We have had good “farmer’s” rains recently, those large, fat drops that come down gently enough to penetrate the soil. As a result, the wildlife “all-you-can-eat 24 hour buffet” of oats, wheat, and rye that Buck and Harold planted for the forest creatures is thick and lush. With the black and brass lamp posts lining the driveway, it’s kind of ethereal looking, in the way unexpected combinations can be.


Last week, a visiting grown daughter along with her teenage daughter came into the house breathlessly, smiling with the bright knowledge of inadvertent explorers, as though they had just come through a secret door: “Narnia! It looks like Narnia!”

And today the green fields have an exquisite icing of frost.

Thank God For Writers

Thank you inventors of chicken broth, Ginger Ale, Saltine crackers, Bayer aspirin, ice cream, sore throat lozenges and let's not forget Kleenex.

Man, how the high and mighty have been laid low. A good solid body blow from the flu will give a smug, healthy, fit person humility in the milisecond it takes for that first shaking chill — The Chill That Will Not Be Warmed Away — to reduce a person who normally wears a tank top and gym shorts and goes barefoot in the house all winter to an inchoate mess layering on sox, sweatshirts, sweaters and gloves.

Most of all, thank you Greg Iles and Stephen King.  From Friday until last night, I have read Greg Ile's book, Turning Angel, and Stephen King's scary, entertaining as hell book, Cell. I always enjoy Ile's books, and his latest is so steeped in the color and detail (some fictional, some real) of his boyhood hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, where he still lives, that I found myself wondering if he has both a local fan club and a local anti-fan, run Greg out of town, club. These two prolific writers have been my constant companions this weekend. Their imaginations and my fevered brain worked together to unleash a stream of vibrant, detailed, colorful, noisy, exuberant, shocking, complex dreams so that I remained entertained night and day, blessedly distracted from physical discomfort.

These two guys have done more in a couple of days to reinspire me to get with on storytelling than all the non-fiction didactics on my book shelves. Epiphany comes where it finds you.

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes

She's a nurse, an athlete, a dedicated mom, a loving wife, a giver.

I met her for the first time when Buck and I delivered  pot roast and vegetables to her door when she was on strict bed rest trying to safely deliver baby Lilly. Usually she is the one making meals and taking them to families with new babies or others in need of temporary respite care.

Lilly was born healthy and beautiful. She was christened in our marvelous old parish earlier this year.

Lilly's dad is a Navy doc. He is on his second tour in Kuwait, helping to heal those he can. The week he left, Lilly's mom took a tumble down a flight of stairs, hitting her head so hard it brought on seizures.

She recovered, and perservered, as is her way.

Her husband's tour of duty was extended once again for several more months. I saw her at communion, her worry showing like the fraying edge of a worn silk scarf.

Baby Lilly is in the hospital for the second time in a week. We all pray she will be home tomorrow. Lilly's mom, my friend, will not leave her side. The other children are being cared for by a relative and a neighbor. Folks in the parish stand ready to make meals, grocery shop, wrap Christmas presents, or run other errands.

Soon, I know, this remarkable woman will be back to making meals and "doing for" others in temporary need. It is her nature.

This morning I was making a list before going to the grocery store. I was thinking about this young family, and adding things like gingerbread cookies, chickens to roast, potatoes to mash, ingredients for a home-cooked meal, a tiny island of comfort in a sea of anxiety and exhaustion.

Buck looked at me, perplexed, pondering how a grocery list could make me cry.


It was almost midnight when Buck, Maggie and I walked up two flights of stairs to the small third story open deck. Wrapped in white fog, it held a special allure. Mellow from lots of talk, spaghetti, rosemary garlic peasant bread, zucchini, feta with oregano and Mark West Edna Valley Pinot Noir (oh yeah), plus a piano playing, pool shooting session, we draped ourselves over the deck railing, sighing, contented.




Nose pushed through the railings, Maggie was at attention. Following her nose, we saw that she was looking at a denuded pine, whose fallen bark was gathered in shards around its base. It gleamed whitely through the fog, and seemed worthy of a loyal dog's protective growl.

Deadman’s Fingers

IMG_0011 I went out to clip a few stems of thyme late this afternoon and ran smack dab into this wild looking fungi which had emerged since yesterday’s rain. Thanks to a great resource called, I learned that my mystery fungi is a columned stinkhorn, also known as deadman’s fingers. Read more about it here, from a 2003 story. (Jack Scheper, creator of, has written a fascinating and entertaining account of these weird fungi. Great photos, too!)

Sweetness of Life

Marvels on a Tuesday night:

The incomparable smell of clean sheets; hearing a farmer's rain falling through the open door; a furry brown Maggie dog lying by the bed snuffling, tail thumping in a good dream; Buck engrossed in a new book; the good feel of dinner in my belly, my mouth tasting of sweet potato, pork tenderloin, warm apples; and the sounds through the open door of our far neighbor's geese honking a good night, good night, good night to all.

Homeward Bound

Buck is not a natural early riser. When he was on his feet, turning on lights with each foot fall, at 4:30 this morning, I knew he was ready to get back home to Maggie, Longleaf and the wildness of our piney woods retreat.

Buck drove the 637 miles with only a couple of brief stops. I made us several peanut butter sandwiches for the road and stuck a quart of milk and a hunk of basic cheddar into a cooler. Buck tossed three bananas onto the back seat. I walked out the back patio of our hotel room in the dark, opening two iron gates along the way to walk beside an eerie, steaming hot tub, and into the back door of the lobby to check us out while Buck finished loading the car.

Yesterday, the Naples/Ft. Myers area was the warmest in the United States, at 86 degrees, but this morning it was a sweet 62 when we left. Sometimes, there is no greater pleasure than downing a glass of cold milk and smear of peanut butter on whole wheat bread while watching a sunrise and hurtling homeward like bats out of hell.

Yep. This was one of those days.

Welcoming Committee

Buck unlocked the gate while I sat in the car enjoying the late afternoon sunlight's interplay with the huge old live oak tree. Maggie was in the back seat, leaning forward, muscles straining to thrust her head as far out of window as possible, her breath ragged with excitement.

Buck closed the gate behind us and eased the car down the drive through the woods. It takes a turn into deep tree cover just at the last, then emerges onto an open area in front of the house. Harold and Buck had planted this open area in wheat, rye and oats about two weeks before we went to Naples. I was almost blinded by the bright green pasture, but then my breath caught — a herd, literally, a herd, of deer, was grazing. From fawns to adults, in a color range from deep chocolate to pale champagne, there they were. How many deer does it take to make a herd? I don't know, but I saw at least a dozen, certainly more than I had ever seen before.

Seeing our car, they began to move off into the cover of nearby woods. But they didn't run, throw their white tails up, or snort. They just eased off.

We're home.