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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pinch back the suckers. [two artists tuesday]

and so, these two dwarf indeterminate tomato plants make me want more. the every-morning greeting, the dew on their leaves, raindrops on their fruit, the exquisiteness of having tomatoes from our tiny container garden on our table, in our salad, our pasta.

it wasn’t much of an investment. $6.98 times 2. we already had big old clay pots, a couple hand-me-down tomato cages, some potting soil. we just had to pay attention. i read articles about yellowing leaves and how damp the soil should be. i asked 20 questions about snipping off suckers, the shoots that grow where the stem and branch v-intersect. researching, i read, “suckers don’t serve much of a purpose. they can, however, draw energy away from the main stems, decreasing tomato growth.”

our basil story is much the same. basil leaves are delicate, but with gently pinching the plant back, pruning off the buds that appear, the sweet basil has been amazing. many red pesto sauce pastas, bowls of caprese salad, salmon with basil and cherry tomatoes on the grill dinners – a smorgasbord from a few plants on a potting bench.

it just goes to show you what a little bit of nurturing will do. these plants – like people – have responded to the attention, the up-close and personal care, the encouragement and cheering on, the constant delight in their growth. they have risen to gentle handling, careful hydration, a bit of nutrients. they have flourished and, in both cases, removing the suckers has been of great value, has opened a chance for maturation of the plants, has helped.

now that we are the tiniest of farmers, it is hard to evade the tiny-farmer-metaphor in my mind. i think aloud, “this should be a mantra for places of business everywhere: remove the suckers…those who draw energy away, those who decrease growth.”

for what place of business, what organization, what non-profit, what institution wants to decrease growth, to suck the life from its employees and its volunteers, to smother their energy, to manhandle their efforts, to discourage their development, to undermine success?

only one, i guess, that doesn’t want tomatoes and basil.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a little bitta chalk. [merely-a-thought monday]

sidewalk chalk is pretty cheap. we have several little buckets of it, all different colors, chunky and at the ready.

one day last week some good parent brought out the sidewalk chalk and some delightful children wrote on the sidewalks on 7th avenue. walking our ‘hood, we were two of the recipients of their light-blue messaging.

“i just wanted to say you look awesome,” the sidewalk said to us. it was a hot day and i had on old multi-colored patchwork shorts and a sleeveless top seemingly older than the hills, thinning flipflops from old navy, humidity-messy-curly hair and a hot-flash-aided-shall-we-say-glistening-face. i felt anything but awesome. but this message made me smile. it reminded me of heidi’s sweet momma who said, “you will never be any more beautiful than you are right now.” wise words.

positive messages are free. it doesn’t cost any one any thing to say something positive. it doesn’t detract from any serious issue at hand; it doesn’t lessen the issuer’s importance. instead, it sets up concentric ripples of goodness, of kindness, of value to each person it touches.

“there are a hundred ways they could have said that,” david would say. indeed, a hundred ways to go about doing each moment in life. probably way more than a hundred. and yet, so often, people passing, people in relationship, people in power choose a way that is toxic, that demeans others, oppresses others, suffocates others, debilitates others. so often they choose aggression, argumentative, antagonistic words or actions.

someone in power once said to me, “i’m sick and tired of you.” it was the moment he jerked the heart-string i had to the organization, the moment i realized that all his negativity was intentional; it was toxic, demeaning, oppressive, suffocating and debilitating, not to mention shocking. i wonder what other 99 things he could have said, the other 99 ways he could have acted. i wonder what message he would have chalked on the sidewalk.

appreciation of each other, our beloveds, our friends, our colleagues, our community, this world, is contagious. its goodness is seed for growth, for collaboration, for mutually existing on this good earth in actual harmony.

simple words, spoken gently, simple acts of valuing, can make the difference in a person’s day. whether or not we intimately know that person seems irrelevant. to believe that we have made someone smile, have made someone breathe easier, have made someone’s day better, have inspired someone to pass it on, is irrefutably virtuous. to be optimistic, recognize others in their success, to stand in even-keeled integrity, to bring tender and honest concern, are traits of wisdom. to believe that we have softened a circumstance, diffused a conflict, dispersed anger is actual power.

and goodness begets goodness, in the long run.

for power does not come from negativity and control. instead, it comes from positivity and generosity, from empowering others rather than pushing them down. it comes from not thinking one is righteous, but instead recognizing one’s fallibility, one’s flaws. it comes with recognizing we all have much to learn. it comes when simplicity and kindness come together, in both random and intentional acts.

ask the little kids with the light-blue sidewalk chalk. they seem to really know that.

*****

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


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“i know you can do it.” [merely-a-thought monday]

inside a what-is-now-considered-vintage liz claiborne barrel purse was a treasure. not unzipped in years, i unpacked it the other day. i found a rattle, two small children’s board books, photographs in one of those plastic wallet picture thingies, a couple expired credit cards, a slew of emery boards, faded receipts i could no longer read, old chapstick, a collection of assorted pens and pencils, a few lists, some coins and two tiny mystery keys, a few notes from my girl, cars on scraps of paper drawn by my boy, and a card in the envelope it was mailed in. every now and then you stumble upon a treasure you forgot you had.

my sweet momma was famous for her handwritten letters; most of our family would easily recognize her handwriting, even in a crowded handwriting sampling, even years after last seeing it. this little card in my old purse was clearly something i carried around for some time. it was a note of reassurance, a note with great empathy, a note of encouragement. she mailed it early in january 1989, just a few months after i moved to wisconsin. still in the middle of homesickness and adjustment, though – as i realize now – she must have been feeling loneliness as well, she wrote to me. and she penned six words that i remember her repeating throughout my life:

“i know you can do it.”

those words – just six – can make all the difference.

momma was a glass-half-full type. her fervent cheering-on was a solid part of her nurturing. she fostered support with easy acceptance of failure, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” she didn’t list to the negative, nor did she wallow in it. in all her life, from early in marriage my dad MIA and then a POW in world war II, to losing her first baby within a day of her birth while my dad was imprisoned and she knew nothing of his whereabouts, to losing her grown son to lung cancer, to standing by my dad in his own lung cancer, a myriad of rough patches, to being left alone with my dad gone to face a double mastectomy at 93. no matter the challenge, she faced it down. she knew she could do it. and, despite any enormity, she left you with no doubt. even though her heart was thready and vulnerable, her positive spirit was contagious, her strength a force in the world.

these times – the pandemic and all it has wreaked, personal physical injuries or illnesses, job trials, isolation and loss of too much and too many to list – have cued up a range of mountains for each of us to scale. my mom’s “good morning merry sunshine” couples with her “live life, my sweet potato.” lines of counterpoint for melodies in life that are askew, her words brace against the storm. my sweet momma did not give up and she did not expect you to either. “you got this,” would be her brene brown shortcut message. she stuck with it all and rode each complicated wave, each complexity, each twist. she lives on in my daughter tearing down a run on a snowboard. she lives on in my son setting up a beautiful new place with his boyfriend. she lives on in the love her granddaughters and grandson bestow upon their children. she lives on in me.

in these times, with all its obstacles daring us to succumb, i can hear her. “i know you can do it,” her voice whispers to my heart.

*****

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

live life my sweet potato stuff


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you are beautiful. [merely-a-thought monday]

you are beautiful (chicago)

i remember heidi telling me about a conversation she was having on a mother-daughter weekend with her sweet mom, among other mothers and daughters.  they were sipping glasses of wine and started listing some of the things that were disconcerting to them about themselves.

we women (and men) have all done it.  we are sitting smack in the middle of a society that puts great value on appearance and youth, rather than the wrinkles of wisdom, the not-perfect-shape of having children and nurturing families, the heart-showing-on-our-face that has learned great empathy through the years, the grey hair of hard work and compassion.  and so we complain about the obvious changes we are going through.

i have looked in the mirror numerous times and thought,  “wait!  hold on!  that is NOT how i look!”  followed closely by, thinking, “it must be the lighting!  good grief, why do they use these dreadful florescent lights?  where are the soft white light bulbs?  what about indirect lighting?!  haven’t they invented soft focus mirrors yet??  umm,  i prefer my photos over-exposed, thankyouverymuch.”  we are hard on ourselves.  understatement.

instead of recognizing the beauty, the light in our eyes, the smile lines on our faces, the brow of concern, we list to the negative.  we do not look like the photoshopped version in the magazine; we cannot measure up to the three-or-four-decades-younger version of even ourselves.  life changes us.  why is it so easy to minimize ourselves and so difficult not to maximize what those changes have brought?

heidi’s mom interrupted the conversation.  she gently stopped the flowing list of self-deprecating complaints.  and she said, “you will never be more beautiful than you are right now.”

we passed this spray-painted graffiti in chicago.  i grabbed the phone out of my purse and tried to quickly capture it.  my finger blurred part of the image and i ruminated after on how i had ruined the photo.  and then i realized that no, indeed i had not ruined it.  for that blurry flaw in the photo would remind me (much better than were it not to be there) that we were walking fast down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, trying to capture the photo inbetween lots of traffic, laughing and excitedly on our way to see The Boy.  that blurred sixth of the photo – a photo that was not perfect –  would remind me of that day, imprinting in my life right then, the reminder timely and empowering.

you are beautiful.  right now.

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

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dr thursday #1

EmbracedNow

held in grace:  embraced now – mixed media  48″ x 36″

this.  this feeling.  this painting.

it took my breath away when he painted it.  it takes my breath away now.

sharing studio space with my artist husband has many benefits.  we can interrupt each other with questions or comments or what-the-heck-is-thats or sometimes tears.  i am a great interrupter.  i am from long island; interrupting is an art form there. ask crunch or sue or marc AU.

two rocking chairs in the studio means we can mutually sip coffee (or wine) together while pondering what’s next.  or brainstorm.  or discuss current politics (ugh).  or argue.  or concoct new ideas.  my C5 is upstairs in a different studio, away from paint and acrylic and gesso and scissors and my sewing-machine-induced-scraps and power tools and a sound system that is sometimes cranked up.  a melange.  welcome to DR davidrobinson thursday.

i won’t forget the day i walked downstairs and saw this painting in progress.  the raw emotion is striking and -at once- comforting.

as you head into the weekend and, maybe, your celebration of valentine’s day, i wish for you – in whatever is your own cherished relationship – this feeling. loved. encircled. embraced.  held in grace indeed.

HELD IN GRACE: EMBRACED NOW – the painting

HELD IN GRACE: EMBRACED NOW – reproductions

DR thursday

www.kerrianddavid.com/the-melange

held in grace: embraced now ©️ 2017 david robinson


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nurselog (nurs lawg, log) noun: each of us

photo-4we were silently canoeing in a quiet lake. very few other people were out. it was almost still. the sun was warm on our faces. and there is a certain rustling sound that birch trees make in a gentle breeze.  as we drifted around a bend, there was an old, old tree, its broken, jagged end angled a foot above the water. from a distance, and then closer, we could see what looked like a tiny garden growing in the tree’s jagged end.

“it’s a nurselog,” he said. as the fallen tree disintegrated, the organic matter became the perfect soil for new growth. small plants were stretching out of their new home, this welcoming space they had found.

(later i looked it up.   on asknature.org i read, “tall, wide trees in the forests of the pacific northwest serve as nurse logs to their seedlings after they fall, providing decades of water and nutrients as they slowly decay.”)

nurse log. nurselog. (i like it as one word.) i thought about it as we paddled. my sweet momma was a nurselog. everyone she encountered she gave space to, nurtured, made at home. she was the perfect soil for others’ new growth, whoever they were.

isn’t that our job?

one of my favorite children’s books is called ‘the carrot seed’ by ruth krauss.  the copy i have of it is one of those hard cardboard books that get all goobery on the edges after hundreds of readings. in the book a little boy wants to plant carrots but is cautioned by his mother, his father and his big brother that the carrots won’t grow. regardless, he diligently continues to water and tend the little spot where he planted the carrot seed. and then one day, a carrot came up. my favorite line from the book is “just as the little boy had known it would.” there is an illustration by crockett Johnson that depicts the little boy with a wheelbarrow that has in it the biggest carrot you’ve ever seen.

the power of nurturing.

anne lamott (in ‘grace, eventually’) wrote, “all of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.”

what’s more important?photo-2
what are we REALLY here for?
how can we help each other grow?
what does it all mean?

“…provide decades of water and nutrients…”

we kept canoeing, our paddles gliding in and out of the calm water, the lake answering our unspoken questions.

nurture me
is one of my earliest tracks.

recorded on ‘released from the heart’
THE CARROT SEED inspired this piece.

www.kerri sherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood