Sunday, August 24

Sunday Snapshots





(1) ironweed, (2) unknown, (3) fuzzy caterpillar, (4) paw-paw

Saturday, August 23

The Coming Together of Souls

Melodic strains of Amazing Grace seep through the ceiling above my head and settle around my shoulders like a soft blanket. 7 men are assembled upstairs and their voices resonate like Gregorian chant through a stone abbey. These same muted voices were loud, boisterous and animated earlier this morning, waking me from a sound sleep.

It is a gift to hover on the periphery and bear silent witness to the coming together of souls.

Friday, August 22

Friday Tapas

This end-of-week reflection continues. Do you have a similar practice?


The feeling of accomplishment in bringing tasks to closure was palatable today. After marking a major task off the list, my body went limp and demanded rest. I wonder which is my natural state of being, task driven and upright or prone and contemplative?


So much to do a task list was created. Where is the natural rhythm? Two weeks ago, my desk and work was in order. Today, it is chaos on the surface and in my mind.


A day dedicated to wellness (and shouldn't this be every day?), to liberation from pain, to the restoration of mobility. Blue Bell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla ice cream and an evening with fellow writers was the balm needed to soothe this battered body.


Simple hospitality in the form of warm bread from the oven, a resolution to keys locked in a car and being in conversation with children.

Last week, we gave a man a sleeper sofa, this week he returned for a dresser and brought bagels as a gesture of thanks. This was an opportunity for grace and I knew it in the moment, not hours or days later and was able to receive his gift with my whole heart.


Creating a welcoming space for fellow writers to revel in our love of the shared word.

Thursday, August 21

It's Big Bag of Dog Food Day!

Mocha not only understands words, but entire phrases. Her favorite is "It's Big Bag of Dog Food Day! Today, Mocha is taking you along for the ride as we forage the hills of Tennessee for the rarest of game...the purple-breasted, yellow-feathered bag of dog food.

I look wistfully at the door. Why will it not open Momma?

I have my duck, let's ride!

First stop, the Post big bag of dog food here.

Second stop...the bank. What's this? Nice teller lady is handing me a dog biscuit.

Are there no big bags of dog food in the vault?


Final stop, the grocery store...magical land of big bags of dog food.

Hurry Momma, hurry!

Me, my duck and the big bag of dog food have made it home safely.

Open the door...NOW!

Bag is open, am feeling weak.

I praise the dog food gods for opposable human thumbs.

Very good Momma. You have performed your duties well.


Thank you.

Song of Goodbye

even tide, odd tide
time after time
tide pounds the shore
with the hulls of seafarers who
time after time
are drawn to the illusion
of safe harbor

Widows walk on rooftops
as mist and waves swirl
time after time
after time
after time
through hollow bones,
singing their song of goodbye

Tuesday, August 19

Me and Frozen Peas

Lately, I've been getting a lot of mileage from a bag of frozen peas, usually during the dark of night. No, not as a snack but as relief for a swollen knee. It's 3:20 am and the pain woke me up again, so here I sit in my big comfy chair, leg thrown over the arm with a bag of Birds Eye sweet peas perched on my knee. It's really quite effective, as long as I don't eat them.

Two years ago, an orthopedic surgeon delivered the stunning news that total knee replacement surgery was the best treatment option for me. Really, I thought? This might be a good time to haul out my inner health care advocate and ask some questions. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Tell me about the surgery. What kind of material is used, how long does it last, what's the recovery time, etc...?

OS: Mumble, mumble, mumble. We don't know how long it lasts. Recovery varies from person to person, blah, blah, blah.

Me: I'm sorry, you don't know how long the artificial knee will last, not even an educated guess?

OS: Well...maybe 30 years.

Me: 30 years? So you're telling me that in my mid to late 70's it will need to be replaced again?

OS: Something like that.

Me: What other treatment options are available, especially considering that I'm one of the millions of Americans who is uninsured?

OS: You don't have insurance? [he calls the nurse in and mumbles something to her, she leaves the room quickly]

Me: No, so what are my options?

OS: There's a new medication, here's a pamphlet that explains how it works, but it's expensive and I don't think in a case like yours it's going to be very effective.

Me: A case like mine?

OS: Yes, you have an advanced case of osteoarthritis. We could try a cortisone injection and it will either give you temporary relief or your body will reject it, like an allergic reaction, which will aggravate your knee even more.

Me: Oh.

At this point, I'm staring off into space considering my options when the nurse comes back in and hands the doctor something. He starts poking hard around my knee cap with his thumb. The pain brings me into focus and as I'm asking him, "What are the side effects of a cortisone injection?" he jams a huge needle in my knee.

Although it was reprehensible for him to treat me without my permission, that cortisone injection did the trick and for two years, I've been mostly symptom and pain free, until now.

So, tomorrow it's off to the clinic with the hope a doctor will jam a big needle in my knee and fill it with cortisone. In the meantime, I adjust the thawing bag of peas, swallow some ibuprofen and ponder what it's going to take for this country to create a workable health care program for everyone.

Sunday, August 17

Sunday Snapshots

This morning, it was 60 chilly degrees when Mocha and I stepped outdoors. Since Creation was being so accommodating, I loaded the journal, pen and camera into the golf cart and drove as deep into the woods as possible.

There's a saying I've heard since moving here, "If you stand still long enough Tennessee will grow right over you." How this translates into the outdoor experience is, when not locked in the snapping jaws of drought, you are surrounded by a monochromatic expanse of green. As I walked in the woods, the slightest variation in the predominant palette caught my eye.

Here are a few Sunday Snapshots proving that Mother Nature does reward the attentive observer.

Red berries = birdfood

The absence of color in this fungi is colorful against the forest floor.

A sugar maple bloom?

Friday, August 15

Friday Tapas

I close my eyes and let the week play back behind shuttered lids and what do I see?

Flashing lights
High shrieking voices
Ringing bells
Exploding balloons
Too vibrant colors

Think midway games at a Hitchcock-inspired carnival. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.


If one is very good or very lucky, the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee might be your wakeup call. This morning I awoke to the aroma of paint...neither good nor lucky.


Juggling balls of fire, on a unicycle, blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back. Entertaining as hell to the onlooker, but to the person in the ring a bit treacherous.


A hug from a father newly sober, no longer homeless, rebuilding his life and home with love, blessings and hope.


The vibrational difference between gratitude and appreciation became clearer to me today. This clarity has helped me be more intentional about how I use these words in dialogue. Gratitude is comfort satisfied or discomfort alleviated, a state of reaction to the resolution of real or perceived discord. Appreciation is a sensitive awareness to all that is good, a feeling created from a place of abundance rather than lack. For example:

Gratitude: Thank you for the bowl of soup you gave me as I had nothing to eat.

Appreciation: Thank you for sharing your soup with me. Your kindness and generosity is appreciated.


A day of emotional and intellectual dynamics that started pianissimo, crescendoed to a double forte then dropped back to pianissimo by the end of the day.

Tuesday, August 12

The Secret to the Life I Live

Brian Andreas makes me laugh and cry and sometimes ponder the mysteries of life. He's a wry, quirky, talented writer/illustrator whose words speaks for me when I have none . Today, I was browsing through his website and stubbed my toe on the following:

The Secret to the Life I Live:

The sound of what cannot be seen

sings within everything that can

and there is nothing more to it than that.

So I ask you, what is the secret to the life you live? Feel free to leave a comment. If this is too heavy for you to contemplate, something silly will do just as well.

Oh, you can check out his website here.

Monday, August 11

The Silent Pet

Mocha Repose

While working at my desk, I lower my right hand from the keyboard, palm up and dangle it by my side. Mocha gets up from wherever she is walks over and puts her chin in my hand. I stroke her head and neck. She leans into the petting and walks forward, turns around and walks back so I cover the length of her body. Eventually, she'll lie down next to me. I never look at her, speak or stop working, but there is an exchange between us.

We must have developed this ritual years ago, but until today, I was not consciously aware it was happening. For the past 5 or 6 years she's gone to work with me, which means we are together 24/7 nearly every day.

Knowing we have a bond that requires no words warms me deep within.

Friday, August 8

Friday Tapas

Tidbits of words and moments from the past week replay behind the lids of my shuttered eyes:


Hiking through the woods this morning, we could see our breath. It's August. What is this gift revealing itself as vapor and tingling skin?


Voting for the first time in Tennessee.

Falling asleep so happy, like a child without a care in the world, my hand tucked under my chin.


Someone who minored in English said to me, "That Emmy Lou Dickerson, she's my favorite poet."


Celebrating the power of words punctuated with grace.

"I am a human being, so nothing that is human is alien to me." Terentius


Baking bread for those who will spend hours or days at Penuel Ridge. That warm, yeasty aroma permeating every inch of this house.


A dialogue between a mother and daughter.

"I don't know," Magda says. "Seems like that's just how it is with you and me. We're like islands on the moon." "There's no water on the moon," says Annemarie. "That's what I mean. A person could walk from one to the other if they just decided to do it."

Homeland and Other Stories, Barbara Kingsolver

Thursday, August 7

Gnu Haiku for You

Number One

juice on your pages
honeysuckle perfumed air,
secret diary breached

Number Two

cicada song drones
sheets sway in the mid-day sun,
sweat slips down the glass

Number Three

lather rinse repeat
again and again the same,
her long braid undone

Party of One

clench, unclench
swallow bitter, black coffee
rub the tender place
just below your earlobe

repeat in silence
until the cup is empty

crease, uncrease
the morning paper
mark the tender place
with a smudge of newsprint

give voice to the words
that glide under your thumb

at a table for two
she looks up and sighs
Everything is just fine,
she whispers under her breath

A question?
A wish?
A prayer.

Wednesday, August 6

Dog Tales

Usually, Mocha is curled up behind the big comfy chair in my sitting room snoozing, like she is at this very moment, but yesterday she decided to sit in a small space between the window and said chair. There she sat staring, at what I do not know, while I read. Occasionally, she would turn her head and look out the window to make sure no bunnies had hopped into her territory. This is a critical activity in her role as watcher and protector.

She's quick to sound the alarm if there is movement or noise she can't identify. While all the sitting and staring was going on, a retreatant had the audacity to walk across the floor upstairs, over our heads. She immediately cranked up the low threatening growl that precedes the all-out barking frenzy. As the human I was able to assess that this act of walking across the room was not an eminent threat and we were not in danger of being disemboweled. To encourage her to stop growling and stave off the barking frenzy, I pointed my index finger at her and said in a stern momma voice, "NO." Heretofore, this has been an ineffective disciplining technique, but for some reason, I keep doing it and she keeps ignoring me...until yesterday.

Do you know what she did when I pointed my index finger within inches of her nose and said emphatically, "NO."?


I don't know who laughed harder, her or me, but she did stop growling!

Tuesday, August 5

Sadie's Legacy

Sadie Catherine Hammond Liere Pohl...a long name for a woman who stood 4' 10" in stocking feet.

A right of passage for her grandchildren was surpassing her in height. I should not have gloated the day I realized I could see the top of her head. Grandma had the last laugh when my vertical growth came to a screeching halt in the 6th grade, never to resume.

My grandmother is as present to me today as she was the countless hours I spent at the hem of her skirt, shadowing her every move. She died in 1997 on her 84th birthday. That she died on her birthday should tell you something about the depth of her will and character. At her insistence, I delivered her eulogy. A huge statement from a woman to a small farming community steeped in patriarchy.

One of the great gifts she gave me (and my mother) was a deep love and respect for the Earth. Daughter, sister and eventually wife of rice farmers, her whole subsistence was gleaned from the rich, sticky gumbo soil of South Texas. In addition to the rice and corn fields the men tended, grandma had a kitchen garden that yielded all the herbs and vegetables we needed to keep the family fed year-round. Grandpa also gave her space at the edge of one of the rice fields to grow watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and the big squash that took up too much room in the kitchen garden. Tending to these gardens in the height of growing season was quite a chore, but I guess not too big of a challenge for her as she also had a corner in her living room, and eventually an enclosed patio, teaming with houseplants.

My favorite plant was one with variegated green and white leaves that turned pink in the fall, not a color you normally see on a farm. What fascinated me about this houseplant was during the heat of the summer, when all the other plants were gasping for air and water, it bloomed. Tiny red blooms perched on the end of long, spiny branches in clusters of 3 or 4. They look exactly like a cardinal in profile, thus the common name of this plant...Redbird.

Among the treasures my grandmother gave me when I moved away from home was a cutting from her Redbird plant. Since then, it has traveled many miles and witnessed my life's journey over the past 30 years. It is now thriving on the patio at Penuel Ridge, my home in Middle Tennessee.

It's blooming right now and if you've never heard of or seen this plant, here's your chance. I had intended to take photos of the diminutive, vibrant flowers, but kept forgetting. The other day, a blustery summer rainstorm was moving in, so I grabbed the camera and bolted outside. It was so humid the lens kept fogging up so the photos look a bit ethereal, but you can clearly see the blooms.

This plant also goes by the name Devil's Backbone, but I think I'll stick to the name my grandmother taught me...Redbird.