reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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the notion of attention. [d.r. thursday]

picture-of-the-day is a driving force. every day now – straight – for over two years – i have posted a picture of the day on our thread. when covid was first present in our world, now two years and a couple months ago, my son suggested that each of us, my son and daughter and i, post a photo a day and it would keep me feeling more in the loop; the connection would be reassuring. i oh-so-agreed and have been really deliberate about these images.

no words necessary, though any kind of descriptor is welcome, these photographs are a glimpse into each other’s lives. i take it really seriously and i celebrate any time either one of them posts a photo, loving the window-in. and all day i look for the photo-capture that will be my picture-of-the-day. it’s a practice i love. intentional observing of the world around me. we all see the same things; we all see different things. i love noticing. and i have found – as in anything – the more i notice, the more i notice.

“the notion of attention … to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer…” (“our world” – text by mary oliver, photographs by molly malone cook)

we hiked over the weekend. we hadn’t been on any trail in a couple of weeks as the weather has been uncooperative. our hike was punctuated with my stopping and stopping again. so much to photograph, so many changes in the forest. i want to go slow, slow; this is not a get-your-heartrate-up exercise, but my heart was exercised nonetheless. so much beauty to see, so many tiny miracles within my reach.

david does not rush me. we were there – on that trail – to rejuvenate, to breathe, to take it all in. how do i capture that in a picture-of-the-day, i wondered. i photograph the new dandelion sharing gravel with the path. i photograph shy tiny pink flowers bending down toward the earth. i photograph the mayapple which has suddenly burst into the underbrush world. i photograph the trillium not yet blooming and wonder aloud which warmer day this week they will open to the sun. so many greens. full spectrum, not just the verdant new spring grass. slow, slow.

“i lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass…” (walt whitman – “song of myself”)

it rained the day of this post’s photograph. again. it had been raining for days, grey end on end. my picture-of-the-day would depict the rain, a dissatisfaction with the lack of sun. but, even in that frustration-of-waiting for the lamb days, i knew i could find something to notice about the rain, something to give pause.

the trees in the reflection – still leafless – reminded me. the rain falling here – brutally absent in drought-corners of this world – gentle and insistent, driving and adamant in turn, brings new growth, a transition to a new season, washing away the dust and salt of winter and its tears.

“it was my pleasure to notice such things…” (mary oliver – “our world”)

*****

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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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discovery. [d.r. thursday]

back in the day crunch and i went to every lighthouse on long island’s shoreline and its peripheral islands off the coast. i was doing a photographic study for a college class and crunch was a happy participant, lugging me around in his big green truck and taking us out in his boat, a few boats before his current beloved ‘elephant ears’. the day i got to go up into the fire island lighthouse was memorable. it wasn’t open to the public but the lighthouse keeper was there and generously offered us a tour. the textures – going up the 182 steps on that spiral staircase to the light tower – were photographically inviting: the iron stairs, the cement walls, the ribbed glass of the light. every so often there was a peek out one of the windows built into the structure in 1826 and rebuilt, more than twice as high, in 1857, its eventual black and white bands of color distinguishing it along the ocean front. my essay is all on slides and, after borrowing one of those kodak carousel slide projectors (you can hear the ca-chunk of the slides changing even in your memory), we watched it a couple years ago. all those lighthouses – some steadfast, tall and proud, some crumbling, some pristine and unmanned, each a source of a study in woven texture and, when you are lucky enough to hear the mournful sound of the foghorn and breathe in thick salty air, a synthesis of senses. discovery.

when we were walking along the seine river in paris the sun was setting. i had never been to the eiffel tower and, though i had seen pictures, kind of expected to be underwhelmed. i’ve never been a really big tourist-attraction kind of person, preferring places of nature. we kept walking toward it, strolling, and i could see it in the distance starting to loom into the sky. the lights turned on as we got close and i caught my breath. it was stunning. gold against the early evening sky, light of day dropping away, it was one of my favorite moments in paris. discovery.

every time we come over the pass and start to drop down – the vista of high mountains before us – i cry. forests of evergreens to our side, snow-caps ahead, towering mountains that make my toes curl. i literally want to pull over every few feet to capture the sheer stunning beauty of it all, to remember the green and the blue, to breathe in the cooler air and the scent of pine. we keep driving and i memorize it for the days i am at sea level, wondering if, were we to live there, i would ever not see the incredible-ness of it. or would it always and always be a discovery?

as we walk around our ‘hood, as we hike familiar and unfamiliar trails, i feel open. open to seeing the textures of life as it goes on around us, as it goes on through us. back in the day, with crunch and my blue jean cap, i took a lot of photos on my old 35mm camera. nothing has really changed. my camera is an iphone these days, i don’t have my old blue jean cap and, missing him, david and i haven’t seen crunch in a few years.

but on the best days, in the best moments, when everything else drops off and we are nowhere but right where we are, i am aware of texture after texture, grain and weave and nap and frequency and harmonics, a composition of smooth and rough, woven and intermingled, softly and intensely waiting to be discovered.

isn’t it grand?

*****

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existing in a whisper. [two artists tuesday]

“perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window . . . to say them more intensely than the Things themselves ever dreamed of existing.” (ninth duino elegy: rainer maria rilke)

every day i take a photograph. at least one. the photo-of-the-day was started by my all-grown-up children at the height of the pandemic and, for it, i am forever grateful. as a group text we’re not as singularly dedicated as when it started, but it still exists and i seriously cherish each and every picture and text on it.

but i know it must come as no surprise to you that i take a lot of pictures anyway. both my phone and what we call the island-phone have gigantic photo streams, backed up by the cloud’s extra coverage. it’s obvious that i stop often while hiking, but what might not be as obvious is that i stop often, period. there is always something interesting, something fleeting, something to record and there are times that i must steer myself away from the very thing begging my capture just to keep on keeping on.

today i write the 1013th post on my blog. we looked back at the mélange weekly screenshots, five days a week each week. i wanted to spend a few moments looking at the things i stopped at, the things i wanted to hold, the notes or quotes i jotted down, the things designed, our thoughts through the years.

i would like to think that each of these photographs have brought a bit more intensity to the ‘thing’ photographed, that which is featured. it makes me wonder. does the ladybug on this coneflower marvel about its photo being taken, does it hear me draw in my breath when i expand the photo on my iphone, not knowing it was there when i composed the picture. does it realize, when i quietly gasp, “look! there’s a ladybug!” that i am honoring its existence, tiny-in-a-vast-world?

and that makes me wonder. is the universe – whatever the divine you believe in – doing the same? are our names whispered intensely into the galaxy, weaving around stars and lit by the sun and the moon, honoring our existence, tiny-in-a-vast-world? i think it must be so.

*****

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the waxing moon. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the beauty of the earth is a constant play of light and dark, visible and invisible.” (beauty – john o’donohue)

i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.

like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.

i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?

i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.

on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.

in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.

the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.

we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.

we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.

*****

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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.

*****

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