Almost Poetry

brave words for fearful people …

Go out into the world:

a rain-spattered window, with bare tree limbs beyond, rendered in black and white

Go!  Yes, you — though you are fearful and fragile and small.

Go broken-winged and bent-boned and beauty-starved… Lovesick.  Stardrunk. Skydizzy.

Or go sharp-eyed and sober, if that’s how it is — the hunger for the light a clenched fist in your stomach.  A hand, opening slowly in your chest like a flower.

If you are frightened, use it.

If you are desperate, use it.

Let the jitter and snap of your fear drive you scrambling up the cliff.  Grasp the sudden handle of the crescent moon, and haul and kick your way to the top.

Go!  Go by sea or land or air, or in the unfettered flight of your dreams.  Go alone, if you must.  Drag us with you, if you can.  

Just go.  And keep on going…

a pale blue and pink sunset sky, framed by bare tree limbs

Yes, you. ❤


best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Flashback: a Promise, Left on a Park Bench in the Frost

As I write these words, Winter is having its last gasp.  Fat white flakes swirl, caught in the golden cones streaming from the streetlights.  Once again — when we’re all hungering so fiercely for Spring — the world erases itself into white.

And yet:  Winter cannot last.

If you’re finding that hard to believe today, please know that I dug this little post out of my archives just for you.

Love and sunshine to you today, friends!


{This post was first published in January of 2015, as part of the Secret Messages Project — a 30-day series in which I left my words in places where they might be found.}


Yesterday, for the first time, I caught someone in the act of discovering one of my little offerings.

I never meant for this to happen — in fact, as a rule, I avoid the possibility.  I’m careful to leave my messages when no one’s looking, and I never go back to search for them.  The way I see it, once I give them away, they no longer belong to me, and this is how I want it.  There’s pleasure in the not-knowing.

But yesterday, in a completely unplanned moment, I got to see a stranger experience my words from afar.  And I have to tell you it moved me.  It moved me so much that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.  So I didn’t do either.  I just watched, and then made a quiet exit.

But if I’m going to tell you that story, I think I have to begin at the beginning.


You should know that I’m a summer girl, through and through and through.  You can’t tell it to look at me, with my pale skin and dark hair and long heavy black eyelashes.  I look like I belong in cableknit sweaters and Pendleton skirts, burgundy and brown and copper, and I *do,* in fact, spend plenty of months living in those.  Still:  I wander through this half of the year desperate and hungry for green, for the sun on my bare shoulders, a film of salt on my lower lip.  The constant white-noise of locusts and songbirds and children playing ball in the dusk.  The wink of fireflies.  All of it. 

And every winter about this time, the cold gets into my bones and it doesn’t leave.  I carry it around with me like grief — heavy.  This is not — believe me — an overstatement.

This was what I was feeling, yesterday morning, when, returning from an early-morning errand, I was suddenly overcome with the intense desire to pull over on the side of Brandon Avenue and get out of the car.

Lakewood Park sparkled to my right:  a perfect slice of green sloping toward the woods, and every last inch of it, every blade of grass and grain of earth, was coated in glittering frost.

I walked slowly across the field, toward the stream that cuts the park in two.  The ground under my feet was so hard and nubbled with ice that it was difficult to get my footing, but I kept walking, past the volleyball pit — oh, God, that stab of remembered summer! — and toward the pond.

The pond… It’s my favorite thing about this place.  Any time of the year it beckons, perfectly round and surrounded by benches.

Today, however, it was filmed by a thin skin of pale ice so that it formed two concentric circles:  the outer circle of the bank, and the inner circle where the ice ended  and the open water began.  The whole pond looked like a giant eye, staring up at the sunrise.

I stood quietly, watching the weak sun burn its way through the gray. I looked down at the bench beside me, which was frosted like a cake, beautifully white.  And that’s when I decided that this was where I was going to leave the day’s message.

I had it already prepared:  the words inked on the shiny green undersides of six acuba leaves, with their brilliant gold speckles.  I stuck a hand in my pocket and ran a thumb over their leather skins.

Yes.  This place. This. 

I waited.  In just the briefest span of time the frost suddenly went from ice to water, and the bench beside me instantly beaded over with liquid.  I placed the leaves there, in just the right order.  I played with them a little bit, getting the spacing right.  I snapped picture after picture, trying with all my might to believe in the message I was leaving.

It was like a prophecy, and my own heart doubted it the whole way.

And then I left.

Crossed the field.

My boots by then were muddy, my toes cold.  I stopped to take a breath, looked back, and that’s when I noticed her:  a stranger, crossing the street to the park.  I couldn’t see her face for the hood of her parka, but I could see that she was walking a beautiful white dog.

She walked straight across the field toward the pond.  Crossed the bridge toward the bench without a moment’s hesitation, as if it was exactly where she intended to go.

A little moment of panic kicked through my chest — I didn’t want her to see me there, didn’t want her to know it was me.  But of course, by then we were already a good fifty yards apart, and who was to say what she would think, what she would know, even if she saw me?

Still, I hurried back to my car and got in.

Sitting there, my breath fogging the windshield, I had the perfect vantage point to watch her for a moment.  She stood there facing the bench of the longest time, just staring.  The dog stood very still beside her.  Her breath came out in clouds.

And then she bent low, her face pushed right up to the words.

After awhile, I realized what she was doing:  she was snapping pictures, just like I’d done only a few minutes before.

I started the car.

I drove away.

I felt the laughter escape me in a single note that was almost a cry. And for the first time, I believed my own message — really, really believed it, in every cold-benumbed corner of my soul: 


And it will.  I promise you that. ❤


Five Little Reminders for You, on Valentine’s Day


True story?

For almost a decade now, I’ve slept with my body curled tight against my husband’s.  I’ve woken to his heartbeat, and shared in his dreams. 

We have every reason to celebrate, but still:  I have some very mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.

I don’t know why, but this year I’ve felt painfully aware of how the holiday pressures people into making commitments they’re not ready to make…   They say words that don’t feel right yet.   They buy rings they can’t afford, and make promises they’re not sure they want to keep. They make love that isn’t love at all … And that makes me sad.

If you’re reading this today and you’re feeling like a flower forced into bloom, I hope you’ll hear these words and take a little courage …


Five Things We Already Know, But Keep Forgetting:

1) You don’t have to spend this evening with anybody … especially not with someone who makes you feel less important than you are. It is completely acceptable to spend Valentine’s Day with a special friend, a dear family member, or in the pleasure of your own company.

2) You don’t have to feel pressured to sleep with someone just because they bought you a fancy dinner … And you certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to say words you don’t mean just because somebody else said them to you first… Your body is yours to give or to keep. Your heart is, too.

3) If social media makes you feel badly today, please — please — just disconnect for awhile. Take a walk in the woods. Hug somebody who seems lonely. Read something, or create something, or reconnect with an old friend. All these are better ways to spend an hour than scrolling and feeling Less Than.

4) Whatever you do, I hope you *don’t* pop the question just because your partner expects it, or because it seems like The Thing To Do. There will time for genuine love, for champagne and celebration, commitments and congrats. But the well-paid advertising folks in the jewelry industry don’t have the right to push you into thinking that it has to happen today… or tomorrow, either.

5) Last but not least: you deserve so much more than to be somebody’s fallback option … and your partner deserves better, too. **Don’t settle.**


Oh, friends: maybe it sounds sappy, but I believe that your Creator loves you dearly, and I’m saying a little prayer that you feel that love today…

You’re braver than you think and more beautiful than you know.  ❤  

best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Flashback: Truth, Chalked on a Stone by the Roanoke River

Yesterday’s post has me thinking about the mercy of near-misses, and the grace of second chances.  I originally published the following words and the accompanying photograph on January 7, 2015, as part of the Secret Messages Project, and it seemed right to share it with you once more.

Wherever you are when you read these words — if you need to press the reset button, please know:  I’m thinking of you, and I’m hoping you do it today…



You can begin again
anytime you choose —
any old day of the week.

But you can read these words
or perhaps tomorrow–

until the rain falls
or the river rises…

Which is something to think about. ❤

Everyday Wonder

A Warm, Dry Resting Place, in Hard Rain …



Two weeks ago, it rains.

It rains all day, in a solid sheet:  hard rain that hammers the earth, needles it in divots…  

Water fills ditches.  

Creeks rise.  

Rivers rise. 

This is the first day.


On the second day, it rains harder.  Water fills basements, pouring through every crack and split seam.  In cars, sunroofs and convertible tops leak, the water pooling on the floorboards.  Doors swell in their frames and stick fast.

And then the third day comes, and the rain doesn’t stop.


In a river town, when the water rises, things fray like a bad marriage.  For awhile, the troubles are just obnoxious:  the kind of benign complaints you’d share with a girlfriend over a glass of wine.  You call a plumber.  You run a box fan over the wet carpet.  But after awhile, as things worsen, the air of trouble saturates the atmosphere of the whole house — the whole town.  Those closest to the river stay, though perhaps they should go.  They stay because they love their homes, and — yes — they love the river.

But on the third day something happens to the river, and suddenly it is not what it was.  It is solid; muscled; hard; fast; cruel.  It rips tree limbs from the bank and rakes them downstream, where they claw the undersides of bridges.  

And now you can sense something violent coming, the way the wife of a certain kind of man anticipates the solid smack of the fist to the door, the sudden shatter of glass in the night.

She sees it coming, and she packs a bag.


And this is the point at which the worst should happen:  the flash flood.  The dam break…  

But it doesn’t.

Because on Wednesday morning — almost four days since the rain began — I wake to clear sky.  The clouds scud past and suddenly there’s warm air — even sun!  

I almost can’t believe it.

At lunchtime, I drive the Xterra into Salem, park and walk down the path that runs parallel to the river. Everywhere I look, I can see evidence of where the river crested its banks.  

I can see shredded guardrails on the bridge…  


A picnic table at the park, snarled in debris…  


I find a flowerpot jammed between two fence rails, a park bench crowned with driftwood…



But even still:  the sky is blue, and faultlessly clear.  The temperature rises to 74 degrees, so that by the time I walk back to my car, I am sweating in my boots.

And I know, by then, that there are another three days of rain still ahead of us.  The weatherman has told me this, but still, somehow, in the blue air, I believe it will be all right.    The day feels like a space to rise to the surface and draw a long breath, and I do.  

I breathe, and breathe, and I think about the dove with the olive branch, fluttering back to the ark.  I think:  all this mess is almost over.  Almost, but not quite.

There is no rainbow yet, but for now, the olive branch is enough.  


I am almost to my car when I find the crayfish:  the tiny hard-shelled body hot against the asphalt.  The beady eyes blinking in the light:


He does not belong here, and he knows it.  He is dragging himself painfully along, wondering where the river has gone, and why he is out here ten feet from the road, baking in the sun.

I walk past him at first, but then suddenly my heart understands what he is and what is happening, and I go back.  Ease him onto a flat stone and carry him back to the water.

I nestle him close to a wet stone and wish him well.


I think about him for three days, as the water churns up the banks again — rises but does not crest.  

I wonder if he makes it through.  If he survives.  

((We can survive so much more than we think.))

And I understand, then, that it is not always in my power to give somebody the rainbow.  Not always in my power to make the trouble end, or to push back the curtain on the sun.

But I can bear the olive branch — almost there.  Almost.

I bear it for for you and for me, for displaced crayfish and lost souls:

Fallen sparrows.

Fallen creatures.

The wounded and the weary and the weak.

I am standing here on the first clear day, promising you that while the rain’s not over yet, the sun  — always — comes again.


Of this I am sure. ❤



Everyday Magic

When the Forest Sends Me a Heart-Shaped Love Note …

Every day, this world tries to tell me, in quiet, ordinary ways, that there is love for me here.

And also magic.

I went on a long walk in the woods yesterday.  My mind was cluttered, my heart heavy, but then, this:


… A giant leaf like a valentine:  soft as parachute silk.

Today, I’m wishing you a little love just when you need it most…  Hope you go out into the green with both eyes open for magic. ❤


On Quiet Grief, & Quiet Goodness …

Can I tell you a secret?  For a little over a week now, I’ve been quietly carrying a private hurt — one I caused myself.

And I won’t explain any more on that subject, except to say that for days now the hurt has been dogging me like a shadow, the way deep hurts often do.


A few days ago I went for a walk, and I thrust my face in an open magnolia bloom.  I gasped in a lungful of its lemon scent …

And it was good.

I walked farther, and fireflies sparked around my ankles.  Locusts whirred in the trees.  I stroked the silken fuzz of a mimosa bloom, and glimpsed for the first time how each baton-shaped pink petal is tipped with gold.

(Have you noticed, the way mimosas fold their leaves up for the night?  Believe me:  all the world sleeps, and starts again).

I walked a little farther still, and suddenly a doe stepped lightly across my path, three spindly-legged fawns following behind.  I caught my breath — oh, God, what beauty, the way their white spots glowed in the dusk, the way their wide eyes stared into mine…

This world is bent and broken… And also, it’s breathtakingly good.  


I’d be a fool not to see. ❤