reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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cactus, candles and a red wagon. [d.r. thursday]

i started a business when i was young. nothing cost more than about a dollar but i was a zealous salesperson. i pulled a red wagon around my neighborhood, going door to door – in the days when that was actually safe – and sold cactus. my sweet momma had prolific succulents and would pot tiny offshoots and volunteers into cups or chipped mugs or little clay pots, turning them over to me to sell. it’s amazing how many people would buy a 25 cent baby cactus from an eight year old at the door. i was thrilled counting my earnings at the end of the day and would impatiently wait for the next proliferation of cactus pups.

after a while and some market research, i decided to add candles to my stock. i purchased wax and three-dimensional plastic molds, tape and had a perfect little finnish knife to trim the wax after taking it out of the mold. i never lit any of those candles. they seemed more like decorations and less like candles-to-burn. funny to think about not-thinking-about-lighting-them and i wonder how many of the candles i happily sold on the streets of my growing-up were ever burned. though i’d love to revisit that project now, for fun and maybe to actually try the candle as a candle, my supplies are stuck somewhere – since 1979 – in the somewhat-finished attic room closet of a methodist church on long island, where i had helped with a youth group and taught them how to make candles.

i wonder now about what someone will think when they stumble upon all of that – my dad’s old hard plastic luggage case with molds and wax. i wonder if they will laugh thinking about the simplicity of it. after all, for my tiny business all i really did was melt the wax in a double boiler, choose a color dye, place the wick, tape and set up the molds, pour the wax into the molds and wait. once they were set, i trimmed along the seam line to create a seamless looking alligator or snail or mushroom or a variety of other marketable shapes of candles i can’t recall. i simply changed the form of wax.

i suppose it’s all like that. changing the form. the notes float and the composer grabs them out of the atmosphere, placing them together into a piece of music, changing the form of their ethereal bobbing-around-out-there. color bursts around us, nature offering us every iota of choice, and the painter gently retrieves them and places them together on the canvas, translating the iron oxide red of delicate arches into a vibrant sunrise or the flower of a still-life. the butterfly on the wing dances and the ballerina’s steps mimic the form, an expression of freedom and joy. words and expressions whirl around and turns of phrases hide inside dictionaries and the writer plucks and chooses, creating poetry and story from the raw.

my sweet momma and poppo discovered ikea in their 80s. they were intense fans. from time to time i would get big ups packages from them – ikea runs – with new wooden spoons or lanterns or cork trivets or tealights or whatever was their latest discovery there. and so i became a tealight fan. we burn them often. to light the table on our deck, to light our pop-up, inside all around the house, to honor someone with a flickering flame all day, safely burning on the stove. i guess that these are a lot easier to make than alligators or snails. and i know that they are obviously a lot easier to light and actually burn.

i still have a round yellow happy face candle i received years ago. i haven’t burned it. something about not messing with its form, i guess. why do we have candles we aren’t going to burn?

today, i think i might take out that round happy face candle. maybe i will put it on the stove, in a safe-to-burn-all-day spot. maybe it will infuse inspiring form-changing into the air around me. there’s much to purge from more recent times and much to welcome in next days. it’s worth a try.

*****

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mini-marshmallows and gogo boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

if you are wondering where mini marshmallows come from, wonder no more. clearly they grow on white baneberry bushes in dr. seuss-land. passing it on the trail i could not get over how oh-the-places-you’ll-go this bush was. a standout in a green forest floor, confidently colorful and nicknamed “doll’s eyes” for obvious vintage-china-doll reasons, it got my attention and it piqued my curiosity.

we watched a silly movie a couple nights ago. my sweet momma loved sandra bullock so every time i watch a sandra bullock movie i feel like my mom is right there with us, giggling or cheering her on. the movie was “all above steve” co-starring bradley cooper. its silliness is comedic fun, particularly on an evening we were not looking to be intellectually challenged. but there was an unexpectedly sweet message in this movie. mary (sandra bullock), a brilliant young woman who is a crossword puzzle constructor and has a brain full of random knowledge and would kick anyone’s patootie playing trivial pursuit, is trying to be “normal” to fit into the world. in the end she discovers the power of standing in her own shoes, which were, in her case, red gogo boots.

artists are often looked at as misfits, a little outside the box, not quite fitting in. perhaps more colorful, perhaps louder, perhaps more questioning, the job of an artist is to elicit movement in thought, in action, in emotion, in sensitivity. we are hot-pink-stemmed mini-marshmallow plants in a world of green underbrush, ever being told that exposure will grant us the ability to live in this world, to pay our bills, to get ahead. artists everywhere under the sun shudder upon hearing those words, “think about the exposure.” we don our courageous metaphoric gogo boots, go to town trying to be ‘normal’ and realize that we were really ok all along, in our own skin.

often i have heard others comment on the re-purposed stuff in our house. empty window frames, screen doors, travel-worn suitcases, branches wrapped in lights, old coffeepots doubling as canisters. we’ve been asked, “how did you think of that?” i don’t know how to answer that other than “how couldn’t i?”

i’m guess i’m not ‘normal’. in the world of christian louboutin and jimmy choo footwear desires, i’m wearing old navy flipflops and hundreds-of-miles hiking boots. in a world of oscar de la renta and ralph lauren aficionados, i’m wearing my dad’s old flannel shirt and jeans. in a world of cle de peau beaute and guerlain and creme de la mer, my face is lucky to see an oil of olay original and coppertone 30spf combo.

and i, just like artists everywhere, love to be reminded, time to time, that we were all born to stand out. each and every one of us. artist or not. no matter the road we walk. no matter the red gogo boots or hot-pink stems. stand out. in our own skin.

mini-marshmallow, anyone?

*****

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pointers. [d.r. thursday]

“i believe art is utterly important. it is one of the things that could save us.” (mary oliver)

in those moments – so many of them – when all else fails to reassure – beauty reminds us. it keeps us present, in the moment, working to get to the next moment, breathing in deep breaths, slowly, slowly.

the work of an artist, in any medium, is as a pointer, just like the wooden ones with the rubber tip that your fourth grade teacher used as she pulled down the world map on the roll above the blackboard to show your class the track of an expedition or the location of a country. artists pull down the map and point to it, making it accessible to anyone, making it alive, bringing an infinity of beauty, pulling your attention away from the narrative inside, whatever it might be. it is a tool of healing, a balm, a salve. it is freeing. it is free.

we immerse in music, in the ecstasy of dance, in the flow of poetry, in the spectrum of paint on a canvas, the feel of clay pots in our hands. we sometimes forget and are driven into the angst of life’s dimensionality, missing the limitlessness of the simplest. these are the moments we turn to art.

for in the end it is not the accumulation of things or wealth or titles or power. it is simply and utterly the sheer beauty of being here, the absolutely stunning realization that we get to be here in this moment in a continuum of moments we share – albeit tiny within the vast – with the universe. inside the art.

“you can’t take it with you,” my sweet poppo would say as he would refer to money or stuff. in those pondering moments he had, he somehow knew watching the cormorants on the lake out the window, listening to music on their stereo, puttering and creating in his garage workshop, quietly coffee-sitting with my momma – these were the things of value. the day he threw caution to the wind and purchased a large painting at the splurgy karl’s mariners inn restaurant perched on northport harbor; he was answering the call of art – the pointer that drew him in and wrapped him, in this case, in the fjords of norway and endless dreaming. it moved home to home with them and always was a source of calm, a reminder of beauty and peace.

each day i walk downstairs and see this canvas on the easel. each day it reminds me of the trail we often walk, for it is the paused and erased beginning of a painting of the woods of that trail. i pay attention to it because it affords me tiny spaces of river trail within my day. it reminds me, as i scurry about attempting to get things done, to remember. it slows me down and i can hear the rustling of leaves, the birdcalls, the crunch of our feet on dirt, the chatter of squirrels. i can feel the sun atop my head, the breeze in my face, my arm looped through david’s. i can see the color of wildflowers, lush green underbrush, rough grey-brown bark, cloud-dotted blue sky. i can sense a bit of time on my hands, but just a bit. and i am right there, stepped out of the up-close worries, stepped into beauty. i am paying attention. art has done its good work.

to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. (mary oliver)

*****

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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY