reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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paddles in the water. [d.r. thursday]

vincent was there. right off the side of our canoe he swirled his paintbrush and the water canvas became starry-night dreamy. charles schulz was there too and i could see snoopy dancing atop the surface. it kept evolving, even without the help of our paddles. ever-changing.

jaxon was two yesterday. his curiosity, his energy are unmatched. he is fearless. everything is possible and the whole world stretches in front of him. his boundless zeal, like a fast paddle in the water, arranges and rearranges utterly everything-in-life continually. he is not considering how to approach life. he is simply living it. no expectations. just embracing it all – the whole kaleidoscope.

being on the road takes you away from the norm. it takes you out of the bills, the projects, day to day worries or concerns, dealing with health issues. you are suddenly on the surface of the lake – so to speak – skimming along in littlebabyscion, watching the world go by. we get to the city-we’ve-never-visited-before, a city trying to keep up with immense growth. the districts are working on revitalization. we take walks in historic neighborhoods and fall in love with bungalows and big porches. and we wonder.

we sit in a stadium – the first time in many years – surrounded by 60,000 people – the first time in many years – to see a concert – the first time in many years. we marvel at the changes we have felt in those years.

we hug her goodbye. parenthood is dynamic, never static, and motherhood is no easy trail. missing is just plain hard. i try to adjust, to readjust and readjust again, to hold it all lightly. the paddle on the surface of my heart teaches me lesson after lesson.

we wonder about all of them as we drive on – the people out there also driving, the people whose homes we are passing by, the people in the rest area, the people in the local grocery store. what is their life? who are they? what are their worries? what are their joys? sometimes you can feel it, even from the road. we both nearly wept as we passed by a very-rusty-beige-identical-trailers trailer park with maybe fifty bereft homes in an arid dirt expanse of land; treeless, shadeless, plantless, playgroundless, it felt hopeless. every shade on every trailer we could see was pulled shut. we saw no people, though each trailer had a vehicle parked nearby. it was south carolina, not at its best. no pastel-colored historic homes, wrap-around porches or coastal beaches, no palmettos, no golf courses or rolling grassy knolls. just nothing. dirt. except these trailer homes – and we had to try to wrap our heads around the fact that at least there were homes with roofs, perhaps air conditioning to ease the hot muggy heat. the empath cloud followed us for miles until we could shake it loose, putting our paddles into the water and stirring things up as we drove.

we arrive in the mountains, zigging, zagging, climbing. tall trees block the sun and suddenly we are cooler and everything takes on the color green. it keeps changing, this expanse, these days of life.

we’ll hike. every turn in the trail will be different, every view different. the elevation will give us a view of the mountains – out there – and we’ll photograph them to remember. we’ll dip bandanas in streams to cool off and stand by waterfalls taking pictures to remember.

and when we get home, it will all swirl around us – the moments. vincent and snoopy will laugh a little at our attempts to hold onto it. and jaxon will remind us of how gently to hold the kaleidoscope.

*****

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remotely intuitive. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

we have a basket under the tv on the tv stand. in it are all the associated remote control devices. remote for the tv, remote for the cable, remote for the firestick, remote for the dvd player, remote for the older chromecast, universal remote, remote for the ipod dock and a remote for the standing fan, because it seems to be in good company there.

i remember the days – way way back in my growing up house on long island – when we would be sitting and watching our blackandwhite tv in the den. you had to turn the dial to switch the channels and turn a different dial to raise and lower the volume. pretty straight-forward. a product of older parents, i would watch doris day/rock hudson movies and mash and petticoat junction and gidget together with them, never feeling like we were underserved, never thinking we didn’t have enough choices.

and then there’s now. an infinite number of choices.

and yet, we look at each other and ponder when we should cut the cable and minimize – slightly – the cost of all these choices. we know that wifi will connect us to the firestick thing or the chromecast thing or – should we decide a smarter tv is in order – the roku thing. as it is, there are already too many remotes. i personally have lost track of how to access all of it. i think a smart tv would make tv-viewing-life easier that way. but, when is enough enough?

