reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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vine-climbing. [merely-a-thought monday]

the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.

“so, i wanna laugh when the laughing is easy.

i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.

i may never pass this way again,

that’s why i want it with you…”

(jim seals, dash crofts – we may never pass this way again)

just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.

because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.

and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.

our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.

i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.

good choice of song, jhghs.

“all the secrets in the universe

whisper in our ears

and all the years, they come and go

and take us up, always up…”

*****

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


					
		
	


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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”)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit DAVID’S gallery – take your time. go slow, slow.


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desi is messy. too. [k.s. friday]

because we see desi every day, it is hard to notice its growth. she is likely changed at every sunrise streaming through the window behind her, yet we can’t see it. we’re too close, sitting at the table with her every day; the changes are imperceptible.

desi is a tiny pine tree, an evergreen whose genus and species are unknown. maybe a white pine, we wonder; she’s a messy little thing. her tiny branches are not orderly; she has a bit of wild-troll or kramer-esque (“seinfeld”) hair-branches going on. but her trunk has gone from a tiny needle stalk to something a bit more solid, a bit more grounded.

we talk to desi, just as we talk to all our plants. they each have a name (plants are people too). and, though i haven’t checked on each plant’s tolerance for this, i touch each one. we talk about the sun and the spring ever-coming and their stoic thriving through the winter. i tell them i can see their growth, for i cannot imagine any one or thing not liking positive reinforcement.

yesterday, in mid-basement-clean, i called up to david in his office. i asked him if he could take just a couple minutes to come downstairs and see my progress. i told him i could use the positive reinforcement. plus, if he didn’t look at the progress along the way, he would likely not realize what it took to get there.

it will take tons more time. i have so much to go through…more than thirty years of accumulation. it’s been an ongoing project. but the space i cleared in the workroom yesterday was significant and, if you looked, you could see the change.

some clearing out will not look like much. there will be boxes or bins that i will go through and things will get messier before they get cleaner. it will be hard to discern what i’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild down there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

not unlike the stuff going on inside. we can’t really see that growth either. we sit at the table with ourselves every single day. one day someone tells us we seem lighter, a good trend. positive – and negative – changes, both worthy of our attention, both glimpses into direction we choose to travel, the way we want to be in the world, how we want to ground, how we want to grow.

clearing out – on the inside – does not look like much. things get messier before they get cleaner and it is hard to discern what we’ve accomplished. it may look a little wild in there. but it’s changing, nevertheless.

desi nods her wild-hair-branch head.

*****

taking stock

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TAKING STOCK from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood


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not a dress rehearsal. [merely-a-thought monday]

i don’t believe there is much more frustrating than trying to get the attention of someone you love, someone you care about. you keep upping the ante, waving your arms above your head, metaphorically jumping up and down, raising your own bar time and again. just to get their attention. you try more-achievements-for-1000-please, imploring-for-800-please, passive-aggressive-ignoring-for-600-please, lonely-weeping-for-400-please, poor-acting-out-behavior-for-200-please, but none of it seems to work.

i read in the book “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering” (claire middleton) a few days ago that the author suspects “people who only need a cup, a plate and a blanket are cold-blooded”. i know this was in application to stuff-in-the-house. but i would hasten to add that it applies to relationship as well. some people, in an unplugged, unsentimental-about-other-people way, don’t need any more than a cup, a plate and a blanket. it all seems such a waste of good time.

when my adored big brother died i was pregnant with my second child so i was an adult, 33 years old. though it is just shy of 30 years ago now i still vividly remember the stunning realization that the world kept going anyway. i had lost grandparents; i was a bit familiar with grief. but this was strikingly different. i could not grok how the world kept going without my brother being able to feel it. this sounds like gibberish to some, i suspect, but grief is not linear nor is it rational. it asks questions of our heart and mind and it slays us with feelings of overwhelm at moments we don’t expect. i looked to a gift i was given – a ceramic sign that says “this life is not a dress rehearsal” – and i thought “pay attention!”.

a few days ago i was talking to one of my long-lost-and-now-found-cousins on the phone. she told stories of her mom, my dad’s sister, things i had never heard. i could literally feel my heart swelling as i listened and laughed and i wanted more tales of my sweet dad’s growing-up years. the summer home upstate new york, the rice in the sweater pockets from mice and the snakes in the outhouse, housekeepers i was unaware they had, the mob boss around the corner in the city. my grandpa’s felt business in brooklyn, piecing felt for pianos, of all things…that connection. a little bit of touch-back, an hour of family-i-had-lost-in-the-confusing-shuffle-of-life. building. paying attention. being astonished.

in a world full of intricacies and details and deadlines and accomplishment and competition and agenda, to stop and pay attention is sometimes a challenge.

to marvel at the song of birds at dawn, to watch the east sky change in answer to the western sunset, to taste the first sip of coffee in early morning, to stare wide-eyed at your grown children…astonishment in exponential depth.

to tell stories of life’s moments, the tiny ones, the top rung ones, the puddle-on-the-floor ones…is exponential sharing of living.

to pay attention to the other, really pay attention – without prompt and without reward – is exponential love.

