reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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joey’s parmesan. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

one of the funniest things to come out of joey coconato’s backpack out in the middle of nowhere was a can of kraft grated parmesan cheese. there were definitely other funny things too, though: a bottle of sriracha, a dozen eggs, avocados, brats, bota box wine. he is not your regular backpacker. joey is not afraid to carry stuff. he’s not afraid to go back-country. and he’s not afraid to bust the norms. passing this display in the grocery store made me laugh aloud and think of joey.

one night recently, in the wee hours, i was awake and, thus, so was david. we chose a PCT trail video to watch and got through the whole video with nary a yawn. they had mentioned mountain house meals, so we were curious. we visited – at 3am – the mountain house website and were astounded to find many meals that sounded so delicious they instantly made us hungry. we were also astonished to find that each one was just shy of $10. that would mean that if we chose to hike the pacific crest trail – for about five months – and each of us had a mountain house meal for breakfast and for dinner – it would cost us (do the math: $10each x2of us x2mealsaday x30daysamonth x5months) about $6000 just for those meals, not to mention lunch or snacks or gear or permits or or or…. so, no wonder joey carries baggies of pasta and flour tortillas and avocados and parmesan. we literally clinked with him (virtually) when he whipped out the bota box of wine to celebrate with his hiking mates.

we haven’t long-distance hiked. yet. i suspect at some point we will try this (or some part thereof). we love hiking and we are addicted to these backpacking trips, these long-distance trails. we have watched joey all through the pandemic. his hikes have kept us sane in days of seesawing sanity. and apparently, though we are just simply joey-fans, we have talked about him enough that we have received email messages asking us for his contact information.

we have viewed john muir hikers in high elevation and appalachian trail hikers in distinctly humid-humidity. continental divide and the colorado trail thru-hikers. norwegian xplorer wherever he hikes. pacific crest trail hikers ‘heading somewhere‘ and ‘walking with purpose‘ have captured our attention as they hike out west right now, live and posting. we felt sad as ‘miles to go‘ gave up her brave and gigantic quest to finish the pct this season. these people are out there – doing life the best they can in the best way they can. present in each moment. we root for each of them. just like we root for joey.

we’re not sure where joey coconato is right now. he hasn’t posted a new video in quite some time. he is one of the best examples of being one with the outdoors we have seen. he has been making his way in the wilderness for years now, respectfully and with all good intention and gratitude, and we guess that the wilderness loves him as much as his viewers do.

we suspect – and hope – that he is safely out there somewhere, pitching his hand-me-down/loaned tent on some ridge or under some trees or in some gorgeous meadow or next to some lake, gazing around his campsite, drinking it all in, taking his clanging aluminum pot off of the outside of his backpack where he has it tied as an alert to bears in the area and is boiling some pasta up and adding in some parmesan – right from the 8 oz can he carries with him. what a good life he lives.

cheers, joey. and all the rest of you hikers out there, carrying the very least and experiencing the very most. don’t forget the parmesan.

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


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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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quiet. new chalk. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

life is grace sleep

quiet.  we walk in quiet most of the time.  even our longer hikes are quiet.  it is a time of rest for us, rest from the noise of the rest of life, the noise of worry and angst, the noise of dispute, the noise of too much bad news, the noise of chaos.  we listen to the birds and our footfalls on the trail.  we listen to the wind and the sound of creatures rustling in the underbrush.  the quiet calms us; the quiet lifts the cellophane from the magic slate cardboard, it shakes the etch-a-sketch and takes it all back to zero, back to start, back to a rainwashed driveway waiting to be chalked all over again.

having run out of everest, k2 and annapurna footage we are watching appalachian trail and pacific crest trail and john muir trail videos these days.  on our own treks locally we decide which one of these to take, listing the specific merits of each.  make no mistake, these are serious treks.  the AT is 2190 miles from georgia to maine.  the PCT is 2653 miles from the border of mexico to the border of canada.  the JMT, joining with the PCT some of the way,  is 211 miles through the sierras, high elevation pass after pass.  clearly, the training needed would be intense.  but, as we envision this extended trekking, we are drawn to the quiet.  the noise of this world has become raucous and the woods and the mountains seem to beckon with absolution, with grace, with rejuvenation.

there used to be a button on the cassette player that you could push that would quicken the pace of the tape to the end: fast forward.  it would seem these trails, this quiet, like sleep, would fast forward through the dark and bring you to the light once again.  these trails – this quiet – remind you that next comes.

and so, the noise of the day will cease.  and you can listen to the sound of your footfall on a new day, ready to be chalked.

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

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these old boots. [two artists tuesday]

old boots

these old boots.  save for the laces, which were definitely in-beaky’s-book-worth-saving, these boots are now moving on.  looking at them, side by side on the deck, i could hear my big brother playing the guitar and singing, “these boots were made for walking, and that’s just what i’ll do…”

we’ve run out of everest movies to watch.  we have seen all the hollywood movies, all the national geographic movies, all the north face and eddie bauer movies and the rolex movies.  we have watched youtubes and imax-without-the-max-part.  we have sat through short home videos and a two hour and three minute go-pro video with no narration and hardly any talking.  we’ve watched k2 and annapurna and aconcagua and denali.  we have run out.

we have now moved on to the appalachian and pacific crest trails.  these boots – neither pair – were not made for that walking.  we can both vouch for it.

these boots were different.  they were more life-boots.  mine took me through well over a decade of travel, well over a decade of wholesale and retail shows, well over a decade of schlepping, lugging, driving very long distances, more schlepping and lugging.  well over a decade of practice on wooden stages while lighting and sound engineers ran cues.  well over a decade of flatbed trailers.  well over a decade of dreaming and sweating, well over a decade of highs and lows.

i’ve been attached to them.  the soles have separated from the leather uppers and wearing them would be like wearing closed flip flops, but heavy-heavy and flopping around, looking to catch on something and throw me headfirst into the ground.

i’ve been attached to them.  in some way they became part of my uniform, the same way that the black zip-up sweatshirt that no longer has cuffs or a working zipper was.  i’m attached to that too.  somehow, it felt like those kept me safe, kept me going, and brought me back home.  i suspect it wasn’t the boots or the sweatshirt hoodie.

so i’m saving the laces.  they can be used in a different pair of boots.

and i’m wondering:  maybe we should fill these old boots up with dirt and plant some basil.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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