the road from here to there is oft not straight. the way the crow flies is irrelevant. “the only way there is through,” joan told me quite some time ago. we were talking about grief. i had lost my sweet momma and it felt brutal; at any age the loss of a parent is profound. i was talking to joan about it – about getting to the other side of the grief. and she told me that the only way there was through it. a winding trail it was, with switchbacks and no guardrails.
that has happened for me with each encounter with grief. there is nothing easy about it, nothing straight. the grief of loss, the grief of instability, the grief of anxiety, the grief of fear, the grief of insecurity, the grief of aging, the grief of failure, the grief of change, in all its rampant forms.
and yet, out hiking, winding trails are my preference. a hike that takes me past hidden-treasure-vistas, a hike where i cannot see the end from the beginning, a hike that surprises at each turn. these winding trails are gifts in the woods, in the mountains, in between red rock formations high in elevation. there is much to see, much to learn about. they are journeys of not-knowing. they are journeys of wonder, of revelation.
we are not crows; no flightpath in our lives will be straight, no endpoint clear in our sight, no one thing all the way from here to there, no vector traveled without veering a bit off-course. even reverse-threading our lives will not reveal a straight path; instead it will reveal a vast horizon of ping-ponging and circuitous route-making. we will most definitely wind around, through decisions and opportunities, missed marks and challenges at the goal line, defining and re-defining. living.
which winds me back to joan’s wise words of years ago, which i can still hear her saying. the only way from here to there is through. winding trail and all.
when he said, “make hundreds”, he wasn’t referring to blogposts. my sweet poppo was for-sure-analog and didn’t really even know what a blog was. he was sending me off to school or work, calling after me to “make hundreds”, a tad bit of pressure for an A+ seeking student but taken with a bit of a grain of salt because my poppo said it with great love. today starts the one-hundredth week of our blogposts in the melange and daddy-o would be impressed. it’s one hundred weeks, after all.
clearly, in just a few short weeks it will be two full years. two years that we have sat next to each other and written a post that was inspired by the same image, the same quote, the same painting or piece of music. it has been a profound experience. we have written on the raft with dogdog and babycat curled up next to us, on the beach, in the high mountains, in hotels and airbnbs, in coffeehouses, in relatives’ homes, in the noise of a city, in the quiet on island. whether or not others are reading my words, i look forward to every single day of writing and am stunned to think that i probably have more in the way of written word now than songs. is that possible? (even at a mere 500 words a post it is somewhere around 250,000 words, about 3-4 novels worth.) it is the best stuff of sitting up in the maple tree outside my growing-up-house on long island for hours on end, writing, writing, writing.
we sit at the starting gate with our inspiration of the day and then, without looking at what the other is writing, we expound on what we see or feel or think. it’s ‘he said, she said.’ we’ve often thought about, and might just follow through, capturing them into a journal where the same image or quote could stimulate a third person’s writing. a ‘he said, she said, you said’ book. having a prompt is the juicy stuff that makes it absolute fun.
my posts are often stories, emotional – perhaps poetic – glimpses into our life. david’s are more esoteric, more complex. a friend of ours said she can tell the difference without even looking. goodness! i’m sure that is true. when we share our writing with each other, reading aloud, i often wonder about the value of what i’ve said. like recording an album, these are words ‘put out there’ for all to see and you and i both know that judgement is alive and well. but i always bravely try to remember what our point is.
we wanted a place to put a variety-pack of endeavors, a place that our conglomerate artistries could live under some kind of umbrella. that umbrella became our‘studio melange’ and we found we could offer our individual work (paintings and music) in addition to our cartoons (earlier on, the melange included chicken marsala and flawed cartoon) as well as the quotes we jotted down each week and the images i recorded on camera that we found pertinent or thought-provoking. about a year along the line we changed the melange and added ‘merely-a-thought monday’ and ‘not-so-flawed wednesday’ in lieu of our cartoons.
if you pare our melange down you will find one overwhelming similarity. hundreds upon hundreds of moments. moments captured, moments written down, moments to remember, moments we’d sometimes rather forget, moments of confusion, moments of regret, moments of incredulousness, moments of fear, moments of scary honesty, moments of challenge, moments of pushing back, moments of questioning, moments of indescribable joy and moments of deep sorrow. all of them moments of life, a reminder to grasp onto them and hold on dearly. for that is what we have. the ability to make moments. the ability to make moments count.
i distinctly remember designing this. for over a year i spent tons of time designing products: pillows, tote bags, cellphone covers, prints, beach towels, cutting boards, mugs, travel cups, coasters, cards, shower curtains, side tables, leggings. i would study david’s paintings and extract morsels and execute the process – with great joy – of the choosing of the product lines i wished to represent and the designing of those. it was our intention to sell these pieces. i would have absolutely loved to fill a brick and mortar store with these pillows and mugs and journals and tote bags, but the sheer outlay for merchandise and stock and the overhead for a physical store made that impossible. but online – at an online storefront called society6.com, which would manufacture the pieces as they were ordered – it was possible. it was a good premise. so we opened five storefronts online (listed below in case you want to stop by with a cup of coffee) to represent each day of our studio melange postings.
only it didn’t really work.
hundreds, literally hundreds, of designs and thousands of products later, we decided it was time to stop putting the hours of effort into these designs. we had some sales and it is truly a delight to see someone carrying a tote bag i designed or a laptop cover or to hear from someone who is enjoying their purchase. the sales trickle in still, $4 here, $2.10 there. the mark-up, as you would expect, lists mightily to the side of the host company, but we dreamed of great volume – so many pillows that earning a few dollars for each-one-of-many would be a big help to our working budget.
only it didn’t really work.
every now and then i visit these sites and am astounded at how actually cool the products are. the designs aren’t so bad either, if i do say so myself. (tee-hee) there are some really beautiful pieces out there, like this PEACE. EARTH. PEACE ON EARTH. morsel. simple and profound. timely. if you click here, you can see it as a pillow. if you scroll way down on that linked page, you can see all the other products that we designed and made available with this image. it was within the painting INSTRUMENT OF PEACE that i found this morsel.
even though it didn’t really work, i suppose it worked. because i can’t begin to tell you how much i learned. maybe that’s the point. maybe that’s always the point.
for more morsels of david’s paintings, click here:
we watched the movie ABOUT TIME three times this week. it’s one of those movies. well, that and we have no wifi, internet or tv, so movies we borrow from the little island library are our late evening entertainment. even then, we don’t usually watch things multiple times during a one-week span. but this one drew us in.
how many times have you been reminded to live life like this? to live a day like you have come back to live it – the way you should have lived it the first time around….enjoying it, making it full, recognizing its brilliance, knowing that jewel of day will never again actually be repeated. too many lessons along the way teach us these things.
if i could wish upon a star and know that it would come true, it would be to live each day the way i would live it if i could do it over and “fix” anything that might have gone awry. to live it with absolute certainty that it was extraordinary, particularly in its ordinariness.
days. there are none to waste. during those days with moments of angry words, minutes are washing out to sea. in those times of drudgery when you are hoping for time to pass quickly, the hours vanish into thin air never to be lived again. in those times of grief, when pain washes over you and the minutes seemingly creep by, the chance to find any iota of joy co-existing with anguish passes by as you crawl into the next day, exhausted, depleted from losing the day before.
ABOUT TIME was a reminder: live each day like it was the full, final day. how would we choose to live on the full, final day? how would we treat people around us? what would we say to those we love? what would we do?
i remember my dear friend richie at the end of his life. each day he spent on this good earth he was a shining example of this. like all of us, he woke up never knowing which day would be the full and final day. and yet he woke up knowing it was close. people asked him how he did what he did, how he lived his days without regret. he just said, “everything’s going to be ok.” and he believed it. extraordinarily ordinary. every day.
“today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
i remember this on posters, on cards, in songs, in speeches. it was the 70s and recognizing that today was today and tomorrow was fresh seemed enlightened.
we stand, paused – and surrounded by things to pack into littlebabyscion and big red – and glance at what is forward. the adventure. the adventure begins. today is the first day…
we have accepted positions as the co-managing directors of a performing arts center on washington island in door county, wisconsin. we will be on island this summer, settling into the island community and handling the details of this beautiful 250 seat performing arts center. the community seems kind and embracing. the island is quiet and peaceful. our home will be a haven of sunrises across the water and our friends and family will gather there as we do our new work. the deck will welcome loved ones from near and far; the adirondack chairs will tease with invitation on water’s edge. dogdog and babycat will adjust, as will we. and soon, probably before we are ready, the summer will be over and we will be back on the mainland, still managing, but from afar.
there is a special energy in door county. you can feel it; it’s palpable. it’s a creative juju that celebrates the simple beauty of time spent outdoors, time spent with loved ones, time spent honoring the arts. i can’t think of a better match.
we are all guilty. we speak before thinking. we spew before thinking. we condemn before thinking.
my sweet momma used to tell me if i couldn’t think of anything good to say, not to say anything at all. my dear friend linda taught me that if i couldn’t think of a worthy response to, let’s say, situation/thing x, to say instead, “now THAT’S a situation/thing x!!” both are generous people who have abided by the golden rule and have remembered that they are indeed messengers, anywhere they are.
we are ambassadors, everywhere we go. we take our partner with us, our family with us, our workplace with us, our community with us, our country with us. we represent. we can choose to be messengers of goodness, of grace, of kindness, of fairness, of positive and supportive words spoken about others. or we can choose to be messengers of negativity, cynicism, apathy, denouncing places or another person or peoples.
i recently overheard someone demeaning their workplace. the message was clear and their words of disregard served only to discredit the person speaking. a-messenger-wherever-we-go is a responsibility, sometimes a true test of our maturity. we need be careful. my sweet momma would say, “think before you speak!” i would add – not only because you could be overheard, but because it is the right thing to do.
the sand was ridged pointy and very hot to the touch, but this is the place we had already chosen to park our flipflops. each time we all walked down to where the waves hit the shore we wore our flipflops through the dune seagrasses, punctuated with sand spurs, trying to avoid the inevitable. the horseshoe crab shell was our marker…the place we would leave off our shoes and venture to the water over sand that had been warmed by extreme-heat-wave-induced temperatures. The Girl said we needed to be zen, as if we were walking on hot coals. and so we scrambled over the blistering sand, all zen-like, as we walked and then, quickly, ran asfastaswecould down to the water or back to our shoes. we became creatures of habit. no matter how far we walked along the beach, this horseshoe crab signaled home.
the feels-like temperature was about 106, the sun beautiful and bright but dangerous. the sand….was brutal. i started to leave my flipflops by the horseshoe crab and make my way again across the pointy-burning-the-bottom-of-my-feet sand when it suddenly occurred to me that we could wear the flipflops further. that we might c.h.a.n.g.e. where we were leaving them. that there may be other places we could all park them. there could be another horseshoe crab parking lot. or some other marker. we could actually wear them across the pointy-burny sand, all the way down to the damp sand cooled by the ocean. brilliant!
The Girl and The Boy immediately followed, no second thoughts for them. change must be easier at 29 and 26 than it is at….our ages. we laughed aloud at this habit, this ritual, that we had created, that we were adhering to, d and i. we wondered aloud why it hadn’t occurred to us sooner to just leave the flipflops on till we were closer to the water’s edge, to avoid the pain.
i’d like to think it was because it was held over, from way-back, when our ability to zen-ly walk across burning coals excelled. and habits were easier to break.
the seasons pass. we lurch from lush to barren. we see the fire season lengthening, the arctic ice shelf shrinking, the oceans warming, the atmosphere more potentially lethal. we see the lack of a bipartisan country, divisiveness poisoning our communities, self-serving rule over a democracy based on equity and compassion. we are stymied by what we can do, what we can accomplish as individuals and we speak up, at the ready to be buoyed by support or torn down by scorn. we have traversed the spectrum of built up and trampled.
i hope this season will pass. that the tearing down will yield a new harvest. that we will pay attention to our good earth and its physical struggles. that we will cross the aisle and reach out. that each of us will count, no matter our ANYthing. that sensitivity and humanity and fairness will lead our actions. that we will be kind. that we will build up. that this now barren-in-so-many-ways-land will again be lush. with promise. for everyone.
we carry it all with us. baggage. baggage upon baggage upon baggage. i once (poorly) drew a graphic of a stick person with an “outbreak of baggage”. rollie bags and attaches, spinners and hardshells, suitcases and totes; i depicted a person with multiples of these, pulling and dragging and lugging them everywhere. each experience shoved into the depths of some piece of luggage; more and more loaded into expandable bags, the zippers stretched to the breaking point. we lose sleep, perseverating over all the baggage we have. the wee hours of the night nag us; we miss the hope of the sunrise.
but the sunrise happens nonetheless. and the grace of a new day is gifted to us. just as the tide-wave rushes in to the shoreline and cleanses the beach, washing away the footprints of the previous day, smoothing the rough edges, so does the new day grant us another chance. we stand – present – right now, feet neither in yesterday nor in tomorrow. our load is lessened, our baggage drops away. we are freed to step lightly into next. for our past does not dictate our future.
i have a seagull collection. much like my horse collection, my seagull collection is much bigger in my memory than in the actual bin-in-the-basement. when i opened what i thought was a big stable of horse figurines, i was shocked to find that my i-packed-it-in-1972-according-to-the-newspapers-in-the-box brain had overestimated the numbers…by a lot. my seagull collection, on the other hand, was packed a bit later – more like 1980 – and i had a (little bit) better memory about how many jonathan livingston seagulls i had collected through the years.
growing up on long island i loved seagulls. never too far from the beach, they were everywhere, but i spent great periods of time beach-sitting winter/spring/summer/fall watching them swoop and holler, screeching at their scavenged finds. richard bach created a whole seagull community metaphor and i fell right in.
i can still smell the wet sand, see the seaweed washed ashore on pebbles i collected even back then, feel the sun, even the winter sun, on my face. it all made me breathe differently. it all made me think and grow and dream.
“And all of those who see me, and all who believe in me Share in the freedom I feel when I fly. Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops, Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars. And reach for the heavens and hope for the future, And all that we can be and not what we are”