*****

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our maple-tree-christmas. [two artists tuesday]

and the marvel continues. this very-large-branch-turned-christmas-tree, really like anything that is nurtured, has opened in the world. it is as if it has actually-self-actualized. though it would seem that remaining a limb on the maple out front might have been its endgoal, in its experience of being cut down it suddenly has new life, new possibility, new importance. the oh-the-places-you’ll-go story of its existence has undergone transformation. the you’re-supposed-to-be-a-branch-on-a-tree has been shattered and the old story of small-pine is re-created in an unassuming maple limb. because we paid attention.

in this time of hyped seasonal holiday glee, it would seem that honoring the tiniest of tiny might yield the glee-est glee. it would seem that the slightest bit of paying attention to others might pay forward the goodness and generosity that have been showered upon us. it would seem that looking beyond the obvious – to something unexpected, something out of the ordinary – might bring unexpected, extraordinary joy.

our small-pine-maple-branch is most definitely smiling, its branches reaching out and up and, each day, feeling more a presence. a reminder that life is not normal. instead, it is a chance to pay attention, really-really pay attention. it is a chance to nurture each other. it is exceptional. i can hear our christmas tree 2021 breathing in and out, “don’t forget that.”

*****

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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.

*****

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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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pointers. [d.r. thursday]

“i believe art is utterly important. it is one of the things that could save us.” (mary oliver)

in those moments – so many of them – when all else fails to reassure – beauty reminds us. it keeps us present, in the moment, working to get to the next moment, breathing in deep breaths, slowly, slowly.

the work of an artist, in any medium, is as a pointer, just like the wooden ones with the rubber tip that your fourth grade teacher used as she pulled down the world map on the roll above the blackboard to show your class the track of an expedition or the location of a country. artists pull down the map and point to it, making it accessible to anyone, making it alive, bringing an infinity of beauty, pulling your attention away from the narrative inside, whatever it might be. it is a tool of healing, a balm, a salve. it is freeing. it is free.

we immerse in music, in the ecstasy of dance, in the flow of poetry, in the spectrum of paint on a canvas, the feel of clay pots in our hands. we sometimes forget and are driven into the angst of life’s dimensionality, missing the limitlessness of the simplest. these are the moments we turn to art.

for in the end it is not the accumulation of things or wealth or titles or power. it is simply and utterly the sheer beauty of being here, the absolutely stunning realization that we get to be here in this moment in a continuum of moments we share – albeit tiny within the vast – with the universe. inside the art.

“you can’t take it with you,” my sweet poppo would say as he would refer to money or stuff. in those pondering moments he had, he somehow knew watching the cormorants on the lake out the window, listening to music on their stereo, puttering and creating in his garage workshop, quietly coffee-sitting with my momma – these were the things of value. the day he threw caution to the wind and purchased a large painting at the splurgy karl’s mariners inn restaurant perched on northport harbor; he was answering the call of art – the pointer that drew him in and wrapped him, in this case, in the fjords of norway and endless dreaming. it moved home to home with them and always was a source of calm, a reminder of beauty and peace.

each day i walk downstairs and see this canvas on the easel. each day it reminds me of the trail we often walk, for it is the paused and erased beginning of a painting of the woods of that trail. i pay attention to it because it affords me tiny spaces of river trail within my day. it reminds me, as i scurry about attempting to get things done, to remember. it slows me down and i can hear the rustling of leaves, the birdcalls, the crunch of our feet on dirt, the chatter of squirrels. i can feel the sun atop my head, the breeze in my face, my arm looped through david’s. i can see the color of wildflowers, lush green underbrush, rough grey-brown bark, cloud-dotted blue sky. i can sense a bit of time on my hands, but just a bit. and i am right there, stepped out of the up-close worries, stepped into beauty. i am paying attention. art has done its good work.

to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. (mary oliver)

*****

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our echeveria. [two artists tuesday]

on a beautiful summer day, wearing flipflops and with a broken toe, we followed my son, rapidly walking miles through the streets of boston. it was wonderful, in and out of historical places, walking in gardens, taking in the library, strolling in restoration hardware, eating cannolis and people-watching from bistro tables on the sidewalk.

i did not pick up any rocks or sticks that day, now a few years ago, which is rather unusual considering my propensity for them and for saving some thing from perfect (and even imperfect) moments. but we did carry home this sweet and tiny succulent in the smallest of pottery pots, carefully wrapped and boxed by the attentive people at RH in packaging that reminded me deliciously of the packaging-guru-guy on the movie ‘love actually’ (but i digress.) $25 seemed like a lot to pay for this tiny gift we were giving ourselves.

it was 2017 and we devoted our energy to rules about overwatering, underwatering, not-touching-the-petals, enough sunlight, not-too-much sunlight. our little succulent, supposedly low maintenance (what exactly IS low maintenance, anyway?) devoured our plant-attention, but, in the coming years, suffered nevertheless. we transplanted it to a bigger old clay pot, careful to use nutritional potting soil. we read up. water, touch, sun – we experimented with combinations. it seemed to no avail.

the light streams into our sunroom. early in the morning, the sun rays across the room and into the kitchen. later in the day, the room of old windows and new windows invites the outdoors in. there’s an old door that sits on two wrought iron horses on the eastern window. art supplies and nespresso sit nearby. in spring last year, we moved a table into the sunroom, in front of the windows that look out back. we call it our covid table. we hung happy lights and strew them on the table.

we placed this little succulent next to the tiniest pine tree and a ponytail palm that makes me happily think of my beautiful daughter’s ponytails. we decided to forego the instructions we had read and gently watered the little echeveria, letting the water and our hands touch the leaves, talking to it, reaching in and extracting leaves that had dried, rotating the pot to capture light, the tiny rosette in the middle looking healthier by the day. i look at this plant now and think that it needs another transplant, a bit bigger clay pot. and each time i remember the day we got it.

a little attention, a little hydration, a little good soil, a simple old clay home, a little deviance from the plant-rules, a little conversation, a little inclusion in our every day, and this tiny succulent is flourishing.

what better metaphor for nurturing the people around us. give them at least what we give low (read: high) maintenance plants.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY