“Words and Music,” Aug. 15, 2017

I grew up in a family of sinners and singers and storytellers. Maybe you did, too. We didn’t have much materially, but we had each other and a whole lot of fun.

By the time I was old enough to know right from wrong _ 4 or 5 years old _ I had learned three fundamental facts of life: [Read more…]

“A Bats-Over-Penguins Life,” Aug. 8, 2017


Bats over penguins. That’s how I describe things that defy expectations and leave me drop-jawed in surprise.

Years ago on a trip to Portland, my husband and I went to the Oregon Zoo mostly to see the penguins.

I love penguins. They’re like toddlers on a sugar high from too much birthday cake _ fun to watch, if you don’t have to chase them. I could hardly wait. [Read more…]

“Earth Friends,” Aug. 1, 2017

There are places on the Earth that we connect with in the same way that we connect with people. Something about them attracts us and puts us at ease. We feel a kinship, a sense that we have come home. And then, if we’re lucky, that place becomes a friend.

My first “Earth friend” was a mountain in South Carolina. I was 6 years old when my family moved 10 miles away from my grandmother’s home, where I felt whole, to a cow pasture where I felt broken.

One evening, I left my mother and stepfather arguing in the kitchen and went out to the pasture to climb a tree and sulk. As I sat there, straddling a tree limb, the setting sun brushed my face. I looked up and in the distance, I saw a blue mountain. [Read more…]

“The Adventure of Being a Mother,” July 25, 2017

Sometimes the best adventure turns out to be a bit more adventurous than planned.

Weeks before his birthday, my youngest child decided he and his wife and their three children should celebrate the occasion in Yosemite National Park.

When the boy was growing up, we camped most every summer in that glorious valley. After his dad died, he worked in the park for a year cleaning campgrounds and running the ski shop.
It was no surprise he wanted to celebrate his big day in the shadow of Half Dome. He invited the whole family to join him. We all wanted to go.

But only one of us could make it. [Read more…]

“Name Calling,” July 18, 2017

What do people call you? Not when they’re mad. What do they call you when they want to tell you who you are to them?

Readers often begin notes to me with an apology: “I’m sorry if I seem too personal addressing you by your first name,” they say, “but I feel as if I know you personally.”

I love that. I often feel as if I know them personally, too. As a columnist, I write about things I care about. If someone connects with that writing, I like to think it’s because they care about those things, too. We may not know each other’s faces. But we know each other’s hearts. To me, that’s as personal as personal ever gets. [Read more…]

“A Quick Trip to a Place Called Grace,” July 11, 2017

It never fails. When I run to the market for just one thing, I never know what I’ll bring back.

Last night, for example, I wanted to make pesto. I love pesto. It’s good. It’s green. It’s easy. And my half-Italian husband loves it even more than I do. I’ve seen bloodhounds get less excited chasing a rabbit than he does over a plate of pasta with pesto.

I had everything I needed to make it … except walnuts.  Most people use pinenuts for pesto. To me, pinenuts taste like kerosene. Not that I’ve tasted kerosene. I just prefer walnuts. But all I had were Brazil nuts. They might work. Or not.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve substituted ingredients that “might work,” but didn’t. If the cooking channel did a show called “Recipes for Disaster,” I could be their celebrity chef. [Read more…]

“A Summer to Remember,” July 4, 2017

What does summer mean to you?

It probably depends on where you live or grew up or how you choose to spend it. If I asked you to describe this summer day, wherever you are, what would you say?

Maybe you’d start with the weather. Is it hot? Steamy? Stormy? Foggy? Is it a good day to be in the great outdoors or do you need to take shelter inside? [Read more…]

“Saved by Love,” June 27, 2017

(NOTE: I’m taking off this week to spend time with my family. The following column is from Nov., 2002.)
It all came down to this: Did I want to clean a cabin or climb on a horse? Not all of life’s choices are that easy. But years from now, I will smile at the memory and shake my head to think I almost passed it by. [Read more…]

“Seeing Is Believing,” June 20, 2017

Most of us need to heal once in a while.

Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.

Sometimes it’s all the above.

For some of us, the hardest part of healing is simply to believe that it’s possible.

Years ago, I was watching my oldest (who played on a high school basketball team coached by his dad) practice free throws. The boy was good. He made a dozen shots, swishing the net time and again without a miss.

“How do you do that?” I said. [Read more…]

“A Prayer for a Child,” June 13, 2017

We were sitting in his oak tree, Henry and I, dreaming about birds and clouds and life. Henry is my grandson. He is 5. I am older than he is. I quit tree climbing a long time ago, but picked it up again at Henry’s urging. It’s amazing what we’ll do if it’s important to a child. [Read more…]