Sunday, May 31, 2009

When the eyes have it . . .

To have a chat face-to-face with Cindy Christian Rogers is to be seen. Truly seen, as in recognized, appreciated, remembered.

But the fact that Cindy can see you in a visual way is a story in itself.

An extraordinary editor, writer, and artist, she has lived for years with a condition that distorts her corneas, steepening them like the end of a football (the gridiron kind). Wearing special contact lenses improved her vision enough to pursue her career -- as long as new ones were crafted each time her corneas changed, which was far too frequently.

But in 2002, the condition worsened so severely she underwent surgery for her left eye -- a corneal transplant. Despite post-surgical complications and a long recovery period that limited how much time she could do things most of us take for granted, to use a computer, and to drive, Cindy did not let setbacks overshadow her gratefulness.

If anything, the experience deepened her appreciation for what she could do.

Here's what the Minnesota Lion's Eye Bank writes about her:

Cindy volunteers in numerous capacities for the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank as a way of expressing her appreciation for the gift of sight. "But most of all, I honor the individual who most made possible this gift, the donor," she says. "I've found myself considering the saying, 'The eyes are the windows to the soul,' and I keep imagining the kind soul who restored my eyesight-and, no less so, my spirit. Corneal graft recipients know that a graft is a gift beyond vision. It is a gift that restores the soul."

To help Cindy improve her vision, literally and artistically, she began to paint. And paint. And paint. And paint.

Several years ago, I received a greeting card from her at year's end with an image and words that made me weep. They touched something deep inside me, tapping into my love of the wilderness, the Northern Lights, and the great peace I experience when I'm quiet and still enough to be aware of the The Great Unknowable.

The words were: "Heaven and nature sing." And the image, as it turns out, was her first painting. I was fortunate to be able to acquire it from her. It graces the north wall of my bedroom, hanging just above my nightstand, and it's the last thing I see before I fall asleep each night.

What has been good for Cindy's soul has been good for mine, too. Really, that shouldn't be a big surprise, given our history of synchronicity, but as another wise friend advises me, it's a good thing to "stay open to surprise."

This weekend, Cindy's beautiful paintings (and greeting cards) can be seen at the annual Edina Art Fair in Minnesota. I'll be there, too, (booth 173 ) happily watching others see her work for the first time and Cindy see them and discover what touches their souls. If you're anywhere near Minneapolis, I hope you'll stop by. The fun happens at 50th Street West and France Ave South Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Tomorrow: Cindy answers 7 questions I posed to her during an interview -- and two more paintings, including her personal favorite (and why it is)!

Image: "Heaven and nature sing" - oil on canvas, in the blogger's personal collection

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A great northern exposure

I first met Cindy Christian Rogers when she interviewed me for a senior editor position at The McGraw-Hill Companies. An accomplished young editor, she had been tapped by management to launch a brand new journal for physicians, and my background nicely matched the qualifications she sought. So, she invited me for a first interview.

I came dressed in a light blue seer-sucker suit over red top. I walked into her office, resume in hand, and we were both taken a little aback. She, too, had on a light-blue seer-sucker suit over a red top. We managed to get beyond that odd little coincidence and had an excellent conversation.

Invited back for a second interview, this time I showed up in a white skirt, pink top, and navy blazer. And, yes, she had on the very same combination. Not only was the second coincidence odd, it was just plain eerie. Clearly, something simpatico was going on. But not just because of the clothes; something bigger was at play.

I got the job, and at some point, we learned that we were both married to men named Randy. (It gets even better!)

Cindy and I worked together for the next 9 years, surmounting some amazing professional challenges and building a wonderful, enduring friendship. Eventually, I moved on to a different organization, and several years later, she left the company to pursue her own business and other interests.

We both went through rough patches in our lives about the same time, and for a while, we lost touch. But true to form, when we reconnected after several years, we learned yet again of surprising coincidences.

We discovered that we had both been named finalists in the fiction category of the Loft Literary Center's Mentorship program (Cindy in 2007, me in 2006) and were jazzed about the prospects of finishing our manuscripts.

We also found that we had independently acquired a fascination with the phenomena of the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights. And of late, we had each devoured a trilogy of books (the first being the Golden Compass), which, though intended for a younger audience, had captured our imagination with a magical story line built around the beauty and the mystery of this celestial light show.

For Cindy, the Northern Lights had become her muse.

