reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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nurturing required. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the tomato plants are coming to an end. the temperatures are dipping at night and, three times now, we have covered them in plastic to keep them warm, encouraging them a few more days, a few more days.

i’ve read up on what to do with all those green cherry tomatoes. i know the time is near. i’ll put them all in a brown bag with a banana, hoping that the ethylene gas released by the banana will aid in the ripening of those tiny green orbs. i’m not anxious to pull the plants out of the pots and clear the potting stand. it all feels like it went by fast. but there is no doubt that fall is here. the sun isn’t bathing the barnwood stand in light anymore and there are not happy red tomatoes beckoning picking each day.

regardless, our tiniest of farms was a grand success and we are looking forward to having a repeat season next summer, maybe with a few additions besides the tomatoes and basil and a little more wisdom.

the thing we guess for sure that helped was the nurturing. every morning we greeted those sweet plants, watering gently and snipping off stems of browned leaves. we watched carefully as they grew, adding support for the branches, checking for disease, trying to provide the most positive environment for their growth. since we are not tomato or basil plants ourselves, clearly, we intrinsically knew that most of the work would be done by these tiny living things, most of the wisdom would come from them and we would follow their lead, researching to aid them and not deter them, to encourage them and not quash them, to provide all the essentials for them and not undermine them with anything toxic, to extol goodness on them and not to be aloof or reckless.

it occurs to me that these are likely ingredients for any successful growth. in a garden, in a family, in a community, in an organization or business. it’s too often nurturing goes by the wayside. i think of all the fine meals nurturing these little tomatoes and basils provided. i think of all the bursting-with-possibility families provide each other. i think of the fantastic synergy of a community based on wholeheartedly and without prejudice nurturing each other. and i think of all the collaborative, congenial camaraderie, the good work done by an organization actually based on truth, transparency, nurture and goodness.

growing cherry tomatoes should be required.

*****

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


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‘shrooms and fairies. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the amazon truck pulled up and the driver got out, ran a package to our door and ran back to the truck. but he didn’t pull away. he pulled up a bit and stepped out again with his phone, aiming it up at the big old tree at the end of our driveway. in the notch of branches was a giant mushroom, super-sized by humidity. he poked at it and a chunk fell off for him to investigate. from inside i couldn’t tell what he was doing, but once i walked down the driveway i could see the giant ‘shroom. perhaps a northern tooth fungus, it was beautiful and mysterious. it’s no wonder the amazon guy stopped to stare and photograph it.

there are years that we have had mushroom rings in our yard. you’re thinking, wow, they mustn’t have great grass. no, we don’t have great grass. but a fairy ring of mushrooms is common and apparently take about a year to form, all underground. superstition says that if you enter a fairy ring, you will dance with nature’s creatures and you will be unable to stop. since we like snacks and sleep, we have chosen not to enter the ring, avoiding the off-chance that this inexorable dancing take over. but the presence of fairies and elves seems magical and since these rings are associated with luck, i choose good luck over bad and we haven’t done anything to prevent them from being there.

one evening as we sat having a late dinner at our covid table in the sunroom, happy lights on and a couple candles flickering, i looked more closely at snakeinthegrass. i was surprised to find the presence of tiny mushrooms, sprouting up and living in community with this sansevieria plant. perfect little fungi, they stood tall and steadfast for a few days and i imagined tiny invisible-to-the-human-eye fairies waltzing under their domes. we laughed at the ballroom on our table.

as fascinating as mushrooms are, i would never be one to go out into the woods to arbitrarily pick them; there are too many doppelgangers out there and we are not informed. but in the way of learning new factoids, it’s amazing to note that mushrooms actually breathe oxygen – just like humans – and emit carbon dioxide, the opposite of plants. and the genetic makeup, the actual dna, of mushrooms is more similar to humans than plants.

as i look at the coming and going of these tiny mushrooms in our potted plants and high in our maple tree and ringing in the yard, i think about the necessity of their existence in our ecosystem. fungus, they give back and make it possible for plants to survive. they are synergetic without exception. perhaps their dna is even more advanced than humans.

*****

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


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fragile and crucial. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“and someday the light will shine like a sun through my skin and they will say, what have you done with your life?  and though there are many moments i think i will remember, in the end, i will be proud to say, i was one of us.” (story people)

nature has no pretenses. it isn’t trying to be all-that. no keeping-up-with-the-joneses. it just is. it’s truth at its core. it is color in all spectrums, bold and diffused, opaque and transparent.

this aspen leaf lay at the edge of the lake. no longer vibrant green or golden yellow or even toasted brown, it lay, waiting to be seen. light shining through it; it was exposed. and ever so brilliant. i knelt down and studied the veining, intricate and delicate, fragile and crucial.

my sweet poppo, in his latest years around 90, had delicate skin, seemingly transparent. this man, strong and never afraid of hard work, became more fragile and his arms – that had cut down trees and repaired volkswagens and tiny bulova watch fixings and rube-goldberged nearly anything and made coffee every morning for my momma and drove mopeds in early retirement and whirled me around the ice rink and gently held his grandchildren – turned translucent, telling stories of his life. his eyes, unclouded, spoke those memories – the beloved tales of family, the challenges of being a prisoner of war in world war two, the upstate water hole, the waterfowl games out their back lanai. no pretenses.

i suppose we will all lose our color at some point. we will become more gauzy and our veneer will start to fade. maybe it’s in those moments that we realize that none of it – the veneer and the joneses – really mattered. that all that was important was being. through all the phases – all the color – all that was important was life, clear and true. and that it was fragile and crucial all along.

*****

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


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past the curve in the tracks. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

somewhere along the way someone impressed upon me not to ever walk on railroad tracks. and so i never have. until the day i stood in the middle of these tracks and took a few pictures.

railroad tracks intrigue me, whether teetering on the edge of a mountainous precipice or crossing the great plains. i was astounded the day i drove along the arkansas river in red rock canyons, tracks by my side. i could not imagine the arduous, back-breaking, dangerous work it took to install those tracks. at home, the sound of the train whistle at night is reassuring. the whiz of the train passing by the trail is a blur of amtrack cars, headed for mysterious destinations; i reluctantly hold back waving to the engineer as the train passes the crossing.

we’ve missed taking the train to chicago to see our son or for adventures in this last year-plus-of-covid. for that matter, we’ve missed airplanes as well. we’ve driven anywhere we have gone. and today is no exception.

today we are driving. yesterday as well. long days in big red across acres of corn-states, browned, tinges of color in the trees. the sun rises out the hotel window as we prepare to leave and we ponder what we will see today, what markers of this new season will be side-of-road. in the wide open spaces trains will appear, seemingly unending freight trains, the stuff of yesteryear ‘boxcar children‘ and reading books with my kids. time and years and planting and harvest and fallow and regrowth. corn and soybeans, bending sunflowers, leaves beginning to acknowledge golds and reds – all remind us.

we’ll arrive in colorado, attend a come-and-go dinner (i believe this is the same as an open house, though i haven’t heard that terminology before). tomorrow’s schedule is all set; all the while we will be processing the reason we are there – the loss of david’s dad. somewhere in the middle of the scheduled events and the eating, we will walk in quiet under the colorful-colorado sky and grasp that which seems surreal right now. we’ll talk a little about time passing and stories of days gone by. we’ll gaze out at the mountains and see the past, the future. we’ll say goodbye to columbus, all the while knowing, in the way of the death of a parent, he’ll stay right here with us.

and we’ll wonder what’s around the curve in the tracks.

*****

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


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columbus. a jewel. glistening. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.

living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.

monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.

we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.

just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.

*****

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


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home sweet home. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“get outside.” “expand the confines of your life.” “surround yourself with beauty.” the youtube backpackers wander women kristy, annette and lynn have mantras displayed at the end of their videos. we somehow stumbled upon them; likely it was because they are currently hiking the pacific crest trail and they looked to be somewhere around our age. we have watched joey coconato backpack an inordinate number of times, and we know that we cannot be joey. we can’t even be joey-like. twenty years younger than us, he is stronger and bolder and with a vast amount of experience. the wander women, though also with decades of trail-savvy, made the trail look more accessible to us.

i have been moved by them. a few years ago they talked about what they wanted in life, made a plan and deliberately went about executing their plan. they sold houses, bought a diesel pickup and an rv and started living an itinerant lifestyle that suits their mantras. they are intrepid. one foot in front of another they have ticked off many of the big thru-hikes that linger on the edges of other people’s bucket lists. and, though we have watched them in question and answer videos and in gear videos and on various trails, right now we are following their progress on the pct. amazing. “home is where you are,” annette says, in answer to a question about how they feel about living in an rv and hiking. “you bring home with you,” she explains, totally secure and happy. they are a joy to watch.

most times we pull into the driveway – arriving from anywhere whatsoever – i say, “hello, sweet house.” it matters not how long or how briefly we have been gone; i am happy to be back and i guess i want our house to know it. animating a house is not likely on the restrained-unemotional-dispassionate-disconnected-unsentimental-apathetic spectrum but then i am pretty much an antonym-icon for all that. and i love our home.

that doesn’t mean i couldn’t love another home. i fall in love every time we are in the colorado mountains. i wish i owned most of the airbnb’s we have rented, so incredibly at home we have felt in them. i fell in love with the littlehouse on washington island; it was magical and we instantly bonded. we visited a tiny town in north carolina’s smoky mountains and thought, “we could live here.” we pined over a general store for sale in a tiny town in vermont, a place we could see ourselves hang our hats. my sister’s house, my nieces’ houses, all bring a sense of security and love. each one conjures up comfort. the up-north cabin for the up-north gang is a place of tranquility and laughter. 20’s condo is a place of serenity. friends have homes that are tranquilizing, soft places for our visits.

kristy and annette and lynn carry backpacks with less than 25 pounds of weight: their tents, clothing, food, water, supplies. that makes long-distance hiking sound more doable. “be bold” “challenge yourself” “create your life” they state at the end of another video. these are not empty words, not do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do words. they are living life in just this way. home sweet home for them is most undeniably inside them wherever they go.

the woodpecker who pecked out its house in this tree was just as fearless. undaunted by the size of the fallen log, it did what it knew – it created home. just watching a woodpecker create his own digs makes rv-living or driving up our driveway look like a breeze. i imagine that as the seasons change and life and time move on, there will be other trees in other forests, other home-holes, other places to nest, other welcome mats for this indomitable bird.

at a time when redefining is imminent, i look in the mirror and start to sketch out a plan, start to dream, to re-create life. it’s all amorphous right now, but our happy house – home, sweet home – cheers me on.

*****

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


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less is more. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

post-burlap-tan-horse-stall-chic bedroom decor, my room became a giant smile face. flowers and smileys everywhere, playing white and yellow with an orange shag rug. i had a giant smiley face poster on my door; beware to the grumpygus who might enter. smile or don’t come in!

the smiley face – “invented” in 1963 (when i was merely 4) was a morale booster developed by the designer harvey ball for the employees of an insurance company. the staying power of that simple icon is amazing! like the nike swoosh, developed by graphic-student-at-the-time-carolyn davidson (who, incidentally was paid a whopping $35), it has endured. it is, i’m sure, every graphic designer’s dream to come up with something so simple, so recognizable and so defining of a company or a product or an initiative. less is more.

many years ago i sat in my studio at my piano on speakerphone. one of the sales teams at astrazeneca was on the other end of the phone, their products – breast cancer pharmaceuticals. the team was passionately raising awareness and pursuing new and established launches. the astrazeneca team was working on a trademark – “in your corner” – and, having done much performance work in the oncological world, with many pharma companies, and with astrazeneca, i had written a song for them. it was in the earlier 2000s and speaker phone was the best we could do. after greeting everyone i played simple, straightforward lyrics, potent and direct, a simple catchy melody. less is more. the team loved it.

nothing ever came of that song. much like any pitching designer – whether graphic or product vision statement or slogan or logo or fashion or music or jingle – can tell you, more ideas are shelved than ever make it past the cutting floor. but somehow the cleanest ones sometimes make it through. my favorite designs are often the simplest gestures. my favorite songs are often the simplest melodies. my favorite fashions – yes, yes, i know i am not a fashionista – are the simplest clothes.

