reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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joey’s 20/20. [two artists tuesday]

we hang out with joey coconato every night. we hike out west with him on back-country trails, on high mountain ridges, in glacier national park and yellowstone, in the tetons and canyonlands. we camp in tiny tents and eat meals out of bags, filter our water and hang our food way up in trees. joey is easy in this world and he has inspired us day after day, taking us one more day through this pandemic, breathing fresh air into another evening when we turn off the news, the dessert for the odd buffet that is life these days. joey’s camera captures the tiny and the vast, things that become indelible in your mind’s eye – the beauty is astounding. we see glimpses of him hiking when his selfie stick leads the way or when he painstakingly plants his tripod and creates the chance to watch. otherwise, we see these trails through joey and we are grateful for his keen eyesight and his love of the outdoors. for him, the mountains and the trail seem to make all things 20/20; he is clear and committed and profoundly capable. joey sees the up-close and he sees that which is far away, both are part of his focus, the details and the big picture.

although he does not consider himself a guide, sometimes joey will have others join him on the trail. i’m guessing it is important to him that their goal for the potential of the hike would be similar, that their respect of mother earth and the basics of backpacking etiquette would be allying, that the bottom line of the trail would be the stunning goodness of being a part of the outdoor miracles of nature. it is clear by his grand hiking successes, alone and in tandem with others, that he values those around him, that he embraces sameness and differences. his generous spirit in his gorgeous workplace is not commanding nor controlling with his hiking partners. he has an overall intention, he has made all the proper regulatory reservations and permits, and he looks to his partners-on-the-trail, people he obviously trusts won’t put him in harm’s way, for input. he listens and he considers what they say, whether it is complimentary of his efforts or is critical or probing of plans he has made; he respects the dignity of each person he is with. if they push back or question him, he, without ego or agenda, looks for clarity and truth. he regularly features these trekkers and always speaks to their strengths. he films them as they hike, as they choose their own boulders on their way down the scramble-field. he encourages them. he empowers them. he takes a back seat and quietly goes about being the expert that he is and together they all get there – to the next campsite, down the next canyon, to the next summit. he is a natural leader.

my gaze alternatively shifts from the icicles in this photograph to the trees, back and forth, icicles, trees, icicles, trees. i can feel the cold air on my face staring at the sculptural ice and the changing color of the sky behind the trees gives me pause, makes me remember the day will soon end and a new day will again be upon us. it’s 20/20 this vision – clear that both exist, co-exist even.

20/20 vision is a funny thing. according to the aao, the american academy of ophthalmology, only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without corrective lenses. with correction, 75% of adults have this vision while 25% just don’t see very well at all. so, at best, what we see is somewhat subjective, centered on our own focus, our own viewing lens. i’m pretty certain that in life this pertains to all manners of vision. so many lenses.

these days our lenses have a pandemic-limitation as we respect the boundaries of what we should or shouldn’t do, where we should or shouldn’t go. we know that we don’t necessarily align with everyone else in our choices, but we are painstakingly figuring out how to go about life in this very difficult time, constricted and staying on the trail for the time being. now – with over 500,000 good people in our country who have died from this insidious virus – is not the time to split hairs over alliances. instead, it is the time to recognize the big picture co-existing with the tiniest details and to stay as laser-focused as possible on working together, in unity, in community, with love. now – in this time of the kind of extreme angst not seen in a century – is not the time to cease conversation, to cease looking to each other for input, to cease collaborating. it is not the time for commanding or controlling or invoking fear. perched on a cliffwall, trail transparency and accountability as guideposts, reality as his north star, joey knows all that. he is a natural leader.

so right now, if someone – in any arena, on any mountain – says, “your vision doesn’t align with ours,” i can’t help but wonder about their version of leadership. what does that really mean? whose 20/20 counts? is it the icicles or the trees? or is it both?

maybe i’ll ask joey.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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thirteen seconds. [k.s. friday]

even the lake moaned in answer to the cold. waves pummel the ice from below, desperate for release, anxious to swirl and crash, and we can hear the sound of cracking, of squeaking, of water begging to be free. we stand and listen, transfixed by it all, this symphony in a frozen-solid world, a bit of music in the stillness of sub-zero.

