embers, ashes and a lovely place to swim

I was a little late leaving for my morning walk.  Just moving slowly I suppose. In my left hand swings a now familiar white bucket laden with bread. In my pocket is my phone. I wonder how many times I will pause to capture a photo of something precious or chuckle worthy. My ear buds are plugged in and draped around my neck.  What music will I choose to accompany my steps. I think that I am ready…


The cedar that leans too far because of storm and earth washing away is still easier to climb over than under. The creek is cold and wandering just as it is every time I wade through it.  The dogs are far ahead with excitement as they always are.  But me…
The closer I come to crossing the fence the more ill at ease I feel.  One leg over…then the other… thankfully nothing catches on the barbed wire this time, clothes or skin.  The field waits quietly for me as it always does.  But, in my center there is an uneasiness.  It doesn’t fade with my steps.  What will be waiting for me today?  And, I think to myself…this is not what joy feels like.  Even as I write this, the gnawing place returns so that I’m not certain if I want to continue…or turn around…and go back…

So many things just the same.  Others have changed.  Sorry, I’ve already jumped ahead of myself in this story.

The last few months have seen some new traffic in the place where I wander and wonder.  People, I mean.  A few have always come from time to time.   To fish or to walk.  I’m used to those and the signs of them.  All good.  I will change my course when I realize they are nearby.  After all, they come so seldom and I’m blessed with this space every day. They become enchanted for a while.  They remember how wonderful it is to be here and visit often.  Soon enough the busyness of life sneaks up on them. They go back to the noise and excitement of the worldly places, leaving this one, once again quiet and unpeopled.  

 I almost said empty.  These woods and fields are far from being empty.  They overflow with all manner of life!  The kind of life that is content to stroll or hop or fly or just be still.   Be still and gaze at the light winding its way through the branches and the leaves until it rests on the water in a shower of tiny stars. A faery dream…


The new traffic is quiet and there’s plenty of room of course, so even that is ok.  But, as of late they are building fires in the evenings.  Fire in a place that is not their own…and when it’s time for them to be somewhere else, they simply go…leaving behind an untended fire.   Sometimes the sparks escape the rocks that protectively surround them.  

So, that explains the bucket.  A few extra steps, a smidgen of water and the night’s leftovers are easily put to rest.  On the upside, it doubles as a lovely way to carry bread for feeding the fish and I feel a bit like a character in Little House on the Prairie. Where is my huge sun bonnet? I wonder if Dobby took it… 


Lately when I cross the fence each morning it isn’t with a peaceful heart.  Rather, there is an anxious wondering as to what awaits me.  What may have happened in the night to change things. 

Ugh, change… the never ending wonderful miserable constant in life…

Fire is frightening.  It can run away from you at lightening speed and you’re helpless before it. If you have ever witnessed a fire raging out of control or the charcoaled bits of life it leaves behind, you know how very tragic it can be. Unchecked it has the power to engulf and destroy.  Quickly!  There is nothing easy about fire.   It is both dangerous and mesmerizing. However it comes, as flames licking at the sky or as coals alive and pulsating with energy.  Red hot embers wait for their turn to rise up and take their place among the others.  


There is a hidden mystery in the heart of  Fire. It also has the power to heal.  A solitary gaze into its rich depths is a search for my own.  How many stories have been told while lazing around its edges. The gentle glow of it entrances us, keeping the teller and the listener tucked into a momentary but timeless embrace.  Within it burns the secrets of both togetherness and aloneness. 



When man learned what could be done with fire, his world changed forever! Suddenly, there was a place of great warmth.  A place to belong.  A place to share.  A means to alter food.  Cooking!  Before man harnessed fire there were no pastries with hot cups of tea alongside them, no baked potatoes with melted butter and cheese, no roasted chicken with herbs.  Did you notice how I put dessert first…just saying.  Fire holds many gifts.  We can warm ourselves through and through, body and soul.  


Bejo once told me that she had purposely burned 20 years worth of personal journals. I was stunned! Oh how fascinating I think it would be to read her thoughts!  As time passes, I think  I understand why my grandmother did what she did. They were her thoughts after all. She had every right to do what she wanted with them. One should listen to a friend or loved one while they have the chance. What they kept quietly to themselves is no more important than what they chose to share with you. I had the gift of her in life. What she chose to share with me is the part of her that she wanted me to have. I wonder if tossing them one by one into the flames was healing for her. Did it help her to let go of a past that left no room for the magnificence of the future? 


The Phoenix!  In Greek legend it is synonymous with the power fire has to transform!  It can both take life and restore it!  The  phoenix lives a tremendously long life until one day it simply bursts into flames and is consumed by the fire.  From the very remnants of that destruction, it rises in a brilliant new life.  Over and over again the fire takes away and then restores.   Out of the ashes of pain the phoenix always rises.  The stories of his heart are written in hot coals on the tips of his wings. The edges are singed with the sorrow and grief of the world…but, when he opens them wide and lets the air catch underneath them…he flies.  Soars to unimaginable heights on fresh new wings. Burning away the past. Clearing the way for a beauty as yet unknown.  Indeed, fire is a mysterious healer.


In every ending there is a beginning.  It may be hard to see.  It is so very small.  But it is there nevertheless.  Fire cools.  Ashes are blown hither and yon by the same invisible air that fanned them into flame a short time ago.  Now, there is a place for the tiniest seed to take hold.  


Whatever the seed is destined to become is already written in its heart.  Whether it will be a delicate flower or a towering tree – its roots will search the darkness for wisdom to grow strong while its blossoms and branches reach for the glorious skies.  It is never ending.  Earth to sky.   Fire to water.  Birth to death.   All so beautifully interwoven in one seamless life. 


My days and my walks have been altered. I have been fighting it…at least on the inside.  I didn’t want this change.  I didn’t ask for it…I don’t really like it.  Nevertheless, here it is.  

