reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the gallery on my phone. [two artists tuesday]

the gallery on my phone: there are photos of any minutes any where with or of my children. there are photos of trails and woods and my husband’s face and heart-shaped leaves. there are photos of dogdog and babycat, family, friends, photos of wildflowers, bushes, gardens and happy lights, recipes, screenshots of funny snapchat-filtered faces, cairns, and mountains, lots of mountains. there are photos of our feet, laughter, redrock and snowmen, lakes and oceans, streams and frozen ponds, birds and butterflies and preserved text messages, trail magic greenery, sunrises and sunsets, the sun and the moon. there are photos in the united states and photos abroad. photos in canoes and fishing skiffs, on pontoon boats and stand-up boards, riding ice-cutting ferries. there are photos of pianos and pipes and pumpkins, wooden stages, stages of rock, prickly cactus and my casts. there are quaking aspens and forests of pine, wizened old trees, towering oaks and radiant maples, highways and back roads. there are squirrels and deer, raccoons, horses and heart-shaped rocks. there are snow pictures and desert pictures, sandy pictures and muddy pictures, city skylines and small town main streets, wine glasses, thoughtfully-prepared meals, candles burning, bonfires, and masks littering the ground iso faces. there are tree stumps, tree trunks and bark and branches, interesting shapes, shadows, buildings, sayings emblazoned anywhere, articles to remember to read later, signs and designs, horsehoof and deer and bunny tracks, and heart-shaped designs that waited in the dirt, in the snow, in rock formations.

there are thousands of photographs. thousands.

i look back on them often. there are times i will select a whole bunch and transfer them over to my laptop so that i can print them and put them up on a bulletin board in our hallway or on the big piece of tin in the kitchen or frame them for one of the flat surfaces that doesn’t already have a photograph. but mostly, i look back on them to spend time – again – right there.

right now, in a country devastated by a raging pandemic and out-of-control political chaos and violence, in a town riddled with inordinately tough emotional disparity and a lack of social justice over the district attorney’s ruling in a case involving a police officer who shot a black man in the back seven times, now on the outermost fringes of what was an up-close-and-personal community lacking transparency to its members, in sadness and angst, i need to be back there.

back with people i love who love me back.

back at places that brought me peace or laughter, challenged me or rewarded me with a sense of calm.

back where every heart is noticed, whosever it is, wherever it is, even whether it be a rock, a leaf, a knot in a tree in the woods, or the funny way that the ice melted on the deck.

*****

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trail magic. [two artists tuesday]

“trail magic” is a term for unexpected generosity on the trail. it originated on the appalachian trail and includes snacks and drinks, sometimes even pancakes or burgers. hikers stumble upon this magic – it is the stuff of celebration.

trail magic is not limited, however, to through-hikes and the wilderness. though we’d love to be out on one of those trails (the appalachian, pacific crest or maybe a little more doable for us – the john muir) we are a bit more localized at the moment. in nearby areas, we hike a few trails over and over, watching the seasons change and the wildlife come and go. we recognize when a tree has fallen or when grasses have been tamped down by sleeping deer. the subtleties surround us. we notice them. magic.

this holiday season was unlike any other for us. there was no music planning, no practicing, no piles of anthems strewn on the piano. there were no rehearsals, no services, no choir parties. there was no bonfire after the late christmas eve service, no luminaria party. there were no festive gatherings, no big crowded dinners, no small dinners with guests, no happy hours in holiday finery. there was no travel over the river and through the woods, no trips to visit or sightsee or play tourist. there was no newly-purchased christmas tree – real or artificial. there were no packages under the white lighted branches in our living room or the small forest of trees i have collected through the years.

but there was magic.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a very few people who reached out. their kindnesses were the gentle touch of a magic wand and today, as we write our thank-yous, i hope to convey that to them.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – came in the form of a blowing snowfall on christmas eve, inches of crunchy snow in the woods, a blustery day spent inside a warm house watching it sleet outside.

trail magic – on our journey through these holidays – most especially came in the form of these tiny bits of precious time: seeing the face of my son in-person on a freezing cold christmas eve, my boy and his charming boyfriend, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. and seeing the face of my daughter on facetime, a delayed opening of gifts, wrap and glitter flying, and then, just minutes after our new year turned, sharing her mountain-time new year’s eve with a sweet young man, both warm and relaxed and looking happy despite the circumstances of these times. magic.

for there is nothing more magical for me than to see my beloved children looking happy. there is nothing more magical for me than to share a little bit of time with them. trail magic – on our journey – indeed.

*****

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accountability. [two artists tuesday]

beaky thought greg norman was pretty, well, handsome, shall we say? she was taken with his tall blondness and, though she didn’t follow golf much back then, she kept an eye on him. she would be proud of him these days as he cautions us all not to take covid-19 lightly. stricken with coronavirus, he urges, “do what is right, not just for you, but your family, friends, co-workers and other people around.” he adds, “i wouldn’t want anyone to experience this hideous virus. please take care.” i imagine she’d write him a letter.

the headlines say it all – a surge upon a surge. choices made during this holiday season will deliver blowback to people’s health and well-being, their very lives, decimating the healthcare system, and there is no one to blame for that but ourselves. every single choice impacts us all in the time of this shared pandemic. disney world and large family gatherings and traveling trips to other parts of the country all play a role; there is no escaping accountability.

i recently read of a discussion about authority and accountability. the open question was this: who has authority and who has accountability? wow. really? this seems, without any undue thought, a no-duh. those who have authority to make decisions are the same as those who are accountable for them. escaping from responsibility-taking is off the table. if you make a decision then you must support that by taking responsibility for it. in any arena. if you travel on an airplane or a train or a car to a different part of our country and you bring covid as luggage, you must take responsibility. if you gather and covid is a silent guest at the long dining table laden with treats, you must take responsibility. if you don’t wear a mask and you are with others who become infected, particularly those at high risk, you must take responsibility. and i wonder – is it worth it? we each have the authority, the liberty, the freedom to make decisions. but that also makes us responsible. it makes us accountable. in any arena.

dogdog, as we rapidly approach the end of 2020, just asks this one thing. with this two-ply cotton fabric mask on his head, he looks up at us and queries, “this? this is what all the hubbub is about? this tiny cloth mask? it can literally save lives?? pshaw!!”

as we watch him looking at us out of the corner of his eye, i imagine him adding, “just WEAR the freaking thing!”

i’m guessing greg norman and my sweet momma agree.

*****

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little did we know. [two artists tuesday]

on november 19 i wrote about the lights and decorations in our neighborhood. filled with the possibility of this light, these traditions, i pondered that we might get a “regular” tree this year, that we might splurge on a tree of traditional shape, traditional size.

but we didn’t.

the next morning i lost my job. little did i know, as we wandered through our neighborhood, twilight falling fast in our eyes, full of the hope of the season, that all would change the very next day, a “regular” tree rapidly slashed out of the budget.

the white branches have lingered in our living room all year long. lit with twinkling lights and adorned with silver balls, it seemed, by mid february or so, that it was time to put them away, to perhaps burn them in the fire pit.

but we didn’t.

the spring slid slowly into summer which slid into fall and the pandemic scorching our nation relentlessly continued. the white branches, the lights, the twinkling reflection off the silver balls suddenly seemed necessary, a beacon in a dark world of change. little did we know we would be relieved to have kept those branches up, to brighten our living room.

we hiked in the high mountains of colorado. the ditch trail in aspen became our favorite go-to, in-between the times of seeing my girl. a little over 4 miles, this trail was perfect for altitude acclimatizing and the vistas were amazing. there was a tiny pine tree on that quiet trail, an orphan that wasn’t going to make it. we thought about the struggles of this little tree and could have just kept trekking.

but we didn’t.

“ditch” rode home in a water bottle full of dirt and we planted it in an old clay pot with some good soil and a few red rocks. little did we know how we would cheer on this little tree. little did we know how tenderly we would feel about this tiny pine, a piece of our time in the mountains that we adore, the mountains that make me cry. a strand of white lights wrap around the old pot, a small silver ball and the tiniest pine cone now sit next to the base of “ditch”.

little do we know what is to come.

the white branches grace our living room in this season of everything unexpected, everything changed, everything different. the collection of small trees i’ve gathered through the years decorate our home; the silver balls from the bins in the basement are scattered to catch the light.

and a tiny pine tree named “ditch” is our christmas tree.

*****

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comfort you. [two artists tuesday]

van morrison said it: “i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. i want to comfort you. just let your tears run wild like when you were a child. i’ll do what i can do. i want to comfort you. you put the weight on me…i want to comfort you.”

how is it that, in the middle of feeling low-low-low, these sweet animals know exactly what to do? tucked under an old quilt, dogdog and babycat jumped up on the bed, searched my face and snugged up tightly right next to me, bookends on either side.

there are days – in these times – we must all feel the anguish of mental health exhaustion, of wide-awake anxiety, of worries too steep to climb, struggles, fears to which we close our eyes, wincing in pain.

there are days we reach out to others, extending words of reassurance, tiny tidbits of humor, virtual hugs, care packages, texts of love.

there are days we can only lay under a quilt. we sort and sort through the stuff-in-our-brains, listing the realities of our angst, wondering, reeling, succumbing to lonely early winter darkness.

if only it were so easy as to be dogdog and babycat. with no hesitation, they simply comfort. their response is pure. their compassion is the stuff of unconditional love. they don’t make assumptions or have judgement. they don’t assail with questions or platitudes. they don’t slough it off or explain it away. they don’t ignore it.

instead, they show up. and it is absolutely clear to me that they are saying, “i want to comfort you.”

*****

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bubbles for epic and tiny. [two artists tuesday]

we grew attached to epic and tiny.

each day we would walk to the edge of our pond and look for the two frogs hiding in the rocks or sunning in plants in which they blended.

we’ve had frogs in our pond before. and, at the time that ice starts to form on the top of our tiny waterhole, we have removed the filter and stored it away. we’re not sure where exactly the frogs go, but research shows us that they are intrepid creatures who will burrow underground or under the debris of a pond. some portions of a frog’s body will freeze during the winter, stored glucose preventing vital organs from freezing, the frog waking from its frozen slumber in the warming spring days. wow. research also shows that they need oxygen and the bubbler of the filter system will keep harmful gases from accumulating and, hopefully, will keep the pond from freezing over completely.

we decided that was worth a try.

we dug our pond in 2013 and have had the same equipment ever since. when a tree landed on the pond in the backyard a few years back, monster glue came to the rescue and, each year since, david has rube-goldberg-ed the pond’s fixings back together again to last for one more season.

with everything that 2020 has been, we felt like we really needed to give our frogs, the only houseguests we had all spring, summer and fall, a fighting chance. we decided to leave the filter on and the bubbler bubbling.

and now we cross our fingers.

because every little thing counts this year – a year fraught – – –

there seems no need to even finish that sentence. each of us has our own story of this year’s challenges and disappointments. each of us, hopefully, has at least one success, one victory, one moment of bliss.

but, admittedly, the sighs that have been the soundtrack of 2020 are plenty. we have all been inundated with them.

we are choosing also to remember the bubbling of the pond out the back window and the croaking of two sweet frogs who found their way into our little pond. and we are hoping to see them again, croaking and sunning, when the spring comes.

these bubbles are for you, epic and tiny.

*****

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if i was the rain. [two artists tuesday]

eric lowen and dan navarro (lowen & navarro) are two of the most in-sync singer-songwriters i have ever known. with lyrics to break your heart and voices and guitars that complement each other perfectly, you would think there would be no outer limits for them, no bounds. but.

if you need a good cry, an absolute raw moment, you should watch the video of eric’s last time on stage. at 60, devastated by ALS and with his children gathered around him and his guitar, he speaks the words of this amazing song of healing from his wheelchair. if i was the rain. it dives in and both destroys and rejuvenates my heart every single time.

the rain. if i was the rain.

if i was the rain
i’d have no reason to explain
i’d fall between the fireflies
i’d never dampen any light

i’d strike a chord within each heart
wherever they were torn apart
and if that helped them heal themselves
maybe we’d find out where forgiveness starts

if i was the rain
i’d choose forever to remain
i’d add a sparkle to the night
and marvel at the morning bright

if i was the rain
i’d bless each blossom to unfold
and i’d turn each one of them to gold
if i was the rain
if i was the rain
if i was the rain…..

(charles john quarto, eric lowen, dan navarro)

we sat for a few days straight at the table in our sunroom. watching out the window at dreary weather, non-stop rain, we pondered all that was happening. the rain-soaked screens unintentionally made abstract art while we tried to make sense. even with happy lights on and the company of our little pine tree from the woods of the high mountains, it was hard to balance it all.

“and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped, i stopped.” (no balloons, kerri sherwood)

i can’t really say i stopped abruptly. i wish it were that easy, a faucet to turn off, a switch to throw, a circuit breaker to reset. there has just been so much.

we know we are not alone in that.

in the middle of the night last night – wide awake around 2am – we sat in bed and talked. this year. broken wrists. a raging global pandemic. fights over face masks. covid-loss of jobs. exorbitant healthcare costs. a city on fire, social justice riots and deadly shootings blocks away. city-wide curfews. a country divided. political chaos. communities, families, friends on different sides of aisles that seem more like moats filled with crocodiles. isolation. family so far. worried about the kids. missing them. a parent sinking in dementia. another hand injury. fired. quarantine. i can’t remember all of it.

and still, we know we are not alone in that.

what i would do…if i was the rain.

*****

his last time – the gentle soul of eric lowen:

lowen & navarro sing if i was the rain:

purchase LOWEN & NAVARRO music – your heart will thank you.

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artists and bootstraps. [two artists tuesday]

the bootstraps are getting a good workout.

the flutter in my heart, my racing pulse, uneven breathing.

i tug at the bootstraps.

i don’t have a choice.

i am an artist. bootstraps come with the job. they are inherent. they are undeniable. they are a burden. they are a release. they are imperative.

we cannot hide from the here and now. we cannot hide from the truth, be it light and airy, be it ugly and heavy. we speak to now; we help provide access to truth, to raw emotion, to the basic fundamental sameness – and yet individuality – of humans. to where the rubber meets the road.

we pull up the bootstraps and take a deep breath.

we dive in.

“just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” the infamous tagline from the box office movie hit “jaws”. we are shocked by the cold water, the lurking sharks, a symbiotic ocean with underlying danger. we muster on.

the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance gently ease us all into a place of rest, of reassurance. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance prod us all out of a place of mediocrity, past complacency, past laissez-faire. the art, the music, the prose, the poetry, the dance urge us into thought, into action, revitalize our fire. this is the job of an artist.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the curtains part. i walk to the apron, bow my gratitude, take the bench. hands on the keys, boom mic inches from me, i begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. pace. glance in the mirror. look at my notes and the score in my hands. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. the musicians take their places. i walk to the front, sweep across the singers and accompanying instrumentalists with eye contact, appreciation and love, stand in front of the piano. hands on the keys, all at the ready, we begin to speak.

i take a breath. try to slow my pulse. feel the slight flutter in my heart. take another deep breath. i re-tie my boots. i pace. i glance in the mirror. look at my notes. say a quiet prayer. breathe. shift from one foot to the other. breathe. my pulse runs faster. i stand in my boots. i walk to the front, bow my gratitude, nod to the empty bench. hands trembling, no microphone, i am escorted out the exit.

i pull up my bootstraps.

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unpredictable beauty. [two artists tuesday]

“sometimes beauty is that unpredictable; a threshold we had never noticed opens, mystery comes alive around us and we realize how the earth is full of concealed beauty.” (john o’donohue)

a simple errand. we needed to pick up some furniture to transport in big red for a friend. destination: ikea.

there is something magical about ikea. we hadn’t been there in ages and were relieved to find few people there and everyone masked properly. vowing to hopefully come back soon and browse a bit, we pulled the boxes off the shelves on our pick list. pushing our cart to the front checkout lines, david, more than once, had to re-focus me away from the enormous displays of product. iphone in hand, we wove our way through the covid-floor-circles-disney-style line, waiting our turn at the cash register.

every where i looked, we were surrounded by interesting color, repeated pattern, textures that begged to be touched. david, more than once, softly called my name from the other side of the pushcart, gently spurring me out of the threshold-of-alive-mystery-of-concealed-beauty, snapping pictures with inordinate joy. “k-dot,” he would quietly prod.

the spatulas called my name too, repeating patterns of red-mama-dear-lips making me smile. spatulas are usually not mysterious creatures, but their color, design, stacking lures you out of ordinariness, opening that threshold, the place for glitter to be seen.

it wasn’t just the spatulas, though. i was victim to the lint rollers, the stainless steel utensil holders, the cork trivets. hidden beauty everywhere. i could feel my sweet momma and poppo cheering me on; they were likewise entranced by ikea.

if safety allows, we will return. there are a few small things on my own pick list i’d like to consider purchasing. but mostly, i just want to wander the aisles with my camera, noticing the unpredictable beauty.

yes, not a bad way to spend any day. noticing the unpredictable beauty.

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round and round. [two artists tuesday]

and the seasons they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down
we’re captive on the carousel of time
we can’t return we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game
” (joni mitchell)

from the edge of the trail it seemed we stood in three seasons. with warm sun on our faces and verdant grasses poking through the golds of autumn aspen leaves, the snow sought refuge in the shade. three seasons. concurrent.

as we stood there, in the middle of the mountain trail, it all swirled together – then, now, next. a kaleidoscope of color, of emotions, of moments. the tiniest of tiny in a vast universe, all else suddenly became distant.

we lingered in the whirl of shifting seasons, viscerally aware of our breathing and the gravity that was holding us still. it was an eddy of every-thing: old wrinkled leaves of regret, fading transient dreams, life-giving air carrying us into the next minute, a metamorphosis of time. the ponies on the carousel kept moving round and round and we paused, our feet in the dirt, sensing the circle encapsulating us, giving us pause.

we stayed there a long time, the scent of decaying leaves in the woods, the sound of a rushing mountain stream, the breeze rustling past us, our faces warmed. for these moments, in the middle of the middle, all the worries, all the fears, all the unease, dropped off from our shoulders. the concurrence whispered to us, “and the seasons they go round and round.”

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