How To Saunter

(For Owen)

Forget what you left behind if possible; think ‘wander’,

Look ahead, nonchalantly, toward the path,

Only as far as the flowers and

the birds that have nested near the climbing hydrangea.

While we’re on the subject of birds,

study them quietly — let them teach

you about what’s important; notice

their priorities (do they spend time worrying over small things?).

Sauntering requires that you dismiss

the minute, mundane worries of life

and remain free to inhabit

the joyful moments of life instead.

To enjoy life, even the slightest bit,

one must saunter.


Wind Work

To be is too much work.

I crave the wild and wistful wind;

Some days my edginess creeps

in so far — there’s nothing

for it but to go out and let

the wind do its work:

soul building

grace restoring

dust clearing.

The stronger the wind, the longer

I linger. I lean on its breath.

Then, when the world again is

still and the creatures return

to industry, I feel myself moving

through and through the trees;

around and down the river,

into open meadow green and

I am as free and wild again

as the zephyrous wind.


Listen to me,

Since you are willing to risk all,

Though the earth dissolve,

What have we to fear?

All power on earth can be overcome

By the will of Love,

Which is so soft that it melts

at a touch.

So splendidly beautiful that

the embrace will forever be

rooted far down into the earth.

Some of Us Crawl

“It is legitimate to crawl after the wings are broken.” William Stafford


To have wings is to have hope.

So much like a bird,

hope soars overhead, urging

us all (those of us broken and hopeless)

to look up; look out of ourselves.

But it seems too easy to look in

and see the ragged absence of wings.


Though some of us do crawl.


I crawl, dragging myself forward.

The shadow in my path, gone first,

then returning.

I look up–

There is a surge of joy in me!

To see hope like this is to see the future.

Continuing The Walk, 4

The view from my apartment window is mostly dusted in large, dry snowflakes today, though this rain that is nearly ice might change that. I am deciding when to venture outside with Pearl, my terrier mix. She would choose to go out now, but there are things to consider that she doesn’t consider: it’s cold out there on little feet and a little low rider like her is going to get wet, no matter how many jackets we put on her, especially a low rider that explores like she does. One look at her, pointing at her soccer ball, convinces me that I need to take her out for the air, even if it’s only a short gallivanting walk. We suit up in our cold weather gear together; I have learned to put mine on first, otherwise Pearl’s patience wears thin as she stands, stiff in her two jackets and harness, watching me go through my own process.

We step out the door, looking both ways as we’ve learned to do in order to avoid foot traffic and threats, such as skateboards and wanderers with hard-edged dogs without leashes. Today, the sidewalk is empty and calm, though evidence of the Saturday evening crowd at the Peacock (the infamous bar across the street) is littered in stark contrast with the white snow. Small patches of yellow mark the places where the last customers relieved themselves after 2:30 am, when the bar closed. Corvallis, according to on poll, ranks the 20th/22 most drunk town. Pearl is checking everything out by sniffing every new scent in her path.

This morning, we walk to the left. There is a fire hydrant Pearl enjoys sitting next to in warmer weather. I think she might like to check in with it today. We walk past the parking lot, a place I rarely use because the parking patrol pays particular attention to it. I get my hair cut at Salon 101. Garrett, my hair guy, does a great job and he happens to have a terrier named Oliver that looks a lot like Pearl. Oliver is one of the Downtown Dogs I painted last year; one of my favorite paintings. We walk on to the end of the block to the hydrant, covered in at least an inch of snow, right outside Squirrel’s Tavern (another fixture of downtown Corvallis). Today there are no customers sitting in the outdoor area, but usually there are humans and dogs dining together. Pearl has learned to walk on by, even if growled at by either.

Pearl hasn’t an interest in the hydrant today, and requests that we turn right, toward the Julian Apartment building and the river. Just last week, Pearl learned that Gettu, her best dog friend, lives in the Julian Apartments with her human, Michael. Gettu and Michael are sometimes enjoying a romp in the grass swath at the river park at the same time we are, which always means at least 15 minutes of playtime/entertainment for passing pedestrians. Even though Gettu is much bigger than Pearl, she doesn’t spare Pearl from her best wrestling moves, often taking Pearl to the ground and waving her open mouth playfully. We don’t see Gettu or Michael today though, so Pearl busies herself by checking in on “the morning news”–all the scent messages left by animals along the river. She leaves her own message for the next dog.

After playing in the grass together for awhile, we begin the amble back to the right again, toward home. It’s cold out. Kicking the soccer ball ahead helps keep Pearl going in the right direction. We pass Flat Tail Brewery, Bellhop (THE place to get chocolate pie), and Tried and True coffee shop. Usually Pearl and I stop in at the door to say hello to the Barrista, but we don’t know this one and she is busy. We walk on, across the street after sniffing the corner garden in front of Irenes’, where I work some days. Pearl lets me know she would like to walk left, toward the dog park, but I enforce a right turn. She takes it all in stride.

We’re back at the front door of the apartment building. Pearl has done her job–getting me outside. Now she’ll continue doing her job as we go in, by just being her companionable, lovely self. I’m happy to share an apartment with this little dog. She makes me very happy and I think I’m not the only one she makes happy.img_0790


Looking Out

“Let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in ‘my’ ways. What matters is to love.”

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, page 171.

For the good share of my former life (the past 10 years) I had been looking too much our: toward the things that I thought would bring me happiness, like the accumulation of goods, a house, security in general. Looking back now, I can see I was building a safety net that I thought could protect me. I felt safe. . . but I wasn’t. It turns out I was only buying insulation to protect myself from a reality that I didn’t have the heart to face–I was a partner in a marriage that was failing miserably and I was unhappy, though I tried every day to convince myself otherwise.

So after finally facing these two very powerful realities of my life, I shed (or lost) nearly everything: house, job, partner. . . anything that had brought me a feeling of security. Since then, for more than two years, I’ve been looking more inward than outward; developing a confidence in who I am or who I want to become more of; struggling to survive without all the “things” I thought I needed. I think I’m beginning to feel successful in this area. My life now has given me a kind balance between working a job I honestly love part time and developing my interest and skills in the areas of visual art and writing in my expansive free time. This has helped me find a confidence that had slowly been whittled away. I’ve initiated the practice of seeking what I need inside myself and finding security in who I am.

And since I’ve experienced reaching the end of who I am and what I can sustain, I’ve learned to seek out the help of One Who Is More Than Me for help beyond myself. I’ve learned that this is the only security I can ever truly hope for.

Now I’m looking forward to sharing some gifts with the world–looking out more often while still developing the who that I am. It turns out, I like me and I just never really knew that at the level that I needed to. I never had to trust myself like I have needed to during the last two years of my life. I am happy to have found this reliable friend in myself.

Marvelous Leap, or Leaving a 20 Year Partner and Stable Job With Benefits for No Job, No Benefits, No Partner

And I said, “Oh, I know! My work is one of joy, kindness, something to live up to.” I said I also cradle a song in my heart. In time it is morning and I look out my window. I prepare for a marvelous leap. (jaqui eicher, 2014)

Most of the time, I don’t think of this “leap” as marvelous, unless it’s used as an adverb and followed by the word ‘frightening’ or ‘awful’. Most days, I wonder what I have done with my “one wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver says. But on the days that count, I know that something in me awakened and has driven me toward this move. I have become mindful of my hours and days; how I spend my time matters much more to me than it ever did before. In this way, I have taken a marvelous leap toward mindfulness.

So far the journey has been painful and filled with such a powerful lack of confidence that each step further, each day, leaves me with nearly as many questions as answers. Only the more confident voices of my friends and neighbors have grounded me with good reflections and reminders of my better qualities. I’ve covered new territory (that which I didn’t know existed); wild and dangerous terrain. But I’m still alive! And still there exists in me the will to wake each day and take the next step.

Lately I have wondered when this “marvelous leap” will end. I’ve got to land sometime, right? I’ve considered turning back on the worst days, but instead I take the next step forward, toward the distant unknown. William Stafford wrote: “it is legitimate to crawl after the wings are broken.”  So some days I crawl toward the unknown.

Soon I will need some greater force to pull me because I will be spent and have no energy left with which to move–either forward or back.

My path seems to be leading me toward teaching English overseas and I am happy to finally see something on the horizon besides a bank of fog. Recently I heard Sinead O’Connor’s song, “I Am Enough For Myself” and though I’ve never before  believed this, I’m learning that it might be true and I may have to sit with this for a time.