reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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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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new light. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

luminaria

it is a new day.  filled with new promise, new possibility, new adventure, new hope, new light.  no matter what, the light comes.  it cannot be snuffed out, for after every night there is day.  it is sure.

we look to the horizon and, like the most exquisite of tall-stemmed flowers, we lean toward the sun.  we grow.  we rest.

we know, intrinsically, that even in circumstance where our own light is dampened, when it is dark, when we feel extinguished, exhausted, profoundly saddened, the tiny light that flickers from deep within, from others, from sunrise, can reignite our zeal, rejuvenate us, restore us, bring us bravely back to day.

happy new day.  happy new year.  happy new decade.  happy new light.

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

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joy. [k.s. friday]

joy songbox

the video from My Girl made me out and out cry.  it was just a little hello, sent from around a firepit in the high mountains after a long day of working.  and it was perfect timing.  to see her face and hear her voice was pure joy.

we walked and walked and walked.  miles from millenium park’s christmas tree and skating rinks, past beautiful ornate displays of lights and simple twinkling white branches.  in a rare opportunity linking my arm through My Boy’s as we strolled, i was filled with joy.  the loudspeaker music and dancing lights of the lincoln park zoo just echoed my delight.

as adults, the holidays carry a different set of qualities than they did as when we were children.  much pressure, oftentimes grief, maybe a slippery slope feeling of never-doing-enough, some disappointment, a measure of jealousy or envy perhaps as others-with-family-all-in-town gather together in big festive celebrations.  for those of us who work on christmas eve and christmas day, there is a yet another added layer.

we walked through the woods yesterday looking for the right branch laying on the ground.  we don’t yet have a christmas tree up.  we have other little trees – i have collected small trees through the years – but no true christmas tree.  each year in these last years, we have chosen that “tree” carefully, always something we found, something re-purposed into a christmas tree, something that had meaning.  there was the christmas-tree-on-a-stick – a christmas-tree-misfit – we cut down on the tree farm, a piece of the tree that fell into our backyard narrowly avoiding the house, a branch that had snapped off of our beloved tree out front, a star suspended over a straight trunk wrapped in lights to tease The Boy.

this year i thought about just going to a lot and purchasing a tree, thinking maybe, in the midst of the ending of a really tough year for many,  that might put me into the holiday spirit.  but i just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  we figured that the answer would become obvious, as it has done in the past years.  and it did. watching My Boy, clearly proud of the decorations of the neighborhoods north-of-downtown, agree with us about how simple, beautiful and truly elegant the white branches were, made up my mind.

last night we put the first coat of white spray paint on the two sets of branches we brought home.  we’ll finish coating them with paint later today and wrap them in white lights.  we’ll gently place silver ornaments as we play christmas music in the background.  i will miss My Girl and My Boy like crazy.  i will yearn for my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and sister and brother-in-law and nieces and nephew and all their families, david’s parents and extended family.  it isn’t the christmas of christmas-past.

but there still is magic.  those moments of joy – when everything else ceases to exist and joy eclipses it all.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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“you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” [merely-a-thought monday]

dream

i found a note the other day, tucked inside a book.  it was a jotting-down-of-a-memory and was a quote from The Boy.  he was five and he said, “look at how i can snap (my fingers).  at 5 years old!!  i could become a snap teacher and teach everyone how to snap!”  never too young to dream.

jen is zealous.  she is reallyyyy zealous.  i don’t think i have known anyone who is as zealous a learner as jen.  it is invigorating and inspiring to be around someone who embraces all she does not know with questions and a hope for understanding, as opposed to resistance or suspicion.  she actively seeks out ways to learn the new, the unknown, wholeheartedly jumping in and swimming.  she knows that vitality comes with opening yourself to new things.

pantene recently ran a new video series.  it’s referencing the holidays and in it transgender people talk about what it’s like to go home.  it’s breathtakingly sad the number of LGBTQ women and men who are not welcomed at home because someone cannot learn, ask questions, try to understand.  instead, resistance and suspicion and a whole lot of judgement fiercely reign and the dream of being all together celebrating is devastatingly dashed.  squelching another’s dreams is not the ultimate job of our job as humankind.

yesterday i conducted a christmas cantata.  ahead of time, i had, for hours and hours on end, researched songs to find the pieces i felt would resonate with people, the pieces that would be generously bestowing of spirit and not off-putting.  i looked for the language i thought would tug at their hearts and remind them of the light, the miracle of the season.  when one song didn’t quite fit for me after i had chosen it, i wrote a new one.   they were labeled ‘contemporary’ songs, with melodies, rhythm, chords, years of copyright differing from the hymns in the hymnals.  over thirty people participated:  a choir, a ukulele band, a worship band, a violinist, a violist.  the result was truly beautiful, the message clear and the music gorgeous.  our little church – a church that proudly purports to be reconciling and all-embracing – had moments truly holy in that service.

h is 93.  every week at rehearsal he is ready and willing to learn something.  he is steeped in traditional – after all, he is 93, his year of copyright long ago.  and yet, those new melodies, harmony, challenging rhythms he has learned to sing have brought a freshness of life to him.  never too old to dream.  he knows that vitality comes with opening yourself to new things.

but back to yesterday.  i remain unfulfilled in one way.  because the sad part about yesterday?  all the work and time that these dedicated volunteers had put into this cantata – with my careful choices based on over thirty years as a minister of music – was not seen by the first service folks.  the word ‘contemporary’ made it unfathomable for that service to host without complaint, relegating it only to the second service.  the spirit of camaraderie, the support of the efforts of others in their own church, the truly beautiful music that was made was lost on this first service.  i try to understand their dedication to traditional music, to choice, and i heartedly honor it in selecting music for every other week of the church year.  but i fail to understand their unwillingness to even try to embrace something else, something ‘new’.  i fail to understand any reinforcement of ‘different’, of divisiveness. especially as simply one day and a festive community celebration of the holiday.  especially when churches are constantly looking for relevancy and vitality is one of the necessary ingredients.  they do not know what they missed.  closing off.  what they are missing.

jen and h would like each other.  they both openly embrace new.  they both openly embrace others.  they both dream dreams, happily engaging in life, snapping.  what a gift to be around.

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

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“i forgive you.” [merely-a-thought monday]

i forgive you

frank made sure to bring us the dvd.  our favorite of the hallmark christmas movies, a season for miracles was scheduled for tv viewing at a time we were not available.   and he knows.  frank knows how much we love this movie during this season.  we, i have to admit, spend just a little bit of time watching hallmark christmas movies, despite their obvious indulgence to happy-endings-aficionados.  a season for miracles is such a story, but there are these lovely lines spoken by patty duke toward the end, that inevitable-anticipated-yet-yearned-for end.  she wisely advises one of the stars of the movie, giving him something to consider,  “i forgive you.  there’s a lot of power in those three words.  they can change the world.”

yesterday i sang these lyrics, “all these pieces broken and scattered, in mercy gathered, mended and whole.  empty handed but not forsaken.  i’ve been set free, i’ve been set free.” (broken vessels – j. houston, j. myrin)

in true cliche, i would, indeed, say we are all broken by pieces we need to forgive, things for which we need forgiveness.  we carry these burdens like heavy luggage, dragging them day by day, place to place.  nary a moment goes by without our minds summoning up a reason to be dismayed or disgusted with someone, disappointed in ourselves.  we are not free.

is it pollyanna-ish to believe that the world would be changed if forgiveness were paramount?  is it an irrational, unreachable panacea for all the divisiveness and turmoil?  is there just too much purity – too much hallmark – in those words, in that kind of peace-seeking?

if you could, who would share the third seat in a room with you and forgiveness?  with whom would you seek forgiveness from?  who would you forgive?

is it better to be mended and empty-handed than holding-on-tightly-burdened with sharp, broken pieces that pierce your heart?  where is your free?

it is a season for miracles.

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

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for the times…. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

for the times....jpg

“…for the times they are a-changin…”  (bob dylan)

i read this text after rehearsals tonight.  today was one of those days…not enough time and so many layers.  we all have them.  all the colors in the crayola box.  at once.

“…the present now will later be past…”

my sweet momma would say, “this too shall pass.”  knowing that applies to the most astonishing moments as well as the most staggering, i’m thinking i will try to cling to the present a bit harder.  even if it is a-changin.  especially if it is a-changin.

