reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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windows-open. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we never put the air conditioners in. all summer. it’s been windows-open. summer two.

granted, there were a few days that were a little brutal, the humidity high, the breeze slight. we all melted a little.

but we survived. and, as i sit here, knowing that there are whirring central systems all around us, i can feel the breeze coming in from the east, the sun is gracing the comforter, the chippies are out back trying to dissuade the squirrels from eating at the birdfeeder and it is mostly quiet. our old house breathes and the outdoors comes in.

i guess i know people who spend scarcely any time outside. i personally can’t imagine it. we spend as much time outside as possible. even deck time counts. moments that we get to be up-north are exceptional and this time was no different. it doesn’t matter the weather, though sparklingly sunny days are truly impossible miracles of beauty. but even the rain, falling on the woods and lulling us all, doesn’t deter us and we sneak out in-between to take a walk and find wildflowers on the side of the road.

there is a chipmunk – and i am assuming, with no real basis for it, that it is always the same one – that comes to the fence across the driveway outside my window almost every day. it sits atop the fencepost and chirps loudly, stopping only when i call out the window to him, “hi little guy! hi chippie!” and make conversational chippie noises back at him. satisfied he said good morning (again, an assumption) he scampers off the fence and on to his next task-at-hand. were the window to be closed, i would miss it.

there are trips we want to take – to gorgeous high mountains and red rock canyons, to the atlantic coast, to smoky mountains, to cool canadian provinces, to faraway places overseas. we’ll spend as much time outside in those places as we can, drinking it in.

that window is big and wide open. and there is wild and sensational beauty out there.

but it’s even in our own backyard. and i don’t want to miss it.

*****

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until the next time. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“wherever you go, go with all your heart” (confucius)

this is not hard in the quiet bow of a canoe on a pristine dark aquamarine lake under a baby blue sky. my heart is all in.

from one time to the next you forget a little how the paddle fits in your hand, how it easily skims through the water, how it rubs that spot under your thumb. you forget the sound of water droplets hitting a quiet surface as you raise up the paddle, the swoosh of the oar back into the water, the peace. no real destination. just point the bow and paddle.

if we have a thought in the world, it is only about beauty and fresh air and a breeze in our favor. we pass water lily pads and, every so often, a lily gracing them, pink pondweed above flat vases of gathered rhododendron-looking leaves. it’s serene. it’s quiet.

there is no race, so set time limit. we simply go, aware of how full our hearts feel. we paddle back only when it seems time.

the walkie-talkie crackles, “happy-hour-snack-time-tchk.” we laugh. and turn the canoe. no pressure.

we make our way back past the fisherman, the floating mats waiting for kids and splashing and laughter, the island created by the rising lake level. past the place we saw the porcupine, past the place the turtles were swimming, past the place someone caught a giant bass some time ago.

they wave from the dock and tease over the walkie-talkie that there is nothing left.

we paddle to shore and climb out.

part of my heart stays – quietly – for a moment – in the bow and memorizes the way it felt. until the next time.

*****

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snide little biters. [d.r. thursday]

the height of mosquitoes. the height. and the height. both definitions.

ankles, necks…it matters not. right now our favorite river trail hike is swarming with them. if i thought that mosquitoes had any good will toward others, if i thought that mosquitoes served a truly individualized and specialized useful purpose, if i thought that this being – a tiny species that causes infection to millions of humans – was not evil itself, well, i would be deluding myself.

they are dreadful.

this trail now – dressed in all shades of lush green – is only accessible to the deet-doused, unless you are one of those people who are immune to their snide little biting proboscis. and, in other news, there is no limit to how many times one mosquito can bite you – it bites until it is full. just yuck.

we missed our trail so we went earlier in the day. it was to no avail. there they were, laying in wait. long trails of mosquitoes following us and our carbon dioxide trails as we sprinted through the woods, thinking, foolishly, that we were evading them.

they do not amuse me. they ruin everything. i do not like mosquitoes. at all. not that you haven’t noticed.

i read, “mosquitoes hate the smell of lavender, citronella, clove, peppermint, basil, cedarwood, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemongrass and rosemary.” (homesandgardens.com)

i am looking for a new perfume or, perhaps, moving to iceland, which is reportedly mosquito-free.

or, i will practice not exhaling.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

peruse david’s gallery – while lingering inside, away from mosquitoes


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that lake. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

whether we acknowledge it or not, it sits next to us, powerful. some days it forces us to pay attention. the waves roar, the wind blows, it is colder near the lake. other days, it is silent, just a presence, like something you feel but can’t see.

i remember when we first arrived here – 34 years ago. the lakefront was different. there was a big engine plant in prime real estate on the lake. it all looked drab and run-down and giant smokestacks lined the sky.

when they didn’t call my husband back for weeks about the position he had interviewed for, i felt lucky, like i had escaped. wisconsin wasn’t on my radar much back then and i wasn’t so sure i wanted it to be.

but, in the way of irony, after six or seven weeks, they did contact him and offered him the job. and the rubber hit the road. i left florida – where we were living at the time – pretty much kicking and screaming, though silently, inside.

eight to nine months later we moved into this house. and, as a dear friend wrote to me, [my] “dna is probably embedded in almost every inch of it.” wisconsin, indeed. 34 years.

as life goes and time moves on, it’s a little uncertain where we will be in years to come. as an ever-increasingly ominous climate change rears its ugly head, we see the potential wisdom in remaining where we are – close to a huge fresh water source in a place where most weather is not too extreme. we have only a short list of places we’d move, a couple of them in a heartbeat.

and then we take a walk. it’s very early morning and we are returning from dropping off littlebabyscion at our mechanic’s shop, choosing to walk home. he’s an early bird so we are walking before a lot of the town is awake for this summer dawn.

the lake is mostly still. it blends into a cloudy sky and takes our breath away. we’ll turn right – west – and walk a block to home. the lake will stay where it is.

and a little while later, over a fresh pot of coffee, we will look at the photographs. to our side, the lake will be quiet as we comment on its stunning personality.

i’m still not sure if i’m crazy about wisconsin. i’m not from here. and that changes things in this town.

but lake michigan – just steps away – knows that. and every now and again that lake, while we are walking in our old neighborhood along its shore, nudges me and makes me pay attention. it pokes at the heartstrings that are tied to this place – through the good, the bad, the ugly, the marvelous – and reminds me of its presence.

*****

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i’m from new york. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

towering cloud. monochromatic tones. i took this photograph. i may not have taken a second look but for the wire cutting diagonally across it. it was the interruption that made it – a gorgeous cloud – even more interesting.

i’m not from here.

i am proudly from new york and sunday night out on our deck i reveled in feeling new york. i haven’t felt as new york as i felt that evening in a long time. we were playing records outside and painting rocks. i had selected a few albums – dan fogelberg, john denver, michael murphey, survivor, fleetwood mac – and i was playing dj, picking and choosing the songs to play. we sang along, somehow remembering lyrics of songs we hadn’t heard in ages, a mondegreen or two slipping in.

then i went inside to find a certain album, leaving david to pour a little wine and wonder what i was searching for.

i came back out with the double-album-set of saturday night fever. there is nothing that quite defines 1977 like that album and the bee gees. instantly transported back to the discos and beach bars of long island, i got up and, in the new privacy of our backyard, danced. the more i danced, the more i danced.

i texted a few friends, asking them if they remembered the steps to the hustle. crunch wrote back that he didn’t remember all the steps, but he remembered the spins and sent a picture from a beach bar on the island he was at as he typed his message. marc reminded me he didn’t dance – which i, of course, remembered – and told me – if i was indeed sending him snippets of “stayin’ alive” simply to annoy him – not to be such an “assassination” (which, back in the day, i would say for the word “ass” so as not to cuss. friends would tell you i have come around from those days.)

interrupting our 70s mostly-mellow flow, saturday night fever disco drew a line through the soft wash of memory in which we sat. it invigorated us. it made us dance and it made us laugh. it made a perfect night even more perfect. and it woke up the new york in me, never too far away but always a little at-bay, a little tempered.

new york is a little noisy for wisconsin. new york is a little demonstrative for wisconsin. new york is a little talkative for wisconsin. new york is a little emotional, a little animated for wisconsin. new york is a little exuberant for wisconsin. new york is a little brash for wisconsin. it’s a little center-stage, a little aggressive, a little assertive, a little interruptive.

i’m not from here.

i’m from new york.

and i’m damn proud of it.

