reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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tree lessons. [two artists tuesday]

we know the trees well. on all three of the hikes we usually take in our area. we watch them as they change through the seasons, giving their leaves over to fallow, holding snow, reawakening. their portraits shift against the sky – from dense to sparse and back to dense. we notice when limbs fall and when nests are built in their branches. we watch as they turn from photographs of trees to graphic images, of dark and light. ever-changing. evolving. we use no filters.

eyes wide open – sort of – we move about our days. we see the people we see, do the work we do, go the places we go. some days are all about the familiar, the patterned, the every-day-ish-ness of it both reassuring and maybe a little stifling. we look at the days without noticing the days, at the people without noticing the people, at the work without noticing the work, at the places without noticing the places.

sometimes i stand just inside the front door of our home and look in. i try hard to pretend that it is my first step into this home. and i look – really look – to see what i see, feel what i feel, notice.

and days, and people, and work, and places.

the trees are teaching me.

*****

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perspective. [two artists tuesday]

and from the air – way high up – the mountains below appeared to be mostly snow-laden. you could see small groupings of trees, likely stands of evergreen, i would guess. it seemed like tundra, vast and untouched, far from anything. the mountains must have risen out of the ground centuries ago, no rhyme or reason, geological remnants of time past. it looked cold. i shivered gazing down. the altitude flattened it all out.

and, in a moment, i was back at the side of the pond, iphone camera in hand, capturing the frozen windswept surface in waning monochromatic light.

it is – indeed – all about perspective.

*****

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the splurge. [two artists tuesday]

it would appear that a giant angel was hula-hooping in the clouds and dropped their hula hoop, which landed in the upper branches of a tree at the botanic garden. or, perhaps, that a spaceship -with no defined interior- had dropped down for a visit. or, maybe, there was a filming of sesame street’s “the letter ‘o'” about to do another take. brightly lit hula hoops of neon light suspended in trees, they cast an eerie glow onto the frozen ground, onto the path. michael bublé sang “walking in a winter wonderland” and we found ourselves inside the magic.

there is definitely something to wandering paths amongst many other people all oohing and ahhing. i had vowed to myself to leave my camera in my purse, but it wasn’t minutes before i failed at this. there were just so many colors and textures to remember, so dreamy. vast installations of creative lighting.

we had hoped to go. the ticket cost was a little prohibitive but we decided – when we woke and new year’s day was to be a little more mild than it had been – to splurge.

we were stunned even at the entrance to the garden, the trees wrapped in lights, every single branch and twig gleaming. we moseyed along the path, pulling over to let groups of people by so that we could be somewhat alone as we strolled.

but this wasn’t a silent and solitary hike in the woods. it was a performance piece we all took in together. each person’s glee added to ours and, dropping all expectations and all analysis of how-do-they-do-that, we were caught up in the captivating displays.

we already have a plan for next year. there are snacks and beverages and fire pits, places to linger, places to immerse. i could stand and watch the water and light “all i want for christmas” over and over and over. i allowed myself to wonder what a garden would look like lit to a piece of my own music.

we talked about our favorite displays driving the backroads. though spaceship fantasies are not my thing, hula hoops definitely are in my wheelhouse and the hulahooplights made my list. by the time we got home we realized that we had listed all of the displays we had seen, each design extraordinary, a celebration of the marriage of color and light and and sound and garden.

our late-night snack had a different air. the gift of being outside in the cold. the gift of beauty. the gift we had given ourselves – permission to splurge a little. a new year and its new intentions.

*****

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maraschino dreams. [two artists tuesday]

and they dreamed dreams and waited in the woods…winterberries with visions of becoming maraschino cherries in their mind’s eye…actualizing with starring roles in traditional wisconsin brandy old-fashioneds…

no, no. do not put winterberries in your old-fashioned. they are completely toxic. but they are striking and unexpected. and the color in the woods is intoxicating. gorgeous red punctuating a dim brown-grey, save for a few evergreen, they are clustered beautiful.

it had been a while, what with the freezing temperatures and snow. we finally made it out to our favorite trail and it was – truly – a breath of fresh air. there is nothing quite as restorative as hiking, surrounded by stillness and the sound of wind rustling through the tops of trees. we needed to get outside. we slogged through the trails, getting a better workout than usual. the mud splashed up onto the back of our jeans, like when you ride your bike in the rain. we reveled in it.

the deer tracks went across the path. they hadn’t been there the first time we passed through. it was early in the day, early for the deer to be moving around, but we started looking through the brush.

her sweet face was staring right at us, her body blending into the scrub and trees around her. we stood, gazing at each other, none of us moving. i slowly took my phone out to capture what i knew would be hard to discern in a photograph – this deer in the woods, this shared moment of time. she didn’t move, but her tail wagged and her ears pitched forward and back, listening. i was hoping she could hear the words i whispered to her – telepathically, a little dr. doolittle-ish. her continued gaze at us, grace for our presence, her head held high, no obvious fear. unexpected.

she never left the spot while we were standing there. she took a few steps but didn’t flee, as so often happens when you start to move in the forest. we blew her a kiss and continued on, feeling lucky to have seen her and to have spent a few minutes with her.

we passed more winterberry holly as we hiked, laughing about old-fashioneds and marveling at our new deer friend in the woods.

we exited the trail, none too anxious to leave, wanting to just linger.

“sometimes,’ said pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” (a.a. milne)

****

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pullchain. [two artists tuesday]

the music and lyrics of jon mohr and john mays come to mind:

oh maybe when we realize
how much there is to share
we’ll find too much in common
to pretend it isn’t there

love in any language
straight from the heart
pulls us all together
never apart
and once we learn to speak it
all the world will hear
love in any language
fluently spoken here

lisa signed the song as the youth choir sang it on the stage in florida. i carried the song from youth choir to youth choir, its lyrics positive and the song always a director’s success.

d’s ceiling-fan-poppo-chain-bracelet broke and we had to replace it. we both wear these bracelets 24/7 so we have stand-by ceiling fan pullchain to wrap around our wrists should we have a break or a loss. we know my dad is heartwarmed – somewhere – as we hold onto him and the simple way he loved his family – via lightweight metal chain.

after i wrapped d’s wrist a couple times and secured it with the ball chain connector clasps, i tossed the remaining piece onto the counter to put into a tiny special box that is heaven for beaded chain.

i walked past and looked down.

there on the counter it had formed a heart.

of course.

my poppo grinned.

love…straight from the heart…pulls us all together…never apart.

*****

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12 for $1.00 [two artists tuesday]

they were 12 for $1.00.

but have no illusions. you cannot purchase them in december. at no time – when i have gone searching the stores in december – have i been able to find them. for they are already all gone, scooped up by zealous ornament-gatherers, present-wrapping-embellishers, holiday-magic-creators.

so if you want them – these delicate snowflakes that sort of resemble the ones people used to make of string and flour or glue and glitter – you need to plan ahead. you must be ahead of the curve, at the front line of festivity-planning, your dollar bills in your hand as you troll the stores, scooping.

i purchased numerous packs of these one year. it was a time of transition for me. i had realized that i, actually, didn’t really like tons of bright red and green together and that christmas was fraught with all kinds of stress for so many people, including me, and i just wanted to simplify a little bit.

it started years ago when i decided not to ornament-decorate the tree. we kept it a little more natural with just white lights and it felt serene when – late at night – we’d turn off the light fixtures in the living room and just sit, keeping vigil with the tree. we are still trying to keep tranquility at the center. i’ve added tiny pine trees – sans anything. we’ve added branches and white lights. and we’ve added snowflakes and silver balls.

one of these days i would like to have a big retro tree. i’ll add all the ornaments of history to it – a tree full of salt dough stars and bells and paper mache snowmen, treasured gifts from family and friends, former students and choir members, memories to spark stories for hours. though i haven’t hung it in years, i can see the rogers christmas house ice skating ornament clearly in my mind’s eye. and small pine, a reminder of the sweet story my children and i loved.

and one of these days i would like to have another big retro tree. it will be decorated with old delicate mercury glass ornaments of my sweet momma’s and poppo’s. i remember these, as i take them out of the box, like it was yesterday. i remember decorating the tree on abby drive and my dad painstakingly adding tinsel, one strand at a time, christmas carols playing in the background. i was a child and lots of it was magical, but even then i could feel the holiday stress, expectations, frenetic energy.

the last time both of my own beloved children were home together for christmas was 2014. they have been living far and wide on mountaintops and in big cities and, with limited time off, haven’t been able to make it. we’ve celebrated on the phone, on facetime, on zoom, and we watch them open presents from our couch. a couple times we had real-life moments in chicago with our son and last year we sat with him on a restaurant patio, clustered under gas heaters in 17 degrees in january, having dinner and watching him open gifts in a time of pandemic. it is with great anticipation we wait for his arrival later this week, an opportunity to hug on him and his boyfriend.

sometimes i wonder if my children would both be more likely to be home here together if their dad and i were still married. i know that holiday magic might be far less magical in a less-than-perfectly-perfect household. the thought brings sadness to my core. i struggle, just like so many, some who are living “traditional” lives, some in unconventional lives, some in times of challenge and some with everything they ever needed. nevertheless, i – like moms everywhere – want the magic to continue, want the dreamy holiday and the warm cocoon of love and celebration. i want to create the quintessential stuff of snowflakes and big family dinners and gingerbread and sugar plums. and i – like moms everywhere – know that i can only do the best i can.

the stats on a blogsite show the individual blogs that have been read. this morning – the day i am writing this for today – there was a post from 2018. i talked about roots and wings and children and yearning. i quoted my daughter stating that i was “high maintenance” and laughed it off back then, comparing myself in my mind to other moms through the years whose behavior i have witnessed as indeed much higher maintenance. for, though the words of desiderata ring true for all of us “do not compare yourself with others, for you will become vain and bitter….for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself” we still do it. we still compare and measure and wish and feel ourselves come up lacking. i also wrote in that post that if wanting more time with one’s children was high maintenance, then i supposed that the adjective fit. que sera sera.

joyce maynard used to write a column – called domestic affairs. she shared a 1985 column on sunday, writing about the attempt to make christmas perfect and the bitter reality of its imperfection and its crazy-making. it is a roller coaster of emotion – this holiday season. and there are times that i sit and wonder, trying to magicalize it for my family, for my children, now adults, who i love with all my heart. i have wanted to help the universe dazzle for their holiday, to make each christmas perfect. yet i know that they won’t be. perfect, that is.

i look around me, around our life. sometimes i think that the raucous sounds of holiday music and cookie-baking and a turkey in the oven and wrap all over the floor are the only things that would make it ideal. and sometimes i know – deep in my heart – that all i want, really, is to love and be loved, to share a little time and know that my presence makes a tiny difference – in the unique way of a snowflake – in the lives of all those i adore.

12 for $1.00 isn’t really all that much. simple.

*****

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little snowman. [two artists tuesday]

“it was so romantic. i will never forget,” she texted.

reminders are good. we all get lost in the shuffle of life and all its challenges that we sometimes forget the tiny details that add up to the big stuff.

each day – this advent – we open one tiny door of twenty-four on the big box that was delivered to us from dear friends. we take out a small glass bottle and pour two glasses of wine. we clink and, one by one – back and forth – we speak aloud gratitudes for the day. but sometimes…sometimes it is still hard to remember.

this little snowman was wrapped and hanging on our front door, “you had me at merlot,” its message.

in this time of uncertainty, it was perfect timing.

our roadtrip together started with almost six months of daily emails…back and forth…stories and questions and yearnings and news of our every day taking place across the country from each other. it progressed to photographs of coffee mugs texted back and forth and talk of merlot and a raising of the glass to the other. all before we met in person. a foundation, solid, like the snowball base of a snowman. we read parts of this story – our roadtrip – at our wedding years ago, wanting to share our story with all the beloveds gathered there with us.

and she remembered.

so the snowman will sit on the windowsill by the kitchen sink between the small silver tree and a cairn of long island and colorado rocks. the snowman…a nudge for us also to not-forget, to not get lost in the worry, but, instead, to immerse in the magic of our own story and the angels who remind us.

“about love…in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass…” (desiderata)

*****

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warmth wins. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fallen branch must be radiating enough absorbed heat to melt the icy snow-pack just around it. the perfectly custom-shaped frame of snow reveals gorgeous long-needled pine laying on the ground atop a small clump of clover. the green in a field of frozen crunchy white was a beautiful glimpse underneath, a reveal.

things aren’t necessarily what they seem. and – though we sometimes remember we also sometimes forget – we find that there is more going on – beneath the visible surface – than we can imagine. i suppose it’s mr. rogers’ endings-beginnings, it’s george eliot’s “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s the cinderella song “it’s what’s inside that counts”… i suppose you just never know.

it served as a reminder on the trail. though fallow seemed to be starting and early winter was beginning to take its toll, a little bit of green busted through the ice, peeking out, asking us to notice. it seemed it was stored-up warmth that mattered.

reading and research bring up many physics and scientific theories postulated about this phenomenon, about the albedo effect, about dunes and wind, about snow and pine needles. they are all fascinating, but for me – it was mostly all about the disparity between what it looked like on the outside and what was on the inside. because we don’t always know what’s just below the surface – in circumstance, in the environment, in people.

but a little warmth (or albedo or a breeze) reveals a smidge. just a little grace, a little forgiveness, a little compassion, a little generosity, a little love.

it doesn’t take much – this tiny pine bough is proof, indeed.

warmth wins, every time.

*****

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crinkles and shoestrings. [two artists tuesday]

they aren’t even my favorite. shoestrings are my favorite. but it didn’t matter. we pulled into the culvers drive-thru, rolled down the window and ordered “the biggest french fry order you have”. sometimes you feel like a nut. so…crinkles.

in really-more-news-than-you-need-to-know, we ate them all. the entire contents of the family-size-fries-in-the-heavy-plastic-hinged-take-out-container. all of it. well, except for like ten fries. we left those to be all virtuous.

i could instantly feel a zit forming on my chin, somehow lurking there since early teenagehood, waiting for me to indulge in toomanyfries. i vowed not to go out anywhere until it was gone. all-the-way-gone. errgggh. you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. we neeeeeded those fries. but they were not without peril.

you might think that was a bit of an extravagance for two artists onastricterbudgetagain. but receipt 186 for “kari” reveals it was merely $5.55 and we ultimately figured that “1 fry fam” was a lower level vice than other things might be. we think about these things way more than you might think.

the fries helped, actually. well, like vices, at least for the moment. we devoured them, along with dogdog, who was in littlebabyscion with us.

and then we went to the rv dealer for continued escapism. astounded by the interior of both you-drive-them-rvs and you-pull-them-campers, we moseyed for a few hours, in the gigantic domed building, out onto the multiple parking lots full of options and back inside.

the fact that one of the lowest-priced campers had a kitchen nicer than our own was disconcerting. i mean, it had an island and a dreamy butler pantry with a wine fridge. and an oven. it had an oven.

good thing. something in which to make those ore-ida shoestrings.

i’m guessing we’ll need them. and you can’t find a culvers everywhere.

*****

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the view from my pillows. [two artists tuesday]

every morning.

every morning this is the view from my pillows.

after coffee, after breakfast, after hugging on dogga snuffling in our faces, after the weather app, after a littabittanews…my sturdy old laptop and our quilt.

i know that not everyone wants to read all these words. i know that many will do much to avoid it. i know that – in the grand scheme of things – my blahblah doesn’t really matter much. sometimes there are responses, comments from people, questions, validations, pushbacks. sometimes people ask if we have a patreon account or a way to donate a cup of coffee. that there is someone out there who takes time to write a few words back at all is pretty gigantic. because in today’s world, there are an inordinate number of things – out there – one could choose to read, to watch, to listen to.

but i guess it all doesn’t matter.

because i have found – now – that i write for me.

writing each morning – this practice – makes me think and ponder and rehash and sort. it is a caffeinated burst in the day, a jump-start to everything that will follow.

sometimes it is a walk into a bank of memories, complete with tears or laughter.

sometimes it is a wondering for the future, attempting to connect the dots of constellations i have yet to see.

sometimes it is a rant about the world, the country, the community, things i perceive as wrongdoings.

sometimes it lifts others up, those who levitate our spirits and souls with generosity.

sometimes it is with amazement for what we see and hear and taste and smell – out there – in nature and on this good earth.

always it is with a sense of impermanence.

these words will stay on the page, so to speak, for as long as wordpress allows them to. they will eventually fade as more words will enter the big melting pot of written thoughts.

our writings will lift off someday into the atmosphere. they will float around, bouncing off stars and planets – like the silver balls in a pinball machine. maybe they will leave a little something behind, a touch of evanescent dust that someone will see and remember.

the other night – around 2:30am – we heard the owl. outside our window, the great horned owl spoke into the night. it didn’t know if anyone was listening. but we did. we listened. we heard it call. and for its unspoken spoken words, we were grateful. we will remember.

*****

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