reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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tree lessons. [two artists tuesday]

we know the trees well. on all three of the hikes we usually take in our area. we watch them as they change through the seasons, giving their leaves over to fallow, holding snow, reawakening. their portraits shift against the sky – from dense to sparse and back to dense. we notice when limbs fall and when nests are built in their branches. we watch as they turn from photographs of trees to graphic images, of dark and light. ever-changing. evolving. we use no filters.

eyes wide open – sort of – we move about our days. we see the people we see, do the work we do, go the places we go. some days are all about the familiar, the patterned, the every-day-ish-ness of it both reassuring and maybe a little stifling. we look at the days without noticing the days, at the people without noticing the people, at the work without noticing the work, at the places without noticing the places.

sometimes i stand just inside the front door of our home and look in. i try hard to pretend that it is my first step into this home. and i look – really look – to see what i see, feel what i feel, notice.

and days, and people, and work, and places.

the trees are teaching me.

*****

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perspective. [two artists tuesday]

and from the air – way high up – the mountains below appeared to be mostly snow-laden. you could see small groupings of trees, likely stands of evergreen, i would guess. it seemed like tundra, vast and untouched, far from anything. the mountains must have risen out of the ground centuries ago, no rhyme or reason, geological remnants of time past. it looked cold. i shivered gazing down. the altitude flattened it all out.

and, in a moment, i was back at the side of the pond, iphone camera in hand, capturing the frozen windswept surface in waning monochromatic light.

it is – indeed – all about perspective.

*****

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perils and summits. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

i wouldn’t say it’s completely autobiographical. but one has to get one’s idea nuggets from somewhere. and – since our lives together have some really ordinary moments – truly ordinarily-ordinary with a smidge of extra as frosting here and there – they are somewhat easy to pull from.

day-to-day living has enough funny stuff. really. stuff happens. big stuff. little stuff. silly stuff. stupid stuff. hard stuff. poignant stuff. goobery stuff. one just has to notice, to pay attention.

and then – in the case of of a sort-of-autobiographical-sort-of-construed-sort-of-vulnerable-sort-of-stand-up cartoon – one has to be willing to share.

the perils and the summits of middle age. there are plenty.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2023 kerrianddavid.com


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maraschino dreams. [two artists tuesday]

and they dreamed dreams and waited in the woods…winterberries with visions of becoming maraschino cherries in their mind’s eye…actualizing with starring roles in traditional wisconsin brandy old-fashioneds…

no, no. do not put winterberries in your old-fashioned. they are completely toxic. but they are striking and unexpected. and the color in the woods is intoxicating. gorgeous red punctuating a dim brown-grey, save for a few evergreen, they are clustered beautiful.

it had been a while, what with the freezing temperatures and snow. we finally made it out to our favorite trail and it was – truly – a breath of fresh air. there is nothing quite as restorative as hiking, surrounded by stillness and the sound of wind rustling through the tops of trees. we needed to get outside. we slogged through the trails, getting a better workout than usual. the mud splashed up onto the back of our jeans, like when you ride your bike in the rain. we reveled in it.

the deer tracks went across the path. they hadn’t been there the first time we passed through. it was early in the day, early for the deer to be moving around, but we started looking through the brush.

her sweet face was staring right at us, her body blending into the scrub and trees around her. we stood, gazing at each other, none of us moving. i slowly took my phone out to capture what i knew would be hard to discern in a photograph – this deer in the woods, this shared moment of time. she didn’t move, but her tail wagged and her ears pitched forward and back, listening. i was hoping she could hear the words i whispered to her – telepathically, a little dr. doolittle-ish. her continued gaze at us, grace for our presence, her head held high, no obvious fear. unexpected.

she never left the spot while we were standing there. she took a few steps but didn’t flee, as so often happens when you start to move in the forest. we blew her a kiss and continued on, feeling lucky to have seen her and to have spent a few minutes with her.

we passed more winterberry holly as we hiked, laughing about old-fashioneds and marveling at our new deer friend in the woods.

we exited the trail, none too anxious to leave, wanting to just linger.

“sometimes,’ said pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” (a.a. milne)

****

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slowww. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it happened.

one of those.

he was going on and on about – fictitiously – going to steinhafel’s (a big furniture store) or ashley furniture or colder’s and finding a giant twenty-drawer-dresser. and then he would find a hutch to go on top of this enormous dresser. and it would all go in the bedroom – in lieu of most everything else in there, including the bed. he went on about how then i would have a dresser with the vaaaaaaast amount of space i had talked about/pined for/whined over and we would sleep on the rug in the living room on blow-up air mattresses, practicing for our thru-hikes.

he had me in stitches as he described this, in the middle of which i snorted.

now – that is good living – snorting while laughing.

and there – in the fleeting instants of this dresser-fantasy – was one of those moments.

it might be easy to forget – to pass by – the dresser-scheming, the fictitious dresser to fix all my dresser inadequacies, the dresser-to-rise-above-all-dressers – but the belly-laughing and the need to hold my ribs and the participation in the high-brow voice deeming my new fancy dresser worthy – these were not forgettable. and the look on his face – total seriousness, a dedication to making my dresser-dreams come true – was priceless.

you just can’t walk on by without noticing.

the moon was almost full on the way home from milwaukee. we pointed and ooh-ed and ahhh-ed at it. it rarely escapes us, unless behind the curtain of drab clouds that has been hanging around. the stars, the sun, happy lights on fences and porch railings…they make us all dreamy-like.

i’m guessing we notice the little stuff even more when the big stuff is in peril. the way setting sun makes cattails glow. the way pistachio shells still connected but sans nut look like talking heads or pac-man. the way it feels to see a smile on either child. the way his hand feels on the small of my back, steadying me. the way dogdog has started kissing us. a note from someone about an album or a song. the familiar creak on the stairs and the mindless latch-release opening a pantry of food. the eye doctor telling us we “seem pretty good” together. tiny kindnesses and big generosities. going on a little adventure and coming home.

after richard curtis left our dinner together – monday’s post – he wrote us a handwritten note. handwritten…like those notes and all those letters i have saved from my sweet momma or those tiny scraps of paper from my children from when they were little or, really, any time at all.

in his note – ok, not really, but i would surely guess this were there to be a note (and, for that matter, a dinner) – he wrote, “remember…don’t pass by too fast.”

slowww. we will go slow.

*****

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warmth wins. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fallen branch must be radiating enough absorbed heat to melt the icy snow-pack just around it. the perfectly custom-shaped frame of snow reveals gorgeous long-needled pine laying on the ground atop a small clump of clover. the green in a field of frozen crunchy white was a beautiful glimpse underneath, a reveal.

things aren’t necessarily what they seem. and – though we sometimes remember we also sometimes forget – we find that there is more going on – beneath the visible surface – than we can imagine. i suppose it’s mr. rogers’ endings-beginnings, it’s george eliot’s “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s the cinderella song “it’s what’s inside that counts”… i suppose you just never know.

it served as a reminder on the trail. though fallow seemed to be starting and early winter was beginning to take its toll, a little bit of green busted through the ice, peeking out, asking us to notice. it seemed it was stored-up warmth that mattered.

reading and research bring up many physics and scientific theories postulated about this phenomenon, about the albedo effect, about dunes and wind, about snow and pine needles. they are all fascinating, but for me – it was mostly all about the disparity between what it looked like on the outside and what was on the inside. because we don’t always know what’s just below the surface – in circumstance, in the environment, in people.

but a little warmth (or albedo or a breeze) reveals a smidge. just a little grace, a little forgiveness, a little compassion, a little generosity, a little love.

it doesn’t take much – this tiny pine bough is proof, indeed.

warmth wins, every time.

*****

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walking sunsets. [two artists tuesday]

there are days that go by that we don’t notice. we hear the waves crashing or the wail of the foghorn, we feel the wind shift over the cool water surface, we listen to seagulls over our house or boats racing the shore. and, though those are all familiar to us, we don’t notice.

we walk the sunset along the lake, night dropping in around us. it’s quiet but we hear faint strains of music from the harbor and the festival on the channel. the lights to our left balance out the ever-diminishing clarity of view to our right. it is pretty exquisite. we are lucky, we repeat.

we live in an old house with an old garage and an old yard in an old neighborhood. we are steps from lake michigan and its glorious power, its ferocity, its smooth-as-glass silk, its wide spectrum of personality. and, sometimes, we don’t notice.

because sometimes, like you, we get caught up in the stuff of life, the challenges of life, the confusing relationships of life, the weariness.

those are the days we should walk the sunset.

for there is not much that reminds you of time passing like watching the giant eastern sky answer the western setting sun. there is not much that reminds you of your absolute tiny-ness in the overall scheme of things. just shy of eight billion people on this good earth and everyone shares this one sun, able to watch colors over lakes, deserts, meadows, cityscapes, neighborhoods, ballfields, cornfields, highways, bayous, mountains.

to sometimes notice, sometimes pay attention, gives us petite pause, like the air you feel staring at a richard diebenkorn ocean park painting, the all-over softened loll of arvo pärt’s music unwinding you, slower-than-slow-dancing on the patio, the hush of a hammock.

“we think we have about twenty good summers now,” the wander women talk about choosing their adventures. we are the same age, so it’s a little bit bracing.

but a good reminder. even from the very start. if we only have about 70 or 80 good summers in all, if we are fortunate, it would seem each one really, truly counts. and, if the height of summer is – in most parts – about three months long, then that’s about ninety days. that means somewhere between 6300 and 7200 good summer sunsets in all, possibly more, possibly less.

it makes me wonder how much i noticed in the first 5670 summer nights to date.

i’ve got some work to do.

i’ve got some walking sunsets to pay attention to.

*****

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kitsch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i suppose if i opened my 1977 john h. glenn high school yearbook i would find these words. in fact, i am almost positive i would find them. scrawled in pen by more than one friend, on the big white space of the inside hard-cover or the inside back-cover, maybe across the page for the art and literary magazine. there would be other sage phrases too…like “life is a journey, not a destination”…as if there was a what-to-write-in-a-yearbook handbook or maybe taken directly from the blue mountain arts meaningful-phrases calendars of the time. my personal favorites were the susan polis schutz/stephen schutz calendars, books, bookmarks…the colors and shapes of the seventies. pause for a sigh…

hiking on our trail, i am whipping my camera left to right, capturing the gorgeousness of the underbrush, trees in their green glory, a very-blue sky.

the litter almost under my footfall gets my attention. it’s not just paper.

this time, it’s a succinct message – kitschy as heck – but, alas, to the point. “cherish yesterday. live for today. dream of tomorrow.”

i don’t know what to do.

i photograph the torn positivity mantra. richard bach’s words in “jonathan livingston seagull“, rearranged.

i try to decide. do i pick it up, as litter? do i leave it for someone else to read?

because i have been privy to the wisdom of the 1970s – in print form, not just IGs or memes or jpgs, i left it. i thought that someone might need to pick it up, tuck it into their pocket, keep it on their bedside table or tape it to their mirror.

who doesn’t need a reminder to truly cherish yesterday? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly live for today? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly dream of tomorrow?

kitsch has its place, after all.

*****

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like loons. [two artists tuesday]

i wonder if they wondered.

we had stopped right in front of their front steps. like came to a dead stop. and just gazed.

but their blue eryngo had called to us, their seafoam green step risers, the perfect backdrop. a dead stop. full immersion. color – like the sound of loons on a quiet lake. so beautiful.

i took just a few pictures, knowing we should keep going on our sidewalk-amble, breezes off the shore beckoning us to walk through the park.

saturday we spent the day in our front garden beds. we transplanted the sedum being overrun by the tall ornamental grasses marching toward the old brick wall. we cleaned up the daylilies, proudly wearing their glorious orange blossoms, high above the green leaves. we – well, he – dug out a line all the way across the front, so that we can place a stone wall of sorts. nothing fancy and certainly nothing measured or pristine, a wall that will mark where the lily garden and the growing-grass meet.

ornamental grasses love this yard and the beachy feel suits this house. we know there are many fancy-plants out there, but we have learned, through experience – finally – to not fight with what works. ornamental grasses it is.

as we walk the ‘hood we try to get some ideas. our neighbors own a garden business and are gifted gardeners, so their yard is precise and, elegant and, well, pretty perfect. we are not making an effort to achieve perfect. we’re artists. we know there’s no getting there from here and we kinda like it that way. our yard is less magazine-like and more a folksy invitation to hang out, kick off your shoes, tell a story, laugh, sing, dance.

but it’s a treat to wander in this neighborhood, every house different than the next. there is no sameness here and there is no real garden or lawn-olympics. there are gorgeous ideas and there are misses. there are old hedges and new wildflowers. there are yew and big stately oaks and pines and delicate daisies and coneflowers, and there are hosta and ferns and container gardens and raised beds we can see peeking down driveways and around the sides of houses.

i suppose that there is an hoa somewhere that would cite the homeowner with the seafoam green step risers. they’d get a note that would give them a certain amount of time to re-paint those risers, wearing from weather and the front of many shoes climbing to go inside and be home or go inside and visit.

i’m glad we don’t live where this would be cited. because the day i took this photo all i could think about was what an eye – an aesthetic – the owners must have who put blue eryngo next to their seafoam-green-weathered steps. and what a gift it was to those of us wandering by who noticed.

*****

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it matters not. [two artists tuesday]

it matters not that our feet have walked this path before

it matters not that we have lingered under this canopy

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we have kicked the same pebbles in play

it matters not that the dirt sneaking into our socks is the same

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we recognize each bend, each curve

it matters not that we have watched the mayapple come and go

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that we hear the same birdcalls, the same ribbiting frogs

it matters not that the train-through-the-trees is an amtrack we have seen

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the underbrush growth is measured by our return trips

it matters not that the wild daisies wave to us, friends

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the riverbed rises and falls as regularly as our breath

it matters not that the turtles show up where we expect them to be

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that the sun dapples and hides where we know it will

it matters not that we can anticipate the sky – unrestricted

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that playful chirping chipmunks are not exotic

it matters not that squirrels chastening us are not rarities

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

it matters not that this trail is not unusual, is not unknown

it matters not that we could likely close our eyes to hike it

we walk again, noticing, paying attention, in wonder.

because

life, we have learned, is

wondrous in its simplicities, in its familiarity, in its details.

life, we have learned, is

something to pay attention to – close attention – so as not to miss it.

life, we have learned, is

the more you notice, the more you notice.

life, we have learned, is

a walk, again and again.

*****

happy 101 birthday to my sweet momma. i will forever miss you.

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