mindful living

For almost 29 years, I had the great gift of sharing this life with the man I loved almost more than life itself. Richard and I were as close as two humans could be--we held hands wherever we went, and we often completed each other's sentences, or knew what the other was going to say before the words came out. Our bodies knew each other as if we had been born twins, not six years and three states apart, on opposite sides of the North-South cultural/political divide and to very different family cultures as well. 

At the end of January, I started a process I've needed to do for months and dreaded because I don't understand how it works: moving my email and domain name (the URL for this website, susanjtweit.com) to a new computer host. 

For the New Year, I gave myself the gift of ten days away on a personal writing retreat. I holed up in a comfy motel in a town far enough from home that I was out of reach, but not so far that getting there required a lot of time or money. 

It was great.

This afternoon, I called my 87-year-old dad to check in, something I do every Sunday. While he told me about the morning's church service, which seems to have featured as much Christmas music as the two pastors could fit in, complete with choir, organ, classical accompaniment, soloists, and the whole shebang, I busied myself with starting my annual batch of Solstice eggnog.

Friday was the fourth anniversary of Richard's death. In honor of the journey we took with his brain cancer, one in which we were determined to live well through whatever came, here are eleven of the most important lessons we learned. Some are specific, some are applicable to any stage in our lives:


After driving 4,652 miles in the past three weeks, through six states, plus presenting at two writing conferences, and spending time in three national parks, two national wildlife refuges, and I forget how many state parks and natural areas, and hunkering down for two very productive writing days in a little town within sight of the Pacific Ocean, I am home again.


We all have those weeks when one problem becomes much more serious, and then something unexpected throws us off, and then just when we've navigated over or around those bumps, we hit one we didn't see at all and bam!--all four metaphorical tires go flat. And we holler some probably much-less-printable version of, "Why me, Universe?"

There's a Buddhist story about a frustrated student who asks the retreat leader how many times she has to learn a lesson before she can move on. The teacher pauses, thinks, and says, "As many times as you need."

For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

Last week, a packet of seeds from Renee's Garden, my favorite supplier of easy-to-grow, delicious and beautiful garden seeds landed in my post box, my personal signal that spring is on the way.

At Kent Haruf's memorial service in Salida a few months ago, the Wyoming writer Mark Spragg told a story he had heard Kent tell that struck a chord with me. I recently found that story again in "The Making of a Writer," a memoir-essay Kent wrote for the magazine Granta.

Yesterday I drove halfway across the state of Colorado, or so it seemed, from Fort Collins on the northern Front Range south to Golden, and then up through the foothills and into the high country, across the wide and windy bowl of South Park, and then down into the Upper Arkansas Valley and home.

Sphinx moth pollinating native penstemon flowers in a park reclaimed from an abandoned industrial site. Sphinx moth pollinating native penstemon flowers in a park reclaimed from an abandoned industrial site.
My beeswax intentions candle, burning with lavender and sagebrush from my garden A beeswax intentions candle, burning with lavender and sagebrush from my garden. It's sitting on the sculptural steel table Richard designed and made for a gallery display.

Gratitude (noun) The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. From the Latin, gratis, meaning, "pleasing," "thankful"

As one year transitions into the next, I like to stop and take time to appreciate the gifts of the year about to pass before I make my list of hopes, dreams and resolutions for the year to come. (If you can't stop and appreciate where you've been, you won't really be able to appreciate where you're going either.)

So here's my list of gratitudes from 2014:

My special cobalt blue solstice candle-holder My special cobalt blue solstice candle-holder that has traveled with me for decades....

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. For me, the day when Earth's tilted rotation brings the sun to its farthest south arc across the sky marks the year's turning point.

A selfie while driving--the road was straight, there was no other traffic, and right then there was no snow on the road.... A selfie while driving--the road was straight, there was no other traffic, and there was no snow on the road....
Deck railings dripping before dawn.... Deck railings dripping before dawn....

I woke this morning in the darkness before dawn and, as I always do, I first checked the view of the constellations—Orion, my favorite, was barely visible, glittering through a veil of high cloud. Next I checked the outside temperature: 49 degrees F, very warm for dawn at this time of year.