New year, new chapter

If you knew you had one more year to live, what would you do differently? I sometimes ask myself this question—not out of morbid fixation, but as a simple way to clarify priorities and make sure I’m on track. Recently, I got a surprising answer: “Paint bigger.” A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to try this out. I was commissioned to make a painting on a 6’ x 4’ sheet of plywood to hang outdoors in Arcata’s revitalized Creamery District. After debating what to paint for awhile, Read more
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Light in the time of darkness

As you may have heard, the holidays are upon us. Amid the Christmas muzak and urgent appeals to buy mass-produced widgets, it’s easy to lose sight of the true spirit of the season. There is such pressure—to buy the perfect gifts, to cook lavish meals, to decorate the house festively, to have the most wonderful time ever.  toobusytostophamsterwheel (Prune Juice, July 2015) But I believe that behind all that, there is a simple urge. We are looking for meaning and connection with the people Read more
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Thanksgiving abundance

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m thinking about the fact that we in the U.S. have a holiday that is completely devoted to gathering with our loved ones and giving thanks. Isn't it cool that in deepest, darkest November, family and friends come together to share a feast that represents abundance? Covered in gravy, with a side of cranberry sauce. I’m grateful to be enjoying a less stressful holiday season than usual. For this month and next, I’ve consciously stepped back from some commitments Read more
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Portrait of the artist as an entrepreneur

Once upon a time, in Mrs. Miller’s 12th grade English Honors class, we each had to make a persuasive speech on a topic of our choice. Like most of the talks, mine was terribly earnest, about Nestlé pushing infant formula on breastfeeding mothers in poor countries. But when it was her turn, my friend Betsy walked to the front of the classroom smacking her chewing gum, and gave a hilarious speech in favor of gum, vigorously chewing all the while. A few decades later, she’s still fun, Read more
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The path unfolds

Our daughter started college this fall. Before it happened, I couldn’t fully understand how much lies behind that simple statement—hope and excitement for your child’s future mixed with worry and sadness at their leaving. For weeks after we dropped Maya off, the smallest thing could bring me to tears, like measuring oatmeal for three instead of four. My husband, son and I all miss her effervescent spirit, affectionate nature and hilarious observations. She has left our home quieter, Read more
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One brushstroke at a time

When I first tried sumi ink painting five years ago, I struggled. There was frustration. There was angst. In this ancient medium, you grind an ink stick made of pine soot and glue in an ink stone with a few drops of water, then paint with bamboo brushes on rice paper. Sounds simple enough, right? But in practice, there are many ways to go wrong—and I excelled at all of them. I ground the ink too thin and it dried sad and gray on the paper; I ground it too thick and my strokes ran out Read more
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Before we were tamed

For the past twenty years, my family and I have lived in the country on the side of a redwood-covered hill. In the morning the woods fill with bird conversations, and we often glimpse deer and foxes wandering past our house. A raccoon that hung around our compost pile got nicknamed Deke, short for “decomposition.” But when “he” showed up one day trailing four fluffy baby raccoons, we had to rename her Delilah. Because we don’t have the heart to chase them off, Delilah and her grown Read more
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Juicy bugs and other treats

Happy Haiku Poetry Day! To celebrate, I’m sharing a selection of the haiku and senryu I’ve had published in the past year. (And if, like most people, you were taught that haiku in English need to follow the 5-7-5 syllable pattern, think again. On his Graceguts site, haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch explains why that is an urban myth, and the secrets of how to write good haiku.) Read more
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Small miracle

My darling nephew Enakai, adopted from the Marshall Islands last spring, just had his kemem, the traditional Marshallese celebration when a child survives to age one. From the photos taken at his party in Tucson, I could see Enakai toddling around in his little Hawaiian shirt, admiring his surfer-themed cake and smiling at all the attention. A charming extravert, this little guy loves parties. It’s no surprise that his first word was “hi!” Read more
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Hereby resolved

The start of a new year is a time to consider constancy and change in our lives, to take a look at the big picture and make any needed adjustments. I’m not big on new year’s resolutions—it’s far too easy to fall short and disappoint yourself. But this year I’m making one resolution: simply to be more present, more of the time. With help from meditation, journaling, and long walks with the dog, my aim is to become more mindful. We can’t stop time, but we can experience it more deeply. Read more
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