Living with Love in a Time of Dying

That’s the new subtitle of my forthcoming memoir, Bless the Birds*, a phrase that came to me this winter when I realized, as I write in the Preface, “The personal is the political.” Meaning my story of living with heart open through times more difficult than I had ever imagined is directly applicable to all of us now, as we do our best to live with hope rather than despair through what seems the death of civility, the death of our planet, and the death of our democracy. Not to mention the threat of a Coronavirus pandemic.

How do we avoid being paralyzed by grief and fear in these times?

It’s not easy, but it is possible:

This story is about living in a time of dying. It is both prayer and love song, an invitation to walk in the light of what we love, especially when times are hard or heartbreaking. To open our hearts and go forward with as much grace as we can through life’s changes. To honor our cell-deep connection to all of the other lives with whom we share this planet. To celebrate the miracle of simply being, our capacity for love that is both gift and salvation.

How can we rise above and be our best?

Walk in light of what we love, rather than what we fear. That means reminding ourselves—often—what it is that we love. We we care about, what we appreciate and can celebrate about ourselves and our lives, and about life on this amazing animate planet.

As is opening our hearts and living our days with as much grace as is possible. Consciously looking for the beauty inherent in each day, whether that is a flower blooming inside in winter, a coyote glimpsed trotting through a grassland, a fragment of bird song, a painting, piece of music, or dance; an unexpected smile or the touch of a warm hand…

And staying connected to our community, near and far. Not just the people who are most like us and easiest to love, but all of humanity, and all of the species who together make Earth the green and living exception to the vast silence of space.

You’ll notice the repetition of the word love, the quality which I think is the greatest gift our species has to offer Life. Not just romantic love or intense physical desire, the genuine attachment we humans feel for each other, for other species, and for this living world as a whole.

How can we thrive, despite the convulsive changes happening to the world we love?

I offer this personal story as an example of something positive we can do: live with love, and “lean in” to nature, the community that birthed our species. I see love as humans’ greatest gift to this Earth, and one we need to cultivate—especially now. I bless the birds because the sudden and profoundly unnerving appearance of Richard’s avian hallucinations afforded us time to learn how to walk his journey to its end with love. To be reminded of the kindness and generosity intrinsic in our fellow humans. To take heart and sustenance from the miracle of life on this glorious planet, challenges and all. To live fully in a time when life seems especially hard and heart-breaking.

When we find ourselves curling inward in grief and fear, we need to remember our species’ best gift: love.

Living in light of what we love can carry us through. That takes practice, conscious cultivation of being present with compassion and an open heart. Simply being here, hearts open to the flow of life.

Blessings to you all!

*Bless the Birds: Living With Love in a Time of Dying, is due out from She Writes Press in a little over a year, April of 2021. It’s been a long journey, and I am excited to have this, my 13th book, on a path to publication at last.

A coyote from my neighborhood pack hunting the open space below my house at sunset…

Gratitude for Mothers of all Sorts

Mother's Day reminds me to appreciate mothers, those of the heart as well as those who bear us. Thank you to all who nurture and support life, whether human or any of the other life forms who take part in the community of this breathing, animate planet. Your love is a gift.  

(That's my mom, Joan Cannon Tweit, in the photo above, on her last wilderness camping trip. She was 78 years old when we hiked to a yurt in Colorado's Never Summer Range to celebrate Dad's 80th birthday.)

As I worked in my yard today, I thought about Mom, and how much she would enjoy the daffodils blooming in clumps here and there (I planted 150 daffodil bulbs last fall, and they are rewarding me abundantly this spring). And the peonies peeking up from the soil with their red stems and finger-like leaves; the lilacs, purple buds sill tight-fisted; and the green spears of the lily of the valley leaves emerging in the backyard, where the roof runoff waters them after each wet snow or spring rain. 

She would have loved the native plants I'm adding to my once lawn-bound yard too: the new leaves on the spreading phlox and the penstemon, the tiny golden buds on Jones goldenaster, and the yarrow, mallows, and Lewis flax appearing the back-yard meadow. 

Mom taught me to love plants. She is the one who led our family's clandestine expeditions to rescue wildflowers from development sites, digging up their fragile roots carefully and nestling them in soil in plastic bread bags, and then pedaling home on our bikes to replant them in her woodland garden. (Mom was legally blind and didn't drive, but she was fearless on a bicycle.) 

The "bellyflowers" she would kneel on the ground to admire on hikes to windswept alpine tundra, the breathtaking swaths of gold California poppies on the Big Sur Coast in spring, and the rainbow of flowers in the Sonoran Desert. She wasn't picky though–if she couldn't have wildflowers, Mom was just as happy burying her face in fragrant peonies, admiring brilliantly colored tulips, or smiling when I twirled hollyhock flowers like full-skirted ballerinas. 

California poppies on Big Sur

She loved redwoods so tall I got a neck-ache from trying to see their tops, as well as twisted and wind-blasted pines at upper timberline. She took joy in spiny cactus, even the fishhook cactus that six-year-old me sat on accidentally, and Mom, magnifying glass in hand, had to tweeze each hooked spine out of my butt. 

Mom was, as I wrote in Bless the Birds, 

the wavy-haired, blue-eyed college student who met Dad at the University of California, a six-block walk from her Berkeley home, and made him wait until she graduated to get married. …Who earned a master’s degree in library science despite being legally blind. …Whose smile could light up a room; who prized birdsong, wildflowers, and mountain hikes as much as chocolate. And she really loved chocolate.

Mom died on February 3, 2011, two months to the day before her 80th birthday, and nine months before brain cancer took Richard, the love of my life. I think of Mom every day, and especially when I work in my yard, or go for a hike to see wildflowers. Or eat some chocolate… 

—–

For a plant-person like me, a day with time to hang out with my green kin–whether wild or in my garden–is an excellent day, whether it's Mother's Day or any other day of the year.

The ony thing that could make Mother's Day better is getting this note from Molly, the daughter of my heart, along with a gift certificate to one of my favorite mail-order nurseries:

Happy Mother's Day
You have always been and always will be a mother to me. When I think about my strengths, I see your hand and voice in all of them. 
I'll send you a longer note, for now just sending love.

Oh, yeah. That one made me cry. Thank you sweetie! I love you too. Always.  

Stand-up paddleboard lessons with Molly and her fearless dog, Roxy. Molly is like a dancer on a SUP; I excel at falling off with a huge splash!

Six Years: Remembering Richard Cabe

Richard Cabe (July 16, 1950 – November 27, 2011)

Tomorrow marks six years since the love of my life, my husband, partner, and companion in all things for nearly 29 years, and father of Molly Cabe, died of brain cancer. He was only 61 years old, and very much engaged in exploring his practice of abstract sculpture, the work that expressed his terraphlia, the word we coined for our species' innate love of this earth and all who share this planet with us. 

Richard proudly carrying the first basin he ever carved. (That's about 50 pounds of rock in his hands, and it is now the sink in the guest bathroom of the house he built for us.)

Losing Richard sucked. It always will. 

Yes, I've built myself a solo life that is fulfilling and makes me happy. Which proves that it is possible to live well with a hole in your heart. But it does not mean I don't miss him. Always. We walked hand in hand through our days from the night we first met when Molly was just three years old. 

Crazy in love from the start–our backyard wedding reception in Laramie, August, 1983

We weren't prefect–we argued and fought and wounded each other just like everyone else. But we always returned to holding hands, and in the end it was that enduring love for each other, that cell-deep connection, that mattered most. No matter what, we both loved AND liked each other. 

We were blessed to have the years we did, and to be able to nurture the rich love we shared with Molly. I know that. I also know we didn't have enough time together. But we had what we had.

Yet, I am thankful to be able to find happiness as Woman Alone. Life is nothing if not contradictory. 

