reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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kitsch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i suppose if i opened my 1977 john h. glenn high school yearbook i would find these words. in fact, i am almost positive i would find them. scrawled in pen by more than one friend, on the big white space of the inside hard-cover or the inside back-cover, maybe across the page for the art and literary magazine. there would be other sage phrases too…like “life is a journey, not a destination”…as if there was a what-to-write-in-a-yearbook handbook or maybe taken directly from the blue mountain arts meaningful-phrases calendars of the time. my personal favorites were the susan polis schutz/stephen schutz calendars, books, bookmarks…the colors and shapes of the seventies. pause for a sigh…

hiking on our trail, i am whipping my camera left to right, capturing the gorgeousness of the underbrush, trees in their green glory, a very-blue sky.

the litter almost under my footfall gets my attention. it’s not just paper.

this time, it’s a succinct message – kitschy as heck – but, alas, to the point. “cherish yesterday. live for today. dream of tomorrow.”

i don’t know what to do.

i photograph the torn positivity mantra. richard bach’s words in “jonathan livingston seagull“, rearranged.

i try to decide. do i pick it up, as litter? do i leave it for someone else to read?

because i have been privy to the wisdom of the 1970s – in print form, not just IGs or memes or jpgs, i left it. i thought that someone might need to pick it up, tuck it into their pocket, keep it on their bedside table or tape it to their mirror.

who doesn’t need a reminder to truly cherish yesterday? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly live for today? who doesn’t need a reminder to truly dream of tomorrow?

kitsch has its place, after all.

*****

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buds and blossoms. wrapped in gold. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

if i were to get a tattoo (not to mention the “sisu” tattoo i would love to share with my daughter) i think it might be a simple tattoo depicting the japanese practice of kintsugi: the golden repair and honoring of flaws, beauty in human brokenness. there’s no telling if i will do that. there’s also no telling if i won’t. i’m not averse to ink. i know that ink is an expression of where you are in your life, of what you believe in, of what you seek.

“age and stage,” 20 often says when we talk about the stuff of life. tight bud to full bloom to blossoms falling, petal by petal, to the dirt. all the iterations in the middle.

everything is like that, i suppose.

the first time my boots hit the wood as i crossed from backstage to the apron was memorable. i won’t forget it. each time i’ve walked to the piano, adjusted the boom mic, took a breath and started…memorable. i won’t forget. i remember being in the middle of one of my concerts, in the middle of one of the pieces…i forgot where the piece went…i was lost. i made it up. it was a solo piece; no one else had to share in my lapse of memory. i followed the theme and noodled my way through to an end no one would ever hear again. my producer hugged me and laughed later, “nice coverup.”

the pace of my walk is slower now than it used to be…steadier. now i know that no matter what, no matter the mistakes, no matter the braindrops, no matter the missed lyrics, the thinking notes…the story will get told, the bud will open and, like any artist, i will give of myself, despite of whatever i get or don’t get in return. age teaches you that it is not the return that matters. age teaches you it is in the giving.

we talked in the kitchen this morning about the work we have done in our lives. david’s paintings, hung and not hung, my music, recorded and not recorded. we talked about our youthful desire to have everything seen, everything heard…and not in a little way. we talked about how age has brought us to this place – a place where seen and heard doesn’t really matter. painted and played matters. drawn and written matters. expressed matters. received en masse doesn’t.

it really is “age and stage”. it’s not just the moments of our children, tiny beings not sleeping through the night, toddlers in terrible-two-tantrums – people reassuring us “age and stage”. it’s not just the trials of parents letting go of those adored humans who are now adults in the world, a little less access, a lot less time – people encouraging us “age and stage”. it’s not just our aging moms and dads, significant changes in ability, in perspective, in health – people comforting us “age and stage”.

it’s us. it’s our age and our stage, we are reminded. we try to fix what is broken, try to start something new, try to perfect the blossom. and we realize that it was a bloom all along. it was beautiful. it counted.

were we to be able to see – from the beginning – all the stages – the tight bud, the slightly opened petals – the bloom – the blossom falling to the ground – we might take it all more lightly, we might not cling to ideals of success and how we receive it. we might know there would be mistakes and dropped notes, lyrics mixed up and words not spoken. we might know there would be vulnerabilities and painful angsting, gorgeous improvised melodies, pictures without everything we desired, without everything coming to fruition, vamped decisions, regrets and, yes, bows. we might know that we would join with the rest of the human race on broken roads.

and we might know that the stages of our ages were all wrapped in gold.

and maybe ink.

“and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (anais nin)

*****

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and love. [merely-a-thought monday]

it was, without a doubt, one of the holiest moments i have felt in the middle of almost ten thousand people. it was more organic and held more of a sacred hush than most church services i have attended or of which i have been a part, which is saying a lot since my professional work as a minister of music was over three decades of tenure. it was, without a doubt, something i will remember – a visceral memory – forever, probably.

matt maher was singing onstage at red rock ampitheatre, nestled in gigantic red rock formations and mountains in colorado. mostly just him and his piano, his simple but profound lyrics had everyone on their feet, arms around each other, strangers and friends all alike. moving from one song to the next, this man-who-was-not-the-headliner wove a net of love-for-humankind around us all and, for a few moments in time, we were transported to a place where love was – truly – the way.

“…and love will hold us together
make us a shelter to weather the storm
and I’ll be my brother’s [sister’s] keeper
so the whole world will know that we’re not alone…”

(matt maher – hold us together)

it – truly – is the only way.

the aggression of our neighbors, our leaders, our country, our world is a broken path, filled with trolls and ogres, bastardizing efforts of goodness.

this time is surely fleeting. we are reminded, sometimes cruelly, of this every single day.

i walk on dusty trails, on the cement sidewalks of our neighborhood, in the grasses of mountain meadows, on the sand of seashores, always looking, looking. our walks, our hikes – these are the places of true sanctuary. for, often, in those other places there are bellicose voices, desiring argument, pushing agenda. so instead now, we walk and breathe in the granola of the universe, under the sky of all possibility.

and in the way of nature, they appear. heart-shaped rocks, heart-shaped leaves, heart-shaped raindrops, heart-shaped puddles. reminders, always, they stop me, sometimes to pick them up, sometimes to photograph them, sometimes to just simply ponder. always, always, they give me pause…moments to think of beloveds, moments to have quiet gratitude, moments to think of love.

“love is a place

and through this place of

love move

(with brightness of peace)

all places

yes is a world

and in this world of

yes live

(skilfully curled)

all worlds”

(ee cummings – love is a place)

though the world does not shake out the way we might choose it to be, we have the choice whether or not to reach out and put our arms around the person next to us, whether we know them or not. we can choose to be shelter for each other or we can choose to be antagonistic. we can choose to weather the storm or we can choose to be the storm.

we can choose to be alone or we can choose to be together.

“tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ (mary oliver)

*****

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


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how unprecedented you are. [two artists tuesday]

we don’t really know. we rise each day, bold coffee at our lips, with curiosity. truly, what the day will bring is a mystery. the best-laid plans, well, they are only that – plans. things change and the kaleidoscope swirls around us in mere moments.

“this being human is a guest house. each morning a new arrival…” (rumi – the guest house)

and we rise again the next day…

…the day lilies and the grass blades are rising as well. through the upheaval of their dirt, the excavation of their home, the burying of their fallowed stems, the netting and straw post-waterline-replacement, they are rising anyway.

my thoughts of pulling everything up and starting fresh in the front yard came to a screeching halt when i saw them. if they are resilient enough to bright-green their way into this upheaved spring, i think i would be somewhat dishonoring to remove them. in doing so, i would miss their profound message of fortitude, of courageous no-matter-what-ishness, of their coy laughter reaching for the sun.

“you are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” (john green – the fault in our stars)

we miss it. in the middle of our don’t-really-know days, we miss seeing the absolute stalwart root in clay we each bring. we miss the credit of finagling another chaotic day. we miss our embrace of the new arrival of mystery. we miss our own unprecedentedness.

yet there it is. rising through the netting and the straw and the mud and the excavated rocks and cement.

“on the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you…”

(john o’donohue – beaanacht)

*****

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the view. [two artists tuesday]

in an effort to grab the moments and store them away so they will be retrievable, i take photographs. i want to remember the physical surroundings, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the way it smells. pictures help me recall the visceral. they are prompts in a memory script. the “remember …” cue.

i didn’t take a picture, but, because there is nothing like an unexpected call from your adult child, when the phone rang in the middle of costco and i glanced at it to see that it was our daughter calling, the moment is indelibly ingrained in my mind. walking toward the exit, standing and chatting near the tires-for-sale, shielding the phone’s microphone from the wind as we walked to littlebabyscion, sitting in the parking lot, dogga in the back wondering what errand adventure was next…these are all part of this wonderful rambling conversation, a joy that topped off my week – a perfect friday early evening – in a way that nothing else can.

the neighborhood eatery was not far from his apartment and as we drove over, our son was in the front, directing me, nagging me about going too slowly, instructing me how to properly drive over the humps in the residential streets of chicago and getting out to check the damage when we were rear-ended at a traffic light (luckily, no injuries and no apparent damage). we discovered the joy of lobster deviled eggs, had the skinniest delectable french fries, sipped mimosas and laughed over brunch. we went to his new place, took measurements, talked about decor. i took many, many photos, my iphone always at the ready. the best belated birthday gift – this time together. nothing else can top it.

i don’t take these moments for granted. our children are adults, with busy, consuming professional lives and significant people to share time with. there’s not a lot of spare time and i get that. they don’t live in town and i don’t get to see them as often as many of my friends see their grown children. “the moment they are born the separation begins followed by a life-long balancing act,” a dear and sage friend wrote about children and motherhood. the perils of parenting.

it is often the people with children in their own town who remind me that we raise children to be independent, wingèd and free. though well-intended, these are easier words, these wisdoms, and less painful when one does not have to tamp down the embers of longing that missing beloveds creates.

i try to “think of life…in all its small component parts.” (anna quindlen) it is, truly and after all, about balance.

so i save every one i can. every moment and conversation, all eye contact and every hug. i take lots of pictures – of them, of me with them, of us with them, of the surroundings, of what is right around me when i am with them. it is a storehouse of riches that i may go to in a self-absorbed minute of feeling scarcity, a reminder that, indeed, life is full, nevertheless. a springboard of deep appreciation.

“exhaust the little moment. soon it dies. and be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.” (gwendolyn brooks) glory in either, for we learn the lesson over and over: you can feel it. and they all count.

i “try to look at the view.” (anna quindlen)

the view – that must be why i have twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight photos on my phone. twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight views of twenty-four-thousand-seven-hundred-eighty-eight moments.

and this one – the open-beamed ceiling of cherished brunch with my son.

gorgeous, in my view.

*****

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the forest AND the trees. [d.r. thursday]

it was 1999 and bugdom reigned supreme, rollie pollies and ladybugs and fire ants all in the computer game kingdom, with plenty of other-bugs helping and undermining rollie mcfly. it was the early days of games with such vibrant graphics and i distinctly remember being wowed by such a ground-level view of the world.

the chipmunks are in their glory these days. our birdfeeder is always a draw; they have it all figured out. sometimes i wonder about their perspective on the world, these tiny adorable creatures, so low to the ground, scampering here and there. what it must be like when you are in the grass and you can only really see a little bit ahead and, if you turn your head to the sky, up. they don’t seem to mind that they have no real big picture. perhaps that is why they seem so happy-go-lucky and intent on the tasks at hand. over and over they will stock up their tiny cheeks, puffing out and puffing out, and then run across the patio and dart under the deck. again and again. they are not thwarted by the repetition of it all. they just keep on keeping on.

we had a really fun visit with our son the other day. in chicago, on a cubs’ game day, we wove our way through wrigleyville and lakeview neighborhoods to see the new place he would be moving. a cool two-story lofted apartment, it was a bright and happy place. he measured the space for furniture, calculating what he already had that would fit and what new items he would need. he’s done this a few times before, so he is very adept at the whole figuring-out stuff thing. both my children have already moved more times in their lives than i have in my entire life. they are much better at paring down and settling in to a new place than i am.

he mentioned that he would need an ant trap, which, for some reason, surprised me. “yeah,” he said, laughing, “there are ants in the city.” and, apparently, you need to be aware on the ground floor. then, in a told-you-so moment, he pointed to the tiniest ant on the sliding glass door wall. waaaaay high up on the wall this ant crawled. perspective-wise, were we to be crawling and were you to do the math equation proportionately, we would be on everest. nevertheless, the ant kept going. i wanted to bring it outside, but he assured me it would find its way. poor thing. it was a vast sea of white paint and all straight up and down. even bugdom wouldn’t have prepared the ant for this; bugdom was all outside – a lawn, a pond, a forest, a garden and an anthill.

the other day i saw a brown marmorated stink bug (known colloquially as simply “stink bug” and with the acronym “bmsb”). it was on an outside screen window crawling up. now, these poor bugs are not people-biters, but they are surely named properly and no one wants them around. i don’t know where it was going either. i can’t imagine why it would want to be up on the roof, so i’m guessing it was somewhat lost. when you can’t see beyond the screen, it’s hard to find your way.

we are fortunate, we humans. we have amazing prowess to be able to see the horizon. if it isn’t visible, if the horizon isn’t clear, we have the ability to climb higher to seek a better view, an overlook. though i suspect that some opinions are formed at dirt level, most of us seek the air and space to sort through what’s in front of our noses and see the bigger picture. our kingdom isn’t limited to the next grass blade.

rather, we have every advantage for gaining knowledge, learning alternate viewpoints, overcoming a narrow frame of reference, understanding the synergy of working together. we can form educated points of view, evaluate the difference between truth and falsehood, choose compassion and kindness as our stance toward others.

we can see blades of grass AND the landscape of the lawn.

more importantly, we can see the forest AND the trees.

*****

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dining. [merely-a-thought monday]

we are not fancy-schmancy froo-froo types. we don’t have chandeliers or swagging silk curtains. we don’t have china or sterling silver utensils. we don’t have a matchy-matchy dining room set or linen tablecloths graced with taper candlesticks. but we do have rich dining experiences, nevertheless.

whether at our cozy table in our old kitchen – the square one that my sweet poppo refinished in our basement – the one with a couple white painted legs dogga chewed on as a puppy – the one that i had to wipe clean every week as babycat would rub up against it leaving a dander mark – the one that my babies sat by in their high chairs and that many a cuppajava was sipped….or at the covid table in the sunroom – the one with snakeinthegrass and leticia and nonámē and stubby and boston and, now, charlie – the one with happy lights and tealights – the one looking out back….or at the big table in the dining room – the one with the memories of big gatherings and games played and pass-the-mashed-potatoes and pasta dinners…any table, it doesn’t matter. we sit together and, in our together, are grateful for the chance to prepare our meal and share it.

we choose our plates carefully. it might be a white crock night or a black plate night or maybe kenandloida colorfully-painted ceramic bowls or small plates. the vessel matters. and so do the cloth napkins. no matter what we are having for dinner – vegetable soup or a tagine or plant-based meatloaf – we try to pay attention to dining and not just eating.

we can count the number of times we have been dining inside a restaurant since before the pandemic – on one hand. it has been for very specific reasons – mostly our children, but once, the up-north gang, freezing from winterfest, gathered indoors at a pub to sip drinks and gorge on kettle corn. these times have been rejuvenating and joyfilled, though i have to say, blame-it-on-covid, i usually count the days hence. sigh.

regardless, our two-years-heading-into-the-third have not been without a richness that comes with choosing to make a big deal out of meals. nothing lavish, but still meaning-affluent. nothing opulent, but still flush with deliciousness. nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing froo-froo, but dining. definitely dining.

not just sitting and eating.

*****

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beachgrass and self-care. the same. [d.r. thursday]

and i can imagine that i have carefully laid down a blanket on the dunes of fire island or smith point park further east. i can hear the surf rolling and i can feel the sun on my face, warm sand heating the blanket under me. the grasses sway in the breeze and i can hear the tiniest gasps of music from a radio playing a long distance away. it is a piece of heaven.

and so much a piece of my memory that i could feel it when i looked at this through-the-grasses photo taken in my midwest front yard. things that are visceral.

i imagine that the next time i see the atlantic ocean or even long island sound, i will feel the same way as when i first see the mountains or pass into the canyons. it takes me by surprise every time, though i don’t know why i’m surprised. yet it’s overwhelming. the mountains. the ocean. for different reasons and for the same reason. it suddenly occurs to me – all at once and little by little – that i am but a tiny piece of this vastness. were i to not feel it, it would still exist. i am lucky enough to feel it.

i am writing this – a few days ahead – on my birthday. i just had a glorious breakfast in bed, a phone call with my beloved daughter. i’ve opened cards and read text messages and facebook posts. it is sunny and very cold and we will wrap up in warm clothes and go take a hike somewhere.

i was awake in the middle of the night. my beloved son texted me just after midnight. and then i laid awake.

the quilt and i talked about life until david woke up hearing our murmurings. we watched a trail or two and then, the wisdom of the wander women, amazing thru-hiking backpackers of a certain age. they talked about their feet, which got my attention. issues with their feet. bunions. arthritis. toes turning. they recommended tiny gel-rubber wedges and orthotics, ways to honor their own self-care.

suddenly i found tears streaming down my face. as a person who, for instance, wears a wrist brace and a finger splint to sleep, i have – for some reason – labeled this, in a kind of deprecating why-do-you-need-this way, as high-maintenance, a weakness. hearing them – “solution-oriented” – dedicated to gently and intentionally caring for their “gracefully aging bodies” so that they could go and DO – was visceral. i could feel their self-love, and the support they had for each other in that self-love, in thriving, just like i could feel the sun on my face and warm sand under me. not a weakness. no…instead, indeed, a strength. it was a moment for me.

i don’t imagine that i will weep when i try the gel wedges in my hiking boots. i don’t imagine that i will cry if i place an insole under my foot. though maybe i will. it’s not exactly the same as revisiting the mountains or catching the first glimpse of the ocean. but i might be underestimating it.

the beachgrass protects the dunes, trapping windblown sand. it preserves the beach, the barrier islands against severe wave or wind or storm. we work to secure ecosystems in the mountains, protecting vegetation and animals from destruction the best we can, preservation for water and energy.

last night, in the middle of the night as i moved from 62 to 63, i was reminded again: that though i am tiny-in-vast, just like each of us, we are – yes – here to feel it. with all the trappings and obstacles and challenges and gloriouses – we are responsible to care for our bodies – the best we can. to love each inch, despite anything. to support each other in that care.

to realize – suddenly – that finger splints and tiny gel wedges are the same as beachgrasses, really. all part of the same world. it really all counts the same.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

a day at the beach: mixed media 38×52
spoons and sandcastles: mixed media 28×57.5

A DAY AT THE BEACH, SPOONS AND SANDCASTLES ©️ 2017, 2018 david robinson


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that voice. [d.r. thursday]

if only it were all that simple. seeing into the future, that is. we might be able to avoid the potholes, the pitfalls, the problems that are in our merry way. but, alas, that is not so. and, unlike oatly and its humorous point-on prediction on the lid of its coffee “ice cream”, we struggle between punting and pure intuition, hopping and skipping and maybe crawling our way into the future.

punting is a given. everyone punts. the older i get, the more i realize people are making it up on the fly. lots of experience, education, research, failures and giant successes help, but it is all kind of punting, after all.

but intuition is a funny thing. we can hear it in our inner ear; we can feel it pokin’ at us, like a snickers bar supposedly pokes at our tummies. sometimes we listen and other times we poo-poo it, dismissing it as frivolous or overly obsessive thinking. there are times, however, when we listen and it is spot-on.

in 1993, in august, i took both my small children to the mall. my daughter was three and my son just seven months old. we went to walk around, watch people, maybe purchase a few things. we were going to stop at mcdonald’s on the way home, as we always did, to have a happy meal. driving back from the mall i made up silly songs about going to mcdonald’s and my little girl was excited. this was our mcdonald’s, the one where she knew how to carry her little meal from the counter, around the corner into the back dining room, to the very back table opposite the rear door, the farthest away from people smoking, because, back then, people still smoked in restaurants.

as we drove down the main road of our town toward the mcdonald’s, in the middle of silly songs and a gleeful child’s anticipation, i heard it.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” the voice said.

it was clear. i looked around, surprised to even hear another voice. but there was no other adult in the minivan.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” it repeated.

i shushed what i now believed was the voice in my head and continued singing our mcdonald’s happy song.

it got more demanding, “don’t go to mcdonald’s today. don’t.”

that feeling you get in your belly started. the voice nagged me. i started to backpeddle, “well, maybe we will go home instead,” which made my little girl cry out, “no!” from the back seat.

“go home and make a ham sandwich,” was the weirdest. but it was clear. the voice was a ham-sandwich-pusher.

i started to listen. i had lost my big brother just a year prior and he had shown up from time to time, a wave from the next dimension it seemed. and he loved ham sandwiches.

i had to decide fast because we were rapidly approaching the mcdonald’s. i excitedly told my little girl, who – in three-year-old fashion – did not pivot immediately, that we were going to have a picnic at home instead. that we would have ham sandwiches and potato chips and we’d play we’re-on-a-picnic.

we passed the mcdonald’s and kept heading home, a few miles away.

by the time we were unloading into our house i heard the sirens in the distance. the house phone was ringing when we walked in.

“did you hear what just happened at mcdonald’s?” my girlfriend asked.

my stomach lurched.

a man with a gun had gone in the back door of the restaurant and started shooting people. tragically, two people at the table opposite the back door were killed.

i don’t know if they had happy meals; i know we would have.

i know if i could have seen into the future i would have planned on – and sang songs in the minivan about – ham sandwiches and a picnic on the living room floor. i know that tiny bit of adamant intuition-voice saved our lives. i don’t know how that works. i will not question it.

it was a gift.

*****

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the other 89%. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

david said, “really, it’s probably the 5% rule. there are about 5% of people who are not good people.” i answered, “eh. i think it’s more like 10%.”

glancing to the side of the road leading out of the trail i watched a guy in the parking lot duck into his shiny pick-up truck. he pulled out a floor mat as i stared and dumped its accumulated dirt and wrappers and garbage on the ground. “make that 11%,” i grumbled.

though i no longer would do this – i have, in the past, pulled up next to someone or walked up to someone, depending on whether on a road or on a walk – to tell them – in an innocent and informative voice – that they “dropped something.” i usually add i’m not sure if they need it but it’s just “back a ways” if they do. sadly, this did not usually culminate in their retrieval of their garbage, but there was something about letting them know it did not go unnoticed that was helpful. probably more helpful would be if i just followed and picked up the garbage that others are dropping.

“earth is neat,” says the wrapper of the justin’s dark chocolate cashew butter cups. to jaunt through the justins.com website is to read the story of a guy with a passion for peanut butter take it all to the next level. his company is self-built and completely and utterly responsible to people, food and the planet we live on. it makes me want to eat more nut butters, make his 4-ingredient-peanut-butter-banana-oatmeal-cookie recipe, support his obviously-boulder-colorado-beginning efforts. bravo, justin.

the trail on saturday was warm. the first day in months. even the vests we wore were too much, so we peeled them off and relished hiking jacketless, even for a day. i suppose that we will take a couple pairs of gloves and a few garbage bags and go back one day without hiking in mind. it might do our hearts good to pick up the stuff that the 11% has left behind.

because earth IS neat. and it takes all of us to keep it that way.

*****

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