for thirteen seconds we record the song of the lake, feeling a little like mother-nature-copyright-infringers. we marvel and watch, up over our knees in snow on the edge of the giant rocks that line the lake shoreline. ice, for as far as we can see, is shifting and the groans signal to us that, soon, water will win over ice, flow over stasis. soon, a lake that appears unmoving will reappear in all its moody glory and the suspended moment-in-time will pass. in the meanwhile, the lake will appear as a tundra, vast and flat, the horizon meeting the clouds, a straight white line of demarcation. the fury, the passion, the tides are hidden below the surface, furrowing their brows and incessantly working to break down the ice.

we stand there inside the song of the lake and take note of this measure of transformation.

we know in a day or two the ice will be broken up, the waves will return and the lake’s song will resume a cacophony of crashing, a minuet of quiet lapping, wild some days and gently calm others. just as we ourselves seem in suspended moments, we, too, trust the return of movement, of purpose, of the tides.

the sub-zero song of lake michigan.

*****

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and we become shadows. [d.r. thursday]

“the shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby…”(john denver)

in the shadows you can’t tell. nothing is precise. the edges are softer. you can’t tell age or race or gender. you can’t tell shoes or clothing style; you can’t tell anything really specific. it is all gentler, fuzzy, and, depending on the angle of the sun and the texture of the ground, a little bit blurry. seems like it might be a good way to live – softer than a lullaby.

the sun is often closer to setting when we get around to the part of the day when we release all else and go for a walk or go hiking. as we hike through the woods or trek around our neighborhood, the worries of the day, the week, the times, begin to float above us as we attempt to let them go. sometimes, in lieu of laptop-focus-sitting, we will go for a long hike to sort…to discuss…to brainstorm. those are the times it is daytime, when hours are plenty, long shadows are scarce and the sun is high in the sky. but at the end of the day, when it is time to quell the angst a bit, to ease our minds, the shadows prevail and we linger in them, often making play of their gift, snapping pictures of silly poses or just a capture of the very moment on the trail. to look at them later is to hear the lullaby of soft shadows’ reassurance.

in these last days i have begun to realize that which had been close is becoming shadow. i have begun to see, once again, that, in nebulous whirlwind life, time moves on and so do people. i have begun to acknowledge that it is time to let go. we have become shadows in the story of a community. we will fade as the sun drops lower below the horizon, as the moon rises. and with each day passing, we will be forgotten a little bit more. what i believed so deeply mattered has turned out to be evanescent, fleeting and ephemeral, vanishing like a shadow as clouds move in to replace the sun. and for that, there is no lullaby playing, no soft starlight. and there is no way to see our sadness in the shadows on the street.

but there is the promise of another rising sun, another chance for shadow-play, for tender sunlit silhouettes, for the reassurance of the blur of life and stars to come. of new photographs and lullabies.

*****

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pink and strong, SIRS. [k.s. friday]

hmmm. substitute “HE” for “SHE”.

it is doubtful – even maybe unthinkable – that this same post from a recent CNN article, a quote by Katherine Heigl, would read, “i may have said a couple things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to ‘HE’S ungrateful,’ then that escalated to ‘HE’S difficult,’ and that escalated to ‘HE’S unprofessional.'” and why is that?

when is the last time you experienced gender bias? when is the last time you experienced gender discrimination? when is the last time ‘preferential treatment’ wasn’t referring to you? when is the last time someone thought it was ok to speak condescendingly to you? when is the last time you were the target of harassment? when is the last time you were the recipient of inappropriate diminishment at work? when is the last time your employer made it clear to you that you were dispensable? like katherine heigl, when is the last time you were told you were ungrateful? when is the last time you were told you were difficult? when is the last time you were told you, as a professional, were unprofessional? if you can answer these questions without a great deal of memory-culling, you are likely a woman.

