reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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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?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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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.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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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)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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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


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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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“keep the fire burnin” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep the fire burnin

short attention spans. we americans seem to have eclipsed the rest of the world with these.  we are a newsclip-sitcom-youtube-radio-cut-text-tweet-snap-insta society; often anything less than fast-paced will bore the viewer-reader-listener.  we have reduced lengthy research to reading cliff notes and have lost interest in the documentary series in favor of the 22 minute-plus-commercials sitcom.

enter a global pandemic.  three months now, we don’t have to go far to see that the novelty has worn off.  just down along the harbor, up on the sidewalk tables, in the stores and the bars with doors swung wide open, it’s as if it no longer exists.  pandemic-shmandemic.  the attentiveness of many has been worn down; it is no longer possible for what-seems a vast majority to pay attention.  they have moved on.  the fire of fear and, thus, responsibility has reduced to a flicker.

we watch crowded streets with people protesting, begging for change, asking for the country to turn around and face itself and the underlying racism that has prevailed for centuries.  we march, we chant, we write, we listen to speakers, we read books.  it is the latest in the viewfinder for america.  it is three weeks now.  there is action.  can we keep this necessary fire of change lit?

masks-and-distance-for-protection-of-all, action-and-change-for-equity-of-all, step-by-step, learning-by-learning.  we all have to stoke the flames of transformation and push back against the ever-inviting-lazy-attention-lost backslide into complacency.

“and let us not stop learnin’.  we can help one another be strong.  let us never lose our yearnin’ to keep the fire burnin'” (reo speedwagon)

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

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everything to lose. pay attention. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

everything to lose.jpg

“one million plastic beverage bottles are bought every minute around the world. yet recycling rates remain low.”

(article:  our addiction to plastic, national geographic magazine, 12.2019)

close to midnight and the texts started arriving fast and furiously.  a warning from My Girl that she was “fighting with people on instagram”.  her passionate responses to objectors on #pattiegonia’s instagram were well-spoken, well-placed, adamant about the wellness of this good earth, vehemently supportive.  i paid attention.

pattie gonia is an environmental advocate drag queen.  a voice.  a loud, sincere, fervent, educated, inspired, contemporary, courageous voice.  pattie/wyn is out there making a difference.  it is easy to be proud of them, to stand with them.  with the partnership of rei, they have created video to draw attention to the things we, as earth-dwellers, have failed to prioritize.  if you watch their dramatic and profound videos, you will weep.  guaranteed.

we must pay attention.  what plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic netting, garbage, waste….are doing to our mother earth is deplorable.  we would not live in such a house.  why then do we live on such an earth?

i was driven to nausea the other day when we were helping someone clear out a house.  it was our job to load things up in big red and go to the mini-dump not far from us.  we pulled up and backed up to one of many large dumpsters, all connected to a compactor, to throw in what we had in the back of the truck.   it took my breath away watching all the people throwing in all the stuff….just in this tiny corner of the world.  the great pacific garbage patch looms in my mind’s eye.  THIS is the reason we still have our 40-plus-year-old stove.  because i can’t imagine where it will go if we just throw it out to get a shiny new model before it’s necessary, just to make our kitchen look chic (which, incidentally, is impossible anyway.)

we have been conscious, using refillable water bottles, repurposing, recycling everything we could recycle, a practice of being consumers-of-less, less buying, less keeping-up-with-the-joneses, more picking up trash and, scarily, pulling up next to people who throw things out their car windows to tell them they ‘dropped something back there’.  but we have been learning. and we can do more.  we all can do more.  we have to.  pay attention.

“…right now, there are more plastic pieces in the ocean than stars in the milky way…” (everything to lose by pattie gonia)

it’s bracing.  and it’s tragic. and it needs our true attention.  as pattie gonia says, clothed in a dress made of plastic bags, fully standing in garbage, a ticking clock her companion,  “we have everything to lose.”

 

a short documentary to learn more about pattie gonia:

 

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

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we don’t really pay attention. [d.r. thursday]

Icarus-withEdge copy.jpg

and then, while no one really paid attention – distracted by other things….

this painting is called ICARUS and, not being too much of a study in mythology, david told me the story.  now, somewhere in the bank of knowledge that i have learned and somehow forgotten, it resonated.  no matter.  it is certainly relevant now.  the shout of “squirrel!!” and the shifting of gaze happens time and again.  our attention-deficited-culture becomes distracted by you-name-it and we miss things that are happening, that are more monumental than we realize.  icarus flew too close to the sun.  we try too hard.  we push.  we seek to achieve.  we don’t pay attention.  we miss.  we get burned and fall.  others fall around us.  we don’t really pay attention.

what is really happening in our world while we are paying attention to the latest headline?  what is really happening in our world while we get caught up in the latest rhetoric?  what is really happening in our world as our politicians play shell games with us while the stuff of real importance they skirt past us?

david knows that i don’t really like this painting.  it’s one of a very few that i would say that about.  (just as i am quite sure there are musical compositions of mine that are not his favorite.)  i feel a kind of mayhem, a kind of negativity from it.  it unnerves me.  but, alas, it is a contemporary statement.  we don’t really pay attention.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

view ICARUS in the gallery

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ICARUS ©️ 2005 david robinson


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it can wait. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

text rest stop copy

we drove into new york from pennsylvania and one of the first things we saw on this beautiful drive was this sign.  “it can wait,”  it declared.  so true.  what’s so important that can’t wait a few miles? traveling at just 60mph that would only be a mere 5 minutes away. i was infinitely proud of my homestate of NY and the effort to acknowledge and accommodate today’s technology while not superseding safety.  distracted driving is against the law in many states, including NY and for good reason.  we have all been privy to devastating stories, accidents that might have been avoided, moments when paying close attention should be paramount.  providing a place to communicate is smart; these text stops were fairly frequent on the road and there were always cars and trucks parked there.  but on the road, speeding down the highway?  no technology present.

we are kind of at the back end of technology, david and me.  the girl and the boy are smack dab in the middle of it.  and the little children and young teens we see running around with ipads for entertainment or their own cellphones are clearly at the leading edge.  we’ve watched while standing in line, even at the post office, as a mother hands a small toddler a phone to play with while waiting.  i’m not sure where conversation or making up games or riddles on the fly went.  i remember standing in a zillion lines in the post office with the girl and the boy (shipping has been key in my business) and they seemed perfectly content to wait or, ohmygosh, just talk.  no technology present.

but it’s different now (saying this is a sure sign of us getting older) and everything is more immediate and more distracted.  how many times have you seen a couple together in a restaurant with cellphones at the ready, lingering halfway between their tablemate and the pull of the internet or the text or instagram or twitter…  the look on one of the faces an expression of defeat or, worse yet, an aloofness that comes with not being able to compete with the magnetic pull of that small device across from them.  “it can wait,” i whisper silently, wishing the other person at the table could hear.  what’s so important it can’t wait? what’s more important than those moments spent together, really together?  paying close attention.  no technology present.

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

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