reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the gift of a gift. [merely-a-thought monday]

and, of course, i wonder who found them.

the hike to looking glass rock is uphill. not a little uphill. reeeally uphill. the view through the trees, sans leaves, reveals mountains close-up, mountains out in the distance. it’s a gorgeous trail.

we started later than we had planned. and so, we had to turn around before we made it to the top. because once the sun goes down – and it goes down fast – it is next to impossible to safely navigate the trail back down. roots and rocks and twists and turns could turn it into a crisis. and we have watched everest enough times to remember professional guide rob hall’s words: it’s not my job to get you up the mountain…it’s my job to get you safely back down. pisgah national forest is – clearly – not the intensity of everest, but the same rule applies anyway.

and so – this time – we missed looking glass rock, an amazing formation, its sheer stone face rising above the trees. there will be a next time; we’ll start earlier, carry some lunch and more water and we’ll get there and back before darkness falls.

i had tucked a package of our “be kind” pins into my bag. i thought that there might be a place i could leave them. each time we have passed a little trail magic – a painted rock, tiny gift – it has lifted our spirits. i couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to leave these pins than this forest. the knot in the tree seemed perfect – at the right eye level for those hiking up. my only regret is not being able to go back and see that they are gone.

for each time i have left a rock – with a heart or a peace sign or a tiny message – on our local trail tucked into the notch of a tree, on an obvious branch or perched on a burl – i have had the opportunity to go back a next time and see that it has disappeared. it’s the gift of a gift.

i can only assume that the little cellophane bag tied with green curling ribbon in brevard is gone. i can only assume that someone has given out all the “be kind” buttons. i can only assume that as the recipients wear them or put them on their backpacks or their purse or hang them on the visor in their car they smile and pay it forward just a little.

the gift of a gift isn’t always known.

*****

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


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in service. [d.r. thursday]

in much the same way i draw sunrises over mountains, the boardwalk turned ninety degrees on a dime, with meticulously pieced craftwork, through the swampy area and across, back to the dirt trail.

we pondered how long it took volunteers to build this boardwalk…likely out in hot summer sun, working to span the distance between solid earth trails and protect the vegetation and water below. when you are out hiking in the middle of nowhere and come upon a boardwalk or a little bridge or, remotely, a bench, it is a reminder that you are not stepping there first and you are not stepping there alone.

time and again we watch backpackers like joey coconato or the wanderwomen forge streams and rivers. we marvel as they step carefully across, deliberately placing their feet with caution. occasionally, there is an unexpected suspension bridge or a big placed-log that helps. trail magic is not just water bottles and snickers bars. it’s the work that someone has done before you. someone who really cares. in this case, early-on-in-the-hike of pink-bed-trail, those someones built this boardwalk. in service.

extreme wind had blown down many trees on our trail along the des plaines. some of them stretched across our pathway and we climbed our way over them. we know the next time out they will be moved, for this trail is well taken care of. the work of those tending it is to make hiking possible for the rest of us. in service.

the winter show will be pulled down on january 9. artists of various medium brought their work to be juried into the gallery space on the lake. they chose pieces they felt were relatable, pieces that would hang well, would absorb and reflect light as it streamed through big windows. a lot of people went to the opening, including us, with masks. and then the crowds left and the art center had regular hours through the holiday, inviting patrons in to view art and trees lit with the season. we’ll pick up the painting next week, unless there is an offer on it. the curator will breathe and design the next show. and people will have been moved by acrylic and clay, watercolor and fibre. sun will light the wood floors and curl around dark corners and artists will create at home for the next time, the next chance to elicit the silent conversation between viewer and artwork. in service.

we watched carole king and james taylor in concert sunday night. it was two hours of bliss. easily two of the most talented songwriters of all time, their camaraderie is exquisite and the music carried us both back. at one point in the airing, there was a moment that carole shared thoughts about performing. she spoke about bringing music to others as her job, and she continued that it wasn’t for herself that she writes, plays, performs. songwriters, composers, performing artists. connecting to hearts of people, challenging them, reassuring them, moving them. in service.

a bridge spanning a raging whitewater river in the middle of nowhere…is it appreciated? a boardwalk built on a trail in the middle of somewhere…does it make a difference? a cleared path…is there gratitude? a painting that hangs with no viewers…is it seen? a piece of music with no audience…does it reveal its magic?

all ready and waiting.

never really first. never really alone.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY