Meeting It All

Even the roses today
are limp with surrender.
They nod as if it’s too plum hard
to keep their stems upright.
Can sunlight itself be drab?
It stretches flat into the room
like a tired cat that would rather
not be bothered.
And the vine ripened tomato
has lost its sharp red thrill,
is merely mush in the mouth.
Some hours, grief is so heavy
in me that even the chair
seems unwilling to bear me,
suggests I lie on the ground.
Yes, I feel the whorls of love
that swirl around me like
a thousand tender hands.
I feel them. And I need them.
Because today, the truest thing
is the loss that whispers, Hush, darling,
don’t move. Don’t admire. Don’t
reach. Don’t do. Just lie here.
Just lie here. I’ll hold you.

Morning Encouragement

I would like to be a kingfisher—
just for a morning.
I’d arrive at the edge of the pond
with the other kingfishers
and watch for crawdads.
“Catchin’ any?” I’d say
to the birds on my right.
“Nah,” they’d say,
“But we keep trying.”
“Good luck,” I’d say,
as took my own spot
in the branches,
waiting for the pond to still
so I could see the movement
at the bottom.
“Good luck,” they’d squawk back,
then they’d rattle with laughter
when at last I broke the pond surface
and came up, beak empty.
“Tough day at the pond,”
they’d rib. And I’d laugh, too.
Then we’d dive and dive and dive.
So often I come up empty.
How is it I sometimes forget to laugh?
But that morning,
every now and then,
one bird would get lucky.
“Your turn next,” she’d say,
her mouth full of shell.
And I’d laugh at how unglamorous
success can be. How crunchy.
All morning we’d go on like this,
diving and missing
and crunching and missing
and laughing and missing
so that by noon
when I was human again,
when I came up empty as I often do—
hungry for love, or eloquence or purpose—
I’d say to myself, “try again, darlin,”
and I’d try again, then break out
into a laughter wildly true,
the world rippling around me
like a pond that I trust
will eventually still.

One Inner Weather Report

months after the storm
the rain

How the Healing Happens

for Paul Fericano and so many others

I turn first to the chapter
on techniques for broken wings.
I learn of contour splints and anchor tape
and reasons why most broken wings
should not be completely immobilized.

I am not so unlike an injured bird.
Struck down by grief, I too, am unable to fly.
Even walking, I find I’m off balance.
I’m best treated without an audience.
I heal best with absolute calm.

I was unsure at first why my friend
would have sent me—along with tea,
chocolate, crackers and sweet biscuits—
a book on “kitchen healing:”
how to treat injured wildlife at home.

But there beneath the image
of a simple wing break, I read,
a sentence like a prophecy:
“Nature starts the healing process
almost as soon as the injury occurs.”

And I feel, to my surprise,
the tender places where the bones
of my wings no longer protrude.
And though my joints are rigid,
with supports, I’m recovering.

And I am thankful for all the hands of friends—
unskilled, untrained, yet willing to try.
Hands that send letters and blankets
and feathers and books. Calm hands
that help heal these fractures until I can fly.

*Quote from Care of the Wild Feathered & Furred: A Guide to Wildlife Handling & Care by Mae Hickman and Maxine Guy (Unity Press, 1973)

Thank You, Gary Paulsen

 You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
            —from Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, (May 17, 1939-October 14, 2021) 

How many children went down in that plane, Gary?
How many children fell out of the sky alone
and learned they could live
for months in the woods
with only a hatchet for help?
How many kids learned
that tough conditions were a bidding
to bring their best self?
My daughter was nine or ten
when she first drew your book from the shelf
and found herself stranded in the northern woods.
Then she went there on purpose again and again.

Now, three years later, she wanders a forest of loss,
and in so many ways she’s alone.
Gary, you gave her a story to believe in
in which young people survive, find their way home.
Your story’s a sharp tool my daughter can wield
to make sparks in these darkened days.
I thank you for teaching her
how she might rise from a crash,
how in these woods of sorrow,
though I would build her a fire if I could,
she is the best thing she has.

*In case you are unfamiliar with Gary Paulsen, you can read more here. As he says, “Name the book that made the biggest impression on you. I bet you read it before you hit puberty.”

No Trophy, But

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly
feel more love than I do,
today, the heart beats its own record—
falls in love with my daughter
singing Disney in the car.
In love with my husband
heating water for my tea.
In love with the leaves as they spread
golden praise through the yard.
In love with the sacred mess.
In love with each person who
meets another with kindness.
I fall in love with cats and candles,
the hill as I climb it,
the wind as it chills me,
and sunflowers that bloom despite snow.
And the raw me who aches, I love her, too.
And the naked me who weeps—
what else is she supposed to do?
And the quiet that comes
when I lean in to listen to what is most true.
It wasn’t a love contest today,
and yet, inside me, love continued to grow.
Last week, I felt emptied, scoured,
scraped clean, prepared for something—
I knew not what.
Perhaps I was being prepared for more love.
Love for the emptiness. Love for the scouring.
Love for the being scraped clean. Love
that expands despite heartache, because heartache.
Love that asks nothing. And gives it all.
And keeps giving.

Delivering on a Promise

Perhaps three years ago
my son gave me three paper slips,
each one an IOU with his name and phone number
and the promise to do whatever I asked him to do.

I saved the slips in my bathroom drawer
where they mingled with hair ties
and toothpaste tubes,
until a month ago, when I wrote on one
in small blue cursive,
Please send a sign to your sister you love her.

And today, two months after his death,
a single postcard came, addressed to my daughter,
a postcard sent from Minnesota
but written in his hand.

It doesn’t say I love you. It’s a photo
of an old marketplace in Cusco,
a city he visited one week before he died.
He tells her about it, says it’s a place he enjoys.

And there, on the four-by-six cardstock,
unfurling between his handwritten words
is the unsaid message she seldom heard—

You’re important to me.
I love you. I miss you.
I’m grateful you’re in my life.

Consider this poem a thank you letter
addressed to what I can’t understand.
Thank you for finding a way to say
the words that couldn’t be said.
Thank you for letting an absence
tell a larger story. Thank you
for unusual postage.
For wonder. For special delivery.


And there on the statement,
between the hardware store expense
and the do-it-yourself car wash,
was the charge
for Henderson and Sons Funeral Home.
How to reconcile this tide of loss?
Nowhere in my books
is a column for devastation.
No account for anguish,
for the loss of a slender young man
who loved ice cream
and cherries and helped me
roast pumpkins for pie.
There’s no way this number
on the statement can equate
to the boy who threw rocks in the river,
who snuggled with me
on the couch before school,
who built cars out of cardboard
and shish kebob sticks.
I can’t make it equal the seventeen years
we swam and hiked and baked
and sang—nor the years
he wept and raged and ached,
those years I learned how to pray.
In these unmoored days,
when I am more driftwood than boat,
I float through the churning wreckage of hope
and beg myself, stay open.
I lack the callous math
for such reconciliations.
I sob into the columns,
and the heart takes the lead—
it knows nothing of counting, of sums.
It knows only to love, to love.

Hey friends, as some of you know, I am a co-leader of Secret Agents of Change–a surreptitious kindness cabal. My amazing co-leader, Sherry Richert Belul, suggested we do a special secret mission in my son Finn’s honor. We hope you will join us on Wednesday for Operation: Finn.

What does this entail? We will do a live zoom call on Wednesday morning, 8:30 Mountain Time, in which I will read a poem and then Sherry will offer a simple prompt based on the poem that will send you out into the world with love and purpose. If you are interested in signing up, you can visit here: https://simplycelebrate.net/secret-agents-of-change/ . Sherry will send out a link to the zoom meeting. 


If you can’t make it to our live gathering, you can find the poem and prompt later that day at our Secret Agents of Change FaceBook page.

In either case, we invite all secret agents to report back on our FaceBook page–you can share how you carried out your mission. It’s wonderful to read how other people have gone into the world to share love. I hope you’ll join us. It’s fun and free and life- and love-affirming. 


Moon broken, my son said
when he was two,
and he pointed east
to the quarter moon.
Mommy fix it.

He believed I could.
I wanted to believe it, too,
wanted to believe
I could fix any broken thing—

the loose button on a doll,
the ripped page in a book,
a scraped up knee,
a tattered dream.

Tonight I gaze
at the low crescent moon.
I have lost my belief
in fixing.

Count me among
the broken things.
And my son is gone.
And my son is gone.
And the beautiful moon slips lower
into the almost dark.

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