A Purple Skirt 12 July 2022

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The skirt was purple. It had a matching purple vest with golden buttons.

“You can wear any light-colored shirt with most of these.” Mrs. Miller was folding the skirts and pants and tucking them back into the box.

I was still holding the soft purple fabric to my cheek. Could anything be this beautiful? And they matched!

She’d given my third-grade self a whole box of clothes, hand-me-downs from her daughter for this scrawny little waif who’d come to school every day wearing too-short pants, clean but worn-out, and oversized shirts given up by older siblings.

“Alright dear, I’ll put the purple on top and you can wear it first. Now, let’s get this box out to where your dad is waiting to pick you up.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Miller. I love all of them.”

Her daddy was waiting out front and she hugged him and climbed in while he set the box in the back seat of the beat-up suburban, thanked her teacher quietly, and they pulled out to drive home. “Can I wear the purple outfit tomorrow?”

“Sure you can, and one every day after that until you run out. And then you can start over.”

These were the first new clothes that little girl had ever had. Everything she’d ever worn had come down to her from both older sisters and brothers.

She did wear that purple skirt and vest the next day with what had been a while turtleneck, grey now from so many launderings, and stretched over too many heads so that the neck hung more like a cowl. Her socks matched inside her shiny Sunday shoes, but one had no elastic left and pooled around her ankle.

Oh, but that little girl didn’t see the strange looks from the other kids, didn’t hear their low-voiced teasing when Mrs. Miller was at the blackboard. And at recess, she twirled, her bony knees poking out from under the purple as the skirt rose and fell while she spun round and round, arms outstretched to this wonderful world she inhabited.  

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Spirit Places 5 July 2022

There are places in the world where our memories of being there are so strong that when we return after some time has passed, we can be overwhelmed by emotions. I’ve led, I don’t know how many, pack trips over almost twenty-five summers into some rugged and beautiful places in Colorado’s mountains.

When a dear friend, who is also an old camper and wrangler, came to town and suggested a hike into one of those spots from days of pack trips, I said yes, of course.

Two dear friends, campers and wranglers, and one joyful partner and I had breakfast at a favorite mountain café and then dared the old deeply rutted road up to the trailhead. It took us a moment to orient, without horses, and recognize the little trail we’d take to get to this spot and to remember that we’d stop here, horses grazing, while campers readjusted saddle bags, pack mule loads were checked, and then get everyone started again.

We shouldered our day packs and began hiking up this trail to the little pond where we used to ride to for lunch, swim on the horses, and sometimes hunker down in the trees to wait out a storm before riding back to our camping spot.

The further we hiked, the more we remembered. This corner with that view, playing pass the stick, jolly ranchers, singing the Ping-Pong Ball song, Mrs. Mumbles, and tortillas with peanut butter or summer sausage to eat when we stopped for lunch.

But as we hiked that last little bit of the trail, and we came suddenly out of the trees to that little pond, we stopped and collectively relived a moment we’d experienced so many times before. Tears came from somewhere, an ache for pack trips we’d loved so much and looked forward to every summer. Hugging and laughing and marveling at just what hadn’t changed in the last 14 or 15 years, we took pictures of wildflowers, of Audubon and the Indian Peaks, of each other, and then we gathered in that same spot in the trees, ate our snacks and told our stories. And we felt the spirits of ourselves and those who had been there with us, still wandering in the trees or catching frogs by the pond or enjoying FOB time or retying their loose horse. We left ourselves there, one more time, and hiked back to the trailhead.

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“Make of Yourself a Light” 24 June 2022

Buddha’s last words were “Make of Yourself a Light.”

Make of yourself a light. There are places here in America that are becoming darker. It is not the beautiful dark of nighttime when the stars shine, or the moon rises, or the clouds move in and still the night. No, it is the darkness of deception, of lies, of oppression, of hatred.

So yes, make of yourself a light. Be that underground railroad. Be that voice speaking up and out against injustice, against deception, against harm. Make of yourself a light, even if it’s only to get to the next solid stone on the rocky path, even if it means reaching out a hand to steady another while your own boot sinks in the cold creek, even it means you must go alone to find a way.

Make of yourself a light. Find what is good and true and sing it with harmony and grace. Join your voice with others who may have the words but need the tune. Tell the stories that must be told. Make of yourself a light, and when that means you have to claw your way out of the deep hole again, then find a way to patch the cuts and bruises, feed your soul what will nourish it, and don’t bother about the blood stains you may leave behind.

Just keep moving toward that light that you are.

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Thin Places Work 20 June 2022

Photo by Magdalena Smolnicka on Unsplash

I recently read an article about using eight ways to describe a character to make them come to life. According to Jordan at Nownovel.com, those eight ways include:

“1. Start with character profiles and pin boards

2. Focus on details that reveal personality

3. Practice describing people in brief

4. Prioritize unique character features

5. Describe character actions and gestures

6. Find descriptive adjectives and fitting comparisons

7. Describe personality via dialogue and voice

8. Read writers renowned for good characterization” (www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-describe-a-person-examples)

So I played.

Claire is 18 years old with curly brown hair about shoulder length which she keeps in a ponytail most of the time, not only because the way it swings makes her smile inside but having it out of her face allows her to be much more aware of what’s around her. She has blue eyes, bright like a summer sky and her voice is quiet, but also quite pleasant when she sings. Her mother died when she was six and her father checked out on her, getting lost in his own loss. She dealt with a mean stepmother, found an older neighbor couple who took over that parent role in her life, and took off for Ireland when she was 18.

Although she did look back as she stood in line to board the plane for Ireland, she also had her head up and shoulders back when she scanned her ticket to walk on and find her seat. She wasn’t running away as much as running toward, but the insipid memory of Angelica had had its effect on her pace. Angelica was not the typical volcano stepmother, but more the slimy slithering snake carrying deadly venom with only the slight rustle of the long row of rattles at the end of her tail. And Claire was looking for room to breathe without pain.

The woods became Claire’s friend, and she often takes long walks and hums various songs that pop into her head without realizing she is making sound.

Playing here, but also working.

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The Popcorn 6 June 2022

Photo by Corina Rainer on Unsplash

“I’ll hold the popcorn.” I was sitting in the middle, so it just made sense. Susan and Cathy had their own sodas, and I could reach both, although Susan’s was diet.

When the curtain opened, we quietly debated whether we’d want to see the movies being previewed. Then the lights dimmed.

It wasn’t billed as a scary movie, but my body didn’t know that. Every time a door opened into a dark space, and the character stepped toward the unknown, eerie music crescendo-ing, my feet came up to my seat, knees to my chest.

I wanted badly to look away or close my eyes, but instead they opened wider, glued to the screen and tied to whatever fate awaited the doomed character. None of us were eating the popcorn anymore, too scared to make a move.

When I screamed, my arms flew up to shield me from the evil that had appeared behind our poor ignorant character, “Behind you,” I yelled at the screen.

It was too late, both for the character and for the man behind me, now covered in popcorn.

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Soft and Hard Places 25 April 2022

Soft is a warm bed and thick comforter after a long day, the muzzle on a horse just below and between his nostrils, a place to fall that is protected and maybe sacred, a loose pile of hay, the pre-dawn sky, finely sanded wood, footprints on a damp trail, the whisper of a newborn baby’s breath as they quiet in loving arms.

Hard is the ground you hit when you get bucked off your horse, the silence of two people sharing a space but not the path, the wind-driven bits of hay that stick in your eyes, the steep rock-filled trail leading up to the mountain’s saddle, the long cry of hunger or wail of longing that cannot be silenced by any amount of walking or rocking, the edge of a darkness filled with fear unknown, the line that will not be crossed.

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Bits and Pieces 24 March 2022

One night, the unspeakable happened. I was visiting my son, Alex, at Hastings College in Nebraska. My brother Mike and his wife Barb and my sister Jana drove out from Omaha to meet us for supper. It was a lovely spring evening in March of 2013, the week before Easter. In the middle of supper, I received a phone call from a detective in California and life has not been the same since. My sister, Cathy, was murdered in her home. There was no breaking the news to me easy; the detective was blunt and uncaring as he relayed some of the brutal details to me over the phone.


“Come on, let’s go in the forest,” my sister Cathy said. We liked to play in “the forest.” The stand of pines stood at the end of the creek that ran along our row of houses. We kids ran wild along the creek all year long and when we felt brave, or were double-dared, we’d range into that forest. Cathy and I were a team.


Standing here now, the little grave next to our mom’s had already been prepared with the vault entombed. It was open, waiting for Cathy’s cremains and some of her precious crystals and stones, the Bible with highlighted verses and pages smudged by her fingers, and her old dog Rebel’s paw print imprinted in a little circle of clay.


We were as close as two sisters could be, helping each other through every difficult thing life had thrown at us. Our mother died when Cathy was fifteen months old and I was two and a half. My father became a single parent to seven children, in order from oldest to youngest: GeorgeAnne (born in 1956), Jana, Julie, Susan, Mike, Sally, and Cathy, who was born in 1964.

Cathy taught my little daughter, Lynne, what airplanes were as they flew high overhead in the bright blue sky, only the word always came out, “Hair Pins.” She teased Lynne about that long into adulthood.

My son, Alex, was her “kindred nephew” spirit. She’d influenced the person he’d become because they’d spent so much time together and he knew all the things she’d taught him about crystals, and essential oils, and aligning their Chi. I never had understood this part of her, but Alex did.


Jana alone sat in our circle, with eyes wide open, she followed the litany around the ring; her mangled right arm held the order of service tight and she looked to us for some sign to begin her part.

Julie kneeled beside her and their voices began, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” Jana’s soft scratchy voice blended with Julie’s. We understood the words through Julie’s clear voice and felt them in Jana’s whisper. Susan took up the scripture from there to tell us not to fear because God would give us strength. And God surely had done this by bringing us together. That day, and every day, we have relied on each other when our own strength has failed us.

Susan and Alex placed Cathy’s cremains in the vault as Mike intoned the Pueblo blessing, “Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.” When Mike finished, he took the small leather pouch full of small stones and crystals that had been special to Cathy and handed one to each of us to place in the vault alongside the urn.

We joined hands one last time, bowing our heads as our oldest sister, GeorgeAnne, spoke the final words from Crowfoot, “Life is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

We miss you, Cathy. And we’ve seen you in those breathes and shadows and in the night sky full of stars.

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Cows and Coyotes

Cows and coyotes generally ignore each other. But when there are baby calves, mama cows go into Sasquatch mode. One of the cows was deep in the labor process when I drove the tractor down to the pasture to feed. Some instinct tells them to move away from the herd, finding their own quiet spot to give birth. All the cows and calves, and the cows still heavy with unborn calves, ambled over to the chow line I was putting out for them.

When I turned the tractor, I saw that cow with her front end squared off, two little hoof ends heading into the world from her hind end, and one coyote moving back from her shaking head and bellow.

Running the tractor back up to the shed, I grabbed my rifle and pick-up. I don’t think that coyote will be back anytime soon. But he did manage to delay that birth so that the calf came just before dark in the cold.

Mama was busy licking, but the little one was shivering hard. Pulling up beside them, I turned the floor heat on high, opened the passenger door and folded that little guy into the pick-up, rubbing him with a towel and reassuring mom that I wasn’t going to hurt him.

After trying a few different things, I ended up loading them both into the stock trailer and parking it in front of the barn out of the wind. I bedded them down in the front of the trailer with a pile of straw. Full dark now, I trusted Mama to do her thing undisturbed and safe out of the wind. She did and now the pair is doing well. Mobile maternity ward to the rescue.

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A Recipe for Love 22 February 2022

A recipe for love should include whole people, that is, the people involved must be accepted just the way they are, no removing skins or scraping out seeds, cutting away little rotted or moldy spots, and never separating and tossing away crusts. Once these whole people agree to this, then the adventure can begin!

Ingredients would include: hobbies, likes and not-so-much likes, family in moderation with no apologies for/to cranky aunts or other problematic relatives-really, they can stay at home and berate their walls so no one else has to suffer. Let’s add in some non-humans too-horses, dogs, cats, really more is better and you can enjoy them and care for them together. Your life will be richer and your rotted parts less.

If you love words, paths, stars-basque in them. Share them. If they love RAP, liver, travel, it’s okay, you don’t have to share the liver. The thing is, the recipe can change. You can both become masterchefs. Mix it all in one big bowl, or use two sometimes. Stir wildly, but with gentle thought, and bake at a temperature that will keep it cooking, but never quite have a toothpick coming out clean.

Note: If it burns, the most likely cause was that the two main ingredients were never accepted as whole to begin with.

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Heart Candy Poem Challenge! 27 January 2022

Give me your best heart poem built with heart candies. For this one, I used all but four in a regular 0.9 ounce box. The video of me reading the poem, well, you be the judge.

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