Books I’m Reading & a Brag

Normally, I’m a voracious and eclectic reader. Right now, with two intense writing projects, plus consulting on the launch of a new program on landscaping for wildlife, finish carpentry at this house and beginning construction of the new one, at the end of my workday, I go to bed.

Still, I do have some great books on my to-read stack. Here are three capsule reviews of three books I enjoyed so much I wanted to share them with you.

Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World by Kate Braid

Kate Braid slinging studs for a house. Kate Braid slinging studs for a house.

It was the summer of 1975, and Kate Braid needed to earn “a chunk of money, fast” to return to college in Vancouver, Canada. How would she get it?

‘Up north.’ Actually, until the words came out of my mouth, I had no plan at all, but in 1975, whenever a guy wanted money in British Columbia, he went ‘up north’–to Kitimat, Smithers, Prince George–and came back with pocketfuls. It was boom days in northern BC…. If a man could earn big money up north, why couldn’t I?

Braid and a woman friend bought camping gear at an Army Surplus store, hitchhiked their way north, “and for the next two weeks applied at every sawmill, paper mill and fish processing plant between Williams Lake and Prince Rupert.” At each one, “the foreman took one look and said, ‘Sorry, girls’….”

The two did finally find work stacking lumber at a planer mill. That summer spent “dancing with lumber,” as Braid puts it, gives her a taste of the world of working with muscles and wood, a world she eventually joins as one of the first women in the overwhelmingly male trades. Braid’s book is a portrait of a time, and a cracking good read. (Read the full review on Story Circle Book Reviews.)

Middlewood Journal: Drawing Inspiration from Nature by Helen Scott Correll

The cover gives a taste of Helen Scott Correll's eye, and her sketching talents. The book cover gives a taste of Helen Scott Correll’s eye, and her art.

You know the sort of book you can pick up, open any page, and be enchanted? Middlewood Journal is that kind of book, because Helen Correll is that kind of observer. The book is a year’s record–in journal entries and gorgeous sketches–of Correll’s daily walks from her house, the Middlewood of the title, through the surrounding countryside of South Carolina’s Piedmont. Correll’s surroundings aren’t grand or particularly wild. But through her eyes and talented hands, they are compelling.

Full disclosure: I wrote a blurb for this book. It begins, “Warning: Middlewood Journal is addictive.” I stand by that claim. It is, in the best possible way: that of inciting wonder.

The Women Jefferson Loved by Virginia Scharff

Jefferson's Monticello, with two of the women he loved on the lawn Jefferson’s Monticello, with two of the women he loved strolling the lawn

I picked up this book because I’ve admired Scharff since we became friends in grad school. I kept reading because her view of Jefferson through the lives of the women who in many ways defined him is fascinating. A professor of history at the University of New Mexico, Scharff is a dogged researcher, a creative thinker and an outspoken feminist. She’s also a witty and trenchant writer, as this passage about Jefferson’s mother’s reaction to his early revolutionary views shows:

What was a mother to think, as her son and his compatriots tacked toward treason? Jane Randolph Jefferson had been born in England and reared among British gentry in Virginia. She valued the fine things connected with the mother country. … In ordinary times her men might hold any number of bold ideas or unconventional philosophies, but such notions would have fewer real consequences.

The Women Jefferson Loved brings alive the five key women in Jefferson’s life: his mother, his wife, his daughters, and his mistress, who was also his slave. It’s a great read, and a window into the women–and men–of an extraordinary time.


And now that brag:

Every year Story Circle Network, a national association of writers of memoir and life-stories, picks a blogger for the previous year to honor with their “Super Star Blogger Award.” This time around, it’s me, for this very blog. I’m deeply honored. Thank you, writing sisters!

And thank you, community of readers, for walking this journey with me.


I didn’t intend to renovate my life. After Richard died last November, I figured I’d hibernate for several months to recover from the journey with his brain cancer, especially the last four weeks of caregiving while simultaneously learning to let go. I wanted some time to hear myself think, to figure out this new and unsought role as Woman Alone.

I thought I’d work on the next book (or books). Hah.

Luminarias light Salida’s Steamplant Sculpture Park in Richard’s memory

First there was the celebration of Richard’s life to prepare for, just after winter solstice. Like anything done with a great deal of love and thought, it took far more time and energy than I expected. It also turned out to be a beautifully moving and healing event, bringing together a crowd of people whose lives he had touched in a way that left us all feeling good–like we’d really celebrated his life and our loss.

After that was the scramble to get paperwork done before the end of the year. And then the scramble to get organized for the Terraphilia Artist/Writer Residency program we’re establishing in his honor with Colorado Art Ranch. The latter entailed taking a long look at his historic studio and deciding that in addition to a thorough clean-out and reorganization, it needed work.

The front door to Richard’s historic studio

That meant I needed to learn about construction and renovation of historic brick buildings, both way out of my comfort zone. I’m slowly learning how things work in the shop, what needs to be done most urgently, and who and how to ask for help. (Heartfelt thanks to all who have responded to those pleas!)

At the same time, or perhaps because of the renovation energy I’d unleashed in the studio, I decided it was time to renovate my web presence. Hence this spiffy new website and blog combination, which would never have come to be without the help of Bill LeRoy, friend and guru of WordPress. He understands and speaks Geek, talents I do not claim.

While all this other renovation was happening, I decided to revive the project of bringing my first book, Pieces of Light, back into print—as an ebook with the help of my virtual assistant, Lisa DeYoung). It made sense to—hah!—renovate the book, adding an update at the end of each chapter, enticing new readers with new content. Which of course meant I had to research, find a writing voice that honored the long-ago me who wrote the original book, and write those updates.

