my brother is gone

that well of moments shared
from the earliest of our days
tracing the paths of life 
we traveled together
but oh so alone

i knew you all of my life
until today
and knew you
not at all
a spinning planet
eclipsed by the unspeakable mysteries
that tear lives asunder

still you will be there in those photos
with your tender gifts
your laughter and pride
that boy
the almost frail one
the genius that would not find a home
the husband the father

unseen among them are
those closed doors
the terrible sorrows
the infinitely unanswered questions
making another epistle in the scripture
i pore over the verses
clearly written for a reason

the stilted scribble of your hand
lingers among my papers
while the passing of your life
is somehow
reduced to a text
my heart is full with you
but empty

the boy i thought i knew
the man of whom i knew only the periphery
go, strew yourself across the darkness
a constellation
there always on a clear night
for anyone who might look up
and wonder

my brother is gone


a precious gift


I have had to let go of many things that mattered to me. Learning to really let go of them has been a long and difficult lesson in my life. Out of that process, though, I have distilled the things to treasure, the things that really matter – and they are few.

This weekend I enjoyed that precious gift of simple time spent with a loved one. It fills my heart and goes beyond. To love and to feel love, to accept and feel accepted – no strings attached anywhere – is the very essence of life.

To walk in easy understanding together through a snow-blanketed woods, sharing moments of mystery and wonder and joy  – simply perfect.

To laugh in comfortable, non-judgmental conversation over a cup of coffee in a cozy spot – sublime.

To discover another facet of the ever-unfolding, sparkling gem that is you  – amazing.

To see the world get bigger and more beautiful because you open yet another door for me – phenomenal.

To be able share this journey, without pretense, with absolute safety and trust, I have no words.

To see into your smiling eyes, to put my arms around you and hold you tight for even a moment –  I am just so deeply grateful.

making memories


As I perused the rich offerings of my fellow bloggers yesterday, I chanced upon a request on JPC Allen Writes to consider my favorite Christmas song as a writing prompt.

My brain spent a brief moment racing through its catalog of Christmas carols. Just seconds passed before a cascade of rich memories began to tumble out – so I sort of had to write.

The thing is that I played piano.

As a kid, I developed quite a repertoire of Christmas carols. I continued learning them, newer and somewhat more complex arrangements, until young adulthood.

So, when family and friends gathered on Christmas eve, I was ready. Never mind that food, alcohol, and interpersonal dynamics left little attention span for my efforts at the piano.

With no urging from anyone, I donned my felt reindeer antlers, took my seat at the piano, and began to play. Eventually, it clicked.

Two or three pieces always briefly caught everyone’s fancy, whether to sing along, or with which to get very silly.

Everyone could be tempted to join in for “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night,” since we all knew the words. I particularly loved playing “Joy to the World,” “Let It Snow,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I liked the peppy, fun songs more than the somber, slow ones.

Everyone would gather around me and the piano so they could see the music and the words. Their voices filled the air. They easily and loudly carried on even if I made a brief stumble on the keys.

Things quickly fell apart, however, when folks introduced alternate lyrics for “We Three Kings” (you know, the ones involving a baffling rubber cigar), which everyone found hysterically funny.

Even worse, it was never long before my older sister would find it quite hilarious to stand directly behind me as I played, with her fingers poised just above my shoulders. She would wait for me to make a mistake, then make a loud and giggling production of grabbing my shoulders and tickling me. It made me so apprehensive that I was bound to make a mistake.

This little game usually marked the end of my Christmas carol playing for the day – no doubt suiting her intent.

As we all got a little older, I particularly enjoyed playing tunes like “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “Silver Bells.”

“Sleigh Ride,” though, ultimately became the family favorite. For some reason, everyone got so they demanded the “Sleigh Ride” song with all its ring-ting-tingling, and rollicked their way through it.

Eventually and wonderfully, my own children were among the voices enjoying the fun.

So, in truth, I don’t have a favorite Christmas carol. I simply cherish them all – at least the ones I can play on the piano – for the joyful memories they helped to create. They also serve as a happy reminder to seize the moment, be connected, and make new ones

New kicks


It was time.

There were just so many miles on my beloved running shoes. I mean, we were totally bonded. All that bonding took its toll.

My bedraggled, worn out shoes originally came into my life as a delightful surprise. One day, I headed into the running store to meet up and head out on a run. Upon arrival, the store owner told me that, courtesy of my son, I should pick out a pair of new shoes. Turns out that my awesome son had remembered my birthday and managed to think of the absolutely perfect surprise for me. He had called from out of state to my fave store and made the arrangements.

My son may not have envisioned the little impromptu party that went along with it (or maybe he did). Here were my running buddies, all of them also delighted by my son’s thoughtfulness. And then, the ensuing birthday wishes and, of course, shoe shopping. Ultimately, there was a get-together at the local brew spot. It was all very festive.

Those shoes went with me through wind, rain, and snow. They crossed finish lines. They bore witness to my tears, expletives, affirmations, and joyous aha moments. They were there when the geese flew over, when the butterflies circled, when the birds sang, when the alligators made their silent dare.

So many amazing memories, but emotional attachment cannot stand in the way of good, safe running.

Uhm, can it?

As I mentioned, it was time.

In a new-to-me town here, I made my first venture into the local running store in search of new shoes. I came out with just what I wanted, and so far, so good. Got the Altra Escalante, zero-drop, roomy toe box. Kind of weird to feel the cushion in there – feels very self-indulgent, but I think I’ll adjust. And I also understand these kicks to be vegan-friendly.

The shoes are not inexpensive to me, but they are important to me. It is a good thing that I could allow myself to make this a priority.

In a world that seems to be getting a little crazier by the day, it’s important to stay centered and hold peace in intention. Don’t ask me why or how, but my locomotion is part of how I make that happen.

So. Time to break in the new kicks.

dreams ago

I just don’t know how to let go of this place. I walk back toward the pond, glance toward the ancient barn, and two sand hill cranes fly silently, low above me. Back at the pond, the red-winged blackbird is fit to be tied, and hounds me all the way around the pond. The precious little pears are coming out on the pear trees. Over there is where John had the most amazing garden, he just seemed to know how to do it. Sometimes, he would take a lawn chair into the middle of it, and just sit there happily with his cowboy hat on. Hidden in the weeds by the pond is what’s left of the Monarch, at one time the sailboat of our Swallows and Amazons dreams. Upstairs in the barn is where the boys discovered the crated up model airplanes, and history was altered. How many treks did we make down to the back barn to look after the ponies and the goat? Often I was down there by the light of the moon, the barn cats were happy to see me, even if the coyotes howled.
Inside, it’s not the walls, it’s the floors. Where those little feet trod, and grew into big feet. Where projects were built. Where kittens and dogs were hugged. Some of the rooms are almost frozen in time, and it’s almost unbearable to look. And the rooms that are sort of emptied are still filled with memories, and the boxes that sit there spill over with them.
I sit here in this most silent of places and wonder. Where is home?

march eight two thousand one

We had named it long before we ever set eyes on it. To the boys it was a certainty; to me it was just a dream. Then, one day we drove by at 55 miles per hour. It was AW who turned the car around, drove up to it, and knew it for what it was. It was our place, our dream, our hope, A’s harbor, and J’s low-tech farm. To AW, it was perhaps unfettered messing about with old cars. It was every invention the boys had ever imagined. To me it was … open windows in the summer, birds wheeling overhead, space, time, freedom, paint on canvas, love.

And to all of us it was a delightful, unfolding mystery. We had no idea at the start of it all what a mystery it was. The house itself was at once a naked statement and a truly guarded secret. The past it held was hidden from us, but tempted us and drew us in. The land and its relationships, its actions, seemed so apparent from the road as we drove past, but proved to be a complex puzzle and, in a way, one that couldn’t be solved – though that was the daily battle.

Now, though still new to this life, we are immersed in it. We find that after all the other paths we walked down, and there were many, this one is new and it’s fresh and it’s a little scary.

One day, as the windows of my bedroom blinked without opinion upon me poised silently on my knees, I heard two words. My heart paces a little now as I think of it.

I am still wondering about those words. I’ve waited a while to comply, but comply I must. Halfway will not do the job.

Pray. Write. It almost frightens me to say it.

Pray. Write.

The prayers flowed, but the ink would not. Write. Write about what? Why should I write? What do I have to say? What, may I ask, do You have to say? There are many messages I could send with my pen. Unfortunately, it has been my conviction that the truths I’ve arrived at would just drift off into space rather than explode with effect on my targets.

Perhaps, though, it is possible that a finger is poised near the veil, ready to lift it off and let one see. I suppose that means I should be very careful about my target and my intent. I think I know, however, that it is not my intent at all here. And not knowing or understanding the will of that intent, but in humility and fear, I will write with love, out of love. Perhaps I may even find that it is I who wears the veil.

Writing is a journey in itself.

Words discovered hand-written on the two sides of a single page buried in what appeared to be a new notebook, the one I took with me to start my new job.

Pray. Write.

on the road

IMG_7279I nervously but happily wend my way down I-75, south, heading into Ohio. I have a couple of ramps and a box of straps stowed in the back of the pickup, lent to me by my buddy just before I left town. I’m on a mission, and it gives me a sense of confidence where I have often had little.

I stop for gas in a place strange to me. Hopping out of the truck, I realize I don’t need a jacket and there is no snow anywhere.

I negotiate the winding multi-lane pathway that is Dayton, and then just south of there, roll off on the exit and head for the truck stop.

Sure enough, there he is. My son stands larger than life, clad neck to foot in a yellow jumpsuit near his motorcycle. He has ridden it up from south Florida. It was one cold trip, and I can easily see the cold is not out of him. He has the Florida tan, but his young face is grizzled with the ride.

His numerous bags and various pieces of equipment are spread out in a long line next to the bike. He  arrived about 15 minutes ahead of me, and used the time to unload the bike while he tried to warm up. There is his tent, his camp stove, bags of tools, helmet, gloves. An umbrella. I guess you just never know when you’re going to need an umbrella.

I pull up with the truck and jump out to get him inside my arms. This whole cross country motorcycle thing is hard on a mom, you know. And here it is winter, and no one sees motorcycles on a good day, much less when no one really expects to see one at all.

People are looking at the small spectacle of his journey. One gnarly aging man hovers close, drawn into the experience as if by a magnet. He sports a smile, a work jacket that lets me know his name is John, and a black cap that announces that his boss is Jesus.

We set the ramps up, and between my son and John, the big bike is easily rolled up into the back of my pickup and set at an angle to fit. The box of straps is broken open, and the bike is tied down. I go in to the truck stop to fuel up with coffee, and then we head north to Michigan where we are expecting rain and freezing rain after the heavy snows we have lately received. Our new friend John gives us a happy nod as we pull out.

And then there’s about 5 hours of unadulterated one-on-one time, learning again who this amazing person is, who he is becoming. It’s both honest and brash, and gentle and tentative as we tread into each other’s lives again.

He puts his favorite CD’s in, and points out his favorite songs. He revels in the warmth of the truck after the many hours of frigid riding he’s been doing. He’s excited about where the road’s going. And so am I.

What a gift. I am startled when I look at him, to see the adult in his face at the same time I can still see the child. What a gift to have this opportunity to discover him again where he’s at on life’s road – to see him and share in this very moment. I am continually astounded and privileged to be witness to the unfolding of my children – to glimpse the soul inside of them. Simply amazing.

around the clock

It’s one of those kind of calls no one likes to get. Where something’s wrong. Where it’s wrong enough that you know maybe the day will end with someone else not in it. Someone important to you, perhaps dear to you.

So I listen carefully to all the information I’m hearing. I make notes. Wheezing. Not eating. Chest x-ray ordered stat. Fluid on the lungs. Congestive heart failure. This is my dad we’re talking about.

Almost without thinking, I pack my little bag. A notebook. A pen. A book. My beloved cryptograms. Hand sanitizer. Phone charger. The list of issues, the list of warnings about which meds not to use, and why. Almost as if I expected to be spending endless hours in a hospital waiting room.

It’s a constant battle with the medical system, fighting to keep an aged loved one alive with respect and honor and quality of life. I’m sure each individual tries to do their part, but the fact is, once the system gets a hold of a very old person, it’s as if it does its best to kill them, and they are, in fact, pretty successful at it. Been down this road too much, a road I never wanted to go down at all. Went down the road first with my mom. They finally succeeded in her case, despite our best efforts.

Yeah. It’s true. I don’t have a lot of faith in the system. Not for a very aged person, at any rate. It’s as if they become inanimate, a guinea pig at best, forgotten or even targeted at worst. It’s not just advocacy, it’s a damned around-the-clock fight.

Everyone knows it. So right now, the fight is to keep him from falling into the clutches of the hospital. Right now, he’s in loving arms – skilled, loving arms that noticed right away something was not right. That jumped right away to see what was going on. That will work to do everything they can to right things. Once he crosses the line, however, they have to let go and relinquish him to that system. Essentially, that means saying goodbye.

Yeah, ultimately, we will have to say goodbye. But what a world of difference, to be plugged in, prodded, poked, and simultaneously pestered and ignored to death – around the clock – by an indifferent, monolithic, profit-driven medical system. Or. To be held, to be loved, to have comfort rendered, to be cherished, respected, honored, to have your pains and worries diminished – to death, around the clock.