reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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no pizza, but thank you. [merely-a-thought monday]

if my sweet momma had hung tiny signs in trees, she would have hung this one, “be the reason someone smiles today.”

the historic district of plaza midwood in charlotte is a paradise of bungalows and porches. we walked to the harris teeter slowly, admiring each one, imagining the inside. later, we searched on zillow to see interiors and prices of these gems.

the house with the huge peace sign, the word love by the front door, prayer flags hanging on the side…we knew these people could easily be our friends. an inviting neighborhood. and then, this tree, filled with wisdoms and encouragements.

we porch-sat each night in our tiny mountain town, sitting on the steps or in sling camp chairs or at our pop-up table that travels with us. our airbnb is on one of the main arteries of the little city so there is traffic to watch and there are people walking by.

sometimes the conversations would be short and sweet and we would just greet people and cheer them on their way. other times, we’d start chatting. mike and michaela walked by and ended up at the porch several nights. and the feral cat – so sweet and so very shy – stopped by for a quiet visit each night. it easily started to feel really comfortable; we settled in quickly.

there are definitely times we walk or hike and attempt a littlebittaconversation with others when we are dissed. they will say nothing. truly nothing. no reaction, no smile, nothing. but we – nevertheless – try to subscribe to my momma’s unspoken mantra. we keep on trying to make others smile. it doesn’t take a lot of energy to try and momentarily engage with another, to act goofy or silly or self-deprecating, to do something kind, say something positive or enthusiastic or complimentary.

sitting on the steps of the porch one night, we said hi to a guy walking past. he was carrying his hot-out-of-the-pizza-oven pizza from the gas-station-triangle-stop-shop that oddly “offers growler taps and on-premise beer and wine”. he seemed surprised and then called over, “you wanna piece? i can share.” we laughed, tempted, and told him thank you.

we declined a slice of pizza, but my sweet momma’s eyes were sparkling.

*****

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


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we got us some sense. [merely-a-thought monday]

i can’t remember what state we were in, but it was on the back of an suv.

“act like you got some sense.”

it should be a road sign. posted every ten miles or so. a reminder.

we have turned into backroads people. ok, well, we were always backroads people but now it has been cemented, etched in stone, made immutable. we would rather be on a backroad than any interstate, freeway, multiple lane expressway.

driving down toward chicago on i94 we were surrounded by semis and vehicles zipping in and out, 80+ mph in a 55 zone. it’s craziness. frantic. though it’s clearly worse on expressways, we’ve encountered our share of aggression on regular around-town roads as well. what is WITH people?

we have kind of made some new driving decisions. the two people – who would drive 15 hours, 17 hours, straight-thru 22 hours – have got themselves some sense. our journeys and roadtrips will be a little less pushed, a little less arduous, a little less long each day on the road. the frenetic days – driving, driving, driving – are over. and we bid them adieu without regret, looking back fondly and with not just a little awe.

in this new got-some-sense era of our lives, each step counts, each mile an opportunity to see something new or different, beautiful or funny.

yesterday, while driving down a not-extraordinarily-busy-but-still-busy-enough road, we came upon a bar on the side of the road with a slewww of motorcycles parked outside. in front of us, standing in the middle of the lanes, scarily exposed, was a biker-dude-sans-bike, leather jacket and all. he pointed at us. i slowed down and stopped. from the side of the road came another biker, this one on a big motorcycle. he roared into the lanes and took off like the infamous meatloaf batoutofhell. i resumed driving, without pausing for reflection.

sometimes got-sense means deferring to those – even temporarily – without it.

*****

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


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vici, the caterpillar. [merely-a-thought monday]

perseverance is an understatement. the fuzzy caterpillar patiently and laboriously walked the tightrope above our garden, strung as a straight snap-line to lay bricks along the garden edge. his destination was unclear; i hardly think he could determine – ahead of time – which daylily leaf upon which he wished to land. perhaps he wanted to cross the whole expanse; maybe he wanted to travel clear across the yard in front of the old brick wall, but, along the way, tired and out of energy for further travails, took a side jaunt onto the nearest leaf.

we stood and watched him – he would scooch on the string and then his entire body would flip upside down. he – with every suction-cup-footed leg of his tiny body – would lurch back up on top of the string and continue slack-lining his way for maybe an inch and then – to our despair – he would flip over again, his legs holding him onto the string as he – upside down – continued on – what appeared to be – his merry way. he never appeared frustrated, though he flipped over constantly, alternating from side to side. he just kept going. and going. and going. surely, had he been human, he would have called an uber, a lyft, or given up. he was getting nowhere fast and the road had to be excruciatingly wearying. the tenacity was laudable. his journey, auspicious. he had chutzpah and sisu rolled into one.

we videoed his movement along the caterpillar slackline. and marveled.

ken called and david told him of the previous week, a week in which he had been on the slackline, not sure of the destination, but absolutely aware of the challenges. listening intently, asking questions, teasing a bit, and being a sweet big brother to his little brother, ken lamented, “life’s vicissitudes, eh?”. ah yes. “surviving life’s ups and downs, with special emphasis on the downs”, vicis, the root descendent of the word “vicissitudes”, is latin and means “change”. you betcha there’s change.

i’ve decided we are all on some kind of slackline and out in the farthest galaxy someone or something is watching us as we flip over to the left, upside down, right ourselves, flip over to the right, upside down, right ourselves and make the tiniest bit of progress as we go.

they take a video and they blog about us.

just like we blog about vici, the caterpillar.

*****

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


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on the trail of uuno. [merely-a-thought monday]

i was stunned to see my eyes on his face. maybe even my nose. ok, maybe – for obvious reasons – more my dad’s, my mom’s. but, sheesh, this ancestral dna, undeniable, is a funny thing.

finnish. i am finnish. and proud of it. though there are millions of us, my most-italian-city-in-the-state-of-wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of finns. we are pretty few and far between. the most finnish we get in these parts is people talk about (while mispronouncing) “saunas” and wonder about the use of the word “sisu” (one of my personal favorites.)

recently, in facebookland, my cousin posted this finnish proverb, “the forest will answer you in the way you call to it.” another cousin wrote that she remembered the story about our relative uuno klami, a famous finnish composer, “one of the most significant composers in the era following jean sibelius”, who brought people out into the forest and encouraged them to “sit quietly” and “listen to the woods”.

my sweet momma used to tell me about him, too. she connected the dots back to uuno as where i drew my composing juju. no one else in our family wrote music and, actually, not many even played instruments. my dad used to brag about how he could “turn on the stereo” as his musical talent. yes, he was a cutie-pie with a dad-sense-of-humor. my mom was insistent. in the ever-so-typical “yeah-yeah-yeah” internal response to which we children seem to default, i didn’t go much further than these conversations, a discuriousness i now regret.

so a couple weeks ago i googled him. it was startling to see his picture. because i felt like i recognized the heavy eyebrow lids – frontal bossing or some such term – slightly drooping eyes, the 11’s furrowed over his nose, his actual nose. geesh. he was not blessed with as high a forehead. now, a few generations later…

but – his woods connection. yes. psithurism: the sound of rustling leaves and wind in the trees. gorgeous. inspiring. evocative. i so agree with him.

his music – as i now begin to listen to it, on his trail – many pieces with only one recording, one interpretation. and – in the way of composers and real life – much of his oeuvre is unpublished.

yet i suspect that the forest knows it all. what he brought to it – his muse – returns to the leaves and the wind and is always there.

*****

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


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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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


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y. [merely-a-thought monday]

in what seems like decades ago, way back in 2020, on may 19, i wrote a blog with a similar photograph prompt. it was a stick – out in the woods – and i stated that even nature was asking “why?”.

at that time the pandemic was in its very early days, i was recuperating from a couple broken wrists and there was much in front of us we hardly knew – or imagined – would happen. it felt like we were already living in an alternate reality. i left off with a thought – that the decisions we made about the pandemic right then were going to impact us forever. we would look back and, with an eye to conscience, ask why we made them or why we didn’t.

it’s still relevant. y.

it’s the thing that nags me through the days….the whys.

i suppose it is the very thing that can stop-motion all forward movement. sometimes, there just isn’t time for a why. like when your toddler is about to touch the hot stove or run into the street after a ball, there are no moments to spare to answer “why??”. it just is. it does bring to mind all the people who whined “why?” about mask-wearing in a global pandemic. there wasn’t time for that. it just was. over a million people – in this country alone – likely wish those folks hadn’t stopped to ask why.

i’ve come to realize that sometimes, also, there just isn’t an answer. there is no good explanation for why people would be ruthlessly unkind to other people, why so many of our leaders deny that our good earth is in crisis, why – closer to home – people have used their own agenda to thwart the livelihood of people working hard for a community, why people don’t speak up for others being wronged or why people don’t ask more questions before jumping on bandwagons of mistruths, whatever they may be. the irony of it all. on may 19, 2020, i pondered whether decisions would stand the test of time.

so, coming upon the Y on the trail, i had to laugh.

because it is probably the one thing that i belabor, the one thing i try to figure out – day after day – the thing that keeps me from entirely moving on. y.

ok, ok, nature. i got it.

*****

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


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a promise? [merely-a-thought monday]

a long time ago i took a girl’s black t-shirt to the local embroidery shop and had them embroider the word “be” on it. it was a gift for my beloved daughter when she was a teenager.

be.

be yourself, in every situation, in every way. feel empowered to be strong and vibrant, with education and experiences to choose from, a blank canvas on which to paint your future.

back in the day, in the early 80’s, my husband and i, directors of a youth group, attended a conference, which i think i remember taking place in atlanta. the theme was “you are promise” and it was an upbeat, positive-memes-loaded reminder dedicated to youth. it never occurred to either of us that it would not be aimed at absolutely ALL youth – regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identification, ethnic background, religion, or economic circumstance. “you are promise” was – in our viewpoint – for everyone.

today’s world – in what should be following forty years of continued enlightenment, continued inclusion, continued support of all, continued de-marginalization, continued love – struggles to get anywhere near self-actualizing as a place of promise for everyone to grow, to just be.

instead, the word “promise” gets all webbed into violent strains of discrimination, supremacy and extremism, and the word “be” is reconstituted into self-agendizing virtually everything.

this board was installed and painted on a shop window downtown two years ago now, after the riots in our town, a place reeling with grief and questions and fear. i can still smell the smoke in our open-windowed house, still hear the shots and the sirens, still remember the visceral images. most of the boards are down, but this has been there ever since.

upside-down with polka dots and handprints, it seems a gentle, though sobering, reminder – to be yourself, in every situation, in every way, its presence perhaps a suggested promise of acceptance.

just like a black t-shirt that’s in a bin in our basement.

*****

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


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those dang cupcakes. [merely-a-thought monday]

8:40pm: hostess cupcakes become the topic of discussion outside at the table on our deck in the dark of falling dusk.

8:42pm: despite the fact that they are not gluten-free or dairy-free and, frankly, we aren’t really sure what they are made of, we mutually yearn for a hostess cupcake.

8:44pm: we look at each other, the flame of the tabletop miniature citronella tiki torch dancing on our wide-eyed laughter.

8:45pm: we put on sandals and grab a set of keys and the southport-pantry-now-morelli’s-deli-change-purse.

8:46pm: we are high-tailing it to ann’s corner store, walking fast to get there before its 9pm close.

8:53pm: we arrive and scurry down the snack-food aisle, in our singlemindedness missing the large hostess rack of goodies in the middle of the front aisle of the store. slight panic ensues. and then…

8:54pm: we find the rack. he leans forward to grab the box of eight cupcakes, but i point to the two-pack.

8:55pm: we purchase the two-pack, gleeful, an aura radiating around us as we leave the store and walk more sedately home.

9:08pm: we are home. we sit out back, open the cellophane and clink cupcakes.

9:12pm: we decide they are not what they used to be. or, we are not what we used to be.

9:14pm: we acknowledge the melancholy, the poignancy of the moment, wiping chocolate from the corners of our mouths.

as the evening wore down: we talk about the new eating patterns we are starting the very day you are reading this, eliminating from our diet all things not-clean so as to re-set. we – on this night on our deck – plan out what to eat in the remaining days – before today – our pantry and fridge will be reflective of our whole, unprocessed food choices, eliminating refined sugars and additives. it’s just a 30-day thing – and there is a plant-based version – but, having immersed in it before, we know we will notice a direct correlation of the food and beverage choices we make and the difference in how we feel. yada yada. so we make the decision and the new airpods i’ve purchased will help keep my two nieces close at hand as we are walking into this together.

10:12pm: we turn out the light and, in the dark, giggle about our frantic dash-for-delicacies adventure. and, in deference to the power of the hostess-cupcake, we nod and agree that there is still something about those fudgy-frosting-covered moist-chocolate-cupcakes filled with a light-marshmallowy-filling and flourished with a swirl-of-vanilla-icing. though simply sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and white flour, all of which are “basically free of any naturally occurring nutrients”, those cupcakes are a bank of memories and a touchback to the anticipation of the first joyous bite.

today: we admit to all of you, even though they are not likely to reappear any time soon, we will continue to hold hostess cupcakes gently and lovingly in our hearts.

*****

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


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the little alleluias. [merely-a-thought monday]

texting with our son, who was about to attend a music festival out west, he wrote that i would probably like the artist. he sent a link to the teaser of above and beyond’s song “gratitude“. i followed the link, loved it, jaunted over to the full-length, and loved that.

the everest youtube paused, we followed the soundtrack song to find that new favorite i wrote about in may, “you and me“.

it is not likely we would have just stumbled upon either. there had to be a tiny opening, a tiny window, a door to something new.

explorations don’t have to be gigantic. they can be mini adventures, pocket-sized, teeny-weeny, a moseying into something unknown, a reminder that there-is-just-so-much-out-there. exploring creates a yearning to explore, a synergy of sorts, to keep-on-ing.

mary oliver, in her book, “long life”, writes of “what she calls ‘the little alleluias’ in her days and in her doings.” (frederic and mary ann brussat) those tiny noticings. micro adventures. “nature, animals, the soul, place, and literature.” and sound. and music. and touch. and color. and laughter. and cooking. and creating.

in these days we don’t get far. our roadtrip juju has been poking at us for months now; our last roam was in december. that’s a long time ago for two people who love roadtrips. but work and an intentional budget and, yes, covid, have kept us closer to home. “soon”, we say to each other, “soon.” and then we sigh. the mountains are calling, the coast and points north, family down south, family out west.

in the meanwhile, we scout out other exploring. we paint rocks and hide them. we dance on the deck. we listen to music we don’t know. we pay attention to the girl, the boy, friends tell us about things we might like. we use two tortillas instead of one.

last night we had the best pancakes for dinner. gluten-free. and real-live maple syrup. my niece sent me the link to them. breakfast for dinner. it’s not a trip to the mountains, but it gets us to the foothills of adventure. something different.

exploring is like snickers minibites. sometimes five grams of delicious feeds us.

it’s the little alleluias.

*****

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


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opening day. again. [merely-a-thought monday]

we wake up early anyway. there’s no alarm clock on saturday morning. yet, before the sun is barely above the horizon we are awake. we both lay and listen quietly to the quiet. birds, chipmunks, the pond out back, maybe the waves on the lakeshore if it’s windy. for just a little while, before the lawnmowers start or cars drive by or people empty their recyclables into the new big blue waste containers, if we close our eyes we can picture being wherever we want to be.

my big brother has now been on a different plane of existence for thirty years. 30. as of yesterday. it is shocking that so much time has passed by. for the longest time i had a hard time understanding how the world could go on, when he could no longer feel it. and yet, it did. those of us left behind had broken hearts and missed the sound of his laughter, the details of his stories, his giant bowls of coffee ice cream. we are left wondering how he is present with us, what he can see, what, if anything, he feels. it was a friday.

“this life is not a dress rehearsal.”

the magic of friday night seems ubiquitous. for those in a traditional workweek, the weekend stretches out in front of you, friday night’s yawns delicious and lingered in. there are two glorious days to follow, days of errands or adventures or catch-up or sleep or just simply nothing. two of them. days to declutter your brain a little and sink into a little less routine.

and then, suddenly, sunday.

and, too fast, monday.

and we find ourselves wishing for friday.

yet, there is something about mondays that we should probably lean into. another day. here.

i stand here, in the kitchen in the world in all its complexities and all its flaws, and the dog gives me a kiss before he starts his breakfast and i bring david freshly-brewed coffee in a favorite mug. he smiles as i approach his pillow and the dog pounces on the bed. the sounds of early-early monday morning are like the sounds of saturday, like the sounds of friday. the certainty of monday is no less or more certain than the certainty of saturday or friday.

i imagine my brother took with him the sounds of morning, the sounds of his beloveds, the sweet taste of first java and ice cream in a late-night bowl. i don’t imagine he reached out to grab things as he floated; there were certainly no trappings as dear as the party he had on thursday-the-day-before just being near those he loved. his hologram remains with each of us, his humor and brilliant mind within our grasp as we speak of him. he made – and makes – a difference in this world for us.

we can choose to shut down the party on sunday. last call before midnight, enough time to sleep for the new week. or i guess we can recognize it can keep going. to be standing here, now, in this spot – with all its chaos and all its bounty – is party enough.

the day starts in quiet. the sun is barely over the horizon. the birds are singing, chipmunks chirp. i can smell the coffee brewing. i am here. i don’t know how the world goes on once i can’t feel it anymore. but for now, i can.

and it’s opening day. again.

*****

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

in honor of my big brother, listen to ANGEL YOU ARE

(from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood)

sip coffee, listen to the birds, love on your loved ones, kiss your dog. repeat.