That wasn’t the writing I had planned on in what I thought (hah again!) would be the quiet months of my late-winter hibernation. (I also hadn’t planned on upgrading the operating system on my Mac laptop to handle Apple’s new iBooks Author software, another renovation which of course, wasn’t as simple as I hoped.)

All this renovating has pushed me out of such comfort zone as I had left after Richard’s death, putting me into new territory on several major fronts of my life. I suppose that’s good, though some nights between two and four a.m. when I lie awake sorting through and assimilating all of the new information, I wonder. Long and tiredly.

But here I am. Woman Alone. Who finds at the end of another day of cramming more information into my brain than I thought it could hold, and figuring out a construction problem all. by. myself. that I’m actually happy. Being me, here in the place I love, on my own.

full moon setting in the dawn skyIt helps that I have you all walking with me and cheering me on. And that I can feel Richard’s spirit smiling over my shoulder the way I did this morning when I looked out the front door and was so entranced by the luminous full moon setting that I dashed outside barefoot in my bathrobe to shoot some photos. (Did I mention the thermometer read 11 degrees F?) I think he was actually laughing then…


Welcome to the new home of my blog on living mindfully, with heart outstretched to the Earth and its community of lives! This blog continues the “thinking out loud” from my “Walking Nature Home” blog (and before that, Community of the Land) on how to live our every days in a terraphilic way, meeting whatever comes with an open heart and playful, generous spirit.

What’s new here is easy access to the rest of my work. Click on a button in the navigation bar above to browse my books, articles and commentaries and audio books; to see where I’ll be speaking in the coming months; to learn about my upcoming workshops or find about one-on-one writing coaching; to check out who I am and what else I’m working on; and once I figure out how to import my slideshows into this site, to see some of my award-winning “wildscape” designs, restoring nature in urban places. I’ll continue to refine the site and add more photos and writing.

I hope you’ll find this new site welcoming, informative, and inspiring. Please let me know what you think!

What’s Cooking? (and changes to come)


I haven’t cooked much since Richard died. I’ve always loved to experiment with fresh food and make up new dishes, but the truth is, it’s just not as interesting cooking for one. Furthermore, my neighborhood grocer, Ploughboy Local Market, now carries delicious deli items and soup made fresh in their kitchen from local foods (along with fresh-baked Salida Bread Company bread and rolls). The prices are reasonable, and I can even bring my own to-go container. It’s just too easy to just walk down the block and come home bearing dinner in my stylin’ and sustainable glass container.

I miss cooking though. So I’m starting to invite friends over for dinner to give myself the motivation to cook. I started with Dave and Kerry from Ploughboy. And then I worried that my cooking mojo might be out of shape. Nope! I enjoyed preparing a whole meal, and even invented a citrus, hard-boiled egg and avocado salad that’s simple, healthy, and delicious. It’s great counterpoint to a spicy main dish for dinner, or, mounded on whole leaves of crisp butter lettuce, a yummy lunch in itself. Of course, neither grapefruit nor avocado are local, but I did buy organic, and the eggs were uber-local, from friends’ hens just a few blocks away. (Thanks, Maggie and Tony!)

So here’s what’s cooking:


Winter-bright Citrus salad

1 ruby-red grapefruit
1 ripe avocado
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 T walnut oil (if you don’t have walnut oil, a very light olive oil would work, but you’d miss the lovely nutty flavor, which adds a savory note to the salad)
¼ tsp salt
fresh-ground pepper to taste

Cut grapefruit in half midway between the poles. Using a serrated spoon or grapefruit knife, cut sections from membranes and put into a medium mixing bowl. Pour in juice. Halve avocado, and cut into chunks; slip chunks off peel and add chunks to bowl. Peel and chunk hard-boiled eggs. Add to bowl along with walnut oil and salt. Stir gently, and add fresh-ground pepper. Chill or serve at room temperature. (Makes four small servings or two larger ones.)

Ingredients Chunks

I served this bright and smooth salad with steamed vegetables frozen from last summer’s garden over brown rice, topped by spicy Southeast Asian peanut sauce. I was so busy serving and eating I forgot to take a photo, but here’s the peanut sauce recipe:

Easy Southeast Asian Peanut Sauce

1 T vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
4 cloves garlic minced
1-½ T chopped fresh green chile
1 ½ cups water
⅔ cup peanut butter, preferably fresh-ground and not salted or sweetened
2 T low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp red chile powder
2 T chopped fresh mint leaves

Saute garlic and green chile just until fragrant, and then add water (turn heat down at first so it doesn’t splatter!), soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and red chile powder. Stir thoroughly to integrate peanut butter, and simmer for four or five minutes or until it thickens slightly. Serve warm over chicken, fish, shrimp, and/or vegetables and brown rice or quinoa. Top with fresh mint leaves. (Serves 4-6.)

The combination of spicy sauce and pungent fresh mint is just delicious.

For dessert? Double-chocolate gelato (I bought this) topped with my own port-sweetened sour cherries, warmed. Yum!

Port-sweetened Sour Cherries

3/4 cup pitted sour cherries (I pitted and froze these local cherries last summer)
1/2 cup ruby port
1 T honey

Combine cherries (frozen is fine), port, and honey in a small, thick-bottomed saucepan. Simmer on a low flame for at least half an hour to give cherries a chance to thaw and absorb port flavor. (Make sure liquid doesn’t simmer away.) Spoon warm over gelato. Heavenly!


The changes to come? Not that I need another project right now, but I can’t put this one off any longer. So I’m diving into a long-overdue redesign of my website, and also of this blog. I’m still in the sketching-it-on paper stage (I know, so old-school, but I’m a visual thinker). In a month or so, I’ll have something to show you. If you have comments, complaints or requests related to this blog and my website (, let me know… As always, thank you for your support and your thoughtfulness.