Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking Back: A Christmas Memory

I remember well the first Christmas after I got married. My husband and I had moved from Iowa to Lancaster, PA at the end of November. It was just before the holiday season. Everything was feeling very strange. We had rented a house-trailer, a nice one at that, but it was the only thing that was available in that rural Amish community.

The night we went searching for a Christmas tree it was clear and cold, with many stars in the dark sky, similar, I suppose to the way it was on that night near Bethlehem when the shepherds saw a bright star in the heavens. I can remember the place we stopped. It was around a bend on one of the curvy roads that fanned out from Lancaster. We didn’t spend much time at it because it was so cold and we didn’t have much money. But it was a beautiful tree that fit well in the back seat and out the windows of our red and white 1956 Oldsmobile convertible. We had driven it all the way from Iowa only a few weeks earlier.

When we got to our trailer we found we were going to need to cut the bottom of the trunk off so it would fit in the tree stand. When we separated the branches we discovered that our tree already had a gift in it. We found a nest, hidden down in the thick branches at the bottom of the tree. All of a sudden that nest made us feel like this really was our new home.

It turned something that was so new and strange and different into an experience that welcomed us home to our new life. We would build a new nest, have children and learn to be the best we could possibly be together. And we still have that nest. It is a little bit worse for the years, like all of us, but every year for the last 30 it has perched in its own special place in each tree, reminding us of that first Christmas
Written Christmas 1994

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Memorium

Polka Dot
rescued August 31, 2009 - disappeared November 13, 2010
It was inevitable. At least I say that now. When I agreed to keep three rescued feral cats in my barn as barn cats I didn't think enough about how vulnerable they would be to the coyotes, fox, hawks and Owl we see around our urban farm almost daily. No, I wanted to help the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals with placing some of the cats that had been rescued from a hoarder. Once feral cats have been spayed or neutered they can go back to their homes, called colonies, familiar areas and other cats where they are comfortable. But these cats had no other home to go to.
I have had them for a year now. They must have been 4 or 5 months old when I got them, so they matured while they were in my care. I thought I did everything I could to keep them safe and warm.
I set up a warming house in a stall in the barn with a pet heating blanket that kept them warm during the coldest nights. I was given a large enclosure that another cat rescue group didn't need anymore. Once I got that set up I kept them in it at night. They soon learned who their caregiver was and even if they kept their distance from other family members by the time I had them 6 months or so they were letting me touch them and even pick them up. It is not surprising when you consider that I was feeding them canned food at night and they knew it. I fed them insidethe enclosure so it was easy(for me) to close them in. As time went by they became friendlier and friendlier. Soon they were sitting outside the kitchen door meowing for me to go to the barn for their feeding.
The neighbors gave me glowing reports about what good mousers they were in their barn. They kept our barn rodent free as well. On our daily walks to the barn they would stop, roll over and beg to be petted. They would follow me whenever I was out working around the barn.
Off and on they had spent a night or two outside, but they always showed up the next day. That's why I was not too worried when I went out to feed the horses a few weeks ago and I found the door to the enclosure standing open. Polka Dot was gone. Moonbeam was still inside. (The third cat, Lollipop, disappeared several months ago)
It has now been over two weeks. I am still looking for her. I have convinced myself that she has found a warm place and some cat companions to hang out with. The reality is that she probably has not. I know this but I can't accept it. I think she could still come home. The bad news is that we have seen a coyote hanging around the fields nearby. However, there are lots of rabbits and mice around.
The neighbors did not see her. In fact they have two cats that they have had for several years. So that keeps me looking. I miss her terribly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Since I have decided to start including poems in my blog from time to time I thought I would begin with this one.


When you wonder,
at the startling beauty
of a scarlet sunrise,
over an endless horizon
of mountains in winter,
or tiny snow puffs
mounding like whipped cream
on the relishing fingertips
of pines,
you know about poetry.

When a lovely turn of phrase
restores old memories
and invites
a flowing of words
tumbling from afar,
joining you with souls
of ancient dreamers
and asking you to
be a friend,
you know about poetry.

When you know passion,
loving words with abandon
as if they are long lost lovers--
or knights in shining armor
releasing you from
demons and
bad dreams
through nights of betrayal
and days of lost chances,
you know about poetry.

When you hear an Easter ringing of bells
celebrating from church steeples,
or when you glimpse--
swallows rolling in waves
through gray sky
like blankets being
shaken out in springtime
filling you with the fresh scent
of life,
you know about poetry.

