When It All Started

My love for words began when I learned how to read. It’s funny…those random moments we remember. I remember the first time I read aloud, astounding myself. I was absolutely thrilled knowing somehow that my world changed at that very moment. And being able to read my own name in a school book was an added bonus! Dick, Jane, Tom, Sally, Puff and Spot. Sally even looked a little like me. How cool is that?! I can close my eyes and am transported back to second (or was it third) grade standing at the chalkboard adding a column of two digit numbers. I was the fastest in the class.

I don’t really remember when I started writing. I think it was when I got my first diary at the age of eleven. It was red and I would write in it while waiting for the timer to go off on my Easy Bake Oven. But there are significant writing moments that come to mind that have a way of the decades disappear.

We had just moved for the second time to Columbia, a historic small town in the foothills that came out of the Gold Rush era. I set up a card table in the living room. I was going through a rough patch my parents having divorced, moving away from friends and family. It was just after noon and the room was filled with sunlight. I was writing about my feelings, wishing I would just vanish from the face of the earth. I drew a train running over a stick figure. The room darkened when a cloud passed before the sun. It was around one o’clock in the afternoon. I later found out that my mother’s boyfriend died at that moment. I never wished for death again. (Well, until the following year when I got my first migraine and later when endometriosis gripped me in excruciating pain one day a month.)

Life was better at fourteen. We’ve moved into a house with a swimming pool. It’s around nine o’clock at night. I’m sitting in the carport with my trusty card table as I lack a space of my own. It’s my mother’s birthday and a beautiful night in May. I have the card table pulled as far as my extension cord will allow so I can sit under the stars. A large moth circles my desk lamp which is bent as close to the binder paper as possible so I can enjoy the dark. I write my first adult poem, “The Game.” As I read what I have written I am amazed by the words that have been written by my own hand.

I grew up writing to my father. He was devastated by the loss of daily contact with my brother, sister, and me. He returned to the place of comfort he came to know during World War II, the sea, and the Merchant Marines. The Viet Nam War was raging and his ship was supplying our forces. Writing letters to my father really honed my writing skills. Dad and I had a great relationship. I wrote to him about everything that was going on in my life and he wrote back with words of fatherly observations and guidance. He regretted his physical distance in my life until his death

It was the most important letter of my life and I knew it would be the last letter my father would ever read. I wrote and mailed it hoping that my physical presence would soon follow. (Actually, I beat the letter there.) The past few years had been rough for everyone. Dad had felt his time growing short and had information he wanted to convey. He was like John Travolta in “Phenomena” and was having epifanies. It was important to him that I know how the breathing cycle worked. I breathed and that was good enough for me. My heart was talking to him and his head was talking to me. It made communicating difficult. But in my letter I said everything I hadn’t already said to him and reinforced what was important. His physical absence in my life had turned me into a writer, formed my character, and affected who I was as a person. I told him that I loved who I was and hoped he did, too. I remember thinking as I took ink to paper that I had to use the perfect words in this…the last letter to my father. I wanted him to feel loved beyond pain, happiness beyond fear, and cherished beyond doubt. I was there when the mail came and my letter delivered. I gave it to the hospice nurse to read on his last day of being fully present. I couldn’t read it myself. I didn’t want to cry and possibly disappoint him. We had many discussions about death and he didn’t want us to be sad. Dad was excited about crossing over for he was going to know ALL the answers to ALL his questions. No, I could not read aloud my last written words to my father. I think I was hoping they would mean more hearing them from a stranger.

I know not where random written thoughts will take me but I see where words have taken me thus far. I have bonded with people around the world who I may never meet in person but include in my circle of friends. I have woven scenes from my travels to share with those who aren’t able to venture far from home. And I have realized the power of words, written or spoken. I have also witness the power of my own words.

Art Room Mishap

It happened shortly after my husband left for an out-of-town job. I was swallowed by my art room. But I was not the only one. My hamster, Zola, was missing.

We returned from Reno to find a cage with full food cup and water bottle sans Zola. She must have perfected her escape scenario soon after we left the house. Knowing about her penchant for Houdini like behavior I made sure to secure the latch on her cage with a large safety pin. Seeing the door still closed really made me wonder if she was hiding under the fluff. My husband checked. Not under the fluff! Her furniture and toys were still in the same place which is a sure sign of her absence as she redecorates daily. A closer look at the door reveals…a turned safety pin and an inch and 3/4 gap…and a three foot fall from the bookcase.

I searched everywhere I could on the first day and hours each day thereafter to no avail.
My art room was the most difficult. I moved boxes out to the dining room table and spread out…frightened that I was going to find this dead thing laying between the boxes. It was not a pleasant experience though a good reason to organize.

The morning my husband left and I was swallowed by my art room I noticed the tiniest bit of fragnance. By afternoon I was more than suspiscious Zola was close. That evening I found her behind the bookcase that I could not move alone.

The following day found me in the cool (thank goodness) but windy outdoors. It was a good day to make a grave marker while waiting for my husband to return. Only he didn’t. My daughter was coming over we were going to have graveside service for her. It was getting cold and I wanted to go inside. I simply couldn’t wait any longer.

I am blessed with good neighbors. I ran next door and recruited the neighbor and he recruited his grandson for pest control duties. While I waited outside they removed the rodent. My daughter came over and we laid Zola to rest under the rosebush, covering her little resting place with a small piece of slate.

That evening I was working on cleaning and organizing my art studio. I pulled on a cord that was around the back of the bookcase and found evidence of my poor Zola’s demise. She had bitten through the cord and zapped herself. While thankful she didn’t suffer a death by starvation I was enormously grateful there was no fire.

And so was the death of our Houdini hamster. The end…Or is it the beginning of a new tale…The Hamster Haunting…

The New Me

I’m not sure why I have strayed so far from the written word but I’m back…At least for now. I have made some needed changes in my life. I embarked on a path to health and lost 50 pounds bringing me to near high school weight. I started exercising using equipment brought out of storage and moved to my daughter’s former bedroom.

My daughter…It wasn’t her moving to San Francisco that was so hard for me. It was her change in spirituality moving from Buddhism to Pentacostal. I am all for her deepening her relationship with God but to shed herself of all that makes her who she is has been so difficult. No singing, dancing, acting. No hip clothing, makeup, jewelry. She has turned her back on such things, but thankfully, still holds tight to her father and I.

In the beginning I cried every time she came to visit. We struggled for safe topics of discussion while we moved away from all that was familiar. We stopped listening to the same type of music, stopped watching our favorite TV shows together, and started debating religion. I know that everyone needs something that no one religion can offer. But the drastic changes were so incredibly difficult to take in and accept.

After nearly six months of heartache we have come to some middle ground. I can see how confident she has become, how valued she is by new friends, and how she has grown up without me. It has been a bitter pill to swallow but I have found comfort in the fact that she still wears thong underwear and has a shoe fetish. There is hope…

I have come to the realization anything I can make fun of I can survive. There are times that I have to dig deep to find the humor needed for this challenge as it has been such a deep development.

People have asked me how I am doing with the empty nest syndrome. I realize that it hasn’t just been my daughter leaving home, it’s that all her friends have gone as well. Some she has let go, some have let go of her. Thankfully there are still some of them in town. And my daughter lives close so she meets a few at our house.

So much as changed these past few years. Some friends I have let go and some of them have let me go. A few have questioned where I’ve been and why I haven’t called while failing to realize there has been no effort to contact me. But those friends who have loved me no matter what or who I am are still with me. And I am still with them.

Life Review

Many years ago I watched a movie about a man who dies and reviews his life. Different scenes from his life were projected back to him followed by discussion and heavenly judgment. I recently decided to conduct my own life review. The first thing I learned was that I have been on a continuous life review for decades…just not consciously. The second thing I learned was that this process is as wonderous as it is awful. Reconnecting with classmates has been essential to this process for they knew me as I was, giving me a good starting place.

I joined Facebook and am now in touch with many of my grammar and high school friends and acquaintances. It has been quite an experience getting to know many of them all over again as adults. And through the process of sharing old family pictures, school pictures, photos of our children, grandchildren and life adventures, they have shown me their perspectives of me. Being the inner critic that I’ve been, I take it all in and then wonder…Am I better a version of me now or do I have some work to do. Of course I have work to do and it begins with examining both my negative and postive life experiences. However, at this very moment I am exhausted and having difficulty with focus. Oh, fiddlydee. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Abstracting by Paint

I wanted to do art but wanted to take a break from the projects in progress. I have been thinking about abstract painting but just didn’t know where to start. So I watched several videos on youtube and was inspired to try.

That was fun! So I tried it again in colors that I’ve always been afraid of using in a painting composition.

That was also very fun and I’m afraid that I can get lost in abstract painting. It is freeing and takes very little time. I can easily see me using all my paint in no time at all. Perhaps I shall limit myself to one a month…

My husband is a Shriner, a group that supports several children’s hospitals across the US. There was a Christmas bazaar put on by the Shriner’s Ladies (of which I am one) today. Since I was unable to help with the bazaar, I donated one of my photographs. The photo of the framed photograph didn’t turn out well but I have included as the frame really sets it off. The ladies were quite excited and decided to hold a raffle for my photo.


The Artist’s Way

I’ve always loved the picture on the cover of “The Artist’s Way” by Julie Cameron. I bought the book when it first came out around almost twenty years ago.

We traveled to  Yellowstone National Park 10 years ago, my husband, little girl, and I. We drove to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. As I turned towards the Lower Falls (Snake River) I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was the sketch of the original cover of “The Artist’s Way.” It was more than spectacular…It was surreal. I snapped some pictures and anxiously waited for the film to be developed. (Remember cameras that needed film?)

This is the best picture I took.

I recently located this photo in a container that has been in storage. I pulled up the author’s website and saw the book cover. Not being able to see it up close I was surprised that I though the artist’s sketch was of this part of Yellowstone. It looks more like somewhere in Japan. Did I focus on a particular part of the sketch? Am I deluded? Hmmmm…I must give this more thought…

Nevertheless, this piece of Yellowstone is amazing!


It Calls to Me

My foot steps upon the road

detertermined in my stride.

I know that I was in for it

for what I try to hide.

The Serpentine Road calls to me

and beckons me to travel.

I trust the process as I watch

my entire life unravel.

I skip and hop, listen and see

Epiffanies sprinkled around.

Silly, happy, sad and crying

Emotions in the rebound.

The further I travel

the more I find out

meeting the real me

as I wonder about.

I run into myself

Giving me the third degree

Further down the road I spy

Me… hugging me.

My heart beats strong,

My thoughts are pure.

The Serpentine Road

is the cure

for split personality.

If I knew then what I know now… How many times have I said that?! There are so many experiences of childhood that were much more meaningful than I realized.

I grew up in Columbia, CA, a small historic mining town. I was a cheerleader in grammar school and had a great time. One of my friends was Cindy Surendorf, daughter to internationally acclaimed artist Charles Surendorf II. Charlie created art unlike anything I had ever seen (still). He did woodblock printing and later switched to using linoleum. I watched him from afar as he was a brusque man and I respected his creative space.

Cindy has spent her life keeping her father’s style of art alive by teaching and, most recently, by creating a foundation in memory of her father. http://www.surendorf2artfoundation.org/

This weekend I am attending “Woodblock Woodstock” to celebrate the work of Charlie. I am honored to be invited by Cindy and am really looking forward to looking at Charlie’s work with adult eyes.  As a child I thought Charlie’s art was too dark. By that I mean that it was mostly black with white, lacking in color. Some of  his art was confusing to me.

If I knew then what I know now… I would have worked up the courage to talk to Charlie and get to know him. I would have asked him about his art. I would have watched him working, not from a distance but up close. I would have purchased his work when it was affordable. (Each block was destroyed after 28 prints.) Yes, if I knew then…

But all is not lost. I have Cindy in my life and I can learn from her. I can buy some raffle tickets and possibly win Lode Lynching, a piece of Charlie’s art being auctioned this weekend (pictured below).

Traveling On

Meanwhile back in Stratford-On-Avon, we wandered the streets until we came upon a door.

It was the front door to the house where William Shakespeare was born in 1564. To tour this place that was built 400 years ago and had changed very little was beyond description. The bedroom contained a very old bed that was quite large and was made with ropes. There was a trundle-bed and some mattresses on the floor. Apparently all the children slept either in the same bed or the same room as the parents. The plank floors were warped and the stairs a little uneven but that was what I liked best.

 William attended school from the age of seven to fourteen when he and his brothers had to leave school because his father fell from favour. The school young Shakespeare attended is not only still standing, it is still being used as a school! I can only imagine how worn the floors must be. I wonder how many young men wandered the halls. The girls were not educated during Shakespearean times.

We had one more stop before leaving town. We went to the Holy Trinity Church were Shakespeare, his wife, daughter, and son-in-law are interred.


I was feeling a little forlorn when it was time to return to our coach. But as I walked back to coach parking I had a strong reminder that I was far from home in a foreign country.  “We aren’t in Kansas anymore…” I murmured to myself.

Shakespeare Country

Being at the abbey brings back the feeling of being in another time. I am so blessed to have mastered “just being” while traveling through the UK last summer. It was so easy for me to imagine the 16th century while in Shakespeare Country.  Our first stop was at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. (That would be the Anne Hathaway who married Shakespeare. She was an older woman, a cougar in today’s terms.) I was amazed to realized that Anne’s cottage was an image I had seen on a china plate somewhere.

Everything about the cottage was charming. ..from the windows to the garden gate…to the profusion of flowers and scents that exploded into the English garden. 


 There was a gazebo made of willow with the words of Shakespeare coming from a hidden speaker. The gnarled trees in the orchard seemed to have their own language.

I can still feel the peace and feel the inspiration of long ago. How could anyone live in such a glorious place and not be inspired?