reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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in service. [d.r. thursday]

in much the same way i draw sunrises over mountains, the boardwalk turned ninety degrees on a dime, with meticulously pieced craftwork, through the swampy area and across, back to the dirt trail.

we pondered how long it took volunteers to build this boardwalk…likely out in hot summer sun, working to span the distance between solid earth trails and protect the vegetation and water below. when you are out hiking in the middle of nowhere and come upon a boardwalk or a little bridge or, remotely, a bench, it is a reminder that you are not stepping there first and you are not stepping there alone.

time and again we watch backpackers like joey coconato or the wanderwomen forge streams and rivers. we marvel as they step carefully across, deliberately placing their feet with caution. occasionally, there is an unexpected suspension bridge or a big placed-log that helps. trail magic is not just water bottles and snickers bars. it’s the work that someone has done before you. someone who really cares. in this case, early-on-in-the-hike of pink-bed-trail, those someones built this boardwalk. in service.

extreme wind had blown down many trees on our trail along the des plaines. some of them stretched across our pathway and we climbed our way over them. we know the next time out they will be moved, for this trail is well taken care of. the work of those tending it is to make hiking possible for the rest of us. in service.

the winter show will be pulled down on january 9. artists of various medium brought their work to be juried into the gallery space on the lake. they chose pieces they felt were relatable, pieces that would hang well, would absorb and reflect light as it streamed through big windows. a lot of people went to the opening, including us, with masks. and then the crowds left and the art center had regular hours through the holiday, inviting patrons in to view art and trees lit with the season. we’ll pick up the painting next week, unless there is an offer on it. the curator will breathe and design the next show. and people will have been moved by acrylic and clay, watercolor and fibre. sun will light the wood floors and curl around dark corners and artists will create at home for the next time, the next chance to elicit the silent conversation between viewer and artwork. in service.

we watched carole king and james taylor in concert sunday night. it was two hours of bliss. easily two of the most talented songwriters of all time, their camaraderie is exquisite and the music carried us both back. at one point in the airing, there was a moment that carole shared thoughts about performing. she spoke about bringing music to others as her job, and she continued that it wasn’t for herself that she writes, plays, performs. songwriters, composers, performing artists. connecting to hearts of people, challenging them, reassuring them, moving them. in service.

a bridge spanning a raging whitewater river in the middle of nowhere…is it appreciated? a boardwalk built on a trail in the middle of somewhere…does it make a difference? a cleared path…is there gratitude? a painting that hangs with no viewers…is it seen? a piece of music with no audience…does it reveal its magic?

all ready and waiting.

never really first. never really alone.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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tangible signs. [merely-a-thought monday]

there is never a time that is not the right time to be reminded and to remind others: “you are worth so much”. in these times – fraught with all sorts of difficulties – any and all positive outreach to each other is of value.

never should we take another for granted. never should we undermine another. never should we dismiss that others are in need. never should we forget that others are hurting. no matter their age, their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, their religion, their socioeconomic ladder rung, their anything.

we spotted the first sign after hiking. on the side of highway 64, we passed a driveway and i exclaimed, “did you see that sign?” i pointed it out the next time past. and then we saw more. transylvania county in north carolina was responding to crisis they had experienced. three teenagers committed suicide since august and the community is reeling. but they are not just jolted into grief; they are jolted into action.

a retired physician with seven children, four of whom are still in the community’s secondary schools said, “the conspiracy of silence has to end, both in our community and elsewhere. the evidence is clear — talking helps and silence hurts. what we’re doing with this sign campaign is a love letter from our community to our kids. this is just a small expression of the depth of our concern…”.

organizations in the community are addressing needs and are trying to sort ways to raise awareness. people are mobilized. much like the way dontgiveupsigns became a thing, transylvania county has started a thing. because every person counts, every person matters. and without aligned action, mission is void of truth.

we didn’t get a photograph of the yard signs. you can see them in an article in the transylvania times. but when we decided to use this as our quote for this first merely-a-thought monday of the new year, it seemed right to pair it with this silhouette of a chandelier, crystals – a symbol of wealth, success, status.

for each of us is worth so much. each of us – rich in possibility, in ways we contribute to the whole, in interaction with the world, in love of each other.

and there is never a time to forget that.

as amy wolff, the co-founder of don’tgiveup said, “life is messy but we’re in this together.”

​*****

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


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the orange blazes. [d.r. thursday]

there is this thing about being on a mountain in the woods. you don’t realize you are there – on the mountain. oh, you know you are going uphill and downhill and some of it is extreme, but being ON it is different than looking AT it. you are immersed in the scents and sounds and each step you take on the trail, over tree roots and slippery fallen leaves, is a really glorious celebration of being outside.

and then, in-between the branches devoid of leaves and over the tops of pine, you catch a glimpse. it takes your breath away, as do things that you love, things that are beautiful, things that remind you to “be here, now”.

the days were warm and the sun was amazing. it burned off a bit of fog early as it rose over the mountains and drew us outside. to drive down the road a bit meant getting to the national forest in a matter of minutes. hundreds of waterfalls and innumerable trails awaited. with only a couple days, we wondered where to start.

the orange trail blazes were on the trees as we hiked. it was supposed to be a relatively short trail, so we decided to turn off and take the faintly-traveled blue up the side of a steep ridge a good ways as well. we need new hiking boots it seems; the hundreds and hundreds of miles we have hiked in these over the last years have worn down their tread and traction on the leaves was a challenge. i found a stick on the side of the trail and that helped. trekking poles are also on the list. we saw no one on the blue. it was quiet and immense and the babbling stream below us was serene. the mountains around us peeked through branches on our way, more so the higher we got. we watched the sun as it got a little lower in the sky and turned around.

joining back up with the orange we started to hike back toward the lot. or so we thought. it seemed far, much farther than we had thought. the trail app wasn’t cooperating and we began to wonder if we were heading the wrong way. that made us the tiniest bit cranky, though we tried to laugh it off, even as the sun was slipping.

we passed a few people, also confused by a couple signs propped up by rocks that didn’t seem to correlate with the blazes. i took stock of our rations: a mini kind bar, a bottle of water, two halos, one sweater poncho and a thermal shirt tied around d’s waist. though i didn’t actually doubt that we would find our way out, i could imagine what it would be like to truly get lost and be unsure of the way out of the forest. “before we do the pct some day in the futuring-future, get a trail gps,” i made a mental note.

since orange was a large looped trail – and a smaller interior loop choice too – we knew we’d eventually get somewhere, though it did extend to two different parking lots, separated by a whole lot of what-would-end-up road walk. we kept hiking. at one point david thought we should turn around and go the opposite direction. happily we didn’t follow that naggy doubt he had in moments of what-the-heck. littlebabyscion was patiently waiting in the lot at the end and we loaded my stick in the back, checked our mileage – about 8 – and drove down the national park road in the last of waning light.

we hiked up another ridge the next day. we got a later start after a wonderful morning wandering in town. we didn’t make it to the peak. we were told the view was spectacular. but the hike was quiet and the brook babbling, birdcalls plenty and that smell of deep-in-the-woods like the best candle you’ve found.

before the sun set we turned around.

but it’s ok. we’ll be back.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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cold french fries. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

he’s a convert. we weren’t out of this sweet holiday town a half hour when i asked him to take out the baggie of cold french fries.

my sweet momma is the one who taught me how to eat these. step one: you fry them up. (or bake them) step two: you eat them. step three: you put the leftover in some kind of container. step four: you take them out of the fridge the next day and eat them. cold. preferably with momma’s iced tea, but straight up if there is none of that around.

and so, we turned around littlebabyscion in the back part of the driveway, drove out onto the road, waved to buffalo-plaid-man across the street, drove up the hill to downtown and down the hill out of town toward the mountain range in the distance. stopped and got gas, cleaned our sunglasses and i asked about the french fries.

granted, it was early, but breakfast was way earlier and all that packing and loading and saying goodbye used up a lot of energy. it was time.

and so now, when it used to be that the baggie would solely be for me, we shared the remainder of the french fries that we made with baked clams last night for our pop-up dinner on the porch, our last night in this perfect little town. they tasted like crisp outdoors late at night and my sweet momma’s homemade-just-for-me all rolled into one.

we passed a tiny stand on the side of the road. “boiled peanuts” the sign read.

“yuck,” i said, curling my lip. he agreed, laughing.

but i’m pretty sure i could hear the guy in the sun next to the table he had set up as he turned to his companion: “have you EVER heard of ANYONE eating cold french fries?!”

*****

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


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the end goal. [flawed wednesday]

when the exposure notification availability showed up on the iphone, i x-ed it out. it comes every day and every day i delete it. i’m not sure we need any more reminders of covid exposure. we are already hyper aware of the dangers of this virus, the breakthrough possibility, the guidelines. last night we talked about all the places we would go were it not for this pandemic. the list was seemingly endless and we were in wonder about missing all of it.

we know that others are out there living life as any other day, as in any other time. i don’t know how to do that right now. any moment i forget about it and start talking about something fun to do or someplace fun to go, i remember. the benefit-risk factor is mightily dependent on, well, every facet involved, including higher threat and protecting ourselves and people we love. but i do know this – if it is for my children, i will do it. though we don’t get to exercise it much, that risk is unconditional.

we are finding that maybe we are more conservative, more cautious than others as we weigh our activities and destinations. it’s frustrating. we are a year and a half into this and, while vaccinations help us significantly, there is no stopping a mutating virus that wants to spread without the cooperation of everyone.

at the end of this pandemic, when there IS one, we will look around at the wreckage. lives and health and homes and jobs and security have been decimated. there are those who have been ultra-cavalier and have blatantly denied and defied any safety measures. there are those who have gone to disney, who have gathered in large unmasked gatherings, who have traveled widely. and there are those of us who have not. it’s a wide spectrum where, really, the most prudent route seems a narrower band of collaboration. and it – truly – sometimes makes me ponder what we’re missing. and, even though i ask ‘why?’ time and again, we stay on the track we have decided on, committing to an end to this insanity.

i suppose an argument against the way we are navigating through this would be that we are living out of fear, that we are limiting ourselves in a limitless world because, even when we have no guarantee for life in ANY given circumstance, we have bowed to covid-19, a frightening reality that makes us pay attention. it makes me sad to write that.

at the end others will have lived through it and have traveled and celebrated and eaten out. and hopefully we, too, will have lived through it. but our experience-list will be shorter; if traveling and celebrating and eating out are the things that count we have the tiniest list. our experience-list includes a serious respect for medicine, for science, for experts trying to help us mitigate this. it includes a deep concern for others and a wish for their good health and well-being. it lists to the end goal and not the short term. it includes the very-fewest visits with beloved children and family, in some cases none, tearing at my heart, painful. it includes much home-time, gratitude for this place in which we work and learn and cook and grow and dance. it’s much narrower than we would have imagined and, yet, it is rich in ways i also could not have imagined.

and next year, or sooner, i hope, maybe our experience-list will include irish fest and farmer’s markets and eating at the bar at wine-knot and restaurants in chicago and exploring in north carolina and live-in-person conversations with people who have been there for us, national geographic live events and long stays in the rocky mountains with mornings at cabin coffee in breck and winterfest in cedarburg and a slow dance party revisited on our patio, with people spilling into the kitchen, making drinks and preparing hors d’oeuvres.

maybe our experience-list will include a booster shot and no masks and fewer headlines about staggering loss and more news about communities coming together in support of each other.

maybe our experience-list will have less worry and less fear. the end goal.

stay well. stay safe.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY