Flowers, Anyway

Author’s note: This story is my entry in the May Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, generously hosted by the lovely LisaBeeSims. Thank you, Lisa! Your efforts are so appreciated.

Readers, please take a look at all the entries, which will be listed on LisaBee’s site at the beginning of June 2021, then vote for your favorite three in both the Veteran and Novice categories.

This month’s theme is May Flowers.

“What are you planting flowers for?” he asked. “They’ll just die anyway.”

It was their first house together. They’d dated a few years before getting married, so she knew him well enough to know that he wasn’t being cruel in saying this. He was not a mean man. But she didn’t know him through and through. She hadn’t yet seen into his spots of pain.

She planted carrots, kale, zucchini, beans–practical crops they could harvest before they died. She developed a fondness for squash blossoms, and one year, she planted peas, and she snuck out early in the morning to let her eyes wander their white blossoms, little slips of satin tucked among the vines.

Life challenged them, as it does all of us, but through the years, they learned not to challenge each other.

They worked together for their life, side by side.

Late at night, while they lay together, he looked up at the ceiling and sometimes told stories. She learned how he blamed himself for his mother’s death, when she died when he was ten. He hadn’t loved her enough. He took her for granted. He always thought there would be tomorrow to listen to her, to thank her.

They never had kids. She wanted a cat or a dog. He wouldn’t agree.

“Their lives are too short.” His family dog died when he was twelve. “I wasn’t ready for that.”

Sometimes, she marveled that he’d taken her into his heart, at all, closed as he was to anything beautiful, tender, temporary.

“You’re so strong,” he said, “and healthy. You’ll last forever.” So maybe that was why he dared to love her.

There were other pains, too, that he’d faced alone, before they met, and new ones that they faced together as husband and wife.

When you know somebody’s pain, something happens. You soften, and maybe they soften, too, and when you spend your lives together in that soft space, delicate, lacy petals open. The garden grows inside both of you.

After the doctor’s appointment, when she found out that even with the best treatments, she would die, anyway, she ordered hundreds of bulbs. They arrived the next week, and she spent the days of her last autumn planting them, knowing she wouldn’t see them bloom.

He looked up from his work at the computer to watch her. He didn’t believe the doctor. She wouldn’t die.

“I want you to get a companion,” she told him. “You shouldn’t live alone. If not another wife, then a dog. A cat. Some living thing to breathe beside you.”

“I’m not getting another anything,” he replied.

In the spring, he woke alone every morning. He still told his stories every night, though her side of the bed was empty; it just felt right to share his pain into the night room, as he’d done throughout their life together.

Tulips, daffodils, and narcissus bloomed. He knew flowers died, but somehow, that didn’t matter, anymore.

His breath caught when he saw them, his heart opened, and that had to mean something.

Five years later, his garden is filled with flowers, and a golden retriever is always by his side.

With each zinnia he plants, each rose he tends, he glimpses something that maybe lasts, at least in his mind’s eye and heart’s breath, after the flower fades.

More Short Stories by CathyTea


A Psijic’s Measure: The Power of Love

Author: Michael/@Shishwik



So much power.

The kind to kill gods. As I have recently done to Molag Bal, at least temporarily.

I can always feel it seething and writhing beneath the surface of my consciousness. Feel it burning its way through my blood stream. Feel it cloud my vision and darken my way of thinking until I want to melt the entire world. This power is consuming me, and I don’t mind.

I may have to turn this power against myself to avert the consequences of its growth unchecked and unbalanced.

Hmm, perhaps that is the better outcome, use all I have in one great rush of cataclysmic energy and remove a possible threat to the innocent.

You see, I am still searching for my sisters. I know I WILL find them. I do not know WHEN. I feel that if we do not come together soon, I will lose myself in what I am afraid of becoming. A monster myself. Uncaring. Pitiless. Addicted to the screams and blood. What in the name of the Tribunal is happening to me? I am so alone…

I have spoken to Almalexia, Vivec, and Sotha Sil. I have helped each of them with something they could not do themselves. I have had adulation heaped upon me until I was drunk with the respect… and fear. Yet the Three did not warn me, did not offer advice, did not so much as hint that there was something wrong with my psyche. They did, however, offer empty platitudes and a rather subdued thank you, along with the mention that I have helped save Nirn from some unknown yet terrible threat.

Gods are worse than children sometimes. I hope I will not have to deal with another.

As I battle my way across Tamriel, I have noticed something unsettling. In the more intellectually gifted beings I must battle, I recognize in their eyes exactly what I feel more and more often: an insatiable desire to destroy. Take this giant I am looking at through the gaps in the trees for example. Casually walking around a village it helped destroy, eating cows, smashing barns, stomping like they are kings without a worry or responsibility for their actions.

Oh hell, my blood is starting to boil, the sickeningly sweet power is stirring, I rush forward…

I don’t know how long I was dazed. It cannot have been too long because the brute is standing over me slowly raising its massive foot to turn me into jelly, the whole time sneering down with rage and glee from 20 feet above me. I contemplate not moving.


I dart my gaze at this unexpected command and see this little woman rushing toward us, some kind of metal skull cap on her head and glowing runes on her face. My eyes shift back to the now descending foot. I roll. The impact is deafening at such close range. My eyes are filled with dirt and grass and snow. I can’t breathe through the mud clogging my mouth. I just start running in random directions, doing all I can to clear my face of the detritus. After what seems an hour, I can see and breathe again. I am now quite far from the little woman and extremely angry behemoth. I will say this, that little lady has spunk! Just look at her dodge and weave, throwing everything she has at him. The giant is loosing his mind! He stops.

Wait… Why is he stopping? He is facing the woman who is standing before a half destroyed and open barn. She is facing the giant squarely, breathing like bellows.

I am running up behind the giant when I notice a giantess emerging from the barn behind the woman. I scream, pouring every ounce of rage, pain, loneliness, and loss into the sound tearing my throat. As the male turns, he is felled with fire and lightning. As he falls sizzling to the ground, the woman is sailing through the air from a hit from the giantess. She lands limply. I immediately change direction to offer what paltry aid I may. The female giant is prodding the smoking husk left by my power. I smile.

I don’t have time to check for signs of life in the woman; I just apply what little restorative magic I have into my would-be battle companion. Blood covers her face, and her arm is bent unnaturally. As soon as the spell is over, I gather my remaining strength and turn to face not one, but two of these powerful beings. I may get my wish after all. I feel life and energy coursing through my veins. Powerful healing has been given to me. I start to turn my head…


I run left. Laying down a carpet of lightning, I summon my familiar, Mouthie. He immediately charges the giantess. I cast another spell to bolster his damage and turn to the newcomer. The woman and I make short work of him together. She is pumping me full of healing magic as I electrocute and burn the giant down. My familiar has unsuprisingly driven the female giant away. He can be quite thorough in his desire to please. I love that ugly little bastard.

As we approach each other, the woman and I start to slow. We stop some 30 feet apart and seem to each be mesmerized by the other. Her face is covered in blood from a head wound. She is staring with an intensity I have never felt before, given or received. I shake loose of the feeling and start forward again. So does the woman. I retrieve my water skin and a cloth to help clean her up. She closes her eyes as I perform my ministrations. Neither of us saying a word. I finish.

She opens her eyes. Our gazes lock. Time is forgotten. Love is here, right now in this scene of destruction. My doubts are gone. I am no longer alone.

My heart swells, tears streaming down my face. Overcome, I fall to my knees. She moves close, embracing me, and rests her head on mine. I wrap my arms around her legs and utter a single word through my sobbing…


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Puppy Love 26


Do you ever find yourself acting on an idea whose genesis you can’t trace? Where’d that idea come from?

Maybe you were sitting on your couch, feeling a little sad, missing someone, perhaps, or feeling forlorn. Then, next you know, you feel an impulse blow through you.

“I need to get out!” You say. “I need some fresh air!”

Sometimes, we are the ones who whisper these ideas to you, we spirits in the After who never really leave, who always watch and wait for you to listen.

In this way, Lucas found himself following a notion to take Emery for a run along the boardwalk. Oh, yes! I explicitly whispered, “Emery! Emery wants a run! And it will do you good, too.”


By the time Lucas stopped running, he found himself wondering. What was he doing there? I rode the breeze around him. Emery barked softly.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it, pup?” he said.

Do you know that you can see us in reflected light? I shimmered over the waves, singing Lucas’s name, but only Emery listened.


“You’re not alone here, Emery,” I sang. “You’re not alone!”


Lucas let him off the leash, and Emery raced down to the dock, passing another dog, a stray.


Nougat is a boxer with a tail that’s never been bobbed and ears that have never been clipped. She’s lived on the beach for a few months in a loose pack of strays.

Lucas called over an Irish setter, who’d been following Nougat. But it wasn’t the setter that I’d brought Lucas here to see.

“Out on the dock,” I whispered. “Keep on!”


While Lucas befriended Nougat, the dog I’d led them there to meet appeared: Prissy,  a beautiful, intelligent, friendly border collie with the right spirit to bring healing to a home submerged in grief.


Prissy raised her head and sang, long and low, stirring in me all the memories of life and living in a house full of pups.

Sweet days
with sticks and balls and bones

Sweet nights
with a rug on the floor in a home

What a dog,
every dog,
what a dog

wants: a home,
a stick, a bone.

Her song got inside of us.

“You look so lonely,” Lucas said to Nougat. “Do you like living here on the beach, scrounging for food? Wouldn’t you rather come home with us?”


Of course she wanted that. It was fine with Emery, too, but it wasn’t what he had in mind.

What a dog
with a tail and ears and brown eyes

What a dog
with cute feet and just the right size

I like a dog
with long fur

Long ears
and a song

What a dog…


Nougat and I liked his song, but Nougat knew he wasn’t singing about her.


“You’ve caught another dog’s scent, then?” she asked.


He looked up the dock, where Prissy sat.

“She can sing,” he replied.


He trotted up beside her.

“Come meet Lucas,” he said.


And the moment she met him, the moment Lucas met her, we knew, this border collie had found her new home.


But what about Nougat? We can’t leave her behind!

She ran and pounced on Lucas.

“Oh!” he said. “You know the great game of Pounce? Then you belong with us!”

Of course I had my reasons in sending Lucas to the beach with Emery. I hoped he’d find a beautiful dog to bring home.

He surprised me by bringing home two.


The house was full again–six big dogs! And Lucas spent all his time filling supper dishes, bathing dirty dogs, and mopping muddy paw prints.

But through all his efforts, he smiled. He sang.

“So many dogs
So little time!

“So many paws!
Each one divine!”

There are as many ways to heal from grief as there are to grieve. But every healing happens through love.


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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.


Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 8

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dear Kaitlin,

It felt so good to talk to you. I’m glad you called. It didn’t feel weird at all, as I thought it might, because you sound just like you, and I feel like I’ve known you forever.

How did it go with the therapist?

I hope you have someone who reinforces a sense of agency and helps you create your boundaries and rediscover your strength! Remember: there are so many therapists out there, so if for any reason, this one doesn’t seem to be effective at this time, you have the right to find someone else. You’re the client.


I might have not been clear when I told you about going back to school: I’m not going back to study art (I’m an artist already); I’m going back to study art therapy!

I’m training to become a trauma specialist, using my background in art and folklore to help with healing. Well, that was the original intention. What’s happened is that learning about healing from trauma has become an over-riding passion for me! Now I want to be more than an art therapist: I want to be involved in all the aspects of trauma healing.

Everywhere I go, everyone I meet, every news story I hear, every novel I read, every work of folklore I tell, every painting, every play, every piece of music, every dance, every yoga pose, every tremble, and every shake–it all seems to rotate around the story of trauma and how our amazing, resilient and wise bodies help us to heal from it.


I must admit that when I first made the commitment to study trauma therapy, I felt a bit of trepidation: I was worried about the stories I might hear about the terrible things that have happened to people. I didn’t know if I would have the internal strength to bear witness.

But what has happened instead is that I have come to learn about the incredible wisdom of our neurology and physiology in helping us to survive both as individuals and as a species. And this is something that we share with all mammals!

I’ve come, too, to learn that there are deep paths to healing, within the very coding of our bodies and our cultures.

Rather than feeling defeated by what I’ve learned, I feel hope.


Ah! I’m trying (always) to restrain myself from talking on and on about this too much! Mizuki, who has endless patience and indefatigable interest in all things theoretical, tells me with a laugh on a nearly daily basis that my efforts with restraint are ill-fated. I will never succeed! But watch…

I’m moving on to new topics!

In your last letter (which, I know!, was months ago! I’m sorry! I had no idea being a full-time student and a mom and doing an internship would keep me so busy!), you asked about Mizuki and Youssef and if marriage were on the horizon! Let’s just say, they are interesting–and mutually interested–friends.

Our lives are so much the better for having them in it.


