reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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.

*****

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SURRENDER NOW ©️ 2016 david robinson


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the good old days. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

carly simon is – obviously – singing in my brain as i design this. “…anticipation, anticipay-ay-tion, is making me late….keeping me way-ay-ay-i-ting… …cause these are the good old days…”

for dogdog and babycat, these are the good old days. there is nothing more pressing than the treat in our hands, the invitation to go “on errands”, the lure of catnip, the tiny bite of potato from our breakfast plates. they are filled with anticipation.

this morning i heard of the passing of a young woman who was in a youth group i directed decades ago now. i easily remember her. back then we called her missi and she was full of smiles and adventure. though i haven’t seen her in the decades that have passed, it is stunning and sad, as it always is in loss, to think of her not on this earth. those days of youth group were most definitely good old days, surrounded by eager teenagers of promise.

“we can never know about the days to come/but we think about them anyway/and i wonder if i’m really with you now/or just chasing after some finer day…”

i wonder, as we look back, what we will also see as the good old days. are they the days of great accomplishment, of awards or the moments precious few like lottery hits? or are they the days of car rides on back roads with no important destination? are they the hikes in the woods with no concern about speed or distance? are they the days of anticipatory youth or the days of contented age? are they days with the lack of pretense, the lack of measure, the lack of self-criticism?

the dog and the cat do not partake in de-constructive evaluation. if dogdog utters a quiet grumble at babycat for getting too close to his bone, he watches us remove his bone from the spot and clearly is – momentarily – remiss as we issue a stern “no!” he does not linger there, however. he simply moves on to the next moment, the look on his face is gleeful expectation of whatever is next. he nudges his babycat adoringly, respectfully. he is living each good old day as they come, seemingly regretting none. there is no checklist for him; it just is.

“so i’ll try to see into your eyes right now/and stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.”

i will try to remember this: despite any angst that lingers in the air or in our hearts, it would serve me well to anticipate the sun of a new day, each new day, ready to slurp it up like dogdog and babycat, because it is – undoubtedly – one of the good old days.

*****

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joey’s 20/20. [two artists tuesday]

we hang out with joey coconato every night. we hike out west with him on back-country trails, on high mountain ridges, in glacier national park and yellowstone, in the tetons and canyonlands. we camp in tiny tents and eat meals out of bags, filter our water and hang our food way up in trees. joey is easy in this world and he has inspired us day after day, taking us one more day through this pandemic, breathing fresh air into another evening when we turn off the news, the dessert for the odd buffet that is life these days. joey’s camera captures the tiny and the vast, things that become indelible in your mind’s eye – the beauty is astounding. we see glimpses of him hiking when his selfie stick leads the way or when he painstakingly plants his tripod and creates the chance to watch. otherwise, we see these trails through joey and we are grateful for his keen eyesight and his love of the outdoors. for him, the mountains and the trail seem to make all things 20/20; he is clear and committed and profoundly capable. joey sees the up-close and he sees that which is far away, both are part of his focus, the details and the big picture.

although he does not consider himself a guide, sometimes joey will have others join him on the trail. i’m guessing it is important to him that their goal for the potential of the hike would be similar, that their respect of mother earth and the basics of backpacking etiquette would be allying, that the bottom line of the trail would be the stunning goodness of being a part of the outdoor miracles of nature. it is clear by his grand hiking successes, alone and in tandem with others, that he values those around him, that he embraces sameness and differences. his generous spirit in his gorgeous workplace is not commanding nor controlling with his hiking partners. he has an overall intention, he has made all the proper regulatory reservations and permits, and he looks to his partners-on-the-trail, people he obviously trusts won’t put him in harm’s way, for input. he listens and he considers what they say, whether it is complimentary of his efforts or is critical or probing of plans he has made; he respects the dignity of each person he is with. if they push back or question him, he, without ego or agenda, looks for clarity and truth. he regularly features these trekkers and always speaks to their strengths. he films them as they hike, as they choose their own boulders on their way down the scramble-field. he encourages them. he empowers them. he takes a back seat and quietly goes about being the expert that he is and together they all get there – to the next campsite, down the next canyon, to the next summit. he is a natural leader.

my gaze alternatively shifts from the icicles in this photograph to the trees, back and forth, icicles, trees, icicles, trees. i can feel the cold air on my face staring at the sculptural ice and the changing color of the sky behind the trees gives me pause, makes me remember the day will soon end and a new day will again be upon us. it’s 20/20 this vision – clear that both exist, co-exist even.

20/20 vision is a funny thing. according to the aao, the american academy of ophthalmology, only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without corrective lenses. with correction, 75% of adults have this vision while 25% just don’t see very well at all. so, at best, what we see is somewhat subjective, centered on our own focus, our own viewing lens. i’m pretty certain that in life this pertains to all manners of vision. so many lenses.

these days our lenses have a pandemic-limitation as we respect the boundaries of what we should or shouldn’t do, where we should or shouldn’t go. we know that we don’t necessarily align with everyone else in our choices, but we are painstakingly figuring out how to go about life in this very difficult time, constricted and staying on the trail for the time being. now – with over 500,000 good people in our country who have died from this insidious virus – is not the time to split hairs over alliances. instead, it is the time to recognize the big picture co-existing with the tiniest details and to stay as laser-focused as possible on working together, in unity, in community, with love. now – in this time of the kind of extreme angst not seen in a century – is not the time to cease conversation, to cease looking to each other for input, to cease collaborating. it is not the time for commanding or controlling or invoking fear. perched on a cliffwall, trail transparency and accountability as guideposts, reality as his north star, joey knows all that. he is a natural leader.

so right now, if someone – in any arena, on any mountain – says, “your vision doesn’t align with ours,” i can’t help but wonder about their version of leadership. what does that really mean? whose 20/20 counts? is it the icicles or the trees? or is it both?

maybe i’ll ask joey.

*****

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thirteen seconds. [k.s. friday]

even the lake moaned in answer to the cold. waves pummel the ice from below, desperate for release, anxious to swirl and crash, and we can hear the sound of cracking, of squeaking, of water begging to be free. we stand and listen, transfixed by it all, this symphony in a frozen-solid world, a bit of music in the stillness of sub-zero.

for thirteen seconds we record the song of the lake, feeling a little like mother-nature-copyright-infringers. we marvel and watch, up over our knees in snow on the edge of the giant rocks that line the lake shoreline. ice, for as far as we can see, is shifting and the groans signal to us that, soon, water will win over ice, flow over stasis. soon, a lake that appears unmoving will reappear in all its moody glory and the suspended moment-in-time will pass. in the meanwhile, the lake will appear as a tundra, vast and flat, the horizon meeting the clouds, a straight white line of demarcation. the fury, the passion, the tides are hidden below the surface, furrowing their brows and incessantly working to break down the ice.

we stand there inside the song of the lake and take note of this measure of transformation.

we know in a day or two the ice will be broken up, the waves will return and the lake’s song will resume a cacophony of crashing, a minuet of quiet lapping, wild some days and gently calm others. just as we ourselves seem in suspended moments, we, too, trust the return of movement, of purpose, of the tides.

the sub-zero song of lake michigan.

*****

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and we become shadows. [d.r. thursday]

“the shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby…”(john denver)

in the shadows you can’t tell. nothing is precise. the edges are softer. you can’t tell age or race or gender. you can’t tell shoes or clothing style; you can’t tell anything really specific. it is all gentler, fuzzy, and, depending on the angle of the sun and the texture of the ground, a little bit blurry. seems like it might be a good way to live – softer than a lullaby.

the sun is often closer to setting when we get around to the part of the day when we release all else and go for a walk or go hiking. as we hike through the woods or trek around our neighborhood, the worries of the day, the week, the times, begin to float above us as we attempt to let them go. sometimes, in lieu of laptop-focus-sitting, we will go for a long hike to sort…to discuss…to brainstorm. those are the times it is daytime, when hours are plenty, long shadows are scarce and the sun is high in the sky. but at the end of the day, when it is time to quell the angst a bit, to ease our minds, the shadows prevail and we linger in them, often making play of their gift, snapping pictures of silly poses or just a capture of the very moment on the trail. to look at them later is to hear the lullaby of soft shadows’ reassurance.

in these last days i have begun to realize that which had been close is becoming shadow. i have begun to see, once again, that, in nebulous whirlwind life, time moves on and so do people. i have begun to acknowledge that it is time to let go. we have become shadows in the story of a community. we will fade as the sun drops lower below the horizon, as the moon rises. and with each day passing, we will be forgotten a little bit more. what i believed so deeply mattered has turned out to be evanescent, fleeting and ephemeral, vanishing like a shadow as clouds move in to replace the sun. and for that, there is no lullaby playing, no soft starlight. and there is no way to see our sadness in the shadows on the street.

but there is the promise of another rising sun, another chance for shadow-play, for tender sunlit silhouettes, for the reassurance of the blur of life and stars to come. of new photographs and lullabies.

