reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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incessant. my sweet momma. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

good morning sunshine

she was incessant.  every morning she greeted me with the words, “good morning sunshine.”  rain, sleet, snow or ice – none would dampen her good-morning-spirit.  a new day, a new beginning, another chance.

my parents weren’t complicated people.  they grew up with great-depression-survival parents.  they were married and almost immediately separated by the second world war, by my dad’s missing-in-action status, by his time as a prisoner-of-war and, thus, they navigated the loss of their first daughter on two continents, my mom without knowledge of my dad’s whereabouts.  they processed-without-processing the end of the war and my dad’s escape and return home to struggle through post-war times.  they had two more children, another girl and a boy and began to raise a family on long island in a cape cod house with a chainlink fence and a dachshund.  after i was born they moved to the house i grew up in, the only house i remember without looking at old photographs.  we had a single driveway with a grass strip in the middle.  some neighbors had solid concrete or asphalt driveways, no grass strip, and even as a child, i suspected this meant something.  they were thrifty and conserving.

my parents weren’t hip.  through the rebellious 60s and mod 70s they raised me, older than most of my friends’ parents by at least a decade or more.  i listened to jim nabors and doris day and robert goulet in the house, herb alpert and the tijuana brass and frank sinatra on the stereo and the old wgsn on the radio on top of the refrigerator, while friends were hearing their moms sing to carole king and simon and garfunkel crooned in their kitchens, the mamas and the papas and herman’s hermits in the family rooms.  my dad would whistle for hours; hearing anyone whistling now feels like a hug from him.

my parents weren’t frivolous.  my dad would turn boxes inside out to repurpose them.  my mom would assign him tasks first in in his basement workshop and, later, his garage workshop, giving him something to focus on.  he was always rube-goldberg-ing everything; he could make or fix anything.  they didn’t splurge on stuff, well, until they discovered ikea.  after years and years and years of exclusive use, the aluminum colander they gave to me (and after a couple more decades and the loss of a foot, i finally retired) is likely 70 years old.

my parents weren’t problem-obsessive.  my mom would do laundry, especially later in life.  i think it centered her.  the simple task of cleaning a garment or bath towel and putting it away felt grounding; i have learned this from her and you will find me scouring the house for laundry items in times of stress.  they were reasonable and rational; nothing needed be too complex.

but they were loving and encouraging and accepting.  i could tease or cajole my dad into doing almost anything.  and, when my dad’s reaction to a circumstance was more impatient, my mom would listen, listen, listen.  she would admonish him, “Erling!” she’d hammer.

simple.  no fancy titles.  no wildly exotic trips.  no fancy foods.  only one fancy car to try-on-for-size.  no fancy clothes or shoes. simple furnishings, treasured mementos.

simple.  no emmys, oscars, grammys.   no nobel peace prize.  hardworking and uncomplaining.  a lot of volunteering.  a jewelry store failure in early days of big box stores.  early retirement and a move-down-I95 south.  self-admonishments to do-the-photo-albums and clean-out-the-file-cabinets.

simple.  a dedication to handyman magazine, national geographic, jigsaw puzzles, crytoquotes and crosswords.  tomato plants and hosta.  forsythia and four-o-clocks that ran along the whole side of the house.  succulents and bougainvillea.  harlequin romance novels and old doris day/rock hudson movies.  bird-watching and klondike bars.  feeding their family.  entertaining their friends.

simple.  times around the table coffee-sitting.  long conversations on the couch.  egg mc-arnsons or waffles and ice cream on sunday mornings.  time on the stoop and in the lanai, just talking.  time.  spending time.

she was incessant.  her joy at the day, her exuberance, her kindness, her piercing eyes, her absolute, uncompromised, unconditional love.

i woke today thinking about this day five years ago today, when i was not physically there to hold her hand as she passed from this life to another plane.  we were on the way, driving there, on an interstate when we found out.  in el paso, illinois.  we pulled off and found a park not far from the highway.  we walked and walked and walked, trying to process.  i have no doubt that she knew i was right there with her, always, and how much i love her.

life will never be the same without my sweet momma on this earth.  ever.  i can only hope that in some way, as a new day dawns and i think to myself, “good morning sunshine,” that i will be somewhat like her.  somewhat as incessant.

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

momma, d & k website box

 

 

 

 


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“it’s hard to keep things simple.” [merely-a-thought monday]

keep things simple

less is more.  enough is enough.  say no.  simplify.

we are all bombarded.  two days before christmas and we wonder if we did enough, bought enough, wrapped enough, entertained enough, baked enough, decorated enough.  we are surrounded by images – piles of presents under ornate christmas trees, horse-drawn sleighs on currier and ives backroads, families gathered at tables merrily chatting, churches full with congregations happily singing and the bells in the belfry ringing.  the kind of images that nag you into thinking, “more.  i must do more.”

the other evening, gathered around bowls of homemade hot thai soup, 20 said, “it’s hard to keep things simple.”  the three of us share some profound times of conversation, of life’s changes and choices, of simple togetherness.  he talked about soup and wine and chocolate and conversation, of appreciating each other’s company.

the catalogs arriving in the mail and the ads in the paper and the online streaming advertising all pander to the indulgence of our insecurity.  of not enough.  how do we respond and say no?

it’s hard to avoid.  it feels like we have to say yes to everything.  or we don’t quite measure up.  we search for meaning.  in things.  we are searching outside of ourselves.  holding ourselves to some sort of external standard of holiday-completeness.

how do we seek more centeredness?  more connectedness?  more moments held in the stillness of awe?

