Great Big Beautiful Clouds



My father took red roses to my mother’s grave today. I went with him to buy the roses—plastic, long-stemmed copies of the real thing. Artificial baby’s breath round out the bouquet, which he put in the marble vase where her ashes lie.

Whatever remains of my grandmother and grandfather since they died, years ago, now lie near my mother’s grave. These are my father’s parents, not hers, and my father’s name is already etched in the tombstone he will share with my mother.

To be truthful, I doubt that my mother needs the comfort of proximity to her in-laws now.  I like to think that she is unencumbered by protocol and customary expectations in her new form. She lives wherever and however she wants and she is energetic and youthful and pain-free. She is not lying below the ground.


Cemeteries are for the living. Spirits long gone do not live below earth except in the form of rooted oaks and baby acorns or the iris clump that started from bulb taken from my great-grandmother’s garden. They lie in the wisp of white cloud against sapphire blue skies, dipping and swirling to touch the mountain top. They can be heard in wind moving through the pines and in birdsong that plays before the rest of the world awakes.

That hummingbird I hear just now may be my mother. I can imagine her flitting around, saying hello with a trill of noise and a flash of velvety green that I see from the corner of my eye.

Or she might be riding on one of those great, big beautiful clouds.

No matter which, I know she’s there.




I took these pictures of clouds on a visit to the ghost town of Caribou, Colorado.  

There is more about Caribou in my post on Through the Lens of We.

And if you missed out, I hope you will check out the photography and thoughts at some of my other posts there: 

No Matter Which Way

True Blue

Of Sunshine and Leaves

The Future Lives in a Cloud

How Things Began


In Blue Water



I have been known to stick myself in a spot that is not where I should be and to hang on as if it were the only thing afloat in the middle of a giant sea.

 I fled to one such place long ago and it took me in. I grabbed with all my might, holding my breath for unfathomable time against the rush of up and down breakers. It was an anchor, that place, tied to solid ground deep six below the ripples and waves. I clung because I was tired and treading so faintly that my eyes were half-full of stinging salt water.

I suppose I loved that place more than I loved myself at the time.

I dreamed of it again last night. I was snorkeling in blue water and came upon something. I cleared my mask and looked again. Through the fog of deeper water back-lit by hindsight, I could make out that what I was seeing was the place I loved.

I swam closer as it shimmered and faded, shimmered and faded, shimmered and faded. Up close, I could see that the books on the shelves were not mine. I could see nothing other than packages of Ramen noodles in a pantry which I had kept fully-stocked. The beautiful but heavy dresser I had struggled to move into place was now filled with clothes that would fit someone else. Curious Christmas stockings I would never have bought hung on the mantle and on the island in the kitchen was a half-empty glass of wine.

It was all so murky that I pulled again at my mask.

And then it was gone.

I awoke, short of breath and with a firm grip on the blanket.

I turned over and in the light of the moon I began to think about places I have loved. My grandmother’s house, the house my boys grew up in that sat high on the hill above the river and the house of my dreams with the view of the meadow.

I felt my breath slowly ease and let go of my grip and slept.

And in the dream that came next I was on solid ground and the view was very clear.

Pool in Nevis
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” C.Joybell C.

Love Affair in Montana


Truth be told, a love affair gave me the name of Winsomebella.

It was after I discovered how beautiful feels and why pretty is deep, scrubbed-clean to the pores of the soul and without any mascara. I finally noticed that lovely is simple and raw—-best with just a dab of what makes the mouth turn up at the corners, a small touch of that which makes the eyes light up and a slight tint of the added shimmer of wrinkles.

Around age five, I remember wearing an orange pouf skirt and tiara and twirling so the layers of my skirt would rise like a hula hoop over my hips. I didn’t worry about who might see or what they might say. I was beautiful and remarkable—I knew that.

I was not yet carrying my parcel of nasties.

If I remember correctly, it was not long after the skirt and tiara that I earnestly began my collection. I spied all sorts of nasty things. The tinier, the better, I picked up what I chose, held it in close grasp and examined it over and over and over. I added till my accumulations became quite heavy, a little here as my parents parented, a little there while my teachers graded, a whole lot more while my coaches pushed, plenty more when friends moved on. And then I filled it to overflowing when my husband strayed.

As luck would have it, a dear man showed up when the formerly beautiful and remarkable me was vastly overworked from carrying a boatload of uncertainty. He was smart and strong and kind and gentle and he wore his self assuredly. He called me Winsomebella and he took me to Montana.

When I first arrived, I was three states north and half a lifetime from where I intended to be. I avoided mirrors and photographs and spoke softly and didn’t sing much, even to myself. And I certainly didn’t dance. I never left the top button of my blouse undone or let my hair grow out. And I didn’t wander by myself because I did not know how to operate my internal GPS.

I re-learned those things in Montana.

I was wrapped by buttes and prairies and peaks and the vast space above horizon and I warmed.

Love and the land etched across me, like the glaciers that changed this part of the world. Ever-so-slowly, I began to change.

I started to feel charming and Winsomebella-like.

Winsomebella, it seemed, deserved it all. She had earned her cache of curiosity, her angling toward adventure, her passel of possibilities. She quit avoiding mirrors and photographs, her voice spoke up, she sang loudly with the radio, she danced by herself, unbuttoned her blouse and let her hair go wild. She was not afraid to wander alone. And she realized that raw and without makeup was most beautiful and remarkable.

I came to Montana again this week to write and to wander, to shoot pictures and to see. And what I learned this time is that all along it had been my voice, and only mine, that had caused all the fuss and the bother after age five. Not parents, or teachers, or coaches, or peers or an ex-husband.

Surrounded again by the beauty of this place and the love of true voices, I knew again what being Winsomebella means.

It means I can wander and find my way, scrubbed clean.

Truth be told, it’s about a love affair with me.

Thank you to best selling author and wondrously kind Laura Munson and the loving and wise women that went out of their way to retreat in Montana. You cleared my voice. So much so, I may whistle as I walk, loudly.