Nothing Less Than Magic

Since 2007, I’ve participated in a creative writing group facilitated by Amy Lyles Wilson using the principles of Amherst Writers & Artists. The journey of the women who gather and create our shared sacred space is about process, not product; about honoring our voices, not critiquing them.

Through each individual’s brave vulnerability to show up, to share, to truly listen, to support – to be present for each other –  nothing less than magic happens.  Craft improves. Voices become stronger. Confidence grows. Creativity flourishes.  And unbelievable writing finds its home on the page!

On this Valentine’s Day, I revel that my journey is blessed with soul sisters for whom I’m abundantly grateful.  My heart shines brightly for you today.

stillhouse 2


Until you do this for yourself, no one else’s offering will ever be enough.

Until you revel in your being, in your fineness, in your able-ness.

Until you comprehend your precious place on this earth, in this space in time, on the terrain your feet tread.

Until you believe your own voice.

Until you project your voice to the third balcony with steady strength, the quiet strength of knowing its value, your value, knowing it so deep in your gut – inside out, right side in.  Knowing it deeper than that.

Until the peace of a calm breeze and a stream’s gentle cascade shushes all the noise that tells you you aren’t quite there yet…

When the melody of a new birdsong reminds you that you already are, always have been…

A bloom in repose.


* photo credit purple bud – Janine Johnson (my fabulous mom)

Foggy Morning Rain

20160202_072948_richtonehdr.jpgPerhaps, someday, the Pacific Northwest will suit me just fine.

Since moving to the woods, rain-soaked days have become my favorite. The colors and sounds become more vibrant, more vivid. Even the leaf litter – months seemingly dormant – shines an enlivened shade of copper.

Squirrels screech their morning yawns. Titmice ‘peter peter’ from every direction. New life penetrates the ground, hopefully not burned by the early warm temps.


And the crows may even wish they had a softer spring song to sing.

These are just a few observations between the brewing and the drinking. February morning coffee outside on the porch. Amazing how little time is needed to appreciate so much.

And then…like a jet plane overhead, the red-shouldered hawk punctuated the stillness with its call.  Like a kid, I rain out into the rain to watch it soar over the treetops.20160202_072811_richtonehdr.jpg


A Winter Day in Beech Hollow ~ January 2016

Just a week ago, January 25, I awoke at 4:30 am (shocking for anyone who knows me) and it had not yet begun to snow.  The forecast predicted the first flakes after twelve noon.  But when I opened my eyes at 7:00 am…

Mourning DoveWell, it hadn’t snowed quite that much yet, but it was stunning, none-the-less.  White powder covered the ground, huge flakes drifted through the air and my feeders bustled with activity.  The peek-a-boo mourning dove (above) was the first I’ve seen in my woods since August.  He (I think he’s a he) tootled around the feeders pecking at seeds on the ground.

Throughout the day, going window to window observing all the activity, I saw 16 species of birds – mostly at the feeders but also scaling nearby trees.

Red Bellied Woodpecker 1Downy 1

L – red bellied woodpecker 

R – downy woodpecker

Goldfinch 1

Goldfinch 2


L & R – american goldfinches

Nuthatch 1

Tufted Titmouse


L – white breasted nuthatch

R – tufted titmouse


The stunning purple finch below visited for five days beginning with the snow last Friday.  As best as I could tell, there was just this one – I never saw another at the same time.  Although called a purple finch, his color is similar to raspberries or a light red wine sangria, distinctly different than the cardinal, unlike any other color on winter’s canvas.

Purple Finch 1

Cardinal 1

Male and female cardinals were in abundance, though more males than females, it seemed.  The most striking bird against the snow and one of the most distinct chirps just outside the windows.

Other species I observed over the weekend:  blue jays, dark eyed juncos, red winged blackbirds, black capped chickadees (or carolina chickadees, I have a hard time telling the difference), grackles, crows and a singular carolina wren covered in such lovely shades of brown with a sharp bright stripe above its eyes.

Perhaps the most exciting sight, for which I have no photo, was my bird’s eye observation of a red shouldered hawk hunting down by the creek.  My home is built into the side of a hill and looks down a steep hill.  I saw something feathered jump from one log to another…and watched to see if it moved again.  The hawk burst into a short flight, maybe only 30 feet away, but long enough to see its full wing-span, deep shades of red at the shoulders and vivid striped tail.  Remarkable!

My Beech

view looking down toward the creek

Two days after this incredible snow – 8 inches total – the forest floor was covered in tracks: deer, coyote, fox, rabbits and perhaps (I choose to believe yes) a bobcat. All the creatures reveling in this all-too-rare beauty in Tennessee.

Barn 2

On Knowing and Rendering

Do the narrow pink coneflower petals know that their fate once rested, nestled inside a cool sheath of protection?

Do they know their brilliant plumes were once fears cradled in unsure hands?

Can they realize how many moons wandered across the sky, how many stars whispered possibilities, how one sun desperately longed for them to be?

When might they have come to know?

When they first ventured into the damp earth, trusting an inexplicable yet innate drive to explore?

When they surrendered to the warm lure of morning sun and unfurled their potential?

Or when, in the bliss of full bloom, a yellow swallowtail came, nurtured by nectar that had patiently waited to render its purpose.

flower butterfly* this poem was inspired by Jack Gilbert’s ‘On Failing and Flying’

Purple Coneflower


Two blocks from my office is a fantastic little spot with fresh, made-to-order salads, with all the yummies that make salads worthwhile – dried cranberries and golden raisins, candied walnuts, and mandarin orange wedges. Yesterday, about 3pm, I went outside for a short walk in the drizzling rain to grab a late lunch.  I walked the same couple blocks as last week and the weeks before, but on this day, these large purple flowers caught my eye.



The purple coneflower is a pretty common native species, though I don’t recall seeing these blooms as often as, say, knockout roses or tulips.

Another name for this plant is echinacea for the healing and immunity boosting power of its petals.  Long ago, Native Americans used these flowers in sacred healing rituals.  The purple coneflower also symbolizes strength, and when given to a friend, shares a message of hope that all is well.

This is how I like to get to know nature – one flower or tree or bird at a time.  I’m no species expert and, honestly, have a hard time remembering all the factual details about something new I’ve read about — when will they bloom? what light and soil is best? are they perennial?

I won’t remember all those facts.  But I will remember the bold patch of purple just a few steps off the sidewalk.  And the next time I enjoy some echinacea tea, I’ll think of these beauties, standing strong and cheerfully against a gray rainy sky.

Listen to Nature. Learn Its Lessons. Live Gently.

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