reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


1 Comment

vici, the caterpillar. [merely-a-thought monday]

perseverance is an understatement. the fuzzy caterpillar patiently and laboriously walked the tightrope above our garden, strung as a straight snap-line to lay bricks along the garden edge. his destination was unclear; i hardly think he could determine – ahead of time – which daylily leaf upon which he wished to land. perhaps he wanted to cross the whole expanse; maybe he wanted to travel clear across the yard in front of the old brick wall, but, along the way, tired and out of energy for further travails, took a side jaunt onto the nearest leaf.

we stood and watched him – he would scooch on the string and then his entire body would flip upside down. he – with every suction-cup-footed leg of his tiny body – would lurch back up on top of the string and continue slack-lining his way for maybe an inch and then – to our despair – he would flip over again, his legs holding him onto the string as he – upside down – continued on – what appeared to be – his merry way. he never appeared frustrated, though he flipped over constantly, alternating from side to side. he just kept going. and going. and going. surely, had he been human, he would have called an uber, a lyft, or given up. he was getting nowhere fast and the road had to be excruciatingly wearying. the tenacity was laudable. his journey, auspicious. he had chutzpah and sisu rolled into one.

we videoed his movement along the caterpillar slackline. and marveled.

ken called and david told him of the previous week, a week in which he had been on the slackline, not sure of the destination, but absolutely aware of the challenges. listening intently, asking questions, teasing a bit, and being a sweet big brother to his little brother, ken lamented, “life’s vicissitudes, eh?”. ah yes. “surviving life’s ups and downs, with special emphasis on the downs”, vicis, the root descendent of the word “vicissitudes”, is latin and means “change”. you betcha there’s change.

i’ve decided we are all on some kind of slackline and out in the farthest galaxy someone or something is watching us as we flip over to the left, upside down, right ourselves, flip over to the right, upside down, right ourselves and make the tiniest bit of progress as we go.

they take a video and they blog about us.

just like we blog about vici, the caterpillar.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


1 Comment

windows-open. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we never put the air conditioners in. all summer. it’s been windows-open. summer two.

granted, there were a few days that were a little brutal, the humidity high, the breeze slight. we all melted a little.

but we survived. and, as i sit here, knowing that there are whirring central systems all around us, i can feel the breeze coming in from the east, the sun is gracing the comforter, the chippies are out back trying to dissuade the squirrels from eating at the birdfeeder and it is mostly quiet. our old house breathes and the outdoors comes in.

i guess i know people who spend scarcely any time outside. i personally can’t imagine it. we spend as much time outside as possible. even deck time counts. moments that we get to be up-north are exceptional and this time was no different. it doesn’t matter the weather, though sparklingly sunny days are truly impossible miracles of beauty. but even the rain, falling on the woods and lulling us all, doesn’t deter us and we sneak out in-between to take a walk and find wildflowers on the side of the road.

there is a chipmunk – and i am assuming, with no real basis for it, that it is always the same one – that comes to the fence across the driveway outside my window almost every day. it sits atop the fencepost and chirps loudly, stopping only when i call out the window to him, “hi little guy! hi chippie!” and make conversational chippie noises back at him. satisfied he said good morning (again, an assumption) he scampers off the fence and on to his next task-at-hand. were the window to be closed, i would miss it.

there are trips we want to take – to gorgeous high mountains and red rock canyons, to the atlantic coast, to smoky mountains, to cool canadian provinces, to faraway places overseas. we’ll spend as much time outside in those places as we can, drinking it in.

that window is big and wide open. and there is wild and sensational beauty out there.

but it’s even in our own backyard. and i don’t want to miss it.

*****

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


Leave a comment

buds and blossoms. wrapped in gold. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

if i were to get a tattoo (not to mention the “sisu” tattoo i would love to share with my daughter) i think it might be a simple tattoo depicting the japanese practice of kintsugi: the golden repair and honoring of flaws, beauty in human brokenness. there’s no telling if i will do that. there’s also no telling if i won’t. i’m not averse to ink. i know that ink is an expression of where you are in your life, of what you believe in, of what you seek.

“age and stage,” 20 often says when we talk about the stuff of life. tight bud to full bloom to blossoms falling, petal by petal, to the dirt. all the iterations in the middle.

everything is like that, i suppose.

the first time my boots hit the wood as i crossed from backstage to the apron was memorable. i won’t forget it. each time i’ve walked to the piano, adjusted the boom mic, took a breath and started…memorable. i won’t forget. i remember being in the middle of one of my concerts, in the middle of one of the pieces…i forgot where the piece went…i was lost. i made it up. it was a solo piece; no one else had to share in my lapse of memory. i followed the theme and noodled my way through to an end no one would ever hear again. my producer hugged me and laughed later, “nice coverup.”

the pace of my walk is slower now than it used to be…steadier. now i know that no matter what, no matter the mistakes, no matter the braindrops, no matter the missed lyrics, the thinking notes…the story will get told, the bud will open and, like any artist, i will give of myself, despite of whatever i get or don’t get in return. age teaches you that it is not the return that matters. age teaches you it is in the giving.

we talked in the kitchen this morning about the work we have done in our lives. david’s paintings, hung and not hung, my music, recorded and not recorded. we talked about our youthful desire to have everything seen, everything heard…and not in a little way. we talked about how age has brought us to this place – a place where seen and heard doesn’t really matter. painted and played matters. drawn and written matters. expressed matters. received en masse doesn’t.

it really is “age and stage”. it’s not just the moments of our children, tiny beings not sleeping through the night, toddlers in terrible-two-tantrums – people reassuring us “age and stage”. it’s not just the trials of parents letting go of those adored humans who are now adults in the world, a little less access, a lot less time – people encouraging us “age and stage”. it’s not just our aging moms and dads, significant changes in ability, in perspective, in health – people comforting us “age and stage”.

it’s us. it’s our age and our stage, we are reminded. we try to fix what is broken, try to start something new, try to perfect the blossom. and we realize that it was a bloom all along. it was beautiful. it counted.

were we to be able to see – from the beginning – all the stages – the tight bud, the slightly opened petals – the bloom – the blossom falling to the ground – we might take it all more lightly, we might not cling to ideals of success and how we receive it. we might know there would be mistakes and dropped notes, lyrics mixed up and words not spoken. we might know there would be vulnerabilities and painful angsting, gorgeous improvised melodies, pictures without everything we desired, without everything coming to fruition, vamped decisions, regrets and, yes, bows. we might know that we would join with the rest of the human race on broken roads.

and we might know that the stages of our ages were all wrapped in gold.

and maybe ink.

“and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (anais nin)

*****

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


Leave a comment

the stuff we see. [two artists tuesday]

we cannot help ourselves. we see stuff. i usually don’t suppose that’s unusual, until someone stares at us – with that blank look on their faces that betrays the “oh-sheesh-they-are-SOOO-weird” thought they are having. and then i realize we might be a little unusual. i shrug it off. “we-are-all-worthy-we-are-all-worthy” i repeat.

the shark was on the side of the trail. lurking. all crusty and gnarly, his face. he was obvious. he was cause for conversation, tales of scuba-diving in cold long island waters and off the coast of tropical islands. we can’t help but see and we laugh and gasp out, “look! it’s a ……..!”

seeing. it’s a burden every artist carries. it’s in the backpack with the parmesan cheese and the twizzlers and the tiny box wine and the kind bars. it’s probably good that we are mostly alone during these moments; our imaginations fly wild and free and we crack ourselves up.

and isn’t that the point? the laughter? i can’t think of anything better than laughing together, even at our own expense. we tell stories to friends, emphasizing the goofy, the silly, the utterly-profoundly dumb, self-deprecating and reveling in it. getting my hair cut and claiming the highest forehead in the guiness book of world records of foreheads. having a pedicure and claiming the biggest big toe in modern history. even, recently, at the doctor’s office, asking, please, for a sticker or a gold star for passing my bloodwork. just silliness. we can’t help it.

but to walk with him and find the sharks on trail and the ducks stuck in trunks (see below) and the tree mooning us (see below) and the desert hills from space (also see below) is to walk inside laughter. it’s to have maybe learned – at long last – not to take everything quite so seriously.

it’s to learn how to get older and crusty and gnarly ourselves and to hold it all lightly.

because in truth, the shark tree was beautiful.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

the pod of our diapause. [two artists tuesday]

the color of a palomino, the pod of milkweed off the side of the trail captures my attention. though i want to touch it, to feel what looks like a velvety ear, i don’t disturb it. this pod has burst open, its seeds scattered, waiting for verdant spring and the eventual arrival of monarchs. the butterflies left the midwest for the winter, migrating, traveling up to 2500 miles to shelter and hibernate through winter in coolness that is not cold.

their diapause is a period of suspended development. it is common in the insect world, this inactivity: “a state in which their growth, development, and activities are suspended temporarily, with a metabolic rate that is high enough to keep them alive.” it’s a kind of dormancy. it sounds a little like isolating in the middle of a pandemic, a little like a response to a few more-difficult years. a slowing down, an insulating, a turning-in, heartbeats enough to sustain yet not enough for vast inspiration. hmm.

back on our favorite local trail, we are watching it wake. we take note of the changes in color, the changes in the woods, in the meadows. sipping coffee this morning we listen to the new sounds – birdcalls we have missed in the quietude of winter, the middle of our diapause.

we start to feel the pull of the outside more, the draw of places to see, the falling-off of quilts we have wrapped around us. i begin to wonder – with a little more energy – what next and next look like. the sun streams in the window and stays up later, pushing back night like feet on a crab soccer ball.

we begin to break open the pod of our diapause, long after milkweed but before the butterflies come back.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


Leave a comment

that crooked smile. [merely-a-thought monday]

his crooked smile stopped me.

we were wandering slowly through the orchid show at chicago botanic gardens, drinking in the colors, the fragile blooms, the deliciousness of being-out-somewhere-doing-something. in the hallway between two larger spaces, there he was. waiting. wearing the imperial margarine crown, large bulbous nose, really long kind-of-jay-leno-chin and a crooked smile, his eyes squeezed a little shut in an engaging invitation, he was waiting.

i stood there staring at him, laughing. he was sitting in front of an old piano painted in bluebird-sky-blue-peely-paint and he winked at me. all the other orchids didn’t have to do anything to get our attention, and, truthfully, neither did he – they were all stunning and refreshing hopeful harbingers of maybe-spring-will-come – but he tried extra hard anyway.

i see him as toothless. but i have no judgements about that at all. i suspect most orchids are toothless, well, except for the one that made me do the “duh-chomp, chomp, chomp—what’s up doc?” bugs bunny imitation in the middle of a room full of people. that one most certainly had teeth. two buck teeth just screaming for us to notice. nevertheless, this guy – the imperial margarine guy – did not have teeth. his jimmy durante schnozzola was all he needed. and those eyes. and that crooked smile. sheesh! what charm!

when we left the botanic garden we felt a rush of fresh air. this wasn’t just the difference between a heightened-warm greenhouse and the cold chicago air. it was a sense of newness. a refreshing, though albeit tiny, touch of “normal”, a reminder of beauty. it was sheer magic. it was diving into a rainbow and immersing, coming out the other side dripping with colors we hadn’t seen in a long time.

it was admiring blossoms of solid colors and stripes and polka-dots and marveling over shapes and sizes and textures. it was reading of orchid seeds sailing over oceans and great expanses of land, steadfastly enduring. it was laughing with orchids which had personality, confidence and humility, joie de vivre.

they reminded us of life, in the middle of a neverending pandemic, in a period of time that would mark the beginning days that ukraine was invaded by russia, the world shocked by the wickedness of it all. the country-of-sunflowers was under siege and the orchids were blooming. all existing at the same time, on the same plane, in the same world. a gentle prod – yet again – to appreciate every last little thing.

maybe that’s what his crooked smile was all about.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

that voice. [d.r. thursday]

if only it were all that simple. seeing into the future, that is. we might be able to avoid the potholes, the pitfalls, the problems that are in our merry way. but, alas, that is not so. and, unlike oatly and its humorous point-on prediction on the lid of its coffee “ice cream”, we struggle between punting and pure intuition, hopping and skipping and maybe crawling our way into the future.

punting is a given. everyone punts. the older i get, the more i realize people are making it up on the fly. lots of experience, education, research, failures and giant successes help, but it is all kind of punting, after all.

but intuition is a funny thing. we can hear it in our inner ear; we can feel it pokin’ at us, like a snickers bar supposedly pokes at our tummies. sometimes we listen and other times we poo-poo it, dismissing it as frivolous or overly obsessive thinking. there are times, however, when we listen and it is spot-on.

in 1993, in august, i took both my small children to the mall. my daughter was three and my son just seven months old. we went to walk around, watch people, maybe purchase a few things. we were going to stop at mcdonald’s on the way home, as we always did, to have a happy meal. driving back from the mall i made up silly songs about going to mcdonald’s and my little girl was excited. this was our mcdonald’s, the one where she knew how to carry her little meal from the counter, around the corner into the back dining room, to the very back table opposite the rear door, the farthest away from people smoking, because, back then, people still smoked in restaurants.

as we drove down the main road of our town toward the mcdonald’s, in the middle of silly songs and a gleeful child’s anticipation, i heard it.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” the voice said.

it was clear. i looked around, surprised to even hear another voice. but there was no other adult in the minivan.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” it repeated.

i shushed what i now believed was the voice in my head and continued singing our mcdonald’s happy song.

it got more demanding, “don’t go to mcdonald’s today. don’t.”

that feeling you get in your belly started. the voice nagged me. i started to backpeddle, “well, maybe we will go home instead,” which made my little girl cry out, “no!” from the back seat.

“go home and make a ham sandwich,” was the weirdest. but it was clear. the voice was a ham-sandwich-pusher.

i started to listen. i had lost my big brother just a year prior and he had shown up from time to time, a wave from the next dimension it seemed. and he loved ham sandwiches.

i had to decide fast because we were rapidly approaching the mcdonald’s. i excitedly told my little girl, who – in three-year-old fashion – did not pivot immediately, that we were going to have a picnic at home instead. that we would have ham sandwiches and potato chips and we’d play we’re-on-a-picnic.

we passed the mcdonald’s and kept heading home, a few miles away.

by the time we were unloading into our house i heard the sirens in the distance. the house phone was ringing when we walked in.

“did you hear what just happened at mcdonald’s?” my girlfriend asked.

my stomach lurched.

a man with a gun had gone in the back door of the restaurant and started shooting people. tragically, two people at the table opposite the back door were killed.

i don’t know if they had happy meals; i know we would have.

i know if i could have seen into the future i would have planned on – and sang songs in the minivan about – ham sandwiches and a picnic on the living room floor. i know that tiny bit of adamant intuition-voice saved our lives. i don’t know how that works. i will not question it.

it was a gift.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

take some time and visit david’s online gallery


1 Comment

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)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

peruse DAVID’S online gallery


2 Comments

way past time. [d.r. thursday]

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

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

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

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

what do you see?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

visit DAVID’S online gallery