reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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our maple-tree-christmas. [two artists tuesday]

and the marvel continues. this very-large-branch-turned-christmas-tree, really like anything that is nurtured, has opened in the world. it is as if it has actually-self-actualized. though it would seem that remaining a limb on the maple out front might have been its endgoal, in its experience of being cut down it suddenly has new life, new possibility, new importance. the oh-the-places-you’ll-go story of its existence has undergone transformation. the you’re-supposed-to-be-a-branch-on-a-tree has been shattered and the old story of small-pine is re-created in an unassuming maple limb. because we paid attention.

in this time of hyped seasonal holiday glee, it would seem that honoring the tiniest of tiny might yield the glee-est glee. it would seem that the slightest bit of paying attention to others might pay forward the goodness and generosity that have been showered upon us. it would seem that looking beyond the obvious – to something unexpected, something out of the ordinary – might bring unexpected, extraordinary joy.

our small-pine-maple-branch is most definitely smiling, its branches reaching out and up and, each day, feeling more a presence. a reminder that life is not normal. instead, it is a chance to pay attention, really-really pay attention. it is a chance to nurture each other. it is exceptional. i can hear our christmas tree 2021 breathing in and out, “don’t forget that.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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we have red! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we have been witnesses to a transformation worthy of notice. in an uncovered ziplock plastic container on our kitchen counter, no less.

we placed the cherry tomatoes in the container on october 30. just the tomatoes. not knowing what to expect, wondering if we needed to aid them along at all. we had read about ethylene and apples and bananas and paper bags. but, we thought, for a few days we would leave them alone and see what happened.

on november 6, only a week later, a few tiny orbs had turned orange and were suddenly red. “we have tomatoes!” i wanted to gloat…the second time in this season of boomer-container-farmer living. it was astounding. we had read that they should not touch each other and yet, these tomatoes were thriving in community with each other.

we watched the progress and photographed every few days.

on december 6, these deliciously sweet red cherry tomatoes, along with zucchini and baby bella mushrooms and onion and garlic and red peppers, were tossed with olive oil over penne and became dinner. and to think what we might have missed had we just left them on the vine when we put the plants in the informal compost pile behind the garage.

at a time when ministers of music all over are stressing about advent, i am reminded of building cantatas…much like van gogh’s words, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” to try and rehearse an entire cantata start-to-finish with a choir is to overwhelm them. to introduce songs, one by one, allowing singers to bond with the music, to sink into it, to want to really sing it, invest in it, is to give music the space it needs to grow. integrating all the pieces together works when each individual piece is honored within the context of the whole. a common goal. the green turns to red. the ethylene of each choir member – so to speak – transforms each other. it’s all about the spirit brought together.

the quiet of the season this year – the second year sans adventpush – is punctuated by small measures of rest, time pondering unanswered questions, moments of noticing tiny miracles. i walked to the piano the other day and played the opening strains of “what child is this” and listened as the sound faded.

i’ve gone from cantatas to cherry tomatoes, it seems. it is not without learning.

at the end of growing season, just before advent, the lessons: one tomato gone bad in the container will have a drastic effect on the others. the farmers’ almanac offers guidance: tomatoes that have spoiled or molded should be removed. the offending tomato will cast a toxic shadow over the rest and one must be cautious to discern where the toxic is actually coming from. keeping ripe tomatoes in a plastic bag will make them go bad quickly, so one must be cautious not to suffocate one’s tomatoes. not all green tomatoes off the plant will ripen well; the tomatoes at a mature green stage will. some tomatoes are just not ready to be red. and…it is much easier to ripen tomatoes together.

as the season passes and we move into the new year, i think about this transformation we have watched. we were perhaps overly giddy, a tad bit too enthusiastic, slightly too fostering of potential, a little too encouraging of our little tomato-team. but – red! we have red!

and no bananas or paper bags were harmed in this transformation.

*****

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


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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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in half and in half again. [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen writes about it in “a short guide to a happy life“. the dividing line between before and after. we all have them. though mathematically incorrect for this lyric, as “sawed in half” only leaves the other half, many of us have more than one dividing line, more than one qualifier of our lives, more than one change agent.

i remember my first apartment. it was on long island in a basement partially paneled and partially wallpapered with red brick wallpaper. my dog missi and i moved in with my old piano, a convertible couch, beanbag chairs, a bookshelf and a bistro set. i had free bank-account-giveaway plates and cheap silverware my grandmother gave me, forks, spoons, knives still in my drawer to this day. i had a tiny kitchen in this studio and, though i cooked often, missi and i both ate plenty of cornflakes for plenty of meals. it was not fancy but it was mine.

after i was sawed in half i had to move and, ultimately, found myself in florida, seeking safety from a man whose aggressive pedophilia was predatory, for whom vengeance was foremost. everything was different. from those moments on. there was no going back, no return to innocence. the dividing line was stark and, in 1979, there was no real resource for processing it.

since then i’ve had a few more dividing lines. but, i have found in many purposeful meanderings through my lifeline in recollections and in much intentional parsing out of cause and effect relationships, that many of them relate back to the first sawing-in-half.

having children did not ‘saw’ me in half, but it indeed sawed time into before and after, for nothing would ever be the same and all my after has been waking and going to sleep thinking about them and wishing for their good health, good relationships, good work, love. there can scarcely be a parent who has not been profoundly changed by having children. before. after.

the loss of my big brother came as a mortality-blow. i had lost grandparents at that point, but their lives had been full and eight and nine decades long. my brother had merely reached his fourth decade – forty – an age twenty years ago now for me – and it was premature and devastating. he had been a stalwart rock for me in my years-post-first-sawing and to lose his wisdom and strength had me questioning how the world could go on without him feeling it. it divided time – from a more casual look at life to a more intensely emotional connection to those around me than i already had. if i am needy, emotionally, it is grasping on to beloveds. though i know i must not hold too tightly, i have likely not always succeeded at that, but i try to be at least close enough to always at least feel the wind from their wings. it’s not always possible and it’s sometimes impossible, and i yearn to have my family right close to me as many friends have, but i try – that word again – to trust life and its gifts.

the day i realized that there was no one left to ask questions of my birth, my childhood, my teenage years, the intrepid and enduring memories moms and dads have, i stared at lake michigan. i won’t forget that moment. i was wondering about my first time on the lake on a sailboat and i suddenly was aware that, without my sweet momma and poppo still here, there would be no answers that i could not remember myself. it came with intensity and orphan-hood surprised me – even then, at 56.

there are other lines in the sand, other befores and afters. relationships, jobs, places, mistakes and learnings, successes and failures. they all count, like every slice of blueberry pie making up the whole, even every rich ingredient making up the slice. the passage of time is a vast bakery of experiences, some more contingent on others, some more independent.

so when the song “life is long” came on at the end of the grace and frankie episode while i was on the treadmill and david was on the bike i was struck by the lyric “sawed in half by the passage of time”. i spoke into my phone recording the words i had just heard, words that made time pause like the button on the netflix video.

and i stared into the timeline in my mind, thinking about life sliced up like pie – a little less vigorously than a saw – but with just as much impact.

*****

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


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thirteen seconds. [k.s. friday]

even the lake moaned in answer to the cold. waves pummel the ice from below, desperate for release, anxious to swirl and crash, and we can hear the sound of cracking, of squeaking, of water begging to be free. we stand and listen, transfixed by it all, this symphony in a frozen-solid world, a bit of music in the stillness of sub-zero.

for thirteen seconds we record the song of the lake, feeling a little like mother-nature-copyright-infringers. we marvel and watch, up over our knees in snow on the edge of the giant rocks that line the lake shoreline. ice, for as far as we can see, is shifting and the groans signal to us that, soon, water will win over ice, flow over stasis. soon, a lake that appears unmoving will reappear in all its moody glory and the suspended moment-in-time will pass. in the meanwhile, the lake will appear as a tundra, vast and flat, the horizon meeting the clouds, a straight white line of demarcation. the fury, the passion, the tides are hidden below the surface, furrowing their brows and incessantly working to break down the ice.

we stand there inside the song of the lake and take note of this measure of transformation.

we know in a day or two the ice will be broken up, the waves will return and the lake’s song will resume a cacophony of crashing, a minuet of quiet lapping, wild some days and gently calm others. just as we ourselves seem in suspended moments, we, too, trust the return of movement, of purpose, of the tides.

the sub-zero song of lake michigan.

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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cicadas and people. [k.s. friday]

the cicada was silent, attached to the deck. it was late spring/early summer of 2015 and this insect had chosen our deck as its place of transition. we watched the shell, cautious to not disturb it, waiting for something to happen. until one day it began to emerge, looking much like an extra-terrestrial, wings of flight opening and drying in the sun of the warm day. it was a stunning process from nymph to adult, all silent, with no fanfare for this remarkable transformation. suddenly, this little being was present on the earth, ready to make some noise.

silence to noise – a transition from nymph to mature adult. a lesson, perhaps, for humanity.

our progression from without-words nymph-baby to with-a-voice mature adult, a transformation of growth, of learning, of critical thinking, of fortitude. as cicadas raise their voices to the sky, buzzing and clicking, choosing their song, their chorus wisely, they answer an intuitive call, they align in truth to their purpose, their place on earth. much the same perhaps should be mature adults – answering an intuitive call, choosing their song or chorus wisely, aligning in truth.

there are times we find ourselves in hush. stunned into silence by the words or actions of others, we sit, ensconced in the shell of our exoskeleton. we wait and we watch. and then, as we rise as winged and responsible people, we have the opportunity, the obligation, to speak – to speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, speak to truth.

perhaps there are adults who have skipped their instar stages, those phases of development that insects pass through on their way to maturity. perhaps they should have lived underground like cicadas, feeding on roots, a bit longer before they emerged, before they walked on an earth where they felt they could use their words to hurt or harm others. perhaps then, after a slow transition into maturation and with no fanfare, they would choose their buzzing and ticking with more forethought, with more compassion, with more honesty, with more wisdom.

*****

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IN TRANSITION from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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“keep the fire burnin” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep the fire burnin

short attention spans. we americans seem to have eclipsed the rest of the world with these.  we are a newsclip-sitcom-youtube-radio-cut-text-tweet-snap-insta society; often anything less than fast-paced will bore the viewer-reader-listener.  we have reduced lengthy research to reading cliff notes and have lost interest in the documentary series in favor of the 22 minute-plus-commercials sitcom.

enter a global pandemic.  three months now, we don’t have to go far to see that the novelty has worn off.  just down along the harbor, up on the sidewalk tables, in the stores and the bars with doors swung wide open, it’s as if it no longer exists.  pandemic-shmandemic.  the attentiveness of many has been worn down; it is no longer possible for what-seems a vast majority to pay attention.  they have moved on.  the fire of fear and, thus, responsibility has reduced to a flicker.

we watch crowded streets with people protesting, begging for change, asking for the country to turn around and face itself and the underlying racism that has prevailed for centuries.  we march, we chant, we write, we listen to speakers, we read books.  it is the latest in the viewfinder for america.  it is three weeks now.  there is action.  can we keep this necessary fire of change lit?

masks-and-distance-for-protection-of-all, action-and-change-for-equity-of-all, step-by-step, learning-by-learning.  we all have to stoke the flames of transformation and push back against the ever-inviting-lazy-attention-lost backslide into complacency.

“and let us not stop learnin’.  we can help one another be strong.  let us never lose our yearnin’ to keep the fire burnin'” (reo speedwagon)

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

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frog.

photo-1we have a frog! this sweet green quiet sitting-on-one-of-the-small-boulders-on-the-edge-of-the-pond little creature makes us so happy.

i was summoned from the backyard, “k.dot, quick! hurry!” i ran outside to stand at the edge of the little pond. “we have a frog!” he said. i looked down and this beautiful creature was sunning himself on a rock.

now, having a frog in our pond is no small feat. although lake michigan is a block away, there aren’t frogs running amuck in the yards close by. two years ago one other frog visited here. but this frog, well, it couldn’t be better timed.

we stayed at my sweet momma’s house many times over the last two years. she was either in her assisted living facility or rehab, or even the hospital. there was little there in the way of furniture or accouterments. we loved the simplicity, the two bag-chairs and the TV trays we used for every meal and the times we spent with coffee or wine in the lanai, pondering life and searching for answers for my momma. when a frog literally jumped out of the toilet in her small bathroom, its pale color giving away that it had spent a long time in the plumbing pipes, we were shocked into looking up what it might mean to have a frog show up. the frog is indicative of “the transient nature of our lives. a symbol of transition and transformation, it supports us in times of change…it connects us with the world of emotions, the process of cleansing and rebirth, abundance and metamorphosis.”

helen, who is infinitely wise, told us over hot coffee and soup one cold day last year that having a frog show up in your life is even more meaningful. “it’s not just a frog”, she told us. “it’s a reminder.” a reminder of what, we asked? “frog is a reminder to ‘fully rely on God’,” she explained.

FullyRelyOnGod. FROG. frog.

ahhhh.

thank you, little frog, for the reminder. you are so welcome here.