by | Jan 19, 2021 | Ground Work | 10 comments

Hunkered at home during the escalating pandemic is not, in fact, a terrible thing for a writer. There are fewer excuses to keep me from the work. So, last month I finished my novel (yes, again!) and my literary agent is now submitting it to publishers for consideration. I have also contemplated, and partially drafted, any number of pieces in recent months, but Wingbeats, my latest post, felt like one of the more important ones I’ve written since emerging from my library to your screens as a writer, and none of the other ideas carried the same urgency. Until now.

Windy today, I felt as buffeted about on my hike as I have been by the news since January 6th, when a storm of a sort I never imagined I would see in our country blew through the United States Capitol.

To duck out of the worst of the gusts, I dropped into a deep arroyo. Savoring the sudden calm, I stopped and settled onto a boulder. I could see the juniper boughs whipping in the wind above on the rim of the steep slope, but the wind had hushed around me. The metaphor of finding inner peace in the midst of chaos, not only in its absence, wasn’t lost on me. But it is winter, and too cold to linger for long. Rising, I stretched toward the sun, then bent at the waist, arms sweeping low my fingertips brushed the boulder’s surface. Straightening, I filled my eyes with the view and my lungs with the fresh mountain air, before heading the two or so miles down to my snug adobe home.

I have crossed this arroyo in previous wanderings, but never trekked up or down it. As expected (from the lessons I learned in Geology 101 decades ago), there are more and bigger boulders deposited in this high-gradient zone of the drainage than farther down, where the slope gentles and the drainage widens. This observation was more an unconscious taking in, less an academic analysis, as I wound around and scrambled over boulders of granite, limestone, and breccia.

Wait a minute, breccia? I’ve been hiking these hills for more than 20 years and I don’t recall seeing breccias before. They are coarse-grained sedimentary rocks in which angular clasts (rock fragments, for those not geologically inclined) are cemented in a finer-grained matrix. They can be quite beautiful, like these boulders, and are even polished as decorative stones. The shapes and colors of the clasts are intricate, interesting, and artful as only Mother Nature can be.

Since digging into words is as much my thing as rooting around in rocks, the etymology of breccia is Italian, meaning broken stones or rubble. With that, another metaphor occurs to me—the contrast of these ‘broken stones,’ this ‘rubble,’ to so many broken systems—the failure of our public health system, the systemic racism that pervades our society, the incongruity of how the White rioters who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago were treated compared to Black Lives Matter protesters flooding the streets in cities across the country this past summer, and the rubble left by those rioters bearing Confederate flags and symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. Indeed, for millions worldwide, so many dreams have turned to rubble, so very many hearts have broken. It leaves me with few words, dazed by the grief of this moment in history.

Then I remember a long-ago conversation from a time I was overcome by grief of my own—about a broken heart being an open heart. Perhaps with all that is broken open, we can try to focus on the ‘open,’ rather than the ‘broken.’ Take the rubble, and build something beautiful with it.

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  1. David

    I like that; a broken heart being an open heart. A wound in need of healing.

  2. Eldon Gath

    Wow – that was beautiful Deb. Especially today!!

  3. Jane Gill-Shaler

    Thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you!

  4. Scott Macdougal

    Excellent story Deb. You are destined for greatness. Hope you and yours are well. Hopefully America has turned a corner in more ways than one and we will see you in 2021. ❤️?

  5. Jennifer Bauer

    Beautiful breccia metaphor that can be applied in so many ways.

    Thank you for providing an opportunity to pause and reflect.

  6. Garry Maurath

    Well said. Your bringing the formation of mother earth into our current lives does help keep us grounded. Well done.


    Dearest Deb … Another thoughtful and well-crafted bit of prose from the Heart. I love reading them all.

    “Perhaps with all that is broken open, we can try to focus on the ‘open,’ rather than the ‘broken.’ Take the rubble, and build something beautiful with it” – a simply beautiful thought that is so fitting for all that has and is happening – riots to cripple the democratic process and injure/kill others ….. more deaths in the US now from COVID-19 than soldiers lost in WWII ….. and so much more just as you described. It is hard for me to grasp. There is so much to try to repair for the new President and Vice-President. I know they will try and my personal prayer is that they will, with time, make headway.

    Love and Blessings in these trying times.


  8. Kate Miller

    Thank you Deb. Here’s to open hearts and new possibilities. We need them.

  9. Sara Eisenberg

    Beautiful breccia, beautiful and powerful words that speak to this moment, It’s fascinating how winds were blowing in different places all over the country the past few days!


    It is so true that only when we are broken do we open just enough for growth to ensue…I have never seen anyone motivated to grow when comfortable. On the flip side of that opening to perhaps grow it is also unfortunate for those who choose to end their lives because of intense fear of the unknown.


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Geologists study the earth and the processes that shape it. Writers study the human heart and the processes that shape it. The GeologistWriter builds a bridge between the two. Come across it with me!

GROUND WORK: Wander the outdoors with me.

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FINDING THE WORDS: We all have stories – let's find the words to tell them.


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