Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Compulsion

I ran out of Christmas cards.

I bought two small boxes in August, one more in September and thought I had more than enough.

I have an address list on my computer [I used to have an address book but times change]. I guess there are more than 100 names on it.

I started writing cards to friends who live in other countries. Then very special relatives and friends. Then people who are very important to me . . . But I ran out of cards before I ran out of names.

I wrote holiday wishes on non-holiday note cards … and then I ran out of those.

Then I even ran out of stamps.

But I didn’t run out of people I wanted to send good wishes to.

I have no idea why it has become so important to touch base with people at this particular time of year ... this particular year.

But it is.

Sometimes it seems as though everything is being torn apart. Things are being blown up-- innocents shot -- thousands upon thousands wandering homeless-- so many people so lost, so cold, so hungry.

We need good wishes, we need to reach out to each other, extend caring and compassion, to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have each other in our lives, however peripherally.

Because we all must carry on [calm or not] and do our best to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all of us.

So now I will send out e-cards.

God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Driving Through Fear

A good friend of my – a really good friend, for a really long time – the kind of friend who forgives you when you are thoughtless and/or make mistakes – once loaned me a book entitled Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway. [At least I think that was the title. And I think I returned it. I hope so.]

I thought of that book when I prepared to go visit her for Thanksgiving. The weather forecast was terrifying – snow, ice, wind-- and she lives about 140 miles away.

I know that she didn’t quite understand why I was coming down (she lives south) on Thanksgiving Day (and not before) and returning home the following Saturday (instead of later). After all, I’m retired. I should be able to come and go whenever I please. Right. I am chairing a major community group and participating in a writers group and quite active in my congregation.

Plus, I’m significantly older than she (and many others). At this age, much of every week is consumed by appointments with caregivers of various kinds – doctors, physical therapists, Pilates instructors, dentists, and the wondrous people who help make my hair and nails and skin presentable.

And looming Christmas preparations.

Nonetheless, despite weather conditions and my own terror, I packed my toothbrush and drove south.

It was slow going but I made it. The Thanksgiving feast was amazing, the time with my friend, a treasure. And the trip home not quite as scary.

When weather conditions improved I took my car to the carwash. It deserved it.

 I deserved it. I had felt the fear but done it anyway. Hooray!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

in a parking lot

Wonderful sights can happen anywhere -- even a grocery store parking lot.

In the few moments between errand one and errand two, I pulled into a parking space.

The afternoon sky was brilliant with sunshine -- accessorized with clouds that were themselves accessorized with shadow.

Against this shimmering canvas, a snow-white gull soared up and around, its feathers illumined except where tipped with black.

Grace itself, swooping above the shopping carts, the gull circled and circled, descending then ascending in repeated swirls of flight.

It was not possible to see its motivation. Was there some delicacy trapped on the macadam -- a trace of garbage enticing its repeated descents?

When it was time for me to move on, I drove past the spot I thought had drawn the bird … but saw nothing.

No one else had seemed to notice the avian dance.

Perhaps it was just for me.

Just a reminder that beauty is a component of all our days.

If we but look.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Vision Shared.

When we were growing up, my brother (Bill McClure) and I often tried to kill each other. With less than two years difference in our ages, we were sibling rivals par excellence. We didn’t become friends until I went away to college but our friendship has continued to deepen over the decades as we follow our respective spiritual paths. These paths are parallel, not identical, and it’s illuminating to see them reflected in our lives and work. Over the years, I have come to acknowledge the divine feminine and the holiness of all creation. So has Bill.

When his minister, Rev. J. Todd Smiedendorf (called Todd) asked him to create a large painting with images of the divine feminine/Black Madonna and the divinity of nature/Green Man, Bill began reading and sketching and carving and, over the past year, created the painting that was presented to the Washington Park United Church of Christ on Sunday, Nov. 8.

Early in the service, a good friend, Louise West, gathered the kids around the painting to learn what each of them saw – there are lots of creatures and birds and flowers. One little boy thought the Green Man was scary.

Then the scary part – for Bill – when he and Todd talked about the painting and the process of its creation.

Next, the extraordinary. Three men carried the painting toward the simple cross on the south wall and hung it in its center.

Later the congregation processed forward to admire it.

There is a round worship table in the center of the congregation’s rounded seating area. On it, is a carving of the Tree of Life that Bill created in 2007. It is possible to view both his creations simultaneously.

It is not possible to express the pride and joy I felt to see his vision shared.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Magic Time

Time may be a construct… something humans conjured to provide the illusion of control over things but it can nonetheless be a profound experience.

Recently I wandered in and out of the past and present so rapidly that reality seemed more ephemeral than usual.

Imagine if you will seeing the child you brought in to the world 47 years ago, holding his two week old son – a son who looks remarkably like the child you brought in to the world when he was new – 47 years ago.

Then you get to hold him, the new one. You see his amazing eyes and nose and ears and even hair. He sort of smiles (you know it’s probably just digestive maneuverings but it still is magnificent).

And is it October 1968 or October 2015?

And does it matter? The old one and the new one cluster in the newly formed family.

You are integral and extraneous and it is all wonderful.

And magic.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Discarding Rules

In the prologue to my memoir, Tree Lines, I wrote: “I followed all the rules. Even rules that didn’t exist. My table manners were impeccable. I never interrupted, never contradicted authority. I waited my turn, I folded my hands. I did my homework and chores. I went to church, babysat, got summer jobs. I was so bland I practically disappeared."

I got over all of that… or most of that.

I also got over the ‘truths’ that were proclaimed by my parents and their white American middle-class culture. I now know that -- women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, homosexuals, transgender people, Asians, the homeless and indeed any non-white/non-middleclass humans are not inherently evil, inferior or dangerous.

There are other ‘rules’ that I now disregard:

"A couple should be married before engaging in sexual intercourse."  That was one of the first ones to go.

"Marriage is the only form of committed relationship." Baloney.

"Only married couples should have children." Really??? My son and his very significant other – who are deeply committed to each other -- just had the most beautiful little boy (my very first grandchild). And they are both deeply committed to taking care of the little guy and doing whatever it takes to prepare him for our very scary world.

And I couldn’t be prouder of them all.
Who knows what rules I will next discard? Stay tuned.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Barely Living Through Chemistry

Well that title isn't really accurate.

If I take all the pharmaceuticals and herbal supplements I am supposed to take, I do just fine.

Think of Hansel and Gretel a half a century or more later. Instead of bread crumbs, I could drop a trail of pills and capsules.

Recently, I actually counted them all.

Before breakfast, I take 2 digestive aids, 1 probiotic and 2 or 3 Vitamin D capsules.

After breakfast, I take 1 multivitamin (without iron because I am post-menopausal), 2 ‘macular protect’ capsules (really, more vitamins), 1 statin to fight cholesterol, 1 capsule (to protect my liver/kidney from the statin), and 1 MSM for joint flexibility.

At night, I take 2 cal/mag/zinc tablets (for joints I think), ½ of a blood pressure tablet, 1 allergy pill (which I probably wouldn’t need if I got rid of my cats … which I won’t), 2-3 capsules for night leg pain and, finally, 2-3 melatonin concoctions to help me sleep.

So every single day – between 18 ½ and 21 ½ remedies and aids.

At minimum it ensures that I drink more water.

And I am – mostly – grateful. Being able to function at my age is cool. It’s just a little time-consuming.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


The very same friend who told me that elk do not come out to play until 4:30 also told me that they stop playing after Oct. 10. How do they know the time and date? No matter. If she was right about 4:30, she was probably right about Oct. 10. How does she know these things?

So when Oct. 6 dawned gray and rainy and cold, I did not cancel plans to take my brother up to Rocky Mountain National Park to see the elk. I did tell him not to hurry up from Denver; that the show wouldn’t begin until tea time.

So he didn’t hurry. In fact he didn’t get to my place until noon. We stopped for coffee then I drove up into Estes Park where we had a leisurely lunch at a restaurant he remembered enjoying. We wandered around a store or two then drove into the park itself at almost precisely 4 p.m.

Using the Beaver Meadows entrance, it only made sense for me to drive first to Moraine Meadow. And there they were. First just two, in the distance – and looking the other way.


Then, as we drove out of the meadow-- a whole harem and a bull who seemed quite pleased with himself.

We got out of the car and walked as close as the rangers would let us. We could see the gradations of beige, the white rumps and black shiny noses. Even hear the crunching of golden grasses.

But that was not enough for me – I had missed this autumnal ritual far too often. I decided we needed to drive over to Sheep Lake meadow, so I headed in that direction.

En route, along the side of the road, a whole panorama of elk, majestic in a meadow framed by brilliant aspen and deep green pines. After several minutes of deep appreciation, we proceeded, stopping at a park commode before heading for the Sheep Lake overlook.

There, as darkness gathered, we looked out over a meadow crowded with elk. Their bugling echoed in the twilight as three does waded in the lake.

We listened to the witty banter of the ranger then, around 7 p.m., headed out for dinner then down the mountain.

It was a long and most excellent day. Finally, finally, finally, I was elked.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tea Time for Major Mammals

When a good friend learned I was going up to Rocky Mountain National Park to see the elk, she expressed surprise when I said I would leave as early as possible.

“They only come out after 4:30!”

‘Really,’ I thought. I seemed to remember crowds of elk on prior visits, quite possibly well before 4:30 p.m. I just smiled thinking how wrong she was.

So I went up to the park. It was a free (no entrance fee) day so the parking lots were pretty full. I drove past Sheeps Lake meadow – no elk. I drove back into upper Beaver Meadow – no elk. [I did find a picnic table where I had a snack under golden aspen.] I drove past elk-less Moraine Park to Sprague Lake. During a leisurely stroll around the perimeter I saw rainbow trout in its clear waters and feeding ducks.

Taking a side path I absorbed the beauty of a stand of aspen.

Back in the car I retraced my route, finding a parking place by Sheeps Lake meadow. There was nothing going on … except people were setting up lawn chairs and getting out picnic baskets.

Okay. Something may happen here.

I settled in. Got out the newspaper section I had brought and sort of read while alert for action. Pretty soon I noticed people pointing, getting out cameras, moving toward the edge of the viewing area. I got out of the car. Seeing a great bull herding his harem across the meadow, I went back into the car to get my camera.

 looked at the car clock. It was 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fallen Woman

For my birthday I received numerous charming email greetings, a small passel of cards and a splendid family celebration during which I was presented with a memorable, amusing and much needed gift (an alarm clock in the shape of a semi cab).

 I also received dozens of birthday coupons – some by email, some by post. One of the coupons was from a favorite women’s apparel vendor… for $20 off. I wanted something lovely to wear to bed when I am an overnight guest with friends or family. So using the coupon, I ordered a long, periwinkle nightgown with an empire waist.

  About ten days later, it arrived in the afternoon mail. The gown was gorgeous, with beautiful embroidery in many places. I tried it on. The length was good, even in the sleeves. The neckline was fine.

But it wasn’t going to work.

I hung it in the closet. It haunted me. I had so wanted it to work. But it didn’t. I knew I had to send it back but I didn’t want to.

  The bottom of the empire waist hit my bosom right at the nipples.

I didn’t want to admit that the lovely empire bodice was too high for my anatomy. But it was. Finally, I called the vendor and arranged to return the beautiful gown.

I finally had to admit that I am a fallen woman.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another Memoir Deletion

After nearly a month working at the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, I (at the behest of my employers) took two short tours – one to Etosha Park in Nambia and the other to Victoria Falls. Most of the group was flying home after Etosha but I had seen a photograph of Victoria Falls and was determined to see them in person before I left Africa.

I was the only passenger on the plane from Windhoek to Zimbabwe. In the U.S., the flight would have been cancelled. Instead, I was pampered by the all male crew until I suggested they just sit down and enjoy the views from the windows.

The countryside en route from the airport was more tropical than Cape Town or Namibia. The air, wetter. I was keenly aware that I had no anti-malaria medicine. Andy, the shuttle van's driver, let me sit up front and ask my thousand questions. At some point, still several miles from the town of Victoria Falls, I saw a cloud-like formation wisping over the palm trees. "What's that?" "The mist from the Falls. When they're in full water, you can see the mist from 10 miles away. This is a dry time." "Ten miles!" It was more than I could imagine. "Do you still see them?" Andy looked puzzled. "Do the Falls still amaze you? I live next to a huge lake that looks different every day and at different times of the day. But sometimes I don't even notice." He understood. "No. They're just there. Like the buildings and the road. They bring in a lot of tourists. They give me a job."

 I didn't visit the Falls (they will always be capitalized by anyone who has seen them) until the next morning when I joined a group led by Sam. The Falls are in a national park, protected from fast food vendors and sellers of kitsch. No Disney animals, no neon, no soundtrack. The closest intrusion of merchandising was the swarm of locals selling bottled water in the parking lot. We were issued plastic raincoats (to be returned at the end of the tour). A faint wet roar could be heard even above the clamor. We crossed the road to the park entrance, looked at the maps, heard the history, read the plaques and saw the statue of Livingston. All the time the roar got louder and louder. The marrow in my bones began to vibrate in sync. The path began to get slippery. Finally, as we rounded a clump of trees, we saw the first section of the Falls -- awesome quicksilver thundering over black crags, framed by tropical foliage.

We were across the gorge from which they plummeted, safe on a natural vantage point. Every turn in the path revealed another cascade, each stunning. And amid the thunder and mist and crystalline sparkles were rainbows. Almost every strand in this giant moving tapestry generated rainbows. Sometimes at the summit, sometimes midway, or at the base. Narrow or broad. Faint or distinct. They danced on the falling water. There were hundreds of them. How could that be? Rainbows always pierce me with awe. And they were everywhere I looked. I used the raincoat to protect my camera, which I practically wore out.

Sam was very patient with me, always returning to guide me back to the group that had gone ahead. Never making me hurry. There was so much beauty I almost cried. I think he liked that. It took us two hours to walk the Zimbabwe portion of the falls. There is a smaller section in Zambia but the vantage gorge was in Zimbabwe.   We stood on the gorge, watching the jumpers and marveling at the great rocks of the east point of the Falls. Finally, soaking wet, we were persuaded to turn back toward the park entrance.

 Walking beside Sam, I asked if he ever got tired of the Falls. His answer was immediate and decisive. "No m'am! I bring my family here for picnics on my days off." Hallelujah!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

discarded memoir excerpt

When my memoir was published, the editor left out a couple of chapters. “African Interlude” chronicled the trip I took after working at the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa.

I liked that chapter but who is going to argue with the very first publisher of your very first book? So. I’m going publish excerpts from the chapter on this blog. In this one, I’ll share what happened in Namibia. In the next, what happened in Zimbabwe.

There were eight of us and Ingo, our driver guide. Each of the eight had been to the Parliament, several leading workshops, but the conversation focused mostly on what we were seeing … and the van – a handsome, comfortable Mercedes that we had to push before the motor turned over to speed us toward Namibia’s interior.

This was December -- the rains had returned and the animals had dispersed across the vast Etosha pan, no longer gathering at waterholes for survival. To make sure we would see animals, we were to stop first at a game preserve. We drove north on a straight, flat highway past open range full of scrub and dotted with occasional water tanks. There were mountains to our left that we never seemed to get closer to. Weaverbirds nested on the branches of telephone poles that Ingo said were still booby-trapped with mines from Namibia’s long struggle for independence.

… Macadam turned to dirt at the entrance to Mt. Etjo, an elegant game preserve that turned out to be historic. This was where an armistice was negotiated in the 80s, a prerequisite to Namibia’s independence in 1990.

All we had to negotiate was the river that had formed since Ingo had driven the road two weeks before. We made it about half way across and stayed there, stuck, for four hours.

Men and women tested their strategies and strength and knowledge of mechanical physics to no avail. Twilight and storm clouds began to gather, making it less amusing to be some twenty miles from shelter in territory ruled by major mammals.

The roar of an engine and a cloud of dust heralded a petite blonde driving an open red Toyota four-wheeler with her two towheaded sons and a dog. Seeing our dilemma, she charged through the river, hauled out a rope and, when it had been secured to both vehicles, pulled us out of the muck.

We never figured out who she was or where she came from.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lake Lesson Two

Sitting on the shore of a mountain lake, I felt the same breeze that rippled the water. Rocks rose out of the water like a Japanese garden.

I felt only tranquility. Asked no questions. Barely thought. But thought enough to take a photograph. 

Aware of beauty. Aware of serenity. I think I was hoping to capture the peace. But peace cannot be captured. It just falls upon you like mist or rises up in internal stillness.

It was one of those moments when I realized that I was the rocks and the lake and the sky and the clouds. The breeze and the ripples. The wet and the dry. The permanent and the transitory. It is all the same. Somehow.

Within the rhythmic cycles of creation, everything is a complexity within a complexity. And yet—and yet—all things are simply components of a wholeness in which each of us is a component. And this is a truth beyond comprehension… perhaps beyond expression. But expression is worth a try.

So I try.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lake Lesson

When this little girl arrived at Cataract Lake (near Silverthorne, Colorado) she went through a panoply of emotions. First, she was curious and a little envious as her older brother waded in the lake. She struggled in her mother’s arms, trying to reach the water and protested mightily when momentarily prevented (so mom could remove her socks and shoes). Once these impediments were removed, she was lowered gently onto the sandy shore. When her feet touched the grainy surface, she retracted her legs as fast as a thought. Then her mom held her over the water and lowered her enough to feel the liquid. Again, legs were retracted and held above the lake . . . until mom lowered her again. This time, the legs came down. And stayed down. Mom removed some of her clothes and let her walk … first on the now accepted sand and then into the water. Her smile was radiant. Her step, initially tentative, grew more assured. She discovered her ability to splash. Her joy was complete.

That’s one of the great things about kids. They discover things – water, lakes, sand. They delight in discovery. And, if we pay attention, we can learn from them … and we too can see the wondrous-ness of a mountain lake.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cat-astrophy Addendum

I ended a recent post with these words:

Petting purring cats is
the closest
Humans come
to symbiosis

I wouldn't pet a cactus
even if it purred.

To these pearls of wisdom I here add the following

It is not good practice
To pet a cactus
It has no fur
And cannot purr

I wouldn't pet a cactus
even if it purred.

That's all folks!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Various disasters greeted me when I came downstairs this morning.

Guinness (the cat) had opened the cupboard under the sink and knocked over the wastebasket, which in turn had knocked over the ‘Comet’, which in turn had spilled onto the rug. In the dining area, flowers had been pulled from the table arrangement. Three leaves had been vomited onto three different areas of the carpet.

Why do I put up with this?

Over the now nearly 13 years that I have had Guinness and Herbie I’ve recorded various vignettes about my cats – the broken living room lamp, the shredded toilet paper, the cat vomit, the toppled Christmas tree.

Why do I put up with them?

… because they put up with me.

When they aren’t sleeping, they supervise me. When I’m working at my computer, they lie in the drawer by the keyboard or on the pillow at the corner of the desk.

Their antics make me laugh. Their postures make me smile. They seem to know when I need comfort and they cuddle and purr until I feel better. We have routines that make all three of us feel better. Ways to play and ways to snuggle.

I found something I wrote a while ago.

     Petting purring cats is
     the closest
     humans come
     to symbiosis.

     I wouldn’t pet a cactus
     even if it purred.

It’s still true.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Truth in Taiwan

Hiding deep in a recent newspaper – away from all the major stories – was a major story.

The article told how the most painful event in Taiwan's modern history is on display in two museums and a park in Taipei, the capital.

The complex depicts “the 228 incident” that occurred Feb. 28, 1947. Then Taiwan was governed by the Kuomintang – ‘nationalists’ engaged in a struggle with Mao Zedong’s communists for mainland China -- (a struggle lost in 1949).

In response to 1947 demonstrations by Taiwan citizens, Nationalist troops were brought from the mainland to squelch protestors.

They killed between 18,000 and 28,000 people, launching a campaign against Nationalist opponents, principally Communists, that lasted until martial law was lifted in 1987.

The 228 complex is an acknowledgement of an atrocity.

The Kuomintang still governs Taiwan. It was the villain here.

What if we were to acknowledge all the atrocities committed by our government?
    The decimation of Native Americans. 
    The World War II interments of Japanese (and German and Italian) citizens.
    Troops squelching strikes.
    And slavery. And Jim Crow.
    And private prisons and the incarceration of immigrants.

There are more stains on our heritage than confederate flags. None of them should be glorified or justified but all of them should be acknowledged. We would be better for it. Perhaps even less arrogant and self righteous.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nursery Logs

While on a trip with four of my friends, I took a shuttle bus to a Vancouver, British Columbia park – Capilano, a rain forest. I got there early, before the masses. A solitary guide, Katy, stood by the entrance to a walk around a pond.

She led me around the little body of water, introducing me to its wonders: ferns, salmonberries, and a nursery log.

Fallen to the forest floor, the remains of a magnificent tree had become the breeding ground for future life. Look closely and you can see the beginnings of redwoods, and pines and ferns and salmonberries.

Wandering off to other parts of the park, I saw other nursery logs – reminders of the amazing cycles of life and death that surround us. All the time. And it’s all good. And still too sad.
Many of my dearest friends are dying. So many of them from some form of cancer. Others, from Parkinson’s or some insidious form of dementia. I guess we/they are old enough – whatever that means. But it still seems wrong, unjust, unfair and far too sad.

And not sad. It occurs to me that we are each an amalgam of all that we learn from each other, and from the places we visit. Each of us is a nursery log – sprouting the ideas, words, smiles, tears and laughter that others have shared. And each of us is richer for it. Each of us – in some way – perpetuates the lives of those we love. It’s just more fun when we can see their faces

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gift of a Grizzly

Thursday, May 28, I was one week into a trip with four friends I known for nearly 40 years. We had already seen countless splendors – rainforest in Vancouver, majestic mountains, waterfalls, eagles, elk, osprey, black bears. 

That Thursday was the first day we crossed the apex (we would cross it several times as our bus route wound up and down mountain roads) a point from which water flows in three directions – to the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic.

Just before lunch we had walked on the Columbia glacier – marveled at the pale blue water of its melting and were appalled by the fact that it (like other glaciers) was only a fraction of its earlier size … an ending supply of water for North America.

Moving on down the Icefield Parkway on a day that had already overwhelmed us with beauty, someone on our bus spotted the grizzly.

Mike, our driver-guide, pulled to the side of the road. Everyone watched in wonder as the awesome creature moved closer. Just out of hibernation, he kept his head down, feeding, while trotting toward the highway – so big, so graceful – golden in the afternoon sun.

What a gift – to glimpse his magnificence.

The waning hope of this planet is that, somehow, glaciers and grizzlies endure.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Argentinean Flamingoes

As we pulled out of town toward Jasper National Park, Mike, our bus driver (who was expert at spotting wildlife) called our attention to the “Argentinean Flamingo” atop a telephone pole.

In unison, 49 of us leaned right and did indeed see a curvaceous pink form aloft.

None of us thought it was indigenous to Alberta, Canada.

49 pairs of eyes bored into the back of Mike’s head.

He explained. Osprey build their nests near water on a high perches -- the telephone pole was right by a little river.  Every year they come back, adding more material to the nest. It can get pretty messy. And that, in turn, can thoroughly screw up telephone calls.

Many experts, with all due environmental, ecological and biological consideration, sought solutions. Some proposed elaborate (and expensive) devices to discourage osprey from building nests atop telephone poles.

One line repairman had another idea. He went to Home Depot and bought a plastic pink flamingo for $10 Canadian. He placed it atop the telephone pole. Problem solved. No nest.

Elsewhere on our Canadian journey, we saw an osprey nest atop a pole specifically designed to hold an osprey nest. The chick resting inside seemed pleased. And the nearby telephone line was unscathed.

Would that all dilemmas could be solved so simply.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stealth Cat

It was obvious that I needed to take my cat Guinness to the vet. I wasn’t sure about Herbie but I thought he should be checked out.

After confirming that the cats were elsewhere, I closed the doors to my bedroom, the study, the TV room, and the guest room. I hauled the cat carriers up from the basement. I enlisted my neighbor to assist in capture and transport.

About half an hour before our appointment, my neighbor, Eldon, arrived and we began the capture process.

Predictably, Herbie was easy. I lifted him into his carrier and closed it.

Now for Guinness. He had run upstairs when Eldon arrived. Since all visitors spook Guinness, Eldon went upstairs to herd him to the first floor. But Guinness was nowhere to be found upstairs. The only open room was the bathroom and Eldon checked behind and in every possible hiding place.

In past searches, Guinness has been found in the laundry room cupboard (the cupboard door doesn’t latch so he paws it open and slips in before it closes). He wasn’t there. Not in the floor level cupboards or the ones above the sink.

So we checked the kitchen cupboards. They don’t latch either. He wasn’t there. We checked the pantry and all its shelves. He wasn't there.

He wasn’t under the couch or in the fireplace nook in the living room. Sometimes the cats slip behind the books in the bookcases. We pushed all the books back. He wasn’t there.

We re-checked the upstairs bathroom – the downstairs bathroom – the kitchen – the pantry – the laundry room. He wasn’t anywhere. We checked again. We even checked the rooms that had had closed doors. He wasn’t there.

Herbie was crying. I let him out of his carrier. We told him to find Guinness but I don’t think he was interested. Anyway, he didn’t.

I called the vet to say that we would be late. I called my Pilates teacher to say I might not make it to class. We re-checked everything. Guinness wasn’t there.

We kept asking ourselves, “How can one cat outsmart two relatively intelligent humans?” We gave up. I offered to make some tea. Eldon helped me hang a picture. I served the tea.

We were sitting at the dining room table sipping tea when there was a resounding thump in the laundry room as Guinness jumped down onto the dryer. He had been inside a cardboard carton on the top shelf in the laundry room.

But now he was out in the open. He dashed toward the stairs. I caught him and, with Eldon’s help, got him into the carrier. Then I retrieved Herbie and put him in his carrier and we went to the vet.

We were only an hour late.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Morning News

In our local paper, the weather, ‘Dear Abby’, Horoscopes and ‘Today in History’ are published on the same page. Always interesting, the history factoids are sometimes amazing.

For example -- on May 5, 1945, six people in Oregon were killed by a Japanese balloon bomb – the only war fatalities on the North American continent.

Beginning in 1944, Japan launched more than 9,000 huge rice paper balloons filled with hydrogen and carrying explosive devices. Transported by the jet stream, these were designed to explode along the west coast causing mass destruction and forest fires. Only about 1,000 reached North America. And only one was deadly.

On May 5, Rev. Archie Mitchell and his pregnant wife Elsie drove up to Orgeon’s Gearhart Mountain with five of their Sunday school students to have a picnic. Elsie and the kids got out of the car to look for a good picnic spot while Archie drove on to find a place to park. The kids spotted the balloon lying on the ground and when they approached it, it exploded, instantly killing Elsie and Dick Patzke, 14; Jay Gifford, 13; Edward Engen, 13; Joan Patzke, 13; and Sherman Shoemaker, 11.

A memorial, the Mitchell Monument, is located at the point of the explosion. Several Japanese civilians have visited the monument to offer their apologies for the deaths that took place there, and several cherry trees have been planted around the monument as a symbol of peace.

Not only are the factoids themselves interesting, the juxtaposition among the factoids is fascinating. On the same day that six people died in Oregon, Denmark and the Netherlands were liberated as a German surrender went into effect. And in 1934, the first Three Stooges short was released.

After listing 'Today's Birthdays', The ‘Today in History’ column always ends with a ‘Thought for Today’. On May 5, it was from Hermann Hesse: “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Never Brag

Last October I posted a blog entitled ‘Personal Ad’. In it, I itemized my attributes (a short list) and my less attractive features (a long list). 

 Among the attributes I cited were good teeth and hair.

Ah well.

I’ve always been a little proud of my hair – like the girl with natural curls in the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon strip. Now it seems that that hair is thinning. Mostly on top. Comb-overs don’t work. I got some ‘bodifying’ shampoo and some stuff you sprinkle on to cover the gaps. It will have to do.

Even last October, I said my hair was ‘okay’ … not amazing. I must have known then that my locks were failing.

But as I cited my faults – being near-sighted, hard of hearing, overweight, and borderline diabetic-- I repeatedly affirmed that “my teeth are good.”

Never write things like that. You are just tempting fate … or something.

When I went to the dentist last week, I was informed that one tooth will have to go. Fortunately, it is toward the rear of my mouth so when it’s extracted I won’t look I belong in the ‘Li’l Abner’ comic strip (does anyone still remember that?). But still there will be a gap (unless I pay $4,000 for an implant, which is not likely).

In my defense, it’s a ‘baby’ tooth. And it’s remarkable that it has lasted as many decades as it has (I refuse to enumerate).

And the rest of my teeth are still okay. I hope. I dare not say more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Colorado Wardrobes

Beginning Late February, sometimes March, I keep an assortment of outerwear by my backdoor. It includes my Michelin-Man quilted coat; a lined waterproof jacket; two varieties of rain gear; and the vest I bought at a Monument Valley gift shop when the temperature plummeted just as we were about to tour the valley.

There are probably a couple of cardigans as well – although these tend to live upstairs. My ‘good coat’ and mid-weight coat reside sometimes by the front door and sometimes in a closet. Various gloves, hats, and scarves are always kept handy.

Footwear is even more indicative of external conditions—fully-lined snow boots; more diminutive snow boots and two kinds of sandals. Oh and one pair of ‘good shoes’ for rare festive occasions.

No one who has lived in Colorado for one calendar year thinks these assortments are anything but apt. Temperatures can swing from subzero to sixty, even eighty, in the months between Christmas and summer.

No one puts their snow shovels away until after Mothers Day … sometimes not ‘til after Memorial Day.

If you’ve moved here from somewhere else – especially someplace with clearly defined seasons – all this takes some getting used to. But once we’re used to it, we come to expect the unexpected.

We smile when the trees blossom, hoping that the inevitable snowstorms don’t damage limbs. When snow covers our tulips, we know we’re home.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Let It Be A Dance

Migratory sand hill cranes breed in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Each winter they fly south to their favorite places in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mexico, and California. Each spring, they go north again. En route, more than three-fourths of all sand hill cranes (some 500,000) stop over in a single 75-mile stretch along Nebraska's Platte River.

I was privileged to see their spring gathering. Driving out of Kearney, Nebraska, my friends and I saw a small flock in a field. Something spooked them and they arose in unison and flew beyond our sight. Was that it? Had we missed them? Checking in at the Audubon Center, we learned that many cranes had been delayed by Texas blizzards.

Still, that evening we saw hundreds and hundreds of them glide in for their night’s rest on Platte River sandbars (see previous post). It was spectacularly beautiful.

Well before dawn the next morning, we arrived at a pedestrian bridge over the Platte River. Standing in the dark, we welcomed the first hints of sunrise. As soon as there were slivers of light, the birds began ‘talking.’ As the sun began to rise, we could discern movement on the river. Here and there a bird rose out of the darkness. Then, as dawn broke over the horizon, waves of cranes soared up overhead, singing to the new day.
First waves were followed by second, third, fourth waves – thousands upon thousands of magnificent birds – an exultation.

None of my pictures came out but the images of that dawn glory are indelible.

We got back in the car and wandered back roads, driving east as the Audubon staff had recommended. And there they were. In field after field, feeding, ‘talking’, and dancing.

Crane dancing involves wing flapping, bowing, and jumping. It can be part of a mating ritual … or not. And some pairs may throw their heads back and unleash a passionate duet—‘an extended litany of coordinated song’.
We had only glimpses of events older than our species, a fraction of splendor that remains glistening in my memory. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blind Vision

It was almost un-American. About 40 of us walked half a mile down a dirt path into an enclosure with small slits on the west, north and east sides.

Our instructions were clear: no talking, no noise of any kind, no light of any kind, no cell phones – smart or otherwise. Just silence as the daylight faded.

As the sun began to sink, turning the sky brilliant gold then raspberry, we began to see them. They were just silhouettes, black against the ebbing light. At first they were just specks.

Then we could hear them. I loved the sound. To me, it sounded like a bird purr or throat rattle, a fluttery, sort of kar-r-r-o-o-o – in varying pitches and volumes. Then they began to glide down onto the Platte River sandbars -- ten, then twenty, then hundreds. Then hundreds upon hundreds more – magnificent against the sunset.

We resisted the urge to applaud.
Awed, we realized that silence was the only appropriate response

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Selma Sunday in Loveland, CO

March 8, 2015 was "Selma Sunday" -- the 50th anniversary of the long march to Montgomery, Alabama to secure voting rights for all Americans.

In Alabama and across the country people marched or had services commemorating what had happened and reminding all of us that there was a lot more to do.

We had such a service in our church, the Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Loveland, Colorado. Loveland is mostly white and mostly conservative. The service featured a video of the Oscar-winning song, "Glory", and the eloquent acceptance speeches of its composers. There was another video of an interview with a minister who was attacked when James Reeb was attacked in 1965 and who had held Rev. Reeb's hand as he lost consciousness (never to regain it).

As a 'worship associate' I read a story about the song, "We Shall Overcome", and gave a short reflection, copied below.

   There were a lot of good things about my dad. He was responsible, honest, hard working, and good looking.

   He also had a derogatory term for every human being who was not a white Anglo-Saxon protestant, and able-bodied, and straight, and reasonably attractive.

   His viewpoint was mirrored by the friends in my parents’ social circles, by the neighborhoods we lived in, by schools and crayons and ‘flesh-colored’ bandages. It was mirrored in derogatory songs and jokes and public entertainment.

   That heritage was the bridge I had to cross. It is a bridge most white Anglo-Saxon protestant people have to cross.

   Slowly – very slowly – I began to acknowledge the value of people of other races. And my own complicity in their marginalization.

   In 2002, I moved here from the most racially/religiously/ ethnically diverse neighborhood in Chicago. Loveland was none of those. Or at least not that I could see.

   We are so good at being oblivious.

   In January 2003, I attended Loveland’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. It was okay … a little disappointing, but okay. There was an essay contest for primary school kids. In 2004, I signed up to help judge the essays. Obviously, some of the kids ‘got it’ … and some just mimicked the guidelines or quoted Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But it was a start.

   With the exception of a couple of years, I have been involved with Loveland’s MLK committee ever since. And beginning last year, that committee has worked to bring Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community’ into Loveland’s consciousness on a year-round basis.

   It’s a bit of a challenge.

   We’re so good at being oblivious to marginalized populations. We simply do not see the people who are marginalized by language or culture or poverty or race.

   But until we do, we will stay on the wrong side of the bridge.

   And until we cross that bridge, nothing will change.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Comparative Civilizations

Eleven years ago, a band of rebels killed more than 120 civilians in a Ugandan refugee camp.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is preparing to try the rebels’ commander for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the survivors of the attack do not want him tried by the ICC. Instead, they say he should be pardoned if he comes to Uganda to confess his crimes and seeks forgiveness in a ritual ceremony.

“From the victims’ perspectives… traditional justice and reconciliation would have been more appropriate than a trial in the Netherlands… They feel that an international trial is not going to change anything tangible.”

I picked up this information from a small article in my local paper (it must have been just the right size to fill a ‘hole’ in the page layout).

It made me think. I remembered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the South African government to deal with the atrocities of apartheid.

I looked up some United States statistics: more than two million people in prison; more than 3,000 persons are on death row. On average, prisoners wait eleven years between the time they are sentenced and the time they are executed. One man was on Florida’s death row for 39 years.

Wouldn’t it be more effective if we were to create our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission -- a system of confession and forgiveness that could change the course of lives instead of twisting or ending them?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bedtime Rituals

When my sons were growing up, they had bedtime rituals that had to be faithfully observed.

My sons are grown now.

I have two cats, with bedtime rituals that must be faithfully observed.

When I go to bed I make sure I carry two cat toys with me. One is a long rainbow colored felt ribbon attached to a plastic wand. That’s for Herbie. The other is a slender plastic tube through which a cord is strung. The cord has a feather at one end and a small wooden bead at the other. Guinness prefers the bead.

Both cats wait outside the bathroom while I wash my face, brush my teeth and take the required pills.

They watch from the hall while I climb into bed.

They wait.

Then I start using the plastic tube to fling the bead across the top of my bed. Guinness springs into action and onto the bed, eyes wide and alert. He chases the bead and pounces. I never let him get it in one try. But he’s fast. In a few minutes he has captured the bead and, clamping the bead and string in his mouth, he jumps off the bed and hauls the bead/string/tube/feather out of the room, out into the hall, down the stairs, through the living room and kitchen and into the laundry room where it rests until I retrieve it the next morning.

Herbie watches all of this, waiting. When Guinness and the bead have disappeared, I dangle the rainbow ribbon over the edge of the bed. Herbie moves closer. He bats at the ribbon, sometimes even moving a little as he chases it. When he has had enough frivolity, he jumps up on the bed, ready to snuggle.

I turn off the light and Herbie moves up toward my head, gently moving me around until he is enthroned on one of the pillows. I shift to the second pillow and prepare for slumber knowing that sometime during the night, Guinness will return and settle somewhere around my knees.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes that’s okay.