reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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stumbles and falls. [two artists tuesday]

and in the same way that my palm is a picture of life, so was this trail.

roots everywhere. trippables. this north carolina forest, a temperate rainforest, was a palmistry dream. rhododendron bushes and tree roots criss-crossing, superficially close to the surface, looking unlike the high colorado mountain woods, full of pine and aspen, spruce and juniper.

i must not lift my feet up all the way when i walk. because – every so often – i stumbled and caught myself with my walking stick. shuffling along is not in order. in metaphor-land, that’s much the same as life too. no shuffling. pick your feet up and step…even baby steps.

years and years ago, decades really, i remember being in the car with my former husband. he was driving and there was someone crawling along…shuffling, if you can imagine that in a car with tires. “do something!” he muttered. “even if it’s wrong!” he added. it was the first time i can remember hearing that expression. it made me laugh aloud. the “even if it’s wrong” part. i still think about that when i drive. it’s the you-can-always-turn-around and find the right route. you are not stuck on the road you are on for always. i refuse to cut across lanes of traffic just to make a turn i didn’t realize was coming up quickly. there are other ways of getting there.

we took it slow…my lesson from vacation, the essay i would write were i tasked the proverbial what-did-you-do-on-vacation assignment. we talked about it in littlebabyscion as it crossed to 260,000 miles on the odometer. “slow and steady and we’ll get there,” i said. “there?” d asked. “anywhere we need to be, any decision we need to make, any challenge we need to forge through,” i replied.

somehow, despite the roots and the shadows and the stumbles and falls, we manage to rise up again. the trails all have them. so do the roads and the choices and decisions and relationships. smooth sailing is a myth. it’s all a little bumpy.

we go a little slower.

and there is grace in the air. we need extend it to each other and to ourselves.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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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the west wall. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it’s the west wall. and every morning as the sun streams in across the room, we comment. it’s one of those images that you anticipate, that stays with you, that you miss on cloudy days – a new day captured between miniblinds. and, because we were there and so was he, we know the shadow in the bottom left window pane is a shadow of dogdog’s furry ear and the nape of his neck. his ritual – laying on the bed with us in the morning as we sip coffee and the sun works on rising.

it will soon be a year since columbus – david’s sweet dad – died. it is now just days away. i knew him for merely eight years. but he was easy to adore. he still is. i talk to him every time i get into big red, feeling his presence as i crank up country music and roll down the windows. i don’t even know if he cranked up country music and rolled down the windows, but i sense his approval and it makes me smile. he had a gentle way about him and his shadow leaves soft edges in my heart. i told david that it will get a little bit harder each day now. there is no changing that. not feeling his absence is like trying to keep an open candle lit in the wind. impossible.

the anniversary of his leaving-this-earth forces one to recognize mortality. when my big brother died, it foisted upon me an absolute sense of a lack of infinity – time goes by and the world continues on, yet there will come a time that our relationship with the world will no longer feel the same and our shadow will be a little less pronounced, a little less definitive, a little fuzzier, though no less present. when my poppo and then, three years later, my sweet momma died, i was struck by the sheer ludicrousness of how wrapped up we all get in everylittledetailofeverything. it felt like we should spend more time shadow-dancing together in the sun and less time in the actual shadows. there is no time to waste. we learn it – and forget – again and again. and again.

in the way of shadows and energy and love, we know that our dogga can feel us, despite our temporary absence from him as we travel. just like the people we love – here and not here – he is right with us.

the west wall reminds us.

*****

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indelible. [d.r. thursday]

indelible. the way of impressionable cement, not-yet-set or after much falling rain. the new sidewalk around the corner and down the street will forever look like autumn to me. until the impression of fallen leaves fades, i will always think of fall and raking leaves and stoked bonfires in the cool night air.

indelible. the way of scent. the whiff of a beloved’s cologne or perfume and you are catapulted in time to shared space with that person. the aroma of a certain cake in the oven or simmering sauce on the stove or how rye toast makes me think both of my sweet momma and my grandmother mama dear. the way walking through even a tiny pine forest both brings back the tall pines of florida and the sparkling air of colorado high mountain forest.

indelible. the way of taste. how you know exactly what a hot chocolate chip cookie tastes just out of the oven, without having one. how you anticipate that first cup of coffee in the morning. how you roll around the werther’s caramel and other times and places flit through your mind.

indelible. the way of color. how army green makes me think of the vietnam jacket my brother-in-law gave me. or how there’s a certain red that makes me think of moab and the high desert. how rich black makes me think of my piano. how blue makes me think of one of my sweet nieces and purple makes me think of the other. how pink is now a color my sister is rocking. how black and white together make me think of our babycat.

indelible. the way of sound. the seagulls in the air make me think of home – long island beaches – the surf pulls at me. bluejays bring me immediately back to my growing-up back yard. loons and i am up-north, hanging out with the gang. the sound of john denver music and the list of images in my mind’s eye grows; his music has accompanied me near and far. the echo of a sustain pedal takes me to quiet stages and dark theatres, practicing, a concert in the offing. the train at night, likely to always make me think of laying in bed, here, at home. the foghorn, the same.

indelible. the way of touch. the sensation of petting our dogdog. of holding hands. of scuffing feet in fallen leaves. of the cold water of a stream running over my feet – instantly transported to an aspen brook, hidden way back on trail. the certain way someone hugs, the one-in-a-million dna of that hug.

indelible. the way of first impressions. we have this chance many times a day. the first impression we have on the cashier or associate at the store, the first impression we have on the person walking the other way on the sidewalk, the first impression we have with the person on the other end of the phonecall, the first impression we have with strangers and, i suppose, those close to us each new day. and more, intimately, close-in, how we start our days. the indelible way we come home. how we greet each other. with joy or abstracted, aloof.

i saw a video of a young woman, a social worker steeped in education and research, speaking about how she learned a simple lesson about relationship from her dog. each day, each and every time, she would return home and her dog would be filled with zealous and passionate happiness at seeing her. she had no doubt about its love of her and how it felt when it saw her. dogdog jumps higher than the back doorknob every time we come home, with ardent wagawag. yes. important to remember as we see our beloveds, our family, our friends. the impressions we give them.

they are indelible.

this branch of leaves will eventually fade from this sidewalk square. but i know i’ll keep remembering these leaves as we pass this spot, enduring till they are the lightest light and blend, disappearing, into the cement.

i hope that i will remember that my impression is also indelible. first impression, every impression. even as i blend into the cement.

good lessons from rye toast. good lessons from our dogs. good lessons from the leaves.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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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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on the curb. [d.r. thursday]

you can put most anything at the curb and it will soon disappear. scrappers are on the prowl looking for metal and old appliances, big and small, things that might be repurposed, things that might be tinkered with and sold.

when i put out these three wrought-iron candlesticks i included a sign. i measured the heights and jotted them on the sign that indicated they were candlesticks. i was hoping someone who really wanted some taper holders to jaunt by and find them on our parkway. i didn’t want them to go to scrap.

david said that he saw the person pull up and examine the sign and the bag of candlesticks and that this person gently placed it in the back of his truck, so i’m crossing my fingers he brought them home and showed his partner, suggesting they eat by taper or relax in the evening to the glow of candles. i guess a girl can hope.

because we don’t generally do big giant things, we tend to celebrate the little stuff. this past friday evening was one of those times. right after he finished work, on an absolutely beautiful late afternoon, we got into littlebabyscion and drove south. as is our way, we took the backroads, arriving at the botanic garden, happy to see the parking lot meagerly parked.

we strolled through slowly, arm in arm, talking and quiet. we only had about an hour and a half till its close, but it was an hour and a half of lovely. it shushed our minds and its serenity was contagious.

we drove home the back way, through a few small towns with bistro tables on the sidewalks and people gathered, eating and sipping wine. we pondered stopping and having a bite outside, but continued home to make our own small meal and sip wine under happy lights in our sunroom with our dogga by our side. it was a peaceful way to start the weekend.

you don’t have to lift every little thing, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – a candle burning, a strand of happy lights, a quiet walk, sniffing peonies in a garden, admiring the wild columbine in the woods, stopping to watch a deer glide across someone’s front yard – these things matter.

you don’t have to be there for each other each moment, but we have learned it makes a difference. the tiny things – helping the other up off the floor after painting shoe moldings, bringing the other a steaming mug of coffee in a tired-time, clinking the day’s accomplishments, crying with the other’s pain – these things matter.

in one of her books, joyce maynard wrote, “when a person gave less, he required less in return.” i suppose life could be easier that way, more centric, simpler. one would not have to notice stuff or do much of anything for another. the give-and-take of relationship would be low-bar and that might work for some.

but time and life have taught me a few lessons, some much harder than others. one is that apathy and paying attention are absolute opposites, particularly in relationship.

we’re putting apathy on the curb.

*****

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the glue. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it would seem a giant compliment to be called a “glue person”.

glue people are those “who pull teams together to make them greater than the sum of their parts” (linkedin.com). like the tabs and pockets of an interlocking jigsaw puzzle, glue people are the ones who quietly and efficiently make it all happen. they are not front-of-stage necessarily. they are not leadership-paid necessarily. they are not lauded or recognized necessarily. but they are absolutely and without-a-doubt essential; they are the actual anchors.

in my own life and work experience, the glue people are those people who hold up the pillars that hold up the organization. they work at making the goals, the mission, come to fruition. they take a back seat to those in charge but actually are at the crux, shoring up, growing, bringing life and light to the place, lifting others, magic-wanding the whims of the leaders, building community among the members of the institution. they are simply the glue that holds it all together.

i suppose there are those people who are wary of glue people. they feel threatened by the glue-success; they suffer insecurity. instead of rallying behind gluepeople, these types will undermine them, speak hostility toward them, diminish their role in the organization, get rid of them.

and the walls will come a’tumblin’ down.

because, like this simple wooden trainset that my little boy loved playing with – that is now in the possession of the cutest little boy in florida – our little great-nephew – the interlocking of all is what holds it together.

without the glue all hell can break loose, and often does.

and sadly, it’s because someone could not recognize a glue person when they had one. someone did not value their glue.

*****

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desi is messy. too. [k.s. friday]

because we see desi every day, it is hard to notice its growth. she is likely changed at every sunrise streaming through the window behind her, yet we can’t see it. we’re too close, sitting at the table with her every day; the changes are imperceptible.

desi is a tiny pine tree, an evergreen whose genus and species are unknown. maybe a white pine, we wonder; she’s a messy little thing. her tiny branches are not orderly; she has a bit of wild-troll or kramer-esque (“seinfeld”) hair-branches going on. but her trunk has gone from a tiny needle stalk to something a bit more solid, a bit more grounded.

we talk to desi, just as we talk to all our plants. they each have a name (plants are people too). and, though i haven’t checked on each plant’s tolerance for this, i touch each one. we talk about the sun and the spring ever-coming and their stoic thriving through the winter. i tell them i can see their growth, for i cannot imagine any one or thing not liking positive reinforcement.

yesterday, in mid-basement-clean, i called up to david in his office. i asked him if he could take just a couple minutes to come downstairs and see my progress. i told him i could use the positive reinforcement. plus, if he didn’t look at the progress along the way, he would likely not realize what it took to get there.

it will take tons more time. i have so much to go through…more than thirty years of accumulation. it’s been an ongoing project. but the space i cleared in the workroom yesterday was significant and, if you looked, you could see the change.

some clearing out will not look like much. there will be boxes or bins that i will go through and things will get messier before they get cleaner. it will be hard to discern what i’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild down there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

not unlike the stuff going on inside. we can’t really see that growth either. we sit at the table with ourselves every single day. one day someone tells us we seem lighter, a good trend. positive – and negative – changes, both worthy of our attention, both glimpses into direction we choose to travel, the way we want to be in the world, how we want to ground, how we want to grow.

clearing out – on the inside – does not look like much. things get messier before they get cleaner and it is hard to discern what we’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild in there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

desi nods her wild-hair-branch head.

*****

taking stock

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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betty’s right. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

each of us can rack up the could-haves, like in a pool triangle, all stuffed in next to each other and ready to break with a cue. fragile, though. we can look back and think “why didn’t i…?” time and again. we can regret.

i suppose the gift of a new year – and those dang resolutions – is to sort and reevaluate the things that you consider important, the things worth continuing, the things worth letting go, the things worth learning. new practices of things-to-do and new practices of things-not-to-do. the lists permeate our brains and hearts, nagging, nagging.

there is a meme, well, many memes, circulating about betty white. it states something like “you have lived a really good life if, at 99, people say you have died too soon.” i realize that betty was inordinately popular, successful, always at the top of her game. but she was a real person, too. and she had to decide how to live. her positivity and laughter gifted each of us who have watched her or listened to her. in a recent interview she recommended, “taste every moment”. mmm. not at all corny, just a simplicity, a reminder.

we carry this pop-up-dinner table and stools around with us, switching from big red to littlebabyscion and back, depending on which vehicle we are driving. when big red refused to start for our road trip over christmas, we transferred the pop-up stuff into littlebabyscion and packed up to go.

we know we could have eaten at the sweet dining room table in our airbnb in the little mountain town. we ate there several times. but that last evening…we needed just a bit more time on the front porch, a bit more time outside, a bit more time admiring buffalo-plaid-man’s holiday decorations across the street, a bit more time in that town. we set up the pop-up table and stools, put up the luminaria again, lit a candle, brought out hors d’oeuvres for happy hour and, later, dinner. a little more effort, but not really much. everything tasted better out there. each moment.

before we even left home and while we were hiking in those north carolina mountains i thought about the new year approaching. i thought long about grasping onto the opportunity to just go, roadtrip to a new place, changing pattern. i thought about chances to amend, to let go, to reach out, to break the racked-up could-haves. big ways and little ways. i tasted a few resolution-ish moments, trying on for size – acting on – some of those thoughts-i-had.

and even in my first meager efforts – nothing earthshattering, nothing that will likely change the whole wide world – i must say, betty’s right.

*****

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