Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paying Tribute, Enjoying the Wonders too

This journey was to pay tribute, relax and be present with Curtis in his new home at The Terraces in Chico.  When Jeff and I arrived, Curtis was confused, thinking we'd come a day late.  We unpacked my stuff, then Dave (Curtis's son) drove Jeff to Curtis's old home where he would spend the two nights.  Jeff then joined us for dinner of soup ad sandwiches.
    It is sad for me to see how his mind works in  mysterious  ways now.  He knew us, and could follow a conversation, but moments later he would ask repetitive questions that showed he now has a very short memory that has difficulty retaining what we 'd just told him.  Happily he joined Jeff and me for the Sunday night movie, Shakespeare in Love, a great movie for all of us to enjoy; it was the first he has been to, so here is hoping he'll get to more now.  We wandered the halls, passing the fitness center, the pool table room, the library, and several areas one could sit on a sofa and hang out with friends.
    Curtis moved here in August, but is reluctant to even walk outside anymore, though the grounds are lovely.  It seems enough to read in his apartment, and get to meals.  It was hard to say if he is making new friends or mostly staying with familiar routines.  I attended a memoir class and shared some about Curtis's childhood;  the women were lovely, and now know a bit about him, so may reach out when they see him.   It must be so hard for a private, introverted person, used to years of living alone and mostly in complete silence (no radio or music, no TV now) to engage in conversation with folks he doesn't know.  He could talk easily with Jeff and me, for we are friends he has known for years.
   Photos in the apartment or dining area are on Jeff's camera; as these photos show, I  love to be outside in the fresh air, and his very hot, stuffy apartment was hard for me to function in; a man once proud of being organized has clutter everywhere now.  It doesn't seem to bother him, but I am accustomed to my own clutter.  Living with another's is harder, for I didn't know where anything belonged, and needed to keep track of my own stuff--not easy under the circumstances.
   It was good to visit and bring some joy and light into his life.  Also, sad to see him now when even two years ago he could drive and make decisions not possible anymore.  I am glad he no longer needs to cook at all, as that was becoming precarious for him with his mind not able to track the many tasks involved in buying and preparing meals.  This is a sad reality for so many older folks, including many where I live who no longer cook at all, so meals become a real challenge for them.   I am so grateful I have caregivers who help me a lot in the kitchen, and I have the ability to keep finding and training them; it is challenging and sometimes overwhelming, but I can still do it.  Also grateful I am committed to food and supplements that help my brain as well as body, and both mental and physical exercises; yes they all take time, money and discipline, but they make a real difference, too!
   Today I need to transition back to home life.  Am so grateful for Jeff driving me as well as his calm, steadfast dependability.  Mt. Shasta was in her full snowy regalia on our return (covered with clouds going south), and we had a quick picnic lunch on  a table in the sunshine in Dunsmuir, as the park there is closed this time of year.   Roads over Siskiyou Summit were dry.   It was sobering to see the low water levels at Shasta Lake as well as Emigrant Lake; we dearly need the rains and snow this year!
   It was a tough trip in some ways,  but helpful to enjoy the beauty of the countryside to and from Chico, and Shasta was magnificent, always a welcome sight.  Good-bye for now!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Out of my Comfort Zone!

   On a personal challenge to step out of my usual Saturday evening at home comfort  zone, I chose to rest and take it easy by day, missing the Salmon Festival on a 90 degree plus afternoon, then going with a neighbor who sees better than I do for night-driving to the Paschal Winery outside of Talent.  Jeff was playing with Salsa Brava, and kindly got us in without the cover charge.
   This dance floor shot was before the place was packed with dancers who sure knew what they were doing, as many practice almost weekly with this band, at different wineries throughout the valley.  At first I felt intimidated and way out of my element.  I am not a sensuous, steamy passionate dancer, and most of these couples sure were.  It's a form of dance requiring great balance, ability to do dips, twirls and lively steps that I might have done decently when thirty, but haven't the stamina, flexibility or balance to do so now.  I can easily imagine Meagan and Jaime loving this artistic, passionate form of dance!  Most of the dancers were under forty, and some of the Hispanic ones were amazing to watch!
   The music was full of passion and great rhythms, so I stopped being an observer,  and danced by myself on the perimeters.  The "morning after" I'm surprised to only be stiff in my pelvis area, which rarely gets such a work-out!  Maybe I'll get back to some folk-dancing, which is more familiar, and some of the dances are gentle, though many can be complicated when one is out of shape!
    Glad I did it.  It is a reminder what a powerful expression dancing to great music can be.  I definitely slept better and raised my heart-aerobic level for an hour before it was smart to head home!

Sunday, September 7, 2014



In the game of life, there are times we all need a coach who stands up for us, inspires us, has the concern for our well-being to learn what moves and motivates us. 

Watching a Hallmark movie about Second Chances portrayed an injured firefighter who knew the value of having a buddy to back you and a team that hangs in there with you, even when you are taken out of the line of duty by an injury.  When he found an affordable place to rent with a kind single mom for a landlady, his buddies came to visit, giving him the moral support he needed to accept this shift in his circumstances.
Wisely, the mother understood these guys were his family, his buddies, his support system.  Her two bright kids liked him right away.  Their own dad had walked out on the family when they were three and five, and the mom needed a renter when her job hours were cut back.  The firefighter was clearly grateful to be in this home where he knew he was safe and his teammates could visit.  In his years of fighting fires, he had learned to be a team player, to face danger with integrity and courage.  He had learned to listen to his own boss and buddies, and in a special way, he became the dad-figure these kids needed, someone to stand up for them and protect them when they got into trouble.  A good parent, mom or dad, has the strength, the discipline, the courage and the compassion of a good coach, willing to be there even when the team is struggling and facing real adversities. 
     The two kids, maybe eight and ten now, decided to offer to read to seniors in a nursing home, stories from their hearts that they had written and some classics too; they charged $1 a visit, and did their business without first getting the supervisor’s okay.  In this way, they were saving money to help their mom with family expenses.
When they got caught, the supervisor told them they hadn’t paid taxes, gotten her approval, and they were wrong to be there, and had to stop.  When the firefighter heard of their services being rejected, he called to make an appointment to speak with the supervisor.  The kids realized he was an adult to be trusted and he cared enough not just to play with them, but stand by them when they were in trouble.  He didn’t change the supervisor’s mind, but she did realize their intentions were good, so allowed them to keep on reading to these lonely folks who treasured these sweet kids for caring about them in such a personal way, giving them love and attention.
     The firefighter discovered his dad (who had died fighting a fire when this man was 10) had a best friend in this home, who quietly told him his dad would have wanted him to be happy, to get on with his life and be open to love and a family of his own.  This encouragement was a turning point, for he was in love with the children and their mom, and his rarely-spoken grief from losing his own dad had kept him single, living for his job and not open to love for himself.   So in a way, this elderly buddy of his dad, his firefighting buddies, and the kids who could see the caring and tenderness unfolding between their mom and this new man in her life were coaches in his life journey.
     There are times when we are the coach, encouraging those who feel despair, betrayal, separation, and confusion that keeps someone from believing they are lovable and worthy of respect.  There are times we need the wisdom and encouragement of folks who can coach us, helping us accept the support we need and believe in our dreams and ourselves.  Sometimes the unwritten rules need to be reviewed and changed when the inner critic tells us we aren’t worthy or capable of being loved and treasured by others. 
    In the photos above, the first is a gathering of SOU runners.  Two were my caregivers for a year, and they knew the camaraderie of being on a winning team for years, often running in practice up to 80 miles a week, even in the heat of summer.  They were there for one another when injured too, inspiring each other and making long-term friendships.  The second photo was taken  three years ago, at a small celebration of my birthday with a few of my friends, some of whom have been my coaches in tough times.  Coaches come into our lives if we are open, ready to learn, and open our hearts to the unknown!  Coaches come in all ages, not just our elders!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Magical Evening

                                                A MAGICAL EVENING

We came together intentionally, to share the bounty of our harvest, our creativity, our enthusiasm to be part of this team, this Meet and Eat group that gathers to be with one another several times a year at one another’s homes.

Our hosts for the evening were gracious, warm, and welcoming.  We all brought food to share.  For me, who usually spends Saturday nights alone, eating alone, watching the TV instead of in conversation with interesting people, it was magical.
     First Edie invited us to pick blackberries from her garden, providing baskets and a helping hand as we climbed a narrow pathway to the area where the blackberries were ready to harvest.  We passed by the chickens, the squashes, the herb garden, the ripening peppers, and the greens growing under a ground cover canopy that kept away the insects eager to eat the greens at this time in the season.  We laughed and talked as we enjoyed this primal pleasure of gathering in the harvest.
      Next we shared some of her recent harvest-ripe cherry tomatoes, red peppers, and a delicious cucumber/buttermilk/yogurt/dill and garlic gomachio soup.  What a treat, along with red pepper hummus, a variety of chips and crackers, and wine or herbal tea.  We shared these delights with gratitude to be together, enjoying the smell of the baked salmon awaiting us.  When it was time to share the dinner we’d all contributed to, we gathered, holding hands, and Pam offered our blessing to be here celebrating this abundance with one another.  The fires were still creating a smoky sky, so we gladly dined inside, for the night was hot and sultry.  From their lovely well lit home we could see all over the valley from one window, and across a distant ridge from the kitchen window.  It was magical and so welcome to this one who longs for such vistas and connection with the natural world as well as great people to share with.
     The evening unfolded easily, for we had all contributed what we could to make this a special night.  It was fun to share with familiar folks and delightful new guests, too.  Some of us have common roots, born or currently living in the Sacramento/Sierra Nevada area of California.  The kind woman to my left also had a dad MIA at her birth; he was found six months after Pearl Harbor in a tiny island that had lost communication with the rest of the country.  My dad was MIA over Italy, and no traces were ever found.  We were like long lost cousins, meeting one another for the first time.
      It is magical to feel a sense of belonging, part of community that shares common aspirations, common ground.  We are truly not meant to grow old in our isolated dwellings, cut off from one another.  We do need to find ways to keep on connecting, growing, and being there for one another. It was an enchanted evening to be together, and I am grateful to have been included in it!
      No one brought a camera, so I have no photos from this gathering.  I shall share instead a couple that fit in with the evenings theme of honoring the beauty of the food and landscape around us this time of summer.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Celebrate being a Grandma!

It's precious, being a Grandma for the first time, then having Taryn's baby sister be born too!
Today Taryn is a bouncing almost four year old, with a lively, happy Eliza Jane enjoying her life too; she will be two later this month, on the 23rd of July.  Today they're here in Ashland, so I'll be going to join  them soon at their sweet place out near Emigrant Lake.  I woke up with a few tears, to realize I don't have the space to have them stay with me in my tiny apartment; then I realized we have only a couple of days to be together, and a few years ago, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to enjoy being a Grandma.  Who cares where we meet?  It's just a blessing to have this time to be together with my family, and I am grateful we can celebrate by having some fun times.  In spirit, my mom will be with us too, for she dearly loved being a Grandma; it was one of the highlights of her senior years.  I share her love for hanging out with the grandkids and watching my own son and his wife enjoy these vital years, for so quickly they do grow up!  So adieu for now, and may all of you who are grandparents treasure the times you get to be with these spacial, magical children!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


                            A PRAYER FOR OUR TIME

Dear Mother/Father God, who art still a great mystery
Please reside in our hearts as well as in the world all around us
Hallowed be thy presence, like a cool stream on a hot summer’s day
May we feel your compassion, your kindness, and your deep abiding love.

When the world we see continues to live with war, violence, grave injustices
That are undermining the well-being of our planet, it is easy to feel discouraged.
We are in a critical time, Oh Creator, and we need some levity-laughter, song, prayers, a growing awareness of how each of us can begin in earnest to work with others
To nurture choices that will allow a rebirth of hope, an end to labors that leave us depleted and exhausted.  We need to be curious and creative, not so fearful and defensive.
We need to open to what can sustain and preserve life, in our personal and communal lives.  We need to live with so many questions yet unanswered.   We need Faith!

