Return to Manzanita, this time for more than the views…

Twelve writers and twelve artists were paired to create

The stars aligned,  serendipity struck, the universe conspired and I found a new, 2024 penny, head’s up, when I left the grocery store.  I was back in Manzanita, Oregon, for the weekend,  where I spent the month of April and where I didn’t think I’d be returning until next spring. 

 When I said my goodbyes a short month ago, — to the sea, the charming town, and the moody coastline, I made a point of slowing down to absorb as much as I could before I left.   I wanted to remember the sounds, the smells, the slow melt of the sun into the horizon, each day more beautiful than the last, and the feeling of soft mist on my face as I walked out of a gentle rain and into sunshine.  Those feelings were still front and center in my memories when I drove into Manzanita a few weekends ago, feeling conspicuous in my rental car — a 2024 Mustang, which was not my first or second choice, but I did choose it over the Camaro.  The guy at the car rental counter in Portland thought he was doing me a favor with the upgrade and I liked his spirit, but didn’t care for the car.

As for the alignment of the stars, they weren’t just aligning, they were in a congo line dancing around me. The timing was that good. There was another labyrinth walk on the beach, by the same artist that created the walk the day before I left, this time the the day after I arrived. The rental house I had in April was available and friends of mine from Boulder happened to be traveling in the area and we were able to connect and swap travel stories on my deck. And the weather just happened to be perfect – sunny and warm in the afternoon and cool in the evening.

I returned because three written pieces I submitted in a competition were selected and I only submitted them after being encouraged, prodded and not so gently pushed by my sisters to go for it, and so I did. Had they not been visiting me during my first week there, I might not have wandered into the arts center that they discovered and doubt I would have written three pieces to submit. Thanks, sisters.  I made my return to be present for the random pairing with a visual artist, who also had three submitted pieces that won.  We will be a part of an ekphrasis, the Greek literary form of art inspiring art, using both visual art and written words.  I will chose one of the artist’s three pieces to use as a visual prompt for an essay and he will chose one of my essays to inspire his art, a drawing in his case.  The reveal of the art with words will be presented at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, that represents the northern Oregon Coast,  in early October.  

I’m thrilled, honored and challenged with this project and have looked deeply into the three drawings I have digital copies of, while searching for my inspiration.  They have become etched into my brain.  I have until July 31st to turn in my words.   Along with feeling honored to be chosen, I also feel vulnerable and exposed when I think about another person going deep into my work, word by word and sentence by sentence, to find inspiration for his drawing and wonder if he is feeling similar emotions as he thinks about doing the same when I studying his drawings.

If I had the actual drawings with me and not just digital copies, I’d probably carry them around with me throughout the day, arranging them on the table next to me while I eat then moving them to the coffee table where I’d  continually glance down at them throughout the evening. Digital copies are not the same as the originals and I wish I could touch them for some reason.  While waiting in line at the airport on my return flight back to Boulder, and other times I’ve found myself waiting, instead of scrolling, as most around me appear to be doing, I’m staring deeply into three drawings, looking for clues, words and my story.  The drawings are beautiful, evocative, well-executed and oddly familiar to me in their content, which confirms that although the pairings were random, the artist who I’m working with, is exactly who I am supposed to be with.  

I’m glad I was able to make the trip to Manzanita and was able meet the artist face to face, rather than the zoom option I was told I could use given I don’t live on the Oregon Coast. I felt like I owed the artist a face to face meeting, and of course I wasn’t sad to have to return to the house on the beach with the beautiful view.  The co-facilitators each drew a name out of a hat, one designated for the writers and one for the artist to form the pairs.  There were twelve pairings.  My artist happened to be sitting in the chair next to where I had put my jacket down, while I socialized with the group before taking my seat.  We were the last two names called.  The first thing he said to me was that he was honored to be working with a good writer.  I told him I appreciated the compliment but given that he hadn’t read my work,  his words seemed a bit premature.  “It’s become more and more competitive every other year when it’s offered.  Your pieces were selected because they were well-written,” he told me. I was humbled by his words, also nervous because it felt like he just raised the bar of expectations considerably.  I only hope my words will stand up to his perceived words of praise.  

I have no idea where I’m going with this, but I’m challenged, intrigued, completely absorbed and scared enough that adrenaline has begun to weave its way into the process.  And that feels productive, even though no words have hit the page… yet…

Mother’s Day 2024

Three under five.

Two under two. Mom wins.

It’s not the gift, because it’s never the gift.  It’s been a Pop-Tart served on a tray,  the corner suspiciously looking like it had been chewed off, but I pretended not to notice.  It’s breakfast in bed, served on a cookie sheet improvising as a tray, because trays make it fancier and you can never be too fancy on Mother’s Day.  And I loved every bite of it like it was eggs Benedict with a croissant on the side. It was my child’s version of my granola recipe in a book with other kindergartner’s recipes that was handed to me with excitement and pride and instructions to bake for six hours at 900 degrees.  The whispered arguments of who gets to carry the tray, with giggles and shushes are the alarm clock for so many moms on Mother’s Day and I’m not sure there is a better way to be awakened.   Of course I was awakened earlier with arguments in the kitchen and hold back my smiles that are bursting to get out as my three young kids would wake me to begin the Mother’s Day celebrations.  

I miss those early Mother’s Day’s that began with breakfast in bed and ended in me cooking dinner because there are no last minute reservations on Mother’s Day.  One Mother’s Day, I confessed in an essay, that more than anything I wanted to go to the movies to celebrate the day…by myself.  I didn’t care what was playing.  I wanted to sit in the dark for two hours and eat popcorn and Milk Duds and maybe doze off.  Several of my mom friends chimed in and agreed, but none of us would ever admit it to our families or chose the movies over a day of breaking up fights over who gets to sit next to mom while watching Full House reruns because it’s Mother’s Day and mom gets to do anything she wants, including watch what the kids suggest.

Moms are the first to say they are no longer hungry when they see one of their kids, who technically is still growing, eyeing the last piece of pizza.  They are willing to sacrifice their coat when one of their kids, who was reminded to bring a jacket, twice, didn’t, and is cold. They will shiver through the soccer game or the afternoon at the park, insisting they are fine because they have to be fine.  They are the ones who sit behind the tall man at the movies and are happy to go last when it comes to unwrapping Christmas gifts, always with the hope that someone remembered to purchase the gift you’re patiently waiting to unwrap.  They will happily change seats from the front to the back (provided they aren’t the driver)  when the back seat child says he or she might be sick, knowing it’s possible they just want a better view.  We cancel plans, delay starts and are the one sweeping in with the pan for the next round of throw up and the towel to clean up the one we missed.  I can’t say we do it without some eye rolls and mumblings to ourselves, but we do it and we do it again and again and again.  As young mothers, we smell like throw up because we often wear throw up, but that’s okay, because we’re the mom and that’s what moms do.  Our hearts are cavernous and our patience limited so things don’t always go as planned, but the side of love is always the side that wins. 

Moms will backbend themselves around to help another mom because we know first hand what exasperation and exhaustion look like, and when we see a mom down, we do whatever we have to get the fallen mom upright again.  This, we often do at the cost of our own sanity.  We are never off the clock, even when our kids aren’t with us.  Case in point, I once told a mom in an elevator who I had just traveled four floors with,  a bold face lie as a gesture of offering help.  I was in Captiva, Florida, with my husband and my two sons under the age of two, and was going to the nearby market to get something we had forgotten or possibly more wine.  Or maybe it was nothing and I just needed a moment of alone time.   The woman on the elevator had twins who looked about six months old, both boys.  I saw the exhaustion and frustration on her face and in the way her body was hunched over the stroller like a question mark.  I looked her straight in the eye and told her I also had twin boys and not to worry as it gets much easier.  In fact, so much easier that the day will come when having twins will be easier than just one because  they will always have a playmate.  She looked up at me with eyes that had possibly crying and told me thank you, from the bottom of her very tired heart.  When I got off the elevator, I turned around and she smiled an ear to ear smile at me and I had the feeling her day may have gotten a tiny bit better.  I do not have twins, but I do have two boys 18 months apart, which meant two cribs, two carseats (at a time when only babies were in car seats), a double stroller, and an undue amount of chaos and crying.  It felt like it was the right lie to tell within the sisterhood of motherhood.  I did not regret it when I walked out of the elevator,  nor do I regret it today.  It was a necessary lie and one that may have put a morsel of hope into that tired mom’s head that she had not yet considered — that it might get easier as the two babies had more months or even years under their belts or onesies as it was.  

Two of my three Pop-Tart preparing kids now have kids of their own and my third has one on the way. Their days of their kids balancing cobbled together breakfasts on makeshift trays with overly filled glasses of juice are coming, although I suspect their kids’ food choices may be better.  I’m seven years overdue in declaring this, and it’s happened organically over the years, but I’ve decided it’s time to give up one more thing as a mom and that’s the holiday of Mother’s Day.  By NO means does that mean the day no longer needs to acknowledged or celebrated in some way, large or small (kids, take note), but I’m moving my position down one chair in the matriarchal line-up to make room for the mothers in my own family whose kids are of the age of carrying breakfast trays to sleeping moms.  This has happened naturally with my kids who live in other states, but I feel like it has to be said in the same way my mom said it to me when I had my first child.  The connection will always be celebrated but it is the active mom who should be the one to relish in the glory of the day, eating a breakfast she may not have chosen and breaking up the fights of whose turn it is to sit next to her or who gets to paint her toenails on her special day.

My cousin’s daughter, six months into her pregnancy, asked me several years ago if I knew how long the umbilical cord was.  I didn’t know, but really, I did, but didn’t want to tell her.  The umbilical cord is as long as it needs to be, and although the physical cord is birthed with the baby, the emotional cord connects you and your child forever and ever.  I feel the tug of that cord  still and it has extended its length to include my grandchildren. The lump in my throat that catches when I see my children comforting their children is that same umbilical cord giving me a tug to remind me of its attachment.  It makes me want to cry and immerse myself in the memories of being awakened with warm whispers of “are you awake?”  inches from my ear.   I want to press those memories to my chest and relive every moment, knowing that the baton has been passed; also knowing it will be another mom who will comfort a child in the middle of the night and clean up the throw up, first off the floor, then off herself.  And that same mom will call her mom the next morning and share with her how hard her night was and how tired she is and my cavernous heart will melt and I’ll suddenly have a craving for Pop-Tarts.

Happy Mother’s Day, to anyone who mothers and to the moms we have or had.  The  umbilical cord continues to tug, even when it’s not Mother’s Day.

Story Telling

I knew I should give them space by the meditative way they were standing; six people, shoulder to shoulder,  on the beach, at the water’s edge, flanked by a dog doing the same. I was close enough, but not too close, to see they weren’t talking, but instead, had their focus on the sea in front of them.  As I got closer, still with respect for their space I kept reminding myself, I could see there weren’t six people, but seven.  A woman, or maybe a teenager? with a yellow raincoat sat on the ground in front of the group.  I was drawn to them — their stillness, their reverence, their focus on something I couldn’t see and the connection they had with each other,  with arms interlaced and hands held. 

 I continued my beach walk, trying to notice other things, but turned around every few minutes to see if they had moved.  They hadn’t.  Twenty minutes passed and they still stood, side by side, facing the sea.  As I got further away, and began to lose sight of them, my focus changed. I noticed that almost everyone I passed had a dog and almost all of those dogs had a couple with them — not a single person, but a couple.   I did a visual 360 on the sparsely populated beach to confirm that yes, it appeared I was the only one that did not have a dog or a partner.  And right then and there, I said to myself, not even in a whisper as there wasn’t anyone around to hear me, “table for one, right here, right now, on the beach.”  I smiled at my observation.  Last night at the restaurant, I asked for a table for one, something I’ve become accustomed to in my solo travels and was mindful to not add the just to the one.   Had I been walking with someone this morning, I doubt I would have found the intrigue with the six people standing at the water’s edge,  shoulder to shoulder, with the yellow rain-coated woman in front of them.   I’m more tuned in when I’m by myself — more curious, more observant and ready to fill in a story that I know absolutely nothing about.

Their stillness reminded me of the man and his dog that I’ve seen just about every evening, standing side by side, while they wait for the sun to drop.  Were these seven people waiting for something or were they just not ready to leave.  I had my own version of the story.    I thought about the person who remains in the pew long after the funeral or is still standing graveside after the ceremony is long over.  They can’t leave because of the finality of leaving. You only get one first goodbye.  The next time, it will be a recollection of memories and a goodbye afterwards, but not the first goodbye.  That only happens once.

My hunches were  confirmed when on my walk back, I passed the group again, and saw the man that was on the end squat down and hand a box to the woman in the yellow raincoat.  She stood to receive the box then held it to her chest and her head dropped.  I was still a respectful distance away, but didn’t feel like I was supposed to be watching, so turned my back and observed  a small flock of sanderlings running back and forth on the beach instead.  When I turned around, the box was back in the man’s hand and the woman with the yellow raincoat was drawing something in the sand with a long stick.  When she was done, she set the stick down and the man returned the box to her.

Of course I’m only speculating on what had benign the box.  It could have been a lunch box with a half eaten sandwich inside and the yellow raincoat girl was hungry and so happy to see it that she held it to her chest.  But I don’t think so.  It was not what her body language was telling me, nor what I saw in the sand after they left, single file, the girl in the yellow raincoat last.  When they were out of sight, I walked over to see what had been drawn and saw a heart and below it the letter “A” carved into the wet sand.  The letter before the “A” had been taken away by the tide and all that was visible was a vertical line, maybe the outside leg of an “M.”  I began to speculate but redirected my thoughts and contemplated the heart instead.  It told the story the letters didn’t.

Maybe it is me being nosey or maybe it’s the storyteller in me trying to find fodder, (I’ll go with the later as it doesn’t sound as creepy), but I’m drawn to groups of people sharing —secrets or moments, with arms entwined and hands held.  I want to move in closer.  I want to hear the words, but know that gestures can sometimes be louder and more articulate than words.

As I watched the seven of them and the dog walk away, I thought of how blessed the person was who they were there to honor and celebrate (as per my made up story).  I was touched by the reverence and presence I witnessed, whether that box contained someone’s lunch or the ashes of a loved one.  I started thinking about my own family, (yes, I went there),  and whether on mountain top with a vista, or at the edge of the sea with the roll of the waves underfoot, (both would be nice, kids…), I hoped they would show the same honor, love and affection I had just witnessed.  Then I shook my head and said to myself, not even in a whisper as I was the only one in ear shot, “Of course they would!”  And my mind began to paint the picture.  Arm in arm, while my family quietly observed the magnificent shows of nature I had become so fond of in my life, the stories would start to unfold; memories shared, each told with an individual slant and exaggeration by the teller.  Then someone would say what everyone was thinking, but no one had yet said, and that would be what a curious snoop I had become in my advanced years.  Because I’m the one writing the story, someone else would add, “Maybe not snoop,  but a story teller, always in search of a story and making one up when one didn’t exist.”  And with that, the real celebration would begin, the sun would start to dip below the mountaintop and the clear sign of a heart carved with a stick would show up in the sand.

The end.   And also, the beginning.

Inspiration on the Oregon Coast

My front yard for the month…

Several months ago I bought the book,  “Bittersweet,” by Susan Cain after reading one sentence in a book review.  “Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to sad movies, gloomy days or  melancholy music?”  Sold.  Evidently, I wasn’t alone and I wanted an explanation.   I started thumbing through the chapters on my walk home from the bookstore, looking for the why’s behind my attraction to the gloomy and seeking my in print tribe of like-minded people in the process. After reading the book,  I took an online test that NPR posted in conjunction with the review and confirmed what I suspected… I am “a true connoisseur of bittersweetness:  the place where dark and light meet.”  This was not new information to me, but what was, was the author  seeing it as not  a bad thing.  Instead, she says,  “Embracing your melancholy could make you happier in the long run. We found that people who score high [on this test] also score high on states of awe, wonder, spirituality and absorption, which predicts creativity.”  I’ll take it!  Gloomy days and all.   The author even made suggestions for those who tend towards optimism, but want to embrace their melancholy (the suggestions weren’t as dark or dreary as you might be imagining). I was thrilled.  I had a diagnosis and a reason for going to a place I knew beforehand would likely be cold and rainy to spend a month and write about it along with other writing projects, a bag of knitting and a big stack of books.  I’m also understanding why I love listening to anything by Philip Glass and one round of Leonard Cohen or k.d. lang singing “Hallelujah,” is never enough.   Nor is five rounds, if I’m being totally honest.

I thought about this while walking on the beach last week on the beautiful Oregon Coast.  I’ve been here around two weeks (I’m not keeping count because I don’t want to know how close the end is),  and with the exception of the cold, rainy day when I arrived, the sun has been shining almost every day.  It’s not at all what I expected but has been a welcome surprise. When I told friends I was renting a place on the Oregon coast for the month of April, several asked me why?  The weather in April will be gloomy and rainy, to which I responded, that’s why.  My family didn’t question my timing, especially my family who lives in Oregon, because they know me and my love for a gloomy day that to me translate to “put the kettle on and get the notebooks or computer out.”  It’s a call for indoor recess that I meet with a sigh of relief and gratitude.  I envisioned being tucked away with a fire, my computer and a mug of tea, and the moody sea for inspiration.  Instead, I’ve hiked, I’ve explored, I’ve walked miles on the beach and I’ve spent time in coffee shops, cafes and the book store in town.  I’m learning to embrace and understand that the biggest part of writing is not putting the pen to the paper or the fingers to the keyboard, but rather, is letting my mind wander and taking note of the path it’s making and if it is pulling me towards a destination I hadn’t thought of.  There’s not a better place to do that than on the vast, expansive Oregon Coast and on most days, I only passing a handful of people. 

Having been born in the mountains and raised in the mid-west, I don’t know “ocean things” such as tide tables or sneaker waves or rip tides or tsunami inundation zones, but I’m feeling more comfortable and am learning the rhythm of the tides and the best time to discover star fish in the tide pools.  And I’ve downloaded an earthquake app on my phone  because I’m in a tsunami zone and my son, in looking out for my well-being, suggested it.  Although I’ve been to this part of the coast multiple times with my Portland kids, it feels new this time — new because I’m experiencing it by myself.

I’ve always answered mountains when asked, “Mountains or ocean?” In the same way I’d say salt, when asked “salt or sugar” or sunrise with the “sunrise or sunset” question.  There are several more questions that go with this “personality quiz”  my sister and I devised, possibly before either one of us had seen the ocean, so only chose mountains.   I’ve learned these past ten days that although I consider myself a mountain girl because that’s where I was born and where my barometer was set, I think it’s okay, while I’m sitting out on my deck with the sea in front of me, to say I’m an ocean person too.  And if I’m honest, I’m also a sugar person and a sunset person.  I’m unapologetically taking them all.  When I’m back in Boulder, I’ll lean into my mountain side, but right now, with the sea in front of me,  I’m claiming ocean girl for the month and am taking in all it has to offer.  It’s moody.  It’s dramatic.  It’s vast, lonely and inspiring and the perfect spot for inspiration.

I’ve found my pace, starting with coffee in the morning, switching on the fireplace, and turning the swivel chair in the living room to face out towards the ocean.  At the end of the day, I watch the cars start to line up along the road directly in front of the place I’ve rented to view the sunset.  I love the importance that is given to the daily ritual of the sun dipping below the horizon.  People bring their chairs to the beach or sit on driftwood, or some remain in their cars with the opened doors and coolers.  Last night, I watched the silhouette of a man with his dog, the only two on the beach visible to me from my deck.  They both stood perfectly still in anticipation for at least 15 minutes.  As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, the dog looked at his owner then took off running as dogs do.  I honestly think the dog was enjoying the drop of the sun as much as his owner.  It was a beautiful moment in time and I get to do it again tomorrow night.  When I looked back through my daily sunset photos, the man and his dog are in every one of them.  It’s their nightly routine.  I love it even more now.  Meeting the end of the day with heightened anticipation even though it happened yesterday and will more than likely happen tomorrow  and every day that follows,  feels hopeful to me.  I’ve even learned wen to start Philip Glass’s “In the Upper Room” to synchronize his final and most dramatic piece to come on just as the sun makes its final dip, leaving behind a pink streaked sky.  

My sister had a friend from college that had the same response whenever she was experiencing something incredible. She’d say,  “Sell my clothes, I’m GOIN’ to heaven!” (emphasis on the GOIN’).   She was raised Catholic.  Maybe its something that all Catholics know — you don’t need clothes in heaven.  Presbyterians, on the other hand, would likely pack a change of underwear, socks and a map, just in case.  That being said,  I’m starting to tag stuff…

This morning, the sunny skies became cloudy, the temperatures dropped and raindrops are starting to fall.  I put Philip Glass and the kettle on and have declared it an indoor recess day.  My bittersweet soul is happy.

Indoor recess…

Writing Retreat in Sayulita, PostScript

To the Wandering Writers who I now call friends, may we continue to wander, write about it and share our words with each other.

I returned home yesterday from a six day trip I signed up for with little information and a lot of impulsiveness and I’m so thankful I did. I was on my way home from my 50th high school reunion, breaking up my driving trip into two days instead of one, because I was only one month out from getting a knee replacement. Because I follow writers on social media, my feed is filled with anything and everything that has to do with writers and writing, including workshops, retreats, Zoom classes and sadly, sites that will give you the coveted information on how to write a book in a matter of days and get it published in even less time, at a cost that likely ends in a .99. I’ll humbly admit that, yes, I looked at the site with the same frame of mind that had me contemplating the purchase of a small bottle of oil that was “guaranteed to heal the pain of bone on bone joints.” I did not send money for the writing secret or the knee pain cure. I saw Jessica’s post while seated at the bar at a restaurant in Salina, Kansas (it feels less obvious to eat alone at a bar than at a table, eliminating the awkwardness of the hostess quickly removing one place setting before being seated). Halfway into a plate of gluten-free pasta and trying to enjoy a not very good glass of the house red, I saw the words “Sayulita, Mexico” and “memoir.” I was hooked with Sayulita, a place I had been to multiple times, but the hook was set when I saw “memoir.”

Writing is a solitary endeavor — a team of one, where the writer is the coach, the player, the audience and the cheerleader. While in the process of writing, whether a page or a chapter, there is no one but me to look over my shoulder and say “good work, strong metaphor, don’t go there and definitely not there, but I liked the circuitous route you took, or what all writers wait to hear themselves say, “stand up and dance, because you, my friend, just nailed it!” It’s difficult to be the cheerleader who says “keep writing, you’ve got this” when there are days when you can’t find the right words and everything reads like the voices of the adults in the Charlie Brown shows, “Mwa, Mwa, Mwa.” A writing group, I thought, as I entered my credit card numbers onto the form in-between bites of pasta, was exactly what I needed. A writing group would be able to tell me to keep the words, change the words or maybe write about something else entirely. Actually, short of the two writing workshops I have attended in person and five via Zoom, each only lasting a day or two, I had no idea what six days at a writing retreat would be like, but I did know Sayulita and that seemed like a good enough start.

Insecurities crept in, as they so often do when faced with something new — what if my writing is not good enough? My subject not tragic enough? What if don’t like the other women? Or worse, what if they don’t like me? What if I’m the oldest? The least creative? And finally, for the lightening round, what if no one cares about the pages I’ve written? I can’t speak for the entire group, but can confirm I heard several going through a similar zig zag of emotions.

As I was driving home the next day, my feelings swung from I can’t believe I signed up for a memoir workshop in Mexico, to I can’t wait. Fortunately, the “I can’t wait” stuck and I began preparing pages to share with Jessica Hill, the facilitator, and diving into the two books we would have discussions on while at the retreat. Jessica went above and beyond in preparing us for what to expect with two Zoom meetings to meet the group beforehand and two individual Zoom meetings to dive deeper into our goals and expectations with her.

Yesterday, we said our goodbyes to each other, with hugs and promises of staying in contact. Half the group left for earlier flights, while the remainder of us gathered in the seating area outside of the reception and played with the in-house kitten. We said our goodbyes again when we arrived at the airport in Puerta Vallarta, then again while some of us spotted each another in the long security line that snaked itself around what felt like half the airport. Then finally, yet again, when some of us found each other at our designated gates, where we exchanged our final final on the hugs and goodbyes. Hardly the Irish goodbye of sneaking out the backdoor without notice, we did the opposite and let it linger until we had to finally let go and line up at our respective gates for the flights that would take us home.

Mary, a brilliant writer who had us leaning in when she read, followed by uninhibited laughter at her uninhibited words, found me at gate 10, shortly before boarding and gave me a beautiful pair of silver earrings she bought for me. She told me she saw them and remembered I wore silver. It may have been the night you tucked in early, Mary, and didn’t hear all the pieces that were read that night, but “remembered I wore silver” was a line from one of the chapters I read, touching me even more. After all the hugs followed by more hugs, Mary’s gift to me was what brought on the tears. I let them fall down my cheeks, not really caring about the couple in front of me who was also going to Denver and appeared to be a lot more anxious about leaving than I was. The tears were the kind of tears I wanted to remember and save — tears of support, friendship, love and a connection with our words. Moments I’d be reminded of when hunched over my computer in the early morning hours, wearing a bathrobe with beautiful silver earrings dangling from my earlobes. Moments I will recall while wondering if what I’m typing is good or readable or enough.

Showing off one of my earrings from Mary. I think they’re magic.

