The Balm of Time

I’m waiting for snow to melt so I can go foraging for cottonwood buds with a friend. The plan is to then let them steep for eight-to-twelve months, to make Balm of Gilead. Yep, almost a year. There’s a faster way where a crock pot can be used, but I like the idea of letting time do its thing.

Kind of like I write. Year three and just finishing revising the first draft.

I’m not normally slow in all things. But some things need time. Or at least patience.

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Time flows like a river…with a big happy dog splashing in it

It took me thirty years to make it back to Scotland, to friends I love and places I also love. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but hey, those thirty years actually went pretty fast. Twenty-three of them were spent completely enamored watching a little lump of baby grow to a nice young man.

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A rose between two thorns? My husband’s sister took this photo which is why he’s sticking his tongue out…somethings you never outgrow.

I’ve spent ten years messing around with a couple little cancer bouts, taking my time to radiate and barf and then recuperate. The oncologist last week was thrilled with the latest blood work but not so thrilled, apparently, with other things we talked about.

Like grief.

You know, one of those things that people mistakenly say ‘takes time’ when in reality it’s there forever. She suggested I see a counselor and said that people who have been through cancer can have PTSD, and that maybe current grief is a trigger for deeper grief from those angry, sad, post-radiation years.

No thanks. Cancer treatments weren’t that bad, didn’t take that long, and were probably harder on my family than on me. I can see how they might have PTSD from putting up with me slamming doors and joyfully learning how to cuss.


She used to think her name was G*d-d*mn-it and would happily come running whenever I said it.

Think I’ll try acupuncture instead. I’ve done that before and it’s wonderful. And it takes time. And it’s something that’s been around a long, long, long time. When I did it before, I had time to step away from the rush of the day, to float with stories, to let go.

But in the meantime, here we are, watching life fly by way too fast. Trees were just dropping their leaves yesterday and now they are budding. Where did winter go? Now we move into spring and growing and renewing. Until tomorrow when it will be hot summer days, and the next day when it will be cool fall. That’s what it seems like anyway.

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Time flies, even when it moves slowly.

And so many things never change. When you realize how fast years have gone, you wonder what you’ve done to fill all that time. You wonder if you’ve wasted time. You wonder how to slow it down. You wonder how to fill the time left with meaning.

And then you realize time has flown while you ponder those things.

So you heave a big sigh, get your basket, and wander out into the woods for cottonwood buds.

And for that moment at least, life will slow down until it becomes just you and the tiny buds of a new spring in your hands.

Time between your fingers.


Sun dogs taken by my husband where he works.

Dog Dreams In Clouds

I have an active imagination that translates to dreams. I can even control them. I’ll think about a story I want to have a part in, and dream it. If I have a nightmare, I’ll lay there and think, ‘but if this happened, and that happened…’, go back to sleep and have a great story.

But one night I had an extremely vivid dream, even for me. Just a scene, really. I sat on our couch, squished against one end because my Irish Wolfhound, Strider, was also there. Wolfhounds take up couches. And beds. And floor space. And block the television and steal food from counters.

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And look you right in the eye. After all, I’m short and they’re tall.

In the dream, Strider’s head was on my lap and I was running my hand over and over his rough-coated fur, crying. Hard. Because he’d been gone for a few years and I missed him, but also because I knew it was a dream. I wasn’t going to wake up with my dog soul-mate back in my life.

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The dream stayed with me, just as vivid. His fur under my hand had been so real. The weight of his head on my lap. Those copper penny eyes looking up at me. Even now I get teary remembering the dream.

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Then came the hot summer day when I’d been working outside. That evening I knew I’d be sore the next day so I went out to the hot tub. While soaking, clouds moved in over the mountains. And there he was. This huge cloud shaped like a wolfhound. Like he leaped from the top of the mountain into the sky where the stars were coming out, his tail streaming behind him.

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I’ve never been one to see shapes in clouds. Someone will say ‘oh look, it’s a dragon!’ and I’ll think ‘looks like a cumulus cloud to me’.

A friend pointed out later that I was probably dehydrated. Hot day, sweating, sitting in a hot tub. Seeing things. I suppose she was right. But it reminded me of that dream.

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So I mentioned the dream to another friend. She said it sounded like Strider was finally ready to transition and had come to tell me goodbye. Well, that made me cry. Still makes me teary.

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Anyway, I’m pragmatic. I don’t believe in life after death. If anything, I think we’re bags of energy that dissipate wherever energy goes. I don’t believe in religions. I think they were man’s first attempts at creating a moral code.

But here’s the thing.

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That dream was so vivid.

And since then, I always see faces and creatures in the clouds. Lots of them. Even when I’m not in the hot tub, dehydrated. I find myself looking for them, silently telling them hello.

I think Strider is out there with them, running free.


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To Sleep…Perchance to Write

A fellow-writer told me recently about the fantastic writing she composes shortly before falling asleep.

Does that ever happen to me? Of course.

The bed is so comfortable, I’m in that halfway stage between wakefulness and oblivion, and there’s all this stream-of-consciousness writing going on. I see where the work in progress is going, I draft excellent dialog, I think of the best blog post…

And I know I should get up and write it down.

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Most of the time I simply roll over and dip into sleep, convinced I’ll remember all that fantastic writing because it’s so…fantastic. How could I forget?

I wake up in the morning completely clueless.

There was one time I forced myself out of bed to write a blog post. Oddly enough, that was the post that resulted in the Freshly Pressed award.

There is something powerful in the ‘crossing places’ to borrow a phrase from author Ellie Griffiths. In her book with that title, she’s referring to the salt marsh, the place between land and sea. This time between wakefulness and sleep is the same. A place of transition. So it’s not surprising that a brain is freer to create. The daily grind is over, the body is relaxed, the breathing is almost to a trance phase, and the environment is soft, dark, and quiet.

Well, except for the dog across my feet, snoring.

But you get what I mean.

So if I know that place is a creative space, and I know that if I get up and write the words down the writing will be good, why don’t I get out of bed?

Well, the obvious reason is sheer laziness. Who wants to crawl out of a comfortable bed into a chilly room? Who wants to disturb that poor old dog?

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Strider and Art (don’t tell Art I posted this)

A bigger reason is that there have been other times when I have jotted down notes on the paper every writer is supposed to keep by their bed for just these moments. And while that one time I got out of bed and the writing worked, there have been many, many times when, in the morning I looked at the jotted notes and was clueless.

Whatever the words from that crossing place meant at the time I was falling into sleep, by the light of day the meaning was gone. Poof. Gibberish. I’m left holding the scrap of paper thinking ‘what the h…?’.

But for my friend who started this thought process, I advised her to get out of bed and write it down. Because you never know. Gibberish for a thousand nights, stellar writing for one night. Isn’t it worth it for that one night?

Does that mean I’m getting out of bed tonight? Afraid not. After all, there’s that dog.

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Skywalker von Stowe (aka Luke)