I believe…

Dear Santa,

I love a letter that begins with Dear. Don’t you? Right there at the start you know this will be different. I cherish you – it says. You are in my thoughts…not just at Christmas… but, always.

We are waiting for a cold front here. It should arrive in a few hours. One prediction even calls for snowflakes on Christmas. Oh! how lovely it would be to have an honest to goodness White Christmas!

Rather normal for you, I imagine. For me though, it would be a magical first.

I’m writing this letter to you in the sweet place where I do most of my writing…my kitchen island…home within home.

Some days it is more of a writing desk than a kitchen. Funny how it can be as much a place to be still as to be busy. I love it so. I wonder Santa, do you have such a place. One where you go to be quiet and just think…

A tree is tucked into the corner of the room. It sits cradled between a window with a lovely view of the bird feeder and a bookshelf full of favorites. Its top grazes the ceiling! A tree that’s taller than me please – I always ask. Giggles. It sticks out in places and is far from perfect yet oh so very right… lighting up the whole room with its joyful presence. I’m happy for its sharing and being…just being here with me. It draws me in as much as the candle flame that flickers nearby. One hypnotizes me with dozens of twinkling lights and the other with its dancing flame. Has a sky full of stars come to rest in the confines of my cozy home…

I am lifted and carried beyond roofs and treetops and even outside of myself…upwards to another place altogether…a place where I ride the night sky with you…wind in my hair…cheeks rosy from cold…delivering gifts across the wide wide world.

Your life’s work…giving love to others…

Toys! Each teddy and train, has his own story. They journey to a new home…to warm the heart of a child…to take their place and bring great joy and comfort…thank God for toys…thank God for you…

My tree is like that…like your sack full of toys. Every ornament bears a memory, is the keeper of a moment in time. Branches are full with them, imperfect, ragged, faded. The white felt rocking horse with a few hand sewn sequins still attached…the white rabbit on his sleigh made of candy cane ribbon…the shiny cluster of grapes…the treasured Mexican tin ornaments, hand hammered and colored then carefully wrapped and brought from far away…

they hold the stories of what has been, bring beauty to the now…and leave room for those adventures yet to be told…yet, to be lived. There is always room for one more. What new tales will be added this year…

Cookie Day! A flurry of flour and sugar and sprinkles! My little kitchen springs to life in the name of baking. Baking with love to share. A colorful apron tied just so for the occasion, because after all, we make an awful mess. Christmas carols of all shapes and sizes resound from the rafters with glee, keeping us company. These sweet details are just as important as the icing and sugar crystals that decorate our tiny bites of delight.

The warmth of the oven…the glorious sugary mess…the hum and the buzz…and at the end of the day a farm house table laden with all manner of treats. Then, I will gladly drop into the porch swing to catch my breath, rest my feet and… listen…for the sound of sleigh bells overhead…

No worries… I shall save the very best cookies for You!

I confess that sometimes I grow weary with all of the doing of Christmas. Not enough time to Be. Even when I do manage an outer stillness my mind is racing ahead of me with all that is waiting to be done.

For there is much Joy to share…with those I love…and with many more whom I will never know… Whenever I wonder how I can possibly manage it all, I think of you…

You fill my heart. You give me hope. You show me a country lane that flies through the stars rather than the trees. For you do not Do Christmas. You Live Christmas! In every ordinary common day you smile that warm smile of yours and open your heart to All the children of the world – young and old alike…make no mistake…we are all children…

There are so many lovely things in this life that are sometimes invisible to my eye, though they beat on in my heart. Because of you, I trust them. I believe in them…as I believe in you.

Yesterday morning as I crossed into the field a sweet mist lay as soft as a downy comforter resting gently upon the meadow and reaching into every nook and cranny. Over the grass and in the lowest of the trees…gossamer threads were strung with sparkles of dew. Quite magical…

In the nighttime the faeries had danced. And in so doing their sweet song come to life decorated the meadow with delicate lacy treasures. They are preparing for you too…in their own gentle way. I wonder, will you leave them a gift of faery dust as you fly overhead. Does their glittery offering reflect in the stars and light up the ground…even as my cookies which are arranged just so on the dearest plate…my own gift of love…waiting…waiting only to be received.

It is after all, the tiniest gesture in the most ordinary day that often hides warmly in a heart…a cookie shared… a warm smile… a lovely song…a magical bit of faery floss…a glimpse of a sleigh in a dark night sky…

I have no list to send you this year. I ask for nothing at all for myself. Instead, thank you. thank you for every precious gift ever given to me…

rays of hope as warm as any sun drenched afternoon… echoes of laughter…four paws and a tail dancing with joy at the mere sight of me… brilliant dreams delivered in the silvery moonlight…messages that begin, dear…so many invisible gifts tied with blue satin ribbons that wave in the gentle breeze…each one…

Making love visible in the heart of the world…

May your heart be always filled with lovely invisible gifts… suzanne❤️

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!.

P. S. – Ellie, Jack, Huckleberry, Bo, Sonya and Dobby would be very grateful for a stocking full of bacon treats… >

Mud Pies Rock!

Have you ever begun to tell a story only to realize that it won’t make any sense if you don’t tell this other one first. But even that one needs another one and so on and on. There you are bogged down in telling backstories until you lose sight of The story. Wait, what was the point of this? I remind myself to start writing and soon enough the details that matter will work their way in. And if they don’t, they probably don’t need to be there anyway.

I began writing this several weeks ago when it was fresh in my mind. That was late October, and now here I am surrounded by mistletoe and holly. I wasn’t ready then. Everyday seemed to throw something else at me. You know – when there’s too much, or it all comes at once, or you Find ways to be brutal to yourself. Because it’s not enough to face the world. I must seek out new and inventive ways to be unkind to myself. I should have done … I should never have said… If only I had…

When I was a little girl my Aunt had a farm in Slocum. It’s not far from where I live now. Oh, how I loved it there! Most of the time I was the only child for acres and acres. I had a beautiful freedom to wander woods and hills and all manner of places. I cannot think of the farm without remembering dozens of stories and part of me wants to tell them All!

One time I was the youngest in a group of cousins exploring a wooded creek area where a copperhead lay stretched before us. They all ran away quickly… leaving me behind. Somehow, I knew not to get too close to the living S shape. When the kids arrived back at the house without me, my dad came looking. He scooped me up and held me close…safe from harm’s way.

On the farm was a wonderful sliver of a creek that wound itself from the first pond to the second. My tiny legs could cross it in one step. It trickled under wide open skies to my great delight. Because I could be seen from the back porch I was allowed to meander down there by myself and play alone as long as I liked. A sweet joy to me… clay and all!

East Texas has clay, lots and lots of clay! Deep rich red clay. We never made a visit to the farm that my mother didn’t admonish me to be careful Not to get clay on my clothes! She said that the red clay of East Texas would stain them. It would never come out. No matter how long they soaked, no matter what kind of soap you used, your clothes would be ruined… I was never successful at staying clean which was a great frustration to her. Nevertheless, there I was baking rich red mud pies and loving every sweet minute of it.

In late October…

Ellie is still sleeping as well she should be. It’s been a long week for her…for me too. I’m afraid that if I begin to write of it I may not stop for days and that it will be too much.

Tears flow with the ups and downs of life…real life. They are at the edges of me this morning like the rain that Dobby watches from the safety and sanctuary of home. It was only a few months ago that he was lost and without a home in torrential spring weather. I wonder if he remembers that time. I wonder if it makes him happy to have a home and a family now.

Thunder woke me in the night. A gentle rumbling vibrated the whole house. Once awakened the flashes of lightning kept me entranced. Their sudden brightness invaded my dark room like a light bulb flashing on and off as one sleepily grasps at thoughts…it isn’t time for light. A glance at the clock told me it was only 3:30. Blissfully I sank further into my pillows and pulled the soft covers up around me. Not yet…I drifted back to sleep.

