Avast, ye wench!

This past Monday my husband Bob had eye surgery. Two surgeries on the same eye, in fact. Bob’s eye had been hemorrhaging and we went to see Dr. William Benedict, who was dressed in a lacy skirt and was having a bad hair-wig day and I think one of his false eyelashes fell off during the consult. We live in a funky county in Colorado so we aren’t surprised by much of anything, but still, we were relieved when we realized it was Halloween.

Dr. Benedict didn’t seem overly concerned about Bob’s issue. He told us that the blood usually drains and that Bob would be left with a few floaters, which your brain adjusts to, and at some point, you no longer even notice them. I know this from experience from about 10 or 15 years ago when I had my first eye exam after I suddenly saw an array of flashing, symmetrical colors that obliterated my vision. I thought I was having an LSD flashback and considered locking myself in my armoire to escape the miniature trolls that would soon be crawling through the pores of my skin, but when I went to the doctor, she told me I’d merely had an optical migraine, and that flashbacks typically don’t occur when you haven’t done a drug for 30 years or more.

Oh yeah, Bob. Dr. Benedict told him to come back if anything changed with his eye and two weeks later, Bob’s eye got worse and we headed back to see the doctor. Over the next few months Bob’s eye got probed and photographed and ultrasounded (that’s a word, right?) and I watched Bob squirm a little while I writhed and stuck both my fists in my mouth to keep myself from screaming and then finally tried to stab the doctors in the back with a cystitome (look it up; I had to). As you might guess, Bob was fine. I was not. I mean, I like these doctors SO much that I consented to an eye exam and then refused to open my eyes for the drops. They also wanted to leave me with a tech who’d only been there for like TWO DECADES but when I whined for the “more experienced” one, she came back in and squeezed the liquid onto my closed eyes, like they do with young children. “Now open wide!” she said, and voila! the drops rolled into my eyeballs. My husband said, “It’s OK, honey, I’m sure they’ve seen worse than you,” and the tech opened her mouth to try and agree but just couldn’t. I have a feeling that, after they’ve tried to deal with me, doctors and nurses and technicians need Valium or cocaine or maybe just a sharp pair of scissors to stab themselves in the heart and die.

But oh yeah, Bob. The blood kept coming back and Dr. Benedict ultimately determined that Bob was having repeated hemorrhages and that it would be best to consider surgery. So we went home and read everything on the internet which scared the crap out of us, so we scheduled appointments to get a couple of additional opinions. All the experts agreed. The old blood in the eye probably wasn’t going to drain, and it was likely that Bob had had more than one hemorrhage, which meant they needed to find the cause of the bleeding. Dr. Benedict felt he needed Bob’s cataract removed in order to do the most thorough job cleaning out the blood, and Dr. Meyers, the cataract surgeon from the same eye care center, kindly adjusted his schedule so that Bob would only have to be knocked out once. Dr. Meyers would remove the cataract, they explained, then Dr. Benedict would follow with the vitrectomy which involves a needle the length of a football field and the circumference of a 100-year-old tree. At least that’s how big it was by the time I drove home and called everyone. I wondered if Dr. Benedict had any other aces up his sleeve, like mud and spit. A famous rabbi in the Christian Bible supposedly once healed a blind man this way and I was definitely game for anything that didn’t involve that needle.

The doctors told us that both surgeries would take about 45 minutes which I filed under the category of bulls–t, so the morning of the surgery I packed my computer, two books, a week’s worth of meals, my journal, my daytimer, a sleeping bag, and smelling salts for when I first saw Bob eyeless and needed to revive myself. The doctors, however, finished the surgeries in 45 minutes and Bob woke up and wanted to go out to eat at Chuck E. Cheese’s so he could show off his eye patch and scare little children with pirate noises like Arrrr! and Avast, ye wench! and Are ye hornswaggling me, you bilge rat?!

The next day Dr. Benedict removed the eye patch and to my immense relief, Bob’s eye was still there and he could immediately see out of it. Wow. By the end of the day, Bob’s vision was almost back to normal, and the next day, you’d never have known we’d been preparing for blindness and imminent death. Bob experienced no side effects: no pain at all, no blurry vision, no bleeding, not even any soreness from the breathing tube. I immediately plastered social media with praises of the doctors and the eye care center, bought gifts for the doctors and staff, and sat outside the office with food offerings and prostrations.

Life can be gracious sometimes. Bob had been living with half his vision for months. The night before the surgery, he was still having thoughts of backing out, of living with the bloody eye. He decided to go for it, however, and everything turned out perfectly. Which gets me thinking about God and the world and goodness and evil and stuff. I do not believe in a God who lets children die of brain cancer and starvation and violence but who would then save Bob’s eye. It’s such utter nonsense to me that I can hardly talk about it. Our world is full of awfulness and inexplicable deaths and chaos. But it also throbs with a beauty so majestic that you think you might jump off a mountainside and fly, love so perfect and deep that opening your heart to it is like standing at the bottom of Victoria Falls without the dying part, and things that go so right that all you can do is sit on the floor and dribble spit because it’s that amazing. And God is in it all. Not in a controlling way, but rather with a quietly powerful presence, a Sistene-chapel reaching out and touching hands kind-of-way. Surrounded by all my distractions and fears and me-ness in that waiting room Monday, there was that, too. A presence I can always hang on to.


Hey God, Where are You?


Hey God, Where are You?

A few days ago Bob and I roped into the back of my car one of my largest, most comfortable chairs and hauled it up to the cabin where I write. It's an outdoor chair and I sat in it today for the first time - or at least the first time at the cabin - intending to begin my morning with prayer, then spend the rest of the day writing.

I started in with formulaic prayers but they did nothing for me. After that I went on to spontaneous prayer, but my heart wasn't in that, either. I breathed. I meditated. I tried opening my heart to the simple joys in my life. I read some reflective, deeply spiritual writing, thinking that might spark something in me.

Nothing. Dead. Empty. Cold.

OK, then, I'd skip prayer and go right into working on the fourth chapter of my book, but nothing came to me. I was blocked in every way imaginable. I tried writing articles, blogging, went in for lunch, then skimmed a magazine looking for inspiration. Nothing. And this went on the entire day.

Finally, hours later I gave up and decided to sit for a few minutes before driving home, and when I looked up, there it was. Divine stuff. Spiritual energy. Beauty. God. Tears. Shalom/wholeness. A sense that I'm made up of the same essence as everything surrounding me.

I closed my eyes, amazed that the spiritual blockage had dissipated, and that I'd done absolutely nothing to make that happen. Nor did I need to say words, or focus on meditation or breathing, or try to conjure up emotions or sweet thoughts.

Today my prayer had simply been a surprise from God at the end of a long day of seemingly fruitless effort.

Or maybe I just needed an entire day to move the muck away so that I could hear the Divine Voice.

Willing to wait,







Yesterday I woke startled that I'd slept until 9am, so I leapt out of bed, and began frantically throwing my stuff together to head to the cabin to work. I skipped packing lunch, deciding just to run out to one of the two restaurants in town.

Although I really needed to sleep another hour or so - my family had just left and I'd had very little sleep - the waning day screamed at me to go go go!! Forget makeup, leave my bedroll (I'd just come back home to sleep), and skip scanning my checklist to see if I'd forgotten anything (I had).

Soon I was hurtling up the mountain, angrily tailgating a tourist, even though driving up this mountain is usually one of the most exhilarating and relaxing things I do each day.

I reached the cabin at 10:30.

Still exhausted, I puttered around, went out for lunch and drank a lot of Pepsi for (artificial and short-lived) energy, tried to work for about 10 minutes, sat restlessly under the Aspens and looked out at the mountains, stared at my computer for another 5 minutes, lay down on the bed hoping I could sleep, and then went home early. I had been too wired and exhausted to even sit outside and enjoy nature.

This morning I woke about a half hour earlier and lay in bed for awhile, daydreaming. When I finally got up, I washed my hair, deeply inhaling the powerful fragrance of freesia, then I gathered my bedroll, carefully went through my cabin checklist of stuff to take with me, made tea and gathered ingredients for veggie tacos, packed an apple, wasabi almonds, and a Hostess cupcake for snacks, and read through and responded to my most important emails. I drove up the mountain slowly, carefully passing the bicyclists and pausing to watch and listen to the seasonally-drenched creek.

I reached the cabin at 11am.

Taking my computer outside where I again sat under the Aspens, I wrote this blog, worked on my book proposal, savored the familiar rush of awe and natural energy of the mountains popping up just beyond the forest, studied the tiny insects nestling in the aphids and primrose, and watched the mutant butterflies that dip and swirl through the mountains and forests of Colorado. OK, and I did accidentally sit in deer poop.

All that rushing yesterday got me absolutely nowhere. I had no emotional space to write, felt too antsy to enjoy nature, ate food with no nutrition, and was too exhausted to even hike down to the creek.

Today, the hours stretch ahead of me. I'm going to fill the birdbath, chase a butterfly with no intention of catching it, space out alongside the creek, get lots of writing done, and then sleep with the wind.

I am defrazzled.

Looking forward to an unhurried day,



Buying the House the Dogs Want


Buying the House the Dogs Want

It totally feels crazy that Bob and I are pretty much letting our dogs decide which house we're buying. We find ourselves saying to each other, "Nah, we can't move there; we'd be too far from the creek they love to swim in."  "Where we are right now, we can just walk out the front door and let them run in the forest - can't move into a subdivision." "Plotinus loves lying outside on the deck; do you think this deck is really big enough for him?" "OMG LOVE this house, but the creek here is way more treacherous than the one at the bottom of the mountain. Probably should pass on this one."

On it goes. No house seems quite right for Damasio and Plotinus.

And it isn't only the house itself. It's the stuff inside it. I'm ready to downsize and want to get rid of a lot of furniture. Like the formal living room set... except that Damsi sleeps every night on that particular chair. Two grossly oversized chairs in the basement went on the to-go list, but Bob said the dogs curl up on both of them during the day while he's working; the chairs are right outside his office. The funky white chairs attract Damsi during late afternoon for some reason, and Tinus loves the useless (to us) leather ottoman in my office.

"You know, Bob, this is really crazy," I said as we watched the dogs plunge into the creek, run wildly across a massive field chasing each other, then plunging back into the creek. "Do you realize that we're actually rejecting about a dozen houses because they don't suit the dogs? I mean, that is just sad. Or sick. Or weird."

But as the days passed and we rejected more houses, then went home and headed out for a walk through the mountains with our dogs, we suddenly got it. This is the happy stuff that our everyday life is made of. Yes, we take several great trips each year; in the past six months we've been to Hawaii and NYC and DC - without our dogs. Some evenings we head into Denver to a hockey game, or to the Hudson Gardens for a classic rock concert on the lawn, or a festival where we dance the night away. Our careers, which we love, keep us busy and happy.

Yet isn't it the everyday stuff that really determines one's level of joy and contentment? Vacations and sporting events and entertainment are great, but we understand the essential goodness of our lives when we're baking brownies, enjoying little and big successes each day at work, playing cards, sitting on the deck, driving through the mountains - and watching our dogs in their bouncing-off-the-walls excitement as they lunge in and out of the creek and then tear off through the fields or mountains.

So we're OK with making sure our new home is near that creek and has a great deck and access to the forest where the dogs can run. I'm sure I can find space for my dogs' favorite chairs and that leather ottoman. Our dogs may be only one of our joys, but they are one of our everyday joys. And that's what life is all about.

Looking for that perfect home,



This Week's Best Blogs


This Week's Best Blogs

What's out there this week in the blogosphere? Lots of great stuff!

If you're looking for grief support, is outstanding. Here's a link to one of the latest posts.

Humor!! Just found this one and love it!!

Want to experience each day more deeply? I like





Picking up Hitchhikers


Picking up Hitchhikers

This past week, on my way to the cabin to write, I passed a woman with her thumb stuck out. I picked her up. I've been alive nearly 60 years and I haven't picked up hitchhikers since I was a teenager. In fact, I'm sure I've passed 5,000 hitchhikers in my lifetime and it hasn't even occurred to me to stop and pick anyone up.

Scientifically we know that we subliminally gather clues that let us know whether we're safe or in danger. Maybe since the hitchiker was dressed like me - casual-Colorado with hiking books - and she was holding a Mom-looking coffee cup, I instinctively felt I could and should give her a lift. Perhaps, also, as she walked to the car, I noticed that she looked more nervous than I was - but I'd already stopped by that time.

Here's what I think is more likely:

I've been living in a small town now for a year. It's a place where, when I stopped to buy produce and realized I didn't have cash on me, the owner (Ralph) told me to take my stuff and just stop by later and pay him, even though he didn't know me.

Then the other day Bob and I were out looking at houses and stopped in a little mountain community near us to chat with an elderly couple working in their yard. When we asked about houses that might be for sale nearby, Dwilette hopped in the backseat of our car and showed us around town. "Go ahead and peak in their windows," she informed us at one place. "They're not home and I'll tell them later I said it was OK."

As she tooled around town with us, I had a thought that had been lolling around in my head for the past year. I'm in a little town again, like the one I grew up in. People trust one another. How amazing that I once took that for granted.

It turned out that I was spot-on about my hitchhiker. She'd headed out to work that morning and discovered that her battery was dead. None of her neighbors were around so she just walked out to the highway and stuck out her thumb. "By the way, my name is Robin," she said after we'd chatted about living in the mountains, and discussed our work and families. I dropped her off at the store where she works, a few miles from my writing cabin.

It's true that it could have been all that scientific stuff that made me give a stranger a lift to work that day. But I think I may have just been returning Dwilette's gift of trust.

Not so warily,



Returning Home (Sort of)


Returning Home (Sort of)

Growing up, it was my dream - and the dream of pretty much all of my friends - to get out of our little town (population, around 9,000) in Southern Illinois as fast as possible. Like our parents, most of whom returned to West Frankfort after their city explorations, we all wanted the adventure of the big city. When I arrived in the city, though, I almost immediately wanted to return home.

Because of various circumstances, I didn't get to return home, but much later in life, I ended up in a town about a quarter of the size, a town I'd dreamed of living in most of my adult life. For nearly 30 years, I'd been traveling to Lyons and Allenspark for writing and spiritual retreats and when it was time to leave, I'd cry halfway home. Now (I'm still pinching myself) I live here.

Used to, I thought nothing of sitting in congested traffic for 90 minutes, but now I grumble during a cruise through a larger mountain town, and become downright annoyed when I pass more than three cars on my way to the cabin where I write in Allenspark.

At Ralph Ford's Produce Market, kettle corn sits in a big container outside for sampling, and Bob and I buy bags of it here, along with homegrown tomatoes, freshly ground spices, condiments, local honey, and other yummy things. When we decided to permanently get rid of more plastic by no longer buying liquid soap, we bought bar soaps here, handmade in Lyons. During our second shopping spree here, when we discovered we didn't have enough cash on us to pay for our purchase, Ralph told us just to take our stuff and bring the money by later. Bob's never lived in a small town and he talked about that for days.

I've drunk tea at the Stone Cup for more than two decades, but now Bob and I stop by there once or twice a week for breakfast or lunch, which they began serving five years ago. Mindy and Robin know how I like my sandwich and what kind of tea I drink. Sometimes Bob and I hang out for some live folk music, and I leave my New York Times for other customers, along with a little money for unfortunate people, which the owners serve through donations. The Stone Cup is our version of Cheers, except that it's a cheerful little daytime place with more tables on the patio than indoors.


While picking up the flowers at Living Arts Exquisite Floral Designs, the owner, Jeralyn, drew me a map for an alternative way home from Boulder, so I could avoid hitting the elk and deer that continually cross the main highway that goes into Lyons. Jeralyn's neighbor just hit an entire herd of elk on that main road, one of them coming through the windshield, and now some of us look to avoid that road at night altogether. When my flowers died, I took the vase back to Jeralyn so she could "recycle" it with flowers for another customer.

I could talk about one of the biggest festivals in the state that's held here, or locally famous Oskar Blues (where Bob and I go for beers and great music) but nah, instead I'll tell you about being able to get freshly-baked challah and other breads at not one bakery, but two. All three of our little grocers carry organic, healthy food, a good deal of it local.

Bob and I are on the waiting list for an office in Lyons, in the hub of our two-block long downtown, with a window that looks out on the mountains, and a balcony that overhangs the bakery and a sandwich shop.

Our dogs swim in the creek and see the local veterinarian, Susan Scariot, who is tied with one other veterinarian as the best veterinarian my family has used in nearly six decades.

If we have to wait an hour for our appetizer at one local restaurant, we just have an extra glass or two of wine; the owners, a husband-and-wife team, cook meals seven days a week there and we know when we get our meal, it will have been worth the wait.

A neighbor on our mountain plows our long driveway for a little money or a couple of cases of beer.

In the towns surrounding us, we have coffin races and hula hoop dancers and stoned guys dancing on roller skates to live music and little bands springing up on the sidewalks and square dancing under the stars and hiking trails that wind all through the mountains.

Clotheslines stretch along our back yards, and when we can, we bicycle to the movies.

I miss my friends and family, and I miss a couple of restaurants where I used to live, but other than that, I just don't miss the city. Our near-weekly little mountain town festivals are way more fun than the passive entertainment of the city.

I hope to die here, in this town I've loved all my life, but first, I want to do a lot more living - stopping for kettle corn and soap and tomatoes and chai tea and live music and just getting to know my community.

Oh, and I'm holding out for that office that's temptingly close to the best bakery in Colorado.

Loving little town life,



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Mom Stuck Me on a Coal Train

One of my best friends from grade school, Linda Jovi, moved away the summer after fifth grade and we stayed in touch with letters and saw each other when she came to back to Southern Illinois to visit family. A year after Linda moved, when we were 12, I begged my mom to let me take the train to visit her. I’d taken the train a year or two earlier, by myself, to visit a cousin, so it was a pretty sure bet that my parents would let me go.

Except for the woman who committed suicide by chopping off her own head in a meat grinder (maybe I'll cover that in another blog), violent crime simply didn’t exist in our little town. Our front door and windows had never had locks, and the back door screen had a little latch to keep hoboes from sticking their head through the doorway and asking for a bite to eat. I've never seen a hobo in my life, but Dad put the latch on the door because Mom remembered them coming to the back door when she was growing up.

Fast forward about 50 years. One night I’m googling things like where did the name Blye come from (the Captain? Nelly? My mom’s desire to get even for being named after a steak and two relatives (Mignon Phebdora)), what’s the crime rate in the town where I’m spending the night alone in a remote cabin, and what’s the number of accidents that Amtrak is now up to, when lo and behold, I discover Amtrak did not exist when I took the train to visit Linda and Gail in grade school.

OMG, my mother had put me on a coal train!

I had been baffled most of my life as to why I didn’t remember any other people on those trains, and now I knew why. Only the conductor and the guy who waved from the back of the caboose had been there, that’s why. My parents probably had thought that would be the safest mode of transportation for their little girl, their youngest, their baby, the child of their old age. Grandpa had worked for the railroad before becoming a coal miner, and every man in my family worked for the mines in some way - my dad, both grandpas, all my uncles, brother-in-law, and nephews. Who could we better trust than someone who hauled our coal around?

This realization made me feel all warm and fuzzy, and as I prepared to travel to see two of my lifelong best friends, I decided to pull about 100 letters out of keepsake boxes and take them along. It would be a blast reminiscing! Oh wow, here is one I wrote to Linda, the friend I traveled on the coal train to visit in 6th grade! I never mailed it!

“Dear Linda,” it read, “my mom said I could come visit you, but the bus only goes to St. Louis. Can your mom pick me up there?”

The bus?

My mom hadn’t stuck me on a coal train?

This was devastating news.

I had taken the bus to visit Linda. I had undoubtedly taken the bus to visit Gail. What a freakishly boring childhood I had had.

While recently visiting my best friends of 47 years, Pina and Kate, in Birmingham, I brought up all the sweet times we had had, together, like babysitting my twin nieces (Pina and Kate are also twins). When I was even smaller, my nieces had become my live dolls. My cousin and I would set up their cribs in separate rooms and as new moms, we’d load up our babies and visit each other in the town between the two bedrooms.

Pina jolted me out of my reverie. “We didn’t usually babysit together,” she said.

“What? Of course we did! Remember how Nancy used to pay us?” (I’ll leave out the form of payment here since Nancy now has 16 grandchildren).

“Not exactly,” Pina said. “You used to talk Kate and me into helping you babysit, then you’d take off and go to a party.”

I blinked at Pina. “That doesn’t sound like me at all,” I said.

“That sounds exactly like you.”


Pina also reminds me of the time, 30 years ago, when I let her off at the DFW airport, during the days when it was customary and legal to park the car and go inside to wait with your guest until the plane boards, crying, waving until you can’t see each any longer, waving at the plane as it takes off, knowing, even though you can’t see her, that your loved one has pressed her head against the window and is waving back at you.

“You ever make a flight at 5am again and you’ll take a bus to the airport,” I shoot back, proving her point about it being like me leaving them to babysit my nieces while I ran off to a party.

Memory is funny like that.

