Monthly Archives: February 2013

Paper Trail


While re-reading a favorite book this morning, I find a card that had been tucked into its pages. Dated 2005, the card was written by a dear friend who shortly afterward lost her brave battle with cancer.  “The pitter patter of rain and tweets of birds give me comfort,” she writes. “Spring is finally arriving.” And suddenly there she is sitting near me, as vivid and as beautiful and as full of fun as she always was.

There is a paper trail in my life. I admit it. It exists because I can never bear to throw away a meaningful card or letter written by friends and family. Pretty cards end up tucked away in books. Letters either make their way into a special lacquer box or  turn up in unforeseen places. Just so the letter from my late Uncle Joe appeared while I was straightening out my sock drawer some time ago. “My dear Hopeless,” it began, and I sat down to chuckle and read his news and gossip—twenty years old but as new as the birdsong outside my window. He called me Hopeless because I was always driving my golf ball into ponds and sand traps, and I retaliated by renaming him Fuss. Fuss and I were great friends and shared so many adventures, and as I read his letter, I could almost hear him laughing as we both landed in some scrape or other.

Reading these chance-found messages not only draws the writer closer but brings to life a moment in the past. “My heart goes out to you for your mother’s passing,” one letter says, “I know all too well the pain of loss.” Thirteen years after my mother’s death, I can sit and read the words and feel not the sharp stab of loss but a gentle remembrance that heals rather than hurts. “Get better,” another card urges. “Everything else can politely wait its turn.” I laugh ruefully. It really has been a long recuperation from this latest bug.

There are happy finds, of course, funny little notes from sons and grandchildren who had then just begun to write. Huge block letters surrounding pictures drawn in crayon, crinkled valentine’s hearts which proclaim, “I lov yu.” And tucked away again in special books are poems and wonderful letters bursting with youth and promise. Amazing treasures can be found in my paper trail!

Can this small hand print

Belong to that young giant

With the dazzling smile?

This morning, though, I sit with my long lost friend’s card in my hand and continue to read. “Warmth,” she tells me, “is comforting as opposed to the chills of winter. Although I do not wish the days to evaporate too quickly, I do embrace springtime…”

I put down the card and look outside my window where daffodils are curtseying to the wind and know that I will never lose my friend. My paper trail is a bridge that connects the past, the present and so many dreams for the future— a shining linkage of love, remembrance, and hope.

In these things you live

Always bright and beautiful

Always here with me.

"Tree Of Life"

“Tree Of Life”




Of Asteroids and Birds


Being sick offers an opportunity of sorts, for having no energy to move gives one a chance to think. So, felled by a particularly unpleasant bug and subject to medicine that at times is as bad as the sickness, I am taking time to ponder asteroids.

No wonder there… the world is still reeling from the shock of  a refrigerator-sized asteroid flaming across the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia and releasing several kilotons of energy in the process of exploding. Nor has there been a lack of celestial fireworks lately. Because of or contrary to the Axtec’s much noted calendar, meteor unceremoniously called 2012DA14 very nearly missed the earth last year.

It’s not that I think very often of meteors or of the shooting stars on which we made a wish when we were children. They were pretty streaks of light in a dark sky studded with stars. They were simply bits and pieces of space. But the latest invasion from space—and the invading bug— has made me curious about 2012 DA14, and  I have learned that this meteor had been moving at a sharp 17,450 miles per hour and that this speed packed it full of energy. Apparently it’s velocity that changes a falling rock into a weapon of destruction. Even more perilous, a few centimeters of speed less or more in 2012DA14’s  approach could have shifted its trajectory and sent it smashing into earth. A small collision from another asteroid would have accomplished this, and the light of the sun could have given the impetus to do much the same thing.

Now so interested as to stop feeling sorry for myself, I continue to learn that solar energy turns to heat energy when it connects with an asteroid. And chiaroscuro helps, too, for a darker meteor feels the solar effect less than a light meteor! Add a solar flare, and the scenario shifts again.

Is nothing to be trusted? I wonder. The gentle, peaceful sky full of glistening stars, the silver moon—but, of course, the poor moon has endured several assaults by these objects from space. In fact, scientists feel it’s possible that the moon itself was formed when earth was clipped by a massive asteroid…

Tired of asteroids and disaster scenarios, I get up to take the vile medicine and in doing so totter by the window. Outside, I see a multitude of birds taking refuge from the cold at the bird feeders. And not just at the feeders but on the ground where they are joined by squirrels and a strange looking furry ball of fur which I cannot identify. Of course birds need to eat their own weight each day to stay warm, so I am heartened. My friend the chickadee and his mates will be survivors this winter.

And beyond the birds I see a flash of gold. There, in spite of the cold and in spite of dangerous detritus from space, a daffodil has burst into bloom. Never mind, it seems to say, stop fussing about things you can’t control and stop feeling miserable. The sun is shining and spring will surely come.

There is a lot of wisdom in that. Tomorrow, I am going to try to take a walk.

As golden as sun

Is the wisdom of the earth

And of its creatures.


Moonrise On a Dark Planet  30x30

Moonrise On a Dark Planet 30×30























Haunted Amber


“It has taken millions of years to make this beautiful thing,” says our guide, her voice soft with the lilt of the islands. “Imagine—a tree dripped down resin so many, many years ago, and look!”

In her hand lies an oval of amber. It catches the light so subtly that it seems to glow with an inner fire. We look at it in admiration, for here in the CaribbeanWorldAmberMuseum there is much to enchant. All around us lie encased amber specimens from all over the world: honey-gold specimens from the Baltic, deep red pieces from Yucatan. Our guide explains that some pieces of amber are 250,000,000 years old. “We don’t have any such pieces here,” she hastens to add, “but those old pieces come from Bavaria. And… do you know that there has been amber found in your own state? Yes, in North Carolina! Pieces that date back to the Miocene.”

We have stumbled into the AmberMuseum by accident. On a Caribbean cruise that has taken us out of touch with the world for two weeks, we have been visiting Blackbeard’s castle and have been wandering from one small museum to another on the way to the street far below.

I for one am delighted. I’m not sure what my fascination with amber comes from—certainly not from the fossilized insects that many pieces contain. Perhaps my interest stems from the fact that the lovely object I hold in my hand was many millennia ago the life-blood of a tree. Perhaps that is what gives it its mystique, makes it seem alive.

Voices of the past

Captured in this silken orb

Shadows, memories.

Our guide has a spark of mischief in her dark eyes. “Look at this,” she says, and offers a magnifying glass. Mike takes a look first, bursts out laughing as he hands me the glass. It can’t be, but… oh, yes it can.

“A cockroach?” There is a perfect specimen of that loathsome insect encased forever in a prism of Baltic amber. The museum attendant giggles at the face I make.

“Yes… can you believe it? But,” she adds with a shudder, “I would never want to wear that piece.”

She leads us to another case which displays  pale green ovals, circles and squares formed into rings, brooches, pendants. “Caribbean amber,” our attendant says, “This type of amber was only discovered very recently—only ten years ago.” I ask about the soft, almost translucent color and she explains that this is because of contact with volcanic action.

“Amber takes its color from a number of things,” she says and holds up a long oval tube that is the color of cream and just as opaque. “Water,” she says. “This amber came in contact with a lot of water.”

We have reached the front of the museum, and our guide points out that almost everything in the museum is for sale. Mike picks up a large chunk of amber which is as thick and as wide as a man’s palm. It hangs on a thick golden chain. “Isn’t it a gorgeous thing?” She asks. “It’s priced cheaply–for $1,800.”

Mike moves the piece to catch the light. “Look… can you see a face?”

We—our guide and I—lean closer. Sure enough, there in the honeyed depths of the gem is the smoky caricature of a human face. Mike moves it again, and another face—a different one—appears.

Our guide sucks in a breath. “Maybe it’s haunted,” Mike jokes. I laugh, but  our guide doesn’t.

“I never saw that before,” she says in an awed voice.

Of course these are shadows caused by oxidation and polymerization and the countless years that have passed in order to form tree sap into a thing of beauty. Still, the writer in me is intrigued. Where did they come from, these ghost-pictures? What stirred the pine sap as it settled? Where did this piece of amber lie while the earth cooled and the great, glowing sun and the huge pale moon looked down on a world which we will never know?

The thoughts stay with me as we leave the museum, and here awaits the piece de resistance… an amber waterfall! Water trickles slowly over a wall studded with chunks of every kind of amber. White, red, green, golden… each hoarding within itself a fragment of our world’s history.