Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nature's Fireworks

The kids and I hiked the Alpine Loop in the American Fork Canyon
before a storm arrived this week, threatening to drop the leaves.

After crossing three forests, we found lots of aspens
surrounding a meadow, quivering their joyous welcome.

We call this aspen grove the Golden Palace,
because standing in it,
you are bathed in a shimmering golden light.

We passed mountain bikers and riders on horseback
but no deer or quail this time.
In late spring, this meadow is yellow with wildflowers
and the aspens are freshly green.

Now that the storm is here bringing an early snow
to the mountains with high winds,
the leaves are probably littering the ground,
the aspens no longer quivering their welcome,
but shivering in their nakedness.
Until next Spring.

And leaving us with...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finding The Quiet

Credit: Photo courtesy of Aaron Penn, photographer
There are many ways to experience one's connectedness with God. The search takes you outside and eventually leads you inside. One of my most memorable church experiences of that connection was while serving as a young women's counselor while in the LDS faith as one of several stepping stones on my path to finding God.

We were at a summer camp in the pine mountains of Arizona. We held a Sunday service in a clearing in the woods reserved for spiritual gatherings. Sitting on bleachers listening to the speaker, the sun sent illuminating rays through the trees. The slight rustling of the leaves in the breeze, birds singing their own celebration of life, and an abiding peacefulness settled in my being. I felt an aliveness and deep oneness with God. Even now there is an inner cleansing, an inner exhale, whenever I re-live that moment.

It reminds me of an earlier spiritual experience while living in Germany, spending Christmas with extended family in a small town called Selbitz. On Christmas Eve we would walk to a church in the town for a sort of midnight mass. My mother was raised Lutheran, my father Methodist, and my Grandmother was a reformed Catholic living as a Jehovah's Witness. There was something about being there, with other people wanting to experience something extraordinary, and I felt a shared connectedness. I remember how it felt to watch the procession celebrating Christ's entrance into our world, and how warm and full of light the church was. Walking home afterwards, snow falling under a cold, dark sky sparkling with light reflecting off snowflakes and lamp posts, the quiet conversations around us enveloped me in a blanket of peace that resonated on a deep, deep level.

From those earlier experiences I realize why I often find myself in the mountains today, surrounded by quivering aspen leaves, under bright blue skies and the sounds of the forest. It is there where I finally hear myself, where I feel loved and accepted, and close to something greater than my insecure self; something strong and loving and kind. It is where I go to connect with my idea of God, a benevolence that strengthens.

There is a Benedictine monk, David Steindl Rast, who shares his love for God and life, and us, through a website called Brother David is a vibrant living example of humble humor. He makes me want to go inside, find the best of me, and offer it to the world. He inspires me to ask, "What do I have left to give?"

Here is his gentle prayer on gratitude:

And leaves me with a sense of...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Linda over at wandertothewayside.blogspot. com presented (drum roll) me with an award for writing from the heart. She is also a fellow writer-from-the-heart, so if you haven't read her blog before, check it out before you leave.

Thank you Linda! You are my first (and only) blog award and have set me to jumping around the house for joy. Now I get to pass the award on to seven more bloggers who write heartfelt prose, and then list ten honest things about myself.

So here's a shout out to some bloggers that tickle my heartstrings:

• Anna at
• Jane at
• Alicia at
• ZombieMom (my name for her) at
• Angela at
• Toni at
• Lee at

Now here's the part you can roll your eyes or scratch your head over:

1) Born cross-eyed, I had surgery and sported an eye patch for awhile but still have nystagmus—the involuntary rapid oscillatory motion of the eyeballs. I don’t normally notice it, and others don’t usually…but there are times. Nystagmus can make your eyes shake up or down, but mine do it rotating. An ophthalmologist once told me it was caused by one of three things; albinism, head injury, or brain damage. You figure it out...

2) I was once kidnapped, briefly. My father served in the U.S. Air Force and we were for a time stationed in Taipei, Taiwan. One day, around age three, I was playing on the swingset in our front yard while my parents watched from the kitchen window. They must have gotten distracted because one minute I was there, the next, gone. When my father ran outside, he saw me running down the street with two older Taiwanese girls on either side, holding my hands. They were finally stopped when they ran past the guards outside Chiang Kai-shek’s building. They stopped us because my father was yelling as he was chasing us. Fun times.

3) While living in Florida we often visited my father’s family in rural Georgia for Thanksgiving. My older sister and I liked to take walks around the countryside. One day we meandered past a farm, accompanied by a cousin and a neighboring German Shepherd who had befriended us on an earlier visit. As the four of us were passing the farm, we were spotted by a large, unpenned pig that decided for whatever reason he didn’t like our looks. Suddenly the pig came charging after us, trailed by his posse of Chihuahuas that were hanging out with him. We weren’t looking for a fight so we turned and ran (since our cream-puff German Shepherd chose not to defend us). Too bad some farmer didn’t come along then because we must have been quite a sight. Three frightened children, a goofy German Shepherd, an irate pig and several outraged Chihuahas, running down a dirt road as if Satan himself was behind us. We managed to outrun the pig-Chihuaha team because apparently pigs tire easily. Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.

4) I once spent the night (camping in my car) in the company of many other strangers, on the grounds near Cape Canaveral for a Space Shuttle launch. When that baby lifted off, the deafening noise and mushrooming clouds coming towards us and the ensuing goosebumps tingling all over my body signaled one of the proudest, most exhilarating moments of my life as an American.

5) I participated in some self-improvement intensives during my marriage years. My then husband, our teenage daughter and I attended Peak Potentials Training camps where I learned to face my fears. A few years later I attended Byron Katie’s nine day School For The Work where I learned that there is nothing to fear.

6) I love animals and have raised a variety of pets: two finches, a small garden snake, generations of gerbils, four parakeets, various goldfish, two cats, a turtle, an iguana, a dog, and butterflies (a homeschool project). Currently petless-in-Utah, I yearn for a time when I’ll live in a cottage with a cat surrounded by birds and butterflies (yeah, I'm all about the simple things).

7) My office walls (currently in my closet--it’s large, though windowless) are decorated with large scenic beach posters. Time to save for that Fiji vacation…

8) The time I felt healthiest was the year I lived on raw foods, green smoothies, and juices. I loved how living in my skin felt then. Looked good too.

9) Quirk: I can’t stand having anything in the wastebaskets around the house. So I empty them if there are two or more items lounging in there, rendering them fairly pointless. Along those lines, I also don’t keep magazines past a day. I read them, clip out photos/articles and then pass them on. Or throw them away. In the wastebaskets. Which I then empty.

10) Whether stargazing in solitude when my oldest left home, or driving in the mountains when my marriage was at its rockiest, nature has been my come-back-to-center balm.

So thank you Linda, for the award, and thank all you wonderful bloggers who write from honestly from your heart. If you can't get the award let me know and I'll pass on the directions.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Wide Open Heart

A little over one year ago, I witnessed the birth (as best as you can outside a hospital delivery room door) of my first grandchild. Samuel James was brought into this world only to leave too soon with his adoptive parents. His birth parents, two good-hearted teens dealing with the tumult life sometimes brings, chose to place their little boy with an equally good-hearted couple who had been yearning to adopt for some time.

The day Sammy came was one of the giddiest highlights of my midlife, my heart so open it felt close to bursting. The day after, or rather, the evening of the day before Placement Day, was the hardest thing I'd ever experienced. Not the death of a marriage, not raising kids as a single mom, not an early miscarriage between my first two children, not kidney stones, not job loss; but the giving up of a child--my birth grandchild. On that day I learned that a heart could keep beating after shattering to bits.

You fall in love on day one and still in love, must say goodbye. So far the sadness has been staunched because his new parents, embracing an open adoption, have kept up a blog with photos and an occasional get together (I've seen and held Sammy twice since he was born; Christmas and his blessing day).

It is one of the sweetest experiences, and still, there is a sadness that lingers in a corner of my heart. Do I wish things were different? Daily. Would I try to change it if I could? No; the bond between Sammy and his new parents is set.

I've come to a place of gratitude for the sacrifices made. The birth mother, and my son, who gave up someone they loved. The adoptive parents, who gave up their privacy to allow our family into their lives. Sammy's birth relatives, especially his birth father's siblings, who want to so much to keep in touch with their nephew.

What touches me most about that day when Sammy was born, was watching his 16-year old father protectively follow him and his nurse down to the neonatal observation room (that's what I call it; don't know what it really is) and for the next hour and a half, keep his hand on his naked son as he lay in the bassinet being observed for vitals. The tears that trickled down his face, the exhaustion from the long birth night and the emotions of the weeks and months before. The way his large hand cupped around his son, the love he was giving him while he could. I'd never witnessed this side of my boy, and it moved me beyond tears.

On Placement Day I was driving with my youngest daughter, tears streaming down my face, and she said something to me I will never forget; with wisdom beyond her years, "Mom, just remember, this may be the worst day you've ever had, but it's also the happiest day Emma and James have ever had." Just that unexpected turn of phrase, the circumstances seen in that light, opened up a crack in the clouds and let some rays shine through. It lightened my grieving heart with the possibility that this family would love this baby boy with all their heart.

And so it seems to have become. The times I've seen Sammy with them, he's happy and devoted and completely trusting. And so are they. It's remarkable really, the love an infant brings into this world. The power to open hearts. And that's what this experience has left me with. The desire to keep my heart open no matter what shows up to break it. Because despite the pain and sadness I would not trade this experience for the world. It has been worth every moment, just to get to know Sammy, his birth mother, my son in unexpected ways, and Sammy's new family.

So thank you God, for bringing Sammy into this world to share with so many. Thank you Sammy, for being your amazing self, thank you Jaycee and Jason for loving this baby more than yourselves, and thank you Emma and James for your love and generosity.

Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Credit: Photo courtesy of