reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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layer upon layer. [two artists tuesday]

peeled back from the tree trunk, the bark first reminded me of the colosseum in rome…that one tall section rising above the rest. it is also sadly reminiscent of one of the devastating iconic images of 9/11, a piece of building at ground zero, standing through absolute destruction.

at a different time, in different circumstances, in a small forest in northern illinois, this gorgeous bark in the woods has remained steadfastly in place for several weeks, holding on to the tree at its base and, yet, yielding to nature bending back, back.

i wondered about the peeling. if this is a sycamore tree, this exfoliating is natural, even a charming characteristic. if this is an oak, it can be a sign of an unhealthy tree, unless there is new bark underneath, waiting.

i don’t suppose that is much unlike all of us. peeling back the layers…as we lose each layer, we are vulnerable to the elements, unprepared peeling exposing us to harm. we can more easily share – layer by layer – if we know we are out of harm’s way to do so. we can more readily divulge – layer by layer – if we know that we will not be pummeled. we can more assertively process – layer by layer – if we know we are not at risk of stress, infection, infestation. we can, if we trust we are safe.

decades of life have a way of peeling the outer bark. time may soften the edges; time may bring cycles of raw learning…those moments we speak truth, we take chances, we jump…moments of transition.

the colosseum is over 1900 years old. sycamores live somewhere between 200 and 300 years. oak trees can live from 80 to 500 years, though there are varieties with a much longer life span.

we humans have less time on this good earth, less time to grow to maturity, less time for our structure to weather the storms, less time to lose our bark, less time to peel back to our essence. it would seem prudent to offer each other the room, the space, the shelter to exfoliate.

oak trees develop from the inside out, as do pine and maple. the older bark chips away on the outside making room for new bark. it take some trees till the time of their full maturity to exfoliate their outer skin.

obviously, trees are people too.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a run on “be kind” buttons. [merely-a-thought monday]

inc. magazine has surprised me time and again. in this period of marveling over the inclination of people in leadership positions around me making what-would-seem really questionable decisions, i have found inc. to be wise and thought-provoking and practical.

i have read articles about management, about good leaders, about equipping employees with confidence, about building people up and not tearing people down. i have read about innovation and support and equality. i have read about not taking things personally, about not ruling your workforce with fear as your greatest tool, about not undermining or being deprecating toward your workers. i have read about organizations working in collaboration, with communication, with transparency. i have read about creating places of compassion and constructive feedback and shared vision. i have read stellar writings about limiting leadership-driven agenda, about truth, about acknowledging discriminatory practices and addressing them. i have read about conflict in the workplace, about identifying it, qualifying it, mitigating it. i have read articles asking challenging questions, sparking maturation of companies and businesses and organizations.

inc. magazine has rocked in its simple approach. it makes me wonder why more manager and leader-types clearly don’t subscribe – in either print, digital or philosophical ways. it’s too bad. any measure of brutally mean dominion over employees does not seem to be a mission of goodness or of growth. organizations that participate in the mission of goodness do not fall into chaos or an abyss of hypocrisy. instead, they grow and change and fluidly adapt. they share ownership with the community they serve and they gratefully appreciate each spoke in the wheel, knowing they didn’t get there without each other.

so when inc. magazine had an article about thanksgiving, we clicked on it. again, a simple approach. instead of going around the table with the question “what are you thankful for?”, the writer suggested you ask the question “what will you do to make others thankful?”. an active verb. what WILL you do?

there’s been a bit of a run on our “be kind” buttons. maybe others are gifting them for the holidays. maybe they are challenging students or service groups to disperse them. maybe they are standing on corners and just giving them out. or, i hope, maybe them are giving them to managers who need be reminded. i don’t know. i do know, however, that we will likely be at the public market or ogilvie handing them out one of these days. or maybe we’ll leave wrapped bundles on the trail or at the check-out line or in the public restroom. free buttons. who can resist? it’s my hope it will make others smile, to concentric those circles out, to generously spread gratitude and kindness.

because inc.’s question is a good one. just like so many of their others. bravo, inc.

*****

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


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cicadas and people. [k.s. friday]

the cicada was silent, attached to the deck. it was late spring/early summer of 2015 and this insect had chosen our deck as its place of transition. we watched the shell, cautious to not disturb it, waiting for something to happen. until one day it began to emerge, looking much like an extra-terrestrial, wings of flight opening and drying in the sun of the warm day. it was a stunning process from nymph to adult, all silent, with no fanfare for this remarkable transformation. suddenly, this little being was present on the earth, ready to make some noise.

silence to noise – a transition from nymph to mature adult. a lesson, perhaps, for humanity.

our progression from without-words nymph-baby to with-a-voice mature adult, a transformation of growth, of learning, of critical thinking, of fortitude. as cicadas raise their voices to the sky, buzzing and clicking, choosing their song, their chorus wisely, they answer an intuitive call, they align in truth to their purpose, their place on earth. much the same perhaps should be mature adults – answering an intuitive call, choosing their song or chorus wisely, aligning in truth.

there are times we find ourselves in hush. stunned into silence by the words or actions of others, we sit, ensconced in the shell of our exoskeleton. we wait and we watch. and then, as we rise as winged and responsible people, we have the opportunity, the obligation, to speak – to speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, speak to truth.

perhaps there are adults who have skipped their instar stages, those phases of development that insects pass through on their way to maturity. perhaps they should have lived underground like cicadas, feeding on roots, a bit longer before they emerged, before they walked on an earth where they felt they could use their words to hurt or harm others. perhaps then, after a slow transition into maturation and with no fanfare, they would choose their buzzing and ticking with more forethought, with more compassion, with more honesty, with more wisdom.

*****

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a good old chinwag. [merely-a-thought monday]

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. conversation. back and forth.

conversation: (noun) a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.

conversation – synonyms: discussion. gabfest. heart-to-heart. dialogue. conference. confab. exchange. chinwag.

chinwag??

probably one of the most frustrating things in human community is the willingness for people to forego hard conversations and, instead, accept things as-is, invest in misinformation and make assumptions. toxic in almost every situation, assumptions are the stuff of poison apples and they will destroy everything in their wake.

a good old chinwag would do wonders for forward movement. people – together – back and forth – who are candid and honest, forthcoming and steadfast, who ask the hard questions and demand straightforward answers, who don’t leave out pertinent details, who expect truth and speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, freely upfront.

a good old chinwag is a mature opportunity for growth, for learning, for progress. silence is the opposite – it is a wound that will fester, a mistake that will become exponential, an injustice that will become a wart, a carbuncle on the integrity of a community.

a good old chinwag is not easy. it is the stuff of bravery, the stuff of guts, of risk-taking, of fortitude and perseverance. it is the stuff of dedication to the bigger picture, to progress, to being proactive. it does not yell or scream; it is quietly respectful, using language of negotiation, of reconciliation, of courtesy, a deference to thoughtfulness.

a good old chinwag may lead to tears. it can be the stuff of renewal, of healing, re-establishing relationship, correcting wrongs. it can be the stuff of granting forgiveness and the stuff of receiving forgiveness. it can be powerful and it can be most tender. it can bring weeping into the back and forth, drowning out toxins and harvesting hope.

a good old chinwag can never be a bad thing. it can forge or strengthen mature friendships and dig deep foundations with honesty and candor. it can elicit change. it can revitalize and reinvigorate. it can rebuild.

a good old chinwag. simply caring enough to have a conversation.

you speak. i speak. you speak. i speak. back and forth.

*****

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


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“transparent.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the headline from business insider magazine reads, “chris krebs firing from CISA (cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency) was evidence of his success.” the united states top department of homeland security cybersecurity official was fired this week after spearheading efforts to protect the democratic process of the election. he spoke to the truth; he exposed the falsehoods, the mismanagement of factual information, the peril to free and fair elections, his ignored answers to questions about an election that was “the most secure in american history.” he was removed. democracy is at stake.

defense secretary mark esper, apparently not loyal enough to a president who seeks not truth, but rather, compliance, was fired early in november, injecting uncertainty into an already perilous global climate. he was replaced. our country is destabilized, put at greater risk.

 lt. col. alexander vindman, a national security council staff member, raised his hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  after speaking to the truth in impeachment hearings for the current president, he was fired by the president, the same man who was impeached. his error? speaking the truth, citing facts, about a man who demands only absolute alliance, disregarding truth. that man, along with those complicit to him, exacted revenge.

 dr. anthony fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, speaking to the truth, the inconceivable and unconscionable peril that this country is facing in the middle of this raging global pandemic, has been minimized and tossed off, threatened with being fired by a president intent on absolute control, absolute obedience. factual information needed to protect a vulnerable populace has been withheld, experts with words of wisdom have been held at bay. more people will contract this disease. more people will die.

 “transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.”
“transparency is the open sharing of information from a business to its consumers. it creates brand trust, good communication and perceived good citizenship.”

transparency is not the utterance of pretty words. it is not relationship participating in hiding the truth, sweeping it under the rug. it is not silent. it is not intentionally deceptive. it is having hard and healthy conversations,
respectfully taking responsibility, navigating difficulty, meeting and addressing problems head-on, collaborating with maturity, eyes toward progress and shared authenticity.

our election process. our national security. the integrity of our leadership. our collective health.

lack of transparency. peril. potential collapse.

there is too much of that going around.

what a sad commentary on our times.

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


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the soul of barney. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

Barney

as barney ages in our backyard, he clings to his original form – he is a piano, first and foremost.

barney has spent the last four years in our backyard.  his presence is inspiring.  rescued from the dark church basement boiler room he had been in, the light of the sun and weather he now endures have brought nuance to his life as a piano.  no longer serving his original purpose, he has a new destiny.

but barney’s soul remains the same.  you look at him and you know he is a piano.  no ifs, ands or buts. and he is cherished.

there is a different kind of power in his spot in the backyard.  it’s not one of crescendo-ing music.  instead it is now one of steady quiet.  it is one of a history of service and workhorse reliability.  it is one of a history of the dawn of creative moments and the dusk of amens sung in sunday school classrooms or weekly meeting rooms of committees or choirs. his piano-soul now resounds in the chirp of every bird or chipmunk, the sound of the wind and the rain, the glint of the sunlight deepening the wrinkles of his keys.

barney is retired.  but he is not silent.

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

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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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nonplussed. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

nonplussed definition

i am nonplussed.

some of you will think i am ‘bewildered, confused, perturbed, disconcerted’.  some of you will think i am ‘not disconcerted’, that i am ‘unperturbed’.  wow.  how would you know?  particularly if i only say, “i am nonplussed by this.”  language!  it’s nonplussing.

context is everything.  it is the arrows pointing to clarity.  it is the measure of the meaning of someone’s words.  it is the scale of importance given to a statement.  it is the framework within which to assess, to understand.

to be in a mature conversation, a mature communication, we seek out context, a fair understanding given the circumstances around a statement.  we look for truth and transparency in words spoken to us, searching for a place we can meet on common ground and really talk.  we provide context to others to clarify our point, to clear-stream muddy waters and avoid misunderstanding.  context is everything.  indeed.

but for right now, i will just say i am nonplussed.

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

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everyone is a messenger. [merely-a-thought monday]

*everyone is a messenger

we are all guilty.  we speak before thinking.  we spew before thinking.  we condemn before thinking.

my sweet momma used to tell me if i couldn’t think of anything good to say, not to say anything at all.  my dear friend linda taught me that if i couldn’t think of a worthy response to, let’s say, situation/thing x, to say instead, “now THAT’S a situation/thing x!!”  both are generous people who have abided by the golden rule and have remembered that they are indeed messengers, anywhere they are.

we are ambassadors, everywhere we go.  we take our partner with us, our family with us, our workplace with us, our community with us, our country with us.  we represent.  we can choose to be messengers of goodness, of grace, of kindness, of fairness, of positive and supportive words spoken about others.  or we can choose to be messengers of negativity, cynicism, apathy, denouncing places or another person or peoples.

i recently overheard someone demeaning their workplace.  the message was clear and their words of disregard served only to discredit the person speaking.  a-messenger-wherever-we-go is a responsibility, sometimes a true test of our maturity.  we need be careful.   my sweet momma would say, “think before you speak!”  i would add – not only because you could be overheard, but because it is the right thing to do.

we are all guilty.  but we keep trying.

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the wheels of change. [two artists tuesday]

wheels of change copy

the tread matters not.  the wheels of change are constant.  fluid.  ever-rolling.

we have watched bristol woods change.  we hike there often and have gotten to know trees and turns in the trail personally.  many months ago we knew a decision was made to build a high ropes “adventure” course in part of the park.  we have watched its birth; we have witnessed the change.  the big machinery is out there.  gravel roads are cut.  trees have been removed.  tall poles have been installed and ropes are now hung between them.  the county’s position is that this will be a good thing, generating revenue that would go back into “upkeep and improvements”.

all this remains to be seen.  it would just be my hope that they haven’t lost sight of the simplest reasons for this place to exist, the quiet reasons, the pure reasons.  what is that expression….”penny wise, pound foolish.”  sometimes cutting corners or chasing the shiny new thing isn’t the wisest move in the long run.  you lose the sure foundation, not recognizing what it is you are losing, the steadfast movement underestimated, the maturity of the woods undervalued.  the wheels of change keep going and the concentric circles of impact widen ever-further out.  david’s mom uses the expression “ever-forward” when she signs an email.   sometimes forward is forward.  and sometimes forward is not so forward.

i can feel the wheels of change.  the tread, and therewith the pace, is not yet so evident to me.  i’m not sure if it’s road-bike-tire-thin or monster-650-tractor-tire-thick, but they are there, turning, turning.  ever-forward…

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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