*****

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and then, the feral. [d.r. thursday]

in my recollection, my sweet momma didn’t buy flats of flowers with the arrival of spring. my mom and dad didn’t run nursery to nursery purchasing new shrubbery or plants to add to the gardens around our home. they didn’t pore over landscaping catalogs nor research shade and sun preferred plantings. though it didn’t occur to me then, i realize now – and empathize – that they couldn’t afford it.

the half-acre piece of long island on which i grew up was beautiful and natural and serene. along one side of the house – a little bit shady – were four-o-clocks and bleeding hearts. along the other side were hosta. in the front corner and along the side where the neighbors-who-had-the-nice-weimaraner lived there were forsythia. on the other side where the neighbors-who-had-the-weimaraner-who-bit-me lived there were rose of sharon. we had rhododendron and i can’t remember what else in the front garden. but they all came back; they were perennials. because anything annual, well, i don’t think that was in the budget.

and so i guess i have come by it honestly. it wasn’t a “thing” when i grew up to run out and purchase – before anyone else picked them all over – flats of this year’s preferred annual flowers. it wasn’t a “thing” to plant hanging baskets and wooden barrels or giant clay pots with flowers for the season. it was expensive then and it’s expensive now. i learned early to appreciate the simplest garden, the natural setting of a woods, the reassuring return of perennials you have nurtured and which, likely, came from cuttings someone else gifted to you.

when i first moved to wisconsin, it was a full-impact moment when may arrived and everyone was talking about the flowers they would plant. friends and neighbors would dance gracefully into planting season and the ballet seemed a bit foreign, a bit out-of-reach. the quietly-popular greenhouses were divulged to me; i purchased a small trowel and got to it. impatiens and waxed begonia and petunia flats later, to no avail i had tried to avoid the pressure. each year posed the angsty question of color – for there are trends, i found, obvious by the missing palettes at the nurseries.

my momma and my dad loved their garden. they loved their indoor plants as well. and, when they planted vegetables out back next to – but far enough away from – the dog run, they loved those too. mostly, they loved the trees canopying our house and yard, the woods out back, the tiny lily-of-the-valley next to the old shed. i never heard them utter a peep wishing for more. i never felt – growing up – that i had missed out, not having new flowers or plants each year.

yet, here i was – i am – living in a place and time where that seems to be of vital importance. and i have wondered why this urge, this spring-flower-purchasing-extravaganza doesn’t come naturally to me. i know it’s not because i don’t love flowers.

we walk and hike through the woods. no matter whether the forest trail takes us into the mountains or along the low elevation of a river in the midwest, we notice the floor of greenery, the flowers growing wild, color and shape, exquisite all.

once again this year – like last – we won’t purchase annual flowers. the plants we will add for our summer will be cherry tomato plants, basil, lemongrass, perhaps lavender. we will appreciate the tenacity of our hosta and our ferns, the spreading wild geranium, the stubborn return of our daylilies, the tender peonies, our aspen sapling, the ever-present grasses. we cheer on the groundcover sally gave us and the groundcover sneaking under the fence in its every-year attempt to take over the garden. we celebrate the simplicity and wish that our front yard – in its water-main-replacement-utter-mess – wouldn’t require neat and tidy grass replacement, a huge and costly job to remove old sod and stray cement poured from the temporary sidewalks and various strewn deposits of rubber and metal and rocks.

my sweet momma and dad adored the yard of my growing-up home. they didn’t pass on to me the necessity of more. instead, they passed on to me an embracing of simplicity, gratitude for what-we-have and the appreciation of other gardens – friends’, neighbors’, public botanic celebrations of gorgeousness. they passed on the love of feral forests of jack-in-the-pulpit and the crowning glory of trillium.

*****

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in the green room. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

well, that didn’t last long.

spring has peeked in, shook its head, and retreated.

it snowed saturday. all day. it was a really wet snow, and, though it did stick a bit on yards and roofs, it was not shovel-worthy. but it did bring out the restless.

we took a walk in it. in the olden days (not too long ago) we always took a walk while it was snowing. here it was – april 2nd – and it was snowing. so surely, we should not be freezing and i would not need my miracle mittens to enjoy the soft flakes landing on our faces.

not.

the snow pelted us as we walked along the lakefront. literally pelted us. it stung our faces; we had to keep looking down to the sidewalk. and, not wearing my miracle mittens was really dumb. this is wisconsin, after all. what was i thinking?!?

i tried to take photographs of the snow as it fell. i think i was really trying to take a picture of our restlessness, of the yearning for sun and warmth, of willing spring to stop taking its sweet time, to actually arrive and not linger in the green room off the stage of winter.

in a desperately intentional cup-half-full approach, we noticed grass that had greened, with snow on top. we noticed buds on trees, with snow on top. we noticed tiny sprouts of plants, with snow on top. we noticed that the streets were not really holding the snow, that the sidewalks were not snowy, that water was running next to the gutters to the drains. these were good signs.

the year my daughter was born – 1990 – it snowed the day before the first whisperings of her grand entrance into the world. it was may 13, mother’s day that year, and in one day i would go into labor and in two days i would be a mom.

but – may. snow. yikes.

after everything, simply every thing, i’m not sure hardy wisconsin souls would be able to take that this year. i think that, perhaps, mother nature might cut us some slack. perhaps a little more green and a little less white. perhaps a little more 50s and a little less 30s. perhaps a little more sun and a little less cloudy.

perhaps i need to get a grip and just ride the roller coaster that is spring in a great lakes state.

i’m guessing the tickets are free for residents.

i remind myself that patience is a virtue and other blah-blah positive, lofty adages. sigh.

i’m going to go hide in the green room with spring and discuss that.

*****

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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

listen to music on my little corner of iTUNES

stream on PANDORA

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fish-fry friday. [k.s. friday]

fridays are fish-fry days in wisconsin. if you want fried fish (or baked, to represent actual menu-inclusivity) you can find it practically anywhere. truly. any where.

it’s a year. tomorrow will mark a year. we didn’t go to a fish fry that day, though it was a friday. it turned out i was the fish du jour. and, in an unremarkably remarkable statement read on a zoom call, my eight years with my employer came to a screeching halt.

i have no false notions as to why. i know, from decades from experience, that i was doing an excellent job, at the time further impacted and expanded by covid, necessitating additional online skills and responsibilities. i had contributed in a big way to the place. i brought my best game and, sadly, my heart and big love to that place. the community had become my family. but the cloak of covid was hanging over it and no one in the community really knew what was happening; they still don’t. i spent an hour in the dog food aisle with a member of the community who asked me over and over again what i had done that was so wrong, so egregious, so as to be fired. it sickens me to think that there are unanswered questions out there, that there are slanderous statements made by leadership, that, without any transparency, this place – a church – allowed a small contingent of “leaders” to make a choice that the people who actually paid my salary had no idea they were making. even my own supervisor had no idea what was going to take place on that zoom. once done, there was no recourse. done. with no identification of conflict, no attempt to – together – mediate or mitigate such perceived conflict, no conversation, no communication, no resolution. and clearly, no truth.

and so, suddenly, it’s a year. and in a way like yesterday’s post and in a way not like yesterday’s post, it is way past time.

i had never been fired before. in all my years, in all my work, in all the places i worked, i had never been terminated. it is unlike anything else. and it takes a toll. which, i see now, is precisely the point. mean-spirited comes in many shapes and forms and people.

the loss of work and income are monumental losses for anyone, particularly in the middle of a raging pandemic, particularly after whole-hearted dedication, particularly at an age when new positions are fewer and farther between. the loss of community is a whole ‘nother thing. the phoenix doesn’t rise quickly with new relationships, new friendships, trusted alliances. these cherished people, who had spent great deals of time in our actual life and at our home, know the drawer where the silverware is kept, where to put their coats and their potluck casseroles, stood with me as my sweet momma was dying, know the moment we were married and surrounded us in a circle at our wedding singing “we are family”…these people are no longer a part of our everyday life. that has been a devastating blowback from a power move made by – mostly – people who barely knew me, had never been to our house or a rehearsal and obviously didn’t have any real investment in the joy that had been created through years of committed effort. so be it.

“new beginnings are often disquised as painful endings.” (lao tzu)

and so, today, a year-to-the-day-before, the ashes release from the scorch of the flame. time has taught me of those who are compassionate, those who seek the truth, those who actually care enough to ask questions. time has reminded me – once again – that no one should be put on a pedestal, that people will shock you and throw you under the bus, that others, in the busy of their own lives, will surprisingly not step up and advocate for you, that power and control are clearly addictive and snowballing agendas, that the health of a place will suffer at the hands of those agenda-driven, that hypocrisy is alive and well. i am weary of the painful.

“all that talk about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is so not true. do you know what makes you stronger? when people treat you and your art with dignity.” (lana del rey)

it is as it is. it’s life. it’s friday. a year later. i’ve got bigger fish to fry.

*****

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like wisconsin. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it smells like florida outside this morning. it’s milder and dewy and distinctive. it makes me think of many, many mornings waking up in florida, ready for sunny and warm. clouds hung low in the early day, burning off as the hours passed. here, this day will stay mostly cloudy, rain passing by, the sun not really having a chance. having passed through a couple days of really-cold, a day in the 50s feels like a reprieve. and that smell…

there have been some days in the summer when something in the air shifted and we could catch a hint of fishy from the lake. the air hung a bit heavier and the seagulls were noisy. these were the days i felt long island, images reaching across time and the miles inbetween here and there, beach days, boating days, old bike-hike days, days on the stoop of my growing-up house…

and the days when the leaves on the ground in late fall or the pine forest in the middle of our river trail place me back hiking in our favorite breckenridge, the scent of evergreen forest ever-present. those high mountains…

there are two small bottles of cologne on the windowsill of our bathroom. neither is mine. the estee lauder pleasures was my sweet momma’s and the small travel size marc jacobs daisy is one that my girl left behind. if my son was represented on the sill it would make me smile to see the abercrombie fierce his sister and i bought, long ago, for him to wear – talkaboutdistinctive! just a whiff of each of those…

the memory of fragrance is powerful and emotional.

we have cleared the deck of summer. the outdoor rugs, the table and chairs and new umbrella, the cushions and pillows, the old door and the ficus tree. all are put away. soon the dog’s water bowl will come inside as well and the last two pillows too. the rugs left lines on the wood, which will fade as time goes on. it looks blank out there. it seems like such a short time ago we were planning and shopping ever-so-wisely to make that space the perfect après spot. now, winter is on its way, taunting us even this week.

we left the small firepit on the deck. i figured we could light it outside the window and watch it from the table in the sunroom. it has been our favorite purchase of the summer and too much change too fast is, let’s face it, too much change too fast. we can still enjoy it for a bit more time, tucking it away on the most extreme days. après has moved inside.

but i suspect there will be a morning we wake up…some wintry day…probably soon…when we rise and open the back door for dogdog. we’ll have a burst of cold air and then, a long breath.

the snow will smell like frosted magic, crisp and white, sparkling. the sun will glimmer off flakes that have fallen on the deck. it will conjure up memories of snowmen and holiday decorating, christmas shopping and wrapping stocking stuffers late-late at night, the fireplace and shoveling and snow angels, walks in the woods and the crunchy sound of snow under your feet…

and that morning i’ll think, yes, this smells just like wisconsin.

*****

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