Eastern Sierras in the Fall

Writing by the lake. In my dreams I’ve sat here on a cold rock bathing in the silence of air. 

No sounds. 

No talking. Just the tap, tap, tapping of my fingers against the keyboard, which, in this environment, is amplified, sounding vulgar and intrusive. 

It takes a week for me into settle into place. It takes a week not being busy, not traveling or sight-seeing to really nuzzle into peaceful slumber, into me. 

Last night, four eves into my Fall Leaves 2022 Sojourn, I was restless. All the second-guessing surfaced. I cried. Finally. Over my decision to sell my home, which I loved. I sobbed, like a requited lover, will I ever have a home, a place, that I loved as much as Angel Cove Cottage By the Sea? Was I hasty? Was I caught up in Real Estate Fever-Sell High/Buy Low-Frenzy? It was kinda pathetic, but cathartic too. When you are alone and have no one to bounce ideas off with, your brain becomes its own ping pong table. Yes no, yes, no, wrong, right. 

Now, sitting along the lake, in the early morning light, I can see those midnight doubts for what they are: Fear. Which is natural, expected, and part of this rocket to the moon called growth.  

I suppose it’s like leaving a relationship that you have fought for, worked at, but realize that at the end of the day, you just don’t have the enthusiasm to keep up the battle; your partner isn’t going to change, doesn’t want to change, and those same problems that ticked you off—for years—have jailed you in a hamster wheel waste of life. Your life, the life I am living along this lovely creek besides The Best Campsite I Have Ever Stayed at In My Life. Clean, quiet, my God, the campground host blows out the firepit and level—LEVEL—asphalt pad every time a camper checks out! Temps here are perfect—72 degrees during the day, a refreshing 32 degrees at night.

It’s not that I couldn’t have found this place if I still had my home, still had my marriage. But it would be different. I would have had definitions, guidelines, that didn’t look or feel at all like the picture in my head: falling, flame red and mustard yellow birch leaves, goose bump breezes and the mardis gras mountain creek. Yes, it’s all a party, every day, every moment. Fall is Nature’s season of peace. 

The stillness, the openness, I feel being here with my dear Monet would not have happened if I didn’t lose the book ends of my life, if I didn’t leave, say goodbye, shut the door of my old life, my over-planning-worries, I wouldn’t have experienced this heaven on Earth. Not like this.  

I realize that my doubts are another expression of fear. It’s a weight that keeps me from moving forward. It’s natural. Just as natural as back-tracking, returning to old habits—forgiving, again, looking at the good while ignoring the bad, eating sugar, spending too much, drinking too much, craving acceptance and all my other go-tos.   

But here I am with my laptop writing at the base of the Eastern Sierras. I haven’t had breakfast—my traditionally boring, but healthy, kefir and Fuji apple—my two cups of very strong coffee are all I need to keep me  warm and alert this fine, 30-degree morning. My senses are acute and alive. 

To be alone in the wilderness. Well, not exactly alone, alone. There are stores and gas stations and restaurants and hotels and portapotties and hikes and places to go grocery shopping and camp neighbors. And I love it. And I love it. 

Sitting on this shimmering granite stone, grateful for the intense sun on my back, knowing that today’s agenda includes taking a glorious $4 shower, finishing “Love in the Time of Cholera”, and dabbling at my painting, maybe even taking a nap, I know that being here is more than enough. Time to put up the hammock.  

My new home

So many times I wanted to write to you—to me—in my sweet-like-a-child attempt to capture the moment, the day, the weeks. But, alas, the day-to-day responsibilities of couch-surfing, of determiming where I am needed, where I need to go for a night or several, stole my desire to sit down and write. 

In case you need an update, here’s a numerical (it’s tres neat) summary of my life off the road: 

  1. Helped my Ex transition into a hotel while he awaits a permanent new address. We lunched. Erranded. Hung out. Birthdayed. Argued, a bit, and came to a resolution that God is right there in the center of our lives, that He has our backs, that we need to be more open and patient. 
  2. Prepared for my month-long, on-the-road adventure to experience the Fall colors along the 395 and destinations unknown.
  3. Enjoyed the company of other dogs, my cousins’, as my amigos and I house-sat while they helped a family member recover from a nasty accident.
  4. Spent a ton of money fixing my camper van, Luna Bella Blu, and took a drive to check out a Sprinter camper, which turned out not to be the best fit for me right now. 

See, not all that exciting? However, learning to be a vagabond, living out of a suitcase, realizing I really need very little to be happy, that I still worry even though I don’t need to worry, are helping me step forward into a completely different life. As a lifelong planner/preparer/anticipater/Plan B-er this new, let’s see how it works out lifestyle is taking a minute or to to adjust to. 

Nothing is magic, yet everything is magical and soft and vibrant and possible. I say this as I sit along a creek outside Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, CA, the campsite I thought I had reserved, but turns out, there are A LOT of Twin Lakes in the U.S. and even California. My five nights were reserved for the Twin Lakes near Mammoth not near Bodie. I decided to stay here the night because it is perfect. I have cool, quiet neighbors, Jim and Kathy, the stream, asphalt for Luna, and 72 degree temps and the Fall colors and a much-welcome brief rainstorm. In fact, the place is so picture-perfect that I’ve reserved another night just in case I don’t like the Twin Lakes campground down south. This sweet spot is going to be hard to beat. There’s nothing like the baptismal, healing qualities of a babbling mountain creek and a cup of, now cold, coffee. My soul already feels quieter.

On the weekend, my son and my two grandsons were in Barstow camping in 90+ degree temperatures at a ghost town founded by the guy who established Knotts Berry Farm–Callico. We love it there! Lots of old mining stories and trinkets to lure tourists. And icy cold beer and bottles of sassperilla. The boys love taking their pick axes and shovels, mining headlamps and hammers and chipping away at the hillside looking for silver and other treasures.

Their great Uncle Randy introduced Callico to my kids when they were in elementary school. It’s a kid-friendly day trip, but in our case, we spent the night so the cousins could have fun the next day. As Bronson said, “Grandma, I never want to leave here.” While the heat was repressive, an EasyUp provided the shade we needed to survive. Turns out in Southern California, October really isn’t Fall, it’s the peak of summer. Next time, we’ll probably camp toward the beginning of November when it’s cooler and less crowded.

From Barstow, I took off for my Monet-and-her-Mama camping trip along the Eastern Sierras. I have been fantasizing about this trip for a year. While I’m always a bit nervous camping by myself, after the first night all the familiar feelings re-surface and I realize that when I’m in Nature I’m home. It feels safe and secure and meant-to-be. 

In the city, back home in the South Bay, I was overwhelmingly nostalgic. I felt sad and melancholy. I doubted my decision to sell my home. I second-guessed everything, was on the Internet far too much, watched TV “news”, caught up on “Handmaid’s Tale”, and felt worried and lost. “Where would I spend the night?” “How could I help Bruce?” “What could I do with Monet since she couldn’t stay with me?” and on and on and on. 

As I told my sister, I think I need more separation from my old life in order to feel the contentment of my new one. 

And so, for the next bunch of weeks I will be gone. Limited cell reception. High gas prices. My cozy and cramped VW. Vegetables, fruit and a mostly healthy menu, some great wines, strong coffee, my paints, my writing, my ukulele, new hiking boots, my writing and, of course, my senior citizen traveling companion, Monet. 

California forest service campgrounds are all about to shut down for the season. Soon, I will be boondocking on BLM land. This, too, is a new experience. I have a couple of nights booked at a cool little hotel my son likes, but other than that, it’s $14 a night camping, until it’s free. I’m excited about having the time to work on my book and being totally embraced with a sense of peace only Nature can provide. This fresh, fresh air. The quietude. The positivity of clouds and trees and birds and trout and bright orange leaves and a passing rain that pushes you to adapt, jacket-up, and say thank you for realizing there is more to life than the nonsense of politics and anger and the need to always be “right”, unless it’s right now, this moment, enjoying the pause button called Real Life. 

The Library

This is the third time I’ve been to the Cambria Public Library on my trip to nowhere, my pause, before the next step. I am surrounded by masters. I am in a sanctuary of accomplished and one-hit (maybe) wonders and writers who got their words noticed by a publisher and now they wait to be consumed. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? What makes one book worthy and another book destined for the recycling bin? 

As a former English Language Arts teacher and journalist, I know good stories are about structure, about the peaks and valleys, about relatable characters and settings, a writer’s style, and for many of us readers, the lesson so we can possibly apply the protagonist’s wisdom to our own lives.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m writing a book called “Fourteen Summers”. It is loosely based on my life.  Right now, I’m harvesting experiences and ideas, paying attention to things I brisked past without a second thought. I am noticing things like the humming air conditioner and the young homeless guy in the corner, the same man I saw yesterday outside the library, lounging in the sun, tapping into the free WiFi because the building was closed. I have conversations with older people, and younger folk. I am aware of my weary, camping bones and the fact that a siren just sliced the quiet and yet a month ago I was numb to those commonplace shrieks.

All these fictional and non-fiction characters aisled next to me, bidding me to join their ranks. Imposing. But welcoming. 

I picked up a few more $2 novels books for my weeks ahead, books that have been on the best seller list, that I finally have time to learn from. I am currently reading a Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Never Let Go”, that I have been patient with. I’m not loving it, but at some point soon I hope to better understand what other readers appreciated. 

Which brings me to the topic of letting go. 

I let go of material items. Now, it is time to let go of a human. My ex. We’ve been divorced for 15 years. I have loved. I have cared. And I still will. But he has given me permission to move on. He wants to figure out his life. Without me.

You might think, “Wow, what a gift!” And it is. And I know. But it is strange. Because I think he needs me. But he has made it very clear, he doesn’t. 

I am not needed.

By any other human.

Everyone is independent, self-reliant. The only soul who needs me is my Monet, whom I’ve learned to channel my 24/7 love. Just me and my girl, travelling along the road of life. 

I’ve read about people like me. I’ve admired them. So independent. 

I’m a modern-day pioneer woman, on the road in my covered VW Eurovan Camper wagon. As a little girl, I always related to “Little House on the Prairie” books. Laura was me. Well, it’s a lot different from those days, but I am forging a path across the prairie of a new America, one that has goodness, one that has dangers, one that has hope. 

I love it how books started my life, I let go of them for a bit, and now they have returned. This quote by my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, sums it up:  “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” 

What books are you reading? I’d love to add them to my list.

Safe travels everyone!

Sound of Silence

The campground is still. Everyone cleared out early this beautiful, drizzly, grey morning because of last night’s downpour. I can’t blame them. I did the same thing, breaking camp at record speed from the primitive campground I was able to secure at the last minute. When I arrived, it was dusty and dirty but after Saturday’s monsoon rains, I woke up to ponds of mud. Dogs and mud and camping, I don’t think so, so Monet and I and headed into town for a cup of Lily’s latte and a veggie breakfast burrito. 

Right now, and I suspect for the rest of the week while I’m here, it will remain quiet. Labor Day is a full week behind us and now us retirees come out of the woodwork and pantomime part-aaywhoot, whoot—like it’s 1976. 

Right now, I can hear the rush-rush-rush of The-Weekend’s-Over-traffic, but it is muffled, almost like the breaking waves. This stillness, this calmness, sitting under my black umbrella as the rain drizzles around me, feels like my mother’s powder puff on my ruddy cheeks. When Katie was born, 31 years ago, everyone in the household was holy, reverentially, silent. We tiptoed. We spoke in whispers. We were in awe and transfixed by this tiny fawn of a human child. Being silent in Nature is like that. And even though “civilization” is just a mile away, I am uplifted, swaddled by an imaginary stork.


The rain is so welcomed to drought-weary California. Even though it can mess up plans—camping, outdoor birthday parties, hikes—it is an exciting reminder of change, how, as much as we try to be organized, we’re actually not in control of the big stuff, like the weather, or accidents, or terminal diseases. 

Living-in-the-moment is my new discipline. Clearly, I need a lot more practice!

Having time helps, as does not worrying about unpaid bills. I had no idea that this State of Being was even possible.  To sit, like I am, drinking a very strong cup of Kona coffee at my favorite campsite on a Sunday afternoon, not stressing about rushing home, what I’m going to teach tomorrow, watching the little yellow bird jump from bush to bush, enjoying my own company, is astounding, is an experience I wish everyone could also enjoy. 

I am grateful that I was able jump when I was ready, that nothing pushed me off the edge; an illness, a financial calamity, a negative attitude about my home, my family, my city. I left with tears in my eyes, and love. 

I suppose I’ll be processing the why I left and its implications for some time to come. What I know is I craved silence. I craved the white space of a clean canvas. I craved staring at the ocean for as long as I want. I craved saturating myself in being open to conversations with strangers, paying attention to interactions and relationships, being the observer and, when it feels right, the participant. 

So yesterday, after a night at a dog-friendly hotel and enjoying an engaging dinner with my dear friends, Julie and her best-guy-ever husband, Ken, I decided to save money on a second night at the hotel, and reserved a primitive campground just a mile east of the one I booked for the upcoming  week. I’m in wine country and driving past some of my favorite wineries without stopping was weird and very much unlike me; I figured, I’m by myself, I have my dog, it’s hot, and solo wine tasting isn’t fun if you don’t have a buddy with you. 

But the vibrational pull of Vineyard Drive off the 46 and my favorite wineries was just too much for me. 

You know, I had no choice. So, I turned right at the turnabout and took my Aloha Time down the oak-tree canopied winding road. 

The folks at Rangeland Wines on the westernmost edge of Paso Robles are like family to me, so I figured I wouldn’t feel so pathetic wine-tasting alone. I love the owners, Laird and Lisa Foshay, their writer son, Jackson, and their sweet black and white herder pup. We always talk about the books we’re reading, the complexities of Climate Change, of course wine, and sometimes poetry.  

Saturday, the tasting room was packed, more patrons than I’d ever seen before, but somehow Rangeland’s accommodating staff found room for me and seated Monet and I next to four senior citizen regulars; we immediately begin chatting about dogs, how my cattle dog isn’t especially friendly, and how much we loved Rangeland. 

One of the men, a particularly upbeat, chatty guy, shared that he was celebrating because he sold his house—full asking price on the first day—and would be moving to Utah to a senior citizen complex that provides assisted living. “Weren’t you sad?” I asked. “Hell no! I’m sick of all the work,” he said.  His friend, a woman who appeared to be in her mid70s, said they would be joining him in a couple of years because they can’t stand the Governor and the direction California appears to be heading. “It’s not so bad here, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco it’s just awful,” she complained, assuming I was on the same political page as her. 

I didn’t get into it with her, but I love California, just like my immigrant parents did. Sure, there are parts that are annoying. The traffic. The congestion. The home prices. The homeless problem. But that’s true of all cities, I suspect. But look at our beaches. Look at our mountains, our National Parks, our economic opportunities, our diversity. Look at Kirk, one of the servers at Eberle Winery, another winery I stopped at (couldn’t help myself—it was close to the hotel!); he’s a long-retired principal (his son is also a principal) and he’s in love with his second career, pouring wine and talking about the challenges teachers and children face, and wondering about solutions. 

“My son is in the class teaching because there aren’t enough teachers to fill the vacancies,” he said. 

My friend, Julie, whose daughter is also a principal, told me the same thing. Hopeful educators are burning out, yearning to leave the profession. Educators are being blamed for problems they didn’t cause and can’t solve. 

Man, oh man, we knew this was coming. It was predicted 20 years ago when I went back to college, at age 44, to earn my teaching credential and Master’s degree. We actually do know how to fix it: Teachers need to be respected monetarily. Teachers also need time to reflect and restore. Finland figured this out at the end of World War II when they systematically re-evaluated, and addressed, their national values and priorities; they made societal changes accordingly. I remember meeting a young Finnish mother on a paid-for, year-long maternity leave as we were waiting to get our passports renewed; she said that in her nation teachers are placed on a pedestal,”They more important than doctors.”

See, as I’ve been sitting here relaxing, thinking about birds and trees and the walk I’m going to go on in a few minutes now that the rain has stopped, I’m not checking out. I’m restoring. Getting better. Maybe edging to a place, in the future—not now—of boredom. At some point, I’m going to get tired of reading and relaxing. And no, as my sister asked today, “Do ever get lonely?” Not yet. I talk to people. Listen. I have days and weeks to think, which is what everyone needs.

Did I tell you, I’m on my second book, “The Namesake”, a paperback I picked up for a dollar at the library? Did I tell you that I once again crave writing? Did I tell you I’ve painted my second watercolor? Did I tell you that for the first time in years I languished in the hammock, fell asleep, and had a dream? Did I tell you today feels like Fall? Did I tell you a woman who was walking behind me noticed these magical, crispy yellow leaves dropping on me like a bride on her way to her honeymoon, and said, “Make a wish. It’s supposed to be good luck”? 

I stopped on the muddy pathway, arched by poplar trees and a ribbon of campfire smoke, and closed my eyes.

There I was, 66 but feeling like 6, believing in Santa Claus, the magic of Walt Disney, and all the songs of my youth that said dreams really do come true. 

So, what did I dream? You know I can’t tell. But I’ll let you know when it happens. 

Week Three Without a Home

I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding this. Writing. Figuring things out. The Scary Silence. The deadline-less lifestyle. The lack of traffic and noise. The simple, simple life I lead. Surely, in this floatation passage of Week Three Without a Home I have figured out some Epic Truth About Life?

I haven’t heard the St. Winifred’s Grappenhall Church bells yet. No rainbows. No shooting stars.

Fleeting moments of wisdom sail across the sea, bringing tears to my eyes. And then, just as suddenly, I forget what moved me and lounge chair-rest into The Moment, you know, the state of just being, a wave pattern of bliss; nothing else matters but the here and now. 

I sleep late. I’m resting better than I have in years. Yes, I get up, toss and turn—courtesy of my aching bones. But I am sleeping soundly beneath the stars, to the sound machine of the beckoning ocean waves. Sometimes, I think about the “shoe” dropping, a problem that is expensive or I can’t solve; problems with the house, the sale of the house, my bank robbed, or the engine of my 21-year-old van blowing up (even though I just spent a ton of $$$ fixing it). Worries are still there, but they are pale blue instead of Las Vegas neon. 

I am enjoying my wine.

Over the last three days, I have consumed 1½ bottles of wine. By myself. Me. Alone. Solo. Starting with dinner—olive bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese, green peas, a handful of walnuts—my first night. Adding a Chardonnay  from Castle Rock today at lunch and finishing last night’s J. Dusi red wine blend (all-women run company) as I consume the last chapter of a book I’ve been reading for months, Sue Monk Kidd’s “A Book of Longings”. The book, if you haven’t read it, is about the imagined wife of Jesus, Ana. She longs for, thus the title of the book, respect and a chance to pursue a career beyond her marriage to her very cool, very hip and adorable life partner. While the premise may offend some, I appreciate Kidd’s, “I wonder what would happen if….?” curiosity and her exhaustive research. 10/10 for originality, writing style and escapism. 

So, what is so pressing that I felt the need to pull out my laptop and document my status quo as I sit beneath the blooming stars and almost-full moon at a not-perfect camp spot near Cambria, my most favorite place on the planet?

Truth Time:

1. This is my home.

2. I need to wander.

3. I need to be here.

I’ve known this for more than 30 years. I’ve camped along the Central Coast for decades, usually about six times a year. The air. The wind. The skies. The crisp fog. The rain. The stillness.  

            The peace

            The peace. 

            The peace.

I am alone on this camping trip.  But I am not. Everything is familiar. Everything is comfortable. I am at ease. I am where I am supposed to be. My landing place. My raft in the stormy seas. 

Literally, every single time I Ieave Cambria, I feel like crying. And I do. 

Upon leaving, I try to talk myself out of chest-crushing sadness and give myself a pep talk, “You’ll be back soon enough.” I do my best to avoid L.A. Freeway Hell. But it never fails, the traffic, the people, the foul, heat and smoggy weather, always greets me like a Haunted Mansion Ghoul. I just don’t like Southern California any more. 

It has been my home for 66 years. And I think, no, I’m pretty sure, I want a divorce. 

                                                                                             *  *  * 

It’s September, 

           post Labor Day, 

           post most kids back to school, 

           Wednesday evening, 

           by myself, 

           in a campground I’ve been to dozens and dozens of times before; 

           there is something so familiar and reassuring and meant-to-be;

           it is hard to fathom why it’s hard to write, 

          hard to think, 

          hard to commit to The Next Step, 

          The Next Chapter, 

          the Next Place.

It’s here.

I’ve known it for as long as I’ve known myself.

Soon. I’d say within the next year, I will find the perfect place. Within my budget. With a view of the sea. Charming. Vintage. Feels like home. Because it will be. 

This will be my place. No regrets. A fresh start. 

While I long to wander, I also know I need a nest. 

I met a woman at the local grocery store today. She was in her 80s. I told her I’ve been dreaming of living here for 30+ years. She said, “You should do it,” and smiled before shifting lanes and chatting with a cashier friend. She could be me in 30 years. A little old lady content with life. 

We met up again, outside the grocery store, and I offered to help her onto the Cambria Community bus. “One day, I hope to be your neighbor,” I said. “But not just yet. I am on a traveling adventure.” 

“Good for you,” she said, smiling again. “Do it while you can.”  

That’s what people tell me. Travel while you can. 

Things happen. The Great Next. But for now, I’m cruising in my VW camper van, staying open, learning lessons, trying to listen, and enjoying the feeling of floating on a flaming pink floaty to destinations unknown. 


I’ve been sleeping on the porch for the last two nights. Just can’t get enough of the ocean, the rainstorms, the stars, the singing birds, the clouds, the trade winds, the feeling of total love and relaxation here in Paradise, otherwise known as Kaena, Kauai. 

We are staying at my niece’s friend’s charming, vintage, Hawaiianesque/Malibu-y cottage a stone’s throw from the ocean. I’m with Julie’s family, my sister and cousin and today is our last full day. And no, I don’t want to leave. Ever. I want to wave goodbye to my peeps and say, “Mahalo, I’ll see you when you come back,” and then have my third mug of Kona coffee and return to the porch, read, write, create art, listen to Hawaiian music and later in the day, wander over to the food trucks for some dinner. Or maybe I’ll eat two papayas instead, with a scoop of yogurt and macademia nut granola. 

It is sprinkling again. And my sun-dried, ocean-crisped skin is, fortunately, re-hydrating. The birds, these fascinating, abundant members of the Los Angeles Chorale, are serenading me. Honestly, it feels like I’m in Disney’s “Snow White” and these Celine Dion-tongued birds are musically encircling me with an orchid lei. But I’m not doing a jig, I’m writing, trying my best to capture Paradise in a Box so I can take it back with me to the Mainland, open it like a jeweled case, and whenever I feel the need, conjure this vibrant land of watercolor possibilities ,

I don’t want to go home. Oh, that’s right, I don’t have a home. I could actually stay as long as I want. And maybe I will.

Just not right now. 

I’m in the settling-into-retirement blissful stage. A year ago, I stopped working as a teacher. There was that stage of adjustment of not being and feeling “needed” 24/7. When I sold my home, there was the letting-go of material possessions/memories/my life as I knew it stage. And now I am riding the Mahalo outrigger canoe in the balmy, tropical seas stage. Maybe I’ll go here, maybe I’ll go there, maybe I’ll wake up at dawn and write, maybe I’ll stay up until 2 a.m. and read. Maybe I’ll take up photography, become a rainbow chaser, play the ukulele, or become a long-distance swimmer. Maybe I’ll never watch CNN again or read the newspaper. Maybe I’ll become an Origami Master specializing in paper airplanes. Or maybe I’ll just sit here and watch the shifting clouds, admire the ever-changing wave patterns or get my paints out and try to capture the spirit of The Magic Tree that sits at the perimeter of the property. 

To do nothing, is to do everything sometimes.

Like now

Now, I have a reason to get up–for meI get to decide what I will learn today, how I will grow, what I will accomplish—for myself. This phase/stage takes some adjusting to. I never had the Me-Me-Me 20s, as I was a single parent of a baby and a little boy. Then all of life happened.

I am proud of my accomplishments, proud I strived to do my best when I was a journalist and a teacher. I’m proud of my adult children, proud of my grandchildren, but now I have that thing inside me, I do not know what it is, but I know it is within me Next Chapter. 

Just sitting. Just looking. Just feeling. Just listening. Just laughing. Just chatting with family, with strangers, who in Hawaii can instantly become your best friends. Just relaxing. Is everything.

It’s like the lush gardens and the egret hunting for tiny lizards in the soaked, knotted grass; he knows food is plentiful, why rush? Enjoy the journey. 

The next sunrise, the next sunset, another swim, a day paddling along the river near Princeville, perhaps a shaved ice in the afternoon, and a celebration sunset dinner. This is on today’s—the last day here in Paradise—To Do List. 

In this quietude, before the children wake up and the energy of joy shakes the very foundation of this cottage with a forever-view, I breathe-in the moist air, bow down to the rising sun and say, “Thank you.” Never in my whole life have I ever experienced such a beautiful, relaxing, just-perfect home at exactly the right time of my life.

Jump and the parachute will appear. 

My wise reader-friends, you were right.   

Fish Lake Resort

I don’t fish. I barely even eat it. But my son said on my way back to Southern California that I should stop by one of his favorite hideaways about an hour east from Medford, Oregon. 

Normally, I camp. I had all the equipment neatly organized in the back of the Subaru. In fact, I bought new gear especially for the trip up and back.  But when my son told me what a great time he had staying at the rustic cabin overlooking the lake, I decided, What the heck, I’ll  treat myself to cabin life.

The cabin looks like it’s from the 1950s. The furniture is crude, laminate floors and fake butcher block counters, a futon couch, sponge-painted dresser from the 90s, that kind of thing. The kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are ultra-tiny. But it’s perfect. Just what I was looking for to transition into my new vagabond life. Quiet. No TV. No internet service. Just my own books, art, writing, thinking and walking.

It’s hot in the day, cool in the morning and evening. No extremes that can’t be remedied. 

I strung my prayer flags and twinkle lights along the porch awning, establishing that the cabin’s my place for a couple of days. I was going to head back today, but I figured, why not spend the extra night so I can really reflect and relax? 

It’s strange how doing nothing feels like doing everything. It’s baffling how talkative-me does just fine talking to no one. I feel the breeze, listen to the geese circling over the lake, stay in the shade when it’s too hot and hang out in the shade of the cool wood planked porch. I’ve cooked nothing but healthy foods, drank a little Willamette wine, and walked down to the resort café to buy a slice of homemade berry pie just out of the oven. I’ll have that a little later after doing my Girl Scout-best to start a fire with no kindling. 

Look, I wish it weren’t so, but I suck at making fires.

Even though everything is old and anti-designer, I feel like I am staying at a five-star hotel surrounded by old-growth pine trees ornamented with hanging moss garland. Monet’s happy to walk around without a leash and when she’s done sunning herself, she jumps on the bed to nap. Her ease at relaxing is inspiring.

This is not the kind of resort fancy people would like. My sister, who is far from fancy, would likely be creeped out by the nightly bug show buzzing around my outdoor lights. But the creatures of this Golden Pond oasis fascinate me. 

So, this is what it feels like to be peaceful? This is what it means to have no agenda? 

It’s like I’m in the middle of a poem.   

It feels like Norway, Yosemite, Alaska, places far away. It feels like I’m alone, but at the same time everyone is with me. I see their ghosts walking down to the lake with a cup of steaming hot cocoa and a tennis ball to toss to Monet.  

There’s no hooting and hollering. No drunken airhorns or blasting rap. Just the hum of wasps and squawks of birds celebrating the impending sunset. 

Could I live like this? No worries. No deadlines. No grandchildren. For a spell, yes. As long as I can touch basis with my loved ones, yes, I think I could enjoy more frequent encounters with solitude. 

All those years working, all those years prepping and grading, looking over my shoulder lest I innocently offend a student or parent and re-appear on the principal’s naughty list, seems to have taken its toil. 

Not being “wrong” or misunderstood feels good. 

Breathe in the wild fire-free fresh air. Breathe out the crap. Breathe in the positive. Breathe out the decaying crap.

I need to memorize the cawing crow and the quivering poplar leaves, this paint-chipped picnic table and the volcanic rock firepit. I’m sitting in a post card, domed by pinhole stars. 

I think I’ll wait until the fire–yes, the one I successfully lit and is now a mini-bonfire–turns to embers and wait for a shooting star. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that fresh-picked, just out of the oven, berry pie was pretty spectacular. Thanks chef Sarah. It was worth every damn calorie. If I time it right and the café is open in the morning, I’ll get a slice to go. 


I am in the process of healing those below-the-surface microrganisms–-emotional bacteria. I knew it was there, but the gurgling junk—The Why behind The Why—was easy to bury beneath The List of Tasks and Shoulds. Keep calm and carry on sort of thing. Well, here’s what I know about giving one’s self a calm space with ZERO Shoulds: You begin to hear better, see better, your body gets looser, you take unapologetic naps, you’re suddenly open to music beyond what’s on your Playlist, car-dance to entire soundtracks (“Hadestown”, “Ken Burns’ “The War”) and suddenly those feelings you’ve been pushing down start to rise to the surface. Opportunities to heal unfold. You begin to dream again and answers are whispered. 

Day 6 of My New Life Thus FarMy Very Sick Brother, the source of a great deal of pain I continue to process. He didn’t mean to be mean. But he was. I’ve tried to trace back the origins: Why is he like this? I blamed myself for being born, for taking away my parents’ attention, for me being me, which he tried to change—for whatever reason. I was fat, too emotional, insincere, not intelligent, impulsive, overly imaginative and the list went on and on. I was afraid of my brother, as were others, because he could snap and throw chards of glass over practically any comment he disagreed with. He was superior and everyone else was The Inferior, aka Stupid, aka Me.

Despite it all, I looked up to my big brother: He was–-is—incredibly smart. He was—before illness felled him like a wind-blown redwood—tall, handsome and engaging. Sharp, too, and witty. He was/is decisive and measured. A former Naval officer, then high-ranking policeman, I craved his acceptance and love. But every time I tried to get close, I had to duck, be on-guard, hold up a shield, which never worked because his ugly words always—always—penetrated my pathetic self-defense. I learned to never win, to always, at least in his eyes, accept being wrong. I learned to avoid, mask, overeat, whatever it took to protect myself from his venom. Until last week when I felt compelled, one could say called, to drive up to Oregon to visit my brother and his equally bruised, lovely, family. Something inside me said, “Go. Don’t wait!”

My pup and I made the long trek; I was proud of myself for jumping two feet into the New Life I said I wanted: Adventure awaits! I stayed at a hotel—a very big deal for Solo Me—and negotiated the unfamiliar roads, and on Wednesday last, drove up the dirt driveway to my brother and sister-in-law’s former house, now leased-to-own by my dear niece and her husband. The last time I was there, the experience wasn’t pretty: our dad was sick and my brother was in his typical foul, raging mood. The tension was so bad I couldn’t wait to leave. Long after I returned home, the hostile encounter gave me nightmares.  

This time, however, my brother was in a rehab facility 30 mins. away. He was seriously ill after a blood infection almost killed him. He’s been in and out of the hospital for months due to numerous falls and complications from diabetes and alcoholism. 

I had hoped this trip would soften our relationship, that somehow, I would be “used” to plant seeds to help him heal his relationship with his family. I wanted to be The Light, prompt an awakening. Silly me. Predictably, there was no “Come to Jesus”, choir-singing, running up to the altar, falling down, baptismal, salvation—YAW00ZZAA—TV moment. 

“In God’s time,” my friend, Julie, reminds me. Ugh. Patience is not one of my virtues.   

One might think a person with my brother’s numerous afflictions would have the insight, grace, humility to seek closure, to say he’s sorry, to ask for forgiveness, which would be the most awesome, healing thing he could say to me and his adult children. I don’t  understand such stubbornness. Our dad always said he was sorry after a disagreement or misunderstanding. It was one of the qualities I most admired about our dad. Not my brother. Like steel. Maybe he thinks apologies are a sign of weakness. Maybe he loathed that trait in Dad. Who knows? 

To me, being vulnerable, admitting guilt, is a sign of strength. 

So yesterday, a cup of coffee in hand, I knocked on the door to their cottage and prayed God would give me the right words to say before my journey back to SoCal. (I forgot to mention that his mule-headed stubbornness prompted an early release from the step-down facility so he could be in care of his saintly wife.)  

Despite his illness, being frail, in a wheelchair, dependent upon others to feed and clothe him, my brother is still Marlon Brandon Godfather-scary. His tongue is sharp and opinions shaped by FOX “News”. He tries, but anger is his go-to. Just yesterday, I broached a tough subject—the strained relationship with one of his daughters—but he told me to back off. OK, so I don’t have the gift of Mother Teresa to open hearts. So instead, I shared my own story of trying to learn from my mistakes and be a better person.

He listened. But no response.

He returned to a non-controversial topic: vacation plans; “I’d like to take the family on a cruise, re-trace the steps of Jesus.” Wow. Never expected that from my non-church-going brother. 

“That’s a great idea. Let’s make it happen,” I said. 

It was getting time for me to hit the road when he looked at me. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” he said. He wanted to compliment me for having the courage change my life; “You’re on the right path.” Then he offered me a couple of brotherly financial tips. 

I realized, it was his way of telling me that he loved me. 

Instinctually, I leaned over, hugged him and gave him a kiss—something we NEVER did or do. Cupping his hollowed, grey face, I said, “Thank you. Thank you for being my big brother.”

I am who I am because of you.

I have chosen this path, lived my life the way I have, because of my Big Brother’s influence, both good and bad. 

He cried. I cried. His wife cried. 

“I love you,” I said. 

“I love you,” he said. 

It is what my brother needed to hear. It is what I needed to say. 

If the only prayer you ever say at the end of the day is thank you, that’s enough, I remember Oprah Winfrey saying. 

I’m not sure what all this means, but I can tell you those aimless cycling feet I described to my brother when he was strapped to a hospital bed in the convalescent home, now those same feet feel grounded, assured, as I hike around a sunny, breezy, lake in Southern Oregon, a place I never expected to be. In a rustic cabin, alone with my dog, art materials, a couple of books, and my thoughts. 

I can’t predict the future. But what I know is today I am at peace.