reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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betty’s right. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

each of us can rack up the could-haves, like in a pool triangle, all stuffed in next to each other and ready to break with a cue. fragile, though. we can look back and think “why didn’t i…?” time and again. we can regret.

i suppose the gift of a new year – and those dang resolutions – is to sort and reevaluate the things that you consider important, the things worth continuing, the things worth letting go, the things worth learning. new practices of things-to-do and new practices of things-not-to-do. the lists permeate our brains and hearts, nagging, nagging.

there is a meme, well, many memes, circulating about betty white. it states something like “you have lived a really good life if, at 99, people say you have died too soon.” i realize that betty was inordinately popular, successful, always at the top of her game. but she was a real person, too. and she had to decide how to live. her positivity and laughter gifted each of us who have watched her or listened to her. in a recent interview she recommended, “taste every moment”. mmm. not at all corny, just a simplicity, a reminder.

we carry this pop-up-dinner table and stools around with us, switching from big red to littlebabyscion and back, depending on which vehicle we are driving. when big red refused to start for our road trip over christmas, we transferred the pop-up stuff into littlebabyscion and packed up to go.

we know we could have eaten at the sweet dining room table in our airbnb in the little mountain town. we ate there several times. but that last evening…we needed just a bit more time on the front porch, a bit more time outside, a bit more time admiring buffalo-plaid-man’s holiday decorations across the street, a bit more time in that town. we set up the pop-up table and stools, put up the luminaria again, lit a candle, brought out hors d’oeuvres for happy hour and, later, dinner. a little more effort, but not really much. everything tasted better out there. each moment.

before we even left home and while we were hiking in those north carolina mountains i thought about the new year approaching. i thought long about grasping onto the opportunity to just go, roadtrip to a new place, changing pattern. i thought about chances to amend, to let go, to reach out, to break the racked-up could-haves. big ways and little ways. i tasted a few resolution-ish moments, trying on for size – acting on – some of those thoughts-i-had.

and even in my first meager efforts – nothing earthshattering, nothing that will likely change the whole wide world – i must say, betty’s right.

*****

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


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cold french fries. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

he’s a convert. we weren’t out of this sweet holiday town a half hour when i asked him to take out the baggie of cold french fries.

my sweet momma is the one who taught me how to eat these. step one: you fry them up. (or bake them) step two: you eat them. step three: you put the leftover in some kind of container. step four: you take them out of the fridge the next day and eat them. cold. preferably with momma’s iced tea, but straight up if there is none of that around.

and so, we turned around littlebabyscion in the back part of the driveway, drove out onto the road, waved to buffalo-plaid-man across the street, drove up the hill to downtown and down the hill out of town toward the mountain range in the distance. stopped and got gas, cleaned our sunglasses and i asked about the french fries.

granted, it was early, but breakfast was way earlier and all that packing and loading and saying goodbye used up a lot of energy. it was time.

and so now, when it used to be that the baggie would solely be for me, we shared the remainder of the french fries that we made with baked clams last night for our pop-up dinner on the porch, our last night in this perfect little town. they tasted like crisp outdoors late at night and my sweet momma’s homemade-just-for-me all rolled into one.

we passed a tiny stand on the side of the road. “boiled peanuts” the sign read.

“yuck,” i said, curling my lip. he agreed, laughing.

but i’m pretty sure i could hear the guy in the sun next to the table he had set up as he turned to his companion: “have you EVER heard of ANYONE eating cold french fries?!”

*****

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the horizon! the horizon! [k.s. friday]

like 7th chords vs major 7th chords, some things are irrefutable. the horizon is one of them.

each and every time i take a photograph i can hear crunch in my ear, “the horizon! the horizon!”. decades have passed and i still will look at my photographs post-snap and evaluate the horizon and its relationship in the whole image. post-click i will think, “ahh, crunch would like this one!” and i’ve considered time and again to send it on to this person who has instilled his words in my head from years of taking sunrise and sunset pictures out on long island sound, on the beaches, in the boat, in-between fishing or diving adventures. there is nothing like a sunrise over the water with a crooked horizon. if one has to tilt one’s head to the side to accommodate the degree of angle of horizon, crunch -and i, now – have no forgiveness.

it’s how i feel about dominant 7th chords (using the minor 7th). i find them cringe-worthy. overused and trite, i have, many-a-time, tossed out, “major7th! major7th!” to others, much like crunch’s “the horizon!” admonishment. it’s used as a resolution pass, moving to another chord (usually a fifth below, but that’s too much information for right here). suffice it to say, we all have our quirks, the things that make us grimace or make our eyes twitch.

the gallery where david’s piece “unfettered” is showing is right on the water. the center is filled with delicious light and warm wood floors and white walls and white woodwork. it is a gorgeous place, a mecca for an eye seeking tiny morsels of photo-worthy images. i wander through, admiring pieces of the opening show and taking pictures of the space.

but i am reminded of the huge art expo we attended in chicago. winning – and mightily expensive – exhibits included jute strung across the booth with a kitchen sponge painted blue hanging from a clothespin. this was for sale for literally thousands of dollars and there were curators/representatives/dealers in the booth – those who would privately shake their heads in astonishment, giggling all the way to the bank – who would happily explain its meaning to you. perhaps i am a bit jaded – by looped recordings and garage band and auto-tune and acrobatics and the machinations of the music industry – but i have to admit that, while there were fancily-clothed-people gathered around seemingly breathless-with-anticipation, i did not stick around for the explanation. like the emperor with his new clothes, the oh-i-MUST-have-it crowd amused me and i could hear crunch in my head, “the horizon! the horizon!”.

one of my favorite experiences – albeit adding to my cynicism – was attending a talk given by a curator at chicago’s institute of art. she was speaking about the work of christopher wool and she was giddy that he was present. she had developed wordy narrative all around his work, describing his temperament, his mood swings, his supposed depression. his work is pretty blatant; he uses words and images to speak to or portray conceptual ideas. referencing one particular piece, she spoke about how his dark depression contributed to his art. she glanced over at him as he made a gesture to speak and invited his-own-perception of his-own-work, a photograph. i could see his tic from our seats. “i just thought it was a cool shot,” he interjected into her soliloquy on the spectrum of his personality. the audience laughed and i breathed a sigh of relief. some 7th chords are just overused, overplayed, over-analyzed.

i’m wondering about stringing up some jute in the sunroom and hanging this week’s scotch-brite.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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way past time. [d.r. thursday]

she was sitting at a computer desk, a colleague at her own desk behind her. she asked, “what’s the difference between being assertive and being aggressive?” her colleague turned and replied, “your gender.”

the cartoon on facebook made me stop in my tracks. “this captures it better than any dissertation on gender inequality,” i thought. “sad, but so true,” i commented in the little fb box.

yes. it is way past time that the interpretation of women’s words and actions be viewed through the same lens as men’s. it is way past time that women’s intentions be measured with the same stick. it is way past time that women are respected for their strength, their power, their initiative, their intelligence, their skills, their talents, their creativity, their education, their experience, their motivation, their confidence, their risk-taking, their candor, their emotional intellect, their multi-tasking, their persistence, their sisu. it is way past time that women should be expected to simply be sweet. it is way past time that misogynistic men should be allowed to subjugate women – in any way. it is way past time that women be treated equally. it is way past time that you should have to look at an experience and say, as a woman, “if i were a man, would you have handled me this way? would you have spoken to me like this? would your behavior toward me have been acceptable? would you have pushed me down? would anyone have spoken up?” it is way past time for egalitarianism. way, way, way past.

we walked out in the county, sun setting in the western sky. the sunflowers rose high above us, glorious, though waning. is it the end of summer or is it the beginning of fall?

what do you see?

*****

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pastrami mountain. [d.r. thursday]

“there are always flowers for those who want to see them.” (henri matisse)

through a rainy windshield we peered out. the windows were fogging up from the vast temperature change that the weather system had brought with it. the lake was grey, light glistening and playing upon it – the sun coming out from behind the clouds. the sky – left to sunset in salmon with lines of dark clouds dissipating – seemed to highlight the snow on the mountaintops in the distance. puddles had formed on the land lakeside, the point that jutted out near us. a photograph after the storm. after our pause, we traveled on.

sometimes things are not what they appear. the same object translates differently to each of us. the same place reads positive/negative; our interpretation determined by the lens through which we view, the way we approach life. we learn to discern what is real, what we imagine. we learn to assess what we see using mature tools of sagacity.

sometimes things are not what they appear. everything is a matter of perspective, where you are seeing from, where you are in life. we arrive at destinations, full of expectations specific to our own hearts. we see what is there through our eyes. it is important work to be sure to be aware of how others perceive the place, the circumstance. we learn differences. we learn compassion. we learn empathy.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some places are not as they seem. we learn to listen to our intuition, to be wary, to ask questions of what we see and of what we are told, to do research, to wonder. we don’t follow as lemmings and we don’t remain silent. we learn to speak up, to give voice to the disparity between what a place says it is and what it shows itself to be. we learn boundaries and we hold our lines in the sand.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some wizards are merely people behind a curtain. their bluster is bluster, their words intended to suggest power, control, whereas their voice becomes synonymous with hurting others and self-aggrandizement. we learn sympathy, even pity. we learn distrust and not to be blind to agenda.

sometimes things are not what they appear. some people are not as they seem. though their roles imply otherwise, we learn to cautiously be with these folks. we realize that others can manipulate our perception of things, others can run over our viewpoint. and we realize those tsunamis are without truth-seeking. there is little communication – it is silent and colorless. there is little transparency – it is opaque. we learn discretion. we learn that there are those who will throw you under the bus, who will subvert you, to raise themselves up or to accomplish their objective. we learn to expose this kind of betrayal for what it is, to push back on this brand of sabotage, weeds attempting to strangle.

but there are always flowers for those who want to see them. we find places and things and people who are indeed flowers in our garden. places and things and people from which and from whom we learn grace and wisdom and adaptability and kindness. blossoms.

and i suppose the converse-henri is also true. if you don’t want to see flowers, you won’t. your perspective will grant you that, an empty garden. if you decide ahead of an experience that you will dislike it, you will likely see only in black and white, your experience void of the colors of sunflowers and peonies, aster and purple mountain sage.

so, yes, henri, there are always flowers. there is always the single ray of sunlight in the clouds. there is always the glass half-full. there is always the beautiful in the ordinary.

and there are always mountains. for those who want to see them, they are even in the trader joe’s shrink-wrapped pack of nitrate-nitrite-free pastrami.

sometimes things are not what they appear.

*****

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frames et al. [d.r. thursday]

bruce said, “i like what you do with frames.” he and ben were visiting from california, having dinner with us on the deck, passing through on their way to the northeast. i haven’t really thought lately about all the frames around our house, but, after he said that and they left, i walked around noticing. big glass-less window frames around small cards, frames around paint on the wall, frames around paintings-in-frames, empty frames. he commented that he even liked the ones outside on the fence. i laughed. the neighbor’s vine is starting to wrap its tendrils around the frames out there and surprised chipmunks bump against the one standing on its corner on the piano, knocking it over. i guess i like frames.

for the longest time – years, really – i carried the frame of a kodachrome carousel slide in my wallet. no film in it, just the simple two inch square white frame.

in times of overwhelm, if you take the slide out and hold it at arm’s length, focusing your attention through it, you will see that it limits your vision to the tiniest picture. instead of looking at the whole scope of the big picture, you can move the slide around and simply take in a morsel, one at a time. as you get comfortable, as anxiety eases, you can move the slide in closer to your face, little by little. and little by little, the perspective will change, until you are back to seeing the big picture. sometimes, you need to dissect things and view all the ingredients of the moment one by one.

i’d forgotten about this tiny frame in my old wallet until the other night. i think i’ll dig it out. you never know when you need to be reminded to take one thing at a time.

*****

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yup. uh-huh. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

there’s so much truth in this. the red wine. the adirondack chairs. the ‘what are you thinking about?’ the sky-gazing. the existential amazement. the mars and venus. the hot flash. yes, yes. so.much.truth. yup. uh-huh. nothin’ more to say here.

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no timely manner. [d.r. thursday]

now i understand. at least, i am beginning to understand.

my sweet momma and poppo would linger…watching birds, gazing at flowers, studying the horizon – be it shorefront or mountainside, cityscape or tiny town or rural farmland, slowly taking it in. in the hurry-hurry of my younger years, i would scurry past, noticing but maybe not really.

i am moving slower now. not because i can’t scurry, but because i am choosing to list to the linger side. though we still watch re-runs after re-runs of joey hiking and climbing and backpacking and pitching tents any and everywhere, imagining ourselves in those canyonlands keeping up, imagining ourselves on the pct or the john muir or the colorado trail, i know that our pace would not match the pace of joey or the exuberant younguns on heading somewhere or walking with purpose or the meticulous norwegian xplorer. we would be slower, lingering, lingering. i’m not sure that would get us from point a to point b successfully or in a timely manner, but i’m thinking that our definition of ‘timely manner’ may have to just be different. because now – in the middle of this grand middle age – is different.

for now i want to watch the birds and gaze at flowers up-close. i want to stop and stare, drop to sit on a nearby log and take it in. i want to notice the intricasies of all of it, the undertones, the overtones.

as i look at the close-up of this milkweed trailside i am struck by the layers of detail. it somehow makes me recall decisions between the major chord and the relative minor, a continuum of impact. it makes me think of melodic gestures, a spectrum of color and of grace. a horsehair brush extended from the heights of the universe, painting perfection in the woods. artists’ hands waving paint on canvas, cupping clay on a wheel, flying over the white and black on a piano, coaxing lines that make you weep from a cello. all the same. creation in all its iterations.

on the call pat told me that the music – my music – had harmonics, tuned with the universe, that made her travel. humbling.

for i see that is what my momma and poppo were doing. traveling. they allowed the beauty around them to touch them, to slow them down, convincing them – in all the infinite glory that beauty -and art- can muster – that ‘a timely manner’ was relative, that time was relative. that time spent in a slow linger was precious.

*****

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my momma and chicken soup. [two artists tuesday]

i wish i could sit with my mom right now. i wish i could be at her kitchen table with a giant bowl of her homemade chicken soup and a big glass of red wine. i wish i could be talking with her, really talking, not merely chit-chatting, but sharing all the stuff that we – very-human human-beings – go through. i wish i could feel that kind of comfort, that kind of never-ending fierce support, that kind of unconditional love, that kind of mothering right now. i wish she were here.

making my own homemade chicken soup will have to suffice. pouring a glass of wine and turning on the happy lights in the sunroom will have to do. sitting with david and pouring out my heart, tears and laughter intermingling, will have to satiate me. looking out over the backyard, staring at the lights strewn up between the trees, will have to be enough.

adulthood has its challenges. we race through our younger years at seemingly warp speed, our ever-widening circles further and further away from home. so much presses us. too much sentimentality is rejected; this world does not run on threadiness and success is not deemed reached with a collection of rocks, feathers, branches collected to remember times with beloveds. we are encouraged to push back against emotions that are confusing, that are overwhelming; this world does not reward our angst, our fear, our grief. instead it suggests that teflon hearts, insular, tough, impervious to the outside, will forward us down the road. we give less and less time to nurturing relationships; we are immersed in making a living, in getting by, in our own self-actualization.

and then suddenly, we screech to a stop. and we are there. we are adults. and, despite all the trappings, we are a little bit lost. we look around, we look back, down the disjointed path, and we realize it’s all fleeting and we, struggling, our hearts quivering, the gift of retrospect bright and shining, pine for simple. we wish we could sit and have chicken soup with our mom, or with our children, and listen and share. we wish we could say that we have learned, in all our human-imperfection, that most important of all, just as we might have suspected, are those rocks and feathers and branches. most important of all are those moments spent with beloveds. most important of all is the honest exchange of ideas and thoughts, choices good and bad, learnings and re-learnings. most important of all is the sharing of our emotions, the visceral, the belly laughs, the sobs, the mistakes and the forgiveness of our flawedness, our common denominator. and hopefully, if the world is as full of grace as we are told, most important of all is the giving and receiving of unconditional love.

i wish i could sit with my sweet momma right now and ask her…how did she make it to almost-94 without a broken-heart-from-life-stuff time and again. i wish she could, once again, reassure me that “this too shall pass” and remind me that moments in time are just that – moments in time. i wish she could tell me her coping strategies, the way she found her zen in this big old damaged perfect world.

i’m guessing chicken soup played a big part.

*****

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the feathers as clues. [two artists tuesday]

perspective copy

i didn’t mean to take this picture.  somehow my phone camera snapped it and i was unaware.  later, when i looked at my photo stream of the day i was surprised to see this.  it took a few minutes to figure out what the picture was of, the way you feel when you look at an ink-blot picture, your eyes focusing on the dark, the light, the foreground, the background, searching-searching for an image to emerge.

i always had trouble with those.  i must have been concentrating too hard to find something there.  i suppose relaxing into it would have produced an image sooner.

the feathers gave it away.  the feathers made it recognizable.  a piece of familiar, the feathers gave it perspective.  the dream-catcher hangs on the switch of the lamp on our kitchen table so it wasn’t as hard as the inkblots after all.

i wonder how many times i have not recognized the ‘real’ image.  how many times i have given little attention to the everyday, glossing over it.  how many times i have passed by light, my eyes focusing on the dark, my attention to the background instead of the inkblot or vice versa, trying too hard to find ‘it’.  passing by the familiar, looking to the distance.  or staring at the familiar with no eye to the distance, the horizon out-there attention-less.  what might i have missed?  what more might i have seen?

i am finding comfort in the familiar right now.  i am recognizing more-and-more that which is basic is that which is familiar is that which is comforting.  like chicken soup and pasta sauce, i find basic and simple consoling, the familiar i see heartening.

might we have different eyes post-this-crisis?  might we all hold simple closer?  might we ford the great-chasms-of-divide in this country with horizontal -not vertical- ladders of understanding like the ladders that traverse deep crevasses in high mountain climbs?  might we be more willing to see economic, educational, opportunity differences?  might we truly address them?  might we see the landscape-that-has-always-been-there differently?  might we realize that which is comforting, familiar to us is the inkblot that so many cannot even begin to see, that so many cannot even imagine?  might we believe that every one is worthy?  might we see universal needs, universal struggles in a more united, focused-energies way?  might we come together, support different perspectives, talk about what is essential, strive for something different?

our universe camera is snapping pictures left and right of this pandemic crisis.  what will we see when we look through the photo stream?  what we will recognize about ourselves, this country?  will we embrace an image of care, of concern, of responsibility for each other, of unity, of equality?  or will we remain blind to the obvious differences we experience as this divisible ‘indivisible one-nation-under-God’ and will the dark inkblot prevail over the light?  we can look for the feathers as clues.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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