"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, November 13, 2011


No Indian Summer this year after a summer that was barely summer. One of the shortest autumns I can remember. November has become everything that makes winter so hard to bear here: cold, gray and bone-gnawing damp. Days begin in darkness, and fade all too quickly back into deeper darkness, with more than a month before the light begins to assert itself again.

So much in my life to be grateful for. A long list easily accessed and appreciated. Called upon as a shield against winters: the season coming and the year just ending.

Like the black depths of tidal waters, winter threatens to pull me under. It's only November. The month of my birth. This year a significant transition in more ways than the new decade might account for. Usually I enter winter saturated with the warmth and light of the previous year, enough to get me close to spring when I can feel new light beckon.

Not this year. I'm tired. And cold. And try as I might, the shield refuses to hold.

I've read about anniversaries, held friends through theirs, prayed for comfort for survivors facing the end of the first year without loved ones. This is my first. Like so many of life's biggest events, there is no preparing for or even describing what it feels like.

Kathleen's death date is a bit more than a month away, yet every day now it's as though I just heard the news for the first time.

The night of my birthday celebration, my SIL, the one whose son took his life two weeks after my daughter took hers, gave me a book. Privately, out of the glare of the family gaiety. A memoir written by a women about her sister's suicide. While it might seem to be an inappropriate birthday present, it was my favorite. Both because it was the first real acknowledgment she's made of our shared loss, and because she knew exactly what that book would mean to me.

With the early onset of winter weather, most of the leaves which light the darkness of November have fallen prematurely. For days last week the wind whipped foliage from trees in blizzards of dying color. Yet there remains in our yard a maple in full flame. It's been aglow for more than a week and continues to  pulse red through the fog that clings to everything from sunup to sundown.

At first I looked at it, admired it, then turned away, certain it's beauty would be stripped away as quickly as it has been for every other tree in our yard. But it continued to beckon from the edge of the yard until it pulled me outside with my camera. I tried to resist. I have lots of pictures of more fall beauty than this year could ever hope to offer. But I found myself drawn, in bathrobe and rubber boots, hair spiky from sleep, into the cold morning mists.

I'd moved around to shoot the tree from its most symmetrical angle, still not sure what I was looking for, or what it was offering. Then I realized it wasn't just the fiery maple I needed to see. It was the maple behind her sister, already stripped bare for the winter, and in front of the sequoia, which will never be anything but lush and green and strong.

The layers are a perfect metaphor for my life right now. Seeing everything through the filter of death, the light of dying flaring brighter than ever in the time left, the constant shape and color of life that doesn't die.  No one more true or more real than the other, all existing together in a tableau that offers comfort. Not warm quilt, hot cocoa, warm fire comfort. But a small, significant flame of comfort, like a pilot light - enough I believe to hold me through the winter ahead.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Today's the day. At 3:53 this afternoon I will be 60. Mom used to try to call me at the exact time of my birth—one of the few rituals in our life together that let me know she celebrated my presence in her life.

As you know, this last year of my fifties has been difficult. I came to the end of it shaken and unsure of my path. The dream I'd spent the last several years in pursuit of was as tattered as storm-torn foliage after a level 5 hurricane. Instead of asking myself about next steps toward fulfillment, my questions became more and more about whether I'd been fooling myself all along.

So, this is the birthday present I'm giving myself: the reclaiming of my dream. I do it here with you all as witness because I know you understand more than anyone could.

I will write. I will be published. I will teach and edit and coach.

My words will matter, will be a force of light and healing in the world. I was given the gift of words and the gift of the dream to offer those words to anyone who might benefit, or simply enjoy. I claim it as my privilege and responsibility.

I sit here at my computer, the place where I meet my Muse and the place where I unfurl the wings that will carry me toward the dream I didn't ask for, but that is mine nonetheless. There are feathers everywhere, and birds and angels. A lush peace lily provides backdrop. A huge picture window lets in light and gives my eyes hundreds of shades of green to rest on. The picture of my mom gazing with such love at my newborn self is to my right. On both sides and behind me are hundreds of books—my inspiration, my guides.

This is the place where time ceases to have power or meaning.

On this machine I have your words and wishes, your love and support, which mean more to me than a thank you could possibly express.

And on the small bulletin board hung to hold artifacts for current work are these words from Ernest Hemingway:

From things that have happened and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason.

Here's to immortality. Here's to a new decade and dreams come true. Here's to you, dear reader, for being here and sharing this incredible adventure with me.