wonderland lake

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.”

~Henry Emerson Fosdick

Eleven years ago, I met a woman named Elizabeth. She was an English woman who had coppery red hair and a narrow river of blond that began near her forehead, and she could see dead people. They would come to her and tell her things mostly by hand signals and showing familiar objects. She isn’t the only one, there are many that claim to see things that others can’t, and as always, belief only comes when something touches us in some way and turns our hearts and minds over like a deck of cards.

I sat in a chair at a small, square table in a very old Victorian house, my friend’s house. This house breathed an old stale and musty breath, with pink damask wallpaper peeling in the corners and heavy, green velvet curtains that hung as if a thousand buckets of tears could be wrung from it. My friend adored her house of 100 years, and I could not deny that it was a perfect setting to invite a wandering spirit, especially the dead ones. Elizabeth sat to my right, facing the windows that gave the only light into the small boxy room, save a small votive candle flickering on the table. I had zero expectations, though the possibility of everything she claimed capable of danced like fire around the edges of my skin.

She leaned in with her elbows on the table and asked me my name, then her eyes flitted over to behind my right shoulder. Once, at first, then again to the windows behind me, back and forth, back and forth, as if some irresistible secret began to reveal itself in that corner. I almost turned to look when she spoke suddenly.

“Your father passed recently.”

I nodded, “Four years ago.”

“He’s here.”

I was silent. My hands found each other.

“I feel a sickness in my chest, was it lung cancer?”

“Yes.” My left hand fingers began to fiddle with the rings on my right hand, and the chair, it was very uncomfortable.

“And he was quite the smoker and drinker wasn’t he?” she quarried.

“Yes, he was.”

The brain begins to work when challenged with something that seems impossible. Churning, it searches for answers to unexplained information, to keep the unexpected safe and predictable, to keep our world contained and manageable in a way that our minds are only fit to handle.

“He was in the military?”


“I am seeing a picture of him”, as she spoke she moved her left forearm to where it sliced her chest, just beneath the collarbone “it’s from here up?”

I said nothing.

“He was quite handsome wasn’t he, your father…”

“Yes, I believed so.”

“Yes, well this picture, he was young and handsome, in his uniform with a hat, before he was ever sick, do you know which picture I am speaking of?”

I knew, yes I knew. I only had one, and it was the best picture of him I had. It was a time right around when I was born, when he was at the best moments of his military career.

“Well this is how he wants you to remember him. He wants you to frame that picture and put it somewhere so you can remember him this way.”

I couldn’t speak anymore. Hot tears began to swell and replaced any words that would have come. It didn’t matter anymore whether Elizabeth was really who she said she was. She found a tender stone that had lodged itself in my throat 4 years ago. She was trying to show it to me, expose it to the sunlight so that I would see that it wasn’t a stone at all, but the weightless ash that was released into the ocean years ago.

“He’s very happy where he is resting. He was buried someplace special wasn’t he–he’s smiling, impatient for me to translate.”

“Yes,” I managed, “in Arlington National Cemetary.”

“Yes, he was pleased and wants to thank you.”

It was too much really, too much for me to take. When the ones we love disappear from this earth, we still see them in places and times they would have been had they not died so young. A hole without boundaries remains in those unfulfilled visions, bottomless and thick, waiting for time to mercifully fill it with the gentle songs of acceptance and peace.


There was more, about his grandchildren, that I would have one more child, a daughter, and that I would only have two, which became true on both counts. And then a rose, a white rose for my mother, asking for forgiveness and expressing that his one greatest love was for her.

I don’t believe these kinds of encounters are ones we should cling to. We step in and out of the unknown with as much uncertainty as what the next day will bring. And if we aren’t unclear or uncertain, we aren’t looking hard enough. Our vibrations in this world are meant to be fleeting and inconstant, impermanent and unsustainable. It is the only chance we have at discovering the magic hidden behind the walls that speak, the winds that howl, or the silence that calls. It is the only chance we have in accepting life, death, and all the inexplicable moments in between.

I don’t feel my father that much anymore. I miss him, sometimes I think I can smell him, and sometimes I tell stories to my children about what their Granddad was like. But I know he wouldn’t want me to dwell too much on sorrow or loss, not when there is so much that remains to be discovered and lived, not when there are yet so many mysteries to stumble upon and shift our hearts forever.


Much love to you

wide awake and wild

I took one small step closer, cautious, curious and completely aware that all he had to do was take one powerful leap in my direction to spear me with those handsome antlers of his. His watchful, deep black eyes were on me. Though his munching jaws would seem to say that he could care less about my presence, we both knew better.

This was the first of three encounters I had with wild animals this past weekend. The second was with the Gray Jay. We were over 9500ft. high having snowshoed nearly 2 hours into the southern heart of the Rocky Mountains. There was no wind, just the blinding whiteness that comes with fresh snowfall. The sound of our feet in deep snow and my breathe from climbing in it provided the haunting rhythm to keep placing one foot in front of the other. It was not an easy climb to Emerald Lake, but when we reached it, I understood wholly the meaning of the phrase “deafening silence”. Surrounded by jagged spears of rock resembling a crown, I would have fallen to my knees in reverence had I not already felt dwarfed in the mountain’s majesty.

(If it helps to understand scale in this novice photo, please look at the tiny black dot at the base of the mountains on the right. That dot is a person.)


After a few awe-inspiring minutes of quiet, I was startled by a low swoosh that came from behind and flew directly above my head. She landed on a branch 15 feet from me, looked at me while cocking her fluffy head, imploring me to see her, to be mindful of her. She wanted my attention and she found it. She posed left, then right, then looked at me again to make sure I was still watching. I worked quickly to get my camera out again, but she waited patiently, long enough for me to rattle off at least 10 shots before she flew back in the direction she came from. She, like the Elk, felt tame in ways that didn’t seem plausible. An unspoken language passed between us, one that I had forgotten, one that I might have understood again if I could have stayed there in that space with her just a little longer.


The last encounter was with two foxes. My husband spotted them first on our return to Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning. They were fast and they were less willing to take chances with a human like the other two. I jumped out of the car with the camera and ran to the edge of the meadow that they had run into. I followed them with my lens, first one, then two, too far to get good details thanks to the autofocus on my camera. There was no time to switch to manual, no time to play with light and catch the glint in their mysterious eyes. They were gray and they were very smart, dancing along and pacing the meadow, watching me to see what I would do next. They never left or ran away too far. As I walked back to the car, they got closer, comfortable with knowing that I was leaving their domain, their protected space that I was invading, that we all invaded long ago.



These wild animals are medicine to me, a balm to the coldness that comes with our reality and domestication. Once I dip in and wander among the messages these creatures provide, I find myself in the folds of something bigger. I awaken knowing that we are not so different. We are both dependent on the environment that surrounds us, both dependent on the the earth that provides for us, both hungering for a language that connects us all, both free and not free, bound by instinct, duty and limitations, both extremely fragile and weak at the helms of the unknown.

On a crystal clear yet windy morning, on our last snowshoe trail in the tall pines and bare-boned trees, I found a mark on an aspen, a mark left by someone that did not know it would be meant for me. I stopped to pull off my gloves and dug for the cameraphone in my snowpants pocket. A wind gust rushed in lifting the snow off their feet to sparkle and swirl in the air behind, just in time for me to take the shot. And I did take it, all of it. I am not sure when I will be back there again, but I will remember. I will remember how it felt to be wide awake and wild with the spirit of the earth.


much love to you fellow earthwalkers…



In the white and milky moonlight,
in the shallow and seemingly subtle cracks,
the stories lay thick in layers from one day to the next,
accumulating, unwritten and unread
like old magazines in the corner of the closet.

If I could close the door and crouch in silence,
hide with the dark and peel the vibrant colors off the walls and onto pages,
would the words be more pungent?
Could this be the yellow sulphur that leaps
to burn the eyes and nose?

They beckon, the calls, and
flit about like gnats on a hot, sticky night.
The tick tock of the mother clock
goes on,
spooling the yearn into a tight embrace,
saved for some later time
and some distant space.

A deeper question permeates—
if all I had was what I always wanted
would it really give me all that I need?

The sincere mother’s wishes are unfooled.
From nature’s pulse, a whisper beneath the lobe
“All you have is all you need
and the Want must stand alone.”

for all who moonlight and have a distant dream:
wherever you can, whenever you can, however you can




It’s 6:39am. All ten fingers curl around my mug made of clay, sun and moon. A soy latte the color of a soaken mudpie warms my throat before sliding down into my belly. On a perfect day, there is no rush, no urgency to shower or wake the children. I am free to tiptoe down the stairs to the yellow cave I call my own, the very yolk that encases and feeds my hungry soul. Three jars of colored pens line the top edge of my reclaimed, white desk and the sight of them brings a tingling to my waking fingers. I imagine a thumping tail, a wet nose, and playful fur sprouting from my current journal, as happy and expectant as any dog about to receive some attention.

These are the moments of quiet freedom, before I check email, before I give the cat his weekly sulphur bath and shot, or meet the accountant, or grocery shop or whatever it is that defines this human life. A soul’s life unravels in the quiet, unbuttoning of this skin, where nakedness is synonymous with the unfolding of wings, where thought is not led by the bully intellect but by the gentle voice of intuition. No pause she says, just flight.

painted pixels

I have seen the flinted sparks of a once unfathomable future begin to glow in this cave. With guidance from this and this, and from one that lives and breathes the same spaces I do (thanks hon), I find myself believing, and suddenly aware of a craving that I now know has always been there. Fear can strap you to a gurney with arms, legs, and heart bound by your own beliefs. The challenge, always, is to find those beliefs that bind you and unhinge them. I find myself unhinging them continually because they cling, they cling desperately to a definition that existed long ago, because to redefine self would be stepping into a dark blue, unknown void. There is no preparation to be in this place, just an awareness that without all the heavy, soaked-in stains of our past, our skin suddenly feels wild, translucent, vulnerable, and unequivocally free.


much love to you…


Dear Diary


Dear Diary,

I have so much to tell you! I can’t believe it’s been days since I’ve written, but those days have been a mix of crazy fun and feeling like a young girl again, you know, waaay back when it was just you, me and Holly Hobbie.

Friday, two girlfriends and I went to Denver to see a play called “Girl’s Only”, the kind of play that made my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard. You would have loved it!! Two very funny and creative women found their diaries from childhood and wrote a play all about the amusement of growing up woman. They read from their real, personal diaries and highlighted moments that you and I would remember so well, moments that defined childhood with all the hilarity, wonderment and confusion we experienced through crushes on boys, our changing bodies, and the love and disconnect we had with parents. By the way, we also learned several other uses for tampons besides, well, you know. Think cat toy and holiday tree ornament ;).


After the play, we went to our hotel’s restaurant and pigged out on chips, salsa and guacamole. One of my girlfriends almost choked to death on a tortilla chip but thank goodness she didn’t. That would have been a terrible one to explain to her husband and a horrible end to our weekend. Our hotel was a super cute, boutique hotel decorated with cartoons and pop-culture accents. Every floor had a name and ours was called the Big Hair Floor and lined with heavy metal band posters on the walls. Definitely appropro since we all grew up in the 80′s which was all about big hair. Remember Aquanet? Also, can you believe our room number was 911? EEK! I didn’t like that coincidence too much. Oh and we found this sign in the lobby, too:


Cool right?

So I can’t remember if I told you but marijuana is legal in Colorado now. Yep, really. So now retail stores are popping up all over Denver and anyone can go in and shop. I KNOW it’s crazy! So, the next day my girlfriends and I were feeling adventurous and dangerous at the same time (or at least I was feeling this way) so we decided to visit one. I am so glad I was with my girlfriends for this. It is beyond surreal to walk into one of these shops knowing this stuff was illegal only a few months before and is still illegal in 48 other states. Non-drug induced and quite useless paranoia had set in as I looked for government-placed hidden cameras in the corners of drywall. I didn’t see any. What a subdued and very potent scene Diary, and let me tell you (insert sarcasm) we didn’t stick out at all as three mothers with big purses on our shoulders. One of my girlfriends reminded us so poignantly, “We are in the midst of historical change.”.

Oh Diary, in one weekend I was in a time capsule being transported to childhood, feeling like a kid again when my whole world was once being boggled by boys, worrying about school grades and friendships, and staying away from the wrong sort that took drugs. Then the next day, as abruptly as my youth arrived, I was in a place, time and space where change had never felt more evident, when “there’s no going back” is a truth that leaves a mark no matter how much pink, anti-aging facial cream I use. It’s all so overwhelming. I think I’m beginning to know how Grandma feels, how schizophrenic and mutational this life can be. From adolescence and big hair to 9-11 and legal marijuana. I swear if it weren’t for you Diary, my head would have exploded into bits by now.

Thanks, as always, for listening…





I remember trying so hard to speak (or was it scream? I don’t remember), but all that managed to eek from a vivid sleep and a dry throat were whimpers, loud enough to wake my husband and cause him to lay his hand on my head to wake me. I remembered every detail of that dream at that moment, and I remember imploring my conscious self to record that dream somewhere so that I may recall it when I wake again. But I should know better. That dream has now drifted off to whatever infinite space that lost dreams descend to. This seems to be the case most nights lately, the feeling that I didn’t rest as well as I think I did, with faint recalls of images that moved through my wakeless mind swiftly and silently.

The translation I think is simple. Things are moving with blurred fringes lately, so fast that I am having trouble focusing on one thought, one emotion, leaving vast expanses of vulnerability dangling out in the open. My sweet cat has been very sick with IBD, demodex mites and ringworm, causing this house to turn upside down and inside out with worry, paranoia, disinfecting/cleaning, and frustration. Also, the boy was recently accepted by lottery (and perhaps providence) into an exciting and coveted middle school program here in Boulder county. This also means he will say goodbye to the wonderful Montessori community that has embraced and nurtured him–all of us actually–since we moved here. The girl will remain in Montessori for a few more years, which slightly softens the sharp edges of watching my son approach adolescence. But who am I kidding, she is moving with the same velocity and with just as certain a purpose as his.


I find solace in my routines of respite that tenderly give me a bonelike framework to lean upon. The dedicated dance on these calused feet, the melodies that pluck from these nubby fingers, the flux of words that have feverishly filled one journal recently and have moved on to another. These things flush a wave of fluidity into my days, not unlike an IV that brings the rush of cold freshness to thirsty veins.

It is not the passage of roughness that I seek, but the distinct details that define this moment from the next. I want in waking what it is I cannot have in the apparation of my faded dreams, the texture and tangibility that makes this life my very own to live.

Much love to you on this Wednesday…


meeting Mr. Collins

chai mug

A book haven of any kind–independent, corporate, a local library, or the one in your home, carrying spines and pages of any kind–used and tattered, new and pristine, is like walking into a rainbow garden of blooming roses, enthralling, intoxicating, and potentially dangerous if my wits aren’t about me. Easily sucked into the undertow of titles, cover art, and synopses, I could submerge for hours and inevitably re-emerge with an armful of life-preserving stories, adding buoyancy to my own library at home. You do know what I mean :)?

Well, I have to tell you that on one of these excursions, a shorter one than most since I had the boy with me, I met Billy Collins. That’s right, the poet. Okay, well, I’m not sure exactly he was Billy Collins. But it only takes a speck of a moment for imagination to leap to possibility, all hope bolstered by infinite excitment. Could it really be?

The boy wanted a book, that’s how it all started and who am I to hinder a budding reader’s new found joy and eventual addiction (or so I hope). He found this one by the way, though that’s not part of this story.

“Do you mind if I stop in the Poetry section?” I asked him.

“Sure, Mom.”

“I’ll only be a few minutes.” Yes, I fibbed.

And so a few minutes turned into another few minutes and eventually I just plopped down on the floor within arm’s reach of a treasure trove of untraversed poetry. I love exploring new (to me) poets this way. Just reach, read, and fall in love. Soon, the boy joined me on the floor with his new book, patient as ever…. what a love.

A man walking in a manner where his shoulders seemed to pull the rest of his body along sped behind us on the floor. Shoulder-length, wavy, white and gray hair, cargo pants, Columbia vest, hiking shoes, and simple wire frame glasses on an unshaven face. He looked like he could be a sociology professor at CU, a scruffy, yet sophisticated, hippie type. If he wasn’t gazing at us so intently as he whisked by, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed him. His gaze didn’t slow his pace though and soon he was around the corner and gone.

Or so I thought as he returned within seconds, as if he had forgotten something very important on the other end of the store, rushing, rushing, like the white rabbit in Alice and Wonderland. He stopped abruptly where we sat, as if a Stop sign was posted in lights above our heads.

“Which poet do you like to read?” he asked.

It was such an obvious yet unexpected question that I fumbled over my words–first in surprise, and second because I didn’t know who to answer! I had so many favorites, where do I begin?

“Mary Oliver is wonderful, but then so is Charles Bukowski, but wow they are very different. I like Yeats, and David Whyte too, but there aren’t any David Whyte books here. “

I felt like I was a college student trying to impress my professor. Who was this guy?

“Oh? Well, I like Billy Collins myself. He is just great.” He reached into the sea of poetry and grabbed one of Collins’ books.  “Do you read Billy Collins?”

I shook my head and slumped inside a smidge for not being able to meet his enthusiasm and familiarity.

“There is one poem that is absolutely my favorite of his. I can’t remember the name of it….(long pause)…Mary Oliver, huh?” He returned the Collins book, then grabbed one of her many volumes lined on the shelf and thumbed through it.

“You can’t go wrong with any of her books, she writes such beautiful poetry, and is quite prolific, too,” I said in a rambly sort of way, happy to have introduced someone to her natural magic.

“Yeah, well prolific is a very good thing” he said absentmindedly, then turned and walked off as abruptly as he had joined us. I can’t remember if he kept the book or not.

I couldn’t help but smirk a little. What a strange, interesting, delightful man. Quirky and unique, I liked him for his oddity and social ineptitude. As the shadow of his presence began to mingle with my imagination, I thought, entertainingly, how wonderful would it be if that was Billy Collins himself. And from there the thought grew like a weed on a rainy day.

Yes! Billy Collins might be that kind of writer, casing poetry sections in bookstores searching, observing, tinkering with the minds of readers, sniffing for new material and new ideas, or just for the fun and hell of it because he can.

No, I had never read any of Billy Collins’ work, but because the seed was planted that he might be ambling around the store, and because I suddenly realized his new book was everywhere on the shelves (oh my god, “he’s” there to promote his new book!!), as improbable as it sounded, I urgently felt the need to read his poetry, get to know him quick, before “he” comes back and wonders if our little interlude had any impact at all!

Too late. Within minutes, he was back. Billy Collins moonlighting as a sociology professor at CU?

“I just remembered what my favorite poem of his is.” He reached for a book called Nine Horses, opened it, and began to read aloud to me right there.

“It’s called Love,

The boy at the far end of the train car
kept looking behind him
as if he were afraid or expecting someone

and then she appeared in the glass door
of the forward car and he rose
and opened the door and let her in

and she entered the car carrying
a large black case
in the unmistakable shape of a cello.

She looked like an angel with a high forehead
and somber eyes and her hair
was tied up behind her neck with a black bow.

And because of all that,
he seemed a little awkward
in his happiness to see her,

whereas she was simply there,
perfectly existing as a creature
with a soft face who played the cello.

And the reason I am writing this
on the back of a manila envelope
now that they have left the train together

is to tell you that when she turned
to lift the large, delicate cello
onto the overhead rack,

I saw him looking up at her
and what she was doing
the way the eyes of saints are painted

when they are looking up at God
when he is doing something remarkable,
something that identifies him as God‘.”

He closed the book then looked at me, “Isn’t it beautiful, I love that, just the way he was looking at her on the train.”

I was moved and speechless, and feeling very awkward and unknowing in how to respond to this complete stranger. I think I said “thank you”, but honestly I don’t remember, I hope I did. My son, who had wandered off to the atlases in between this man’s appearances, had returned and broke the quiet awkwardness, “Can we go now?”

Sensing his cue, “Well, it was nice talking to you, I’m meeting someone for lunch but had time to kill. It’s nice to meet someone else who likes poetry.” And with that final word he was off again in a flash, following his shoulders to his lunch date on the other side of the world.

Despite how fantastical it would have been to actually meet Mr. Collins, I didn’t, at least not in the traditional face to face sense. Thanks to that strange, scruffy man at the bookstore, instead I was introduced to a brand new poet, as well as the wonderful drift my imagination can take when I am surrounded in a sea of stories :).




I watched through the window as I sat eating lunch with the boy. An older couple, maybe in their early 50′s, stood embracing each other like two vines entwined, both shiny and smiling, both happy and full of emotion. I swear an invisible hand reached through that window and brushed the beat in my chest. For a moment, they stopped long enough to look at each other lovingly and kiss, then they embraced again. How lucky am I to observe such tenderness, such mutual adoration, and how much of a sap am I that my eyes softened into blurry bits before I tore them away (feeling like the guilty voyeur that I was). I clasped that happy moment between both hands like capturing a firefly, even if it belonged to someone else. The light remains with me still.


Mesmerizing, happiness is that fleeting flicker of light that travels across the bridge between our eyes.  A tireless hunt we engage in as we look towards our weekends, our trips, the things we own or don’t own, our accomplishments, our time alone, our time with friends. The fade eventually emerges though, waiting in the silken shadows beneath every coin.


I don’t tell my children anymore that all I want is for them is to just be happy, because I am not sure yet if they know how true happiness is found. It’s not by getting what we want, this I know. As lovely and delightful it is to get what we want, this kind of joy is never the kind that lasts. Evident in the epilogue of when we get “stuff” or have finished a vacation or a long weekend, in the gray silence and dark blue void of sadness, like we’ve been cut off abruptly from our drug. This kind of joy is only the filling of an insatiable mug, a thirst that’s never quenched.

True joy and happiness has empty pockets, is without gift tags, labels, trophies or titles. We find it by scaling the deep ravines that are sure to collapse beneath our feet. We find it by knowing when to sway gently with the wind and the water that will slap us across the face, and when to resist the current that rages to knock us down. Somehow, the longer we endure, the more we learn to live. The more fears we face, the more truths we comprehend, the more obstacles we choose to leap, the easier happiness tends to make itself known. When this happens, the light we search comes alive in every direction, fireflies everywhere! Couples across the room in an embrace, a man in the poetry aisle wanting to share his favorite poet, an old green chevy hidden behind a tree, a log trapped in the gorgeous spider web of ice, children with sloppy ice cream dripping off their noses…

Fireflies, everywhere…do you see them?


much love to you on this wintery day




I went on a hike with the kids yesterday looking for birds to watch, photograph or draw. It felt like spring here, gorgeous blue skies and people out everywhere. I picked the wrong trail to hike on though and instead of looking up for birds, we spent most of our time looking down, trying not to slip on ice, mud and slush. Treasures do still exist no matter where you look, and among the wet leaves and ash gray branches we found delicately dessicated seed pods, rusted, mint-green pipes, and abandoned birdnests clinging valiantly to bare-boned bushes. Near the end, three black-capped chickadees cheerfully crossed our path on their way to taking a slushy, mud bath. They were the only three birds we spotted on that hike.




I find so many answers by stumbling on the evidence that nature leaves behind. The stunning intrigue of hollow pods and empty nests, nothing new to nature but profound to those of us that desperately cling to what once was or what will soon be lost. Would it be any easier to say goodbye if we knew what’s on the other side was better, even transcendent? Nature tirelessly cycles season to season, from birth to death, or is it death to birth, reminding us over and over again to not be afraid, to employ the remarkable senses we’ve been given, to inhale all of it and mark our moments, knowing that we must eventually exhale and let it go before starting all over again. How often do I catch myself holding my breath, greedily trying to store what I am or what I think I know for safe keeping, too naive–or afraid to release to a higher purpose I am not suppose to understand, not yet.

I think about these things as I walk in the woods on muddy trails and dead leaves, when I think of friends fighting cancer for their beautiful and remarkable lives, when I think of an uncle who has fought the odds for years, knowing there are time bombs ticking in his head. Despite all the knowledge we’ve attained, what lies beneath everything is an inherent, instinctive will to survive. Our most essential and primary purpose. We fight for what we have, we fight for the ones we love, we fight for our lives no matter what is on the other side. We fight until we can’t anymore, until Nature rests its heavy hand on our shoulder and tells us it’s time to let go. Until then, everything thing we walk through is a passage gilded in hope, faith and courage, a bridge built by the lives we’ve spent a lifetime to create. In hollow pods and empty nests, in the crisp, cruel winters that try to knock us down, the will to carry on remains.

thinking of the umber dove, my uncle, and all those who fight,

much love to you all