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

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we are. under construction. [d.r. thursday]

ddot studio

at this very moment, at this very time, with stacks and stacks of paintings and music, we both succumb to the realization that we are – indeed – under construction.  the rests between the notes are there for a reason.  space to breathe, to comprehend, to make the color and the music a part of your fiber.

the rests change you.  they change how you see, how you hear.  they give you pause.  to re-appreciate what you have done and to wonder what will come.  to be aware of the light.

it is the skill of an artist to learn how to sit in the rests without fidgeting.  to just sit.  it is an even higher level skill to create the rest.  and then sit in it.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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a flame through the night. [two artists tuesday]

tiki flame

we lit the torches about 5pm.  it was cold but not breezy and the lake was calm after several days of bigger surf.  it was the last night.

we sat on the back porch steps and watched the flame flicker.  we moved inside and watched it dance from the living room, a fire burning in the woodstove.  we checked the wind and the weather forecast and said goodnight to the torches late that night, flames glowing outside with boxes packed around us inside.  very early in the morning i could see the slightest of flame glimmering in the torches, the light of golden rising sun behind them.  all through the night.  they burned all through the night.

there was something profound about that for us – the flame that kept burning through the night.  i’m not sure i can speak to it.  i can just say that the welcome flame of the torches in the morning was calming, steadying, grounding.  indeed, the sun will set, night will descend, the sun will rise.  the flame continues.  light continues.

it was the last night on island, for now.  the first dawn of next.  and, as these things do – every sunrise and sunset – it has forever changed us.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the simple line. [d.r. thursday]

the sketch

yesterday, while i sketched moments on various keyboards, both pipe organ and piano, d sketched on paper.  and he somehow captured how i was feeling.  the lifting of eyes to the universe, the imploring of the heart.  his scribblings on paper, my scribblings on keys.  two artists, expressing.

the telling of the story – through music, through painting or drawing – does not demand complexity.  sometimes it aches for simplicity.  a pure line of melody, unadorned.  a few fast pen-lines, unfinessed.  the telling of the tale, honestly, pitch by pitch.  not the skirting of the story, the fancified version sung by an vocal acrobat.  instead, the straight-up carole-king-richard-diebenkorn-versions, sung note for note, painted line by brushed line, color by color.  intense in their clean simplicity.

the more complicated things get, the more i list toward simple.  less is more.  my piano left hand has always been a virtual non-stop accompanist to my right hand, arpeggiating  ad nauseum.  in recent years, i’ve asked it to calm down, to allow room for the delivery of the right hand, to allow breath, to allow lift.  together, they have given space for the real scribblings, the true expression.

if you have ever been to a taize service, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of repeated simplicity, a line of music that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

if you have ever held a child’s drawing in your hand, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of innocence, art that will take you to your knees.  nothing advanced or embellished.

it’s the simple line. both ways.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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the box. [k.s. friday]

the box songbox

“the box: a place to put all the stuff of our lives.”  (from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL liner notes 1996)

the old black suitcases store stuff.  treasured moments, all in a jumble, some decipherable, others bits and snatches of times we want to remember, so we keep these feathers and ticket stubs, notes and river stones, scraps of wrap, cards, red rock.  they proudly sit in the dining room, in a stack, their vintage scrapes and broken handles call to me each time i pass them by.  they shower me with memories and times i have passed through, moments i have lived.  i can feel what is in them.

in another box, in another place, are old dreams.  torn vestiges of paper with lyrics, a few notes scribbled in the margins of old spirals.  there are visions and imaginings, goals and undetermined outcomes.  like you, these are the things undone.  there are no ticket stubs or photos in this box; these are the things that have not come to fruition.  these are the things that beckon over and over.  these are the things that demand i consider and reconsider what i am doing today, tomorrow.  these are the things that make me question.  each time i pass them by.  i can feel what is in them.

i am reminded:

“a ship in harbor is safe.  but that is not what ships are built for.”  (john a. shedd)

these are the full liner notes:

“the box:  a place to put all the stuff of our lives.  sometimes this place really hurts.” (BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL 1996)

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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THE BOX from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood