reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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and the gasket smiles. [d.r. thursday]

every day i hold my breath and touch it. i slowly open the closet, bend down and approach it. i nudge the tiny trap door over to allow space for my hand. the coupling has no idea it wields such power, such angst. but it does. it is disconcerting what 1/2″ pvc pipe can do to your psyche. and so… i reach out and grasp the connection. i daresay i even close my eyes. and every time it is dry i thank our lucky stars. a search of great proportion, text messages and voicemails from our “village” and treks to every plumbing supply house in the area later, we seem to (knock wood!) have solved the problem with a 99¢ rubber gasket and a little repositioning of the pipe. and so we attempt to move on. the ptsd of waterinthebasement demands i test it often; i am trying to release some of this and move from every day to maybe every other day. suffice it to say, the big black plastic bin remains – and will remain – in its spot directly below the offending coupling for some time to come.

this little adventure has set us on a course in the basement. the havoc created a ripe invitation to sort, to clean, to reminisce, to give away. a task undeniably time-consuming and cumbersome, but gratifying nonetheless. the leak itself was smack in the middle of david’s studio, but fortunately had not affected any canvasses. now, at last, as he puts his studio back into place, he will dance with the black bin and his patina-rich easel.

we love patina. perhaps it is because we have patina ourselves. at 60 (whatever) you have no choice but to own it, this “gloss or sheen on a surface resulting from age or polishing”. i never thought of it as “polishing” before. age, yes. polish, no. it seems the opposite. it seems that one removes patina with the act of polishing, an action misguided and not recommended by antique collectors everywhere. which does make me think about all the work we do in this country, in particular, to avoid ‘looking our age’, to eliminate wrinkles and age spots and the bumps and lumps of time-spent-on-earth. seems contrary to the upholding of patina, the celebration of the worn, the shabby-chic, the tattered, the threadbare, the velveteen-rabbit-ness. let’s just call it all wizened-beauty.

much of the basement is dedicated to glorifying wizened-beauty as this is an old house, 93 years worth. in the section of the basement where it is studio, all the pipes and walls are painted bright white. there are spotlight tracks in each area. it does not feel old-basement-ish. instead, it feels to us simply a cozy space, inviting our presence. the studio that holds david’s standing easel, the space that holds paintings-waiting-for-homes, the storage that holds boxes of my cds, all analog in a digital world. that studio also holds two rocking chairs, both with treasured history. one from spaces-of-painting past and one from the nursery upstairs that only exists in memory now. how often we have each rocked in those respective chairs. how much time has gone by. not fancy and definitely sans polish, they hold steadfast. they are there for the times of muse and the times-in-between the muse. and times like now.

the studio in the basement waits, just as my studio where my piano waits. raw opportunity, beckoning each of us as we rearrange, store away, go through, readjust and re-enter.

the gasket, up above and comfy in the coupling, looks down and smiles at what it started.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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the anniversary of after-the-comma. [d.r. thursday]

one of my most rewarding moments will soon have an anniversary. in three days SHAYNE will be six and the moment of unveiling her first published book to my sweet momma will be starting its new trek around the sun. in the way that life makes things complicated and that stuff gets in the way, we have not yet released the third book of the trilogy.

a little background stolen from a previous post:

back when my momma was 93 and facing down stage four breast cancer having had a double mastectomy a few months prior, she told us she felt like she had accomplished little in her life.  there could be little farther from the truth.  she died shortly before her 94th birthday but remains a force in the world. her kindness and her zealous belief in kindness continue to ripple outward. i heard beaky firsthand when My Girl was talking about the world and its issues and said, “the best thing i can do is to be kind to people.” i’ve seen beaky firsthand when My Boy has stood firm in raising pride awareness.

but she insisted she had no title (“engineer”, “architect” etc) to put after her name.  we knew she had, however, three manuscripts she had written decades prior – stories about the family dachshund named shayne – stories she had tried to have published with no success back in the day.  stories told from shayne’s point of view and simply wholesome and delightful, we searched for – and found – the manuscripts.  and immediately got to work.

my amazing husband david illustrated the first of the trilogy, named SHAYNE.  i laid out the text and the graphics of the book itself,  designed merchandise like an “author” shirt, banners and a shayne iphone case for momma, built a website, contacted newspapers and we hastened to put together a release party with a reading and press and a celebration with brownies and asti spumanti at her assisted living facility in florida.  when we told her – on MY birthday in march (for what could be a better thank-you-for-my-birthday than this?) what was happening on april 11th, she squealed like a school girl and started practicing signing her name with a sharpie.  it was BY FAR one of the pinnacle moments of my life to see my mom – the AUTHOR- hold her book, read aloud to the dozens of people who attended and sign “BEAKY” on her books as her fans lined up to purchase the earliest copies.   eighteen days later, my sweet momma was no longer on this earth.

in the way that lists-in-your-head nag at you (or possibly my momma from heaven, that traffic-stopping look in her eye) i know that it is time to develop that third book. it is time to re-tell this story. this world – these times – with so much loss, so many undreamed dreams. on a scrap of paper on august 4 in the year 2012, a calendar date that holds significance for my mom who gave birth to and lost her first baby girl on that day in the 1940s, i wrote down that momma said to me, “enjoy life. start living.” don’t put it off. just do it. the words of self-helpers everywhere.

maybe that’s why the woven-wicker-paper-plate-holder-end-cap-display was so riveting. maybe that’s why the giant piles of peeps and peeps cereal made me stop and laugh. maybe that’s why it feels like momma is saying, “hello!” maybe it’s not just “hello”; maybe it’s “what are you waiting for?” or a gentle prod, a “rise and shine, sweet potato!”

procrastinating runs rampant. in all of humanity. we put off things until we feel deserving. we can’t go out until we clean. we can’t travel until we’ve finished schooling. we can’t give up security until we are secure. i’m guessing momma would not necessarily agree with all this. her wisdom was to support going and doing. she did not counsel that one must have guarantee of success first. “try it, you’ll like it,” she’d echo my poppo.

momma had funny quirks, like everyone i suppose. and now, because DNA is a thing, i see those quirks up-close-and-personal in the mirror. i see them in my sister and my nieces. i see them in my daughter. marvelous tiny snippets of beaky walking in the world.

momma had some lighthearted superstitions too. she’d take an umbrella with her places because she believed that -then- it was less likely to rain. she wouldn’t take a shopping bag because she believed that -then- she would have the joy of juggling many parcels at the end of a shopping excursion. she knocked wood.

momma had a sensibility that she undeniably passed down. she made soap socks and never threw out a bottle of shampoo if she hadn’t already stood it upside down for days. she didn’t use or wear or hang up or sometimes even take out of the bag new things. there was some unwritten rule that she had to save it for “special”, a waiting period for anything new. she generously handed this strange little behavior to me somewhere along the line in the same way that she passed the love of cold french fries to me. she would make mounds of homemade french fries ahead of time when i was coming for a visit. not because she was going to re-heat them, but because, with big glasses of iced tea, we would sit and talk and eat them cold. together. as much as i still love cold french fries, it was never really about the fries.

and still, in all her amazing beaky-ness, after living an extraordinary life and setting an example of kindness and simple joy, she had this sense of nothing after the comma after her name. how could this be? easy enough to answer, i suppose, in a world of expectation and measurement, a society of commas – the ones after your name, the ones after dollar signs.

SHAYNE was on-deck in her life for over five decades, waiting. yes. it was one of the most rewarding moments of my life to see her face as she looked at her first book. her glee! elation. there are no words.

now i wonder if she might advise us all to start practicing with a sharpie. “you just never know,” she’d add.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit beakysbooks.com to see SHAYNE

SHAYNE ©️ 2015 beatrice arnson, david robinson, kerri sherwood


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the black bin in the middle. [d.r. thursday]

personally, i like the black bin in the middle of the room. right now, it gives me a sense of peace, or, more accurately, less of a sense of panic. in our seemingly neverending plumbing story, we are still seeking the proper gasket for our dysfunctional coupling. we were behind a local plumbing truck on the way to lowes. this business has operated in our town for four decades servicing all these old houses with their variety-pack of fittings and pipes and unions and o-rings and such. as i told a friend, it was a universe-is-laughing-at-us moment as we drove behind this truck that i just knew had shelving with old disheveled water-stained cardboard boxes full of the exact gasket we needed. i wanted to jump out of littlebabyscion at a stoplight and run up to his driver’s window and knock-knock-knock on it and beg him to check the ratty cardboard boxes for this gasket, which of course, he probably had in his pocket, upon which i would offer him 10 or 20 dollars for this simple vintage rubber 79 cent piece. it didn’t happen, of course. i’m quite sure that he would have done anything to avoid my panicked face in his window. and so, we are still on the quest. and learning a lot about gaskets and o-rings and sheet-and-ring gaskets and fun stuff. someone said to me yesterday, “oh, like that’s something you really want to know about!” but i disagreed. though i wish the tiny leak would stop, i am finding the puzzling-out of it a great learning process. a creative process, let’s just say. so. the black bin in the middle of the room.

soon we will piece back together david’s studio down in that space. he’s bringing paintings back into the light and we gaze at them as he recalls much of this pandemic year, time spent without painting. i know this feeling as i enter my own studio upstairs. a crate of cantatas i composed, some resource books i have used for decades, a few decorations from the choir room i used to occupy – they sit along the side wall of my studio, the remainder of what i need to file away, put away, throw away. i, too, have not spent time in my studio creating. it’s the wrists, it’s the job-loss, it’s the pandemic … it’s a long time of fallow, i suppose. it is the juxtaposition of art that makes a living and art that is living. it’s a sort of betrayal by art. it’s feeling that which you have dedicated yourself to letting you down. it’s change. it’s a time of discernment. it’s a time of confusion. it’s a time of loss. it’s a time of not-found-yet. it’s a time of grief. it’s complex. it’s a mixed bag.

we laid awake in the middle of the night. we had a banana, our traditional middle-of-the-night snack. we talked. we grappled with the year-of-years we have all had. once again, for the millionth time, we tried to sort it out.

we talked about my snowboarding-broken wrists and a community of leadership that never reached out to me. we wondered aloud. we talked about the pandemic breaking out, virtual-work, exponential curves of connecting to others online. people, including us, losing positions we loved to a virus that shut everything down. we talked about financial hardship, too common a denominator. we wondered aloud. we talked about the terrifying covid numbers we watched on the news – climbing, climbing, climbing. we wondered aloud. we talked about political division, a time of chaos and the amping-up of bigotry, complicity and vitriolic rhetoric. we wondered aloud. we talked about isolation, people missing people. we wondered aloud. we talked about the civil unrest in our town, deaths-by-automatic-weapon a few blocks over, curfews, fires, boarded-up businesses. we wondered aloud. we talked about my fall in the fall, a whopping new wrist ligament tear and, again, a community of leadership that did not reach out. we talked about losing my long-term job. we talked about the silence of others. we wondered aloud. we talked about david’s dad and his move to memory care, his mom and her spinning grief and loss-paralysis. we wondered aloud. we talked about our sweet babycat and his sudden dying, the heartwrenching hole. we wondered aloud. we talked about the lack of security, rampant. we talked about extreme gun violence and people’s hatred of anything-they-aren’t. we wondered aloud. we talked about exhaustion, pervasive and overwhelming all of us. and we wondered aloud.

not much sleep.

we’ll find a gasket that works soon. or we’ll call a real plumber in. and maybe, little bit by little bit, our artistry will call to us – to trust it, trust ourselves. it will remind us that it is not responsible for making a living. it will ask us to look around at that which is of solace to others in these times, regardless of lacking financial reward: it is music, it is visual art, it is the written word. it is art and it is living.

and, for some time to come, the black bin will sit in the middle of the studio. to remind us of the process.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the tiny vibration. [d.r. thursday]

i can feel the fluttering. it is just a tiny vibration but it’s there. it’s pretty new. i don’t remember this feeling before, i guess, a year ago or so. though i suppose it could be one of those things that happened but which i never noticed, i’m noticing it now. it doesn’t hurt; there is no pain. it’s just this little vibration inside that speaks up every now and then, some days more than other days. in the way that most physical things are somehow connected to anxiety or stress, i am thinking there is a correlation and so when this silent little buzzing starts i patiently wait for it to cease. and i wonder about it.

it is astounding what stress can do. it is a statement, particularly of these times, to hear all the ways it exhibits in people, all the ramifications, all the fallout. in a world filled with self-help ways-to-find-zen books and videos and suggested practices and therapies, stress still abounds and people – its number one target – are subject to it. no matter your constitution, we are each vulnerable, a mere event or two away from feeling utterly pummeled by angst. we seek ways to alleviate stress and it returns, like this tiny vibration. no matter how many times i speak to the tiny buzzing, it seems to stick around.

perhaps an answer is in this painting surrender now. the holding of each other in this world, the intimate sharing of worry and humanness, the giving over of pain or grief or anxiety or stress. perhaps the presence of a little bit of grace. maybe then the tiny vibration – or however each of our bodies respond to the complexities of life – will ease.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit this painting on DAVID’s gallery

view or purchase this painting as a print

SURRENDER NOW ©️ 2016 david robinson


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but it’s not. [d.r. thursday]

the cold air was stinging my face. i pulled my scarf up further, to block the wind a bit more. as we rounded a curve in the trail, the breeze was biting. it seems early for this kind of cold. but it’s not.

it’s december and the official start of winter is right up around that bend in the trail. the cold is predictable. this is wisconsin.

i walked away from the stockpot of chicken soup i was stirring, waiting for a warming dinner. i sat on the steps in the hall, overwhelmed. i keep hearing and picturing the words of my firing, the non-explanation-explanation given to others. it may seem like it’s time to be over it. but it’s not.

it’s only been three weeks and even sitting on the steps doesn’t yield an explanation or comfort. it just creates more questions, more astonishment, more hurt. the distress is predictable. this is shock.

i look, again, at the christmas list in my hand, trying to summon up the energy to shop and wrap and ship. it seems like the time is going slowly. but it’s not.

the holiday is rapidly approaching and, like many of you, we face it alone, wondering how to celebrate without our loved ones. we grieve traditions set aside, normal ways we honor these holidays. we ponder what we might do anew. the sadness is predictable. this is loneliness.

the night sky is filled with stars, the cold air beckoning them. the moon out the window is steadfast. the vast universe is vast. our tiny world inside, away from the biting wind, down the hall from the steps, at a table with a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a tiny christmas tree, is tiny. it seems that real peace is somewhat elusive. but it’s not.

it’s ever there.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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it is my hope. [d.r. thursday]

my beloved children,

in the last few years i have become increasingly vocal, doggedly writing about the politics of this nation. i have watched an administration sweep in wearing hatred and division on its sleeve, attempts to undermine and destroy any forward movement this country has made or has desired to make on so many fronts. i have decried their rhetoric, narrative of severing, narrative of bigotry, narrative of self-serving agenda. i have pushed back against the frailty of humankind and against the furthering of prejudice and discrimination of any sort, be it under the heading of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, economic status, religion. i have, time and again, asked to uphold what would make the populace safer in a raging pandemic. i have asked for leadership to be responsible, to be truthful, to be one with integrity, to prize virtue. i have raised up climate change and this good earth time and again. i have cited examples of inequality. i have been open and honest about my feelings and opinions, vulnerable to assault by those who do not agree. i have learned that’s ok.

