Wonder, defiance, a bath

   Joy is an act of defiance. 

— Bono
The New York Times


Because the world is too much, the outlook so grim. Because my heart hurts and my body is burden. Because there is much breaking and the mending is so slow. Because of this, joy is a struggle but also a balm. 

When I meet with a friend, our time is filled with wine and laughter. It's not that I'm happy, she says, but that if I don't laugh I'll cry

We're relieved to have found an envelope of safety where laughter buffers despair.  
At the nursing home the man sings What a Wonderful World, and Betty cries.

Real tears, full tears that she wipes away with the full of her hand, then looks around with a half-smile, embarrassed. She's not alone; a lump has gathered in my throat too.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

The singer is a one-man-band but I’m moved nonetheless. We're sitting in a dining room turned temporary concert hall, and suddenly I’m so damn sad. When I look about the room — the vacant stares and blank faces —I wonder the point: Why the charade of fun and light, of music and good times? So many of these folks are in pain, some of them out-of-mind, seemingly numb and distant.

And yet, there’s Betty with a sad smile, the music moving her to someplace deep and meaningful. And when I look closer, Helen, sitting next to her, is gazing at Betty with a sort of empathy I’d never seen. And a few wheelchairs away Rose is swaying gently in her chair.

Though we are alone and lost in ourselves, music is the powerful nudge, stirring mind and memory to tell us we are here, now, that we are loved, and that we have loved too. 

. . . and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Because of this, I run water for a bath, slip into lavender and eucalyptus, and gratefully wash the weary away. 



 * as always, names are changed. 



In a weary world, why write?


 Reality has so 

good and bad 

you have to

shape it to

live in it. 


Penelope Scambly Schott

Answer to the question, "Why write?" in a conversation at The Wild Pleasures of Writing, a writing workshop in Parkdale, Oregon in September 2017.  





Who will save this town?

The examined life is

everyday reimagined.

What we cannot see is

the new normal, designed

for a more spirited drive.

When remaking change

keep it loose, be moved. 

Artifice is so unpretty.

Our most important mark

is this wild kingdom.  

— Drew Myron


Lost, found, reconfigured. When words don't flow, I dip into those already composed. This poem is created entirely from headlines and adlines in the latest The New York Times Style Magazine. I've added is and a when for transitional purposes. 

I like to play with words, and found poems reduce the pressure to write "good." Sometimes the path to good is a road near borrow (with attribution).

Want more? Check out these excellent visual found poems: 

Sarah J. Sloat - poems in the pages of Misery, a novel

Judy Kleinberg - cut-n-paste poems 

Mary Ruefle - a master of visual poetry

Austin Kleon - king of the blackout poem 


See some of my found poems: 

Instructions, exactly

Getting Lost

See Me






Not Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday. I should be thankful.

This is the one day each week (I can only muster one?) in which I gather up my gratitudes and express appreciation for people, places, things and more. 

But I'm not feeling generous. 

The West is on fire. The East is in floods. An old man is deporting children. And I haven't written a good poem in months. To say I'm cranky indicates a temporary state. Let's just give up the look-on-the-bright-side banter. 

For years I've believed wholly, deeply, not-quite-religiously in the power of positive thinking. What you focus on becomes. What you resist, persists. I really do believe that gratitude is a powerful and valuable way to pivot from despair to repair to release to rejoice. Sounds corny, I know. But the weekly pause for gratitude helps to counter my small self and petty complaints, along with all the big world aches that crush the spirit. Until now, when the big and small overwhelm my ability to "find the good."

Turns out, I'm not alone. Writer and comedian Liz Brown says she was saved by the Ingratitude List.  

"Gratitude lists didn't help me one bit. Writing them was a practice that drove me deeper into shame and self-loathing when I was already in a very dark place," she writes. "Gratitude lists imply that those of us who are in pain are choosing misery and just aren't working hard enough and that if we just think happy thoughts we'll float up above our problems like the kids in Peter Pan."

Ron Lubke, writing for the Dallas News, has been called "entertainingly grumpy" in his disdain for the gratitude list. Among the many things he's not thankful for are "bathroom stall talkers. I just want to play Yahtzee on my phone in peace." 

Today, I am thankful for my bathtub. That's all I got.


It's Not Thankful Thursday, how are you? 





Dear Readers, Writers, Thinkers, Feelers.

A name has been chosen (eyes closed, hand-picked) and the winner of the book giveaway is . . .  Lisa Carnochan! 

As always, thank you for reading this blog and taking the time to respond & interact. While we couldn't all win the drawing, I urge you to find, borrow, or buy this book. It's that good. 

Already read it? Consider these other books I've found helpful: 

A Bittersweet Season: Caring For Our Aging Parents — and Ourselves 
by Jane Gross

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gwande 

God's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast

 And now, your turn: What books on the topic — end-of-life, aging, slow medicine — do you recommend?