Pamela Wolf
Ann Woodbury Hafen Poetry Contest April 1, 2003 Honorable mention

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reprise: The Day it Rained Gold

I love Northern Colorado Writers. There are always so many opportunities to learn and to connect with the writing world of creative people working on their dreams. We are partners in our individual as well as corporate tasks, helping each other , cheering each other on to whatever goals we have set. We may want to become published or to finish that manuscript, or just to try new things or to re-try something that has been in a drawer or a file just waiting for the right time to bring it out again.
Well, it doesn’t come out on its own. Something sparks it, something demands you take another look.
This week I had that experience as I attended the Meet the Poets evening and then took the workshop the following evening led by Antoinette Voute Roeder. I discovered that poetry is still a voice within me that has needed to come out of hiding. It really does enhance and deepen my passion for writing. Kerry Flanagan, our director suggested I incorporate a poem a month into my blog. It would be a good way to keep in touch with that side of myself but would not remove me from my other stated writing goals. And it might just infuse some passion into my other writing.
After some review and discussion we were asked to spend a few minutes writing a poem at the end of the session. It felt awkward to me. Like putting on some old worn out shoes I hadn’t had on in a long time that had stiffened up in the previous form. So I’ll share with you what spurted out and then my rewrite. Antoinette said that poems take on a life of their own. The original idea is played with, you think of a different slant, some new words and poetry becomes fun to do. And that is what she emphasized over and over. Writing poetry needs to be fun!

First version
In Fort Collins fall 1965

It was the day the leaves rained gold, boldly dressed breezes
Blew them here and there, they scurried, collected around
Broad tree trunks, sidewalks,across yards still a bit green
From summer. Little voices sparkle through crisp air
While busy feet scoot the pieces of gold into piles
That glimmer today as they did so long ago

Second version
The day it rained gold

The day it rained gold,
leaves fluttered to the ground,
boldy dressed breezes lifted them,
hemmed the sidewalks, wound them
around solid tree trunks like scarves
and danced them across yards
still a bit green from summer.

I remember crisp air ,
busy little feet scooting
the fragile pieces of gold into piles
to glimmer today as they did so long ago.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"My" Desiderata

Many of us have heard the words that begin this prose poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrman.

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
....Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.

I wish current politicians would heed these words. How far we have come as our ears are battered every day from angry, exaggerated, and unthinking words that bend information into unrecognizable knots if not outright lies that assail us on T.V.,radio, newspapers and flyers that invade our homes through the mail. I want to know positions of the candidates, but please, lets be decent. Listening is not all that difficult, if you can speak your truth "quietly and clearly", I will be more likely to listen, otherwise I will ignore and turn off the noise. Then sadly the flow of information will be lost.

This prose poem has touched me through the years for different reasons though.
It brings me back to wondering what my desired things are during this season of my life, as I look at my elder years what advice or desired things do I want to give myself?

Believe it or not being honest when you get older is pretty difficult. You have to face up to a bunch of things. Mainly because my experience of "putting things away on the shelf to look at later" just ends up being laziness. Pretty soon those things on the shelf are heavy enough to begin to drag you down. As you get older you already have plenty of things that slow you down. So here is an attempt at my own desiderata. It has to begin with

Go placidly amid the noise and haste:
I have always sought out my own space as I deeply value peace and quiet but now I vow to not use that need as a way to hide from the uncomfortable. The next words: "speak your truth quietly and clearly" is the least I can do. For me it includes advice to myself to stand up for things I believe because the more I stuff them the more bellyaches I get. To be sure I need to speak the words so that I will have the best chance of being :"without surrender (be) on good terms with all persons" (as much as possible)

But in order to do that sometimes I may need to "avoid loud and aggressive persons".It is a way I can give myself a better chance of having a good day. But for me that means I have to look inside to see what messages I have been giving myself that day. Before any of my own internal critique gets going I have to reach out to myself and give myself a hug. It is said we need 3 hugs a day but what if you are not in an environment where that happens. Give yourself a mental hug. Say out loud, "I love you, Pam" (you) then notice something beautiful around you during the day, and speak out loud of the beauty. I think the more messages we give to ourselves (and hear from ourselves) especially during this time of anger and disappointment in the way the world is evolving, the more chance we can truly enjoy our lives and what is remaining of them. and we can decide when to 'speak our mind quietly and clearly' or avoid vexing persons (or turn off the T.V.)

Later on in the poem the line "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

In order to believe it I vow to practice it daily, give myself a hug. I think small things make a difference."Go placidly amid the noise and haste"

(Find the poem on google or something similar, go by the title)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The idea of making a pilgrimage back to my hometown caught my attention ever since I spoke with an old friend about his return to our home town. Two years ago, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, suffered what later was called not a hundred years flood but according to some residents, a thousand year flood. Cedar Rapids is unique in that it is the only town in the country that has its municipal buildings including the courthouse and jail on an Island in the middle of a river. The Cedar River.
It was a major disaster, the river rose 20 feet above flood stage and covered the bridges that crossed the island to reach each side of town. Sandbagging there or anywhere near the river was useless. The town was warned that a flood was coming but no one predicted the magnitude of the rising water that hit its peak after six inches of rainfall.
I wanted to return. I wanted to see for myself. I had to in order to really believe it so I could reach out my arms to offer some kind of solace to those I knew and didn’t know too who experienced it. I needed to hold it close to work through my pain and frustration. My broken heart wanted to keep it out of arms reach, to not think about it. But more than anything else I knew I had to make my memories of my home town real. I wanted to remove from my mind the memories that I had boarded up like the buildings still with wood plastered over doors and windows.
I didn’t want to continue to pretend It was the place I remembered from my youth, a pristine place, well ordered, many parks, a family town, a farming town and a place that grew to be the second largest city in Iowa because of its location on the river. It was a crossroads, a destination and a striking out place. I wanted to embrace it, as it was now even in disarray with rebuilding and the cleaning that continued to make a dent in the ugliness a disaster always leaves behind.
A pilgrimage? Yes. A journey to a sacred place, absolutely. A journey of thanksgiving for the people who joined in the recovery effort that has already made a huge difference. And a journey of devotion that brought acceptance and appreciation of the people who lived through the disaster to their town and went on with plans and determination to continue to do what it takes to bring it back and yes, to make some new things out of it. I was not looking for supernatural aid, as some pilgrimages do, but natural healing that belongs to a brave Midwestern town. It was truly an act of devotion and a taking into my soul the beautiful, hurting, healing soul of my home town.
Have you ever made a pilgrimage? If so where to?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Miles to Go

“But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep” I recently came across this line from one of Robert Frost’s most read poems, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening as I was trying to get my head cleared to do some writing. I usually look through my folders to find something that clicks for the moment but which has clicked often in the past too. It is probably when I feel the most overwhelmed which is often. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when I was about 60 years old so this feeling became very familiar and for the longest time I wondered why I had trouble accomplishing things or just finishing things I wanted to do, not even counting the things I didn’t want to do. I remember at one point one of my most fervent prayers was that I would have to energy to do what I really wanted to do that day.
So today what I really want to do is to write a post for this blog. And maybe for my other one, Writing Outside the Barn, too. I have had a very busy month or two and have experienced some big changes. Change creates stress, we all know that, but that which surprises me often is that good change as well as bad change creates stress. One of my biggest stressors is myself. No surprise here. Right now I am caught up in a planning frenzy to prepare for a trip I am taking next week. I will be gone for 12 days and will be doing three different things. When I planned it I was very excited that I would be able to go to a 50th high school reunion in my home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa then spend 3 days on a retreat at a place called Prairiewoods Franciscan Retreat Center in Hiawatha Iowa, outside of Cedar Rapids, then a friend is picking me up and we will be driving the 250 miles or so to Chicago where I will meet for some fun with my college sorority pledge class. I will ride back to Cedar Rapids and then fly back to Denver. The first part of my trip will be with my sister and I will be returning on my own. I have been trying to calm my fears about flying, travelling by myself for the first time in 14 years, and weather or not my animals will be taken care of adequately (so my cats don’t get out) My husband will take care of increased horse chores while I am gone and I just learned that my daughter’s husband will be gone most of the time I am gone too and she will most likely need a helping hand with her 3 toddlers while he is gone.
So the promises to keep have to do with re-touching with many old friends and family that I will probably not see again in my life and also to try and keep myself alert and appreciative of the fabulous opportunities will experience while on my journey.
So this promise, that I write in my blog, is a promise I have kept while the miles to go before I sleep will be miles of enjoying, relaxing , being content, being honest with my friends and family so that I will be able to bring gifts of myself and receive theirs. I CAN DO THIS!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

End of Summer Reading

I don't want you to think this has turned into a book review blog or anything but I do have two more books I have read this summer that I want to tell you about. I guess I need to create a book list on my blogs but I haven't figured out how to easily do that yet. There are lots of things I could be doing with my blogs and even when I get some help with it, it seems that after my helper has gone on to other things and I am on my own, invariably something comes up different than I was shown and I am stumped again.
But this is about books. In my quest for books that relate or connect in some way to the blogs I am writing I came upon two. The first one is "Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. by David Dosa, M.D.
A couple of weeks ago I was startled to learn that one of my blogs about a rescue cat named Jake from Writing Outside the Barn had been picked up by Animal Planet and they wanted to come to Fort Collins to tape him going about his life for an episode of Cats 101. Jake was filmed in several places, one of which was a nursing home. He had recently passed his test to become a therapy cat and had also visited a rehabilitation center where he was given a great deal of attention. So I picked this book up to see how this writer dealt with this sitiation.
Dr. Dosa is a geriatrician who worked with alzheimer's patients in a nursing home. Iwas happy to see the cat was not romanticized and his visits to patients was not seen as a death sentence. But at first when the doctor became aware of the gift Oscar possessed he was skeptical. The book was written as he interacted with the patients and their families. By the time I finished the last page I was in love with this cat and his recognizble but still not explainable way of knowing when a patient or family needed some extra love and care. There is a possible physical link to the cat's ability but still, not that pursuasive.
Since my Dad was an Alzheimer's patient and needed special care I related to the stories deeply. And I remember when my Mom died while visiting family in Phoenix at Christmastime. I was chosen to go on a mission to fly to Colorado to retrieve her companion of many years who was waiting for her to come back, her cat Meisha. It was clear she never would. When I brought the cat in to my Mom she held her close. Meisha stayed by her for her remaining days. It was a comfort to her and to the rest of us as well.
I learned a lot about people in that situation, more than I learned while I was going through it. If you can open your heart to extraordinary connections between people and animals, you will be captivated by this heartwarming and comforting story.

One day, later in the summer I was visiting with a friend about how difficult it was for me to reconcile my hope to protect animals with the need to allow them their freedom and agency in the world. It is not a new dilemma. She suggested I read The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by writer and photographer Shreve Stockton.

Besides being a beautifully written book with its exquisite descriptions of the wilderness and Wyoming life near the Big Horn Mountains it is an extraordinary photo diary of the coyote puppy she raises after it had been rescued.
A New York City born girl who lived in San Francisco ends up in Ten Sleep Wyoming. How this happens will surprise and delight you. Her pluckiness and willingness to become a part of the landscape and people and to rough it makes an amazing story in itself. Her story will challenge everything you have understood about interactions with wild animals. Even I raised my eyebrows a bit. Her writing is down to earth and real as she brings in classic themes of love and freedom and applies them to her own life. However, nothing overshadows her actual relationship with the coyote, Charlie.
She winds her way honestly through the challenges her decision to keep the coyote pup entails, including her own safety as Charlie matures. She searches her way through it to an ending that provides reconciliation for herself, her current relationship, and Charlie.
This is strictly a personal account, and doesn't go deeply into the politics of raising a coyote in an area where all coyotes are shot on sight. But in a way, it keeps you on the edge of your seat to see how she contends with these dangers. Weaving throughout is a special account of an interspecies relationship between "Charlie" and her young cat, "Eli" that was absolutely magical.
This is an intense book, one I was not able to put down until I got to the end. And then I was disappointed. I wanted to know what happened next. And due to the website originally created by the author when she began to send daily pictures of the coyote to friends and family, I can.
Shreve bravely makes her way through her weeks and months with the coyote, in a new relationship, living a new pioneer kind of life along with the challenge of writing this book. At one point she quotes an uncle when talking about love. "Love is tolerance" she writes. After having been married to the same man for 46 years I can agree. Letting go shows trust, belief and respect. You can't get much clearer then that. I loved this book.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Reading

Summer is already proving to be promising much more than it can deliver.

One of the topics we discussed at the NCW members coffee this morning was, and what to do about summer. How do you get anything done? What are the best ways to be sure you get the most from the long lazy days? In the past I remember I felt depressed when summer came along. I had so many wonderful projects planned. I would make a huge long list. But family vacations, visits, lessons and classes for the kids, vacation bible school, camps etc. etc. would crop up like weeds in my carefully planted garden. Granted I'm past the kid schedule routine (even though I do have grandchildren schedules to consider for at least two days a week) but I still seem to suffer from that over expectation cloud.

Suggestions given by NCW members were helpful: Make deadlines for some things, get in a routine you follow daily and more but the best one was, if you can't make it to your computer (or yellow pad) read.

So that is what I will do. That is what I have already been doing. Even though it is only the first day of summer, here are my summer reads so far.

Pat Stoltey's mystery, "Prairie Grass Murders" was a delightful, romp through a small town's dirty laundry, basements, barns, and psychiatric wards that wouldn't let me put it down. It was complex enough to keep me wondering and with enough action to keep me curious about what was going to happen next to the delighful sleuths.(One of which was close to my own age!) I am not a regular reader of mysteries but this is a perfect read for the summer.

The second book I read was Mark Doty's book, Dog years. It is a dog story (at least two dogs) and a memoir about love and life. Here is what the back cover says (so you won't have to read it when you go into the bookstore) "When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he brings home Beau, a large malnourished golden retriever in need of loving care. Joining Arden, the black retriever, to complete their family, Beau bounds back into life. Before long the two dogs become Doty's intimate companions, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days. Dog years is a poignant, intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about living, love, and loss.

This was a book that was recommended to me by a member of my writer's critique group and I am so grateful. It is a model for what I want to say and how I would like to write, down to using poetry throughout. I hope you read it.

Another book I picked up on my last visit to the bookstore was, The Introvert Advantage, a book that only after ten pages or so has described to me who I am and why I keep looking for books that help me figure out who I am... I am ready to drop the guilt and go for it. Dive underneath all the personal bashing I have done through the years. My psychiatrist saw it in the bookstore and suggested I take a look. Just one of the helpful suggestions she has made in the very short time I have been meeting with her.

I think I will suggest she read Dog Years. She would get a good insight into who I am

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


When I had the idea to form a support group called MSG-Spice of Life, several years ago, I was deeply into my menopause years. The group never formed but I liked the name and decided to use it for my first blog. The 3 letters, MSG are a reference to monosodium glutamate, a general purpose spice that tasted OK but was later found to be hazardous to our health. I thought it fit because MSG also could stand for Menopause Support Group. Menopause, as I know now, is (could be)hazardous to our health. Since then a lot has been said about menopause and I'm not really about writing about it today.

But now I really don't like the name I had chosen for my very first blog. This came to mind because I was using an old recipe yesterday that called for MSG. And from somewhere in my head I heard the word VARIETY. Thats it! Now I am feeling better about my blog. It seems I can't change the URL but I know clearly what I have been trying to explain when people ask me to describe this blog. It is about variety. Variety is the Spice of Life, of course.

So what variety do you have in your life or your writing? Are you stuck? If so for how long? I have learned the longer you walk the same path the more likely it will turn into a rut and then into a canyon of sorts. I know I need encouragement to climb out of those ruts, help finding hand holds and footholds.
I have lots of manuscripts sitting in boxes, good ideas and good thoughts, pretty well done manuscripts. My main rut is that I want to hold on to them till I get to them someday. Critque groups, readers, getting acquainted with other writers like at NCW help alot. And I have an organzational coach who is helping me too. It is hard. Sometimes it feels like I am tearing my heart out and that I will be doing this for the rest of my life.

But one thing I just did, that I moan about all the time...yes time. I don't have time to write. But I do, and I am, writing this blog right now this morning and it is nothing like I thought I would write if I got to it today. Something different.

But that's another story. I need to quit now that I have written what is on my mind. I know that as I sort through my writing and slowly (maybe it will get easier) throw out (or rework) outdated stuff, I will make room for new things.And I will surprise myself. Hurrah! Variety is the Spice of Life.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Momentum was the first word that came to my mind when I realized it has been a month since my last post. For me, momentum has a lot to do with my writing. I see this little fly wheel merrily turning along until for some reason the juice stops flowing and it goes slower and slower until it stops. Then, Oh, brother it is the devil to get started again. At first it is so heavy and it goes so slow it feels as if a thousand little strings are holding it back, like in Gulliver's Travels. Then A Ha! it starts and all that heaviness seems to be helping instead of hindering getting started again.

When I returned from my husbands college fraternity reunion (including my best friends from my sorority as well) in San Diego the good weather, California cuisine, flowers, and renewed friendships spread a kind of euphoric flavor over everything. And it was good, that time out and soul filling. It also put me in an idealistic place as far as what was really going on in my life. Lots of little strings.

When we landed at DIA (while we were still getting off the plane) we got a call from our daughter. She said, "I wanted you to know before you got home that we have not seen Cookie since Saturday." It was her job to make sure the cats were in the house for dinner because of the nightime threat of being dinner for the coyotes, hawks, foxes and owls nearby. She had undoubtedly spent a few nights worrying and felt bad but the fact remained, my sweet tortoise-shell kitty was gone.

I am a over involved pet owner and a volunteer for the Fort Collins Cat rescue partly because of one cat I lost when we first moved to our 'farm' so this was a jolt. It made me mumble to myself during the whole two hours or so trip home from the airport. "She'll come back, she'll come back".

Long story short I found her that night as I walked ours and neighbors fields with a flashlight calling her and tapping her food dish. I called and listened for a minute, walked and called and waited. Then in that small silence I heard a quiet 'meow', looked around and there she was, trotting after me. When I picked her up in my arm she was purring.

So back to the momentum. Something like this slows it down but so does all the loose ends that were there when we left Colorado. I am trying to schedule and organize myself so I can produce some finished essays (by way of blogs) that take a tremendous amount of will power in order to get past the clutter and this over scheduled time in my life. This blog is the first I have actually sat down to give it a push. And what will come out of this one I don't know. It is just that as the sun comes up this Sunday morning those tethers are loosening and the wheel is beginning to turn ever so slowly.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

There was a Reason

(The Monfort Professor-in-Residence Program brought 'citizen writer' Terry Tempest Williams to Fort Collins for a reading and discussion of her newest book "Finding Beauty in a Broken World". She is a naturalist who shows how environmental issues are social issues and ultimately matters of justice. This is my reflection.)

There was a reason I made the trip to hear Terry Tempest Williams speak one night last week. There is always a reason. I need to remember that. The problem is that I have to be shaken up a bit before I really believe it. I know part of it is because of my early childhood. According to my Enneagram I learned about myself through seminal experiences ages ago. Birth order, inheritances, experiences…so it has to do with self-esteem. So I don’t believe what is in my gut because I wasn’t believed 50 or so years ago. Hogwash. (Sorry, my Iowa roots) But the fact remains, it takes a while. And I want to change it.
That’s why when I read in one of my local newsletters that Terry Tempest Williams was going to do a reading in Fort Collins I wrote it on my calendar with great excitement. She was the one who introduced me to memoir, nature, compassion, grief and was the epitome of an examined life. Underneath I wanted to write like her. I read her memoir, "Refuge", just after my own mother’s death. This book connected the death of her mother with the displacement and loss of birds around the flooding of Great Salt Lake. It didn’t need to point a finger at the atomic bomb testing in the Utah desert for me to know the ache in her soul from the many cancer deaths in her family. Their stories carried that message. It was beautifully written and again I wanted to write like her. But something inside told me I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. Fear. That was a long time ago. I think I'm learning.
When she took the podium she commanded a presence in a soft and gentle way. This not in spite of but why her words rang true. She spoke out of an unimaginable brokenness.And while she sounded soft and gentle, her words packed a punch. She is masterful at making connections . The title of her new book speaks her theme and her cause, "Finding Beauty in a Broken world". She wrote it in the same way she wrote"Refuge". In her current book she connected the art of mosaic with the massacre of a million people in a thousand days in Rwanda with the annihilation of prairie dogs. It is a mindset she says.
And so I come back around with the reason. I recently began taking a new direction in my writing, stealing myself to stories of loss but with a "heart broken open and ready for service" (from J.Barrie Shepard in one of my favorite books.) Peace and justice had been at the heart of my ministry as a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)all along. So now what? What is the next step for me and for you too? How do we make a difference without polarizing?
Each of us in our own way.I began with the parallel the path of respected C.S.U. professor Temple Grandin. I began with feral, abandoned or stray cats. I am convinced that we have much to learn from animals. The study of communication skills of prairie dogs can begin to teach us how to communicate, feral cats like prairie dogs have community and take care of each other too. Helping to provide humane ways to respect life while respecting property is a challenge. Bottom line for me is when eyes can see with compassion 'the least of these' then compassionate eyes can be opened to the Rwandas of the world.
As a shy person I have experienced a hesitancy when I speak of my passion about animals and recently feral cats. But life, plain and simple is a gift. I believe... God’s gift for all creatures 'great and small'. Terry Tempest Williams' soft smile and honest words have underlined my search for ways to express my passion. She shook me up. That was the reason.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Box Office Smash Hit

I thought his years Northern Colorado Writer's Conference was a box office smash hit. It was easy to navigate, well organized, things started on time, the food was really good, and best of all the workshops were topnotch. I struggled to decide which of the workshops I had to leave out. The ones I attended moved me closer to my goal to prepare/finish a manuscript or two for publication sooner rather than 'one of these days'.

The nuts and bolts, the learning parts if you will, from Rachelle Gardner and Mike Befelor were complete and well presented. My afternoon sessions with John Calderazzo, Laura Pritchett and Tina Forkner were superb. I can't think of a better way to say it.

Although I didn't feel I was ready to do a pitch, I had planned to make contact with one of the presenters and I was able to do that over breakfast with Tina Forkner. I benefited by her depth of information about the inspirational market which parallels many of my interests. I believe we are on the same wave length and she invited me to e-mail her if I had questions.

But the best thing about the whole experience was that I got to listen to people who loved what they were doing. They woke up each morning excited about that day, from the Hollywood elegance of Stephen Cannell to Todd Mitchells heartfelt words to the delightful 'On the Spot" improv. group...they were all having fun! And so did I!

Thanks Kerrie!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Catching the Mare

Catching the Mare
Pasture Musing
March 2010

morning quiet, drifting along,
rope in hand I stumble a bit
over rough ground, marking it,
I lift my boots above mounds
of soft earth,old grass

I wonder about
tall grass that had such promise
but gave up long ago
to lie pushed down by
snow weight, sun's burn
horses feet, soaking water

I believe it was happy to return
something of what once was
to the earth… I'm thankful
the winter sun
the wind’s hint of warmth
the shortened darkness

elusive fox, mysterious coyote,
brave feral cat leave
their tracks in earth too,
next to the grasses
they survive but some, like me
still don’t understand

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Smile but Stubbornly Go

One of my searching times was way back in the 80's when I was attending seminary. I met weekly with a small group of students that first year for support and challenge, for opening eyes and hearts. One thing it was supposed to do was to help us become at least aware if not tolerant but hopefully accepting of other students' widely divergent views and experiences about what they believed. This may have been more true of Iliff School of Theology in Denver than for others such as Oral Roberts for example.

I made the decision to take this path because of my passion for making a difference, but not in the way you may think. I was not a preacher who was hell-bent on saving souls. I just wanted to do what I could to make a difference in my small way, like the star thrower who returned one of hundreds of starfish that had been beached to the sea. It didn't make a difference to hundreds of starfish but it made a difference to one. I was searching my heart for the best way to do that I guess. And I ended up at seminary. My passion for justice grew through church involvement. in social issues. Tom Sutherland, one of the hostages held in Lebanon was a member of my congregation. I was convinced then as I still am today that God is love. And love will win but only if each person tosses a starfish back into the sea.

As I recall the year I began was the first year the number of female students equaled the number of male students at Iliff. It was also marked by a growing number of students embarking on their second or third careers. I was 45 and I felt like a fish out of water. It was helpful though, to see that there were also lots of other fish. So if numbers mean anything I think there was beginning to be a critical mass. Many women thought of themselves as pioneers. And we were.

I remember thinking as I emerged from my first exam which happened to be in Old Testament that if I passed that test I would probably make it through to graduation. It was certainly the first time I had studied the Old Testament and to be honest it was also the first time I had read the whole thing through. I questioned my decision to attend seminary many times in the years following but this first exam was a make it or break it for me and one that made me keep asking myself "what I was thinking?".

So when I came across this poem by Denver poet Lois Beebe Hayna it became a kind of a mantra that I memorized and wove into my soul. From the day I took it to my first year discussion group till now it reminds me, even as I get older that it is never too late to "tend a vine of my own choosing.''

Late to the Vineyard
by Lois Beebe Hayna

Delayed Bloomer, ten o' clock achiever,jack of all directions but your own,lady, will you tend at last a vine of your own choosing?
Forget calendars, ignore warnings of frost and blight;discount praise for your delicate hands.Smile but stubbornly go,because Indian summer shines for the late-to-luckand time runs earlier, earlier than anyone suspects.
Frost will miraculously bypass your budswhile rain rounds harvest ripe for you.Your grapes will be sound, lady, sound and sweet.You will sip each fruitlike wine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Today my writer self feels like I am dangling. The other day I described this blog, The Spice of Life as a place to write about times when you have experienced spice in your life. It could be anything from what gives you meaning to what is fun. Writing spices up my life, it gives me meaning and is fun, except when I can’t decide what I want to say.
I discovered that when you write about your life and you are my age it is important to have a metaphor that helps to keep your thoughts within certain boundaries so you don’t go wandering off into irrelevant but interesting side trips. At least that is the way it is for me. Thinking of one’s life as a journey is always good but again, those pesky side trips don’t do anything but take you places you might need to go but a reader would probably become hopelessly lost and quit reading. An example is Route 66, the cross county highway that was eventually replaced by the interstate system. I wanted to mention this because I am 66 years old at the moment and it seemed relevant. If you drive across the country on Route 66 these days I imagine all that is left is bits and pieces here and there and it is not clear where it is going or where it went for that matter.
But at one time Route 66 actually went somewhere. I’m not so sure about my life. So I thought of a tangled ball of yarn that been unraveled but rolled back up, carelessly rolled back up so it was almost impossible to unravel, it was one continuous piece . But my life has not ever gone in one direction or in one continuous piece, at least not for long. It has been more like a ball of yarn that has lots of pieces, some that are long, or cut short, some buried, with different colors and textures, tied together, exciting, strange, or just left dangling. Now that is beginning to feel about right.
So the song goes on: “Say What You Need to Say”.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Say What You Need to Say

If you read "Searching for Silence", an earlier post when I set a goal to write posts to two blogs twice a week you may be wondering what happened. My posts come sporadically and certainly not consistently and this posting is a couple of weeks since my last post. While this is better it is clearly not up to my stated goal in "Searching for Silence". I need to rethink it.

I should remember that I have been able to set aside one day a week for writing, and that is usually not a whole day. Even though I have a little extra time now four mornings a week because my daughter agreed to feed the horses Sunday through Wednesday, I am having trouble.

I know I do my best creating in the mornings when I wake up and I think if I had just another 1/2 hour I could get short posts written which is just what I need to do because when I think too much they get too long. But life gets in the way, things like breakfast, feeding cats or dogs or horses and clutter. Making a dent in the clutter seems to be the thing that takes over. As far as writing at night? Well, that is another story.

So what is going on? Today I thought about the bigger issue that I have been struggling with either a little or a whole lot. And since we moved to Fort Collins it is a whole lot.

Finding time to do the things I feel called to do has always been a distant rumble in my life. I'm reminded of the rumbling that announced the approaching storms that blew across the corn fields of eastern Iowa where I grew up in the 50's. But the rumbling I feel now has an ominous element. It has to do with the fact that I am viewing the end of my years instead of the beginning. Then the rumbling was exciting. Now I am feeling a bit anxious.

I really have had a pretty interesting life. My calling to make a difference in the world has given me opportunities to do so. But closer to home is that I am a twin and I married a twin. In itself this does not seem so much of a big deal. It does make for a big family. Then having 6 grandchildren in 5 years, including 2 sets of twins born within days of each other is a bit noteworthy. It has generated lots of joy as well as unbelievable chaos. No wonder I have been searching for silence.

I guess I began feeling like I was missing something years ago. I didn't let it surface. I believed all the pretty pictures in our photo albums. Well, they did show a certain view of our lives. I do feel good when I see them. But it is just that I never acknowledged the restlessness inside. It sat in the background doing its rumbling thing.

I was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder a few years ago. But there is no question I have been struggling with it all my life. I have worked with therapists, spiritual directors and doctors most of which helped. But the mystery remains. I struggle with the patchwork of symptoms and different treatment options. I just want to write.

Here's what it is like. I am often chronically, embarrassingly, and frustratingly late. I guess I have always been this way but I can't remember when it started. I can remember when it began to be a problem. I have realized I misjudge how long it takes to get ready to do something, how long it takes to get to places, am often distracted, begin to feel anxious about being late and inconveniencing people or shortchanging myself, can't decide about what is most important and don't often walk out the door on time.

So why have I written and published this personal material? I don't know exactly, maybe I just want to get it out. The song. "Say what you need to say" is still urging me on.