The Stars Beyond the Stars

During our Mother’s Day Skype, my 23 year old son, Nicolas, and I were talking about how I taught him to read when he was little. Our conversation reminded me of this piece that I wrote in November of 1995. When I told him about it, Nicolas encouraged me to post it.

My son is studying philosophy in seminary, so he hasn’t needed my help with reading for a long time now. But even 18 years after I wrote this, I know I still need help.

Because I am trying to read the stars.


The Stars Beyond the Stars                                       November 1995

I sit with my five year old in my lap. He is learning to read word by word, sentence by sentence, thought by thought. My heart swells with pride as he reads, as he understands. But sometimes he struggles. I fight the urge to read it for him. Instead I help him work through it, one word at a time. I know that if I read it for him, he will never learn to read it for himself.

His voice goes on, gaining confidence, but it has only become a background for my thoughts. I am learning to read as well—oh, not books or newspapers or nursery rhymes—but the deeper things. God is teaching me thought by thought, prayer by prayer, faith by faith. I am learning to read the stars.

Sometimes the brilliance of the stars themselves fills me with such awe that I am distracted from the story—the story of my life. And sometimes doubting clouds blacken the stars from my mind, and I wonder if the story was ever really written at all. But then, with the faith of a little child in her Daddy’s lap, I ask for help with the reading. He points to a star, and I struggle to gain its meaning. His presence and prompting encourage me to keep on. But He knows that if He reads it for me, I will never learn to read it for myself.

Sometimes I beg for Him to skip to the end of my story. I could understand so much now if I just knew how it would finish. But He tells me that reading is built on one thought at a time—one star at a time. The little words must be learned before the big ones. And as I understand each dim star, the next one grows brighter and stronger.

Every so often, when I am stuck on a star and feel I’ll never grasp it, I look back and remember the parts of my story that I have already learned. And then I gain strength as I see how much I have mastered earlier. And I believe again that, in my Daddy’s lap, I will find confidence to finish to the end.

I see the line of stars ahead, and their meaning is not clear. But I’m reading with eagerness because I have been told that this story is full of adventure, and hope, and faith. I know the story of my life stretches beyond what I can see—to the stars beyond the stars. And I am learning to read them, one star at a time.

“Mommy, I need your help.” My mind goes from stars in the sky to words in a picture book. My son sits in my lap, and I direct him as he struggles to gain their meanings—word by word, thought by thought, prayer by prayer, star by star.


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Honesty Laid Bare

You’ve spent days or weeks with your essay–sometimes with your laptop, holed up on your couch, sometimes with pen and paper, out in the open on a mountain-top bench.

Sky meadows benchYou send your essay out. It gets rejected at least 50 times over a period of a year or two. You are dejected.

Then, suddenly, some kind editor emails you and says XYZ Magazine is so excited to publish your essay. You, in turn, are elated.

You go through a series of negotiations with the editor about content and style. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But in the end, all is ready. You are expectant.

After this? Well, after this, you wait. Many times editors neglect to inform you when your essay actually hits the public. At first you continually the check magazine website or the bookstores it is sold in. But soon, you give up the search.

After all, isn’t there more real writing to be done? You are ready to get back down to business.

Two weeks (or two months) after your essay has actually been released, you find it out there, lonely, in its little virtual or print corner of the world. So much time has now passed that when you see your work finally in print, you are surprised. (“I don’t even remember writing that,” you think to yourself.)

The ups and downs of the publication process are not what keeps me writing. To find out why I do, go to the link below:

Honesty Laid Bare


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Light and Shadow

A common theme of artists is the interplay between light and shadow—darkness enhancing color, silhouette forming contrast. But for me, even the brightest shades are, well, shade—something that blocks the light.


And so, even the beauty that is my focus reminds me that, while contrast and silhouette are all part of now, and while dark and color are all that is within my current view, the pain and joy they represent are simply shadows of the light to come.

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Winchester LIfe

Buzzard Rock for Blog

Winchester Life is a new magazine featuring the Winchester, Virginia area.

The February 2013 issue contains two of my articles–one about Rt. 11 Potato Chips and another highlighting hiking in winter, and will be mailed to 50,000 homes in the next week.

RT 11 chips for blog

I will also have another photo feature in the March issue which covers the Second Battle of Winchester’s 150th anniversary.


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Something from Nothing

A few days ago I when I was hiking, I found a grey and white striped turkey feather that was still perfect in form. When I picked it up and waved it, I was startled by how much wind resistance that one small feather could cause. And that is how humans learned to fly—from the design of a bird feather.

Turkey feather and pianoTo say that we create is a misnomer. We can, with ingenuity, fashion what already exists into different forms. But we can’t create something from nothing. I may sit at my piano and arrange notes in a way that makes my tune different from any other, but I didn’t make up the idea of music. I may invent a story; I could even shape my own language to tell it, but that doesn’t mean I created the thought of language itself.

What is the origin of music and language and bird feathers, and of everything else that inspires us? One day, maybe we will see something being created out of nothing.

And then we will know.

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Just Imagine!

When I was a little girl, I wanted an imaginary friend. A lot of kids had them–even my older sister. So I figured it would be easy to make one up. But it wasn’t. How can a friend surprise you–how can he make you laugh because of some unexpected crazy thing he said or did–when, after all, he was just coming out of your own head? I tried and tried, but I couldn’t create a playmate that was real. And so, at seven years of age I gave up. Already I felt like an old woman–friendless, forlorn.

But somewhere between that crushing disappointment and the forty years that followed, I grew young again. Now all kinds of imaginary friends are popping up to surprise me in my writing, and clouds are turning into castles and whole kingdoms through my camera lens. Maybe throughout all these years I have been learning, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to understand what is real.

Does time ever stand still? I can’t answer that. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t always move forward.

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My grandfather is 103 years old.  When he was born, his family had a horse and wagon. Eventually he bought his own car. Throughout his driving life Grandad kept a clean record–with not even one fender bender–and decided at the age of 100 to voluntarily give up his license so that he could keep that record intact. At ten years old Grandad started selling newspapers on street corners. At that time the paper press was how the world got the news.

Grandad and meBut now Grandad emails, surfs the net, reads blogs, researches, and writes–all from his home computer. If Grandad can so gracefully move from oil lamps to high speed internet, I, who was taken home from the hospital in a station wagon and who was raised on TV’s World News Tonight, had better–at the least–learn how to manage a website.

This is my news page–not nearly so relevant to the world as the Seattle Post my grandfather sold or as the ABC headlines my mother still watches every night–but here, those who are interested can find news about my upcoming events and publications and an occasional post when I need a change of pace from all the other creative endeavors found on this site.

Thank you for taking some of your plugged-in time to stop by,


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