Thankful Thursday: Thinking of You

Because attention attracts gratitude and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday.

This week I'm thankful for a bounty of kindness: letters, cards and emails in response to a piece I shared here with you recently. 

It turns out the platitudes are true: In life's rough season, friends do make a difference. Childhood friends. Writing friends. Even blog friends, people I've never met but who offer comfort and companionship across computer screens. 

Thank you. 

When my head and heart are a jumble, I reach for paper and pen to make sense. This process yields letters, poems, wishes, regrets and grocery lists. This week, in an unexpected turnabout a friend wrote a poem for me. What a surprise and honor. Thank you Shirley.


5 Oct '16      to Drew 

What you wrote today is beautiful.
I am upset for you
For you were clearly upset

But I shrugged it off without tears
though they were close
for I did not know who was ill or dying or dead

I shrug it off as most of the world does
the drownings in the small seas around the Mediterranean
Or the deaths of those crossing the desert
those who might prefer drowning
to escaping across borders where there is no water

And so I did not share your grief
the expression of it so great
I thought the person must be important

Perhaps not
Since it was not your husband
and without a child
who else could tear your heart so

Perhaps the person was no more important
than many of the predecessors
but like a stone,
last in a long line of stones,
that finally presses enough
to collapse the lungs
to remove the last breath 

I have aged to a softness that makes
my throat thicken . . .
my tears run over . . .
my breath too shallow to allow speech . . .
all at the mere saying 'sad' 
with not even a story attached

There is so much pain and grief
I assume it all . . .
and it is devastating

I pretend humor, nonchalance . . .
I deny that I am touched . . .
as a matter of survival. 

Shirley Plummer



It's Thankful Thursday. What are you thankful for today? 



You Gotta Eat

I'm not a great cook. I like food but I'm not fussy about it. I go for chips, dip, pasta, pudding and popcorn (well, not together). And Diet Coke with everything.

And yet, I enjoy making soup and baking cookies — the lingering, low-pressure foods.

That's why, in part, I am buying this book for friends and family (Spoiler Alert: Merry Christmas!): Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day.

 “I think everyone should eat great food every day,” says Leanne Brown, author and food scholar (yes, that's a real thing). "Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill. Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.”

Just as any recipe is more than its individual ingredients, this book is more than the routine instruction manual. Good and Cheap is research project, grassroots activism and cookbook all-in-one!

Learn all about this unique book and its author at 3 Good Books, the blog series I host.





Letter to No One, Someone, You

What tools do you use in your writing practice, she asked.

I write letters to a friend, I said, on paper and in my head. 

Death is not a crisis.

A friend said this years ago, and we built a book around the idea — Sweet Grief.

She painted through the death of her husband and I wrote poems alongside her experience. We took the show on the road, packed up paintings and poems and travelled to galleries. See, we said, this is death but it’s not horrible. It’s a passage in pretty pictures and poems.

But what did I know? How tender it now seems, how naive. Because now I’m in a storm, and all around is pain and grief that swallows, spits and keens — and that feels a lot like a crisis.

After the swirl of events and activities, the meal train, flowers and full fridge, life turns inward, turns still. Sadness works into the crevices, lodges deep. We don’t want to go home. And we don’t want to go out. This is what the living do, and the dying too: wait, cry, wait.

The house is quiet, she tells me, and sad. 

Don’t get me wrong.

I knew death. Before this, I knew illness and loss. Friends, neighbors, grandparents, grief. But each loss is fresh, and old, and resurrected.

Don’t get me wrong, I know nothing.

Years ago, my neighbor was “poet laureate” of her church. Each week she would share a poem with her congregation. When she was dying she gave me her poetry books — a stack of Mary Oliver and David Whyte, and several others that I took home, placed lovingly on my bookshelf, and forgot.

Last month I opened one, a thick anthology, Cries of the Spirit. And I've made it my own. Dozens of pages are now marked, lines rising to meet me:

Prayer is


we may not

reach around,

space for all we cannot hold,

the rim of Love toward which we lean.


- excerpt from Nothing So Wise
by Jeanne Lohmann

Pray until you believe, my mother says.

Each in our own way, we're crying, feeling, praying. Isn't it all the same? I want to make this suffering beautiful, our sorrow poetic, but it’s not. It’s eating too much, sleeping too late, talking and not talking. It is lashing out and curling up. It is, at turns, loud and hard, soft and slow. It is never quite right.

Not long ago, my husband and I paddled our boards across the Columbia River, against wake, wave, wind and swirl.

Confused seas, he called it, a sailing term to describe current, wind, and wake at competing angles. Well that’s a metaphor, I said, and a few moments later my jaunty aside turned to tears, and he scrambled across waves to comfort me as I screamed, no, no, no, you’ll tip me. And so, as a barge passed, fishermen fished and sailors sailed, we sat on ours boards in the center of the river, and I sobbed.

Because everyone is sick or dying. Because sadness is no excuse, not tool or aid. It does not act. It does not do. Because it is not enough to absorb and feel. Because one must do and help and sometimes fix. Because I cannot fix. Because grief immobilizes and I want to do good, do better, do something.


    Let me be tricked into believing

    that by what moves in me I might be saved,

    and hold to this. Hold

    onto this until there’s wind enough.


- excerpt from To a Milkweed
by Deborah Digges





Love that Line: Random Bad Luck

Somewhere along the way, people in this country had developed the assumption that life should be unvaryingly logical and just — there was no recognition of random bad luck, no allowance for tragedies that couldn't be prevented by folic acid or side airbags or FAA-approved safety seats." 

- Anne Tyler
The Amateur Marriage 



Fierce Field Guide


    I write in hopes 

of recognizing myself

and seeing you more clearly.

I want to know when truth 

turns from solid to liquid

to gas in the alchemy of  


— Sage Cohen


Sage Cohen, author of Fierce on the Page, is now featured on 3 Good Books, a blog series I host. 

Please join me there, go here