True, getting needed time alone is a challenge, but there’s always a long solitary walk through the hills! And the rewards I see in Jena’s flourishing make up for having traded in my solitude for company.

Jena loves having Youssie and Mizi around.


How are your children and grandchildren? Did you enjoy the holidays?

We barely celebrated–we’ve just been so busy with everything. Plus, since we’re all from different cultures, we’re not really sure what we’d celebrate–maybe everything! Or maybe we’ll invent our own celebracion de familia someday… In the meantime, we’re celebrating the everyday.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the full spectrum of life. I think that for most of my life, I felt that “the bad things” were something to avoid. They were evil intruders that tried to rob us of our happiness. But as I learn more, I discover that the full scope of life–and that includes challenges, disaster, and hardship, too–contribute with all of life’s beauty to helping us live richly, fully, and with vibrancy. We are wired to survive–and wired to thrive. Look at all the good that has come to both of us through all the challenges we’ve embraced.


Kaitlin, fill me in on all your news, especially on your hopes and dreams and new discoveries!

Happy belated holidays! Let’s talk again soon!

Much love,


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Forgotten Art: Jasper – Liam 4

A reply to: A letter from Liam


Greetings Liam!

I received the most surprising letter the other day. It was from your step-daughter Alina!

Since she wrote, I am guessing that the danger is passed, that she’s returned to the living, and that the curse has been lifted.

I certainly hope so.

I worried for her, you, and your family.


Of course, worry is foolish. I know this!

But even still, when those we care for are in trouble, it’s hard to banish worry with a thought.


You mentioned that magic seemed to be rubbing off on me. I hadn’t thought of it in that way. I had thought that your letters and the power of your words were opening my eyes to the magic that was always around me–that everyday magic that we’re often too busy to notice. Or maybe it’s just that we don’t conceive that it could be here, in this world, in this moment, and so we don’t see it, we only feel it as an invisible buzz around us.

But maybe it is as you say, and, in addition to opening my eyes to everyday magic, your words open the channels between our worlds and magic enters in.

Could be.

I received a most interesting phone call the other day.


It was from my niece. Nothing unusual in that, right?

Except she had an appointment and she wanted to know if I could come babysit.

Now, I’ve volunteered to babysit my grandniece Jena many times. And now and then, Meadow will drop her off at my home while she spends a precious half-hour taking a walk or getting a cup of coffee.

But this day was different.

I’d be babysitting at Meadow and Jena’s home, and my niece would be gone all afternoon.

It may seem a small thing, but to me, it’s close to a miracle that Meadow has developed enough trust in her daughter’s safety that she’d leave her for an entire afternoon, even though she’s leaving her at her own home with her favorite (and only) uncle.


You see, Meadow’s been fretting about Jena’s past. Jena’s birth mother died giving birth, and, because Jena was born out-of-wedlock, she was shunned by most of the people there at the refugee camp. When Meadow learned of Jena’s past, she took it hard, worrying that trauma from those years might affect Jena’s present happiness.

I’ve been trying to convince Meadow that her little girl is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. Taking this step of letting me watch her for an entire afternoon shows me that, sure enough, Meadow is beginning to trust in her daughter’s well-being.


I’m also smiling at the reason that Meadow needed a sitter for an afternoon. She’s considering volunteering at a shelter for women and children.

Now that’s a good thing! Meadow has so much to offer others, and she hasn’t always realized it, not because of lack of self-confidence, but due to the assumption that everyone had it as good as she did.

My niece and nephew were raised in privilege, and my brother and his wife did a good job in raising them to be good people. At the same time, they’ve lived in a bubble of good luck.

Jena and her tenuous first years at the refugee camp introduce hardship’s touch, and now both Meadow and her brother have begun to look for ways to make a difference for those suffering in this wide world.


I thought about this while babysitting that afternoon.

My thoughts mingled with the stories you told in your letter.


It would be so easy for those stories of loss and danger to weigh heavy and to weaken one’s faith in the goodness of life.


But look at you! Look at the wisdom, kindness, and generosity you carry! Look at the sacrifice each member of your family and clan are eager to make for another’s benefit.

Look at how Meadow, and even my nephew Norman, are now looking for ways to help others, to make even one life easier.


It’s one thing to be good in heart and good by nature.

It’s entirely different for hardship’s shadow to prompt us to put that goodness into action.


That’s when caring becomes compassion: goodness plus action.

So, yes. I would say that magic is indeed rubbing off on me and on my family.

Alchemy is magic, right? And when suffering and hardship transmute to trust and compassion, that is pure alchemy.


Thank you for encouraging Alina to write me! I look forward to getting to know her.

Wishing you health!

Your friend,


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Forgotten Art: Jasper – Liam 3

A reply to: A letter from Liam


Dear Liam,

I received your letter with joy.

I trust that the situation with Mathilda’s daughter Alina has resolved itself. If the curse has not yet been lifted, then I’ll send my good thoughts and wishes with yours for safety and healing.

Strangely enough, curses are something with which I do have experience.


A few years ago, when searching for healing from a persistent sinus infection, I found myself with a psychic healer. I’d visited her for flower essences, since my niece Meadow had suggested the essence of calendula as a powerful cure for ailments of the sinus passages.

The healer took one look at me and said, “You’ve been cursed.”

I must have started, for she said next, “I don’t mean to disturb you with this news! It’s a simple statement of fact.”

She went on to describe that a curse is another word for carrying the emotional energy of another.

“The intense emotions, especially anger or sadness, of another person can be passed onto you and become lodged in your body. We call this ‘a curse.’ It doesn’t always happen consciously or even intentionally.”

She proceeded to ask me if I could recall anytime when my jaw or face had been touched by anyone who was upset. “Even a dentist,” she said.


A memory from late childhood rushed back. I sat in the dentist chair, my jaw force open by a metal clamp, getting my molar filled. While the dentist drilled, he complained to his assistant about his divorce. His voice was thick with grief and rage.

“That’s it!” said the healer when I described the memory to her.

She performed a healing, which consisted of nothing more than a blessing, a prayer, and the waving of her palm over my jaw.

I felt something lift. From that moment, my sinusitis has been gone.


With a powerful witch like Mathilda for her mother, I trust that Alina’s healing will be swift and complete.

My niece and I have made a silent pact not to talk about our pen pals with each other; but I suspect that you are right, and that this pen pal endeavor is certainly “all in the family.”

My nephew has recently signed up for the project. His eyes got a suspicious twinkle when he mentioned it, so I’m guessing he found an enchanting reason to join.


Since writing you last, my everyday life feels imbued with magic.


At certain times of the day, the line between worlds seems to thin, and I suspect all sorts of energy to fly in from lee-lines in every direction.


At any rate, my disbelief seems to be evaporating, and I am finding that mystery in every moment.


Have you ever wondered about capacity for friendship?

I had a time in my life, when my teaching connected me with a hundred students and dozens of colleagues each semester, when I felt that I had limited capacity for others. I was often beyond the full-meter.

Lately, though, it feels that there is room in my amygdala for everyone I happen to meet.


Did I mention to you that I’ve become a tutor through the gifted program at a local elementary school?

The school has recruited retired professionals to work one-on-one with children in the program. My young friend seems to be bringing me more than I could ever hope to return!


For one thing, she asks questions that get me to think–in much the same way your letters do, as a matter of fact.

Recently, she asked me about time, and I had to pull out that old fabric analogy to offer up a possible example of string theory in action.

She is forcing me to stretch the boundaries of my knowledge, and for an old codger like me, that is a very good thing.


We spent last Saturday afternoon in the Reading Room at the city park. She had questions about crystals and metal ore, so I suspect that a field trip will be in order next weekend.


I feel blessed to live alone. Mind you, the years I shared my life with Bess are perennially treasured–but it’s the solitude I have now that opens up the time for treasuring.


When I was a young man, I felt guilt at indulging in solitary pleasure. Now, the moments when I can let my attention completely focus at the task-at-hand, uninterrupted by the words, thoughts, or feelings of others, come as gifts of luxury.


Have you noticed that a meal gains flavor when prepared with attention?

Now that, I feel, is magic.


Wishing you health, and health to those you love, too.

With gratitude,


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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Mr. Watergate 3

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate


Dear Mr. Watergate. Chance.

I like that.

Dear Chance,

Do you feel that names are significant? I do. Because Meadow–it’s so who I am. Quiet. Outdoors. Green. Wait until you learn more about me and you will see how green I really am.

And because Chance. I feel like I’m taking a big chance writing this letter to you, just like you took a big chance in your last letter to me.

