Wednesday, December 28

Bring Me Safely to Shore

The ancient lover in me
will forever cry out
for the ancient lover in you

I can no more silence it
than hungry rocks
silence the foghorn

Let my lament be the mariner's
guiding star
in the dark of night

Oh ancient lover,
bring me safely to shore
for it is cold and I am trembling

Monday, December 26

In A Simple Brown Box

purple gloves made of soft suede
a squeaky toy for Mocha
an electric blanket to keep me warm on cold winter nights
a bag of Hershey Kisses wrapped in red, green and silver foil
2 tins of date bars
and a glittery card, hand picked and signed by my parents containing funds for the purchase of a new digital camera

As I pulled gift after gift from the box, I began to cry, overwhelmed by their generosity and by what each present represented....warmth, play, nostalgia and a confession found in the words of a greeting card....

A daughter is the person
who is most like yourself
and at the same time
can be someone you hardly recognize

So much has changed in my life over the past few years, there are times when I hardly recognize myself. Change has happened and is continuing in this place called Penuel Ridge.

What Good Is It Otherwise?

This quote came across my desk one other time and it's as salient today as it was then:

What power has love but forgiveness?

In other words by its intervention what has been done can be undone. What good is it otherwise?

William Carlos Williams, "Pictures from Brueghel", 1962

Saturday, December 24

Fröhliches Weihnachten meine Liebe

Wenn Sie nur gewusst haben, wie viel, das ich Sie verpassen.

Friday, December 23

A Force Felt Throughout

Our morning hike usually includes a walk around the lake. It is metaphorically the womb of Penuel Ridge. Mocha knows the trail well and usually runs ahead of me, stopping occasionally to look back to make sure I'm still there.

This morning, as I stepped off of the trail and walked across the dam, I noticed her at the water's edge, looking quite puzzled. As my eyes took in the scene, I realized her dilemma...the entire surface of the lake had frozen over during the night.

We stood for a long time, gazing out over the blanket holding the lake captive, studying the ice patterns and marveling at how a leaf could somehow fall and freeze in place vertically as it touched the if someone had hit Mother Nature's pause button.

A profound silence permeated the if the ice magnified the quiet stillness of a spring fed lake in bondage. I tapped the toe of my boot on the ice and the entire lake made a sound...a splintering, grinding, groaning noise that made me jump!

It's supposed to warm up today, so I imagine by tomorrow morning, the lake will again be unbound. It's no matter...for now I understand that even the soft beating of a dragonfly's wings in summer is a force felt throughout.

Thursday, December 22

Santa's Lap

I look forward to the 4th Thursday of every month...that's when we open the Retreat Center to homeless men and women to spend the day at Penuel Ridge. There are some organized activities, but they have free reign to do whatever they want. Some curl up under warm blankets and sleep all day, some walk the trails, some sit in the Dayspring room drinking coffee and sitting by the fire. We cook a sumptuous meal (which they devour) served around a common table. Conversation is loud and funny and tragic...all at once.

Being a Southern woman, I love to hug people and I love to be hugged, so they get extra servings from me because, well...when was the last time you stopped and hugged a homeless person? They must all be in the Christmas spirit because in addition to hugs, today I kept getting invitations to sit on their laps. If I thought any of these guys had the power to grant my Christmas wish, I'd hop on in a second, but I have my doubts.

Wednesday, December 21


Rather than blah, blah, blah about the things I'm non-plussed about, here's a list. Some of them may be on your list too:

1. blue nailbeds
2. vanishing boobs
3. boobs who won't vanish (W, Dick, Karl, know who you are)
4. writer's block
5. dependence on medication
6. car maintenance
7. no transporter (of the Star Trek variety)
8. winter intruding on stargazing
9. mean people
10. memories burned in my brain
11. Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas debate

That's enough for now.

Tuesday, December 20

Not Bo Derek

It was 10 degrees when I woke up this morning! 10 degrees...are you kidding me? I peak out my bedroom window at the thermometer in disbelief...walk over to the nightstand to retrieve my glasses...look out again and it's still 10 degrees.

You will find me parked by the fireplace today...knit cap on my cup clasped between trembling fingers. This Texas girl is not equipped...not equipped at all.

Sunday, December 18

Falling Leaves

More looking up

and asking why

it has to be

that surrendering

is viewed by man as


when nature shows us

how to do it with grace

every season.

Friday, December 16

Too Close to Nashville

Living this close to Nashville there's a country western song gestating inside me. I tried to fight it, but it's just got to see the light of day. It's not finished yet, but it goes something like this:

There's not enough beer
to drink your memory away
Not enough time
for your touch to fade

There are too many stars
speakin' your name
Too many songs
sayin' what we couldn't say

I'm thinking George Strait needs to sing this one. It needs a lot of drawl and twang to make it work. Stay tuned, I have two beers in the refrigerator and the rest of it might get written tonight.

Happy Holidays from Hockley

This is my Uncle Arthur Roy's (a.k.a. "Butch") family...hey, do I get one of those matching sweaters?

Wednesday, December 14

More Words

Some phrases that have caught my attention recently:

"You have a freak just don't fly it."

"What would you do for love this Christmas?"

"Hold yourself as gently as you would a fine piece of crystal."


from the 1972 album There was Love (The Divorce Songs), music & lyrics by Harry Nillson (can also be sung in the past tense quite effectively)

You're breakin' my heart,
You're tearin' it apart
so fuck you...

Tuesday, December 13

Dangerous Liaison

You may have washed away the top soil
but you will not erode my foundation.
Exposed roots say, "Look at me." "LOOK at me." "LOOK AT ME!"
Do you see a single trace of your swordplay?
(I didn't think so)
My taproot, anchored deep in the Mother's womb,
sings a song of jubilation
as it rises...rises...rises like Spindletop.
You may have washed away the top soil
but you will not erode my foundation.
(Nice try though)

Monday, December 12

Truth #1

I lost sight of my personal achieve grace on a daily basis.

Topsy-Turvy World

My hope was to capture the spider in the act of paralyzing his/her prey but realize now that it's a study in which way is up. See if you can figure it out. I'll give you a was an overcast day.

Saturday, December 10

Mystic in a Brown Dog Suit

My constant companion along life's journey, I am in awe of her gifts of unconditional love, humor, innate sense of what's right and wrong, knowing what she wants and asking for it, her patient watchfulness.

Thank you Mocha for showing me the way up the steep hill and cheering me on as I put one foot in front of the other.

Blue Lines Banished!

Fiddling around the computer, I found a piece of photo software that can successfuully remove the blue lines from my digital photos. HOW COOL IS THAT? It takes time and a steady hand, but soon my photos will be unmarred. Technology is a wonderful thing.

Friday, December 9

Thursday, December 8

Where is Fido?

Blue house for Blue Dog?

Takes My Breath Away

Resting under a pine tree after a long hike, the shrill call of a hawk beckoned my gaze skyward. Brilliant blue sky butting against fall foliage, butting against deep evergreen, butting against straw colored grasses, anchored to the ground by shadows...

Wednesday, December 7

Frosty Feet

A light frost clung to the railing on this early fall morning. As I sat drinking coffee from a safe distance, all variety of birds were anxiously awaiting their turn at the feeders. These footprints were left by a morning dove.

Fall Photo

This is one of the last photos I took before my HP Digital Camera gave up the ghost permanently. Enjoy...I only wish it could capture the entire spectrum of color my eyes saw on the morning hike in early November.

Tuesday, December 6

Lassen Sie sie gehen

If you butt your head against a stone wall long enough

at some point you realize the wall is stone
and your head is flesh and blood
Lassen Sie sie gehen

Monday, December 5

"Tis the Season

I spent all day Saturday in retreat, immersed in the life and words of Emily Dickinson. The leader did an amazing job of taking us through what is known of her life, how she claimed her pain, transformed it into poetry and ultimately claimed herself.

Sitting in the lap of my own pain, I questioned the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the day spent. The emotional hangover the next day matched the weather...gray, bitter and seizing. I crawled into the sanctuary of my bed, the escape of an afternoon nap. Sleep was interrupted as I woke to the voice of my inner lecturer, scolding my self-indulgence.

I rose and went to the closet, pulled out two boxes and began the annual ritual of decorating for Christmas. Somehow, the reveal of each ornament unwrapped, the warmth of each candle lit, the viewing of my favorite Christmas movies ("Holiday Inn" and "the Snowman") brought me out of my stupor and back to the center of myself.

Friday, December 2


I drink a lot of ice water. The best part is the ice. I'm one of those annoying people who crunches their ice...eats every cube and then drinks the water. This goes on all day long...since I'm alone most of the time, it isn't annoying to me, so there's no problem.

Now winter is here and did I mention it's cold? I'm cold all of the time...can't get warm. The heat is set at a reasonable temperature, which means the unit runs most of the time, which means the air is very dry, which means I'm thirsty all the time. Drinking ice water is no longer an option for two reasons....I'm trying to kick the ice-chewing habit and it makes me even colder. So now what do I do? I don't want to drink coffee, hot tea or sodas all day, tap water is yucky and juice...well, too much natural sugar. So what's a girl to do?

I know...martinis!

p.s. Does the spelling of dilemma look wrong to anyone else? I always thought is was mn, not mm, but Merriam Webster say no, no, it's mm. Hmmmmm

Thursday, December 1

Slipped a Cog

Watching the news tonight, I realized that although my inner calendar says it's Wednesday, it is actually Thursday. Somehow, I've lost a day this week. How did this happen? I've been productive, there's evidence of this in the office. Has the cold weather frozen my brain, my sense of time, have I finally slipped a cog?

World AIDS Day

Every day is World AIDS day to me.
Every day I wear a red ribbon.
Every day, I'm mindful of the men and women in my life who struggle with a cunning disease.
Every day, I think of how large my family, my circle of friends, my community would be if so many had not already died of complications from AIDS.
Every day, I think of those who choose between quality of life and quantity of life.
Every day, I remember what it is like to have to fight for funding, medications, compassion and dignity for People Living with HIV/AIDS.
Every day, I am grateful to have worked and volunteered side-by-side with monumental people of spirit and grace at Omega House.
Every day, I envision a cure, a vaccine, a day when we can erase HIV/AIDS from our consciousness.
Every day is World AIDS Day to me.

Wednesday, November 30

Ahhhh e.e.

Tonight, i stumbled heart first into this e. e. cummings poem. Is it folly to think someone could be this noble?

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
her heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be-
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto her, and take her hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

Another Missing Piece of History

Last night, I joined a friend and viewed the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. I won't sugarcoat it, this film was hard to watch. As a white woman, born and raised in Texas, I live with ancestoral guilt deep in the roots of my family tree for the way black people were and are treated in this country.

Today, I am reminded that I grew up in a segregated town and our books and education were censored by the School Board, the PTA, our parents, etc... I am so angry that at my age, I had never heard of Emmett Louis Till and the role his murder played in sparking the civil rights movement. Just one more thing we weren't taught in school. As I watched the film, I saw too quickly the relevance to the murder of a young black boy in Money, Mississippi 50 years ago was so similar to the murder of a young gay man in Laramie, Wyoming not too long ago.

I suppose if I had stayed in that small town, married right after high school, had a pack of kids like girls were supposed to, the life of Emmett Louis Till wouldn't have meant a thing to me, but I didn't stay and his life and the way he died is important to me. What gave the adults in my life the right to filter history?

What else do I not know? How do I begin to teach myself the things censored out of my life?

I intend to find out.

Tuesday, November 29

Say Cheese

My buddy Merle sent this picture taken recently at his niece's wedding. What a lovely man and what a contagious smile. Don't let the suit and tie fool you, what lies beneath is one seriously silly man. I miss our days searching for treasures at the diviest (dive*e*est)resale shops in Houston.

Thanks for the smile on a chilly day!

Monday, November 28

Deep Truths

I encountered these words all stacked up together:

Deep truths are often expressed in silence.

Today, I deleted the folder which once housed a year's worth of emails between my beloved and me. It happened so silently and without any ceremony...a single keystroke and they were gone.

Deep truths are often expressed in silence.

Sunday, November 27

From Ear to Ear

Gotta love the Mocha smile!

Saturday, November 26

Before the First Snow

I'm replaying conversations in my head on a non-stop loop. It's the mental equivalent of watching the planes fly into the twin towers over and over again so my brain can believe what my eyes are seeing. This is not healthy for me, so I've devised a brilliant aversion therapy technique. Whenever the loop starts, I go outside.

So, I'm standing outside in below freezing temperatures with the loop running in my head and I realize, damn it's cold...I've gotta stop thinking about this stuff or I'm going to freeze to death. This is good...this is better than snapping a rubber band on my wrist. It's better for my house too, not to be absorbing these waves of heartache that ooze out of me and onto the floor.

Winter has just begun. With any luck, I'll be cured before the first snow.

Friday, November 25

Post Turkey Reflection

Rising early this morning to temperatures in the high teens, the house was warm and toasty from laughter, good food and family bonds shared yesterday. I'm a firm believer that houses absorb the energy of people and creatures who inhabit them, even if for a brief time. Today, I have deep gratitude in my heart for KC and her family. They traveled from East and West Tennessee to the middle of the state to have their Thanksgiving celebration at Penuel Ridge.

The holidays have become such a stressful time for most of us. Family dynamics and the anticipation of spending time with people who share your dna, but don't feel or act like family, send many running to the medicine cabinet for a mood-enhancing cocktail. Yesterday, I may have come up with a solution...spend the holidays with someone else's family. Think about have no history (good or bad), no expectations, no dynamics, no buttons to push or be pushed.

Yesterday, I witnessed warmth between parents, siblings, grandparents and teenagers. Sitting around a common table, sampling favorite dishes, I was struck by similarities...aging parents who challenge each other and their adult children who struggle with the not-so-subtle role reversal between parent and child, teenagers absorbed in the latest pop culture headlines, attempts to create dialogue of substance and probing questions to better understand those we are related to.

It was a stunning day at Penuel Ridge. The wind laid and the temperature was in the upper 50's...the sky was clear and the sun brilliant. After a filling lunch, we donned our hiking boots, pulled on our jackets and struck out on the land, joined by Mocha who played the role of tour guide. We ventured through meadows, sang in the Chapel, climbed the trails and witnessed the glory of nature with its few remnants of color dotting the forest. The deafening crunch of brittle leaves under foot filled the air with one cymbal crash after another. As the shadows lengthened, the north wind picked up and we were driven indoors, into the warmth of the Retreat House and intimate conversations.

This morning, the land was quiet and still once again, save for the hawks circling and crying high overhead. Although a day late, I contemplate and reflect on what I am thankful for: warm pajamas, friends, time, pie, clarity, laughter through tears, Mocha, the land, emerging horizons, alchemy and so much more.

Thank you KC and family for sharing in what was truly a day of Thanksgiving for me.

Wednesday, November 23

Stumbling Onto Wonderful

I normally don't indulge myself in surfing mindlessly through blogs, but I came across one today that made me laugh out loud. In my current state of mind, that's saying something. Not only is it funny, but also educated me on what Gwen Stefani's been singing about. Enjoy:

Tuesday, November 22

Shallow Grave

I've fallen to my knees
digging with hands
too small for ground so hard
...where shall I bury it?

I've fallen to my knees
pleading with wind
too vast to gather in my arms will I capture it in my gunnysack?

I've fallen to my knees
listening for a melody
too distant to soothe aching senses
...when will its familiar cadence draw near?

I've fallen to my knees
fallen face first into a shallow grave
too small to pull in over me
...what creature will stumble upon the debris?

Will it be spring?

Hawk Shadows

Today, I walked and walked and walked and walked. Sometimes alone, sometimes with Mocha, sometimes with a fellow seeker on retreat.

It's cold. The wind has a bite to it as it blows fiercely down the meadow. I lean my body headfirst into the bitterness and put one foot in front of the other. Hawk shadows cross my path. I step over them so as not to disturb their hunt, their struggle to harness the wind.

Even as trees become bare, flowers shrivel as temperatures drop, wildlife and birds tuck themselves away...there is beauty here. In it's starkness, the essential exposes its resilient glory. I want to press it against my spine, let it flow inside my body and sustain me.

Sunday, November 20

Cliche of the Day

Cliches that have been hurled my way over the past 7 days:

"Everything happens for a reason."

"This too shall pass."

"You'll come out stronger on the other side."

and my favorite:

"Hang in there."

I'm not in the most receptive state of mind right now, so if you are attempting to comfort me with words that have been stitched on a pillow, fused onto a t-shirt or painted on a coffee mug, please do me a favor and keep it to yourself. I'd rather you say nothing at all or admit you don't know what to say. Better yet...pray for me...pray for my heart to be mended, my anger to be squelched, for sadness to be deflected and for my knees to stop buckling when I walk. Pray that I remember how to breathe.


Thursday, November 17

Words Fail Me

Other people's words when my own fail me:

"Everything terrible is something that needs our love."

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Soren Kierkegaard

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. "
Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

"Isn't it love that keeps us breathing...isn't it love we're sent here for
Wasn't that love that we were feeling (it was something baby)
Deep in our souls...deeper than we know...keeping me holding out for

You, there was never any question
You'll be forever on my mind
You and I, we were meant to be together
True hearts in a world where love is dying was always you."

You by Bonnie Raitt


My neighbor Jo told me to expect this when I moved here, so when I went out this morning I was at first dazzled by the twinkling of hard frost in the early morning light. Then I noticed the water in the bird bath was frozen solid. As Mocha and I made our way down the drive toward the lake, there it was...hoarfrost...big as life!

hoarfrost: deposit of ice crystals on objects exposed to the free air, such as grass blades, tree branches, or leaves. It is formed by direct condensation of water vapor to ice at temperatures below freezing ...

What the encyclopedia Britannica definition doesn't say is that these deposits are vertical. They stick straight up, as if frost fairies staked them into the ground overnight. I'm trippin'.

Tuesday, November 15

Angels of Mercy

I don't know their names, but I owe two Southwest Airlines flight attendants (oops, I almost said stewardess) a debt of gratitude.

As I was crying and sobbing in my seat on the packed flight from Houston to Nashville, they very gently helped me up, took me to the back of the plane, propped me in a corner away from the boxes of snacks and the door to the lavatory, handed me a box of tissue, a glass of water and let me stay there the entire flight, even when we hit turbulence.

Have you ever tried to blow your nose at 36,000 feet when you've been crying non-stop? I thought I was going to have a stroke.

Now I'm sure it made their jobs easier to have me tucked away, not disturbing the other passengers, but I'd like to think they recognized a freshly broken heart and served a good dose of Southern comfort along with a bag of peanuts.

Monday, November 14

The Lost Season

Yesterday was filled with awe.
Even clinging to the hope of one more day,
they knew their destiny was to be a soft, damp blanket
cushioning the blow of footfalls and cleansing bitter tears.
Still, the air was filled with the glory of an autumnal hymn
as they fell to the ground.

Today, all has been washed away.
Outstretched arms of ancient growth draw down the sky
closer and closer until all has gone gray.
The sky cries out and tips of branches answer,
catching tears in mid air.
Rivulets cascade through cracked and caloused bark,
suffocating the fire...the sting of a lost season.

Tomorrow, all will be silent...
save the wailing of the wind through my heart.

The Inward Sea

There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea there is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the "angel with the flaming sword." Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes "the angel with the flaming sword" to be placed upon your alter unless it be a part of "the fluid area of your consent." This is your crucial link with the Eternal.

Howard Thurman
Meditations of the Heart

Thursday, November 10

Dog Heaven

Thanks KC!!!!!

Here's the link to the website I was pining for:

NYC Dog Faces

Now I can peruse the mushy faces of NYC dogs again. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9


I stumbled upon a blog several months ago that captured my attention. I've somehow lost the link to it and am having withdrawals. It's a photo diary of dogs a woman encounters on her daily routine in NYC. If anyone knows the name of the blog or the link, I'd appreciate you letting me know.


The Zen of Shaving

Last night I dreamt about shaving my legs. It was quite zen...repetitive strokes, breathing in gentle steam as it rose from the shower floor, running my fingertips along smooth skin. I awoke from the dream mid-shave. Tonight, will the dream continue or will it elude me, leaving a p.s. on the shower door about tasks half completed?

Monday, November 7

The Archies Syndrome

Oh, Honey (uh uh uh uh uh uh) Ahh Sugar Sugar (uh uh uh uh uh uh ) you are my candy girl...and you got me wanting you (repeat 2 or 3 times, dancing optional).

One of my goals lately has been to give up sugar. It's been going pretty well...until yesterday. Miniature chocolate bars (left over Halloween candy would be my guess) were strewn all over the table at an all day meeting I attended. Then there were cookies served with lunch. Of course, fresh fruit was offered, but hmmm...peanut butter cookie or banana....chocolate chip cookie or an apple. No brainer there.

I don't know what it is about me and sugar...I'm an addict. I have to stay completely away from it...not satisfied with a little bit...have to have it all and won't stop until it's all gone.

This bothers me.

Sunday, November 6

I Wonder

For the past few years, a word has swirled around me, biting at my ankles. It peppered conversation, appeared in random quotes, during tarot readings and in meditation. I couldn't get away from it, would cover my ears to keep from hearing it and was genuinely angry that all these indicators were flashing, like a buzzing, garish neon light. The word is patience.

I realized sitting here watching the sun come up that I haven't heard, spoken or seen the word in print since I moved to the Ridge. I wonder if it's because I can now walk in patience or if I moved to an environment where I don't need to exercise patience? Could patience be lurking around the corner waiting to jump out at me? I would like to believe I've learned this difficult life lesson, but I wonder.

Friday, November 4

Picture This

Since I no longer have the benefit of a camera, I will describe to you the splendor surrounding me right now.

It's finally warmed up a bit...about 75 degrees today, so Mocha and I jumped into the SUV and headed into town (Nashville) for supplies. I take what's called by the locals as "River Road", which runs parallel to the Cumberland River. Up until now, I haven't been able to see the river from the road because the stands of lush trees and underbrush grow right up to the road. With the onset of fall, not only are the leaves taking on magnificent hues of copper, brass, gold, magenta and red, they are fluttering off the trees and onto the road like confetti. As the movement of my car sends the leaves rising, boiling and swirling behind me, I can see glimpses of the river and homes tucked into the side of ridges, hills and down in the valleys that had previously been obscured from sight. I have more neighbors than I thought!

Fall foliage is different in Tennessee than in New England. The Vermont falls I've experienced have been cymbal crashes of yellow, red, purple and, biting and crisp like the weather. The Tennessee fall is more subtle, as if an impressionist painter snuck in during the night and rubbed the images on the canvas with his fingers to soften the create a perpetual sense of a gentle breeze. Even if my camera were working, I don't think it could capture what I've seen thus far. The Tennessee fall seems to be made up of a heavy dose of anticipation, sprinkled with a little bit of showbusiness and wrapped up in a blanket of
cinnamon toast (my favorite cold weather snack!).