Now… I have begun walking to the south side of the lake every evening, across the top of the dam.  Water gushes from the overflow pipe just out of sight.   If I close my eyes, I imagine that I am on an exotic island and it is really the crashing thunder of a waterfall.  Occasionally at dusk my bald eagle trips in over the towering pines and dances with his reflection in the peaceful lake so far below.   He is an absolute joy to me!  One day I will write more of him…


The south field is different, as all things are.  Wading through knee high grasses with cows on my right, I reach the peak of this sweet hill.  My only reward is the only one I need…an endless sky all around me.  I am just high enough to be a part of it and no longer simply a watcher glued fast to the ground.  And the sunsets are so so everywhere!  Every color! Every inch! Every lone and brilliant note in a triumphant song!  To my left and to my right, in front and behind, above and even inside of me every last ray of light bounces in glorious splendor…

this is what joy feels like…

yes, much has changed because of others and their fire building adventures.  
One day the busyness of the world will call to these strangers.  Just as it has to the others before them.  They will answer.  And, stop coming here.  Until then, 

The ashes of life have blown aside leaving me with something sweet and new.  I am embarrassed to admit I had forgotten how much I love the south field and the expanse of sky that stretches out before me in glad welcome.  My constant companions swim more on the south side because there are fewer weeds to tangle them up.  Fewer weeds means fewer snakes! There aren’t so many hidey holes for them to tuck away in.  A supremely good thing.  The soft sand of the dam is just as nice a place to rest as the pier and it always has shade!


The very fire that I fight heals me if I will only let go.

 I read this week that healing takes time. It’s true. All good and proper healing does take time. I pray for that, the healing and the ability to wait gracefully until it arrives…

I find it strange how often I tend to ‘forget’ certain things.  Something always comes along to remind me. It’s never gentle either. The reminder is usually bold with flashing neon lights and a good hearty knock on the noggin.  I wonder how I could have forgotten something so simple… or even slept for that matter,  what with the incessant glaring and pounding headache…

I cannot make someone else care in the same way that I do…that…I must let go of.  


What I can do is…

Care for the little ones that fill my lovely world.  Let the fires of imagination burn bright with words.  Kindle the embers of my heart and let them glow from the inside out with love and compassion. Stay awhile to be a part of the sunset. 

Life is full of stories just waiting to be lived…and then to be shared…come sit with me around the fire and we’ll write a magnificent new one together…


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in the shining and in the dark

No dreams last night, or at least none that I can recall. I’m a little antsy. Maybe about writing. Maybe something else. Walking in the rain. Trees that fall down. Clyde and Camellia. Creepy crawlers and all grown up. Growing up is when you learn to not run from what’s in front of you. I’m staring more than writing. Why is it always so hard to get started.  



Before dawn, still sleepy eyed I tiptoed out the back door. With bare feet I took the small step down off the back porch in search of the gentle silvery spotlight of the full moon. Sand gave way under my feet. It surprised me at how soft and cool it was. I dug my toes in just a little. Jack and Huckleberry joined me in honoring the hushed silence of the moment. The sweet moon gathered all round me in a lovely embrace. 


She was perfectly wonderful making her way through the trees…as though she was there…just for me. How funny that always seems. When something so universal feels so intimate. Far off, a solitary owl, his call echoing through the woods…to who…to who… and there I was too, as still as anything in the shining and in the dark, feeling…very solitary. 


I wonder, how many stood under the same moon at the same moment. did they wonder too. did they hear an owl hoot. did they feel special in an alone sort of way. a small part of something so much bigger than themselves. did they wish upon a star. did they hum a little tune.  



Or…was I after all…the only one standing in the light of the moon, looking to the stars for guidance and for hope. Saying a prayer for courage and for grace…


As we headed out on our morning walk the sun began rising behind me. Already he was warming the sand that had been so delightfully cool only moments before. My time worn path lay before me lit from within by a fiery glow. This way!  He called.  Ahead, the moon was still high in the sky.   But with every step I took… it faded just a little more. 



 She became transparent…and then…invisible…right before my eyes. what now? how will I know? My silvery rays of hope…The moon is still there in the sky. I trust that she is…even when I cannot see her… I know in my heart…she is there…always…


The Prairie, The Garden…Inside Glow…

A journey must begin somewhere…

a Field, this Field, is as good a place as any,

Tirelessly you travel across the wide and lonesome Prairie…

Into the cool and mysterious shadows of the Black Mountain…



What treasures hide there…

And Beyond it…

The Garden calls from the East…

Soft quiet footsteps will bring you to the grassy lake of the Blueberry Swan…

The gentle queen of the Flower Garden…

Taking care of all who dwell within her realm…


Closer now, amongst her heart shaped green feathers…

Oh! The sweet Starfish Flower…

So bright and hopeful with its Inside Glow…

One and another and another still, so very many beauties…

Now, you must use your deepest imagination…


For, In the heart of every Starfish Flower dances…

A Pixie, tried and true…

All are safe here…

But, they leave you wondering…

How Do You Glow From The Inside?


Note: The title, story, and inspiration are courtesy of Ms. Smith’s 4th grade writers at Turner Elementary.  Thank you for sharing your own way of seeing!

As always thank you to my sweet readers,

Ellie❤️






tomatoes and channel cats…

Tomatoes!  Thick slices of tomato on homemade bread with a touch of mayonnaise, salt and pepper…best sandwich –  Ever.  Salsa!  Enough said.  Marinara sauce seasoned and simmered will tempt the gods. 

The first tomato of the season is a joy!  It tastes of hope and of long lazy summer days stretched out before you.  Fall tomatoes are rich and hearty in a different kind of way.  You savor every bite because you know that soon they will be gone.  And, you’ll be left…waiting once more.  The closer you get to first frost the more you treasure each bite.  

In East Texas you can purchase tomatoes anywhere during the peak season.  But, there’s nothing quite like having your own “tomato guy”.   A scenic half hour drive  through some lovely country will land you at his doorstep.  Yep, right where he lives.  A table waits in the yard.  He’s almost never there.  But his tomatoes are!  They’re piled high in wooden baskets arranged neatly in a row.    A glass mason jar filled with money sits off to one side.  On a nearby tree is a hand written sign with directions.  Tomatoes $5 per basket.  Leave your money in the jar.


They are the best tomatoes I eat all year.  They are worth the wait.  How glad I am to live in a place where people still trust and others don’t take advantage of that.

Yesterday I found myself with a few minutes to write. I stared at the page. I noticed the kitchen waiting to be cleaned. I thought of how I really should go to the market for a few things. Perhaps I should put away the laundry. No no. Sit still and write, I told myself. After all, sixteen paws are napping. So, I stared at the page again. Waiting…waiting for something to happen…

Should I write about September before it’s over? I do love it so. Should I write about cookies? Mmm the world’s most perfect food!  Should I write about Gift from the Sea?  Life and its ways.  I stared at the page. Waiting… 

I cannot force my writing even if I do have a blank page and a quiet uninterrupted hour. The thoughts will come when they do and the words will follow along at their own pace. It is only my job to deliver them. I wonder if I am really a stenographer, taking dictation from the world around me.  The grass calls to me – could you tell my story please of how it feels when the wind lays me down in the field. 


So I am as surprised as anyone when they do come. Words and thoughts divinely intermingle. Like tomatoes ripened on the vine they wait to be harvested and enjoyed. I wonder whether they will be sandwich or salsa or a rich hearty stew.  

The air is soft this morning and the water is as smooth as glass.  No ripples.  No sparkling light.  Just stillness.  Some days that is just the thing.  

 Jack sent the first ducks of the season aloft.  There were two of them.  It is lovely to see two of them side by side whether they swim or fly.  So sweetly together.  I trust they will return.  This is a safe place to spend the winter.  

 I lingered over feeding the fish, slowing it down and drawing it out.  The channel cats seem to like it that way.  Cross legged at the end of the jetty  I look down into the water much the way I stare at the blank page. Hopeful and waiting. 


The perch come racing in first. The water churns with their hunger.  They have crazy Jack kind of energy!  Perch are not good waiters!  But they do make enough ruckus to get the attention of a few turtles.  Hey, what’s going on over here? Free food?   So, now we are joined by the red eared sliders.  They are shy.  Once they get a bite they swim straight to the bottom of the lake with their treasure.

Two channel cats ascend from the deepest water.  Oscar and Felix (in case you were wondering what their names might be)  are gentle giants at an easy two feet long.  No fish tales here.  They really are that big!  They circle and wait, creating a lovely ballet of sorts.  If I manage to drop the bread just right,  a few inches in front of them, they will gather it into their mouths by the feel of their whiskers.  It’s much harder to accomplish than it sounds but well worth the effort.  Sometimes, they treat me to a whale like flap of the tail in gratitude.  Always makes me smile.  

Then there are my pawed ones! 


Bo is absolutely fascinated by this fish feeding thing.  He hangs his head over the edge of the pier  watching intently as the fish come and go.  I wonder what he would do at an aquarium?!  I imagine the staff would frown upon me finding out for sure so I will simply have to guess.    Perhaps Bo doesn’t care at all about the fish.  Perhaps he only wonders why in the world I would be dropping perfectly good food into a watery abyss…

Jack’s interest lies purely in the realm of the red eared sliders.  He salutes them with both voice and stance! Come hither and let me get a better look at you my small friend!  Um, no thank you – they reply.  Jack is perplexed at their hesitancy to join in his offer of  friendship.  And tells them so, Loudly!


Dobby wanders the wooden planks looking at the hoopla from time to time.  Mostly he seems to be asking – are we done yet?  In case I haven’t noticed his pacing, he will come close enough to slobber on me.  Hm, fun for me. 

Ellie makes her way slowly over the water until she finds the right spot and lays down.  When I sit, she knows that we will be staying long enough for her to get comfortable.  Ellie watches the sky not the water.  Ellie watches the horizon.  Waiting…

Just there…out of the stillness…comes a gentle hint of breeze from the north.  Did I imagine it?  Could it be?  Technically it Is autumn now…early autumn I remind myself.  Still plenty of waiting…

A bird begins to sing, pea shooter, pea shooter, pea shooter.  Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me.  


The bread is all gone.  Fish tummies are full.  Time to go.  A stampede of excitement arises after all that waiting around on the pier.  I am careful not to get knocked off…for today at least.  My crew heads down the path.  It narrows and winds just here.  If I am too slow Bo will double back to check on me.  He will wait but only as long as he can see me.  

Back at home… 


Messy morning glories have taken over the garden, waiting for their chance to shine.  The hummingbird feeder is full, waiting for those who are just passing through.  I’m still watering  plants, waiting for some rain.  Books pile up in odd places, waiting to be read.  And yellow spirals are open and empty, waiting to be filled with thoughts…

One cannot rush the days.  No matter how much I  may want something, most things in life are not within my control.  I love autumn! I wait for it all year.  I cannot make the clock spin faster or the earth either for that matter.  Autumn arrives when it does and without any help from me.  I wonder…if it was always here, if it was always autumn, would it mean as much…  If I didn’t have to wait for it through a long dry summer would it be such a treasure to me… 

Many days my thoughts are jumbled and my words are crooked and ill at ease. I fret that they will not come.  But all I can really do is wait.  Wait for them to sort themselves out.  Wait to understand what tomatoes have to do with anything.  Wait for the north wind to come crisp over the water and the leaves to turn as brilliant as a sunset.  Wait…

I will not worry over tomorrow or next week or anything beyond this day.  Instead I will try to wait gracefully for them. There is hope in waiting. Anything could happen!  Anything could be!  Now, if you’ll excuse me I have something simmering on the stove and it’s waiting to be savored…there’s a lovely world all around you, waiting to be loved…

Shh, listen…there on the breeze…I hear you…whispering my name…


if only

Early morning and dark, a hushed reverence fills the air.  The pitter patter of paws follows me down the hall and to the kitchen.  Start the coffee.  Put on my long soft sweater and head outside.  

Stars shining bright and a few frogs still sing.  It’s too early yet for the birds.  Their time will come.  Jack has joined me on the back porch.  He likes the early morning as much as I do.  Or maybe he just likes to be close to me whenever and wherever that may be.  Jack doesn’t show up well in the dark but I know he’s there.  He nudges my hand and leans his whole self against me in his own special way.  


I’m grateful he’s near.  I am as sure of him as I am of the coffee waiting for me.  The strong aroma drifts through the crack in the door I’ve left open.  Soon the scent nudges me as certainly as Jack does.  Ready, it calls to me… I answer with a few footsteps easily made.  I’m grateful for those too.

Pull the cup from the shelf.  A dash of cream to soften the color.  A tad bit of sugar to sweeten the taste.  I caress the warmth coming from the porcelain with both of my hands.  

Back to the porch we all go – me and my coffee and my juice box named jack.  Oh, how that first sip delights!  While I gaze at the stars, I’m still fresh from the dreams that aren’t really ours.  Where do they come from? Where do they go?  Strong places and colors…my own picture show.  I watch it and feel it and live it as well!  Or, so it seems…

My foot falls asleep under Jack’s sturdy frame.  Another sip of fine coffee, my writing can wait.  He’s sleeping so sweetly.  I can’t bear to move.  And, my dream rings inside me like notes with a tune…


Such a storm! So much raging! Darkest gray and sheets of  silverish rain, blowing sideways flooding the stage.  The wooden pier that stands guard over the lake disappears under the onslaught. The man made path of sawn timbers giving way to a force greater than themselves.  But, the grass is just dandy! If anything, it only comes greener as the angry sky falls.

I watch from inside transfixed on the spot.  I am safe and quite sound.  Without shoes on my feet, my toes feel the ground.  Others around me but nary a sound. There’s a roof overhead.  I sense it above me.  I know that it’s there, keeping me in.   It protects from the rain,  far away from my skin.


It’s an odd thing…no windows to let the outside in…no walls to keep the outside out…no doors to be closed… Only ways to move through.  Easily about. There is a knowing.  The spaces, they mingle.  Ever so gently, they are not separate but rather one single.

Candlelight flickers bathing all that it touches with a graceful warm glow.  How it gathers and holds altogether, I don’t know.  It plays and it dances so joyfully on the creamy walls and dark wooden furniture.  Tables and chairs and doorways were all crafted from a reddish wood warmed over time by much use and great care.  Items carefully chosen that fill a home…

For,  home it is…warm and safe…a soft place in which to feel the storm gather round.  The sky above rumbles in response to the chaos it cannot control.  

But here, here is a safe place for one who seeks calm…just a heartbeat away.  At once looking outward and wondering inward.  

A tender gaze moves with me from room to room.  A strength of presence, I feel more than See.  It needs nothing it seems.  Asks nothing of me.  Waiting and peaceful in cozy small spaces.  Content…just to be close, close in my dreams.  Soul to soul, together and whole.


Why… why is there invisible grace…keeping roof on…keeping rain out…safe harbor for warmth…what I See and Think and Feel, so very different but each so very real.  

How comforted I feel! How warm and alive!  Protected and cared for…a light from inside…

In the wide awake world there are too many…too many doors and windows and walls…keeping me safe…yet holding life out…
It’s lovely to be in a place that doesn’t need them…if only for a moment…if only in a dream…

the knot’s tale

I perch here at the island with my spiral open and waiting before me. Always waiting … ink glides across the lined paper with only a little effort.   Words form one sweet letter at a time.  Healthy pauses.  Renewed thought. Words traveling more up than down.  They are like the weight of a stone slowing me and yet… lifting me. I wonder if they come stronger with pain. Or, not really.  They are the same thoughts after all…strung together like carefully knotted pearls.  A lovely circle, never perfect…


once upon a time…

Each pearl was specially chosen and placed.  String was laid out.  By the hand of a master they were tied together, forever as one.  They were not slid haphazardly in a line  leaving them to bump and scrape at one another. That is a good way to lose them all.  No.  One pearl. One nearly invisible knot of love.  Alternating, first one and then the other.  One iridescent beauty.  One common bit of white.  The one to shine.  The other to hold.  All at once they come together as one treasured whole!

Then, one day…a very fragile place wears thin…breaks wide.  But, because of the knots, one doesn’t lose everything.  Without them there would be a chaos of bouncing and rolling, hither and yon…gone forever.  The one pearl at the breaking point must be gathered and saved.  The rest remain tightly together.

The eternal circle is only a line now.  It may be laid out and admired but it can no longer be worn. Put them away for a long while.  It is too painful to look upon them and to remember. At first there is only the brokenness. One separated from the others and rather lost.  A deep sigh. Wrap them tenderly in tissue and tuck them away in a special place.


They will wait.  Until…you are ready.  One day you think of them and know.  It is time…a search for the tissue wrapped treasure ensues.  Unfolded so gently with a beating heart.  It has been so long.  There they wait in a lovely heap not looking as broken as you remembered.  A sweet dawn of hope embraces you.  You had almost forgotten how very much they favored tiny full moons at rest in your palm.  Oh… their familiar coolness so refreshing to the touch brings a warm smile.

The delicate undertaking begins.  The solitary task of starting anew.  An empty space in which to create.  Light to see what lies before you. A lifetime of lessons reminding you of your own true north.  The softest music. The surest hand to guide both pearls and thread. They wait. You wait.  Waiting only for a gentle touch to bring them whole again.


