So quiet it was loud: Signs of life

20150507_205827 20150508_06411820150508_065305 20150508_06481420150508_064859

It was so quiet at the cabins we’d rented
so quiet
that after sitting still for twenty minutes
the croaking of the bullfrog’s sunrise song
the swish of the snakes in the lake
wind through trees
and warming waking insect chorus
seemed loud.

While family slept
resting after a college graduation
officer commissioning
and the easy pace of being
playing in the rain soaked Kansas parkland
empty except for us
with sun warming what the fire didn’t singe (yum!)
I wandered a bit.

Firstly, I followed trails the water snakes made
until one popped its head up and began to bob my way.
Fortunately, it was tiny and I quickly moved to another stretch of chalky shore.

Then, two crimson cardinals fought for the attention of a nearby she-cardinal
while a parade of orioles flew in and among the trees along the shore.
Orange flits among the green.

In the stillness I soon learned what water trails were made by turtles bobbing about
and snakes looking for turtle-breakfast.

Trout jumped.
A grey heron made lazy
swoops over the water.
I could hear the woosh of its flight when it came near.

Without my camera
all I had to do was be present.

Lots of insects chattering about the morning news.

20150508_064936Fresh coyote scat near the other cabin.

Soon, my brother-in-law opened a door and stretched on the porch.

My coffee was delicious.
The weekend company was nutritious.

The quiet – exquisite.
A morning concert
complete with a bullfrog’s timpani.

I had forgotten how loud quiet could be
and how restorative.20150508_065014

*  *  *  *  *

I hope this works: A view from the rainy day porch at the Mined Land cabins near Pittsburg, Kansas,

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Call a cab Mother Nature


About 4 pm yesterday, the limestone building that houses my office, shook…rumbled. I’d checked and its thunderboomer prediction and was so glad that I had a car in the parking lot…until a wee before 5 pm when the monsoon swelled and lightning began its hours-long display.

Rain is good. Even swishing relentless roiling rain can be good on the prairie. It washes away the spring pollen, summer dust, and the leafy humus of fall.

Yesterday, it turned land-locked Manhattan, Kansas, into oceanside property.

Which is great for the guy with the orca floatie bobbing about the parking lot or the kids boogie boarding on the campus quad.

It was not good for families trying to assemble their members safely at home, op-too-much-ist-ic drivers whose cars became rafts or reefs; and anyone trying to drive home from the lowlands of downtown.

After waiting for an hour in a parking lot where well-educated people made dumb and dangerous decisions while jockeying for position…in a parking lot queue, I finally began to inch forward. I couldn’t make it home where I’d prepared a feast for Monday Night Meal pals, but I could make it to the home of two of those pals where we enjoyed quick chili and cold beer.

After the soggy howl abated a bit, I heard from my downstairs-neighbors who had water in their home. They were looking for towels to sop up the swell. This was the “sign” that I needed to go home. I drove the high ground and made it home with minor hydroplaning and a bit of soaked awe.

I found myself repeating, “Go home, Mother Nature, you’re drunk.” 
In the effort to encourage Mother Nature to be socially responsible, I change it here to, “Call a cab, Mother Nature, you’re drunk.”

With all of the flooded cars and basements, asphalt washed up in piles at the base of hills, and what will likely be a run on Tetanus shots soon, Manhattan escaped real disaster. And this has given me pause.

Thousands of people in Nepal dead and displaced; I can air out my car. (The sunroof was DOWN this time!)

214 of the girls abducted by Boko Haram have been found pregnant; both of my kids checked in last night to make sure I was not sleeping in my kayak.

Detroit in hopeful rebuilding, California so thirsty from a mix of bad big business policies, climate, and human short-sightedness; Baltimore, Ferguson, Deep Water, the Middle East, rape, abuse, loneliness, hunger, poverty, suicide, and too much more.

This little city on the prairie escaped real harm. We pull together, we make the best, we look out for one another, grown men wear purple proudly, the university president is accessible and he and his wife are true leaders…our faith and social communities band together to “Love Manhattan”, people send out calls for hope and help for others – strangers, and we do our best life in this imperfect town. We can do more.

We cannot feel sorry for ourselves for the temporary inconvenience of our new car thoroughly scoured by floodwaters; we know that insurance will replace it. We can put life in perspective when the cake in the oven falls, and our team falls out of the play-offs.

We can look to our left and our right and far away to see-with-a-heart-and-hands-towards-action the hopeful rebuilding, thirsty, short-sighted, flooded, wounded, lonely, hungry, truly-poor, despondent, and too much more.

If our greatest burden – our deepest suffering – are cancelled practices and damaged/ruined stuff, we are doing okay. 

So, along with Mother Nature, I’m packing my judgement, self-centeredness, and small-mindedness in the cab and sending them to rehab. I hope Mother Nature dries out a bit and the others find ways to “suck it up, Buttercup.”

In the meantime, let’s have fun, pull together, and share our umbrellas.

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We all need somebody: Signs of life


20140117_203253This morning’s running plans shifted and I fell back to sleep a little before 5 am.

Suddenly, I found myself racing out the door calling for a big barking woof-y pup that I had heard while in that slumbering place between deep sleep and awake. I looked and listened and whistled until my cold toes woke me up fully and I realized that the pup had an owner and it did not need me to run and find it.

I must admit that for a moment, I was so sad.

We all need somebody – even if that body is furry, four (or three)-legged, goofy, or wise. Just not imaginary.

While warming up in the cozy covers of my safe bed, splashing clean fresh water on my face, eating my breakfast, and brushing my teeth, I wrestled with feeling sorry for myself.

Wrestled with failure
and smallness
and overwhelm for all of the headlines
and fear.

An attempt to pay bills did not ease the frustration.

And I still feel it: guilt from decisions and delays related to how I parent my kids, not being a better and more present sister, the history that people see if they see me, a future that is so obscured by fog and swirl…a faith that could not be called “faith” at all.

What do I have?
I tend to go back to gratitude when sadness and sorry-for-myself-ness draws upon me. It helps to take an inventory of what has gone well; often the good is interwoven with the funk.

  • Kenan stepped up and made a hilarious and VERY Kenanish announcement for his college graduation and commissioning even though he had squandered the help he’d been offered and felt that it was not a priority. (I’ll be sprinkling a few of those around the mail/mailboxes today.) HE did it. Followed through. Finished it.
  • My bills reveal time with friends, books read, and running shoes purchased. The wince-worthy reality is not offset by the friends woven into the story-in-the-statement, but I am so glad for the time and adventures we’ve had. I can dive a little deeper into the belt-tightening and already figured out one area that is easy to change. Good company is a necessity and I am grateful for such good company.
  • Fresh water, healthy food, and a safe home. Events of this week make these realities even more precious. I hope to not take them for granted.
  • My car, bike, and running shoes work. If that changes, I’ll find a way and ask for help.
  • The sun is up and so far – no bats

We all need somebody. 
Sometimes that somebody is us.
To get up, get going, and remind ourselves of what we have.
To share what we are so fortunate to encounter, learn, enjoy, etc.

I’ve got to bolt to work (I have a job!-another woohoo!).

Still searching and looking for signs of life.

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A response to a kindness

optimism is the foundation of courage
Yesterday, my friend-who-is-a-pastor checked in:

“And I keep wondering how your faith is doing since our last chat and prayer. You don’t have to write a big, long email explaining things. Just wanted to mention that I wonder (but don’t NEED to know; I know it’s a complex, personal thing – that’s an understatement, huh).”

I offer the reply here. No real signs of life, more “this is how I’ve been padding through.”Again, I write to bring light to the too huge and often hidden population who daily overcome the effects of rape, trauma, and abuse; people of all ages and abilities and zip codes. This season is becoming “history” in its own time and with considerable effort. It does not speed.

[ ] indicate edits

And for my faith journey, the closest thing to pursuit is this Lost* viewing. And running and walking. I’m taking golf lessons to stretch my grinchy little heart and overcome fear. Next up is tennis. I am navigating this new life. One tiny little step at a time.

I am pleased with my grief progress and grateful for the people – the connections – that have lovingly and patiently encircled me at this and every time.

I cannot be perfect, I cannot experience or even conjure God, though I talk to “him” just in case “he” exists – despite how horribly his kids treat one another and the people who[m] they despise (rather than the people’s actions.) I cannot barter, nor can I make this better. I keep sniffing the wind and tossing rocks to discern my next step while staying light on my feet and [moving forward].

With all that I’ve lost all along the way, it would be nice…I would be grateful to have direction. So far, I know without a doubt that – despite my abilities, persistence, tenacity, experiences, failures, and expectations of achievement and leadership, etc, I am a born nurturer. How can I earn a salary/wage and develop a career as a nurturer? I am terrified that this is it. The sum total of my life. Missing “God” and washing up as a professional and human being/doing by myself.

And I know that by writing this, I am admitting some sort of elitist thinking-that only “greatness” is acceptable work/life. Some grandiose notion of my own value and worth to a greater good, when all I can do is continue to walk into horrible situations [of the heart]. And inherently, this is demeaning to people who serve and live in all manners and places of work/life.

Sometimes, I wonder if I am delusional and that was what all this faith was-wishful thinking and a continuation of trying to be perfect and acceptable so that love would find and protect me.

That’s where I am. Faith-wise. It’s all connected and-at the same time-tenuously connected.

I am grateful that Madi and Zach are moving on towards their marriage and a new apartment that helps them to save money and plan for their good future. They are a good team. I cannot ask for more for them. But I do-for health, hope, and happiness.

I am grateful that Kenan has found his life’s adventure (or next step), he has found what he is willing to work hard toward and sacrifice for; he earned another scholarship last night-one that will help him finish out his last year financial[ly] okay. He’s a good man. I cannot ask for more for him. But I do-for health, hope, and happiness.

Clearly, I’m well fed. I have strength and mobility. My memory is returning after that effing trauma to 80-85%. My little apartment expands when people come, sometimes serves as a wildlife sanctuary, and keeps me safe and cozy (minus the flying vermin). My eyesight is still good so I can still read when my focus allows. I have a terrific race bike that needs to be used. My diet includes more varieties of fruits and vegetables than ever they did when I was a vegetarian.

I’m writing sporadically. It fills my cup in a small way[;] it adds and does not subtract.

This is my faith journey. Not much on Faith. Big on Journey.
See you tomorrow.

* I felt compelled (and resisted it for years) to watch the telly series, Lost. I tried. After two seasons, I think I’m hanging up my Oceanic oxygen mask.

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This is not the way it ends: Signs of life

20150419_162707[1] 20150419_162854 20150419_163914 20150419_173755Sunday, I sat in my car
in a remote field
next to someone’s rural mailbox
and felt the world sway.

Above me, the clouds whirled and blew.
Around me, the rain pelted and washed beneath the Vibe.

I looked out of the windows to get bearings,
out the sunroof to spot any twisty clouds,
and waited.

Winds rocked my little car so completely that I felt I was in a rowboat on an angry sea and not in the middle of fields and fields and fields of green spring growth.

Calm and wondering descended.

All I could think of was
Do Madi and Kenan know how much I love them?
How “being proud” was not exclusive to those rare times when all the balls are in the air
the dog is walked
and the world applauds.
Do they know how much I admire them?

Did Madi shift the laundry?

My sister, Katie and Dave, people I see in the everyday and ordinary came to my thoughts.
CS Lewis.
Zach, Madi’s fella.

Though it felt like the storm would never end,
the delay along the fields and blue highways lasted only a little while20150417_170859
before it was time to start again

in the blowing
roiling clouds
slick pavements
and wind.

Leaving that stopping place…
where I could see a home in the distance
a stranger’s home
I could make it to the barn if I needed to
I could stay here…

Leaving that bump along the road was more frightening than staying put
Even with the rare car or 18-wheeler that passed me in the tumult.

Rain and wind had not fully passed, but I knew it was time to press on.
I drove below the speed limit.
What pushed me on was that I was sick with something and needed sleep.
And miles to go.

was the loneliness of leaving the kids
and missing them
and the pup
with a quiet cold apartment ahead.

The reality that a friend was saying the last goodbyes to her dad.
And though my life is too blank of a canvas
and my tools seem totally unsuited for this next unwinding chapter
I could not stay put.
The peanut butter and chocolate would run out.
And I was so tired.

So I crept out onto Highway 99
somewhere between Oklahoma and
desolate Howard, Kansas (the irony of getting derailed there)
and made my new beginning back towards Manhattan.
Home for now.

As terrified
and sick
and exhausted as I was along that unknown road
I could not stay there.

This is not the way it ends.

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Abandon Your Comfort Zone: Signs of Life


When you’re “going through it”, life can be a deathrace that hijacks your focus. Keep Moving. Stay Safe. Wake Up. Take a Bath. Do Your Best at Work and Home. Remember to sleep and eat. Pay a Bill or two.

As the danger passes and focus has a chance to shift from fleeing to being, you might find an inkling to abandon your comfort zone and learn something new…like golf.

Yep. I’ve signed up for golf lessons (three lessons to be exact).

Just the thought makes me giggle.

For weeks, I’ve carried around a ripped-out page of the UFM catalog. UFM is  a local community-learning hub offering classes both for credit and for quality of life. It happens to feature golf lessons for folks who have no clubs and – in my case – no talent.

I hate to look foolish and avoid inviting foolishness at all costs. But something about golf and having been told that I’d never be good at golf because of this or that, has me thinking it’s time to take a swing at it.

Fellas I’ve dated before have risked life and limb to show me how to play. Kenan and I used to occasionally buy a bucket of balls and aim for the trees, turkeys, but mostly the customized ball-collection truck. He improved. I did not. So much so that at least once a stranger approached me with such pain in his voice and asked if he could please help me improve my golf game.

That may or may not have been the time the club exited my swing and ended up on a car in the parking lot.


Anyhoo, I called this morning to sign up and subtly ask if the instructor was a patient man. The scheduler assured me that he had a great track-record coaching kids. I asked the question again and assured the woman on the other line that I have been known to drive people to drink after whacking balls at a local driving range.

She thought I was joking.

I was joking (only just) when I suggested kevlar and helmets for all involved in the class and within a 50-yard radius of practice.

Anyhoo, I am so excited. Giddy.

I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to give a slightly stressed-out coordination-challenged human a golf club to swing, but doggone it, I’ve paid my fee and am going to do it.

Why golf? Why now? There is something missing after this last season – perhaps a sliver of self-consciousness or the genetic code for wisdom.

Perhaps I am inspired by the Earl Woods National Golf Academy that has been hosted here, in his hometown, at Colbert Hills and via Kansas State University. We share the same alma mater and who knows – we both may learn how to swing a bat club.

And I have a plan: first golf then tennis.
I could enjoy learning how to raise a racket.

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Learn like a beginner: Signs of Life


Learn like a beginner.

I love this in theory.

Practicing this humble beginning mindset is harder to do.

I’ve a history of barrelling “rip snort” into life and adventure and decisions and down crazy slopes and up hard-to-start vertical climbs beneath alpine peaks.

In the past two years, I’ve been less rip snort and more “watch from the weeds.” But this time of living has me looking at caution and wisdom differently – with more respect – than in the past.

Why learn like a beginner?
Beginners are often hopeful.
Possibilities spill from every opportunity and fresh start.
Beginners look for allies and mentors.
Even if the unknown threatens to overwhelm, beginners “don’t know they don’t know” or “what can’t be done.”
It’s exciting to begin.
A world of opportunity unfolds ahead.

Think of the last time you tried something new. How did you feel?

When you tipped from wishing to wanting to working towards a new beginning, what were you thinking?

As you stood at the point where you either lept or walked away, what nudged you over to trying?

My brain. My heart.
They have conspired to conceal pride and insecurity in shades of “independence” and “resourcefulness.” So in this moment when I have climbed from the sewer of fear and among my worst fears, I stand in an unknown land on an unknown road and have to make a decision.

Will I operate off of the old understandings or will I begin the long walk forward into a place yet seen or even imagined?

Beginners – unlike most “seasoned” and salty folks – know that they really cannot know what is ahead. They learn and prepare – pack their ruck as best they can and then they go.

Recently, I read on the Appalachian Trail facebook page:


Though, I won’t advocate tossing your heavy bits into the woods (that would be littering), I do appreciate the poster’s point. Stop ruminating and hunting for a panacea to cure or avoid all ills. There is no special portent to illuminate the future and way forward. Just move forward and “the way will be made.” 

One of my long favorite words has been “mitigate”…which is kind of sad.

Instead, as I learn to live as a beginner, I will look for a new lexicon of favorite words such as “trust”, “wonder”, “optimism”, and “911” if help is ever needed.

I will call for help more.
And stop expecting myself to know everything ahead of time or on my own.

In the meantime, there are plenty of adventures to try, failures from which to learn, and people to get to know along the way. And – yes – there are bears and snakes ahead, too. Which is why I will continue to choose my companions carefully.

And carry bear spray.
And snakebite kit.
And change the batteries on the smoke alarms and flashlights.

Signs of life.

Bonus: If you haven’t already read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, I hope you soon will. As delightful and snarky as it can be in written form, it is also hilarious as read by the author. I have a copy and am happy to loan it to you. First come. First served.

And perhaps I’ll meet you on the Appalachian or Pacific Coast Trails one day.

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