Book Report: Reading Dilemmas

April 27, 2023

Recently, I received an email from the Willa Cather Foundation about a virtual study course for four of Cather’s books, My Antonia, A Lost Lady, The Professor’s House, and Death Comes to the Archbishop. Benjamin Taylor, whose biography of Cather will be published in November, 2023, will host the series. I love each of those books, and I am tempted to sign-up for the series and, of course, reread the books.

Here’s the dilemma: each book I re-read means I don’t read something on my TBR list. Each time I sink into a much loved book, I am not reading a new release that sounds really good. And in the meantime the attraction to books, new and old, and the ongoing growth of my TBR list continues.

This week I got an email from the New York Times with the headline, “12 Books You Should Be Reading Right Now.” RIGHT NOW! EEEK! I probably should not have read further, but I did and was pleased to see I have read one of the titles, Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and I am even more pleased to report I did not add any other titles to my TBR list. But how long will that restraint continue? Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy and the podcast “What Should I Read Next” will soon release her acclaimed Summer Reading Guide, and a plethora of other summer reading lists are just on the horizon.

If I ignore them, I may miss a book that would be a truly good match for me. Plus, I confess I like to be in the know about new books, an interest nurtured by working in an independent bookstore decades ago. I read a variety of book review sources, and bookstores are truly my happy place.

Perhaps I should think of this passion as a hobby, like knitting or bird-watching.

My TBR Lists

I keep elaborate book lists in my book journal. At the beginning of 2023, I transferred 57 unread titles from 2022. I have been working on that list steadily since then and am happy to report I have only 16 left on the list. I hasten to add I have not read, beginning to end, the remaining 41. I have at least started each of them, but only decided to complete a handful of them. If a book doesn’t appeal when I start reading it, I quickly discard it, usually returning it to the library or if I own it, adding it to the Little Free Library pile.

Of course, I have a 2023 TBR list, but I am trying to be more selective about what I add to that list. As of today, I have 59 titles on that list and have read or discarded 21 of those titles. Then there is my lists of acquired books and mystery series and the British Library Women Writer Series and books I want to re-read.

So far this year, by the way, I have read 45 books.

Current Thoughts About My Reading

I just finished reading Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May, who wrote Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. In this new book, which I am so glad I read, she decides it is time to

reset my terrifying “to be read” pile to zero and allow myself the possibility of choosing new books for this age I’ve landed in.

p. 150

Is that what I need to do? Close my book journal, except, course, to record what I’ve read. Forget the TBR list entirely–not an easy prospect for someone who loves to make lists almost as much as she loves to read. Perhaps I need to just read what is on my shelves already—the great majority are books I have already read and can imagine re-reading.

Obviously, as problems go, this is not major, but as a devoted and voracious reader what to read next is an issue, as is how to approach reading time. At age 75 there is more sand in the bottom of the hour glass than in the top.

I am aware that I am more and more attracted to re-reading old favorites, and at the same time reading older books I missed along the way or reading the backlist of an author when I read a current title.

What I suspect is that I will continue to muddle along –reading as much as I can, picking and choosing based on unscientific criteria, breaking my own rules, and quite simply loving the journey.

An Invitation

As you age, are you noticing anything different about your reading routine or rules, reading desires or interests? I would love to know.


Willa Cather Foundation

Anne Bogel blog and podcast

My Morning Meditation Shift

April 25, 2023

In a recent post I documented how I rearranged furniture on the first floor of our home. Just because I felt like making a change. The most major of the changes was to move a desk, which I always refer to as my Lady’s Writing Desk, from the entry way into the snug. I confess I have rarely used this desk with all of its cubbies since we moved back to St Paul. Instead, I have almost exclusively used my desk in the garret.

Well, in its new location in the snug I find myself drawn to using it once again–not so much for writing blog posts or working on the content for the writing group I lead or for other writing projects, but perhaps for the use this desk was first intended: correspondence. Thank you notes and birthday and sympathy cards. And letters. This little desk is now stocked with note paper and stationary and favorite pens and stamps.

I love having a window on the world of our block, watching the neighborhood kids racing up and down the sidewalk and the dog walkers and joggers. Bruce even checks in with me much more than when I was tucked away in the garret.

I don’t like how the desk looks from outside the house looking in, but oh well.

In the past year I have worked hard to end my writing work life by 4:00 in the afternoon. I turn off the laptop and the lamp light and retire to the snug to read for awhile before fixing dinner. That is a good thing for me, but at the same time I have noticed a decrease in writing letters and other correspondence; something I have always enjoyed. I like writing at a desk, but if I return to the garret desk, I often end up working on other projects.

Because this desk is in the snug, I feel called to return to a part of my life that has given me so much pleasure in the past.

Another Change

Most mornings I head straight up to the garret, even before I get dressed, for my morning meditation time. I sit in the comfortable Girlfriend Chair, to pray, to meditate, to write in my journal, and to read sacred texts. During COVID when I wasn’t meeting in person with spiritual direction clients, I moved the chair into the larger space in the garret where I meet with most of my clients.

But guess what? My designated meditation chair in the garret is close, very close to my desk, and meditation often becomes muddled with work. Hmmmm.

In warm weather what I often do is walk first thing in the morning and move my meditation time into our Paris garden. But, alas, we have had one day of warm weather so far this month. and while the snow has finally disappeared and walking is possible, sitting in Paris is not. And who knows when that is going to happen.

While writing letters at my Lady’s Writing Desk on Saturday, I had one of those ah-ha moments, Why not start my day in the snug, instead of going up to my garret office right away. Another comfortable chair. Plenty of space to keep my meditation materials, and writing in my journal at a desk is much easier. And there will not be the temptation to answer email or dive into the day’s To Do list.

And it is a change. A change of scene often brings a change of perspective. A change shows me I can be flexible. A change often inspires creativity and problem solving, too. And, if it doesn’t feel right, I can easily move back into the garret.

And when I do go up to the garret later in the morning I will be ready to focus on my work.

So far, so good, but it has only been a couple days. Stay tuned!

Making changes doesn’t mean you’re not content. It means you’re paying attention.

Myquillan Smith

An Invitation

What change have you made recently that has enhanced your life? I would love to know.

Book Report: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

April 20, 2023

Sitting on a balcony in beautiful Door County, WI, reading a stunning book–what could be better than that? Well, maybe a balcony with a water view, but no whining allowed.

So far the books I’ve read this month have all been worthwhile, even memorable. I wrote about two of them in an earlier post this month, Still True by Maggie Ginsberg and Women Talking by Miriam Toews, and in my April summary on Thursday, May 4 I will share the other titles. I couldn’t wait, however, to tell you about Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano.

I loved the characters, even when I didn’t like them. Sometimes I wanted them to be something more than who they were, but I admired the growth and the recognition of the pain they held within themselves.

I loved the writing, the impeccable sentences, and the fullness of the descriptions without being overwrought.

I loved the pace of the plot, Not too slow. Not too fast.

I loved that each chapter focused on one of the characters. The point of view, third person narrator, stayed the same, but somehow I experienced each person’s perspective.

I loved the overwhelming love, the humanity of that love, so tenderly, but sometimes so fiercely expressed. Powerful, redemptive, heartbreaking love. At times as a reader I wanted them to relax into that love.

Loosely based on Little Women, with emphasis on the word “loosely,” the characters have their times of being Beth or Meg or Jo or Amy. And there is a Laurie, too, in the character of William. We are absorbed into this family of sisters who don’t seem to need others until they do. A friend who loaned me her copy of the book said it made her envious of women who have sisters, and it made me think a bit more about my mother who was the oldest of four sisters and what her reaction to this book might have been.

Ok, the plot: William Waters grew up almost invisible in his own family when his parents could not cope with tragedy. He found solace in basketball and then in the love of Julia, the oldest sister. As each sister discovers her own identity and as William experiences a mental breakdown, all are forced to change and meet new challenges. I don’t want to say more.

A Few Favorite Passages

Julia experiencing the birth of her child:

She was a mother. This identity shuddered through her, welcome like water to a dry riverbed. It felt so elemental and true that Julia must have unknowingly been a mother all along, simply waiting to be joined by her child. Julia had never felt like this before. Her brain was a gleaming engine, and her resources felt immense. She was clarity. (p. 107)

They were dismantling their habits and routines, and it was like pulling up floorboards and finding joy underneath. (p. 349)

At their father’s wake, a young paper-factory worker said, It’s impossible he’s gone. And that man had been right–that had been an impossible loss…But perhaps what felt impossible was leaving that person behind. When your love for a person’s so profound that it’s part of who you are, then the absence of the person becomes part of your DNA, your bones, and your skin…the losses ran like a river inside her. (pp. 360-361)

“When an old person dies,” Kent said, “even if that person is wonderful, he or she is still somewhat ready, and so are the people who loved them. They’re like old trees, whose roots have loosened in the ground. They fall gently. But when someone dies…–before her time–her roots get pulled out and the ground is ripped up. Everyone nearby is in danger of being knocked over.” (p. 371)

Independent Bookstore Day is coming up on April 29. This would be a good book to purchase then. I guarantee there is already a long “Hold” list at your library, so unless you have the patience of Job or can borrow a copy from someone else who has had the wisdom to buy it, buy yourself a copy.

An Invitation

What book is tempting you these days? I would love to know.

Home Away From Home: Door County, WI

April 18, 2023

We spent this past weekend in Door County, WI, a place that over the years has become a home away from home, even though we rarely stay at the same place. At breakfast one morning at our favorite place, The White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, we tried to remember all the times Door County has been our vacation, get-away destination. We listed at least 20 times, and I’m sure we missed a few.

For those of you who don’t know, Door County is a peninsula with Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Many have referred to it as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. That’s fine, but I don’t think it needs to be compared to anything–it is its own kind of time-out haven.

My husband planned the trip this time to celebrate my 75th birthday, which seems like a logical time in itself to reminisce and honor the past without neglecting the present or denying the realities of the future. We roamed favorite routes, as we always do, staying alert for sandhill cranes and turkeys, glimpses of spectacular water views, and the pink haze on the cherry trees, moving steadily towards blossom time. We noted what stores and restaurants were still alive and hopefully well, and kept saying, “Remember when…”

A kind of life review of our adult years.

Neither of us could remember how we learned about Door County or when we had first visited, but we obviously fell in love with it and kept returning–sometimes just the two of us, but also family times when our children were little. And later when our children were grown. The summer of 2010, when we lived in Madison, we rented a house for a month. Bruce came for the weekends, and our daughter and family came for a few days, too.

I spent my alone time reading and writing. (No surprise!)

When I was growing up and my family moved frequently, we always went to the same resort in northern Minnesota for a week or two before moving to our new home. That time served as transition time, easing us from one place to another. Whether my parents realized they were doing that or not, that week offered a touchstone, making what was changing and what was ahead and what was left behind not quite so daunting.

Door County has become a similar touchstone–a place where I mark the changes in our lives, not just as memories, precious though they are, but as a timeline of growth and development. I recall many leisurely dinners, lingering over what we came to think of as “daiquiri talk,” dreaming and imagining what our future might hold, could hold. In fact, Door County was where we realized that we wanted to retire back to St Paul and put a plan to do just that into motion.

This past weekend was quiet, for the spring/summer season has not yet begun, and I realized how much less I need “to do,” “to see,” “to visit,” in this stage of my life. How content we were to spend more time reading in our pretty room or on the balcony.

Note the cherry wallpaper! Cherries are a definite theme in Door County.

We have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries in Door County and have been there each season. We have each had alone time there plus been there with friends and family. I don’t need everything to be the same with each visit there, although I would be crushed if the White Gull Inn closed, but instead enjoy seeing the mix of old and new. We’ve been young there, and now we are old there. I feel the span of time there, and it is a good feeling.

Perhaps if we were still living in the home where we raised our family, a home where we lived for decades, I might prefer to vacation always in new places, to cultivate new places, new experiences, but instead, Door County has become the place of returning. The place where time is measured. It is the place where each time we leave, I think about when we might return to our home away from home.

One More Thing:

As we often do, when we are out roaming, we visit a library. I think if I were living in Door County, I would spend a good chunk of time in Egg Harbor’s library–with its water view and comfortable places to sit and read.

Not only were there books, but a charming seed library too.

An Invitation

Do you have a home away from home? A place that is an emotional tug? I would love to know.

Spring Break

April 11, 2023

I am taking a brief break, but will begin posting again on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

An Invitation

Do you need a break? What would that mean for you? I would love to know.

Book Report: Blizzard Books

April 6, 2025

Welcome April 1! This was the view out our front door Saturday morning. Not only that, but we had no power for most of the day. What to do? Read, of course.

The sun was pouring into the snug, giving me plenty of light. I wrapped up in a blanket and read and read and read. In fact, I finished one book and most of another, and they were both excellent.

Still True by Maggie Ginsberg was a recommendation several months ago in the newsletter of one of my favorite bookstores, Arcadia Books in Spring Green, WI. Ginsburg is a senior writer at Madison Magizine, but I hope she leaves enough time to write a second novel, for this one is stellar. You may recall that one of my favorite books of 2022 was Beneficence by Meredith Hall. Well, this book needs to sit on the shelf next to Beneficence.

The plot is fairly complicated, as I think about explaining it, but as I read, it didn’t feel that way. I think that says a great deal about the polished, smooth and compelling writing. Secrets, lies, grace are all themes in this story about a devoted, long-time married couple, Jack and Lib, who don’t live in the same house. Also, key to the story is Charlie, a young boy who has recently moved to Anthem, WI with his parents, and he becomes Jack’s buddy. Enter Matt who is Lib’s son, whom she left when he was baby. This is news to Jack. And Matt becomes involved with Charlie’s mother. See what I mean? Just read the book and ponder the questions, What is truth? What is true? Are some lies worse than others?

Maybe this is what grace felt like. Maybe the best things were too big and good to be understood. maybe what was holy, by definition, couldn’t be truly comprehended by mortal man. Maybe that was what he’d always sensed in the two of them, and in everything they held dear: that together they were so much bigger than the sum of their respective working parts.

p. 270

Women Talking by Miriam Toews is the book that inspired the award-winning recent movie by the same name. Read the book. See the movie. Both are excellent. The novel is based on a true story about a Mennonite community in Columbia, South America. The women, who have not been allowed to learn how to read, have been sexually-abused, and they struggle with a decision — to do nothing, to stay and fight, or to leave. These women may not be able to read, but they can think, and their deliberations will challenge and impress the ethicists, philosophers, and theologians of the world. They struggle with what they have been taught, with what the men have told them is in the Bible, as they clarify three things they are entitled to. “We want our children to be safe…We want to be steadfast in our faith…We want to think.” p. 153. One of the women says,

I believe that my soul, my essence, my intangible energy, is the presence of God within me, and that by bringing peace to my soul, I am honoring God.

p. 109

The author, by the way, was raised Mennonite and left her family at the age of 18.

I think my April reading is off to a good start. Now, if only the snow would melt.

An Invitation

What books have you read recently that challenged your thinking? I would love to know.

Finding Purpose as We Age

April 4, 2023

“I have time now to try new things, but also the need to use this time well.”

” I feel called to do something, to create community.”

“How important it is to be intentional.”

“This time keeps evolving and one thing seems to lead to another.”

“How can I best use my energy?”

“I sometimes say to myself, ‘I get to do this,’ and that brings me joy.”

Last week I facilitated a Third Chapter conversation called “What Now? An Informal Conversation about Purpose and Meaning in the Elder Years.” Third Chapter activities and opportunities are designed for those 55+ and focus on ways to grow spiritually and to explore both the gifts and the challenges of these years. In recent months many have gathered to share insights and thoughts, as well as questions and concerns about a variety of topics, including downsizing and decluttering, choosing the next place to live, making plans about funerals and memorials, and nurturing intergenerational relationships. In preparation for this conversation, I realized I needed to create a purpose statement for myself; some guiding words as a way to sort and focus how I choose to use my energy and time and gifts. First, I browsed a number of books in my personal library about aging to see what resonated with me:

  • Pay attention to your inner compass.
  • What is asking for more attention?
  • This is a time to come home to the self, the person I was created to be.
  • Know yourself. Know your boundaries. Know your gifts. And then be generous.
  • Aging is the gift of continuing on.
  • Cultivate your power to inspire. Be a muse and a guiding spirit.

My next step was to think about what I love to do, what I am currently doing, and what I feel I do well. And I thought about how those things relate to my spirituality, my relationship to the Divine, and to my ongoing quest to understand who I am created to be. And then I thought about what is possible, given my age, my energy, my relationships and my community.

David Steindl-Rast’s words, “When you can’t go far, go deep,” have become a guiding mantra for me in recent years. In my case, what I choose is to go deep. And, to help others go deep as well. Ah, I could feel myself growing closer to defining my purpose, or if you prefer, “call,” or even “vocation,” although that word sounds more applicable to an earlier time of life.

No surprise, I then sat with my journal and tried on some words and phrases to see how they fit. I realized, as the words came together quickly and easily, that thoughts about this stage of my life have been percolating and evolving and emerging.

My purpose is to deepen awareness of the movement and presence of God in my own life and the lives of others.

I took a deep breath after writing those words, letting them flow through me, inviting them to float around me. Do they sound pompous? Pious? “Holier-that-Thou?” I thought about questions I ask my spiritual direction clients frequently. How are you noticing the movement of God in your life now? When have you experienced the presence of God? I ask myself these questions, too, all the time, whispering to myself, “May I feel the presence and be the presence.”

Yes, this is my purpose statement, I told myself, but how is it I intend to live this statement right now, right here.

  • By writing.
  • By facilitating groups.
  • By listening and asking questions.
  • By living a contemplative life.

Over time these specific ways to live my purpose may change, may evolve, and I imagine if I live many more years, my focus will be on the gifts of a contemplative life, but my overriding purpose statement feels as if it can live within me for the rest of my days.

I wrote my purpose statement and intentions on a small card that sits in front of me on my desk, and I practice saying it aloud, sharing it with others. My hope is to fully integrate the words into both actions and contemplation.

How grateful I am for the wisdom and insights shared during our Third Chapter conversations, and for the opportunity those times offer to learn from and to support one another during this time of our lives, for as Joan Chittister says, “The gift of these years is not merely being alive–it is the gift of becoming more fully alive than ever.”

An Invitation

What is the purpose and meaning of your life at this stage of life? Have you written a purpose statement? I would love to know.


An essay I wrote, “Actually, Your Children May Want (Some of) Your Stuff” recently appeared in Next Avenue, a digital publication produced by Twin Cities PBS(TPT), which is dedicated to covering issues that matter most as we age. Here’s the link: I hope you will read and share with others.

Book Report: March Round-Up

March 30, 2023

I know here it is only the 30th and there are 31days in March, but I am eager to enter April, so why not post the summary of this month’s reading now. And what a month it has been!


I finished two books I mentioned in a previous posts this month.

  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer. I read it slowly, trying to absorb facts, and stories, and reflections. Such an important book. Perhaps the section that most fascinated me was the detailed analysis, which he included near the end of the book, about the protests at Standing Rock. Don’t be deterred by the length of the book, for it is well-worth the time and energy you give it.
  • Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, 50 Poems for 50 Years by Joy Harjo. I loved many of the poems, but I also loved her notes about each of the poems, their content, inspiration, and often the mechanics of the poem, also. Such a good companion this was to the David Treuer book. April is National Poetry Month, and I recommend this book as a way to celebrate poets and poetry.

I also read two other books in the broad nonfiction category. One is a book of meditations and the other, a memoir.

  • Embers, One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese (1944-2017). A beautiful book in appearance and in its short reflections. I read a few pages in this book each morning during my meditation time. The author says morning meditation is his time to reclaim himself, and I concur with that sentiment. The book is divided into seven sections: Stillness, Harmony, Trust, Reverence, Persistence, Gratitude, and Joy. He writes this in the very first meditation:

I am my silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world. I am not my talk. I am not my actions. I am my silence. I am the consciousness that perceives all these things. When I go to my consciousness, to that great pool of silence that observes the intricacies of my life, I am aware that I am me. I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.

p. 15
  • Leaving the Pink House by Ladette Randolph. This book made me nostalgic about living in the country during our years at Sweetwater Farm. Randolph and her husband buy a dilapidated house outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, and she describes the year spent renovating it and making it habitable, but she also reflects on the years that led to this decision and about changes in her faith along the way;. Randolph refers to herself as a “devotee of the quotidian,” and her writing draws us into her daily sights and experiences.

I best understand my life through the houses where I’ve lived. I have only to remember a particular house to summon clear memories of a given time and place. Like many adults, I’ve returned to those places–both in memory and in person–seeking from this exercise I’m not sure what: some part of myself, some time in the past I want to better understand. Houses are often the archives for my deepest, most resonant memories, the places where I’ve curated life stories.

from Introduction


I read ten novels this month, and will highlight five of them.

  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez. Perhaps you read some of her earlier books, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents or In the Time of the Butterflies. If so, you know what a good writer she is. Antonia’s family, which includes her three sisters, immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Antonia is now 66, a widow, and poet and English professor. Her eldest sister, who is mentally unstable, disappears and the sisters rally to try and find her. At the same time Antonia becomes involved with a teenage unwed mother who is undocumented, and along the way Antonia faces her own “dragons.”
  • The Swimmers by Julia Otsuko. What starts as a playful writing style and content (Has one writer ever used so many parenthetical phrases and done it so effectively?) becomes a poignant view of a dementia patient in a memory care unit. Alice is a faithful swimmer, but when the pool closes for good, her issues become more unmanageable. Sad and revealing and well-written.
  • Island of the Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. A treasure of a book. Set in Cyprus in the 1970s and then again in 2000s and also in London, a Turkish woman and Greek man fall in love, but are separated, eventually reuniting. They have a daughter Ada who in her teens mourns the death of her mother. Her mother’s sister plays a role in helping Ada heal and also fills in the blanks of her parents’ lives. The father, Kostas, has brought a fig tree with him to London from Cyprus, and the fig tree tells its own story. I know this seems strange, but I believed in the fig tree just as much as the human characters.
  • What Are You Going Through? by Sigrid Nunez. A woman dying of cancer ask a friend to be with her as she plans to take life-ending drugs. The woman is estranged from her daughter and has asked others to be with her, but all have said “no.” The friend, more of a distant friend from previous times in their lives, does agree, however, and they become closer and closer. The story is written from the friend’s point of view, but she relays everything the woman tells her. Brilliantly written.
  • The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Many of us eagerly wait for the next book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Well, we need to wait longer, for this new book by Winspear is a stand-alone, but definitely a good read. The main character, Elinor White, however could be Maisie Dobbs’ soul sister, for she is also courageous, compassionate, and intelligent. White was a spy both in WWI and then again in WWII, and she carries demons with her during her retirement years in an English village. She is drawn out of her quiet life to help a neighboring family who want to remain separate from the husband’s organized crime family.

Waiting for me are two books from the library, Still True by Maggie Ginsburg and Women Talking by Marian Toews. I saw the acclaimed movie,Women Talking, and now am eager to read the book.

An Invitation

What have you read this last month? I would love to know.

The In-Between Time: Moving Towards Spring

March 28, 2023

Just because it is officially spring doesn’t mean it is actually spring. Not with snow still much in evidence, but still the air feels different, lighter, fresher, brighter. There is no sign of green yet, but I bought the first bunches of daffodils. And I rearranged furniture.

This is transition time, and I often feel a bit itchy, restless in the in-between times. Often I channel that need for some kind of change by changing what I see, by doing more than the usual weekly hometending.

The snug transformed from this arrangement. (The pictures were taken in the fall — the pumpkins have long been packed away!)

To this:

One thing leads to another. Because I moved the desk into the snug from where it had been located next to the front door since we moved into this house, that meant changing the entry area, too. I moved the center table (top picture) to the desk wall and that left all sorts of space for this:

Voila! Another reading area and a place for one of the tables from the snug! The chair had been in the bedroom, by the way, which was changed from a heavier to a lighter look, too.

Of course, along the way, I washed floors and rearranged tabletops, shopping the house. Now instead of feeling winter cozy, the house has more breathing space and seems fresher, lighter, brighter, just like these days.

Winter Reflections

As I’ve written before in this blog, hometending is one of my spiritual practices and is a form of creativity for me. Doing this kind of re-envisoning space and our surroundings, however, is not just about changing what is visible, but for me it is also a bridge, a way to transition. As I shuffled piles of books and tweaked pillows and pictures, I thought about what changes I have noticed or deliberately made in the previous season. And what that might mean for the season just ahead. These domestic surges give me a chance to evaluate, to consider directions in my own life.

This particular winter season has been a challenging one, weather-wise, but I have noticed in myself more ability and willingness to adjust, to let go and to be with whatever is happening outside. How grateful I have been for our cozy, pleasant home, for the safety and comfort, which I realize my privilege allows me. At the same time I feel more ready for spring than I do most years. I am eager to walk without fear of slipping on the ice.

This winter has been a time to adjust to the death of a dear friend. More and more I am aware of how this time of my life, as I approach my 75th birthday, includes losses. An ongoing challenge is to accept the loss and at the same time open to the gifts of each day.

This winter has been a time when I have been more aware of how I choose to use my time. I cleared space in my week to create Writing Wednesdays, and that has become precious to me. I am working on an essay about walking the labyrinth and have submitted a couple shorter essays to online publications. In the coming months I hope at least part of Writing Wednesdays will be spent writing in our “Paris” garden.

This winter has been blessed with activities I love; for example, facilitating the church writing group as well as monthly Third Chapter Conversations, meeting with my spiritual directees, and writing my twice a week posts on this blog. As I move into spring, I know I want to continue in these endeavors, but I pray I will know when it is time to let go of any of them and that I do that with grace.

This winter has included some strife in our congregation, but what I see is that the community is stronger than one person and that we will continue to grow in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

This winter has included good health for Bruce and myself. A couple colds, true, but no trips to the doctor. No broken bones or concerns about mental or physical well-being. How grateful I am.

This winter has included my usual morning meditation routine, beginning with a short devotion in Henri Nourwen’s You Are the Beloved. My word of the year “beloved” resonates throughout the day.


Sunday my husband and I drove along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, one of our favorite routes. How good to see so much open water and bare ground. Along with seeing eight eagles and two hawks, we think we saw a flock of tundra swans. Although there was not yet any sign of greening, the earth seemed ready for change, for movement. Should we call these days “Sprinter” or perhaps “Wing”? These are the in-between days when we can begin to envision what is to come, but at the same time recognize what we bring with us into the new season.

An Invitation

How are you living these in-between days? I would love to know.

Book Report: Sick Time, Reading Time

March 23, 2023

I suppose you could accuse me of milking the situation, for I just had a cold. Nothing serious. We all get colds, but my end of the week schedule was quite open, and I certainly didn’t want to spread my germs, so I declared a time-out. I moved into the snug with books and a blanket and spent most of two days reading and napping, napping and reading. Voila! I am back to normal!

Here’s my report:

  • At the beginning of each reading session I read a poem or two in Joy Harjo’s Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, 50 Poems for 50 Years. Harjo was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2019-2022. My favorite poem so far is “Remember” and here are the opening lines:
Remember the sky you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
  • I finished reading a novel The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin. In this case the waters refers to Lake Superior in all its mystery, majesty, power and beauty. Sosin tells the story of three different women in three different time periods, 1622, 1902, and 2000. One of the women owned a bar on the North Shore and after the bar burns down she decides to drive all round the perimeter of the lake, and now I want to do that. I admit some of the descriptions seemed obscure to me, but perhaps I need to spend more time under the lake’s spell.
  • I continued reading The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer. Much of Louise Erdrich’s lecture that we attended recently focused on the Termination Act of 1953, which Treuer describes in this way:

It proposed to fix the Indian problem once and for all by making Indians–legally, culturally, and economically–no longer Indians at all.

p. 250

Under termination and relocation, unemployment skyrocketed and so did the number of Indians living under the poverty line. By 1970 half of all the Indians lived in urban areas, the single largest demographic and cultural shift in Indian country in a century and arguably more pervasive and transformative than the reservation system established in the mid-nineteenth century. A total of 1, 365, 801 acres of land were removed from trust status during this period and twelve thousand Indians lost their tribal affiliation

  • Finally, I read a short novel, The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. The story begins in a playful way about swimmers at an underground pool. The writer’s use of parentheses engaged me, as if in conversation with her.

The rules at the pool, though unspoken are adhered to by all (we are our own best enforcers): no running, no shouting, no children allowed. Circle swimming only (direction counterclockwise, always keeping to the right of the painted black line). All Band-Aids must be removed. No one who has not taken the compulsory two-minute shower (hot water, soap) in the locker room may enter the pool. No one who has an unexpected rash or open wound may enter the pool (the menstruating among us, however, are excepted). No one who is not a member of the pool may enter the pool. Guests are permitted (no more than one per member at a time), but for a nominal daily fee.

p. 6

One of the swimmers, Alice is in the early stages of dementia and one of the rules is to “be nice to Alice.”

And even though she may not remember the combination to her locker or where she put her towel, the moment she slips into the water she knows what to do. Her stroke is long and fluid, her kick is strong, her mind clear. “Up there,” she says, “I’m just another little old lady. But down here, at the pool, I’m myself.”

p. 4

When the pool unexpectedly closes, life changes for Alice. As does the tone of the book –from playful to poignant. Alice’s dementia progresses, and it is necessary to place her in a memory care unit. Life at Bellavista pulls at the heart, as well as this trauma faced by Alice’s husband and their daughter, a reality facing so many. So well-written, but I am glad it was not longer than its 175 pages.

Before I emerged from the snug, I started another novel, The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafek. So far very good, but you will have to wait for a full report in a later post.

An Invitation

What would you want to read if you had a cold? I would love to know.