Fly Versus Spider

Recently I recorded the video below of a pitched battle in the window sill of my studio. Do you feel sadness for the fly during its last flailing moments or relief for the spider securing a needed meal? Below is a haiku I wrote based on the video. Please take a moment to share your own haiku.

Fly versus spider:

Don't take death personally. 

It's the way of things. 

[vimeography id="16"]

Elegy for a Fir Tree


Douglas Fir

in our backyard

has died.

Its picture perfect


drew the eye heavenward

through needles and cones

up its narrowing spine

Toward Infinity.

The grandfather of the homestead

made the blue sky coy as it played peek-a-boo

through thin as angel wing foliage.

Now the tree is dead and gone.

Beetles made a weakened old man their target.

Boring through layers of skin, the invaders left behind

ravenous offspring who feasted on the old man's vascular system

until the fatal stroke occurred. His complexion faded from green to yellow to brown

to ashen gray.

This death does not go down easily, yet is the way of things.


He had a long life.

He shaded and

inspired. Avian

families nested

in his steadfast

arms. A stump


where he lived

and died and

will live again.

For even death

is ultimately



in the form of

compost for

whipper snappers

who barely got to

know him in his final

year. In their roots,

stems, leaves, flowers

and fruit, the old man

will find a new lease on life.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today would have been my mom's 80th Birthday. She was a beauty pageant winner (The grand prize in 1956 included spending the day with Elvis), an avid fan of music and the color pink, and as warm and loving of a person as you could ever know. She had a way of connecting with people, even those she was meeting for the first time, that almost always led to a heartfelt hug. My mother worked at the power company for almost fifty years. People, most of whom were poor, had a disability or were elderly, would pay their utility bill in person so they could visit with her. She had a heart for those whom society had cast aside as useless. Service dogs knew in which desk drawer she kept their treats.

The lobby would sometimes overflow with customers because people would forgo the next available clerk in order to meet with my mother. She was so loved that the utility company adopted a new policy requiring customers to see the next available clerk. Upon her retirement, my mother's coworkers made her a poster of a cob-web draped skeleton standing in the lobby, When the next available clerk summons him, the skeleton replies, "No thank you. I'm waiting for Mrs. Quinn."

So much of who I am comes from my mother. She taught me many lessons:

  • Work hard and enjoy your work. From the year I was born until her retirement (36 years), she never missed a day of work. Not one. Even during her last year of work at age 69, she served almost twice as many customers a month as the average clerk. She loved what she did.
  • More important than your job title or any achievement is how you treat people. Shortly before retirement, my mother's boss shared with her the contents of her work file. Over six hundred messages erupted from the file, written by people who had taken the time to let the power company know how my mother had helped them and how she had treated them with kindness and respect regardless of their social or financial status.
  • When you realize that your best intentions are creating drama, own up to your silliness and have a good laugh. One Christmas my mother purchased decorative paper towels, which she dropped in a sink full of water. She was determined that we use these paper towels throughout the holidays and decided to put them in the microwave to dry them quickly. But she cooked them too long. The paper towels caught on fire. We rushed the roll outside, drowned it in a bucket of water and laughed uncontrollably.
  • Every smidgeon of life is precious. When I was a child I would admire the blooming weeds and wild succulents. When I found one I particularly liked, she would help me dig it up, pot it, and care for it on the back porch. Insects, flowers, birds, amphibians, blooming weeds...pause to appreciate each and life flows with awe.
  • Actual age is much less important than how old you act and feel.  Several years ago my mom told me how much she loved Pink's new song. I was amazed she even knew who Pink was. My mother always carried herself with a sense of youth and vital energy. At a carnival, my dad, who had failed to win my mom any prizes through his skill, had the brilliant idea to take her to the "guess your weight or age" booth. (I highly discourage this practice for any spouse who values his/her relationship...and life.) My mother, age 55 at time, approached the booth, and the attendant guessed that her age was 38. He offered her any prize, but she replied, "No thank you. Just hearing that I look 38 was prize enough." Dad dodged a bullet.
  • Little things done with love make a big difference. Every day in my lunch, she placed a napkin with a little note on it, which was also "signed" by our dog Skippy with a pen-drawn paw print. Those love notes read at lunchtime saved me on many a rough day.
  • The best therapy in the world is getting your hands dirty. My mother's therapy was working in the  yard and her gardens. Tending to the earth seemed to be her way of tending to her soul.
  • A good story is worth its weight in gold. My mother's way of dealing with a difficult experience  was to turn it into a funny story. One time she was leaving the beauty parlor and instead of putting the car in reverse, she drove forward into a dead tree that fell over on top of her car. She got out of the car and was embarrassed but relieved to see walking in her direction a truck driver, who had stopped and could help her get the tree off her car. He walked up to the car, assessed the situation, and said, "Lady, if I hadn't see it with my own two eyes I would have never believed anyone could have been so stupid." He then turned around and walked away, leaving my mother with a dead tree on her car...but with a good story to tell.
  • Give away all of your love here and now, and when someone you love dies, focus on life. Deeply appreciate and love with a full, open heart those in our lives. Even though the pain is great upon their parting, it's the only way to live without regret. When our dog Skippy died, she sobbed for a day. Then we planted a tree in the front yard to remember him with new life. Standing next to "Skippy's Tree" we remembered funny stories about him and laughed through our tears.
  • A hand-written note means more than the words it contains. With cell phones and emails dominating communication, my mother still mailed me a letter at least once a week to encourage me and share one thing going on in her life. She would usually enclose a joke, cartoon or sweet story she had read. Mostly it was just to let me know that someone in the world was thinking of me and loved me. I think I miss those letters more than anything else.

Thank you Mom for all you taught me, for the sweet notes, for your loving spirit, for oodles of laughs, and for all the love you gave me throughout my life...and even now. I miss you and love you. Happy Birthday!


Samsara, which in Sanskrit means "continuous flow", refers to the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. This cycle has been on my mind lately as the mothers of two friends have died in the past couple of weeks, and as this month marks the fourth anniversary of my own mother's passing. While I was sitting on our front porch and feeling the heaviness of so much death, a ruby-throated humming bird buzzed a few feet from my head, voraciously slurping sugar water. A wave of gratitude swept over me, and I felt lighter and freer in the presence of this magnificent creature. Midst the pain, there was also a beauty and perfection to the natural cycles.

A new movie, Samsara, celebrates this continuous flow of life and all its luscious diversity and unpalatable struggles.  With no words, only compelling images and music, the film cycles us through daily human experiences across the planet, eliciting compassion, joy, repulsion, curiosity, and above all, awe for the magnitude of human expression.

Here is the trailer for the film. Enjoy!

Samsara Trailer

If you would like to explore your own experience of "samsara" in a positive, safe, open environment, please join me for the new classes, private sessions and groups I am facilitating.

The Sweetness of Dogs

In memory of Jimmy (pictured with me), who was a sweet dog if ever there was one, I offer this poem that Mary Oliver wrote about her dog Percy. Jimmy left this world two weeks ago, but those of us who knew him carry his gentle sweetness in our hearts. Jimmy, you looked at each of us like we were your perfect moon, when, in truth, you were ours.

The Sweetness of Dogs

What do you say Percy? I am thinking

of sitting out on the sand to watch

the moon rise. Full moon.

So we go

And the moon rises, so beautiful it

makes me shudder, makes me think about

time and space, makes me take

measure of myself; one iota

pondering heaven. Thus we sit,

I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s

perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich

it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,

leans against me and gazes up into

my face, as though I were

his perfect moon.

- by Mary Oliver in Evidence -

Remembering a Dear Friend

This week my friend and former coworker Susan Alexander passed away. I will always cherish her kindness, wisdom, depth, sweet smile of warm welcome, and her dry, sharp wit. Though often reserved and reflective, at any moment, and usually with a straight face, an unexpected comment would cross her lips sending an entire room into uncontrollable laughter. Susan had many words of spot-on wisdom for me over the years. Perhaps no words, however, spoke as clear and true as those she shared during one of our final conversations. At the end of the call, I asked what my partner Herb and I could do for her. Her reply: "Enjoy Life!" I hold those words as both blessing and encouragement from my dear friend and pray that in this new phase of existence she too is enjoying LIFE as never before.