I love the twists and turns; the rise and descent of the drive down River Road. With all the windows rolled down, the CD player cranked up and dog ears flapping in the breeze, I sang at the top of my lungs to my favorite Train CD as the autumn day washed over me...blessed be.

Thursday, November 3

One Bear Too Many

So I sat slack-jawed for about 10 minutes after viewing a commerical for Charmin Fresh Mates on TV last night. I'm not a fan of their new ad campaign. I don't get the bears, why they would sidle up to a tree to do their business and why they would even need to use Charmin products.

Last night, I was appalled at the use of the word "behind" as a metaphor and even more appalled when they used toothpaste on the back of someone's hand to demonstrate how much cleaner the skin was after using a Fresh Mate as compared to regular toilet tissue.

Whatever happended to loveable Mr. Whipple? Now that was a guy who could sell some toilet paper.

Sunday, October 30

Fuzzy Reception

One of the benefits of living in rural Tennessee is the absence of cable television. Without it, my television gets 1 1/2 channels...Fox (in full color) and NBC (snowy, wavy and usually in b & w). Having a short attention span, watching TV has never really been my favorite past time.

This weekend, I house sat for good friends who are on an Olivia Cruise. Lucky them....Martina Navratilova, the Indigo Girls and Cheryl Swoops are but a few on the sapho manifest. Their house is lovely and offers me complete respite from the demands of the Retreat Center. Yesterday morning, Mocha and I explored the Ridge behind their house. It was physically challenging and left me weary. So, after a warm shower, I curled up on the sofa and turned on the television. They have cable and much to my delight, there was a Julia Roberts movie marathon starting with Mystic Pizza and ending with Erin Brochovich.

I've spent a day and half watching TV... that's 36 hours. My intention this weekend was to take advantage of the peace and quiet and write. Instead, I sat mindlessly in front of the television and only got up to attend to my and Mocha's most primitive needs.

Today, my brain is I have a hangover. I'm pissed at myself for losing all that time and for what? I could have used it for much more productive activities, but I couldn't seem to muster the will to turn off the TV. Luckily, with the end to Daylight Savings Time, I earned an extra hour...I have no intention of wasting it in front of the television.

p.s. I went to turn off the TV and Dogma was much for self will.

Friday, October 28

My First Fire

With a feeling of great personal satisfaction, I curled up on the sofa last night with a really great book and enjoyed the warmth, crackle and smell of my first fire! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I built a fire in a fireplace and it didn't explode, go out prematurely or fill the room with smoke.

This may seem petty and/or mundane to some of you, but it was, for me, an experience filled with wonder, awe and gratitude. Life is opening up for fire at a time.

Tuesday, October 25

The Weather Girl

I never in a million years thought weather would control my life, but this South Texas girl has been shivering since Sunday. Dang it's cold here. The wind finally laid last night and today it's supposed to warm up to the mid-50s. Of course, they are predicting that the overnight low will be 33. Funny thing is, I like the cold...I just don't like being cold. Yesterday we had a power outage on the Ridge and my recurring thought was...must build fire, must build fire, must build fire. How caveman of me.

The wildlife have altered their behavior in preparation for winter. Last week, mice started moving into the Retreat House. I escorted 2 of them out the front door and unfortunately, the third died in the wall in the back of my clothes closet....yuck. The deer are moving down from the high ridge to the lower trail. Last Friday, I was sitting with a friend looking out at the lake and taking in the fall foliage when out of nowhere, a beautiful doe came to the edge of the water, jumped in, swam around, jumped out and disappeared into the woods. It lasted all of 30 seconds, but neither one of us dared take a was a gift. Yesterday, a retreatant recounted the joy and wonder of sitting and watching two otters tumble, spin and play around the perimeter of the lake.

It may be cold outside, but I'm not going to miss a moment of the splendor of fall. So I'll put on layers, wear a hat and forge off into the wilderness to overstimulate my senses with this oh-so- intentional march toward winter. As long as there is a cup of tea and a warm fire waiting for me at the Retreat House, I can live with shivering.

Sunday, October 23

Self-Medicating with Chocolate

I watched The Horse Whisperer last night. The best line of the whole movie was Tom Booker (Robert Redford) talking about his ex-wife,

"I didn't love her because it was right, I just loved her."

That's when the crying started...

Friday, October 21


There was a moment today when my heart was liberated
Oh sweet release
that made me giggle, then laugh so deep it made me snort

There was a moment today when longing melted away
Oh sweet joy
to watch it drip from fingertips and toes and not from my eyes

There was a moment today when my mind spoke the truth
and my heart received it
Oh sweet synchronicity
that has eluded me for so long

There was a moment today when my body was untethered
Oh sweet liberation
to feel my lungs fill to the bottom, limbs moving under my command and not anothers

There was a moment today when wholeness was no longer a prayer
Oh sweet awakening
of the far-flung parts of me that have been searching for home

There was a moment today that shouted, "YOU ARE READY"

There was a moment today that whispered, "now"

Thursday, October 20

It Depends

I live and work where contemplation is valued and encouraged. It's interesting to watch people who come to the Retreat Center either accept, reject or be paralyzed by the prospect of personal contemplation. It's manifested itself in an unusual way this week. Instead of contemplating their own lives, several retreatants have cleverly avoided it by contemplating mine, which has led to interesting questions:

Where do you grocery shop?

Do you believe in God?

Now, when you said Melissa was your girlfriend, what exactly does that mean?

Can I empty the portable toilet myself?

I think the appropriate answer to each of these questions is, "It depends."

It depends on whether I feel like answering.
It depends on whether I think you are someone who needs to know that much about me.
It depends on whether I think you can handle the truth (thanks Jack!).
It depends on how honest I'm being with myself at that particular moment.
It depends on whether I want to mess with your mind.
It just depends. are some answers and you can decide which it depends statement applies:

Where do you grocery shop?

If I'm being self-indulgent - Krogers in Nashville
otherwise..Food Lion or H.G. Hill in Ashland City

Do I believe in God?

I believe in a Divine presence in all living things. I don't call it "God", but if that makes you more comfortable to call it "God"...knock yourself out.

Now when you said Melissa was your girlfiend, what exactly does that mean?

If Melissa's name was Michael and I said he was my boyfriend, you wouldn't be asking me that question.

Can I empty the portable toilet myself?

Absolutely not...please don't deprive me the joy of emptying your waste.


Wednesday, October 19

Come Again?

'Pert Near' is an expression dropped into conversation in Middle Tennessee as non-chalantly as Texans use 'fixin' to'. Use it in a sentence you say? OK..."I pert near blew my foot off throwing shells down the barrel of my shotgun." Alrighty then....does that clear it up for everyone?

My next favorite expression overhead at the Mom and Pop convenience store that sells live bait, as well as Cheetos and beer... (said in the sweetest Southern girl voice with a big smile) "Now shug you have yourself a Teeter's kinda' day." I'll have to get back with you on that one...been pondering exactly what that means all day.

Tuesday, October 18

Butch Alert

Don't look now but this nellie girl is sporting a new accessory...a keychain with a hootie on the end that clips to my belt loop.

I's cliche, but as caretaker of 120 acres, a tractor, a golf cart, a house with 4 doors, two cottages and a stable, I can't be lugging all these keys around in my purse now can I?

Sunday, October 16

Observations and Things to Ponder

Mocha likes to catch flies...she's good at it...I'm thinking of changing her name to Renfield.

Karo Syrup is the magic ingredient for making the biggest, longest lasting bubbles for your bubble wand.

St. John of the Cross was one rocking dude for his time.

Can one achieve grace by laying on a blanket in the sun or is that just being lazy?

A male cardinal will share a nest and shelter with a female cardinal, but won't let her onto the birdfeeder at the same time...

I think I saw what was equivalent to the South Pole on the Moon last night. Does the moon have a south pole?

There's a reason so many cartoon characters are modeled after chipmunks...they are hilarious in real life!

That's enough for now...just had to get these things out of my head.

La Luna

La luna nella sua pienezza me inebria.

(sometimes it can't be said in English)

Saturday, October 15

Insanity or Multi-Tasking

A commercial for a local business caught my attention the other day. I normally don't pay attention to commercials, but I've found the ones produced locally (Middle Tennessee) have a flavor I've not tasted elsewhere. So....back to the was for a company called Dental Bliss. Yes, Dental and Bliss together. I had to pay attention to see where this was going. OK...this dental practice is inside a chalet-style building and in addition to regular dental care, you can partake of facials, massages, sit next to a roaring fire as you sip wine and listen as a pianist fills the cavernous waiting room with calming melodies (show tunes perhaps?). There's a coffee bar, an internet cafe and landscaped walking paths with babbling brooks.

Two thoughts occur to me as this sinks in...have we truly become such an anxiety-stricken society that in order to be coaxed to go to the dentist, it has to be wrapped in spa clothing or is it multi-tasking at its finest?

You be the judge. Here' a link to their website. Is it me or does the dentist look like he's had just a little too much laughing gas?

Friday, October 14

What's Wrong With This PIcture?

Isn't she sweet...left just enough room for me at the foot of the bed.

Thursday, October 13

Texan in a Popsicle Suit

The temperature is falling and my brrrr factor is in high gear. Mocha has taken up residence at the head of the bed, despite the fact that she has her own comfy, cushy, color-coordinated dog bed. I don't mind. I welcome the extra body heat. I always thought "they" called it fall because leaves fell gracefully from the trees. I call it fall because things are literally falling from the sky and making loud booming noises when they hit the tin roofs of all the buildings on the land. I'm told they are "buck-eyes". They look to me like neon green golf balls. One actually hit the top of my car as I was winding through the hills at 50 mph. Scared the beeJesus out of me. Other things that are falling...somewhere near the ridge someone is either setting off explosives (there are "blasting zones" around here) or it's zealous deer hunters in the wildlife preserve that backs up to the property at Penuel Ridge.

Fall is noisy or maybe that's just the sound of my teeth chattering.

Saturday, October 8

Rant at HP you've noticed no pictures lately on my blog...only words. I've been grappling with Customer Service at HP for about a month trying to get my camera fixed. I've literally been passed around the globe...starting in India, passing through Houston, TX and onward to customer service destinations unknown.

A kind soul who read my blog and actually works for HP (yes, it's a tiny world) tried to help by escalating my issue up the corporate chain of concern. I was encouraged...someone on the inside pulling for ally...someone with the pass key that would magically open the door to customer satisfaction.

Well, after some rather tedious and off-putting exchanges with the "Executive Customer Service" representative at HP, they've told me my only option is to buy a new camera. I don't want to buy a new camera...I like, no love, my HP camera. It takes really great pictures, it's easy to use and has killer features. Why can't they just fix it? You know what they told me? The don't fix cameras at HP. They actually design, market and sell a product with no intention of supporting it. THAT'S JUST WRONG and as a consumer, I cannot purchase products from a company that doesn't support its product or its customers.

So, this being my blog with the potential to reach anyone on the planet, here's a sample of what my camera is doing (notice the blue vertical and horizontal lines). If you have had a similar problem or know how to fix it...I'd sure appreciate you letting me know.

Thursday, October 6

Things I Don't Know

1. How to grill a piece of meat using charcoal in a big-ass bbq pit.

2. How I got to be 46 years old and don't know how to grill a piece of meat using charcoal in a big-ass bbq pit.

3. Where the joy filled woman child went and if she is ever coming back.

4. Why sheets have to be folded just so or they sprounge out of the closet.

5. How to fix a door knob that will no longer turn...this is especially vexing when you have just enjoyed a hot shower, gone to open the door to your bedroom and realized the doorknob won't turn...which leads to other things I don't know...

5.a. Just how much is the repairman going to enjoy making a house call with me in my bathrobe?

5.b. How long can Mocha hold her water on the other side of the door?

5.c Would it help if I removed the framing around the door?

5.d. On this side of the door is food, water, bathroom, TV and the outdoors...on the other side is my dog, bed, computer, clothes, photos, jewlery, journals, etc... if I had to make a choice, which side would I live on?

I don't know the answers to 1 - 5c which is exactly why it's "things I don't know", but 5d is a no brainer, I go for what's behind the door. Mocha and I can always crawl through the window to freedom.

Wednesday, October 5


Went outside the other morning...took a few steps, a sharp right and a few more steps and something caught my eye...something was there that usually wasn't there. I stopped still, my body went rigid and the only thing moving were my eyes in their socket. I looked down on the dew drenched grass and there it was...a snake skin. It was perfect...stretched out in the grass, graceful curves every six inches or so.

Then it happened, I admit it....I had a nellie attack...a serious case of the willies. I squealed like a little girl and ran for the door. Luckily, I gained my composure long enough to get curious...just how long was this sucker? So I took a stick and gingerly extracted it from the grass and stretched it out on one of the deck benches. The head was all scrunched up like a used condom, so I didn't get the full effect, but I'm guessing it was about 3 feet long.

It must be shedding season in Middle Tennessee because my next door neighbor had recounted the previous day a story about finding the same thing in her yard. For a moment, I thought she had sneaked over in the middle of the night and put it by the front door as a practical joke, but no...there are now two big ass snakes hanging out in close proximity wearing the latest fall fashion.


Sunday, October 2

Happy Hour in Ashland City

My job is thirsty work. I spend a lot of time outdoors walking the trails, trekking up and down the side of ridges (usually toting things, like big jugs of water), walking to the road to get the mail and drop off the garbage, etc...

It was a particularly thirsty day for me last week, so on one of my trips into town for supplies (Ashland City), I pulled into the local Sonic for a large diet cherry limeade (for those of you that don't know, I've kicked the diet coke habit since coming here). My mouth was watering as I pushed the button and placed my order. The young female voice chirped my order back to me and said, "that'll be 79 cents." I thought that was rather curious since I ordered a medium that costs $1.49. She came bouncing out with my drink and again said, "hi...oh what a cute dog...that'll be 79 cents." I asked her if there was a special on diet cherry limeades and she said, "No, it's happy hour every day from 2 to 4 on drinks." This is good to know...I'm on a strict budget...and I get thirsty a lot.

Also interesting...Ashland City is a very conservative, religious right kind of a town. Every time there's a referendum placed before the citizens of Cheatham County to allow packaged liquor, it gets voted down. It's not a totally dry can buy beer and wine in the grocery store and you can order a beer at a restaurant, but no mixed drinks. All this being said, I found it interesting that in a semi-dry county, the local Sonic would have happy hour.

Friday, September 30

Strike Up the Band

The Riverview Restaurant is a local favorite for all things fried...especially catfish. It's nestled between a bluff and the Cumberland River and indeed has an excellent river view. They also have an RV Campground and riverboat cruises. Kind of a one stop, mom and pop, eat til you drop hangout.

Editor's Note: sorry, but I couldn't resist the rhythm of this last sentence...go back and read it again, but this time, take a breath between "stop" and "pop" and then end it with a Little Richard "Hey!". It kinda swings doesn't it?

I digress...back to the's always crowded with folks from all ages and there's always a line...not for a table, but for the ladies room. Tonight, I stood in line with a couple of vintage ladies who could have been my great aunts. We had a lovely chat about purses and such. Being flanked by these Southern Belles, I expected a little wave of nostalgia, but I wasn't prepared for the flashback I encountered when it was my turn in the ladies room. As I entered, I thought I had made a wrong turn to 1959. You see, wanting to be delicate about such matters, the lady before me left her calling card...a very distinct smell...that of a struck match!

In my childhood home and in all of my relatives homes, there was always a box of matches on the back of the toilet...which in my youth I thought was to light the gas heater in the wall...but later learned, the struck match is the equivalent to todays can of Glade (or whatever you use in your private chamber). As I was passing the torch to the next in line, I wondered if I should say something like...don't be alarmed if you smell smoke...but I thought no...why break the illusion and walked away with a big grin on my face.

Gloria Steinem Where Are You?

There's a thread of commonality connecting the retreatants who have come to Penuel Ridge over the past few weeks. They are all women in on the cusp of ending a 20 year marriage, another in flight mode after receiving a cancer diagnosis and an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom with a young child.

This is not uncharted territory for any of us these days, with the divorce rate over 50%, disease so prevalent in our society and the constant tug of war between career, family, relationships and community, we are all on a tight rope expecting the balance to shift at any moment.

Sitting with these women, listening to them talk about their struggles, I'm often compelled to offer solutions, but I don't. My role is that of active listener...sometimes with sympathetic and at other times, empathetic ears. This is a challenge for me, especially when I hear them say things that send up red flags in me, like:

"I found out about your retreat center and I need a place to run to, but my husband won't let me. He sees my need to retreat as a rejection of him and our family. I just need to get away from all of the screaming."

"I need some time away from my small child to get closer to God, but my husband won't watch our son."

"I have a very real reason to be afraid [of my husband]."

It's hard for me to process women being in this position in the 21st century. As a benefactor of the Womens' Movement, I cannot fathom allowing anyone to stand between me and what I need to be a whole person. Is the pendulum swinging back to the patriarchal structure of the 50's or is it geography? I don't know.

Thursday, September 29

58, 70, 44 Hut!

I'm doing the happy dance in the meadow this morning! When I woke up, it was 58 degrees. A cold front blew in while I was sleeping. The high today will be 70. The overnight low will be 44. Yes, 44 honkin' degrees. This calls for a celebration!

Wednesday, September 28

Horizontal Stripes on a Big Girl

I've always shied away from horizontal stripes. Being all of 5 foot tall and round in shape, it's not the best look on me. "They" say vertical stripes are good...will create the illusion that I'm less short and less round. Since being here, I've discovered something...I've been wearing vertical stripes on the outside and the inside. Years and years of pushing things down the center of my body has created a mine shaft...dark, dank and damp.

So, I strapped on my hardhat...the kind with the light in front, grabbed a bucket and repelled down the slippery sides of that mine shaft. When my feet hit the bottom, they sunk into muck and goo that had been there for at least 40 years. I did the only thing I knew to do...shine my light on it and fill that bucket with all the fear, humiliation, abuse, disappointment and conflict that would fit. I've spent the last few weeks hauling up buckets and buckets of it. At first I dumped it out and dug around for artifacts that would explain why I had given it space inside me...but I soon realized the only thing to do was dump it in a running stream and let it be swept away.

Today I choose to no longer live vertically...I don't care how I look in horizontal stripes.

Saturday, September 24

Up the Creek without a Paddle

What does a canoe oar and a Jeep Grand Cherokee have to do with one another? Apparantly, it's a "must have" tool when attempting to get your Jeep started.

This was quite a site...a cherry red Jeep Grand Cherokee with the hood up with 3 or 4 lesbians standing around looking at the engine and 1 woman had literally crawled under the hood, canoe oar in hand, jamming it down the back side of the this was...oh, I don't know...normal! After a few intentional blows with the oar, she crawled down, they all piled in the Jeep, started the engine and drove away.

Now, I'm a girl who's pretty handy with tools. I own tools. I use tools. I like tools. I don't have a canoe oar in my tool box or in the back of my car...maybe I should.

Friday, September 23

Bird of Paradise

Tonight, I went to a landmark in Nashville...the Bluebird Cafe. It's a tiny little dive, cramped, dark, bad food, but what a banquet of music! When we entered, the place was packed. We sat at a table with total strangers (not for long). I scanned the room and from the looks of the sophisticated lights hanging from the ceiling, I thought we were in for one throw down drag show...but I was wrong. In the middle of the room was a simple set up; four chairs facing each other, four microphones and a spotlight. It was singer/songwriter/acoustic night and for 2 hours, they took turns playing their original music, more for each other than for us.

I won't name drop, but some pretty famous people were discovered at The Blue Bird. I don't know if any of these young, struggling songwriters will one day be in the spotlight, but for tonight, they were in ours and it was mighty fine.

Tuesday, September 20

An Open Letter to Corporate America

Dear Corporate CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, SOBs, etc...,

I understand that moving telephone and email support functions from America to India makes perfect business sense, however, when I cannot get the technical support person (named Hasraj) to believe that the serial number (labelled "serial number") on the bottom of my digital camera is REALLY the serial number of my digital camera, regardless of what his manuel says, I'm not inclined to buy your product any more.


Having Curry for Dinner

p.s. to my friends expecting an ongoing slideshow of my life in rural digital camera is on the fritz and I can't seem to get anyone to help me fix it at HP, so stay tuned...either more letters will ensue or I'll begin loading pictures again.

Thursday, September 15

The Pharoah's Dog

Close your eyes and picture this (yes, I know you cannot read the blog with your eyes closed...just go with me on this!)

Last night it was about 60 degrees outside, the moon had risen and was casting an orange glow in the air. As I walked out of the health food store with grocery bag in hand, I noticed two women standing transfixed between the cars in the parking lot. They were looking up, but not to the heavens...their gaze was much lower. As I walked up the incline, drawing closer, I heard them giggling like little girls. My eyes followed their gaze until I saw what was filling them with glee.

There, in the parking lot was a large Chevy truck with Texas plates. Not an unusual sight in my world...and then I saw it....lying on top of the cab of the truck (not in the bed of the truck mind you, but on TOP of the cab) was a full grown yellow Labrador Retriever who was stock still, body and eyes trained on the door to the health food store...not responding to calls, whistles, cars driving by...nada. It's entire being was poised in wait. People even ran to their cars, whipped out their digital cameras and took pictures.

More people gathered and we loitered in the parking lot for a while, amazed at the discipline and devotion we were witnessing. We all drove away with big smiles on our faces...each of us imagining in our own way the reunion between dog and master.

Monday, September 12

Where I Live

I realized I never loaded a picture of the Retreat Center. I'm told it was originally built as a hunting lots of knotty pine paneling and vaulted ceilings.

Thursday, September 8

Other People's Words

"Better to be a pilgrim without a destination than to cross the wrong threshold every day."

Monday, September 5

Comment Spam

I had to put a filter on my blog to stop what's called "comment spam". Within moments of posting to my blog...4 comments popped up selling broadband phone service, laser hair removal and information on Crohn's disease.

I want to shout outloud, "Hey...get the hell off my blog!" So keep out the unwanteds...if you want to make a comment, and I hope you do, a magic word will appear on the screen you will need to type in.

Sorry...but that's the world we live in.

The Rail Trail

This abandoned train tressel is now part of a hiking trail. I'm told eagles nest in the trees along this trail. Didn't have my hiking boots this trip, but I am definitely going back!

Sunday, September 4

Where the Pavement Ends

Yesterday I meandered through rural Tennessee, stopping at every state park and recreation area I came across. I even ventured down some roads that looked interesting. This was the scene at the end of one of those roads.

The Beauty & The Beast

Isn't this a beautiful butterfly? it's sitting on a pile of dog's still pretty.

Saturday, September 3

River Traffic

I heard the basso horn blast before I saw the barge make its way down the river. Mocha and I spent a lazy couple of hours at Pardue Recreation Area. Mocha stretched out in the soft grass and I perched on top of a picnic table and we let the cool breeze lull us into a restful nap.

Two great things about this little park by the river, there was a sign driving in that read, "Road Ends In The Water" and they had the most spacious, architecturally interesting and cleanest porta potties I've ever used!

Friday, September 2

A Silent Alarm

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to the sound of sobbing. I stirred, opened my eyes and a flood of tears streamed down my face. Partly conscious, partly asleep I was dreaming that my mother had just died and my mind was projecting scene after scene of the rituals we go through when someone dies. I tried to shake it off as a by product of all the scenes of loss and devastation I had watched on the national news before going to bed.

A phone call several hours later to assure me that everything was all right didn't work...she wasn't home.

Thursday, September 1

Thrice is Nice

I gravitate towards things in threes...something about the rhythm makes me happy. Here are a few tres items that come to mind:

Maiden, Mother, Crone
Kiss My _ _ _
Sugar Free Popsicles

Oh My God
Pray For Peace
I Love You

Pico de Gallo
Make My Day
Alice in Wonderland

Love Your Neighbor
Have a Seat
Take A Nap

Post War Reconstruction
Get To Me
Credence Clearwater Revival

That's enough for now...feel free to add your favorites.

Wednesday, August 31

Achy All Over

Don't know if it's all the news of devastation from my beloved Gulf Coast, the physical labor I've undertaken this week or anticipation of a very full schedule that has left me feeling achy tonight.

There are words and phrases bubbling in me but can't quite seem to make it to fruition. Maybe their desire to take shape and fly free is the cause.

Whatever it is, I'm taking the weekend off...visiting some nearby state parks with my dog, my favorite purple pen and a blank journal.

Pictures and poetry to follow soon.

Sunday, August 28

Still Here

It's been a busy week...haven't had much time to blog.

Sitting at the table this morning watching the birds, something occurred to me. The more time I spend here, the more my spirit is fed, the more my spirit is fed, the less I need to feed my body.

I have a Sunday morning ritual where I make a big breakfast with scrambled eggs, bisquits, coffee, etc... This morning, instead of 3 eggs, I only scrambled two and instead of 2 bisquits, I only had 1. This wasn't a conscious act on my part. It's as if my body and brain were in conversation without me knowing it. Kinda cool.

Thursday, August 25

In Stillness

Pulsing, raucous cicada song
announces the demise of summer
as thirsty trees litter the ground with the unessential

Message rises from wooded path
through souls of feet to subconscious...
change is coming

All is at rest...waiting
dragonfly wings beat slower, softer
hover lazily over water
no more darting and skirting the surface
causing tiny ripples that never quite reach the banks

Stillness has settled in
throwing a blanket of anticipation across my shoulders

Lying in deep darkness
breathing in the night sky
will I witness the change
or will it flow unseen on
autumn-tinged air?

Tuesday, August 23

Overheard at the Local Walmart

Today, in the "Bath Decor" section of the local Walmart (the locals call is Wallyworld?!?) two women shopping together, either life-long friends or sisters were browsing the "Bath Decor" items when one said to the other, "Oh...I want me one of these!" to which her friend/sister responded, "that's too fancy for me...I only got $20 to spend...we could get the same thing at KMart and save 25%."

Then they walked away, pushing their buggy filled with treasures.

I admit it...I'm a snob. The fact that I was even in a Walmart has probably sent a few of you into fits of hysterical laughter. But you know, now that I'm living the Bohemian life of a poet, I could learn a thing or two from these ladies.

Monday, August 22

Liberation Day

As a follow up to my post about chiggers. I haven't been able to shave my legs for 3 weeks because of the welts caused by the chigger bites. Last night, I couldn't take it any more and enacted one of my favorite rituals, shaving my legs, putting freshly-laundered soft sheets on the bed and crawling in. Mmmmmmm.

Sunday, August 21


There's been a recurring theme to my week...a vast array of aromas, such as:

Frying Bacon - a family (single mom, two teen-age kids) who cooked and ate bacon day and night

Skunk - see previous blog about Mocha's big adventure...oddly enough, that close up and in that concentration, skunk smells like a really garlicky marinara sauce...or maybe that was the V8 juice we bathed in...hmmm

Cornbread, Rice, Fruit, Tabouli, Couscous, Spinach, Cake - a group of women who were leading a retreat in African-American heritage, religion, dance, art, etc... did what most southern women do...spent most of their time in the kitchen together cooking, laughing, sharing stories...gorgeous women, food and smells.

Chemical Toilets - I had the joy of emptying and cleaning the chemical toilets from the Hermitages. I'm thankful for my hospice training, which has heightened my gross-out threshold.

Corn - not the corn itself, but the sweet, sweet smell the blossoms emit in the early morning and evening. There is a beautiful cornfield across the road from Penuel Ridge and the scent drifts up the driveway and into my nose.

Did I mention SKUNK?

The Hermitages

There are two small cottages tucked in the woods for folks who seriously want to rough it. They have no running water or air conditioning. Process that thought for a running water flushable toilet. Each is equipped with a tiny chemical toilet. All that's missing is the hair shirt!

That's the Dorothy Day Cottage...very cute and pink and the Howard Thurman House...very butch.

Saturday, August 20

Flora after the Drought

Just as in the desert, intense rain after a long drought produces spectacular flowers.

Thursday, August 18

What is THAT smell?!?

Why, do you ask is Mocha in wardrobe? She's been to the local groomer and they thought a fetching blue bandana would ease the humiliation of being sprayed by a skunk. Yes friends, my smart, well-trained dog could not resist chasing a skunk. As fate would have it, I did not pack any de-skunking supplies for my move to Tennessee, so we had to comb the back woods for tomato juice. After she and I bathed in tomato juice, only mentholatem up the nose could block out the smell. My efforts just weren't bright and early the next morning, we sought professional help. Now she smells better, I smell better, my car however, still has a distinct odor even after the application of two bottles of Febreeze. When I asked the guy at the local auto supply store if there was a car detailing shop in town, he looked at me like I had 3 heads. Guess I'm going to have to venture into Nashville for this project or else live with this uninvited passenger.

Tuesday, August 16

Good to Know

Here are a few things I have observed after living 3 weeks in rural Tennessee:

1. Most people here think that Texans have an overinflated ego/opinion about the great State of Texas.

2. They don't like Bud Adams either.

3. Road kill is road kill...but here they know how to turn it into a meal.

4. When the road sign shows an approaching curve and a suggested speed, you best take heed. When it says 25 mph...take it at 25 mph else you might find yourself careening over the edge of a ridge.

5. No matter how smart and well trained you think your dog is...they will ALWAYS chase after
a skunk.

6. Don't even think about leaving home without going to the bathroom first. It's 20 miles to the closest town and they aren't too keen on letting you use the bathroom, no matter how bad you have to go.

7. 5 corner intersections do exist....I don't know why, but they do.

8. A man walking down the road with a chainsaw in one hand and pickax in the other is not necessarily a serial killer.

9. Weather is weather and the local TV personalities get just as hyped about it here as they do in Houston, although I haven't heard the phrase, "there's ponding on the freeway" yet. That may be special just for Houston.

10. Speaking of are a few oddities:

*if you go the posted speed on the interstate, people look at you funny as you pass them
**if you go the posted speed on the loop, people look at you funny as they pass you
*** the abbreviation "pk" after the name of a street is not parkway, it's pike
****the same street can change names 3 or 4 times as you drive across Nashville and they keep apologizing for it...I just laugh

Bonus: Being in this remote setting is both a blessing and a curse. When I open my mouth to say something, my accent is not that different from the people around me, but I often feel like a foreigner in my own country. My politics, my faith, my social agendas, my "liberal" views are not shared by many I encounter.

Sunday, August 14

A Different Kind of Tomato

For two weeks, I haven't worn makeup and my hair has been up in a pony tail. Last night, it was time to bring out the girl in me and hit the town. After a pit stop at the Tomato Art Festival (see blog below) Joanne and I ventured to a local night spot called The Lipstick Lounge, where there were tomatoes of a different variety.

I was a little put off that we had to pay a $5 cover for karaoke, but we werent' disappointed. This is Nashville for God's sake, full of hopeful singers and songwriters. These folks know how to throw down some serious karaoke. This is a really great's owned and run by two identical twin sisters with bleach blonde buzz cuts. The best way to tell them apart is that Rhonda, or is it Jhonda(?) has big red lips died into the back of her hair.

After two weeks of limited contact with the real world, it was great to sit at the bar, drink a beer and hang out with a mix of folks from all walks of life.

Houston has Art Cars - East Nashville has the Tomato

Ok friends...file this under, "the heat will make you do strange things."

Last night, Joanne and I went to East Nashville (reminds me of the Heights in Houston) for the 2nd Annual Tomato Art Festival. Uh huh....that's right...the tomato.

So picture this: Art lovers, tomato lovers and the curious all milling around a funky art gallery trying to look cool looking at tomatoes.

The Festival featured:

All forms of art with the tomato as the central theme
Bloody Mary Contest
Recipe Contest
Heirloom Tomato Tasting
The Most Beautiful Tomato Contest

OK...I love the tomato as much as the next guy, but a Festival? There were some interesting items:

Tomato Pasties (the kind you wear, not the kind you eat) the tomato pasty model was getting a lot of attention...kind of like a cut tomato drawing flies.

Hand Lotion that smelled like freshly picked green tomatoes - made me itch just sniffing it.

Gotta stop bloggin now...all this talk about tomatoes is making me hungry.

Saturday, August 13

The Real Deal

This man goes by the name Cowboy. Mocha took to him right I knew he was for real. Last night, the three of us sat on the side porch in the dark, listening to the Grand Ole Opry from a transistor radio pinned to the strap of his overalls. During the commercial breaks, he turned the volume down and we swapped stories. 10 years on the professional rodeo circuit, moving cattle and riding fences in Colorado, training bomb and drug sniffing dogs for the Feds and companion dogs for the disabled in California, dropping out of school in the 7th grade to work on a dairy farm...ending up homeless in Nashville and working his way off the streets.

Cowboy dropped a lot of one-liners into his stories...ranging from sage advice to zingers. Hands down, the most profound was, "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse."

There was a long, comfortable silence after he floated that one out there. We picked up the banter again after a while and our voices wove themselves through strains of country, gospel and bluegrass music until we were too tired to talk.

Today, I went a-googling to see if I could find the source of that quote. Would you believe the following list of men are credited with having said it?:

Lord Palmerston
Winston Churchill
Teddy Roosevelt
Will Rogers
Ronald Reagan

I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that none of these decorated men can take credit. It's a "Cowboy" original, not because he uttered the words first, but because he lived them.

Friday, August 12

My Trusted Friend trusted friend since Freshmen English has fractured somewhere in the letter P. I don't know whether she'll become a burnt offering or if duct tape is in order. Any thoughts? that you?

For two days, longears has ventured up to my bedroom window for an afternoon snack. Little does she know Mocha is fast asleep under her little pink nose.

The rabbits are so tiny here...maybe some things are bigger in Texas?!?

Thursday, August 11

Aisle 6 at Lowes

Yes friends...I'm off to Lowes today. So far this morning, I have reattached the mailbox to its post which was knocked off in the middle of the night. Not as simple a task as it once was. Had too many screws, not enough holes and a lots of broken pieces to figure out.

Why am I off to Lowe's you ask? I need hooties to anchor screws into sheetrock...the towel rack in one of the bathrooms came off the wall and then there's the assorted list of things that any self-respecting. toolbox toting girl needs to survive in the wilderness. I'm sure I'll find everything I need...I always do.

What Lives Here?

We stumbled upon this tiny cave...not large enough for even a small child to enter but from the smooth edges of the entrance, some creature calls it home.

Wednesday, August 10

My New Home

Picture Mocha perched on the deck scanning the front and back yards for rabbits, picture me...being still, tuning my ear to the soundscape of the middle Tennessee countryside.

This is the west end of the Retreat House. The upper level is known as the "Dayspring" room which opens onto the deck and has windows on 3 sides...perfect for bird watching.

Tuesday, August 9

A Bridge Leading To...

We didn't venture across the bridge to see what was on the other side, but the splash of morning light at the end of the trail was inviting!

Force of Nature

This morning, Mocha and I discovered a dry creek bed that meanders along the property line between Penuel Ridge and our neighbors to the east. It's obvious there must be periods of tumultous rainfall to have created this. The stones are smooth and round as if the rough edges have been worn away by centuries of rushing water.

The Chapel

Affectionately known as "The Well", this is the chapel at Penuel Ridge. Using straw bale construction, it was built by volunteers. A metal roof from a grain silo tops it off...I look forward to being inside during a rainstorm.

They are in Abundance

Butterflies are everywhere...

Monday, August 8

The Veil

There is a "garden" behind the retreat house where fossils, bones and petrified or charred wood are lovingly placed on a bed of pine straw. I can only presume as a tribute to the flora and fauna who were companions of the land. I wasn't sure what to call it and a retreatant suggested, "The Veil." I like the name and the garden.

An Annie Dillard Moment

The following is NOT for the faint of heart...if you get squeamish, you might want to skip this one:

So the idea of serving as host has truly come to fruition at Penuel Ridge. I'm not talking about greeting the guests, making them feel welcome and comfortable...I'm talking about chiggers! My body has become host to 108 chiggers....yes, I counted the bites. They are fascinating parasites...a cross between ticks and spiders. They don't suck your blood, they enter your body through a hair follicle, secrete a mucous that causes your flesh to deteriorate and then feed on your dying flesh through a tube in their head. Once they are engourged with liquid flesh, they burrow out from under the skin, hop off and move onto another developmental phase. I'm all for Southern hospitality, but this takes it to new, itchy and irritating heights!

Annie Dillard must never have had the pleasure of a chigger infestation or it would have been featured prominently in Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek.

Saturday, August 6

A Place of Pause

This banner hangs on the upper deck outside the retreat house. It reads:

It is good to make an end of movement,
to come to a point of rest,
a place of pause.

My eyes and brain, still working at a fevered pitch, read this as "a place of peace". Today, I realized it actually said "a place of pause". I wish you all a place in each day where you can pause and breath deeply.

From Hermes to Hiking Boots

Mocha and I hiked for 4 hours today...pretty amazing considering I'm more accustomed to Hermes pumps than hiking boots.

Wild Turkey Correction

So I've learned that what I saw were the mommas and the boy/girl pappas...apparently they don't hang out with the brood this time of year. Highly developed matriarchal society...I'm looking forward to learning more!

Thursday, August 4

Wild Turkey Parade

I don't have pictures to prove it, but this morning, I witnessed a wild turkey parade across the back yard, through the meditation garden and down toward the meadow. There they were, big as day, wild turkeys of all sizes, mommas, pappas and babies. Mocha just about went crazy and I've learned to carry my camera with me at all times. Soon, I'll be looking like a Japanese tourist in my own back yard. If they reappear tomorrow, I'm ready and you'll get to see them for your very own selves.

Be Still

Statuary in the meditation garden

Looking Down from the Low Trail

There are these great vignettes nestled here and there you just stumble upon as you're hiking.

Tunnel to the Meadow

Can't you imagine Ichobod Crane charging up this path on horseback?!? You should see it at night when the fireflies are out. It's like an enchanted cave.