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Grounded! And Regrounding

How I look as I write this post.

This second week of being grounded ( i.e. in quarantine) has been an interesting transitional time for me. Being forced to curtail my usual distractions has given me an opportunity to get  in touch with myself in ways I think will be of lasting benefit to my body, mind and spirit. Since I have a few more days here, I will stick with the first one, my presently beleaguered corpus, and leave the other two for a subsequent post.. 

All this sitting is hard. Really, it’s the hardest part. Occasionally during my regular life I will veg for a day or two, a but typically I am out and about, and it is a rare day in which I don’t walk a few miles, if nothing more. I see now how much that affects my sense of my age. A few more weeks of this, and I will indeed feel my seventies in a way I normally don’t. 

Not being able to exercise is the best possible reminder of how important using my body is to my well being. I see going to the gym as a way of meet-and-greet with my body. Hello arms, hello shoulders, hello legs! Even on days when I have had to drag myself to the gym, I am always glad for that check-in with myself.Far more hellos to my abs and back are definitely in order when I am out of here!

Like so many people, I am not happy with my post-Covid body. I loathe tiny workout rooms, and I am not the type to get down on the floor and do crunches, so I have had long hiatuses from gyms while on cruises. Whenever I got back, I bemoaned how much ground I had lost, how little stamina I had, how much less weight I could handle on the equipment—the whole gamut of remorse. No more!  I am going to say, without judgment, “this is the baseline. Beloved body, let’s work on it from here.”

Fitness is one part of the toll Covid has taken on my body, but something I have learned over the decades is how aging redistributes weight. I kept enough clothing in the back of my closet over the years, as my weight fluctuated, to know that even when I got back to the point where a jacket or dress ought to fit, it just didn’t anymore.  I know some women who have managed to keep their shape from changing too much, through fanatical efforts at fitness, the help of hormone replacement drugs, and expensive nips and tucks, but I am not going there. I accept that this is my body at 71. I can make it fitter, but I can’t get back through diet and exercise the waist, flat belly, and tight upper arms I once had. I need to embrace this in the same way I do my six inches of gray hair. It’s what I really look like naturally now, and that’s fine. Aging gracefully..That’s the thing.

And speaking of weight, one of the things I tossed when I simplified my life was my scale. I don’t know how much I weigh, and I’m not going to find out, because I will bring unnecessary judgment on myself. It’s not so drastic that I have to replace my wardrobe. I just can’t wear some of my clothes anymore. 

Considering how much life changed with Covid, I have done fairly well, even if almost nothing with a button closure, top or bottom, still fits.  Even if  I hadn’t done this well, it would still be okay. I am working very hard right now on banishing self-judgment. I hadn’t realized how much the opinions of others about my appearance still mattered to me, or how narrow my parameters were for feeling good about how I looked. I still care.  That’s probably not going to change.  Still, now I think that when I look in the mirror I will notice more how I am taking care of myself, rather than how anyone else will judge me. And with that in mind, I took the photo at top today (wow, do I ever need a haircut!)

Thank you, body, for getting me through Covid. Enough of the horrified looks in the mirror. Enough of the fear of the bathing suit. You look just fine, and my guess is you will soon look better not because I am unhappy with you but because soon you will come more into line with the way I usually live. And if I don’t fit into all my clothes, I’ll let someone else have them.  Fitting into my life is far more important. 

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And Away She Goes!

 I have finished my vaccinations. i am nearing the halfway point in my quarantine with two negative tests behind me.  I am ready to burst out and be the post-lockdown Laurel when my fourteen days are up. And boy, do I have plans for her!

This feeling of bursting out is bigger than that, though. In the last year I have had an amazing run of creativity that I haven’t written much about, because…well, that’s just the way I am.  I feel ready to share a bit more now.

When I first started writing for mainstream adult audiences, my first book, Until Our Last Breath, was non-fiction.  I found that terribly frustrating because I had to strangle my desire to imagine stories beyond what were in the historical record.  What I really wanted to do, I decided, was exactly the opposite: write fiction, where I could make better use of my imagination.

What I loved most about historical fiction was the dialogue I was free to invent.  In fact, my first drafts of books are heavily weighted towards dialogue because that’s how I find out who the characters are.  I think my books in the end rely more heavily on dialogue than many authors, because that’s what I love writing most.

So last year, when I revisited my decision to quit writing historical fiction, I realized that my love of dialogue made me well suited to writing plays instead. Upon discovering the story of Alfred Loomis, a Wall Street tycoon who used his private fortune to fund some of the most critical research in World War II, I knew in my bones it needed to be a play.  And now it is.  The Glass House was written in the months before I left for British Columbia.

I loved writing a play, and immediately upon arriving in Victoria, I began writing another, about the city’s “favourite daughter,” Emily Carr.  I am pleased to say that, with the support of several people in the theatre community, EX3 (Emily Times Three) will be workshopped later this month in Victoria, and from there, I hope to get it placed for production.

Something about writing these plays reawakened my desire to tell stories, and I came across a wonderful one a few months back. Novelists are reluctant to talk too much about their plans for future books for fear of being scooped, so I won’t say more, except that in the next few days I hope to write the first pages of a novel about one of the most amazing female world explorers ever. This one is too complicated to be a play, but it would make the most amazing musical.  SInce that is probably beyond me, I’ll write a novel instead.  Then, who knows. Anyone out there looking for the next Hamilton?

Oh, and one more thing:  shortly before my husband Jim died in 2012, I finished the first draft of my fifth novel, The Intuitive.  I put it aside then because I had a far more important matter to pay undivided attention to.   I had lost all my enthusiasm for the publishing process, so after his death, I never opened the file on my computer. Actually, I didn’t write anything. For years. Another project since I moved to Victoria has been a huge revision of that work, and now it is sitting again, waiting for the time and circumstances to be right.

One novel rewirite and two plays in a year!  I guess you could say I am on a roll.  Add to that, I now have a number of cruise assignments from this fall into next summer.  The  idea of planning travel is exhilarating, and of course I have some great ideas for a few new lectures, also a major source of creativity for me. So, break out the champagne and the brass band—the girl is back in town! 

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Settling Into Solitude

I am sitting on the dock in my place of quarantine, watching a heron prowling the shallows looking for a meal..  Yes, dock, —I’ve never had a dock!—which I get to across a grassy yard from an apartment on the lower level of a house in Victoria (view from house above)

This being my third quarantine, I am getting better at finding a place that will make isolating as light a burden as possible.  My first place was maybe slightly bigger, but it lacked even a balcony or a window with a view of much of anything.  The second was in a nice wooded suburb of Victoria, with a yard big enough for a bit of contact with the outdoors.  This one is a gem, and the first place I have stayed where I thought, “you know, I really could live here indefinitely.” Even weirder, I think of the friends I would like to invite over once quarantine ends, rather than dreaming of escape. My apartment is the lower level shown here looking up from the dock.

I must have been ready for some quiet time, as I settled right down to work on several writing projects.  I didn’t do a lick of work since I left Victoria almost a month ago, and in fact didnt even bring my laptop with me, so sure was I that I wouldn’t get anything accomplished.  What I did accomplish was a lot of quality time with friends, which was restorative beyond measure. I loved every minute, hopping from coffee date, to shopping, to al fresco dinners and lunches, to vegging on the couch with popcorn and Netflix at my host Annie’s condo.  I even fit in a two-night trip to the desert with my friend Jane, to see friends in the Palm Springs area (and play my first pickle ball).

My road trip back was everything I hoped for—beautiful scenery, doable daily drives, and many stops to see friends.  Crossing the border and getting on the ferry to Vancouver Island (limited to essential travel these days) went without a hitch.  In fact every last detail of the entire trip went without a glitch of any kind.  Lucky, lucky me!

I came home to a sudden deluge of offers for cruises.. Looks as if I will be very busy from the fall through next summer, and will probably have some more opportunities as well, taking me a far afield as Tonga and New Zealand on one assignment, to the Suez Canal and Dubai on another, with a heap of Mediterranean and Caribbean thrown in between October 2021 and next summer.

As I sit here in the warm sunshine thinking about my charmed life, I feel the familiar push-pull of the two sides of my personality.  I loved all the socializing on my trip, but I am so glad to have to speak to almost no one for the next two weeks.  A blessed retreat into solitude it is shaping up to be.  Still, the world of people is out there waiting for me, and I love that too.  For now, I’ll watch the heron be perfectly suited for its life as well.  Fellow creature, hail and well met.  