we walked along the lakefront past the beach where folks had set up umbrellas and small beach canopies, beach towels and plastic pails, picnic baskets and, off to the side, grills. so much happy. as we left the park and glanced down to turn onto the street sidewalk, there it was. this rock, painted with a happy smiley face. its simplicity made it noticeable. less is more, tucked into the grass next to the sidewalk.

there is nothing quite as appealing as someone smiling at you. during this time of covid and mask-wearing, that has been a missing link. we pass by others and the simple gesture, which so often sets the tone in an exchange, is awol, hidden under very-important-pandemic-masks. and so, we don’t know. there have been times when, not certain if my eyes are telling the story, i have literally said aloud, “i’m smiling under here.” the smiley-laughing face emoji is the most universally used. people want others to know they are smiling, laughing. that someone else’s presence or words or antics have made them smile or laugh. a happy face tells them that. simple. more.

we left the rock where we saw it. i can’t imagine how many people smiled as they passed it by. kudos to the artist who, with all the colors in the palette, chose to pick black and white and paint a simple smiley face.

*****

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

(my vintage happy face wastebasket – showing its age)


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cliffs and pine needles. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i was ten with a camera in my hand. we were in the woods at sleepaway camp and there was a teepee. particular about photographs even back then, i wanted to take a full-length photograph of the teepee and the best way was to step behind a big pine tree and part the branches to take the photo. i brushed aside the branches and aimed my pocket instamatic camera only to realize that i needed to step back just a bit more to get the picture i wanted. i stepped back the teeniest bit to get my shot. and suddenly there was no ground.

i fell backwards about thirty feet off the cliff.

in my zeal for the photo i hadn’t noticed the cliff edge hiding behind the pine tree, which was precariously perched just off its side. after moments during which i’m guessing i was knocked out, i could hear the camp counselor and my best friend freaking out up on the trail and i tentatively moved things around – arms, legs and such. everything seemed to work. and in the odd swimming motions i was making down below teepee-land, i realized i had fallen into a gigantic pile of pine branches, all piled up, generously softening my fall. a few feet to either side and the dry ground was as hard as the large rock outcroppings scattered in the woods of camp koinonia in upstate ny. it seemed completely shocking to fall three stories and be absolutely fine and, when they made it down to where i was in the middle of branches and just a bit scratched up, the counselor, susan and i started laughing uncontrollably. how it went right is beyond me, but, somehow, luck prevailed.

we finished reading the salt path, a profoundly moving account of a newly-homeless couple hiking the entirety of the south west coast path in the UK. as one of the reviews reads, “inspiring…a true story of love, hope, and survival against impossible odds.” (j. santlofer)

five pages before the end, raynor winn wrote, “the shock of something going right is almost as powerful as when it goes wrong.” i was reading aloud. i read that line and stopped. i told d i had to re-read it. i read that line again and stopped. and i cried. not giant loud sobs like any of us in these fraught times deserve, but tears sliding down my face, uncontrollably, salty like the mist on the coast path. i was brought to a standstill by one sentence.

these times have proffered many surprises. we have felt challenged by challenges, betrayed by betrayals, silenced and minimized, left in the lurch. we have been cautious, we have bootstrapped. we have been canny by need, scrappy by necessity. we have found surprises at every turn. and, just at the time difficulty has made you get used to things going wrong, suddenly, you are shocked by something going right. someone has reached out. someone has cared. something – even one tiny thing – changed in the frequency pitches around you. something – even one tiny thing – is on the horizon. something – even one tiny thing – lifted the mist, that fog of uncertainty with side orders of confusion, grief.

and when you stepped off the cliff, you landed in a soft pile of pine needles.

*****

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


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levels of color. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we were the only ones. the only customers in the grocery store with masks on. there was one employee we saw wearing one, but we didn’t see any other shoppers with one on. the other day, at a different grocery store, we were the recipients of a few dirty looks. but heck, we have tougher skin than that. mostly.

we sat outside while the light waned, before the mosquitoes had rsvp’d they’d be there. torches on, flame dancing from the fire column, we had a few hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine and talked about these times. there is a wistful dividing line between before and now. the pandemic has shot a chalkline in our calendars and even now, not quite after, we can see the difference.

the books arrived in the mail. it was one of those rare days when you open up the front door and see a surprise gift parcel on the doorstep. the books, memoirs of raynor and moth. the salt path, the first, a viewmaster of days during which, through the necessity of impossible challenges, raynor and moth were hiking the south west coast path in the united kingdom. “i think they are your people,” she wrote about this couple.

we opened the first paperback. i am reading it aloud and we have a voracious appetite to keep going in between all else. i read and we digest, this tale of backpacking without the reassuring fallback of retreat or going home in the end. it’s breathtaking and stunningly candid.

monday night i read aloud the sentence, “being separate from people for large chunks of time had reduced our tolerance levels.” it was not a statement of pandemic; it was a statement of wilderness camping. yet, it hit us – it was a statement of pandemic. so relevant.

if we are all honest with ourselves, we find now that the pandemic has most definitely divided our circles into before and now . . . and hopefully, one day, after. people who are absolute, people we have stayed in touch with or who have stayed in touch with us, even spottily, people who have fallen away. people who have shown true colors, people who have been generous and compassionate. people who have jumped at the chance to help others, to abide by recommendations to ease this pandemic, people who have chosen to be cavalier, go-their-own-way, to scoff and ignore, to not be any other’s keeper.

the season/reason mantra applies, we pondered aloud at the table, talking about past friendships and working relationships. some people, there with us at some point, are just not to be dragged into now. we appreciate their presence at the time they were present and we learn we must let go. they have become woven into who we have become and those threads remain somewhere in the interior of the quilt. but, in the way that time moves on, so do attachments. and even beyond the natural attrition of relationships – just like raynor and moth, though not on a wild trail – the simplicity of who we have become, what we have seen or done, where we have gone or not gone, how we have lived through these times, of pandemic, of loss, of challenge, of grief – this simplicity has changed us and, it seems, has changed our tolerance levels. as if they were on a cmyk or rgb profile – empathy, compassion, masks, vaccines, distancing, research, critical thinking, kindness, questioning, learning, truth, transparency, loyalty, generosity, inclusivity, gentleness, agenda-ridden-less, fairness, decency, basic dedication to not being mean…a wide spectrum of color levels in humans that surround us.

we were quiet as we sat and thought about people in our lives, what has changed, what has remained the same, people we yearn to see, people we, frankly, perhaps sadly or resignedly, don’t care to see again.

we gratefully looked around at flames in torches, food on our table, the dog on the deck, the old screen door to a comfortable beloved house merely steps away. the simplest pleasures have been, are, the pleasures. we cannot think of a reason that this is not a good thing. though we shed a few tears, we held hands as we spoke, together not separate.

the mosquitoes found their way to the deck. we blew out the torches, snuffed the fire column and carried our plates inside.

*****

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


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farm to table. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

10. there are now ten teeny tomatoes tethered to the tendrils of our tomato plants in our tiny tabletop garden. it’s amazing! i am ridiculously dedicated to them and watch each day as they grow.

on sunday i went outside to this old barnwood and pipe planting stand and, for the second time now, snipped off fresh valentino. it’s heavenly, the scent of fresh basil. with a little olive oil and some boughten* grape tomatoes tossed with leaves of basil, we had a meal from our little farm. (try to contain your amazement, millennial farmer.)

i still marvel at this minor little miracle, simple and so utterly complex, this growing edible food. we clinked our glasses of old vine zin in celebration and reveled in the good fortune we felt having successfully – at least for the last three weeks – raised a few plants, who seem to be happy and flourishing in the hot, humid, rainy days we have been having.

around the corner is an empty and beautiful grass lot on lake michigan, owned by the people who live across the street from it. they have planted a vegetable garden and we watched as they tenderly watered it the other day while we walked past. i wonder if they started with a container garden on their potting bench.

i don’t know how long it will be before these teeniest babies will grow and ripen into cherry tomatoes that will grace our salad bowls or join with basil in pasta-union. it will be a journey of enlightenment for us. what i do know is that we are seriously loving every bit of it. and the tomato and basil plants seem to know it.

*****

*boughten: though i don’t normally use it, this is indeed a word and, for this writing, seemed like the right one to use.

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