shanaritter: word by word


As you may have noticed weeks have slipped by since I last wrote my blog. I decided, without at first realizing my decision, to take a hiatus from blogging as I concentrate on a revision of the novel.  I will be back in the winter. Until then may your roads be touched with beauty and your days given time to take it in.





Hinting towards fall

On Saturday the first falling leaves spiraled down on a light breeze. My grandsons ran across the back yard trying to catch the yellow ones with butterfly nets. They did get a few, let them go and tried for more until they spotted a few last butterflies and took off after them. They never did manage to catch a butterfly. Instead moved on to trying to kick a ball over the roof, or hit a post, or run faster than the dog. They are tired out before dusk and their sleep is sound and deep.

I lie awake for a long time, tired but not sleepy. I am thinking of the shifting season, another birthday, another year about to turn as Rosh Hashanah approaches. I love the cool evenings and mornings, the welcome sun at mid-day. I watch the way the woods open, the brambles recede, the spaces between the trees grow wider making paths for me to walk.

Autumn is in many ways my favorite time of year. It holds beginnings and endings braided together. The close of summer, which always seems like time out of time for me, the days stretching so long that I am often left longing for night. The start of a new year offers the chance to renew. The equinox bringing the word briefly into balance as everything moves towards the true bare outline of itself.

Farewell Summer

This past week there were days of heat interspersed with rain. Then just the other morning, clear and lovely the cicadas in full chorus, I felt it. The very first hints of fall. It was something in the air, some tinge of coolness, a few leaves drifting down a few turning yellow in the upper branches. I know it’s just a prescient glimpse of what’s to come.  We have almost a whole month of summer left. Still  it’s not the summer I think of when I think of summer. Sure, there are hot days ahead, grass to mow, brambles covering the footpaths in the woods, but we are tipping towards autumn. Summer was a blink of an eye this year.

It’s not just the natural world. Children have already gone back to school, college students are arriving, people are asking how was you summer? Short I answer. What summer I’m thinking. There were a few glorious days floating on the pond, visiting grandkids up at dawn to fish, earlier on the first sightings of lightening bugs, and before that the expectation for slower days, longer nights, time expanded beyond schedules.

That expansion never seemed to happen. The languidness of summer, that sense of time out of time has been disappearing  over the last five years and this year I think it was finally gone.  Work has an ebb and flow that has nothing to do with the season. Schools go back earlier and earlier. Travel is put off. Summer it seems is disappearing.

Oh, it’s hot enough for days on end, but it’s not the weather that makes the season. Summer was composed of unchartered days, unmeasured afternoons that drifted into long evenings. It seems the very notion of summer is gone.



Friends kindly ask how my brother is;  Alzheimer’s a mean disease I answer. It’s a thief. The conversation often stops there. No one knows just what to say, including me.But the other day when a friend, who had met him numerous times, inquired I couldn’t stop.  I told her about how his anxiety and frustration  increased so much he’d been on an Alzheimer’s care unit since the end of last year. How his long walks which he loved were limited to twenty or thirty paces before he struggled with staying stable.  How speaking to him by phone or skype is no longer possible. I don’t  mean that he can’t use it to call, but rather the concept of that voice on the other end being his sister no longer makes any sense to him.  He can’t construct that abstract notion.

His wife, my sister-in-law, visits everyday. Her life has been turned upside down. I live far away  so I don’t feel that kind of upheaval. What I do feel is loss. But it is a loss I am not sure how to describe. My brother turns 74 today. He is still here, but he is not here. Not in the way he once was.  i guess none of us are the way we were but those changes are slow, visible, part of a time surge that carries everyone in its wake. My brother has been hit by  a tsunami that remained undetected for years, and then left an indelible change. His life is a whole new geography.

I am not a stranger to losing people. Some of my closest friends have passed in the last few years. My parents when I was young. We use the word loss as if someone can be found again. We say passed on as if they have gone somewhere we can trace. In some sense I have found those who have died. They are in my heart and  their memory truly is a blessing. They are in the stories I tell. They occupy the photo frames on the piano and become part of a running narrative when my grandsons visit. They are my history and their voices carry into my days. But missing someone who has died is very different from missing someone who is here. Here and not here. There and not there. My brother who is no longer my brother and yet still is. Today is his birthday. We always spoke on his birthday. This will be the first year we don’t.

My brother lives in that new geography. It is uncharted and ever changing. Full of sinkholes and swamps with occasional clear skies, wisps of bird song, the consistency of people he sees everyday. Sometimes unrest haunts him. Something is not right. He not where he is supposed to be. He is there and not there.

And still he remains here with me.


Changing Sights

The twilight lasts for hours, the slow fading light from east to west, the stars hazy at first get clearer, sharper in the dark, the fireflies are each a reminder of a different night in childhood’…

Source: Changing Sights

Changing Sights

The twilight lasts for hours, the slow fading light from east to west, the stars hazy at first get clearer, sharper in the dark, the fireflies are each a reminder of a different night in childhood’s summer. The notion of magic, no the actuality of magic is there if I take the moments to hold still enough.

The other day floating on the pond with a friend I looked up and caught sight at what I first thought, because of it’s apparent size and clarity, to be a crow but quickly realized  was a much smaller bird. I could see it’s clawed feet wrapped around the thinnest of braches at the very top of a tall tree. I could see each of the leaves on the branch.  When it lifted into flight i saw the red on its wings; a red winged blackbird.

This new range of sight- the ability to see in the distance but not up close – is slowly changing my perception of the world around me. What was far is now clear and what is close is blurred. What was dull and blurry is bright and defined.

Distance is no longer what it once was.



Still Thinking about Orlando

Driving up the road to the Smithville farmers market,  I wasn’t paying much attention to NPR morning edition until I heard that people in the 100s were standing outside the funeral of one of the yo…

Source: Still Thinking about Orlando

Still Thinking about Orlando

Driving up the road to the Smithville farmers market,  I wasn’t paying much attention to NPR morning edition until I heard that people in the 100s were standing outside the funeral of one of the young men murdered at Pulse singing Amazing Grace in order to block the chants of anti-gay protestors. I thought I must have heard wrong, I’d only tuned in to the last few sentences and then turned off the radio as I pulled into the old school lot where the market is. But later in the day the same news story came on again, stating simply that the “anti-gay protestors”  shouted slogans of hate were being blocked by the men and women acting as buffers.

As if it is fathomable that any one could be an anti gay protestor. As if anyone could be an anti gay protestor outside a funeral. As if it were just a fact of record that a group of people could be spewing anti-gay slogans outside a funeral of someone who was murdered because they were gay in a gay bar in the line of fire of crazy and hate paired with an automatic weapon.

Access to that weapon was questioned, as I believe it needs to be, but where was the outrage about people who claim riotousness but yell hate at anguish and heartache? As if there were nothing fundamentally wrong about this, as if a sing out of Amazing Grace could act as a shield protecting those inside mourning the loss of loved ones. As if any of this made any sense in anyway whatsoever.

It’s taken me almost two week to be able to unravel my disbelief about “protestors” being allowed outside funerals of those massacred in Orlando to begin to write about it. Still, I cannot begin to fathom how one can shout hate filled slogans into the maws of grief and no one stops to ask how is this possible? How can you be human and so transgress on love?


I am at the last class in a series of classes that began at the beginning of May. In this month and a half the northern hemisphere has turned and shifted into summer. We’ve planted and weeded. Mown the yard and walked in the woods. Gone to doctor’s visits, planned a trip, made supper and washed dishes, dried them, put them away.

And there has been another massacre. Loved ones, an entire community toppled into grief. Deaths and injuries, mourning and loss that I cannot begin to fathom. We stop, lower a flag, go to a vigil, maybe say a prayer or listen to music, read a poem. Whatever it is that brings some solace. I don’t think there’s any peace or understanding to be found, but there is solace.

I find it in the ordinary simple things. In the tangible moments that come and go unrecorded, unreported. A butterfly paused over a flower, children gathered around a cake, blowing out a candle, a swallow feeding her nest of fledglings, the moon arcing across the sky. The voice I recognize immediately on the phone, a song I know the words to, honeysuckle, the still clear face of someone I’ll never see again. The scent of a perfectly ripe peach, the way a fresh picked strawberry tastes like morning sunlight.

After the letter has been written to the paper or the lawmaker, after the phone call made, the note of sympathy sent, this is what makes sense. A different list for me than for you. I find it at no cost but staying present, paying attention. This small cache of riches that somehow endures.


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