Cows seem to come in fifty shades of brown, or at least that’s how it appeared on this particular driving day. I do love cows, but as you may have gathered, I love all animals. In my shamanic work, I don’t have just one spirit animal, I have an entire menagerie, as confirmed by other shamans with whom I’ve worked. This posse has helped me in my ability to help animals, to do some healing, to figure out what’s wrong with them. It’s a small gift, but a precious one. That level of empathy for animals makes it impossible to see news stories on animal cruelty, and any time an animal is introduced in a film or a book, I have a faint frisson of dread at the prospect of its fate. It also makes me think long and hard about my current carnivorous habits, but I’m not ready to flip that switch (again) yet. I do MOO at cows as a courtesy when passing, and have been known to pause in my travels to serenade them.

Weld County, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Cease, cows, life is short.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Daily gratitudes:
Prairie dogs
Mad Men
My soup
Loving someone enough to miss them so much
Mr. Man starting to think inside the box again

And now we return to Monument Valley, and I am proud to share with you this image of my companion, my partner in disorganized crime, my travelling home if times get unspeakably hard, in short, my truck. I love my truck, and Truck loves road trips, particularly when they involve some form of off-roading, which our sojourn in Monument Valley did. Valley Drive, the road that runs down through the monuments, is red dust and bumps, and Truck was in her element. (Truck can switch between genders depending on the circumstances. Sometimes Truck feels female and sometimes Truck feels male. A transgender Truck. And in response to some ridiculous sentiments I have heard over the years, not all women who drive trucks are gay.)

This is my fifth Toyota pickup (shameless plug). Toyota pickups are the only vehicles I have ever bought when I was the only one making the purchasing decision. My first one was baby blue and a stick shift (which I didn’t know how to drive.) They’ve saved ex-Pat’s life twice (as he destroyed them). And my last truck is now Kelsea’s. She loves it so much that she even wrote one of her college essays about it. We’ve traveled through blizzards, fires (stupid me), and floods together. When you find something in life that’s that dependable and loveable, be it a person, an animal, or a truck, stick with it.

Monument Valley, Arizona.

Quote of the day: “I love the smell of Waffle House; it’s the smell of freedom, being on the open road and knowing that ninety percent of the people eating around you are also on that road. Truck driver’s, road-trippers, hangovers–those who don’t live that monotonous life of society slavery.” — J.A. Redmerski…….. (but I call it Casa de Waffle)

Daily gratitudes:
Dogs with their heads out the car window
The conjunction of a planet and the moon this morning
When the antique store is open when I’m walking home
Watching little kids play soccer

If you’ve followed along my journey for some time, you’ll know that I have a lifelong tendency to attract and communicate with spirits. As I’ve been exploring my own spirituality more in-depth of late, and noticing that my beliefs are evolving, my curiosity about this connection has been deepening as well. I’ve lived with spirits in houses since I was a child, and as I’ve mentioned before, this gift (for it is a gift) that we call “the shine” runs in the women in my family. Based on her own self-knowledge and desire to feel in control, my Mother denied it in her 20s, but told me about it as she noticed that I had it, and gave me warnings that I have heeded. We won’t go into those now. While my company tends to be benevolent spirits, that has not always been the case – yet another story for another time. And since I like to walk the edge a bit with this gift, those city ghost tours tend to be exceptionally interesting for me and the others on the tours that I attend (Boulder, Cripple Creek Jail, and Portland, Oregon, to name a few.)

The bungalow has, I have discovered, an exceptionally quirky history, and along with it, some spirits. I think they were here when I moved in – in fact, I am certain of it, as I recall sitting in a corner of the empty kitchen in tears and feeling them shifting curiously around me. Once they realized I was a kindred spirit, so to speak, they showed no reticence to make their presence known. Objects mysteriously moved – generally sparkly things like jewelry, set in the center of the doorways. Items that would vanish and then reappear in places that I had looked a dozen times. The occasional mysterious loud thump that even startles Mr. Man. A pinch on the ass when I’m standing at the sink washing dishes. For a while, a cat was visiting, courtesy of Cousin Tam, curling up in a lump on my feet when Mr. Man was up by my shoulder. And always, that fleeting glimpse of something just out of the corner of my eye, passing by the doorway.

I’ve been struggling physically lately with what I originally thought was a pinched nerve, but which has been getting progressively worse, and so am now taking some mega-dose of steroids, which aren’t suiting my system and are messing with my already disastrous sleep patterns. Tonight, on a whim, in lieu of sleep (partly because the spirits have hidden my book), I decided to see if I could have a little dialogue with them.

Now, I don’t hear voices, because I know that’s a bad thing on almost all counts. But there are tools that paranormal professionals (hmm) use to communicate with spirits and I’ve had some success with dousing rods. Do you know what they are? Not the water-seeking kind, although I do seem to recall using those one summer in Arkansas. They’re these, laid out in this image on a handmade quilt that I bought at auction four years ago:


I have learned that you have to ask your questions and tell the spirits how to move the rods to communicate their answers. So when I establish a baseline, it’s something like “find me” or “find Mr. Man” or “if your answer if yes, point to the chicken”. Tonight, I learned through our dialogue that there are more than two, they currently are most comfortably in the small back hallway between the bedrooms, but they’d like to have a light there, they are young adults, and they are happy where they are. They are neutral about my staying, but they do get along with me. And there was apparently one young man and one young lady, though they had a difficult time understanding the concept of gender given their current state of affairs.

It was powerful and interesting. It felt safe communicating with them, and I will probably do it again, especially if I find myself awake in that hour betwixt and between when it seems all things of heaven and earth are in a drowsy state of active receptiveness.

Quote of the day: “The terms we use for what is considered supernatural are woefully inadequate. Beyond such terms as ghost, specter, poltergeist, angel, devil, or spirit, might there not be something more our purposeful blindness has prevented us from understanding? We accept the fact that there may be other worlds out in space, but might there not be other worlds here? Other worlds, in other dimensions, coexistent with this? If there are other worlds parallel to ours, are all the doors closed? Or does one, here or there, stand ajar?” — Louis L’Amour

Daily gratitudes:
MKL’s true love and support
Flocks of pigeons
A reduction in my nerve issues (from the steroid mega-dose)
My Victorian nightdress
Seeing old friends in dreams

Our view from The View Hotel in Monument Valley afforded us the opportunity to see the weather pass like waves across the monuments. This dust shower swept across Merrick Butte, followed by rain, rainbows, sunshine, sunset, and stars. It was a magical place, and like the sea, a vista that was truly ever-changing. We could have sat on our balcony for hours just watching the light and clouds and wind renew our view every moment. But the lure of the Valley itself was irresistible, and we had to take to the road that travelled through the monuments, getting up close and personal. We would go back in a heartbeat.

Monument Valley, Arizona.

Quote of the day: “It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.” —  P.G. Wodehouse

Daily gratitudes:
A new doctor
Skyping with Kelsea
Snuggly cat
Plans for NaNoWriMo
Ice water

These are the leaves of the little sumac tree in my front yard. They are the most beautiful colors, and dangle delicately on their velvety soft and fragile stems. Rather like fall itself.

Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “a wind has blown the rain away & the sky away & all the leaves away, & the trees stand. i think i, too, have known autumn too long.” — e.e. cummings

Daily gratitudes:
MKL’s strength
My repaired fence to withstand the reproach of winter winds
A new mailbox that I can’t knock over in the dark
Digging into an engine and getting all greasy
A lovely weekend

Not here, for we have clear weather here, and have been most fortunate for this time of year.

In Great Exuma, a place that MKL and I have come to love very much. The place that apparently Hurricane Joaquin loves very much as well, so much that he has decided to linger over the Out Islands, and seems to hate to leave. Bright waters and beautiful days will return though, and Georgetown and Hoopers Bay will dry out. That is the way of islands and islands along with them. Those who live by and love the sea know that, as I saw in tattoo form on a woman’s arm in a little café in RoadTown, Tortola, “the sea always wins’, but its people never give up. They love it too much.

Great Exuma, Out Islands, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “she lived with hurricane eyes and fell in love with the way the waves collapsed against her cheeks.” — Christopher Poindexter

Daily gratitudes:
The couple getting wedding pictures taken in front of the train at Union Station
That Joaquin may be moving out to sea (but you can never tell with hurricanes)
A call from Kelsea this morning
That they caught the Trojan virus on my computer before it did any damage
That having the Tabasco bottle fall from the cabinet above the stove into the oven through the cracked open door (because I was broiling things) and roll into the back of the oven – not once but twice within five minutes – did not result in another kitchen disaster

This image was taken this spring at the University of Oregon in Eugene, a piece north of Roseburg where the shooting at Umpqua Community College took place this morning. I felt it represented the emptiness that many souls in Oregon may feel tonight, and the ordinariness of a space in a college campus that can change from peaceful to terrifying in an instant.


My daughter is now in college in Washington State, and even a state away, this kind of tragedy is too close to home. Having lived in Colorado during the Columbine shooting, when Kelsea was very small, I found that too hit close to home as well, simply because I had a child who was just starting school. Letting your child go to a place that is supposed to be safe, and then realizing that there is no such thing anymore, elicits a level of deep, maternal, instinctive, protective fear. I won’t get started on the dynamics I have had with my daughter of wanting to protect her, because that’s a very long story, and that’s an area in which she has always insisted on making her own decisions. I know exactly what her decision would be in an incident like today’s. She would be the one running in to stop things, not the one running out to safety. And that’s a fact I have to live with, that she would give her own life to save another person’s.

As a residual from Columbine, and listening to her talk about some of the attitudes at her high school, I was always a bit angsty about a school shooting there, but I thought that feeling would pass when she went to college. Apparently, I was wrong. I know though, that worrying does no good, and helps no one. I have no control over the actions of others. I can only put a white light around my daughter 1399.9 miles away every day and every night and hope it makes a difference.

Tonight, I say prayers for and send white light to those parents, students, and friends whose lives changed forever today. And for my friends in the Bahamas and North Carolina, to keep them safe from the ravages of Hurricane Joaquin.

Quote of the day: “She was asleep in her freshly made bed. I can’t explain how relieved I felt for this simple mercy. She was here and safe on clean sheets.” — Laura Anderson Kurk

Daily gratitudes:
Mr. Man
The hope that a new doctor will help my pinched nerve
Seeing things before they’re gone
Working towards our future

Because I was having sharp beach cravings today.

Grand Cayman Island.

Quote of the day: “The scattering of light over a long distance creates a sunset. The crashing of ocean waves on a beach is created by tides, which are themselves the result of gravitational forces exerted by the sun and the moon and the rotation of the Earth. Those are causes.The mystery lies in how those things become beautiful.” — Matt Haig

Daily gratitudes:
That my daughter lives by a bay
Huge, character-filled old trees
Feeling summery even though it is autumn
The burly female security guard who passed me on the street today and murmured, “Be safe, Honey”

This is the barn so often included in postcards from Steamboat Springs. I saw it on my first solo trip there, and then couldn’t find it again. I even asked local folk about it, and they all pled ignorance (weird). This last summer I found it again, and Kelsea had the pleasure of exploring its innards, though even she thought there were spots that the floor might collapse beneath her feet in the hayloft. The barn is very old, and the community is building up around it, condos to the left and right, front, and back, which is sad from my point of view. But I’m glad the barn still stands.

The Steamboat Barn
Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Traveling makes you realize what an immeasurably nice place much of America could be if only people possessed the same instinct for preservation as they do in Europe.” — Bill Bryson

Daily gratitudes:
Mr. Man
My sister’s birthday
People like Pam who are devoted to historic preservation

In honor of International Coffee Day (tomorrow), I share with you this slightly abstract shot of coffee steaming in a styrofoam cup on the porch of the Rabbit Ears Motel. It was very good coffee (to me), which means that it’s like coffee you’d get from a truck stop or a jar of Folger’s Crystals. In other words, anyone else would think it was terrible coffee. Poor MKL is a bit of a coffee snob, and is scandalized by my lack of taste in this area. But it has provided us with kind of a code for the quality of coffee in restaurants, as detailed below:

Me: Is the coffee good?
MKL: YES! Would you like a sip?
Me: No, thank you.


Me: Is the coffee good?
MKL: You’ll love it. (Because he doesn’t like to speak ill of things I like.)
Me: Thanks! (drinking the whole thing)

Mystic Coffee
Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Daily gratitudes:
Cooler air
Healthy grocery shopping
Helping people find their way

October 2015
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