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

whitetree website box

 

 

 


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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 view-master

a couple sundays ago i had the honor of speaking for a few moments to our church congregation.  normally, the hat i wear at trinity is a minister of music hat, but i was happy to speak a few words (ok, maybe more than a few…i am not the most succinct person on this planet) during that service.  the service was called “a joyful noise” sunday and it was day dedicated to a hymn sing.

taking into account the lessons to be read during the service and expanding on a recent writing, i prepared a few words on Joy.  a couple of  people have since asked me to publish this here and so, this is what i said:

IMG_0021This is a view-master. It’s pretty old-school.  Each time I push the lever a new snapshot is available to look at, to ponder. I recently realized that this is the way I write. And so, with respect, I’d like to offer a few viewmaster moments that make me think about joy.

It’s that time of year. There are pictures in the Kenosha News of students moving into campus at Carthage. Any day now there will be pictures of the first days of school at Unified. Nine years ago, right around now, i stood on the University of Minnesota campus. We had packed up the little Scion till you couldn’t even fit a Snickers bar into any of the spaces left. The entire car was glowing pink. The girl – that’s my daughter Kirsten – and her roommate were decorating in pink. Pink everything. Pink comforters, pink bins, pink rugs, pink shower pails. We unloaded into the dorm….traipsing with everyone through the halls, lugging huge futon boxes and armloads of clothes. Organizing the dormroom through the day I struggled to keep finding tasks, maybe to delay my leaving for just a little longer. We walked outside and started to stroll on campus when she turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to go.” “Where are we going?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I am going to go – to the union.” I realized it was time. Every word of wisdom I had wanted to relay to her dropped out of the synapses in my brain and I stood staring at her. I told her to go be her, to be amazing and I loved her. She walked away, with great anticipation, grace, excitement. With great joy. I stood and watched, tears in my eyes. My cellphone buzzed. There was a text from her. It read – “Don’t be sad, mom. Be ecstatic. I love you.” I drove home – alone. When I got there I put on laundry, cause that’s what my mom did when she was upset. In the putting on of laundry, I had to move one load into the dryer. I took out a dryer sheet and out of the dryer sheet box flew an index card. It read, “Thinking of you. With love from Minnesota.” The girl had hidden 31 of these around the house. Bringing joy.

Be ecstatic. Joy. Joy is our right. Joy is our responsibility.

My momma was rushed to the emergency room. Because we were there in Florida visiting her, we were able to meet her there at the ER. She had fallen and was in tremendous pain. At 93 a fall was dangerous and there was worry about her hip. For hours we were in the little examining room, waiting, watching, reassuring. It was the middle of the night and the attending nurse was obviously exhausted. She was a capable young woman, but had little patience and wasn’t friendly or smiling much. My sweet momma, in her pain, gazed up at her, smiled gently and said, “I wish I had your beautiful smile.” That moment. The moment that she brought joy to someone else, changed everything. The nurse was deeply affected by her words, which changed everything in the room, and, I suspect, in all the concentric circles that reached outward, including ours.

Joy. Our right. Our responsibility. Doesn’t one lead to the other?

When I interviewed for the job of minister of music here at Trinity they asked me several questions. Then they asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. (As you would suspect) I said that I did. I wanted to add that my mission as minister of music had formed through about 25 years of work in churches and with people volunteering to be a part of the music programs in those churches. The most important thing to me to tell them was that I feel deeply that the music and the music program in a church is about JOY. It is not about perfection. Like any musician (or anyone for that matter) I love when things go perfectly. But if perfection is the mission that they wanted at Trinity, I was not the right person. I have found if you expect perfection, you lose joy. If you expect joy, you find perfection.

We worship together and sing in community. Each of the songs we sing is a moment in time that we bring to worship, whether it is in a traditional hymn or a contemporary song. We offer songs of praise and songs of love and songs of yearning and songs of hope. We don’t come here expecting to get joy. We bring joy. And that? That begets joy. Our right. Our responsibility.

We were walking through Menards (like Home Depot, for those of you not in Menards-land)  and passed a sign that read “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” This immediately made me think of my best friend since the time I was three. This saying was what she had chosen to put in her yearbook under her picture. Somehow, forty years later, because I am ridiculously thready, I still remembered this. What was really funny was that when she and her husband visited this summer, she didn’t remember this at all. (I believe she just set about to live it.) These days we are surrounded by sayings and words of inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Menards. Sometimes they feel trite. But that’s only because they are so prevalent. They are no less real. No less worthy. They just flatten out because we see so much of them. We tend to not notice as deeply anymore. Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.

Sally’s momma’s farmhouse is for sale. Although, with a deep root there, she is able to find her way around the rooms, she doesn’t recognize it as hers anymore because she is in the throes of dementia. So when they were there, Sally said her momma saw the for sale sign and told Sally she’d like to buy it. Sally explained that then her momma would be far away – hours -from her grown children and they wouldn’t be able to be with her. She asked her momma what she would do all day. “Play the piano,” she said. “I’d play the piano.” Joy is not really complicated.

I read a striking CNN article about Hurricane Harvey and a man named Mr. Harding. I want to share part of it with you:
One of his sons is an avid piano player and was concerned the family’s piano would be destroyed by flood water. When Mr. Harding found the water hadn’t covered the piano, he sat down and began to play. “I decided to take a moment and play and take it all in,” he told CNN on Thursday. He posted the video of the moment on Instagram with the caption, “I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.” Joy.

Early yesterday morning we sat in bed, sipping coffee, early morning sunshine streaming in the windows, a cool breeze crossing the room. We could hear the birds, the squirrels, the sounds of our sweet neighbors John and Michele clinking silverware and plates, making breakfast. Babycat and Dogdog laid on the bed snoring. IMG_0024No matter the worries or sadnesses, challenges or problems that would befall us in the day or days to come, that moment was a picture of JOY.  A view-master snapshot of what is in our very fibre if we notice. Our God-given right. Our God-given responsibility.