reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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hold on for dear life. [two artists tuesday]

ice

i’m sure the tree held on for dear life.  perched among the big boulders on the shore of lake michigan, these trees have held on through many a storm, waves crashing past them, wind howling.  only this time it was too much.  it didn’t have a chance.

we could hear the lake from our house.  the winter storm was raging and the intermittent crashes and booms were clearly devastation-in-the-making.  when we drove big red over to see, it was astounding.  the wind, the waves, ice had torn up and thrown entire chunks of sidewalk.  boulders were thrown twenty feet.  waves pelted the gazebo that sat back from the lake’s edge.  trees were uprooted, glazed in thick shrouds of ice.  the storm came and the storm left and the lakefront was forever changed.

in the littlehouse on island we watched the shoreline fade – many feet – over the course of a few months.  waves from the south pounded the shore, eating away at earth and trees, demolishing the new dock.  what it looked like when we first lived there is not what it looks like now, merely six months later.  it is forever changed.

we aren’t big sitcom-watchers.  but we are earth-show-watchers.  it’s astounding to see how our good earth is mutating – through no fault of its own.  profound.  fires destroying ecosystems, displacing and killing wildlife, changing the horizon forever.  glacial ice melting, challenging the arctic.  earthquakes and tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis.  toxic air forcing the use of face masks, and even of oxygen, the prevention of carbon dioxide in an environment less protected by photosynthesis and more consumed by greenhouse gas emission.

i have lived a couple blocks from the shore of lake michigan now for thirty years.  the storms in the last ten years have been fierce.  each one erodes the coastline a little more.  walking along the water’s edge the-day-after made it all feel apocalyptic, these changes.  ‘less is more’ the saying goes.  then it alludes that more is even more, perhaps too much.

the tree held on for dear life.  and lost.  are we holding on for dear life?  how are we long-term helping our good earth?  how are we long-term hindering it?  do we have a chance?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

 

aftermath

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the old green chest. [two artists tuesday]

toolchest

the old planters peanuts can sits on top of our dresser.  it is a decor mismatch, so it is not there for its color or what it offers as an artistic statement.  it is there because it was my sweet poppo’s.  he kept it in the third drawer down of his dresser.  in it he would place cash, his money clip, odds and ends from his pockets.  “look in the peanut can,” he’d say, if you needed a couple dollars.  it was one of the treasures i kept from their house, the peanut can that had made its way from long island to various houses in florida.  it brings my dad close and every time i look at it sitting atop our dresser, i feel like we had a little conversation, my daddy and i.

you already know we have a penchant for boxes.  not the cardboard kind,  but most definitely the wooden kind and the metal kind.  old wooden boxes, seemingly value-less, of greater value to me than anyone, things my dad used in the garage, things in which my sweet momma kept her paper clips. each a bitty visit from them.  we have old apple crates, old brewery lidded boxes, boxes with slide lids, boxes with hinged covers and hooks to secure them, tiny boxes and big boxes.  and old vintage suitcases.  all special boxes – places to keep the most precious and the most visually-mundane-but-emotion-permeated items.  a place for rocks or stones we couldn’t place-label anymore, a place for my mom’s wooden clothespins, a place for ticket stubs or notes or feathers or cards, a place for colored pencils, ink pens and nibs, rubber bands, a place for our nespresso pods.  it’s not likely we need any more boxes, wooden or metal.

but there it was.  the somewhat battered green metal carpenter’s chest.  its personality taunted us from the floor of the antique shoppe we were trolling with jen and brad.  i went back twice to look at it, to touch it.  we noted that jen and i touch things when we see them; brad and david stand back and admire them.  different processes.  venus.  mars.  “don’t you have to touchhhh it,” we ask?  but i digress.  anyway, we, david and i, are not big helpers-of-the-retail-world, rarely shopping for new ‘stuff’.  but this chest?  it was different.  it was old.  and it was green.

we walked away without purchasing it.

but i still think about it.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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winding trail. [two artists tuesday]

winding trail

the road from here to there is oft not straight.  the way the crow flies is irrelevant.  “the only way there is through,” joan told me quite some time ago.  we were talking about grief.  i had lost my sweet momma and it felt brutal; at any age the loss of a parent is profound.  i was talking to joan about it – about getting to the other side of the grief.  and she told me that the only way there was through it.  a winding trail it was, with switchbacks and no guardrails.

that has happened for me with each encounter with grief.  there is nothing easy about it, nothing straight.  the grief of loss, the grief of instability, the grief of anxiety, the grief of fear, the grief of insecurity, the grief of aging, the grief of failure, the grief of change, in all its rampant forms.

and yet, out hiking, winding trails are my preference.  a hike that takes me past hidden-treasure-vistas, a hike where i cannot see the end from the beginning, a hike that surprises at each turn.  these winding trails are gifts in the woods, in the mountains, in between red rock formations high in elevation.  there is much to see, much to learn about.  they are journeys of not-knowing.  they are journeys of wonder, of revelation.

we are not crows; no flightpath in our lives will be straight, no endpoint clear in our sight, no one thing all the way from here to there, no vector traveled without veering a bit off-course.  even reverse-threading our lives will not reveal a straight path; instead it will reveal a vast horizon of ping-ponging and circuitous route-making.  we will most definitely wind around, through decisions and opportunities, missed marks and challenges at the goal line, defining and re-defining.  living.

which winds me back to joan’s wise words of years ago, which i can still hear her saying.  the only way from here to there is through.  winding trail and all.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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conked out. [two artists tuesday]

dogga babycat end of day

conked out.  it’s the end of the workday, the end of playtime, the end of the evening, the end of the month, the end of the year and they are conked out.  so are we.  with toys strewn about, they collapse on the floor, a wary eye on each other every so often, just making sure. but mostly, sleepy, eyes closed, soft sighs.

we feel the same way.  conked out.  it has been a year.  tomorrow we’ll search for some sage to burn on the first day of the new year, smudging room by room, letting the snuffed flame’s gentle smoke chase out the negative and allow new light in.

conked out.  it feels like a repeating theme…a basso ostinato…a foundation upon which we are all arriving at this last-day-of-the-year station.  exhaustion seems to be the grounding venn diagram of all those we have spoken with.  like lines of the composer john cage:  dissonant polyphony, indeterminate chance-filled melodies, questioning, shapeless and yet heading in some vexing conclusive direction.  2019.  confusing and atonal with a lack of rests, avant-garde, but in all the wrong ways.

as we approach the last minute of the last day of this year, we sneak a peek at the new year.  new beginnings.  we sigh. deeply.  looking ahead.

i glance at a small sign i have on the wall.  it is not without noticing the irony i read a quote from john cage, “begin anywhere.”  a good place to go from conked out.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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merry! [two artists tuesday]

jingle johns

the upnorthgang gathered around the table.  the glasses were lined up.  multiples of alike wine glasses, aldi winking owl wine at the ready.  we had a keyboard for tuning, sharpies in hand and were seriously dedicated to playing christmas songs on wine-filled glassware.  jay had seen tuned wine glasses in a catalog, but at $245 a set, we thrifty upnorthgangers knew we could do better. plus, we all could play instruments – guitar, piano, clarinet, trumpet, cello, pipe organ, handbells, ukulele, violin…  i mean, we are a talented group of people! hours later, we had composed a new christmas song, which shall remain un-named in this post, and had realized that our songlist would definitely remain short, for indeed we needed at least another octave of wine glasses and, having sipped the excess out of the glasses while tuning, we were out of wine.  next up on the musical challenge list?  charlie’s pickle jars!

so passing the jingle johns at lincoln park zoo it doesn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary to hear music emanating from the, er, portapotties.  The Boy groaned and begged me to not take a picture, but the wineglassperformingartist in me couldn’t resist.

why not take every opportunity to play some music, i say.

christmas eve.  a good reason to sing your heart out.  merry!

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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their slippers. [two artists tuesday]

slippersbw

linda and jim were doing the swedish death cleanse.  linda was determined to de-clutter their home of anything that could potentially burden their children one day.  once on a mission there is no stopping her, so they were diligent about going through every corner, nook and cranny of their home, eliminating anything that was not needed, anything that hadn’t been used in ages or was just simply extraneous.

now, we all talked about that around the table.  with the sun setting on lake michigan and wine in our glasses, our little neighborhood group discussed how hard it is to let go of things,  especially things that have some meaning or are mementos of some sort.  add to that the fact that many of us were raised by parents who had experienced the great depression and you have people who are pre-destined to keep stuff, repurpose it, re-use it, save it for sometime you might need it, save it for when it comes back into fashion so you don’t have to buy it again, etc etc etc.  (that’s definitely my experience and my excuse.)

many times i have entered the basement storage room and gazed at the bins.  in years past, we have eliminated most of the boxes and traded them for these bins, throwing out some things, giving away some things, donating items that are useful, so we have made some progress.  now there are bins with christmas ornaments, bins with artwork and stories and projects created by The Girl or The Boy, bins of things my sweet momma felt too guilty to give away, bins of sewing paraphernalia, bins of art supplies, bins of old music (for everyone gives the musician they know all the old sheet music they come across in their own basement and then that musician, who feels like it’s a mortal sin to throw music out, is compelled to keep it all in file cabinets or, yes, bins.)

from time to time i get a wild hair and go through a bin or random remaining box or pile in the basement workroom.  sometimes i am pretty successful at eliminating clutter.  trust me – i have been in peoples’ homes who have been hoarders and just seeing that makes me want to get rid of everything and live in a tiny house (well, one that would fit my piano.)

this winter perhaps we will tackle this once again.  one more layer of cleaning out.  it is possible.  it’s just tough for me to be ruthless.  i am too thready to be ruthless.  touching memories or seeing them around me is reassuring and fills my heart.

one day in more recent days i went upstairs to look for something in the closet in the hallway.  on the top shelf sat these slippers.  stored here, they are my sweet momma’s and my poppo’s.  they kept them here for when they would visit.

i know that they won’t visit our home again.  noticing the slippers stopped me in my pursuit of whatever-it-was-i-was-looking-for.  all the moments of having my parents present in my home swirled around me, the finality once again a reality.  i struggled with what to do.  i took them out of the closet and brought them downstairs to show d.

laying them carefully on the floor, i took this picture so that i could look at it and remember.  and then, i placed them in a bag so that someone else – a woman with smaller feet than mine and a man with bigger feet than d’s –  could have slippers.  slippers with a bank of memories.  slippers worn hugging my children as they grew.  slippers worn around the christmas tree.  slippers worn in the cold winter sitting by the fire or in the summer drinking morning coffee on the deck.  slippers that lived here, just waiting for their owners, my beloved parents, to put them on.  slippers with big heart.  slippers with profoundly good juju.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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paint-by-number. [two artists tuesday]

paint by number .JPG

some things just stop me in my tracks.  strolling through school days antiques mall i turned the corner and screeched to a halt.  familiarity swirled around me as i stared at this painting – a paint-by-number.  my breathing slowed.  the scene, the hues…all made me feel like i was embraced.  by my sweet momma.  i texted a picture to my sister, to check in, to see what she said.  she texted back that it, indeed, felt familiar and we tried to remember what happened to this painting of my mom’s.  every time i look at this photo on my phone i feel ‘home’.  even right now.

this wasn’t the first time this happened.  back a couple years ago ON mother’s day we were tooling around an antiques store in woodstock, illinois.  we had taken a ‘sunday drive’ (i am turning into my parents!) and looked for antiques stores to visit.  as i turned the corner from one booth to the next it was there, staring at me.  the paint-by-number-jesus that my mom had painted.  i photographed it and called everyone that day.  this painting was hung somewhere in our growing-up house that we can’t all agree on.  but we know it was there.  i turned the painting over looking for my mom’s signature on the back, but didn’t find it.  i studied the frame, one that was identical to a frame that my sweet poppo had made on a paint-by-number-nude (yes, it’s ok to laugh aloud here) my mom had painted and hung in their bathroom (which i know i have written about before).  i pondered how it might have gotten to woodstock, if indeed this painting and truly-identical-wooden-frame might have been my mom’s paint-by-number-jesus.  it wasn’t likely.  our growing-up-house was on long island and then my parents moved to florida so illinois was a bit off the mark (unless she had given the painting to my brother a million years ago and he “generously” donated it, which would make me laugh aloud.)  we left and went home and a few days later drove all the way back, just to study it a little more, to touch it again.  i thought holding it in my hands might tell me if i should buy it and bring it home and, well, i had no idea what to do with it then.  i mean, what does one do with a paint-by-number-jesus?  i didn’t buy it.  i left paint-by-number-jesus in woodstock and i gratefully welcomed my mom’s embrace from afar.

so the other day, in the midst of the stresses of life, we took a stroll in one of our favorite antiques stores, chatting and reminiscing and laughing about all the stuff we used to have growing up and all the stuff that we still have in our cabinets that are now considered antiques.

we tried not to talk about the things that were nagging us, the things we are worried about, the things that seem insurmountable.

and my beloved sweet momma showed up.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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