I unexpectedly connected with 11 women, who I now call friends, on a level far deeper than I could have imagined possible in six short days and I did it near the place where I took my first trip after my divorce to an all girls surf camp with my sisters. It felt very cyclical in the timing as I thought back to the night eating dinner at the bar in Salina, Kansas. I was supposed to be at La Joya Resort, gathered with these women, sharing my work and being inspired by theirs, while recognizing the journey I had been on since finding my courage on a surf board so many years ago. And inspired I was. I heard words from memoir chapters that made me cry, both for the experience the writer went through and the tremendous bravery she had to share it. I held my new writing friends’ words like the precious gifts they were as I made my way back to my bungalow every night on the the cobble stone paths in the dark, the memory of their words mingling with the sounds of the ocean as I fell asleep. Mornings were spent workshopping various aspects of memoir writing and writing from prompts we shared or kept to ourselves. In the evenings, after afternoons of writing, we shared our words and our hearts in the process.

There were so many places to write and although it was a small resort, we all were able to find our spots and our privacy, whether in lounge chairs by the pool or on the beach, or on my little balcony with views of the ocean or in the lounge area of the dining room. At night, our proximity to the ocean became my sound machine, so loud the first night, coupled with the breeze from the ceiling fan, that I woke up in the middle of the night wondering where I was and if I should take cover given the roar of the waves. I’m a midwest and a mountain girl. The ocean sounds are a novelty, albeit one I embrace. Last night, while having a hard time falling asleep, I tried to replicate the sounds that had lulled me to sleep for the past several nights with an “ocean sounds” app. After 15 minutes it became annoying. It was not the same. One of my new “sisters in writing” (thank you, E. J. ) sent us all a recording she made of the ocean before we left. It was one more reminder for me. I hope the reminders will continue.

When 10 open-hearted women opened their notebooks or computers, and were willing to embrace their most vulnerable selves, magic happened. Beautiful, inspiring, magic. To those women who listened to my words, gently rubbed my back when they came out shaky and gave me the push and the inspiration to keep on writing when it felt uncomfortable and even painful, thank you from the bottom of my very full heart. To say the experience was life-changing sounds overly dramatic, but it truly did change my life, so I’ll go with the dramatic. The words I’m sharing have barely scratched the surface. We ended our time together with a bonfire on the beach where we burned our resistances. It was the perfect ending to new beginnings.

Our resistances, road blocks and fears, up in flames then gone.

Finally, to you, Jessica, who created and orchestrated these past 6 days so beautifully, I’m forever grateful. The alignment of the stars, Devine intervention, manifesting or perhaps a committee of all three, came together for me that night when your post made its way to my instagram account while eating pasta at a bar in Salina, Kansas. As my writing mentor, you’d likely tell me write stream of consciousness about my experience. And so I did. Thank you.

MY PAPA’S NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICS

This isn’t my typical post, but it is the perfect 10 year anniversary gift to myself.

@TheKeepthings published my piece about my Papa, who was a life long collector of National Geographics. He bound and hand lettered hundreds of issues, including Volume One, Number One, into books. @TheKeepthings is a memoir project where people share stories of lost loved ones and the things they left behind. It’s filled with beautiful stories that I’d encourage everyone to read. I feel honored to be a part of this project.

https://thekeepthings.substack.com/p/my-papas-national-geographics?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share

10 Year Anniversary

Ten years ago next month, I started this blog.  Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years and I’ve kept it up.  Like a lot of my projects, it’s waxed and waned throughout the years, but it’s remained and I’m proud that over 152 posts later, I’m still at it.  I’ve been spending time the past few days rereading some of my earlier posts, with equal amounts of pride and embarrassment.  I have my favorites and others I wished had never been published, but they were and I won’t delete them (perhaps an edit or two) as they are as relevant and important as the ones that I hold dear.  There are some posts that still make me cry because I can remember how vulnerable and even broken I was when I wrote them and others that make me laugh or shake my head or cringe at how often I used adverbs, the bane of any writing teacher’s existence.  

So, what was the inspiration, the impetus, the drive or the idea that started this whole posting on a blog thing anyway?  Well, I’ll tell you and it wasn’t my idea.  It was my dear friend Susie’s,  who I’ve called my best friend since we were 15 years old, who came up with the idea.  I would write essays and send them to her periodically because I loved to write and loved to share what I had written even more.  She suggested I start a blog.  I thought she was crazy.  I told her I didn’t think anyone would want to read my essays and by putting them out there, it felt too much like bragging.  She told me I had one reader.  She would read them.  She added that having a blog would be a great way to store all of my writing.  Everything all in one place.  And so I took her idea and ran with it, well, not exactly ran, but walked fast, but with hesitancy.  My son, Grant, did the technical work and the design and I started writing.  I was in Frisco, Colorado when I started making posts and I wrote like a mad woman, finally with a place to put all of my words, although I became very picky about what I’d share, ( thankfully), only publishing my favorites. 

I remember sitting in what had become my writing chair, with beautiful views of Buffalo Mountain as my vista while I typed my thoughts into my new, not yet named, blog.  When I read my first few posts a few days ago, it took me right back to the time, the place, the view and even the chair I was sitting in. I finally had an outlet for the essays I had been writing for decades.  It was like an artist at long last procuring a studio with natural light pouring in through the windows.  I was beyond thrilled. I had a space, a platform and a view of the mountains to boot.  I certainly didn’t think that 10 years later and no longer living part time in the mountains of Frisco, Colorado, with a views so beautiful it seemed like they are just showing off, that I’d still be adding to the site that was started with so much reluctance and trepidation.  I still have the chair, but have added a desk to the mix where I sit and do most of my writing. The chair has become more of a contemplation station, a compliment to the desk.

Thank you to my dear friend, Susie, for believing in me and being my first reader and to my family who quickly followed suit. And to all of you who have read one or all (and I hope if it was just one that it wasn’t the one that makes me cringe on the reread), thank you.  It touches me deeply when I think of people I don’t even know taking time to read what I’ve written.  

In rereading so many of my posts, I’ve decided to recycle a few for the next month or two, or until I get tired of it. I’ll call it an anniversary gift to myself, posting my favorites – the ones that highlighted a time in my life that needed to be captured, not only in photographs, but also in words. 

Enjoy.

Houston, Revisited

Leaving Key West

After my travel disaster story from last week, I felt like I needed a follow up of how it all ended. Yesterday, I made my way back to Denver from Key West — Key West to Houston to Denver. It was a much different experience from my last. After a few lucky breaks, I knew my good travel karma was back… and in spades. For starters, adding two days onto my trip meant changing my flights, resulting in an $80 credit because the flights on the day I chose to return home were cheaper. The new flights, the ones I frantically booked in the chaos of the Houston Airport a week ago, were cheaper but my connection in Houston was tighter than I like. Shortly before landing in Houston, the pilot gave us our arrival terminal. Not only was it the same as my departure for Denver, but it was only three gates away. My United app told me I would be able to make it in less than a minute. Then he announced that we’d be arriving 30 minutes early. Houston was looking better and better.