Please hear our prayers, our lamentations for the misunderstandings that create conflict.
Help us truly hear and honor one another.  This is Father’s Day.  Please be with all fathers, those who have passed on, those learning new ways to parent and be willing partners, those who are lonely and lacking the family support, the community they need to thrive.  Please help the rest of us find simple ways to honor and support these men who are interwoven in our lives, too.  Thank you for listening.  It feels good to share with you! 
     Shalom.  May we feel your blessings as we go about this new day!    
          From Carol, written June 15, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014


            IT TAKES COURAGE

It takes courage to stay committed to changing our familiar habits.
It takes courage to be a friend to one who is having a tough time.
It takes courage to realize the group vision is no longer one we share,
  And there is a time to let it go even when others disapprove.
It takes courage to persevere without attachment to the outcome we’d prefer.
It takes courage to find that balance between self-care and being engaged in community
It takes courage to pause, take time-out to decide “Is this a good choice at this time in my life?” or do I need to say no, and let others take on this project.
If we focus on our doubts and fears, we may not take a risk where courage and awareness are required.
It takes courage to stand up for peace, for justice, for an unfolding sense of urgency that
   means taking an unpopular stand.  It takes courage to be true to ourselves in a culture
   that bombards us with messages to conform, or stay silent.
It takes courage to walk the path chosen by few, and be willing to stand alone if need be.
If we’ve had many setbacks, it takes courage to trust life is good, despite the difficult times we all encounter along the way.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, to trust there are times to retreat to find our center again. 
It takes courage to get up each morning with a smile on our face, and welcome the new day!  It takes courage to write and share our thoughts and aspirations with others.
 IT TAKES COURAGE to make a commitment to stand by a partner, as Jaime and Meagan are doing in getting married in 2015!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

EASTER, Looking back 35 Years

                        MEMORIES OF EASTER WEEKEND 1979 (Photo is March 2014)

            Our family was on a sabbatical year in Flagstaff, Arizona, far from our usual spring in the snowy grips of April in Alberta, Canada.  This was to be a different Easter.
            We were camping in Organ Pipes National Monument, west of Tuscan.  The trip began with serious rain that got under our tent, leaving us with the task of drying wet, down sleeping bags before the next night.  Too much rain can be as daunting as too much snow, particularly when we were far from the comforts of home and dry bedding.
            Yet as Easter approached, and we’d dried our bags in the nearest laundromat, the brightly colored Jelly Beans I’d bought for this trip became the venue for our first family Easter Egg hunt.  Jeff was nine.  Neal was five.  An element of surprise made a morning hike for our first sunny day more promising, and I’d scouted ahead, hiding the tiny egg-like jelly beans behind rocks, boulders, and the variety of cacti along the trail.  We’d never had Easter in a church so our sons weren’t familiar with the Christian version, but it was a time to be together, celebrating new life unfolding after the rainy winter.  It was likely our first hike together since the fall before.  Our community was the earth, sky, tiny flowers unknown to me, and the marvelous cacti unlike any I’d known from Death Valley days, where there were more flowers, canyons, and strange desert landscapes on very arid soil.  We were wanderers in a strange land, with few humans nearby this early in the season.
            Honestly, the details of the day are foggy in my memory, but just to be together in the sunshine, hiking easy trails with no maps, but also no danger of getting lost, was delightful.  We could stretch our limbs and be silly now that the rain had passed.  The red plumes on the ocotillo cacti were cool, and  the boys loved the incentive of  finding flavorful, sugar full jelly beans to supplement our usual healthy trail mix, triscuits, cheese, celery and carrot sticks.  Likely we had some salami too, for protein and fat that traveled well for camping.  This was before the days when I kept diaries, though that was common for me in backpacking growing up.  Writing became back-burner with the responsibilities of being a wife and mom of two young sons.  It would be years before I discovered I was a poet, not just a list-maker and journalist.
            “Wow, Mom, where’d you get these neat treats?  Chocolate bunnies too, awesome!”  Jeff rarely praised my menu ideas, so this felt special.  He and Neal were actually enjoying the day, something not always true when they had to share close quarters in our 4-person tent and share with getting drinking water and dishes clean-up.
            The storyteller in me was still dormant, but I had along a great book of coyote tales, so before dark we’d read about the trickster and his many pranks while John was out taking photographs.  Jeff had a toy camera early on, and I don’t recall Neal’s passions at age five, but he did enjoy hiking.  That summer the boys joined us and Grandma Jeanette for their first real backpack trip into the Mineral King area.  So this trip was the precursor for the longer mountain trips to come.
            We didn’t sing the Halleluiah Chorus or  “Jesus Christ is Risen today” but it was a true Easter.  We were coming back to life after a hard winter, exploring options we’d never known in our Canadian spring times.  To this day, all four of us still love being in the mountains or the desert.  Neal’s daughters are learning to love the coast of California instead of cross country skiing.  Despite all the craziness we were all experiencing, getting out in the woods or seashore or mountains still gives us all solace and perspective!   Thirty-five years later we are rarely in the same place, but the wonders and beauty of wilderness continue to inspire the four of us.  I am so happy to say, my daughters, Lara and Meagan, grew up loving sacred places like Yosemite, the California or Chilean coast, and amazing arboretums and museums that expose them to the beauty and historical significance of earlier as well as current times.  Being connected to the natural world gives us all resilience and renewal for the rigors we all face, too.  Strong roots give us the ability to be both strong and flexible in life’s storms.  Learning to weather all sorts of conditions in nature helps us be more confident and capable in our daily lives!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


We came from Arcata (Bobcat), Montague (Devon, first photo; he gave a Lakota prayer-blessing), all over the Rogue Valley to bless, honor, and offer our deep gratitude for this mountain.  She stands firm,as does her sister Mt. Shasta to the south, in the midst of a severe drought that affects all of us for many months to come.  Without the snowpack, our reservoirs, forests, lakes, and streams, the high deserts of Southern Oregon and Northern California won't have the grass growing to feed bison and cattle, to feed our farmlands with the moisture we need to grow healthy crops.  We humans will need to conserve precious water as we've not learned to do in the past.
    It was precious to join with others celebrating and blessing this mountain.  One lady came from India, with flowers, prayers, and yes, even water to share on our central altar.  We circled and sang with Winsong, "Earth my mother, water my blood, air my breath, and fire my spirit."  The ceremony was healing for Mt. Ashland, and for all who came at this difficult time in our common history.  The mountain needs to know we care and love her, and we need her many blessings to all of us.  So as we go our separate ways, may we remember this day, and continue to offer our prayers to the sacred mountains  that protect and encircle us.
   The mountains know the virtues of stillness, of standing firm no matter the weather, of persevering in the drought as well as the times of abundance.  It wasn't a winter for skiers to enjoy the slopes, and have their usual mountain high
to keep their bodies and their spirits up.  We need to trust our blessings will be heard, and surrender to powers greater than we can control.  That's it for now, folks!

Thursday, February 20, 2014



This dear man, my first born over forty years ago,
Is recovering with grace and his quiet manner
From surgery for a troubling hernia

I weep, as so many mothers must when their beloved children have to endure pain
The usual pace of life, ground to a halt,
The basic movements of standing, sitting, walking, getting the intestines moving again
Are now a labor he must endure with patience
Hoping each day to be stronger

The discomforts of recovering from surgery I know all too well
Often the pain comes as a shock,
For suddenly bodily functions one takes for granted
No longer can be counted on, and we learn to be tender, to be humble
To know what it means to have no one by your side
When it could sure be helpful.

So while it is tough to see my son in pain he had no way to prepare for
It’s special to be able to give a helping hand
Be with him when he’s feeling vulnerable and unsteady
His balance will return, the injuries this time will heal if he paces himself
The pain will subside.  We all experience labor that hurts.  That seems to be part of life.
We don’t have many folks who make house calls,
Even when we take the time to make friends, few come when we’re in pain.

It does feel good to be able to share my love
As he has done so many times when I’ve been overwhelmed by life, by loss
Friends who care come in all shapes, ages, and sizes
Thank goodness kindness still comforts us, no matter our age
We are meant to give one another a helping hand, for true friendship
Is reciprocal.  We help one another moved by love, not gain.
It’s hard to imagine the courage our vets and their families must muster
When they return severely injured, often in body, mind and soul,
Sadly, we are a culture that prefers to deny their suffering, their sacrifices except on special occasion, then too often, we forget them.

We can choose to be there for one another, to show our caring
In whatever ways suit our own talents and energy.
 For some, a comment of encouragement on Facebook
 May be the best way to show empathy, or an earnest hug for Jeff
When his sore incision area is feeling better.  May he rest in peace this night,
And continue to regain his strength.  May his generous heart be open
To receiving love from family and friends in the weeks to come!