Aimless: Birthdays and Butterfly Wings


It’s time for my annual birthday rambles, and I feel, this year, to write about change. Of course, we always hear, “Change is good.” And I’ve tried to believe it. But somewhere along the lines, I’ve experienced changes that bring challenge, perhaps more often than not, so while my faith asserts that “Change is good,” my nervous system sometimes responds differently.


But this year of change, my faith was affirmed. Moving through so many changes, deep and lasting, I’ve felt protected and guided. Change is good, and life is, too.

It’s the time of my second Saturn return. Those of you who’ve lived through your first Saturn return, which comes around the age of 28 to 30, have experienced the restructuring this astrological transit brings. The second return, for me, has been as significant, as life-altering, as self-shifting.


Some stories of change:

Over Christmas break, I felt inspired to get some plumbing jobs done that we’d been putting off. Both were more than I could tackle on my own: a leaking shower valve and a leaking kitchen faucet. A plumber fixed the bathtub, cutting through drywall and leaving a patch-up and tile job for us to complete. I’d picked up a replacement faucet for the kitchen, and we had someone from Home Depot come to fix it, only after twenty minutes under the sink with his flashlight and monkey wrench, he poked out his head to say he couldn’t do it. We’d need a new kitchen: new counters, new sink, new cabinets. We knew that day was coming, but I’d been hoping to postpone it for another six years, until I retired, so as not to have to take time off work. But the time had come.


It’s a big change, getting new cabinets, a strong new counter, a deep double sink with a goose-neck faucet. We’d lived without hot water in the kitchen for nearly a year, and a drain that needed frequent plunging. And now–everything works! It wasn’t the timing I would have chosen, but it was the timing that was right.

Saturn returns to demand restructuring: If things don’t work, this is the time to get them fixed. Change. And it’s turned out to be good.


Another story of change:

Not long after we discovered we needed a new kitchen, but before the work had begun, a crown on one of my teeth fell off. I was worried, fearing a root canal or extraction. But the dentist cemented it right back on. “It happens,” said the assistant. They took X-rays, anyway. “They look good,” said the assistant. But the dentist found a dark spot in the X-ray at the base of an old root canal, next to the tooth where the crown fell off.

“That doesn’t look good.”


He referred me to the itinerant endodontist, who’d be there the next month. The endodontist didn’t like the look of it either. He drilled through the crown that had fallen off to give that tooth a root canal. We scheduled another appointment for more investigation for the next month.


Work began on the kitchen, meanwhile, and we were without kitchen counters for a few weeks.

Then, the day before the scheduled endodontist appointment, I received a letter in the mail notifying me that the dental office lost their lease, unexpectedly, and had closed. Just like that. They referred me to another branch, but I could keep my same dentist and endodontist. A string of complications and cancelled appointments, then I finally got the recommended appointment with the endodontist. The kitchen was almost, but not quite, done.


I arrived for the appointment on a bright Saturday morning after a drive along the river wash through early spring air that smelled like yellow palo verde blossoms and sage. As I walked into the building, the dental assistant rushed out. “Are you Cathy? We’ve been trying to call you! Our water-vac system broke. We have to reschedule your appointment.”


I relaxed into the news and rather than feeling bothered, worried, or irritated, I felt waves of relief. This wasn’t just relief at not having to sit in the dentist chair that sunny morning: This was the relief of a timing adjustment. I was being redirected, protected.

I never was able to schedule an appointment with my previous dentist or with the endodontist. When the new office was finally able to see me, it was with a new dentist. She sat beside me, looking over my records and the copious notes taken by the other dentist and the endodontist, shaking her head. She closed the file with finality.

“All right,” she said. “I’m your dentist now. You’re going to be OK.”


I had never thought I wouldn’t. What had those others written in my file? What were their concerns that they hadn’t told me?

I had a chronic dental infection, going back over a decade, maybe two. This, in spite of regular visits to the dentist for the past 16 years, and in spite of thousands of dollars of work having been done (even with insurance). My new dentist sent me to an oral surgeon. Three extractions later, the infection is gone. It’s a major change, and it’s good.


Through all this, I never worried. Each cancellation of an appointment felt like a gesture of protection. On the morning of my first visit to the oral surgeon, I felt complete peace wash through me. I could hear the universe whispering, and I knew that all of this had lined up to bring me to that particular doctor at that particular time.

I felt immediate relief once the procedures were done. It’s taken a while to heal, and several weeks of good rest and self-care to completely knock out the infection. But now, it’s gone. I’m well.

Saturn returns to demand change. Things need to be restructured. What do we bring with us into the next era? Not old kitchens that need to be replaced and not old dental infections, either.

We’re entering something new: We need to be new, too.


A third story of change: My boss, whom I loved and who built our fragmented team into a collaborative group, recently left. We felt heartbroken. Those of us who’ve been there through the past six changes in supervisors felt cynical and worried: Here we go again.

But our new boss, who started two weeks ago, seems, so far, to be even better for the dynamics and individual autonomy of our team than the old one. The habits of gossip and blame-shifting that our old supervisor overlooked or contributed to have stopped. We’re in a better place.


My work partner of nine years retired. We redesigned the job description, and another team member moved into the new position, and now I have a compatible, smart, hardworking, intelligent new partner, who likes me, to boot!

Our work team is adding to new employees, and someone needs to move to make room. It’s my work partner and I who will be moving into the new office. But change is good: the new office has better natural light, more privacy, and will hold just the two of us, rather than a crew of six.

Over the past decade, I’ve seen so much change, personal and professional. I’ve tried to find the good always, even when the change was hard. Often, the good was that I was building strength and resilience in spite of hardship and challenge.


But this year, all the change–and it’s been substantial and significant, as well as completely unexpected–has been overwhelmingly positive.

Most people I know who follow astrology hold superstitions about Saturn: the energy is stern and demanding. The changes brought about, while perhaps for the overall good, are painful.

But that hasn’t been my experience, not with the first Saturn return, which led me to grad school and a new life as a professional. Nor has it been my experience this year with the second Saturn return, when so many things that were ready to be let go of (leaking faucets, dingy counters, crumbling cabinets, chronic infections, gossip in the workplace, overcrowded offices) are being sloughed off.

Change is transformation, and maybe that’s why, sometimes, it’s scary and dreaded.


This year, I gave myself over to change. I trusted the energy associated with Saturn. I trusted that loving, guiding, peaceful protection that I felt, whenever I was still and quiet.

I know I’m not the same as I was a year ago: I’m moving into this new era, the last, or maybe, next-to-last Saturn eras of my life. And I’ve left behind that from the past which doesn’t benefit me, which doesn’t belong.


I gained trust again. I gained such deep gratitude and love. I know the feeling of being protected and guided. In this next era, not all change will feel welcome–of that I can be sure. But I won’t fear it. I’ve felt the benevolence of the universe. That’s what I trust.

Some birthdays see us from one year to the next. This one, for me, is a portal I’m walking through. Can you get younger as you grow older? I think so. For life is always new.


Lighthouse: All Gifts


I remember the day of Naavre’s birth in snippets of scene.

The morning walk with Mojo, when I felt that this would be the day.


Caleb’s call, saying he had a feeling to get in touch with us today, and wondering if we could use some help.


Caleb helping Santi with a model of of planets. “I remember,” Santi said. “It was way far!”

“I bet it was,” Caleb said.


Xirra stopping by.

“It’s time,” she said. “Are you ready? This little one is ready!”


Xirra’s laughter. Though she was an experienced doula, and well-acquainted with a mother’s pain, she laughed so much.

“It kinda hurts,” I said, through clenched teeth. And she laughed more.


“I’m not laughing at you,” she explained. “I’m not even laughing with you! I’m just laughing! I’m so happy! I can’t help it. I’m sorry! I’m not. I’m happy!”


Xirra can be so infuriating.


My screaming. I don’t remember the pain, thank heavens. I guess our mind-body protects us from that, glossing it over, to keep the memory of the day one of joy. But the screams. I remember them.


Sept’s back rubs. His thumbs, pressing into the pressure points along my shoulders took away the pain, even if only for a moment.


“It still hurts.”

Sept laughed.

“Why are you laughing?”

“I’m so happy.”

“See?” Xirra said. They weren’t helping.


Santi’s questions.

“What next? Mallory OK? Why baby inside? Hurt?”

And Xirra’s patient answers in Vingihoplo, explaining anatomy and the birth process in a way that Santi could understand, even the biology lesson was a little bit shocking.


My water breaking, and the undeniable urge to push.

“It’s time! Oh, God! Fuck!”

Sanghi, moMallory!” Santi said.


And then the birth. I stood. I squatted. I panted.

“You’re fine!” Xirra said. “You’re doing great.”

“Fuck, Sept!” I yelled.

“You’re beautiful, byu!”


Screw it ALL!”


And then, with a final push, the baby in my arms. Naavre. All gifts.


He was beautiful. We dressed him in the suit Xirra brought, to help support his tiny heart, liver, and lungs in this dry environment.


Waves of love came from him, like when he was inside of me, but stronger now, amplified by his eyes and his tiny cries.


And Sept. Sept’s joy.


EOo inna-inna EOo.”


“I have a son;  this son has a father,” he said, over and over.

And that was when life changed, yet again, and suddenly, everything seemed to matter so very much, this planet, the rebellion, the riots–all of it. Everything was real, and everything mattered.


That was the day of Naavre’s birth.

<< Previous | Next >>


Aimless: Return Wild and Weird

As I write this, the sun is reaching the exact astrological position it was in when I was born. It’s time for birthday reflections, intentions, and projections.

Each year, I like to draw a tarot or oracle-card spread to help me focus on themes for the coming year. This year, I used the Crystal Mandala Oracle by Alana Fairchild for a three-card spread intended to provide “Deeper Insight.” The night of the solar return… what a perfect time to see ahead and behind!


Wild Tiger

The first card drawn, which presents the response to the question, “What do I need to know?”, is Tiger Spirit Rises.


It’s a card of wildness, of individuality, and of courage.

“To shed conditioning, one layer at a time, takes courage. You have to trust in a self you don’t fully recognize yet… When you tap in to your wildness… authenticity is discovered. You find out who you are. You allow yourself to operate in broader ways than those dictated by society… There is an opportunity to break away from the tribe…

“Roar loud and proud. Your kindred tiger spirit souls will hear you and be drawn to your light.”

–Alana Fairchild,  Crystal Mandala Oracle


The independent spirit of this card fits. I’ve spent a lifetime peeling back the layers of social conditioning. For a while, this past year, I muted my individuality, wanting to fit in better at the workplace since I was in charge of a project that reaches many people. It felt draining, the support I longed for never developed, and I stood out anyway. So towards the end of the project, after I hand-picked my own support team from other strong-spirited colleagues, I decided to give expression to my wildness.


I like the way it feels, and I’m more effective, too. It takes too much energy to be tame!


As a woman working in a tech-related profession in the state with the largest gender income gap in technology in the nation (40.7%,  source:, my work environment operates under an institutional bias against listening to the advice and suggestions of women. Here’s where the wild tiger spirit comes in handy. To do my job, I need to be able to speak up, speak out, and even roar now and then. I can purr, too.


It takes a bit of courage to speak up when it’s needed, especially in a climate where there’s a tendency to look down or look away, but it feels good when it’s the right thing.


It feels like soaring and gaining the perspective that comes from pulling away from “what’s expected” when those expectations are limiting.


From the personal and spiritual perspectives, this strength I develop in the workplace fortifies my individuality and my commitment to speak up when I need to. I’m developing the muscles to do what I need to do and say what I need to say, without apology, without worrying about “taking up space.”  It’s time to be a little wild when wildness gets the job done.


If you’ve got a wild spirit, too, I hope you’ll join me in roaring when you need to, and even just when you feel like it!


The second card of the spread, in the position for “how to best heal and grow,” is Divine Perfection.


“As you grow on your spiritual path, you will eventually become aware of a paradox, two apparently conflicting truths, both of which you resonate with at a deeper level… On one hand, you will be seeking growth and development… The fulfillment of your innate spiritual blueprint… happens as you experience change, growth, healing and transformation.

“However, there is a second truth on the spiritual path that applies to all beings, even those gifted with the ability to transform themselves. This second truth is perfection. There is nothing to do, no change to go through, no healing that needs to take place, because in the inner truth of your nature, you are already divine, whole and perfect.

“Use the inner knowing of the divine wholeness of you to bring you peace as you evolve and grow on your divine path.”

–Alana Fairchild, Crystal Mandala Oracle


A few months back, I came across an old photo of myself that an acquaintance from my youth had posted on facebook. This facebook friend was a former student of my mom’s, when my mom taught at a tiny island school in the Pacific Northwest. My mom’s student was a child in the photo, and I was a teen. It was taken on a day that had completely slipped my memory: a glorious summer day, a few weeks before my birthday, when our family had volunteered to help with the island arts festival. My job, on that particular day, was to dress up in the burlap monster costume and entertain the kids. In the photo, I’m reclining in my burlap suit. The monster head lies beside me, and one child sits between my monster feet, leaning on my burlap-clad legs, while another perches on a wicker chair.

I had completely forgotten that day, that monster costume, and those wild children with whom I’d played for hours until we were so tired that we dropped in a heap of giggles and stories.

When I first saw the photo, I didn’t recognize myself. It must have been a random tag, I figured. But the next day, I realized it was me–but what was I doing clothed in burlap? Through the coming days, slowly that afternoon returned to me, and with it, a feeling of complete wholeness. I picked up a piece of myself that had somehow gotten lost along the way.


When I look at myself in the photo, I can see how I’ve grown, transformed, and healed. In the photo, my shoulders are tight and curve in a bit–I wasn’t comfortable in my skin and my emotional blocks settled in my shoulders. I can remember my insecurities when I look at that image.

I’ve grown so much in the 41 years since that photo was taken, shedding the emotional blocks, settling into my body, becoming comfortable with who I am, and healing from wounds and oversights. I’ve lived a lifetime of transformation and change, and in many ways, I’m not the same person.


And yet, at the same time, I am. And that moment, that glorious afternoon, was perfection. Sure, we could rattle off a million things that weren’t right: but that moment was perfect.

As is every moment, for inside each moment, perfection lies.


This is what this card means, this message of growth and healing: Yes, we grow, change, shift, transform. And at the same time, perfection forms the core of every moment. There is no need to change, and nothing to change, while at the same time, everything changes.

Rebel Spirit

The third card presents the message of “special gifts and blessings.” The third card in this reading is Divine Rebel.


“Divine rebels shake things up, create a divine disturbance and refuse to play by the rules. They do this because they love divine love! They know there is nothing as powerful as the unconditional love of the Divine… If there is a rule that gets in the way of that love, then the divine rebel will find another way so that love can have its way… Divine rebels are not always understood, but they are respected by those who are ready to make love more important than fear, and who are willing to contribute constructively towards healing the world.

“The divine rebel does things that break stereotypes wide open. They dance when they are supposed to be sitting still. They argue when they are supposed to be quiet. They are serene when they are supposedly meant to be enraged. And they get angry when they are meant to be calm. This is natural for a rebel… because this is how they were divinely designed.

“When the Oracle of Divine Rebel comes to you, you are being acknowledged as one of the ones who are different and who are here to stir up loving truths in your own particular way… Maybe you… don’t necessarily fit in completely to any one social group… Maybe you… think differently and maybe you worry sometimes that you are even a bit weird…

“If you try to clip your wings and your wild streak to ‘join the real world,’ you’ll feel as though you are abandoning yourself.”

–Alana Fairchild, Crystal Mandala Oracle


Early in 2017, I had a few painful instances when others pointed out that I was weird.

You’d think, at my age, after a lifetime of being considered weird that I’d have become used to it! The thing is: I actually thought that I’d been accepted by these two groups (one, the SimLit community, and the other, my family) for my weirdness.

Turns out–not so much.

Around this time, I got together with a good friend, and over coffee, I shared with her these two instances and my hurt.

My friend protested that I wasn’t weird. A few days later, she suggested in an email that I join a support group so that I can “ONCE AND FOR ALL, get it thru [my] head that [I am] NOT WEIRD.”

As well-intentioned as her advice was, it didn’t help. It gave a message that didn’t fit my experience: If I am normal then this disconnect that I feel so often between myself and other less eccentric people and groups is somehow… an illusion? Not real? Imagined? If I am normal, then maybe I need to act, speak, create, write, and be in a more conforming manner?

For a few months, then, I tried to reel it in. My friend had suggested that maybe I don’t share my insights, opinions, and perspectives so readily. I made an attempt at following this advice. I felt miserable. I felt stifled.

How much better I felt when I drew this card and read that, yes, I am indeed weird, and yes, it’s how I fulfill my purpose!

My friend’s advice might work for her, but it doesn’t work for me!

I am going to be my full weird self, in all my weirdness, and all my wildness, poised between perfection and growth!

When I think of it, all the people I love the most are weird.


Even my historical idols: J. S. Bach, Jane Austen, Beethoven, Brahms, George Eliot, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Zora Neale Hurston, Glenn Gould–each has been branded “weird” and I love them all!

Then let me be weird!

All those I love best are weird, and we’ll form a collective of happy, weird, wild souls, full of love, and roaring at the moon with our heartfelt declarations of the truth that is at the heart of all wisdom: IT IS LOVE, BABY, AND NOTHING ELSE!

That’s what matters. And that’s what’s free. If you’re weird, you can join us, too!


This is my birthday song: wild, perfect, weird, and free.

Shift 14: Birthday


In a lot of ways, this is my best summer ever.

Ted’s really cool. He’s teaching me woodworking. I’ve been making sculptures.

He says most kids don’t have patience for it, because it takes so much sanding and chiseling to wear away what’s not wanted.

He says life is like that. If you want to be art, you gotta let life wear away and chisel all that gets in the way of your true form.

I think about that sometimes when I work the wood. Life has sure worn away so much from me. I don’t think what’s left is art. I don’t know what’s left. Just a body and a spark inside.

Ted says that’s what art is: the form and the spark.


I spend a lot of time alone because Ted heads off for days or even weeks at a time. He always takes a trip into town first and comes back with enough groceries to tide me through until he returns.

He was gone on July 15. That’s my birthday. Right now, I’m the only one on the planet who knows that July 15 is my birthday. Everyone else who ever knew is gone. Well, my uncle knew once, but he probably forgot. Or even if he didn’t, he doesn’t exist for me.

I decided to bake a cake.


I was turning 15, and I was gonna celebrate my quinceañera.


The cake turned out perfect. Even the icing looked perfect. There were chunks of wild strawberries in the cake. I thought of how proud Gran would be of me, baking perfect quinceañera cake.


This was the first birthday I’d ever spent alone.


Last year, Gran had teased me about the quinceañera.

“Next year, mija, you wearing a dress for the party? Frilly pink and flowers? Or a suit?”

She was sick then. She was really sick. But she still joked about this year, like she thought she’d pull through and be here.

“I’ll wear a suit,” I told her, and she laughed until tears came out of her eyes. But maybe she was crying because she knew. “I’ll wear a suit,” I said, “but I’ll wear a pink carnation in the top button hole. That’ll be my pink frills!”

I didn’t feel like eating cake anymore.


I headed out. Some luna moths circled over the meadow.


I walked towards the crags. The sky grew dark.


I sat on a boulder and watched the stars appear.


Some stars are suns of other planets.


It’s vast and silent. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your birthday.


I watched for hours. I watched in silence for eons. I fell away.


It isn’t personal, that’s what the vastness told me.

Nothing that happens is personal.

We live on a planet with billions of people. With so many, of course some will die. Many will die. It’s not personal.

It has nothing to do with me, that Mom and Dad died when I was eight, and Gran died last August. It just happened. It’s not a vendetta. It’s not fate. I wasn’t marked.

It simply happened. With billions of beings, some will die. It’s not personal. It just happens.

It’s not personal that I didn’t get to run track this year. It’s simply how it is.

It’s not personal that I’m alone on my birthday. It happens.

What’s personal is me.

Inside me, there’s something. Something that watches and feels and sees. That’s not personal, either. That’s the same as what’s out there, in the infinite.

What’s personal is that this spark is inside of me, and that I know it. I am it.


And what happens doesn’t matter.

All that matters is that I am this spark inside, inside my own particular self, and I am watching and witnessing and experiencing what happens.

It’s like I had two streams: the personal and the infinite, and within me they join to become one river, and that’s the same river that connects me with all that is.


I stayed out most the night, watching these two streams connect.

When I got back to the cabin, Ted was still gone. That means I get to sleep in the bed, since when he’s home I sleep in the sleeping bag on the porch.

It’s not personal that I got to sleep in a warm bed on my 15th birthday. It’s just what happened. I had the best sleep of my life. And that is personal.


<< Previous | Next >>

Wonder 54


Tanner is one smart kid. When he plays Arithmetic Attack, he actually knows the sums and rattles them off before the screen even finishes loading. I remember when I was kid trying to master basic math functions. “Feel the numbers!” Tia Berry told me.

I think I ended up doing some sort of fancy visualization of clusters of dots. Memorizing would’ve been a lot quicker, in the long run.


I still heard Tanner calling out the sums while I was in the kitchen. It was my birthday, and I was going to bake a cake!


Luna, living in the big house just across the meadow, was the first to arrive.

“That looks like it’s sugar-free, Chaz,” she said, looking at the cake batter.

“It’s date-sweetened,” I told her, “so it’s got both fructose and sucrose. But it’s still healthier than processed sugar cane!”


“Are you expecting a lot of people?” Tanner asked.

“Oh, not so many!” I told him. I started rattling off the guest list. When I reached eighteen names, I realized that, for a little kid who’d just moved here, maybe that was a lot. “But seus avós will be coming, and you know them already!”

“That makes only sixteen strangers then,” he said.


I thought for a moment that maybe I should have consulted with Tanner–or included him in the planning. I’m still not accustomed to thinking as a family.

I confessed my worries to the caterer, who’s someone I know from the diner.

“I wouldn’t worry,” she said. “Look around! Everybody’s having a great time! Besides, you’re the dad. You get to make the big decisions, like when to have parties and who to invite.”


A little later, I found Pai in the living room, sitting alone and laughing over a movie.

“You OK, Pai?” I asked. I was surprised he wasn’t with everyone else.

“You ever see this movie?” he asked. “This one about the ghosts that need busting! It about to make me bust a gut! It’s Gut-Busters, that’s for sure, Carlito!”


I watched the last few minutes of the movie with him, then we walked together back into the kitchen, where all my friends and neighbors were gathered.

“Where are os velhos? It is all the youth! I want to see the more the gray hair!” he said.


I looked around, and sure enough, Pai and Mãe were the only old folks there. That felt odd to me. It’s the first party I’ve had or been to that Tia Berry wasn’t at, the first one without other friends in my parents’ generation.

I watched Tanner, and I thought about how, for him, he’s in a party with a bunch of old people. Grown-ups. But heck. We were just kids yesterday, and our parents were not even as old as we are now.


I worried about Mãe. Pai kept a smile on her face, but she’s still looked strained and worn.


“You feeling all right, Mãe?” I asked.

“Oh, yes, son,” she said. She’d never called me “son” before. “I’ve got a million feelings inside of me, and a million and one echoes. And every single one is telling me that everything is all right.”

Pai wrapped me in a big hug.

“I am so proud of you, Carlos,” he said. “You always do me proud.”


It was a great birthday. I felt surrounded with all the good feelings of my friends, my parents, and my son.

I didn’t know it at the time–though maybe, on some level, I sensed it–but that was the last time I’d see Mãe and Pai. We found out a few days later that Mãe passed. And the day after that was Pai‘s last. I try to feel thankful that Tanner got to meet seus avós and to remember on top of that that our last day together was full of laughter and hugs.

<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.42


Marigold takes over the bedtime story routine.

“I love it, Mom!” she says. “It’s so fun to read these stories that I loved so much as a kid.”

“It’s not boring to you?” I ask.

“If it is, I just make up a new story.”

I hear her with Patches.

“They always tell you to dream. To live! They say ‘magic is in your heart!’ I’m here to tell you that magic is all around us, and dreams are OK, but what’s more important are the feelings they evoke. Rather than ‘follow your dreams,’ I say, ‘follow your feelings.’ Love, inspiration, peace, enthusiasm–let these be your guides! Then your life will be rich.”


It’s her valedictorian speech. I’ve heard it a hundred times already, as she walks through the house practicing.

“Do you like the message?” she asks me.

“Very much,” I say, reflecting that it took me a lifetime to learn that lesson. I imagine the students sitting in the auditorium. Will they listen to her? Or will they each be so wrapped in the membrane of their own dreams that their ears close while their eyes follow the chimera of all they hope to make real?

The night before graduation, we celebrate Marigold’s birthday. Though frost lies on the ground, she wants to have the party outside.


We’re all there to celebrate: Annie and Mara Nix, Pip, Bobobo, Patches, Gator Wolff, and more friends.

“Let me go change,” Marigold says. She runs inside and when she returns, she’s dressed like a go-go Greek goddess. “All set!” she says.

And we cheer.

I have lived to see this bunny become a young woman. I exhale the breath that I’ve been holding these past five years. Wish granted.


That night, I read Patches her story. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have for bedtime stories.

“Is it true that feelings are more important than dreams?” she asks me.

“They’re both important,” I say. “Feelings lie at the deeper level, at the core. And the dreams, they’re just one of many pointers to the feelings. You can follow the dreams or follow the feelings, Little Patches, whichever feels right to you. Just don’t mistake the pointers for the real thing, OK?”

“Like the moon story?” she asks. I look at her quizzically. “The finger isn’t the moon.”

“Exactly,” I say.


I live to see my daughter walk out of our house wearing her cap and gown. This is the valedictorian, top of her class. She’s been rehearsing her speech all morning.


I feel tears of gratitude, pride, and relief as I head out to the cab. This is what I’ve prayed for, that I would live to see Marigold graduate. I’ve accomplished what I set out to all those years ago when she was brought to me, a funny little bunny in a basket, and now, she is a young woman, ready to inspire and lead others. What a miracle.


I tell Marigold that I’m proud of her, and then we fall into the silence of our thoughts as we wait for Patches and Bobobo to join us in the cab.

I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the whispering voice.

Maybe you have integrated it into yourself, so there’s no longer a need to hear it as if from without.

Maybe so.


Patches and I follow the trail of daisies that Bobobo leads into the auditorium.

“Think I’ll graduate one day?” Patches asks me.

“Absolutely,” I say.

“Will you be proud of me?” she asks.

“I’m proud of you already, Patches,” I say, “and nothing will ever change that.”


Marigold’s speech is received with cheers and a standing ovation. Her classmates vote her “Most likely to take over the world.” Bobobo looks at me and says, “How’d she get that job? That’s supposed to me mine!”

When we get home, Marigold and Patches play chess, and I look out the window, watching Bobobo as he rides his rocking horse, deep in concentration. I will not see him graduate and become a young man, this I know. But I’ve seen him grow into a young sprout, and with his sister, I can trust that he’ll receive the guidance that he needs. She’s got more strength and wisdom than I could ever muster. He’ll be in good hands.


<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.30

I’ve always loved birthday parties. We mark our years by them.

But this party leaves me shredded to the core.


In addition to the party crashers, everyone I invited came: the Nixes, Faith and Felicity, Frank, Arkvoodle, and, of course, Chauncey. This is Chauncey’s last party.


I knew he was getting old. He’s a little older than me, and he’d been complaining lately of feeling tired and not having much energy. But we had no idea that tonight, his time was up.


Mike Nix, who’s known him even longer than I have, looked like his heart would break.


Faith and Felicity tried to comfort Marigold, who had never witnessed a passing before, but they were so sad themselves, they hardly knew what to say.


Poor Mara, with her gentle heart, looked like the world was ending.

Hetal, who never could stand her mom’s boyfriend, was untouched.


While Annie wept, and Frank and Arkvoodle looked on with remorse, Chauncey smiled. He looked more at peace than I’d ever seen him in life.


And that’s when I lost it. Chauncey. My oldest friend! My first crush. My first best friend. My first roommate. Chauncey. What will we do without you?


Was it the grief, the overwhelming emotions? Something touches my friends and transforms them.

Annie looks like she’s been zombified.


And Frank! I have never seen him like this! If it weren’t for his same golden eyes, I wouldn’t recognize him with what long, pointy ears he has, what long pointy fingernails, what long pointy teeth!


And the strange robed figure in black curdles my stomach and sends chills up my spine. All the grief is shocked out of me for that brief moment.


Marigold soldiers on and prepares to make her wish and blow out the candles, and I let out what is meant to be a cheer, but what becomes the longest, saddest, yowling keen. It’s a broken heart keening, a fear-inspired keening, the keen of one who sees her place in the line, with all her closest friends standing before her, knowing that, one by one, there is a single direction in which we head. It’s the keen of a mother who doesn’t want to leave her child. Oh, you in the black robe! Listen well! And give me time! And let my friends linger, too.


<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.27


“It’s Lamber! No, it’s a rocket ship! No, it’s meteor! Wait! It’s Super Lamber!”

I’m happiest when I hear Marigold playing while I paint, cook, or read.

She’s happiest when we’re playing together.

“Guess who’s my best friend!” she says.

“Lamber?” I ask. “Riley?”

“No, silly! You are!”


Stray Dog has wandered off. We look for him everyday, and we keep expecting him. Every time we hear a dog bark in the distance, we think it’s him. It never is.

We mark the years with birthdays, hers in fall, mine in spring.


The same crowd comes to every party: Frank, Arkvoodle, Joe, the Nixes, Hetal Anjali, Chauncey, Felicity and Faith, and whoever else happens to show up.


I notice each year that our friends are growing up and growing old. And then one year, when I look in the mirror, I notice how gray my hair has become, and Lord! Are those crow’s feet around my eyes? Sure enough, I’ve joined the white-hairs.


“Good party, huh, Marigold?” Frank asks. “You like that dim sum?”

Marigold, who has an athlete’s appetite, ate three helpings of dim sum at this party.


When all the guests leave and Marigold is tucked in, I sit alone and rock. If there are things I want to do in life, I realize, it’s time for me to do them. But what else do I want? I want Stray Dog to return, but he never does. I’d like to travel a bit, now that Marigold’s old enough to enjoy a trip and while I’m still active enough for hiking and adventures. Maybe we can go to Egypt, so that Marigold can sample her favorite food, falafels.


I book us a trip.

Soon, it’s time. We arrive in the early morning.

“Let’s go to the market,” I say.

“It’s awfully sunny here,” says Marigold. “Where are the clouds?”


At the market, Marigold is so hot that she swims in the fountain.

“I need water!” she says. “I’m not a sun turtle!”


We take a few day trips, the see the Sphinx and explore some desert ponds, but most of the time we spend at base camp. I learn the recipe for falafels, so I can make them at home.


Marigold discovers a desert tortoise.

“Is he happy here?” she asks.

“Does he look happy?”

“Yeah. Do you think he’d like it back home?”

“With all that rain and snow and mist and fog? No. He’s a sun tortoise, and this is his home.”


I meet other travelers, and I always wind up telling them about Dante, and they always end up bored, listening to an old woman reminisce about her lover who died while they were both young. Before I get to the part about how our love never died, they’ve stopped listening and are looking for opportunities to escape. I miss Dante and the red pulsing light of his heart.


“We need to go home,” Marigold tells me. “What if Stray Dog comes back, and we’re not there?”

“Stray Dog will wait,” I tell her. “If he comes, he’ll come at night, and you know how he loves ghosts! Dante and Martin will be sure to keep him there until we return.”


Marigold pretends she’s a king of an ancient kingdom.

“What decrees should I make?” she asks me.

“Anything!” I tell her. “Just decide what you want and make it so!”


When I walk her to her tent that night, I ask what decrees she made.

“Just one,” she says. “I decree our vacation to be over so we can go home!”

“Good decree!” I tell her. “It just so happens this is the last night of our trip, and tomorrow, bright and early, we fly home!”


Our home never looked sweeter than when we arrived.

“It’s raining!” says Marigold, and the mist settles over the mountains. “I missed you, rain.”

Even the gnomes celebrate our homecoming.

“Three cheers! They’re here! They’re here! The wanderers have returned!” shouts Snowflake.

“Hip-hip-hooray!” yells Bucktooth.

We are home, at the sweetest point of any trip, the coming home point.


<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.18


I consider returning to college for a second degree. I figure that my career as a gardener might benefit from a B.S. in botany. I’d forgotten how hard the aptitude test is! But I do well–I qualify for a full scholarship and advanced credits in science. So, this option is available.

Just because a door opens doesn’t mean you need to walk through it–check with your heart and do what you love.

When Dante comes by that evening, I talk with him about returning to college.

“Are you hungry for it?” he asks. “If so, do it! If not, then what are you hungry for?”


I’m hungry for painting.

Before I start the painting for Mara, I’ve got this other idea that I have to express. I’m not sure where it comes from or what it means. It just says something to me that I feel needs to be said. It feels like it hooks up with my life somehow, but I’m not sure how.


Before I know it, my birthday rolls around. I invite Chauncey and the whole gang.


It’s a funny party. We take turns rocking in the rocking chair. We hold father-daughter video game competitions. (Mara wins.) We eat spaghetti.


My alien friend does his thing in the corner of the room. I have no idea what he’s doing, but it makes this neat buzzing sound and I like the way the air around him feels like it’s charged with knowledge.


“My! These games are quite original!” Beatrice says. “Did you really just knock off that zombie’s head, Frank?”

Frank just chuckles.


And then it’s time for my cake.

“Remember the power of birthday wishes,”says Beatrice.


Mara asks if it’s true if a birthday wish doesn’t come true if you say it aloud.

“Any wish loses power when spoken to others,” Beatrice said, “unlike an intention, which gains power when shared.”


Before making my wish, I turn and look at the room filled with my friends–each one cheering for me, each one wishing me well, each one celebrating another year of life!

I realize that my unspoken wish has already been granted.


Frank is the last one to leave. We sit together on the love seat. He reads, and I enjoy the warm feelings of friendship.

Frank and I haven’t done much with our band. We haven’t done anything with the budding romance which we both thought might be happening between us.

But we’ve done a lot with our friendship: we’ve let it blossom.

“Thanks for being here,” I tell him.

“Sure thing, Cat,” he says.


Dante comes that night and we have our own private party.

