reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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one giant blue notebook. [merely-a-thought monday]

when i was twelve, my parents took a six-week vacation to europe. pre-departure, they arranged to purchase a brand-new 1971 volkswagen super-beetle in germany, picking it up and then driving all over for adventures at hostels and relatives’ homes and small inns in the countryside that served family-style pork chops. they talked about this phenomenal trip for the next forty years or so, reliving memories and favorite moments. in the end, the last time i saw my sweet momma was the day we delivered her cherished blue notebook to her at the assisted living facility and she clutched it to her chest, cooing, “this is it. this is the notebook.” she had written everything down – diary entries and details to remember – and having this spiral was like re-vacationing with my poppo who had died three years earlier. we had searched high and low for it for a couple days and found it in the very last bin we opened in the garage. a treasure. the one thing she really wanted.

there were other trips – indeed, they attempted to visit each of the united states. never extravagant. always cherished.

when i was eighteen i rode in the backseat across the country with my parents in the front seat. they purchased a cb radio before we left and i spent long hours “10-4”-ing as “goldilocks” across the great plains states and up pikes peak and next to the wasatch mountain range and through the flint hills of kansas, which was clearly on a mission for spare change as they pulled my dad over twice within a half hour, deputies standing on the side of the road waving over long lines of cars they then escorted into tiny towns so that you could place money in an envelope at the post office. (i still invoke my dad when i drive through kansas, especially since we’ve had a few breakdowns in that state.) i developed a huge crush on a cute boy in colorado springs at a motel 6 and almost signed on as the touring piano player for the band that this boy and his brothers were in, their parents befriending mine poolside. i pined for days and days after we drove off with four new tires we got at sears and a broken heart i got in the desert meadows behind the motel. i clutched the record they all signed for me and stared at the cover art. no amount of stuckey’s sticky pecan log rolls helped. but my camera and gorgeous scenery were eventually soothing and, even now, as i chalk it up to opportunity not chosen, i remember my mom’s encouragement to consider an unusual path, a road rarely traveled.

in the middle 70s my mom and dad took advantage of what they called “dunphy weekends”. i couldn’t find any details when i quickly googled that, but i remember three day weekends, in places like providence, rhode island – not too many hours from new york – that hotels offered for dirt-cheap, prompting reservations. because they were thrifty, they also would sign on to drive cars to destinations and be flown back, ever the road warriors willing to take on a highway and add to their growing list of states-they-had-been-to.

when i was much littler, i climbed into the pink lilco (long island lighting company) van that my dad and my big brother had converted to a camper and rode upstate with them. never disappointing their rube-goldberg leanings, the camper would always break down on some back road near basically nothing. my dad would take out wire cutters and, clipping wire off of fencing they found on roadside pastureland, they’d figure out ways to fix the van, while i would ponder being lost and never getting home again. their laughter and bantering on those trips was the key to a successful camping trip and we beverly-hillbillied our way across the catskills and the adirondacks.

camping some, airbnb-ing lots, hampton-inning in between, i’ve spent a lot of time on the road on trips and for work, both. when my children were small, we would drive, drive, drive, hiding easter baskets in the stow-and-go compartments of the minivan and toting all the age-related child-paraphernalia we needed. living away from family means that most of your vacation trips are to go see them. as time goes on, that’s really still the case.

in this last not-quite-a-decade, we have driven together thousands and thousands and thousands of miles and snacked and laughed and sang and were quiet across the country. we’ve slept in rest areas and in mcdonald parking lots. we’ve found hiking trails all along the way and have cooked in lots of kitchens from the boundary waters of ely to the beaches of the gulf to up-north wisconsin to high elevation of colorado to the cape. we’ve raced storms through alabama and through wyoming. we’ve had happy meals in montana and california and washington and tennessee and new hampshire and new york and florida and most of the states in-between. we’ve walked through tiny towns, toasted life on long island, combed the beaches of hilton head and had coffee in unexpected places in appalachia. the four days we spent in paris, as an add-on after work in the netherlands about seven years ago now, was exquisitely low-key. we walked everywhere, training only once or twice. we carried baguettes and cheese and wine and tiny salads into parks, onto cathedral steps, up montmartre and into our boutique hotel, choosing picnics over restaurants and never feeling like we had missed out.

the list of places i’d like to go grows. from a night or two to full-immersion for a longer stay, i look forward to all of it. i’m guessing i come by it honestly.

so i’ve never been on a luxury vacation. never taken a cruise. never stayed at an all-inclusive resort. i’m 62 and haven’t done the let’s-just-go-lay-around-and-do-nothing-or-anything-we-want-and-get-waited-on thing. i don’t know if i ever will. but it hasn’t stopped me from loving vacation. it’s all really one giant blue notebook.


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tiny fountain. [two artists tuesday]

in 1969, when i was ten, i stood on the viewing deck and stared at a motionless niagara falls. they had turned the falls off, so to speak, building temporary cofferdams to divert the water from the american falls to the horseshoe falls on the canadian side. my parents had pitched the trip to me as something very few people would see – in comparison to those who have seen the falls with water. but as i stood there, gazing at a waterfall sans water, i had deep disappointment to not see the majesty of that landscape as it usually existed. the next time i went to niagara falls i was sixteen and there was water, glorious water, and the static electricity made my hair literally stand on end. it’s powerful watching waterfalls…powerful and meditative and inspiring. simply water. falling.

for years it sat motionless on a living room window seat. i suppose it, like the american falls, was waiting. “un-dam the coffers” (or just add water and plug it in), this little fountain was thinking. i would dust around it and wonder why i was holding onto it, my tiny 1969-niagara.

and then one day, a few weeks ago, i picked it up and took it outside to the deck to clean it up. i added water and plugged it in and watched it come back to life. instantly, its flow, a gentle trickle, spoke to me, reminiscent of standing in a cool woods next to a stream flowing just a bit downhill. i moved it inside to the sunroom, put it on the old table we have in the eastern window that catches rays of the sunrise, and plugged it in.

this little fountain’s presence, the sweet sound of water moving, is inescapably soothing. a simplicity, the element of emotion and wisdom, moving freely, continuously, a reminder of the fluidity of these days – the coming and going of change, gentle adaptability. all good as we sit near this tiny fountain full of big lessons.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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clover fluff. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fluff of clover lives at the edge of the stone step. sweet one-half-inch beauties, they grant wishes to passing chipmunks and chickadees lingering at the birdfeeder. beauty at the edges, innocent, simple, unnoticed mostly.

the big picture often doesn’t validate the tiny edge fluff. it’s too big-picture-ish. lofty goals, high aspirations, gigantic expectations, unreasonable accomplishment demands – all take the focus off the soft sides, the padding between imposing idealism and reality. the shallow depth of field captures the up-close and blurs the rest, giving pause to some of what is overwhelming.

i suppose beauty is meant to be like that. the curl of your baby’s tendril of hair, the new leaf bud on the tree, the wisp of pink cloud in the sun-setting sky, the quiet birdcall at dawn – nothing enormous, just simple and life-giving.

so how is it that we get ourselves mixed up in so much measuring, so much set-up for disappointment. we live our minutes as if they are infinity itself. we compare and contrast and yearn and regret. we are striding, striding. even while the clover waits.

and then, sitting on the step of the deck, pondering for a few minutes, we look down and see this magical sight. the tiny world of the tiny clover beckons our attention. it will not be there forever, and, likely with the drought, will disappear before too long. but in the meanwhile it is there and verdant and growing and it counts.

once again, i am reminded, in a wondrous way, of my own tiny-ness. though i know the mark i make on the world is ephemeral, fleeting, and i sometimes, anyway, get lost in the demands and the challenges and the ups and downs of the accompanying emotional seesaw, i hope that there is something up-close about me that gives pause, that offers kindness, that is love.

my-big-picture is actually very tiny and at the edge of the step of the universe. hopefully it is like clover fluff.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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favoritethings and bliss. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

dogdog never paid attention to the green and yellow toy. until babycat decided – suddenly and temporarily – that it was his favorite thing in the whole wide world. b-cat lay, with his face in the streaming sunlight, and held his new favoritething. he rubbed his face on it and you could see his smile. and his favoritething was happy being loved on having been ignored for long periods of time. since that day, he has gone back to ignoring it. but that day? it was the one simple route to his bliss.

dogdog now carries this toy around from time to time. you can tell he is trying to discern what it is that babycat found magical about it; he furrows his brow and lugs it from room to room, shaking it to and fro from time to time as if to wake it up, make the magic happen. he is wondering, “how do i make the bliss start?”

a million years ago i bought a little black book that was published by eddie bauer called ‘balance – a guide to life’s forgotten pleasures’. inside it stated, “this book won’t change your life. it won’t solve any of your deep-rooted psychological problems. it won’t make you rich. and it definitely won’t make you sexy. it may, however, remind you that we, as humans, are basically okay. and that it isn’t very difficult to get a little balance in our lives. so, have fun. slow down. take a deep breath. things are gonna be fine.”

this tiny brilliant book has 45 ‘how-to’ instructions like: how to turn your hand into a plane. how to unplug the phone. how to make noise with a blade of grass. how to catch a snowflake on your tongue. how to watch clouds. how to sleep in. how to make a shadow puppet. how to hug. how to go barefoot. how to take a nap. how to do a somersault. how to have a picnic. how to follow a bug around.

i called the company and bought all the copies they had left and sent them out with my third album this part of the journey to radio stations, listening walls, retail and wholesale outlets. it seemed the right pairing to me – a peaceful and original instrumental album to listen to while you read a book with 45 sets of instructions on how to find bliss.

maybe it’s not so hard. finding bliss. maybe we all are basically ok. maybe things are gonna be fine. maybe it’s simply lowering the expectation of what ‘bliss’ means.

maybe it’s not a measure of wealth or status. maybe it’s not calculable power or control. maybe it’s not your stock portfolio or your hedge fund. maybe it’s not your house or your car or your wardrobe. maybe it’s not your collection of iconic christian louboutin pumps. maybe it’s not your degree or your certification or your designation. maybe it’s not fancy food or exquisite bubbly from the vineyards of champagne.

maybe it’s your face in the sun, following a bug, catching a snowflake, giving a hug, loving on your favorite toy.

maybe we should just ask the cat.

*****

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


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and we vamp. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

text message

delayed gratification.  it’s something we are growing used to in these days of days.  anticipatory glee.  it’s all an exponential wait-for-it.  as relatively impatient people, these are mostly new learnings.  there is no date on which we can hang our all-will-be-normal hats.  we must vamp until we know.

a long, long time ago, in the end of march, there was an opinion written by a woman with two teenage daughters who had a new appreciation for the way her grandparents lived.  she expressed that these grandparents owned a tiny home and had simple furnishings.  they took pleasure in the most basic of things:  dancing in the living room, watching a bare minimum on tv, sitting on the porch, crossword puzzles, having conversation, walking the familiar sidewalks of their tiny town over and over again, handwashing the dishes.  in the midst of this pandemic she could see their shining appreciation of the smallness, the stillness.  she could see the brilliance.

it occurs to me that we are living elements of her grandparents’ lives; i hope the same wisdoms will be bestowed upon us.  in the time after we have finished our work, we dance on the patio, watch little on tv, converse together, in texts, on the phone, on videoconferences, across driveways.  we sit on the deck or in the sunroom and watch spring chuggingly arrive.  we walk the same sidewalks we have walked together for years, noticing small changes: the heaved concrete or the bloomed daffodils, new mulch in gardens or new sturdy fencing.  we cook dinner; we do the dishes.  we are both quiet as we wait for what will come and we are just a little noisy in the moment.

to everything there is a season.  a time to plan.  where we will go, what we will do, who we will visit.  gratification, yes, delayed, but sage learnings in the moment.

one of the memorable texts of this waiting-place was one from a friend.  after some really serious life conversation, back and forth texting, she wrote, “let’s go out and have a drink.”  before i could wonder when we could do that, her next text arrived, “next year,” she added.

in the meanwhile we’ll do the dishes by hand and walk the sidewalks, waiting and planning, yearning, vamping till the song starts.

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

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the simple line. [d.r. thursday]

the sketch

yesterday, while i sketched moments on various keyboards, both pipe organ and piano, d sketched on paper.  and he somehow captured how i was feeling.  the lifting of eyes to the universe, the imploring of the heart.  his scribblings on paper, my scribblings on keys.  two artists, expressing.

the telling of the story – through music, through painting or drawing – does not demand complexity.  sometimes it aches for simplicity.  a pure line of melody, unadorned.  a few fast pen-lines, unfinessed.  the telling of the tale, honestly, pitch by pitch.  not the skirting of the story, the fancified version sung by an vocal acrobat.  instead, the straight-up carole-king-richard-diebenkorn-versions, sung note for note, painted line by brushed line, color by color.  intense in their clean simplicity.

the more complicated things get, the more i list toward simple.  less is more.  my piano left hand has always been a virtual non-stop accompanist to my right hand, arpeggiating  ad nauseum.  in recent years, i’ve asked it to calm down, to allow room for the delivery of the right hand, to allow breath, to allow lift.  together, they have given space for the real scribblings, the true expression.

if you have ever been to a taize service, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of repeated simplicity, a line of music that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

if you have ever held a child’s drawing in your hand, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of innocence, art that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

it’s the simple line. both ways.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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looking in. [d.r. thursday]

Sacred Looking In with color copy.jpg

the fresh simplicity of this painting makes it feel scandinavian to me, clean lines, blues, yellows.  i recognize it.  its warmth.  its less-is-more-ness.

i also recognize the image.  the moments we stop, head down, turning inside.  pondering, wondering, musing.  the palette of our hearts, our lives,  a mixture of emotions, we try to wrangle a few minutes of quiet to sort it all out.

this painting – INNER LIFE – is a breath of fresh air for me.  a reminder of what a few silent minutes can offer.

view/purchase INNER LIFE on david’s gallery

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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SACRED SERIES:  INNER LIFE ©️ 2017 david robinson


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road shadows. together. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

road shadows

watching as the ferry arrived, we were practically jumping up and down with glee.  our up-north-gang was arriving and the ferry was taking a few minutes too long to dock.  we had been anticipating them for weeks, our company log on island too few.

it’s not like there is a ton of stuff to show them here or, really, to do.  but there are friend groups who don’t need stuff to see or do; instead they are just there to simply be together.

they are there to laugh at funny hair in the morning, sip coffee and wait in line for the one bathroom.  they are there to pile in and out of the truck, dodge raindrops, play short-list tourist.  they are there, wishing for sun but not minding the bad weather that moves in, content to just be together. they are there to make mimosas and old-fashioneds, pour wine and have more snacks than you can imagine.  they are there to take turns cooking, cleaning up, always gabbing, always laughing.  they are there in the tough moments, profound and honest conversation, balancing, disarming the sting of the sword.  they are there walking side by side, talking and being quiet.  they are there playing games in evening dark, heads drooping with sleep, wishes of sweet dreams.  they are there, together.

we watched as the ferry left, both of us feeling instantly wistful.  our up-north gang leaving for the mainland.  as always, we were ever-so-grateful to have been together.

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

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waiting. [k.s. friday]

waiting song box copy.jpg

it’s not a complex piece of music. it’s a line out of my heart at the moment in time i was recording it.  it’s the mystery that surrounds waiting.  it’s the depth of biding one’s time.  it’s the expression of sitting tight and holding on, of not-knowing.  it’s the tentative simplicity of before…before the time of getting to the end of waiting.  it’s the time of anticipation, of advent – the time of emergence, of arrival, of birth.

it’s not complicated.  it’s just waiting.

download JOY – A CHRISTMAS ALBUM on iTUNES or CDBaby

 

christmas albums

and yet….more throw pillows to end the week….

kerri pillows copy

read DAVID’S thoughts on this K.S. FRIDAY

bong trail, wisconsin website box copy

WAITING from JOY – A CHRISTMAS ALBUM ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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the field in early october. [d.r. thursday]

Morsel

the field in early october

in the bins in the basement (and scattered in places around the house) are child-drawings and paintings, ornaments made of paper and glue and sparkly glitter, painted rocks of various sizes,  necklaces of beads and shells, framed little scraps of paper with things like “goodnight mom” written in pencil and surrounded by hearts.  The Girl and The Boy have marked time through their artwork (and also through their writings) and i cherish each saved piece.  this morsel – the field in early october – makes me think of such pieces.

in the corner of a new piece on david’s easel i found this morsel.  extracted from the painting it is so childlike in feel.  such simplicity and innocence.  it immediately brought me to open fields we have walked…where sunflowers gaze for just a bit longer and grass is still verdant and lush and there are wild red berries on the bushes along the trail.  the sun is in our eyes and everything takes on a muted hue.  i can smell the leaves burning from the farmer’s field far off to our west.

what is more heavenly than remembering an early october day from a reality-fantasy visual perspective?  what is more treasured than the artwork of a child?  what a delicious combination.  just ask picasso.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this D.R. THURSDAY

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the field in early october ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood