reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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less is more. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

post-burlap-tan-horse-stall-chic bedroom decor, my room became a giant smile face. flowers and smileys everywhere, playing white and yellow with an orange shag rug. i had a giant smiley face poster on my door; beware to the grumpygus who might enter. smile or don’t come in!

the smiley face – “invented” in 1963 (when i was merely 4) was a morale booster developed by the designer harvey ball for the employees of an insurance company. the staying power of that simple icon is amazing! like the nike swoosh, developed by graphic-student-at-the-time-carolyn davidson (who, incidentally was paid a whopping $35), it has endured. it is, i’m sure, every graphic designer’s dream to come up with something so simple, so recognizable and so defining of a company or a product or an initiative. less is more.

many years ago i sat in my studio at my piano on speakerphone. one of the sales teams at astrazeneca was on the other end of the phone, their products – breast cancer pharmaceuticals. the team was passionately raising awareness and pursuing new and established launches. the astrazeneca team was working on a trademark – “in your corner” – and, having done much performance work in the oncological world, with many pharma companies, and with astrazeneca, i had written a song for them. it was in the earlier 2000s and speaker phone was the best we could do. after greeting everyone i played simple, straightforward lyrics, potent and direct, a simple catchy melody. less is more. the team loved it.

nothing ever came of that song. much like any pitching designer – whether graphic or product vision statement or slogan or logo or fashion or music or jingle – can tell you, more ideas are shelved than ever make it past the cutting floor. but somehow the cleanest ones sometimes make it through. my favorite designs are often the simplest gestures. my favorite songs are often the simplest melodies. my favorite fashions – yes, yes, i know i am not a fashionista – are the simplest clothes.

we walked along the lakefront past the beach where folks had set up umbrellas and small beach canopies, beach towels and plastic pails, picnic baskets and, off to the side, grills. so much happy. as we left the park and glanced down to turn onto the street sidewalk, there it was. this rock, painted with a happy smiley face. its simplicity made it noticeable. less is more, tucked into the grass next to the sidewalk.

there is nothing quite as appealing as someone smiling at you. during this time of covid and mask-wearing, that has been a missing link. we pass by others and the simple gesture, which so often sets the tone in an exchange, is awol, hidden under very-important-pandemic-masks. and so, we don’t know. there have been times when, not certain if my eyes are telling the story, i have literally said aloud, “i’m smiling under here.” the smiley-laughing face emoji is the most universally used. people want others to know they are smiling, laughing. that someone else’s presence or words or antics have made them smile or laugh. a happy face tells them that. simple. more.

we left the rock where we saw it. i can’t imagine how many people smiled as they passed it by. kudos to the artist who, with all the colors in the palette, chose to pick black and white and paint a simple smiley face.

*****

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

(my vintage happy face wastebasket – showing its age)


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love. no caveats. [merely-a-thought monday]

in a few weeks i will officiate a wedding. a gigantic honor, it is the wedding of dearest friends’ son. though i have known him over a decade, we sat in their backyard and he and his fiancee told the story of their romance, sweet and full of lovely vulnerable anecdotes. i asked a lot of questions and we all laughed a lot. there were a few tears – joy does that. they left it up to me to write the ceremony. gigantic honor. celebrating love.

in the weeks since our backyard circle together, we have wordsmithed and finessed, added ritual and music and i’ve reminded them to take their time, to not rush through this ceremony – that which is most important – to give themselves the space to be able to memorize each second of it. i want them to be able to see in their mind the look in each other’s eyes as they exchange the vows they have written, the scent of flowers on the breeze in the outdoors, the way her dress moves as she moves, the way he grins at her. slowly, deliciously, celebrating love in front of family and friends.

i have participated in so many weddings through the years. i have played pipe organ or piano or guitar and i have sang. i have run wedding rehearsals and i have offered thoughts on pieces of music that express what a couple might want expressed. celebrating love for each other, love for the unconditional support of those present witnessing their marriage.

i have also participated in many funerals through the years. again, playing or singing. again, offering thoughts on music. always celebrating love for the person no longer on the earth.

i read a disturbing account of a funeral this morning. the comments that followed were even more appalling. completely filled with -isms of all sorts, i was dismayed at pointed comments made toward the mayor of chicago, a woman of color, in a same-sex marriage, a different religion than the place of the funeral, attending to show her condolences. she was given communion and all hell has broken loose. the comments by hundreds of crowing allegedly-well-studied and righteous folks were enlightening. there was no love expressed here. only pious opinions, statements of judgment and wishes for her conversion, declarations of ‘faith’ rules, but no love.

clearly the people responding to this post about this funeral have not read anne lamott, “the movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.” “…try(ing) not to feel and act so entitled” was apparently not in the wheelhouse of those writing. and, taking a breath before spewing, they clearly did not pray the words, “help me not be such an ass,” which, as anne writes, is “actually the fourth great prayer” after ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’. i was utterly disgusted. celebrating love?

i keep learning. the lessons come each day. a little progress. i try to remember the movement of grace, try to express gratitude, try to let go, try not to be an ass. i check in at the end of the day and realize, once again, that sometime in that day i failed.

but the words of raymond carver (in his poem ‘late fragment‘) remind me of something: “and did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? i did. and what did you want? to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” love.

all around us, people are celebrating belovedness – the challenges and the blisses. in new commitments, longheld relationships, new babies, children flying, new adventures together, routine days, mistakes, forgivenesses, long nights, new days.

“grace, progress, blessings continue to be given to you, because god gives. it’s god’s job.” (anne lamott)

no matter who or what deity in the universe you feel connected to, no matter what you call this supreme being, no matter your religion or not, i personally believe this. goodness pretty much is the bottom line.

when it was time to leave a visit together, my sweet momma would say, “be kind to each other.” she had no caveats. neither does love.

*****

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


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free-hearted. [two artists tuesday]

with a cowboy hat perched on his head, he rode toward us on the trail through the woods, his gorgeous horse nickering as they approached. as he passed by he looked down at us, smiled and said, “you look like you like each other.” we squeezed arms, already linked and thanked him, telling him that we do like each other, most of the time.

as we left the trailhead parking lot that day, an athletic-shirted mohawk-haired motorcycle guy looked over at us crossing the lot to littlebabyscion and gravelled, “you two look good!” we are not even close to cool and gravelly in appearance, but this guy’s comment warmed our hearts and put a little jaunt into those last steps after a few miles of hot and humid hiking.

we have been the recipients of many sweet comments along the way. i don’t know if it’s simply because we usually walk – and hike – arm in arm or if we are just somehow comment-magnets. it is usually something like what these gentlemen said to us and it’s always unexpected. the guy trimming his trees, the woman stepping out of her car in her driveway, the guy passing us in gunnison on the sidewalk, the gal in the grocery store…all positive words which have upped the ante of our days, the free-hearted surprise-gifting us.

my momma was like this. she would speak simple kindnesses to people she passed by, gentle words of compliment to people she knew, generous encouragement and – even unruly – cheering on for those she loved. it makes a difference. in each case. just a little positivity wave starts concentric circles outward. every time.

i don’t know if that cowboy speaks to everyone, but i know he impacted our day. he could have just ridden past, me gazing back at his horse, pining, as he rode on. but instead, he spoke and, in seven words, he reminded us of goodness. i wonder how many people he touched that day on the trail.

any time i have reached out to another, recognizing to them something beautiful, something helpful, something of gratitude, something in their demeanor or their appearance, something touching, it has been restorative for me and, though i will never know, i hope it circled out from them. on or off the hiking trail. on or off the sidewalk. in or out of the store.

i know – that on any given day – i have seven extra words to give away. even ten. or more.

i’ll just grab my virtual cowboy hat on the way out to the world.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a little bitta chalk. [merely-a-thought monday]

sidewalk chalk is pretty cheap. we have several little buckets of it, all different colors, chunky and at the ready.

one day last week some good parent brought out the sidewalk chalk and some delightful children wrote on the sidewalks on 7th avenue. walking our ‘hood, we were two of the recipients of their light-blue messaging.

“i just wanted to say you look awesome,” the sidewalk said to us. it was a hot day and i had on old multi-colored patchwork shorts and a sleeveless top seemingly older than the hills, thinning flipflops from old navy, humidity-messy-curly hair and a hot-flash-aided-shall-we-say-glistening-face. i felt anything but awesome. but this message made me smile. it reminded me of heidi’s sweet momma who said, “you will never be any more beautiful than you are right now.” wise words.

positive messages are free. it doesn’t cost any one any thing to say something positive. it doesn’t detract from any serious issue at hand; it doesn’t lessen the issuer’s importance. instead, it sets up concentric ripples of goodness, of kindness, of value to each person it touches.

“there are a hundred ways they could have said that,” david would say. indeed, a hundred ways to go about doing each moment in life. probably way more than a hundred. and yet, so often, people passing, people in relationship, people in power choose a way that is toxic, that demeans others, oppresses others, suffocates others, debilitates others. so often they choose aggression, argumentative, antagonistic words or actions.

someone in power once said to me, “i’m sick and tired of you.” it was the moment he jerked the heart-string i had to the organization, the moment i realized that all his negativity was intentional; it was toxic, demeaning, oppressive, suffocating and debilitating, not to mention shocking. i wonder what other 99 things he could have said, the other 99 ways he could have acted. i wonder what message he would have chalked on the sidewalk.

appreciation of each other, our beloveds, our friends, our colleagues, our community, this world, is contagious. its goodness is seed for growth, for collaboration, for mutually existing on this good earth in actual harmony.

simple words, spoken gently, simple acts of valuing, can make the difference in a person’s day. whether or not we intimately know that person seems irrelevant. to believe that we have made someone smile, have made someone breathe easier, have made someone’s day better, have inspired someone to pass it on, is irrefutably virtuous. to be optimistic, recognize others in their success, to stand in even-keeled integrity, to bring tender and honest concern, are traits of wisdom. to believe that we have softened a circumstance, diffused a conflict, dispersed anger is actual power.

and goodness begets goodness, in the long run.

for power does not come from negativity and control. instead, it comes from positivity and generosity, from empowering others rather than pushing them down. it comes from not thinking one is righteous, but instead recognizing one’s fallibility, one’s flaws. it comes with recognizing we all have much to learn. it comes when simplicity and kindness come together, in both random and intentional acts.

ask the little kids with the light-blue sidewalk chalk. they seem to really know that.

*****

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


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clover fluff. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fluff of clover lives at the edge of the stone step. sweet one-half-inch beauties, they grant wishes to passing chipmunks and chickadees lingering at the birdfeeder. beauty at the edges, innocent, simple, unnoticed mostly.

the big picture often doesn’t validate the tiny edge fluff. it’s too big-picture-ish. lofty goals, high aspirations, gigantic expectations, unreasonable accomplishment demands – all take the focus off the soft sides, the padding between imposing idealism and reality. the shallow depth of field captures the up-close and blurs the rest, giving pause to some of what is overwhelming.

i suppose beauty is meant to be like that. the curl of your baby’s tendril of hair, the new leaf bud on the tree, the wisp of pink cloud in the sun-setting sky, the quiet birdcall at dawn – nothing enormous, just simple and life-giving.

so how is it that we get ourselves mixed up in so much measuring, so much set-up for disappointment. we live our minutes as if they are infinity itself. we compare and contrast and yearn and regret. we are striding, striding. even while the clover waits.

and then, sitting on the step of the deck, pondering for a few minutes, we look down and see this magical sight. the tiny world of the tiny clover beckons our attention. it will not be there forever, and, likely with the drought, will disappear before too long. but in the meanwhile it is there and verdant and growing and it counts.

once again, i am reminded, in a wondrous way, of my own tiny-ness. though i know the mark i make on the world is ephemeral, fleeting, and i sometimes, anyway, get lost in the demands and the challenges and the ups and downs of the accompanying emotional seesaw, i hope that there is something up-close about me that gives pause, that offers kindness, that is love.

my-big-picture is actually very tiny and at the edge of the step of the universe. hopefully it is like clover fluff.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

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


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our H. [merely-a-thought monday]

the last time i had an in-depth conversation with him, H said, “i have my hope on the generation coming up…that they will be a force for the good.” i cannot imagine a bigger force for good than sweet H.

the candle is burning now. we have had it lit many times in recent days as H has struggled with the fine line between living and dying. the image of his dear face in our mind’s eye reminds us of how to grow old gracefully, how to live into aging, how to participate, how to be in the river not on the river’s edge.

we just heard that H died last night and, as i write this on saturday morning, the sun bursting outside and the birds in full song, my heart is breaking. i have adored H – now ninety-something-something – since the first day he walked into the choir room in which i used to direct choirs, ukulele bands, handbells and be a part of all the joy and community mutually created in that room. his spirit entered before he did, flowing positive energy and a will to try anything, laughter his guide. his bass voice in our choir, in our ukulele band, in our lives was grounding and the gift of angels who had gone before him. H was intrepid. rain, sleet, snow or ice did not deter him or any adventure he took on. he worked harder than most in his earlier years and he played with childlike glee in his later years. mostly, he was not afraid. he wasn’t afraid to learn new things or take on technology. he wasn’t afraid to sing solo or rap in front of others. he wasn’t afraid to travel or to just simply be who he was. he was fiercely devoted to his family, each of them. he wasn’t afraid to love or to state how he felt or what he thought. he was more genuine than many who claim authenticity as their core. a faithful human being, he was.

the refrigerator magnets cluster together from places he went; he always proudly brought me back a magnet from his travels. at the end of the year he’d give me a multitude of those calendars you get in the mail – from all different organizations he had contributed to or of which he was a part – and i’d pick one to hang in the choir room, one to hang at home and one to use for notes. the charlie brown coffee mug in our mug cabinet, that he had carefully wrapped in its suitcase-journey from the peanuts museum in california, is a favorite treasure. he loved butterfingers. he was H.

our last conversation, just a few days ago, was a little disjointed. H couldn’t hear what i was saying on the phone but was trying hard to speak. unlike all our other calls, we didn’t really talk about anything that time. but one thing was clear – shared love and respect for each other and the absolute happiness we each felt having this special friendship. he was H and, oh, his heart.

in an earlier longer call he had talked about the dynamics of our country. he was worried and said that his concern was that current circumstances were like a snowball going downhill…getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. while i would agree that our country, in big places and small, is in desperate need of a thawing-out of mean-spirited snowballs going rapidly downhill, i would offer that there are other domino effects as well, the kind that take frosty snowflakes and build magical snowmen and the snowforts of children’s imaginings. H is such snow magic, if you will – a trillion unique flakes joined together by infinite molecules of kindness. a snowball that gains in momentum and size – in every good way – each time he was around people. brilliant snowflakes attracted to a genuine and gentle man who would dedicatedly stick with you through thick and thin, persons drawn to each other like perfect individual crystals, stars together.

H lived his hope for the future – he was a force for good. there is no reckoning about this. he will shine in the stars and in all the bass solos. he will gather angels around him, singing, and create fairy-dust-snowflakes. he will be missed and he will be remembered. he was H and his heart was gigantic.

*****

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


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flourless chocolate cake. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days when it’s necessary. last saturday was one of them. we drove out to the bakery in lake geneva specifically for one thing: flourless chocolate cake. we bought two pieces and drove home with them nestled in their little box, excited about the prospect of having such a treat two days in a row. (we share desserts, so this purchase was not merely one day’s worth.) in the middle of everything, a little flourless chocolate cake will go a long way.

there are a few things that fall under this category these days: a few vices, a few salves. strong hot coffee in the morning in mugs that remind us of favorite places, long hikes, glasses of wine, happy lights, texts or pictures or calls from my children, big pots of pasta sauce, being snugged by the dog and the cat. every so often, flourless chocolate cake makes the cut. because it is not inexpensive, these days it is a rarity. but last saturday we decided we could skip a meal if it was necessary in order to share some decadence.

soon it will be the solstice. the sun will seemingly stand still and the light of day will start to shift. we will, slowly but surely, start to welcome more light.

as this world, this country, our communities start to embrace the administering of a new vaccine to aid in the deterrent of the pandemic, we begin to see the beacon of light. it is farther off on the horizon, but it is rising.

as this country, our communities start to embrace the changing of this nation’s leadership, we begin to see the possibility of sanity returning to the chaos. we begin to see the promise of light. it is farther off on the horizon, but it is rising.

as our communities agree to distance and be safe, to work together in common goal, we begin to hope for a return of responsibility, of accountability, of respect, of kindness. we study the horizon, watching for light. it is farther off on the horizon, but we’re sure it must be rising.

as we stand and straighten up our 2020 bodies, aching but holding steadfast on our journeys, we begin to look for the paths of the future, paths of symbiosis, paths of goodness. we peer in the dark, catching glimpses of light, like fireflies in a summer backyard. it is farther off on the horizon, but the light is rising.

and we know this because flourless chocolate cake makes it so.

*****

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


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wowza. [geez. donkeys are people too.]

guess.

guess what name i was called. it doesn’t require a knowledge of rocket science or even a working articulate vocabulary to come up with this one. “asshole.”

i thought about retorting, “is this a conversation starter or a conversation closer?”

or “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

or “did you skip kindergarten altogether?”

or “why is it that anytime facts are presented and conversation is possible the choice is made to resort to ugly name-calling instead?”

or – nothing.

the really hard thing here is that my own beloved sister “liked” that this third person called me this name. wow. i must say i would never publicly call my sister or any relative a derogatory name. there are some things that being related stops you from doing. well, at least in my opinion.

and so.

and so, what?

i don’t know.

i guess it is time to stop worrying. it’s time to stop encouraging fact-checking and critical thinking. it’s time to cease pointing out discrepancies, inequalities and bigoted, prejudiced sways. it’s time to no longer attempt to ask questions, have conversation, communicate about differences. it’s time to turn a deaf ear to the vitriol, rhetoric and hatred spewed in the name of patriotism. it’s time to step back and let the chips fall where they may and then not step in them.

or maybe not.

i don’t know.

but i guess it’s time to realize that, yes, it could have been worse. i could have been called a cupcake or a snowflake or, worse yet, infantile. oh. that’s right. been there, done-been-called-that.

yup. intellect and intelligent discourse are at a premium these days.

read DAVID’S SATURDAY SLEW OF WORDS

donkey photo credit: linda t.


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make us all instruments of peace. [d.r. thursday]

InstrumentofPeace copy

it is what it is.

where has this country come?  we need so much more.  for survival.  understanding, compassion, commitment to unity, justice, truth, equality, equity, love of one another, peace among peoples.

the last days we have watched the democratic national convention.  we have connected with the real-ness of regular folks, politicians, celebrities across the country who have had something to say.  we have listened.  we expected words of encouragement, words of hope, words of comfort, words of healing, words of promise to unify and not divide, words we could trust, words of truth.  and we have heard them.  our hearts swelled with a bit of optimism; our pulse slowed and calmed.

we heard the poignant words of michelle obama, speaking about the promise of this country.  we heard the tenderness in jill biden as she spoke about the empathy of her husband, about the import of love and understanding and kindness in this nation.  we watched people from each state and territory, on their own stomping ground, cast their delegates for the democratic presidential candidate.  we listened and teared up and, mostly, we hoped for these instruments of peace to rise above the noise and the furor of division in this country, slobbering all over itself with rabid foam, inviting ultimate disaster.

we will watch next week as well.  the republican national convention will be different than the democratic national convention, for sure.  in a climate where i’m not sure everyday republicans even have a grasp of what the party means anymore, it will be important for us to glean that for ourselves.  in an effort to attempt to understand the position of others we know and love, it will only be fair to watch both conventions.  we will expect words of encouragement, words of hope, words of comfort, words of healing, words of promise to unify and not divide, words we can trust, words of truth.

we live in community.  this country’s backbone is the melding of many peoples working to form a “more perfect union” together, to build together, to grow together, to share a common purpose.  we shall never arrive as instruments of hatred.  we shall arrive, however, as instruments of peace.

it is what it is.  what will we choose to do?  who will we choose to be?

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

to purchase this painting or merely to look at it in david’s online gallery, click here

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INSTRUMENT OF PEACE ©️ 2015 david robinson