All the House Lights Left Up Bright


“It’s coming on winter, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace…oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” -Joni Mitchell

In the dream I lived on a river. Mid-morning I took my dogs to walk along the shore, stretch from the early hours at the typewriter. That was so long ago, that dream. And dream it was, what little I recall of it as I entered another scramble morning. Steven ready for school and I for work as we head out the door, just a little late, forgetting some somethings. Half the time I swear I caught myself watching out the corner of my eye. Life moved so fast it was painful. You knew you were missing something, but you were powerless to slow down. So many demands.

Now I live on a river, have two dogs. Mid-morning we walk along the shore as I secretly shoo crumbs from my pocket, imagining some little birds delight at discovering the manna. My son has long since grown and lives away in his own scramble world. I’m still pulling at time, ever slowing the momentum it took so much life to build.

I wish I could write like Joni Mitchell. A few lines told the whole story; some part of your psyche filling in the future. It seems you knew that story before she reminded you. Again I must say: Thank God for the artists. The historians of our truth. Thank God for Joni.

“Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.” – Virginia Woolf


“It’s Space. It Doesn’t Cooperate.”


If you would please indulge me here, Dear Reader, it seems that I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.

But let’s begin anyway by noting that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked, as inspiration is, by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.

There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.

This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make that can, and does, effect our future.

One photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn survivors of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.

One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul, and that I was worth saving.

In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.

For Faith.


Are You There? Say A Prayer…


My friend Nadine says I have a musical heart…it is true that music serves as illustration for much of my life, certainly my emotional life. My junior high science teacher, Mr. Barrow, would put an extra credit question at the end of every weekly test. It was always about rock and roll, and I always got it right. I knew all the words to all the songs…by heart. Strangely, most of my family played an instrument and sang, but always the outsider, I was asked not to participate…I was tone deaf and off key. (In their defense, the church choir didn’t want me either!) As a teen, I spent my days in headphones and my nights at the Grande and the Eastown…and I still circle through the music in my head hourly. Someone is often singing to me in my sleep. It is fair to say I have learned about as much from music as from books, or teachers, or any form of information. Music has the unique ability to impart it’s wisdom physiologically: Right. Straight. Into. Your. Soul.

If you weren’t a Joni Mitchell groupie, driving to every concert within a hundred mile radius, you might not know how these men met. They all got their start opening for her on tour. We have her to thank for introducing them to each other, and to us. I love these men – truly – never having met any of them. They represent everything to me that God meant for men to express: deeply humble intelligence.

This song in particular spoke to me of the struggle between living “true to our inner promptings” as Hesse wrote, or engaging in the world with all of it’s futile expectations, “waving truce against the moon…”

The Vietnam war was raging on my television throughout my adolescent years. The images on the news were so gruesome, so awful. They showed cruelty beyond imagining. Those scenes of war are never shown on television anymore, by the way. They can’t sell anything that way…least of all the political agenda of the day. So for many of us naive souls, music became the voice of sanity in a truly insane world.

Like 911, every child of my generation remembers where they were when JFK was shot. I was in the 4th grade. The screens of black and white televisions were rolled out into our classrooms until the school decided to close early and send us home. I walked in on my Mother wailing…and somehow knew life would never be the same. I suspect that was the very beginning of our cultural awakening. Our superficial values died a catastrophic death. No one I knew had ever really faced any personal tragedy at that young age, but now we suddenly knew what a broken heart was. I don’t think mine has ever mended, but then, I don’t think they’re meant to.

I don’t know about you, but the rest of my life has been a process of letting go. And clawing to hang on. And letting go…it begins to take on an eerie rhythm. Not that it ever makes any sense. The clawing to hang on never makes any sense. You will let go…breathing in and out, or kicking and screaming…it turns out we are all The Pretender.

For Rodasi and Cilla, dedicated women. I am grateful for you.

Notes From Home


“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

My family has been ravaged by the wolves of disease; by physical disease – cancer mostly – but also by the disease of addiction and poverty. Four siblings and I have moved in and out of homelessness throughout our adult lives. I guess it is a good thing there are five of us. Someone usually has a place with an extra room, a blowup mattress, or even just a vehicle. We have all managed somehow to survive to middle age. But as anyone who has ever experienced this will tell you, it is a terrifying way to live. Like other soldiers of the far away wars, this is a battle fought by families and entire communities. The toll is invisible at first, but the wounds are deep and far-reaching. The shrapnel works it’s way out through a lifetime and a bloodline.

Home has always meant life to me. In its least form it provides safety from the elements, though some must fend off other vultures within their walls. Yet, full of its promised offering it brings sanctuary, restoration, healing. A good sleep, a shared meal, laughter…the courage to imagine.

I don’t know who it was who said “Home is Heaven for beginners.” My home certainly is. Or, as I often say, “On the highway to enlightenment I’m taking the local.” I guess that’s a funny way of saying I am very grateful for my home. I have a lot to be thankful for.

As a child I suffered a repetitive nightmare: I walked home from school, but when I entered my house a strange woman had taken the place of my Mom. And she demanded to know where I really lived – as apparently I was lost. So I went back out retracing my steps. Same address, street signs, neighborhood. I had entered some parallel universe where everything looked the same, but nobody knew me. Worse, I had no idea how to get back home. I’ve had a variation of this nightmare all my life, even recently. I don’t understand its meaning – other than to scare the living daylights out of me – but I sure understand the feeling. This is what it feels like to be without a place of your own, all alone in the world. It renders you utterly powerless and sucks the air from your lungs. But it also makes you compassionate for any sentient being just trying to hang on for one more day. This feeling is palpable in shelters – animal or human.

It seems my life has been a long search for home. Being in the world – and of it – is at last its own particular form of hell regardless of where you reside. Better to be in the world but NOT of it. The entry fee to that land has been pre-paid by grace. Yes, please…and while I wait as my mansion is prepared, I wait with all my heart and soul in the knowing that I do belong. I belong. And isn’t that what we all want, really?

“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come,

this is where I want to learn to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love.

This is the temple of my adult aloneness and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life.

There is no house like the house of belonging.”  –  David Whyte

So Many Different People To Be…


It’s been nine months since my Dad passed away. As time is a fickle and irreverent companion, nine months took but one beat of my heart…and some days take an eternity. I sure do miss him. If you’ve read past writings here about my Dad you know that he was a larger than life character…I love the movie Big Fish with Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor because it reminds me of him, of us. He was also not prone to express his emotions. I suspect much of his generation had no language for it. So in many ways it seems I am getting to know him better in his absence than I did in his presence.

After he died I found pictures of him as a child that we never even knew existed. What a cute kid! Do you ever look at childhood photographs of yourself or your loved ones and see the utter sweetness in our faces? And I don’t know about you, but often at night, in the vast dark silence, I still FEEL myself AS that little kid…I AM still her…perhaps that is always true for us all.

People sometimes ask me why I put up with so much from my family. Did they not see those photos of THEIR family? We are all innocent here. In the end we must give up our beliefs about what the past meant. We must forgive them…we must forgive ourselves. We must. I’m not saying it is easy, or that it means we allow any further abuse. We draw a line; we turn to face the dragon, we pound our staff and declare to our pain, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS.”

C’mon, take your power back. Stand up for that little kid in you. Be a good witch today.

Off to BE the Wizard…


As the new year begins, I too have a resolution. I am taking Edwene Gaines’ 21 Day Challenge: to fast from complaining for twenty-one days – the length of time psychologists say it takes to change a habit. Complaining is a bad habit. Addiction specialists tell us that the easiest way to overcome any bad habit is to replace it with a healthier one. And so, I will begin each of the 21 days by listing at least eight things in my life that I am grateful for. It’s a wonderfully sneaky exercise as it starts you thinking in terms of gratitude…and you tend to keep thinking this way throughout the day. I’m so grateful someone else figured that out for me…

I’m on Day Three today, and I have a big confession: I have done Day One over more times than I can count. You see, if you slip up you must start over the next day. If you know me, you find it remarkable that I’ve made it this far! Meaning, of course, that if I can stop complaining, ANYONE CAN STOP COMPLAINING!

But I am putting my “money where my mouth is”…as Edwene says in her Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity. It’s time to walk the talk. My friend Nadine gave me this book for Christmas (grateful.) IT JUST WASN’T THIS CHRISTMAS! It was a year ago. That should give you a hint about what I’m working with here….sheeeeeeez….but in my defense, the book was packed in a box for months during my  l o n g  move (not complaining) and I just re-discovered it. With prompting from Nadine…

Last week Nadine sent me this YouTube video which reminded me that I had that book around here somewhere. I invite you to listen to this Yoda in the form of a munchkin…and follow the yellow brick road with me.

“The more you complain, the longer God lets you live.” -unknown

With Tuppence for Paper and String…


I don’t know about you, but I see an awful lot of myself in P.L. Travers. The uptight intellectual snob who wrote Mary Poppins fought with Walt Disney over creative rights for twenty years. She needed the money, but she was utterly opposed to her beloved characters frolicking in a musical –  lest they be made to seem trite or unimportant, powerless. Sometimes a push is needed to allow truly magical things to happen that would otherwise never come into the world. It allows for healing to take place. I suspect that is true of all art. It gets away from the artist and takes on a life of it’s own.

To this day this is one of the best selling stories of all time, and I know why. It speaks to us all, to overcoming heartbreak and becoming powerful again, to healing. Heroes come in so many unexpected ways, don’t they?!

These two artists are angels incarnate if I’ve ever seen them:

For my Dad and sister Shelly, who played piano and sang the soundtrack of my childhood.