reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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kismet. [merely-a-thought monday]

kismet. clearly. for two rock lovers, two expressers, two artists, it is self-actualization.

we have decided to go off-grid…the two of us, our dogdog, a gigantic collection of rocks and paint pens. we will travel the country by littlebabyscion, seeking spaces in which to paint – preferably ones without mosquitoes – and we will fully-immerse in our new art form, certain that, though there are about a billion books out there with templates and patterns and directions and almost a paint-by-number approach to rock-painting, our rocks – as newly self-actualized igneous artists – will stand out. and we will create riches and mountains of gratitudes, fans jostling to get our next-released-rocks.

we can see it.

our sedimentary souls, with layers and layers of artistic experimentation and experience, loss and success, opening nights and closing shows, will fly in the bliss of stroking-paint-pens-on-rock. our artistry opened and whimsy blowing off the doors of the amazingly realistic work of roberto rizzo. yup, yup, dare to dream….

and then we will return from our extended journey, changed forever, kismet having delivered us back to our back door.

we laugh at our overnight dreamy success. or – wait – is it our dream overnight? hmmm…

we wipe the sleep from our eyes.

*****

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


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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

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


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the imperative. [merely-a-thought monday]

i loved it all. the halls of john glenn high school, the walls of the classrooms i sat in, most of the extraordinary teachers i had the pleasure of studying with, most of the classes i took. i loved math, i loved science, i loved english and creative writing. i even loved my jewelry class, though i was not particularly skilled at it. i took no music classes in high school. none.

the guidance counselor didn’t know what to do. what direction do i go? what path do i take? what major do i pursue? the emphasis was on the decision. make one, i was told. it is quite possible this is one of the reasons why, years later, i completed a guidance and counseling masters – to scrap the emphasis on the decision and shift it to the process. at a time in the late 70s when college was ever-important and i was top-of-my-class i was underserved. it does not matter where you are in your class if your spectrum of curiousness is dowsed by someone pressing you into a mold, narrowed into a this-or-that.

in my first years of community college i still loved it all. philosophy classes were a stand-out. economics were not-so-much. business law was a low point. environmental science classes fascinated me. because i played the piano, taught piano lessons, wrote songs, and directed a youth choir, i signed up for a couple music theory classes and met paul simon, the godson of my music theory professor sy shaffer. listening to paul talk about songwriting was a huge highlight. i mean, it was paul simon. but i really still didn’t know what direction to take.

a life-changing event, as life-changing events do, changed that.

i moved when i should have stayed. i left when i should have dug in. i dropped the rest of the curiosity to focus on the familiar, the known. albert einstein would have taken me by my ear. “stay curious,” he would have admonished. “what you seek is seeking you,” rumi would have whispered to me. “wait.”

it’s funny to me now – as i look back – that i did not focus on the inordinate number of hours i spent writing in a tree. it’s funny to me now – as i look back – that i wrote songs and music and arrangements – fifteen albums worth – and never really thought of all the heavy composing or theory classes i took in my second half at university. never once have i gone back and compo-analyzed the structure-texture-tonal-system-consonance-dissonance of a piece of music i have written. it’s funny to me now – as i play with design and photoshop and cartooning and blogging – that it didn’t occur to me, as an editor at john glenn’s art and literary magazine “gemini”, how much i loved what i was doing in those after-school hours-and-hours sessions with one of the world’s best and most expansive english teachers, andrea vrusho. it’s funny. we see and we don’t see. twists and turns, paths taken, paths not taken. our stories all different. stages and flatbeds, classrooms, church chancels, the state side of the courtroom, piano benches, recording studios, choir rooms, department-store-holiday-wrapping in lean times. all part of the curio cabinet, never full, never finished. we take paths and, if we are scrappy and confident and lucky enough to be supported and even mentored, we make the best of them. anyway. there is a richness to each story and each path.

no special talents. passionately curious.

we all have something. something that sets us apart from each and every other person. something that the world we are in cannot do without. for every spoke in the wheel counts and every gift, every talent, every nurturing soul, every fixer-upper, every engineer-brain, every teacher, every scientist, every laborer, every inventor, every chef creating magic in a soup kitchen or michelin-star-bistro, every artist, every athlete, every skilled-trade expert are necessary in this place, at this time.

it is exactly that – that is brilliant. it is exactly that which is genius. it is the appreciation of that – so much to learn – which is the gift of being human. it is the imperative of humanity.

*****

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

and a little mood music for you – the orchestra of my professor sy shaffer


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mini-marshmallows and gogo boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

if you are wondering where mini marshmallows come from, wonder no more. clearly they grow on white baneberry bushes in dr. seuss-land. passing it on the trail i could not get over how oh-the-places-you’ll-go this bush was. a standout in a green forest floor, confidently colorful and nicknamed “doll’s eyes” for obvious vintage-china-doll reasons, it got my attention and it piqued my curiosity.

we watched a silly movie a couple nights ago. my sweet momma loved sandra bullock so every time i watch a sandra bullock movie i feel like my mom is right there with us, giggling or cheering her on. the movie was “all above steve” co-starring bradley cooper. its silliness is comedic fun, particularly on an evening we were not looking to be intellectually challenged. but there was an unexpectedly sweet message in this movie. mary (sandra bullock), a brilliant young woman who is a crossword puzzle constructor and has a brain full of random knowledge and would kick anyone’s patootie playing trivial pursuit, is trying to be “normal” to fit into the world. in the end she discovers the power of standing in her own shoes, which were, in her case, red gogo boots.

artists are often looked at as misfits, a little outside the box, not quite fitting in. perhaps more colorful, perhaps louder, perhaps more questioning, the job of an artist is to elicit movement in thought, in action, in emotion, in sensitivity. we are hot-pink-stemmed mini-marshmallow plants in a world of green underbrush, ever being told that exposure will grant us the ability to live in this world, to pay our bills, to get ahead. artists everywhere under the sun shudder upon hearing those words, “think about the exposure.” we don our courageous metaphoric gogo boots, go to town trying to be ‘normal’ and realize that we were really ok all along, in our own skin.

often i have heard others comment on the re-purposed stuff in our house. empty window frames, screen doors, travel-worn suitcases, branches wrapped in lights, old coffeepots doubling as canisters. we’ve been asked, “how did you think of that?” i don’t know how to answer that other than “how couldn’t i?”

i’m guess i’m not ‘normal’. in the world of christian louboutin and jimmy choo footwear desires, i’m wearing old navy flipflops and hundreds-of-miles hiking boots. in a world of oscar de la renta and ralph lauren aficionados, i’m wearing my dad’s old flannel shirt and jeans. in a world of cle de peau beaute and guerlain and creme de la mer, my face is lucky to see an oil of olay original and coppertone 30spf combo.

and i, just like artists everywhere, love to be reminded, time to time, that we were all born to stand out. each and every one of us. artist or not. no matter the road we walk. no matter the red gogo boots or hot-pink stems. stand out. in our own skin.

mini-marshmallow, anyone?

*****

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


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“try to make room.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“basic logical reasoning” seems to be in short supply. instead, there is a vast vat of hook-line-and-sinker-ism with a side of blind, unquestioning ideological buy-in.

i have been stunned time and again reading social media threads these days. i thought that i grew up – and attended a high school – in an area that valued education . . . even at its simplest – to learn the lifelong skill of complex critical thinking and rational deductive reasoning based on learning how to research, how to gather factual information and observations and weigh all these elements appropriately and objectively, working toward a conclusion. i would have guessed that most of the people i went to high school with, like my dear friend marc, – all those years ago – having been taught by world-class teachers – would have this skill but this is apparently not so. social media has proven me wrong.

again and again, i read with horror the comments of those who have narrowed the spectrum of the tools they use to garner information. again and again, i shudder to see how limited they have made their worlds – how learning is restricted to resources that have their same opinion, how crossing any aisle to ponder, question, discuss, evaluate, negotiate – in any arena – is impossible. i’m astounded by the sheer ignoring (note the similarity to the word ignorance here) of factual information. it’s staggering to see so much anger directed so quickly and pointedly – with extensive name-calling – by people who use limited vocabulary, use limited or no citations of unbiased truth, clearly have limited empathy for others different than themselves, but have unlimited dedication to their beliefs – particularly under the ever-widening umbrella of extreme political beliefs these days – with no evidence to substantiate them. behaviors that are outlandish – even in this day and age after the last administration’s unleashed and continued field day on hatred and vitriol and lies – perversity at its best.

it’s disheartening to casually scroll through social media and stumble into a thread in which a participant has gone from zero to warp speed in milliseconds, spouting, spouting, spouting. the spew may be ‘big lie’ related, voting-restriction related, vaccination related, pandemic related, mask related, race or gender related, gun-control related, climate related, taxation related, social programs related, science related, any-color-koolaid related. i – maybe like you – have been the target time and again of being called names (really?!) by people i don’t know, people i’d think would know (or at least speak) better, people who are ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, people from my old high school, people who are just clearly ticked off in a big way and need a target. if you even attempt to engage in a conversation, it quickly disintegrates into stupefying borrowed rhetoric.

i suppose this trend will continue, as a large part of our country has made it perfectly acceptable to just unconsciously follow pied pipers or obnoxious acolytes thereof. it’s somehow become perfectly acceptable, even noteworthily cheered on, to use aggressive language, to be hostile and combative, to be both prey and purveyor of distraction and mediocrity, to state and re-state and post and forward false information, to not ask questions, to disregard facts, to be so deep into belief that it’s no longer necessary to examine knowledge, seek anything evidentiary, or look for relevant logic.

i’m still proud of john glenn high school. i’m proud of the teachers i was lucky enough to be taught by back then. i’m glad i paid attention, that i made learning and how to learn a priority. it’s a fluid and continual lesson. i believe it’s that which is essential for existence, vital for living. i know we’re never done.

but it doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at those whose “room for some basic logical reasoning” is scant. it’s dispiriting.

and i just want to add one more thing while i’m at it. a tiny peeve of mine. please check your spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, auto-correct – maybe consider proofreading – before you opine on social media. particularly if you want to be taken seriously. (consider, if you will, a posting of the words: “voter freud“.) words, punctuation, coherence – they all matter. perhaps not as much as your intention, but still…

my sweet momma always said, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” she also famously said, “look it up!”

she, like me, would be aghast at these more recent trends. and she, like me, would still hold out hope for human decency.

*****

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


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blooming. [merely-a-thought monday]

as i stand with david, together with his mom and siblings, watching his dad walk down the path of dementia, i am deep in thought of my own parents, missing them. elusive complexities become simple and unimportant as i think about my sweet momma and poppo and their stamp on the world. though certainly worthy, they will not be detailed in history books or in record-holding guiness lists, nor will they be featured in paintings in state buildings or referenced in periodicals, footnotes of prestige. but, just as the life that columbus is forgetting, a life rich in experience and love, so were the lives of my parents. their lives had purpose, their stories were and are important. their dreams counted and their voices mattered. and, though it need not be said, they made an impact.

there are moments when i gaze around and marvel at the rapid movement around us. i feel as if i step back away from the edge of the chaos that is everyday life in a society that values ‘more’ and i just wonder. i wonder about how we all fit in, how, from beginning to end, our lives – in the swirl of everyone’s lives – play a part in this world. i wonder how our very molecules affect other molecules, how permanent or impermanent this effect we have.

pat said, “it’s why you’re here.” she seemed much more certain of that than i. middle age, or maybe it is later middle age, as ross pointed out the other day, is complicated. there is a bit of that elusive complexity whirling around, waiting for us to reach up and cup it in our hands, like catching fireflies on a muggy summer night. holding memories close, we glance back at our lives, pondering the rights and the wrongs and the joys and blisses and the mistakes and the regrets and the happies and the sadnesses, and we watch the glimmering light, surprised at the time that has gone by, stunned by the arc of life that even the tiniest path-choices brought us. in the looking-back we notice the insignificant. in the looking-back, we notice the significant. and sometimes, when we are lucky, we realize how absolutely preposterous it is that we are here at all, how miraculous that we can feel, that we are breathing in this very time.

and i think about my mom and dad. though perhaps generations from now – even possibly just a few – there may be no more out-loud mention of their names or their stories, but they will have been here and, for that, the world is different. i think about columbus, who, though forgetting, is still here, is still holding to life and the filmy stories he can access, his innate and unspoken courage on that path – so painful – moves us, brings us to tears, yet, inspires us. his forgetting reminds us to remember – to live.

we are all on our way to changing the world. each and every one of us, despite our differences, despite anything. it’s why we’re here. it’s ridiculously simple and ridiculously complex.

*****

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


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NNE/ENE/NE, please. [merely-a-thought monday]

NNE. or ENE. or just plain NE. that’s what i look for. the weather app accuweather has a lot of information but, during long hot and humid stretches along southeastern wisconsin’s shoreline, it’s the wind that matters.

we live a couple blocks off the lake. on days before the trees are in full leaf, if you look out the foyer window or the bedroom sunrise window you can see it. if you sit on the flat roof outside the window of the boy’s old room you can see it. we can hear it at night with our windows open and can feel its fury in the winter. in the fall the lake keeps the coast a little warmer. and in the spring it is touted to be cooler near the lake.

20 says this all the time, i’m sure deliberately and to drive me crazy. it is not – most certainly not – always cooler by the lake. there are blistering hot, humid days here, trust me. the kind of days when we wish this old house had central air conditioning like all the new developments, when we wish our heat was forced air and not workhorse radiators so installation of a/c would be easier. the countdown is already on this season to carry up the window units and install them. though they are not our favorites visually or from a constant-noise point of view, they help us, tripper and this old house keep our wits about us in the dog days. i always hold out as long as possible. and right now, june seems too early.

so, i look at the weather app. a lot. it’s not just me. it’s a thing in wisconsin. kind of a mania. blame it on storm teams and weather alerts and interactive radar. so much information at our fingertips. why do we study-study-study the weather, you ask? because – on these hot summer days when there aren’t enough ice pops to quell the crabbiness and when everything feels just a bit sticky – if the wind is blowing from just the right direction with any velocity across the top of the lake, the air temperature will shift intensely and everything and everyone will be heard sighing an audible ahhh. it’s lake effect. and, if you are lucky enough to be within about a mile of the lake – 20 blocks or so – you will feel it.

the other day we took a walk after dinner. it was late and still hot out as we strolled. we walked the ‘hood and talked, noticing flowers blooming and admiring people’s fences, our new obsession. as we walked toward the lake, the wind suddenly shifted and, instantly, the fog began to roll in, blurring the shoreline, hiding the lake and intensifying the soft focus sunset to our west. i was immediately in heaven, the cool air swirling around us. that NNE/ENE/NE thing is amazing.

later that evening we talked to 20. he talked about the heat, about how early it is in the summer to be this hot, how the dew point and the humidity were astoundingly high. had he been able to see us, he would have seen us shrug in overly-feigned flippancy before we said, “oh, really??? it’s muuuch cooler by the lake!”

duh, 20, it’s that lake effect you’re always going on about. 😉

ok, so, i give. it may not alwaysss be cooler here, but when it is, it’s magical.

*****

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just waiting to float. [merely-a-thought monday]

the clock read 2:39am when i finally looked at it. i had been awake for some time already. because sleep remained elusive, i listened to the birds as they woke up to be with me, to be sure that i would know that the sun was soon rising, that the day was starting. 4:45 came and went. sleep stayed at bay and every thought that was ever present stayed wide awake. the white miniblinds glowed to the east. the sounds of the world waking: mourning dove coos, chattering squirrels, cawing crows, tiny finches, maybe a cardinal, maybe a blue jay, a lumbering train, robins, always songbird robins.

though deep slumber is a personal favorite of mine, i did not mind the night last night. the pondering of life, the listening, the sighs of dogdog and his paws running in his dream – all were a pre-coffee tapestry and i knew, as the sun rose and i finally drifted for a bit, that this day will blanket me with goodness. particularly if i sing. the dogdog song, all the incorrect lyrics of songs from the 70s i would sing back then at the top of my lungs, any random song that occurs to me, any song i invent in the moment.

for there is something about spontaneous singing, something about the making-up of lyrics or the repetition of well-worn lyrics spun into space that changes things. poetry in air. the frequency of happiness, of joy, of breaking into song changes what is happening in you, around you, sending its waves out, out, out.

i do believe in kindness. i do believe in mischief. and i do believe in singing. any old time. mary oliver and i might have sat together and chatted over tea, for we would have agreed about all matters of joy. and, even though mary and i never tipped cups or glasses, i consider all with whom i have, especially as dark turns to light and i am wide-awake and snug under blankets in a window-open-chilled room. i was lucky to sit with andrea, a love-filled free-spirit poet, songstress of peace. i have been lucky to sit with joan, thoughtful writer and ardent reader, her wisdom resonates and lingers in my pondering. i have been lucky to sit with susan, in her kitchen, writing songs with words and good food and cakes and so much music. i have been lucky to sit with jim, music at the ready, joined with him in improvisational weaving. i am lucky to sit each day with david, a word devotee, think-provoker, slow-dancer, and now, spontaneous singer.

the sky is brilliant and cloudless as i write this on sunday morning for monday. the sun is golden. the sound of the keys of two laptops punctuates my thoughts. a mug of coffee gets cold next to me as i type, as i am lost in musing. i think to the day ahead.

though my routine has been upheaved in recent months, though good sleep has been in hiding, though there are many things to worry about, to wonder about, this day begs my attention. it begs good mischief. it most certainly begs kindness, as the universe is full of goodness and has been gloriously kind. this day begs to be sung to.

even if i don’t sing aloud. because the songs are there with me just waiting to be chosen, to float.

*****

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


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shoes and stones. [merely-a-thought monday]

brazen. how many of us have been this brazen? to make an assumption, to form an opinion, to decide to dislike, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the idiom, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” yet, our perspective often remains stubbornly in one camp and we cling to the sideofthestory we heard, professing our disdain, without even a mere effort to understand, to measure, to even hear the other side. and then we haughtily hold tight to our narrow-scoped opinion and aim our arrows of brazen judgment. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

guilty. how many of us have been guilty of this? to not care enough about someone’s reputation, someone’s livelihood, someone’s word, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the proverb, “those in glass houses should not throw stones.” yet, we forgo our own flawedness, our own misdeeds, our own obvious hypocrisy, to hurl pebbles and stones and out-and-out boulders at others, efforts to raise ourselves up by pushing someone else down, guilty of power-mongering in places where that should be more closely examined. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

sad. how many of us feel sad, having lost friendships, relationships, potential lifelong allies, colleagues, having aligned ourselves with people who have brazenly been guilty of gauging someone else simply because they did not know the othersideofthestory? we have judged, forgetting our own flaws. we have pummeled, forgetting our own vulnerability. we have turned our backs, forgetting our own need for fairness and truth from others. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

devastated. how many of us have been at the center of the firing squad, muzzled and treading water, stuck in inertia, unable to give voice to the othersideofthestory, in the center of misinformation, incomplete information, an absolute lack of information, opinions and dislike forming from the dust of others’ untruths, others’ prejudices, others’ agenda? devastated that there is so much collateral fallout, so much loss, simply because they didn’t hear your side of the story. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.

but it is most definitely this: brazen.

and we all, at some time or another, are most definitely this: guilty.

and it feels most definitely this: sad.

and it causes most definitely this: devastation.

perhaps we need put on shoes and lay down our stones.

*****

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