A sit-with-you kind of friend.

Not every problem can be solved. Not every complaint wants a ‘solution’. Sometimes the heart just craves company, someone to walk beside in trying times.

As Henri Nouwen says,

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

― Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

Who is my neighbor?

Sometimes I feel everything in life comes down to the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’

We are always asking, ‘This one, too?’ And the answer is always, ‘Yes’.

The felon, the refugee, the homeless person, the enemy, the one who hurt you, the one you disagree with, the one who makes your life hard? Yes, always yes.

Love your neighbor. This one, too.

With friends beside you.

I recently read the book, Remarkable Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt with my book club. It is a wonderful book of, among other things, the friendship between a 70-year old widow and a giant Pacific octopus. The main character has her own group of friends who have been together for decades and call themselves the Knit-wits because they started with knitting in common.

One of my book club members, the youngest (as she often reminds us) asked at our meeting, “Are we the knit-wits?” I smiled. I have known this group of friends for decades. We raised our children together and now are delighting in grand parenthood together. We’ve weathered storms together, celebrated each other’s victories, and helped each other through loss. We meet religiously every week to catch up with each other. What a delight it is to have ‘through thick and thin’ friends.

I found this sweet friendship poem I offer here to them.

A Friend

A person who will listen and not condemn
Someone on whom you can depend
They will not flee when bad times are here
Instead they will be there to lend an ear
They will think of ways to make you smile
So you can be happy for a while
When times are good and happy there after
They will be there to share the laughter
Do not forget your friends at all
For they pick you up when you fall
Do not expect to just take and hold
Give friendship back, it is pure gold.

Gillian Jones

A very buzzard homecoming.

Recently, I pulled down an old scrapbook from my junior high days to show my granddaughter Lily who is just that same age now as I was then. It contained many ‘treasures’. Among the many letters and cards from my late grandmother was one talking about the buzzards coming back home to Hinckley, Ohio, a phenomenon which I remember amused me. Imagine celebrating buzzards!

She wrote:

It should cheer you somewhat to know that the buzzards returned to Hinckley, Ohio, on schedule on March 15th. It is always a comfort to know those gorgeous creatures ‘do their thing’ each year, as anticipated. It would be a bit discouraging to prepare pancakes and sausages for 35,000 eager folks, and have no buzzards to join in the celebration!

Oh, how I loved her, her humor and wit, her warmth and love, her writing style. I have always felt such a kinship with her and reading over her letters makes her feel so close.

Her letter got me thinking. First, about buzzards. Sure enough, a quick bit of googling shows that buzzards are still returning to Hinckley on schedule and have been celebrated since 1818!

And then about the cyclical quality of nature. The monarchs go south and then back. The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano. The elephant seals come back to Cambria. We humans who love animals mark their going and celebrate their homecoming, yes, even the buzzards, and note the steady passage of time.

And finally about how those we’ve lost stay with us even after they’ve gone. Lily has a freckle on her right hand which I’ve told her is her Nana freckle. I load it up with kisses often when I see her. When I’m gone, I hope that freckle will remind her of how very much I loved her. My grandmother and I were separated by thousands of miles, but our letters exchanged helped us stay close. Those letters remind me now to pause and share bits of life, simple moments, with the people I love. Those moments become the memories and precious treasure later.

Even the ones about buzzards.

(I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the lead picture with buzzards. Lol)

A generous window.

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

~ from Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2005)

Loving what’s mortal

As we age, there is loss. That loss is like a presence that follows us relentlessly like a shadow. No avoiding it. No pretending. We are mortal. The people we love are mortal, perhaps imminently so. This is part of the rules of engagement. And while most of us avoid thinking too much about it, poets like Mary Oliver offer life instructions:

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes, to let it go, to let it go.

I honestly don’t know which of these three rules is the hardest. Right now, they each seem nearly impossible. But having the courage to follow these instructions feels like the answer.

Her full poem is below.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983.

Compassion for animals.

Apparently, today is World Penguin Day which reminded me of this delightful story about penguin JinJing and the man who saved his life. Each year, this little penguin swims 5000 miles to be with his friend.

So much is beyond our understanding including heart-warming stories like this about the bonds between a wild animal and a human who showed them kindness.

Enjoy this video.

Shining light

In all the din, what is one voice more? Why bother speaking up? No one seems to listen to each other anymore anyway.

But inside you is a well spring, and you’re fueled by truth and an honest desire to help others. Your opinion matters.

Consider these words from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Who are you to speak up?

You are a child of God. Let God’s light shine on a dark world through your words.

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.

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.