reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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a tall spikelet. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

she was a coloratura soprano. her leaps, her trills, her range were atmospheric. bell-like and of angel quality, rayna sang effortlessly.

i have no idea if she is singing now. the last i heard – after i graduated with a degree in composition – she left and was in med school, seeking a degree outside of the arts. she must have had a wise mentor along the way. someone who told her she could always sing “on the side”. like rice pilaf.

“on the side.”

it’s the ever-present albatross of artists. even those who stand out in a crowd are thrust – by a society that doesn’t place as much value on the arts – into the yin-yang of opposing forces: stay. go. full-time. on the side.

every now and then there is a whitetop sedge spikelet in the field that is strikingly more successful than the rest… the mariah carey, the ariana grande, the beverly sills, the joan sutherland. delivering exquisite bel canto, they do not render the other spikelets any less important, nor should they be. each voice is unique in the meadow and this spikelet is just a little taller.

before i finished my bachelor’s degree i was accepted into the business school at usf. “accounting,” i thought. “i love math, therefore accounting.” the “normal-job” world was taunting me. but i declined the placement and continued on my merry way, writing music. i did not have rayna’s mentor and i believed there was a way to stand out, somehow.

it took some time just to get around to writing. life and its put-the-art-making-on-the-side-and-get-a-real-job-and-make-a-living had me directing and teaching. but not writing. i dabbled a bit relatively early on, did some recording and visited nashville – but didn’t move there. i don’t think i recognized the garden there when i saw it.

it wasn’t until a decade later that the muse caught back up to me. and when it did, it was with some gusto.

and now i’ve seen “the fault in our stars”. and i’ve witnessed mortality. i have loved and lost and changed and learned and made giant messes and have ridden the tide in and out, in and out.

and i’ve written some of my best and some of my worst. and it all counts – whether i – or you – are a tall spikelet or not.

i wonder now if rayna is practicing medicine. i wonder if she is singing.

*****

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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

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y. [merely-a-thought monday]

in what seems like decades ago, way back in 2020, on may 19, i wrote a blog with a similar photograph prompt. it was a stick – out in the woods – and i stated that even nature was asking “why?”.

at that time the pandemic was in its very early days, i was recuperating from a couple broken wrists and there was much in front of us we hardly knew – or imagined – would happen. it felt like we were already living in an alternate reality. i left off with a thought – that the decisions we made about the pandemic right then were going to impact us forever. we would look back and, with an eye to conscience, ask why we made them or why we didn’t.

it’s still relevant. y.

it’s the thing that nags me through the days….the whys.

i suppose it is the very thing that can stop-motion all forward movement. sometimes, there just isn’t time for a why. like when your toddler is about to touch the hot stove or run into the street after a ball, there are no moments to spare to answer “why??”. it just is. it does bring to mind all the people who whined “why?” about mask-wearing in a global pandemic. there wasn’t time for that. it just was. over a million people – in this country alone – likely wish those folks hadn’t stopped to ask why.

i’ve come to realize that sometimes, also, there just isn’t an answer. there is no good explanation for why people would be ruthlessly unkind to other people, why so many of our leaders deny that our good earth is in crisis, why – closer to home – people have used their own agenda to thwart the livelihood of people working hard for a community, why people don’t speak up for others being wronged or why people don’t ask more questions before jumping on bandwagons of mistruths, whatever they may be. the irony of it all. on may 19, 2020, i pondered whether decisions would stand the test of time.

so, coming upon the Y on the trail, i had to laugh.

because it is probably the one thing that i belabor, the one thing i try to figure out – day after day – the thing that keeps me from entirely moving on. y.

ok, ok, nature. i got it.

*****

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the big old trees. [d.r. thursday]

we had one too. last year the big old tree at the end of our driveway had one. a big-ole-mushroom-fungus. inordinately weird and begging you to touch-it-ewww-don’t-touch-it.

this one – on a big tree by the park a few blocks away – looked like shelf fungi. shelf fungi is a wood rotter, damaging to trees. we think ours was a northern tooth fungus (who knew there were so many tree-shrooms!); the tooth fungus can impair the structural stability of our tree. and, i read, fungi breaks down dead wood, thus a part of the forest ecosystem. trying to remove it will release billions of spores that can infect other trees and plants. just makes you wanna shudder.

it seems somewhat unfair that as these giants age they become more and more susceptible to these fungus matters. it would seem like the gentle giants had earned a peaceful coast into the sunset, surviving youth of sapling, the perils and storms of young adulthood, the strength and steadfastness of middle age, the passing-of-the-baton to the golden years. it would seem that these mighty towers of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of days of stories should be granted ease, sunlight, water, serenity.

so why is it that they are not impervious to challenging diseases, exhaustion, lack of nutrients, even rot?

is their medicare and social security also at risk?

*****

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a beginning. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

no book on menopause or post-menopause – that i have read thus far – really prepares us. i haven’t found a steponesteptwostepthree-handbook on how to sort this. the phases of a mom’s life intersect and overlap and are messy and as full of emotional upheaval as they are full of gratitudes for blissful. every piece, in my own messiness-of-this, is sticky and pulls at every other piece, like marshmallows in hot-off-the-bonfire s’mores. no matter the professional pursuit, the hobby, the exercise, the diet, the zen-yen, it is all interwoven with the loss of mom-identity, the constant babystep-by-babystep redefining of relationship with one’s children and one’s self.

of early days of motherhood, anne morrow lindbergh in “gift from the sea” wrote essays sparked by seashells, “eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.” she is the “still axis within the revolving wheel of relationships, obligations, and activities.” in a metaphoric nod to the shell argonauta, anne paints the picture of the mother argonaut floating to the surface and releasing the young, then floating away to a new life. sailors, she says, consider this shell “a sign of fair weather and favorable winds”. yet, she muses, “what does the open sea hold for us? we cannot believe that the second half of life promises ‘fair weather and favorable winds’.”

it is a total reorientation. it takes time to re-find the center of gravity. true center. even with a child of 32 and a child of 29, i find this not to have been or be instantaneous. one does not click off the light-switch, or touch the base of the 1980s brass touch-on-touch-off lamp, turning off the questions of identity. it’s the yarn of a new cape, from mom (and all the other titles) to woman (and all the other titles).

“whether we’re talking about giving up baby clothes, toys, artwork or schoolwork, the issue is not mere sentimentality. it’s about letting go of our children. […] we think that keeping all of those things will let us keep a little of each child who left us.” (claire middleton – “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering”) i would guess that, even in my intentional attempts to set wind for their sails, my children would cite my fierce hanging-on to them. at the least, they would attest to my quiet weeping at their leaving, each time they leave.

i clean out the house, clean out one thread of four decades of career, glance at my piano – always whispering to me “don’t forget this is who you are too”. i write, i cartoon, i write more. and then, more. i think about composing – new simple feathers of music, pieces that would float in breezes and find center. i sit in quiet. i wonder.

is this an identity crisis?

“but there are other beaches to explore. there are more shells to find. this is only a beginning.” (anne morrow lindbergh)

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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nudged-pushed-prodded-shoved. [merely-a-thought monday]

i suppose this is one of THOSE things – when you look back and see, with more clarity than you could ever have had in the moment, that you were nudged, pushed, prodded, indeed, shoved along. as you stood resolutely in the spot to which you were dedicated, something prompted change and things were no longer the same nor would they ever be. one of THOSE things.

i remember the early days of hearing garth brooks singing the country song “unanswered prayers”, decades ago now. he released the song and it exploded on radio not too long after i moved to wisconsin, away from family, away from two jobs i loved. i stood outside my then-husband’s workplace and gazed out at soybean fields wondering where i had landed, what on earth i would do. i went to the grocery store and wept in the pasta aisle; no mueller’s pasta to be found. i read the local paper and was disconcerted. i found solace in long-distance letters from my mom and brought lunch to the office at the local airport every day, the place my husband worked. i was lonely and lost.

but the universe had a way of catching up to me and consoling my soybean-cornfield-factory-town angst. that next year, my beautiful daughter was born – my first baby, i found new friendships, and a job i loved in a community of people who grew to be important to me. my amazing son was born in years to follow and then, in serendipitous ways, i started recording albums and i looked back and knew that, though my discomfort in – literally – moving was justified, life would not have been the same had i not moved. the complacency i had earlier adopted was not going to be enough and life had some gaps to fill in. nevertheless, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-along-to-wisconsin. for that matter, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-away-from-new-york. things to ponder and never know.

i will never know – really know – how it came to be that i am sitting next to this lovely man right now, writing separately together. how we each have grown and how we each have struggled and sorted through our figurative attics and basements, stuffed with things that have happened, things we have saved, things we have discarded, things we’d rather not remember, things we celebrate. how, from two entirely different places in this vast country, we found each other. i suppose love has a way.

time and again the understanding of events, situations, disappointments, things-that-are-really-hard is delayed. in-the-moment it – the why – is not clear. sometimes it is never clear or perhaps it’s just that by the time clarity arrives, it is far, far after the fact. so far that we have forgotten our dismay or our agnostic questioning or, in those that seem synchronistic miracles, our awe. it is in the looking-back, the time-line reflections that we might parse and question and realize that there was a reason, a cause and effect, maybe a prayer or two gone unanswered. though i could still list those and wonder why – through actions of others, good and bad, or decisions i’ve made, good and bad, or stuff that just happens, good and bad – i would guess that somehow the puzzle fits together in the end. no doubt the discomfort brings learnings we may not have signed up for, given the choice. the story is a mystery.

as i find myself in yet another nudged-pushed-prodded-shoved place, i’m trying to remember to stand still for a moment. to take it in – the discomfort – and to be open to what might be. and, in watching what shows up, in really looking and studying and listening, to take baby steps and move. maybe later on it will all make sense.

*****

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kneeling on the stripes. [d.r. thursday]

“do you have the courage to be in the pause between what is ‘no longer’ and what is ‘not yet’?” (octavia raheem)

i kneel down in the middle of the road. it is up-north and there are few vehicles. i want to be in the yellow stripes in the road, to gaze their expanse and, in seeing the curve, not be able to see beyond it. it’s visceral.

i am in liminal space – in the pause – waiting and not knowing. it feels right to stand smack in the middle of the street. to own it – these stripes, this curve in the road, these questions. it pushes me to move, and, in the way of irony, prods me to stand still. it is not short-lived. it is lostness. and, at this aarp time of life, it is a little unnerving.

though i know found follows lost, just as not yet is out there beyond no longer, it leaves me in the orange-yellow stripes.

i miss the days on washington island when we walked right in the middle. it didn’t matter. no one was coming down the road. and when someone did, so infrequently, we moved over. but there weren’t stripes in the road there; it was just asphalt. it’s when you are walking on the stripes, squatting on the stripes, kneeling on the stripes, that you feel a tiny bit of powerful.

we are broken records of liminality. we know the lyrics of the song and are disgruntled when the record skips and skips and skips again, leaving us to repeat the same over and over. stuck. surrendering into a groove in the surface of vinyl, surrendering into a groove of fallow. without reaching over and touching the needle, the record continues to skip. without reaching and touching the liminal space, sorting and reflecting and resting, we cannot see beyond the bend in the road.

none of that is helpful, though. i stand in it. on the stripes. what was is no longer. what is not yet is not even a blurry image.

i think, this time, this must be what it feels like to retire, without the benefits of retirement. to no longer do what you have done for decades, to step away (or be thrust away, let’s be brutally frank). and to realize you don’t want to go back.

to wonder what is next. to reach into all-the-stuff-you’ve-done and pull the long straw of passions set aside. to decide to ferret out, in due time, direction and sense. to not fight the fallow or the pause. to try and have courage not to just fill in the gap. to kneel on the stripes. to trust.

“when we surrender, when we do not fight with life when it calls upon us, we are lifted and the strength to do what needs to be done finds us.” (oriah mountain dreamer)

*****

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honor difference. when…? [d.r. thursday]

“all you need is love, love. love is all you need.” (all you need is love lyrics – john lennon, paul mccartney. recorded by the beatles. 1967)

“c’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” (get together lyrics – chet powers. recorded by the youngbloods. 1967)

right now? when?

“there comes a time, when we heed a certain call; when the world must come together as one…” (we are the world lyrics – michael jackson, lionel richie. recorded by multiple artists. 1985)

when?

“all my life I’ve been waiting for; i’ve been praying for, for the people to say that we don’t wanna fight no more; they’ll be no more wars. and our children will play.” (one day lyrics – bruno mars, ari levine, matthew miller, philip lawrence . recorded by matisyahu. 2008)

when?
when is that time?

blackpaint is a woman-owned art advocacy agency [in milwaukee, wisconsin] that designs public art and awareness campaigns for organizations and causes [they] believe in” and is responsible for the creation of this mural, painted by two women, celebrating differences.

sometimes lyrics and murals don’t need further talk-talk. it would be easy to list song lyrics about diversity that span time. it would be easy to post photographs of paintings or graphic designs about diversity that span time.

the common element would be their messages of respect, of equality, of love, of unity.

the common elemental question would be “when?”

bravo, blackpaint.

*****

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undefined texture. rising. [k.s. friday]

and so, september has arrived. and the texture of day for many is changed. fall is around the corner; the cooler mornings whisper that to us, ushering in – with little fanfare – the color transformation of leaves, the waning of the garden, the ultimate fallow of winter.

autumn is my favorite. and as i look to it, i see transition rising out of the horizon. undefined, but transition nonetheless. unfolding.

i got a letter a few days ago from the insurance company handling my wrist injury from falling. they have decided to stop my treatment. as of right now.

back in july they hired a physician to do an IME – which is the acronym for, ironically, “independent medical exam”. don’t be fooled by the word “independent” for when an insurance company chooses and hires and pays a physician time and again to do medical exam reports for the insurance company that wishes to stop paying for treatment, that physician is questionably “independent”. in an unsurprising result, the physician, who has not been the treating physician all along, gave them the verbiage they were looking for and BAM! they instantly wrote-a-lettuh to me discontinuing my medical treatment.

to say that i was disappointed would be to grossly underexaggerate the complex and intense emotions that came with opening that envelope. my own froedtert hand specialist and stellar OT, who both recommend continued treatment, have helped me make much amazing progress – as a professional musician who kind of uses my hands in lifelong work – and i am now able to bend my wrist to 60 degrees from the initial 20 when i started with them. it’s not the 85 – 90 degree forward range of motion of a normal wrist, but i guess the insurance company et al have decided it’s plenty. wow. and wow.

so the texture of my days will change as well. i’ll try to translate exercises and stretching my OT has done to home, without the benefit of specialized therapy center equipment or knowledge or her hands aiding my movements. and undefined transition will rise out of the horizon.

and we’ll see. things will unfold as they unfold. and summer will turn to fall. and fall will become winter. and we’ll see.

*****

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not-knowing. squared. [flawed wednesday]

i passed by these words: “try being informed instead of just opinionated.” i laughed and then frowned, thinking it was a great mantra for these times. it doesn’t even need any additional blah-blah. it simply can stand on its own, shining a spotlight on, well, most of us at some point or another.

i was recently reading some writings of noam chomsky, a linguist and philosopher and so much more. he is “widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences”. his work is interesting and profoundly thought-provoking. and, he is one of those scholars who have quotes galore attributed to him, smidges of wisdom, tomes prompting controversy, questions that parry ignorance.

“the general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know” is one of these quotes. bracing.

any scroll through news media apps in these times is pretty scary. intense drought, raging wildfires, ferocious storms erupting, melting glaciers and rising oceans, a global pandemic morphing and morphing again but not going away, the rise of authoritarianism in the global world, the attack on democracy and fundamental truths, the support of lies and personal agenda by people in trusted positions, the new climate change report issued by the united nations…the doomsday list seems endless.

we stumbled into a short documentary the other evening about doomsday bunkers. people in south dakota and texas purchasing $35k bunkers and tricking them out into homes in which they live, preparing, prepared. it was kind of daunting to see – these underground homes with pantry rooms full of canned goods, homes with no windows, homes that are more-or-less safe – or at least removed – from all that goes on above ground. i expected to see wily extremists but that wasn’t the case in the short we viewed. these were people who wanted to be ready to go on if all else failed – leaving “all else” to your imagination, easily fed by the horrors we read and watch in the news. i personally cannot imagine living this way. though the bunkers are in a community, the premise is removing yourself from the rest of the world and i wonder what is left of value then. a little more googling and other bunkers emerge – bunkers for the super rich, bunkers that are more extreme. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.

i used to teach in the state of florida, though i have not lived there now for over thirty years. in the mixed miracle of social media, some of my previous students are friends of mine on facebook and i am delighted to see them in their lives as adults. i am horrified to watch the governor of that state remove protections for the children attending school there, not to mention teachers and administrators and other valued employees of school systems. barring mask mandates, downplaying vaccinations, issuing warnings to remove funding, threatening the withholding of salaries – all power ploys for his own sick agenda, which clearly is not to protect or encourage protecting the residents of his state, his constituents. i don’t understand this. and yet, his actions are mostly undeterred and it is only now that there are some superintendents pushing back, placing lives over one man’s warped authority. i wonder why every parent in the state isn’t lined up, pushing back. had my children been little while we lived there, i would have been appalled by the cavalier attitude about their health and well-being. they – and every single other child in that state – are not expendable. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.

we’ve all heard the expression “ignorance is bliss.” is it really? is not-knowing the best way to go about living? is getting all hooked-lined-and-sinkered into opinion-land responsible? is watching the circus networks opine and distill truth and hatch conspiracy communal? is it ok to not know what’s really happening and not know that you don’t know? is it prudent – without asking questions – to fetch every bone thrown igniting rhetoric, encouraging vitriol, spewing hate, forwarding inequality, ignoring climate peril, wreaking chaos? even dogdog can discern firestarter sticks from real branches.

let’s not waste that cognitive revolution.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY