reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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lusting over glossy card stock. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

lusting over brochures is kind of my thing. there is nothing quite like the dreamy four-color-magazine-quality-glossy-coated-silk-card-stock intrigue that beckons me, inviting imaginative adventure and exploring. a good brochure will take you there, place you there, let you sink in and never want to leave. i am clearly the targeted recipient of their magic. and i am – ahem – a collector.

like my relationship with catalogs, i can immerse in the story of the place, the action…it’s deeply satisfying.

sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i load up with all the possibilities of our destination, never to crack them open. it’s like having a treasure chest, knowing you have the treasure chest, not-knowing what’s in the treasure chest but knowing it’s enough you have it. a back pocket full of shiny coins, should you need them.

and sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i find something in a brochure that will not let go. i wonder and ponder and strategize and scheme how to get there, how to experience it, how to afford it. i’m a little overwhelmed by the draw of whatever the thing/place/action is, but i know the likelihood of it is relatively dim.

we clicked on an article on the-island-phone the other day. like shiny card stock, it beautifully featured a resort in utah: amangiri. there was nothing about this resort that wasn’t stunning.

i’ve never stayed in a resort, nonetheless one where your pillow-piled-down-comfortered-bed was out under the stars in the desert, your space open to remote canyonlands of red rock. my breathing got more rapid as i showed david. i clicked on “make a reservation”.

$12,000 a night.

deeper reservation diving revealed a range of pricing, verbose reviews, glamorous indeed, this place.

$12,000/night.

a little fancy.

clearly we won’t be staying there.

but, in the way that catalogs and brochures also function for me, i saved it and looked at it a few more times. i’ll probably glance a time or two more at this wildly expensive place to stay. and then i’ll delete it. because, by then, i’ll be satisfied.

and besides, the tiny blue airbnb house on one of the side streets in the mountain town in north carolina is also magical. it will afford us a chance to unplug, to hike unfamiliar trails, to cook and eat out on the front porch watching traffic go by, to immerse in a new place, a getaway.

and it is also dreamy.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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pudgy pigeon. [flawed wednesday]

the pudgy pigeon was in the doorway. it didn’t move as we approached. it didn’t move as we took photographs. it didn’t move as i spoke to it and it didn’t move as we moved on. i worried about it after. something seemed awry.

while we were in colorado, we looked at a shutterfly book of pictures taken in 2013 – what was columbus’ 80th birthday party – merely eight years ago, so little time, so much time. but the difference – for us – is between 50-something and 60-something. and there is, shall i say, a difference.

our bodies changing-changing. our faces morphing into, well, i hope, slightly more wizened faces with less self-consciousness and more solid aplomb. aging. we read in headlines today, “fillers, procedures are wiping out generations of beauty.” (jamie lee curtis) we stand firmly in the camp of less-is-more. mmm…firmly and, yet, still, a little shakily, noting this youth and body-image-society.

what does this pudgy pigeon think?

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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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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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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favoritethings and bliss. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

dogdog never paid attention to the green and yellow toy. until babycat decided – suddenly and temporarily – that it was his favorite thing in the whole wide world. b-cat lay, with his face in the streaming sunlight, and held his new favoritething. he rubbed his face on it and you could see his smile. and his favoritething was happy being loved on having been ignored for long periods of time. since that day, he has gone back to ignoring it. but that day? it was the one simple route to his bliss.

dogdog now carries this toy around from time to time. you can tell he is trying to discern what it is that babycat found magical about it; he furrows his brow and lugs it from room to room, shaking it to and fro from time to time as if to wake it up, make the magic happen. he is wondering, “how do i make the bliss start?”

a million years ago i bought a little black book that was published by eddie bauer called ‘balance – a guide to life’s forgotten pleasures’. inside it stated, “this book won’t change your life. it won’t solve any of your deep-rooted psychological problems. it won’t make you rich. and it definitely won’t make you sexy. it may, however, remind you that we, as humans, are basically okay. and that it isn’t very difficult to get a little balance in our lives. so, have fun. slow down. take a deep breath. things are gonna be fine.”

this tiny brilliant book has 45 ‘how-to’ instructions like: how to turn your hand into a plane. how to unplug the phone. how to make noise with a blade of grass. how to catch a snowflake on your tongue. how to watch clouds. how to sleep in. how to make a shadow puppet. how to hug. how to go barefoot. how to take a nap. how to do a somersault. how to have a picnic. how to follow a bug around.

i called the company and bought all the copies they had left and sent them out with my third album this part of the journey to radio stations, listening walls, retail and wholesale outlets. it seemed the right pairing to me – a peaceful and original instrumental album to listen to while you read a book with 45 sets of instructions on how to find bliss.

maybe it’s not so hard. finding bliss. maybe we all are basically ok. maybe things are gonna be fine. maybe it’s simply lowering the expectation of what ‘bliss’ means.

maybe it’s not a measure of wealth or status. maybe it’s not calculable power or control. maybe it’s not your stock portfolio or your hedge fund. maybe it’s not your house or your car or your wardrobe. maybe it’s not your collection of iconic christian louboutin pumps. maybe it’s not your degree or your certification or your designation. maybe it’s not fancy food or exquisite bubbly from the vineyards of champagne.

maybe it’s your face in the sun, following a bug, catching a snowflake, giving a hug, loving on your favorite toy.

maybe we should just ask the cat.

*****

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


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snowcake and lemonade. [d.r. thursday]

david, wearing his birthday tiara, waiting to have birthday cake

he said that he stood at the back door and thought, “i’m going to like this time of life best.” out the door, surfing through piles and piles of snow, dogdog ran the yard, bowing to the snow and snacking on it, his chin and face covered. a snowglobe day, david stood and watched our dog in his glee while the coffee brewed. moments later, he brought a steaming mug of strong black coffee to me, lounging in my flannel pjs in bed, sleepy eyes and a warm cat by my side. we clinked mugs and sipped while we talked of birthdays and time.

our day was simple. we ate, we wrote, we ate again. dogdog and babycat were by our sides, not eager to be anywhere else on this frigid day. negative temperatures in the minus-twenties weren’t at all encouraging for hikes outside, or even walks, and i made a mental note to start asking around about a treadmill. we unwrapped a winter-scene jigsaw that had been in the hall closet for years, called people, answered texts, opened a surprise gift that arrived on our frozen doorstep and puzzled at the dining room table. a late dinner and a couple of glasses of red and dogdog was begging to go sleepynightnight. he led the way to the end of the day, a valentine’s-day-birthday, a day of marveling at how dear people are, how fast time goes, how vested we are in adjectives like ‘peaceful’ and ‘promising’ and ‘content’ to describe our next. ‘euphoric’ and ‘carefree’ would be lovely too; so many adjectives, so little time.

on the deck right out the sunroom window, the wrought iron table and chairs were laden with the accumulation of days of snow. i could not help but see the round snowpile on the table as a giant birthday cake; i could not help but see the snow-shape in the chair as a little alien snowman, waiting patiently for a piece of cake. it was just too tempting and david was out front shoveling. with a couple silver christmas balls, a tiara found upstairs in my girl’s room, a tall white taper and some vintage pink-plastic-cake-numbers-that-hold-tiny-birthday-candles, i made myself laugh. sinking well over my knees in snow as i inadvertently stepped off the side of the deck into a drift, i collapsed into the snow, cracking up, just too excited for david to come around the corner of the house, shovel in hand. lemonade, i thought. this is lemonade.

and that, i believe, is what he meant by, “i’m going to like this time best.” a time when you know that lemonade – and the making of it with or without lemons – is most rewarding.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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guide star. [d.r. thursday]

hotel art

last night we watched cnn’s broadcast movie about linda ronstadt “the sound of my voice”.  a star in every facet.  as we watched , we revisited times of our lives – times when the music we listened to was simpler, less engineered, less auto-tuned, less machinated, less acrobatic.  it was music of melody and harmony, stylistically less thickened by tracks of extraneous stuff.  it was indeed purer.  linda ronstadt, now in her 80s and dealing with the effects of parkinson’s, particularly on her voice, was a powerhouse raised in music, surrounded by music and who, with generosity, graced us all with her music for decades.  her voice goes on.