in the last few years i have become increasingly vocal, doggedly writing about the evanescence of time, the impermanence of this very life, the beauty that rises with the sun. i have pointed to moments of joy, moments of devastating grief, moments of sheer bliss, moments to memorize. i have spoken of and to the ocean and of and to the top of mountains. i have drawn pictures in the sand and let the cool waters of high elevation streams run through my hands. i have described treasured moments with you, my children, with family, with friends, with my husband. i have been aware of how fleeting time is as it races on. i have learned that life is simply that – learning.

in this time it is my hope that this country will gather its resources into its national quiver and will lead forward with arrows of love and compassion. it is my hope that this country, like committed and passionately dedicated parents holding newborn life, will embrace each and every one of its citizens, holding and blanketing them with reassurance, with protection, with a promise of doing better. it is my hope that this country will offer to you – its children and its children’s children and its children’s children’s children – new times of peace, new times of equity, new times of profound and wise knowledge, new times of opportunity, new times of kindness, and that this will surely sweep across the land from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, from sea to shining sea.

it is my hope that you both, my amazing and brilliant daughter and my amazing and brilliant son, deep in your adventurous souls, will feel the freedom promised you in the universe. it is my hope that you speak your truth, that you speak for, that you speak against, that you speak up, that you speak out. it is my hope that you feel affirmed in your lives, strong and powerful, fiercely dedicated to every breath, tenacious, and both gently kind and profoundly vehement in the demand for justice and liberty. it is my hope that you feel unconditionally loved and cherished: by me, by partners, by family and friends, by this nation, by this very good earth. it is my hope that in the moments you take a deep breath and exhale you know that your presence in this universe is light itself and is truly making a difference…forever.

i love you,

mom.

***

view this painting SHARED FATHERHOOD on david’s virtual gallery

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SHARED FATHERHOOD © 2017 david robinson


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mother-daughter. [d.r. thursday]

another haiku day:

now she is up close,

and yet such independence.

two – always entwined.

her heart expands out;

my heart takes her all in, love

unconditional.

she will soar freely

as an eagle untethered

and rooted in love.

her wings will catch air,

her soul will find much wisdom:

grounded and high flight.

my daughter: sublime.

always loved. motherhood is:

never easy. best.

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

view this painting MOTHER-DAUGHTER on david’s gallery site

MOTHER-DAUGHTER ©️ 2019 david robinson


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forward.back. [d.r. thursday]

forward back, mixed media, 18″ x 36″

a haiku for today:

forward back. it seems

to never stop ping-ponging.

we’re all now reeling.

read DAVID’s haiku post today

visit DAVID’S painting FORWARD BACK here

FORWARD BACK ©️ 2012 david robinson


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back the **** up! [d.r . thursday]

i have hugged exactly two people since the pandemic started.

two people. one is my husband, who i’ve been hugging daily. and, this past wednesday, finally, at long last, after seven months of not seeing him, and with great forethought, i hugged my son. that’s it. no best friends. no dear friends. no sweet neighbors. no co-workers. no one else. just two. matter of fact, i had an extended conversation a while back with my daughter and, in the middle of a discussion about possibly having a long-long-long overdue visit out in the high mountains and the absolute need to hug, even mask-on-face-turned, her admonishment to stave me away from the rampant numbers there at that time, “how will you not hug me, mom?”

so walking in front of the neighborhood store, about to put my mask on, imagine my astonishment when someone i haven’t seen in almost a decade called out my name, ran up and hugged me. HUGGED me.

this was an adult! an adult exhaling cigarette smoke. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement that i was in the process of putting my mask on but hadn’t completed the motion. an adult exhaling cigarette smoke with no mask on and no acknowledgement of my incomplete-mask-putting-on-action who completely ignored my stepping-back-hand-out-clear-non-verbal-please-back-the-****-up behavior.

