reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the west wall. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it’s the west wall. and every morning as the sun streams in across the room, we comment. it’s one of those images that you anticipate, that stays with you, that you miss on cloudy days – a new day captured between miniblinds. and, because we were there and so was he, we know the shadow in the bottom left window pane is a shadow of dogdog’s furry ear and the nape of his neck. his ritual – laying on the bed with us in the morning as we sip coffee and the sun works on rising.

it will soon be a year since columbus – david’s sweet dad – died. it is now just days away. i knew him for merely eight years. but he was easy to adore. he still is. i talk to him every time i get into big red, feeling his presence as i crank up country music and roll down the windows. i don’t even know if he cranked up country music and rolled down the windows, but i sense his approval and it makes me smile. he had a gentle way about him and his shadow leaves soft edges in my heart. i told david that it will get a little bit harder each day now. there is no changing that. not feeling his absence is like trying to keep an open candle lit in the wind. impossible.

the anniversary of his leaving-this-earth forces one to recognize mortality. when my big brother died, it foisted upon me an absolute sense of a lack of infinity – time goes by and the world continues on, yet there will come a time that our relationship with the world will no longer feel the same and our shadow will be a little less pronounced, a little less definitive, a little fuzzier, though no less present. when my poppo and then, three years later, my sweet momma died, i was struck by the sheer ludicrousness of how wrapped up we all get in everylittledetailofeverything. it felt like we should spend more time shadow-dancing together in the sun and less time in the actual shadows. there is no time to waste. we learn it – and forget – again and again. and again.

in the way of shadows and energy and love, we know that our dogga can feel us, despite our temporary absence from him as we travel. just like the people we love – here and not here – he is right with us.

the west wall reminds us.

*****

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one shadow. [two artists tuesday]

in the perfect moment of sun, the perfect angle of ray, the perfect covering of cloud, the perfect surface of shadow, two became one.

i took a second look before i pointed it out to him. i wanted to be sure i didn’t miss the bird, maybe tucked into the shadow of fern. it wasn’t there. it had immersed itself into the shadow of the other.

i knew, upon gazing at this, i would not likely witness this again. it was that kind of moment.

when david proposed on knee at gate F8 at o’hare airport, he presented – from inside a tiny box inside a tiny satin bag – two silver rings, almost identical, like the almost-identical-wrought-iron-green-eyed birds. after a magically vehement and funny proposal, he explained he saw us as two individuals, coming together, yet, with great love and respect, remaining individual, bringing to each other all in each our circles. one ring was etched and one was smooth.

we spend pretty much 24/7 with each other. it’s been that way since the beginning. he has supported me in any work i am doing and, likewise, i have supported him. with rare exception, we have traveled, always, together. we chore together and explore together. we cook meals and scheme happy hours and pop-up dinners together. we love on the dog and pine for our babycat together. we cry listening to lowen and navarro’s last concert together and laugh at the same lines over-and-over while watching my big fat greek wedding together. we walk and hike and exercise and spat together. we lift each other up. we grow older together. david’s office is upstairs so during work hours he is merely a flight of steps away. we, as artists, create together, writing every morning, daydreaming aloud about studios on the side of a mountain. saturday we spent hours – with new ridiculously-liberating paint pens – painting rocks together and walking in the dusky edges of day along the lake.

both rings are almost all smooth now. i imagine one of these days they will be the same.

and, though there will always be two – two silver rings, two iron birds – the sun will shine down on us, day after day, shadows of two green-eyed artists on the sidewalk, in the leaves on the trail, on the sand of the shore, on our new fence.

and then, one day, maybe – with all perfects (and imperfects) aligned – that sun may cast a miraculous shadow of one. we might miss it, but we already know it’s there. mingling with the ferns.

*****

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evanescent. [two artists tuesday]

the eiffel tower stands in our front yard, along with niagara falls and hunter mountain and the atlantic surf and canyonlands national park and the rocky mountains and northport harbor. they are there, even without clear shape. each are shadowy remembrances of time spent, each are mementos of life and time, tiny moments passing, never to be identically repeated, always to be celebrated.

we watch the play of sun on the snow, the shadows of the trees, the clouds drifting across the sky, the night shroud filled with stars. never static. we bring gratitude for every second we have had, though sometimes we forget to appreciate them, sometimes we forget to acknowledge the fleetingness. in those times, we hold, with foolish tenacity, to thoughts of what’s-next instead of lingering in the delicious stew of right now, regardless of essences and elements that may not be to our liking. we wonder if it’s all maybe not enough, if we are maybe not enough.

we don’t realize that our shadow in the snow is perfect. it is also light and dark, interrupted by the brick wall and tree limbs. it stands tall as we learn about standing tall. it moves in grace as we step and change, all part of the never-ending flow, the coming and going of it all, the roll. it bows its head as we bow ours, thanking the universe for this evanescent time in the sun.

our shadow is right next to all we have seen, looking to all we will see. edges, a little less precise, a little less defined, softer, glorious, present. our shadow is right next to the eiffel tower, niagara falls, hunter mountain, the atlantic surf, canyonlands, the rockies and northport harbor.

*****

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pristine. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it all looked pristine for a while, after it snowed. a fresh blanket of white covering our yard and its blemishes. for the time before the wind started blowing and the snow started shifting, you couldn’t tell that the front yard was all torn up, that there is a large grassless mound – like a dune on the long island coastline – that stretches from our house all the way to the street.

the backyard also. pristine. a white canvas, dotted with tall old evergreen trees, ornamental grasses gone to brown, feathery plumes waving, the pond frozen and still.

there are folks whose yards will continue to look that way – pristine. the snow will remain untouched, smooth, perfectly showcasing shadows as the sun peers through tree limbs and plants in fallow.

the moment we open the back door and dogdog runs out, the illusion of perfection ceases. pawprints obscure the shadow art as he tears into the blanket of snow, nose down, gleefully devouring it as he goes. he is a winter dog. there is no doubt about it. he comes in reluctantly – laden with snow – after laying on the deck on top of snow, surrounded by snow, under new snowfall. it is his time.

sometimes i wonder if we can just save the front yard, just not walk in it, just not let it be disturbed. we can look out the window and gaze at that which makes everything profoundly beautiful.

but then there are squirrels dancing about in the snow and the tiny footprints of birds. there are prints of a stray cat and maybe a raccoon or two. the grasses dip under the weight and the gusts, brushing aside snow like small brooms. there are bootprints of the guys who installed our temporary sidewalk and shoeprints of our postal, ups, fedex, amazon delivery people bringing us mail, cards from people we care about, packages of things we need. the wind has blown off the straw-covered mound, exposing the filled-in trench of a new water service line, a tiny winter miracle in itself.

and i realize that as stunning as pristine is, it is perhaps illusory and most definitely ephemeral.

instead, we celebrate the messy, the prints in the snow, the elated dog, the windblown fresh snowfall, creatures seeking food and shelter, the interrupted shadows.

*****

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the shadows. [d.r. thursday]

we can see the shadows getting longer. earlier in the day, the sun is lower in the sky and fall is on the rise. the wistful-autumn-thing is starting. picking apples and going to the pumpkin farm are on our list-of-things-to-do and i’m pulling out soup recipes, planning ahead. i’m hoping the cherry tomato plants will sustain longer. and the valentino basil has rejuvenated; dinner last night was red pesto pasta – thanks to this very plant. we need to order some wood and i’m keeping my eye out for the perfect mums. and socks made a cameo appearance the other day. blue jeans and boots, the stuff of happiness, are itching their way back into our world, having been buried under summer and no-airconditioning wear. i love fall. and nothing stops the melancholy.

we didn’t sleep again. i’m writing this on wednesday, so last night – tuesday night – was a long wakefulness with a smidge of dozing around 6am. i was aware that i was feeling anxious, worried. no amount of tossing and turning helped. once you are traveling down that road, there are no u-turns. i watched the shadows change in the room, listened to the rain, rearranged my pillows a time or a hundred times. insomnia is a resolute challenger. and, in the middle of the night, every question you have ever perseverated over, ever pondered, that has ever even remotely teased you for an answer is present and accounted for, lined up, waiting for answers or action plans. meanwhile, any even breathing of your spouse, and even the dog, wreak havoc with your impulse control.

the coffee this morning tasted especially good. the day is grey, though the sun is supposed to appear this afternoon. i wrote in my calendar, as i do each day, and was, once again, flabbergasted that it’s just shy of the end of september. equinox as i write and tomorrow we fall deeper into fall. equal parts of darkness and light on this day. that might explain my lack of sleep – equal parts of dark and light – the chiaroscuro of the wee hours – when we would rather languish in light, literally and metaphorically.

a year ago today my daughter facetimed me from the top of a 14’er. it was a scramble to the top, rocky and treacherous. and then, there she was. 14,000 feet up, in the sun, sunlight bathing her radiant face. she panned the camera around so i could see the vastness of it all. mountains and canyon and brilliant uninterrupted light and deep shadow. an equinox perhaps by calendar, but overtaken in any soul-sense by the gleaming luminescence of arriving at the summit.

we each have our own personal night-shadows, building blocks of angst and anxiety, dark caverns filled with life events and life decisions and being wronged and wronging. morning usually helps. it’s when what is real-now shows itself in three-dimension and that which is shadow fades just a bit. the existential questions of the night shrink ever-so-slightly. we look at our to-do lists and pencil in time to take a walk, to hike, to feel the sun on our faces.

we know – despite the neverending pondering of the night – that the questions matter less than the moments. we have learned it time and again – watching the cycle of life, sand running through our fingers, holding mica in our hands. we will, undoubtedly, learn it again.

we know we can make it to the top of each mountain. the equal or unequal division of darkness and light will not stop us. and neither will the shadows. each step counts. we put our faces to the sun and get on with it.

*****

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these birds are home. [two artists tuesday]

the angle of the sun changes them. our two green-eyed birds become four birds, elongated or shortened, light shadows on the fence or intensely dark and clear, a party of four. the shadows of our backyard birds entertain us just as the metal birds beckoned to us the day we found them in a tiny river road town on the mississippi side of wisconsin. though we aren’t big spontaneous purchasers, these birds with their green glass eyes seemed to be waiting for us, waiting to be brought home with us as we drove the budget truck on its last leg from seattle to kenosha.

we’ve moved them around the back yard. they’ve watched over the pond, they’ve hung out by the giant pine next to the garage. now, they share the garden along the fence, watching over the peonies and grasses and daylilies.

their genus and species classification was not identified in the outdoor space at the little shop in stockholm, but they mostly remind me of shorebirds, maybe herons, but with their necks scrunched down, their heads tucked onto their bodies. if you look up heron symbolism, it seems fitting for us to have these silent guardians watching over us as we started sharing life. the heron symbolizes tranquility and stillness. it also “signifies determination because we are bound to wade through marshes and ponds through life’s journey, but we must never give up.” heaven knows, that’s been true. in native tradition, i’ve read that they represent “an ability to progress and evolve”. indeed!

or maybe they are black-tailed godwits. the godwit’s latin name translates to “muddy”, so that would also be fitting, as we added them to our lives in water paths that were not clear to us. how can they ever be clear at the beginning, i wonder. how are they ever clear, period? in old english godwit means “good creature”, quiet goodness standing tall with us.

or maybe they are sandpipers, with sensitive bills. there are a variety of meanings attached to the sandpiper but my favorite to lean on is that they are “a good symbol for problem-solving and going great distances to achieve your goals, either physically, or geographically”.

no matter.

they are sweet metal birds, one of our first home purchases together. they stand outside reminding us of the early days, the new pond, the puppy days with dogdog, the ups and downs of new relationship in the middle of middle age. tranquility, stillness, determination and problem-solving in muddy times, lots and lots of wading, surrounded by good persons and, hopefully, evolving.

yes. i’d say these simple green-eyed birds are definitely in the right place. they are home.

*****

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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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reach. [two artists tuesday]

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“..but i look up high to see only the light, and never look down to see my shadow. this is a wisdom which man must learn.” (song of the flower by kahlil gibran)

in these times…times of division…times of marginalizing…times of anger perpetuating anger…times of disrespect…times of hopelessness…we implore each other, our universe, our God – for answers, for fairness, for unity, for peace among all persons.

as the flower, we look up and see the light.  knowing the shadows are there, but believing that the light overcomes them. for as the sun moves, so do the shadows change. as the day dawns, the night fades.

the light.  reach for it.

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