I used to come, a  loving – though transient – visitor

but now this place holds my pillow

and my dog’s bed

and the flowering seeds of my child

come to visit me instead

One day in autumn

when the leaves let go of branching flesh

where orange and gold burst forth

and verdant meadows

cushioned their fall

and rain chased them into rivers

my grandson watched

as a thousand boats of gold

swirled and twirled upon streaming creek

and disappeared under the stone arches

of a packhorse bridge

“Bye leaf! Bye, bye!”

he shouted

his cotten-clad arm waving like a puppy’s tail

The joy of being Grannie

washed over me

and I realized in waves of relief

that I don’t have to say goodbye


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Filed under biographical, Poetry, Travel

Choosing The Right Path

SOC 163, III-3b 089

Have you ever realized that you were on the wrong path, or that the one which used to inspire and fulfill you, no longer seemed relevant in your life? Were you tempted to make a big change, or did you play it safe and stay put?

A few years back I came to such a devastating realization. It wasn’t long after that, when an unexpected request came knocking on my door. A voice from deep inside me was saying if I did not honor my authentic self and risk failure, I might never have another opportunity to follow my bliss where ever it took me. “Go ahead,” it seemed to say. “Put your heart in it and just do it.”

In 2009 I took a leap of faith and changed my career path to that of a freelance writer. I began doing the work I love, using my writing skills to help people pen their memoir or turn their non-fiction material into a completed book manuscript and successfully have it published. Since I began this journey, one of my co-authored books earned the runner-up position, and two were recognized as Outstanding in their categories, enough to win Nationally Recognized Gold and Silver Book Awards. Wow! Not only have I received joyful recognition for my work, but I also helped others to achieve their literary goals and dreams. I am looking forward with gratitude and excitement as I continue on the path of the writer’s life and helping other writers for as long as I possibly can.

In the opening days of 2016 my client and co-author, Digene Farrar, surprised me with a wonderful message of her acknowledgement:

NABE – Fall 2015 – Award Announcement

Pinnacle Book Achievement

For the past 33 years NABE
The National Association of Book Entrepreneurs,
presents some of the finest books published by their members.
Scroll below to check out the latest Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winners.

Not My Secret to Keep: A Memoir of Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

by Digene Farrar with Cynthia Hurn

Not My Secret_

Winner of the Fall 2015
NABE Gold Award for
Pinnacle Book Achievement
Genre: Memoir


What a great way to welcome in the New Year – watching Digene do the Happy Dance!

Congratulations, Digene. You certainly earned it!


Filed under Announcements, biographical, Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Love Lessons: A talk with Dr. Bernie S. Siegel and Cynthia J. Hurn

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Filed under Announcements, Editorial, Non-Fiction, Spiritual wisdom, Uncategorized

Generous Offer

WOW!!! My publisher – New World Library – is offering an incredible opportunity to all its authors, their friends, and families – If you’re reading this, then this means you!

Please give the gift of books this year and take advantage of the 50% discount, and for deliveries inside the continental USA, there is free shipping on orders over $35. There are so many wonderful books in the New World Library catalogue; have a good browse. If you’re wanting to buy any of their titles that I have written, the books I co-authored and edited with Bernie Siegel are:
Art of Healing Bernie Siegel 2011

Don’t delay – this offer ends on Dec 18 or when books run out – which ever comes first.

Simply enter the code HOLIDAY at checkout by Friday, December 18, 2015 to save

The link to their website is:

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Filed under Announcements, Editorial, Uncategorized

Reflections on ‘Liberator’

Porlock Vale

During infancy, before we use words, we have only physical senses and conscious awareness. Movement, vision, sounds, touch, reflexes and emotions become the sum total of our experience. For most people, their earliest memories start from the age of two, when they had enough words to make simple statements. Words allow us to express, judge, store, and repeat the experience for later use. Those who study Human Development know this early learning phenomenon as learning from Bottom Up, versus the way adults learn, from Top Down. Adults use their past experiences to recognize, categorize, and make sense of new ones. Infants don’t have a filing cabinet full of past experiences to compare with, nor language to describe with and file in retrievable order. For babies each moment is untainted, unprejudiced, and pure. Each experience contains a powerful impact.

Those who attended Liberator experienced this bottom up style in the performance, a dance/movement production which made that same powerful impact – an emotive and unforgettable event. Watchers found that no script was written, no direction given by word, no linear guide of what they should understand, think, feel, or believe they were witnessing. The audience became a part of the act, equal as trees and grasses that stroke the wind, or as earth and water that breathe beneath the sky. Each person had freedom of opportunity to employ their own interpretation of the dance, the movement, the music, the emotions expressed, raised, and felt. Each person was deeply touched and moved by seamlessly woven story-in-action.

The dance/performance Liberator is based upon a real past event – an airplane that crashed during WWII over Porlock Marsh – as remembered by an old man who witnessed the scene when he was a boy. The boy certainly had language, but with little experience of the world, how could he make sense of war and death and devastation and hope and love and all the implications and feelings that encompass war? For him, witnessing that plane crash was a Bottom Up experience. For us, Liberator was a chance to participate in our own act of creativity as we watched the beautifully choreographed and emotively danced and played performance.

wings   plane


A man and his long armed jacket

Whose arms become wings

Spread-eagled over the land we call Home

Leather helmet and goggles

Speaking of a time

Of a movement of people

Of armies, forces, guns, and planes

And a war to end all wars

Of three boys and a girl

Running through woods

Hiding in marsh grasses

Playing beside skeleton trees

In the shelter of a stone barn

Fiddling with radio knobs

Their innocence seeking music

But receiving the voices of battle

Of victories and losses

And a snare drum rat a tat tatting

As air-ripping sounds stream down from overhead

Bullets strafing the stone walls

Skudding and thudding the marsh mud

Children hiding under the radio table

Shuddering in terror

Running outside, following the pilot

He who flies for their freedom

Who leads them to safety

Whose movements encourage, embrace

Who thrills and instills a passion for living and loving

For the joy of being alive

Man body entwines with boy body

The knots of family and country

He who guides them to classrooms

Who teaches them strategy and planning

Who tries to stop them from straying into danger

Who suffers their innocence lost

Who dies in the marsh

And shows them the face of death

How it does not move

How it stops loving arms from holding them safe

He who remains still

And useless

Leaving only war and the hope of peace behind

Melts into earth and the setting sun

In a cauldron of flaming clouds

Snare drum playing a funeral beat

drrrat… tatttt… tatttt

Horn crying Taps in plaintive single notes

The Last Post – Day is Done

Sixty onlookers walk in silence

Following steps of those gone before

Having once learned the history

Yet only now understanding

That history is just

His Story

Our Story – our shared experience

And our silence


Just as they who went before us bled

From a desire for freedom

Like a living, breathing animal

Like a bird that soars

Like a helium balloon with paper planes tied to its string

Rising to the heavens

Like a note that never stops playing

A drum that is never truly silenced

A movement, a dance of life

In the meadows, forests, and marshes of this earth

A voice, a cry of hope

The human condition

A Yearning for


Raffy 2015

Liberator was nothing less than an act of devotion. It moved me to tears many times over. The devotion showed in so many ways; it came from inspired individuals, some from this community and others from elsewhere, and it grew into a greater community of people honoring the past with their passion for art, their creativity, their skills, their time, their presence, each one sharing in the freedom of expression that many of us take for granted – until it is lost  – or stolen.

Liberator became a passionate expression by adult and child performers who dedicated more than skill, practice, and time by living and breathing Liberator’s soul in their hearts, minds, and bodies from early this summer to its evening culmination in autumn.

dance  rescued

Not a single thread of the Liberator was woven without love. Every moment of each event thrummed with intensity from the direction and choreography to the performance; from the designer, producer and graphic artist’s work to the providers of setting and space; from the makers of airplane fuselage and costumes to providers of period props; from the sound designer to the still photographer and videographer; from the production assistant to the behind-the-scenes crew who ran about, collected, dropped off, showed up, dug in and did everything they were asked; from the 1940s double-decker bus and driver to the creator of Delicious Feasts that formed and furthered more bonds of community; from the shared food, the laughter, and stories to all the people who came to listen, watch, follow and experience this dynamic Exmoor event.

   3 boys

The Liberator was born of a memory, an idea, and a desire for expression. In its production and performance it gave birth to new community, new memories, new ideas and a greater appreciation of the sacrifices that were made to preserve our freedom and the right to creative, artistic expression.

Well Done, everybody. Liberator was simply AWESOME.

For information on Liberator, more photos and biographies on all involved, visit the website:

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Filed under Editorial, Poetry, Travel

The One Reality

As she drew the curtains to let the sun in, her Big Ben door chimes rang out. The bay window afforded a view of her front door, but no one was there. The bell rang again, this time, with a strikingly sweet diinnnng! She entered the hall to find that her roof …was gone! The sky seemed to envelop her, sucking her in; no boundaries, no past, no future, no time – just – unfolding present. The deepest blue she had ever experienced evolved into a permeating nurturing pink – a conscious intelligence that knew every moment of her and it loved her without limit, without judgment, without expectation of any kind.

Behind her hundreds of “her” people had gathered, and their arms thrust her with such enormous speed – Whoooosh! Like child on a swing – it took her breath away, though she had no sense of breathing, only of the white light – closer and closer – it should have blinded her eyes with searing pain, but didn’t. She couldn’t look away. It, too, knew her with complete, perfect, and even amused love.

All too soon, from light years away, a pin prick voice called her name. Immediately she began to fall and the light, still brilliant, grew smaller and more distant, and she knew it was consciously letting her go.

“Don’t send me back! Please,” she cried. A sound – a loud, sharp CLAP dropped her and she was back, standing at her open front door where a ragged stranger was asking for a glass of water.

“Of course, come in,” she said and gently ushered him to a chair. At long last, she truly understood: the only reality and the only real choice is love.

Last May on Whidbey 062

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Filed under Fiction, Flash & Micro Fiction, Spiritual wisdom, Uncategorized


As she waited to hear back from the hospital she found herself thinking about her brother’s bedroom – magical, mysterious, and strictly off limits unless she knocked and received permission to enter. A rare treat that he gave only when she promised not to ask too many questions….

“Brucie, what’s this?” she asked, fingering a fishhook from the tin box on her brother’s workbench.

“Put it down. If that gets stuck in your thumb, I’ll have to push it all the way through and you’ll cry like a girl.”

She examined the sharp point and barb, then dropped the hook and picked up another one. “What’s it for?”

“Fly fishing.” Her brother set a small hook in the workbench clamp. Taking two scarlet feather fronds from a cardboard container he placed them against the hook and spiraled golden silk thread round and round the ends, flush to the base of the curved steel, transforming the hook into an alluring winged insect.

“Wow, that’s pretty. What do you do with it?”

“You tie it on your rod like this…” Retrieving a spool from his tackle box, Bruce threaded nylon through the fishhook loop, then tied a knot and cut the line in one deft movement. He tossed the hook into the air and flicked the line back and forth. Light from his workbench lamp glinted against the shimmering gold and scarlet.

She forgot it was merely feather and steel and sat mesmerized by the dancing insect that responded to her brother’s hand.

“When this lure strikes the water,” he said, “the trout thinks Supper! He leaps to the surface, gulps the insect, and snap!” Bruce jerked his wrist. “That’s when the fish becomes my supper,” he said with a laugh.

~ * ~

It was the jangling telephone that dragged her back to the here and now. After the call she sat in stunned silence. “He’s gone,” was all her sister could say.

She imagined the neurosurgeon tying silk stitches, closing the hole where the tumor had been. The surgeon’s thread was shimmering gold.

At the corner of her vision, something flickered past the window drawing her attention outside. There an incredibly beautiful, scarlet dragonfly danced in the morning sun.

“Hi Bruce,” she whispered. “How did you do that?”



Filed under biographical, Fiction, Flash & Micro Fiction, Non-Fiction

Another Grandie Story

kids & lambs May 2014 042

My daughter, Terry, teaches yoga on Wednesdays, so every other week I get my youngest grandson, Jesse, for the day. The other grandmother takes the opposite weeks. Terry refers to the plural version of us as “the Grandies.”

It was mostly drizzling yesterday, so after we walked Tess, my golden retriever, Jesse and I decided to go to the Williton library. When he first arrived at my house, he’d been fascinated with my wheeled computer case which was still in the living room from my previous day’s visit to the Somerset Cancer Care group where I gave a 1 ½ – hour talk about Bernie Siegel’s books and a 20-minute meditation that used his creative visualization methods for healing.

Jesse zipped and unzipped the various compartments, and I showed him how to extend the collapsible handle so he could wheel the case around the room. He put a big book in the case and transported it all over the house. Could we bring it to the library? Okay, I said, what a great idea! Jesse insisted on wheeling the case (nearly as big as he is) out to the car and lifting it into the back all by himself. He’s incredibly strong, adept, and patient for a nearly-three-year-old.

When we got to Williton all the car parks were full, so I parked way down a back lane, leaving Jesse and I a fair hike into the town. The minute Jesse got out of the car he unloaded the wheeled case, determined to do it himself. He then proceeded to pull it behind him all the way into town and over to the library at such a fast pace, I had to trot to keep up with him. Occasionally the case would catch on a building corner or pavement edge, halting him with a jerk. Not a problem for the imperturbable Jesse! He’d look back, adjust the case onto the narrow path, and take off once again at full speed. In the meantime, I was his wingman, making sure no vehicles or other pedestrians could be run over by my grandson. God help them, if they got in his way – He was on a mission!

When we reached our destination, the library had two automatic doors to navigate, these being part of a wheelchair friendly, s-bend entrance. It may have been friendly for wheelchairs, but it constituted quite a challenge for a toddler towing a 2-wheeled monster, nearly as big as him. I was directed by my grandson to stand aside, for he was capable of getting it through those doors, all by himself. Having been the youngest child in my family tree, I understood the importance of his request and said, “Okay, Jesse… go for it!” And go he did. The quiet library became a lot less quiet upon our entrance, but nobody seemed to mind when they saw the cause of the minor commotion. Smiles and charmed expressions of “awhhh” followed Jesse’s stage-left to stage-right entrance.

We parked the wheeled monster in a safe place then navigated over to the child’s reading corner. The library has a wonderful assortment of colorful, creative seating for kids – everything from a wooden steam engine filled with books and bench to pooh bear cushioned cubes. Jesse led me straight to the “oooh oooh train,” sat down on the bench, and pointed to the 8” space beside him. “Sit here, Grannie C.”

Now the last time I looked at the width of my derriere, I’m sure it was greater than the space Jesse’s chosen seat afforded. Being a very special grannie, however, I prepared to wiggle my butt down into that wedge of space, which seemed to shrink in size the closer I got to it, while my bottom appeared to grow proportionately bigger. As I squatted my knees creaked like a door in a haunted house.

“Let me know if I’m squashing you,” I said to Jesse, realizing that I’d reached the point of no return. If he squealed now, my only recourse was to fall forward onto the floor, flat on my face in a most inelegant, but perhaps entertaining way for grandsons.  The things I do for love…

After we read about ten very entertaining books, Jesse popped out of the train seat and I did the grannie version of popping out – a much slower unfurling in an upward direction, using book shelves as props. Thank goodness they were bolted to the floor.

Jesse retrieved the parked black bag on wheels, which I now realized could be mistaken for a UED (unexploded device). Luckily no alerts had been declared, no armies called upon, no panics risen – this was just a quiet little village library where nasty things don’t happen, and all is well with our little world – thank goodness.

Jesse’s exit was smoother than his entrance, proving that practice does reap positive results. He high-tailed it back towards the town center, ‘Grannie C’ doing her best to keep up the pace and protect passersby, while alerting Jesse to the dangers in his environment. “Puddle ahead, Jesse!  Go AROUND it, please, not through it. Mind that lady – don’t knock her over – there’s a good boy. Let the lorry go first, Jesse. Not a good idea to challenge lorries. They always win.”

Jesse came to a sudden halt at the café we’d passed earlier. The cakes in the window had missed his glance before, but not this time. “How about stopping for a piece of cake?” I asked. Apparently that was the right question.

I quickly learned that the fewer choices a child is given, the better. Decisions between one good thing and another are nigh impossible to make, so I said to the lady behind the counter, “Jesse and I will split that big chocolate brownie.” He looked pleased and relieved at my taking the bull by the horns to make such a crucial executive decision. In return, I let him choose the table. We stored the UED-on-wheels under the table and sat down to a chocolate indulgence. I was glad we split the bar in half; it was so rich a whole slice would have been too much for me, let alone for Jesse.

After our café treat, we clambered back to the car and drove to the beach so Tess could have a good run. While Tess had her explore, Jesse did what kids do, no matter the weather. He got down in the sand and started digging. His little hands grew red from the cold, but they worked diligently nevertheless.  Woe to any rock that thought it had a safe haven from weather; as soon as Jesse uncovered one he’d toss or heave it out of the hole and onto the beach. The rocks would have to wait for the next storm to provide a sandy cover again. For now exposure to the elements seemed to be their destined lot; it’s a good thing they’ve got hard skin.

Lungs filled with fresh air and clothes with wet sand, we drove back to the house and had a late lunch together.

Finger food is Jesse’s favorite. Those crunchy, dried green beans from Africa always bring a smile to his face, plus the sharp cheddar cheese that I tell him “will knock your socks off.” He looks at his feet and back at me, then laughs at the joke. Chopped apple, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some cranberry/pumpkin seed bread toasted and buttered with Terry’s plum jam, a few grapes, and we’ve got a feast fit for a king, let alone a nearly three-year-old boy. He slowly devours them all while we talk about things boys like.

Today’s subject covers favorite songs, Jesse’s currently being a condensed version of Baa Baa Black Sheep, and I tell him about the Take Me Out To The Ball Game song that everybody sings at baseball games in America. I realize he doesn’t have a clue about baseball, so I take the opportunity to introduce my grandson to the American tradition. This is, after all, essential education!

We go into the living room to my big screen computer, and he sits on my lap while I find a YouTube video with people singing the song at a game. We watch the baseball play and sing the song along with the crowd, and every time we come to the end, Jesse wants to do it again. I fill him in on the roles of the batter, catcher, and pitcher, and we laugh at the men sliding into each other at the bases and the guy who leaps to catch the fly ball but takes a dive over the wall and lands on his nose, feet flapping in the air, as the crowd behind him clamor to catch the ball. “Batter’s got a HOME RUN!” I shout, and Jesse gets excited, though he doesn’t really understand why.

Jesse asks for a digger video next, so I find a 20-minute video of three diggers, cranes, and dump trucks working on clearing a building site. He is transfixed by these machines and talks about what they are doing – the size of the load – where they are dumping – the difference between one truck and another – the distance the digger arm reaches. I can’t help but get enthused with him, for he’s showing me how to see them through his eyes, and it is impressive – almost miraculous – what they are capable of. While I give Jesse some Yankee culture, he gives me an education on big plant machines.

After a while, I go over and sit on the sofa next to Tess, leaving Jesse in my chair to watch the last few minutes of a scene with power jack hammer digging up the pavement. When I look back at him, he’s seated in my chair but he’s not looking at the screen. He’s looking at me. His eyes land on mine, and he holds my gaze for such a long time with what can only be called an eye-hug. The love in his eyes is so obvious it brings tears to mine. I gaze back at him and stay inside the moment, sending him an eye-hug back, soaking up everything this moment contains, knowing it won’t last long. One day Jesse will be grown and he’ll be interested in doing all kinds of things – few of them involving his grannie. But now he’s honestly enjoying his time with me, and I’m treasuring my time with him.

A few floor games later, we realize it’s nearly 4pm, time to get his sisters. Though we usually walk, I decide to drive to the school because it’s started to rain again and we’ve already been wet and dried once today, which is plenty enough for me. Izzy and Raffy look happy to see us, pile into the car with their stories and school gear, and off we go to their house. A hot mug of ginger tea and a couple card games of rummy at the kitchen table are a fun way to enjoy the girls. Terry soon arrives home with Farley, the oldest grandson, and as she and Jim go about making supper, Farley joins the card game, only to slaughter his grannie and sisters with his rummy hand.

Finally I head home for my own supper and an evening’s appointment on Skype to record one hour of  Ted’s story interview for his memoir. The nearly ninety year old glows as he recalls his working days on Panama Canal, his time in the Navy during WWII, and 14 years of mining gold up in the Yukon during the 60s – 70s. As I listen to Ted, all I can see in my mind are Jesse’s eyes, not blinking, not averting, but really looking into mine, sending a love message, a hug like no other.

And I know I have the best memories of all.


Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction

My Ghostwriting Project Is On the Bookshelves!

Alt Med Cover

Last year Dr Mel Borins hired me to ghostwrite a non-technical, light-hearted narrative for medical articles he’d written – articles meant for doctors’ eyes only. He hoped I would bring them to life in a way that would appeal to and be useful to the general public. While I researched the history of many alternative herbs and treatments, folklore, botanical information and human interest stories – as well as interviewing Dr. Mel about his own experiences – I was able to help him create his new book “A Doctor’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why.”

This was a fascinating project for me, one that changed how I look at my own healthcare and how I choose alternative methods, which I regularly use. I thought modern science and traditional medicine had to be worlds apart, but I learned through my research and writing, just how complimentary they are. This was a 6-month journey for me into the work of a general practitioner who truly cares for people, loves life, and encourages people to live it to the fullest.

In his new book, Mel Borins will take you across the world to exotic places where he studied traditional methods that have served people well for thousands of years, methods that scientists are now studying with much interest. Using real-life examples, he shows what makes doctors reluctant to encourage self-treatment with certain alternative products or therapies. He doesn’t take sides this way or that; he gives the reader enough information to make better, more informed choices, and learn what to look for when trying any new alternative.

The book is an excellent read and valuable reference for individuals and families. I hope you buy the book; I hope you read it; I’m certain you’ll enjoy it and discover new ways of achieving and maintaining a healthy, more comfortable body.

The forward was written by Dr. Bernie Siegel who inspired Mel’s generation of doctors and who opened the minds of the medical profession to treating people, rather than disease. Both of these men are way ahead of their time. Their work is extraordinary. They are healers in the truest sense of the word.  Buy it. Read it. Enjoy, and live well.


Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction

Share Your Animal Story With Dr. Bernie Siegel


The first story I ever had accepted was one I submitted to Dr. Bernie Siegel’s book: Faith, Hope, and Healing, and my dream of doing the work I love came true. I have been writing professionally ever since. Bernie and I are now producing another book about animals and the bonds of love between us. This book offers a wonderful opportunity for other non-published or published writers.

Have a think about the animals you have known and loved – was there a special bond that transformed your life? Did you see something in the wild that taught you an unforgettable lesson or witness an unusual friendship between animals of different species? Maybe now is the time to tell your story.

You know – the memory you’ve carried in your heart – the one that’s just aching to be told? Write it down and send it along. Don’t be shy; if your entry is chosen for inclusion in this book and needs a bit of editing or professional help, the story will receive it. You’ll still get author credit.

Maybe you’re already a published writer, but never found the right place to honor your beloved animal friend. Now is your chance. If you know someone who might like to share their story, please forward this announcement to them. Scroll down for Bernie’s invitation, a description of the book, entry deadline, and submission instructions. Thank you, and good luck!

Cynthia Hurn


from Dr. Bernie Siegel


Have you ever had a loving connection, been involved in an amazing rescue, or witnessed a healing experience with an animal?

Perhaps you have a heartwarming story you’d like to share. As a doctor and author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles, and as a lifelong friend and rescuer of animals (our house was always a zoo) I certainly do.

I am about to embark on writing a book about the miracles of healing and the transformation or growth that result from bonds between people and animals, and between animals and animals. I’ll be sharing stories from my past life experiences to childhood, through medical school to raising kids, to working with patients, and in my present life at home and away.

I would love for you to send me your stories involving remarkable relationships with animals or moments that you have had or been witness to. I want this book to go beyond my personal experience in order to explore these animal relationships and happenings – how they enriched your life, gave you hope, taught you lessons to live by, increased your sense of gratitude, helped you to survive, and connected you with the miracle of creation.

By sharing our animal stories we will increase awareness of the gifts animals bring us, helping people and all the inhabitants of our planet to heal, thrive, and live in reverent harmony with each other. Will you join me?

I invite you to submit a story for consideration in my next book, titled Love, Animals, and Miracles.  If your story is chosen for inclusion, you will receive author credit, or you may remain anonymous if you prefer.

  •  Length: 100 to 1000 words
  • Deadline for story submissions: July 30, 2014
  • Send to:
  • Paste your story into the body of the email. No attachments, please.

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rainbow-in-clouds 2

She stitches clouds

with rainbow strands

Her threads disappear

invisibly mending the azure silk

Her hills are swept

her valleys washed and rinsed


and rinsed again

Now shining, gleaming

under her waxing


she smiles

No wonder we call her


But then

she has her moods…

Father, wake up!

She has ‘that look’ on her face

Gathering her army

thundering slate-grey battalions

and cumulus lunatic laughter

she sends artillery

frozen, sharp and stinging

targeting buffalo, elk, pony and man

ice bullets pelting hides

they bounce, burst, land and melt

streaming down the rough fur coats

that Father made

knowing of her


winter tantrums


Filed under Poetry

Ancient Oak


The oldest tree in Exmoor bears the title, Timberscombe Oak. Once a year, the village school does a sponsored walk so the local children can visit the tree. I’ve been keen to see this tree and today the weather looked perfect for a long, tree-bound walk with my dog, Tess.

The Timberscombe Oak is not on a road; you can only get there on foot or horseback. I pulled out my Ordinance Survey map for Exmoor, but sadly, trees aren’t marked. Not even the oldest tree, officially termed Ancient.

So what is an Ancient Tree? According to the Wildlife Trust, an Ancient tree is in the third and final stage of its life (like me). It’s much older than a Veteran Tree, the classification most Really Old trees fall into.

There’s a scientific method for identifying an Ancient tree without counting its rings. This tree-friendly method is called the Hug Method. (No kidding, scientists go around the UK hugging trees.) Here’s what they had to say on the Woodland Trust website:

“How do you recognise an ancient tree?

The ‘hug’ method for measuring trees:A hug is based on the finger tip to finger tip measurement of an adult, which we take to be about 1.5m (approx. 5 feet).

The trees below might be ancient if they measured the following:

Oak – 3 adult hugs
Beech – 2 adult hugs
Scots Pine– 1 adult hug
Rowan – 1 adult hug
Birch – 1 wrist hug  (I have no idea what constitutes wrist and elbow hugs, but the name provides some amusing visuals)
Hawthorn – 1 elbow hug
Cedar of Lebanon – 4 adult hugs
Field Maple – 1 adult hug
Sweet Chestnut – 4 adult hugs
Ash – 2 adult hugs

Other more technical methods of recognising ancient trees include measuring the girth:

Example for an oak tree:

Trees with a girth of more than 4.5m (3 hugs) are potentially interesting

Trees with girth of more than 5m (3.5 hugs) are valuable in terms of conservation

Trees with a girth of more than 6m (4 hugs) are likely to be truly ancient “

So now that I understood what qualified an oak for the title Ancient, I began asking villagers if they knew where the Timberscombe Oak was.

Each person I asked was happy to give me their version of directions.

The first volunteer delivered his instructions in a rich voice with the local Zummerzet (Somerset) accent.

“It’s awff the owld Luxborough rowd, up the ‘ill a ways, then down the ‘ill a bit – abowt ‘alf way to ‘er bottom.”

Most local residents actually come from somewhere else in the UK. These folks delivered their directions in a variety of accents from educated Londoner to Essex country farmer. Here’s the directions they offered:

“From Timberscombe Common take the bridle path to Dunster and walk towards Nutcombe Bottom. It’s in that valley; you’ll see it below you before you get there, and if you walk too far, you’ll see it above you.”

“Follow the sheep trail across John Prideau’s field; go past Totterdown bridleway, keep walking down that hill, through the gate, and just keep walking. You can’t miss it.”

“It’s under Whits Wood; they’ve recently felled some trees near there – you’ll see it – there’s a steep trail, sort of rocky, that you can approach from the Dunster side, or you can get there from the Timberscombe side, or from the south, across Croydon Hill.”

Armed with a wealth of ancient names, and the vague agreement that the tree in question was half way down a hill (and there are hills in every direction you look around here) Tess and I, after a hearty breakfast, headed out the door, me in my purple Wellies (boots) and she in her best gold fur.

We climbed the bridlepath above our house, made our way through several pasture gates, making sure to secure them behind us, walked along the sides of Prideau’s fields, said hello to some friendly sheep, waved at some curious horses in the next field, passed by two rough, weathered signposts that pointed to Totterdown bridleway, then at a crossways of paths, we chose the one pointing to Dunster. We walked eastward and found the leaf-carpeted “rowd” to Luxborough, went a little ways “down the ‘ill a bit” and saw a clearing on our left where trees had been felled, though not recently. Raven flew over us and called “Brruck, brruck, brrruucckkk! Was he leading us? I called out “Hi Raven,” and began to follow our feathered friend who went back in another direction. Being a winged creature, he did not stick to the path.

We scrambled through a break in the hedge, climbed over some rocks, walked under rows of beech, whitebeam, oak, and ash trees, and there, raven began to circle over a small, rather steep patch of hillside that sloped below us and that had recently been felled and cleared. On his third circle, he flew away and disappeared into the distance, a wooded valley below the hill. But what was that half way to the bottom? Were those treetop branches oak? It was hard to tell. We were standing on the north side of the slope and the morning sun at this time of year rises on the other side. Those long-reaching branches were deep in the shadows, but they looked mighty big, so we climbed further down the steep, rocky clearing to investigate.

The closer we got, the more excited we were. There stood the giant. A few feet to the west of him were two large, gnarled old trees. Veterans themselves, they probably sprouted from acorns, dropped by the Ancient Tree many hundreds of years ago.

The giant oak took more than four of my hugs.  I stretched my arms as far as I could, and hugging six times, I still hadn’t returned to the spot where I began. I gave up hugging. Measurement seemed too trite for such a noble tree.

Truly humbled by the girth and grandeur of this great grandfather of oaks, I aligned my back against the north side of the trunk. Silently gazing across the valley, I soaked in 800 years of the most awesome view – a view of hills and fields and forest and moor and sky – a view this tree had always known.

A sensation of peace and acceptance washed over and through me, and I learned that wisdom is all about peace and acceptance. It’s about beauty, breath, and life.

I turned to face the tree and admire the deeply grooved rivulets and cracks of ancient trunk bark, and it felt good to see fresh new stems sprouting from the scar left by a 2-foot diameter branch that had fallen centuries ago. These stems carried a visible promise of next Spring’s growth, safely armored in strong, long buds, and the last of this year’s bronzed leaves still hung on.

As I introduced myself to the ancient one, something fell from one of the multiple trunk-size branches above. A chunk of bark about the size of a goose egg landed in my palm and lay against my skin – skin of oak meeting skin of me.

I carried it all the way home. Not in my pocket, but embraced by warm palm and soft fingers. It sits beside me as I write – this piece of Ancient, this gift of tree that knows me. Molecules of bodies crossed paths this morning, never to be the same again. My energy merged into the oak; the Ancient one’s peace now lives in me.


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Before the leaves left their branches
Orange and gold burst from their flesh
and verdant meadows, thick with green
cushioned their fall
and the rains chased them into rivers

My grandson watched the thousand boats of gold
swirling, disappearing under bridge and walkways
and he called out to them,

“Bye leaf! Bye, bye!”

I smiled at his hand, waving like a puppy’s tail

and at the joy of knowing

I don’t have to say goodbye



Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

November 11 – A very special day

The hours and minutes since typhoon Yolanda have been challenging me to remain positive and to focus on my faith that no matter what happens, All is Well. At times I must admit, I found that hard to do.

My big brother Fred lives on Boracay Island in the Philippines. His island is situated on the west side, center of the country’s land masses. My stomach lurched when I learned that Fred was directly in line with the path taken by the eye of the storm. Six hours before the typhoon’s fury struck, I was able to Skype with him. I asked Fred if he was worried, and he said that after surviving many other typhoons, he felt confident they would survive this one too. Was he putting on a brave face for his kid sister, or was he really convinced of his safety? I’d never know.

After we hung up, I watched Boracay Bay from a live webcam located above the beach. People strolled by as if nothing was amiss, and while the low tide stretched far out, clam diggers filled their sacks and children skipped, leaving footprints behind. After a few hours, the palm tree leaves began to ripple and then sway as the winds picked up. The tide had turned and the seas grew a little higher. The previously gentle waves began to fill with an expectancy, rising crests that seemed to reflect an urgency of energy. Around two in the morning (UK time) I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, so I turned off the computer and fell asleep. Sometime during the night, the Boracay webcam went dead and I woke to the realization that all news of Boracay and my brother went with it.

When I turned on my computer, a forwarded email from my sister in Georgia contained the last words that Freddy wrote:

Will hit this pm. I’m hunkered down. So far no big deal. But this is a big one. No one can get off island cuz all boats gone to safe anchorage. Will advise when it’s over. Wish us luck!
Ur old fart bro

The message was typical of our big brother in times of stress – make light of it and keep laughing.

While trying to enjoy my weekend events as planned, I spent every spare hour at home, both day and night, searching the internet, trying to find people who knew my brother. As soon as I found their names on a blog or website, I searched for their contact details, and finding them, I tried to make contact, but all attempts failed.

The first glimmer of hope came yesterday when my sister discovered a tweet on Huffington Post from a writer who is staying in Boracay. He reported that Boracay had escaped the worst of the storm. Diane tweeted him and sent details of our brother, hoping he might have word of Fred. I was able to find the writer on Skype and I requested connection. At last, miracle of miracles, he replied. A loud, long “whoop” bounced echoes off the walls of my kitchen, frightening the living daylights out of my dog, Tess. The Huffington Post tweeter (bless you, Norm Schriever) Skype-messaged that all electricity, internet, and utilites were down, but the island had managed to escape the worst of the horrific damage now being televised across the world.  As far as he knew there were no deaths or loss of buildings on Boracay Island.

While my family were relieved to hear this heartening news, we still had not received any contact from Fred. My sister in Florida found another name and address of someone in the Philippines who might have news of Fred’s condition. My nephew, whose wife is from the Philippines and who has been to Boracay to visit Fred, sent a detailed description of where his house is situated above the beach. While chasing every lead, I also continued to send Skype messages to my brother. I figured if he had any battery left on his phone, he might just be able to pick up some signal.

Last night, just as I was ready to turn off my computer and climb into bed, news from my sister in Georgia came through. She’d just got a call from Fred! He’s alive! My sister didn’t know if it was a Skype call or Fred’s regular cell service; he only spoke long enough to say he was okay, without fuel or electricity, and his house was intact. He hung up quickly, for his cell phone battery was low.

With all the sadness, grief, shock, and horror that rips at my heart for the gentle people of this devastated country, and the overwhelming realization that this will take many years for them to recover, I see a shining light in the midst. Today is a very, very good day. A grateful day. Thank you God and all the angels for looking after my big brother.

Freddy is alive.

To all folks who are trying to find loved ones, maybe Skype will work for you. It’s worth trying.

For those of you who have loved ones missing in the Philippines, we found a missing persons search facility posted on the site of a Manila TV news station:

For those of you who wish to contribute to aid organizations that are currently in the Philippines bringing supplies, food, water and medicine and who can handle the transport logistics for getting supplies to the people in the worst hit areas, there is an excellent article in the Huffington Post which offers several aid links:

Please feel free to copy this and post it to your blogs and Facebook pages. The people in the Philippines need all the help they can get.

Thank you.

1 Comment

November 11, 2013 · 3:53 am

Finding My Ontological Core


UK Passport - expired 2004 142

This week I faced a chore that I kept putting off. I still had nineteen loose leaf notebooks full of lecture notes and all the university papers I had written. I loved my time in school, which didn’t happen until I was in my 50’s. Thoroughly committed to the opportunity of further education, I enjoyed every moment, and felt blessed to be in my professors’ classes. But now that I’m moving back to England, humping nineteen notebooks around the world doesn’t make practical sense. A mighty big pruning job was in order. I dreaded it.

I sat down with my dog, Cherokee, one night and tuned into the Celtic CalmRadio channel. Then I went through every notebook, just as friends who stop to have a last cup of coffee before parting ways. Page after page of information stared up at me while the inspiration of people sharing knowledge and opening minds together filled my mind and heart. I said goodbye to Physics and Stages of Human Development; I nearly wept as I parted with Perception and Physiology of the Brain. Even Statistics, the domineering schoolmaster of science which had terrified me with the stilted tempo of its title, had captured a part of my heart.

One by one, the toppling tome-pile shrunk. At the end of this paper exorcism, I found myself with two notebooks that I could not bear to leave behind. The first contained all my lecture notes and writings from Professor Doug Rice’s Creative Writing classes. Two hours with him was like entering another whole lifetime. His passion for story and words instilled me with a Jesuit’s love of perfection and beauty in every shade of existence. His commentaries on my assignments still teach me today and every time I struggle to read his nearly indecipherable pen, I learn something new about life – which means, of course – about writing.

The last notebook was a journal I kept throughout my days in a volunteer project – an assignment that was inspired by the Children’s Literature class. For one semester, I went to Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and spent one hour every week with thirteen children; all but one of them were children of Hispanic workers. For the first half hour, I would read a 14-page illustrated storybook to the kids, stopping every few pages to ask questions and involve them in the story. Then when the book was done, I’d have a craft ready for them to make and the craft would relate somehow to the story. As we worked, we talked, or rather, they talked and I listened. They were such beautiful kids with spirits that shone.

One day we read a story about a Native American grandfather who was preparing his grandson for the day he would leave this physical world. I asked the kids how many had grandparents who were alive and they all raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them got to see them regularly, at least once a year, and only one child raised his hand. The kids’ parents had no legal papers to be in the country; one of the consequences is the physical rift between loved family members. It broke my heart and I suddenly realized how important my reading to them must be. It was a humbling moment. At the end of the semester, the kids surprised me with a party with cards and cake and gifts they made, and they crowded around me and climbed all over me like a pile of puppies. I realized I had become the Native American storyteller – a figure I’ve always loved, with multiple children seated upon and around her.

This notebook is a journal filled with notes about each story and craft and about how the children responded. It contains all the emails the Director and I exchanged and her handwritten letter of thanks, saying that the program was so successful, she was contacting the college to see if they could continue doing it with an internship program. The photographs show kids’ faces entranced as I read, or their hands busy making memory necklaces and forming clay pots.

After spending hours of notebook pruning, the two branches I could not bear to lop brought me to an epiphany. Professor Rice had commented on one of my stories that he felt I “hadn’t identified the ontological core.” He suspected the story’s core was about the loss of my family and my search to bring it back. So finally, it hit me. It all boils down to this: I spent six years in college only to discover that my greatest desire and goal in life was something I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. I wanted to tell stories, and when I grew up, I wanted to be with my grandchildren climbing all over me.

In a few days I begin my journey back to my family, back to England. There my childhood dreams will become reality.

Life is such a blessing.


Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized


May-June 2007 039
Turned me inside out
Lush hedgerows, blossoms bursting
Beauty’s soul exposed


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Magnetic Morning

This morning’s walk on the beach was graced with the largest eagle I have ever met – enormous back and shoulders, and he wasn’t even in flight. He perched like a Lord on driftwood throne and watched my dog with an expression that said, I am one bad-ass eagle, baby, so don’t come near me or you’re toast. She respected his boundaries and went the other way. I took his photo, but my camera zoom doesn’t do justice to subjects further than 20’ and nothing, aside from the visual experience, could do justice to that eagle. He became ingrained in my brain with the demeanor of a white-wigged barrister, not Rumpole of the Old Bailey – but someone far more pristine and noble, yet not unlike Rompole’s keen wit and knowledge of law and nature.

The view of the Olympics contains a new magnetic property, one that affects my eyes. Usually my eyes roam the skyscraping India ink ridges, and they trace peaks, while imagining valleys and other-worlds within, and between imaginings they keep watch on the ocean and its currents.  This morning they measured the coast and were drawn 5 miles inland where blanketing trees, one horse, two dogs, some cats and a very intriguing human being were sensed.  When I looked away, the long line of sea foam that delineates a changing tide had appeared – I missed its birth in my moments of distraction.

In penance I stood witness to the afterbirth and the frothy line changed shape – reminding me of a hospital room where the electronic heart-beat instrument displays the rise and fall of action potential reached: a spark, a peak, a dip and decreasing bounces with steadying aftermath only to reach its potential again.  A mirror image of the mountains and the feelings in my heart and body.

So often I arrive at the shore just at the point of tidal change and I wonder, does my body know? Does it hear the ocean stretching, pulling, relaxing, constricting and the silence of the pause between ocean’s breaths? Because in that silence, in that miniscule pause, my soul feels where the knowing exists. And I am so attracted to the knowing.

Image courtesy of Martha, Amazing Poet and Photographer:


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

A Good Passing


Sonny’s gone, Jim wrote.

The scribed message, so simple and stark

lacked the sound of his voice, but I heard

Jim’s pause-filled sigh in those uncountable seconds

when truth hits hard

and words, mere symbols of our reality

let us down.

3-D memories flooded my mind

tactile visions of spring-born colt

chestnut legs like flying buttresses, ungainly and long

and wonder-filled days ahead with happy destiny

carved by DNA and sweet mare’s milk

and sun, those glorious summer rays…

Galloping grows from sunshine and meadows

hooves drumming the bodhran ground

chastising squeals and mother-love neighs…

All the while, as I dream of the child horse who’d been,

Sonny’s lifeless body, a silent shadow of himself

draping earth – an old sleeping giant – awaits

Jim prepares the tractor-dug coffin

a deep, soft space, gentle rest place

of honor for his friend, nestled beside beloved bones

And beyond the invisible curtain of light and love

Sonny’s spirit dances, chestnut shimmering, cavorting again

for there, waiting to greet him, stands Sur

shaking his noble head, calling

Welcome home, Sonny.

It was a good passing

Submitted to:


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Meditation on Moving On

At Keystone Café, the radio plays

and words of a song from the sixties pierce my coffee-bred thoughts:

Always something there to remind me…

Trying to forget, I know this world is but a dream

a temporary mirror of the other

that place where you and I reside in eternity

mere cells within the One Great Plan

where time has no meaning

and words don’t exist

and love is a given

Yet here, amongst dog rose and lupin

she, open and pink

and he, closed and blue

we became like them – rooted in sand

surrounded by stones and their stories

drinking summer grey mists

on salt water taffy mornings

but rose petals fade and lupins shrivel

their seedpods of black

hanging like coffins

Right now

in this moment

eagle perches for the view

and fish dance

and gulls dive for the feast

and cry

this is mine

All the while

the ferry inhales and exhales passengers

like a heart-lung machine

a blood bank of journeys

a breaker of waves that crosses the synaptic sea

and, locked into terminal, transmits

holders of keys to neurons

In bursts of energy

flowing down rivers of roads

streams of pulsing potential

these elements of the greater intelligence

try to carry its message

this for the arms that yearn to hold

that for the aching walk-alone legs

and yesterday’s broken dream becomes

one Sunday transformed

A poem is born in words that don’t rhyme

as the radio plays another song:

Can’t you hear the pounding of my heartbeat,

You’re the one I love…

Holding the mirror close, all I see is my own breath

and waves that drill the shore in a tumbling roll

while the ocean remains constant

and eagle takes flight


Submitted to:





Filed under Poetry

Fickle Sun

Walked a grey beach this June-uary morn

dressed in winter and thick jacket

until the sun appeared, along with

that miraculous blue

I think it used to be called Sky

I returned to the cabin to write

but weeds spoke louder and heat rose

from damp beds of trespassers

Stripping off winter

I dove into shorts and sleeveless

wheeled my rusty barrow on nearly-flat tire

into the midst of sloping green lush

and began digging roots, pulling weeds

Two glorious nose-freckled hours later

nails chipped, cuticles stained with soil

back throbbing a digging pulse

that drum

signifying weeks of inactivity

painful but beautiful,

fulfilling song

Garter snake, robin, worms and ants

swallows and swifts, spiders and deer

hummingbirds, rabbits, beetles,

and oh-so-many slugs and I


a summer symphony

groans, sighs, shrieks, shrills

shimmer, buzz and breath

praying the sun will bask in our music

be entertained

and stay


Filed under Poetry