Unconditional

Unconditional

I’m gazing out the window, watching the clouds trying to snow. The tiniest of snowflakes are twisting and swirling, so light that they’re “falling” up, down, and sideways. There certainly won’t be any cross-country skiing today, and it might not even accumulate enough to leave footprints when I go for a hike. Still, a snowy day makes me miss my furry ones even more than I do on not-snowy days. Their unbridled joy at romping in the snow made me let go of everything but the pure joy of those moments.

Come to think of it, their unbridled joy at taking a walk or getting a treat or playing tug with a favorite toy or cuddling on the couch, helped me connect to the joys in life that are right in front of me every day.

I miss the unconditional love I saw in their eyes when they gazed at me, and how I could love them back more than I thought possible.

As writer, Milan Kundera said, “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.”

Here’s to all the heavenly moments spent in the company of beloved dogs.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive Maintenance

I am months away from leaving New Mexico for parts north, and the sailing season on Kagán. Despite that, and because of a colder-than-normal cold snap in the San Juan Islands, I’m thinking about the preventive maintenance measures I took before I zipped the boat cover closed late last September. Did I get the fresh water lines sufficiently drained? Did I set the heater properly? Will water freeze in the dehumidifier hose? And, what if it does? What inspections or tasks should I add to my recommissioning list when I arrive this coming spring, just in case. . . .

Though dealing with the unprecedented temperatures themselves, trying to keep their cabins barely warm enough and their fresh water systems flowing rather than frozen, I am fortunately to have friends who will brave the icy winds out on the dock to check things on Kagán. So far, so good.

What these mental meanderings bring up is preventive maintenance of another sort—my own. I can also, happily, say “so far, so good” in that department. But I know, from reflecting again on my years of caring for and cruising on Kagán, that even with good preventive maintenance, things break down, go wrong, and simply wear out. Though it’s been years since I’ve dealt with any major health scares myself, I know I won’t be spared over time. None of us will. And, currently, I have too many friends traveling arduous paths—of cancer surgeries and treatments, difficult diagnoses, and long roads to, or possibly dead-ends from, recovery.

So, how to move forward in the face of these realities? Breathe, for one. Deeply. Be thankful for good health while I have it. And grateful to be able to give and receive loving support when times are tough. Do the preventive maintenance I can (for me that means exercising, eating healthfully, drinking in moderation, getting enough sleep, and always, always holding gratitude close in my heart) to enhance the quality of the days I am destined for. And then?

And then. . .I suppose I’ll see when I get there. But I hope it will mean facing whatever I must with peace and love and grace.

Here’s something to ponder—perhaps I should add connecting with the peace and love and grace I ultimately seek to all my preventive maintenance lists, right now. Check!

Card-Carrying Member

Card-Carrying Member

That’s right—I am now a card-carrying member of the Shameless Promotion Club. I often say it, tongue in cheek right before chatting up an unsuspecting potential reader about my forthcoming debut novel No More Empty Spaces, but it seems to me that pondering the “shameless” part of my imaginary club’s name is in order.

I have worked for more than two decades learning the craft of writing, and I have worked for more than one of those on this book. It was a story I had to tell, and for me, that meant I had to tell it well. So I read and studied, got coached and critiqued, and wrote and rewrote (and rewrote and rewrote…you get the idea). The result is solid, perhaps even beautiful in places. Then along with my labor of love, my publisher’s, She Writes Press, team made it more so, including its stunning cover! I believe in this book, and so do my literary agent, my publisher, and my publicist—a team of professionals who stand beside me in getting it out in the world.

So why should I feel shame in promoting it? Well, I shouldn’t, but promoting isn’t something I feel comfortable doing. I was taught, from the beginning, to do for others, not myself. I know I’m not alone in this. And promoting my work does not mean I am not humble in the knowledge of how many great writers are out there. It does not mean that I am not aware of how many great books readers have to choose from. I am humble and I am aware. At the same time, I trust that No More Empty Spaces also belongs on bookstore, library, and your bookshelves (or bedside tables) come April 9, 2024, its publication date.

When I was working as an environmental and engineering geologist, no one would have looked at me askance for promoting my consulting practice, in fact I was often advised to do more of it. Though marketing was not anything close to my favorite part of the work, I did it. And so, I will as a writer too, because like my first career as a professional geologist, I take my second career seriously, and this is simply part of that work in the publishing business these days. So, here goes…

My debut novel, No More Empty Spaces, is told in multiple voices, and explores rifts and shifts in an American family, and the landscape, when they move from the US to a remote and rugged region of Turkey. Timely and gripping, the book will make you think about how you relate to yourself, your family, and the Earth and its ever-changing processes. Learn more about it on my website or at She Write Press or at Goodreads.

No More Empty Spaces is available for pre-order now—ask at your favorite local independent bookstore, or anywhere else books are sold, including Bookshop or Bookworks, the great (yes, more shameless promotion!) local independent bookstore in Albuquerque, where I am a partner.

Thank you! And hey, let’s all let go of shame, and sign up for the Shameless Promotion Club in support of whatever we have worked hard to achieve.

Red or Green

Not red or green chile. Though I could wax poetic about our spicy and savory New Mexican cuisine, I’ll save that for another day. And not gift wrap, though perhaps some of you are untying red or green ribbons for Christmas.

But red or green, or yellow, pink, blue, mauve, silver, or burgundy, and a few I can’t find words for—those are colors I saw this morning while hiking in the muted light of an overcast morning on the Sandia Mountain foothill trails I love to tramp. Once I began to notice them, color was everywhere. Some might view the desert as drab, but I see myriad shades of green—from the olive tones of the junipers to the epidote (its own hue, as far as I’m concerned) in the Sandia granite to the chartreuse lichen growing out of a crack in a boulder.

And what of the deep blue of a year-round resident Western bluebird’s back and wings (viewed through my binoculars, so I couldn’t get a picture) and the lighter brighter blue of his cousins, the Mountain bluebirds who winter here, but only let me see a flash of their vibrant feathers as the flock winged by on the chill breeze.

Flora, fauna, and, of course, stones of all sorts flaunted their varied shades, all seemingly enhanced by the subtle light.

The everyday wonder of nature’s palette filled me with delight.

I’d never be able to choose a favorite.

But if you have a favorite color, what is it? And, why?

Notes From the Other Side…

Notes From the Other Side…

…of the bookstore counter.

This is my tenth holiday shopping season as a bookseller, at locally-owned independent Bookworks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It also happens to be my first as a partner in the shop.

On January 1, 2023, Bookworks changed hands, and is now a partnership with the managing partners being the brilliant daughter-mother team of Shannon Guinn-Collins and Nancy Guinn—and a group of investors from the community, including myself, rounds out the team. Bookworks is truly a community effort!

It has been a year of learning and growing (we have about 30% more books in stock!), updating computers and training staff on new systems, re-starting author events after the pandemic (we’ve hosted authors from near and far in the store and Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead was in conversation with former Albuquerque Poet Laureate Hakim Bellamy at the Kimo Theater in downtown in July…and more to come, including Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Cunningham at the Main Albuquerque Public Library in January (get your tickets here), brightening the store’s colors and adding murals—I am prouder than ever to be a part of the Bookworks crew.

And speaking of crews, it’s all hands on deck for the holiday shopping season. I hope to be happily exhausted when we lock the doors on Christmas Eve. This season can make, or break, the year for a small business, so please SHOP SMALL and SHOP LOCAL!

Of course, I’m biased, but books sure do make great gifts. Talking with customers, helping them find books their loved ones will love, is my favorite part of this work. And there’s still time to order books, if we don’t happen to have the one you want (but not much time…at Bookworks, we’ll get books into the store in time for Christmas if you order by December 13th). Shop with us, or at your favorite local independent bookstore—we make a real difference in all our communities!

And remember, those of us on the other side of the counter are pushing pretty hard right now to get you what you really want, so please be patient with us while we do.

Happy holidays, everyone! See you on the other side…of the counter, and of the holiday rush.