so, why is this? why did a powerhouse actress have to endure this branding? why does any woman? in this article about ms. heigl, she stated, “the more i said i was sorry, the more they wanted it.” she continued, “the more terrified and scared i was of doing something wrong, the more i came across like i had really done something horribly wrong.”

endless and looping. created by a male-dominated system to hold powerful women, women-who-speak-up, women-who-make-a-difference, women-who-push-back, women-who-point-out-inappropriateness – in check.

and it still – even in 2021 – works.

in the cambridge english dictionary, gender bias is simple: “unfair difference in the way women and men are treated.”

according to a report by the united nations, in 2019 women held merely 28% of global managerial positions. astoundingly, this percentage 28% is nearly the same as in 1995.

wikipedia gives shape to gender bias: “leaders are expected to be assertive, so women who act in a more collaborative fashion are not viewed as leaders, but women who act assertively are often perceived as too aggressive.” what??!!

jennifer lawrence, in an article for harper’s bazaar said, “”i’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! … i don’t think i’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. it’s just heard.”

how many times have you tried to have your voice heard? how many times have you reached out or responded in a nice-nice voice, the “adorable” voice (ala jennifer), in an effort to not escalate a situation? how many times have you alerted others to a predicament, yet they did not do anything to help? how many times have you been silenced, by the shushing of higher-ups, the lack of mature questions and answers, a conversation back and forth like all good chinwags, like all good and professional collaborations, or worse, the retaliatory actions of a superior? how many times have you been disregarded and scared?

meryl streep, interviewed in 2011, said,”no one has ever said to an actor, ‘you’re playing a strong-minded man’. we assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. but a strong-minded woman is a different animal.” why?

jennifer lopez railed, “i’ve always been fascinated about how much more well-behaved we have to be than men.”

michelle obama, during an interview in 2018, said, “keep fighting for gender equality, even if it makes people uncomfortable.” referring to the uptick of open and candid stories from the #metoo movement, she added, “the world is, sadly, a dangerous place for women and girls. and i think young women are tired of it. they’re tired of being undervalued. they’re tired of being disregarded.”

ariana grande, in her fight against patriarchy, is quoted, “the incredible double standards that we [women] face on a daily basis, in the industry and just in the world, it’s shocking.” she stokes hope, “i have a long list of things i’d like to change … i think, judgement in general. intolerance, meanness, double standards, misogyny, racism, sexism. … that’s what we need to focus on. we’ve got work to do.”

oprah winfrey is quoted, “i was once afraid of people saying, ‘who does she think she is?’ now i have the courage to stand and say, “this is who i am.”

my amazing and beautiful daughter, a professional coach and instructor, carried a tourist’s skis up a mountain the other day. she was also carrying her snowboard and i imagine the extra baggage was a bit cumbersome, but she recognized that this other woman needed a bit of help. she arrived at the top of the mountain to hear a man making fun of this woman’s husband for not carrying her skis. he referred to my girl as a “little snowboard instructor”. i can see her rolling her eyes from here, over a thousand miles away. she wrote on her IG that “girls gotta support each other when (they) can.” but, the icing on her gender-cake post?

she added, “also, i’m a strong little snowboard instructor, SIR.” yep. she is.

now we all need to be katherine or jennifer or meryl or j-lo or michelle or ariana or oprah and maybe we, too, will be heard. or maybe their words will help us all on this never-ending gender-journey. women helping women.

because, yep, we are strong, SIRS.

*****

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snowcake and lemonade. [d.r. thursday]

david, wearing his birthday tiara, waiting to have birthday cake

he said that he stood at the back door and thought, “i’m going to like this time of life best.” out the door, surfing through piles and piles of snow, dogdog ran the yard, bowing to the snow and snacking on it, his chin and face covered. a snowglobe day, david stood and watched our dog in his glee while the coffee brewed. moments later, he brought a steaming mug of strong black coffee to me, lounging in my flannel pjs in bed, sleepy eyes and a warm cat by my side. we clinked mugs and sipped while we talked of birthdays and time.

our day was simple. we ate, we wrote, we ate again. dogdog and babycat were by our sides, not eager to be anywhere else on this frigid day. negative temperatures in the minus-twenties weren’t at all encouraging for hikes outside, or even walks, and i made a mental note to start asking around about a treadmill. we unwrapped a winter-scene jigsaw that had been in the hall closet for years, called people, answered texts, opened a surprise gift that arrived on our frozen doorstep and puzzled at the dining room table. a late dinner and a couple of glasses of red and dogdog was begging to go sleepynightnight. he led the way to the end of the day, a valentine’s-day-birthday, a day of marveling at how dear people are, how fast time goes, how vested we are in adjectives like ‘peaceful’ and ‘promising’ and ‘content’ to describe our next. ‘euphoric’ and ‘carefree’ would be lovely too; so many adjectives, so little time.

on the deck right out the sunroom window, the wrought iron table and chairs were laden with the accumulation of days of snow. i could not help but see the round snowpile on the table as a giant birthday cake; i could not help but see the snow-shape in the chair as a little alien snowman, waiting patiently for a piece of cake. it was just too tempting and david was out front shoveling. with a couple silver christmas balls, a tiara found upstairs in my girl’s room, a tall white taper and some vintage pink-plastic-cake-numbers-that-hold-tiny-birthday-candles, i made myself laugh. sinking well over my knees in snow as i inadvertently stepped off the side of the deck into a drift, i collapsed into the snow, cracking up, just too excited for david to come around the corner of the house, shovel in hand. lemonade, i thought. this is lemonade.

and that, i believe, is what he meant by, “i’m going to like this time best.” a time when you know that lemonade – and the making of it with or without lemons – is most rewarding.

*****

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my momma and chicken soup. [two artists tuesday]

i wish i could sit with my mom right now. i wish i could be at her kitchen table with a giant bowl of her homemade chicken soup and a big glass of red wine. i wish i could be talking with her, really talking, not merely chit-chatting, but sharing all the stuff that we – very-human human-beings – go through. i wish i could feel that kind of comfort, that kind of never-ending fierce support, that kind of unconditional love, that kind of mothering right now. i wish she were here.

making my own homemade chicken soup will have to suffice. pouring a glass of wine and turning on the happy lights in the sunroom will have to do. sitting with david and pouring out my heart, tears and laughter intermingling, will have to satiate me. looking out over the backyard, staring at the lights strewn up between the trees, will have to be enough.

adulthood has its challenges. we race through our younger years at seemingly warp speed, our ever-widening circles further and further away from home. so much presses us. too much sentimentality is rejected; this world does not run on threadiness and success is not deemed reached with a collection of rocks, feathers, branches collected to remember times with beloveds. we are encouraged to push back against emotions that are confusing, that are overwhelming; this world does not reward our angst, our fear, our grief. instead it suggests that teflon hearts, insular, tough, impervious to the outside, will forward us down the road. we give less and less time to nurturing relationships; we are immersed in making a living, in getting by, in our own self-actualization.

and then suddenly, we screech to a stop. and we are there. we are adults. and, despite all the trappings, we are a little bit lost. we look around, we look back, down the disjointed path, and we realize it’s all fleeting and we, struggling, our hearts quivering, the gift of retrospect bright and shining, pine for simple. we wish we could sit and have chicken soup with our mom, or with our children, and listen and share. we wish we could say that we have learned, in all our human-imperfection, that most important of all, just as we might have suspected, are those rocks and feathers and branches. most important of all are those moments spent with beloveds. most important of all is the honest exchange of ideas and thoughts, choices good and bad, learnings and re-learnings. most important of all is the sharing of our emotions, the visceral, the belly laughs, the sobs, the mistakes and the forgiveness of our flawedness, our common denominator. and hopefully, if the world is as full of grace as we are told, most important of all is the giving and receiving of unconditional love.

i wish i could sit with my sweet momma right now and ask her…how did she make it to almost-94 without a broken-heart-from-life-stuff time and again. i wish she could, once again, reassure me that “this too shall pass” and remind me that moments in time are just that – moments in time. i wish she could tell me her coping strategies, the way she found her zen in this big old damaged perfect world.

i’m guessing chicken soup played a big part.

