Women in White Dresses

I had to go to the Civic Center/Courthouse this morning to manage some business paperwork. This is the same building that Vernon and I first got married in….with Maki as our 4 year old witness. I remember taking a break from work in order to do the ceremony. We stopped and got rings from the trinket machine at Toys R Us. I didn’t dress up, but I did wear a new white summer blouse. (I wrote about the day here.)

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There were so many girls in white dresses today. I felt a little funny taking care of my boring business, while betrothed couples waited in the queue behind me. I imagine if you need a boost of romance in your life, you might take your lunch break on the local Civic Center grounds. There are certainly a lot of couples with the light of Possibility shining in their eyes! Each with a different past and future, sharing the present: an official commitment to life with their mates. But surely some had been married before—maybe divorced, maybe widowed. Some were already in long term relationships and finally taking this step. Some might be spontaneous, some saving money. Some of these marriages might not last. But in this moment they expect them to. Or maybe not? Maybe some were marrying for convenience or a Green Card. It’s not for me to know. But to get to witness the joy of the day, in passing all these strangers, is a soul-filler for me.


By the way, I still wear my real wedding ring (not the plastic one.) I sometimes wonder how long society would approve of my wearing it. It feels too strange to take it off yet…and ultimately, it makes my life less complicated too! 🙂  On that note…a public tip: If you wonder if it is too soon to ask a widow/widower when they are going to date again…the answer is: it is. That is for the widowed person to tell you—if she or he wants to—not the other way around.


A Yellow Wood—The Road Less Traveled

Thanks to the rains this year, the hills have been alive with color for months! And it’s the tall yellow mustard that gets me. Swaths of sparkling flowers in the sunshine, looking much like paint spilled from Heaven. I don’t remember ever seeing the area like this (though I must admit I’ve missed more than a few years here.) One hill in particular keeps calling to me: a lone electric yellow bump in the landscape. It rises just beyond the High School where I drop and retrieve Maki every day. And every day, I think: I’ve got to get up there before its too late and the flowers are faded down to the brown of every-year. Yesterday afternoon, I found myself in the area without kids in the car…and snuck out for a little walk at last. A mini-adventure, a getaway in the middle of a normal day in my normal town. The wild mustard stalks were so high and plentiful that there was nothing to be seen but the yellow plants and the blue sky. A temporary layover on another planet where no one else existed but lizards and butterflies in the scent of milk and honey.
Bear with me as I narrate these photos with a little Robert Frost—and pretend that these are my woods.
The Road Less Traveled —by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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For Justine. From Justine

I transcribed some poetry for Justine last night. The first is a story she likes to hear (and retell) about a dream her dad had when she was still in my womb.  The second, much more than a nursery rhyme. I’m saving these here so her childhood self can one day speak to her older self. Children are resilient, but I don’t believe in dismissing their grief. She talks about Vernon the most, I think…she says she is afraid of forgetting him. So I put pictures in her room of the two of them together. She doesn’t even remember when most of them were taken. But though she will tell people that Vernon has died, she doesn’t like when anyone implies she doesn’t have a dad.  “I do have a dad,” she says. “I’ll always have my dad.”

Daddy saw in his dream

that there was a baby girl,

who came out of mommy’s tummy—

She came up to him  and snuggled with him.

When mommy’s baby arrived,

Daddy said:

“That’s the same baby girl from my dream:

She had dark eyes.

She had dark hair .

And her voice sounded the same.

She was the same little girl in my dream.

She looked just the same.”


Daddy, Daddy gone away—

I miss him, but I know

that I will see him another day.


*picture above from the narrowest slide in England.




Hidden Gifts

The other afternoon, while walking with a friend and our girls on the beach, we noticed the spray of a whale just beyond the waves. Sometimes it appeared even closer, between the second and third row of breakers. Sometimes it’s spray was mixed in with the spray of the waves. I’ve seen whales from the shore before but never one that close. The massive creature bobbed around for a bit, and we walked slowly along with it until it headed back out into the sea. It was remarkable, I never want to forget the experience. It’s stayed with me every day since, and I continue to draw inspiration from that gift.


(No photo of the whale, but here is an umbrella and some birds I saw on the same walk. Gifts in their own right.)

It IS a gift when you get to see a part of nature that is usually hidden. What are the chances that you are in the right place at the right time? Vernon used to say the same thing about seeing a deer in the woods. It’s as if it has allowed you to see it…it almost feels personal. It’s as if you have entered a little portal into a world full of wonder, a slightly alternate universe from the one you were just standing in.

This rare beauty of seeing a whale up close and literally “out of the blue” is a reminder that there is always something majestic lurking just below the surface. The sea is filled with amazing creatures, but all we can see from the shore is the dark mass of ocean. It may as well be another universe from us and yet we usually are so focused on our own circumstances in our own life of terra firma that we don’t even think about that, let alone notice it. But every so often, the veil is lifted. We are allowed to peer in to the mystery for just a minute and suddenly we are a part of a much larger thing. We are humbled, we gratefully receive the gift of surprise beauty. And for a little while at least, we are changed. We talk about what we saw, we tell our friends, we look for new meaning. We remind ourselves over and over so we don’t forget that we witnessed something amazing.

I have been looking back over this blog, bit by bit, to get a sense of what actually happened. I can only handle it in small doses, though…because I see so many details of pain and suffering that I’d forgotten about. But I can also see another layer superimposed over the top…a layer of art, friendships, growth, learning, stumbling, music, beauty, poetry, love. The greatest of these is LOVE, by the way…it encompasses the rest. The veil was lifted…i could breathe in divine air pockets by following the gifts. Little gifts, desperate gifts sometimes. But treasures all the same. And I am changed by them.

You don’t get to pick your circumstances, but you can chose your reality…find the good. Find the interesting. Make it a discipline everyday. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Show up with some expectancy, and keep your eyes open…you may be surprised what you find. You may be surprised how it changes your story. The pains and sorrows of daily life may not go away, but you can also have unexpected beauty and love—if you want it enough.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” —Philippians 4:8






Today we had the privilege of having documentary film-makers come to our home. I met Linda through a mutual friend on Facebook, and being the encourager she is, she suggested making a little film about my recent art project. Of course I said yes, though I didn’t know what to expect. Then she introduced me to a photographer/director friend of hers who enjoys making films about artists. I had a nice long phone chat with him about the work and was thrilled to recognize that both of them, Linda and Kevin, understood immediately what I was trying to convey with my work. That is such a blessing for an artist…such a blessing for anyone, I’d imagine. Anyway, they came to the house today and filmed me making some paintings and talking about my intentions and my history. The kids got involved for a little bit too. It was very special…and I feel completely uplifted and understood. Here are some pictures of the day:


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