reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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soundtrack on repeat. a balm. [merely-a-thought monday]

were i to have their addresses, i would write thank you notes to ben folds, jon boden, sam sweeney, ben coleman, nick laird-clowes, paul buchanan, ron sexsmith et al….you get the picture. this soundtrack is our go-to right now. not only does it elicit thoughts of this most-marvelous-movie, but the music just speaks to us. on repeat. over and over we listen to it, never wearying of it.

there are just certain pieces that center you, that give you pause, that lift you. there are really too many to count for me. some of them are as simple as the text sound my phone makes when either of my children write to me. some of them are unembellished and sound like my husband humming along. some of them are as complex as layered music can get. some of them are silent, floating rumi’s words on their wings: “listen to silence. it has so much to say.”

these words of wisdom from this film, brilliance written and directed by richard curtis: “i just try to live every day as if i’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” and these words on re-living days that have passed: “live every day again almost exactly the same. the first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” i am reminded again and again as we listen.

this movie stays with you. it’s right there, beckoning you to remember. in the recesses behind the lists and tasks and daily troubles, in profound je ne sais quoi it quietly sits and waits for you. it’s a well to dip into even on the darker days and its music evokes each thoughtful scene.

we sit in many layers of complexity right now. it’s a symphony of great proportion, filled with questions, with challenges, with things begging for our angst-filled attention.

this album, on repeat, is a balm.

*****

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“christmas tree drop-off”🎶🎶 [merely-a-thought monday]

it was instant. “christmas tree drop-off” to the tune of “beauty school drop-out” started singing inside my brain. it would not stop. i still cannot look at this sign without the 6/8 song incessantly nagging me and nagging me.

it was the day after christmas – just one mere day – and we went hiking out in one of the nearby state parks. we came upon the drop-off near the parking lot. already – not even 36 hours since santa’s arrival – there was a tree, lonely and discarded. a few days later, after the snow had fallen and sleet had crunched over the trail, there were several more trees. we are pretty certain that these will be chopped up into mulch, which is a good thing – back to the earth – but it was sad to see a pile of no-longer-wanted christmas trees, their value diminished by the passing of the day.

hiking the snowy trails, my memory bank filled with sweet stories i read aloud to my girl and my boy. “why christmas trees aren’t perfect” is a story about an imperfect tree named small pine and my ridiculously emotional heart remembers this sweet tree and its generosity, its commitment to the wildlife in the forest, its community. in this classic book, also a video, small pine was chosen for its connection to sweet animals and its warm and giving spirit. each time i read that little book, my heart celebrated the spirit of that tree. in that same thready heart, i wonder about what it feels like to be one of these trees, out in a cold pile, chosen, used and then quickly and unceremoniously discarded out in the snow. do they know why, i wonder, as i gaze at the pile, animating the inanimate.

ditch sits on our table in the sunroom. it is surrounded by twinkling white lights and we sit with it at that table every day. we will not dispose of him. his purpose is not just for christmas. instead, his role continues on – to remind us of time spent in the mountains, to remind us to see the little things, to appreciate the imperfect, to remind us of caring for something that may not otherwise have made it. it reminds us that being chosen and employed in good use deserves explanation in discard.

and so, i want to go sit in the snow and talk to these trees.

*****

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“not the same.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the dog hides in the bathroom when there is even the hint of a disagreement, an argument, any kind of underlying tension he senses in his sweet and highly intuitive body. he slowly rises from the old wood floor in the living room or the tiled floor of the sunroom or sprawled on top of the raft and tiptoes down the hall to lie down out of the fray, even if it’s a quiet fray. he can feel it – the tension – and it makes him feel angst.

this year. angst. how can any of us be without angst this year? it seems that things in the universe have spiraled out of control, things are afire and we drop-roll in anxiety. we succumb, in pain, to the extreme pressures this year has presented and sometimes we direct it at each other. ptsd is alive and well and will likely prevail past december 31, rolling its tentacles into the new year.

“things will not be the same because we will not be the same,” 20 texted us, having stumbled across this quote. he captured, in his passing on of these words with no attribution, the truth of it. things will not be the same. and neither will we. we will not be the same. and neither will things.

so i guess the question is this – how do we all rise from the ashes of this year? how do we “live above the circumstances” as jonathan texted? how do we drag our tired bodies and minds and hearts into 2021 and have hope?

though, decades ago, i was granted a master’s degree in counseling and i try to incorporate the methods of communication i learned, i still fail miserably in the middle of spatting with d. i try to resist my and his laundry list of what-happened-last-times or i-remember-you-saids or i-remember-you-dids. it is to no avail. somehow we end up tiffing not-so-much only about now, but instead, about all the back-thens up to now. i don’t think we’re alone in this. and i suspect that this year has burdened us all with so much stress and insulated time together that it is inevitable. there has been so much; confusion and anger and grief and sadness wash over us all. we are all exhausted. we are forever changed.

but i hope we can also take away from this year that we survived it. broken wrists, pandemic fears, covid-lost jobs, a city stricken by violent social injustice, a country in chaos, chasms of relationship differences, isolation, suffering a firing, losing a community. we will not be the same. things will not be the same.

and yet, we are here…on the doorstep of 2021…in the tiny liminal space between the holidays, rapidly approaching the new year. the bootstraps call our names and, again, we bend, like rugged, ragged reeds in the wind, and tug them up. we try, once again, to remember that we have somehow gotten through 363 days – already. we are changed. things are changed. i heard myself saying to a dear friend, “yes. you are made of every single thing up to this very minute. but now you are here and your next step is in now, not in then, not in all that.” i need remember. we need be in now. in spite of and because of. looking forward, stepping forward. ever slowly, but doggedly forward. tripper would celebrate this phoenix-choice.

two wise women offer these words:

“the life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” (anna quindlen)

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

alike. and different.

things will not be the same, yes, because we will not be the same.

maybe that’s ok.

*****

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whittled. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we all travel the milky way together, trees and men.” (john muir)

the pandemic rages on, wreaking destruction; after 800 years, jupiter and saturn line up in the sky. and i cannot wrap my head around the absolute-insignificant-significance of each of us. in this moment, on this piece of earth, under this sky, we whirl through space and time, reaching out to grasp onto bits of life – merely air – and make a dent in the atmosphere where we stand.

2020 has been a year of whittling. it has whittled away at our safety. it has whittled away at our health. it has whittled away the physical companionship of our loved ones. it has whittled away relationships, through political divide, social justice mores, the pursuit of personal freedoms over community. it has whittled away trust, heaving it to the side as we watch, astonished, as untruths, gaslighting, even propaganda surround us both under the cloak of country and up close and personal. it has whittled away the security of our finances, our work suspended. it has whittled away at our shock gauge; each time thinking there has been enough and being surprised by yet more, the baseline of dismay ever-changing. it has whittled away the convergence of reality and logic and it has left confusion in its place; it has paralyzed us and it has frightened us. it has whittled away what we understand.

and yet, the trees stand steadfast. they continue to reach for the sun, arms held out to the light. they neither seek to understand as they grow nor question the storms that have battered them. they just are. their place in the milky way dents the atmosphere a tiny bit, just as ours does. we travel, in various rotational directions, hundreds of thousands miles per hour along with the trees. all of us, together.

“you are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann, “desiderata”)

*****

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“what is going on?” [merely-a-thought monday]

denver riggleman said it best, “what is going on?” the chaos abounding in the political arena is the stuff of wildly hysterical hyena-laughter, the stuff of destruction, the stuff of the danger of propagandizing that-which-is-not-true.

the politicians who have lined up behind the current president, the-one-who-lost-the-election, are merely minions being played, little people doing the dirty work of a man who is so immersed in himself he has ignored a sweeping pandemic killing thousands of americans-on-his-watch every single day. without fact, without conversation crossing the aisle, without second thought or conscience, these politicians are cowering to this president for what? a pat on the head? my dog is less needy than that.

as we move through this time, we see professionals who are doing their job with excellence reamed out and cast to the side. we see people who are speaking out against the management of this leadership who are dismissed. we see individuals spoken about with strategic words of malice, gaslighting insinuations of wrongdoing, meanspiritedness at play.

we are left – deliberately – with confusion. as people watching, we are served up narrative, a silver platter full of nothing, expected to go merrily along with it all, to join the crusade, to not ask questions. we watch Power and Control take over. we are appalled at the gall this leadership and his team have exhibited. we are expected to believe him because, well, he is who he is, they are who they are. you can’t see the pedestal but it’s there. his minions have joined him inside his sickness and we, as populace, have been made the stadium audience as this unnecessary wrestling match moves forward, as people are thrown to the mat, as due process is ignored and the foundation shudders.

what, indeed, is going on here?

*****

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covid test. the unknown. [merely-a-thought monday]

the unknown is often worse than reality. i had all kinds of monsters in my head battering my nerves, just thinking about having a covid test. i wasn’t feeling well and, with my symptoms aligning with the utterly vast myriad of symptoms attributable to coronavirus, i was checking the list and checking it twice. worried and already quarantining for 14 days since we had been exposed, we scheduled tests. and i started getting nervous. it felt like we were living inside a sci-fi movie.

my adrenaline was rushing before we left the house. i felt shaky. it was a big response to what must have been a letdown for that adrenaline rush. the test itself was easy, painless. it was a rapid test and we knew we would find out our results in a mere half hour.

david’s came – “negative,” read the email. my email asked me to come back inside for a confirmatory test, a specimen that would be sent to a lab for results that might have a slightly lower degree of fallibility. we went back in, standing on the dots stickering the floor, slathering with hand sanitizer, speaking through two-ply masks. and now, we wait.

we have been inordinately careful. we’ve been wearing masks, washing hands, our fruit, the bottles of wine gift-delivered at our front door. we’ve wiped our groceries and kept our mail separated. we have distanced and not gathered. we have worried about ourselves. we have worried about my girl and my boy. we have worried about david’s parents and all our family members out of town. we have worried about the people in our community, the customers and staff at the corner store, the people in line at the grocery. we have tried to be respectful. it has mattered.

a friend re-posted a meme today that read, “it shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.” this feels like the baseline, a low bar of compassion, the starting gate of people taking precautions to protect other people. it has been stunning to watch people of this country ignore all cautions about a pandemic raging across the nation. a dear friend, way earlier in the year and in the early arc of this devastating disease sweeping the world, wrote that the lyrics “you would cry too if it happened to you” were on replay in her mind. a number of people were quoted as saying, “i don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”

what does it take?

there truly are no exceptions. we have been instructed in the use of masks, the advantages of social distancing, the merits of proper handwashing. as things have been escalating up the devastation scale, we have been encouraged to limit our gatherings, to not travel, to not have parties, to not make exceptions. because, truly, there aren’t any. every one of our lives is valuable. every single one. to be cavalier is to take chances. big chances. it is all an unknown.

healthcare workers and hospitals are overwhelmed. they are at the brink of collapse. yet, households of people are gathering together, playing a russian roulette covid game. citizens of this country are dying in situations that are “harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary.” yet, people are refusing to wear a simple piece of cloth on their face. the statistics of this pandemic are exponentially climbing. yet, people on the trail fail to move six feet away as they pass, people in the grocery store have masks around their chins, people regularly scoff at the science – S C I E N C E – that is guiding the medical experts.

on monday evening, in the middle of our quarantine, i had intense pain breathing. my lungs, my windpipe, my trachea were on fire when i took a deep breath. i had a video chat with a nurse who told me to go to the ER and have an EKG to rule out a heart event. i did not believe i was having a heart event. to me, it seemed pretty clear that it was a breathing issue, but there are definite limitations to having a medical visit online and i understood her desire to err on the side of caution. because of the sheer arrogance of people who scorn the restrictions to help with this pandemic, our healthcare system has been forced to regulate that only patients are allowed into the hospital. the very idea that i would be going A-L-O-N-E into the hospital, perhaps with something serious, was more terrifying than not going. thank you to all those people in this country who have foisted this gross unfairness on anyone suffering, on anyone in a medical emergency, on anyone hospitalized for absolutely any reason. the lack of compassion for others is abhorrent.

one morning we made a big pot of texas chili. we loaded a folding table into little-baby-scion. we packed plates and plasticware and cups. we drove over to 20’s and set up our folding table at least 8 feet from his folding table in his open garage. and we had chili together with our coats on and blankets covering our legs in the open-air cold garage. two days later he had symptoms and two days after that he tested positive. his covid was gifted to him from a friend of his sister’s who casually walked into his sister’s apartment while he was working there. she wore no mask and boasted of a party she had attended. she clearly did not care. it did not matter to her that 20 has chronic asthma or that his sister has a compromised immune system. her freedom to not have a piece of cloth over her face was more important.

he called us to tell us. that was the beginning of our 14 days. we didn’t go anywhere except outside to walk. no stores, no gatherings, nothing. nowhere. it was unknown to us if we were contagious. it was unknown to us if david was asymptomatic. it was unknown to us if my symptoms were covid. but it mattered to us.

meanwhile, 20, who needs a new cellphone did not purchase one. “why not?” i battered him with questions. he told us that he didn’t want to spend the money if he wasn’t going to live. the unknown. i want to shake the supposed-friend of his sister’s who just didn’t care. “what is wrong with you?” i want to scream at her.

and now. waiting. by the time this publishes i hope that i am done waiting. but in the meanwhile, i am waiting. for the unknown.

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


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“← →” [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen, in her book a short guide to a happy life, says this: “yogi berra’s advice seems as good as any – when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

we have arrived. it doesn’t come with directions. no gps. no warranty. no guarantees. no table-of-contents-glossary-index-laden information booklet. nothing. just a choice. well, always a choice.

there’s something amusing about signage that points both ways. there aren’t a lot of things making me giggle right now. but, although we have passed this spot on the trailhead many times, this signpost made me giggle the other day. i am at a crossroads. we are at a crossroads. which way?

“…a dividing line between seeing the world in black and white and in technicolor.” (anna quindlen) i suppose the spectrum is meant to be seen in its entirety. all the colors. not a flattening out of the incandescence of life. i suppose it’s not as scary as it seems. i suppose luminous scrappy will rise up, face the signpost and decide.

it’s all fluid. we are all fragile seedlings bending in the wind. invisible forces, gravity, dark, lost-ness, steadfastness, weightlessness, light, found-ness buffet us and brace us, both. and we orient. we stand at the signpost on the trailhead and choose, knowing there will be another moment when we will choose yet again.

“and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann)

either way. either direction. either path. i just start. we just start. again.

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“transparent.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the headline from business insider magazine reads, “chris krebs firing from CISA (cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency) was evidence of his success.” the united states top department of homeland security cybersecurity official was fired this week after spearheading efforts to protect the democratic process of the election. he spoke to the truth; he exposed the falsehoods, the mismanagement of factual information, the peril to free and fair elections, his ignored answers to questions about an election that was “the most secure in american history.” he was removed. democracy is at stake.

defense secretary mark esper, apparently not loyal enough to a president who seeks not truth, but rather, compliance, was fired early in november, injecting uncertainty into an already perilous global climate. he was replaced. our country is destabilized, put at greater risk.

 lt. col. alexander vindman, a national security council staff member, raised his hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  after speaking to the truth in impeachment hearings for the current president, he was fired by the president, the same man who was impeached. his error? speaking the truth, citing facts, about a man who demands only absolute alliance, disregarding truth. that man, along with those complicit to him, exacted revenge.

 dr. anthony fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, speaking to the truth, the inconceivable and unconscionable peril that this country is facing in the middle of this raging global pandemic, has been minimized and tossed off, threatened with being fired by a president intent on absolute control, absolute obedience. factual information needed to protect a vulnerable populace has been withheld, experts with words of wisdom have been held at bay. more people will contract this disease. more people will die.

 “transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.”
“transparency is the open sharing of information from a business to its consumers. it creates brand trust, good communication and perceived good citizenship.”

transparency is not the utterance of pretty words. it is not relationship participating in hiding the truth, sweeping it under the rug. it is not silent. it is not intentionally deceptive. it is having hard and healthy conversations,
respectfully taking responsibility, navigating difficulty, meeting and addressing problems head-on, collaborating with maturity, eyes toward progress and shared authenticity.

our election process. our national security. the integrity of our leadership. our collective health.

lack of transparency. peril. potential collapse.

there is too much of that going around.

what a sad commentary on our times.

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like pond scum. [merely-a-thought monday]

“one thing i can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies.”

disconcerting?

while i’d love to say that this – “how hungry people are to consume lies” – is merely disconcerting, it wouldn’t begin to express how shocking this is. people in this country are, seemingly, not just hungry to consume lies. they are ravenous to consume lies.

i suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. it is the basis upon which the national enquirer and other such tabloids are sold in vast quantity. it is the in-line-at-the-grocery-store appeal of juicy gossip, falsehoods, lies and machinations of true stories. people soak it up. having no desire to see doctored photos or absurd stories i have never once purchased any of these.

the last four years, especially, have proven, time and again, that this country is full of sponges. in my mind’s eye, devotees to the current president sit at the ready, next to a scummy pond, thirsty. the wind blows a slight breeze across the surface and the green water ripples. the populace alerts to the movement of pond scum and, like chore boys fresh out of the package, suck up the mindless babble, the intentional lies, the aggrandizing rhetoric, the dangerous narrative. never does it occur to them to fact-check, for the pond scum has clearly clogged the arteries to their brains and they are too lazy to question what they are hearing. instead, they jump-jump-jump on the dyin’-to-be-lyin’-also bandwagon and ramp it up, full steam ahead. and the rest of us stand back and are astonished, yet again, over and over, at their hook-line-and-sinker devotion to something so nasty and self-serving.

it comes as no surprise then, most especially since the current president has advertised his malintent for months now, that these people-of-the-populace have gathered onto the fraudulent-election-wagon. they have soaked up the scummy messaging and have made it their own; conscience, nonetheless truth, has not entered the equation. their unmasked fervor is making them each big fish in little ponds; their words are reverberating in minds lacking of questions, devoid of analysis.

what is gained by the re-telling of lies? what is the endgame of this fantasy, this dive into psychosis? what is the point of this mean-spirited, predatory piranha of the truth?

perhaps it is of solace to them that their pond scum, a living organism, is good fertilizer and can be used to add important nutrients into, say, compost.

much like manure.

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yes.”time for a cool change.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the little river band sings it, “time for a cool change….i know that it’s time for a cool change.”

that’s for sure. on so many fronts.

the horizon looks promising…the sun setting on the toxic, the sun rising – now, tomorrow, soon – on a deep cleansing breath of new.

we could feel it in the air on saturday. we wondered if it was our imagination. there was something. something kinder. something more generous. something hopeful.

we felt it at the gas station, pulling in just as a pickup pulled in from the other direction. the pickup stopped, backed up and pulled around to the other side, the driver waving as i called my thanks out the open window. we felt it at the corner, turning to head to the park, the trucker waving us on instead of taking his turn. we felt it on the trail, people wearing masks, allowing distance, eyes smiling above their masks, hands waving. something was different.

time for a cool change. time for healing. time for unity. time for responsibility. time for leadership.

yet, the next day, in the wake of this deep breath, in the wake of a called election, in the wake of inspiring victory speeches, i could sense the waves of anger rushing to the shore. the grace of the day before was a little less pronounced, the relief a little less relieved. the pulse of the nation had quickened and there was a bit of uneasy quaking.

i sat this morning for a bit, reading the narratives of the angry. i read the fights that people were picking with others. i read both intelligent debate and angry spew, baseless rhetoric. i read attacks on people of the populace, people fuming at an election loss, verbally going after other voters, some barely acquaintances, ugly, threatening words of vitriol splashed across social media and the news. my brilliant son put it well when he wrote of the harmful mean-spiritedness of conservatives toward anyone who voted blue. he wrote of the marked difference between that and the reactions of the left, who have specifically directed their dismay to those committing the heinous and not to everyday people. he pointed to the difference in the celebratory reactions of the left vs the right. his words ring true. and, devastatingly, this violence, whether verbal, emotional or physical, is incited by this president, his administration and the party that sits there, silent, complicit. it is indeed time for a cool change.

it is unfortunate, but not really mind-blowing, that this current administration continues to dial up the temperature on this. it’s consistent. compassion and kindness, honesty and the democratic principles of this country are not part of the equation for a president who is still coddling his own agenda rather than seeking peace and health for this nation.

this country is exhausted and, while 71 million people voted for this president, 75 million voted for a new administration and new light. because it is *most definitely* *way past* time for a cool change. it’s time to move on.

yes, little river band, “you KNOW it’s time for a cool change.”

so we stand outside, our faces to the wind and take a deep breath.

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