I just read it. I know I should really take a few days to process it. And I will. But I wanted to start my reply now.

Ok. I really will take my advice, set this letter aside, let my feelings settle a bit, and then write back.

See you in a few days… I mean. Not really. But in my mind’s eye when I pick up this letter again.

Hi, Chance. I’m back.


I needed to take a few days to process everything you wrote. You are really brave.

My uncle likes to say that “Virtue is easy for the virtuous.” What he means is that if someone is naturally good and usually does the right thing, then, for them, being good is no big deal. It’s just them living their lives the way that’s easiest for them.

He says he has greatest respect for those who work for virtue. “That takes the real courage,” he says.

I think that’s why he likes my brother so much! LOL!

I kept thinking of this perspective while reading your letter. To face your mistakes, especially with your children whom you love so much, that takes real courage. And then to own up to those mistakes with me, someone you barely even know, that takes even more courage.


I respect you so much.

It must feel hard when you see that the pain felt by you and your ex-wife was spread onto your children. Pain is strange that way. Sometimes I think that it’s like a virus–all pain wants to do is grow and spread, and it will use other people to do so.

I wish I knew a Vitamin C for pain! You know, something that will kick the pain out of our systems so that we don’t have to spread it, unknowingly, to others.


It’s possible that for me, painting is my Vitamin C.

After my dad died, I was in a lot of pain. My mom had died a few years before, and I still wasn’t completely over it. I mean, I didn’t cry a lot, but my heart had this stitch in it that wouldn’t go away. Then when my dad died, I literally thought my heart was split. I even researched if a person can die of a broken heart. And you know what? They can.

My uncle Jasper saved me then. He was grieving, too, for it was his brother who had died–and way too early. But he pulled himself together and started spending a lot of time with me, and he taught me to paint.

That opened up life for me again, and now, I paint nearly every day. It helps my brain settle out and relax, and then I can see beauty again.

My little Jena comes from a painful background. I think I mentioned she was born in a refugee camp. It’s a really sad story.

But it feels like her life is mostly new, now. I’m sure that, at some deep level, the painful experiences she had in her conception, birth, and first year will be part of a coded memory deep within her soul, but I also feel hope that the healing brought to her by fate will fill her with goodness, so that the pain brings compassion, rather than that spreading virus of accidentally hurting others.


Ugh! I didn’t mean to get so heavy! I guess I just hear in your words that you feel badly about what happened. I also hear such strength and love in your words when you write of your daughters, and even when you write of your ex-wife.

Forgiveness is amazing!

I was thinking about Milagros, too. I think you and her mom chose the right name!

I mean, look at what she’s awoken within you! That’s a miracle that only a baby can awaken.


The other day, my uncle was over while Jena was playing. I’d been watching her and thinking about this wonder she experiences in everything. I realized that the experience of that wonder–that’s part of being human! That’s in all of us.

This made me reflect on how each of us was a toddler once. There are no “bad” toddlers. Each of us was once this tiny thing, full of wonder and joy, looking at the world with eyes that twinkle. This is before the virus of pain infected us, when we are all virtuous, and when being virtuous is our very nature.

My uncle started talking. He says crazy things sometimes, and–confession–sometimes I think he’s a cranky old nut. But then I realized that he, too, was once this innocent baby, looking at the world with eyes of wonder.


I looked in as he was reading Jena a good-night story. At that moment, both of them looked so pure, so full of goodness. Do you think that this quality is inside of all us?


I think that it is.

I think that the miracle is that when you see Milagros, this open-eyed quality of wonder and goodness wakes up in you. Maybe Milagros is your Vitamin C, and when you see her, the virus of pain is cured. She’s your immunization!

Because, look. Having her has woken up so much strength and so much goodness inside of you.

Thank you for sharing that goodness with me.


I think it’s only fair that I share a confession of my own. Not only am I single now, but I have never had a boyfriend. I’ve never had a girlfriend, either. Aside from one crush on a boy in middle school, I’ve just never felt that way.

And I’ve never felt that anything was missing from my life, either. I mean, look: I’ve got family, especially now with Jena. I have a few close friends. I have pen pals! 🙂 And I have my art. I don’t have any missing pieces.

Still, when I read your letter, I felt funny inside. Tingly. That’s why I had to put your letter away for a few days before I could continue with my reply.

Anyway, thank you for being my pen pal and for letting me, too, experience miracles.




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