Monday, December 31, 2018

a winter prayer

Spirit, grant me the strength
to rise and relight my torch
that i may build something new

grant me the insight
to understand and undergo
my transforming
ever-broadening edges

grant me the peace to love
the unfinished parts within

grant me the wisdom
that comes with always

--joran oppelt

welcome morning

so while i think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my
palm for this God, this laughter
of the morning, lest it
go unspoken
the joy that isn't shared,
i've  heard, dies young

--anne sexton

Saturday, December 29, 2018

a glorious freedom

one of my favorite holiday gifts is the book "a glorious freedom: older women living extraordinary lives" by lisa congdon.  i immediately read it cover to cover.

because, of all years, i love this one. being 44 feels like coming home in the best sense of the word and from the inside out.

i am drawn to those who take action when it would be easier to complain, who are honest and yet positive, people who are willing to try new things; let life break them open instead of apart.

sure, my hair has some platinum by nature streaks and laugh lines crinkle around my eyes--but they're from laughing; why would i want to cover them up?!

i'm proud of the work of discerning spaces between mystery and intention; the power that comes with letting go of what we can't control and going for it where we can.

my body is happy to be swimming again. my spirit is grateful i gave church a second chance. my soul loved learning in foster parent classes even though i don't know what's next.

i get to create warm and friendly experiences with seasonal shifts at a local winery, making people smile so their laugh lines can grow to crinkle up around their eyes, too.

i love all of my kids, from school students to neighbors and everyone in between.  i was challenged to receive in new ways when beloved friends held a "just because" shower for me.  i tried a dating site even though they're not my style. the first "gather.nourish.make" art retreat brought creativity and connection in our community.

and, as we come upon another year, i've enjoyed charting the lives of others and giving thanks for those who: got jobs, beat cancer, persevered in transitions, cared well for their parents and children, traveled, had healthy babies, published books (word babies), and celebrated milestone birthdays and anniversaries. i am proud of you!

let it be said that i am equally proud of those who lost jobs, had to move when it wasn't their idea, lived well with chronic pain, healed from the unexpected, and faced disappointments big and small. because winning is easy, but when life is rough real character has a chance to shine.

as we grow, what are you most proud  of?  who inspires you to want to become even more wonderfully radical with age no matter what life brings your way?

waiting for paperwhites

Friday, December 28, 2018

painting invitational

the painting invitation to self: 12 canvases in 12 hours.

holiday vacation is a time for me to create.  i had a surplus of ideas come to mind for subjects, so i asked myself one key question to narrow the field, "what has filled you with the most joy lately?  paint what's in your mind's eye." 

so when these images, "earth, sky & sea" tumbled out spontaneously, i realized it must be from taking in a steady diet of beauty!

they have, to me, a gentleness and simplicity about them that is pleasing, both in the process and the final result.  (i often add metallic foils or iridescent paint as a finishing touch, but these seemed best and most unified with bare brush strokes and simple ink lines.)

enjoy these open, uncluttered spaces of nature inviting us to relax and enter in...

Thursday, December 20, 2018

open door

i've  taken to taping inspiration to the back of my door. this way, every time i leave i think, "adventure awaits!" and every time i come home i wonder who might be next for hospitality...

no legs, no limits

doing holiday errands yesterday, i ran into kanya.  we caught up briefly and i learned that she is doing motivational speaking around the world to raise awareness for special needs adoption.

i watched her roll her wheelchair up to her car, hop out, load the chair and drive away, an independent and beautiful young woman without an ounce of self-pity who leads her life with humor, grace, and strength.

i remember when her adopted parents brought her here to the US from Thailand almost twenty years ago.  born without legs, she had been abandoned as a baby and rescued by buddhist monks.

now kanya is a model, super athlete, and actress with engagements across the globe.  to learn more about kanya, visit:  no legs, no limits

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018


need hope this holiday season?

i found a very strong dose of it by watching the documentary "pope francis:  a man of his word". 

adopting  the name francis after saint francis of asissi, our current pope lives out what he believes; choosing a humble apartment instead of lavish living quarters and riding around in a fiat when he could have his choice of status in luxury cars.

the pope is not afraid to speak about the socio-economic issues of our day, nor does he shy away from environmental realities.  but what struck me the most was his sheer simplicity; statements such as 1) talk less 2) listen more 3) always look people in the eye.

he seems just as comfortable with prison inmates and refugees as he does with top world officials and princes; every age, race, and religion.  and they all seem to love him back!  coming from flights and meetings, speeches and hugely significant world events, he is the first to say simply "get lost in play with your children.  smile.  keep your sense of humor alive."

he brims with wisdom and tenderness; light in the darkness.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018

worth the wait

advent begins tomorrow.  and with it, i'm trying an exercise in waiting well.  the last entry poem would not have been written had it not been for this practice.  it's nice when solitary moments of bliss open up the poet's imagination, birds sing, and winds blow gently through the trees. 

in this case, it was crowded, anything but bliss, and my senses were bombarded by smells of bad coffee, rubber, and old popcorn not to mention a cacophony of auditory clutter.  and the wait was long.  i started to whip out my phone to pass the time while my tires were being rotated and then i remembered i could try and be present. 

thankfully there was a window where i could watch the clouds and so i whipped out a small notebook and began sketching and scribbling down in words what i was seeing.

(i've always loved watching clouds and even studied the different types on my own as a child.  though they can be categorized, no two ever exist in exactly the same formation again--rather like people, i can't help noting.)

far from the ideal writing environment, phones rang, the man next to me waiting for his SUV cleared his throat loudly and compulsively, a country music station and ads blared above the sound of power it truly was an exercise for me to focus on the clouds and my internal dialogue instead.

(at the top of my bookpile right now is "the art of the wasted day" by patricia hampl and i love that she too played with words and cloud-watched as a child.  will someone please take "daydreaming" off the list of cardinal sins!?) 

it's good for us to wait, be bored so as to think up something to do or make, have open-ended time or even days.  the moments and clouds right in front of us will never be the same again. 

bedouin sky

bedouin sky

these cloud curls
wisp-winding beyond
bare branches
play with light,
remind me to watch their
first gilded gold into gloaming
they pass over darkness
ethereal now and restless
as nomads searching
mountain silhouette tents
for home and a

ls 11.29.18

Thursday, November 29, 2018

winter solstice

i'm more of an equinox gal, that is i prefer the milder spring and fall to the more extreme summer and winter seasons in general.  that's not to say i don't love all seasons for what they have to offer, though!

as we approach december 21st's winter solstice, i feel like designing differently this year.

instead of a tree, i am really into winter floral arrangements, having most recently bought a rose hip and eucalyptus arrangement with ornamental kale that looks like a rose!  for each week of advent, i am thinking of arranging a new set of flowers.  the tropical protea is already on my mind.

a paperwhite is blooming on rocks in water in my windowsill and tiny white lights festoon the room.

regardless of how you decorate this year, might i suggest buying yourself flowers?  it can be such a day-brightener to choose your own pops of indoor color.

Friday, November 16, 2018

get thee to Oxford

my grad advisor forwarded just about the best literary news in the world i could receive:  a new set of the writings of English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1845-1889) have been discovered and brought to one of the libraries at Oxford!

Hopkins has been one of my favorite poets for well over 20 years.  i have many of his poems memorized and even presented a paper at a national literary conference on his innovative use of sprung rhythm because, yes, i am just that much of a literary nerd.

i have an out of print book on his life and writings, copies of his poetry in different sized books, one pocket sized so i can take it on walks with me more easily, and even sketched one of his poems into a large art canvas.  why do i love his work so much?  his sensitivity to nature, beauty, and God for starters, as well as kindness to his fellow men and women.  he had an innate ability to appreciate the invisible attributes of goodness and truth from what is visible in the world. 

he lived only 44 years, dying of typhoid in Dublin.  but even his last words are beautiful, "i loved my life."

so naturally, a trip to Oxford to see the original manuscripts is on my mind.  to read the article and learn more about Hopkins you can click here:  discover Hopkins

beaujolais nouveau

the third thursday in November marks the French celebration of new wine, or Beaujolais nouveau.  from the Beaujolais region in France, new wine is bottled and sent around the world in anticipation.

i decided to celebrate by making my first bouillabaisse.  tips for pretending you are cooking in a remote French village:

-consult chefs with experience via bookpile:  winefood by dana frank & andrea slonecker, the french menu cookbook by richard olney, the sommelier prep course by michael gibson, one knife one pot one dish by stephane reynaud, and pig in provence by georgeanne brennan

-buy ingredients the day before, fresh from your local market (there are many bouillabaisse recipes, i chose *mussels, chopped clams, shrimp, and oysters for mine).  **Toulouse style includes saffron potatoes. (*easy rule of thumb, these are alive so closed before cooking=good, open after cooking=good, otherwise discard)

-turn off tech devices.  wake up without an alarm.  have an open-ended day if possible.  eat fresh figs and make French press coffee, collect eggs for a dutch pancake to sustain you while cooking.  awaken all five senses as you begin.  into the pan goes olive oil, stinging kombucha hot sauce (wholesale made by my friends the viteks) garlic, onion, cayenne & black pepper
-add lobster/fish & seafood stock, diced tomatoes, fennel fronds as you zest orange and lemon. i like citrus so i threw in half of each to add flavor (remove fronds & citrus when you like the taste)

-debeard mussels and boil potatoes in salt, take old crusty french bread out and open the wine to let it breathe (i chose a 2014 Beaujolais-villages, joseph drouhin).  sip on lime-mint-elderflower sparkling water

-add seafood in order of most to least cooking needed depending on your selection, turn off heat and let sit while you go for a walk, read, or take a bath

-light candles.  pour wine.  ladle bouillabase over sliced potatoes, top with fennel fronds and dip bread into the spicy broth and savor!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

first frost

waking up to our first frost today, i notice it is later than usual.  but the leaves are falling from the vineyards, so i'm especially grateful that i captured these photos when i did... 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

instant family

having a lot of friends in the child welfare & foster care world, i was invited to a free sneak preview of the film "instant family" (released in theaters 11/16).

oh my goodness, while the foster system is not a hilarious subject in and of itself, the movie kept all of us laughing out loud!  (in order to work in or enter this realm, it's healthy if not essential, to keep a keen sense of humor.)

and we found it realistic, give or take a couple of scene portions.  i'm curious as to viewer response and how, if measurable, it impacts children in care.

Monday, November 5, 2018


i am so very proud of my smart friend and her book!  looking forward to being part of her release parties and sharing this with our communities.  she avoids extremes in her book, neither shying away from technology nor letting it run her life; rather, as a professional psychologist, she examines the impact of modern tools on us physiologically and emotionally as well as socially; how being connected has shaped our relationship with ourselves and others. i find her approach refreshing, thoughtful, and integrated. 

this is my friend

this is her book


my sweet 76-year old friend and i have a great thing going on.  i drive to events after dark and she springs for shepherd's pie at the irish pub.

yesterday we attended brahms' english requiem downtown.  sun streaming in through stained glass windows while the baritone memorializes ageless melodies, timed to honor the feast of all saints in the church calendar year.

we are also planning to attend vespers the same evening at the local cathedral.  what we don't know is that it is also a requiem, this one by the composer faure.  parishoners place photos of deceased loved ones on the platform steps in front of the orchestra as the musicians tune.  we pause to light candles in honor of friends and relatives gone on before us.

i am so touched by the intentionality of the service and by the rich environment of icons, latin, incense, and wine that i suddenly realize quiet tears are rolling down my cheeks.  there is no other way but stereotypically to describe the four young ladies singing "pie jesu" except "angelic."  walking back to my pew i survey all of the different sizes, textures, and styles of people represented:  dredlocks, downs syndrome, chemo-scarved, business-professional; a small girl with brown curly hair and doe-like brown eyes looks straight into mine as i take my seat.

i am not even a member of this congregation and yet i feel so warm, so welcome.  and i have never been to such back-to-back richness as in these events.  my heart is more than full:  a small taste of heaven on earth.

small worlds, binocs, and upcycled fish

i love my life.  you never know who you are going to meet or what could come of even just one open-ended question.  such as this weekend, one thing leading to another, i find myself on a bird walk with people i had not even known just 24 hours before.

turns out they are staying at my neighbor's bed & breakfast and J works for the oregon department of fish & wildlife.  as an audobon leader, he knows his birds.  letting me use his $3,000 high-definition binoculars, he quizzes me on the difference between a red-tailed hawk and a sharp-shinned hawk.  "wait, shh...did you hear that?  nuthatch.  ruby-throated you know your red-winged blackbird from this one...ah, darn, i'm so finch-challenged..."

the morning could not be more perfect and, while he teaches me advanced birding skills ("pileated woodpecker ahead, two-o'clock!") i ask E about her artwork and she shows me pictures from her camera and social media site.  it is tagged "make art not trash" and she gets to travel the world (most recently norway) creating marine sculptures out of found garbage.  some of her pieces are traveling the world as well, raising awareness for conservation.

together they are a powerful force for ecology and i realize i can learn a lot from both of them.  and all of this because they were actually late to an event.

i return the binoculars and thank them for everything, "i'm so glad you were late to the event," i say, "so that we could meet".  and with exchanges of information and a desire to keep in touch, we go our separate ways, but all better for taking the risk of connection.

being canadian

seeing as i was born in quesnel, british columbia canada, i rented the dvd "being canadian" to see what documentarian and fellow canuk robert cohen had to say about our country.

and it's a pretty funny film, eh?  starting on the far east of the country, he drives across all the provinces in quest of answering, "what does it mean to be canadian?" hoping to arrive in bc by canada day july 1st.

what he discovers rings true with my own experience:

1) canadians are really, really nice.  like, almost too nice.  (my grandfather's broken hip happened while clearing the sidewalks for his "elderly" neighbors when he was in his 90's, for example.  very nice.)

2) we apologize for everying.  "soo-rry...oh, i'm soo-rry, eh.  soo-rry 'bout that." contrary to a canadian's sense of self, we DO have a right to exist.

3) we are funny.  an extremely high and notable list of famous comedians are, in fact, canadian.  michael j. fox and mike meyers just to name a couple.  which is likely because we are forced to entertain ourselves for months at a time each winter.

4)  we are known to drink maple syrup.  straight from the bottle.  for breakfast.

5) don't interrupt our hockey game.  whether or not this is a passive-aggressive form of balancing our tendency to be too nice, we love hockey.  even hockey players will politely ask to remove their helmet first before letting their opponent punch them mercilessly in the face. ("soo-rry 'bout that.")

6)  curling is real.  no, we are not all eskimos and yes, there are a million things to do with ice.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

being bob

this year for halloween, i dressed up as bob ross!  while he has become somewhat of a vintage sensation, i still had to explain to some of my younger students who he was.  my middle schoolers already know, as they beg regularly to watch his painting show reruns on youtube during class.

the best part about being bob?  getting ready!  i had a friend who gave me a "happy little mints" tin, others who pointed out awesome tree pins in botiques with an enthusiastic "you NEED these" and the sheer looks of people when i walked into school.  they really didn't know who i was.

"oh my gosh, it's you (stunned silence) for a minute there i thought we had a substitute!"
"who is the man who just walked into the office?  excuse me, you need to register as a guest visitor."
and "nice fro.  did you stick your finger in a light socket or something?!" (no, but i did wonder if my hair would fit in my car when i sat down to drive--just barely).

it was the best.  sincerely, i credit bob's show back in the 80's with helping me fall in love with color (even though i watched it on a black and white tv and had to ask my mom what "prussian blue" and "alizarin crimson" were).

i chose the shirt that reads, "ever make mistakes in life?  let's make them birds.  yeah, they're birds now."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

life well-lived

i read such a beautiful book last week, "confessions of a funeral director:  how the business of death saved my life" by caleb wilde. 

it may sound morbid at first, i know, but far from it...the book is all about living.  it's funny and insightful, confirming my thoughts as to how much more comfortable other cultures around the world seem to be with loss.  i also learned how i might press in to be more present with people in my culture; less afraid of our own mortality. 

his writing even impressed on me to want to talk more about people that we've shared time on the planet with who have gone on before us.  and of all the trillions + possibilities of connections in history, we get to be alive with the people we know right now,  i find this a phenomenal gift.

taking notes on his chapters, here are ten key points i'd like to absorb into my life (we can also include sickness/loss in place of or in addition to 'death'):

1) enlarge your narrative of death to allow it to show you goodness, a story where beauty is found

2) let death break you open (instead of apart)

3) allow it to help you pause, reflect, meditate and take inventory of your own life

4) instead of focusing solely on the afterlife as you understand it, allow death to show you what is good about your life in the here and now and appreciate it more deeply in tandem with heavenly thoughts without using them as an escape hatch

5) the voice of death is silence; embrace silence instead of needlessly filling it

6) we are inherently mortal; let death invite you to be more patient with others and yourself as we all learn, grow, and overcome

7)  lean into the community that can create heaven on earth in times of shared loss and appreciate these relationships

8) let death teach you to love those you may dislike

9)  let loss lead you to active remembering and keeping people that you loved in your life and memory, tell stories about them and emulate what you most admired and respected about them

10)  embracing death is a key ingredient to embracing a life well-lived

finally, caleb wrote about the jewish phrase, tikkun olam, "the healing of the world".  it is a collective task involving everyone who ever has, is, or will be alive.  it focuses on being here now and says, "i'm here with you and i love you." 

if there is one thing he has learned in his years as a third generation funeral director, it is "presence and proximity before performance."  you don't have to do huge things to change the world.  how well we listen, comfort, and invest right now with the people we've been given is how the world is healed, one person at a time.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

fall book pile

time to cozy up with a pile of new books!

in my stack right now:  "a hero's guide to saving your kingdom" by christopher healy (young adult fiction, recommended to me by awesome 5th graders--this book is hilarious!)

"the magnolia story" by chip & joanna gaines (i love this magazine of theirs and also their shared hardy elegance and the way they serve others--truly beautiful and sustainable.  they are funny, too!)

two books of poetry, one by nancy thomas "close to the ground" and "harvesting fog" by luci shaw

"swim:  why we love the water" by lynn sher (which has inspired me to begin lap swimming again)

i also have french cook books by richard olney on hold.  stay tuned for simple culinary goodness...

Monday, October 8, 2018

lemon love

last week a friend asked if i would like a plant?  being a gardener, of course i said yes.  i knew it was a meyer lemon tree, how hard could it be?

let's just say that on a scale of 1-10 (one being ignore it and ten alot of attention) lemon trees indoors for oregon winters are a 20+.  the all reigning high maintenance princess of citrus horticulture.

lulu (what my friend named her) now resides in my room at school.  lots of kids have class pets and i decided that it would be much more fun for my mindlab problem-solving class to help me care for the tree and learn together along the way. so now we have a class plant.

more than an hour and seventy dollars at the garden center later, lulu has everything she needs and more:  special 2-1-1 organic fertilizer, NEEM leaf spray, porous well-draining soil of slightly acidic cactus/succulent blend & peat moss, a 9-gallon pot with drainage holes, a tray filled with rocks and a spray bottle for extra humidity, a sunny spot by a window, a special blue-light plant bulb, bottled water, a fan by the open window for circulating air, and a happy temperature range of 55-70.

"can i have the first lemon?!" is a popular question, to which i answer, "let's help her flourish first and then we can make lemonade for everyone to share."  a student pipes up and says, "it's liking having a baby or something!" to which another responds wittily, "yeah, except raising kids is easier!"

we have a good laugh and talk to lulu, sometimes playing classical music for the three lemons she already has, awaiting the day we must self-pollinate her with a fine-hair paintbrush (really, we don't have anything else to do!?) and wait.

when life hands you a lemon tree, enroll in a master gardening class. or, just wing it with the kids and me.  we'll keep you posted!

artful feasting

it's harvest time and that means feasting!  there is nothing like a paella party for all the senses to welcome in the autumn weather.  this had the most amazing saffron flavor and was perfect for soaking up with bread.  plus, the presentation was gorgeous, an art in and of itself.  more, please.

Friday, October 5, 2018

love of words

"i fell in love with the sound of an early typewriter and i have been stuck with it ever since." -- e.b. white

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

all the diamonds (beautiful poem-song!)

all the diamonds, circa 1974

all the diamonds in this world
that mean anything to me
are conjured up by wind and sunlight
sparkling on the sea

i ran aground in a harbour town
lost the taste for being free
thank God he sent some gull-chased ship
to carry me to sea

two-thousand years and half a world away
dying trees still grow greener when you pray

silver scales flash bright and fade
in reeds along the shore
like a pearl in a sea of liquid jade
His ship comes shining

like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
His ship comes shining

--bruce cockburn

Sunday, September 23, 2018

into great silence

this is, for the genre, one of the most truly thoughtful and soul-stunning films i've taken time with.

as an inner monastic who is active in her community, a both-and i feel called to, it reminded me that even in the most chaotic of environments, i can remain centered, peaceful, and purposeful; with practice.

silence is more and more welcome to me, as a necessary part that gives sound meaning; like the rests in jazz music that make notes come most alive.

welcome, autumn

i've had my annual pumpkin spice latte, harvested potatoes, picked apples, and made applesauce!

here are some lovely images from my morning walk to welcome in this stunning and cozy season...