Here, in Richard's memory, are some photos of the man I loved, Molly's dad, sculptor, brillilant economist, juggler, the guy with the beautiful smile who loved life. 

Mr. Raymond, his proud father, holding Richard at a year old, the first winter he lived in Salida, Colorado (1951-2).

With Molly and her grandparents, Mr. Raymond and Miss Alice, Arkansas, in about 1990. 

Building the interpretive sign kiosk he designed for Monarch Spur Park, Salida, November, 2008.

With another sink in the making, Salida, Colorado, 2006 

Carefully shaping the steel fire-bowl for a granite firepit, September 2008. 

The finished firepit, one of my favorite of his functional sculptures. 

With Molly on her birthday, February 2010 (after his first brain surgery, and radiation and chemo).
Juggling for his niece, Carolyn Myrick, and great-nephew, Oliver, June, 2010.

Celebrating his 60th birthday with family, July 2010. (Back row: Molly, my brother, Bill Tweit, me and Richard; middle row: great-nephew Connor Roland, niece Alice Tweit; front row/ my parents, Bob and Joan Tweit).

Relaxing on the deck during a working residency at Carpenter Ranch, northwestern Colorado, August 2010.

At Devil's Churn State Wayside, September, 2011, on The Big Trip, our belated honeymoon two months before Richard died. 

Cherishing a sunset at the end of our time together… 

May your spirit continue to soar, my love. My heart will always be with you. 

Loving this World in Difficult Times

I sometimes feel guilty because I don't comment more on politics and current affairs. Politics and current affairs are not, I remind myself, my beat, my area of expertise. The truth is, I shy away from that kind of commentary because it seems to me that the tone and tenor of public discourse leave no space for my voice.

It is all so shrill and angry and fear-mongering, all extremes and labels and I-hate-you-because-you-disagree-with-me. All sides, no middle. No time or place for thoughtfulness, for pondering and reflecting and trying to see, much less respect, other points of view. 

Thoughtfulness and respecting other points of view are critically important values for me. I am an INFJ personality type in the Myers-Briggs spectrum of understanding human personalities. The "I" is for introverted and intuitive (yes, I like people; I just need a lot of time alone to process and reflect). "F" stands is for feeling in the empathetic sense because I am sensitive to the non-verbal signals we humans give off with such abundance, and "J" because I value concrete data and the ability to think over the patterns it creates to explain the world.

(If you're curious about where you land in the personality spectrum, check out the test at 16 Personalities. It's thorough without taking too much time, and surprisingly and sometimes a bit uncomfortably informative.)

Put more succinctly, sound bites and labels and divisions are not my thing; fairness and consideration and justice are. Love is.

Look up photos of me and I'm the one smiling with my arm around someone else, or on hands and knees admiring some detail of leaf or flower or rock. I'm the one in love with this world and life, hard as that may be. 

That's me expressing two kinds of love, love for the Chihuahuan Desert  in southern New Mexico, and big "L" love for the man who has his arm around me, the late Richard Cabe. (Photo by Susan Kask. Thanks, Sue!)

My mission is loving and restoring the world, not tearing it to bits by reducing its human and wild communities to warring factions. 

I believe that our species' greatest attribute is not our big brains–those are wonderful, but can also get us in serious trouble. Nor our intellect, strength, or even our creativity. What we humans do best, I think, is love. As I wrote in one of my books:

What we do best comes not from our heads but our hearts, from an ineffable impulse that resists logic and definitions and calculation: love. Love is what connects us to the rest of the living world, the divine urging from within that guides our best steps in the dance of life.

–From The San Luis Valley: Sand Dunes and Sandhill Cranes

Loving Molly Cabe at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco

I've been pondering lately how to best live that love in these times. Not so much in my writing, because my love for this troubled world threads through everything I write, from the haiku and photo I post each morning on social media to the columns I write for Houzz and Rocky Mountain Gardening Magazine, to my work re-imagining Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress. And of course my podcasts on end-of-life choices for The Conversation Project, a national effort begun by writer Ellen Goodman to encourage dialog on how we want our lives to go at the end. 

In the being. How can I, how can we keep that love flowing, and encourage it in others when the world seems to value love so little, when fear and anger seem to have so much power? 

To express love is a conscious choice that comes from within. Which means that we have to have love to express. We have to nurture our own supply by taking time every day to restore both heart and spirit. 

Here are some suggestions adapted from a list I posted on social media in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting:

* TAKE A BREAK from the news–watching violence over and over triggers more stress and grief, exhausting our ability to love. 
* BREATHE: Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly and completely. Repeat a few times. 
* GO OUTSIDE. Find a quiet space, as natural as possible. Nature nurtures our empathy and ability to love.
* SIT. Let your mind empty. Listen for the wind, bird sounds, the flutter of leaves. Look for the beauty of flowers or form. Feel the sun on your skin. Let the pulse of life soothe your pulse, refill your capacity for feeling beauty, awe, and gratitude.
* CRY, SCREAM, RANT if necessary. Then find quiet again. 
* CONSCIOUSLY SPREAD LOVE and light, not fear and anger: Smile at strangers; be kind in a difficult situation; offer help to someone who is struggling; act with generosity and compassion. 

How can we practice love in a world as troubled and frightening as ours seems right now? By remembering that love is not about being perfect, either us or the world. It is about actively looking for and nurturing beauty, diversity, kindness, courage, compassion, empathy, creativity–the basic goodness of life, all lives, in the community of this planet. It is about seeking and nurturing the heart in every living being, in every moment. 

Remembering that love is always stronger than hatred. 

And deliberately adding our mite of love to the world. Every day. 

Thank you. 

It's not perfect by any means, but I love this community, this place, this life.

A Day for Mothers and the Earth


Since my mom, Joan Cannon Tweit, isn’t around to celebrate Mother’s Day with (she died in February of 2011, the same year Richard died), I decided I’d spend Mother’s Day weekend doing things she taught inspired me to do.


(That’s Mom in the photo above, the California girl who loved the mountains posing on she and Dad’s old sedan on their honeymoon at Mt. Lassen National Park in July, 1952. They intended to camp for the week, but the snow was still so deep the campgrounds weren’t open yet. So they stayed at a lodge and went hiking anyway. Probably not in saddle shoes though!)


I didn’t go camping or hiking–the weather was too blustery and cold. I did the things Mom loved to do around home: garden and tend nearby wild places. 


I planted some new plants in my rock garden, including this yellow ‘Sundancer’ daisy, which has the inglorious official common name of Stemless Four-nerve Daisy. (Could we be a little more creative?) This high-desert native not only sports cheerful flowers and blooms early, the plant also grows a lovely mat of silvery-green leaves, and will thrive for decades in soil as poor as the road-base on my former industrial site. 



Stemless Four-nerve Daisy (Tetraneurus acaulis, which means the same as the plant’s common name, just in reverse order) 


With the help of my friend Maggie, I hung a bluebird nest box from the fence Richard built a decade ago along the edge of this property. I’m a little late getting box put up, but perhaps there’s a pair of mountain bluebirds or tree swallows still looking for nesting real estate… 


Today, I spent two hours picking trash out of the creek and weeding along “my” block of the Salida Trail and Ditch Creek. The bonus for continuing to work on my ongoing (18+ years so far) urban ecological restoration project is that as I clear away windblown trash (thank you, Safeway shoppers, for those receipts, plastic bags, hand-wipes, and other trash) and pull weeds, I get the joy of seeing wildflowers and native grasses return. 



Like this Lewis flax (Linum lewisii) named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, growing next to a clump of native bluegrass.


Mom’s the one who taught me to love wildflowers–she nurtured a woodland garden of native plants rescued from development sites long before that kind of thing was cool–so I feel a strong connection to her when I’m working in my restored mountain prairie yard or along the creek. I know I that in this work especially, I am honoring her spirit and her love for this planet’s magnificent diversity of beings of all sorts, from the tiniest creatures that animate the soil underfoot to the towering redwood trees that shaded the creek behind the house where she grew up. 


Thanks, Mom, for loving me just as I am, and for teaching me to know and care for the wonders of this planet.  


After I got home from my creek work, Molly called and I celebrated Mother’s Day all over again. We talked about life and work, motivation and mothering, dogs and her daddy. It was one of those glorious conversations that had no agenda and included some wisdom, some laughter, some sadness, and a whole lot of love. 


A conversation that made me feel lucky just to be alive, and to have fallen heart-whole for she and her daddy almost 34 years ago. 



Who could not love those two? At our backyard wedding reception in Laramie, Wyoming. 


That’s what Mother’s Day is really about. Not cards or flowers or brunch or any of the other trappings. Those are lovely, but the real point is about honoring and enjoying the mothers we love, whether they’re with us here or not.


Birth mothers, step-mothers, mothers of friends who took us in when we needed love too, mothers of our life-partners, mothers in creativity and inspiration; and, of course, Gaia herself, mother of us all. A day to celebrate motherly nurturing and love in all forms. 


Thank you to mothers of all kinds, everywhere. 

Normal Grief


It was a rare slow night at Amicas, the wood-fired pizza restaurant in my neighborhood, which meant John, my favorite manager, had time to chat after I ordered my pizza to go. 


“How have you been?” he asked. I haven’t been in for quite a while. Either I’m on the road, or home and feeling too vulnerable to be social–my loss, I know.


“Pretty good,” I waggled my hand to indicate the ups and downs. 


He waited for more, a warm smile on his face. John taught kindergartners and he has a background in counseling, specifically, he reminded me, in grieving and death, so he can be very patient.


“It’ll be five years this November,” I said. “You’d think that would be long enough.” (Richard, the love of my life and the guy with his arm around me in the snapshot at the beginning of the post, died of brain cancer in November of 2011.)


John bent his tall form toward me. “It takes three to six years.” His voice was kind. “So you’re quite normal.” 


“Which is funny, since I’m not normal about anything else in my life.”


John smiled again, and we talked about the layers of grief, and anniversary dates, and then the conversation turned to other things. Before I left, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have support.”


I swallowed sudden tears. “Thank you. It means a lot.”


As I walked home carrying the deliciously fragrant pizza, I thought about John’s words, and the idea that it’s normal for grieving to take three to six years. 



Amicas’ Thai chicken pizza, with peanut sauce, green chiles, thinly sliced cabbage, cheese, and avocado chunks–yum!


I’m 59 now, the age Richard was when he saw the bird hallucinations that led us to discover the brain tumor that would kill him two-and-a-quarter years later. By April of that first year of brain cancer, he had already had his first of four brain surgeries, gone through a course of radiation, and was adjusting to his first round of oral chemo.


Richard was seriously, lay-on-the-floor-and-refuse-food-and-drink miserable each month for his five days of intensive chemo–his “comma” he called it, alluding to women’s monthly menstrual cycles–until I coaxed him into taking the anti-nausea medications his oncologist had prescribed. Those drugs, which Richard resisted because he didn’t want to take any unnecessary medications, made the monthly cycle almost bearable.


That and his oncoologist’s “prescription” for eating his favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream every day, even for breakfast if he wanted. And he did want. (Thank you, Dr. Klein!)


I’m sure that even when I’m not conscious of remembering that spring five years ago, my body remembers the fear I fought to keep at bay so that Richard wouldn’t know I felt it, the nights I lay awake trying to reconcile the image of my brilliant, robustly healthy husband with the reality that he had brain cancer. The times when my all-too-vivid imagination persisted in exploring the ending my heart refused to believe we were heading toward. 


So on the days when I find myself staring at nothing instead of writing, my mind suddenly blank and tears filling my eyes; the evenings on the couch when I know I should just drum up the energy to do something besides read an escapist novel with a happy ending, because happy endings are all I can bear these days…


On those days, I will try not to be too hard on myself and remember what John said: It takes three to six years to journey through grief after losing someone we love. In my case, someone who was my other half, someone who I lived with for just a few weeks shy of 29 years, someone who I loved so deeply I never imagined living without him. 



Our shadows at sunset at Carpenter Ranch, on our last road trip, two months before Richard died.


It’s normal, this going along perfectly fine, happy most of the time, until some small thing trips me up and grief smacks me again. Normal.


I understand that intellectually. Emotionally though, I forget. I forget that losing the great love we were so fortunate to share means weathering the pain of loss as the small and large threads that bound us gradually unspool. Memories fade, habits fall away, the little rituals we so enjoyed are no longer. I miss the sound of his deep laugh, the feel of his heart beating under my head when I lay on his warm chest. The lovemaking, the sitting together in silence, each deep in our own thoughts, but still together; the road-trips, the walks hand-in-hand. Even the fights. 


All of that is normal. Which does not ameliorate the pain when grief sneaks in unawares. But it is reassuring. 


As is John’s reminder that I have support–from all around. 


Thank you, John. (Not just for the great pizza.)


And thanks to you all for walking this journey with me. Your company is both comfort and gift. 

The Best Gift: An Abundance of Love

One of my rituals between Winter Solstice and New Year's Day is to "listen" for the word that will serve as my intention for the coming year. I don't consciously think of a word; I tune in to my inner voice for what word presents itself. This year's word, "abundance," came to me as I was journaling one December morning.  

As I wrote in this blog, I resisted the word at first, confusing it with giving, which I am as guilty as most women of overdoing. Until I looked up the definition, which includes the words "plenty," "plentifulness," and "prosperity." 

Oh, I thought, duhAbundance as in "plenty": plenty of joy, plenty of time, plenty of ideas and words and readers, plenty of money, plenty of fruitful opportunities, plenty of energy and vigor, plenty of love… 

And in fact, this year is yielding all sorts of abundance, including many that I imagined when I wrote those words: Opportunity, joy, ideas, words, readers. Not so much abundance of energy (my Lupus has definitely been more challenging this year) or money (ditto for life on the financial plane), but I am managing well anyway. 

The form of abundance that has been the biggest surprise–and gift–is the last one on the list above: love. Specifically, love from Molly, my 37-year-old "kid." (As biology sees it, she's my step-daughter; seen through the lens of the heart, she's mine, and has been since I met she and her daddy when she was three.) 

Richard and Molly on her 31st birthday, when he was recovering from his radiation treatments.

In early January. when I was off on a personal writing retreat in Santa Fe, Molly texted one night to ask if we could talk. It's been difficult for both of us since her daddy died, and she had been incommunicado for weeks. I knew something was wrong.

I had felt angry and hurt by this latest withdrawal–the longest since Richard died–but I put my feelings aside. If she needed me, I needed to listen. 

We talked. I learned that she had just separated from her partner of 12 years, a decision that took enormous courage. 

"I'm sorry I've let this come between us," she said. "I miss you."

In that moment, nothing else mattered. "I love you, and I always will. Sometimes I don't like you very much, but the love is always there."

We talked through some difficult stuff, cried, and by the time we ended the call, I felt like our healing had begun. 

In February, Molly flew to New Mexico to join me in Silver City during my Write & Retreat workshop. Those four days together were precious time. 

Me and Molly in the wind in Mesilla, New Mexico, visiting old haunts. 

Since then, it's rare that more than a few days go by without us being in touch via text, email, or phone. She says "thank you" and "I love you" often. I do too. 

Which brings me to the photo at the top of the blog post. On the way home from my regular end-of-the week run yesterday afternoon, I impulsively stopped and shot a photo of the storm clouds blowing in over distant peaks. I texted it to Molly with an "xoxo" message and then ran on. She responded with, "Beautiful. Thank you. xoxo"

Later that evening, she texted the locket photo above with this message: "Was just organizing the bathroom and found this." 

"Love it and remember dearly the moment when you guys gave it to me." 

I had forgotten the locket entirely, but as soon as I saw her photo, I remembered picking it out, finding the photos of her daddy and me, and fitting one into each tiny compartment. 

Today on the phone, Molly reminded me of when we gave her the locket: "It was for my first period. You made a celebration of it. Such a gift in a time that was very difficult. You made it special, and made me proud of myself as a young woman."

We had moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for Richard's university position. Molly went from grade school in a Midwestern town to middle school in a much more difficult social and cultural environment. And then she got her period–it was all scary and stressful for her. So I came up with a celebration of that passage into womanhood. 

"I loved you then and I always will."

"I know that," she said. "That's my miracle."

It's mine too, Sweetie. Thank you for this abundance of love–the best possible gift of this year of abundance.

Molly and my sister-in-law, Lucy Winter

Love Endures

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. 

No matter. Once we found each other–and that itself took some doing and a previous marriage for each of us–we came together as if we had been designed for each other. As if we were soul-siblings. With Richard came Molly, his daughter, just three years old when I met her, and at home in my heart from almost that first moment. 

A friend once said about the three of us, "The air between you shimmers. It's love made visible." 

Richard and I didn't always use the gift well, though I believe we always did the best we could at any moment. We fought, we hurt each other, we sulked. (Okay, Richard sulked–I'm a redhead. I go off like fireworks, loud and blazing bright; but when my temper is over, it's over.). But always, the love won out over whatever we had allowed to get in the way. 

The better part of three decades is a long time in any life. Molly grew up, went to college, found a career, friends, and a place she loved to live.

Richard and Molly, February 2010

Richard and I grew too, changing as we did, and found our way home to the Rockies to the town where he had lived as a child. We settled, fell in love with a junky, all-but-abandoned piece of industrial property, which we bought and spent years bringing back life, along with the historic building that became Richard's sculpture studio and the block of frontage on channelized and abused urban creek that still makes my heart sing with its gurgling voice. 

Richard evolved from an academic into an expert witness and then an abstract sculptor who worked with native rocks as "ambassadors of the earth," bringing them into our daily lives as a way of reconnecting us to the beauty and wonder of the planet that is our home.

"Paula's Find," a sculptural firepit Richard created for an architect and interior designer.

My writing grew, stretched, deepened, and reached new audiences. 

And then one hot August morning, Richard–who had always loved and watched birds–saw thousands of birds that did not exist except in his mind. Those seemingly benign avian hallucinations portended the brain cancer that would kill him two and a quarter years later. 

I am 59 now, the age he was when he saw birds. Two months after my birthday last fall came the fourth anniversary of his death. 

And I still have the gift of our love, albeit in a different form. Whenever I notice something particularly beautiful–the colors of a vivid sunset, the sheen of a river-wet boulder, a bluebird with feathers as bright as these Colorado skies–I see again Richard's face-splitting smile. I sometimes hear his voice as if at the very edge of my range of perception, the words not quite close enough to distinguish, but the cadence and tone a comfort. 

I live with some of his work, and it never fails to give me both a jolt of recognition, a stab of grief, and a smile of pure joy when I run my fingers across the polished edge of a basin he carved, or explore the precise joint between curving steel and rock in a sculpture. His hands stroked here, I think to myself, just like this, as I wipe my eyes. 

"Prosthesis," steel and basalt

When I rest my head on my pillow at night, just as I drift off to sleep I can sometimes feel the cadence of Richard's heartbeat, as if my ear were on his chest once more. 

And his love lives on in Molly, who will turn 37 this Thursday. (Happy Birthday, Sweetie!)

Whenever I am feeling sorry for myself, I remember that I had the gift of Richard's love for the almost 29 years we were together in this life. And I have it still.

Life gives and life takes away; what endures is love. It asks only courage, honesty, and patience to live with our hearts open.

It's worth the risk. Every bloody bit.