reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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at the door. his angel-cat. [d.r. thursday]

dogdog does not live his life expecting grandeur. he does not look for the secrets of the universe nor does he try to reach the pinnacle of success, whatever that is. his riches are right around him – his shredded toys, his bone, his food and water bowls, his treats, his people and his beloved cat. he lives each day, seemingly, without the emotional chaos we get embedded in; the view from his amber eyes is simple and they reflect back a love of living, of those things he cherishes. he does not try to be anything; he just is. “when you seek to be special, only a few things in life will measure up,” writes sue bender. he does not seek to be special, yet he is magnificently special.

it was very very quiet in the house last week. i played no music. i watched no tv. i barely read the news. together, dogdog and i were almost silent. my dear and wise friend wrote, “sometimes silence allows us to conserve our energy to go on.” together, dogdog and i stepped in our days, the padding footfalls of babycat’s sorely missing from our mix. yet we continued on and the earth spun through the galaxy and the sun and the moon did that which they do, nevertheless.

“i learned to love the journey, not the destination. i learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get,” pens anna quindlen. dogdog’s journey sans destination – for without the same human parameters that make us measure our lives, his is simply a journey without a destination – included babycat. and now, in his quest to find his cat, we can only hope that babycat sits by his side and reassures him, in his gravelly babycat voice, that he’s right there with him. our journeys include the angels all around us; they are right there, quiet and steady.

“get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger,” recommends anna.

i’d add, get a life in which you take moments to be very quiet – silent, even – and in which you can see the dim outline of your angel-cat sitting next to your dog at the front door.

*****

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AT THE DOOR ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood


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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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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.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the gallery on my phone. [two artists tuesday]

the gallery on my phone: there are photos of any minutes any where with or of my children. there are photos of trails and woods and my husband’s face and heart-shaped leaves. there are photos of dogdog and babycat, family, friends, photos of wildflowers, bushes, gardens and happy lights, recipes, screenshots of funny snapchat-filtered faces, cairns, and mountains, lots of mountains. there are photos of our feet, laughter, redrock and snowmen, lakes and oceans, streams and frozen ponds, birds and butterflies and preserved text messages, trail magic greenery, sunrises and sunsets, the sun and the moon. there are photos in the united states and photos abroad. photos in canoes and fishing skiffs, on pontoon boats and stand-up boards, riding ice-cutting ferries. there are photos of pianos and pipes and pumpkins, wooden stages, stages of rock, prickly cactus and my casts. there are quaking aspens and forests of pine, wizened old trees, towering oaks and radiant maples, highways and back roads. there are squirrels and deer, raccoons, horses and heart-shaped rocks. there are snow pictures and desert pictures, sandy pictures and muddy pictures, city skylines and small town main streets, wine glasses, thoughtfully-prepared meals, candles burning, bonfires, and masks littering the ground iso faces. there are tree stumps, tree trunks and bark and branches, interesting shapes, shadows, buildings, sayings emblazoned anywhere, articles to remember to read later, signs and designs, horsehoof and deer and bunny tracks, and heart-shaped designs that waited in the dirt, in the snow, in rock formations.

there are thousands of photographs. thousands.

i look back on them often. there are times i will select a whole bunch and transfer them over to my laptop so that i can print them and put them up on a bulletin board in our hallway or on the big piece of tin in the kitchen or frame them for one of the flat surfaces that doesn’t already have a photograph. but mostly, i look back on them to spend time – again – right there.

right now, in a country devastated by a raging pandemic and out-of-control political chaos and violence, in a town riddled with inordinately tough emotional disparity and a lack of social justice over the district attorney’s ruling in a case involving a police officer who shot a black man in the back seven times, now on the outermost fringes of what was an up-close-and-personal community lacking transparency to its members, in sadness and angst, i need to be back there.

back with people i love who love me back.

back at places that brought me peace or laughter, challenged me or rewarded me with a sense of calm.

back where every heart is noticed, whosever it is, wherever it is, even whether it be a rock, a leaf, a knot in a tree in the woods, or the funny way that the ice melted on the deck.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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comfort you. [two artists tuesday]

van morrison said it: “i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. just let your tears run wild like when you were a child. i’ll do what i can do. i want to comfort you. you put the weight on me…i want to comfort you.”

how is it that, in the middle of feeling low-low-low, these sweet animals know exactly what to do? tucked under an old quilt, dogdog and babycat jumped up on the bed, searched my face and snugged up tightly right next to me, bookends on either side.

there are days – in these times – we must all feel the anguish of mental health exhaustion, of wide-awake anxiety, of worries too steep to climb, struggles, fears to which we close our eyes, wincing in pain.

there are days we reach out to others, extending words of reassurance, tiny tidbits of humor, virtual hugs, care packages, texts of love.

there are days we can only lay under a quilt. we sort and sort through the stuff-in-our-brains, listing the realities of our angst, wondering, reeling, succumbing to lonely early winter darkness.

if only it were so easy as to be dogdog and babycat. with no hesitation, they simply comfort. their response is pure. their compassion is the stuff of unconditional love. they don’t make assumptions or have judgement. they don’t assail with questions or platitudes. they don’t slough it off or explain it away. they don’t ignore it.

instead, they show up. and it is absolutely clear to me that they are saying, “i want to comfort you.”

*****

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the benefits. [d.r. thursday]

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MY LOVES 24″x 48″

i woke in the middle of the night to discover i was spooning the cat.  he jumps up on the bed and, pretty much like a sack of concrete, settles in for a long night’s nap, mostly because, well, clearly, the other 23 hours he slept in the day were not ample enough sleep.  he snugs in and prevents movement of most sorts:  there will be no blanket adjustments, no leg adjustments, little rolling over.  my hot flashes necessitate much wrestling to find cooler air as he has permanently planted his sweet large body and is down for the count.  and so, you must adjust.  granted, his sleep-apnea-style-snoring would be cause for plucking-and-moving (to another room) but we love him and suffer his sleeping-sovereignty; the benefits outweigh the costs.

sally told me that there is a machine that duplicates the frequency of a cat’s purring vibration.  i did not know that cat purring is healing and restorative – to broken or fractured bones, tendons, joints, muscles, infections.  we would rent out babycat but i am trying to figure out how to make him lay on my broken-and-in-the-ridiculously-slow-process-of-healing wrists.  once again, the benefits outweigh the costs.

i hadn’t ever had a cat before b-cat, but now it’s been almost eleven years.  he is in some ways more of a dog than a cat, having tolerated a parent who knows dogs and was too busy at the time to read ‘kittens for idiots’ all the way through.  so he sits when asked and speaks when asked and does dog-like things.  however, he rides the fence and takes advantage of cat-like things at will, like claws.  and he is fickle as fickle can be.  jen explained that cats will patiently ‘allow’ you to stroke them and pet them and fondle them, all seemingly appreciated, until the doll flips and it suddenly reaches out with both front paws and pulls your hand up to its razor teeth.  ahh, but those moments preceding the bite…the benefits outweigh the costs.

in this time of other-worldliness and alternate-reality these creatures of ours – dogdog and babycat – are companions unlike any other.  they will not argue politics or policy.  they don’t strategize or scheme.  they are not semantics-nuts or particularly immersed in propaganda-hunts.  they will not roll their eyes at our rants nor will they feed them or egg us on.  instead, they comfort when they suspect we need it.  they are quiet when there’s been too much noise.  they are entertaining when we need funny.  they are warm in the cold pandemic plane.

and they curl up with us in solidarity.  benefits always outweighing the costs.

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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MY LOVES ©️ 2020 david robinson

 


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just being there. [d.r. thursday]

k.Dot Dogga BCat copy

there are moments when both dogga and babycat seem to be on the same page.  sweetly tuned in to our every emotion, they put aside their own agenda to curl up, their warm bodies tucked in against one or both of us, just being there.

in this time of necessary and vigilant waiting, as we defer to healthcare workers, scientists, the experts, all in their prodigious work, perhaps this is the most potent aid we can offer.  to curl our warmth and any practical and safe help we can muster around each other.  to acknowledge each other’s worry, each other’s fear, each other’s process.  to be tuned in, to listen, to offer words of comfort.  to stand with each other, hold each other’s hands, even from afar.  to quietly just be there.

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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©️ 2020 david robinson


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look in the mirror. stand up straight. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

 

red cup mirror

successories built a business on reminders. powerful, thoughtful, inspiring words that encourage us, motivate us, reassure us, remind us. we hang them in our offices, in our homes; we have daily mini posters on our calendars or our apps; we have mugs with words. we need reminders. in this world of challenges, worries, failures among the triumphs, our tender hearts need to see snippets that keep us going, keep us moving forward, keep us in grace.

i walked into the restroom at the red cup, a sweet coffeehouse on washington island. on the mirror were these words: “you are so cool and intelligent and strong and fierce.” my face stared back at me, right next to these words. a reminder. stand up straight.

to be honest, i suppose the first thing i thought was, “i’m not really cool,” a leftover from high school a million years ago, where i was definitely not in the cool crowd. (i never cut a class. i always did my homework. i practiced the piano. i rode my bike or drove my little vw bug to the beach all year round. i wore lots of hand-me-downs. i never smoked or attended a high school drinking party. i didn’t run with the cool group.) interesting how i still react to that ‘label’ and how it still plays inside me. this stuff hangs on; images we have of ourselves long-haul stick with us.

my next thought – in the restroom – was that we need these reminders. you and i. we ARE cool – in our own distinct ways. we are intelligent. we are strong – stronger than we know. and we are fierce…ready to stand firm for our children, our families, our friends, our beliefs, our selves.

it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. every day accosts us with new problems, complex seemingly unsolvable gordian knots, new reasons for our self image to take a blow, to feel less-than, to fail in this competitive world.   every day presents with a new chance to remember all we have done, all we have risen above, all we have helped accomplish. a chance to see how cool we are, how intelligent. a chance to, yet again, be strong and fierce.  look in the mirror.  stand up straight.

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

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things of comfort. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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painting by DUKE

“the finnish wood carvings, ” my sweet momma would answer when asked what she wanted in her little assisted living apartment, a place she would occupy without my dad, some time after he died.  those finely carved statues accompanied her from new york to florida, house to house, and, finally to her small apartment.  she cherished them and spent long hours deciding to whom she would give each one.  the list in many notebooks and on many scraps of paper showed that she pondered each recipient’s personality and interests before deciding on a gift choice; these wood carvings were important and each was later given with decades of love.  placed on an equally significant-to-her live-edge wooden shelf in her tiny living room, they seemed to represent comfort to her, something that spanned the years, something that, in their familiarity, gave her a sense of security.  a piece of what-had-been-home in this new home.

when you walked down the hall in eileen and duke’s home, just in front of you before you turned in to their master bedroom was this painting.  duke was an amazing artist, a painter and sculptor with an enormous collection of work.  when we were helping 20 move his momma eileen into her assisted living apartment a few weeks ago, this painting beckoned me as something that might be a familiar sight in her new unfamiliar home.  as we placed other artwork on the wall, i kept thinking about this painting that we had left in their home and i nagged 20 about it.  i felt it could be placed so that the moment that eileen stepped into her new bedroom it would be ahead of her, before she turned to head to her bed.  jogging her memory of the home she and duke had made together, a touch of comfort for her.  20 picked it up later that night and the day his momma moved in we hung the painting.  this sunny, but somewhat austere space, suddenly was lifted to a different level.  the photographs of duke and eileen in the kitchen, the familiar prints in the living room, this painting in the bedroom.  all touchstones from home in this new home.

there are certain things i like to have around me.  things that even in times of uncertainty give me a sense of footing.  were i to pare down there are items that would definitely make the cut, unlikely choices maybe, but things that bring me solace, things that alleviate angst, things that gladden my heart.  what are yours?

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

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