reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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every waterfall counts. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we stood in a quiet forest, the only sounds – birds and running water.

we had taken a sketchy gravel forest service road – a single-car-width-wide – to get to the trailhead up the mountain, encouraging littlebabyscion the whole way and grateful we had gotten new tires before our trip. the brochure directions were not as straight-forward as we would have liked, and we lost signal for most of the time, but eventually the alltrails app helped us find our way.

250 waterfalls. there are more than 250 waterfalls to discover in brevard, north carolina. choosing where to go is overwhelming. but once you start laying feet on the dirt, hiking, it really doesn’t matter. we were surrounded by intensity every which way we looked. we stood by the side of the waterfall, silent.

it wasn’t one of the grand falls; it wasn’t listed on the “top 10”. but it was serene and light dazzled through the trees. millions of droplets captured the sun. a tiny miracle of beauty in the woods. haloed waterfall. stunning. perfect.

“and the moon said to me, my darling daughter, you do not have to be whole in order to shine.” (nichole mcelhaney)

we hiked on up further, a steep climb to a destination unknown.

*****

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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.

*****

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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 stars are watching. [k.s. friday]

littlebabyscion is ready. i washed it and vacuumed it and wiped out the inside, reorganizing its small storage spaces, checking to make sure the necessities were there. we travel always with a small tool kit, duct tape (this is from experience), twist ties, rubber bands of all sizes and a big maglite flashlight. light is always good on a dark highway, but the light was barely discernible when i checked it, so i changed the batteries and put extras in a small bag that also has jumper cables and a quart of oil, things we have determined to be practical. in the winter there are a few additions, a few things that my sweet poppo always made sure i carried along. but it’s still late summer, so the extender snow brush/scraper can hang in the garage just a bit longer and the kitty litter doesn’t need to come along. littlebabyscion is ready to go to the shop today and come home later with a muffler that doesn’t make noise. (to muffle: to make quieter and more difficult to hear; muffler: a device fixed to the exhaust of a motor vehicle to reduce engine noise.) it waits patiently in the driveway until The Time.

the people who know – like our mechanic, the exhaust system shop, our plumber, our electrician, the drain experts, tree services, gardening wizards, the company we will choose to be our mason – they are like lights in the darkness. along with their expertise and the wisdom of friends who have beentheredonethat we survive the normal – and not-so-normal – challenges of home and car ownership. it would seem rare – a person without some sort of concentric circle of informants surrounding them in problem-solving and decision-making. asking questions, asking for advice, seeking information are the basis for learning and, it seems, every day is an opportunity for that. (and we haven’t even mentioned the whole changing-bodies piece of this life-thing.)

we stood outside on the deck, the only light from a few torches and the bonfire across the yard; we gazed at the sky. it seemed thousands of stars gazed back at us. the james webb telescope has delivered photographs of space back to us here on this planet, a place that feels big but is merely tiny in the vast. seeing billions and billions of light years away, i read that the webb captures not just the birth of stars but, also, their last dances. it is hard to wrap your head around looking back in time in such a profound way. the light goes on and on. and on.

we each build a framework around ourselves. none of us exists without the other, really. at a time when our purple-mountain-majesty-land continues to be divided and people fight for control and power and are practicing efforts serving to undermine, marginalize, divide further, it would seem prudent to remember the tiny-in-vast. transience.

we can be the light for each other…in so many ways. or we can snuff it out and try to go on without. the stars are watching.

always prepared, always planning ahead for possible big bangs, my poppo would vote for light.

*****

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our muffler. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

“dirtbag!” i could see it on the guy’s disgusted face in the parking space next to mine at the festival grocery store lot. i tried to wait until he was in his vehicle, but he was futzing around outside his car for too long and i needed to get home with my few groceries, so i started littlebabyscion.

it roared to life. i mean, really roared. susan says it’s pretending to be a ferrari for a few moments in time, but i dunno. it’s a bit more jet-engine-like. “prepare for take-off. we’re number two in line on the runway. cross-check!”

i’ve always wanted to say “cross-check”, mostly because i still haven’t figured out what it really means. i just didn’t anticipate saying it in my car.

anyway, i digress.

i know the guy in the parking lot drew ridiculous conclusions about me – me…63 and generally not this noisy – and my vehicle – littlebabyscion, our faithful and trusted toyota companion for the last 258,000 miles and a vital continued part of our retirement planning so as to avoid a new car payment. in the matter of mere seconds, he thought he knew it all, simply from the din. sigh. go drive your buick, you buickman, you.

littlebabyscion – in the middle of other crisis – decided the stress was just too much and blew a hole in the muffler assembly. this happens every september or october; i’m really not sure why they make mufflers out of stainless steel but all the connectors out of metals that rust out rather quickly. regardless, we can count on visiting the exhaust system shop each early fall.

it quickly became louder, from the whisperings i could hear when we left the medical center to the loud and booming voice it had announcing its arrival – and departure – from, well, everywhere.

it’s humbling to drive a car down the road that is making too much noise. people stare. people roll their eyes. you know people are thinking, “geez. get your dang car fixed.”

and – in big surprising news – people make assumptions.

we have an appointment. i called the shop within a half hour of The Noise starting and drove by for a drive-up check to make sure nothing was dragging (which i hope-against-hope stays the way it is now – a tiny strap is holding things together, much like my composure.) our appointment is next wednesday, so there is a considerable amount of time we will still be driving littlebabyscion…aka the-noise-machine.

it surely is a reminder to not make assumptions. we cannot stand in another’s shoes. we cannot know the details of another’s life. we cannot decide that someone is a “dirtbag” simply because their non-sports-car is making a tad bit of noise. it reminds me to step back and give lots of grace.

and to wear earplugs. ’cause it ain’t gettin’ any quieter.

*****

ps. we all know the saying about the word “assume”. by golly, it’s true!

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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lit-fires. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“c’mon baby, light my fire,” the saying is the centerpiece of a beautiful frame of deep woods, reaching up and reflecting in a pond down. it was part of a moving wedding gift and we treasure it on top of our dresser.

dogdog needs little to light his fire. it would seem one of his favorite things is to “go on errands”. his little body quivers with excitement and it takes a few moments for him to stop jumping-bean-jumping before he sits on the rug for his leash and the chance to bound out the door and godirectlytothecardonotstoporcollect200dollars. he – in his weird aussie-quirk way – will only get in littlebabyscion from the rear passenger door and he jumps up and waits, with great anticipation. lit-fire and all, he will wait for a very long time to discover where it is we are going and, every time, even if it is only around the block, he looks thrilled. in nice weather he sticks his head out the window and lets the wind blow his ears, his eyes wide, his mouth open. he has no expectation. he finds his glee right there and then. he is elated.

there was a moment this weekend, a busy one working around the house and in our backyard, that we took to sit and relax at the table out back, eat too many pistachio nuts and paint rocks. my green paint pen cap exploded off and neon green paint went everywhere. we looked at each other and started laughing. a couple hours went by before we realized it might be time to warm up some leftovers. nothing like a saturday, dusk on the deck and yummy leftovers.

it just makes you realize that it’s all about framing.

lit-fires and joy.

we just need to bound into it with no expectations.

*****

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and the circle cried too. [d.r. thursday]

“it’s the circle of life
and it moves us all
through despair and hope
through faith and love
’til we find our place
on the path unwinding
in the circle
the circle of life”

(circle of life, elton john, tim rice)

“it can all unravel so fast,” he said as we watched footage of erin burnett (cnn) in a van in ukraine, trying to find a border that was open, a border that did not have a fifty-six hour wait in line. the absolutely devastating reality of families trying to leave-and-go-where? is sobering.

we have written each day, because that is what we do. most of the time we write ahead so that the blogs publish early in the morning. sometimes that means that we are not writing of the moment in time, not writing of the crisis, not writing of the emotional and physical upheaval of others in the world. sometimes we are simply writing about something simple, something mundane, something inane, something that may not seem plugged in.

we walked out front the day we pushed littlebabyscion down the driveway so that big red could be threaded through the space between the wall and the xb and driven across the yard to the street. as i stood there, ready to inform d about clearance on either side, i looked down at the wall and the copper ring, standing on edge, was there. it took me by surprise; it had surely stood on its edge for months, through rain and snow and wind, not moving. we realized it was a fitting from the water line replacement work we had done, as the line installed in the ground was copper. the ring had withstood some time and definitely some weather. steadfast. and there it was. a circle of copper.

russia’s invasion into ukraine is the mightiest of disasters. a human-driven catastrophe intended to hurt others, intended for cataclysmic fall, turmoil, shakeout that will last decades, utter grief to a country that has rebuilt, that has risen up in strength and great fortitude.

the mortal politics of this ugly invasion aside, it is abhorrent to watch as families pack a suitcase from their house, their home, their life and split apart – men staying behind, conscripted to fight. we cry again and again, watching as they hug, exchange goodbyes – not knowing – and leave to go mostly to places they do not yet know. the point is to leave. the point is not yet to know. the point of these incredibly strong, stalwart and courageous people is to have hope through the despair.

every bit of news we watch and read brings into focus, yet again, the flimsy grip we have on living. what we thought was important can drop away in mere instants. what we thought was necessary becomes superfluous. what we thought was solid becomes nebulous, untenable.

“it can all unravel so fast.”

life. the circle.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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vintage. [two artists tuesday]

the last time i bought a brand new car – right off the lot – was 2003 or 2004. littlebabyscion was almost brand new – with 250 miles on it and that was in 2006. the new-car-smell and negotiating with salespersons and then, of course, their managers…both memories in the distant past.

littlebabyscion is getting up there. 260somethingthousand miles on it now. wrinkles and groans and a little rust here and there and a few mechanical issues here and there, it’s a workhorse that just refused to start last friday. dashboard lights i don’t think i have seen before appeared right before my eyes. we suspect the alternator.

but – in our one car driveway – there LBS sat…in back of big red, blocking the path out.

the jumpstart hooked up to big red made LBS chortle. starting for a moment and trying to chug the engine alive, it stalled and the handbook and google informed us to “go to the scion dealer” and do not pass go. our truly amazing mechanic steve will be its destination when the tow truck comes.

but – on friday – we were left without any transportation.

saturday we pushed the scion down the driveway toward the apron and managed to thread big red through the space between the old brick wall and the front of LBS. the only way out was across the yard, but the yard – all trenched and mounded up from the water line replacement – has seen better days anyway. we rolled our eyes looking at the tire tracks across the snow in our front yard. david suggested moving the couch out front.

we have some real old stuff. between a 1998 ford f150 and our xb and our vw and our stove and mixing bowls and corningware and this very laptop – not to mention hand-me-downs and never-been-replaceds, we qualify as our own antique shoppe. when seeking a replacement adapter cord, the woman on the apple support line told me that my computer was “vintage” and that they didn’t even carry the cord for it. (she was actually wrong about that part as i directed her attention to the correct cord on the apple store.) see…you can rube goldberg things and keep them going when need be.

and as two artists for the majority of our lives – in between and in conjunction or simultaneously with other positions and career arcs – rube goldberging is of necessity. i’d like to also think of it as having a smaller carbon footprint. admittedly, the efficient energy consumption of a new stove vs the half-life of a decomposing stove in a dump somewhere leaves much room for debate. but we, as artists, don’t always have the luxury of replacing things at whim – or even in a longer term plan – and we try to do our best at being responsible citizens of this beautiful world.

i asked steve once what we were going to do when littlebabyscion reached 300,000 miles. he looked at me, surprised, and said, “keep driving it.”

yes, yes. i suppose we will.

we pushed littlebabyscion back up the driveway so big red could fit.

it may be time to start planning for new grass.

*****

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the deal. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

to the casual observer, i’m sure it looked clandestine: gas station parking lot. man pulls up in newer vehicle. woman pulls up in older-model vehicle to newer vehicle’s driver’s side. woman stays in vehicle and opens passenger window. man gets out and goes to passenger window with envelope. man extends envelope into vehicle. woman extends package toward man. yikes!

the woman in the very-nice-car next to me was watching. i could feel her eyes on the back of my head. i turned toward her and she raised her eyebrows and frowned at me. i made sure to hold the binax-now-covid-self-rapid-test box up high so that she could see it. from the look on her face, i’m guessing she thought that i had disguised the real stuff with this box. 20 and i exchanged envelope and box and, although the envelope had nothing to do with the box at all, and this was just me bringing 20 a rapid test since he couldn’t find any, it appeared – to this woman drawing conclusions – that we had done a deal. ewww.

the last time i felt that way i was in the kansas city airport. i flew in and, with a sizeable bank check in hand, met a complete stranger in the baggage claim area. i was purchasing littlebabyscion and driving it home that same day, but it sure looked kind of suspect.

back-in-the-day, decades ago now, when i worked for the state attorney’s office in florida, my husband was a detective with the sheriff’s department. there are many stories of stings and deals and situations to which i have been privy. some stories are funnier than others. like the time he landed the department helicopter in the field having watched a guy pull marijuana out of a neighboring field and run into the nearby house. from my recollection, when he went to the door a small child answered. he asked if he could speak to his daddy and the innocent little boy said, “right now he’s in the bathroom flushing plants down the toilet.” yes. a different situation.

these are indeed strange times. and we are all trying to do the best we can. we keep track of where we’ve been, who we’ve seen. we are cautious to be vaccinated and boosted and wear masks and sanitize and avoid crowds and obvious circumstances that might be more dangerous from a contagion point of view. we sacrifice some now in order to have a better (and sooner) future without covid. we make soup for others, call on people to check in, deliver groceries, share masks and rapid tests and information.

saturday night we watched a documentary: the first wave. our daughter sent us the link; one of her friends with nat-geo was involved in its production.

if you have forgotten why you are being vigilant, why you are vaccinated, why you are boosted, wearing a mask, isolating, keeping distance, not gathering, not eating in crowded restaurants or going to crowded indoor events, you should watch this movie.

if you have been wondering why you are emotionally and physically exhausted, why you are sometimes edgy, why you have been pining for normal, you should watch this movie.

if you have somehow lost the vision in your mind’s eye of the absolute terror and fear in people’s eyes who have been stricken with covid, you should watch this movie.

if you have forgotten about courage and science and the miracle of others sustaining each other, you should watch this movie.

if you have lost perspective and are just d-o-n-e with it all, you should watch this movie.

our daughter wrote that she had never seen anything like people on respirators, ventilators or in the devastating state this pandemic slammed upon them. i wrote back, still crying from watching, even a half hour after this movie, that neither had i. and the thing i had to keep reminding myself during the movie? that it was real. that it was true. that it still is.

we all know we’d do just about anything for the people we love. it is important – in these times – for us all to be honest and forthcoming. to let each other know if we are at risk, if we might be putting the other at risk, if we are ailing, if we think we are ‘positive’, if we need help or, simply, if we need the emotional support of the people who love us back – standing with us in the middle of it all, even if that is virtual.

our hearts are all connected together. and i would, once again, risk the unfair judgement of a bystander to stay that way.

*****

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


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brochures! [saturday morning smack-dab.]

at any time, if you reach your hand down into the side pocket of big red’s driver’s door, you will find brochures. same with under littlebabyscion’s seat. brochures. colorado brochures, mostly. i am betting that, were i to go out into the driveway right now, i would find the 2020 and 2021 editions of “visit colorado” magazine. it is entirely possible that 2019 would be there as well.

i love brochures. i love maps too. real live unfold-it-and-never-get-it-folded-the-same-way-again maps. i flinched as we drove past the welcome center into colorful colorado on our last trip, knowing that there were glossy pamphlets and neatly-folded new maps waiting for me. it was not without pain and a lot of self-control that i drove on, knowing we needed to get where we were going. i sighed an “i’ll be back” to the beckoning brochure-haven as we 70mph-ed past.

there is something dreamy about brochures. the cover pictures – of places – wherever they are…not just the high mountains – entice you and your imagination is off and running as you open the booklet and page through: you are there. you are hiking. you are dining al fresco with colorful umbrellas. you are whitewater rafting. you are camping. you are horsebackriding. you’re on a train hugging the cliff. you’re angling in a stream. you are shopping at tiny boutiques with one-of-a-kind fashions. you’re canoeing in the quietest lake. you’re laying on a blanket in sunny sand. you are hang-gliding. you’re mountain-biking. you are in a hot air balloon over the desert. you’re sipping wine in a log cabin at the peak. you are surrounded by sandstone or towering pines and big granite. you’re playing guitar around a campfire. delicious!

so if you are out and about this holiday season, roadtripping long distance past welcome centers and rest areas, you might want to consider stopping. you don’t know what you’re missing. i’ve even been known to go to the wisconsin welcome center in our own town out on the i…it’s amazing the stuff – places and things to do – you find out about your own state.

there’s a drawer in the living room that holds the brochures i haven’t parted with. one needs – at least – the last year’s printed material to revisit, to reminisce, to plan ahead. don’t tell d. i don’t think he knows about that drawer.

but, i mean, how do you know when you’ll get the next editions?

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING