Archives for November 2013

27 November 2013

This post could be titled “On Laity Lodge,” but I didn’t want to jump in with all the really wonderful things that have already been said from last weekend’s participants. Besides, I’m not exactly new. I’ve been going out there for 20 years and to the canyon for more than 30, back to when I was a camper at LLYC.

Also, I really hate when you can’t go to a special event and everyone else is gushing about it over all forms of social media. I’ve been in that position many times, so I wanted to spare some of you who may be reading this.

But I will say this one thing because there are three people I want to thank.

When you arrive at Laity, the first thing you do is hug people. You might say I was hugging “in name only.” One person later said I looked “crumpled.” Another said I “didn’t feel solid.”

The second thing you do after you arrive is check in. I checked in to find out they’d lost my roommate reservation, and by the way, would you mind switching rooms because an older lady has a special need. I honestly didn’t mind switching rooms, but what was I supposed to do with my stuff? It was all still in my car.

“We’ll help you bring it down,” said a friend. Two other friends said they’d help, too.

“I guess we’ll just leave it all out here? By the fountain?” I said. “I mean, nothing’s gonna happen to it.”

They all laughed at the ridiculous idea of someone taking your stuff at Laity Lodge when it’s laying out in the open.

So, the four of us went to my car. Everyone took a bag or two. Then we walked back down and set them in a heap on the stones until my room situation got resolved.

I know I’m over-spiritualizing here, but it honestly felt like those three friends carried my burdens. One of those friends knows everything that’s happened this past year. One knows a good 75 percent. The other knew nothing. Everyone took a bag or two.

And that’s kind of what the whole weekend was like. At meals or at sitting-around-talking time, everyone took a bag or two. I never had to carry too much at any given time.

So, thank you to you three—you know who you are. Maybe someday I can return the favor.



25 November 2013

Thank you all who read the list of things I learned, and a special thank you to all who commented. You made my day!

Guess who was happy I came home yesterday? Polo and Clover. I didn’t even pull the car into the garage, and they still heard me coming. It was nice to mobbed by them all last night. Today, things are back to normal. We got in a walk before the rain came back, and now they’re keeping warm and dry indoors.

I’m hoping it snows so I can refresh their little doggie memories on this meteorological miracle.


23 November 2013

Here’s a quote from “E.B. White on Dogs,” which still inspires me:

“In a letter to his brother, White wrote: ‘I discovered a long time ago that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace.’”

Uh, yes. Thank you, Mr. White.

21 November 2013

Today is a Thursday, and I’m counting it as my Thanksgiving Day. Next Thursday is the real Thanksgiving, and we’ll be with family. I’ve always started my personal new year’s with Advent, so Thanksgiving is traditionally when I reflect on the year that is past.

Some year.

Usually, I’m not a what-have-we-learned kind of girl, but this year? Yeah, I’ve learned a few things.

*) You need a friend who will feed you when you don’t feel like eating. And a friend who will call you when you don’t feel like talking.

*) Sweet Marley’s in Fredericksburg is the best place for a big talk. Frozen yogurt with toppings is optional.

*) Being in the background and helping other people shine is fun.

*) Classical music helps put my mind on a good track. It’s not that it’s relaxing, but that I begin to think in the language of music and notes and intervals and rhythms, which is freeing.

*) I should’ve bought the Harry Potter audiobooks years ago.

*) Clara in “Lonesome Dove” is my hero.

*) If you’re suffering, it’s nice to be Catholic.

*) My dad’s advice makes more sense to me than anyone else’s.

*) Sometimes good things are happening that you can’t see.

*) Patty Griffin radio and Andrew Duhon radio (on Pandora) have brought me much happiness.

*) Poetry puts me in a different place than any other writing I do. It’s a space I can stay.

*) Buying Bath & Body Works soaps is worth it just for the joy of happy scents.

*) Apparently, the Holy Spirit lives in the Wellness Center pool. That’s where he speaks to me.

*) A good haircut and a mani/pedi are better than therapy.

*) A hot bath is also sometimes better than therapy.

*) Giving up running was the right decision. I’m missing it now that it’s getting cooler in the mornings, but today was the first time in five months that I could walk the dogs for over an hour and not be in any pain.

*) Sometimes I need fiction, and sometimes I need nonfiction. What I do not need is self-help or inspiration. Bleah.

*) Sunday afternoons are best spent either at a matinee—preferably at the theater, but the movies are a good backup.

*) New cycling routes are good for the soul. I so wish my tire weren’t flat today!

*) Dark chocolate is a must.

*) Wednesdays are a good day to clean, if I can spare the time.

*) Tea really does have curative powers. At the moment there are nine different kinds in my cabinet.

*) People can actually surprise you. I’ve had support from people I hardly know. I’ve had condemnation from people I love.

*) Creativity and anger are not compatible.

*) New is necessary.

*) Facebook isn’t all bad, and Twitter isn’t all good.

*) I actually do like the beach. A lot.

*) “This American Life” is cheap therapy.

*) I can be petty and cruel.

*) There is a limit to how much of your pain other people can take.

*) My dogs can take all of my pain, as long as I rub their bellies.

*) Fall decorations bought in September are totally worth it.

*) Football is a welcome diversion in times of stress. Baylor, you picked a great year to have a great season. Also, invest in stadium seats if you’re over 21.

*) What I think we should do is not always what we should do.

*) Oatmeal tastes amazing after a three-hour bike ride.

*) The only good thing about my mom not being here is that I learned how to ride the grief train. It’s demystified this process.

*) My mother was right.

*) There is no point in defending yourself when a person has already made up their mind. Wait patiently for truth to be revealed.

*) Routine is balm to the soul in dark days.

*) Veggies make me smile.

*) It was 2013! I should’ve known it would be a rough year. They don’t have 13th floors, do they? Why must we endure 13th years? At least I know I won’t be around to witness 2113, unless I live to 142. Which, please, God, no. Come, Lord Jesus!

*) I actually can live without going to Colorado every summer.

*) Sometimes the reason you go on a retreat is not the reason you were meant to go. To my 12 special friends, you were last year’s reason.

19 November 2013

Recently, I was visiting with a woman who’d had dogs almost all her life—until the last one died a couple of years ago. And when she finally didn’t have one, she realized she actually did not like dogs all that much.

I’m kind of the opposite. I didn’t have dogs for most of my growing years—just here and there. But it turns out I like them quite a lot.

17 November 2013

Has anyone missed poetry? I haven’t written any since September. Just found this one in my stash.




Not enough, I reckon

not enough to hang your hat on

where you could say, “You know Ralph? My guardian angel? He’s got my back.”


Them angels did leave a few ghost stories

and Michaelmas—a day that’s not so much about them as about

hunkerin’ down for winter


Put away your fishin’ pole

Annie, get your gun

Bring out the candles

Brew up the hard cider and throw in some ginger so you don’t catch cold

Settle your scores

Get those asters in the ground quick


What was ain’t no more and won’t be again.

Brace yourselves.

16 November 2013

I found this quote yesterday on The Writer’s Almanac.

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”            Georgia O’Keefe

14 November 2013

Yesterday was our first freeze. Of course, Polo and Clover can’t read a weather app, so they didn’t know it was cold until we went outside, just like we do every morning.

It’s like they forgot about cold. It ceased to exist for them during the previous seven months since our last freeze.

I got the leashes out of the garage and brought them to the back porch, and the dogs stayed huddled together in the doorway. Their tails were wagging, but they weren’t moving — not until I called them.

Once they were laced up, we had a nice walk. When a cool front comes in, it blows away the clouds, so we could see the stars. We did our 30 minutes, then they ate and scuttled back inside as fast as they could.

15 November 2013

Mary Oliver has a new poetry book titled “Dog Songs.” It was released in October.

I did my 31 Days of Dogs in October.

Coincidence? I think not.

I love that Oliver doesn’t give a lot of interviews. She lets her work speak for itself. Of course, when your poetry wins the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, you can do that sort of thing. I was introduced to her collection “American Primitive” in college by Professor Ann Miller, who was rapturous about Oliver.

I haven’t written many dog poems. I wrote a dog column while I was doing the 31 Days. I guess you could classify my October blog posts as dog musings.

Oliver’s poems I’ve seen excerpted in reviews of “Dog Songs” are wonderful. In a rare interview with the New York Times, Oliver said, “Dogs are perfect companions. They don’t speak.”

Usually, I listen to a podcast while I walk my dogs, but I’ve kept it quiet these last few mornings. Clover and Polo have not complained.

13 November 2013

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
1 Corinthians 15:41

That translation is from the Miles Coverdale Bible, also known as the Great English Bible. It predates the King James (1535), and I think it can’t be beat for sheer poetry.

It has phrases like “Thy property is always to have mercy” and “be the people never so unpatient … be the earth never so unquiet.”

I read it before bed from a devotional built around the 1662 version of The Book of Common Prayer. It has great phrases like “And there is no health in us” and “Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us” and “for, Lord, thou know’st us frail.”

There are days that all I do is kneel by my bed at the end of the day and read these exquisite phrases.