*****

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next. in the sun. [k.s. friday]

an ice field, this river. devoid of color, devoid of life. but below, it is teeming with fish, perhaps turtles, swimming, swimming, waiting for a thaw.

it is much like my studio. it, right now, is devoid of color, devoid of life. i suppose, like the river, it is teeming underneath. but, for the moment, it is an ice field.

i pass by my studio every day. some days i walk in to open the blinds, to allow the southern sun to fill the corners. i walk in later to close them, to keep out the cold and the dark. especially the dark.

my piano waits, swimming silently like the fish and the turtles; it is waiting for a thaw. mine.

i don’t know what’s next. the notes – scraps and notebooks – for the decades of composing and recording and songwriting i’ve done that used to pile all over the top of the keyboard, spilling into the body, slipping onto the strings under the full-stick lid-up, stacked on the bench – have been put away.

i don’t know what’s next. the music – for the decades of work i’ve done that used to pile all over the top of the keyboard, spilling into the body, slipping onto the strings under the full-stick lid-up, stacked on the bench – has been put away.

i don’t know what’s next. there’s a blank journal. a notebook. paper and a clipboard. pencils. an aspen leaf, a few high mountain rocks. there’s a peg from one of elton john’s pianos and a tiny sign that says “i came to live out loud”. waiting. the sun is gathering in the nooks and crannies and diligently pushes the dark cold away, waiting.

my footprints will fill in like these tracks on the river. the work i’ve done, the work i used to do, will fill in, will look less and less like footprints. little by little the wind will blow snow into the tracks and they will eventually dissolve into the rest.

and next will keep waiting. up the river. in the sun.

*****

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wheeeee! [d.r. thursday]

some things are just obvious. that babycat is jaded and a tad sarcastic is obvious. he lives with dogdog who is profoundly gleeful, well, except for the times that he’s morose. he is a full-spectrum dog and rides the roller coaster of what is going on around him, empathic to the nth degree. babycat, on the other hand, would be merely mildly concerned despite all hell raining down on him, except when he is downright naggingly ankle-biting angsting at mealtime. they are different-different-different and they adore each other. it does not, however, stop them from barbs or from being snippy.

some things are just obvious. that i am more jaded and a tad bit more sarcastic is obvious. i live with d who is artsy and in his head, pondering, well, except for the times he’s ranting. he is a full-spectrum chap and rides the roller coaster of what is going on around him, empathic to the nth degree. i, on the other hand, well, actually, i ride along on that damn empathic roller-coaster-that-seats-two. but my attention to details and building from the ground up sometimes butts up with force against his thirty-thousand-foot view, his top-down construct. i’m the one to write-a-lettuh, to return the boneless-nuggets-with-the-bone-in-them. he’s more likely to shrug it off, let it go. i’m the one on hold with the insurance company, researching every last piece of minutiae. he’s more likely to scan through and jump. i’m the one with analysis-paralysis, reading the fine print. he’s more likely to snap-decide and move on. we are different and we adore each other. it does not, however, stop us from barbs or from being snippy.

the combo platter of dogdog and babycat is perfect for us. they each have their own uniqueness, their own personalities, their own quirks. we can’t imagine life without them. they know us and anticipate our every move. dogdog watches for the moment it looks like we are heading to the living room to satisfy our cnn-junky-addiction so he can relax on the rug and chew on his bone, surrounded by dismembered dog toys. babycat watches for the moment it looks like we are heading to the bedroom so that he might be carried up a few steps to the nightcap of schnibbles waiting in his bowl, a preface to a sound sleep, an evening of unmatched cat-snores. so much anticipation of the known.

i wonder about the combo platter of us for dogdog and babycat. are we perfect for them? are our uniquenesses, our personalities, our quirks appreciated by them? can they imagine life without us? have they trained us to know and anticipate their every move? do they listen to our sweet whisperings and watch our gentle hugs and cheer? do they listen to our snips and barbs; do they take sides? do they lay on the bed together when we are out and about in the world and bemoan their placement in life? or do they jump on the roller-coaster-that-seats-two’s sidecars and ride along, bouncing and jostled, paws in the air yelling, “wheeeeeee!”?

*****

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one does not have to look like a snowman. [flawed wednesday]

“so, what do you really do?”

were that question to be paid by frequency, i wouldn’t have to answer it ever again. i’d be a rich chick with a h-o-b-b-y of music. or a h-o-b-b-y of writing. but alas, it is not frequency-paid and so i have to just lightheartedly laugh and, with a touch of demure-yet-playful, explain that this artist thing IS what i do. here i am, a pile of snow with stick-arms, a soul of magical-frosty can-do attitude and someone wants to know what i really do? i may not look like a snowman, but i am a snowman.

“don’t judge a book by its cover,” my sweet momma would admonish anyone who would listen. one day, at 93, she texted out, “don’t underestimate me. i know more than i say, think more than i speak, notice more than you realize.” and she meant it. her spirit – to the end – was strong and she was a five foot powerhouse. whether she looked like a snowman or not, she was a snowman.

we live in a culture that is beleaguered with judgement based on appearances. it’s in no one’s best interest. but it is pervasive and the injustice that stems from quick assumptions is rampant. we have pre-formed opinions for most everything; we have images in our mind’s eye before we do any research, ask any questions, have any conversation. we assume. we presume. we surmise. all before we actually take a second look at the snowman.

it is ‘interesting’ (please note this is tongue-in-cheek) to be looking for new positions. at just-shy-of-62 and just-shy-of-60, it is more age-typical to be celebrating an upcoming or recent retirement than to be passing out resumes. the wrinkles around our eyes, the few grey hairs sprinkled on our heads belie who we are inside. experience and education and boots-on-the-ground knowledge come with a price – and that price is age. in real life, that doesn’t have to be a detriment for an employer. it is a quieter wisdom, a less-intense slower-striding competition with others, a recognition of the collective embrace of gleaning from each other. but the looking-a-tad-bit-older-thing, in person or on paper, rears its head and, too often, the what-we-could-bring is tossed off the table.

here we are, two sedulous snowmen, measured simply by whether we have three round balls stacked on each other, a carrot nose, two button eyes and a scarf wrapped around an undefined neck. we may not look like judge-a-book-only-by-its-cover-snowmen, but snowmen we are.

perseverance picks it all up off the floor and tries again.

goodness. i reckon my sweet momma would have loved the t-shirt i recently saw, “underestimate me. that’ll be fun.”

*****

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the middle of an elongated hexagon. [two artists tuesday]

the cheesecloth sky filtered out most of the sun over the trail through the woods. others had been there before us; the snowmobile track interrupted by the plodding hoofprints of a horse, picking its way through inches of snow. we were next, our boots crunching and breaking through crust the bit of sun had settled on the top of the snow. we saw no one else. we passed by no one else. the quiet was welcome; the quiet was necessary.

in the distant clouds we could see the brush of setting sun. and the lyrics, “…right now it seems to be more than enough to just be here today, and i don’t know what the future is holdin’ in store. i don’t know where i’m goin’, i’m not sure where i’ve been. there’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me. my life is worth the livin’, i don’t need to see the end…” (sweet surrender, john denver)

we were awake in the middle of the night. this is more usual than unusual these days.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the start. of sweet babies lilah and jaxon and their beginnings – their exponential learning day by day, their attaching to people, to things, to understanding. the billowing ever-widening incandescent rainbow bubble of possibility that surrounds them as they grow, as they become.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the end. of the narrowing down of experiences, the detaching, the ever-decreasing possibilities of dearest columbus, in the journey that minds take on roads of dementia.

we talked about the elongated hexagon of life. of the middle. of the time in the center. of our lives. “more than enough…just to be here today…more than enough…”

the trail is familiar; the trail is different every day we take it. we trace deertracks with mittened hands and build snowmen and snowhearts with the powdery snow in the shade of the trail.

we don’t know where we’re going. we can’t see the end. we are smack dab in the middle. and, on this bitter cold day in muted woods under a cottage cheese sky in silence, that needs to be enough.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY