reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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102. [merely-a-thought monday]

102.

my sweet poppo would be 102 today. were he here, i would treat him to a scotch on the rocks, a good steak on the grill (that he doesn’t have to stress over), chocolate ganache cake, a hot cup of coffee. i would tease him and poke at him, asking him if he remembered to get my momma an anniversary card (for they were married on his birthday and it would be their 79th anniversary and, for some reason, this was always my job through the years – to take on the angst of wondering if my dad remembered…).

i wish he were here.

we were in our airbnb in the little mountain town.

we had just arrived that day. took a walk downtown, had pop-up happy hour on the porch, made a sheet-pan dinner, relished being there.

a warm and welcoming old house, there was a wine bottle stand in the dining room that held books and brochures of the area, menus and hiking trails, places to forge metal and horsebackride, guides to hundreds of waterfalls. good resources to plan our next days.

i randomly pulled out the small book on the end of the shelf and flipped it open. this was the page it flipped to. “how do you like them apples?” because i am redundant (yepyep) and because some things stick in my mind more than others, i have already written about how my dad always said this. kind of a nonsensical phrase, sometimes appropriate in context, sometimes not so much. it is with tremendous fondness i hear or see this phrase. it goes along with “do you think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?”

i held it open, photographed it, wanted to pack it away in my backpack. i was held – suspended – in a moment with my dad. he smiled from afar and thought he was pretty clever to pull it off.

he wanted to live to 100. if you asked him how he was, he would tell you that he was going to live to 100.

but he didn’t.

i wonder if he’s shaking his head on the other side, incredulous that things just work out how they work out, in spite of our plans, saying, “how do you like them apples?”.

though we loved that they were there – particularly me – we didn’t open the brochures much. we just punted and found ourselves on gravel roads in the woods seeking trailheads and climbing to waterfalls and granite outcroppings in forests of rhododendron, surprised again and again by howdoyoulikethemapples moments.

*****

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cheese curds and awe. [d.r. thursday]

the table is staged, ready for diners. linen napkins rolled, silverware inside. water glasses turned over and candles unlit. waiting.

block 37 on state street in chicago has at least a dozen eateries, a highrise group built post-2005 of dining restaurants with napkin rolls, bakeries with cupcakes and sticky donuts, coffeehouses and grilled cheese spots. all waiting for eaters. there are shops and there is a residential development, multi-use skyscrapers.

eighteen years ago today. block 37. the yamaha concert grand was on an outdoor stage in the sun in a tree-canopied park when we arrived. boom mics. monitors. staged. ready. waiting.

it was the tour of hope, a giant oncology event sponsored by bristol-meyers squibb. lance armstrong, a cancer survivor and chosen sports hero for those moments, was biking – with an entourage – across the country to raise awareness about cancer and survivorship and hope. and we were there to be part of the rally. the piano and boom were waiting for me.

in the way of not-knowing-when-important-stuff-is-happening, we meandered through the people getting ready for the arrival of the posse of bikers. we sound-checked, we did early photo shoots, we sipped water on a perfectly-perfect early fall day.

it was the day i met him. a dear friend who i’ve only seen in person once in my lifetime. scordskiii became the rock in my world as the years went by and, were we to sit and visit over coffee or sushi or a glass of wine, i suspect the conversation would be easy and constant, filled with reminiscing and laughter, not just a little wonder, and hushed moments in awe of it all. this would be a good thing. eighteen years is a long time.

we are slowly coming out of the cave. slowly. ever-so-slowly. we have actually been to a couple restaurants now. and this day – last week – was one of those times.

the tables at the restaurant were ready and we walked in to find david’s dear friend waiting. they have known each other for decades, though – since they live far apart – they haven’t had opportunity to see each other much. no matter. it is the gift of true friendship. the moments when all time sloughs off and, in awe of this magic, you return to the organic core of your relationship.

we had fried wisconsin cheese curds. it was a farm-to-table restaurant. we were surrounded by relics from farms and warehouses, all dating back, maybe even a century. we sat and sat, talking, sharing. people came and went around us, though no one was seated close.

i glanced at the other tables when we stood to leave. the napkins were rolled and the water glasses were turned upside down. and the dining tables were waiting for the next time people would sit and ponder life, its questions, its challenges and joys, the next time people would share a little space together. the next time people would look at the face of a dear friend before it was time to go.

the years…they fly by.

*****

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paddles in the water. [d.r. thursday]

vincent was there. right off the side of our canoe he swirled his paintbrush and the water canvas became starry-night dreamy. charles schulz was there too and i could see snoopy dancing atop the surface. it kept evolving, even without the help of our paddles. ever-changing.

jaxon was two yesterday. his curiosity, his energy are unmatched. he is fearless. everything is possible and the whole world stretches in front of him. his boundless zeal, like a fast paddle in the water, arranges and rearranges utterly everything-in-life continually. he is not considering how to approach life. he is simply living it. no expectations. just embracing it all – the whole kaleidoscope.

being on the road takes you away from the norm. it takes you out of the bills, the projects, day to day worries or concerns, dealing with health issues. you are suddenly on the surface of the lake – so to speak – skimming along in littlebabyscion, watching the world go by. we get to the city-we’ve-never-visited-before, a city trying to keep up with immense growth. the districts are working on revitalization. we take walks in historic neighborhoods and fall in love with bungalows and big porches. and we wonder.

we sit in a stadium – the first time in many years – surrounded by 60,000 people – the first time in many years – to see a concert – the first time in many years. we marvel at the changes we have felt in those years.

we hug her goodbye. parenthood is dynamic, never static, and motherhood is no easy trail. missing is just plain hard. i try to adjust, to readjust and readjust again, to hold it all lightly. the paddle on the surface of my heart teaches me lesson after lesson.

we wonder about all of them as we drive on – the people out there also driving, the people whose homes we are passing by, the people in the rest area, the people in the local grocery store. what is their life? who are they? what are their worries? what are their joys? sometimes you can feel it, even from the road. we both nearly wept as we passed by a very-rusty-beige-identical-trailers trailer park with maybe fifty bereft homes in an arid dirt expanse of land; treeless, shadeless, plantless, playgroundless, it felt hopeless. every shade on every trailer we could see was pulled shut. we saw no people, though each trailer had a vehicle parked nearby. it was south carolina, not at its best. no pastel-colored historic homes, wrap-around porches or coastal beaches, no palmettos, no golf courses or rolling grassy knolls. just nothing. dirt. except these trailer homes – and we had to try to wrap our heads around the fact that at least there were homes with roofs, perhaps air conditioning to ease the hot muggy heat. the empath cloud followed us for miles until we could shake it loose, putting our paddles into the water and stirring things up as we drove.

we arrive in the mountains, zigging, zagging, climbing. tall trees block the sun and suddenly we are cooler and everything takes on the color green. it keeps changing, this expanse, these days of life.

we’ll hike. every turn in the trail will be different, every view different. the elevation will give us a view of the mountains – out there – and we’ll photograph them to remember. we’ll dip bandanas in streams to cool off and stand by waterfalls taking pictures to remember.

and when we get home, it will all swirl around us – the moments. vincent and snoopy will laugh a little at our attempts to hold onto it. and jaxon will remind us of how gently to hold the kaleidoscope.

*****

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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”?

*****

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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.

*****

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dancing waters. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in stop-motion moments, we stood by the fountains and shot photos. the dancing waters mesmerized us, light waning in the sky under the canopy of big trees. it was peaceful, serene. there was no place we needed to be in those minutes, except right there.

the water danced too quickly for us to discern contours of form. the camera made it possible to see those gorgeous images of momentary pause, water suspended. looking at the photographs – enchanting.

“…as water takes whatever shape it is in,
so free may you be about who you become…”

(john o’donohue)

we, in this ever-flowing river, babbling gently like the backyard pond, the mountain stream, or raging like the yellowstone river hurtling through the national park at this time, a part of the continuous-motion movie. our bliss, our concerns, our grievances, the things that distress us, the things over which we ruminate…though they feel to be screeching-to-a-halt, a visual-stop-place where the horizon ends – they continue on and on and life dances around us and through us. life invites us to waltz with it, to two-step, to sing along.

perspective, looking back, it’s all a tiny bit clearer in retrospect. my sweet momma’s words “this, too, shall pass” visit and revisit me. the dance steps we missed along the way are no longer worthy of our dedicated brooding, no longer stop-motion.

dancing water has brought grace of movement – forward. we keep on keeping on in the hazy-lazy-bubbling-frothy-waltzing river.

“…i’ll be there in singing skies and dancing waters
laughing children, growing old
and in the heart and in the spirit
and in the truth when it is told…”

(john denver)

*****

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betty’s right. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

each of us can rack up the could-haves, like in a pool triangle, all stuffed in next to each other and ready to break with a cue. fragile, though. we can look back and think “why didn’t i…?” time and again. we can regret.

i suppose the gift of a new year – and those dang resolutions – is to sort and reevaluate the things that you consider important, the things worth continuing, the things worth letting go, the things worth learning. new practices of things-to-do and new practices of things-not-to-do. the lists permeate our brains and hearts, nagging, nagging.

there is a meme, well, many memes, circulating about betty white. it states something like “you have lived a really good life if, at 99, people say you have died too soon.” i realize that betty was inordinately popular, successful, always at the top of her game. but she was a real person, too. and she had to decide how to live. her positivity and laughter gifted each of us who have watched her or listened to her. in a recent interview she recommended, “taste every moment”. mmm. not at all corny, just a simplicity, a reminder.

we carry this pop-up-dinner table and stools around with us, switching from big red to littlebabyscion and back, depending on which vehicle we are driving. when big red refused to start for our road trip over christmas, we transferred the pop-up stuff into littlebabyscion and packed up to go.

we know we could have eaten at the sweet dining room table in our airbnb in the little mountain town. we ate there several times. but that last evening…we needed just a bit more time on the front porch, a bit more time outside, a bit more time admiring buffalo-plaid-man’s holiday decorations across the street, a bit more time in that town. we set up the pop-up table and stools, put up the luminaria again, lit a candle, brought out hors d’oeuvres for happy hour and, later, dinner. a little more effort, but not really much. everything tasted better out there. each moment.

before we even left home and while we were hiking in those north carolina mountains i thought about the new year approaching. i thought long about grasping onto the opportunity to just go, roadtrip to a new place, changing pattern. i thought about chances to amend, to let go, to reach out, to break the racked-up could-haves. big ways and little ways. i tasted a few resolution-ish moments, trying on for size – acting on – some of those thoughts-i-had.

and even in my first meager efforts – nothing earthshattering, nothing that will likely change the whole wide world – i must say, betty’s right.

*****

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old roller skates and skateboards. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are presents and, then, there are presents.

20 knew what my response would be – ahead of time – when i opened his smartly-wrapped gift, fancy homemade ribbon coordinated with the wrappings. but the absolutely delectable time – inbetween giggling over a really wonderfully simple-yet-perfect bow while guessing what was in the box and moving aside the inner paper – was full of anticipation. conversely, i could see it in him too. it is life-enhancing. both ways. those moments you wait as someone – who you know well and for whom you have found something exquisitely perfect – begins to open your gift. it matters not how big or small, free or expensive; you just know you paid attention to little details and you cannot-wait-to-watch-them-open-it.

i pulled out the brown paper in its role as tissue wrap and there was an old-old pair of sidewalk roller skates with a set of keys. circa 1950/1960 heavy metal with rugged metal wheels. vintage.

instantly transported back-in-time to the feeling of rollerskating on abby drive, i could remember strapping on the skates up at the front stoop, following the sidewalk down as it turned and then turned again into the driveway, struggling to stay on the concrete driveway ribbon – as we had one of those driveways with a ribbon of grass inbetween the ribbons of cement and skating into that was a sure way to fall. the end of the driveway had a little bump too; you’d have to stop there (stopping was always an issue) and step over the end of the apron. and then, the street. and freedom.

at some point, my big brother took the metal wheels off of a pair of skates and made a skateboard. i can still feel that board under my feet – the rough ride of metal against cement-aggregate mixture. we sought out asphalt, though, back then, it was in shorter supply. over by the long island lighting company on the sound there was a really long curving road downhill all made of asphalt. it was a little bit terrifying. and required either driving there or toting your skateboard on your bike a few miles. so – in our everyday world – rough rides on steel skate wheels was our destiny.

my brother made the next skateboard with rubber wheels and a bigger deck and, though it was slower, you didn’t feel as imperiled on it. he mostly used that one and the blue painted one with the red hang-loose was relegated to me. there is much to learn from a rough-ridin’ skateboard, a ribbon driveway and an apron-bump.

i wish i knew where those two skateboards were.

but finding them is unlikely, as i’m sure they are long-gone. about as unlikely as 20 stumbling into a pair of old roller skates and knowing they would be perfect.

*****

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smack-dab-in-the-middle. [merely-a-thought monday]

the family photo changes through the years. i read the other day that it was a friend’s 39th wedding anniversary and noted that it would have also been mine. but things change and times change and the family photo changes. i am grateful for the years before and i am grateful for the years now. both. either way, both family photos have similarities. one would show a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, looking to get to know each other again. the other shows a middle-aged couple, empty-nesters, getting to know each other in the first place. a common thread – that getting-to-know-each-other – it is all fodder for much laughter, many foibles, much self-deprecation, many questions, few answers, and a lot of punting on the journey through aging smack-dab in the middle of life.

it became obvious to us that our roadtrip together, the-second-time-around-roadtrip, was a source of humor and a reason for lightheartedness. there is simply no other way to look at it. this is not the stuff of princess and prince, nor the stuff of harlequin romance novels, where the boy-who-inherited-the-kingdom finds the bereft-girl-quietly-sitting-in-the-shadows. it is not the stuff of ease nor the stuff of perfectly-smooth-trails. but it is the stuff of happily-every-after, just like so many other stories smack-dab in the middle of middle age as couples navigate through change and challenge, glee and sadness. we are just like everyone else. and our story is your story, with a few different details.

and so we thought it might be fun to celebrate being smack-dab in the middle, to raise up the questions of being there and the elation of being there, to poke fun at the confusion of revisiting the beginning of romance – so many years ago – or the actual beginning of romance – just a few years ago or, maybe, right now. to look at each other through fresh eyes, a fresh horizon. to notice, to hear, to see, to intuit each other. to dance in the too-empty and too-neat kitchen. to make noise in the too-quiet house. to make plans and dream dreams, even ones that are different than we imagined.

ours is a story of second chances. but so is the story of my friend and her husband of 39 years. and the story of the dear young man who used to be in my choir class in the 80s, now married to his husband for years. all of us have second chances each day. to sit across the table and gaze back at eyes we have known for ages, eyes we are in the middle of knowing, eyes we are just beginning to know. to laugh together and lift each other from wistful moments. to understand and hold each other with compassion our guide. to listen and discern what we each are saying, what we each need. to step into futures of unknown voyages. we live smack-dab in the middle of the middle, holding hands, loving each other in old and new ways. and cherishing every photograph along the way.

smack-dab. in the middle. a new cartoon.

*****

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

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in KC’s family. [two artists tuesday]

just past the eyelash phase, in a tightly woven and protected calyx of green sepals (leaves), the gardenia bonsai flower waits. a little research reveals that it will take about two months of growing to reach the point of a cracked bud, hopefully flowering after. KC is reportedly “one of the most loved and challenging plants in the bonsai world” and i hope that i am up to the task. these beautiful and somewhat-difficult-to-grow plants offer “a unique opportunity for anyone who wishes to take the time to attend to their needs.” they are particular about sunlight, particular about direction of window exposure, particular about temperature, particular about humidity, particular about watering, particular about feeding with fertilizer, particular about shape and pruning, particular about training, particular about insects and mold, particular about repotting, particular about touch. they do well without any negative stressful environmental factors. it occurs to me that perhaps i am in the bonsai gardenia family.

KC sits together with some other lower-maintenance plants (read: succulents you can’t really mess up) and is clearly different than them. its leaves are rich in color, two whorls protecting promising buds, and its presence demands to be noticed. i talk to it every day, encouraging it, paying attention, hoping i am tending to it properly. i truly cherish this little bonsai; my beloved daughter and her boyfriend sent it to me for my birthday and it was a joyous and glittering moment to receive such a beautiful gift. i want to do my best helping this little gardenia along. and, in light of the last year, the last couple years, i can understand and relate to its eccentricities. mmm, can’t we all?

in the evening KC is bathed in the sparkle of the sunroom’s happy lights. proudly in the spot it has claimed on the table, it sits, basking. it is one of the sparkles of the year. there have been many, despite the difficulties, within the difficulties, despite the challenges, within the challenges, despite these times, within these times. if it were possible, i would set each around us in the sunroom, also bathed in happy lights, like laundry clothespinned to a clothesline, reminding us of the best times, the memorable times, the happiest snapshots, the most poignant moments, the yin-yang of relationships, reassuring love in trying-to-stay-centered, the times we balanced stress and the times we succumbed to it, successful and unsuccessful zen, and exhausted times of rest.

i would place the clothesline in the middle of the room so that you could not help but see each item, each old wooden clothespin, memory-laundry crowded onto a timeline, reminding us that the minute does not stay. that whether the minute is feverish or beauty-laden, it moves on.

we are all particular; we are all particularly needy. our lists and our baggage surpass that of the little bonsai gardenia. we are all up to the task. we do our best in each moment, whether it is dark or sparkling. and we remember we can try again. we can help each other; we are “most loved and challenging”. KC already knows that.

i am excited to see KC bloom. i wait patiently for this amazing flower to arrive. in the meantime, i light the white gardenia candle, talk to my plant and drink in the glow of the happy lights, trying. each day. living just past the eyelash phase.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY