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romper-bomper-stomper-boo. wait. [two artists tuesday]

bcat in the window romper room

i don’t know about you, but when i was little i waited with bated breath for my name to be called at the end of the romper room show.  it never was.

i don’t know about you, but when i was in school i waited to be called on to teams during gym class, the teacher having chosen team ‘captains’ and those captains choosing their favorite friends, a really terrible way to divide up a class without hard feelings.

i don’t know about you, but as an earlier adult i waited to see a single song take off, an album go gold, the writing-writing-writing of a song recognized.  somewhere along the way i realized the sheer folly of that and i knew it was important to be satisfied with something-of-mine that resonated with someone-out-there; it need not be monumental to be monumental.

i don’t know about you, but right now i’ve been waiting to go places.  i haven’t yet gotten my hair cut or gone clothes shopping or been out to a restaurant.  i haven’t gone to the bank or a pub or even a starbucks.  i haven’t ordered out or picked up or sat curbside waiting for, well, anything.

i don’t know about you, but i am still impatiently waiting to see my children.  a city away seems, hopefully, doable in the near future but a trip to the high mountains requires a bit more detail, a bit more planning, a need for precautions and safety-taking.

i don’t know about you, but it all feels like we are on hold.  like we have dialed in and are listening to the interminable muzak-music but, with too much invested, can’t hang up.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  we are waiting.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  and we are watching.

we are watching others move freely about in the world and we wonder – are we the weirdos here?  we are watching the disparity between what people say and what people do – those who want to be perceived as covid-safety-savvy but are out tooling around.  we are watching the restlessness and the dismissiveness of a pandemic-weary-world.  we are also watching anxiety and confusion increase, sleep eluding us, plans in disarray – sub-themes of future covid-19 movies.

and yet, we hesitate.  to resume normal.

because these times are not normal.

so we take a bit more time to peer through the magic mirror, look out from in, and romper-bomper-stomper-boo wait.  just a little bit longer.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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relics. [two artists tuesday]

stop sign quarter

we stopped there every time we rode our bikes past on the way to the beach or the harbor.  north shore outdoor recreation center & school of skindiving was a shop downtown east northport, a couple blocks from the railroad tracks and across the street from the old auto parts store.  our high school biology teacher jim owned it and we’d stop in and visit, looking around at gear and flirting with the just-slightly-older-than-us-guys who worked there.

when i was 17 i started working there after school and on weekends.  i’d do office work, the newsletter, and sell scuba, archery and other outdoor-related sporting equipment.  the fill tank, a pool of water in which oxygen tanks are immersed in order to fill them for use while diving, was just outside the office and i can’t tell you how many times i ended up sitting in it.  until i got smart and carried extra clothes to work with me in the car,  i had to drive home to change, sopping wet and glorying in it.   i was the only girl there and these boys were brutal teasers.

the basement of the shop was formidable, dungeon-like; at the top of the stairs were a sliding chain lock and the light switch.  the gestetner machine (a copy machine that invariably spewed purple stuff all over you during use) was in that basement which meant i spent some good time down there wrangling this obstinate office contraption.  from way down in the depths of this concrete cavern, i could hear the chain sliding and the click of the light switch, leaving me in the dark to feel my way back up the steps and stand at the door, pounding to be released from yet another prank.  yes, brutal stuff.

crunch was in charge which left jimmy and ollie and i under his thumb.  much more a rule-follower, crunch was a task-master and was the one who turned down the blasting stereo of ‘heart’ singing ‘barracuda’ in the workroom.  he wagged his fingers at us to sweep or organize regulators, but he was right-in-there, shortchanging me with the growing-boy deli orders they sent me on, leaving notes on my little vw about town-noon-whistle-blowing-timeliness, not setting me free from the front sidewalk window when i, during christmas-eve-day last-minute-shopping-hours, dressed as an elf and, coerced to fix something in our christmas display, was locked in, forcing me to grin and bear it and stand with plastic-santa, waving at people walking by and the crowd that gathered at the auto parts store.  but we all did good work together, the dives were organized, people had the right gear and the shop was a place customers loved to come and linger in.

an older italian couple lived above the shop and luigi was not as loud as his wife.  without the benefit of air conditioning, the windows and lack of thick insulation in the walls made it easy for us to hear her rapid-fire italian admonishments of her husband, always punctuated by a shrill “luigi!”  in our first-hand innocence of marriage-challenges we’d voice, “poor luigi.”  i don’t think i ever knew his wife’s name.  i wonder about their lives.  where did they go?  their rows weren’t nearly as loud as ‘barracuda’ or the sounds of boisterous laughter coming from the back storage/workroom of the shop.  they were simply a part of the story, a part of the history of that place, a sound-artifact i can still hear.

during one of his college classes, crunch, who ended up one of my very best friends, for a psych class project, decided to glue a a few coins onto the sidewalk out front and hide in the tent displayed in the front window, capturing passersby reactions to money-for-free.  they always went for the quarter and it was predictable how earnestly they would try to pry this off this sidewalk, invariably stopping to rub at their fingertips, digging in backpacks or purses for pens or keys to pry with.  nevertheless, the superglue held and the coins remained on the sidewalk for a long time to come.  i don’t know when they finally disappeared.

for those of us who actually think coins count as money, it’s natural to stop and pick up coins when you see them, the whole find-a-penny-pick-it-up-thing.  the little jar at home fills up and is, surprisingly, a good sum of money when it’s up to the tippy-top.  so when we passed the two pennies in the UPS parking lot, david bent down to pick them up.  one heads-up, one tails-up.  i immediately yelled, “no!  don’t touch them!”  it was the very beginning of the pandemic and touching ANYthing without sanitizer nearby was a formidable act.  it was too late; david had picked them up.  so he brought them over to the sidewalk by the UPS store and laid them on the window ledge.  i wonder if they are still there.

the quarter was on the trail when we were hiking last week.  it made me stop; it’s a quarter, after all!  i looked at david, pondered, then shrugged, and, against every reflex, left it there and hiked on.  the not-picking-up-free-money-guilt set in but not enough to break the don’t-touch-it-pandemic-rule.  i wonder if it is still there.

in this time of so-much-change and the use of so-much-technology, i find myself thinking of those times, over four decades ago now, when things seemed simpler.  coins counted, ink-laden-copy-machines slowed us down.  i think about the relics that were left behind.

and i wonder, forty years from now, when i am 101, what will those relics from this time, this time of pandemic sweeping our world, look like?  what will they be?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“the only one wearing a mask” [merely-a-thought monday]

the only one wearing a mask

CONFUSED.  CONFUSING.  CONFUSION.

all apply.

we don’t go into any store without a mask on.  the way we understand this – is that this is essential.  in an effort to curb the spread of this pandemic, protect others and do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ we need to follow simple protocol.

at the risk of redundancy, which i have been accused of before, we have been appalled at the lack of people wearing masks.  it’s not like you are being asked to undergo a colonoscopy before entering the grocery store (or worse yet, the prep for one); it is a simple request:  wear a mask.  yet, there we are, in the store and we can feel the now-familiar tightness-in-our-chest-anxiety rising as we attempt to move away from people who seem to care little about distancing or breathing their aerosols our way.  what-on-earth-is-so-hard-about-this??

david went to a small grocery the other day.  he had his mask and he had brought disinfecting wipes with him.  neither of these were burdensome to him.  he walked into a somewhat crowded store and found that he was the only one wearing a mask.  what?!

wwmrd? (what would mr. rogers do?):  be a good neighbor.  (i’m betting he’d wear a mask.)

we live in wisconsin so it would seem prudent to look up what the department of health services has to say about this:

When should I wear a cloth face cover?

  • You should wear a cloth face cover when you are outside the home conducting essential activities such as going to work, to the grocery store, pharmacy, banking and enjoying outdoor activities while maintaining physical distancing.

Wearing a cloth face cover may be beneficial as it may help to protect others from germs you may be spreading without knowing it.  (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm)

that seems relatively clear.  embracing redundancy once again:  “you should wear a cloth face cover when you are outside the home conducting essential activities such as going to work, to the grocery store, pharmacy, banking and enjoying outdoor activities while maintaining physical distancing.”

down the street the state of illinois is requiring face masks.  ahhh, you say with a cavalier smirk unhidden by a face mask.  that state has a democratic governor, you point out as you enumerate the many ways that the government is taking over your personal life by issuing coronavirus guidelines.  i’m not a biologist or an epidemiologist but i suspect that this pandemic is not stopping to discern the difference between democrats and republicans.  and a face mask, worn by you or the people you encounter in a day, just might protect you, your family members, your friends, your colleagues, the people-who-you-don’t-know-at-the-grocery-store-but-who-count-anyway.

so why are the vast majority of people not wearing masks? why are so many folks not social distancing?  why are people announcing vacations on facebook?  vacations?  are we even encouraged to do that right now?  (because who wouldn’t love to go merrily on a vacation for a while?)  one sweet person, who lives in another state, replying to a text of mine that bemoaned missing my children asked me if we were on “house arrest”.   everything is confusing.

one of the funniest, albeit a tad off-color, clarifications of the what-would-mr-rogers-do approach i read said:  “having some states locked down and some states not locked down is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.”  no exponential brainpower needed there.  i would think that swimming-pool-water-rule applies to most all the guidelines.  seems pretty clear to me.

i guess i’m just saying i don’t understand.  this is a global pandemic.  despite a plethora of conspiracy theories distorting reality, there is medicine and there is science.  i, for one, would rather place my trust in the people immersed in those than in self-aggrandizing politicians or propaganda-pushers, each ignoring medical science in their own creative ways.  there is a difference.  “america strong” reads the flag we pass on 7th avenue.  strength and resilience are found in unity, not division, in working together, not apart, in being neighborly.

as the country begins to prematurely open up and disregard the CDC’s guidelines as “overly restrictive” we will likely download that multi-page guide.  we would like to see more specifically how we can do our part .  thinking they might actually protect us, we want to see the ‘overly restrictive’ restrictions.  we want to participate in a responsible way.  we will follow these guidelines as best we can.  we will social distance.  we will cough into our elbow.  we will not gather.  we will not pee in the pool.

and we will freaking wear masks, even if we are the only ones.

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

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contrail pondering. [two artists tuesday]

contrail

on island we rarely heard airplanes overhead.  if we did, they were small cessnas and pipers, low-wing and high-wing single engine airplanes, buzzing over the shoreline heading for the small grass strip airport.  otherwise, it was quiet. very.

lately, here, we have noticed that it is quieter than normal.  we are in what is generally an approach for the milwaukee airport and we often see airplanes overhead heading north or airplanes coming across the lake in line for o’hare, south of us.  it seems more of a rarity now to hear a jet overhead.  it makes us pay attention.  it makes us look up.  it makes us ponder.

we wonder where it is coming from, where its final destination.  we wonder how many passengers are on board.  in these times of no-travel, the contrail seems a contradiction of this time, a plane leaving its mark on the day.

in my previous life i had some time at the controls of both small airplanes and helicopters.  the jargon was language i was accustomed to.  there are languages of career.  we all have them, words, expressions, theories specific to our chosen work; we learn our spouse’s language, even just enough to understand just enough.

i’m better at the controls than in the passenger seat of a small airplane; motion sickness rules less if you are ‘driving’.  i never got near the point of solo-ing on any flying machine.  there was much to learn in ground school and hours rented on an airplane or a helicopter were expensive for an already-stretched budget.  but, stick in hand, flying a helicopter over the woods of new hampshire while employed at an aviation college there, brilliant new england fall colors beneath us, i could see how the flying-bug could bite.

and now it is quiet.  a few moments ago, while writing this, a jet flew overhead.  i stopped typing to pay attention and looked out the window.  i wondered:  where is that plane going?  who is on that plane?  do they feel safe?  are they wearing masks?  did they turn their blower off?  are they sitting six feet apart?

and i pondered:  what state might that plane be flying here from?  what are the covid-19-numbers in that state?  are people staying safe-at-home?  are there protests in that state, people who are placing everyone in their ever-widening concentric circles at risk for contagion?  are there people who are laissez-faire-individualizing this global-everyone-is-affected-pandemic, rejecting commonsense social distancing and simple respectful preventative measures? are there people making homemade masks, like here, because there isn’t enough PPE to go around?  are they wondering why the federal government of fifty states and five territories is hostage-taking necessary supplies, pitting governors against each other, encouraging a competition for lifesaving devices, blaspheming good works, eliminating knowledgeable workers, warping what is important vs not important, encouraging bracing and dangerous practices?  are they shocked and dismayed at the ever-widening inequity, the gross partisanship?  are they stunned into disbelief at the absolute lack of sane and measured leadership?  are they embarrassed and profoundly saddened?

and i wondered:  when will we go on an airplane next?  where will we go? when will we feel safe?  will everyone wear a mask?  will everyone sit six feet apart?

and i thought, as we are apt to do after-the-fact:  i should have gotten my pilot’s license.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“suffer gloriously.” [merely-a-thought monday]

suffer gloriously

when you watch extreme mountain climbing videos every night you are bound to find morsels of wisdom and inspiration.  chris, one of the denali climbers, tossed us this one:   “i think it’s important to learn how to suffer gloriously.”  he added he “tries to put a positive spin on all his suffering.”  chosen suffering, that is, for who would doubt that there would be suffering on a climb up the highest peak on the continent.  alternatively, his suffering yields reward, a summit, or, at the least, an attempted summit, traversing in elevations few have scaled.

in the early 1980s i taught music in the poorest school of a small county in florida.  z was one of my students – he was in first grade.  i know he suffered.  his home was not far from the school campus with buildings attached by covered walkways, my music shed tucked into a swampy corner, complete with 3″ banana spiders.

z was a student who needed a lot of extra attention.  he craved it.  given his grave family situation, i know his heart had to be heavy, but his smile was light-itself and he loved hugs and music class.  in that school, tucked into the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, where people spent days sitting on rotting porches waiting for the next day, there was much agonizing.  and, clearly, a hell of a lot of surrendered acceptance.  it was deeply inspiring to see children being glorious, even in the midst of hurting.

i heard somewhere along the passing years that z was in prison.  i shudder to think of all who might say it was inevitable.  he was truly stuck in a system that allowed very few to escape.  the ‘subs’, as the area was called, was a breeding ground for glorious suffering, proud faces lined with sweat and worry, ponderous minds sorting for ways to survive.

we went back there about five years ago, drove to what-is-now a fenced-in complex and no longer a neighborhood school so i could stare for a few minutes at the old shed in the swamp.  we drove around the neighborhood and stopped and got out to talk to a couple people rocking on a porch.  we talked about the old school and, with shining faces, they spoke with pride about attending it.  glorious faces.

when we pulled away, they went back to the chairs on the porch, under the collapsing portico away from the steamy sun and tucked into trees covered with spanish moss and yards of dry dusty dirt.  still suffering.

we drove away, a few moments of silence as i took it all in.  in my mind i hugged the little boy z used to be and wished for something better for him.  for a summit.

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

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hope in the midnight sun. [d.r. thursday]

EARTHInterrupted7.THIS ONEJPG

EARTH INTERRUPTED VII 48″X36″

we drew heavy curtains to sleep in the land of the midnight sun.  my grandmother mama dear and i were in the arctic circle in finland and, much to the fascination of my eight year old mind, the sun refused to set.  i remember a twilight like no other – a time of in-between that just lasted and lasted, not day, not night.  it was stunning and magical and wreaked havoc on circadian rhythms, necessitating new practices.

EARTH INTERRUPTED VII makes me think of that twilight, that time in the river of not-this-not-that.  a time of waiting, it appears that the telescope zeroed in on earth detects an interruption, a wafting darkness.  in this time of pandemic, it would seem a portrait of covid-19.

but, as in all other times of darkness, there exists a glow of light.  the blackness is dissipating, the shape of the earth is visible, the twilight is vibrant.  this painting offers radiant hope.

just like pulling back the curtains in lapland, the sun will rise and we will have awakened from the strange twilight.  we will have lost much to the dark.  we will have learned new ways, employed new rituals.  we will be tired and wary, cautious yet sure.  we will have crossed the river of the midnight sun into a new day.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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EARTH INTERRUPTED VII ©️ 2018 david robinson

 


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sunglasses and gunfire. [two artists tuesday]

Sunglasses

we took a hike on easter sunday afternoon.   it was just warm enough to shed my coat in the woods; spring hiking is better without the shush-shushing sound of a down coat while you walk.

we went to our bristol woods, masks in pockets as we jumped out of big red, eager to get into the trees, onto the paths that have soothed us.  there were a few people there; most of them abided by the six-feet-apart rule, although admittedly, there were a few who caused us to roll our eyes in an astonished unspoken question wondering if they lived in a cave somewhere and had no idea that there was a global pandemic.

the familiar paths did their job. we quietly noticed green sprigs springing up between the leaves, a tonal green as you looked off-path from budding underbrush.  here and there forest daffodils at the brink of opening to the world; here and there small white flowers nestled between fallen logs.

the soundtrack of the woods was awakening to spring – orioles’ songs, chipmunks scampering, birds we couldn’t see high in the trees singing arias to the sky, the sound of our feet on the trail.

the gunfire in the background was unwelcome in this reverie of renewal, of spring-really-on-its-way, of escape-from-thoughts-of-covid-19.  it was an automatic, a gun designed to kill, single shots punctuated by the rapidfire of a clip.  it is always unnerving; yesterday it was particularly so.  it seemed mindless to me, paying no homage to these very times, these very days.

in the middle of thousands of people who are desperately trying to save over half a million others’ lives in this country alone, thousands of people who are extending helping hands to countless others, thousands of people who are dedicating resources to feed, mask, shelter thousands of others, thousands of people who are reeling from a loss of life, of job, of any security, of any sense of normal, thousands of people who are frightened to their core that they might be the next to succumb to this pervasive illness, the next to struggle to breathe, i couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out any good reason to be shooting an automatic weapon.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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“staying more or less sane…” [merely-a-thought monday]

sane

it’s a wave.  and, like the tide, we ride it out to sea and back in to shore.  we grab handfuls of sand when we hit the beach, to remind ourselves that we are indeed of this earth and this is real.   and then we read or watch the news and see the charts and the numbers-who-are-people-not-numbers and we are back out to sea, on precarious standup boards.

it’s almost a mantra “staying more or less sane.”  we wake in the morning and, for the first few delicious seconds, we don’t remember.  but as we share dreams – the dreams we can remember – we know that even our subconscious are trying to process all this.

we compare notes with others:  what is acceptable to do in these restricted times, what is not.  we are aghast at the impropriety of the suggestion of large gatherings, no matter where they are.  even small gatherings of people not isolating together are questionable. we wonder if we will all be agoraphobic when it’s time to cease restrictions.  we worry that this decision will be made irresponsibly, skewed in the direction of the ever-important dollar and not in the interest of people being healthy, getting better, staying alive.  we are afraid.

we do whatever we can, whatever works; we are all in different places on the what-works-for-you continuum.  outside of working we struggle to fill in time.  we take on new projects; we sit quietly.  we bake loaves and loaves of bread and test new recipes; we cook just whatever is necessary.  we obsessively deep clean the closets, the cabinets, the basement; we pick up around ourselves and disinfect what needs disinfecting.  we organize, organize, organize; we have trouble paying attention, finishing going through the piles.  we watch movies and binge on sitcoms; we look out the window and get lost in thought.  we spend time on our muse; we stay away from that which makes us feel more deeply.  we spend vast amounts of time on social media and video-conferencing apps; we desperately miss those we love and yearn for them.  we get impatient; we wait.

we are a world of people-people, broken and reeling, and we are all trying to stay more or less sane.

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

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“we believe in tomorrow.” [merely-a-thought monday]

plant lettuce

as a person who is at severe risk, our dear 20 is isolating alone.  it is unusual for us not to see him a couple or three times a week.  our visits are now just audio by telephone or perhaps a facetime here or there.  he has much to look forward to and, in preparing for all that, he is taking all precautions, sacrificing now for later.  he texted us this message the other day.  it was after a call the night before – a call during which we all shared the middle-of-the-night-wakefulness that is scary-as-all-get-out.

it was a text of wisdom.  a text that conveyed a message that there is always a measure of blind belief necessary.  a text i read more than once.

i know that my beloved big sister and i don’t agree on everything.  but this morning she texted me that she had gone to the post office in the wee hours last night to send a small package to us.  inside are four masks, to protect us, to protect others, to walk into tomorrow prepared.  and i am grateful.  we will wear these masks because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we stay home because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we social distance; we cross to the other side of the road on a getting-fresh-air-walk because we believe in tomorrow and because we want to protect all we can in getting there.

we wash our hands.  we wash our groceries.  we disinfect.  we let mail, packages, newspapers sit untouched for days.  we wipe everything down.  we are conscious.  we try to protect.

lettuce will grow if you plant it.  if you prepare the soil.  if you water it, if you protect it from deluge or too much arid sun.

so, like 20 suggested, we’ll bring out the wood boxes, prepare the soil and plant lettuce.  and we’ll protect it.  because we believe in tomorrow.

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

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and hope. [k.s. friday]

hope (spring) copy

“hope…it makes you breathe differently.  it makes your heart beat faster.  it makes your knees weak and your ability to wait strong.  it makes you weep with anticipation and holds you close with others who are also hoping.” (reverse threading, dec. 7, 2018)

i have done time on the kitchen floor.  like you, i have been brought to my knees with grief, anxiety, worry, pain, shame, fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, disappointment.  when you are on the floor, any movement seems monumental.  anxiety is crushingly powerful.  it seems unlikely you will rise.  and even as you go about your days, doing the things you do in life, it seems you will remain on the virtual kitchen floor.

but then, there is a moment.  it appears illusory yet it is luminous.  it is a mere butterfly wing, the slightest of silk tendrils, but it is there.  elusive and tiny, it asks for absolute focus.  like viewing through the eyepiece on binoculars, you slowly steady your gaze.  something inside you knows.  something tells you to reach for it and hold it gently in your shaking hands.  it is hope.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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HOPE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“hope.  there aren’t many words like this…describing that which you can actually – viscerally – feel in your body.  it makes you breathe differently.  it makes your heart beat faster.  it makes your knees weak and your ability to wait strong.  it makes you weep with anticipation and holds you close with others who are also hoping.” (reverse threading, dec. 7, 2018)