*****

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favoritethings and bliss. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

dogdog never paid attention to the green and yellow toy. until babycat decided – suddenly and temporarily – that it was his favorite thing in the whole wide world. b-cat lay, with his face in the streaming sunlight, and held his new favoritething. he rubbed his face on it and you could see his smile. and his favoritething was happy being loved on having been ignored for long periods of time. since that day, he has gone back to ignoring it. but that day? it was the one simple route to his bliss.

dogdog now carries this toy around from time to time. you can tell he is trying to discern what it is that babycat found magical about it; he furrows his brow and lugs it from room to room, shaking it to and fro from time to time as if to wake it up, make the magic happen. he is wondering, “how do i make the bliss start?”

a million years ago i bought a little black book that was published by eddie bauer called ‘balance – a guide to life’s forgotten pleasures’. inside it stated, “this book won’t change your life. it won’t solve any of your deep-rooted psychological problems. it won’t make you rich. and it definitely won’t make you sexy. it may, however, remind you that we, as humans, are basically okay. and that it isn’t very difficult to get a little balance in our lives. so, have fun. slow down. take a deep breath. things are gonna be fine.”

this tiny brilliant book has 45 ‘how-to’ instructions like: how to turn your hand into a plane. how to unplug the phone. how to make noise with a blade of grass. how to catch a snowflake on your tongue. how to watch clouds. how to sleep in. how to make a shadow puppet. how to hug. how to go barefoot. how to take a nap. how to do a somersault. how to have a picnic. how to follow a bug around.

i called the company and bought all the copies they had left and sent them out with my third album this part of the journey to radio stations, listening walls, retail and wholesale outlets. it seemed the right pairing to me – a peaceful and original instrumental album to listen to while you read a book with 45 sets of instructions on how to find bliss.

maybe it’s not so hard. finding bliss. maybe we all are basically ok. maybe things are gonna be fine. maybe it’s simply lowering the expectation of what ‘bliss’ means.

maybe it’s not a measure of wealth or status. maybe it’s not calculable power or control. maybe it’s not your stock portfolio or your hedge fund. maybe it’s not your house or your car or your wardrobe. maybe it’s not your collection of iconic christian louboutin pumps. maybe it’s not your degree or your certification or your designation. maybe it’s not fancy food or exquisite bubbly from the vineyards of champagne.

maybe it’s your face in the sun, following a bug, catching a snowflake, giving a hug, loving on your favorite toy.

maybe we should just ask the cat.

*****

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bareback and honest. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

calm.

the mug calls for calm.

yet, in these times, calm is elusive. it is the floating dust glistening in sunlight. it is the golden ray through the cloud. it is the snowflakes silently falling in the woods. it is the sound of soft laughter, the sound of the dog’s feet running in dreams and the cat snoring in slumber. it is hard to hold onto, hard to touch; it is hard to find.

in these times, with coffee in our hands, we start the new day. we wake, wishes and burdens on our minds, both. the things that kept us awake in the middle of the night, the things that pushed us into sleep: exhausting, worrisome, celebratory, quietly reassuring, sleep-depriving, sleep-inducing. we start the morning, on the roller coaster, one of us holding the “calm” mug.

we have found that – the conversations over-morning-coffee, the conversations over evening-wine, the conversations on the trail, in the sunroom, at the kitchen counter – these conversations need a little help, a little preface, a tiny guideline. for him, a guy, though not a-macho-guy-type-still-a-guy-nonetheless, he is looking to solve. for me, a girl, well, i am looking to just talk, to just go on, to be redundant, to vent. we discovered early on that any talk-talk could easily dissolve into ugly if we didn’t clarify a few things, well, really one thing, first. was this a conversation where i wanted comfort or solutions? was this a conversation where i wanted him to listen or problem-solve?

i honestly can say these two questions – just this simple strategy – could have saved many a relationship moment dating back decades and decades. it took me way too long to realize this glaringly obvious simplicity – that men and women, women and women, men and men – any two people in relationship – approach from vastly disparate directions. i am riding my feisty mare in from the rising sun in the east and he is galloping on a sassy stallion from the setting sun in the west. meeting in the middle ground requires a little gps-ing, dispensing of the drawn word-swords and negotiating some clarity shortcuts. that simple. that makes all the difference.

in these times, though calm is illusory, we find that we can be in this world of unknowns mostly by just being. solutions are hiding with the calm, behind puzzling shadows.

but comfort, listening, empathy are right out in the open, in that field of possibility between the rising sun and the setting sun, riding a steady quarter horse, bareback and honest.

*****

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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 middle of an elongated hexagon. [two artists tuesday]

the cheesecloth sky filtered out most of the sun over the trail through the woods. others had been there before us; the snowmobile track interrupted by the plodding hoofprints of a horse, picking its way through inches of snow. we were next, our boots crunching and breaking through crust the bit of sun had settled on the top of the snow. we saw no one else. we passed by no one else. the quiet was welcome; the quiet was necessary.

in the distant clouds we could see the brush of setting sun. and the lyrics, “…right now it seems to be more than enough to just be here today, and i don’t know what the future is holdin’ in store. i don’t know where i’m goin’, i’m not sure where i’ve been. there’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me. my life is worth the livin’, i don’t need to see the end…” (sweet surrender, john denver)

we were awake in the middle of the night. this is more usual than unusual these days.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the start. of sweet babies lilah and jaxon and their beginnings – their exponential learning day by day, their attaching to people, to things, to understanding. the billowing ever-widening incandescent rainbow bubble of possibility that surrounds them as they grow, as they become.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the end. of the narrowing down of experiences, the detaching, the ever-decreasing possibilities of dearest columbus, in the journey that minds take on roads of dementia.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the middle. of the time in the center. of our lives. “more than enough…just to be here today…more than enough…”

the trail is familiar; the trail is different every day we take it. we trace deertracks with mittened hands and build snowmen and snowhearts with the powdery snow in the shade of the trail.

we don’t know where we’re going. we can’t see the end. we are smack dab in the middle. and, on this bitter cold day in muted woods under a cottage cheese sky in silence, that needs to be enough.

*****

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agnes, mom, dad and dogdog. [d.r. thursday]

“whenever i feel afraid i hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect i’m afraid.” the tune from the king and i has gone through my head more than once in my life. the feel-good song you carry with you can make a difference (this is directed to our jaded babycat).

we have watched national geographic’s life below zero for a few years now. it’s not hard to develop “relationship” with the people on the show, especially now, in times of pandemic when you see few others. the hailstone family is based in noorvik, alaska. it’s brutally cold, removed and not an easy place to live. agnes hailstone, the 40-something matriarch, has a can-do attitude. the striking thing about this family is their positivity. what they are like off-screen is of question, but on-screen they are encouraging, supportive of each other, never undercut what the other is doing, and always have a more positive zeal than i ever could muster out on the negative-temperatured tundra in dim light and a freezing-wind stormy day on a snowmobile going 40mph for miles and miles across a frozen lake in search of a fish or maybe two from a tiny augured ice hole. “you can do things happy or sad or mad,” agnes said on a recent show, “but it’s best to just do things happy.” she adapts to new challenges, weird-stuff-that-happens, and seasonally-repeating obstacles as they arise and has passed her can-do-ness on to her children, her grandchildren, her spouse. she doesn’t give up. she is pretty heroic in my book. she must have bobby mcferrin humming in her head, “don’t worry. be happy.”

it’s impossible to not dance when you hear black eyed peas’ “i gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night”. it’s not likely you can resist with james brown’s “i feel good” or john denver’s “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happeeee.” it’s without question that “here comes the sun, dootin doo doo” easily elicits you singing along the famous line “and i say, it’s all right!”

but what about in the quiet? what about when all is silent, when all lyrics have slipped from your ready grasp, when you can’t think of a song to save your life, as the expression goes? then what? what do you draw from?

i suppose that’s the reason my sweet momma started the day by saying “good morning, merry sunshine.” or why my sweet dad would look at things that were challenging and simply say, “well, how do you like them apples?” after living lives full of challenge and the roller coaster of emotional heave-hoes, they chose to greet the world in each of their experiences with positivity. hearing my dad’s whistling told me everything i needed to know – they were ok in the world, no matter what. they chose it.

agnes hailstone and my mom and dad would like each other. and dogdog. dogdog too.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson, kerri sherwood