for now i want to watch the birds and gaze at flowers up-close. i want to stop and stare, drop to sit on a nearby log and take it in. i want to notice the intricasies of all of it, the undertones, the overtones.

as i look at the close-up of this milkweed trailside i am struck by the layers of detail. it somehow makes me recall decisions between the major chord and the relative minor, a continuum of impact. it makes me think of melodic gestures, a spectrum of color and of grace. a horsehair brush extended from the heights of the universe, painting perfection in the woods. artists’ hands waving paint on canvas, cupping clay on a wheel, flying over the white and black on a piano, coaxing lines that make you weep from a cello. all the same. creation in all its iterations.

on the call pat told me that the music – my music – had harmonics, tuned with the universe, that made her travel. humbling.

for i see that is what my momma and poppo were doing. traveling. they allowed the beauty around them to touch them, to slow them down, convincing them – in all the infinite glory that beauty -and art- can muster – that ‘a timely manner’ was relative, that time was relative. that time spent in a slow linger was precious.

*****

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boomer farmers. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i cut some valentino basil to toss with tomatoes and olive oil over pasta. in an eat-less-meat effort, d grilled some tilapia. we ate outside at the table under the umbrella where we could catch wafting basil coming from the potting stand and from the little trunk across the deck. we congratulated ourselves on our farming…at least so far, anyway. it remains to be seen how long we might be successful, whether the tomato plants will ever offer actual cherry tomatoes and if the basil will do that leggy thing that basil plants do when you don’t have natural green thumbs.

keith told us to watch the millennial farmer. since we have run out of joey coconato’s youtube backpacking videos and have literally watched each one at least twice, we tried the millennial farmer on for size. keith lives in a farming community and knows about tractors and fields and heavy equipment much much more than we do, but, we have to admit, after having searched for the first of the videos, we have a deeper appreciation for all of that and we know that the millennial farmer might likely tease at our measly stand of hopeful plants. no worries, we boomer farmers are happy and, more importantly, not overwhelmed by our choices. mostly, we love tomato and basil drizzled in olive oil tossed over pasta or in caprese salads. and any planting is still planting.

we had mulled over flowers for the potting stand. it’s in full sun most of the time so that meant we needed to make some careful choices. we are very aware of what we’re spending these days so that factored in as well. when we ultimately decided to just simply plant a few edibles we were excited and went to several nurseries to choose our plants. lowes got our attention for their $6.98 tomato plants – dwarf indeterminates – which we learned means that they will stay smaller and will bear fruit throughout the season instead of just once. milaegers got our vote for their basil. the valentino smelled heavenly and sweet and looked incredibly healthy (to us) at only $3.99. a few big old clay pots out of the garage and sweeping off the barnwood-and-pipe plant stand and we were set. tomatoes and basil – “soulmates on and off the plate.” ready for a summer of lightly tossed pasta and insalata caprese.

now, zach johnson – the millennial farmer in minnesota – might have some advice for us. the diagnostics and computerized tools and mapping and equipment that they use to choose planting distances and tilling and depths and variable rate seed installation and seed choices and seasons are mind-boggling, not to mention the super-sized mechanical equipment like tractors and combines and seeders and cultivators. the science of farming, the art of farming, he makes it all sound both easier and much more complex than we could imagine. his love and nurturing of the land, his life and his fifth-generation farm are obvious.

men’s health magazine calls his youtube channel “peak relaxation” though that is simply because we are armchair-boomer-farmer-watching. zach’s wise intention, according to his channel, is “to build the connection between farmers and consumers.”

we understand. we are now both. ok, ok. light on the farmer, heavy on the consumer. no barn here. just us and our potting stand, two tomato plants and a basil. and an appreciation for real farmers everywhere.

*****

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


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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

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youwannabanana? [d.r. thursday]

smack-dab in the middle of the night. like every night. i lay awake listening to the peaceful, gently-breathing sighs and sounds of him sleeping. sleeping! the gall!

and so, smack-dab in the middle of the night, i wake him up. since, smack-dab in middle-age, we decided to share our lives, it only seems right that we share our non-sleep moments as well as our sleep moments.

we are not alone. it would seem, especially in these times, that there is a lot – a hell of a lot – of insomnia going on. it is likely i could, should i choose to, have a texting conversation with most of my friends in the wee hours. we’d all be completely and utterly awake, completely and utterly coherent. perhaps more coherent in the wee-wee hours than in the day, when we are weary from the night.

when one lays awake at night and ponders all of life, one uses up much energy. and thus, i get hungry. and not just a little. in the ‘olden days’ (read: when we first married) we used to get up and make pancakes. there is nothing like midnight pancakes to soothe the weary soul. but we have cut to the chase these days and choose, instead, a shortcut to satisfying midnight hunger pangs. and so i poke at his shoulder and ask, “youwannabanana?”

post-banana we sit, happy lights turned low, and chat. there are no real rules to this. sometimes we watch a trail and joey coconato ultimately tucks us back in to sleep. sometimes ‘grace and frankie’ make a middle-of-the-night cameo appearance. eventually, and it’s heavy on the eventual, we settle back in and sometimes i end up snoozing in-between hot flashes and heaving blankets and pulling blankets up and moving pillows and removing pillows. it’s exhausting. but somehow, it is not sleep-inducing.

i don’t know much. but i do know this: we’re smack-dab in the middle of middle-age. and by golly, we are going to celebrate THAT.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY** – as we introduce SMACK-DAB

SMACK-DAB ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com

** and, by the way, i don’t REALLY “guffaw”.


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here. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

joey coconato has an undying love and appreciation of this place – earth – in all its constant beauty, in all its ever-fluid beauty. we have hiked with him many, many late nights of this pandemic, breathing easier because he is trekking, climbing, scrambling. we are ready to rest at the end of his journeys, the end of videos that have fed our souls. his spirit is inimitable and he is a completely understated positive force in the world. he is a leader led, himself, by a willingness to not-know, to focus on what’s up-close and to focus on the big picture, to see more, to adventure into knowledge. he looks for the good. despite some extreme circumstances, we have not heard him, out on the trail, speak negatively nor have we heard him crabby. not one iota. his life-view seems to simplify it all into gratitude for every step. his point-of-view seems to simplify it all into a peaceful co-existence with all that is natural, all that is living. he does not participate with the same measuring stick that others wield. and for that, he is in calm harmony with the world.

he stood in the vastness one day, mountains and canyons all around him, surrounded by trees he loves and lakes the colors of which cannot be found even in crayola 64 boxes, and with awe in his voice uttered, “it has been here every single day of my life.” he looked around; we looked around with him.

every single day of my life. it has been here.

the days he backpacked the maroon bells were particularly close to us. my daughter, with her adventurer heart, took us on a hike up into the maroon bells area. to see joey hike there was to relive the moments we, with her, stood at lake’s edge or caught glimpses of the towering red rock through the trees of the trail. precious time. treasured. his days in canyonland national park brought me right back to moments with her, just us on the edge of the precipice, laughter echoing across the canyon walls. unbelievably vivid in my mind’s eye, i am beyond grateful.

it has been a source of amusement for david and kirsten to speak of the moments i well up and cry – those first moments of seeing the mountains in the distance, the approach into the canyon, the arches of sweeping rock. i am overcome in these times as i stand on dirt that has been there forever and, with our dedicated efforts to mitigate climate change, will be there forever. it’s overwhelming. the sense of timelessness, of vastness, of my tiny-ness. i realize i cannot presume anything but the moment at hand, but i am reminded we are each part of the big picture, no matter how many moments or how few we are a part of them. we are each part of the change that takes place because we breathe. this earth would not be the same without us…we are dust of its dust.

so when joey stands still and is awestruck remembering, i draw in my breath with him.

every single day of my life. it has been here.

*****

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


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joey’s 20/20. [two artists tuesday]

we hang out with joey coconato every night. we hike out west with him on back-country trails, on high mountain ridges, in glacier national park and yellowstone, in the tetons and canyonlands. we camp in tiny tents and eat meals out of bags, filter our water and hang our food way up in trees. joey is easy in this world and he has inspired us day after day, taking us one more day through this pandemic, breathing fresh air into another evening when we turn off the news, the dessert for the odd buffet that is life these days. joey’s camera captures the tiny and the vast, things that become indelible in your mind’s eye – the beauty is astounding. we see glimpses of him hiking when his selfie stick leads the way or when he painstakingly plants his tripod and creates the chance to watch. otherwise, we see these trails through joey and we are grateful for his keen eyesight and his love of the outdoors. for him, the mountains and the trail seem to make all things 20/20; he is clear and committed and profoundly capable. joey sees the up-close and he sees that which is far away, both are part of his focus, the details and the big picture.

although he does not consider himself a guide, sometimes joey will have others join him on the trail. i’m guessing it is important to him that their goal for the potential of the hike would be similar, that their respect of mother earth and the basics of backpacking etiquette would be allying, that the bottom line of the trail would be the stunning goodness of being a part of the outdoor miracles of nature. it is clear by his grand hiking successes, alone and in tandem with others, that he values those around him, that he embraces sameness and differences. his generous spirit in his gorgeous workplace is not commanding nor controlling with his hiking partners. he has an overall intention, he has made all the proper regulatory reservations and permits, and he looks to his partners-on-the-trail, people he obviously trusts won’t put him in harm’s way, for input. he listens and he considers what they say, whether it is complimentary of his efforts or is critical or probing of plans he has made; he respects the dignity of each person he is with. if they push back or question him, he, without ego or agenda, looks for clarity and truth. he regularly features these trekkers and always speaks to their strengths. he films them as they hike, as they choose their own boulders on their way down the scramble-field. he encourages them. he empowers them. he takes a back seat and quietly goes about being the expert that he is and together they all get there – to the next campsite, down the next canyon, to the next summit. he is a natural leader.

my gaze alternatively shifts from the icicles in this photograph to the trees, back and forth, icicles, trees, icicles, trees. i can feel the cold air on my face staring at the sculptural ice and the changing color of the sky behind the trees gives me pause, makes me remember the day will soon end and a new day will again be upon us. it’s 20/20 this vision – clear that both exist, co-exist even.

20/20 vision is a funny thing. according to the aao, the american academy of ophthalmology, only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without corrective lenses. with correction, 75% of adults have this vision while 25% just don’t see very well at all. so, at best, what we see is somewhat subjective, centered on our own focus, our own viewing lens. i’m pretty certain that in life this pertains to all manners of vision. so many lenses.

these days our lenses have a pandemic-limitation as we respect the boundaries of what we should or shouldn’t do, where we should or shouldn’t go. we know that we don’t necessarily align with everyone else in our choices, but we are painstakingly figuring out how to go about life in this very difficult time, constricted and staying on the trail for the time being. now – with over 500,000 good people in our country who have died from this insidious virus – is not the time to split hairs over alliances. instead, it is the time to recognize the big picture co-existing with the tiniest details and to stay as laser-focused as possible on working together, in unity, in community, with love. now – in this time of the kind of extreme angst not seen in a century – is not the time to cease conversation, to cease looking to each other for input, to cease collaborating. it is not the time for commanding or controlling or invoking fear. perched on a cliffwall, trail transparency and accountability as guideposts, reality as his north star, joey knows all that. he is a natural leader.

so right now, if someone – in any arena, on any mountain – says, “your vision doesn’t align with ours,” i can’t help but wonder about their version of leadership. what does that really mean? whose 20/20 counts? is it the icicles or the trees? or is it both?

maybe i’ll ask joey.

*****

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