Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Discovered Heritage

Here she is. A terracotta Neolithic Snake Goddess from circa 4,500 BCE. She's just under six inches high and protected in a glass case at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete.

To me, she is a symbol of the millennia during which women were honored and society was more egalitarian and peaceful.

For more than 1,500 years, Crete thrived without invasion, evolving from a Neolithic society to a Bronze Age civilization (the Minoan) that managed to retain its belief in the unity of life -- and the sacredness of this planet.

It inherited the Neolithic culture of Old Europe which established these patterns as early as 7000 BCE.

I met the Snake Goddess on the first full day of the Goddess Tour of Crete led by Dr. Carol Christ ( She, amid all the treasures in the museum, was the item that bowled me over.

Later, in one of the shops across the highway from the ruins of the Knossis Palace (or sacred center) I bought a reproduction. I carried her around to all the sacred places we visited. Often, we would have ceremonies during which we honored our individual goddesses with libations.  I poured honey over mine so she is, even after several washings, a bit sticky.

Nonetheless, I honor her. I found a spot on the east side of my house where she now sits under a glass tree sculpture next to my twig from the sacred myrtle tree at the Paliani Convent.

I still have not absorbed her import.  Intellectually, I know that human civilization moved on. After more than 5,000 years of matrilineal communities, we took another 3,000  years to develop great literature and perpetual war on each other and the Earth.

As I sift through my memories and emotions, she remains -- serene and silent in my living room. Waiting, I think, for me to figure it out.

Or perhaps for all of us to figure it out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cat Encounters in Crete

Cats were one of the first things I noticed in Crete. In Chania, our first stop, there were lots of cats. They seemed well fed. They were not intrusive, just ubiquitous. And every little store with postcards and souvenirs carried images of cats.

I only took a picture of one. This one lived at the Paliani Convent which is built around a Holy Myrtle tree.

I never managed to photograph the cats with whom I had a special connection. I was on a goddess tour ( Led by Dr. Carol Christ – scholar, author, and theologian -- we honored the sacred at each site that had been sacred to the Minoan people and their descendants.

At the convent, we sat on a stone bench curving around the ancient tree and sang a response as each of us tied a piece of ribbon on the branches with a prayer. There, a little black cat hopped onto my lap to comfort me.

I don’t remember now whether it was at Phaistos or Malia – two of the ancient Minoan sacred centers we visited – but a little white and brown cat followed me, jumped on a bench when I asked it to (how did it know English?) then gave me a good-bye head bump as I was leaving.

There were other cats – a tri-colored kitten in Mochlos, a beautiful little fishing village, and the cat I fed French fries in the Anoglia tavern. But the most amazing was the little black cat who guided us around the Minoan ruins in the town of Tylissos.

We had had a wonderful visit to the home of Marie and Stella who shared refreshments and stories before we moved to the ruins of a Minoan village around the corner. As we entered the complex, the little cat trotted up and walked with us as we walked and sat with us when we sat.

[Actually I do have sort of picture of him, climbing onto Mikai’s shoulder.]

As we were leaving the complex, a family was just entering. The cat abandoned us and trotted up in front of the new group. Evidently, he was the official guide.

Who could ask for more?

Sacred Places

One of the things that made my recent tour of Crete ( so powerful was the fact that at each place held sacred by the ancient Minoan culture, we performed a ceremony or ritual acknowledging the sacredness.

Many of the sacred places were in caves (most of which I was physically unable to navigate). The one cave I managed was Elitheia outside Amnisos. A rock formation at the mouth of the cave looks like a woman giving birth. Further back in the cave, stalactites and stalagmites evoked images of maternity. As we entered, someone placed an egg in the ‘navel’ and each of us poured libations on the formation before proceeding further into this homage to womanhood – accompanying each stop with poetry. I could not help but note that others had been there before us. Fresh flowers surrounded the birth rock.

Later, we went to Gournia, a completely excavated Minoan town.

  Like all Minoan settlements, it had a sacred center, a stone in a courtyard where the holy was acknowledged. There, we placed fruits on the perimeter of the sacred stone and, after readings, fed the fruit to each other.

On another day our bus stopped outside the Aphrodite Tavern in Kato Symi. It could not take us the rest of the way up the mountain. We transferred into two pickups and went vertically to a mountain peak shrine where a sacred spring watered a magnificent tree (and goats literally gamboled on the surrounding rocks). We gathered in a circle, taking turns reading Saphho poetry. It was magic. Then we clambered back into the pickups and descended. The afternoon was crowned by a feast at the tavern.

Each site, each ceremony connected me with a civilization that honored women and the earth. And with the rich heritage each human holds within her DNA and psyche.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Zorba Was Wrong

I just watched a Netflix movie: Zorba the Greek.

Because it is set in Crete and I recently returned from Crete, I rented it even though I’d seen it before. I remember thinking it was great. This attractive older Greek, irrepressible, connects with this attractive younger Englishman, repressed. And the Englishman learns to dance.

So. When I first saw the film, I too was repressed. It was a good object lesson.

However, when I watched it again, I noticed something important. The character played by Anthony Quinn uses women. When his companion dies, he rescues the woman’s parrot but does not honor her memory. And when the character played by Alan Bates connects with a woman, she dies (killed by crazed villagers).

What was Nikos Kazantzakis thinking?

In Crete, I visited the plane tree in Krasi. This magnificent tree is probably 5,000 years old. Kazantzakis is supposed to have written Zorba the Greek sitting under its ancient branches.

But I don’t get it. Crete is the very ground of the feminine. Thousands and thousands of years of honoring the nurturing, creative forces of Earth and all that emanates from Earth. An entire culture that perceived the life force as feminine and good.

Today, even though they are absorbed like the rest of us into patriarchy, the people of Crete are warm and generous to each other and to strangers. They are not stupid and cruel as depicted in the film.

And yet, here, in this land of the feminine, Kazantzakis wrote a story of two men teaching each other how to be in this world …. without any regard for women. The women are used then die without being honored

And, I’m sorry. That’s wrong. The dance is for all of us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Myrtle Tree in Crete

On the second day of the "Goddess Pilgrimage in Crete" ( we stopped at the Paliani Convent. The complex is built around an ancient myrtle tree, thought to be at least 1,000 years old.

My back had gone out the day before so I was using a cane. One of the nuns, seeing me hobble along, called out and, through gestures, offered the loan of an aluminum walker. I declined with a smile and wave and made my way to the courtyard where the ancient tree stands, partly encircled by a stone bench.

There's a great story about this tree. When the convent was founded circa 600 CE, the founders hung an icon of the Madonna and child in the tree while the chapel was being built. When the chapel was complete, they brought the icon in . . . and the next day found it back in the tree. This happened again and again until finally they gave up and left the icon in the tree. And the tree grew around it.

Today that tree is venerated as the Holy Myrtle, dwelling place of Panagia Mirtidotissa (Virgin Mary of Myrtle). For uncounted decades, people have hung symbols of their prayers from its branches.

Our group sat on the bench and each of us selected two pieces of ribbon. Then after a reading and songs, we each tied one piece of the ribbon on the tree, saying a prayer aloud. The other, we tied on a twig that we found in the area. As each woman tied her ribbon on the branches, we sang our wish that she, and all manner of things, would be well.

After our ceremony, many of us walked to the cell of the same nun who had offered me the walker. She sold little icons and black elastic bracelets adorned with colored beads. I selected one bracelet with a bead the same color as my prayer ribbon and wore it for a month before it began to wear out and I rested it on my home altar. The twig with its ribbon now rests downstairs next to an image of a Neolithic snake goddess (whose story I will tell another day).

Each memento rekindles the gentle awe that permeated the convent . . . and me.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

CRETE: Minoan Ship in Chania

The Lost Empire of Atlantis by Gavin Menzies was one of a half dozen books I read prior to visiting Crete. In it, Menzies makes a fascinating case for his theory that Crete was Atlantis and the Minoans (original residents of Crete) were global traders going as far as Lake Superior in North America in their quest for the components of the bronze that characterized their times.

I still don't know if I believe it (you can check out aspects of his theory on his website, True or not, the book expanded my attitude about ancient ancestors. I had already learned that the Minoans (circa 3500 BCE- 1450 BCE) built magnificent multi-storied 'palaces' and had toilets. Impressive. But traveling half way around the globe using stone circles as navigational tools? It seemed -- it still seems -- unlikely.

Before my friend and I joined the goddess pilgrimage (www.goddess on Crete, we stayed a couple days in Chania (also spelled Hania or Xania) a city that was not on the official itinerary.

Since Neolithic times, Chania has been Minoan, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish, Venetian, and eventually Greek again, depending on who conquered it when. Its crown jewel is the magnificent harbor reinforced circa 1250 CE by the Venetians.

Chania was our first stop on Crete and we were enchanted. We wandered happily around the harbor and old town, taking pictures. On my own, I wandered into the Maritime Museum housed in the old Venetian shipyard.

There, amazingly, was a full-sized recreation of a Minoan sailing vessel. I walked around its exterior, noting the plank benches for 24 oarsmen, the two long poles for steering and the captain's chair, protected by stretched hides.

The reproduction, based on depictions on the walls of Minoan temples, was created for the 2004 Olympics and was actually rowed/sailed from Chania to Athens for the opening ceremonies. Its basic structure was cyprus planks covered with resin and canvas, then whitewashed.

Circumnavigating the ship, I could imagine it circumnavigating the Mediterranean 3,500 years ago. Did a vessel like this actually cross the Atlantic? I cannot say. I can say it moved me across millenia into a deeper appreciation for the aesthetics and technology of a people whose history is recorded only in fragments of splendor.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Long Silence

Why has it been so long since I've posted anything on my blog? Lots of reasons.

First, I was a long way away – more than six thousand miles away – in Crete.

Second, I have had a long illness – upper respiratory problems that have festered since mid-September. It's November!

Third, in Crete I was immersed in an ancient culture – the Minoan – that flourished on Crete from about 3,000 BCE to about 1,450 BCE when it was wiped out by a combination of a tsunami and invading Mycenaeans.

The Minoan culture was matrifocal: it honored women – mothers, maidens, and crones. It was peaceful: it had no kings, no armies, no weapons of combat. It was communal and egalitarian: no very rich or very poor. It was creative: the remnants of its art that have survived for nearly 3,500 years are stunningly beautiful. Frescoes and caves echo with the songs that serenaded goddesses that represented the earth, the sea, the sky, birth, trees, the harvest – all the manifestations of life (and death as a component of the cycle).

Perhaps, like most of us, I had thought such a culture was some utopian fantasy – something that could not possibly exist. But it did exist – for almost two thousand years.

The goddess pilgrimage in Crete ( was led by spiritual scholar and author Dr. Carol Christ and her assistant, Mika Scott. There were 14 of us on the tour to sites that had been sacred to the Minoans (or in some way revealed a feminine focus). We were from far-flung places: 3 Australians, 3 Canadians, 1 Alaskan, 3 from the Midwest, 1 from Massachusetts, 2 from Colorado, and 1 ex-pat from England who had lived on Crete for six years.

For two weeks we visited sites in caves, in archeological ruins, at mountain springs, in Byzantine churches, or convents, or cliff-tops. At each site, we performed a ritual or in some way acknowledged its significance to our ancestors and to ourselves.

We began to believe that a peaceful, creative, egalitarian culture once existed and, possibly, could exist again.

So I guess I have been stunned to silence. Letting the truth of this sift down into my being. I still have respiratory problems. But I'm home. And I think, finally, I am ready to tell some of the stories of some of what I learned. Stay tuned. ,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Too Many Calendars

As of today I have received eight 2014 wall calendars from various environmental and or humane organizations.

And twenty or so Christmas catalogs.

It's not Halloween yet but stores have carried orange and black paraphenalia for the last two months.

Is this a conspiracy?

Are all our benevolent institutions and corporations determined to have us think ahead -- and buy ahead?

Is this just an American thing or is it now universal?

Must we always rush toward the next holiday?

What happened to living in the moment?

To savoring the autumnal slant of sunshine and the kaliedescope of turning leaves?

How about strolling in temperatures close to perfect -- warm enough to enjoy without undue sweat?

And eating soup again.

And snuggling under a blanket.

I urge you to resist the rush. To notice what is going on today. To be one hundred percent present to people and pets and sunsets. You can order Christmas cards later.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NYT and Cats

On Sept. 24, 2013, the Science section of the New York Times contained a short item in its column of recent developments.

The item was a roundup piece about cats.

First it reported that the Iranians might send a Persian (how appropriate) into space as a prelude to launching a human in 2018. Okay... as long as it survives without trauma.

More disturbing, it reported that the genome of the Siberian tiger, largest of the cat family, had a "more than 95 percent similarity to the genome of the domestic cat."

Actually, that's cool. But this derivitave fact was used to explain "why our cats aren't very nice to us."

Excuse me! My cats are extremely nice to me. One of them, Herbie, is extremely nice to every living human being. Guinness, I must admit, is nice only to me but he is extremely nice, staying awake twice as long as most cats to watch over my every activity. When I'm working at the computer, he will walk in front of the keyboard when it is time for me to pay more attention to him, but that isn't not nice. It's just staying connected.

I value and respect most of the New York Times, especially its Science section but, really, any intelligent person should know that you cannot judge an entire species (or race, or gender or religion) by the fact that one or two individuals aren't very nice. After all, we wouldn't do that with humans would we?

Or would we?

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Cats never really sleep. It may well seem that they sleep sixteen hours a day but when you walk past sleeping cats, their eye slits widen ever so slightly. They're watching. They know where you are. They keep track.

I'm preparing for a major journey -- a long time away from home that requires careful planning and packing. Although I'm not leaving for several days, I've put a suitcase and some required items on the guest bed.

And closed the door.

Both my cats are pissed. They go to the closed door and give me baleful looks over their shoulders.

The other evening, they both stood there, giving me stares of utter disgust. Guinness, always more vocal, mewed me out. It was unmistakeably cat cursing.

One night Herbie managed to butt the door open and promptly sat in the suitcase.

I give up.

They know what a suitcase means. However careful I might be to sneak into the room to pack, they'll show up. And slip in-- into the room, and onto the folded clothes, and into the suitcase.

I just hope airport security has no objection to cat hair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ephemeral Good Fortune

I live in Loveland, Colorado.

The town sits on the high plain near a river. The town itself is charming – a thriving art community, some nice restaurants and shops. Plus, we could take the highway west up through an incredibly beautiful canyon, into the artsy mountain town of Estes Park, then into Rocky Mountain National Park.

Whenever everyday life became too banal or stressful or whatever, I would drive up that highway, through 'my canyon' and into the park, to 'my meadow.' About this time each year, I would make a special trip just to hear the elks bugle during their annual mating ritual. So beautiful. So awesome.

I can't do that this year. Most of the road has been washed away. It may take years to restore the highway, and the mountain town.

The flooding around here is unimaginable. And weird. Much of the town, including my house, is virtually unscathed but, even as I write this, I hear helicopters overhead moving up into the mountains to rescue stranded people and animals. So many lives irrevocably damaged.

And here in town, anything that was along the river pretty much isn't there any more.

And yet here I am – fine, harvesting tomatoes and raspberries and picking roses for the dining room table.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost so much. Their incredible losses remind us that life can change radically, almost instantly. That things we think are permanent, aren't.

And to be grateful for tomatoes, and raspberries and roses – whenever they are in our grasp.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cat Seasons

For weeks when the temperature hit the upper 90s, my cats hibernated. Especially Herbie.

Herbie-the-mellow generally sleeps most of most days. When it was so hot, he slept even more -- downstairs where it was cooler or in the upstairs bathroom sink (which stays cool). An inveterate cuddler who snuggles up whenever I rest, or even think about resting, he could not stand to stay snuggled more than about 90 seconds, after which (however reluctantly) he moved away.

Several days ago, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees into the 60s.
My cats were transformed.

Guinness, who managed to stay somewhat active even in the extreme heat, became hyperactive, zipping from portal to portal, up on furniture, across the floor, down on the desk, up on the windowsill,-- zooming around like some cartoon character.

Even Herbie moved. Swiftly!

They chased each other. They chased toys. They moved for the pure joy of moving, of, finally, not being too hot.

Me too.

Then it began to rain. And didn't stop. And it was cold and dreary and there were no pools of sunshine in which to luxuriate.

So they went back to bed.

Good idea.

Monday, September 16, 2013


I'm pretty much figuring out my new computer but have found, to my dismay, that I cannot seem to spellcheck my emails.

Now everyone will know how ignorant I am.

Which makes me think of how dependent all of us have become on cyber-knowledge. We used to read books, go to libraries, take notes.

And before that, our ancestors memorized entire histories and legends. They could not only recite them but also cite those passages or stories pertinent to particular situations. They not only knew the words, they understood their significance.

Now we don't even remember phone numbers. Our phones remember them for us.

This may not be progress. It may even be dangerous. Significant portions of our brains may atrophy. And then what?

We have a term for early, largely pre-literate history: BCE, Before the Common Era. An appropriate term for my early years might be Pre-Google.

And now? Perhaps Post-Cognitive.

As as a public service – a sort of cautionary tale-- I will post this message on my blog . . . after I run it through spellcheck.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ersatz Dillema

I have a problem.

The computer I had for more than seven years had one game of solitaire on it. I used to play a game when I finished a major task, or when I was on telephone hold, or just procrastinating. I used it like dessert at the end of a meal, as a reward.

My new computer has four (maybe more) free computer games. These include "Klondike" (which is impossible to win) Spider (like the one on my old machine) Pyramid (addictive) and Tripeaks (addictive).

Please note – two addictive computer games! How will I ever get anything else done?

It's so simple. You just click the mouse and ersatz cards fly through the ersatz air making cunning little noises when you make an appropriate match or even more cunning little noises when you actually hit a run.

And if you win? Wow! Ersatz fireworks and triumphant music.

How often does something you do elicit triumphant music?

I'll tell you how often. As often as I win a stupid computer solitaire game.

Does anyone know of a CSA (computer solitaire anonymous) chapter?

Does anyone know how to resist the siren call of ersatz triumph?

Please, please share whatever you know.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Past Perfect

Not all New York Times Science items are brilliant.

A weekly column features developments reported in the interim seven days. Recently, one of those items was entitled "Times Past."

"Twelve large, moon-shaped pits discovered in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, represent the oldest lunar calendar ever discovered, archaeologists say. The pits mimic the phases of the moon, National Geographic reported, lining up with it perfectly during the midwinter solstice.

"At 10,000 years old, the pits are by far the oldest calendar yet discovered."

[All well and good, and interesting. But note the next sentence.]

"It shows that Stone Age society was far more sophisticated that we have previously believed ..."

Well duh.
How do you suppose people kept track of things without Google?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Golden Prose

One of the reasons I love the New York Times is the high quality of the writing. There are two journalists who regularly have bylines in the Tuesday Science sections. One, Nicholas Wade, tends to write about archeological topics (I have one of his books). The other, Dennis Overbye, usually writes about physics and astronomy in ways that I at least come close to understanding.

I look forward to Tuesdays and often clip out articles that intrigue me. Sometimes, the items are very small. A few months ago there was a photo with a one-sentence caption reporting that one species of South African dung beetle was proven to use stars to navigate.

Think about it. Is there anything lower than a dung beetle? Is there anything higher than stars?

Months later there was another item proposing that gold was created by the collision of stars. Wow. Talk about stardust melody!

I was pleased to note that these two tidbits intrigued Mr. Overbye as well. He melded them into an article with the headline: “Stars, Gold, Dung Beetles and Us.” Without his permission, I here quote: “It's hard to imagine a more beautiful or humbling connection between the sacred and the profane, the microscopic and the large, inner space and outer space.

“The Milky Way is one of natures' greatest creations … And it is only one of countless galaxies, scattered like sand from here to eternity, rushing outward in the great expansion, whose meaning... is as fathomless to us as it is to a scarab pushing its (ball of dung)...

“Scarabs were sacred to the ancient Egyptians for the ability to create life from waste. They were a symbol of the eternal renewal of life from death, not unlike the waxing and the waning of the stars themselves.

“Egyptians wore representations of them as amulets. And wouldn't you know, in one of the ultimate symbols of recycling, some of them were even gold.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013


They have closed the lake in Loveland, Colorado.

Lake Loveland isn't really a lake. It's a reservoir disguised as a lake. [It works. People swim and boat and water ski in it and on it.]

The water is being used to irrigate fields. That's what it's there for. It's the end of summer and hot. The crops (mostly in Greeley) need water. Every day there is less and less water in the lake.

I wonder. What if they drill more fracking wells? (Greeley has a lot of them.)
There will be even less water.

What if they build more housing developments? (All of northern Colorado has housing developments.)

There will be even less water.

Some day – sooner than we think – there will be no water.

No place for boats and swimmers and pelicans.

But with more fracking wells, we'll have natural gas to export and jobs to generate income so we can buy all those houses and all the water those families will need.

If we can find water.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Extraordinary Confluence

It had been one of those days when nothing happened the way I had planned, and things that were supposed to have been fixed didn't work, and I was generally disheartened. Perhaps I should have gone upstairs and worked on my book, but I wasn't exactly inspired. That's when I remembered that, after a summer of abominable movies, there were two films I actually wanted to see.

One of them was, 'Lee Daniels' The Butler'. Checking the show-times, I figured I could make it if I didn't dawdle. So I went. And I'm glad I did. It's an excellent movie, reminding me of so much of my country's history that I, like the butler, Cecil Gains (Eugene Allen) (Forest Whitaker) have lived through. And how much I (and some others) have learned from the civil rights movement.

I got home, fed cats, did chores, ate dinner and was about to open the book I've almost finished when I turned on the television to see if, by some miracle, there was anything worth watching.

There was.

My PBS station was broadcasting an American Masters program on James Baldwin. It was riveting, in some ways more moving than the film I had just seen.

I am white. Always have been. Always seen the world from the white, middle-class perspective, viewing events from my safe, privileged point of view.

Pondering the stories of the butler and the author, it occurred to me that much of my world – and its attendant comforts, is illusory.

Cecil/Eugene knew two worlds: the world/face he showed to whites and the world/face he experienced at home and with his friends.

James Baldwin knew only the painful, dangerous, violent, contradictory mess of the world he transmitted to the rest of us through his books.

They knew authenticity. To the extent allowed by circumstances, they lived authentically.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s great speech, it's a good time to be reminded of what we have overcome … and of how much more we have to learn.

Through an extraordinary confluence of one movie and one television program, I now remember.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Glory

All of a sudden, my neighborhood is alive with sunflowers.

They have exploded in front yards,
back yards,
side yards
and parking lots.

It is a glorious celebration of August
and the waning, but still hot, days of summer.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Circular Logic

One circular bird-feeder brings great joy to various sparrows
and me
and my cats

the occasional squirrel

who seems to mistake it for a tire swing.

Monday, July 29, 2013


It's summer. My mind travels only short distances -- small thoughts ambling across my brain and onto the page. In the past weeks, I have had three, unrelated and un-profound ponderings which I here share.

Recently, I was combating a miserable cold with every form of over-the-counter remedy I could find and still felt absolutely miserable. Desperate, I opened the freezer door to discover a carton of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge ice cream. One dose and I felt better than I had felt for days. Highly recommended. 

I have an unruly tangle of raspberry bushes in my back yard. Now seems to be their prime. Every harvest reminds me of the lessons inherent to picking raspberries. They are an extremely delicate fruit. To pick them, you very gently pull on each berry. If they are not ready, they will not come. If they are over-ripe, they will disintegrate. They will slide into your fingers only if they are perfect. Ripeness is all. 

Driving north out of Denver, there’s a point at which three lanes of traffic converge with four main streams of cars. At rush hour, entering this procession can seem suicidal, yet hundreds of cars do so, every day. Two thoughts occur, almost simultaneously: first, there are far too many people in the world and second, perhaps if we can routinely survive rush hour, there is hope for our civilization after all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I have long believed in the power of circles. Initially, I savored the power of circles of people. Traveling, I discovered the power within circles of megaliths. Later, I created a meditation circle in my own back yard. 

Earlier this summer, I felt drawn to visit Arches National Park. For the beauty of course, but for another, unidentified, reason. A window of opportunity opened and I went. What a spectacular place!

I wandered amid geological splendor. Awed. On one particular day, I hiked back to two specific arches. The first, Tunnel Arch, infused me with its symmetrical beauty. 

The second, Pine Tree Arch, turned out to be the reason for my visit. It was possible to sit under its symmetry, to absorb whatever it had to offer. As I did, I realized that the arch energy not only soared overhead but also swooped underneath, creating . . . a circle of power akin to and different than the other circles I had known.

Struggling with a personal dilemma, I found the strength I needed for a difficult decision. And comfort from a millennial compilation of minerals. 

 It was the power of the circle, squared.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Utah and Alcohol

What do you think of when you think of Utah? Mormons? Bryce Canyon? Salt Lake? Or all of the above? 

For years, I’d seen photographs taken in Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. For years, I’d wanted to go there. So I did. And it was spectacular. And while there, I visited Dead Horse Point where I saw an incredible sunset and, on another day, took a ‘sunset cruise’ on the Colorado River into Canyonlands National Park. 

When we returned from the quite wonderful boat trip, my fellow passengers and I joined masses of tourists for a mass-produced (but quite edible) meal. Standing in line for my dinner, I noticed a sign on the wall behind the bar advertising “Polygamy Porter” – “One is never enough.” 

How droll. 

Then, on my last evening in Moab, I dined in the Cowboy Grill at the Red Cliffs Lodge. The lodge encompasses Castle Creek Winery and the supplemental pages on the dinner menu recounted its story. 

In the late 1970s, those working to develop the Four Corners area worked with the University of Arizona to see if wine grapes might grow in the region. It turned out that conditions were perfect, similar to those of the eastern Mediterranean, and in the early 80s, several small farmers planted some vines. Their first crop was harvested in 1986 but had to be sold in Grand Junction, Colorado. 

It turned out that vineyards were illegal in Utah. Fervent (not fermented) efforts made wineries legal in the state in 1988 and the Moab winery was established in 1989. The merlot was not bad at all (although someone said the white wines were better).  

I’ll drink to that. And to Utah – in all its aspects.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

All Kinds of Heroes

Bob Fletcher, a Sacramento farmer, died May 23, 2013 at age 101. My local paper ran an article about him because of what he did between 1942 and 1945.

 “A state agricultural inspector, Fletcher acted instinctively to help Japanese-American farmers. He quit his job and went to work saving farms belonging to the Nitta, Okamoto and Tsukamoto families in the Florin community of Sacramento.

 “In the face of deep-anti-Japanese sentiment … Fletcher worked 90 acres of grapes. He paid the mortgages and taxes and took half the profits. He turned over the rest – along with the farms – to the three families when they returned (from internment camps) in 1945.

 “I did know a few of them pretty well and never agreed with the evacuation,” he told the local paper. “They were the same as anybody else. It was obvious they had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.”

There are all kinds of heroes.

 For example, on an extremely windy day, I stopped to run a quick errand before mailing a graduation card (with money enclosed). Somehow the wind whipped the (addressed and stamped) card out of my car and I thought it was lost forever. I sent an email to the recipient’s mom and grandmother, reporting the disaster, saying that I would replace it unless, by some miracle, the original showed up.

It showed up. There was a tire mark across the envelope but it was mailed, unscathed, with the enclosed money to the intended recipient.

There are all kinds of heroes.

Who knows what act – however big or however small – might alter the course of a person’s life, or at least significantly brighten their day.

Stay alert.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sea Salt Memories

I put sea salt in the water when I poach an egg. It helps keep the egg ‘together’ rather than spreading out all over the pan. 

This morning, reaching for the salt, I remembered a friend who moved to Colorado before I did. She once complained that she couldn’t find sea salt in the local grocery stores so I sent her some for Christmas. 

Later, after I moved here, she just stopped communicating. All my overtures were met with silence. So I stopped trying to connect. 

The egg cooked, I sat at the table to eat and read the morning paper. The local paper runs a column citing the historical events that occurred on this date and listing those stellar folks whose birthdays fall today. Whenever I read it, I think about Jayne. Like me, she often didn’t have a clue about why some of these particular persons were stellar, or what they might be famous for. I smiled, somehow in unison with Jayne. 

Looking out into my back yard, now brimming with flowers, I saw the whimsical lawn ornaments Jayne gave me. Every time I see them, I think of her. She died about 20 months ago. She was my sister-in-law, completely different in temperament and attitude than me, yet complete compatible. And loved. 

Perhaps that is how each of us continues after death. In memories that dart back into someone’s consciousness because of an object, or smell, or old joke. Then, for an instant, we exist again, bringing a faint smile and a little warmth to the heart. 

That will do.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Other Directions, Other Beauty

Living on the high plains, I have a tendency to look toward the mountains, and go to the mountains whenever I can. But there is beauty to the east as well.

The other day, I visited the Pawnee National Grasslands Park and Buttes.

I saw great old trees

and wildflowers

traces of history

and magnificent remnants of prehistoric land

Other directions, other beauty

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

No Place Like Home

My yard has exploded with beauty

Poppies and iris strut their stuff

accessorized by columbine

and peonies

and pansies

And once again, I am reminded, there is no place like home

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My 'Backyard'

Living on the high plains, I am fortunate/blessed/grateful to have Rocky Mountain National Park in my 'backyard'-- a short drive (pretty much straight up) to a place where I can put a lot of things in perspective just by being in the beauty.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Maple Mahogany

Unfurling maple leaves surround chartruese clusters as May finally arrives.

Maples in May momentarily look autumnal.

 But mahogany and amber quickly transform into shades of green.

We walk in beauty. Beauty is above and around us all the time.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Suddenly Shade!

Last week (yes! only last week) most trees were still delicate traceries silhouetted against a slowly greening land.

I was actually worried. Where were the leaves?

Yet there were positive signs. Warmer temperatures prompted me to (at last) put my snow shovels back into the garage. Every day color popped back into the landscape – grape hyacinths, crocuses, tulips, daffodils – and, next door, my neighbor’s irises. It was like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when things went Technicolor.

 But so very few leaves.

 There were buds and hints of foliage.

 On the great maple that stands in front of my house, chartreuse clusters were surrounded by mahogany somethings. Today the latter, which yesterday were outlines – mere potential -- have finally exploded.

The outlines have been filled in. Looking out my study window I see them unfurled. The leaves are back! Already the mahogany is beginning to fade to green.

 And suddenly we have shade as well as shadow.

 And just in time. Just in time.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The people cat

My cat Herbie loves people.

All my friends know the story of the one time he got out and I got him back into the house by ringing the doorbell. He wanted to see the company. 

It took him a long time to learn to ignore doorbells on television. 

When I use the speaker phone he jumps up on the counter to listen in. 

Even today when the carpet cleaner brought his big, loud machines into the house, Herbie followed him around, leaving only when the machines were switched on. 

Just last week, he discovered yet another possible source of human companionship. Shooed off the bed as I was making it, he inadvertently stepped on the bedside clock switch that turned on the radio. Voices erupted. Herbie was mesmerized. I turned the radio off and Herbie wandered away, disconsolate. 

Now I wonder if he will try to find that switch again. 

Anything for company.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day!

You can usually tell what season it is by looking at the footwear by the bench near my front door. It’s the best place to sit when I put something on my feet before I go outside. 

Right now, there is quite a collection. I have one pair of everyday shoes to wear with jeans, one pair of nice shoes to wear with slacks, two pairs of sandals (one grungy, one nice), and one pair of boots for snow. 

Think about it-- Sandals and boots. 

It is the first day of May 2013. And today -- here in Loveland, Colorado -- the earth, the trees, the lawns, the streets, the sidewalks, and the barely blooming tulips are – all of them – covered with several inches of soft, wet, gloppy snow. 

According to Wikipedia, Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m'aider, meaning "come help me". 

Mayday indeed!

Monday, April 29, 2013


We live in a linear society -- perpetually moving forward or up or both. 

But the Truth lives in circles: the circles of the seasons, of the sun and moon, the paths of planets. And we can touch the Truth in circles of community. 

Last week I stepped out of my ordinary circles and routines to be with my brother on his birthday and my friend for her mother’s funeral. 

The birthday party revealed ways we can love each other: by what we cook, by the things we give each other, by the laughter we share. We were a circle of family warmed by each other – a circle of love in a late April snowstorm. 

It was harder to find the circles at the funeral. People sat in separate pews, then at separate tables. There were evanescent circles that formed, then vanished as siblings looked at photos of their mother’s past. 

I slipped away from the sorrow to briefly visit the Garden of the Gods where the circle of great stones – perhaps a great vortex – comforted me. 

Later, I went with my friend to her AA meeting. Sitting on the side, I witnessed absolute community – where people shared their struggles with absolute honesty and humor, knowing they would not be judged, only supported. Hallelujah. 

There are circles everywhere – in churches, in coffee shops, in AA meetings, and writing groups. Find one. Find many. Circle round.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Every time we turn around, the flags are at half-mast. 

Every time we turn around, people -- often children -- have died from violence. 

And still we do not change our laws, or our attitudes. 

It is time 

 It is past time 

 That we raise the flag.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Be it known that I shoveled my walks on April 15 and 16, 2013. 

We had nearly a foot of snow – the moist, soft kind of snow that clings to every branch and bush. 

And it was beautiful – not just to look at, but also because each flake of snow added a drop of moisture to Colorado’s thirsty land. Each flake extinguishing a potential spark, warding off the horrific fires we feared would come again. 

And it was beautiful – just to look at--a late reminder of the inherent beauty of tree limbs. Soon the structural sculpture will be hidden by innumerable leaves. 

It is good to remember the strength and symmetry that supports the blossoms and green. And it will be good to see the blossoms and green. 

It’s coming. I have seen the tulip buds poking through and the haze of future foliage. 

Today we pause and drink it in.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Spring was progressing nicely. Textures of the new season emerged. Snow traced herringbone patterns in fields. Tulip leaves speared my garden. Bud bumps foreshadowed future blossoms on tree branches. There were even the occasional crocus, daffodil or grape hyacinth. Good signs all.

Then, Wham! The winds went crazy, the temperature plummeted and snow threatened. We all retreated indoors, lighted our fireplaces and ate soup.

About the same time, I received a letter from someone from my past that knocked me for a loop.

The past should stay past. 

You can’t go home again. 

 Isn’t there another cliché I could use here?

 Perhaps, ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’ (But who is the dog?)

Twice we had connected. Twice we ended the connection … no that’s not true, I ended the connection because it was too painful for me, too one-sided.

He is brilliant, creative, unique and (most of the time) supremely self-confident. I am intelligent (not brilliant) creative (on a more conventional scale), pretty ordinary, and only tentatively self-confident.

And he is oblivious to normal stuff like domesticity, commitment, grocery shopping, or any aspect of standard suburban existence.

 Still, after a decade, he called, then wrote, suggesting a rendezvous.

Why? We’re both older of course. Perhaps mortality was the motivation. But a one-side relationship on the edge of the grave does not appeal to me. I’d rather be alone – with my cats and computer and community of friends.

So I said no, but thank you.

And lo! The sun is shining again.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I think their names were Gus Gus and Jocko – the mice in Walt Disney’s version of “Cinderella” who helped her escape her wicked stepmother and stepsisters and live happily ever after with the kingdom’s heir apparent. 

There are never any mouse droppings in Disney films. 

There were however, plenty in my garage. Evidently, the mice came for the cat litter, which contains wheat. One side of the garage had been cleaned up and I thought I was home free then I saw the mess on the other side. Actually, I saw the mess yesterday but was not about to clean up mouse droppings on Easter. 

So today, too tired to be brilliant but awake enough to clean, I swept and scrubbed. It soon became apparent that this, the storage side of the garage, had not been swept and cleaned for a very, very long time. I found artifacts of my own history that should have been dumped ages ago -- now dumped. And deep debris -- now banished. 

So I guess I am grateful. Well no, not grateful – instead I think I am, perhaps, grudgingly glad that I finally had unavoidable cause to clean the place up. 

Sometimes shit has a purpose. 

And sometimes it is good to be reminded that real mice leave droppings and there probably isn’t any such thing as happily-ever-after. 

But mostly happy is possible -- as is a clean garage.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lady of the Manor

In the novels read in my adolescence and various PBS/BBC productions viewed now, the lady of the manor spends her mornings maintaining correspondence and planning menus (while the household staff does the grungy stuff). 

How civilized and somehow effete and, I thought, archaic. 

But how archaic? It’s now almost 10 a.m. and I have accomplished nothing except to catch up with email and Facebook (and I’d catch up with Twitter and Linked-In if I could remember how to do that). Plus check my bank balance and pay bills.

Times change. And don’t. We still maintain connections – one way or another – because we need them. Our current versions are not as elegant, nor as profound, as our predecessors and it is highly unlikely that our messages will ever be collected in published volumes to reveal to posterity the depth – or shallowness – of lives in the twenty-first century. 

 Still, it is now past 10 a.m. and well past time for me to write the essays I had planned.

But there are significant differences:  no one has done anything about the grungy stuff. (Or planned a single menu.)

Ah well.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pots of Gold

Across the street, kids of various ages are playing in the early spring sunshine. Every single one of them is wearing something green. Sure and it’s St. Patrick’s Day. 

I’m wearing green too, sitting at my computer looking out because I’m still dealing with an apparently invincible virus. Sitting at my computer and doing basic cat chores is the extent of my activity between reading and resting. All of my muscles will atrophy if I don’t get better. Tomorrow will be my back-to-health day. It must. 

Yesterday I sent an e-card to my two sons, wishing them the luck of the Irish and all peoples, and a pot of gold. 

This, in honor of the Irish and St. Patrick and my two sons, is designed to define what I mean by a pot of gold. It is, in my metaphor, that which we create by following our individual rainbows. My rainbow is writing. So far, it has yielded one book (and lots of shorter works) and is on its way to a second (now being edited) and I have the stirrings of an idea for another. One of my sons is always following rainbows, creating poetry and songs and films and art of every beyond-my-imagining kind. My other son is still figuring out where his rainbow will lead him. It will be, when discovered, a mirror of his own worth. 

That’s what the gold does. It reflects our true selves, in one way or another. And every single one of us has some kind of treasure. 

And if this doesn’t make complete sense, then blame it on the virus. And have a wonderful St. Patty’s Day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weekend to Remember

There will be two memorial services this weekend – one in Denver, Colorado, and another in Oak Park, Illinois. Two extraordinary people will be remembered and honored by those who loved them. The Denver service will be for Nancy Missbach. The Oak Park service will be for Tom Dunnington.

Nancy was one of the daughters of one of my great mentors and friends, Marilla. I knew Nancy only tangentially but knew her to be amazing. Once, decades ago, I visited the studio where she created paper and books. I remember being impressed by the beauty of what she was doing but wondering how anyone would ever dare sully any of the journals by writing in them. More vividly, I remember her bringing her little boy, Chance, to the Thanksgiving celebration some of us created for her mom on one of her mom’s last days. Marilla was propped up on a hospital bed in her dining room. I think Nancy’s sister, Leah, made the turkey. I, along with others, made the rest of the feast. Nancy and Chance arrived late, a little snowy, but filling the house with their zest and energy and filling our hearts with joy. Marilla’s face glowed with gladness. That was enough for me. That was why we were there. Later, after I organized the memorial service for Marilla, Nancy and Leah gave me a small reproduction of the Uffington White Horse, an absolutely perfect reminder of the love of England and prehistory that I shared with their mom. It still has an honored place in my home, and heart. After that, I lost touch until Leah initiated a cyber connection describing Nancy’s long, courageous fight for life. I saw pictures of her delivering World Bicycle Relief bicycles in African villages, and, later, pictures of her in hospitals – surrounded by love. Now Leah and, I am sure, hundreds of others will gather to honor a life well lived. I send them love.

 Tom was once my Abraham Lincoln figure -- tall and lanky and deeply spiritual. I first encountered him when I began going to Oak Park’s Unity Temple about a year after my divorce. I knew him to be an artist and, briefly, fantasized about a mutual attraction. That fantasy dissolved, with no regrets, when he and one of my best friends formed what turned out to be a profound and lasting liaison. Their journey, their service to high school kids and their congregation, and their mutually supporting spiritual explorations and teachings were far, far more than I could ever have dreamed. As was their love. And I loved him because he loved Carol and extricated her from bitterness engendered by great difficulties and brought her into joy. They were a team. Together they created beauty – where they lived, how they lived, and in what they created. When Tom began to leave this world, Carol sustained him, singing him to wherever it is we go. And she will always be stronger and deeper and more loving because of the love they shared. Shazaam. If all the people who were enriched by Tom’s existence come to the Saturday service, the historic Unitarian Universalist structure will bulge. Frank Lloyd Wright could not have anticipated crowds of such magnitude – or a life so worthy.