Painstakingly, one at a time the tiniest knot is created between each pearl.   Almost invisible, it surrenders all of its fame to the pearl it protects. The silky white thread bestows space.  Each pearl is free!  Free to be quietly unto itself while still keeping a special place as part of the whole.  Therein lies the gentle strength of the knot.  The smallest bit of string unnoticed on most days, wisely and carefully tied creates the most loving bond between each precious full moon.

The pearl held forever by the strong knotted silk. Oh, how lovingly they come together… circle upon circle always…

Enough time has past.  You are ready once more to enjoy their beauty.  One was very nearly lost.  With patience and loving care they have come round into the circle they were always meant to be.

Only you hold the memory of the broken place and of the one that was almost lost.  A single tear falls for that long ago moment as you clasp them around your neck…afraid to look in the mirror.  A smile that nods tenderly to the sorrows of the past just as surely as it reaches hopefully to the future. Take them between your fingers, a gentle back and forth just to remind yourself they are really there, where they should be.

the end…

no, never the end.

that which is most dear will never be lost if you will only knot it lovingly in your heart and wait…

always and forever the beginning…

Jack j juice box

Few things are more wonderful than easing into wakefulness from the heart of a just because nap, an honest to goodness close your eyes and drift off if you want to, nap.  No bells or alarms jolting you into the present moment where you must hurry because you’re already five items behind on your to do list.  I’ve just had the bliss of one on this perfect September Sunday.  Jack is still heavy across my ankles, his favorite way to sleep.  The dogs are still dreaming.  It’s easiest for me to write when they are as still as a breezeless pond. Even that is deceptive.  They are only recharging for their next round of mayhem! 



Have you ever experienced a juice box? Yes, I’m talking about that small handheld invention – a box filled with juice in varying flavors accessible by a straw of matching size and cuteness.  Deceptive.  If you’ve ever gone round with one you’ll know why I call it an “experience”.  If you haven’t, I urge you to go forth and find one immediately if not sooner.  It’s something you’ll never forget.  You must find out for yourself.  It may in fact change your whole life.  Well, perhaps that’s a tad overstated.  But, you never know.
And if you think that one juice box is a wimpy experience, that you’re ready for so much more…or…you’re simply embarrassed to partake of a juice box as a great big grown up all alone….well, then I recommend that you make your way to the nearest preschool and enjoy your life changing experience with a dozen 3-5 year olds.  I dare you.



Ok, ready? Here goes.  A juice box is a tiny little thing, rather cute. Innocent and adorable it waits for you to come closer.  They  actually come in a variety of shapes but for our purposes we will focus on the box.  Pick it up. Turn it over in your hand.  Wow, pretty sturdy.  And how good of them to include such a tiny matching straw.  hmmm.  Here’s where you come upon your first challenge, to ease the straw protected by its own plastic sleeve away from the box.  Warning, if you mess this up you do not win the straw.  In fact it will crimp in the middle and you’ll end up fighting for every drop of juice through a mangled straw.

Assuming you tear it successfully away from the box you now face your next challenge. You must free the straw from its protective sleeve that I’m pretty sure was designed by NASA to withstand the fires of  re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.  In the tackling of this step, do not – I repeat – do not –  do anything to flatten the pointy end of “cute little straw”.  Not so cute anymore, huh.  You’re going to need that pointy end to stab through the miniscule foil covering – also designed by NASA.  



So, straw meets foil.  If you’re too gentle your juice will never see the light of day.  If you’re too exuberant it will explode in your hand like some sort of mini volcano.  (Have you ever noticed how the word mini makes everything sound that much cuter.  Seriously. Try it while you’re enjoying your juice.) 

Even if you’ve made it this far things can still go miserably wrong.  You see, you have to hold it right.  Yep, there’s a right way to hold the cutie pie.  Side to side at the edges is best.  If you grip it in the middle the whole thing can easily turn into a fountain.  Juice will be everywhere that  you don’t want it and sadly missing from the one place you do want it, namely your tummy.  



Lest I have scared you off I assure you they are totally worth the effort.  The juice is fantastic once you finally get to it.  You are allowed to make a satisfying slurping noise when you reach the bottom.  Some boxes will even cave in and change shape as you drain them becoming an artistic sculpture worthy of being displayed at any reputable museum of modern art. What’s not to love about that?

Juice boxes are a fine science and to be honest I’m not certain how preschoolers stay hydrated in the face of such adversity.



Since we’re already in preschool let’s talk about glitter!  With your trusty juice box by your side all you need now is paper, glue, and glitter for some good old fashioned fun.  A clean piece of white paper layed on a sturdy surface, (not your grandmother’s mahogany table).  Take the bottle of Elmer’s glue and swirl to your hearts content.  This way and that with no rhyme or reason.  Add…Glitter! Shake it from the bottle.  Pour it from a spoon.  Sprinkle it with your fingers.  Just keep going until your paper has disappeared under the weighty beauty of the sparkly bits.  Gently lift at the corners letting all the excess fall away leaving behind  only what held firm to the glue.  There! Beautiful! And would you look at that, there we are again – the art of letting go leaving behind nothing but joy. One day we’ll learn. Maybe.

Glitter sticks!  It sticks in the carpet, to your hands, furniture, face, you name it.  It makes its way absolutely everywhere and doesn’t give up easily. I know people who cringe at the sight of it.  Oh no, that crafty art project will have to stay behind.  I’ll never get rid of all that glitter.  My question is, why would you want to.  It’s so much fun.  Still,  for many it is left behind out of fear and the desire for perfection.  Perfect carpet.  Perfect furniture.  Perfect life.  



But life in all of its ups and downs is a profoundly messy thing.  Dirt falling from paws and the shedding of fur is as messy as glitter but I will never trade the joy of it for a perfect floor.  

Jack is my September puppy.  My juice box. My glitter.  

Three years ago Jack gazed at me with those warm brown eyes.  I gathered him up.  He didn’t squirm to get loose.  He didn’t try to chew on me.  He gently nuzzled into my neck as though he was home and had belonged there all along. He hardly moved at all, happy to  just be in my arms, as though he could finally rest.  Jack is mine. Or rather, I am his.  He chose me as surely as a preschooler chooses their favorite flavor of juice. I was helpless to resist. Such perfect precious innocence…

 Um, no. Precious, maybe. Perfect and innocent? No way.  Jack is the mess that sticks without glue.  How often do I shake my head and sigh – oh, jack. 



Jack is the reason I get up so early to write.  When he was a puppy he insisted with both voice and paw that I awaken early, as in 4:30 crazy early! I soon realized that he only wanted me to move to the den where he would settle in and return to sleep.  What is that about?!  Hmmm.  As long as I was up anyway I might as well make the best of it and write in the quiet hours before dawn.  

It is Jack who cornered the poor beaver.  It is Jack who steals the toys. It is Jack who will dig a hole to the center of the earth’s core.  It is Jack who knows all of the neighbors on a first name basis. It is Jack who whimpers in the hallway begging to be noticed.  It is Jack who will do his best Paul Bunyan impression trying to carry an entire tree branch, even if it’s only for a few feet.  It is Jack who sends Bo scurrying under the picnic table.  It is Jack who actually does the yoga pose downward facing dog.  It is Jack’s name that I call in the woods when I want all of my companions to come along.  It is strange indeed how all of the dogs come bounding in response to his name. It gives me a hearty smile.  It is Jack who can round up an entire herd of cows in under two minutes. That’s a real sight to see! It is Jack who is a little Casanova. 



It is Jack who greets me with an actual cry of delight when I return home after an absence.  Whether I’ve been away for 5 minutes or 5 hours makes no difference to him. He is overcome with joy that I am no longer invisible.  It is Jack who finds things, things that I didn’t even know were lost… Jack is my life changing juice box. Jack is my brilliant little mess that sticks to every part of my life with the tenacity of glitter.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Hidden in the heart of the messy places, the ones you least expect, there is where your joy is.  Life is a complicated adventure.  You cannot create one without a bit of bother and a touch of glue.  I will never trade a glittery mess for picture perfect.  It’s just not worth it.  Life is short.  Even when it’s long, it’s short.  Too short to be afraid of a juice box .  Too short not to take the glittery masterpiece home with you.  Embrace the mess…and let go of the rest.


asterisks and missing pieces


her heart was rent, her center would not hold – Sarah Ban Breathnach

I have spent the second part of my life breaking the stones, drilling the walls, smashing the doors I placed between the light and myself in the first part of my life. – Octavio Paz



My Dad loves puzzles these days.  The ones made of cardboard that when all the pieces fit just so, it comes together to reveal a beautiful image.  

This morning I have kept the world at arms length.  My quiet side cried out for whispers of grace descending from the tree tops. To write.  To manage a whole thought at once rather than broken into crumbs spilled upon the counter.  They will never be whole again.  They’re fine as they are of course.  Crumbs add a lovely crunch to the top of a casserole.  Crumbs are a feast fit for the birds. The dogs will happily devour every single one of them and ask for more.

But crumbs do not give the beauty of a whole picture.  There is nothing well rounded and finished about them. They are only bits that are no longer part of the story.    

300, 500, 1,000 piece puzzles dumped onto a table look like a big pile of crumbs. But these are different. These have edges and corners. In time and with diligence they will fit together just right.  They will become what they were always meant to be, a lovely image.  For now though, they are a messy pile and where in the world does one begin?  

 I know the rules of the game.  Of course there are rules.  There are always rules, even when they’re unspoken ones.  Edges come first and foremost.  Define the parameters. Create the form. Then and only then can one begin  to get to the good stuff, the heart of the thing.  An image begins to emerge. Pieces begin to fit.  You See Something.  Excitement builds.  I got this.  One piece and then another. Until…




A snag. You’re closing in on completion but something’s missing.  Hopefully all the pieces are present and accounted for.  Hopefully nothing has fallen to the floor or gotten itself hidden somehow.  Yes, puzzle pieces do have the ability to move from place to place without your help.  Didn’t you know?  What follows is a frenzied and all out search.  It can’t be!  It Has to be here.  You’re on hands and knees combing every inch of the floor.  You revisit the empty box…for the fourth time, just to be sure.  

You fight the puzzle.  You fight yourself.  You’ve been looking too hard for too long.  You can no longer see.  

Walk away. Take a break. Give your eyes a rest   Let the puzzle wait.  It’s not going anywhere. Maybe it is…but that’s another story altogether, a fairy tale I think.  When you return the piece shows itself.  It was hidden amongst the others all along.  There in plain sight.  One has to let go to see.  It fits right into its place snug along the edges and hugging all the curves.  The puzzle is done.  The image is complete.  You stand back and admire the beauty of it with great satisfaction.  A momentary victory.  A small oohrah! 

Already your mind races forward. Hmmm. Do I leave it here? After all, it took me so much time.  I should enjoy my efforts for a while.  If I do that though, I won’t be able to use the table.  Hmmm.  I could glue it. Then I could admire it forever.  I’m not much for that though. I’d have to store it or frame it or who knows what else.  Hmmm.  There’s only one thing to be done.  Dismantle it.  Take it apart.  Tuck all the little pieces safely at home in their box.  Put it aside for another day or another person to enjoy.  The time of this puzzle has come and gone.  It lingered for awhile but now it’s time to let it go.  

I’m not much of a puzzle person to be honest. I’d rather be moving about or painting or…writing.  Words are my pieces and writing is my puzzle.  I love to gaze at the empty page. My pen is poised and  ready…when my thoughts catch up to me and the words come together just so.  Yes, yes, that one hugs the others perfectly.  Or, the inevitable scratch out… no, no, that’s not what I mean at all.  



I pause over the messy page not quite knowing where to go next. – I guess I should walk the dogs.  After all they’ve been staring at me for a good 20 minutes now, and wrestling with one another in doggy fashion beneath my feet.  We’ve been soooo good for soooo long.  Seriously.  Don’t you need a break? Aren’t we cute?  You should really stop what you’re doing for a while and play with us instead.  It’ll be good for you.  Promise.  They’re right of course.  They always are.  I let out a sigh of great exasperation at their infinite and all encompassing wisdom that I have to work so hard for.

Shoes on my feet.  Music to settle my soul.  Off we go then.  Trees above.  Dirt beneath.  My joyful four legged companions.  I walk and I wait. I wait for the right words to find me.  Always, they do.

Whenever I fight it, the puzzle, the words, the dailiness of life, it never works out then.  I waste myself spinning ever inwards tightening to a place so small that I cannot see the missing piece.  It waits patiently in plain sight.  It is in letting go that I gently circle forth again just as the graceful curves of a paper nautilus spiral outwards beautifully away from self. Only then does my vision clear enough to see what was right before me all along.



My Dad is the smartest man I’ve ever known.  He was never much of a puzzle person either, the cardboard variety.  But give him a real life problem and just watch his engineering brain take hold and keep on.  He wasn’t afraid to take anything apart in his thoughts or with his hands over and again until he had completely mastered the what and how and why of it.  Still, sometimes the solution evaded him.  Seemingly, he would let go of the whole dilemma.  His efforts turned to bread making or gardening.  Often he would wander through a well loved book, the old fashioned kind.  None of this e-reader stuff.  Dad read books that feel heavy in your hand as they carry you to another place and time. He kept a pencil near when he read so as to make his signature asterisk to mark the passages he found most meaningful.  Oh how I love to come across one of Dad’s asterisks, a hidden treasure to be sure.  



Suddenly the answer was there hovering just within reach of him and he’d go back to the problem now able to fill in the missing piece.  Done! Complete! Whole! 

And then, he put it away.  Dad knew better than to leave a “done puzzle” on the table to be stared at.  He knew when it was time to gather it up, put it back in its box, and pass it along.  He learned all the lessons the puzzle offered him, pondered every piece as he held it in his hands. He knew all too well that the blessing of the puzzle was in the journey of it, never in the preservation of it.  Time to let go to make room for the next one. 

Like me, Dad was never much interested in cardboard puzzles. He was far more fascinated by the ones of real life. But these days Dad works at the beautiful cardboard pieces with a quiet intensity.  He can just manage 100 pieces and even that takes time.  The daily puzzles of his life have changed.  They’ve become something different than they were before.  He no longer solves big things for many.  But, you should see his warm contented smile when he fits that final piece of the image right where it belongs.  And then just as easily, he lets the whole thing go.  The journey of one puzzle beautifully complete. The thrill of the next waiting just within reach…

I love you Dad


…here I am



I did not intend to write today.  Nevertheless, here I am.  my walk was long.  The air is sweet!  So sweet I can hardly take it in. Too sweet for August…



I feel a bit guilty saying that because the reason is Harvey.  My lovely air is a byproduct of the hurricane which is causing such disaster elsewhere.  His rain will reach me soon enough.  That’s why I walk longer today.  If it comes in strong, the creek will flood.  It will be hard to cross to our regular stomping ground. Then I will be faced with too many paws to count going stir crazy beneath my feet indoors! 



 But…today is lovely.  The dogs are content and so at ease exploring the field and forest. Returning every few minutes to dutifully check on my whereabouts.  Perhaps an exuberant acknowledgment that we were apart for sixty whole seconds!  Yes yes I missed you too! 




The music!  Today the notes were just so.  Round and full and just right. A score to walk by! Cleared my thoughts and put a swing in my step! 




The air is unexpectedly cool.  August has been an unexpected delight. I am touched by both.  I guess… one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or days by their month.  One may miss so many lovely moments that way.  I am humbled and grateful for such treasure.  My prayers are with all who struggle on through this weather.  Forward we go into September! May it be brilliant and bring you great joy! 



Ellie – On Chesil Beach

Ellie
Well, I guess it’s about time you were formally introduced to Ellie….
Ellie May. Ellie Belly Bear. Lelly Belly Bear. Miss Googlebutton.  My sweet Ellie girl. I have been waiting for just the right moment to introduce you to my Ellie.

She found her way to me eight short years ago as a puppy in need of a good home, a family. I very nearly did nothing. You see, in the span of a few short weeks I had lost two of my four constant companions to time and age. My heart was still raw with loss and grief. I wasn’t so sure that I was ready to open up a new chapter just yet. Rose and Katie were still in the prime of life and full of love and adventure.

A neighbor down the street thought differently. She had been at a corner store where someone was giving away puppies. Something about the people and the puppy didn’t add up for her. It tugged away at her until she could no longer ignore it and she brought the puppy home. All the while she knew quite well that her husband didn’t like dogs and would never let her keep it. But my neighbor had faith that she could find a good home for the little one. That’s where I come in, of course. Mrs. K. had seen me with my own dogs. She knew full well that I was a dog person. That’s a mild understatement. And so her question came prefaced with a compliment to soften me up. – You’re so good with dogs. My husband won’t let me keep her. She needs a good home and I thought of you. Would you like a puppy? – Obviously you can see where this is going. She was so small and scared and gentle. Ellie, not my neighbor. Still, I managed to go home without her. My uncertainty keeping me momentarily in check. I’ll think about it, I said nonchalantly.

By the following afternoon she was exploring a new home, and yes it was mine.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. Forgive me Mr. McEwan, but I usually tell people, I read a miserable little book. But then I also tell them how it changed me deeply. Three years ago, On Chesil Beach came to me much the way Ellie did, in the midst of a life transition, albeit one of a different kind. It’s funny isn’t it, how things find you. A touching book arrives in my life much the way my dogs do, unsearched for. Providence at work when I’m not paying attention.

You muddle through the miserable little details page after page just as the early days with a new dog are challenging whether they are still a puppy or all grown up.  You thought you wanted to do this, read the book or share your life with four new paws. But here you are 50 pages in, two weeks along.  Doubts creep up from behind. You don’t have to do this, you know. It’s not too late. You could get out now. Let someone else read the book. Let someone else trudge through the chewing and digging and house training. You’re not all in yet…or are you? A beautiful phrase catches you. The little one flies to your side after a brief absence reminding you that you are already loved and deeply missed. Of course the reminder may come with jumping that nearly knocks you over. (I have big dogs! Why don’t the small ones ever find me?)

You have reached a turning point. The moment of no looking back. You’ve read this far. You might as well continue on if only to find out what happens. You realize that you missed her too. She chews mostly on her own toys which have taken over the living area and she has left your shoes alone for two whole hours. That’s something! It’s awfully cute the way she tries to curl up in a basket near wherever you happen to be. And after all, you’ve finally settled on the perfect name after trying out so many. Now, you’ve reached the edges of true unadulterated commitment. Are you in trouble? Perhaps. You’ve come this far. You may as well finish what you’ve started…On Chesil Beach…Ellie is my girl now.

So, you keep on. You grumble through the aggravating plot twists that you’re powerless to control. You can only read along and see what the author will do. You can only let the little one into your life and your heart not knowing how things will go.. One day each will end. The book will reach its final page whether I approve of the outcome or not. The gift of time with my sweet friend will not last forever.

Word by word…I continued to read on… Day by day…I opened my heart to Ellie. Then all at once in a single page at the very end of the book, McEwan turned the entire story into a parable. All of the miserable little details came round in one magical instant. Tears sprang to my eyes. It rang through me as clearly as a tolling bell!

The course of a life can change because one person does nothing…

Nothing!

Ellie came to me when my heart was bare with sorrow. I wasn’t sure if I was ready so soon. But there she was placed before me. Her story and her little eyes sang to me a song of hope and healing. I’ll not forget that first night and her distress. Ellie must have been missing the only world she had ever known, the soft comfort of mother, and her brothers and sisters to romp and roll with. I reached down and gathered her up and cuddled her next to me. Tiny (hard to believe Ellie at her sturdy 100 pounds was ever tiny) and scared, she pulled in close and fell fast asleep.  She slept all night long close to my heart. Ellie was home. She knew it right then, even if it took me a while to catch on. Dogs are always a bit smarter than we are.

Perhaps the book found me in a similar way when I was uncertain of so much. The story knew what I was ready to hear better than I knew myself. The layers unfolded as it swung back and forth from Edward’s private thoughts to those of Florence.  Although there was something sweet between the couple they never quite managed to open up to one another and fill in the gaps. What could have been a beautiful moment at the beginning of a lifetime together, turned into a terrible misunderstanding instead, leading to a hurried and painful ending. The young man and young woman were both paralyzed by fear and self doubt. Time and again there was a chance to say Something. Neither did. With each passing day it became easier to keep on doing nothing and let the tragic moment dig deeper within their own hearts leaving little room for hope. Nothing.  They didn’t do Something. They didn’t do Something wrong.

Everything fell apart because they did absolutely Nothing at all. The Nothingness filled the space between them leaving room for nothing else. Just nothing.

In life of course there are lots of times when nothing is exactly the right thing to do. One of the many pleasant surprises I’ve had since writing on WordPress is that I have in fact become Ellie! At first it made me giggle. It’s a natural mistake. My site is named Ellie. I must be Ellie. And so I have become. I rather like being Ellie to tell the truth. She has a powerful voice because she knows what she wants – me, all to herself…and cookies – the world’s most perfect food.  She is comfortable with all people at all times. However, if another dog comes near me she will shake the rafters with her thunderous note – That’s too close!! She never hurts a fly but if you don’t see it coming you could easily find yourself wearing your iced tea rather than sipping it. There are no misunderstandings with Ellie. No needless suffering. Life and relationships, even doggy ones, are clear.

Ellie is good for my writing too. Even now she lays at my feet keeping the other dogs from stopping me in mid sentence. Go ahead and write…I’ve got this. Thanks girl.

So here on WordPress, I’ve done nothing. Until now I’ve done nothing at all to dissuade people from thinking my name is Ellie. No harm done. And perhaps I’ve grown a bit in the meantime.  Sleek fur, perky ears, a nose full of dirt? My oh my how I’ve changed!

How often though in life do we sit back and do nothing when something would be better and far kinder? Fear keeps us quiet. Self doubt holds us back. Life is messy. What we think we see or hear or know to be true is never the whole story. We misconnect a great deal. Wait – stop – maybe – one word, one gesture, could stop something before it causes harm, could help someone to believe in themselves, could open the door to a lifetime of love. One word could make all the difference.

Ellie came to me when my heart was grieving and unsure. On Chesil Beach came to me when my life was hurting in other ways. I could have let fear stop me from letting Ellie into my heart. I could have let doubt about the direction of the book stop me from reading. In each case I could have done Nothing. And if I had, everything would be different. I would have missed the gift of my sweet Ellie girl. I would have missed the treasure of a miserable wonderful little book.

In one small moment similar to so many others, I chose to do something. I chose to open myself to the beauty right in front of me and learn a bit more about the woman I’d like to be. I am still afraid. I am still plagued with doubt now and then. I will probably always have both of those with me in some form. But now when I face them once again I ask myself…

Will I be the one who does nothing?

One day if I have the pleasure of meeting Mr McEwan I will smile and perhaps share this story with him.  I’ll ask him to please sign my miserable wonderful little book.  my name is suzanne…but could you please make it out to Ellie…