When I walked to my gate, two gates down from arrival, I recognized it because of the signage and the bar that was directly across from it. C32. It was the same gate I had slept in. Out of all the gates in the Houston Airport, there I was again. It felt eerily familiar, yet very different. The nearby bar, the one that people had been using to charge their phones and change travel plans was now filled with people eating and drinking and sporadically cheering or booing at the football game on the TV behind the bar. Normal bar activities. I found the chair I had spent the night in, which was not hard as it was directly in front of a sign with a dinosaur on it. There were many other chairs available, but given that United Airlines had already connected me nostalgically to the same gate, the chair felt like it was beckoning for me to give it another chance. I looked down at the floor in front of me, littered with bits of popcorn and a candy wrapper and was disgusted that I had laid down on it with only my thin jacket as a barrier for the upper half of my body. I was too exhausted to care much about hygiene that night and in desperate need of sleep, whether in a chair or on the dirty carpet on the floor. As I sat there remembering, the same airport custodian that had awakened me with his sweeping broom, came by with the same task at hand. I didn’t want to make eye contact, afraid he’d recognize me, but then realized there was no way he’d recognize me. He probably sweeps around thousands of people in a week, whether in chairs or on the floor.

Normal airport scene. The guy in the light blue cap is where I slept a week earlier. Right about where his suitcase sits…

I had enough time before my flight and was just steps from my gate so I went over to the bar and had a glass of wine and watched the beginning of the Chief’s game. I was pleased that everyone at the bar were cheering for my hometown team. The bartender told me it was a good thing I was traveling when I was as they were expecting ice in Houston the next day and sometimes that can lead to cancellations in Houston. I nodded without comment. I knew a lot about what ice does to Houston, Mister. Too much.

Passengers were making their way from gate to gate, not mad, not waiting for their turn with the gate agent, not on cell phones with the on hold song playing on so many phones that it was audible background noise. People weren’t one upping each other with how bad their travels had been and gate agents were not exasperated. It felt normal. Like airports usually feel. And so different from my last time in the Houston airport. There was something very full circle about returning to the same spot at the same gate and having a different experience and I was glad I got to revisit gate C32 while it was still so fresh in my memories. It felt like the Houston airport was apologizing to me and graciously, I accepted the apology.

On a side note, while googling the IAH to see if the terminal transportation had opened, I saw a link to “sleeping in the Houston Airport” so of course clicked on.
“The seating in this busy airport is disappointingly limited. If you can grab a seat or two, it will likely have armrests, making a comfortable sleep position nearly impossible. Overnight, you might be able to get away with pushing some seats together for makeshift beds. Your best bet is to seek out a quieter corner or nook and lie on the floor for some shuteye. Travelers recommend Terminal D the most often, but Terminal C is likely the next-best option. Bring an extra layer for warmth and cushion, especially for floor sleeping.”

It also went on to mention the chapel, in terminal C, which had pews that could be good make-shift beds. I remember passing the chapel as it was in the vicinity of where I was, but it didn’t dawn on me to sleep there. I also had to wonder how many people pack cushions in the carryon bag when they travel in anticipation of sleeping on the floor.

We left on time and arrived in Denver 30 minutes early. I checked my bag because my new ticket had me in the back of the plane and I doubted there would be overhead space available. Arriving early meant I’d make my airport shuttle and wouldn’t have to wait another hour if I missed it. When I got in the van, the shuttle driver told me the first stop would be me, in Boulder, then to Longmont for the 2 other passengers. Boulder is NEVER the first stop. I am usually the last person in the van to be dropped off. Everything that could have gone right, did, and then some. The long arm of time and distance that perspective offers, softens the edges of disasters and they are never as bad in the recounting as they were the moment they happened. Otherwise, I would have shared my story with the line up of people at the bar and the women seated next to me at the gate. But unless they were there and felt the frantic, angry, frustrated energy and tried to sleep in a chair or on the floor with the TSA announcements first in Spanish then in English all night long, it’s just another travel story told by yet another weary traveler.

I’m glad I’ve made my peace with you, Houston, and I felt your apology, but I still like Atlanta better when it comes to layovers.

Houston We’ve Got a Problem

All the good luck I’ve had traveling in the past several years caught up with me yesterday and bad luck evened the score in the short, but very long, span of 24 hours. I realized last night, while alternating between sleeping in a chair and sleeping on the floor, that when plans don’t go as you had assumed they would, it’s a lot easier to accept it, move on and just try to make the best of it, dismal as it may be. That revelation came to me at 10:00 p.m. at Gate C32 in the Houston Airport. Because of a series of unfortunate events that started with ice, my flight from Houston to Key West was cancelled, which is how I ended up going from the floor to the chair most of the night. A trio of women from Mississippi who were on their 2nd day of trying to get home from Brazil, a couple from El Salvador originally who were trying to get home to New Jersey and the kindness of strangers, offering up snacks when they heard I hadn’t eaten all day, were all slivers that made up the silver lining to a miserable night.

It all started out so perfectly. I had a 4:00 am pick up so was up by 3:30, but because I went to bed the night before at 7:30, and actually fell asleep, getting up that early wasn’t bad. Before heading out the door, I grabbed my large cashmere scarf, thinking it would be good on the plane, even though it would be excess baggage once I arrived in Key West. Little did I know at the time that that big blue scarf would become my blanket later that night as well as my MVP. It was my first flight since getting my new knee in September and I was anxious to put her through the paces of TSA and walking through airports with luggage in tow.

My flight from Denver to Houston got a late start because of de-icing so when I arrived in Houston, I had 30 minutes to get to my gate, which was on the opposite end of the airport. Houston usually has a transport system that gets you from one terminal to the next, but because of icy weather, it wasn’t in operation, leaving walking as the only option. I walked as fast as I could for 30 minutes, arriving at the gate with only minutes to spare, only to find out that the flight was delayed an hour. I hadn’t planned on it, but it was a good test for Rhoda (my new left knee) who passed with flying colors and no pain. I had my 12,000 steps in by noon. Not bad for a travel day. The one hour delay became two as our patient group of 30 passengers waited and kept a close eye on the FIDA (flight information display system).

After two hours, we finally got on the plane, anxious to finally be leaving and 4 1/2 hours later, we were still on the plane, that was starting to feel like a bus as it had only taxied from one gate to another. Our excitement was waning while we braced ourselves every time the pilot made an announcement that began with a hesitant “Folks…”. And would continue with “we are 14th or 11th or 9th in line for de-icing, which is the bad news, but the good news is the de-icing only takes about 15 minutes.” I’m not good at math in my head but 14 or 11 or 9 planes ahead of us at 15 minutes each, meant at least one movie on the inflight TV. I hadn’t had anything to eat except an orange and a bag of nuts and raisins, because I had been sitting on the plane for the past 4 1/2 hours, but could manage the hunger as I knew there would be a good meal waiting for me later that evening in Key West.

The pilot made the announcement that if there were any kids who wanted to come up and have a look inside the cockpit, it would be a good time given the wait. There were no children on our flight, just 30 adults and one toddler so after a short while, I thought, why not and wandered up to the cockpit. I was that kid and that kid got to do something she hadn’t done in over 40 years and that was to talk avionics with the pilot and co-pilot. I threw out some King Radio Avionics references to give myself some credibility (and to show off) and was surprised when they told me they knew what I was talking about, and what a good piece of equipment the KFC200 had been. I knew while I was talking to the pilot and co-pilot, I must have sounded like an old timer explaining the differences between a VW super beetle and its predecessor to a Tesla salesman. And yet I continued. We chatted for a while with me pointing to various instruments on the panel while they explained the instrument’s predecessor so I’d understand. The instrument panel looked surprisingly familiar, but bigger and with far more bells and whistles, but the familiar pleased me. If they had offered a plastic wings pin, I would have gladly accepted it and put them on my jacket. They didn’t.

After several more “folks, it’s going to be another 20 minutes and we’ll be cleared to take off for Key West,” came the dreaded “well, folks… (insert long hesitant pause), I hate to tell you this but…”. After waiting on the plane for 4 1/2 hours, our flight was cancelled for reasons that all began with ice. We were reassured that we’d be re-booked on the same flight the next day and the agent at the gate would be able to help us once we deplaned. It took us another hour of waiting before we deplaned due to gate availability. Needless to say, the 30 passengers, myself included, were not happy and began finding common ground with each other on whose travel day had been the worst. Our shared experiences brought us together as situations like this often do, as we shared our travel stories, each one getting progressively worse. My vote went to the young couple who entertained their toddler for the almost 5 hours. Give those parents an upgrade on their next flight or a round of martinis. They deserved both.

Once inside the airport, there was one gate agent and 30 people who needed to be rebooked. 30 angry and impatient people. We were told there would be no hotel vouchers because it was weather related. Most of the hotel rooms were either booked or impossible to get to due to ice-covered roads. I knew what that meant, but before settling into what would become my landing spot for the evening I went in search of food and a glass of wine as big as my head, only to discover that the restaurants and shops all closed promptly at 9:00. There was one exception, Panda Express, that had a line that was longer than the customer service line I had just left. Countertops at the bars were filled, but as I got closer I could see that the bars were closed and people were sitting there drinking bottles of water and charging while working on their phones or computers, probably in search of different flights. Most of the outgoing flights, had been cancelled and the airport was in a flurry of anxious, angry passengers looking for alternative plans. Gate agents were exhausted and ready for a break. I heard one tell a traveler who asked if her flight would get out the next day due to the ice. The passenger waited in the long line to ask that? I couldn’t blame the gate agent who answered, “I have no idea, ma’am. Maybe you could look out the window tomorrow and if the tarmac is shiny, it’s probably icy and you won’t get out.” Then she told the rest of the people in line that she had to leave because she needed a break. I get it. We all needed a break, but when I get the email from United asking “how did we do?” if I take the time to answer, I’ll have to say “Not so well.”

Sleep was difficult and came in brief spurts and when I finally did drift off, on the floor, on top of my coat because, well I needed some separation from the well-worn carpet, I was awakened by a custodial worker sweeping the carpet that several of us were slumbering on. It’s not a good way to be awakened… a broom close to your head sweeping crumbs and whatever else into the long handled dust bin. I know he was only doing his job and I was the one out of place, but it felt invasive to be awakened by a broom.

The airport at night, after all the anger had subsided, and people had found their landing spot for the night, and was eerily calm. There were no lines of anxious passengers waiting or people rushing by to their gates. It was just one big cavernous building with empty restaurants and shops and the only announcements over the loud speakers was a loop from TSA reminding you to not leave your bag unattended. First in Spanish, then in English, all night long. By morning, the lines, the noise, the anxiety were back and I felt rushed, even though I had 6 hours before my flight.

I should not know that this man is a snorer….

There was a shift in energy when people came to terms with their failed plans and instead of one upping each other on who had the worst travel day, there was the tiniest bit of “Kumbaya-ing” going on, or at least at my gate there was. The three women traveling home to Mississippi from Brazil offered up a spot for me next to them on the floor for me and apologized for not having an extra blanket they could lend me. When spending the night at the airport looked inevitable, they all bought travel blankets before the stores closed. They were smart. I was not. People were brushing their teeth in the water fountains and digging extra clothes out of their suitcases to add layers because it was very cold in the airport. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my bag because although I hadn’t planned on checking it, I ended up gate checking it in Denver because there was no more overhead space leaving me without an extra jacket and or my toothbrush. Not long into the evening, I knew who the snorers were and who fell asleep and stayed asleep for most of the night — details that felt far too intimate for a group of strangers whose only common thread was sharing the fate of cancelled flights.

I learned that boarding a plane doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to become airborne, my light blue cashmere scarf needs to always be in my bag, even when headed to tropical Key West as it not only provided warmth in a cold airport but became a security blanket on a night that was anything but secure, and when I loosened my grip on expectations, the outcome became easier. Oh and Houston? I learned last night that ice paralyzes your city and grounds your fleet of airplanes.

Traveling is often not for the faint of heart, but even after folding myself into a chair for moments of sleep off and on for 8 hours, and wearing the same clothes for more than 24 hours, and feeling so tired I could sleep anywhere (well, almost), I will still enthusiastically plan trips, book flights and pack my bags in anticipation of my next adventure. Years from now, I may not remember specific details about this trip, but I will remember my adventure in the Houston Airport and will likely be what I lead with when recounting this trip. When plans don’t go as anticipated, once the course is corrected there’s an unexpected side effect of a burst of gratitude that wouldn’t have otherwise been felt. This was my 5th trip to Key West but the first time I clapped when the wheels touched down. Finally.

Writing

Home.

Writing is hard. But not doing it is even harder for me. I’ve been spending the past several days going through writing notebooks, a project that coincided with the beginning of the new year. Cleaning, organizing, throwing out and re-stacking what is kept is food a Virgo’s soul, and if it falls on the beginning of a new year, it’s as good as an all you can eat buffet. There’s actually a name for being inspired by the new year, Mondays, new notebooks, the first page of a book etc. I don’t remember what it is called, but would have better luck recalling it on a Monday or the first day of the month. From desk drawers, large baskets and a trunk, I unearthed stacks upon stacks of journals, notebooks and file folders with hand written pages, typed pages, half filled pages and scraps of paper with words on them that made no sense. The scraps, I threw away. Filled journals, journals that I barely started, almost complete essays, starts on ideas to write about — so many starts, and notebooks from the many writing classes I’ve taken, are now in stacks that cover a big part of the floor in my small office. In looking at the notebooks, some with beautiful artwork on the front but the majority more utilitarian, I wondered, is this normal? Is it normal that the first item I gravitate towards in a books store or stationary store are the empty notebooks? Something I clearly don’t need but love to buy. Is it normal to want to start a fresh new notebook for every class or big idea I have because putting it into a slightly used notebook doesn’t seem fair to the new words — it feels like having to go to the flat tipped crayons with half the paper peeled off for a new project. I stepped away from the mess and went out to walk because walking is head clearing for me and it seemed to be a necessary step in my clearing out process.


While walking up towards the mountains that anchor the end of my street, I thought back to my beginnings on writing and why I picked up the pen in the first place. The random, but maybe not so random, thought about my sister, Robin’s imaginary friends came to mind. When she was 5 and I was 4, or maybe she was 4 and I was 3, she had 3 imaginary friends who lived in the window well at our home in Memphis, Missouri. They were her invisible friends, who she would tell secrets to and have conversations with, probably when she got tired of talking to me, or listening to me as the case may have been. I was jealous of the three girls so decided to join her in her imaginary fun and told her I could see them too. She let me play along but I’m sure she knew the girls couldn’t be real to me as they in her imagination, not mine. The girls names were Cathy, China and Jana. In my mind, I singled out China because she was the more exotic and interesting one whereas Cathy was bossy and Jana babyish. Apologies to your trio, Robin, if I’ve misidentified them. I thought a lot about those three girls while I approached the mountain path, wondering why Robin needed to create them in the first place. Again, apologies Robin for my conclusions here if they are far from the truth and I’m simply making stuff up. I started thinking about those window well girls and saw them as Robin’s diary. She confided in them, talked to them, and likely shared frustrations about her little sister with them. They were the listeners to her 4 or 5 year old words. The keepers that she entrusted with her secrets. All things that would have been entries in a diary if she had had a diary and knew how to write. That diary would come, in 4th grade as a Christmas gift one year. I didn’t get a diary with a tiny gold lock on the front and key that dangled from the lock. I got a watch. A Cinderella watch. I loved the watch (it was stolen off my desk a few weeks later after taking it off for recess), but I would have loved the diary even more. I was jealous that she had a place to write down her thoughts and lock them up when she was done. Since I didn’t have a diary, I did the next best thing and broke into her’s one day out of curiosity. A pulled apart bobby pin and a bit of patience and I was in. I found pages of disappointing recollections of the day such as who she played with at recess, Peggy’s new outfit and the grade she got on a spelling test. My enthusiasm for the red diary waned until sandwiched in-between the mundane I found the gold. In between sentences of day to day events I found the sentence “I like …..” (name withheld to protect what remains of Robin’s privacy). Bingo. That was all I needed to know that my life was not complete without a diary. The thought of writing my thoughts onto the pages of my Big Chief tablet instead of squeezing my words onto the small pages of the diary, never occurred to me. There was just something about that small book with the lock on the front and the tiny key that felt inspiring and magical. Diaries were a place to store all those thoughts and feelings that you weren’t ready to tell anyone else but wanted to get out. Several years later, Dad gave me a small diary with an embossed leather cover. It. didn’t have a key but didn’t need one. It was beautiful in its non-keyed cover and looked old and exotic to me. He had brought it back from Italy when he was in the war and found it, probably when going through boxes of old treasures. I’m not sure why he bought it in the first place, maybe a gift for someone that he forgot to give it to or he just thought it was pretty. I loved it and because it was so precious, I was afraid to write in it because I didn’t want to mess it up with scratched out words and ink smears. I kept it empty until 9th grade, when I started filling the pages with poetry. It was my first in a long line of emotion-keeping vessels.

If I had to give my writing a name, I’d say “friend.” It’s my other person in the room, my roommate, my person sitting next to me that I can nudge and say “did you see that/hear that/feel that?” It’s my container for my memories, my thoughts and my emotions because juggling them around in my brain becomes difficult after a while. It’s my filing system, my keepsake box and my creative outlet.


I’ve lived by myself for the past 15 years and putting pen to journal or fingers to keyboard is my communication to others, but mostly to myself. When I go back and read pieces I wrote 20 years ago or last week, one of two things can happen. I cringe with embarrassment and want to delete or throw it away, but I never do because even though the words may be awful, the feelings still reverberate when I reread them later, terrible as they may be. Or, I’m brought to tears. Not because the words are beautiful, but because they take me back to the exact time and place I was in when I wrote them. It’s like thumbing through a photo album of emotions —the good, the bad and the blurry. All those emotions that I needed to put somewhere because leaving them inside didn’t feel right.

When I got back to my house and my messy stacks of journals and notebooks, I realized that journals may not be what other people covet, but they probably have other items that hold their emotions and memories. Those stacks of dog-eared paged notebooks are my friends. They’ve seen the best of me and the worst of me. Their pages are the essence of who I am. They are me in every sentence, paragraph and page. I’ve lost myself in those pages and if I’m lucky, I’ve found myself too. Behind my desk I have a string attached to the wall that looks like a clothesline with tiny clothes pins where I attach phrases that mean something to me —they are my inspiration as I sit at my desk and type or write in one of my many notebooks. They make me realize that my process of putting words onto the page is a necessary part of my process. Although the completion of words on a page gives me great satisfaction, the real gold for me is in the process of retrieving those words from experiences and organizing them onto the page. It’s the process for me, not the end result, at least not yet. When people hear I write, their first question is often “where can I find your book?” To which I say, I’ve not published a book, yet, which pretty much ends the talk of writing. Full stop. To me, it feels similar to telling someone you run every day and having them ask when you’re going to be in the Olympics because if you run every day, you’ve got to be good. Publishing a book is a goal for me, and a lofty one at that, but before I start eyeing the prize of a book in print, I’ve got to honor the process of getting there and for me, the rewards are in the process.

Every day I look at my pinned words above my desk and every day I have a new favorite. Today’s is “Kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” Bruce Cockburn.

I kick with my words and find glimpses of daylight then nightfalls and I start all over again. (Me)

Thanks for reading. Again.