coastal cowgirl Yesterday was Groundhog Day, which I celebrate as the date when I first rolled into California to make it my home. That was thirty-four years ago, but I still wake up blinking in wonder. However did I manage to land in this implausible place?  The grass is green in February, a local cow-woman is nonchalantly tending to her morning chores, and I pedal along on my trusty bike, a little chilly, but with not far to go.

My dear friend and accidental mentor Dan gives me counsel via email sometimes, and yesterday he passed along some wisdom of Joseph Campbell, who said that before one can undertake a spiritual journey of any kind, the prerequisite is to say yes to life as it is. As I spin into another season on this planet, I am saying yes and doing my best. I live in a transition zone and I am at a turning point.

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Snap Out of It

SacateYesterday we awoke to a world newly washed and muddy and green, a downright iridescent green at times. It was truly dazzling, although brisk and windy, an invigorating in-your-face kind of day that grabbed me and said, “Snap out of it!”  So I’ve snapped out of it and jumped in, and I feel privileged to be here.  I will not obsess  about whether or not I am worthy.

Meanwhile, the surf has been big. So big, in fact, and so erratic, that a few of the more savvy and seasoned old surfers chose to sit it out and watch. As one of them wrote in an email to Monte: “I was feeling liberated that I was man enough to not paddle out on some of those larger days. I am okay as I am, and I do not need to prove myself. But then [I admit] there was a nagging little tinge of sadness that I wimped out!”

His tinge of sadness evaporated when he heard about various mishaps, among surfers both expert and novice, including one that could have easily ended in tragedy. “There are definitely days when we watch and then go home and write a poem,” he concluded.

That’s how I feel about life lately, and maybe it’s just good sense that comes with age. I am being affirmative, staying active, and paying attention, but I realize that it’s also lovely just to sit indoors sometimes and see how sunlight enters, to write to a friend or  listen to music and watch the kaleidoscopic world through a window…or to wander through the pages of a book.

Speaking of books, this week I read two good ones: The Past by Tessa Hadley and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. The first is a finely crafted tale of family dynamics set in the English countryside, so well depicted that it transported me there. As for the latter, grab a tissue and prepare to be deeply moved. It is a brave and sad and loving book in which a truly gifted man facing his own horribly premature death tries eloquently to make sense and find meaning for himself and for those who will read this. His light shines on its pages.

I shall close this brief post with a quote he shared from a letter written to him by a friend: “…There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in the moment.”

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The Moment by PFC S.W. Carbone

DSC_0058 (2)Out of it all—came this moment for the soldier. The moment that in a sense was silly and yet sublime. That made him want to giggle but also to expostulate, this delicately balanced instant between the birth of a hysterical giggle and a sober inclination to propound, to analyze. This split desire segment of time when he saw the world through two glasses, one cloudy white, opaque, the other clear and transparent.

The smoke seared shell that entered his body sizzled with a white heat and at the same time numbed him like a cube of ice. Dimly, the flickering emanations from his brain told him that the shell was the cause of this haywire, cockeyed state of being alive in death and dead in life. In the moment came the suspension of all thought processes, the crossroads of emotions, the frozen traffic of impulses and then…a blurring whirl of fact racing with fancy, fear struggling with courage, pain somersaulting with pleasure, reason doing handsprings with insanity. Ever faster spins the disc until every shade of feeling is as one. Life becomes solvent and the universe absorbs it.

At the precise ashen grey moment when the sands of life are being blown away in a fitful rearing dance, a mother looks at a picture of the soldier. She looks with a fearful intensity, trying to coax the printed image before her to step out of framed immobility. Her yearning has reached the last thin barrier between imagination and reality. It is a moment when the tears on her cheek glisten in ornamented sorrow, when desire gives way to aching pain.

The same moment descends the shaft of dust-laden sickly sunlight through the window of a little café. There is enough light to spare not one detail of untidiness: the long runs of brown on the sides of the coffee urns, the dull grease coated frying pans, the blotches on the wall where scores of flies have been swatted, the cheap, shabby show window with its fly-specked card indicating that ladies are welcome. The moment records the café owner and a customer, absorbs a single syllable of their heated griping over rationing, taxes, how to win the war. In its time-allotted span it also contains one sharp note from Begin the Beguine playing on the radio, one feeble hiss, more like a sigh, from the valve on the coffee urn, and the scraping of the customer’s shoe as he tries to get in another lick.

As the moment alights on the three scenes, it sways in the wake of a million other varied ones. Then they are all submerged by the little higher wave of the next moment.

Daddy at Camp Cooke

My father wrote that in 1942, and I just came upon his manuscript in my files, neatly typed and double-spaced on tissue-thin sheets of paper. What a fine writer he was! I believe this story was printed in the Camp Cooke Clarion and was turned into a theater piece and performed at the base, but this is its first appearance on the worldwide web, and I am honored to publish it. My father was a brilliant man, and I can only imagine what he might have achieved if he’d been given the chance to get a college education, pursue his interests, and explore possibilities. His dreams were displaced by the responsibilities and challenges of a hard life, but he could not have been a more loving and devoted father. I miss him every day. 

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Journey by Train


Yet landscapes flow like this toward a place,
A point in time and memory’s own face.
So when the clamor stops, we really climb
Down to the earth, closing the curve of time,
Meeting those we have left, to those we meet
Bringing our whole life that has moved so fast,
And now is gathered up and here at last,
To unroll like a ribbon at their feet.
                                                –May Sarton

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Searching for Wisdom With Time Out for Orange Juice

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My morning began with fresh-squeezed orange juice that I sipped standing in front of the kitchen window while watching the rain and green-ing hills. Those little oranges may look puny and bruised, but they are sweet and good and plentiful. I gathered them from the ground beneath the tree, not what I would normally think of as a January activity, but there you go. I am grateful. Life unfolds in unexpected ways, and some of them are beautiful and wondrous.

Believe me, I am striving to live that life well, although I am not always sure what this means, other than not squandering the days in sadness or stupidity. I emerged from last year with an intense awareness of mortality, and I think about death perhaps more than is healthy, but it looms always. As Karl Ove Knausgaard said someplace (and I copied it into my journal): “We use systems to keep the wolf from the door…and systems are nothing but vast complexes of notions and concepts. Everything that helps us lose sight of the petty, pathetic, and meaningless parts of our own selves.”

Yeah. Or as Maria Popova wrote on her Brain Pickings website in a recent introduction to When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, “All life is lived in the shadow of its own finitude, of which we are always aware, an awareness we systematically blunt through the daily distraction of living.”

I like the wording: an awareness we systematically blunt. That’s exactly what I am doing lately by staying busy with such fervor. I’ve launched a personal campaign to be engaged in the world in positive ways, to say yes to everything, to bear my sorrows but not become them, to think…but not in those obsessive circles that yield nothing but despair.

I am trying to make meaning, trying to connect, trying to be redeemed. And I am learning to contain the tricky knowledge of our human condition while at the same time allowing myself the privilege and the pleasure of music, a walk with a friend, or a glass of orange juice by the window.

It bears fruit. Even in the course of the last week my quest has led me to some interesting and inspiring people I would not have otherwise met. One is an artist who is traveling this spring to the Philippines, her grandmother’s homeland, to do art with women there and help them to tell their long-repressed stories. Another is a woman who is a “natural builder” and who teaches others those building techniques. She seemed so committed and enthusiastic as she spoke of all the good things happening out there: people building safe, nontoxic, earth-friendly shelters…growing their own food…making stuff…dancing!

Yesterday there was a rocket launch that shook us to our bones with its booming reverberations, and the waves were big and noisy, and it was a three-day weekend, so there were lots of people around. The prevalent feeling was a cross between festive and frenetic, not the Ranch I know in daily life.  Two special friends, Dave and Ming, came out for a postponed New Year’s walk, and on the way home, as is our tradition, we summed up some of the important messages we had accrued in the course of the year or gathered like beach glass during our walk along the shore.

“I was trying to get pictures,” Dave recalled, “and I said, ‘Damn it! I missed that wave!’ And Ming said, ‘You didn’t miss it. You just didn’t get a photograph of it.’ That was perfect! And that is what I want to take home. It’s all there. Maybe not exactly the way you wanted it, your recording of it, some goal you had. But it happened. It’s all there. And that’s enough.”

We also talked about how important it is not to look at the lives of others and be deceived by appearances, or as Ming says, to avoid that tendency to compare our insides to their outsides. Dave relates it to the image of swans on a lake: “Those swans appear to be gliding so gracefully and effortlessly, like ballet, like ice skating. But if you were to look underwater, you’d see they’re doing the same things everyone is doing: paddling like hell, thrashing around, working hard to keep moving.”

And that reminded me of something my friend Cornelia told me a long time ago when I confided that there are days when I have to make a monumental effort just to appear normal. “Didn’t you know?” she said. “Nobody feels normal.”

At this point my neighbor Ryan came along, heading up the road on his way back from those big waves, his relatively new surfboard in the back of his truck, but in two pieces. Bummer. We all expressed our sympathy, but he was philosophical. “A wise man once told me, if you want a new surfboard, keep it in the garage.” Another good lesson right there. It’s only a thing, anyway. And life is messy but you might as well live it.

Ming told us that for her one of the biggest messages of the year had been to have some faith in the way events unfold. Often we think we know what we want and we think we can orchestrate things and create those outcomes.  “But sometimes the universe knows more than I do,” she said. “I’m learning to let go and trust.” Things may turn out differently from what you expected or wanted to happen, and that isn’t necessarily bad. Even in the disappointments, there are gifts, and these may be subtle, or so profound that they set you on another path entirely.

“I don’t even have cell reception where I live now,” she added. “The nearest place where I can get service is right outside the Painted Cave. Don’t you think there might be some significance to that?”

We thought so. All sorts of messages to read into it, and why not get some spirit input while you’re standing at that cave? As for me, I had nothing to add. I’m just taking it all in, trying to learn. I’m managing to stay afloat, splashing and thrashing, but without the swan’s grace.


Now, back at the house, the rain is subsiding. Sheets of white mist are drifting over the hills faintly backlit by a pale and distant sun.

And here we are. Everyone dies, including David Bowie. But what a life he led, even in his dying.

Seeing more and feeling less.
Saying no but meaning yes.
This is all I ever meant.
That’s the message that I sent.

I can tell you this for sure: other than a glass of cool water when you’re thirsty, fresh-squeezed orange juice is the perfect beverage, especially while watching the mist through your kitchen window as it drifts over green-ing hills.

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Social (In)Security


I made sure I got there early. I tugged the latch at the door to see if it would open, but it was still locked. A man in dungarees and work boots holding some papers in his rough hands pointed to the business hours printed on the door, said something to me in Spanish, and gave a weary shrug. I located a nice bit of wall to lean against and pulled out a book. Two other men were also waiting, both of whom appeared to be in their 60s, scruffy gray-bearded white guys whose lives had clearly been no crystal staircase. They too had documents in hand and were talking loudly in the corridor as they waited.

“They just change this shit without notifying you,” said one. “You gotta find out the hard way. And it’s one thing when you got a car, but I got no car, man. I’m on my feet. Hopefully this is the last time I gotta come down here.”

“I’m gonna move up north,” said the other. “Some little town outside Sacramento. Might be easier to get things done up there.”

“I’d like to move,” replied the first guy. “But right now I got no sleeping bag. I left it in the shelter and they wouldn’t give it back to me. And my wallet is gone. Can’t even buy a wallet in this town.”

“Have you tried the Dollar Store?” said the first.

I tried to immerse myself in my book, but I was getting that feeling where I want to cry for everybody, not that it would help. There are so many people who are barely hanging on, even here in this storybook town by the sea.

I have always felt it would be very easy to fall between the cracks, to find oneself alone and homeless.  My husband used to scoff when I expressed this out loud. You’d find a job   and figure things out, he would say. You have an education, you don’t have substance abuse issues, you can navigate socially and you’ve never been that close to the edge.

But there is an unsettling randomness about life, a definite element of luck.  I grew up with people who struggled all their lives for rewards that never came.

As is often the case, my thoughts turned to my brother Eddie, a man of kindness, intelligence, and integrity, who was dealt a stack of cruel cards through no fault of his own. He too spent some time on the streets and at the mercy of strangers and social service agencies. As for me, I was a healthy baby born between two siblings who entered life with congenital kidney disease. In other words, I learned early on that life is unfair, and when I see people going through hard times, I know it could be me.

But here we were all equal, standing in the hallway of a government office located in a shopping mall, waiting for the doors to open, and now a guard unlocked them and beckoned us in, one by one, each of us dispatched to a counter with windows behind which the Social Security agents were sitting.  My agent was a very young man, pleasant and soft-spoken, who looked to be South Asian with black hair and dark skin. I explained that I wanted to have access to my Social Security information online but every time I try to create an account, I am asked a series of questions that do not apply to me at all, and I suppose I keep giving the wrong response, because I then get a message telling me that my access has been denied and I can try again in twenty-four hours. He directed me to a computer nearby and asked me to replicate the process right there. In the meanwhile, he would be assisting another client, but I should feel free to call him over if I needed him.

The same thing happened. The questions are about car loans and mortgages of which I have neither, and retail accounts at stores where I have never shopped. This was a case for The Supervisor. She was beckoned forth from some secret office in the back and now loomed behind the glass window above the computer as I reiterated the situation.

“Are you sure you didn’t take out a loan on a car recently?” she asked.

“Of course I’m sure. I’ve never had a car loan in my life,” I told her.

“And you don’t have a mortgage loan with one of these companies? Are you sure about that?”

“Am I sure? Yes, I’m sure.”

She seemed reluctant to believe that I possessed sound and credible knowledge of my own personal finances.

“Well, this is what the credit company is telling us,” she said. “You’re going to have to take this up with them.”

“The credit company? Is this some entity with which you contract? Aren’t you the federal office? Aren’t you the guardian of my Social Security information?”

I won’t bore you, dear reader, with a tedious script of the whole dialog that ensued. At one point the pleasant young man behind the window typed in a few keys and seemed on the cusp of unlocking my account for me and The Supervisor put her hand over the keyboard, shook her head, and put a stop to it. I was sent away with nothing but instructions to resolve the discrepancy with one of the three major credit agencies.

The uniformed guard who had ushered us in called me over and whispered, “Fraud is rampant.” He told me the names of the credit companies, and gave me some advice. “I see this all the time,” he said, which wasn’t very comforting, but I appreciated his empathy and effort to help. He was clearly going beyond his job description.

I walked out into the brightness of a Santa Barbara morning. Most of the stores weren’t even open yet but already there were young girls in their January shorts and flip-flops sipping their five-buck cups of lattes and mochas, and in-a-hurry working people talking on their cell phones as they strode down the street, and a guy on a bicycle nonchalantly pedaling along and singing to himself.  Above it all, the mountains. Gosh, this is a pretty town.

The following day I dutifully obtained my credit report, which confirmed my own understanding of my credit and completely contradicted the information that the Social Security Administration appears to have been drawing upon when determining whether or not I can access my account from home. Reassured but pessimistic, I dialed the Social Security office. There was a forty-five minute wait, so I left my number for a call-back.

A man named David called me back an hour later, and he was clear-spoken and genuinely helpful. (Still amazed…right?) Turns out that once I established my identity, The Supervisor could have easily over-ridden the erroneous “security questions” and obtained an electronic access code for me.  She could have given me that code, and I could then go home and create an online account. I have a right to see my own Social Security information after all, and in truth, it’s helpful all around when people take care of things online rather than coming into the offices or generating more paper.

David suggested I go to a different branch, maybe Santa Maria, to obtain this code. “I wish I could do it for you from here,” he said. “But I can’t. You’re going to have to make another in-person visit. What I don’t understand is why the woman at your local office didn’t do it.”

I have tried to understand it also, and I’ve thought about it a lot, which is why it has become a blog post. I think it was a power trip, plain and simple. We all know there is a tendency for bureaucratic agencies, even at the local level, to de-humanize clients, to be brusque and un-seeing and move ’em through. That partition may be glass, but we are made to feel invisible, or certainly unimportant. If even a relatively privileged and capable woman such as myself leaves this office feeling jerked around, I can’t imagine the cumulative experiences of folks like the guys who were waiting in the corridor with me that morning.

And what’s the point of this? Only a plea for more heart and imagination in the dispatch of duties everywhere. The goal is to solve problems, not to get people out of your hair. Those people are the reason for the job. And why include this post in a blog called “Still Amazed”? Because despite the general atmosphere of frustration and resignation I sensed in this Kafka-esque little outlet, I am amazed by the resilience and patience of those who were waiting, the insight and advice of those who tried to help, and the fact that this whole system exists at all.

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A Walk to the Seawall in Rain

hdr_00208_0We walked to the seawall in a light rain today. The beach has changed. Dunes and cliffs are scoured and eroded. Instead of soft sand, there were stretches of rocks and broken shells… intermingled, unfortunately, with bits of plastic trash, ubiquitous and dissonant. There have been big waves in recent days, and the seawalls have been put to the test. The section that we walk to is stepped in the back, which gives it the feeling of bleachers to me, but the concrete is so eroded that it almost appears to be melting. I am intrigued by these zones where human enterprise and natural forces meet in a temporary stand-off. Ultimately of course the seawall will succumb, but in the meantime it is gracefully transitioning from usefulness to beauty. It’s an art installation by the sea.

1929Etched into the concrete near an elaborately rusted iron pipe is the date: 1929. Imagine that? Men were out here building seawalls for the railroad in the very year the stock market crashed, marking the official start of the Great Depression. Meanwhile cattle would have been grazing in the hills behind them, and cowboys and ranch workers were tending to their chores, and I imagine there were quite a few scenes that don’t look that different today. You can’t say that about most places.

It felt good to be wandering around outdoors, even when cold air slid under my jacket and raindrops beaded my glasses.  We are ten days into this new year, and I am determined to do better, whatever that means.


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To Somehow Find Our Way

Tomorrow will mark a year since my mother’s death. I am absolutely a different person now than I was a year ago and that’s all I want to say about that, which is probably a relief to readers of this blog who have seen me through some tortured searching here.

But to paraphrase Naomi Shihab Nye (in her poem Adios), each of us has heard an adios before we knew what it meant and how very long it was for. Many of us have heard more than one such good-bye. Little by little we begin to understand. The lessons follow lessons, the silence follows sound. We must somehow find our way.

Here’s a poem I love by Stanley Kunitz that speaks of death, but as a kind of release, conveying a drowsy, comforting sense of peace and absolution.

The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he’d loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.


Right now a storm is blowing in, with strong south winds. We’ll soon be putting up the canvas window covers to keep out sideways rain. The interior of our house, which is usually open and airy and filled with outside light, immediately closes in on us when these go up, and it will feel abruptly dark inside, the official beginning of winter. But at last we’ll be getting some of that much-needed rain. Hills will green, creeks will flow, the cycle of seasons will continue as it should. Beautiful earth.  Beautiful sky.

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A Girl With A Suitcase

DSC04409I’m fond of these little girls, watched from a distance as they pretend, conspire, and tell each other secrets. They come as they are, or however they feel like being. An outfit built around a frilly mesh skirt with pink tights serves just as well as a hand-me-down tee shirt from a brother or  dungarees and cowboy boots. Tiaras and wands are optional.

They can be a bit exclusive. They have their own things going on and no need for some old lady, benign as she might be, to ask them silly questions or document their antics. But I do know this. The one whose name is Millie, when asked what she wanted for Christmas, said: a suitcase.  I keep thinking that’s like a little poem in itself.

There was also a poem in the bobcat who strolled up our driveway on Christmas Eve, in no hurry at all, then detoured into the orchard and was last seen scampering under the fence along the creek. Those persimmons were like poems, heaped in a blue bowl, and that crazy moon above the hills last night proliferating shadows and lozenges of light. There was a visit with 95-year-old Mr. Harbor in England, blinking through a computer screen. There was Monte standing at the shore, reading the waves, paddling out.

And I heard a poem in the little voice that called to me as I passed our neighbor’s house in the course of my walk yesterday. I turned around and looked up to the deck and it was two-year-old Virginia, waving at me and saying my name in crystal clear tones, as excited as if she’d glimpsed a wild parrot. (I remember her grandfather Lee calling out to me from that deck, not too many years ago, when I pedaled or walked by, although his shouts were usually accompanied by an  offer of a beer or Margarita, because it was hot outside, and that hill looked steep, and really, was I nuts?!)

Well, yes. I always was. Nuts that is, in a mostly harmless way, although sometimes there is collateral damage in my missteps. I just try to keep moving, make sense of things, find some sort of equanimity. And when I pay attention, all sorts of little poem-like wonders are revealed.

DSC04088Speaking of poems, I heard a wonderful podcast interview (Krista Tippett’s On Being) with poet Paul Muldoon as I walked, and he talked about poetry as a process of revelation. And when Krista asked him what he had learned about life (a question I am fond of asking when I interview people but which often tends to silence them) his answer was basically, “The thing I know now, and I’m sure this is true of many, is how — not even how little I know, but how I know nothing, in fact.”

I happen to be exactly the same age as Paul Muldoon, and I have lately been feeling just that way. He talked a bit further about all the mysteries and questions, the potential existence of universes, plural…in fact billions of them, and concluded: “To try to take that in is almost impossible, yet, I suppose, we must try, on this tiny planet…to do our best while we’re here. And I think, really, our impulse is to do our best, however often we might lose sight of it, and we can try to be kind-ish to one another while we’re still here.”

I like that. Be kind-ish to one another while we’re still here. And also, be open to the poetry, the little shifts in thinking, the new ways of looking…that unearth revelations. Like those little girls on the field by the sea, whispering secrets, one of them wishing for a suitcase. I wonder what she will pack. I wonder what  journeys she will take.

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ChristmasOur daughter spent the holidays in England with the family she married into, but so it goes.  The 1930s picture above of an unknown California woman reminded me of myself, i.e., “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” Although I really didn’t feel that celebratory.

We had a quiet Christmas dinner with Monte’s parents, just the four of us. One of my favorite moments was when my mother-in-law brought out a few old snapshots from her childhood in Long Beach.  Here’s one of her as a young girl on a bicycle, about ten years of age, pedaling her two-wheeler along the sidewalk, already so competent and sturdy. DSC_0069

Anyway, although it was quite early, I felt disproportionately sleepy after dinner, as if all of the events of the year had finally stopped rolling forward and settled into a heap at my feet. So I sat on the sofa half-listening to a drowsy  conversation that touched upon ship design, native plants, measurable rainfall, and El Niño speculation.

Afterward, we stepped outside into a cold, glassy, moonlit night, and our Christmas was officially over. I felt relieved. Just a few more winding-down days, and we will sail through into the symbolic hope of a brand new numeral.

What a year it has been! I am now precisely one year distant from my mother’s final spiral, and I am still prone to seeing poignant images of her in my head, or spontaneously remembering qualities she possessed, and often, with a jolt of recognition, bumping into those very characteristics within myself.  I never knew.

I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been a hard learning. Her death dislodged all the old sorrows along with new realizations, and I officially understand at last that I will never not be sad. But I am trying to steer clear of the currents that pull me to places where nothing can ever be changed or resolved. I can see that following those streams of thought is repetitive, futile, and excruciating, and thus to do so is insane.

It’s tricky, though, to carry one’s history gracefully without staring at it and replaying it over and over, but I am allowing (or trying to allow) the present to distract me. I find tangible little tasks, like sorting out the utensils in that crammed kitchen drawer, or trying my hand at persimmon bread. I go for walks and focus on my Fit-Bit (yes, I am that ridiculous) to see how many steps I have gone. I’m turning my attention to my Living Stories website (and I’ll write more about this in a subsequent post) and pulling weeds and dripping pretty watercolors onto wet sheets of paper just to see what happens. I call it not-thinking, or being shallow.

But at other times, it feels like one tier down from enlightenment. It feels like I am really on to something. Because, really, what good does all that brooding yield? Does anything undone become done or anything done become undone? I am only un-doing myself. What is over is over.

My wise friend Dan tells me it is not a matter of not-thinking, but of not indulging “the inner monolog”, not chewing on the thoughts that randomly arise while we are going about our day.  He elaborated in a recent email: “Sometimes I’m well into them when I realize that I don’t have to be entertaining them…I do this a lot when I’m walking the dogs. I realize I can just walk, and I realize how beautiful that oak tree is, half-way up the hill, or those mare’s tails to the south, ahead of the front moving in, or how intricate the tumbleweed that has rolled into my path.”

For me, it is so very easy to be depressed. I see that shadow looming always. But there is so much beauty, so much wonder, and it too is real. So I am staying afloat, more or less, noticing colors and counting my steps, even letting music in, selectively. To be alive is to know sorrow and loss, and while the particulars of my pain are grueling to me in their own special way, the basic feelings are universal. So maybe the best outcome is compassion. Or noticing the oak tree by the creek. And now I’m going for a walk.

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