daaaaaaamn. i was shocked. it’s a freaking pandemic. my hug-quota is sorely lacking and yet, it is i who should choose who i would like to sacrifice my safety for in order to hug. did i mention? it’s a pandemic!

when i regained my composure on the sidewalk a few blocks away, i reviewed my actions. david, who was clear i did not want to hug this person, said i sent all the right signals. i reviewed it all again. i mean, i am a huggy person and this person would likely remember me as such. this wasn’t a cold reaction to the person; it was a reaction to the social distancing guidelines that we have been encouraged to follow in order to not spread or contract covid-19. i mean, it’s a pandemic!

what would YOU do?

i suppose next time – if this happens again – i could, as fast as my mouth could manage, say, “it-would-be-nice-to-be-able-to-hug-you-but-right-now-in-the-pandemic-i-am-not-hugging-people-sorry-don’t-take-it-personally.” only this wouldn’t have worked. she came at me in a warped speed tunnel…she went directly from the curb to hugging in seconds flat without stopping, without exhaling the cigarette smoke, without donning a mask, without passing go, without collecting $200, without stopping to think, “oh yeah, it’s a pandemic! i shouldn’t be hugging her.”

or, since that likely wouldn’t work in the warp-speed version, i could say in a loud assertive outdoor voice, “back up!” or i could use 20’s spicier version of that (only i won’t print that here.)

either way, it’s alarming to be put in a position like that.

david’s momma told us about a woman who spontaneously hugged her when jeanne gave the woman tomatoes. it horrified my mother-in-law, who then went home and showered and washed all her clothes. at the time i wondered how that could ever happen. well. silly me. s**t happens.

this is such an odd time. it’s scary all the way around. we have been inordinately careful, like many of our dearest friends. we are making choices based on what are the safest behaviors. the fact that someone can just arbitrarily take away your choice – during a pandemic (don’t know if i mentioned that yet) – is bracing.

i will have to have a plan of action for the next time. practice it. evaluate it. practice it again. make it a reflex. and make it flipping obvious.

in the meanwhile, i want my hug back. i need it for people i have actually been dying to hug.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

view DAVID’s online gallery

BACK UP! from PIETA ©️ 2010 david robinson


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so as not to forget. [d.r. thursday]

KDOT sketch

a few years ago i went through all the thousands of photographs taken for the previous three to four decades.  they were not neatly in photo albums, which would have made it much simpler.  instead, with a mere few albums capturing the earliest of years, they were in envelopes in boxes, envelopes in drawers, envelopes in bins, envelopes, envelopes, envelopes.  it was a gigantic task with the dining room dedicated to boxes marked with years and headings like “christmas”, “birthdays”, “summer fun”, “trips”, “visitors”, “losing teeth”… an opportunity to re-live all of it, the heart of life lived.

one thing i noticed in my goingthroughgoingthroughgoingthrough and sortingsortingsorting was that it was really obvious that i had most often been the one taking the pictures.  through my lens, my focus, my read of the moment, the wisp, the instant the aperture closed, my blink.

there is always the picture-taker, a designated recorder, the secretary of the emotions, the faces, the light and shadow, the view, the action, the moment-in-time.  i grab my camera all the time.  it’s second nature for me.  and now that it’s the same device as my phone, it is incredibly easy to always have it at-the-ready.  i just told a friend that i am difficult on a hike – always stopping to take pictures on the trail.  it’s not because i’m so much a collector of things-to-have.  it’s because i am a collector of things not-to-forget.  each photograph, each image reminds me not-to-forget a certain time, a certain place, a certain interaction, a certain story, a certain feeling.

so when i walked into the basement in july and i saw the wisp of me on the easel, it moved me.  that wisp is now gone and in its place, paint-over-paint, is this whispered iteration, on its way as d says.  a moment snapped of my time, a moment of his.  but this one, this wisp, this color-put-to-canvas photograph, is one i didn’t take and, my heart gently points out, one he clearly didn’t want to forget.

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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©️ 2020 david robinson