we are attracted to simpler.  simpler melodies minus the gymnastic riffs and with simpler production, simpler paintings with great depth or color or message.  we are analog; there’s no doubt about it.  and as we watched a john denver christmas in aspen the other day i found myself yearning for that simplicity, john denver’s voice – both his writing voice and singing voice – effortlessly clear.

the common thread of less is more.  it had impact on us, on our art forms.

when d was messing around in the studio recently he painted these very simple elements that often appear in his paintings:  a star, a flower, petals. it’s not natural for him to paint without a figure.  i imagine he was experimenting, paring down.  i would liken that to me recording a song on the ukulele.  it’s not natural for me to record without a piano.  but experimenting is good and paring down is an exercise.  especially in times of mostly-quiet easels and mostly-empty lyric sheets.

linda ronstadt’s story is one of unparalleled success and a great number of layers of experiment, a constant delve into another style of music, always paring it down to dedication to her absolute love of singing.

in the midst of all the layers, all the experimentation, all the paring down, all the silent canvases and hushed keys, we find our guide stars.  and we go on.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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“it’s hard to keep things simple.” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep things simple

less is more.  enough is enough.  say no.  simplify.

we are all bombarded.  two days before christmas and we wonder if we did enough, bought enough, wrapped enough, entertained enough, baked enough, decorated enough.  we are surrounded by images – piles of presents under ornate christmas trees, horse-drawn sleighs on currier and ives backroads, families gathered at tables merrily chatting, churches full with congregations happily singing and the bells in the belfry ringing.  the kind of images that nag you into thinking, “more.  i must do more.”

the other evening, gathered around bowls of homemade hot thai soup, 20 said, “it’s hard to keep things simple.”  the three of us share some profound times of conversation, of life’s changes and choices, of simple togetherness.  he talked about soup and wine and chocolate and conversation, of appreciating each other’s company.

the catalogs arriving in the mail and the ads in the paper and the online streaming advertising all pander to the indulgence of our insecurity.  of not enough.  how do we respond and say no?

it’s hard to avoid.  it feels like we have to say yes to everything.  or we don’t quite measure up.  we search for meaning.  in things.  we are searching outside of ourselves.  holding ourselves to some sort of external standard of holiday-completeness.

how do we seek more centeredness?  more connectedness?  more moments held in the stillness of awe?

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

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the simple line. [d.r. thursday]

the sketch

yesterday, while i sketched moments on various keyboards, both pipe organ and piano, d sketched on paper.  and he somehow captured how i was feeling.  the lifting of eyes to the universe, the imploring of the heart.  his scribblings on paper, my scribblings on keys.  two artists, expressing.

the telling of the story – through music, through painting or drawing – does not demand complexity.  sometimes it aches for simplicity.  a pure line of melody, unadorned.  a few fast pen-lines, unfinessed.  the telling of the tale, honestly, pitch by pitch.  not the skirting of the story, the fancified version sung by an vocal acrobat.  instead, the straight-up carole-king-richard-diebenkorn-versions, sung note for note, painted line by brushed line, color by color.  intense in their clean simplicity.

the more complicated things get, the more i list toward simple.  less is more.  my piano left hand has always been a virtual non-stop accompanist to my right hand, arpeggiating  ad nauseum.  in recent years, i’ve asked it to calm down, to allow room for the delivery of the right hand, to allow breath, to allow lift.  together, they have given space for the real scribblings, the true expression.

if you have ever been to a taize service, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of repeated simplicity, a line of music that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

if you have ever held a child’s drawing in your hand, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of innocence, art that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

it’s the simple line. both ways.

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