reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the end goal. [flawed wednesday]

when the exposure notification availability showed up on the iphone, i x-ed it out. it comes every day and every day i delete it. i’m not sure we need any more reminders of covid exposure. we are already hyper aware of the dangers of this virus, the breakthrough possibility, the guidelines. last night we talked about all the places we would go were it not for this pandemic. the list was seemingly endless and we were in wonder about missing all of it.

we know that others are out there living life as any other day, as in any other time. i don’t know how to do that right now. any moment i forget about it and start talking about something fun to do or someplace fun to go, i remember. the benefit-risk factor is mightily dependent on, well, every facet involved, including higher threat and protecting ourselves and people we love. but i do know this – if it is for my children, i will do it. though we don’t get to exercise it much, that risk is unconditional.

we are finding that maybe we are more conservative, more cautious than others as we weigh our activities and destinations. it’s frustrating. we are a year and a half into this and, while vaccinations help us significantly, there is no stopping a mutating virus that wants to spread without the cooperation of everyone.

at the end of this pandemic, when there IS one, we will look around at the wreckage. lives and health and homes and jobs and security have been decimated. there are those who have been ultra-cavalier and have blatantly denied and defied any safety measures. there are those who have gone to disney, who have gathered in large unmasked gatherings, who have traveled widely. and there are those of us who have not. it’s a wide spectrum where, really, the most prudent route seems a narrower band of collaboration. and it – truly – sometimes makes me ponder what we’re missing. and, even though i ask ‘why?’ time and again, we stay on the track we have decided on, committing to an end to this insanity.

i suppose an argument against the way we are navigating through this would be that we are living out of fear, that we are limiting ourselves in a limitless world because, even when we have no guarantee for life in ANY given circumstance, we have bowed to covid-19, a frightening reality that makes us pay attention. it makes me sad to write that.

at the end others will have lived through it and have traveled and celebrated and eaten out. and hopefully we, too, will have lived through it. but our experience-list will be shorter; if traveling and celebrating and eating out are the things that count we have the tiniest list. our experience-list includes a serious respect for medicine, for science, for experts trying to help us mitigate this. it includes a deep concern for others and a wish for their good health and well-being. it lists to the end goal and not the short term. it includes the very-fewest visits with beloved children and family, in some cases none, tearing at my heart, painful. it includes much home-time, gratitude for this place in which we work and learn and cook and grow and dance. it’s much narrower than we would have imagined and, yet, it is rich in ways i also could not have imagined.

and next year, or sooner, i hope, maybe our experience-list will include irish fest and farmer’s markets and eating at the bar at wine-knot and restaurants in chicago and exploring in north carolina and live-in-person conversations with people who have been there for us, national geographic live events and long stays in the rocky mountains with mornings at cabin coffee in breck and winterfest in cedarburg and a slow dance party revisited on our patio, with people spilling into the kitchen, making drinks and preparing hors d’oeuvres.

maybe our experience-list will include a booster shot and no masks and fewer headlines about staggering loss and more news about communities coming together in support of each other.

maybe our experience-list will have less worry and less fear. the end goal.

stay well. stay safe.

*****

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no way back. [d.r. thursday]

when i was little, going over bridges made me nervous. not because i was afraid of heights or because i was wary of infrastructure and thought it would fall down, but because i was nervous about not being able to get back. something about going over bridges made me feel like there was no way back, especially if we were heading in the wrong direction, taking a wrong turn. i did not like to feel lost.

texas is lost. they have traversed a bridge that appears to be a hellish dead end and, i fear, with no way back. the new abortion law in texas that the governor has touted is a despicable piece of legislation, currying to the favor of men and full-scale demeaning women. that the governor would couch this as concern for the “sanctity of life” elicits a visceral response, a sickened-gut feeling. that the governor would ignorantly speak to the six weeks of freedom-to-decide as plenty, as generous even, is a slap in the face of every woman in his state. that he would put a bounty on the heads of anyone helping in this situation is disgusting wild west gunfire into the crowd.

people have spoken since this decision with more eloquence than i might muster at this moment, but it would seem that every one every where needs to speak up. as more governors make moves to further control the rights of women, we need to – we must – speak up, speak out. the ironies stacking up are deplorable piles of dung as we sit and watch legislation and policy skewed against any kind of gender equality being written, being celebrated, being enacted. sanctity is not in the building.

i read an article about the use of words in statistics. number of girls and women raped. number of girls and women sexually assaulted. number of girls and women harassed. number of pregnant teenage girls. violence against women. the use of the passive construction – noting that these descriptors don’t state the number of boys and men who raped women or assaulted women or harassed women or impregnated women or were responsible for violence against women literally shifts the focus off the guilty parties, pretends that these things have simply happened to women.

it’s hard not to be hugely cynical, disenchanted, about a country that clearly measures women’s rights differently than it measures men’s, that cares about women differently than it cares about men. once again, that yardstick is two-headed and those wielding it speak out of both sides of their mouths.

cynical. disenchanted. yes. these words. from desiderata they seem so hopeful, yet… “neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.”

perennial. usually a positive word. perennial flowers. perennial love. yet, in the docket of these days, what is perennial is the absolute denial of respect and rights for women. it is tiresome to watch the constant lostness. instead of bridges to better times, better health, equality and respect for all, a lifting up of those oppressed, bridges are being built to places of continual control, to power unleashed over others, to inequity and doubletalking agenda – with no way back.

it’s no wonder why i didn’t like bridges when i was little. no-way-back is a terrifying place, for a little girl and for a country.

*****

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boomer farmers. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i cut some valentino basil to toss with tomatoes and olive oil over pasta. in an eat-less-meat effort, d grilled some tilapia. we ate outside at the table under the umbrella where we could catch wafting basil coming from the potting stand and from the little trunk across the deck. we congratulated ourselves on our farming…at least so far, anyway. it remains to be seen how long we might be successful, whether the tomato plants will ever offer actual cherry tomatoes and if the basil will do that leggy thing that basil plants do when you don’t have natural green thumbs.

keith told us to watch the millennial farmer. since we have run out of joey coconato’s youtube backpacking videos and have literally watched each one at least twice, we tried the millennial farmer on for size. keith lives in a farming community and knows about tractors and fields and heavy equipment much much more than we do, but, we have to admit, after having searched for the first of the videos, we have a deeper appreciation for all of that and we know that the millennial farmer might likely tease at our measly stand of hopeful plants. no worries, we boomer farmers are happy and, more importantly, not overwhelmed by our choices. mostly, we love tomato and basil drizzled in olive oil tossed over pasta or in caprese salads. and any planting is still planting.

we had mulled over flowers for the potting stand. it’s in full sun most of the time so that meant we needed to make some careful choices. we are very aware of what we’re spending these days so that factored in as well. when we ultimately decided to just simply plant a few edibles we were excited and went to several nurseries to choose our plants. lowes got our attention for their $6.98 tomato plants – dwarf indeterminates – which we learned means that they will stay smaller and will bear fruit throughout the season instead of just once. milaegers got our vote for their basil. the valentino smelled heavenly and sweet and looked incredibly healthy (to us) at only $3.99. a few big old clay pots out of the garage and sweeping off the barnwood-and-pipe plant stand and we were set. tomatoes and basil – “soulmates on and off the plate.” ready for a summer of lightly tossed pasta and insalata caprese.

now, zach johnson – the millennial farmer in minnesota – might have some advice for us. the diagnostics and computerized tools and mapping and equipment that they use to choose planting distances and tilling and depths and variable rate seed installation and seed choices and seasons are mind-boggling, not to mention the super-sized mechanical equipment like tractors and combines and seeders and cultivators. the science of farming, the art of farming, he makes it all sound both easier and much more complex than we could imagine. his love and nurturing of the land, his life and his fifth-generation farm are obvious.

men’s health magazine calls his youtube channel “peak relaxation” though that is simply because we are armchair-boomer-farmer-watching. zach’s wise intention, according to his channel, is “to build the connection between farmers and consumers.”

we understand. we are now both. ok, ok. light on the farmer, heavy on the consumer. no barn here. just us and our potting stand, two tomato plants and a basil. and an appreciation for real farmers everywhere.

*****

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arrive alive. [flawed wednesday]

once upon a time a little boy sat in the backseat of his family’s car on his way to kindergarten. as we can all imagine, he was excited and maybe chattering about the upcoming day. he was likely looking out the window at all the other cars and trucks and maybe having a little snack as he was driven to school by his mom. he was alive. and then he was not.

i don’t know all the details of this story, but the root cause of the catastrophic death of this little boy on his way to fingerpaint and hear stories and maybe jump rope or play 4square and practice letters with thick pencils on widely-spaced lined paper was road rage. no matter who was at fault, no matter what happened on that highway, no matter really anything, this little person lost his life on a freeway because of anger that had nothing to do with him.

i was stunned the first time i saw the signs on highway 82 in the roaring fork valley of colorado. “road rage – call *277.” but we have all been privy to at least one incident of raging road behavior so that there is a mechanism in place to report it is actually a progressive step forward. i was simultaneously disturbed to think that road rage was so prevalent in this gorgeous place and yet glad to see that the authorities had a mechanism in place to try and help dissuade it.

we recently left the park in illinois where we often hike. it’s a left turn out of the park with no traffic light onto a two-lane road. checking both ways carefully, as there is a bit of an uphill to our right as we exit, i pulled little baby scion out into the eastbound lane to drive home. suddenly, just as a semi approached from the east in the westbound lane, an at-least-80mph audi screamed past on the small shoulder on our right. i was startled, but luckily did not wrench the wheel either direction, for both would likely have had devastating consequences for more than just us. what kind of person passes on the shoulder on a 45mph road for absolutely no reason except that they are raging? what kind of all-consuming lack of regard for others does it take to drive a machine capable of great injury in such a monstrously irresponsible way?

we evaded tragedy that day, but how many examples do we each encounter every day? sometimes it is only with luck and defensive driving we safely arrive at our destinations. safely at our destinations. it doesn’t sound like too much to ask for. we need check our anger as we click open our car doors to get behind the wheel. the tag line of illinois tollway’s speed awareness day has been, “slow down. arrive alive.” yes. we shouldn’t need an awareness day or signs emblazoned with lighted letters to remind us. we shouldn’t need * numbers to call in times of raging road peril.

we pulled up to the red traffic light a couple miles down the road. the audi was stopped right in front of us, a mere one car-length gain. a tiny gain when so much could have been lost. like the life of a little boy on his way to kindergarten.

****

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an octopus and a hissy fit. [d.r. thursday]

in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.

tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.

it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.

we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.

*****

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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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“transparent.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the headline from business insider magazine reads, “chris krebs firing from CISA (cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency) was evidence of his success.” the united states top department of homeland security cybersecurity official was fired this week after spearheading efforts to protect the democratic process of the election. he spoke to the truth; he exposed the falsehoods, the mismanagement of factual information, the peril to free and fair elections, his ignored answers to questions about an election that was “the most secure in american history.” he was removed. democracy is at stake.

defense secretary mark esper, apparently not loyal enough to a president who seeks not truth, but rather, compliance, was fired early in november, injecting uncertainty into an already perilous global climate. he was replaced. our country is destabilized, put at greater risk.

 lt. col. alexander vindman, a national security council staff member, raised his hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  after speaking to the truth in impeachment hearings for the current president, he was fired by the president, the same man who was impeached. his error? speaking the truth, citing facts, about a man who demands only absolute alliance, disregarding truth. that man, along with those complicit to him, exacted revenge.

 dr. anthony fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, speaking to the truth, the inconceivable and unconscionable peril that this country is facing in the middle of this raging global pandemic, has been minimized and tossed off, threatened with being fired by a president intent on absolute control, absolute obedience. factual information needed to protect a vulnerable populace has been withheld, experts with words of wisdom have been held at bay. more people will contract this disease. more people will die.

 “transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.”
“transparency is the open sharing of information from a business to its consumers. it creates brand trust, good communication and perceived good citizenship.”

transparency is not the utterance of pretty words. it is not relationship participating in hiding the truth, sweeping it under the rug. it is not silent. it is not intentionally deceptive. it is having hard and healthy conversations,
respectfully taking responsibility, navigating difficulty, meeting and addressing problems head-on, collaborating with maturity, eyes toward progress and shared authenticity.

our election process. our national security. the integrity of our leadership. our collective health.

lack of transparency. peril. potential collapse.

there is too much of that going around.

what a sad commentary on our times.

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and today we wait. [two artists tuesday]

guarding the sidewalk

and today we wait.

you can feel the energy in the air.  nervous tension.  our city waits for the unwanted arrival of the president, who is apparently coming to kenosha to add photos to his photo op collection of inappropriate pictures taken at inappropriate times in circumstances about which he has no empathy.

we wait, nervously, wondering what the afternoon will bring.

in a city struggling to heal and move forward, this president will churn up any dust that has settled.  his rhetoric will spur on angry voices of hatred and division.  his actions and attitudes will suck the hopefulness out of people who have done so much in these last days after the police shooting of a young african american man, the ensuing protests, the riots and looting and arson wreaked by extremists, the pleas for the embracing of black-lives-matter change, the death of two protesters in the streets by a little boy from out-of-state with a very big gun playing militia, and this very president’s lack of compassion, lack of healing words, lack of condemnation of all that is obviously wrong, lack of truth, lack of moral compass in addressing all of what kenosha has experienced in the last nine days.

we wait, nervously, wondering what evil the inevitable rally will unearth, what the retort will be by the people of kenosha who truly care, what the extremists will do, who may enter this city from outside to do damage or stir up violence, what will happen to the baby steps we have taken.

we walk or hike every day.  lately we have walked a lot in our neighborhood.  we turn the corner down a ways and, tucked in front of the fence, next to the sidewalk, positioned in front of the clover on a broken piece of glassware are these two military figures.  both armed and at-the-ready.  what is this?  what does it mean?  even these kid-toys sitting there, day after day, seem to be a statement, seem unsettling in this climate.  and so we wonder.

and we wait.  the stress is palpable as the town listens for the giant military helicopters to arrive or the motorcycle brigade or the national guard entourage parade.  and we wonder what the evening will bring.  will the peaceful protests be overrun by presidential fuel added to the embers?  will all hell break loose?  will kenosha lose ground, the slightest of forward-moving crawling it has done?

we wait, nervously, and wonder how our city, our state, our country can overcome the ugly division that is forming a wall between factions resistant to change, impenetrable, armored to the hilt.  we wonder how we can be a city, a state, a country of dignity and inclusion, respect, equality, safety, peace.

we believe hate-speech is not the answer.  we believe pushing people down to raise oneself up is not the answer.  we believe people in the streets armed with weapons of destruction is not the answer.  we believe divisiveness, in all its colors and genders and socioeconomic forms, is not the answer.  we believe falsehoods and stoking fire and inciting animosity and violence without impunity is not the answer.  we believe abhorrent agenda-riddled self-indulgence on the part of the leadership of this country is not the answer.

stand up, little plastic soldiers.  look each other in the eye.  look the enemy in the eye.  put your guns away.  start with love.

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this world needs you. [d.r. thursday]

thisworldneedsyour WITH EYES jpeg copy

all of us.  we will all need to participate.

this world will never be the same.  we need to ponder, we need to dream, we need to imagine:

a better place, a more fair place, a place that is based on equity and equality, kindness and compassion.  a place that assumes virtue and intends the same.  a place that protects its peoples, that encourages individuals to care for each other.  a place that doesn’t incite rancor, celebrate the weapons of violence, or create enmity and spite.  a place where the downtrodden are lifted up and those with excess are generous.  a place where inhabitants don’t self-aggrandize or strategize to find ways for more-more-more, ways that take from those with less, ways that undermine those in need.  a place that doesn’t normalize language of vitriol, hatred, and antagonism.  a place where all races are equivalent, all genders are respected, all ethnicities are indistinguishably included.  a place where the environment counts and sustaining it beyond our own time on this good earth is a priority.  a place that recognizes the sacred in the out-of-doors, the borrowing of this dirt, this water, this air for the short span of time we are here.  a place where we are always seeking ways to better life for each other, to enhance daily living, health, happiness.  a place of truth.  a place of goodness.

yes.  this world needs your good imagination.  or we will never get there.

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