One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Wish For Amazing Peace

From~Amazing Peace : a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou;
paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Whether you are at home or away, with family or quietly on your own, whether you’re enjoying a tree trimmed with lights and ornaments, a menorah, candles for Kwanza or however you’re celebrating and honoring your beliefs and traditions, we wish you all joy and light and want to share with you a message of hope for peace, acceptance and love beautifully expressed in the poem Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by the late Dr. Maya Angelou and first read in 2005 at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. In 2008, the poem was published as a stunning picture book illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Facher. (Public Library)

Amazing Peace: a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou;
paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

May you all find amazing peace this Holiday season.

Sharry and Tam

From~Amazing Peace : a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou;
paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earths tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.

Peace, My Soul.

From~Amazing Peace: a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou;
paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Friday, December 19, 2014

Repost: The Darkness is Here

The dark is here. In two days we will celebrate the winter solstice, and then the days will begin, ever so slowly, to get longer. This has been a long, chaotic winter thus far.  Lots of waiting that I had done is over and the things I have waited for are bursting up and out in many colors, like fireworks. It is glorious.  And yet, at the same time, here is the darkness and the cold and even more waiting for new things.


The phoebe sits on her nest
hour after hour,
day after day,
waiting for life to burst out
from under her warmth.

Can I weave a nest for silence,
weave it of listening,
layer upon layer?

But one must first become small,
Nothing but a presence,
Attentive as a nesting bird,
Proffering no slightest wish,
no tendril of a wish
board anything that might happen,
or be given,
only the warm, faithful waiting,
contained in one's smallness.

Beyond the question, the silence.
Before the answer, the silence.

                                           May Sarton

May says it best. 
As the days continue to grow shorter, and as the darkness continues to spread its inky self across the hours, it is comforting - perhaps simply imperative - to be small.

To be warm.
To faithfully wait.
To embrace the silence.

For life will burst out
Oh yes.
Oh yes.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Geology of an Urban Landscape

I have been thinking about, revisiting a fascinating book I read a few years ago—it’s Alexandra Horowitz's ON LOOKING, ELEVEN WALKS WITH EXPERT EYES—her account of walking through familiar territory with someone who has the studied ability to see what is usually passed by unnoticed.

In one of the first chapters, she takes a walk in her own Manhattan neighborhood with geologist Sidney Horenstein who spent forty years working for the American Museum of Natural History coordinating environmental outings. What she learns on this walk radically changed the way I now look and think about my own urban San Francisco neighborhood. Before this enlightening chapter, I thought of the city with all of its man-made structures and miles of asphalt as, well, not exactly natural. But listen to what Horenstein has to say about that—

"…there are only two things on earth: minerals and biomass [plants and animals]. Everything that we have got here has to be natural to begin with—so asphalt is one of those things."

It’s just rocks, sand, and 'sticky stuff,' essentially pure and even recycled.

All right. That's good to know. In fact, it makes me happy knowing that.

The author goes on to talk about how the geology of a place is not just what is under us, but also what surrounds us: how we are actually "inside the geology of the city." That each stone, cement, composite, or brick building is really a big rocky outcropping, each patch of green a grassy plain with scattered trees. She reminds us that each building began with naturally occurring materials-- either forged of stone or hewed from a once living tree—that has been merely recombined into something for our needs and purposes.

I love that concept.

I love the idea that the city is a natural composite of tree and stone—the buildings take in water, are warmed by the sun, are slowly carved away by the steady force of wind, the slough of water and the passing of time. Nature, it seems, sculpts the city just as it does the side of a mountain. In the city, moss covers stone, ivy breaks away brick, sun and rain and snow transforms the color and texture of wood.

My own neighborhood, Russian Hill, is built on a bed of graywackle (a kind of sandstone) and shale with erupted trappean rocks (basalt, greenstone, amygdaloid and dolomite) and serpentine. My house, built out of redwood, sits on a high outcropping of serpentine, which holds it upright when the San Andreas fault slips and the earth shakes.

I have always loved picking up stones as I wander. I often have a pocket full if them, and when asked what someone can bring me from their travels, I always request a stone. To me, somehow, each holds the essence of place. I have a stone from the Egyptian desert, one from a small village in India, some from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, from a number of beaches in Mexico and California, from the Raging River in Issaquah, Deer Lake in Eastern Washington, Flathead Lake and Glacier Park in Montana. Just to name a few. My house is full of stones—they sit on shelves, keep doors open and grind herbs.

I was in Portland some years ago visiting colleges with my youngest daughter. I picked up the purse I'd been carrying for a week and complained that it was so heavy, it felt like it was full of rocks. (thinking it was probably just a lot of loose change). When I dug into the bottom to clean out the coins, guess what I found? A half a dozen egg-sized rocks I'd picked up on a walk in Spokane the week before!  I transferred them from my purse to my suitcase and felt much lighter for it. Until I found the perfect stone on the Reed campus...

So what does this have to do with writing? Hmmm…Let’s go back to asphalt—recycled stones, sand and sticky stuff. The essence of place, the passing of time and the sticky stuff of human emotions—that sounds a lot the basics of a novel to me.

Take Good Care,


Thursday, December 4, 2014 - post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans historic Lower Ninth Ward

Remember my last post? How I described being in New Orleans? Part of my time there was spent with the powerful and amazing Laura Paul, executive director of, a non-profit dedicated to practically single-handedly rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward.

I wanted to visit her and have my feet on the ground in the Lower Ninth because a portion of the proceeds for my novel Another Kind of Hurricane (Schwartz and Wade, July 2015) go directly to I had already researched the organization (after a recommendation by the wonderful children's book author, Phil Bildner, and had been communicating with Laura for a while, but it was another thing altogether to finally go and meet her, meet her wonderful staff and crew of volunteers, meet some of her neighbors and see some of the houses that they have rebuilt.

And to see the houses that have a long way to go…

I could sing on about the great work that does, and rant on about how much should have been done for the Lower Ninth that still hasn't been done, but I will let Laura and her kick ass gang speak for themselves:

And then I will tell you…if you want to find a place where the landscape is rich with history, where you can practically hear the stories of generations of folks in the two by fours and the wind, you should come here…to New Orleans…to the Lower Ninth Ward.  

Happy Post Thanksgiving, you all.  I am grateful to you for choosing to hang here when you do.