Next Friday through Sunday, Cindy will be exhibiting her striking oil paintings of the the aurora borealis. Her growing body of work will appear in the annual Edina Art Fair, a juried show that occurs on the first full weekend of June at the intersection of 50th Street West and France Avenue South.

If you're in Minneapolis or anywhere near the area, I hope you'll stop by and meet Cindy and take the opportunity see her lovely work. I know she loves watching people's reactions to her art as much as loves painting it. And she heartily welcomes anyone who just wants to gaze. In fact, some people have been known to stand transfixed for half an hour or more, taking in the brilliant colors and mystery.

Tomorrow: Find out why it's a miracle Cindy is physically able to paint at all.

Stay tuned!

Image: "Full Moon Fantasy" by Cindy Christian Rogers, water-based oils on canvas

Please join me in a big round of applause . . .

. . . for David McMahon, journalist, novelist, and author of the ever-delightful authorblog.

I marvel at his ability to keep producing the "verse and worse" feature, charm us with his photos, 
stories, and funny news snippets, and respond to e-mails.

But I especially appreciate how tirelessly he honors his tagline to be "Totally committed to encouraging excellence in others."

I have discovered an outrageous number of fine writers and photographers by checking out his "Post of the Day" feature, and if I don't stop adding to my blog roll soon, I'm going to turn into one giant belly roll!

In all seriousness, David is helping us build a lovely community, and I truly appreciate people who do that, whether in physical or cyber space. I suspect some fine friendships have emerged thanks to the connections he has made happen. I hope you'll take a moment and as he encourages the rest of us: Do pay him a visit and leave a comment if you have time.

Hats off to you, David!

(And thank you for today's POTD shout out!)

Image by smoorenburg

Friday, May 29, 2009

'Grawdj' and other strange tales

My youngest (the newly minted geologist) has always puzzled me just a bit. In a fun way. Well, most of the time.

For example, when he was 18 months old he became a little obsessed with garages. All kinds.

I didn't even know he had the word in his vocabulary. He wasn't a big talker in those days, which wasn't too surprising, given that he had two older siblings with strong personalities who voiced strong, mostly opposing, opinions rather loudly.

But one day we were driving in downtown St. Paul, and from his car seat out shot a wee finger pointing to a multi-story parking ramp, and to accompany the gesture, a one-syllable utterance: grawdj.

I didn't quite believe my ears, because I was expecting to hear such words as "ball" or "doggie" or "passie." But soon enough we passed another parking ramp and the word popped out again.


Strange, I thought, but . . .
"Sean, for the love of God, will you please stop shooting spitwads at your little sister!" And, well, you know how that goes.

Soon we were back in our neighborhood and I turned into the alley to put the car in the  . . .

Mom. Grawdj.

OK, so now I was convinced. Somehow, somewhere my baby had figured out that structures in which cars were parked -- be they crammed with bikes, gardening tools, and unpacked boxes from the last move or multilevel, color-coded ramps with stinky elevators -- were called garages.

And then, poof, the word just disappeared into that fuzzy blonde-haired head where all kinds of other mysterious and surprising things were brewing and would eventually emerge. Like fear at age 4 that the world might stop spinning and gravity would cease and all things would float away. Or worries about what the house was built of, and if it was wood, might termites eat it all away.
But at 18 months, my budding RockStar who was obsessed with garages was apparently also plotting The Great Escape.

Now I'm not saying it wasn't my fault, because back then (before I knew better) everything was my fault. But it was awfully hot that afternoon and I did open the front door so we could get some breeze moving through the screened porch, and I might have forgotten to hook the latch on the screen door.

Because there I was cooking dinner, just like a good mom and wife, when my nosy next-door neighbor, retired Fred, came inside and asked me if I knew that my toddler was walking down the block headed toward busy France Avenue.


Shot through with enough adrenaline to lift a garage and two cars, I bolted out the door, terrified that I'd lost my little one forever. I flew down the street in the direction I thought he might have taken. Horrific scenarios played through my head as I rounded the corner of 54th street to see cars whipping by one block ahead at France Avenue.

And then it dawned on me.

I got to the corner of France and 54th and looked to my right.

Sure enough.

There, barefoot and standing in a droopy diaper, was my little RockStar with his nose and forehead pressed against the plate glass window of a Jiffy Lube Oil Change.

I ran up to him, threw my arms around the little urchin, unsure whether to scold him or shriek with relief.

He smiled at me with his big blue eyes, drool shining his perfect little chin. Then he pointed inside, and with unadulterated joy, he exclaimed:

Mom, grawdj!


Epilogue:  The mystery continues. The obsession apparently had nothing to do with what gets parked inside garages. To this day he still doesn't have a driver's license. Not that he couldn't. Apparently, it just never interested him. Now rocks, on the other hand . . .

Image 1 by heathbrandon
Image 2 by aur2899
Image 3 by emdot
Image 4 by Thomas Hawk

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time to change?

"I thought I could change the world.

It took me a hundred years to figure out

 I can't change the world.

I can only change Bessie.

And, honey, that ain't easy either."

-- Annie Elizabeth "Bessie" Delaney, at 104

Image by massdistraction

Monday, May 25, 2009

'Peaceful sleep'

I have never lost anyone in war, and I count that as a blessing.
May a time come when such sacrifice is a thing of the past.
May those who have perished in war sleep in peace.
And may their loved ones find a peace that surpasses understanding.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good words for hard times

"Stay open to surprise."

(My fave piece of wisdom from
Andrej P, acupuncture rock star)

Image by carf

Friday, May 22, 2009

In a Texas state of mind

I am in Houston for the weekend, a place that was home for many years.

I'm back came for two big events: (1) my eldest niece is graduating tomorrow from the same all-girls Catholic high school that my 2 sisters and I attended and (2) my youngest Texas niece is graduating from 8th grade. Marvels, both of them. Kind, witty, smart, lovely, just plain good.

St. Agnes Academy has a tradition on the day before graduation of honoring seniors in a special ceremony called Madonna Day. The seniors wear their cap and gowns for the first time, carry roses onto the stage, and place them in vases at the foot of a statue of Mary that is 100+ years old. Awards are given, speeches are made, and lots of pictures are taken. After the event, families who have 2 or more generations of graduates come together for pictures that will appear at some point in the alumni magazine.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that this is the first time I've returned to my high school since I graduated. And I loved my high school. The Dominican sisters make wonderful educators. I loved being in an all-girls school. I had opportunities I would never have had in mixed-gender setting. So it perplexes me why it has taken me so long to go back.

I do remember vividly the thought that came to mind the minute I stepped out of the auditorium with my diploma in hand. Is this is? Four hard years, many many friendships, proms, musicals, exams, basketball and volleyball games, choir trips, and it's all over? The sentiment is not quite the same as Is this all there is? But it's related. Was I afraid all these years that the adage "You can't go home" was true? Afraid to be disappointed or terribly saddened?

Today, though, as I watched my beloved niece enter the familiar auditorium in the familiar white cap and gown and heard the senior class sing the familiar parting song, "We are St. Agnes seniors, preparing to depart..." I realized how very naive my reaction had been, and how much about me has changed and what is immutable.

I realize now that somehow, without any effort on our part, we remain linked to those places and people that have rested in our hearts, even if we have put great distances of time and geography between them and ourselves, even if we don't return to pictures, or reflect on memories, or dream of them.

And, today, I found that wonderfully reassuring.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Lusty month of May'

Trees have leafed out now, and so begins the annual spillage of seeds encased in all manner of pods. I love how shameless nature is about preserving herself, sending aloft so much more than one replacement.

Vernal ABCs

again and again

Image by muffet

Monday, May 18, 2009

Be humble, for you are made of earth.
Be noble, for you are made of stars.

-- Serbian proverb

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I confess, I love pomp and circumstance--especially when it's not taken entirely seriously.

So I found the graduation ceremonies at the University of Minnesota Morris this weekend as close to perfection as you can get. It was elegant to a point and respectful of the young crowd's need for a bit of irreverence.

The weather caught most of us off guard. So even though we brought our dress up clothes, most of us had to improvise to stay warm in  the gusty winds and near-freezing temps. I ended up wearing my graduate's blaze yellow fleece, a pair of light blue cords, a magenta scarf, and black knit cap emblazoned with the logo of Willie's, the local SuperValu grocery store where Erik earned extra cash as a bagger. Classy, eh?

The faculty, on the other hand, led the procession in full academic regalia, which of course led someone in the crowd to mention Harry Potter. The profs were decked out in robes, hoods, medieval-looking caps, and other insignia representing their hierarchy and disciplines, except for one gent, who wore a robe and a baseball cap. He was commencement speaker: Minnesota author Will Weaver, son of a farmer who chose to major in English. (Later, we were to learn that when he got up the nerve to tell his father of this decision, he was met with the following: "You already know how to speak English.")

So we sat outside on this sunny Saturday, as Chancellor Jacqueline R. Johnson quipped, because several students the night before (when the winds were howling and the temps were in the 30s) told her that she could move the ceremonies inside, but the students would be staying outside. She didn't even bother to ask the audience to hold their applause till all the graduates had received their degrees. Instead, she acknowledged there would likely be plenty of hooting and hollering, and invited the cheering to begin.

Will Weaver quoted Charles Dickens, E.M. Forster, and Blaise Pascal, and told the new graduates that "being out of their element is the best thing you can do." (I found out later, by visiting Weaver's blog, that was his first commencement address, which just added to his credibility in my humble opinion!) He ended his speech with a few lines from a song by Bob Dylan (another Minnesota native):

"May you build a ladder to the stars 
And climb on every rung
and may you stay forever young."

And when the graduates had all walked the stage, and the representative from the alumni association had made her pitch, the band could not have played a more perfect recessional:

All and all, a delightful weekend.

Except for the two hours Saturday evening, when my "girls" (Charlotte and Cora) decided to embark on a walkabout, which was more like a runabout, and a party of graduates and parents turned into a search party and combed the tiny town of Morris for two poorly behaved renegade dogs. I'm happy to report that my eldest son found the two romping near a cemetery, apparently on their way back and tangled paws to tails to ears in nettles and burs, which required another hour to remove.

Definitely not a one of their finer moments or any semblance of pomp and circumstance, but they did provide relief (though not exactly comic) from the bittersweet emotions that accompany commencement . . .

Image from 

Friday, May 15, 2009

My oh my

I believe I may be coming down with a little bout of "time flew."

It's mild at the moment, only slightly bothersome. But by Saturday afternoon, the main symptom will be hard to miss: teary eyes.

My "little" buddy (dare I say my baby?) will to earn his bachelor's degree in geology on Saturday. And his proud family, even his Great Aunt Stella representing the Houston contingent, will descend upon the tiny town of Morris, Minnesota, to watch this fine young man walk the stage and accept his diploma.

As he begins this exciting new chapter, his many admirable qualities (among them, curiosity, compassion, competence, gentleness, strength, kindness, tenacity, ease of being) will serve him well all the days of his life.

Like a ball in a swimming pool, there's no holding this chap down. He always bounces back, ready for the next challenge.

From the toddler who unjammed his broken-down hand-me-down Fisher-Price tape recorder after weeks of tinkering to the newly minted scientist who knows his geomorphology, sedimentology, and even a bit of paleontology, this dude's a "rock" star! 

Way to go, big guy. Keep reaching for your dreams!

(aka e-bob, e-bake, e-blob, E)

Top image by FlyButtafly

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's not really spring till . . .

. . . I've received my bouquet of fully opened lilacs. 

I don't remember lilacs in California or Texas. Magnolias and azaleas, yes. Lilacs, no. Nor do I recall the showiness of seasons changing and nature turning colors.

But Minnesota introduced me to the intoxicating fragrance of lilacs--and the exquisite anticipation of them.

To draw the attention of my children to this season opener, I struck a deal with them some 20 years ago.

The first one to bring me a bouquet of lilacs (and they had to be fully blossomed--no cheating) earned $5. Every year.

They're now 27, 25, and 22 -- and not one year has passed without someone collecting on the deal. Sign of the times? Hooked on tradition? Love?

Today, my daughter came through the front door with a fistful of lilacs and an itch for her prize.

"I don't think I've won in 3 years!" she said, beaming.

Little does she know how much more she has really won.

Happy "Real" Spring!

Image by hessiebell (can you smell 'em?)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I rest my case


I am so not good at lying, which makes the game Two truths and a lie so challenging--and fun!

In some ways it's great not being able to lie. I can look my kids and Mr. B straight in the eye, tell them something they may find hard to believe, and say, "When have I ever lied to you?" Totally disarming!

So here's the truth and nothing but the truth:

1) I'd love to be able to show a video of my late aussie mix, Gracie, doing her stupid rubber band trick. When she was about a year old, she'd bring to me a rubber band dangling from her mouth, then wave it in front of my face till I took it and pulled back as far as I could. Next, she would narrow her eyes and begin wincing in anticipation as I pulled. As soon as it popped, she pranced the rubber band right back in her teeth, and waited for me to pull it again. Honestly, that is so weird, is it not? But it's the truth. What's a lie is that I never submitted a video to Dave Letterman. Thought about it, but have never owned a video camera.
Verdict: lie

2) You're a stinker, anonymous, whoever you are! Yep--this is from my reporting days, and I was talking about it yesterday at work, so I just may have a clue who you are! I covered a nasty capital murder trial back in the late 70s in Texas. A well-heeled call girl hired a hitman to off her parents so she could collect life insurance to pay off her hot checks. The hit man, someone who looked like he could have played a role in Silence of the Lambs, was rumored to have diamonds in his teeth. I wanted a scoop, so during a court recess, I marched right up to him and asked. He drew his lips back like some kind of evildoer, and sure enough, he had diamonds embedded in his canines. He never said a word, just that weird mouth move, like a warning snarl . Sentence: the worst one you can get in Texas.
Verdict: truth

3) When I came home from work after being lowered into the reactor chamber of a nuclear power plant under construction, I could barely believe the words coming out of my mouth as I was telling Mr. B about my day. And it always sounded like it would be a great story to tell my grandkids someday. Don't have any, so I told the blogsphere.
Verdict: truth.

Fun game, eh?

Will the following bloggers please rise and tell two truths and a lie (and tag 3 others)!
  1. Rudee of A Knitting Nurse (you made my day!!!!)
  2. Jane of Gaston Studio (blasted, that anonymous)
  3. Distracted by Shiny Objects of Tidings of Magpies (you can stop with the la la la now!)
  4. Pyzahn of Prattle from the flatlands (you, too!)
  5. Jennifer of Jennifer on the Verge (so glad you like this game!)
  6. Julie B of Watermelon Tourmaline (sorry, no video and, sadly, no Gracie either)
  7. Willow of Willow Manor (I see I cannot fool you, either!)

Thank you all for humoring my silliness

Go forth and multiply.

Court adjourned!

Image from Wikipedia

Monday, May 11, 2009

Two truths and a lie

1) My dog's stupid rubber band trick earned us a spot on a late-night TV show

2) I was lowered by crane into the reactor chamber of a nuclear power plant

3) I asked an accused assassin to show me the diamonds embedded in his teeth

Which one is the lie?

Image by Spinning Things

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Moon
By Robert Louis Stevenson

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbor quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of trees.

The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.

But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of the way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise

Image : "Full moon rising, full moon dancing" - Hand dyed, hand felted, needle felted wool wall hanging from

To spin the bottle or not

On the cusp of adolescence I was much more child than maiden. I still loved digging channels in the dirt and damming them up, playing Man from Uncle with my friends who were boys, and dangling from and scrambling about the jungle gyms.

But the 6th grades girls were changing, in the way 6th grade girls do. And one of their forbidden delights was to sneak off to play spin the bottle during lunch hour with willing 6th grade boys. Not the least interested in this game, I began to wonder how on earth I could make myself fit in.

So I brought my dilemma to my mother. And her response was this: "If you want to stay a child right now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You just stay that way till you're good and ready. And you'll know when that is." Such permission was incredibly liberating.

And so I did remain a child for several more years, protected by the force field of a mother's love, beckoned gently toward adulthood by her uncanny wisdom.

To all who mother their children and others', the earth, or any of her creations, may you know what good you do, how enduring  the memories you create are, and the essential nature of all you do. 

Happy Mother's Day, one and all!

Image by engulf

Friday, May 8, 2009

What becomes of silence

For the past 3 falls,  I've attended a weekend retreat, part of which is spent in silence.  Someone once described the practice as "fasting from words." 

Being silent while alone is one thing; being silent among others is quite another. We often eat 3 meals together without speaking a word. It's quite humbling, really. Where do you put your eyes when you're not listening to another person speak? How do you request salt and pepper, for example, without making a scene and pointing?

But it works. Somehow it always works. And when the time comes to break our word fast, we do so gently, softly, our ears exquisitely atuned to the sounds of each others' slippered footsteps, the clink of teacups and saucers, the shooshing of pine needles brushed by the breeze.

Usually, I relish this silence, fold myself into it, and emerge on the other side peaceful and refreshed.

It wasn't so easy this last time. I was antsy, awkward, and unable to surrender to the quiet. My efforts to meditate left me frustrated. Eventually, I removed myself from the group, climbed into bed, and tried to read something that would finally create the right mood. But soon I was swept into the undertow of a long afternoon nap, and to my surprise, when I woke up, I realized that I had dreamt for the first time in months and could even remember it. After the good rest, I found myself able to effortlessly settle into the silence and rejoin the group.

From this experience I learned that I cannot force peace of mind; it finds me instead, and usually when I stop trying so hard. A friend illustrates the folly of too much effort by clenching his fists and jaws while saying, "I'm letting go as hard as I can!" It always makes me laugh.

Before we went our separate ways during this last retreat, we were asked to write a prayer that captured what we wanted to carry with us throughout the year.

This is what I wrote--and what I read each night before I go to sleep:

I will rest.
I will dream.
I will not try to force answers or solutions.
I will lean into the God of my understanding tenderly
and listen to God's whispers 
and see God's images
with my heart, mind, body, and soul.
I will trust who God intends me to be.

Recently, I shared the prayer with a friend, who asked me to explain what I meant by "lean into God." It wasn't easy to find the words. But that same day I found at a thrift store a kitschy little figurine that captured the meaning perfectly. 

A small childlike figure stands at an angle, supported by a large cupped hand. The expression on her face is one of  calm and trust, perhaps even  grace.

If I'm very quiet and listen lightly, sometimes I know exactly what she feels. I did today.

Blessings . . .

Image by Himalayan Trails

Oh, happy Friday

By Macrina Wiederkehr

The Star of Joy
And every time I feel the shine

I am called
to follow it
to sing it
to live it . . .

Curious to know more from/about Macrina, a Benedictine monastic poet, writer, spiritual guide?
Here's her Web site.

Image by tapperboy

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Well, excuse me and the bus I rode home on

As Charlotte mentioned yesterday, I've had some long days lately.

It has to do with this swine flu/possible pandemic issue. My job involves helping businesses prepare for public health issues, like pandemics. We've been a bit busier than usual these past 2 weeks.

So Monday, Mr. B wakes up feeling pretty poorly.  No temp, no cough, just a scratchy throat and fatigue. I tell him it must be a man-cold.

When I get to work, I find out that a Minneapolis school has been shuttered because of swine flu. As it happens, it's the same school where Mr B subbed last week.

I start to wonder, "Could he? Nah, that's just too ironic." 

Work gets hectic and I get distracted.

Around 4, I receive a text message from Mr. B: "Really sick. Slept till 2:30. Went to doc's. Got swabbed for H1N1."


He doesn't answer my call, which means he's sleeping -- and that my chance at getting a ride home from him is shot. I finish work around 7 and notice I'm not feeling that swift either.

So I slog my achy muscles and joints to the bus stop, climb aboard, crumple against the window, and shut my eyes for the hour ride.

Half way home, I decide to try to reach him on my cell. No answer. I try my daughter. No answer. I try my eldest. Score. We talk. My eyes shut, I remain slumped against the window. He tells me he saw "Pops" late in the afternoon, just before he went back to sleep.

"Did he tell you they swabbed him for H1N1?" I ask.

"Cool. How long does it take to get the results back?"

"I don't know. It probably depends on whether they have to send the test to the CDC."

"Ma, are you on the bus? You really need to get off your phone. I got yelled at yesterday for talking on the bus."

Yikes. I open my eyes to see if anyone's glaring at me for being too loud. (Ever notice how hard it is to judge your volume when your eyes are shut?) It's crowded, but no one is giving me the stink eye. Whew.


There is this man sitting next to me. I hadn't noticed him. I don't know how I missed him: He's balancing on the edge of our shared bench, about as far from me as he can perch without falling into the  aisle.

Two stops later, a seat opens up in the row next to the bus driver, same spot I always choose when there's a loose cannon type on the bus. It affords a false sense of safety, like when as a kid you tag "home" by clinging to your mom's leg to keep your sibling from making you "it."

I cough into my elbow, and in a jiff, my neighbor leapfrogs to home base. I shut my eyes again and I can feel something burning. I think it's his stare.

I can't really blame him. It's not everyday you hear CDC and a cough on a bus from a stranger you're sitting next to during the same week that pandemic is the buzz word.

He pulls his feet way in when I disembark.

Epilogue: No tests are back yet, but Mr. B appears to have had enough pats on the head to recover nicely from the man-flu. He returned to work today. Oh, and the CDC has decided it isn't necessary to close schools. The CDC does say people should stay home if they feel ill. I know of at least one fellow bus rider who would agree wholeheartedly with that little piece of wisdom.

Image 1 by obLiterated 
Image 2 from University of Virgina Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Guest blogger: Charlotte

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charlotte and I'm from Tennessee. (That's my sister Cora in the background, the one with one brown eye and one blue eye, which attracts a lot of attention--away from me!)

Anyway, a very nice couple found me as a stray pup when I was 4 months old and drove me all the way to Minnesota to be adopted. 

When I saw Kathleen milling around the crates at Petco one Saturday, she looked all hangdog and sad, and I just knew  she needed me. So I made  sweet eyes at her, and  it worked. In seconds flat, she had me out of my crate, hooked on a leash, and outside the store for a "test drive."

Mr. B was another story. He tried to talk Kathleen out of bringing me home. "I'm not done grieving Gracie yet," he said. "It's just been 10 days." But Kathleen made big ole sad eyes at him. And next thing I knew, I was snuggled up in Kathleen's lap with my ears flapping out a rolled-down window.

Life's been great ever since.

I agreed to do this guest blog on the condition: extra belly rubs tonight.

Kathleen's been spending way too much time working lately, and not enough time with me.  I can't tell you how many times I've dropped balls, bones, napkins, socks, and undies on her lap, only to have her pat my head and say, "In a minute, honey . . . I just need to finish this sentence." 

Does it really take 2 hours to finish a sentence?

If a sentence is anything like a rawhide, I'd have it finished in 2 minutes. You humans are a strange breed, but we love you anyway. It's in our gene pool, and besides, some of you really seem to need us.

The other problem is that Kathleen's spending way too much time blogging. I've even draped my body on the keyboard, but she pushes me away and tells me to go snuggle with Mr. B. She claims blogging is very important to her. But I reminded her that I'm important, too. So we struck a deal. She's promised not to blog every single night, and I promised I'd stop ripping up her Keens.

Hmmmm . . . that was a hard one. They smell soooooo good after a long hike.

So, let me know if you'd like me to be a guest writer again and what you'd like to hear about.

Did someone mention smells? The beagle in me would be happy to discuss that! 

Alrighty, then . . . I'm off to get my belly rub!

May it be so

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a hundred ways
to kneel and kiss the ground.

-- Rumi 

Image by carf

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blushing blogger

Thank you, Gaston Studios, for including me in your list of 15 for this authentically lovely award! I'm tickled pink to accept The Bella Award. And I'm to pass it along to 15 new acquaintances. Not sure how you define "new" because it's all new to me. I might be at this forever, so I'm stopping at 12. The honorees are:

Angel's hair
Freckled Writer
Renie Burghardt's World
A Walk in the WoRds
Gump and Gandhi Holding Hands
Abstract Landscape Painting
It Strikes Me Funny
A good person just tryin to get along
One sweet moment
Love, Elizabeth
A Hazy Moon

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What would you do if . . .

A post by the fine artist Melissa at Gump and Gandhi holding hands sent my imagination soaring the other night, one very late night after one very long day, which may explain the words that tumbled onto the page without reservation.

Her post is about work. One of several intriguing questions she asked was:
Who would you be if money was not an issue?

I've always been a mission-driven worker. But as I devolve, I seem to fancy most what gives me joy. Sometimes that involves a mission, but more often than not, it's about simplicity, connectedness with the Great Unknowable, and being surrounded by beauty, and yes, dogs, lots of dogs.

I'm not sure there's a name for what I would be, but I had no trouble describing what I would do, at least for a while . . . until it was time to give back to the world.

So, the slightly edited, more-awake version of my answer to Melissa's question is this:

I would live far up north with 16 dogs, and my shelter would be a yurt lined with felted wool that I had made. I would run with my dogs in the morning, before the sun rose, then stop and watch the dawn together. I'd come back home to break fast, to stoke my wood-burning stove, then sit down to write for as long as I wanted about anything I wanted, snacking on homemade bread and jam, sipping tea, and sometimes losing track of time for hours as I stared outside at the dance of wildness.

I'd learn to play a native flute and let my yearnings emerge in a minor key. And in the evenings, I'd huddle with my dogs and howl at the moon or gaze at the Northern Lights.

And when I'd had enough of that, I'd bundle up and take long, long walks and befriend those creatures who would have my friendship, or make beaded things, or read to my heart's content.

And I would love wildly.


Tonight I ran across this poem by a 19th century Inuit shaman of whom little is known. One source said she achieved her shamanic power in "one extraordinary dramatic instant." Apparently, a "ball of fire came down from the sky and struck her senseless," and when she regained consciousness "the spirit of light was within in her."

Scary thought, getting knocked senseless. But I do like the "spirit of light" part--and the poem.

By Uvavnuk

The great sea
has sent me adrift
It moves me
as a weed in a great river
Earth and the great weather
Move me
have carried me away
and move my inward parts with joy.

From A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to
the Beatles
Image1 by Bruce McKay
Image 2 by Jackson Hole Continental Divide Dog Sled Adventures
Image 3 by Germaine Arnaktauyok

Saturday, May 2, 2009

In the company of characters

The author of the ever-lovely willowmanor recently assembled a list of 12 of her favorite movie characters. A meme, I believe?

I decided to give it a try, too, but I'm going to change up the rules a bit. Today it's the men's turn, and I picked 15 (not 12), which was still hard. Later: women, children, and animals.

In no particular order:

1. Elwood P. Dowd

Played by James Stewart the 1950 film Harvey.
Why: Totally charming, harmless, sweet as a sugarbeet, best friends with a Pooka
Quote: "Miss Kelly, perhaps you'd like this flower. I seem to have misplaced my buttonhole.

2.  Indiana Jones (aka "Junior")

Played by Harrison Ford beginning in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark
Why: Fallible, funny, sharp as a whip, constantly in trouble, big-time Dad issues, afraid of slithering reptiles, and an archeologist who always finds his hat.
Quote: "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes."

3. Walter Eckland

Played by Cary Grant in the 1964 romatic comedy Father Goose
Why: Irascible beach bum and sot turned foster father to lost boarding school girls
Quote: "So far you've shared me out of my clothes, my food, and my house. Now, how about sharing some of my things with me."

4.  Inspector Jacques Clouseau

Played by Peter Sellers in the 1963 commedy The Pink Panther
Why: No one does klutzy with more panache
Quote: "Des yeer dahg bite-uh?"

5. Henri "Papillon"Charriere

Played by Steve McQueen in the 1973 biopic Papillon
Why: Falsely imprisoned hero who never ever ever gives up, helps his friends, won't be bullied,  pays attention to details, great tatoo
Quote: "Hey you bastards, I'm still here."

6. Detective Virgil Tibbs

Played by Sidney Poitier in the 1967 race bender In the Heat of the Night
Why: Class-act, brilliant detective who outshines idiocy and racism
Quote: "They call me Mr. Tibbs."

7. Atticus Finch

Played by Gregory Peck in the 1962 mystery To Kill A Mockingbird
Why: A paragon of integrity, best father figure, best eligible bachelor in film history
Quote: "You never eally understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

8. Javier "Javi" Rodriguez Rodriguez

Played by Benicio Del Toro in the 2000 thriller Traffic
Why: One suave Mexican narc who'll do anything to get a baseball field for kids back home
Quote: "You like baseball? . . . Everybody likes baseball. Everybody likes parks."

9. Dr. Hannibal Lector

Played by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs
Why: Cunning, pure evil, with excellent diction and a soft spot for an up-and-coming FBI agent
Quote: "Fly, fly, fly little sparrow."

10. Dith Pran

Played by Dr. Haing S. Ngor in the 1984 epic The Killing Fields
Why: Survivor of horrifying massacre yet retains his humanity and tells the story
Quote: "Here, only the silent survive."

11. General Maximus Decimus Meridius

Played by Russell Crowe in the 2000 box office smash The Gladiator
Why: Hardened Roman warrior with heart of gold determined to return to his beloved family
Quote: "Allow me to go home."

12. Kip

Played by Naveen Andrews in the 1996 epic The English Patient
Why: Tender-hearted bomb diffuser who sure knows how to romance a woman
Quote: "It's what I do."

13. Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson

Played by Sir Alec Guinness in the 1957 WW II film Bridge Over the River Kwai
Why: Full of stubborn integrity, determined to protect his men, knows how to whistle
Quote: "You have turned defeat into victory. I congratulate you. Well done."

14. Jack Foley

Played by George Clooney in the romantic thriller Out of Sight
Why: Totally adorable, irrisistable bad boy who falls for the officer who must arrest him
Quote: "You'd be surprised what you can get, if you ask for it the right way."

15. Paul Rusesabagina

Played by Don Cheadle in 2004 Hotel Rwanda
Why: Goodness galore, able to show emotions and stand up to genocide, wonderful hubby and dad
Quote: "We must shame them into sending help."

Anyone see any pattern?

Tag, you're it!

Romance on the prairie

A Bouquet of Wild Flowers
By Laura Ingalls Wilder

"The Man of the Place
brought me a
bouquet of wild flowers
this morning.
It has been a habit
of his for years.
He never brings me
cultivated flowers
but always
the wild blossoms
of field and woodland
and I think them
much more beautiful."

Originally published
in the Missouri Ruralist
(20 July 1917)

Image by pr9000


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