I play a song I wrote for him.


We asked the Love Machine
all about us.

It foretold doom–but not for us.
It foretold the end–but not of us.

It said what lasts
Was what we had.

You didn’t last.
But we did.

You faded out
But not our love.


I celebrate my first day after my birthday by going for a long run at dawn. This eerie world is so beautiful.


With the mist settling over the mountains and the autumn trees bare against the gray sky, some might call this view sombre or even Gothic.

I might have said that when I first moved here. But today, I love it. I’m drawn by the mystery, the shadows, the hidden.


At the fire pit by the beach, I spot an odd figure, dressed like a carnival clown.


It’s Rainflower Ivy.

“What are you doing here, Rain?” I ask him. Rainflower and I have a bit of a history. He’s Chauncey’s best friend, and back when Chauncey was my roommate, Rainflower asked me out a few times. I went out with him once, but as soon as I learned he was married, I cut the date short. But we’ve stayed wary friends.

“I wanted a little time alone,” he says.

“Are you all right? Why’re you dressed like this?”

“I’m feeling rather tragic,” he replies. “I thought it might help me feel happier, better about my life, if I dressed cheerfully. But it just makes me feel worse.”

“Well, take care of yourself, OK? You want me to call your wife or Chauncey?”

“Naw,” he replies. “I’ll just sit here for a bit. Contemplate emptiness.”

“Nothing’s empty, Rain,” I say.

“That’s what you think,” he replies.


Back home, I feel the inspiration that I needed for Mara’s painting.

When we were looking through the inspiration books, she kept pointing to paintings in folk style, with bright colors, simple shapes, classical composition, and symbolic content.

I think about Mara, a young woman with a strong mom, a member of this strange and vibrant community, a person drawn by meaning and magic. I hope she likes what I paint.


<< Previous | Next >>

Summer Camp in Windenburg, pt. 2

I called up Rory and invited her to visit us at camp.

I told her that I wanted to get her insight on one of the boys who’d just joined us, and, as his fairy godmother, Rory was the best person to shed light on his situation.


But I really had a completely different reason for asking Rory over.

“So what do we need to know about Blake?” I asked Rory, as we sat in the orangerie.

“He’s a really sweet kid, first of all,” she said. “But something kind of shocking happened.”



“At his recent birthday, a neighbor died. So sad. His mom bargained with the Grim Reaper, and even brought the neighbor back!”

“Really? That’s fantastic!” I said.


“I know! Amazing!” said Rory. “But still. The whole thing was pretty shocking for him, and I just feel that he could use some cheer.”

“Well, cheer is something we can probably offer,” I said. “I mean, Joel is here! And if anybody can cheer up anybody, it’s Joel, Mr. Happiness Cupcakes, himself!”


I excused myself, saying that I needed to check on the kids. But really, this was just an excuse for the real reason we invited Rory over.

Once in the kitchen, the kids and I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, really quickly. We made a vegan recipe, added extra chocolate, and a little bit of extra vanilla beans, just so it would they would be extra delicious.

“Do you really think she’ll like these better than a cake?” Cadence asked.

“Of course!” said Joel. “Cookies are the best birthday treat ever.”

“Shhh!” I said. “Now keep it a surprise until I say the magic word!”

“What’s the magic word?” asked Hahon.

“Chocolate chip!”

“That’s two words,” said Waikiki.

I called Rory into the kitchen, and we all sat down to a cookie feast, each of us trying not to giggle from the secret.


“Mmmm! These cookies are delicious!” said Rory. “What kind are they?”

“Umm,” said Joel, “They’re not oatmeal. Could they be…?”

“Shhh!” I shouted. “Not yet!”


“Did you help make these cookies, Waikiki?” Rory asked.

“Yup,” said Waikiki.

“Then I bet you know what kind of cookies they are,” Rory said.

“Nope,” said Waikiki.


“You guys are acting awfully secretive about these cookies,” Rory said.


“Say the secret word!” Blake begged.

I couldn’t stand it any longer; I was dissolving in giggles.

“They’re chocolate chip!” I said.

And everybody blurted out, “Happy birthday, Rory!”


“You know,” I told Blake, “I think summer camp must be the fairy godmother birthday center!”

“What are you talking about?” Blake asked.

“Yeah,” said Waikiki.


“Oh, nothing much,” I said. “It’s just that some people are a little extra special. They’ve got a special connection of magic to you, like Madison to Waikiki, Cadence, and Hahon, Sunny Day to Tre, Lovesstorms to Gerald, and Rory to you.”


Rory looked at Blake. “It’s like a special fondness,” she said. “Or maybe a special power in your life.”

“Like when Mom pleaded with the Reaper and my neighbor stood up?”

“Sort of,” said Rory.


The kids ran off to play, and Joel, Rory, and I hung out in the kitchen.

“I guess we sort of do hold the power of life and death,” said Rory.

“Well, I’m not sure we’re all that mighty,” I said.

And Joel laughed. “Depends on the rules we’re following, I guess.”


Happy birthday, Rory!

<< Previous | Next >>