Crossing Water


Commons Coffeehouse and Bookstore where we met and learned and drank coffee in Langley, Wa on Whidbey Island.

There’s something about crossing water that makes me feel like I’m going someplace different, a place where something will happen.

That’s what I thought as the ferry left Port Townsend on October 6th for Whidbey Island where I had signed up for an Algonkian Writer Conference. It was, I also noted, what would have been my father’s 99th birthday.

My father is who introduced me to travel by water. When I was eight, we got on the Wonosobo, a Dutch freighter, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and 75 days later docked in Long Beach, California. The last two weeks, we saw no land as we sailed through typhoons, waves crashing over the top of the ship.

I loved it.

When I was 60, I discovered the letters he had written to my four-year old self when he was alone in Saudi Arabia, yearning for the time we would join him there.

I suspect it is because of my father that I am a writer. As I read his letters, I understood what a good storyteller and writer he was. A man who hadn’t graduated from high school put pen to onion skin paper and described nights in the Empty Quarter shared with desert foxes, kangaroo rats, and men who snatched locust from the air and consumed them with great gusto and trudged to the highest sand dune each sunset where they lay their prayer rugs and bowed and kneeled and bowed and kneeled and touched their heads to the rugs in the presence of Allah.

Perhaps that’s why I thought of him as I rode the ferry to my writers’ conference. A mere 35-minute ride.

This conference was about getting your break-out novel published. I have done little to get published. I have enough rejection letters, emails, and messages posted on my accounts advising me my piece was not accepted to prove I am a writer. What’s a writer without rejection notices?

So what’s a writer who hasn’t been published?

Well, that’s a conundrum for me. I want to be published, to have people read what I have written.

But, I hate the process—think it’s a terrible business model. But it is what it is.

To be perfectly honest, I have resisted that next step in writing—that step where you actually try and get published. I think it is my last self-imposed barrier that keeps me small—keeps me from being seen.

I’m a bit embarrassed about that, but there it is. I’ve said it in public.

I’d like to report that my brilliance was recognized and you can expect that my break out novel is coming to a bookstore near you soon. Oh, right, there aren’t many bookstores. Okay, coming to an online bookstore soon.

But, I cannot report that. I learned what I suspected—getting published is a daunting task. One of the most difficult hurdles is getting past what the conference leader referred to as the “Twenty-two year olds”—the overworked and un- or underpaid interns who are the gatekeepers.

And then there’s the problem that I write literary fiction or what is referred to as up-market fiction. Hard to market it.

I got a great appreciation for what an agent does, the amount of work they have to invest to get you in the door. All on speculation. It is market driven—neither the publisher nor the agent can take great risks on unknown authors, especially if they write what is hard to market.


But, I also learned how to pitch a novel, and got a good template for planning out a novel—which helps one winnow the pitch down to that famous elevator conversation. Oh, and that my writing and my storytelling are solid.

I believe in what I am writing.

So, I got what I needed. Something happened. I have broken down that last self-imposed barrier. I’m not afraid anymore of being seen nor do I need to keep myself small. I’m willing to do the work to get published.

With a little bit of luck, I won’t be that author that they discover posthumously, but one who gets published in her lifetime.

It’s just a matter of continuing to cross water to get to someplace different where something will happen.

It’s kind of being a grown up.


I should add that I met terrific writers, kind, smart, talented—my tribe—and they all live close by. Worth its weight in gold.

Some Say the World Will End in Fire

Our friend’s world ended in fire over the weekend.

Owen Goldsmith and Tom Darter in 1969, before the premiere of Psalm 90.

Owen Goldsmith and Tom Darter in 1969, before the premiere of Psalm 90.

Owen Goldsmith had been Tom’s friend since high school. He was his music teacher, but more, he was Tom’s music mentor.

Owen taught a rigorous music theory class, which Tom took when he was a sophomore. Music theory in high school is really unusual. For a final spring assignment, Owen asked members of the class to write something. When Tom came back with the beginnings of what he has called “a very bad imitation Mozart string quartet,” Owen said, “Well, this is okay, but I wanted you to write something of your own.”

In response, Tom wrote four Sketches for Woodwind Quartet. A year later, it was played at San Jose State University’s Festival of 20th Century Music, in a concert that also included pieces written by Ernst Toch, John Cage, Anton Webern, and Robert Palmer (who later became one of his teachers at Cornell). Tom was 15 when he wrote the piece, and 16 when it was performed. All because of Owen.

During Tom’s first year of college, a dorm fire took the lives of four students. Psalm 90 was read at their memorial. Tom was so moved by it, he set it to music and dedicated it to Owen and the Livermore High School a cappella choir, which was conducted by Owen. Their 1969 performance of it is flawless. College choirs have hesitated to take it on because it is too complicated.

And their performance is flawless. Listen to it here.

To say that we were blessed with the teachers we had in Livermore during the 60s doesn’t really do it justice. We were more than blessed.

Ed Brush. Art Duey. Claude Cameron. Judy Beery. Jack Beery. Ernie Dust. Roland Carlson. Bert Fraser.

To name just a few.

You know how you don’t teach people what to think, but to think? Well that’s what they did. And more.

There was a synergy to those years. They taught art, music, literature, history, math, and, science as living, breathing beings. I first read Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech in Bert Fraser’s English Honors class my senior year. I have returned to it often over the years, divining new meaning from it each time I read it.

When a group of us, high school and college students, formed a theater company called Auxiliary Players, they gave us their encouragement, came to the performances, participated in some.

One of our earliest performances included one-act plays by Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Harold Pinter. Three very depressing plays.

As he was walking out of the theater at the end of the performance Tom asked Owen what he thought. “I’m going to go home and read Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to cheer up,” he replied.

They let us fail. Acknowledged our failures. And we learned from them. Our next performance had much better rounded programming.

Tom and I stayed friends with Owen. He was part of out Thanksgivings, came to our wedding. We visited him in his home in Mountain Ranch where we sat on his deck and drank in the quiet beauty of the Sierra foothills. In his letters to us he wrote of the wildlife that visited his property. We talked to him often and called him every year on his birthday, October 8th.

Our most recent phone call with him was three or four weeks ago. It was clear that Owen was failing. He was having mobility problems. He was depressed, and his depression fogged his mind.

We worried when we heard that the Butte fire was heading his way. His family filed a missing persons report. Then yesterday we learned that his remains were found in the ruins of his home.

Owen would have been 83 this October. A phone call we will miss.

We will probably never know why he didn’t get out—why he didn’t evacuate. I personally think it was a conscious decision on his part not to leave. I don’t think he could have recovered from the devastating loss of his beloved home and the beauty that surrounded it. I suspect he had already died when the fire consumed him.

I have thought of Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” since we started worrying and wondering about Owen. It’s a tribute to my high school teachers that I would turn to poetry and remember a specific poem at such a defining moment. It’s not so much it gives me solace, as it gives me a place to go when life becomes unfathomable.

Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Turn Left at the Whale

DSCN1057I have been on blog silence for three months. I know. I know. You’re not supposed to go on blog silence, but since my whole intent with starting Writing Shed was to change my story, I’m giving myself permission to make my own rules.

I go silent when I don’t know what to say.

These past three months have not been easy ones. Tom started radiation in July. Each treatment lasts 10 minutes and we are about 10 minutes away from the facility. So treatment and round trip amount to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. He has 10 more treatments.

Doesn’t sound like much—30 minutes a day. Radiation doesn’t have the noxious effects (they aren’t side effects, they are effects) of chemotherapy. And yet, it has been a period of endurance for him. I am on the sidelines watching it. Helpless to do anything to make it more endurable as he prepares five days a week to do what he can to protect his bladder and bowel from the noxious effects of radiation.

Every Monday he meets with the radiation oncologist where he is asked questions to determine if he is being affected by the treatments. Any trouble urinating? Any pain urinating? Any diarrhea? Any fatigue?

No. No. No. And yes. Being hyper-aware of one’s bodily functions is exhausting.

There was something sobering about Tom starting the treatments. It made his diagnosis real. And then two weeks ago, we learned that it will be about a year and a half before we find out if the treatments are indeed curative. Six-month intervals of PSA tests. And even then . . .

That’s the reality of a cancer diagnosis. Once it enters into your home, it’s there as a ghost—if not an actual presence.

It’s the new normal—the realization that there is an end parenthesis, even if it isn’t punctuated with cancer. One never knows when it will come or how it will come or if it is your end parenthesis or an end parenthesis that leaves you the one left behind.

We all have that end parenthesis hanging out there. It’s just that it’s a bit more in our faces.

The new normal.

For me, it has made me wonder, why did I, a native Californian, end up in the Pacific Northwest for this journey into the wilderness?

The theatre group we threw ourselves into turned out not to be our tribe. It tends towards the cliquish, and Tom and I are the opposite of that. We didn’t fit. It was a loss on many levels, including losing a feeling of belonging. His diagnosis intensified our feeling of loss and isolation.

So why here? Why now? What?

Turn left at the whale.

That was the instruction I received to locate the Marketing Your Small Business class offered by the Jamestwon S’Klallam Tribal Library. The photo at the top of this post is the whale at which I turned left.

The culture that was here before Europeans arrived, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, is strong here. I want to say that their artwork is pervasive, but I think referring to it as artwork doesn’t quite fit. It is a work of being, rather than something that is done.

In June, a totem pole that tells the story of why the sun shines in Sequim was installed in the new Civic Center plaza. I had stopped by the House of Myth where the carvers were working on the totem pole so had seen it as it transformed from a piece of wood into a story.

The dedication included a ceremony conducted by the tribe.

Last night, I attended a storytelling event that featured Tribal Elder and Storyteller, Elaine Grinnell, who shared stories of her people, the Jamestown S’Klallam, the Strong People. The blurb that described the event said that her stories can, “. . . include retellings of canoe journeys in the wild North Pacific Ocean, where death is always a possibility that must be faced . . .”

As I listened to her last night, the answer to the questions, why here, why now, and what washed over me.

Turn left at the whale.

I live in a place that is a reminder of being. A place where the original inhabitants derived their spiritual essence from the environment that surrounds them—who recognize that the end parenthesis is a part of being.

The new normal that was actually the normal all along. It just comes with eyes that see more clearly, ears that hear more perceptively, and a heart that feels more strongly.

Turn left at the whale to discover your human being.

I cannot leave this post without thanking Renee Emiko Brock-Richmond, who taught the class, for her gracious and generous spirit. Check out her website.

Now What?

I had one of those dreams this morning—the kind you have after you wake and think your day is starting, but then you fall back to sleep.

I encountered a young deer, a buck, on a trail. I tried to let him pass, stood very still, but he reared back and placed his front legs against me. I tried to make myself seem even more still. He placed his cool, black nose against mine. I realized he wasn’t threatening me or threatened by me.

I woke with a vivid memory of the deer.

So I did what I do when I have interesting encounters with animals, I looked up its meaning in the Animal-Wise Tarot book. Mythologies are ripe, it says, with tales of heroes being lured into new, transforming adventures by chasing the deer. Lured from civilization back into the wilderness by the hunt.

The new “normal” is setting in for Tom and me. Tessa Dog continues to be an absence that is a presence. But her absence is part of the new normal as we prepare for his next course of treatment—radiation.

Radiation disrupts both cancer cells and healthy cells. Cancer cells, the invaders, are not as good at repairing themselves as are healthy cells, the legitimate residents in our bodies. Antioxidants are good for us because they help repair our cells—but apparently help cancer cells as well. And so antioxidants aren’t recommended during the 9 weeks of radiation therapy.

Whatever that means. Antioxidants are part of the food we eat as well as supplements like vitamins C, D, and E. Are all antioxidants created equal?

Though I appreciate the radiation oncologist’s knowledge about the physics of radiation, he wasn’t really very helpful when it came to information about antioxidants. He also didn’t seem interested in learning anything about them. I was left with the feeling that we are at the mercy of cancer and radiation—neither of which is known for merciful behavior.

This is a limitation to the science of medicine. I highly respect the science, but the art needs to come in as well. That means engaging the patient. I’m sure we will find a way to work through this, as Tom is working with a naturopath as well.

So maybe that is the wilderness we are being lured into—a forced engagement with ourselves—each in our own way. A deep plunge into life, what it means to us, and our agency over our own lives.

The wilderness for me, the fears it evokes, are of having my head chopped off if I rise above. Or being the nail that gets banged down because it sticks up. Or being a flower that is taller than the others.

Being that which makes me one of a kind.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that we are all one of a kind, creating the story that comes out of our experience of life. The joys and the sorrows. The triumphs and the failures. The loves and the losses.

Compassion for being human is at the core of it. Especially compassion for ourselves.

We are reaching the two-year anniversary of moving to the Northwest. I often think I’m still in California because we are still on the left coast. But it has been a significant change. One sees evidence up here, for example, of the original inhabitants. Tribal centers. Towns with native names. Totem poles carved for civic centers.

There is a feral quality that transcends here.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this except to come back to my title: Now what?

Tom has said that he thinks cancer is outnumbered. I think that’s true. But as much a part of this that I am, when it comes down to it, this is Tom’s battle to wage. I am on the sidelines.

I feel like that candle in the wind Elton John wrote of.

I’ve been searching for my armor, my protection from the fears evoked in my wilderness. I think the deer in my dream was telling me that armor isn’t the answer. Protection isn’t the answer.

Valuing my experience of life is.

It occurred to me recently that no one has the right to survive. We are all at the mercy of life’s randomness. We can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place. Over that we have little, if any control.

But we do have a right to our life, to embrace its story, to dive into the experience of it.

So, I guess the answer to my title, “Now What?”, is to follow the deer into the wilderness and see where he leads me.

And Then It Was Time for Her to Go

Tessa Dog. November 8, 1996 to May 8, 2015

Tessa Dog. November 8, 1996 to May 8, 2015

Tessa Dog lived a very long time—eighteen years and eight months. All but two of those months with Tom and me.

Tom wasn’t so sure about having a dog. He claims that I waited until he was at a trade show to visit the shelter in Marin, then sprung it on him that I had found Tessa and adopted her.

“Well, okay,” he sorta grumbled, when I brought her home. “But she can’t come into my office.”

I left to attend a meeting. When I returned, Tessa was sleeping on a pillow next to Tom’s desk. She had gone to the doorway to his office and stared at him with her puppy eyes. So he invited her in and got a pillow so she wouldn’t have to lie on a hardwood floor.

Eight-week old puppies don’t do that—wait at the door. But somehow, Tessa understood Tom and so asked to be invited into his heart.

The night Tom’s mother died, we brought Gene, his father, back to our house after the long day of making arrangements. He dropped his 88-year old body onto the couch. Rug, our aptly named cat, jumped onto his lap, and Tessa curled herself up next to him. It was their furry bodies that kept Gene from floating away that night.

Tom’s father and my mother became the flock Tessa attended to when we moved to Livermore, following them if they left the room, gently grabbing their wrists to bring them back to us. She sang as Tom played the piano the night my mother died, but with a soft mournfulness rather than her usual exuberance.

I don’t know how dogs know these things, but they do. And Tessa was a mix of herding breeds, so she was especially tuned to communicating with the humans in her pack.

In her heyday, she kept up with the whippets at the dog park. She leapt like a deer through what Tom’s daughters named Oberon’s Meadow. She would gleefully chase the ball then negotiate with Tom as to whether she should return it to him or he should come get it from her.

It wasn’t until she was fifteen that things changed. I had woken in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day and as I made my way to the kitchen for a drink of water, I saw Tessa huddling under the dining room table, unable to move her back legs, her eyes wide with terror, her front legs spread apart to hold her up.

Our vet told us she had something called Old Dog Syndrome—or to be more precise Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome—similar to Meniere’s disease or vertigo in humans. Basically, gravity ceases to exist. The world loses its stability so there is no context for determining which end is up—or sideways for that matter.

The vet reassured us that Tessa would likely recover completely with some tender loving care on our part—we fed and hydrated her by hand, and carried her to the yard so she could urinate and defecate. She would wait until we were by her side before she attempted to walk, would look back at us if we fell too far behind, letting us know that our presence helped her find her grounding.

One of the most endearing traits of dogs is their loyalty. In a way, the tables were turned as we nursed her back to health. She had to rely on our loyalty to her—our willingness to stay by her side as she regained her equilibrium.

It was a little over a year after her bout with Old Dog Syndrome that we sold our home in California and moved to Washington. We worried how it would affect her, the constant presence of strangers streaming through her home as we prepared for the sale. And then there was the long drive from the Bay Area to Sequim. She was over 16 by then.

But survive and thrive she did. There were the occasional spurts of running through the yard, but mostly what we noticed was the comfort of having her with us—the three of us settling into our daily routine. She would walk with me to the mailbox in the morning to get the newspaper and in the afternoon to fetch the mail. Each of us would give her a treat as we made our morning cappuccino, then one or the other of us would make what we came to call her breakfast—her medication dissolved into chicken broth with some thinly sliced roast beef we got at Costco added to perk her interest.

Why wouldn’t she want to stick around?

But she was slowing down. The last few months, she spent much of her day sleeping on her bed in our bedroom. She began to linger halfway down the long driveway when I walked to the mailbox. At night, when Tom played piano, instead of singing, she paced though the house, as if searching for the song that lingered in her memory.

And still, she was there, the herding dog who cared for her flock. During the weeks between our learning of Tom’s high PSA, the tests, and waiting for results, Tessa hovered near Tom.

The end came quickly and gently for Tessa. On Wednesday, May 6th, I took her in the morning to the groomers. At noon, Tom drained the olive oil from the sardines he would have for lunch onto a few bites of her dry food—Good news for Tessa Dog we called it. And it was—she ate it joyfully.

And then she stopped eating. Refused her afternoon treat. Wouldn’t eat her dinner. During the night, she vomited. The next morning, she went into Tom’s office and brushed against him, lingered, then came to my office, brushed against me, lingered, then began looking for a corner, a sheltered place.

We got her outside into the yard where she roamed. The vet came by and confirmed what I thought was happening. Tessa was dying.

“They don’t like dying in the house,” said the vet, who had stopped by on her way to tend to another animal. We were committed to Tessa dying at home and the vet couldn’t come by until the next day. Since Tessa was not in any distress, we decided we could wait.

As soon as the vet left, Tessa made a beeline to the house where she lay down in our bedroom.

By the next morning, she had made her way to the door to the sunroom, but could not make it any further. So we carried her to the yard and placed her on the ground surrounded by four tall trees. Tom and I sat vigil.

It was one of those quiet just slightly warm spring days. The world seemed to stop but life continued around us. Birds chattered. We could hear the occasional lowing of the cows across the road. Tessa breathed easily.

Tessa was pretty much gone by the time the vet arrived at noon. I lay down next to her, placed my hand on her chest, and felt the final soft beats of her heart.

Yesterday, two and a half weeks later, we got the results from Tom’s PSA test—his first since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and began receiving hormone suppression treatments. It was down 90% —to a level considered normal for a man his age. He will be starting radiation treatments in a few weeks—the radiation holds the promise of being curative.

Yesterday morning, before we left to meet with the radiation oncologist, a deer came into our front yard. Deer sightings are common, but this was the first time I had seen one in our front yard. I thought of Tessa leaping like a deer through Oberon’s Meadow.

We feel we have cancer on the run. With all of the support Tom has received from friends and a team of professionals that includes my dear friend, Nancy Wheeler—a hypnotherapist—we think the cancer is outnumbered. I no longer have that cold gut-wrenching fear of losing Tom.

I knew when I wrote the blog about Old Dog Syndrome, that I would one day have to write about Tessa leaving. I knew I would title it, “And Then it Was Time for Her to Go.” Knew I would have to let her go for she would know it was time.

Tessa stayed with us as long as she could. And, we believe that she stayed long enough to make sure that Tom would be okay—and that I would be okay. Dogs, they have discovered, can smell the presence of tumors, so it is not far fetched to believe that she sensed that her flock was out of danger.

Her absence is still a presence for us. We still expect to see her lying on her bed when we enter the bedroom. Making her breakfast is a missing piece in our mornings. We miss her walking down the driveway to help us fetch the paper and mail.

I attended a workshop last week offered by the cancer center affiliated with our provider. Two people with cancer talked about their loss of independence, what it feels like to have to depend on others for things they did for themselves.

I thought back to that day when Tessa, in the midst of Old Dog Syndrome, looked back at us to make sure we were close by—a look that said she knew she could not tend to the flock as she once had. We assured her that we wanted her around regardless. We loved her. She could depend on that.

Her last few years brought great comfort to Tom and me. Three sentient beings, spending our days confident in the knowledge that we cared and could depend on each other, and on our loyalty to love and what love asks of us.

In the end, it was quiet.

My hand over her heart, feeling it stop
—like the sound of falling snow.


The Light at the End of the Hall

earth from the moonAs it happens, the world did not stop while Tom and I went from being in the jaws of the shark, to being spat out, to swimming to shore.

So much going on in the world:

The struggle between those who seek to start another war to enforce their belief in American exceptionalism, and those who seek to use America’s strength to lead a global community.

The struggle between those who want to declare religious dogma is a person and thus should be granted civil rights equal to an actual person, and those harmed by—and those who think no one should be harmed by—another’s religious beliefs.

Again, an unarmed black man has been shot dead by a policeman who claimed he feared for his life as the fleeing man ran away from him. Shot in the back multiple times.

Oh, and Mad Men returned.

Mad Men is always a great reminder of where we have come from, telling the story of the cultural changes that catapulted America out of World War II and the Fifties, and into the a world that stretched boundaries. The first episode begins in 1970, when the counter-culture got assimilated into the status-quo culture. Businessmen wearing shaggy hair, sideburns, and mustaches. Women venturing into the business world, where, of course, their power and standing were trivialized and diminished by frat-boy-men who humiliated with them with snide, stupid innuendo and sarcasm.

I thought we were past all that.

And, then, Indiana passed a law that allowed businesses to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. Fortunately, it created a backlash, led by the market place. Indiana relented and included a statement that it was illegal for a business to deny services to an individual based on his or her sexual preference.

Well, hallelujah, I say.

There was the debate that tried to defend religious beliefs. God tells some people that those who are wired to love someone of the same sex are an abomination to him. And, they have a right to hold that belief.

Well, yes, they have a right to believe that. But my god tells me something very different. First she’s a she and doesn’t cares who you love and commit to. The point is to be kind and loving.

There is great harm done when the culture, the society, and the government supports a group’s right to shape the world in its own image. Look no further than gay teen suicide as an example.

Imagine how bleak it must seem to believe you are unworthy of love in the eyes of god—not because of having done harm to anyone, but because of what you inherently are. Imagine believing that you can never have a home and family and life partner unless you are willing to live a lie. Imagine what it must feel like to the spouse who lives with that lie.

It’s tough enough when one’s family enforces such a limited world. When a government reinforces it, there is no escape.

Believe what you want, but you do not have the right to mold the world to reinforce it, especially if it inflicts harm on others.

If we are to live in a country that does not establish a religion, then we all need to live with the ambiguity that comes when we make room for all religious beliefs or none at all.

In The Power of Myth series, Bill Moyers asks Joseph Campbell if humans create myths based on their environment. He said yes. He gave the example of what it was like when a Pygmy, who lived in a rainforest, was taken to a mountaintop. The vastness of the landscape overwhelmed him. He wanted to retreat into the rainforest where he felt safe.

Those of us who live in the “modern” world are much like that Pygmy. Only we are exposed daily to the vastness of the world—a world that includes rainforests, deserts, mountains, valleys, oceans, glaciers—and we don’t have that rainforest to retreat to.

What we have is our planet. Our home. And we need to feel safe here, the way the Pygmy felt safe in the familiarity of the rainforest.

As Joseph Campbell said, we need to write new myths. Science and the information about the world it gives us provide us great tools for doing just that—for finding the divine in the mundane.

But, to do that, we cannot pander to or give credence to solipsistic dogma, anymore than a family can be functional if it sacrifices the needs of its members to the needs of its least functional member.

Mad Men is great storytelling. The characters are catapulted into a world that is vaster than the one they were raised in. It makes visible the devastating effects of racism, sexism, and homophobia through the eyes of the characters who experience them.

We’re not past all that. But, I believe we are on our way.

The governor of Arkansas saw the reaction to Indiana’s attempt to codify homophobia, and refused to sign a similar bill.

The policeman who shot the black guy is being charged with murder.

We have a president who understands the nuances and subtleties of strength. I like to think that it’s because his mother lived in, experienced, and exposed him to cultures beyond her Midwest beginnings. It seems to me that rather than freaking out about the ambiguous nature of reality, he embraces it.

I believe we are spirits learning to be human. Compassion rises out of our experience of being human. The origin of the word compassion comes from “to bear” and “suffering.” To bear suffering.

I think that means a willingness to see and experience another’s pain, rather than avert our eyes from it, convincing ourselves that it has nothing to do with us—it’s not something that could ever happen to us.

In “Conversations With My Son,” Sue Miller says that there was a light at the end of the hall where she grew up. Safe passage. So there was a light at the end of the hall in the home where she raised her son as a single mother.

If we want safe passage in our home, our planet, we need to have that light at the end of the hall. I think that will come from writing the new myths Joseph Campbell referred to.

We’ve come along way and we have a long way to go. Let’s do it.

The Geese

It’s like that. One day you realize something has changed. For all I know the geese may have been back for several weeks. But last week, I noticed them in all their honking glory.

2015 spring 3My part of the Earth has turned from winter to spring. It was cold yesterday, but it was spring cold. One of those days that surprises you with its chill. You know winter has passed because the signs are all there: the blossoming trees, the tulips and daffodils finding their bloom, the lengthening days, the woodpecker on the telephone pole.

The chill is as cold as a winter’s day, but it is spring cold. A reminder that change isn’t fixed. It has its own rhythm. Change happens over time.

I’ve been trying to come up with a description of my blog, Writing Shed. What it’s about. The closest I could come to was that I’m a woman growing older writing about what a woman growing older writes about. Which means I write about life’s stuff.

The dust seems to be settling for Tom and me. A new reality in which cancer is a player, but not what defines our life. It catapulted us into a more intense experience of life, but now we are settling in again to the mundane: paying bills, daily household chores, grappling with what to do next.

The mundane is also life. We enhance it by making sure to honor the grace of everyday living: the time we spend talking with each other over breakfast; the attention paid to making dinner a meal worthy of leisure enjoyment—and then enjoying it at a leisurely pace.

And then, of course, we have to do the dishes.

I just rewrote a piece that describes how I went from thinking being a married woman was a what that trumped me, to understanding that anything I do is nothing if it doesn’t include me. I get to write my own story.

The piece is based on the period following my divorce in 1974, which was chaotic. I couldn’t figure it out. I wasn’t a married woman, so what was I? I had ended the marriage. Felt that I had escaped it. But I had no real idea of why.

I traveled to Europe alone in 1976 (radical for my background). That was when I decided I was a writer. And when, without my realizing it, I began to shape being a married woman around who I am.

But, as I said, change isn’t fixed. It takes place over time. The dust has to settle.

There is something about the recent before-and-after-the-shark event we just went through that has helped settle the dust wrought by that nearly 40-years-ago seed of change.

I am a writer and a married woman. The shark made me realize that being a married woman has a unique vulnerability. It’s not so much a what I am as a who I am by virtue of loving.

Change is time. Time is change.

I’m a woman growing older writing about growing older. Which is life’s stuff.

I look forward to the geese family stopping traffic on Third Avenue—the adult geese raising their necks in defiance as they usher their fuzzy goslings from one side of the road to the other.

Growing older. Aren’t we all?