Beautiful Fragments

Grand Teton through the window of a crumbling cabin from the movie "Shane."

You’re alive. You’re breathing. You’ve gathered together the remnants of your life—beautiful fragments meant for a new piece of art. Curiosity is returning. Sure, you still trace the scars with the tip of your heart every now and then. To remember is okay. To sorrow and rejoice in the remembering all at once is okay, too. And, then you begin to prepare a place for it to reside. After all of the digging around, you find some roots remain. So, you water those along with the new life searching underneath. You’ve just heard yourself laugh and the sound of it startles you, reminds you of what pieces and parts haven’t changed. It’s called healing. It’s called hope. This is life after the ashes.

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Night Sounds #19,098

Oh, my…the crickets. And now, my neighbor is putting in a pond—so, come next, the frogs! Every night the train whistles a long, soft shrill, humming like smoke hovering just above the water. I lay here, still and thankful for sounds I love. I’m so happy. Now, if I could only smell manure, I’d be ten again, barefoot, flat-chested, and fancy…funny the things we miss when we grow up.

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AMÉLIE’S: A FRENCH BAKERY AND COFFEE SHOP In Charlotte

DOWNTOWN CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, looks a little too planned for this North-easterner. I’m absolutely not bragging about Philly, my nearest big market metro, but I’ll use it as an example of what I expect to experience downtown: winding, hilly, brownstone and rowhouse-crowded streets that test even the finest non-directionally challenged drivers, wisecracks and secrets thrown down at every turn, and cool little Mom and Pop food joints within an arm’s radius. In other words, unfiltered personality written all over the skyline’s wizened face. So, when I drop into a city like Charlotte, NC, that feels, well, a little too neat for comfort, it reminds of the “Mary Kay” face. Everything is in perfect order, with a rich color-coordinated palate, precise lines and plump curves, and more than a few illusions. I lower my expectations at finding much below the surface, since it is the surface that is demanding attention. This is […]

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A Writer’s Self Portrait at e.e. cummings’ Joy Farm in New Hampshire

Joy Farm, poet e.e. cummings’ New Hampshire Summer retreat, is full of mysteries and treasures, winding trails that lead to burnt-out ruins, and a growing collection of literary memorabilia. We are staying at Steep Acres, a three-season cottage on the property. My convives are a small, merry band of fellow Spalding MFA grads (and a professor or two we may have writer-napped). We’ve gathered for at least the purpose of writing, wine, and chatter. We yawn our minds wide and embrace whatever ghost or good vibe or energy floats close by. It’s just before dinner. I’m alone for a bit. So, I, the moth, climb wide wooden steps to the literary flame to an upper room in the original house. It is an unheated attic room replete with rough-hewn, aged timbers enveloping everything from floor to ceiling. It holds countless literary gems, including a September 1, 1952, issue of Life magazine. On […]

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Naming Moonlight Ledge (or Elk Rock) in Evergreen, Colorado

I’m perched on Elk Rock—or Moonlight Ledge, depending on the position of the sun. We’d climbed the mountainside behind my dear friend’s hand-built cabin in Evergreen, Colorado, where a bookshelf hugs the ceiling of every room, a wool loom reclines in the corner, and curiosity and caring fill the rest. I’d just cut my hair and life had no ease except for this beautiful Western sanctuary. Evergreen is a picturesque town in the foothills of the Rockies. The kids felt adventurous running around the “hills” at night, and I felt fourteen again. Free. Lighthearted. Loving the hush of the pines. The night air. The winking stars and faint outline of the elk herd moving silently in the open field far below the rocky ledge. When I asked my friend’s son, Dawson, what the name of the rock was, he said it didn’t have one. He was a teenager at the […]

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