Category Archives: Uncategorized

Choosing The Right Path

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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

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

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.


Filed under 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.

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November 11, 2013 · 3:53 am

Finding My Ontological Core


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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


Filed under Haiku, Poetry, Uncategorized

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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No Buddy Left Behind

When I started writing this blog over two years ago, I never dreamed that the book I co-authored with Terri Crisp of SPCA International would hit NUMBER THREE on Wall Street Journal’s BEST SELLERS Top-Ten List for Non-Fiction E-Books.  It’s hard to describe how incredible it feels.  Gratitude – lots and lots of gratitude.  Thank you Terri for the opportunity to work on your story and those of the soldiers and animals they befriended.

So, to all my readers, according to the Wall Street Journal, our book is one you don’t want to miss reading:

No Buddy Left Behind: Bringing U.S. Troops’ Dogs and Cats Safely Home from the Combat Zone by Terri Crisp and C J Hurn (Me).

You can order it from your local bookstore, or buy it online as hardback, audio or e-book. In July the paperback version will be coming out as well.

See link to May 18, 2012 Wall Street Journal below. No Buddy is in 3rd place in the 2nd section down (Non-fiction E-books)

Other top-selling books I have been blessed to contribute non-fiction stories to:


Right now I am working with Bernie Siegel on his next book, The Art of Healing, (New World Library).

Terri and Cindy in Erbil, Northern Iraq  – February, 2011

Thank You Terri for a life-changing opportunity

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Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Whale of a Day

Fridays and sailors don’t get along, so I’ve been told. And no sailor in his right mind would begin even the shortest journey on Friday the 13th if he could avoid it. Perhaps that’s why Ed Young and I were the only two people at the harbor that morning.

Last Christmas I decided to purchase myself a gift certificate for a two-hour tour with Whidbey Island Kayaking Company. I had previously enjoyed kayaking in California, but always on a lake-reservoir. Now I was hoping to have as much fun in the ocean as I’d had on the lake. All winter I waited, looking forward to the day when I’d slip gently between swelling waves, leave life’s worries behind and paddle my happy craft along the coast. It had seemed to take forever for Spring to come, but finally, at long last, Spring and I arrived at the harbor along with my inner child, who, bouncing like Tigger, threatened to make me act sillier than adult behavior decrees.

Ed and his wife began Whidbey Island Kayak Company as a retirement project ten years ago.  With a generous assortment of kayaks and well-trained guides, Ed and his crew take tours out of Langley Harbor. For many of Ed’s guests, this is the first time they’ve ever sat in a self-powered boat, let alone a kayak, so before launching, Ed takes time to help each person become accustomed to the feel of the vessel and to learn basic safety techniques.

Kayaking season around here usually begins in March, along with the migration of Orcas and Grey whales, but smart ocean kayakers wait for relatively calm weather. This year the March Lion refused to make way for the lamb. All month I waited as Mother Nature released her vengeance; she down-poured and flowed; she gusted and snowed, and I desperately tried to be patient. Come April and our first day of partial sun, I called Ed. While he checked his tides list, I checked my weather forecaster. The week beginning April 8th looked encouraging for late morning high tides, when whales were most likely to be feeding, but Monday through Wednesday had predictions of wind gusts up to 25mph. “Thursday the 12th looks good,” said Ed.

“Sorry, I’ve got several appointments that day.”

“Are you superstitious?” he asked. “We could go on Friday the 13th.”

I respect the ocean and her moods, but I have no time for superstitions that curtail my opportunity for exercise, wonder and just plain fun. “Friday the 13th sounds perfect,” I said.

Langley Harbor lies at the bottom of a 300-ft. cliff on the eastern edge of town. If you stood at the end of 2nd Street, it would be easy to miss seeing the harbor altogether, tucked tightly below the coastal road. As I drove down the small lane that, carved diagonally into the cliff, hugs verdant growth, I wondered just how much the rising seas and rain erosion threaten the road. At the bottom, the shore broadens out, leaving enough room for a few guest houses, a pub and some harbor parking.

Ed arrived just as I parked my car. There were only two of us that day, so he unloaded a two-person kayak, which was fine with me. The water was calm at the moment, but oceans have a habit of changing almost without notice, and I was grateful he’d be in charge of our vessel on my first time out. After we geared up and went through the safety review, Ed decided to visit the public toilet across the way. Just as he turned to go, I gazed out to sea. Suddenly a heart-shaped mist appeared above the water and then dissolved about 100 yards from where I was standing.

“I think I saw a whale,” I called to Ed.

“What?” Ed stopped and waited to see if anything more broke the surface. He hadn’t seen the spray, but gave me the benefit of the doubt. When no other sign presented itself, he said, “I’ll just make a quick visit and then we’ll head out.”  At that moment, two whale-sprays appeared about 50 yards away from me. “Forget the bathroom,” Ed said. “Let’s go!” He pulled the kayak into the water, told me to get in and adjusted my footrests.  A minute later we launched, eyes peeled on the spot where the whales had been spouting.

Moments after we launched, one of the whales breached the water’s surface, his spine looking more like the Loch Ness monster than what I had expected. I was used to seeing Orcas with their characteristic dorsal fin, but not this smooth-backed creature.  “It’s a Grey whale,” Ed said. “Judging by the length of our 20 ft. kayak, I’m guessing he’s about 30 to 35 feet long.”

Unlike Orcas (Killer Whales) which are members of the Porpoise family, Grey whales have no dorsal fin. We kept a respectful distance to avoid disturbing their feeding, but they were well aware of us.  Every few minutes, a giant barnacled head would emerge, and one eye, just above the water-line, would stare directly at us. A bulge on top of the head revealed two nostril-like holes or spouts before the whale retreated below the surface.

A minute later, the pectoral fin would rise like a wind-filled sail, giving us the whale’s version of a High Five.

His giant fin was patterned in shades of black, grey and white. Just as one sees pictures in clouds, I made out the profile of a smiling sea lion on one whale’s fin. “The patterns are formed by barnacles,” Ed explained. I hadn’t brought my camera, but Ed used his phone to take dozens of pictures. Many electronic cameras these days have an annoying time-lapse after you snap the shot and Ed’s phone camera was no exception. We wished the whales would stay still long enough for him to capture these remarkable moments, but of course, they paid no heed to our desires.  All we could do was hope for a least one good photo.

Just as cows or sheep meander through meadows while they graze, so did our giant friends. Their movements were surprisingly slow and relaxed. I half expected to hear a whale version of the bath time song Rubber Ducky bubbling up from below as they lay on their sides and scooped sand, filtering it with their tongue against baleen screens.

For over an hour, we paddled and rested repeatedly, working our way gradually east-south-east while the whales seemed to accompany us between feeding stops.  In one deserted spot, the whales swam so close to the shore, a person standing on the tiny beach could easily have waded out and touched them, but no one was there.  Ed and I were their only witnesses and we kept our distance.

Ed was the perfect guide. He shared his knowledge about whales and tides and matters of the coast, and he spaced his talking between generous layers of silence, leaving me room to enjoy the paddle and merge with the sea adventure. “Over the years I’ve come to know their habits, so I can often successfully predict where the whales will be,” Ed said. “Some of our guests have asked me if I was a whale whisperer,” he laughed. He went on to explain more about the two giants we were watching.

Grey whales migrate every spring from the warm waters off Baja California where they spend the winter months mating and giving birth. They don’t feed during that period. Southern waters contain no food fit for a baleen whale. These hungry creatures were now en route to the waters off Alaska where they would fill their bellies with krill, plankton and other delicacies. Over the years, a dozen or more members of the Grey whale population had learned that the surface layer of Whidbey Island’s shallow coves was rich with tiny crustaceans. This particular small group of opportunistic travelers made an annual fast-food stop here before continuing on to their northern destination. I guess you could say they keep Whidbey’s secret from the other whales, much as a fisherman jealously guards the location of his catch. Islanders wait for the Grey family every year and some of the members are easily recognized, especially the elder male, named Patches.

Last year, people stood on the shore of Penn Cove, just north of Coupeville, and watched in horror as Patches battled with a pod of transient Orcas that were trying to kill one of the two youngsters Patches had in his charge. He put up quite a fight; the Orcas eventually gave up and left to hunt elsewhere for easier prey. But everyone saw the blood. Patches had suffered injuries that could be fatal. He disappeared that day along with his charges, and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the year. “He’s an old trooper, over 40 feet long, and we’ve all come to love him,” Ed explained. “You can imagine how thrilled we were last week, when Patches was spotted off Harrington Lagoon. That tough old whale made it through another year.”

When our kayaks neared Sandy Point, Ed suggested that we paddle well ahead and get downwind of the two giants. The bays on either side of Sandy Point are favorite feeding spots, and we didn’t want the whales to feel pressured to move on because of us. As soon as we paddled ahead, they followed our kayaks and stayed much closer than we expected. It’s easy enough to stay out of a whale’s way when you are following him, but when he starts shadowing you, there’s not much you can do to keep your distance. Did they know where we were going? Were these whales playing tag with us or just curious? Perhaps they thought we were racing them to the feeding ground, trying to claim the feast for ourselves.

After we got downwind, the larger of the two whales spouted, and the wind carried his spray to our nostrils. “Can you smell that?” Ed asked. Just as a gardener breathes in the deep aroma of damp earth and rich loam when his spade lifts the soil, so we inhaled the fresh, warm scent of sand, crustacean and whale breath. I held the expired air of a whale in my lungs and sat there in awed wonder. Goose bumps traced my awareness of whale-spirit up and down my arms. Before that moment, I had been fascinated by whales and concerned for their safety. Now, I became acutely aware of our interconnection; our very existence linked as the atoms of spiraling DNA. We were separate parts of one whole, clearly conscious of each other. Was this was the lesson I’d been sent to learn?

A ribbon of foam on the surface of the water gave evidence that the tide had just changed. A brisk wind carried chilly gusts that whipped up the previously calm surface, and churned the sea with intention. “We’d better head back,” Ed advised. “It’s going to get a little rough.” We turned the kayak around, and I glanced over my shoulder, hoping for one last glimpse of the whales. At that moment, the two silent giants made a dive into deeper water.  Their graceful tail flukes rose towards the heavens, and they seemed to be waving us goodbye.

There was no time to sit and gaze. The sea, which had been sparkling blue had now turned black and ominous. Waves grew choppy, some hitting us head on and the occasional white-crested one would smash our bow, spraying my face and dump fistfuls of freezing water into my lap.  I felt as if the ocean was teasing me, trying to see if I’d succumb to fear. But the vigorous paddling energized my body, and the cold wash of wind and wet was exhilarating and just plain fun. I smiled so hard and for so long on that paddle home, I feared the smile would weld onto my face in a permanent Cheshire Cat grin. The thought made me laugh. It’s impossible to be miserable when you’re smiling.

“How are you doing?” Ed asked as we reached the halfway point.

“Fine!” I replied. “Were you worried about me coping with these waves?”

He was quiet for moment before saying, “I’ve learned over the years that there is one thing a guide should never say in the kayak.”

“What’s that?” I asked.


I burst out laughing and imagined the expression on guests’ faces when their guide let loose the ominous sound. Ed’s sense of humor is one more attribute that makes him an excellent kayaking companion.

For the next forty minutes, a bald eagle flew between us and the shore, hunting and resting on Douglas fir branches, then swooping over the water again. He accompanied us all the way back to the harbor in the same way as the whales had led us out, and I felt almost as if he’d been sent to ensure our safe return. Every once in a while the sun would flash on his pure white tail feathers like a wink of encouragment and a hearty ‘Well done.’

I thoroughly enjoyed our invigorating paddle back to the harbor.  We made it back in pretty good time.  “In the ten years that I have been taking tours out,” Ed confessed as we unloaded the kayak, “I can think of only four times that were as remarkable as today. We will often sight the whales in deeper water, about half way between here and Camano Island, but they come nowhere near as close to our kayaks as they did today. We usually expect to have a few minutes of sightings at this time of the year, but you had at least one hour with two whales. That’s incredible. It seems your Friday the 13th turned out to be an unusually lucky day.”

If you haven’t taken the opportunity lately to enjoy the simple pleasures of putting paddle to water and exploring our beautiful island coast, why not treat yourself?  Let Ed or his guides take you safely through an unforgettable morning or an afternoon journey.

For more information and contact details, visit their website:

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Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized


I am child of toboggan and of a family that played in snow

Dad chose our Connecticut house for the half acre yard,

its graded slope was perfect for tobogganing.

I am child of a mother who cut my snowsuit

from the warp and weft of my father’s WWII Marine uniform

Between her singer sewing machine fingers

magic happened.

She buttoned me up and wrapped a knitted red scarf

round and round my little bundled body

then, kissing each of my dinner-roll cheeks

she looked into my eyes and smiled.

I knew I was loved.

I am child of a family whose interlocked legs

made space for me at the front.

Tucked under the curling toboggan’s hood

nested in my sister’s lap within big brothers’ reach

I sucked and ducked gallons of snow dust

guided by parents’ voices: lean this way or lean that;

and the toboggan flew like a snow-Ferrari

until it tumbled at the bottom of the hill

dumping all of us

boots and mittens flailing

tears of laughter freezing on faces

my mother’s eyes shining, burning like a winter-hearth fire

reminding me Who I Am

before I forgot.

Decades of seasons and snow wove their tales

of forts and slushy meltdowns

until miles of death and years of living changed my view.

Today it grew cold and it snowed.

I grabbed my new yellow ergonomically designed snow shovel

and I worked all morning while flakes descended like long forgotten memories

until at last, I gazed with satisfaction at my newly cleared drive.

Exhaling clouds of frost, velvet roses feathered my cheeks with her warmth

I felt her hands bundling me up

and I saw her eyes gazing into mine

And I knew once more the love that glows against winter and cold

And I remembered

This is Who I Am.





Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill

Andrea Hurst served by Chef Gordon Stewart
Whidbey Island: a place of magical dreams come true and of people so gifted, you’d never believe it possible. This week I met one of those most remarkable people. His name is Gordon Stewart, and he is the Chef and Owner of Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill.
Gordon is a man whose heart fills the room, whether he’s cooking in the kitchen or seated at the table. Andrea and I had the pleasure of being his guests, listening to his story and tasting his culinary creations. In fascinating reminiscences, revealed through the lens of a culinary magician and with humility most untypical for a chef, Gordon held my imagination and kept me entranced for several delightful hours. He is not arrogant, though he knows his true measure and on many levels it is great.
I will not divulge Gordon’s stories as yet, for they will soon be gathered and published in a most unique memoir titled, “Culinary Enlightenment.” Do hold your breath. It is worth the wait.
After passing a few delightful hours listening to Gordon, I confessed that he reminded me of my step-brother who died two years ago this month.  Ace was also a big guy with a huge heart and a passion for food, people and cooking. Ace was a chef, and his first culinary creation was the French Toast he used to make when we were kids. It was so good, we never wanted Mom’s carefully crafted Coq au Vin or Lobster Bisque. We only wanted Ace’s French Toast. Gordon smiled and his eyes sparkled with mischief. He really does remind me of Ace.
Offering to cook lunch for me and Andrea Hurst, my friend and Literary Agent extraordinaire, Gordon asked what we’d like to eat. We decided to leave it up to him, and he took up the challenge as if it was the best part of his day. Nothing is more exciting to an artist than permission to express his creativity.
I should have known from that twinkle in Gordon’s eye what he would prepare. He had connected with the story of my dead chef-brother and took up the challenge. Gordon was about to show us what French Toast could be when created by a true artist of cuisine.  All the while I could feel Ace’s spirit surrounding us – laughing – and raising his glass to the master. A mutual respect between peers had crossed the boundaries of what we recognise as living and dead. No death entered Gordon’s kitchen – but life, love and inspiration.
I asked for permission to watch as Gordon prepared our feast, and granted the honor, I stood, transfixed. But I will leave my description of the great man’s kitchen for another day – another place.
My last paragraph has to be about Gordon’s creation.  Although it was days ago, this morning I woke, still filled with vivid memories from Gordon’s table.
All night I dreamt of it – a whole blissful night infused with aromas of rosemary and herbs, flavors of duck breast, grilled to perfection, draped against crisp and tender herbed French toast and a wild blueberry sauce to die for. The savory, tart sweetness of Gordon’s inspired dish was crowned with deep-fried fresh basil, a rice-paper thin perfection of green which dissolved upon the slightest pressure of my tongue, and exploded flavor into the deepest parts of my brain, over and over again. A perfect balance of sensations – feasting the eyes, nose, tongue and soul – satisfying, fulfilling and just plain Heaven.
Thank you Gordon for your gracious generosity, great stories that contained much laughter and kindness, and for sharing your insatiable passion for people and life. Most of all, thank you for honoring my brother with the world’s best Savory Blueberry & Duck French Toast.
Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill
5438 Woodard Ave.
Freeland, WA 98249
(360) 331-7515


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This Is Who I Am

To be a writer

is like being two atoms that dance with one

Hydrogen playing with Oxygen

moving with scintillating, procreating fluidity

a disciplined yet unchained pattern

until the quadrille

slows down

and stands

with hardly a breath

transforming into crystals,

each one a unique expression

of water being frost

rock being mountain

or wind being ripples on river’s skin

like human being body, emotion and thought

like me, turning molecules of mind into words

dancing the rounds and rhythms,

pulling sounds and meanings like taffy;

stretching, tempting, and loving the sweetness

of post-rain petrichor, poetry and story-being-born.

Discipline is all it takes;

it’s only a matter of focused attention.

All the while my faucet drips

a metronome playing Chopin’s Funeral March.

It echoes against the cold hard tub: Dum Dum da Dum,

Dum da Dum da Dum da Dum…

A suitable march for somber scenes

or penned phrases that smirk.

Do you remember Mommy’s funeral?

When we weren’t supposed to laugh?

Suddenly, simple things such as a lady’s hat

black and wide

a saucer-shaped ride for snow,

turned resignation and sorrow into nonsense,

amplified our sighs into unstoppable giggles,

and hoots escaped from our throats

bouncing off gravestones

and falling like stars of grief-relief.

We stood there, two children hugging themselves

trying to appear with socially-acceptable sadness

behavior more suited to the tragic event.

We failed.

Laughter, glorious laughter

like a toad released in a classroom of nuns

shocked the mourners and freed us.

Mourners shifted in confusion

at our emancipation.

Surely we weren’t glad that Mommy died?

No more bed pans

No more sheets and laundry

Not one more morning of waking up wondering

if she’s dead

or still dying…

Is that faucet still dripping?

It is.

Handel’s Water Suite No 2

now skipping like tigger in my tub

bouncy, boisterous and… happy.

In the yellow pages under Plumbers, I find Scotty.

I call and ask him for a quote.

He knows my rented cottage

I forgot that this is an island,

a community of small and intimate

where no sparrow falls without everyone knowing

just as no bath leaks

nor pipes crack

nor drain becomes clogged

without Scottie fixing it

I need more than a washer, he says,

to stop this rhythmic dripping that disturbs my work.

Receiving his quote, I discover that words come cheap

but plumbing doesn’t.

His repair will cost me a whole chapter

including the edits.

Handel’s happy notes begin to grow on me.

Staying in the moment, I hear another pattern

an attitude – a practice of choice – an epiphany.

A drip or a sound need not be my nemesis

instead it is a setting; fire and fuel for my work.

I listen to the rhythms, inhale them, accept them into my being

Words commune and bond with water

dancing the dance of intention

while I, in glorious birth,

exist again and again and again

bonder of sights, sounds, heart and soul

in crystal-forming discipline

becoming what I already am

and so

I write


Submitted to Poetry Palace’s Thursday Rally:


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized


Dawn filled the space of where

you had just been sleeping

talons of sunlight gripping my heart

and our lantern child’s sweet orange smile,

carved from Hallowed October night

our two-toothed ghost of orange love

formed by gentle hands

grins through the window

and remembers your touch,

while learning the lesson

that it’s harder to be

the one left behind

than the one who does the leaving

Alone with the ocean and tree-boned beach

Eagle claims her driftwood beam

gazing across sparkling waters

she waits for spring and her mate’s return

while my heart beats behind her


written for Thursday Poets Rally Week 55:

and Poetry Pantry of Poets United


Filed under Uncategorized

Sweet Peach

I no longer have to share my peach

not even this, large and ripe as a Red Sox baseball

ready to play

leather smooth and fine in my hand

Glowing yellow slips and drips

its plum red core

creamy across my tongue

but the pleasure is somewhat wanting

I should be happy

to have this fruit

all to myself

sitting on my shelf, no longer at risk

of succumbing to other hands

hands that would take it to mouth and bite into flesh

without even thinking of sharing

Those hands would quickly be empty of peach

and full of its satisfaction

while I, complaining, though only in fun

would go and buy another

I never really minded

His pleasure pleased me

as much as the peach

pleased him

Now I have my own peach

carefully pitted and sliced

placed on earthenware inside up

blushing towards the sun

waiting for me to enjoy all by myself, all to myself

with no one to claim the bigger half

~ * ~

Last week’s bowl of ripe Skagit cherries

departed, silent with the season

that I never noticed leaving

The bowl sits on my counter, a barren vessel

If only I’d tasted one more rich orb

before having to wait for next year’s crop

knowing this was the best we’ve ever had

realizing the miracle of ripened fruit

If only I’d enjoyed a little longer

spitting the pits across the garden

one more time

The only thought that hovers now

like an uninvited guest

is that no one is here to share the bowl

or to challenge me, seeing if I could spit the pit

further than him

~ * ~ * ~ *

Submitted with many thanks for their service to writers to the following:

Poetry Pantry at:  AND

Poetry Picnic Week 5 – Jingle’s New Poetry Place!


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

Doc Sheridan’s Gift

He walked into the white-tiled room

wearing clean green scrubs and a hood

It must have been an Easter-bonnet reject

with flowers long-since gone, only one thing left

the pale green gauze and a chin strap

wide as a flap of beard

Anyway, it made me smile

He smiled back

I was gonna tease him about his funny looks

till a nurse handed me a bag and said

Go take off your clothes; put these on instead

I pulled out one of them flap-backed gowns

made to fit a 700-pound body

and me, being just a fraction of 700,

did what I was told

but there wasn’t no tie to hold

the back-flap together and hide my knickers

Then inside the bag I found a hag’s bonnet

only this one was white – not my best color

it framed my mug like a prison shower cap

the size 700 elastic slipping down my face

not a trace of brow left and hardly any eyes

Stripped of my clothes and vanity

I re-entered the room, humbled

on equal terms with the bonneted Doc

He’s an artist I decided as he described

the seventeen bones in my foot

compared to only three in my ankle

He knows every one of those structures

like the back of his hand or his own child’s smile

Put your feet up here, he directed

and took a pen from his pocket

then outlined an arrow that pointed to the spot

where the screw had stopped working

and was no longer needed to hold my foot together


he drew a happy face on my big toe

made me giggle like a little girl

Ooh that tickles, Doc

How good it was to laugh with my artist surgeon

easing the pre-op tension

Then Robert came in – Him, the nurse

with the warm blanket and eyes,

wrapped a strap around my arm

and pumped till the numbers jumped

Are you nervous? Your blood pressure’s up

Don’t worry, he said. This is just like

going to the dentist

My blood pressure rose again

That’s when Doc took a full syringe,

aimed it at my screwed foot, and squirted

saying This is gonna be a bit cold

But it was more than death’s door of cold

It burned like hell

It will kill the pain, he promised

If burning like hell was better than that pain

then that pain was gonna hurt real bad

so I was glad I didn’t have to face it

Soon after my foot went numb

Doc said Let’s get started

I walked to the operating room

holding on to my floppy cap thinking

To hell with the exposed back-flap

I’ll be sitting on it soon

I climbed on the table and met John

the vet tech for people

He covered me up and hung a sheet

so I couldn’t peek and pass out in a swoon

I lay back down and talked a streak

looking into Robert’s brown eyes

trying not to worry that I could feel a lot

more than my heel, I felt my whole foot

in Doc’s hand and I felt pressure

The only real pain was in my brain

and in the bone where the screw was stuck

They put a tourniquet down around my calf,

and I laughed thinking my foot might fall off

and solve the whole problem if they forget

but they didn’t

A few stories later – you know, the ones I told

to keep us all entertained while they worked

though I doubt they listened, knowing

it was just a ploy to keep me busy

playing with a stream of words

Well, a few stories later,

using the scalpel, pliers, and the wrong screwdriver

they tried to unscrew that old pin

but the bugger was stuck in there

We need a Number 62, said Doc

It’s in my office

I hoped his office was close by

and I told another story while they tried

to find the right driver. I don’t remember now

if the story was done when someone said

Screw’s out!

Robert showed me the titanium imp

that made me limp every time I donned a shoe

for the last few years

I felt like shedding tears of gratitude

but I just said Well Done and Thanks

They bandaged me up and sent me home

with one black sandal and two white pages

of post-op instructions saying

Stay dry

Don’t try running or playing golf  – yet

Keep your foot up and take a rest

You were blessed with a good screw

Now it’s done and gone so hop along

and we’ll take the stitches out next week

When Rich came home and saw the new shoe

and the bandaged foot, with toes exposed

and the happy-face still grinning, he asked

What’s up?

My foot, I said

I have to keep it inclined

Would you mind walking the dog?

So he did, much to her concern

cuz he still hasn’t learned

to scoop her poops without gagging

It’s not the dog’s fault they stink

Then Rich went to get us a take-out supper

since I shouldn’t stand but when he left I stood

I wanted to cook the dog’s dinner

sweet potatoes, brown rice and chicken

Tomorrow while he’s out playing golf

she’ll be here with me

licking the happy-face

tickling my toes

and making me giggle like a little girl again

google images

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In the presence of Self

in a place of Alone

where words dismantle and disperse

just as dreams that disappear upon rising

I sit and drink sweet Columbian brew

from a china cup

Cherokee sighs, her tawny gold fur

resigned to carpet while paws twitch,

ears lay flat and deaf

nose clocked-off and eyes

dimmed beneath soft-lidded mounds

My g-o-D spelled backwards

snores in her sleep

The coffee-maker base

clicks on… and off

as it heats and cools

on… and off

an electric lung

breathing the silence

of kitchen and space

No radio, tv or iPod tunes

unravel the morning

in this place of Alone

no racing to work

or seeking solutions

to revolutions and chaos

and all the troubles

that humans burden

and chase

while amassing wealth

discarding waste

their cycles of activity

dizzying and pointless

In this place of Alone

where worlds dismantle

and disperse like dreams

I sit and drink

from a china cup

with only the movement

of breath flowing in

…and out


and out

Blood pulses

like highway traffic

while I surrender

to the awareness

of d-o-G spelled backwards

Submitted to Jingle’s Poetry Potluck and One Shot Wednesday


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

Truth from Farley’s Eyes

 “They’re starting – Quick!” I said to him

“It’s the trooping of the Queens’ Guards

Take my hand, and we’ll find a place

in the front where you can see.”

I led him to the palace yard 

clasping palms we chased the parade

hearts beating along to drums,

to soldiers’ feet, and horses hooves

and triumphant marching songs

My grandson and I stood and watched

row upon row of belted tunics, 

scarlet red of Britain’s blood

gold buttons flashed by noon-day sun

black trousers and shoes in scissor-leg moves 

snipping in time, wooden, all as one

Left right, snip snap

Bayonets fixed on sky-aimed rifles

Canadian bearskin-heightened heads

glistening fur bounced and swung

while people jostled, tradition bound

Left right, swish swoosh

“How many?” he asked above the din

“What?” I said, too thrilled to hear

He pointed at the black fur dancing

noble and thick upon their heads

Left right, snip snap

“Grannie” his query pierced the music

Left right, the soldiers passed

I cheered with the crowd but Farley cried

“For the soldiers hats,” he demanded the truth

“How many bears have died?”


Submitted to:

  Imperfect Prose Thursdays


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

The Wakening



on her knees

plunged the paddle

slicing swift steady strokes

urging the canoe, peeling the water’s rind

Canoe and she

became the horizon point

 seeking the lost open as water-cast wake

reached and stretched with giant gathering arms


Boy fishing

at edge of the lake

ankles clasped by water

unconscious toes kneading slimy mud

drowsy eyelids dipped and closed

while sleep dulled his senses

All the while

her silent wake approached

slapping the shore

it spread

in a stadium wave


the boy woke

realizing his first-time catch

and he heard the sound

of water laughing

Submitted to:

   Poetry Potluck Monday

  One Shot Wednesday


Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

Good Tidings To You


Filed under Uncategorized