reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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late season indeterminate. [k.s. friday]

maybe we are all tomatoes-in-waiting.

it’s easy to recognize that we have germinated, that we have early growth with initial leaves. we send down a taproot, stabilizing just a bit. we are nurtured and we learn self-care, both. changes during the vegetative stage are a little easier to see as we grow upward and outward, green and healthy.

flowering and early fruiting…these are easy to discern in the striding of early decades of life. rushing to accomplish, to get up the mountain and down, to run without ceasing, to move without pause.

the presence of ethylene – a gaseous hormone – triggers the fruit to ripen. i suppose i would like to think this is much like the graying of my hair, the wrinkles on my brow, laughlines evident, jowls mysteriously appearing. coming to maturity. ripening.

early season varieties require 50-60 days to mature. mid-season require 60-80. late season varieties require more than 80 days to reach full maturity. and later, senescence, a natural progression.

i wonder how that all translates to human years.

the fruit of determinate tomatoes ripens all at once. indeterminate tomatoes ripen fruit throughout the growing season, extending the crop harvest…longer and longer.

we can all wager our own guess; i’m thinking late season variety. this still-learning thing makes that abundantly clear.

and i’m hoping for indeterminate. never quite done.

*****

THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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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.

*****

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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.”

*****

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


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just like toadshade. [k.s. friday]

one of nature’s market umbrellas, this toadshade. research states that its prairie trillium leaves – in a salad – taste a little like sunflower seeds, though the idea of harvesting as we hike is not really appealing to me. in due time we will be on the trail and the sessile blooms will burst open, deep red flowers punctuating the woods. the mayapple will spread and vast areas of decaying leaves will be covered by its natural awning. it is a joy to watch the forest wake.

soon i will move into the studio to pare down and rearrange. it has needed this for some time. like decaying leaves, but without the nutrients those generate, i will put away vestiges of places or times i simply cannot tolerate thinking about any longer. a plastic bin will hold the artifacts and, in that clearing out, i suspect light will stream in. i will not merely glance into the studio. i will walk in, breathe, and step the next step of whatever the journey in that studio is. even if only to watch it wake right now.

with the cantilever umbrella of my piano full-stick, maybe i will sow mustard seeds of possibility. and, maybe, just like toadshade, blooms will burst open.

*****

PULLING WEEDS

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PULLING WEEDS from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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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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beachgrass and self-care. the same. [d.r. thursday]

and i can imagine that i have carefully laid down a blanket on the dunes of fire island or smith point park further east. i can hear the surf rolling and i can feel the sun on my face, warm sand heating the blanket under me. the grasses sway in the breeze and i can hear the tiniest gasps of music from a radio playing a long distance away. it is a piece of heaven.

and so much a piece of my memory that i could feel it when i looked at this through-the-grasses photo taken in my midwest front yard. things that are visceral.

i imagine that the next time i see the atlantic ocean or even long island sound, i will feel the same way as when i first see the mountains or pass into the canyons. it takes me by surprise every time, though i don’t know why i’m surprised. yet it’s overwhelming. the mountains. the ocean. for different reasons and for the same reason. it suddenly occurs to me – all at once and little by little – that i am but a tiny piece of this vastness. were i to not feel it, it would still exist. i am lucky enough to feel it.

i am writing this – a few days ahead – on my birthday. i just had a glorious breakfast in bed, a phone call with my beloved daughter. i’ve opened cards and read text messages and facebook posts. it is sunny and very cold and we will wrap up in warm clothes and go take a hike somewhere.

i was awake in the middle of the night. my beloved son texted me just after midnight. and then i laid awake.

the quilt and i talked about life until david woke up hearing our murmurings. we watched a trail or two and then, the wisdom of the wander women, amazing thru-hiking backpackers of a certain age. they talked about their feet, which got my attention. issues with their feet. bunions. arthritis. toes turning. they recommended tiny gel-rubber wedges and orthotics, ways to honor their own self-care.

suddenly i found tears streaming down my face. as a person who, for instance, wears a wrist brace and a finger splint to sleep, i have – for some reason – labeled this, in a kind of deprecating why-do-you-need-this way, as high-maintenance, a weakness. hearing them – “solution-oriented” – dedicated to gently and intentionally caring for their “gracefully aging bodies” so that they could go and DO – was visceral. i could feel their self-love, and the support they had for each other in that self-love, in thriving, just like i could feel the sun on my face and warm sand under me. not a weakness. no…instead, indeed, a strength. it was a moment for me.

i don’t imagine that i will weep when i try the gel wedges in my hiking boots. i don’t imagine that i will cry if i place an insole under my foot. though maybe i will. it’s not exactly the same as revisiting the mountains or catching the first glimpse of the ocean. but i might be underestimating it.

the beachgrass protects the dunes, trapping windblown sand. it preserves the beach, the barrier islands against severe wave or wind or storm. we work to secure ecosystems in the mountains, protecting vegetation and animals from destruction the best we can, preservation for water and energy.

last night, in the middle of the night as i moved from 62 to 63, i was reminded again: that though i am tiny-in-vast, just like each of us, we are – yes – here to feel it. with all the trappings and obstacles and challenges and gloriouses – we are responsible to care for our bodies – the best we can. to love each inch, despite anything. to support each other in that care.

to realize – suddenly – that finger splints and tiny gel wedges are the same as beachgrasses, really. all part of the same world. it really all counts the same.

*****

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a day at the beach: mixed media 38×52
spoons and sandcastles: mixed media 28×57.5

A DAY AT THE BEACH, SPOONS AND SANDCASTLES ©️ 2017, 2018 david robinson


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already. [k.s. friday]

“her mother told her she could grow up to be anything she wanted to be, so she grew up to become the strongest of the strong, the strangest of the strange, the wildest of the wild, the wolf leading wolves.” (nikita gill)

inscribed in the sidewalk in frisco, colorado right outside the door to next page books and nosh, this quote begged me to take its picture. even under the bluest sky, embraced in high elevation rocky mountains, in and amongst the most golden aspen, it stood out. my sweet momma giggled from the other dimension as i took out my camera, and momentarily blocked the entrance to this independent book store.

we wandered for a long time in the shop. like deb’s fair isle books on washington island, it was exquisite and welcoming and easy to sink into. we touched the spines of books, chose another set of prayer flags, read greeting cards, bought our girl a magnet. i wanted to sign up for many of the upcoming masks-on gatherings there, sip coffee, browse the ‘be kind’ stickers and study the hiking trail books and maps on a center display. i would have liked to have been at “not your mother’s book club” on the 25th. my momma thought that was funny and assured me she would have attended as well. yes, it would be easy to spend magical days there; i suspect chatting and being quiet would pass the time and suddenly the sun would dip behind the mountains and we would be gently nudged out the door, past the nikita-inscription and onto the sidewalk.

i learned on their website that october is conflict resolution month. back in wisconsin, unfortunately, we were unable to be present on the 19th for the event at the shop called “conflict resolution for holy beings” (joy harjo) but i know plenty of people who should have attended.

nikita gill, a poet and writer with huge instagram following, also penned: “you have been praying so long for the strength to outlive the pain they inflicted on you, that you have forgotten – you are already strong.”

my sweet momma nods in agreement and whispers “oh yes!” to nikita and me.

glancing over at me, she adds, “hang the flags in the wind.”

*****

SISU: a finnish concept described as stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness.

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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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CHASING BUBBLES

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first-world pressure. [flawed wednesday]

i found an october 2017 edition of the magazine real simple in and amongst the catalogs in our magazine rack. paging through, i cringed when i saw an article about how to work from home, thinking how inadvertently prophetic that was. there were articles about kitchen makeovers, healthy habits, quick recipes and how to finance renovations. the second to last page was a faux program agenda for what was named by the author (ashley lefrak grider) the 32nd annual symposium of the american society for the investigation of contemporary fashion indignities. it made me laugh aloud, so i extracted two of the ‘session’ titles to share:

the morning ‘breakfast with the thought leaders’ was titled “low rise jeans: a plan to spread self-loathing among women who eat food.”

the ‘policy workshop’ held in the afternoon was titled “who bears the bulk of moral responsibility for pretorn jeans made of elastic and what is the appropriate punishment for this person?”

seriously, the experience of purchasing new jeans imperils most women’s senses of humor, not to mention self-image. styles change and jeans change and, each time, many of us are left wondering whose idea it was for women to wear skinny jeans or jeans that ride below a tummy that has had some serious childbirth adventures.

i detest the lighting in most store fitting rooms and the mirrors that surround you as you step out into the little hallway of curtains. were it to be my decision to make, i would provide soft lighting and beverages. a little asti/iced tea, perhaps. it’s painful. and jeans are my favorite thing to wear so you can bet that, once i have gone through this agony, through the oh-geez-these-make-my-butt-look-big-i’ll-just-wear-long-tunics-all-the-time enlightenment, i make jeans last a very long time and save them all in my overburdened closet. for years. it’s too anxiety-producing otherwise.

the worst is finding a new bathing suit. the hard plastic model mannequin wearing the darling suit in the swim, cruise and yachting department has not lived life and it is unfair to act like her little perfect shape is in any way relevant to the rest of us. ordering from a catalog is an option, but most of the same rules apply and make many of us wish that we could go back to the swimsuits of the 1920s, though these are also hardly ideal.

in the latest first-world news – just how does one keep up? – trends to follow include: luxe sweatsuits (named “almost-business-casual-take-you-from-the-couch-to-errands loungewear”), knit dresses and skirts (because who doesn’t want to wear form-fitting sweater-dresses!), leather coats pretending to be those oversized down coats, and, my personal favorite, puffy shoulders and sleeves, which makes me wonder why i gave away my bridesmaid dress from my niece’s wedding in the early 90s. what’s more, ultimate gray and illuminating yellow are the fashion pantone colors of the year, chosen for their “warmth and dependability”, but clearly not how they look on real people.

the tagline of real simple magazine is “life made easier”. and the heading on the page with the mock symposium agenda is “the struggle is real” with a sub-title of “clothes: we have a few complaints”. the closing session of the conference, with only an hour-long presentation – so little time, so much to say – was “to live is to suffer: was nietzsche wearing control-top pantyhose?” indeed.

women in our society have had an extraordinary and inordinate amount of pressure put on our ability to look fit, healthy, hydrated, well-rested, botulinum-toxin-injected and young. in the pickiest of picky new face-rules, lately i have noticed an emphasis on having eyelashes to end all eyelashes. as a blonde, eyelashes tend to be just laughable and definitely an investment in mascara. at a couple hundred dollars a lash extension application plus upkeep, costs seems like expenditures that would not fall under the ‘make a budget’ article guidelines, nevertheless it is a ‘thing’ and women everywhere are buying into it. at target yesterday, i wondered how the lovely young woman, waiting on us and trying unsuccessfully to type information into a device to locate our pickup order, functioned with her carefully manicured but insanely long fingernails. were these nails what she really wanted or were these nails a product of some sort of weird expectation that they were somehow elevating her already very natural beauty? the questions keep coming. so do the catalogs of new clothes, new swimsuits, new shoes, new products to trim your body, new trinkets, new dietary supplements. so much pressure.

too much pressure. good thing i don’t subscribe to cosmo.

i hear wide-leg-relaxed-fit-waist jeans are back. goodness and gosh, i can’t wait to go try some on. better yet, maybe there’s a pair in the back of my closet somewhere.

yes, friedrich, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

*****

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classic. woman. [d.r. thursday]

classic framed  copy 2.jpg

CLASSIC mixed media 20″ x 16″

my sweet momma had a painting of a modestly nude woman hanging in her master bath.  she was proud of this painting and of its location.  it traveled with them from long island to various homes in florida, an item that made the keep-it cut time and again.  now, this painting was not a brilliant work of art, for it was actually a paint-by-number that she had painted at some point before painting her own abstracts. (more on paint-by-numbers at a later date.)

but momma’s painting was meaningful to her and i suspect it represented a powerful statement – the beauty of a woman’s body, the grace of line, the respect shown.  perfection.  i think it resembled her in her youth, and in later years reminded her of earlier years, an earlier body before babies and emotion and injury and surgeries and wrinkles and time changed everything.  changed the shape and the look of body but added strength and wisdom that only life lived can add.  momma was indeed a woman before her time.

CLASSIC is such a painting, but is exquisite art.  the beauty of a woman’s body, the grace of line, the respect shown.

momma would have loved this painting of david’s and, probably, would have convinced him to hang it for her in her own home.  it would remind her of how much she loved being a woman.  of how she taught her daughters and granddaughters to embrace being female and yet, not to stand by meekly or idly or retreatingly.  to revel in the beauty of having a body that is female, but not to tout or compare or compete.  to move with grace as best as you can, for in that movement grace will be found.  to show and expect respect for your own body, in all ways.  to recognize perfection.  in all the times of life.

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CLASSIC ©️ 2013 david robinson