What if we think of love as an ability rather than just a feeling fixed to someone? I sometimes think about how I feel on a morning when I wake up thankful in my whole being. It’s not something that’s coming at me; rather it’s from me, radiating outward. I smile, no, I beam! 

I’m ready for the day, open to anything. Love, looked at like this, is not a yearning, or a feeling of loss, or a desperate clinging. It’s not a commodity I fear I will lose, because it’s mine and I use it as though I have an endless supply. 

I believe love is how I move through my life. When I give it freely, I just want it to wrap me in itself. Giving love is selfless; I don’t expect payback. But I revel in a response that is like looking in a mirror. What a delightful surprise when I find a kindred. Now we can dance and laugh and cavort and discover together. That’s how it works, but I can still hold it carefully in wait by myself.

Love, for me, is like sitting on my doorstep, smiling at passersby, wishing everyone could see the world as I do. An echoed “hello” can be all I need. I constantly defy my father’s caution not to talk to strangers, beckoning them always to come, sit by me here. What makes you happy today? And there lies love.

Love requires …

• curiosity

• trust

• openness

• sharing

• compassion

• understanding

• letting go

• attention 

Once felt, once given, it wants more, always more. It’s a good kind of consumption; there’s always room for more. 

Between a hummingbird and a killdeer

I needed an early morning walk to clear my mind of months of clutter spinning dust circles behind my eyes and clogging filters that allow me to roam freely in the possible. The riverwalk in my town is full of magic in the sunrise. There’s the tree with the hummingbird atop an empty branch. A friend pointed that out weeks ago, and sure enough, she sits there, most likely near her nest.

For it is surely nesting season, full of hope and determined bird work to get ready. What brought me to the river was watching a robin take nesting material from the osprey nest in the camera focused there. Sadly, the ospreys are gone this season, the female unable to bond with a young male. But this bold robin has found a treasure trove of perfect nest lining.

Just in the corner of my eye, a killdeer stood eyeing me. We talked a bit and I continued along. The riverbank area is full of action: gathering, calling, chasing, mating, sitting, and waiting. Not controlled by a general on/off switch, the mating season is a cacaphony of birdsong and ruffling feathers, and of doin’ what comes naturally.

I feel honored to be allowed to walk in their demesne, a careful interloper at this time of renewal. This is not my place; I am just a guest here. It is not for me to judge or interfere in any way in the normal flow.

And so I walk, using all my senses to truly be here. Here is where I begin my day in thanks for the gifts we have before us — no pricetag or wrapping, just here for the wonder.

With the empty osprey nest to my back, I am reminded of the wise words of a leading scholar of ospreys, D. Rob Bierregaard.

“Remember that nature is not cruel. Being cruel implies intent to harm someone or something just to do harm. Nature is unforgiving, harsh, and often random. But it’s not cruel.”

And so, rather than mourn the loss of a magnificent osprey, I say “thank you” on behalf of the robin, the hummingbird and the killdeer. That’s the demonstration of pure hope I need.

Something’s Coming

I’m here now feeling like something’s coming or about to happen. Nothing ominous about it, but the feeling is strong. Like the whoosh when a train hurries by and I’m standing at the station. But that’s not right, because what I’m feeling isn’t going to pass me by. 

While I wait for it, I try to imagine or remember what else gives me this buoyant feeling of expectation. Something that lifts me up, like the soft touch of a sudden cool breeze pushing through hot summer air. I leave the ground.

There are moments that carry possibilities, like making an idle comment to a stranger in line next to you, and suddenly you’re deep in conversation. The sharing feels so natural even though you’ll part and never pick it up again. Something happened.

Still waiting, impatiently tapping my toes, I recall the rampant joy of first holding my new-born son (both times). This is the purest moment of motherhood, before the weight of responsibility sets in. This sense of wonder has never left me.

It’s akin to being overcome by a powerful invincibility when I crossed the stage at high school graduation. “On my way to whatever I can make happen,” I thought innocently, seeing no barriers or pitfalls ahead. Oh how naive I was, but that never stopped me.

Still not allowing the train to whoosh by without me, I reflect that I’ve lived my life as though a discovery, or a new love, or a special gift might be just ahead of me. I need to clarify. There is no regret or dissatisfaction or even wishful thinking involved here. 

Rather, while being fully in the moment, part of my mind is racing around paying attention to things it knows I won’t want to miss. Like noticing a goldfinch standing quietly in my birdbath, or two very young children having what looks like a serious conversation.

Readiness! That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not like I’m standing around waiting to yell “squirrell.” I’m just ready for it, without knowing. It’s how I write, vaguely aware of where I’m going, hopping on the train, and letting my mind go with what’s just ahead.

The ride of my life has been the ride itself. I’m not talking about grabbing a brass ring on the merry-go-round because that’s there for anyone with a good reach. I’m talking about finding a new direction and then grabbing on thinking anything is possible.

To clarify once more, I don’t lightly abandon one pursuit for another. Part of allowing expectations to arise means knowing when what I’m doing is finished. I’ve either gone as far as I am able, or I’ve just exhausted possibilities. And that’s when I can see what’s coming. 

If this seems a dangerous way to live, it never has to me. I love to be 76-year-old me, sitting here feeling like something’s coming or about to happen. Maybe that’s why I’ve written this today. After all, not everything around the bend is life-changing. 

Nature vs. Nature

Who Against Self

What makes us human joins us
more powerfully than what haunts us
can break our common bond.

For what distracts our daily
purpose with invitations to be who
we never thought to be

can only create a who against self.

A who disturbingly present despite
a song needing sung or a garden needing
that song to nature, chorus of birds.

A who tamped down by fingers of dread
with light, though persistent, blows to assure
the powder will ignite.

A who joins the cacophony of silence before
ideas thwarting nature, imagination, love;
when inward self craves joy.

But when that craving breaks free to tug
against the lemming call, to see, to hear
beyond the dark silence

we regain our nature, our self. 

We find the who that hears trees sighing,
sees sunrise on an ocean, tastes sweet pollen,
and reties our common bond.

--- Cheryl Gaston


I awoke today in a sour mood. It felt like dragging myself into the kitchen to find the soggy remains of last night’s dinner. Oh wait! That is what I found! Ugh! So that just magnified my feeling of dragginess.

Or DRAGONESS! As I am wont to do when feeling down, I looked immediately for ways to up my mood. The reason I found was a nasty dream that dredged up old family crap. “Out,” I commanded.

Then I mentally listed things I knew would make me feel better.

  • Clean sheets
  • Clean kitchen
  • A long shower
  • Doing my nails

So, guess what I chose. I decided to do my nails. Of course! The one thing that would stop me from doing anything else on my list for a while. Common sense would have had me strip the beds and start the washer, so it would have been finished when I was ready for my shower.

Stay with me here. I also could have started the sheets, then cleaned the kitchen to load the dishwasher, to be ready to start when the laundry finished, then done my nails while the dishwasher was on. … that lived in the house that Jack built.

But, hell, it’s Sunday, still in quarantine, still dragging that nasty dream. A master of self-healing, I got a second cup of coffee, sat down to watch “Sunday Morning,” and did my nails.

I’m typing now, because that poses no danger to my lovely nails, that sparkle when the sun hits them. And when I finish this, still in my pajamas, I’ll get my third cup of coffee and a blanket and sit on my little deck. I’ll hear birds, see the squirrels, feel the sun, and let the dragoness emerge.

She can do the laundry and clean the kitchen later … while I’m filling the bird feeders.

It’s that time of year…

It’s that time of year for…the world according to the advertising folks.

Miracle diets –and– mattress shopping

            So, while I am munching on some of the “top 10 foods to burn fat” that now reside in my purse, I am shopping in a mattress store to find the most comfortable one that will prevent me from getting out of bed to exercise. Side note: it’s ALWAYS the time of year for mattress shopping!

It’s that time of year for…

Saving starving animals –and– protecting endangered species

Watching from my window as one of the many feral cats my neighbor feeds finishes digging in my garden to cover its poop then pounces on a ground-feeding bird to kill it. Feral cats are not hunting to feed themselves, because neighborhoods organize mass feedings! Outdoor cats are an invasive species!

It’s that time of year for…

Spending money you don’t have on presents no one needs –then– fighting crowds the day after Christmas to exchange and return all the presents.

            Meaning well one year, my brother-in-law gave my sister the best vacuum cleaner he could find. Mrs. Glamour Puss almost divorced him, while pulling a four-day sulk that ruined the holiday for everyone. Did I mention she is the queen of sulk?

It’s that time of year for…

Sales people asking “are you ready for [fill in the holiday]?” — and — Shoppers getting in line in the middle of the night, pushing, yelling, running over each other, filling carts to spoil their kids, or mindlessly filling credit cards online.

Reminds me of a pack of coyotes. Ah, ‘tis the season of joy, peace, and goodness!

 It’s that time of year for…

Endless recipes, menus, and party plans to stuff our faces in celebration of something.  –and– just days later, a load of broadcast guilt for having stuffed our faces.

 The irony is stunning! It’s amazing how advertising can numb brains. All the advice about resolutions just adds to the notion that we are our own worst enemy. One morning show commentator tells us to stop using Jan. 1 to start “good behavior.” Instead she suggests starting a month or two earlier. As though sneaking up on THE DAY will make you more resolute?

 Speaking about advertising, have you heard about the online banking app (like I’m going to do that!) that – wow! – gives you your paycheck two days early? Has no one figured out that only happens once? Two days before actual pay day next month you will be just as broke as you were before. Think about that.

It’s that time of year for…

Buying a car. –and– Buying furniture [I guess to go with all the mattresses.]

Frankly, I don’t need a new car, and I’m afraid of things people expect cars to do these days. I fear I’d have to go to school to learn how to use all the digital gadgets that are supposed to make driving safer and more enjoyable. What if I set the stay-in-your-lane thingy to the wrong lane, and I’m suddenly driving on the wrong side of the road? And that stop-the-car-before-impact sensor that only reads things big enough to be another vehicle? Well, I do know someone who might get that readout. What if I figure out how to put on a movie and then fall asleep as I do on my couch?

            The good side is I will no doubt get one big enough to lug my furniture purchases home. Problem is, I’ll never figure out how to make the four rows of seats disappear into the chassis so I can load on the couch!

For me, it’s the time of year to hide in my house, fall asleep to old movies (on my old couch), see only the people I love, and imagine myself thinner (and taller, while I’m at it!), and be happy with myself in general.

I hope you all had the best holidays this year, and find joy and peace in the New Year. And don’t forget to vote. 


All my life I’ve been startled or shocked or violently shaken into realizing I’m not whom I’ve been telling a story about. Starting with the tale itself…

I was born into a happy family in America The Beautiful, loved and nurtured by all around me, bound for my own happy future as a successful complaisant wife and mother. Soon, another child entered the picture and we loved each other. She looked up to me. As I grew I found the need to keep this rosy picture in sight, as pieces of it needed editing along the way.

I noticed my parents react differently to each of us: impatient with my loud expressions of any emotion that dawned on me; more comfortable with the quiet (read obedient) one. “Think before you speak” became a repeated wish from my often embarrassed mother.

As I chose my own path forward I was cautioned by my 1950s parents to stay in the “safe zone” of good manners and conformity. I did understand that these same parents had seen the ravages of both the Great Depression and World War II, who were now middle aged adults living under the threats of the Cold War. So I excused them and kept going.

My story still celebrated my happy place in The Great American Family.

BAM!In a small town where everyone knew everything about everyone, my father left us. The Emperor was losing some of his clothes.

My mother made me proud. She got a job, looked to me like she could survive anything, and kept her head up amidst all the roiling gossip. I thought there was nothing she could not do. My sister withdrew further into a quiet background.

Things settled into a routine as I edited and patched my story.

I succeeded in school. Anything I set my mind to and worked hard for came to pass. Good grades were easy because I loved to learn. Parts in school plays, a place on the cheerleading squad, earning the Honor Society, were all within my grasp because I was determined. I felt some resentment from my sister, but just thought that was natural.

PINCH! Off to college, remembering that my father had questioned my need for it. I don’t know where that came from, but it sure didn’t stop me. At this point, the emperor had moved a different family into the sweet spot anyway.

Got married at 19 and was back in the safe zone. Finished college as a married student, had two adorable children in the very changed world of the 1960s. Began to feel a bit like an orphan. I was definitely outside the Emperor’s realm, and my sister’s little family, still in the same small town I had fled, was now the center of my mother’s world.

Not bereft, I began to feel my strengths. But the story in my head kept writing over any slights, while I still thought all was good.

LITTLE ELECTRIC SHOCKS! When I told each of my parents I was getting divorced, my mother asked me what I had done. My father asked me if I was having an affair! I absorbed the insults and just went on.

NUCLEAR BAM! My first son Jeff drowned on a camping trip at age 20. Surrounded by friends, family, and my destroyed ex-husband, I still went forward. My second son Drew, at 18, was the source of my strength. There were many days when he was the adult in the house. It was because of him, I began to see myself as whole.

Editing my “story,” I redefined myself. Neither of my parents attended Jeff’s funeral, and my sister and her daughters went there and sat by themselves. That strange day did leave a permanent rent in my imagined family fabric. Still, I excused them all.

In the subsequent 30 years I’ve had a mostly successful career in university public relations in three different states, owned and run a bed and breakfast, written a novel, and have a cottage baking business at farmers markets. I have friends still in each place I’ve lived; Drew lives and thrives with his own business an hour away from me. We are truly good friends.

During that time, I recaptured a wonderful relationship with my father and gave him some of his clothes back. That appears to have damaged my relationship with my mother. Unknowingly, I was also cementing a black spot reserved for me in my sister’s heart.

CONFIRMING BLAST! The morning after our father died, my sister exploded. Standing together in his house, she screamed every lifelong real or imagined slight back at me. I had no defense because, even with more and more evidence that I had no part messing in her life, I had continued to hope we could be OK. This would take more than editing, I realized.

That was the last time I saw her. Evidence of her manipulations behind the scenes with my father still didn’t prepare me for what came a couple of years later. My mother was dying. I was forbidden hospital information. My niece hung up on me beside the hospital bed; I had been written out of my mother’s will; and every penny and piece of property was scooped away thanks to misused legalities she had learned when taking care of my father.

QUIET REALIZATION. I am happier than I’ve ever been, sure now that I really know myself. I am thankful every day for the pleasures I find just looking out my window. I am satisfied just standing amidst trees at a river’s edge. I ignore naked emperors completely and listen to birds. I’ve learned to concentrate on the very simplest pleasures like baking breads and things that make people happy and comfortable.

NO MORE EDITING! I no longer reach back to rewrite myself and I regret nothing. I have only today and the maybe-perhaps tomorrows, so I refuse to waste any more time in the past. Story exposed as unreliable fiction, interesting but irrelevant.



I wrote this first in mid-November, but decided to tuck it away because it was too personal. Reading it again today, I realize the important lesson it tells deserves some light. Facing whatever comes leads to really knowing ourselves and our strengths. In re-reading this, I noticed that I have only used two names. My sons, Jeff and Drew, are what make me thankful to be on this earth. Everyone else in this essay is on the sidelines, wishing they could be me.

Really Being There

Dedicated to all the children who have made me notice how everything they see is a discovery to be wondered at.

Think about the word “still.” One can be still as in making as little noise as possible. Similarly, one can sit still as in not fidgeting. But still is also related to continuity and permanence, as in the old post office building is still standing after the earthquake. Or he has managed to still believe in himself despite all the doubters around him.

In all its applications, still carries a kind of strength, whether asking you to tamp down behaviors or to recognize how something manages to continue even following negative happenings.

This small word also carries a heap of nonchalance and the innocence of a toddler. As adults, we almost have to sneak up on stillness. However, unless they are hurt or hungry or uncomfortable, children between about six months and two years are constantly discovering. Their world is a brand new version of things we have been taking for granted for years. If we pay attention we can look at things as fresh and intriguing and share their joy and wonder.

There is possibly no other sound as pure as the uncontrolled laugh of a little child whose delight at something explodes in cascading giggles. If we could bottle that sound, it might become the best treatment for depression.

Maybe it’s because the ocean has always been a healing place for me that I find the sounds of seagulls a call to peace and stillness. The ocean is a noisy place with crashing waves, rushing winds, all the people sharing the beach, and the calls of sea birds. But for me each of these can be either a jumble of different instruments tuning up against each other or a symphony of high drama and calming intervals. In this music, the seagulls act as the conductor whose tap for attention guides the listeners to join with the practiced sounds and form a new unity. The ocean is my calm scene.

Try this. Shed the skin of what you just came from and sit still somewhere. Turn off thinking about what you’ve been doing and what you are going to do. Concentrate on senses and ask yourself:

– what do I see?

– what do I hear

– what do I smell?

– how do I feel?

Then close your eyes and ask the same questions. Chances are, you will hear and smell more. You might see things you’ve just noticed in your imagination. You might be surprised at the new sounds that have joined those before you closed your eyes.

Outcome: If you are lucky and able to turn off the rest of your day, prior and coming, you will find before you a richer environment than you thought possible. A walk in the woods becomes a mindful adventure. A pause in a field becomes an aviary. And chances are, you will really smell the sea air or the musty floor of a forest or even nearby flowers you don’t need to stick your nose into.

But there is another layer of paying attention. You begin to notice with your seeing and hearing and feeling the way things appear in these moments. Instead of “seeing” a few birds, you might notice their interactions and imagine their communication.

When you hear a group of children playing, you begin to pay attention to the changes in tone, volume, and expressions, especially if you close your eyes. You might have been annoyed at the “noise,” but now you notice play, friendship, happiness, or sadness and anger. It’s clear to you there is lots more going on around you…layers.

One layer I can get to if I’m really lucky is what I call the focus layer. Since I’ve been a little girl I’ve been able to intensify how I see.

I will never forget stopping to stare at a dragonfly. I began to focus down on it to blur everything around it. I saw the delicate cells in its wings and then noticed that the colorful body looked like an armored war vehicle. I saw how the different body parts were cleverly engineered to move independently. Then I looked at the creature’s eyes and was sure he was looking back at me. I swear I felt something. Whether or not I did connect, I recall thinking that was possible. And if you think about it, why not?

Have you ever seen your heart beat? I do almost any time I’m sitting quietly. It’s almost like my eyes are looking in that “focused down” way I think about, and I can see the beats as movement. I find it interesting that I can’t make myself do it. Gotta think about that. I still smile at his reaction when I said this to my doctor.

As the Northwest enters the rainy season, this little essay is my second commitment to spending a part of everyday outdoors, exercising my body as little as I can and really being wherever I land.

Come with me. Let me know what happens, because things will happen.

Or, Just Plain Stuck?

Just four days after I pledged to spend the next month seeking peace and finding room for my imagination to spread out, I got poison oak! Never had it as a child. I’ve got to say it is a real barricade to an easy mind. I can’t meditate; you know how they tell you to “just let idle thoughts pass through”? That doesn’t mean you can ignore that steady itch. I know there are far worse things I could be dealing with, but this one has put full stop to my ability to just think.

So I’ve let the challenge go for now. I will get better. In the four days before the attack, I came up with an outline for my next book, which I will reveal soon. For now, I’m just trying not to scare small children with how I look.

Back soon. Don’t give up on me, friends.

Stuck in the Middle Again

Stuck in the middle again

I’m somewhere between home and where I’m going, and it’s an uncomfortable place to be. Essentially, I’m nowhere. Having done really extensive editing and rewriting of my novel in the past year, I’m just dribbling out submissions to likely agents and publishers. This doesn’t feel purposeful or smart. 

My mind lies fallow, and it walks endlessly within itself looking for something to write. I am spending far too much time in this chair at my computer, where I grow sluggish and dull. 

So I’m challenging myself. Today is August 14, and I pledge to spend part of each day through September 15 following wherever I lead myself. That will mean stretching myself physically and emotionally and just letting myself pay attention to anything that passes by. I will meditate, listen, let my mind drift, and just BE.

Aside from just wandering, my quest will take me to delicious solitude at the ocean, in a forest, at a waterfall, drinking a glass of wine by myself in a quaint cafe, at a picnic table in a park, and other places that come to mind.

And I will have my journal with me. What happens, will happen, and I will be accutely aware. You’ll be hearing from me here frequently. I ask you to come with me on this journey.

In fact, if you would like to take my challenge, try this yourself. Think of it as our converstation in solitude. Please leave a comment so I know you are “on board.”