Saturday, January 07, 2023


Just cleaning the house...and this song I've heard many, many times, from one of my favorite musicians, caught my spirit. Had to just sit down and listen. 

Thursday, January 05, 2023


A couple times a week, I take my dog, Cyon, offsite to one of several dog-interesting destinations. Sometimes to a park, sometimes a parking lot (if there are other dogs who leave their calling cards), and sometimes to a friend’s property nearby. It was so uncharacteristically balmy for a January day, I decided to take a walk at a wildlife area that has a large marsh pond. 

As I drove towards the parking lot, the view revealed something I’d never seen it before. Hovering above the entire 150-acre pond was a thick, pale blue-gray mist. Driving to the edge of the water, I saw that the mist spilled over the banks, enveloping dry vegetation at the edges and all the trees beyond the banks.  Since I was the only one there, I let the dog off-leash to enjoy her recreational sniffing. 

Warm air moving over the partially frozen pond created trillions of tiny water droplets stitched together to make its misty covering. An overcast day turned almost every vista into a black & white photo. The whole scene had a magical feel. As we walked on the path that encircles the pond, I experienced that strange phenomenon of seeing the thick mist ahead of me and behind me but never where I was. I kept wanting to “enter” the fog. I kept waiting for Cyon to vanish in the density of it. But the mist was always only ahead. Always only behind. Always invisibly surrounding us. 

This made me think of all things Divine; the Spirit that somehow mysteriously inhabits this life. Often it is only when I look back that I recognize divine guidance or gracious transformations in matters of my soul. Other times, hope, surrender, and trust allow me to smile at the future. But in the present, where I stand on any given day, with its responsibilities, stresses, and my own weaknesses, I forget that the spiritual cloud encases me - full of the Loving Energy of Creation and those who love me still but are gone. I know they are there. I ask for their guidance and wisdom. I often wonder how far back the ancestral guidance goes. Does it extend to family I never met or even know existed? I will know one day. 

We turned to head back to the car when the scents that had been captivating Cyon ran out. The mist also began to thin out and fade, sunlight finally punched through the thick clouds overhead. Sometimes taking a walk can be a spiritual experience and balm to the soul. 

Actually…all the time. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Today is September 29, 2022. It is my 66th birthday...the sixty-sixth revolution around the sun since I came to this world in 1956, when my parents drove a cadillac with foot-long fins and sat around on the mid-century furniture everyone wants to decorate with these days.

I was born around 3:15 pm, so I'll be talking to my mom later this afternoon, though she's been gone from this world since 1991. I'm sure my dad was not present, as it may have been against policy back then, though I never heard his account of where he was and what he was doing. But many times I did hear the story of how he held me on his lap nine days later during the World Series, when New York Yankees' pitcher Don Larson pitched a no-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers. This may explain why I never liked baseball, much to my husband's chagrin, because I'm sure I was choking on cigarette smoke for hours. 

Like many other births back then, my mother took the drugs offered, so I don't know what kind of connection she experienced with me, since she was either unconscious or numb from the waist down. Nor was I breast fed, so I don't know what kind of connection I missed with her. It's something I'll never know, but I often wonder how the disconnection affected our lives, since during most of it we were not that close. Having grown to adulthood in the 70's, and having lived for a time with a midwife, and having attended at least five home births, I'm sure my hospital birth was radically different than what my generation believed to be the right way. It was a different time, for sure. I know my parents made the choices they thought were best for their children and I love them for that, and for all they did for us as we grew into adults. 

I don't really feel 66 years old, or at least I don't perceive myself to be, feel, or act like my younger self thought I would at this age. Apart from the "malady du jour" each morning in my feet or back, in my head I can feel many ages. Sometimes I feel like I'm fifteen, when I get petty about something someone said or did and delight in whining about it. Sometimes I feel like I'm thirty-five, when I think I can easily manage two 40 lb bags of dog food or salt. I can move them around to the basement...just not as easily as I once did. And sometimes I feel like I'm in my fifties, when all the old baggage seemed to finally fall away, and I no longer cared about much of what used to tie me up in knots. Fifty was a good age. A healed age. An age of new possibilities and beliefs.  

But you know you are at that "certain age," when the doctor tells you it's time to schedule your initial Medicare Wellness Visit. Getting the daily literature from medical insurance companies for over a year, and even signing up for medicare, was all fairly benign and anonymous for the most part. But this..."do you have safety bars in your bathroom"..."do you have memory problems"..."do you have contact with friends or family at least twice a week?"  This seals the deal...people now see you as old...if they see you at all. 

But that too can be something to capitalize on. My friend tells the funny story of sitting in front of a movie poster with another friend in the lobby of a theater. Two young women came and stood in front of them looking at the poster and discussing the movie in detail, while standing only a foot away from the graying ladies. The younger women either didn't see them...or didn't think they deserved to respect their space. After laughing about it, the older two decided to capitalize on this invisibility and snuck into another movie. Who is going to confront two old ladies? 

But mid-sixties is a good age, too. Much of what I wanted to do has been done and the memories are beautiful to recall. Though I still have a few dreams and goals, they aren't so grandiose or complicated. Complexity is almost a curse word to me now. I have adopted new quiet rhythms and simple rituals that fit who I am now. The pursuits of big questions have been tucked into memory, as well, some with a twinge of regret at the time spent trying to unravel mysteries no one has been able to unravel. In my 50's, I learned one could actually embrace these mysteries of life and have now settled comfortably into many of them. In most of my adulthood, close confidants repeatedly told me I was my own worst enemy. At this age we have reached a detente...not that there aren't occasional skirmishes at the borderlines of my personality...but for the most part we are at peace. 

So today, I celebrated simply and alone. I filled the bird feeders for the first time since mid-May, when they have enough resources from insects and fruits and seeds (and I can keep a few more of my resources in the bank). I went to the local farm market and bought two big pumpkins and a mum. I got take-out lunch. In the morning I sat on the back deck and watched birds. In the afternoon, the Adirondack chairs by the firepit let the sun warm me from the windy chill. Now I sit on the front porch (my friend calls all these "perches") sharing thoughts with you. 

I love having a birthday in the fall. It seems to fit. I love making preparations for dormancy; that extended time to go inward, or to not have pressures that spring plantings and summer projects seem to rule over us. I hope to experience a few more revolutions toward a few more Septembers...but not too, too many. A reasonable expiration date will suffice. But there are still gardens to create, beauty to take in and spread. Still more people to encourage, friends and family to love and laugh with. There are votes to cast and deeper history to learn. There is poetry to read and blogs (and books?) to write. And ultimately, more growth to be had, more forgiveness to give, and more wisdom to be gained from all of it. 

But right now...there is a pumpkin to carve and seeds to roast. :-)


Sunday, May 22, 2022


Recently, I made my annual pilgrimage and met a friend at the Biggest Week in American Birding. BWAB is a two-week
bird watching event, as colorfully plumed migrants, on their way from Central and South America, stop to feed before the long journey across Lake Erie into Canada. Participants register for presentations, field trips, guided walks on the amazing boardwalk, and to peruse nature-related vendors at Maumee Bay Lodge.

My three-and-a-half hour drive to Magee Marsh - part backroads, part interstate highway - was a bit grueling. Still not used to driving such long distances alone. But I'm adapting and learning to press on through the nervousness, boredom, and yet-to-figure-out-technology of my "new" 2018 Subaru.

But once I turned off the Lake Erie Coastal Highway
and into the Magee entrance, everything changed. After traveling at speeds of 60 to 70 mph, it was a warm welcome when the car in front of me meandered at a reasonable 25 mph, as did the car in front of it, and all the other cars I could see up the road. And honestly, 25 mph is even too fast when you're desperate to watch a pair of geese attending their adorable fluffs of offspring. I put the all the windows down to let the ubiquitous Yellow Warblers serenade me, flanked on both sides by wetlands filled with herons and egrets. 

At that point, I was in birder's world, where the rules of engagement are different than at other public parks. After finding a parking spot among the hundreds of cars, with no less than 20 out of state license plates, I opened the door to the sound of nothing but birds and the lake crashing onto the shore in the distance. 

Birders talk softly here, if at all, and mostly about the birds. To see two or more people loudly yucking it up on the boardwalk would be an aberration, as well as an irritation. Nearly all birders will readily answer questions and point out sightings to others with great enthusiasm. It really is as if we entered a holy place and are waiting and watching for Divine messengers to show up. And they do. Right on time. Every year, speaking to us of beauty, determination, mutualism, cycles, and adaptation. 

In August of 2021, a major windstorm blew through the marsh and downed what looked like a third of the tall cottonwoods, maples, and other trees near or right on the boardwalk. Many sections were very damaged, which ODNR and volunteers needed to replace before the following spring. Many wondered how this opened canopy would affect not only the bird watchers, but more importantly, the birds. To everyone's delight the birds had no trouble adapting to the new landscape. In fact, all reports indicated this was one of the best years for viewing the great migration. 

Together my friend and I recorded a total of 61 species, including 21 or the 36 species of wood warblers. My friend stayed a day longer and picked up another two warblers for 23 species. Most warblers and vireos were so close we could have reached out and touched them, or at the very least not used our binoculars to see their splendor. Each evening some percentage of the avian mix will take wing for the long flight over Lake Erie to Canada's boreal forest. There, they will nest in the spruces and pines and raise their broods. After that, they will reverse course and return to their wintering grounds, albeit less colorful than the trip up. 

These birds are the jewels of spring to those of us who find their migrations fascinating; who understand the obstacles they overcome along the way, or don't - reflective glass on buildings, light pollution, habitat and resource loss. So, we also discuss how we can help in our own yards and communities by filling parts of them with native trees and shrubs. Over time, these plantings become filled with caterpillars, insects, and berries that each year give these weary travelers an oasis, both coming and going. All who wander (in the sky) are not lost. But all who wander need a meal and a place to rest on their journey. 


Friday, April 08, 2022

I Took a Walk Today…

Early spring is a time of contrast, when the verdant meets the dead; when life emerges from what looks like death, but indeed has just been waiting. 

On the bike path near the Spring Valley Wildlife Area, a few ephemerals are beginning to carpet the ground...Dutchman's Breeches with it's fern-like leaves and white, pantaloon flowers and Yellow Corydalis, all tubular and sunny.

Along this section of path that borders the river, lipstick buds of
buckeye trees make their appearance, the older ones fanning out like like elaborate headdresses, grateful for the ice and cold that broke their shells.
Further down the trail I take a turn towards an expanse of last summer's tall grasses, lured there by a field sparrow's bouncing song, as it clings to a stalk of dried bluestem. 

In the wind, 
all over this field, I hear the slight clicking and cracking of these brown and wheat-colored stalks. They stood like soldiers against the ice and snow of winter, but now bend in a final surrender toward their own waiting roots. Breaking off. Making room. Turning back to the soil. 

It is an April painting, a fleeting snapshot of lush, supple greens alongside the dry, hollow stalks of winter, as an Osprey flies overhead towards water. Try not to miss it. :-) 

Sunday, May 31, 2020


Over the last few days, beyond the anger and sadness I feel at the death of George Floyd and other injustices these past few years, I also feel something else – something I can’t quite narrow down to one emotion. Watching the video brings up a plethora of emotions and memories for me because the last words Mr. Floyd spoke, while a police officer’s weight was on his neck, were the same last words my husband uttered on the floor of our hallway in 2016 – “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe."

Though the circumstances were vastly different – the EMT’s were trying to save my husband’s life, however ineffectively - the intent of the four Minneapolis police officers is unclear and questionable. After I heard my husband’s last pleas, and when no means of giving him oxygen were produced, though one EMT asked where the oxygen was, I yelled for someone to give him mouth to mouth. I will never forget the words of a female EMT standing at the head of the gurney, doing nothing. She turned to me, and in a most indifferent tone said, “If he can talk, he can breathe,” as if I had offended her and should mind my own business. Within minutes, they wheeled out his silent body – no oxygen mask, no bag, no tube – nothing to help him breathe.

So, I know what it feels like to hear those last words, my husband's last utterances for help, in a life-threatening situation, and not be able to do a damn thing. I also know what it is to feel suspicious that the people in charge are not following professional protocol and perhaps putting your loved one in harms way. Yes, he could talk, until his air ran out!

What I DON’T know is how it feels to have an ever-present history of abuse by people in
charge – and rarely any justice when threatened or injured by the violence of authorities. I also don’t know what it would do to my heart and soul to grow up knowing there was a part of my county – my own town – who did not know me but hated me anyway. Indeed, whole organizations with chapters in nearly every state, filled with white men who formed these organizations to keep me down or do me harm. I would not know who they are. I would not know if or when they would harm me or for what? I would need to be on-guard and in defensive mode constantly in every socio-economic stratum.

And I don’t know what a black child feels when he or she learns that the short history of their race in America – the lives of their grandparents, great- and great-great grandparents- began with kidnapping from another country, and continued with brutality, being sold into slavery, beaten, lynched, drug behind trucks, raped, impregnated, and forced to do hard labor so white slave owners could live comfortably and rich. To know, that in a large sense, your ancestors built much of this country yet reaped little of its benefits.

Let’s imagine if just a few of these things were done to one individual – say a white child – we would consider their ordeal beyond traumatizing. Now, multiply that by millions down through just three or four generations – and here we are. It has to continue to have some traumatic generational effect on the entire culture.

I was born into a racist home and grew up during the riots, unrest, and upheavals of 1960’s and 70’s. Though I loved my father, and though he taught me many wonderful things, his bigotry was an ugly side of him. I know some of those ugly seeds took root in me, as I watched him spit and curse at the television whenever a black person was featured. He loved George Wallace and hated Martin Luther King Jr. So, I disliked MLK, also, believing the foul things my father said about him, until I read his writings. As an Air Force officer, my father despised policies like Affirmative Action and held a particular bitterness for any blacks in high positions anywhere. He told “nigger jokes” with his country club golfing buddies. He used to call black waiters, Reg, instead of their names,  because nigger spelled backwards was reggin. It was his subtle, racist way of putting them in their place and showing off around his comrades.
So, I know racism. I know its ugliness and subtly. I know the superior attitude that white men can carry around, thinking African Americans are stupid and inferior in every way, except as players to be bet on in sports. Over the years, I have had to search my own heart and deal with my shame in participating in some of that bigotry. And I have SO much further to grow. This country has so much further to grow, as well. I don’t know exactly what the answer is. Then again, maybe the answer is simply: when someone is pleading that they can’t breathe, we need to listen, and do something to ease their suffering.
What sometimes helps me understand the essence of a cultural problem is to again bring it down to an individual or two. My husband and I used to facilitate a Marriage Maintenance group for young couples at a church. The first thing we talked about, born out of our own struggles, was building a foundation of respect. And part of respecting means listening, instead of reacting. Nothing can be as infuriating or make you feel so alone than to remain unheard or misunderstood when you share a hurt or complaint. So, we encouraged them to watch for their own defense mechanisms…the “Yeah, but… or the “Yeah, well you…” or the point/counter-point and unwillingness to be empathetic to their partner’s pain. It can make you feel either defeated, angry, or ready to call a lawyer.

During these last three and a half years, as brutality and bigotry seems to have reared its ugly head more boldly, it appears that African Americans are damned if they do (peacefully protest) and damned if they don’t (although most violence has not been instigated by protestors). The vitriol that came out after Colin Kaepernick took a knee in prayerful protest of this very type of violence was unsettling to watch. Instead of listening, the narrative was immediately changed. It went from his self-proclaimed protest of police violence against blacks, to others proclaiming that he was spitting on the flag (America) and into the faces of our active military and veterans. The two had NOTHING to do with one another, but that new, changed narrative was something white folks could get justifiably indignant about. I wonder how these same people would have responded had it been a Native American football player taking a knee in protest of how our country has and does treat them. Would they have been so harsh? Could they have, in good conscience, changed the narrative? Or what if a conservative, pro-life player took a knee to protest that a pro-choice policy goes against the kind of America they want. Would taking a knee during the National Anthem still have been wrong? And would progressives have changed the narrative? If so, that, too, is a problem.

At the beginning of the year, a slogan, passed around and embraced by some, was “2020 Equals Perfect Vision.” Maybe that was our first Divine Clue…to watch and pay attention. Maybe the second Clue, as we DID watch loved ones and strangers on ventilators struggle to breathe and George Floyd pleading to be let go so he could take another breath…is to Listen. If we don’t, we will continue to be a nation divided, divorced from one another and always harboring hate, suspicion, and anger. This time it needs to be our humble choice, white brothers and sisters. Our choice.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


 1.    Foremost, I miss Craig’s unconditional love for me, which was both romantic and practical. I knew in my heart, because of his actions and his words, that he wanted only my highest good. We told each other we were loved every day. 

2.     I miss the security he brought to my life. I always felt safe with him. If we were apart I knew that if something went wrong, if I couldn’t, he would come take care of it…and never begrudgingly. I’m not ashamed to say that, at times, he was my knight in shining armor.

3.  I miss his strength, both emotionally and physically. He was a rock…of good character, spiritual wisdom, faithfulness, and courage. Physically, Craig did not have a ripped body, but he was all muscle (well, not all :), and would lift a car off you if pinned. Many times, he would carry or lift something that seemed impossible…like the lawn mower out of a wet ditch with me still on it! And those powerful hands…wrapping around mine every time we walked together. And most of you can testify about his bear hugs…or handshakes!

 4.    I miss our true companionship (a phrase from a Marc Cohn song that we adopted as our own). We could and would talk for hours with one another about anything and everything. We loved each other’s intellect, and the transparency and vulnerability we cultivated in our marriage.

5.     I miss his examples of loyalty and generosity towards friends, family, work and co-workers, and any organization he was part of. He was truly a faithful man.

6.       I miss the nicknames (new ones practically every week), the notes we left each other, the film quotes, the inside jokes, the silliness that would overtake us at times, the pillow talk, and the “making fun of all the weird people.” (an inside joke)

7.       I miss his kisses – small pecks on the cheek and passionate lip-locks, as he would call them. He was a really good kisser!

8.       I miss his “can do” attitude. I now realize he was the fuel behind almost every spark of inspiration either of us had. I will need to learn to be my own incendiary device going forward.

9.       I miss his encouragement. Craig’s full-time job early on was to remind me I was not as deficient as I thought I was. He often verbalized how grateful he was for my gifts and talents…and in the end I began to believe him.

10.   I miss how his mind worked. He taught me new ways to look at things. He was strategic – in everything from buying a refrigerator to playing a board game to voting in a primary election. It’s why he loved baseball I came to understand. He solved problems. He negotiated deals. He built bridges…and never burned a one.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018


As I sit here half asleep, half awake, a fog is descending. Or rising, I’m not sure which. Or maybe it is just the rays of light exposing what was already there; last night’s settled dew seeping out from the leaves and petals and feathers of sleeping birds. 

This morning before dawn, the barren, leftover bulk of a once-magnificent sycamore fell, crashing so hard it woke me from sound dreaming.

While the faint light held, I stood before the stripped-down trunk, marveling in my slippers at a great many things. How was it still mostly intact? See how it landed neatly in a clearing beside a 50-foot hemlock and a taller tulip poplar, taking very little with it. What sounds had it made right before the full uprooting and collapse? Had there been the slightest breeze, or the extra weight of a woodpecker that caused it to surrender to the pull of the earth?

I thought about how many squirrel nests it housed high in its branches year after year. And I thought about the poem, When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou, shared by a friend just a few feet from this fallen sycamore during my husband’s second Remembrance Gathering. That tree, like my husband, was in its prime twenty-seven years ago when we bought our home. Over the last ten years it kept shedding its glory one limb and one branch at a time. Then with no warning, like that other horrible, groggy morning in August, the tree fell; and a great soul also died.

This landscape, this yard, will always be changing and adapting. What is in the shade will eventually be in the light. What was planted in the sun will someday flounder in its absence. Lives, like the kingdoms they inhabit, come and go, remembered for two or three generations, then a name on a page of history. But still, there must be a great journey from this ever-shifting world, where splinters from falling branches can pierce our hearts; someplace where it is cool and perfect under the blazing sun.