i remember when i wanted to watch a movie – a dvd – after my son left for college and i was an early-on empty nester. i had no idea how to set up the tv (you know, that bottom left button on the tv remote – nonotthecableremotethetvremote! – that sets things to av or something like that) so i called the boy. he patiently walked me through the process, which i wrote down in an effort to not have to call him again.

yikes. it is not necessarily intuitive. and now, with all the paraphernalia and a non-smart tv that’s rapidly approaching “vintage” (even though it is a flat screen and cost a bazillion dollars back in the day) it’s even less intuitive. middle age has its technological challenges. i don’t feel like anyone warned us.

add to that the fact that it is difficult to find something worthy to watch. we roll our eyes as we roll through the viewing guide. and keep a list of things people have recommended you can find elsewhere without all the accessories or, perhaps, with a few less. there’s really a short list of the things we care to view anyway.

goodness! ikea has the right idea. draw pictures and people will figure it out. simple. intuitive. they’ll get it.

my intuitive reaction is to just turn off the tv.

*****

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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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


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the little alleluias. [merely-a-thought monday]

texting with our son, who was about to attend a music festival out west, he wrote that i would probably like the artist. he sent a link to the teaser of above and beyond’s song “gratitude“. i followed the link, loved it, jaunted over to the full-length, and loved that.

the everest youtube paused, we followed the soundtrack song to find that new favorite i wrote about in may, “you and me“.

it is not likely we would have just stumbled upon either. there had to be a tiny opening, a tiny window, a door to something new.

explorations don’t have to be gigantic. they can be mini adventures, pocket-sized, teeny-weeny, a moseying into something unknown, a reminder that there-is-just-so-much-out-there. exploring creates a yearning to explore, a synergy of sorts, to keep-on-ing.

mary oliver, in her book, “long life”, writes of “what she calls ‘the little alleluias’ in her days and in her doings.” (frederic and mary ann brussat) those tiny noticings. micro adventures. “nature, animals, the soul, place, and literature.” and sound. and music. and touch. and color. and laughter. and cooking. and creating.

in these days we don’t get far. our roadtrip juju has been poking at us for months now; our last roam was in december. that’s a long time ago for two people who love roadtrips. but work and an intentional budget and, yes, covid, have kept us closer to home. “soon”, we say to each other, “soon.” and then we sigh. the mountains are calling, the coast and points north, family down south, family out west.

in the meanwhile, we scout out other exploring. we paint rocks and hide them. we dance on the deck. we listen to music we don’t know. we pay attention to the girl, the boy, friends tell us about things we might like. we use two tortillas instead of one.

last night we had the best pancakes for dinner. gluten-free. and real-live maple syrup. my niece sent me the link to them. breakfast for dinner. it’s not a trip to the mountains, but it gets us to the foothills of adventure. something different.

exploring is like snickers minibites. sometimes five grams of delicious feeds us.

it’s the little alleluias.

*****

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two-tortillas-people. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it should have been a no-duh.

it was rather life-changing.

we stood in the kitchen, staring at our daughter.

i was heating up black bean burgers for lunch and had taken out the salsa and the avocado and the lime. i took out the white corn tortillas and commented that the tortilla would likely fall apart once the bbburger, the salsa, the avocado and the splash of lime were placed upon it. i asked her if she wanted a fork and a knife. she said – wait for it – “use two tortillas.”

two tortillas.

like seriously?

who knew?

“yep,” she continued, “warm up the tortillas and place it all on top of two, not one. it won’t fall apart.”

she was right. it worked.

and, somehow, we had not thought of this.

we are now two-tortillas-people. headline news.

this is why people have children.

*****

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vine-climbing. [merely-a-thought monday]

the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.

“so, i wanna laugh when the laughing is easy.

i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.

i may never pass this way again,

that’s why i want it with you…”

(jim seals, dash crofts – we may never pass this way again)

just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.

because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.

and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.

our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.

i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.

good choice of song, jhghs.

“all the secrets in the universe

whisper in our ears

and all the years, they come and go

and take us up, always up…”

*****

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


					
		
	


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buds and blossoms. wrapped in gold. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

if i were to get a tattoo (not to mention the “sisu” tattoo i would love to share with my daughter) i think it might be a simple tattoo depicting the japanese practice of kintsugi: the golden repair and honoring of flaws, beauty in human brokenness. there’s no telling if i will do that. there’s also no telling if i won’t. i’m not averse to ink. i know that ink is an expression of where you are in your life, of what you believe in, of what you seek.

“age and stage,” 20 often says when we talk about the stuff of life. tight bud to full bloom to blossoms falling, petal by petal, to the dirt. all the iterations in the middle.

everything is like that, i suppose.

the first time my boots hit the wood as i crossed from backstage to the apron was memorable. i won’t forget it. each time i’ve walked to the piano, adjusted the boom mic, took a breath and started…memorable. i won’t forget. i remember being in the middle of one of my concerts, in the middle of one of the pieces…i forgot where the piece went…i was lost. i made it up. it was a solo piece; no one else had to share in my lapse of memory. i followed the theme and noodled my way through to an end no one would ever hear again. my producer hugged me and laughed later, “nice coverup.”

the pace of my walk is slower now than it used to be…steadier. now i know that no matter what, no matter the mistakes, no matter the braindrops, no matter the missed lyrics, the thinking notes…the story will get told, the bud will open and, like any artist, i will give of myself, despite of whatever i get or don’t get in return. age teaches you that it is not the return that matters. age teaches you it is in the giving.

we talked in the kitchen this morning about the work we have done in our lives. david’s paintings, hung and not hung, my music, recorded and not recorded. we talked about our youthful desire to have everything seen, everything heard…and not in a little way. we talked about how age has brought us to this place – a place where seen and heard doesn’t really matter. painted and played matters. drawn and written matters. expressed matters. received en masse doesn’t.

it really is “age and stage”. it’s not just the moments of our children, tiny beings not sleeping through the night, toddlers in terrible-two-tantrums – people reassuring us “age and stage”. it’s not just the trials of parents letting go of those adored humans who are now adults in the world, a little less access, a lot less time – people encouraging us “age and stage”. it’s not just our aging moms and dads, significant changes in ability, in perspective, in health – people comforting us “age and stage”.

it’s us. it’s our age and our stage, we are reminded. we try to fix what is broken, try to start something new, try to perfect the blossom. and we realize that it was a bloom all along. it was beautiful. it counted.

were we to be able to see – from the beginning – all the stages – the tight bud, the slightly opened petals – the bloom – the blossom falling to the ground – we might take it all more lightly, we might not cling to ideals of success and how we receive it. we might know there would be mistakes and dropped notes, lyrics mixed up and words not spoken. we might know there would be vulnerabilities and painful angsting, gorgeous improvised melodies, pictures without everything we desired, without everything coming to fruition, vamped decisions, regrets and, yes, bows. we might know that we would join with the rest of the human race on broken roads.

and we might know that the stages of our ages were all wrapped in gold.

and maybe ink.

“and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (anais nin)

*****

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layer upon layer. [two artists tuesday]

peeled back from the tree trunk, the bark first reminded me of the colosseum in rome…that one tall section rising above the rest. it is also sadly reminiscent of one of the devastating iconic images of 9/11, a piece of building at ground zero, standing through absolute destruction.

at a different time, in different circumstances, in a small forest in northern illinois, this gorgeous bark in the woods has remained steadfastly in place for several weeks, holding on to the tree at its base and, yet, yielding to nature bending back, back.

i wondered about the peeling. if this is a sycamore tree, this exfoliating is natural, even a charming characteristic. if this is an oak, it can be a sign of an unhealthy tree, unless there is new bark underneath, waiting.

i don’t suppose that is much unlike all of us. peeling back the layers…as we lose each layer, we are vulnerable to the elements, unprepared peeling exposing us to harm. we can more easily share – layer by layer – if we know we are out of harm’s way to do so. we can more readily divulge – layer by layer – if we know that we will not be pummeled. we can more assertively process – layer by layer – if we know we are not at risk of stress, infection, infestation. we can, if we trust we are safe.

decades of life have a way of peeling the outer bark. time may soften the edges; time may bring cycles of raw learning…those moments we speak truth, we take chances, we jump…moments of transition.

the colosseum is over 1900 years old. sycamores live somewhere between 200 and 300 years. oak trees can live from 80 to 500 years, though there are varieties with a much longer life span.

we humans have less time on this good earth, less time to grow to maturity, less time for our structure to weather the storms, less time to lose our bark, less time to peel back to our essence. it would seem prudent to offer each other the room, the space, the shelter to exfoliate.

oak trees develop from the inside out, as do pine and maple. the older bark chips away on the outside making room for new bark. it take some trees till the time of their full maturity to exfoliate their outer skin.

obviously, trees are people too.

*****

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and love. [merely-a-thought monday]

it was, without a doubt, one of the holiest moments i have felt in the middle of almost ten thousand people. it was more organic and held more of a sacred hush than most church services i have attended or of which i have been a part, which is saying a lot since my professional work as a minister of music was over three decades of tenure. it was, without a doubt, something i will remember – a visceral memory – forever, probably.

matt maher was singing onstage at red rock ampitheatre, nestled in gigantic red rock formations and mountains in colorado. mostly just him and his piano, his simple but profound lyrics had everyone on their feet, arms around each other, strangers and friends all alike. moving from one song to the next, this man-who-was-not-the-headliner wove a net of love-for-humankind around us all and, for a few moments in time, we were transported to a place where love was – truly – the way.

“…and love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm
and I’ll be my brother’s [sister’s] keeper
so the whole world will know that we’re not alone…”

(matt maher – hold us together)

it – truly – is the only way.

the aggression of our neighbors, our leaders, our country, our world is a broken path, filled with trolls and ogres, bastardizing efforts of goodness.

this time is surely fleeting. we are reminded, sometimes cruelly, of this every single day.

i walk on dusty trails, on the cement sidewalks of our neighborhood, in the grasses of mountain meadows, on the sand of seashores, always looking, looking. our walks, our hikes – these are the places of true sanctuary. for, often, in those other places there are bellicose voices, desiring argument, pushing agenda. so instead now, we walk and breathe in the granola of the universe, under the sky of all possibility.

and in the way of nature, they appear. heart-shaped rocks, heart-shaped leaves, heart-shaped raindrops, heart-shaped puddles. reminders, always, they stop me, sometimes to pick them up, sometimes to photograph them, sometimes to just simply ponder. always, always, they give me pause…moments to think of beloveds, moments to have quiet gratitude, moments to think of love.

“love is a place

and through this place of

love move

(with brightness of peace)

all places

yes is a world

and in this world of

yes live

(skilfully curled)

all worlds”

(ee cummings – love is a place)

though the world does not shake out the way we might choose it to be, we have the choice whether or not to reach out and put our arms around the person next to us, whether we know them or not. we can choose to be shelter for each other or we can choose to be antagonistic. we can choose to weather the storm or we can choose to be the storm.

we can choose to be alone or we can choose to be together.

“tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ (mary oliver)

*****

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


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imperfections. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it was the rip in the petal that attracted me. this stunning white bloom in the woods, surrounded by underbrush, green leaves and many seemingly-perfect flowers, this was the one that stood out.

kintsugi is a japanese art. it is the practice of putting broken pottery pieces back together again with gold. it is metaphoric self-care. it is the celebration of that which is difficult making you stronger. it is the holding most gently and most admiringly that which is not perfect. it is creating something more beautiful, more unique and more resilient from something broken.

this bloom in the woods needs no gold. its purity and absolute allure are natural. it does not suffer illusions of self-conscious expectations nor does it pine over flaws nor does it wallow in the not-good-enoughs. it simply and silently leans toward the sun in all its glory.

and it wins my vote as the most-beautiful, dazzling the forest floor, reminding me, once again, to have gratitude for all the imperfections that make me me.

*****

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