Bits and Pieces: for the writer in each of us

I have a folder where I used to collect bits and pieces of thought or a phrase I might use in some later poem or essay.  I have allowed the folder to grow stale, no recent additions.  The words in there are from more than twenty years ago.  And I can’t help wondering what I thought back then that could have been so compelling that I couldn’t let it get lost but not as important as what I was writing about then.  Time I pulled the folder out for a look.

It wouldn’t be possible even if constantly writing to put down all the thoughts that travel the mind.  And the years will change the mind.  So I expect that maybe I will enjoy an old turn of phrase, marveling that I could have been so smart when scarcely fifty years old.  I’ll be prompted to go brush my hair in case an admirer should knock on my door.  Then, at some of the scribbles I’ll think, Yikes!  Whoever wrote that nonsense had smoke in her eyes.

Now, I’m about to open the folder and see what I saved.  I’m reminded of a small child whose mother brought him to a meeting equipped with paper and crayons in a paper bag.  As we were getting started, he said, “I’m just going to reach in the bag and surprise myself.”  He got several smiles for that, and he was no trouble during the meeting.  I enjoyed knowing that according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a system of explanations about personality preferences, roughly half of all people enjoy surprises while the other half prefer knowing ahead of time what will happen.  This guy was in the surprise camp.

So am I.  Ready for surprises.  A little tingly with anticipation.

[Here there is a break while I look into the folder.]

I’m back.  I didn’t find any Yikes!  Nor any thing to set me brushing my hair for company.

I found a short poem about feeling as big as where the sight and mind can travel.  The poem is mediocre, hardly a poem at all, but the thought can be treasured.

I found a list of phrases ending in up: butter up, hold up, mess up, put up, buck up, cook up, and so on.  I may have thought the list useful.  More likely I was just having fun.


Some notes I puzzled over.  I think this one alludes to the burning of witches and the surrender of Christ to patriarchal Rome–with, however, the promise of a lifting of cruel social domination some day.  What I remember clearly is that when women were burned as witches it was likely that their children were fostered by parents who would teach them obedience to cruel power.  I’d try to capture this huge chapter of history in a few words.

Here’s another list of words.  Like many another writer, I have been in love with words–word sounds, word meanings, word histories, collections of similar words, words that rhyme and alliterate, words that carry a punch.

I also love color, though I can’t tell you now what the colors here signified.

Although most of my notes over time include doodles, I found only this curve in the bits and pieces folder.  (I had another folder for doodles.)  I like the last sentence here, one I seem to have addressed to all: you live by will and curious mind.

The book that Isobel Myers and Katherine Briggs wrote about personality preferences they called Gifts Differing.  The differences in our gifts is a core value and a wonderful perspective for accepting others.

I’m thankful for my interest in words and in writing.  I have a brown thumb, mostly because my attention is not on plants or anything down to earth.  I was once given a chance to learn to fly a small airplane and turned it down with a shiver.  I have little physical courage.  Writing is what I do best, or, at least, most happily.  I sometimes think there is a writer in all of us.  For whatever you care to do, I encourage your work–and play.

Tell me about your gifts.

Wild Berries Today and Long Ago

Picking berries that grow wild has obvious pleasures–and, these days, some hazards.  I’ll mention the hazards and then side with the pleasures for the rest of this blog.

The first and most obvious hazard to people in the northeast is disease-bearing ticks.  This is something new.  When I was a child we didn’t have in the woods ticks that worried us.

Another hazard could be bears and other wild creatures that browse berry patches or even live in them.  In Connecticut we have a surging population of bears, enough of a problem to prompt us to stop feeding birds in our backyards during bear season.

Once when our family hiked a mountain trail northwest of Large George in New York, we found a large blueberry patch and saw on the ground lots of bear scat.  I’m sure that when we left they came back to finish their long summer’s day meal. Those were shy bears and presented no threat.

Our berry patch is at the edge of a stretch of woods beside a parking lot.  The raspberries are almost done and the black raspberries are at their peak.  I limit myself to half a cup each day, letting others enjoy the patch.

Pictured here are black raspberries, smaller and rounder than blackberries.  If you mistake the red ones for raspberries you’ll find they don’t pull off easily as berries do when they are ripe.

Picking berries reminds me of growing up on our farm.  We went in pairs or as a family down into the woods to our favorite berry patches carrying half-gallon buckets with slender ropes through the bails and around our necks.  That left both hands free for picking.  We wore light shirts but often long-sleeved to keep the canes with their thorns from snagging our skin.  We allowed ourselves to eat some at first, but after a reasonable snack, we devoted our efforts to bringing home buckets full of raspberries to Mom to put up for the winter, saving apart some to put on our morning cereal.  We picked blueberries for eating and for pies and for preserving to make Thanksgiving pies.

When my boys were little I loved to take them picking berries.  They only had small tin cups and their tummies to fill and it was fine when they ate all they picked.  It was a meal on blueberry hill.  When we got home we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky.

There is something elemental about eating berries in the patch, reaching for a juicy one and popping it onto the tongue, pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to squeeze out the juices.  I feel I can remember doing the same many eons ago when the only way to get berries was to go pick them, no money, no stores.  I like the way our little patch gives me something to eat for my own labor in that time-honored tradition we call gathering.  Berries have not changed.  And neither have we.

Tummy Story: a joyful life anyhow

When I was a child I wondered how old people could stand knowing that they would die soon.  I wondered whether they thought about death more than children do?  And there I was a child thinking about death.

I had my reasons.  I had a serious kidney infection at age six and lived only because of penicillin.  After that illness, I was tired a lot and my doctor and parents assumed my kidneys had never completely healed.  That wasn’t it.  My kidneys were fine.  But my adrenal glands had been so stressed they were never the same again.

My book Tummy Story is an account of the detective work it took to unravel a lifetime of poor adrenal function–as well as a history of hypoglycemia.  I hope my method will help others.  I did several things to understand this body’s history and current state of health.

1)  I made sure I knew as much as I could about what had happened in the past.

2)  I used internet resources as they became available, taking care which ones to trust.

3) I consulted the best allopathic practitioner I could find in my area.

4) I consulted the best alternative medicine doctor in my area.

5) I worked with a couple of herbalists.

Yes, research and trial treatments took time, but in the end I was able to extend my life significantly–my life as Tricia in this body.  I’m grateful.  Day after fine day  I’m surprised.  I’ll be 77 in less than a month.  When I think about that I see fireworks going off and my friends and family offering congratulations.  I wrote Tummy Story when I was 75.  What made me happy then was that I had lived long enough to find out what in tarnation had happened to me back in childhood and how it had played out through the years.

This life has been the most fun I can imagine, and the information about my health is the least of it.  So, sure, I think about dying, not with any dread but rather a deep satisfaction that I know what I know about bodies and how they work and how little they represent us.  But this one has provided me with an adventure into the ways our culture and habits both stress our bodies and offer remedies.

The update is this:  I’m still here.  I’m still using what I learned while I was writing the book:

1) You can get dizzy or lightheaded from low potassium levels and this may be caused by poor adrenal function.  I take daily electrolytes.

2) Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) causes a different sensation, including a frantic need to eat and a sense that every cell in the body is yelling “feed me or I will collapse.”  They would, too.  You can loose consciousness or have seizures from low glucose.  I carry food with me when I go out even for a brief errand.  The hypoglycemia was probably caused by corn syrup in the cow’s milk my mother gave me.  She was following doctor’s orders.  That’s what they did in the 1940s before today’s carefully made baby formulas, which still are not nearly as good as mother’s milk.

3) Corn syrup and the sugar habit that followed gave me trouble with digestion, something antibiotics made much worse.  Today my tummy struggles to digest food well enough to provide nutrients and energy–I give it all the help I can.  Inevitably some bad bacteria grow.  I take supplements to discourage those guys–and then there is the die-off, which can make me ill (toxic).  If I start feeling toxic–it’s the same feeling I remember from long ago when my kidneys quit but from a different cause–I take a supplement to rid my body of the toxicity.

4) When adrenal function is low it pays to take a supplement to supply missing hormones.  This helps with energy and whatever else the adrenals do.  Low adrenal function seems to make me more susceptible to metal and other toxins than most people so the supplement corrects that.

Today I do a juggling act, getting up each morning to the chores that must be done to feed and nourish this body.  My chores are closely timed to ensure none of the essential ingredients to the best health possible are left out.  That includes exercise, done not too strenuously so not to stress the adrenals.  And in between these motions I find time to write and do picture puzzles with friends in my elder housing building.  I take time to walk around and see the flowers and birds, to sit on my porch and read, and to visit family.  That includes six young grandchildren worth sticking around for.

Mine is a joyful life.


Writing a World



I have been away from blogging for a few months, busy writing a novel and having that special kind of fun that comes when creating a world and filling it with characters who get up from the pages and move and talk.  No longer my puppets, the characters become my friends.  The writing took time and was absorbing.  (When I’m writing I tend to neglect chores, family, and friends.  And my blog.  I would neglect food and exercise if my body didn’t demand maintenance breaks.)

The book is at the printer now.  It will be available, after a final proof review, in late July or early August.

With the title The Cave House Stories and with an exact image in my mind of the Cave House and the surrounding meadows and forest, I decided I had to paint the cover myself.  I got more than half of the image from my mind onto the canvas.  But I’m not giving up writing to become a painter.  Chuckle.


In short, this blog is about the writing process as nourishment for the writer and for the reader.  One writing friend said, “If you have writer’s block, you are writing the wrong story.”  I agree.  The right story will grab you and insist on being told.  It will tell you what to write.  The characters will make decisions on their own and show you a scene you hadn’t imagined for them but one that is needed and just the thing.

Meanwhile, you may pace your familiar home without noticing while you walk around inside that colorful world of the novel with its voices and gardens and special living spaces, with its conflicts and solutions (think chemical solutions, for the right approach dissolves trouble.)  You enjoy the drama even when characters make mistakes in how they treat one another, even when there is sorrow and loss.  These are real within the story and they have meaning recognizable in the many worlds or writer, novel, and reader.

In the end, a novel is a gift to the reader, a gift offered without thought of gain or fame.  A gift of that special truth that can only be spoken in story.

Wild, a story


High in the Maine countryside a cat stalked silently along, her gray-blue coat washed to a sleek shine.  Powerful lines curved from rounded head to rangy back and switching tail, her form sharp from tufted ear tips to lethal toenails. She was to her prey a formidable beast, an unanswerable death machine. Her alert green eyes scanned the territory, which was a large place of twilight days and black nights.  High above rose a wood roof intense with man smells she ignored.  She had little interest in the hind leg walking ones.  They were too big to eat.

In the middle of the space, fifty feet from either end, rose a large plywood bin.  The cat sometimes heard the heavy whoosh of mash emptying down a chute and the sudden click of metal stopping the slush. After each such slush new lines of mash sifted through several cracks in the bin onto the beams and boards around the bin—all as if deliberately to bring out the mice and even to grow more mice for her cat purposes.

The cat didn’t remember how she had gotten into the long henhouse attic.   She only knew she would stay.  Not that she liked the dusty smell of spilled mash.  But the mice here ran thicker than in the barn or lower grain rooms, more plentiful than she had seen anywhere.

She walked along a two inch beam between rows of insulating sawdust.  The cat could walk in the shifting sawdust but preferred the solid beam. Presently she came to the wide boards people used on the rare occasion they came into the attic. People should stay away.  They scared the mice.  In the murky daylight let in by the only windows, one at each end of the attic, she studied the open places, the area around the bin, and the long corners where the attic floor met the eaves, seeing with night eyes, listening, sniffing.

The cat paused.  Slowly she lowered herself into a crouch, her muscles coiled for the pounce. Quiet.  Eyes slitted.  Ears pricked forward. Suddenly she launched herself into the space under the eaves and turned back with a squeaking mouse in her jaws.  She smelled the rest of the mice, knew they watched her, and was comforted by their quivering presence.  They were her pantry.

Walking daintily along the beam, she brought the mouse to the boards and set it free.  It was bleeding and some of the blood had run onto her chin.  Lifting a paw to her face, the cat began to wash, stroking along the jaw, licking the paw with her tongue, stroking and licking rhythmically.

The mouse, not yet mortally injured, recovered from fright and ran a little way along the boards. The cat reached out her paw and gently pinned the mouse.  The mouse squealed pitifully, but no other mice came to save it.  The cat let up the pressure of her paw, studying the mouse as intently as if she’d never seen a mouse before.  When the mouse moved, the cat stopped it, pulling it toward her and letting it go again.  More bored than hungry, she continued to play with the mouse, letting it go a little further each time before catching it.  When it leapt off the boards and into the sawdust, the cat pounced in a dusty swirl and brought the mouse back to the boards.  At last she settled with dinner between her outstretched paws, cracked the tiny skull, and began pulling away bits of mouse.  With a dainty etiquette that would have suited a human table, she gulped the bits down—fur, flesh, organs, and bones.

After dinner she finished washing, then trotted along the boards to the far end of the attic and jumped onto a narrow window sill. From the window she could see the lambs in the pasture below. Too big to eat.  Satisfied with the familiar view, she curled her tail over soft paws, lowered her head and slept.  Sunlight deserted the attic leaving thick shadows.

When she stood and stretched, her long hair parted in blue-gray rows between flank and belly.  Her mouth opened in an enormous yawn that revealed white pointy teeth, a long tongue, and pink roof—the mouth of a cat in her prime.  Shoulders down and rump up, she stretched her body to its limits and lifted her fluffy blue-gray tail as if in salute to her own magnificence.  She leapt from the sill and walked softly along the middle boards, ears pointing alertly up and moving independently forward, side, forward.

She seemed to make no sound, yet suddenly there was a scurrying and scattering.  By the time the cat reached the grain silo in the middle of the attic, there were no mice, only footprints and droppings in the mash siftings.  The cat sniffed these, gathering information, the prints and scat a bulletin full of news.  At length she sat. Her right ear twitched and moved, gathering more news.  She rose and turned, then sat again on her haunches, still as a statue.  It was one of her finer abilities, this alert, patient, confident stillness.  She could smell the mice in their hiding places under the eaves.  When she had been still long enough, they would forget her and come out.  Her oval green eyes were windows of concentration.

Slowly a small mouse sniffed along under the bin. Possibly it wondered why the others had not come out again.  The coast was clear.

All at once the cat’s scramble and pounce broke the stillness.  The young mouse possessed a sudden, clear wisdom it would never use.  It squealed its complaint, calling for help that would not come.  Afterwards, ritual game and meal complete, the cat clawed the posts around the grain silo sending into the eaves a triumphant message.  I am Cat.  All this belongs to me.  Satisfied with the sharpness of her tools, she stretched out on her side on the boards, flat as a pancake except for the round of her happy belly.  Fearing no dangers, she snoozed until dawn, stretched, and went back to sleep.

A grating sound and sudden light woke her.  When a person’s head poked into the attic, the cat scampered under the eaves.

“Oh, so you don’t want to come down, you silly cat!”

The girl crawled under the eaves and pulled her out.  The cat did not resist.

“You are heavy, Blue.  You must weigh ten pounds.  I guess you’ve had your fill of mice, huh?  Good kitty!”

Crawling out from under the eaves and straightening up, the girl cradled the cat in her arms, turning her on her back to cuddle and pet her.  The cat purred.

 “All right.  Down we go,” the girl said.  She put the cat on her shoulder and stepped down the ladder, using her free hand to close the hatch above her head.  Still holding the cat, she stepped down onto the pen floor where white chickens shook their feathers, ringed the feeders, and spoke polite, “buk, buk, buks,” into the mash.  Blue was not allowed chickens and, anyway, was too well fed to take much interest in them.

“Daddy says three days at a time is enough to keep the mice down and plenty of mice for you, Blue, or you’ll make yourself sick.   But I promise to bring you back again.”

 Purring steadily, the cat put a soft gray paw on the girl’s chin.



A Toddler Counts Blessings

All the world envies me.  I’m sure of it.

A lady watches us from her window,

two women striding up the walk look back.

Because he is going out, Samuel, on my hip,


chirps bye-bye in my ear.  I hunch the other

shoulder where purse and diaper bag straps

threaten to slide off, ask Benjamin to tie

Noah’s knit hat under his chin—Ben needs


ways to contribute and there are plenty.

We each take a chubby toddler hand, walk

Noah carefully down the steps and to the car

where the boys climb in.  Noah counts,


“I ride, Mummy ride, Ben ride, Sam ride.”

“Yes, Noah,” Benjamin answers, “we are going

for a ride to the store.”  I let bag and purse

slip to the floor, strap and buckle the three in.


As I get behind the wheel, a couple stroll

down the walk, glance our way, talking earnestly.

No matter how awkward and slow I must go,

I am sure all the world envies me.

On Going Barefoot

A little ducky duddle

went wadding in a puddle

went wadding in a puddle quite small

Said he, “It doesn’t matter

how much I splash and splatter.

I’m only a ducky after all.

                                                            Traditional Children’s Song

I’m glad to find medical advice for going barefoot.  The recent talk about the benefits of Grounding, or Earthing, makes me almost smug—because I’ve known for years that going barefoot was beneficial.  People went barefoot long before they learned to make shoes, and even then, I bet shoes only caught on in the colder and harsher places.

I found this sign on pixabay, a site for free photos.  Love it.


When I got my first summer job during my teens, I didn’t know how I could stand to go shod all summer.  I didn’t like my first summer in shoes one bit.  And I shed my shoes any chance I got.  Why would anyone want to grow up at all if it meant shoes?  I found this photo on pixabay, an internet site offering many pictures free for use.


I still go barefoot whenever I can.  At the apartment building where I live, we have a wide back lawn ideally suited to walking barefoot.  It’s a lawn where flowers grow with the clovers and grasses.  Violets stick between my toes.  Patches of bluets under pines where the layers of pine needles soften my way.

People warn me.  “Aren’t you scared what you’re going to step on?”  They tell me stories of a nephew who cut his foot going barefoot on the sidewalk by his house or a woman who sliced her heel on a can lid.  They are not wrong.  These days you have to be careful where you walk and you have to look.  Then there are some incidents that are inevitable, like the time I stepped on a ground bee and got stung.  But to me the strength of that connection to the earth is worth a bee sting.  A slice of onion or potato takes the sting out, and there is always oral niacin to get the poison out of my system.

On the farm where I grew up, as soon as the air warmed in the spring, we children begged to go barefoot.  My mother had a firm rule.  “Bring me a dandelion and you can go barefoot.”  The first brave yellow dandelion blooms came on the south side of the hen house.  We knew where to watch and we brought the first bloom to Mom.  We went barefoot all summer.  Here are two of my sisters playing barefoot on the lawn.

Childhood pictures, Mitchell's Poultry Farm 040

Sometimes we stepped in chicken poop—always a few stray chickens managed to fly over the fence.   We rinsed our feet off under the sill cock before we went inside.  Our feet grew wide and tough.  I remember the feel of the barn floor boards, so smooth to my feet, the feel of gravel and sand in the driveways, the feel of grass, and the way I had to slide my feet in the stubble that stuck up sharply after haying.  We would wade in mud puddles, squishing mud between our toes and singing the ducky duddle song.


Mom had a metal dust pan with a hole where the back of the handle connected to the pan.  My big toe fit the hole making it possible to sweep the dust into the pan while standing up and holding the pan with my toe, an action my father thought clever.  But when your feet and toes are handy, you learn to use them.  I’ve seen pictures of lusty, barefoot women tramping grapes to get the juice out.  My aunt tells of a time when her daughter-in-law had been visiting with toddlers.  Picking the children up and settling one on each hip, the mother then grabbed a toy and a sweater with her toes, brought her foot up to the opposite hand, and was ready to go, all cargo aboard.

Many people go barefoot at the beach and most of us swim barefoot.


Running in the sand can be healthful.  Our beach was not sandy, though.  We swam off granite ledges and played on Orr’s Island’s rocky shore.  We walked on barnacles that cut our feet enough to draw blood yet our feet healed before we left the shore because we had spent the time walking in salt water.


Not that going barefoot is for every occasion.  Cowboys wore high boots to protect their feet from rattlesnakes and thorns.  Although I had cousins who ran through snow to the outhouse, mostly we northerners wear shoes in the winter.

Which brings us back to Grounding.  That contact with the earth has been less and less available as we learned to manufacture shoes and sandals out of materials that do not conduct electrical and magnetic currents.  Meanwhile, the built world and its various kinds of trash have made going barefoot unsafe in many situations, not to mention frowned upon.  I was once barefoot in the foyer of my college dorm when a very proper lady looked way down her long nose at my feet.  Now it takes a doctor to tell us to do what we used to do on the natch, to find some safe places to walk/run barefoot and gain the strength and healthy effects available from the earth.  I will continue my barefoot walks in places such as my lawn and a nearby beach.  Meanwhile, around my apartment I go barefoot or wear leather slippers with no man-made sole to interfere with the flow of energy from beneath my feet.  Our floors and sidewalks are unpainted concrete.

For those who want more on Grounding, here’s a link to Dr. Mercola, who offers a wealth of information on the benefits of going barefoot.

To summarize his findings, children who go barefoot gain strength in their feet and lower legs.  Grounding often allows adults to become free of chronic pain.  Walking barefoot on the Earth transfers free electrons from the Earth’s surface into your body that spread throughout your tissues providing beneficial effects.  Grounding had been shown to reduce inflammation and improve sleep.  Wearing plastic or rubber-soled shoes or flip-flops effectively disconnects you from the Earth’s natural electron flow.

According to Dr. Mercola, “the surface of the Earth holds subtle health-boosting energy. All we have to do is touch it and become truly alive.”

Grounding isn’t strange.  “It’s actually a natural act that virtually every living creature does instinctively.”

Good grounding surfaces include: sand as at the beach, moist grass, bare soil, concrete and brick (not painted or sealed), and ceramic tile.  Feet clothed in leather still get the benefit of the earth’s energy.

Some surfaces that will not ground us are asphalt, wood, rubber and plastic, vinyl, and tar.

Choose a safe spot and try it.  If your feet are tender, they will toughen up.  Happy Grounding.