reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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)

*****

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


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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


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well and stinky. [merely-a-thought monday]

hash marks are kept somewhere, keeping track of the days we do it well and the days we just basically stink at it…life. the generous thing about it, though, is that, for the most part, no one is waving those down-down-down-down-across-hatches at us. each day, we get to do it again, the best we can. and some days we do it well and some days we stink at it. sleep and repeat.

after six decades of doing life – which admittedly, isn’t really all that much – i can still say i am a newbie. every day i learn something new; every day i sort out a little somethin’; every day i adjust the on-the-dirt-attitude-indicator which, funny thing, is the same as in the air: keeping you relative to the horizon and making you aware of the smallest change in orientation. every day, on this fluid axis, i hope for a little grace – from others, from the universe, from myself.

and i try again. my sweet poppo would remind anyone who was listening, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” and so i do.

yesterday marked forty years since the day of my first marriage. it was a sunny warm day in florida; i was wearing my sister’s gown, my sister-in-law’s train and white stiletto macramé sandals. i carried a silk flower bouquet and the tiny white beaded purse i had gotten for my sixteenth birthday. i had little time in front of the mirror, trying to share getting-ready-time with my lovely big sister, my matron-of-honor, who has a more perfected and lengthier getting-ready practice.

at twenty-three, just three weeks after my college graduation, full of anticipation and excitement and hopes and dreams, a little unresolved trauma and not-just-a-little naiveté, i walked down the aisle to the good man who would become the father of my beloved children. and somewhere, the hash mark collection started. we did things well. we were stinky at things. and i absolutely take responsibility for my own stinkinesses, things that disrupted the horizon.

it’s been years now since i have seen him. time, in its wisdom and flow, has softened the ending, blurred the rough edges. i am grateful for the decades we spent together and for the unique and powerful children we raised. and i only wish the best of health and happiness for him and his wife. someday i hope to see them and share laughter and stories and memories of our daughter and our son as they grew. no one does this life all perfectly and sometimes it’s all much clearer as we reflect back, look at the shadows. grace lingers in the air, waiting.

this past week has brought its own challenges and it has brought its own bits of devastating news for people in our concentric circles. the circles widen and widen and we see the turmoil and angst and tragedy of others. the horizon wobbles under us and we try to adjust, to straighten up, level out. life is flying by. we wake to another day to do it well or stink at it. either one.

and desiderata reminds us, “in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul…” because some days we do it better than others.

“…be gentle with yourself.”

*****

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how unprecedented you are. [two artists tuesday]

we don’t really know. we rise each day, bold coffee at our lips, with curiosity. truly, what the day will bring is a mystery. the best-laid plans, well, they are only that – plans. things change and the kaleidoscope swirls around us in mere moments.

“this being human is a guest house. each morning a new arrival…” (rumi – the guest house)

and we rise again the next day…

…the day lilies and the grass blades are rising as well. through the upheaval of their dirt, the excavation of their home, the burying of their fallowed stems, the netting and straw post-waterline-replacement, they are rising anyway.

my thoughts of pulling everything up and starting fresh in the front yard came to a screeching halt when i saw them. if they are resilient enough to bright-green their way into this upheaved spring, i think i would be somewhat dishonoring to remove them. in doing so, i would miss their profound message of fortitude, of courageous no-matter-what-ishness, of their coy laughter reaching for the sun.

“you are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” (john green – the fault in our stars)

we miss it. in the middle of our don’t-really-know days, we miss seeing the absolute stalwart root in clay we each bring. we miss the credit of finagling another chaotic day. we miss our embrace of the new arrival of mystery. we miss our own unprecedentedness.

yet there it is. rising through the netting and the straw and the mud and the excavated rocks and cement.

“on the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you…”

(john o’donohue – beaanacht)

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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edges and kaleidoscopes. [two artists tuesday]

the edges come fast. a blink and they’ve arrived.

i did a photo shoot with my cello. it’s a gorgeous instrument, elegant and full of tear-your-heart-out melodic possibility.

i am sitting at the edge.

i clutch onto it tightly, yearning to yo-yo-ma, yet knowing this edge is somewhat irrefutable. in my heart, my wrist, the tendons of my fingers ache to bow, to press string to fingerboard. the edge pushes back. i know that it is time and that no dream in the night – onstage with soaring, weep-worthy lines – will change that.

my edges – like conglomerate rock, a mixture of wishes and knowings and new – reorganize in the kaleidoscope of life. and, because life is like that, surprises will show up, lit by spotlights and sunlight.

and, once this stunning instrument has moved, as it should, from my studio to the embrace of someone else, i understand that, though my hands will not touch its graceful lines and resonant soul, there will be other learnings, other touches. and always, other edges.

“though i play at the edges of knowing, truly i know our part is not knowing, but looking and touching and loving.” (mary oliver)

*****

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my poppo in my dream. [merely-a-thought monday]

my subconscious was in overdrive. i had heard some news late in the evening and, clearly, it played into all i was thinking about in my overnight sleep. both my sweet momma and my poppo were in my dream, as were people who were stars of the news i had heard, and, unlike many other dreams that vanish with the dawn or fade to irretrievable mishmash, this one stayed with me.

in it, i wanted to tell my dad what had happened, wanted to share the news with him, wanted to give him the back-story of it all, which, of course, he already knew (especially from his vantage point a dimension away). he was setting up microphones for me – something he truly has never done in real life – and he looked over at me. he furrowed his brow. “i’m working for tomorrow,” he said. “work for tomorrow,” he encouraged.

i can still see him, bending over a mic stand, adjusting a boom mic and looking forward. his words have stuck with me. “for tomorrow.”

i knew enough in the dream that he wasn’t pooh-pooh-ing the value of today – neither was he sloughing off the importance of work in this day. today. rather, it was somehow clear to me that he was discarding the what-had-been, the back-story i was going to repeat – again – and he was leaning on the hopeful of tomorrow, the promise of work done today helping tomorrow, and it is likely he would agree with juliette gordon low, the founder of girl scouts of america, one of my mom’s passions, when she said, ““the work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

i woke up the next day still in the dream. my poppo was somehow still present with me. and the news i had heard, though not unexpected and certainly a little bit satisfying in a puzzle-piece-found sort of way, became less worthy of my time. some stuff is just more important left behind. there are plenty of fascinating puzzle pieces ahead.

as i take bags and boxes to donation sites soon, i know that clearing space – out of the basement and out of closets that had been full of unworn clothing – will be invigorating. i have been going through, going through, revisiting memories, feeling the visceral that touching clothes you wore and objects you used brings you. but, hanging on to too much old stuff, too much excess, too much old yuck too tightly squeezes life out of the air. letting it go allows a flow of fresh in. it will open up room for other things to enter or it will just simply open up room. because, as my dad says, it’s working for tomorrow. tomorrow…a time of renewal and hope and change.

there will hopefully be many “days after today”. as i create history on this day, it is my hope that it is always with an eye to tomorrow. i know not every day will earn a spot in the books. there may be many we do not care to revisit in the ‘réview mirror’; there is room for growing. i guess that’s where learning comes in. (“learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences…the result of experience.”) but in looking to tomorrow, instead of yesterday, there is hope. even the tiniest flower wholeheartedly and courageously peeking out of the nearly-still-frozen ground knows that.

that poppo of mine. he’s one smart cookie.

*****

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

happy seven year anniversary to the release of my sweet momma’s book SHAYNE! ❤️