I often talk about getting my scuba certification, then learning to ski in my 30s, but my ex-husband reminds me that before I received my certification, I had a melt-down in the three-foot end of the swimming pool, springing to the surface, still clutching my regulator in terror, and that when I “learned to ski”, I snow-plowed right into a tree. When I hear Bob tell others about me backpacking alone through the Rockies, I wonder if I gave him that impression, or does he count this - hike for 30 minutes, stop to journal for three hours, drive into Winter Park for lunch, hike until I reach the first fork where I will absolutely get lost if I walk further, stop to journal some more, drive into Winter Park for dinner, go to the cabin and read and journal and eat Oreos and go to bed - as backpacking through the Rockies?

For me, it was the coolest thing that my friend Linda didn’t have a toaster, because nothing could beat broiling cinnamon toast in the oven after school while dancing to Bang-Shang-a-Lang by the Monkeys.

Linda doesn’t remember that.

“You were the one with all the stuff,” she said. “All the toys and dolls. The secret cubby holes that your dad built where you could hide your diaries.” (No, it isn’t lost on me that I hid my diaries in a cubby hole that my dad built.)

Still, our memory serves an amazing purpose. It gives us a twinge of fact so that we can exercise our imaginations, create humor, and concoct a mythology that uniquely belongs to us. It preserves the stories that are meaningful to us, and alternatively, it hangs onto traumatic memories so that we can discover the wonder of healing and emotional growth. It reminds us that we’re imperfect, fallible human beings, and that we should suck back our words when we’re about to say, “I’m 100% certain...”

I may not have actually ridden on a coal train, but when I think about those trains, it takes me to this really sweet emotional space. In one of my earliest memories (I’m not 100% certain, but I think it’s one of my earliest memories), my dad takes me to Main street where we sit on a bench just to watch the trains go by, and the guy who stands on the platform of the caboose really does wave to us. Why that was so thrilling, I don’t know, but it was. In my teen years, we sneaked onto parked trains and took a flare or two, although we never figured out how to light them. One time I got stuck between two cars on a track with a train barreling right at me (this was before we had lights or gates) and even though I was only 16, I grabbed my 7-year-old niece, Denise, opened the car door, and prepared to run, instinctively knowing that our lives outweighed the value of my parents’ car (the car in front of me moved just in time and I safely drove out of the way).

Trains ran through West Frankfort dozens of times a day, a few blocks from my home in at least two different directions, and alongside the homes of my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and most of my friends. I crossed the tracks when I walked to grade school. Going to the little local market required me to “stop, look and listen.” The donut shop that allowed us to knock on the back door and pilfer a couple of free donuts lay on the other side of at least two railroad tracks. The almost continual blasting of a train’s whistle became our white noise. So sentimental has it made us that decades after moving away, when I was back visiting my mom and complained that the train whistle kept me awake at night, Mom took it personal and got mad at me. “I find those whistles beautiful,” she said, “and you should, too! That’s how you grew up! This is your home.”

Yes, Mom, I remember. Thanks for all the dolls and the bus trip and, oh yeah, the toaster that made broiling cinnamon bread at Linda’s seem so exotic and taste so much better. Thanks for not sticking me on a coal train. Thanks for raising me in that wonderful little town in Southern Illinois. Thanks for letting me run a little wild with my life and my imagination. Thanks for making it possible for me to sit here writing about so many sweet memories.

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Losing Everything

So many people have asked about my spiritual journey since my last book was published that about five months ago, I signed a year's lease on a remote cabin on a mountain and began working on my third book. The lease allows me to use the cabin three days per week with an overnight's stay, plus eight full weeks per year. Thank you, Jill Allington!

At the beginning of my second full week in the cabin, I settled in beside the picture window overlooking the snow-peaked Rockies and inserted my memory stick.

Nothing appeared.

I released it and reinserted it.


With five months worth of work on that stick, I panicked. Maneuvering the switchbacks as I drove down the mountain, I tried to emotionally steady myself. Surely the problems lay in my laptop and not in the memory stick.

At home, I tried the memory stick on both my computer and my husband's, but neither computer recognized it. Immediately I called about a dozen IT experts, finally locating one who could see me right away. I drove into Boulder and left the stick with them. Two hours later they called. One of the prongs had broken off and the data was irretrievable. Nearly a half year's work was gone. And no, I hadn't backed up my work. And yes, I had a meltdown, replete with screaming, expletives, and curses. Then I went to bed.

How odd that I had been writing about the excruciating amount of loss I had endured over the past ten years, and now I had lost that. Within a few months, ten years ago, I had lost everything that meant anything to me - my husband of nearly 30 years, two careers, the closest and most loving community I had ever known, and my home. I had faced complete financial disaster, made horrible decisions, gone through a rebound marriage in which I hurt a sweet person, been called a heretic in front of 30,000 people, and became deeply in debt. I had then relived - an agonizing process - those episodes of my life, feeling them again so that I could write with depth and transparency.

The next morning, however, I awoke strangely calm and refreshed, thinking about various pieces of writing I'd worked on through the years but had never completed. My thoughts drifted to an exciting new opportunity I'd learned about the very day I had lost my writing. Stories I wanted to write surfaced and I felt like it was Monday, a day I love because it always feels like a fresh start to the work week.

I don't know what kind of divine purpose I believe in, if any, but I do believe in meaning and resilience and moving on. As I drove back to the cabin my mind raced with fresh ideas. And I knew that if I wanted to rewrite the book I'd lost, all the memories were still implanted in my mind and emotions. I knew the past five months hadn't been a waste, not only because of the belief of the writing community that all writing exercises our imagination, but also because I'd done a lot of healing throughout my writing. I had entered into the book feeling like a victim, angry at many people, and I had emerged within a few months acknowledging my part in every loss I had endured.

When I lived in Dallas, I attended a ceremony at the Crow Museum nearly every year. There, Tibetan monks created a stunning, sacred mandala made of dozens of colors of sand, working in shifts 24 hours a day. Then, after completing the mandala, they conducted a ceremony in which they dismantled the mandala, showing the impermanence of physical beauty (of physicality in general), and after distributing half the sand to us, they would complete the ceremony by allowing a nearby stream to carry away the remaining grains of sand, taking its healing powers to all parts of the world.

Driving deeper through the gorgeous, looping mountain roads, I basked in the amazing ability humans possess to simply let go. I began singing the morning blessings, and as always, one leapt out and washed over me. This particular morning it was...

Baruch ata Yah Eloheinu Chai haOlam she'asani bat chorin... Blessed are you, Yah, Life of the Cosmos/Eternity who has made me free.

Only the day before I had screamed in grief, but now I screamed out the words of this blessing of freedom, full of joy and awe over God's gift of resilience and healing. I pulled to the side of the road and rolled down the window. Just as the monks released the sands, allowing their healing powers to be carried by the waters, I let the music of my blessing reverberate through the mountains, releasing it in hopes that someone else might capture its magical hope.

Feeling untethered,






Bob called to tell me he'd had a rough day.

When he took my car in for an oil change, he had to wait nearly three hours.

Rushing home, he put the dogs, Plotinus and Antonio Damasio, in the car to keep his appointment for one of them to get hydrotherapy; Tinus badly injured his knee and twice a week a canine therapist puts him in big vat of warm water so that he can strengthen the surrounding muscles and lead a fairly normal life. Bob took Damsi just because Damsi likes to ride along. Because Damsi loves water, Bob decides he wants to pay the therapist just to let Damsi in, too.

On the way home, Bob stopped for gas and one of the three-gallon, glass water jugs (he was on his way to get them filled at the local spring) rolled out of the car and broke into a jillion pieces.

That's when Bob called me to tell me he was not having a good day. "Hold on," he said, as I started to sympathize. I could hear him talking to a couple of homeless people and handing them a couple of dollars. "They said if I know of anyone who's getting rid of a sleeping bag to please let him know," Bob said when he returned to my call. "Can I call you back?"

Sometime later Bob called me back. He had driven about 20 miles back home to Lyons to drop off the dogs, then returned to Boulder, went to Sports Authority to purchase not the cheapest sleeping bag, but the nicest one (Sports Authority, by the way, always gives us a discount when we purchase items for the homeless), then drove around Boulder looking for the couple. It took awhile but he found them and "you should have seen the look on their faces", Bob told me when we met for dinner.

What did Bob do with his day off? Went to get my oil changed. Took the dog in for therapy. Pondered paying the therapist just so our other dog could swim, too. Put gas in my car. Was going to the spring to get water but ran out of time. Bought a sleeping bag and then hunted all over Boulder until he found the couple who needed the sleeping bag.

Bob, however, was a step ahead of me.

"You know," he said, "I guess I'm not frustrated any more. When all you need is a sleeping bag so you don't have to sleep on the still snow-covered ground in Colorado, it pretty much puts everything else in perspective."

Yes, I thought, and when you're married to a man who spends his day off doing stuff for other people, it kind of makes you fall more deeply in love.

Feeling grateful,