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Memory Highway

Mont Diablo

Forget memory lane. California Highway 101 from Santa Maria to Napa was one long blast from the past for me.  I lived as a child in Danville, a little town east of San Francisco, and every summer my mother, sister and I would make the trip south on 101 to visit my grandparents in Santa Barbara.  In the late 1950s, 101 was maybe two lanes each way and far more like a rural road than the freeways of today. Many of the spots along the way became landmarks for us, starting with Pismo Beach, where we caught either our first or last glimpse of the ocean. Little Pismo Beach was barely on the map back then, and I was flabbergasted to see that it now requires seven exits stretched across its sprawling length.  

A string of towns brought back associations as I headed north—Paso Robles ( which for some reason is pronounced Paso Robulls by Californians), Atascadero, and King City.  This last has special meaning because it was the halfway point in the trip between Santa Barbara and Danville. Either my sister or I would get to stretch out in the back seat of our station wagon and nap the endless miles away, and then we would change seats in King City. I remember pretending to be asleep and my sister complaining  about my fakery when my mother said we’d change when I woke up.  Ah, the inequities of childhood! King City is still very much the speck on the map it was back in the late 1950s when we were making these trips.  

I jumped forward to another time in my life as I passed through Salinas. It is in this part of the state that Cesar Chávez, Dolores Huerta and others mobilized the laborers in the fields into the new United Farmworkers Union (UFW).  Here El Teatro Campesino and others laid the groundwork for much of the vibrant Chicano culture that evolved. I remembered my college years when none of us would touch a table grape or drink Gallo wine, in solidarity with the movement. 

My mind went further back in history to a time far before I came on the scene when “Alta California” was part of Mexico, and this region was divided up into great encomiendas ruled over by Mexican grandees.  In this era, the church built the famous string of California missions, a day’s ride apart, so that now you pass the signs for them about every twenty minutes. Every once in awhile there’s a sign for a historic adobe, but little remains of what must have been at one time the most significant houses in the area. I am sure that foreigners must be fascinated by these signs of the past, but they make me cringe, recalling the terrible things that were done to indigenous people and Mexican laborers, in the name of imprinting the region wth the faith and power of Spain.  

I was making such good time that I decided to take a slightly longer route so I could stop in Danville to drive by my childhood home and take a drive up Mount Diablo ( see photo at top), which was the site of so many outings.  I’ve gone back to my neighborhood several times and with each passing year I remember fewer of our neighbor’s names and recognized fewer of the houses. One indelible sight remained—the huge oak tree a few houses down from us, and now sixty years older. Here it is.

After looking out on the valley from Mount Diablo, I decided to gird myself for a quick trip into downtown.  Danville, when I lived there, was a quiet little town with few pretensions. Now it has become very upscale and expensive, its streets  filled with trendy boutiques and chic restaurants. It was weird to look around and see so few people who were even alive to know it as I did. I had a good laugh when I looked a a sign pointing to the “historic district,” and wondered if that meant the way it was when I lived there (ouch!), but was surprised to see how many buildings were actually much older. I guess when you’re a kid the buildings are just not something you notice. 


One thing in town remained the same—a little dam that I have no idea the reason for, but which used to be the center of attention in the winter when it overflowed and created the most newsworthy story of the weekly paper. Behind it, there’s a peek of a stretch of bucolic wild creek ( see photo), which in my childhood extended up to our house and beyond, and became the playground of those years and the place where my imagination first began to run wild with stories.

Memory highway indeed. Our stretch of the creek was rockier and had banks we could access, but it’s gone now, channeled for flood control. There will never be a place as special to me as this creek, nor any place that played a more important role in the child I was and the person I became.

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On the Road Again


I am in Santa Maria tonight, a Central California town north of Santa Barbara, which I have driven through many times but don’t think I have ever stopped. Decades ago, it was a quiet little town on a four-lane highway connecting the southern and northern parts of the state. Now it has the same feel as so many places—grown too quickly to remain charming, with historic buildings scattered between malls and fast food chains, off a freeway that now lets you bypass the town entirely.

It is the halfway point between San Diego and Napa, where I make the first big stop of my trek northward, and I start meeting up with a number of friends from many chapters in my life, from high school through college, and including a author friend dear to me.  

Tonight, this hotel is just a random place to stop, plucked from a website offering cheap rates for last-minute rooms. It is the end of a marvellous day of beautiful scenery and chances for quiet reflection as I drove.  Once you’ve left the beachfront stretch of Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, there is nothing remotely pretty or charming about the drive through endless Greater LA, until you drop down from some hills and enter a beautiful coastal valley at Oxnard. Then it just gets better as you pass through Ventura to Santa Barbara, although I regret the newish freeway diverts you from the old road, so close to the ocean that, in rough weather, waves would douse the cars and you had no choice but to splash through. 

North of Santa Barbara today the landscape was truly spectacular, with blue sky, cobalt ocean, endless yellow fields of blooming wild mustard rising up to meet the dark green scrub and reddish orange rocks of the mountain range to the east.  No photos because I was driving, and no images online that did it justice, so I hope you can picture it. 

Now I am in the part of the state that is starting to look like the landscape of my childhood—rolling, muscular hills splashed with oaks. I formed my sense of well being and my ideas of beauty amid such scenery, and I suspect that I am not alone in preferring such touchstone landscapes from childhood throughout my life. 

Leaving San Diego with my second and last carload of possessions (mostly files, books, and the memorabilia I wasn’t ready to let go, plus a suitcase of cruise clothes that probably won’t fit), I was struck by how different it felt from when I left for Victoria nine months ago, in August 2020.  Then I had a great sense of leaving a huge chunk of my life behind and heading into an unknown. I remember the palpable excitement I felt from  the moment I hit I-5.  Within a mile or two, I was grinning ear to ear. 

This time I just felt stressed about being in an unfamiliar car and didn’t ponder the significance of leaving at all.  This is odd, because this time it really is for good. Except for a little trash in a wastebasket in my friend’s house, nothing of mine remains in San Diego.  I am out. Done.  Moved on.  I will be back, I am sure, to visit people I love, but a city I lived in for well over a half a century  is no longer mine.  I should have noticed this as I drove past the landmarks of my life, but I didn’t. I was too busy fretting about the car. 

Now, in manageable and fun daily chunks,  I am heading back to Victoria, which I now think of as home, though I haven’t quite figured out what “home” means when one doesn’t really live anywhere in a conventional sense. But for now I am not thinking about that. I am on the road headed for a daily new adventure, and reminding myself that home is simply wherever I am.  

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Perpetual Vacation

A few days ago I left the place I was staying and settled in for one week on Vancouver island’s west coast, about ninety minutes north of Victoria, so I could explore this area without the need to make the trip back and forth from the city.

As I settled in on yet another sofa in yet another living room, my mind flashed on the years before I retired, when such an experience would mean I was at the start of a vacation.

Then, just as suddenly I realized, “I am on a perpetual vacation!”  Indeed I am.  I go from one place to another to mix up my routine, to keep my life fresh, to experience new things.

I love this chapter of my life.  Not since childhood have I experienced such a light burden of responsibility.  I am not charged with doing more in the places I live than keeping them tidy and undamaged and doing my best with Victoria’s ultra-complicated recycling.  Repairs, maintenance, all those kinds of things are not my problem.  The only thing I have to take full responsibility for is my car.

It is mind boggling to me that I really can go anywhere whenever I want—well, after travel restrictions are lifted, that is.  All I have to do is wait until whatever contract I have for lodging runs out, then go.  I have a storage locker where everything fits when all I need is a suitcase.  I have thought recently about leaving here for a while and going to Greece or the British Isles for a month or two.  Make that both Greece and the British Isles—why not?  Same trip or separate ones?  Either will do nicely.  Rent something there, or just drive from place to place? Either, or both. I have to pay to sleep somewhere.   Might as well be on the road, or tucked into some place I have really wanted to spend some time.

This life isn’t for everyone.  Maybe it’s not for most people. The one key difference between my life and vacation is that I have no place to return to. I think that might be too much for many, but for me my condo in San Diego had become more of a convenience than a genuine attachment, and since paying for it ate up all the money I have for my adventures, it had to go.


  I don’t tend to worry about (or even plan much for) the future, but rather revel in the possibilities.  Still, much as I have enjoyed so many of the chapters in my life, it has always worked out, sometimes by force and sometimes by choice, that I have needed to move on. Sometimes that is joyous, and sometimes it is very hard and very painful, but I have mastered a state of readiness for change that is serving me well now.

Knowing myself, I will probably at some point come to a screeching halt and say this lifestyle isn’t for me anymore.  Then what?  Buy entirely new furniture in my seventies?  Buy a place to live that I will mostly just pay the interest on for the rest of my life?  Sit still happily in one place?  I simply can’t imagine anything like that now, but that’s because I haven’t arrived there yet.  My only hope is that my next chapter will begin in as much joy as this one has.

And maybe I won’t have any such life-altering epiphany.  Maybe this will just keep working out fine, and I will remain healthy and competent until the day I evaporate into the universe from wherever I happen to be at the time.  It’s a great life, and I am in my element.  That’s all that matters now.  

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A Month of Sunrises

My blog has been produced in spurts over the years— long silences followed by a flurry of posts. For the last month I have been in a silent stretch, not because nothing is happening, but because so much is.

I am an extremely private person, and though I share my thoughts freely in this blog, there’s a lot I keep secret about what is going on in my life. Usually this is because I am just not ready to talk about something, or because it involves others who might prefer not to be discussed. Whatever the reason—and both of the above apply here—I have kept my fingers off the keyboard for a while. Still, there’s a bit to share, a bit I won’t feel jinxed if I talk prematurely about, a bit of dreaming aloud I can do (if this counts as aloud).

Covid vaccinations are slow in coming to Vancouver Island. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that responsible government and citizenry have kept the number of cases low enough that I’m not worried. It has put the brakes on my plans to go down to San Diego to drive back with my remaining possessions—mostly books, important papers, and the last bits of memorabilia I can’t bear to let go.

One of the things on my plate, then, is a trip south as soon as I have gotten my first (and if I’m lucky, only) shot. My plan is to drive my car across the border into Washington State, then leave it at an airport (Seattle, or possibly Portland) and fly the rest of the way. I would then drive back in a rental with my things, transfer them to my own car where I left it, return the rental and be on my way back to Victoria. A third option would be to make a leisurely round-trip in my car. I don’t know. No need to decide now, but I am getting a lot of pleasure out of planning routes, especially because I have so many friends I would like to see along the way—and maybe even hug! Wouldn’t that be grand!

I also have been planning a summer road trip exploring British Columbia and a bit of Alberta. I am thinking of taking a month to drive as far as the edge of the prairie, east of the Rockies, just to catch a glimpse of one of the central facts about Canada, spending time in Banff, Jasper, and the other national parks on my route. My lan is to start out on a southern route through British Columbia, returning more northerly to Prince Rupert, where I can catch a ferry back to Vancouver Island.

A third road trip I hope to make before the end of this year is to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, possibly ending either in Montreal or Toronto. I have visited the Atlantic coast of Canada several times on cruise assignments, but I have not been able to stray far from port or spend the night ashore, and in this case the adage that cruises give you an idea of where you want to go back to spend more time is indeed true.

And then again, I have more ambitious plans as well. I am hot on the idea of returning to the UK. I am hoping to get cruise assignments later in the year and beyond. And there is still so much to see here on Vancouver Island.

I am so happy that I took the plunge—sold my condo and shed most of my possessions. This plan to be mobile has really worked well. I can visit, or even live anywhere, because I can use the money I was putting into mortgage and other home ownership costs, and spend it on temporary housing wherever a new adventure calls. There’s a huge trade off, of course, and this way of life isn’t for everyone, but it sure works for me.

I am calling this post “A Month of Sunrises” because my current rental for this life adventure is right on the bluffs above Dallas Road in Victoria, looking out over the Juan de Fuca Strait, where the sun rises. I could never, with my resources, have afforded a home with a view like this any place I have lived, so there’s another wonderful plus, if only for a short time.

More later, as I wrap my head around a few other things, and wait for some other developments to play out. For now, here’s one of a month of sunrises:

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Snowfeathers

Even the snow seems different here. Today, as I walked back from coffee with a friend, the flakes clumped and drifted down like small feathers. I am hardly the first to make this comparison, as i remember Robert Frost noticing the “easy wind and downy flake” as he stopped by woods on that famous snowy evening. Now, helped along by my astigmatism, they look like little whirligigs or dandelion fluff drifting down on a windless afternoon.

It’s the kind of snow that comes when it’s not really all that cold outside, barely above freezing, but it gives the snow a lot of interesting things to do and shapes to take. It isn’t cold enough for it to stick to the sidewalk, but cold enough so it doesn’t instantly melt, and today, when a gust of breeze came up, the little clumps of flakes were rolled into tiny balls the size of pillbugs, and went racing down the street for a few feet before disappearing. I had never seen that before, despite a number of winters in snowy climes.

It’s a peaceful afternoon, rather like being inside a snow globe while the outside world is rushing about its business. I am not watching the impeachment on TV because it feels like inviting an assault. I am recovering from a rather calamitous mishap with the file of my second play, which required me to hire someone to retype it from scratch, so it’s now someone else’s problem. I no longer spend much time fretting about vaccines, or border restrictions, or even Covid itself very much, since the answer to everything is “who knows?”

And yet, I feel ill at ease in the same way I always do when finishing a project. I don’t have anything to do, and I am not good at that. I am nowhere near ready to take anything else on, so I guess I just have to sit with a case of the jitters for a while.

Or maybe a better expression for me would be “walk with it.” Here in Victoria every walk is restorative. So why am I sitting here typing this, when I could bundle up and go see what their world looks like with feathers falling from the sky? Good question! Where are my gloves?

Well, I’m back. Here is the world I walked through, although snowfall is so devilishly hard to capture with a camera that I had to settle for “snow fell.” I’m rosy cheeked and ready for a glass of wine by the fire, practicing gratitude as snowfeathers drift down outside in the gray light of this winter afternoon.

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The Light Comes Brighter

One of the great gifts of having studied literature is the number of poems I carry with me from memory. Yesterday, walking toward the cliffs at Dallas Road in Victoria, I was practically blinded by sunlight that had seemed so muted only days before.

Wow, I thought—just one month beyond the winter solstice, and the light is really changing. I thought of the first lines of one of my favorite poems, by Theodore Roethke, and it seemed so apt.

The light comes brighter from the east; the caw
Of restive crows is sharper on the ear
A walker at the river’s edge may hear
A cannon crack announce an early thaw.

Yes, the light does come brighter now. And in so many ways.

First, spring is on the way. That means so many more opportunities to explore this beautiful island in the months ahead.

Second, the United States will get considerably brighter once the scourge has been removed from the White House.

Third, I just finished the first draft of my second play. It’s not good enough yet, but it exists.

Fourth, I have gotten my first cruise assignment==not until 2022, but a sign that it looks as if that part of my life will resume.

Yes, the light comes brighter. I turn my face to greet it.

Exploring

Swan Lake at Solstice

The first time I tried to explore Swan Lake in Victoria was a collection of mishaps. I thought I knew how to get there and spent about a half hour unintentionally touring several neighborhoods in Victoria. When I finally got there, I took the wrong path and dead-ended. By the time I was on the right path it was starting to rain, and the only washroom, which by that point I desperately needed, was in the Nature Center, locked up tight on Sundays.

I vowed to return, and I did so today, one week later, for a lovely amble around the perimeter of the lake. The name Swan Lake conjures up images of dancers in tutus, and of course there were none of those, but sadly no swans either. I had to settle for a number of very friendly ducks, and a variety of birds hopping and perching in the thickets along the path.

The sun hugs the horizon at the winter solstice this far north for the eight hours between sunrise and sunset, and even on a day free of rain, the light remains low all day. Perhaps it the drama of sky and shadow that sets the mood for thoughts about beginnings and ends and how, just as the Dao teaches, each contains the seed of the other.

Fall lasts a long time here, but at some unnoticed juncture it was over. The trees are bare now and their fallen leaves are brown with the rain that has left them limp and flattened on the ground. In the past I have found this mass of slippery, gluey detritus quite unappealing, but today my mind opened to a greater appreciation of the season one of my favorite poets Gerard Manley Hopkins described as the time when “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.”

It is hard to square those exquisite, perfect words with something naturalists call “leaf litter” and gardeners give the quintessentially unpoetic name “mulch.” But it is only our species that needs words for it at all. For the tiny creatures that call it home, and for the plants that produced it and will use it again in a never ending cycle of transformations, it is simply what the moment offers before moving on to something else.

If I felt poetic today I might write an “Ode to Mulch,” to give it the honor it deserves. Instead, I will acknowledge that we exist in different realms, one in which I struggle to find meaning and to set it down in words, and the other, which just is. As Hopkins says in another poem, “these things were here and but the beholder wanting.” Of course it wouldn’t be poetry if it didn’t suggest more than one way of thinking about it. The beauty he describes in the poem couldn’t care less if any human being beholds it. But from the human perspective, we have all probably said a million times, when we just stop to watch and listen, “wow! I never noticed that before.”

And so it is with the wanwood that leafmeal lies. Now, at the solstice, at a time where time cracks open to allow rebirth, personal vows take on potency. Mine is to be a better beholder, starting quite literally with what is under my feet.