The overflow pipe has slowed to a trickle as the water levels in the lake drop from drought. One by one counties all around me announce burn bans. Where is ours. We should be there with the others. Not yet. With this day’s rain we may not get there at all. But I would rather have the rain than the ban anyway.

Not long ago someone built a fire in the woods near the lake. The embers they left behind and that I discovered the next morning were too strong. I let the someone who should know…know. Then, I wrote of fires and fire builders and change – embers and ashes and a lovely place to swim.

Some moments this week were not captured in a photograph.

There was the slow and measured walk around the small room with help. It was a grand achievement! Afterwards, I enjoyed a leisurely lunch with two fine gentlemen. One was a delightful conversationalist with stories of adventure. He reminds me of Santa Claus! The other man was quiet. He has lost his own stories. The way his face lights up is enough for me though.

I sat criss cross applesauce with hands in my lap just like the little ones who surrounded me. All of us were entranced with the firemen and their big red truck. Sharing photos of the children is unwise and could even be unsafe for them. How very sad our world can be. And yet their smiles sustain me all week long!

I had another backyard bunny adventure. Dobby found a prize hidden beneath the dry leaves and handed it over upon request. Perhaps not gladly…nevertheless, he did share. I held the baby gently until he caught his breath, then hopped away. Bouncing joy on four small furry feet!

One whom I love dearly had his very first author event and I was able to be there, to be some small part of it. A moment I will always treasure.

Before all of these, on Monday evening there was a scare at what might have been… I happened upon smoldering ash in a place heavy with trees and underbrush. It frightened me. Instead of a charred forest floor, it could have been far worse…far more devastating. My concern over untended fire has been ongoing for weeks now. I wake with it in the morning. I fall asleep with it at night. I am tired with thinking, what if…

I don’t know who did it. Someone probably walked away unthinking, not realizing that the tiniest embers left unchecked can creep hungrily at the dryness of the forest floor and lap at the bases of the trees.

I made the proper phone calls. And I waited. Ellie stayed close by my side. Night darkened around us as stars began to sprinkle the sky. They had a stunning beauty that hinted at the mysteries of eternity. The coyotes who began to chorus not so far away were an odd accompaniment to the stars. They sent a chill up my spine. We drew in closer, Ellie and I. What other dangers might be nearby. It is the animals who do not announce themselves that concern me. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing. We waited for the sound of a fire truck on a back country road to drive away our fear.

It took longer than you might imagine. When they arrived, the flashing lights frightened Ellie. Still, she never left me. Even when she was afraid, through the dark, the unknown, the flashing lights, the roaring sounds, the threat of danger, she stayed with me. These things should have sent her running for the safety of home. Was she too scared to leave…or, am I her safety…am I her home.

I would have understood if she had left…but I am grateful she stayed. yes, she answered me…

All ended well that night. Are we done yet? Not quite, Life answered…

A few days later dark gray clouds filled the sky as we walked. No rumbling yet, just the hopeful gathering of them. Up from the center of the field eight blackbirds took off making their way noisily to the treetops. Something about their flight reminded me to send my thoughts up high with them, on wings and let them fly. Trust in the air itself. Trust in all the goodness you cannot see.

We turned south at the end of the dam. There is a twenty foot drop that winds into a different kind of woods. We never come this way. It’ll be nice to try something new after so much unrest lately…

A short way in Ellie found a watering hole. She stepped down into it for a drink. In less time than it takes to blink, her back legs had sunk as far as they could go! I could see the panic in her eyes as she began to fight to get free. It scared me! In a flash I wondered if we were both helpless. There was no way of knowing how deep it might be. Once again this week I found myself in a place of fear…Ellie and I both did…

I dropped to my knees reaching for her to pull her towards me and to a landed edge where she could get a strong foothold. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking how or what or even why. I wasn’t really thinking at all… I was just there, holding Ellie as tight as I could and Not letting go. Anything I could grasp, I did. Talking to her…all the while pulling her back to safety.

As she was just about to break free…Dobby went in. Aargh! Dobby is shorter. Even his sides began to disappear in the thick clawing mud. Once Ellie was safely out and catching her breath, I turned my attention to freeing him. It all happened so fast.

Some sort of horrible East Texas quicksand… I finally stopped to breathe…the three of us were covered in wet red clay. My hands had disappeared under the thickness of it. I couldn’t have taken a picture if I had wanted to. The phone never would have registered my fingerprint. I could feel the mud heavy on my arms and splattered over my face. Already it was drying in places, drawing the skin tight underneath it. My heart pounded with what might have been.

With Dobby’s natural coloring he only looked soaking wet. Ellie, however, became my two toned Halloween dog! Her top half was shiny jet black while her bottom half was bright pumpkin orange. There are no pictures, only muddy fur and relief.

Dobby looked around for Bo and Jack and his next adventure. Ellie and I stuck close to each other, much as we had on Monday night. We were thinking the same thing…there’s fresh water a few yards away at the lake.

Are we done?…not yet answered life…

We turned to head towards the lake…when on our right…a magnificent buck bounded past us! He was so close that I could feel his presence more than see him. Leaves rustled as he passed us. If my arm had been outstretched his sleek fur would have grazed my fingertips. He radiated a graceful strength. His fluffy white tail waved goodbye before I fully realized he was even there. Awed by his beauty so close on the heels of our struggle to break free from the clutches of the muddy earth I could only stand and wonder at it all. There are no pictures of him either…muddy fingers and invisible grace. It all happened so fast.

A fresh batch of mud greeted us at the edge of the lake, this time it was dark gray to offset the brightish orange. But at least my hands were a little cleaner. There might be some pictures on our way home.

As I looked from my hands to my unicorn T-shirt I thought of my mother – Be careful Suzanne, your clothes will be ruined… Clothes are easily replaced. The clay of East Texas has seeped through them and into my heart – in less time than it takes to wipe away a stray tear. Stained with hope in the face of whatever may come.

As I caught my breath I thought of my Dad – how he had come for me and gathered me safely from harm. You’re never as alone as you fear you might be.

Ellie and I together fought for safety and freedom twice that week. Unknown strength filled us. And as we breathed in sighs of relief…grace flew past us at lightning speed…leaving us to wonder over all that had been or was yet to come.

Making our way home through the grassy field and happy for the surety of the ground beneath our feet, dark storm clouds closed in around us giving way here and there to glorious pockets of light. All of a sudden… Tears from all of the moments welling up from deep inside of me…

The trials, the struggles, the chaos, the beauty, the hope, the waiting, they come into your days. Each time…yes. You answer a quiet, yes. The moment and what is asked of you…yes. To be held in unimaginable ways that you will never understand. The gift of all that is needed just then and the grace to answer, yes.

How many more moments of yes lay before me. I think it’s better not to know. I might buckle under the weight of anticipating them. And then I would be too tired to answer yes when the time comes. One moment at a time. Right now…this one…a grateful heart filled with the blessings that are as close as my own heartbeat.

I will never be a woman who aspires to perfect clothes all the time or to perfect anything for that matter. Life is rich in the messy places. There is no joy without sorrow. There is no courage without fear. There is no peaceful lake unless first you dig a messy muddy hole and wait for it to be filled with life giving water.

Please be kind to others. Everyone struggles. Please be kind to yourself. You are far more loved than you can ever imagine… Now, go on out there and make a mud pie. In fact, make two, one for you and one to share…because…well…mud pies…they just Rock!

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Only Moments to spare,

The spiced scent of cinnamon

Drifts through the air.

The warmth of the oven

Brings the kitchen to life,

Promising goodies

Sure to delight.

Kettle gives a whistle

Saying tea’s ready too.

A bounty of treats

St Nick tucks in your shoe.

Ever so merry

Cheeks red as a cherry.

Kindness and tenderness

Never shall hide.

Hearts ribboned with love,

Sweet gifts from inside.