Somewhere a black bear

Spring is my favorite season. The birdsong, the colors, the blooms, jasmine-filled breezes. All of it. Yes, please.

We have yet more rain here in Cali, but even so, the birds are singing their hearts out. And the buds are forming, and the bulbs are up. And the hills are so beautifully green. And somewhere close, the bears are stirring.

Enjoy this spring poem by Mary Oliver.



a black bear

has just risen from sleep

and is staring

down the mountain.

All night

in the brisk and shallow restlessness

of early spring

I think of her,

her four black fists

flicking the gravel,

her tongue

like a red fire

touching the grass,

the cold water.

There is only one question:

how to love this world.

I think of her


like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against

the silence

of the trees.

Whatever else

my life is

with its poems

and its music

and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness


down the mountain,

breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—

her white teeth,

her wordlessness,

her perfect love.

Mary Oliver, House of Light

Spring is also all of this —the wild, the fecundity, the passion, the thirst, and the quenching of thirst. The one question: how to love this world. Life’s yes. This, please.

Joy in the journey.

Sometimes our eyes and hearts are focussed so far in the distance, that we fail to see what is right in front of us. The people we spend our days with, the beauty surrounding us, the opportunities we have to make a difference. When we zoom in to the detail, the richness of the particular moment can be astounding and surprising. What a beautiful, remarkable world we live in. So full of complexity. Each person we see is as full of contradictions and surprises as we are ourselves. Each living or created thing we see is so full of detail.

Long-term goals are great, but what a shame if we don’t appreciate each step along the way. We may work side by side with someone but barely know their name let alone what their hopes and dreams are. We may be so busy moving forward that we are blind to the heartache of even the people we live with. It is easy to speed through life with eyes averted like people descending in an elevator focussed only on the floor numbers.

Today take time today to enjoy the journey, the mysteries unfolding all around you, the people who share your path, and all the beautiful and startling things right here, right now.

Like, for example, who can not stop and be amazed at this little beagle shaking its jowls, its great ears flopping to the beat, its sturdy paws holding on in front but shifting with its wagging tail in back, the gorgeous landscape behind it? What a fascinating little miracle, right here. Just this.

Kind through and through

How do you behave when you can be completely anonymous? The internet can shield us from face-to-face contact, and for many people that can lead to snark….or worse. As Glennon Doyle points out, the internet itself is neutral. We bring to it what we are. We get out of it what we seek:

The internet is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral—it becomes for each of us exactly what we bring to it. In our real life and our internet life, we live inside whatever we build. Since we are spending more and more of our lives online, our internet selves must be decent, courageous healers so we can inhabit communities of tolerance and humanity.

Here are a few gut checks:

1. Remember, you are what you post.
Integrity means there is not a real-life you and an internet you. The two are one and the same. If you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.

2. Post with intention.
Before you hit send, ask yourself: Why am I sharing this picture, meme, idea, article? Is your true motivation to spread joy, encourage, enlighten, teach? Or is it to brag? To shame someone? If your intention is pure, then the response will be, too.

3. Dispense compassion.
When people express opinions that differ from yours, take it as a chance to grow. Seek to understand over being understood. Be curious, not defensive. The only way to disarm another human being is by listening.

For those of us with Facebook feeds who follow sites other than just friends and family, we can choose whether we follow fake news or hateful sites. Instead, we can choose sites that help expand our knowledge and compassion. Our feeds are like gardens we can choose how to plant.

And we always have a choice of whether we want to pass on snark, or hate, or false information, or sarcasm. Whether we want to pile on a mob mentality of attack and destruction.

We can choose to make our responses to other people’s posts measured and kind, to rely on facts rather than innuendo, and to simply not respond. We can help build the type of world we want to see, right here on the internet.

Breathe in this new day.

When we lose our way or feel overwhelmed, we can return to nature and be renewed. Hear the birds singing their spring song. Watch them collect twigs and bits for their nests. See the long grass ripple in a gentle wind like ocean waves. Breathe in the sweet earthy fragrance of the morning. Feel small and surrounded by an amazing, complicated system that has been pulsating with life for millions of years. That awe is good for us:

“It has long been established that a healthy diet and lots of sleep and exercise bolster the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. But the new study, whose findings were just published in the journal Emotion, is one of the first to look at the role of positive emotions in that arsenal.

“That awe, wonder, and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions—a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art—has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, a coauthor of the study.” 

Breathe in the day, full of life and possibility. Breathe out the stress, the worry, the defeat. In. Out. In. Out. In.

Hurting words.

I’m a huge Ted Lasso fan. When an episode ends, I actually groan. This week was a powerful demonstration of how important words are, how the things we say can impact a person for years (for good or bad), and how important genuine, heart-felt communication is to heal old wounds.

Here is the bit I mean. < spoilers>

Tough guy Roy Kent was hurt by the blunt criticism of his skills written in an article by reporter Trent Crimm from Roy’s first game when Roy was just 17. Roy still carries the article around in his wallet decades later.

Do you have any words like that that you’re still metaphorically carrying around years later? Perhaps we remember a mentor’s encouragement that sparked our interest or passion in a chosen career. Perhaps, sadly, we still struggle under the weight of words by someone who condemned us at our worst, saw as as inadequate or a failure. someone who felt we would never measure up.

Words have heft to weigh us down or sustain us. We need to remember that when we choose ours.

How to organize.

My daughter recently organized her library, not by any of the more common methods of organizing books—genre, audience, age, author last name, — but by color of the cover. I must say, this startled me. It upset my Dewey-decimal apple cart. But look how lovely it is!

I have always focused on organization, both as a lawyer and, now, as an author. It is so vital to figure out your system for how something is to be done. How to organize the information in the most compelling way. Generally, for instance, an appellate brief is organized chronologically, but often that isn’t the most persuasive way. Some testimony needs to be highlighted, some evidence footnoted. And so on. The organization of the brief is a hidden layer adding content. The same is true for stories, sometimes jumbling the timeline or telling things from multiple points of view adds layers and juxtapositions you simply couldn’t get in any other way.

Or, for that matter, consider organizing socks. As a little girl I tried out organizing my socks from white to black with all the colors in the middle in a lovely spectrum (she is my daughter!) but then realized that wasn’t as efficient as organizing them for their intended use—play, school, dress, etc. I’ve had similar questions in my closet. What goes with what? How should things be ordered? Currently my blouses and tops are organized from sleeveless to long-sleeved. But color would certainly be fun, or seasons, or play to formal. The possibilities are endless. But this brings me somewhat round about to my point.

Everything is organized, and we need to pay attention to how.

Consider a grocery store with the popular items at eye level and the tempting items at check out. Or the casino, windowless and clockless to encourage extended gambling. Or a library? What goes in fiction/non-fiction? Is that line ever blurry? Or the church: how would you organize a church? Where should the focus be? How, or do, you make it welcoming? Or a city? Is there a right and wrong side of the tracks? Why?

These kind of questions keep us sharp and open, more able to see when systems aren’t working or when the organization of a thing is manipulating us. And taking things and jumbling up the order, like sorting books by color rather than content, let’s us see with fresh eyes and catch new and interesting juxtapositions, and challenge the very systems we use for categorizing what’s in or out.

Most this amazing day.

There are some poems that reach so deep, they become part of us that we can call up by heart. This is one for me, ‘I thank you God for most this amazing day’ is a phrase never far from my mind. Something about the inverted syntax seems to sum up that overwhelm, spilling over feeling of joy at creation, at being here in it, at the amazing miracle of it all.

Enjoy the whole poem. It’s spectacular.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings;and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings

And for a real treat, here it is sung:

Happy spring!

For love of a pet.

I read the following meme the other day.

My three-year old said she wished we had a pet. I reminded her we have a dog and wow the genuine look of surprise on her face as it dawned on her that our dog is a pet and not just some guy who lives here.


At first it startled and amused me. But as I kept thinking about it, I realized this kid was getting at something deep and true. Our love for our pets can be a deep soul connection. That love crosses into the mysterious, into thoughts about our souls, and can be so strong that our grief in losing them can be devastating.

It’s a reminder of how interconnected and complicated our world is. Of how each creature is precious to that mix. And these thoughts upset the apple cart that has humans always putting ourselves at the center of the universe. But more important, our pets are a gift of love, abundant love, vital to the soul.

Active listening.

These days there is a lot of noise—everyone has a soapbox—but I wonder how much is really heard. This article explores the problem of autobiographical listening, listening with the hope of injecting a story about yourself into the mix. There are levels to this. The matcher, who always has a similar vacation or achievement to switch the conversation to. The topper who has an even better vacation or achievement to turn the conversation to. And the outright conversation narcissist where really all parts of the conversation somehow turn on him.

But if our goal is connection, we really need to learn how to better listen:

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Practice listening to understand. Avoid autobiographical listening:

“When we fail to listen from the other person’s perspective, we are listening through our own lens and tend to pass more judgments compared to simply listening,” Reigstad added. “There are four types of autobiographical listening ― evaluate, probe, advise and interpret. These responses tend to have us asking questions based on our experiences, offering advice to fix the problem and so on. It’s important to resist the urge and allow the other person to speak.”

Listen for what is behind the words. Let yourself connect with the other person. There will be another day for your story.

Care for the caretakers.

Today, I want to lift up the caregivers. Whether for an aging parent, ailing spouse, struggling child, or young grandchildren, or all or some of these together. It takes a good person to care and do their best to help.

Rosalyn Carter made this insight:

There are only four kinds of people in the world: Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers. And those who will need a caregiver.

We are all interconnected. We all will experience a time when we need help and times when we can offer help. It is a blessing to care about others and to let others care for us. Caring is at the heart of every good thing done in the world.

So, to the caregivers: may God bless you. Your work is making a better world.